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Happy Birthday Luther Vandross

2It is with great pride and pleasure I take in resurrecting the ghost of the greats that enriched my life, and dare I say made the world a better place.  I’ve highlighted and spotlighted many enormous champions of the African American experience, along with many who, regardless of their station, changed the world and made tremendous contributions. This was to also include the monumental musical giants of our time. In fact, I would be remissed if I did not acknowledge the spirits of those artists and entertainers whose presence will live within us for eternity.

I am rarely at a loss for words, but the voice of Luther Ronzoni Vandross was so passionate and powerful that I have no words; other than to say the day Luther Vandross transitioned to the great beyond was a mighty loss. We will never hear a voice of such quality, sweetness, or grace every again. So on this day I want to put you in a mellow mood with these attached videos of the legacy Luther left for use to enjoy. Rest In Peace. And that’s my thought provoking perspective…


Remebering: Donny Hathaway

1xI am one who believes anyone can be taught how to do anything, but few are naturally given the rare gift of a unique and special talent like the great Donny Hathaway. This great musician man was one of a kind, in fact, Donny Edward Hathaway was the best natural jazz, blues, soul, R&B, and gospel vocalist and musician the world has known. Also, his collaborations with Roberta Flack are legendary as the scored high on the charts. The huge hit “where is the Love” won him a Grammy Award.

At the height of his career, Hathaway was diagnosed with a mental disorder and was known not to take his prescribed medication regularly enough to properly control his symptoms. On January 13, 1979, Hathaway’s body was found outside the luxury hotel Essex House in New York City that was ruled a suicide.

Donny Hathaway worked as songwriter, session musician and producer. Working first at Chicago’s Twinight Records, he later did the arrangements for hits by The Unifics on the song “Court of Love” and “The Beginning Of My End”. