Tag Archives: Black Men

Black History: The Temptations

11(2)Some tunes stand the test of time, like “My Girl” and the same can be said about some groups. When you hear the melodies and incomparable classic of the Temptations today you immediately think of the greatest group of voices that ever sang a song.

The Grammy-Winning Temptations achieved their legendary fame as one of the most successful acts to record for Motown Records. It’s rare for someone to change the course of time but this group changed the face of music. Often imitated but rarely duplicated!

The original group included second tenor/baritone Otis Williams, first tenor Elbridge “Al” Bryant, bass Melvin Franklin, first tenor/falsetto Eddie Kendricks and second tenor/baritone Paul Williams (no relation to Otis). Among the most notable future Temptations were lead singers David Ruffin and Dennis Edwards both of whom became successful Motown solo artists after leaving the group. Other members included Richard Street, Damon Harris, Ron Tyson, Ali-Ollie Woodson, Theo Peoples, G.C. Cameron and about fifty members total over time.

The history of the Temptations started in Detroit the home of Motown Records around 1961 as the Elgins. Overtime, as members came and went the new members carried the torch with finesse for decades. I would say this was accomplished because of the group’s mantra was “no one member is bigger than the group” and although the lineup frequently changed their impeccable sound did not.

A Motown-centric biography on the Temptations would start pretty glumly. Success eluded the group at first. Working at Motown was a “Dream Come True,” but even that song didn’t bring lasting fame. In 1963, a violent scuffle between Elbridge Bryant and Paul Williams preceded “Al’s” exit. Enter David Ruffin whose weathered tenor injected intriguing angst into the sweetest songs.

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The Temptations with David Ruffin and new tunes by Smokey Robinson was the injection of magic and the just kept coming. The Kendricks led song, “The Way You Do the Things You Do,” broke pop’s Top 20 and “My Girl,” 1964 became their signature. Meanwhile, Ruffin switched off with Kendricks at lead was like nothing that has come before or since.

Norman Whitfield, a rival producer, offered brawnier hits than Robinson’s, like “Ain’t Too Proud to Beg” and “I Wish It Would Rain.” By the late ’60s, his collaborations with Eddie Holland, and Barrett Strong, had earned him exclusive control over the music of the Temptations.

The group developed its own recognizable style. The Temptations wardrobe ran the fashion gamut: tuxedos, capes, leather, linen, blues, limes, you name it. But the Tempts always looked sharp and fun in their costumes. Eddie Kendricks held some sway over this easy sophistication.

Under the direction of Broadway hoofer Cholly Atkins, the Temptations became renowned dancers, as well. Daily two-hour rehearsals ensured their movements were precise and spectacular enough to rivet fans from bare stages. Paul Williams’ choreography, including the Temptation Walk, oozed sheer erotic energy.

Onstage, group harmony ruled. Offstage, conflicts abounded, particularly between Ruffin and the others. Too much ego and flakiness cost him his membership in 1968. Though he released his own smash, “My Whole World Ended,” solo super-stardom was not meant to be.

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Enter, ex-Contour Dennis Edwards’ convincing vocals, new songs by the Temptations re-emphasized the ensemble. Whitfield’s ambitious “psychedelic soul” phase fused denser grooves with sociopolitical observations, helping fans dance and think at once. Commercially, the Tempts stayed put on “Cloud Nine.”

In 1971 brought both returns and departures after “Just My Imagination,” a throwback to their tender ballads. Exit Eddie Kendricks for a solo career and the disco-esque hits, “Keep on Truckin'” and “Boogie Down.” Exit Paul Williams died as a result of suicide. Two new tenors, Richard Street and Damon Harris gamely met the challenge and held their own against the older classics.

In 1975 things shifted from Harris to Glenn Leonard. Then from Dennis Edwards to Louis Price to Dennis Edwards (who’d leave and come back several times). Then from Motown to Atlantic in 1977, then back to Motown in the early ’80s. Just in time for a reunion tour with David Ruffin and Eddie Kendricks!

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Enter the great Ali Ollie Woodson who played an integral part in keeping the Temptations from becoming just a nostalgia act. I would refer to him as the Temptations Temptation. I mean this in the sense that by the early 1980s, the Temptations were no longer posting hit after hit as they had in the 1960s and ’70s with songs like “Papa Was a Rolling Stone,” “My Girl,” and “I Wish It Would Rain.” They soared once again with Ali!

In 1989, in flesh and in spirit, the six classic members shared the stage once more at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Smooth spokesman Otis Williams, beloved Batman fanatic Melvin Franklin, ethereally elegant Eddie Kendricks, dynamic David Ruffin, and hard-hitting Dennis Edwards all accepted the award post harmoniously for the late Paul Williams.

All I can say is thanks for the spirit of these great men for their contribution to the world. The Temptations will live for all times. Thank you fellas! And that’s my thought Provoking Perspective…

 


Black History Month Commentary

2Since the year of our Lord 1619, when those Africans were first dragged onto American shores of this place they called “merica”; our people have been chastised, raped, punished, beaten, robbed, and murdered. These atrocities were done while the culprits enjoyed wealth and prosperity as a result of our never ending allegiance and patriotism, often blindly to the people who kidnapped and brought us.

Even today, the system of white supremacy is still white America’s number one rule even as a black man has ascended to the White House! There are those, mostly white folk, who castigate this man because he is a uniquely qualified man of African heritage. I think, after all our suffering, just having a man who looks like us as the most powerful man in the “Free World” is an honor for all people of color. We should appreciate that which is something no one living or dead ever thought would happen.

We are a unique people, a forgiving people, a steadfast people, and a brave people unlike any known to the world. It was our labor that built this country. We are responsible for the great wealth America enjoys to this very today. When you look at America’s enormous wealth and the power derived from its tremendous control of resources, think about the sacrifices our forefathers made to make all of this possible. We have looked out for this country for hundreds of years and still doing so today, which is simply amazing.

Upon our backs, laden with the stripes of punishment for what they believed was for discipline and in spite of our loyalty, diligence and tenacity – we loved America. Even when America refused to allow us to walk in the shadows – we followed. Believing that someday we would come to be accepted and be treated like men and women. Our strength in the face of adversity is vastly understated.

Our history is one of unbelievable struggle. We’ve been brave on the battlefield despite being classified as three-fifths of a man. This was and is outstanding, and frankly beyond the call of duty considering that we have lived through slavery and under an Apartheid-like system through most of our time here. To be honest, we are still considered a race of people living in a nation without a nationality. We have raised America’s children, attended to its sick, and prepared their meals while those forefathers were occupied with the trappings of the good life.

Even during the times when they found pleasure in our women and took enjoyment in seeing our men lynched, maimed and burned. We continued to watch over America’s soul. We labored in the hot sun from can’t see to can’t see to assist in realizing the dream of wealth, good fortune, and made America a great world power. We were there when it all began, and we are still here today, protecting the system from those Black people who have the temerity to speak out against America’s past transgressions.

It was us who warned about Denmark-Vessey, told them about Gabriel Prosser’s plans, called their attention to Nat Turner, Malcolm, and yes Martin too. It was us who sounded the alarm when old John Brown came calling on Harper’s Ferry, and there are still some sounding warnings today. Black Nationalism has died and, as a result our community brings 95 percent of what it earns to other businesses while keeping little for itself in spite of the fact that other people controlled at least 90 percent of all the resources and wealth of this nation.

In today’s business environment, we sadly do not support each other and just keep doing business with the larger community; in fact any other community. Some say, as a people, we were very successful doing this after slavery ended and even as recently as 1960 but you know what happens when you began to build your own communities and do business with one another – you’re pitted against one another to destroy ourselves.

Oh, let’s not forget we pray a lot hoping that when we die you will find a place where there is a mansion waiting for you with streets paved with gold somewhere in the sky. We resisted the messages of trouble making Blacks like Washington, Delaney, Garvey, Bethune, Tubman, and Truth for fighting and dying on the battlefield for us. Yet, most have forgotten the names and take no reverence in their sacrifice due to a lack of reciprocity and equities.

Moreover, we went beyond the pale when we allowed our children to be turned over to the American educational system. With what is being taught to them, it’s likely they will continue in a mode similar to the one we have followed for the past 45 years. Remember, Mr. Lynch when he walked the banks of the James River in 1712, he prophetically said that his plan would make African’s slave for 300 years; little did he realize the truth in his prediction because his promise has come to fruition.

Lastly, with two generations of children going through this education system – must we look forward to another 50 years of despair. We can change that if we come to understand that education is the single most important ingredient necessary to neutralize those forces that breed poverty and despair. When you continue to do what you’ve always done; you will get what you always got!

Intelligence is the ability to know things and knowledge is the things you know. We have not woke up, stood up more forcefully, nor did we learned the lessons taught by our ancestors

And that’s my Thought Provoking Perspective…


The Greatest Story Ever Told

462_160In thinking about the times in which we’ve lived I can say without a doubt our history ‘is the greatest story ever told’. I am always reminded of the ghosts of the greats who blazed a might trail for us to walk. Black History Month, as short as it is, should be celebrated and taught all year long! It is our responsibility. I was blessed to have had the good privilege to live during the civil rights era to witness groups and individuals fight to end racial segregation and the unequal treatment of black people, which we should never have had to fight in the first place.

Of all the things I am grateful for; is to have lived long enough to witness something ‘no one living or dead’ ever thought would happen. Which was to witness a Black Man elected to be President of these United States of America! To see him and his lovely family exhibit the style and grace representing black people in an extra exemplary way making us proud.

It would be my hope that all of us take this opportunity during Black History Month to reach one – teach one. Share the stories of our struggle with the children. I have added a few of the many significant events and some of the brave and courageous soldiers in the army that changed America or dare I say the world.

Events in the Civil Rights Movement

Solders of the Civil Rights Movement

I am reminded of Malcolm X who used to say “Make It Plain” which meant in essence to bring forth the knowledge. And that’s my Thought Provoking Perspective…


On This Day: They Assassinated Chairman Fred Hampton

11There have been countless murders of black men, since the founding of America, but the assassination of Fred Hampton speaks loudly to the abuse and corruption of the American police departments. Since the Nat Turner Incident they, white folk, will never allow a black person to rise with suburb leadership skills. History demonstrates the penalty for such a strong black man is death!

On December 4th, 1969, Fred Hampton, an African American activist, and deputy chairman of the Illinois chapter of the Black Panther Party was murdered. Chairman Fred was assassinated while slept in his apartment during a raid by a tactical unit of the Cook County, Illinois State’s Attorney’s Office, in conjunction with the Chicago Police Department and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). This activity was in concert by the infamous seditious FBI program known as COINTELPRO designed to eliminate activist deemed by its director as “subversive.”

A public statement made to the news media a day after the assassination by FBI Special Agent Gregg York, “We expected about twenty Panthers to be in the apartment when the police raided the place. Only two of those black niggers were killed, Fred Hampton and Mark Clark.”

Chairman Fred, as he was known, was successful and revered for organizing young African Americans for the NAACP. He was quickly attracted to the Black Panthers’ approach, which was based on a ten-point program of a mix of black designed for the survival of the black community. Chairman Fred joined the Party’s nascent Illinois chapter SNCC’s organizer Bob Brown in late 1967.

Over the next year, Hampton and his associates made a number of significant achievements in Chicago. Perhaps his most important accomplishment was his brokering of a nonaggression pact between Chicago’s most powerful street gangs. Emphasizing that racial and ethnic conflict between gangs would only keep its members entrenched in poverty, he strove to forge a class-conscious, multi-racial alliance between the Panther Party, the Young Patriots, and the National Young Lords. Soon after the pact was formed they were joined by the Students for a Democratic Society, the Blackstone Rangers, the Brown Berets, and the Red Guard.

In May 1969, Hampton called a press conference to announce that a truce had been declared among this “rainbow coalition,” a phrase coined by Hampton and made popular later by Jesse Jackson. Jackson eventually appropriated the name in forming his own unrelated coalition – Rainbow/Push. This achievement marked him as a major threat in the eyes of the FBI, signaled his death.

Subsequent investigations have shown that FBI chief Hoover was determined to prevent the formation of a cohesive Black movement in the United States “by any means necessary. Hoover saw the Panthers, and similar radical coalitions forged by Hampton in Chicago, as a frightening stepping stone toward the creation of just such a revolutionary body that could cause a radical change in the U.S. government. They opened a file on Hampton in 1967 that over the next two years expanded to twelve volumes and over four thousand pages.

By May of that year, Chairman Fred’s name was placed on the “Agitator Index,” and he would be designated a “key militant leader for Bureau reporting purposes. In late 1968, the Racial Matters Squad of the FBI’s Chicago field office brought in an individual named William O’Neal, who had recently been arrested twice, for interstate car theft and impersonating a federal officer.

In exchange for dropping the felony charges and a monthly stipend, O’Neal apparently agreed to infiltrate the Black Panther Party as a counterintelligence operative. He joined the Party and quickly rose in the organization, becoming Director of Chapter security and Hampton’s bodyguard.

In 1969, the FBI Special Agent in San Francisco wrote Hoover that his investigation of the Black Panther Party revealed that in his city, at least, the Panthers were primarily feeding breakfast to children. Hoover fired back a memo implying the career ambitions of the agent were directly related to his supplying evidence to support Hoover’s view of the Panthers was “a violence-prone organization seeking to overthrow the Government by revolutionary means.”

Hoover was willing to use false claims to attack his political enemies. In one memo, he wrote: “Purpose of counterintelligence action is to disrupt the BPP, and it is immaterial whether facts exist to substantiate the charge.” Using anonymous letters, the FBI sowed distrust and eventually instigated a split between the Panthers and the Rangers, with O’Neal himself instigating an armed clash between the two on April 2, 1969. The Panthers became effectively isolated from their power base, so the FBI went to work to undermine its ties with other radical organizations.

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O’Neal was instructed to “create a rift” between the Party and Students for a Democratic Society, whose Chicago headquarters was only blocks from that of the Panthers. The Bureau released a batch of racist cartoons in the Panther’s’ name, aimed at alienating white activists, and launched a disinformation program to forestall the realization of the “Rainbow Coalition.”

In repeated directives, J. Edgar Hoover demanded that the COINTELPRO personnel “destroy what the Black Panther Party stands for” and “eradicate its “serve the people programs”. In early October, Hampton and his girlfriend, Deborah Johnson, pregnant with their first child, rented a four-and-a-half room apartment at 2337 West Monroe Street to be closer to Black Panther Party headquarters.

O’Neal reported to his superiors that much of the Panthers’ “provocative” stockpile of arms was being stored there. None of which was true but the paid government informant played the role of Judas bringing the powers of the state to kill him. To see how far great powers will go is shocking and a moral shame. Yet, it continues today with all the police killings of black people! And that’s my thought provoking perspective…


Do You Agree?

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Champion Of The People

th (1)Bob Marley was the Third World’s first pop superstar. In all honesty, I don’t like the term third world because as Bob Marley said one love, which means one world. He was the man who introduced the world to the mystic power of reggae. He was a rocker at heart and gifted songwriter. He brought the lyrical force of a Bob Dylan with the personal charisma of a John Lennon, and the essential vocal stylings of Smokey Robinson into one voice. But to be clear, Bob Marley was so much more and in a class by himself which is why he became a legend!

In 1999 Time Magazine chose Bob Marley & The Wailers’ Exodus as the greatest album of the 20th century. This spoke to his international acclaim where his message continues to reverberate among people around the world. My favorite song is the huge political hit “Stand-up, Stand-up for your Rights”. The true testament of his greatness is the volume of greats artist who have recorded the many great songs he’s written.

Marley, in has life and after his death, evolved into a global symbol of freedom. Author Dave Thompson wrote in his book Reggae and Caribbean Music, laments what he perceives to be the commercialized pacification of Marley’s more militant edge, stating:

“Bob Marley ranks among both the most popular and the most misunderstood figures in modern culture … Gone from the public record is the ghetto kid who dreamed of Che Guevara and the Black Panthers, and pinned their posters up in the Wailers Soul Shack record store; who believed in freedom; and the fighting which it necessitated, and dressed the part on an early album sleeve; whose heroes were James Brown and Muhammad Ali; whose God was Ras Tafari and whose sacrament was marijuana.

Instead, the Bob Marley who surveys his kingdom today is smiling benevolence, a shining sun, a waving palm tree, and a string of hits which tumble out of polite radio like candy from a gumball machine. Of course, it has assured his immortality.”

His songs and music spoke to the struggles of the least of thee and to the souls of the ordinary person trapped outside of the establishment, which has endeared him to his fans and the world. As we celebrate and pay homage to this month dedicated to Black Music; I would be remised not to include Bob Marley as one of the greatest musical legends of our time – if not all times.

I know right now Bob Marley is “Jamming” right now with the ghosts of the greats! And that’s my Thought Provoking Perspective…

@johntwills


Stop The War On Drugs

2I think everyone in America knows someone with a drug problem or who uses drugs; either for recreational use or the result of addiction. It has been the government’s position that the solution is to lock people up for either discretion. Mind you, this is not done for national security or the safety of the individual; it is all about “The Benjamin.” I can remember when Reagan and his cronies inserted crack into black communities and in the seventies there was no effort to stop those who made money off of the misery of black people being addicted to heroin. Places like New York’s Harlem. Now that white folk are dying of overdoses – it is a problem!

The drug war’s conception was nothing but a clever scheme to have a system where they get paid from all ends. Let’s be frank, if they wanted the drug problem to cease – they could do it, but it would cost trillions of dollars by eliminating the apparatus in place for those fighting it, who would instantly become unemployed; like judges, police lawyers, prisons, and those who work for agencies created to make money from the so-called fight on the drug war.

Let me say this off the top – not one Negro in any urban area brings a single joint, ounce, or drop of anything into America. Yet, these are the people who fill the jails and prisons, by and large, serving long sentences. It has been reported and known that the government has been involved in bringing drugs into our neighborhood or at least responsible for the protection that allowed them to plant the drugs our communities. To that point, they were caught through their involvement with Iran-Contra!

Let’s call it what is – “Retroactive Abortion”! For example, if a million black men are incarcerated, two things happen. First, the offender will usually lose their right to vote. Secondly, if you take a million incarcerated black men and each of them could have on average three children, this would eliminate, based on this count, three million black people from existence, and this means removing millions voters.

They have appointed drug czars to be the general in this war. One publicly admitted that locking people up won’t keep anyone from using drugs, but stopped short of renouncing punitive policies that have made America’s long war on drugs widely unpopular. This official said, in a post on the White House website that the government’s new drug control strategy “rejects the notion that we can arrest and incarcerate our way out of the nation’s drug problem. Instead, it builds on decades of research demonstrating that while law enforcement should always remain a vital piece to protecting public safety, addiction is a brain disorder — one that can be prevented and treated, and from which people recover.”

It’s a striking piece of rhetoric, though not a risky one, given that about three quarters of Americans say the war on drugs has been a failure. My question is; did it really take nearly a half a century to figure this out? According to the new strategy, it calls for reforms that would move the government’s drug-control efforts from the police precinct and courtroom to the treatment center. In other words, they now support “alternatives to incarceration,” like drug courts, where judges can send defendants to rehabilitation clinics instead of prison. Could this be because white people are using drugs at an alarming rate?

Of course, there are some advocates for drug policy reforms who say the efforts don’t go far enough pointing to the government’s continuing commitment to the strong-armed tactics of the drug war, like cracking down on drug smugglers in the Caribbean, working with the Colombian government to wipe out coca crops, and shutting down domestic meth labs.

In 2012, about 750,000 people were arrested for marijuana-related offenses — more than one arrest per minute, according to FBI data. Blacks are nearly four times more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession than whites, according to a report from the American Civil Liberties Union. Government officials “completely fail to acknowledge” that replacing marijuana prohibition with a regulated system would essentially eliminate illegal pot cultivation and the report barely mentions the legalization of marijuana by voters in Colorado and Washington state. A day after Washington opened its first legal pot shops, the administration suggested legalization is a “serious challenge” and may encourage young people to smoke pot.

States have eased spending on punishing people for drug crimes in favor of treating them for addictions. Some, including Texas, have shuttered whole prisons. At the federal level, top officials have repeatedly criticized the government’s sentencing policies, and the Senate is weighing the Smarter Sentencing Act, a bipartisan bill that would lighten tough mandatory punishments for certain drug crimes. The administration commends these efforts in the new report, contending that many have “already have many met with great success.” But they continue to fill the prisons for what is viewed as minor and nonviolent offenses.

This war has been a failure! Considering the cost of one prisoner verses treatment, it is reasonable to conclude that it is time for law enforcement, courts, and doctors to collaborate with each other to treat addiction as a public health issue, not a crime. But the goal is to monetize it and make slaves of men and women. And that’s my thought provoking perspective…

 


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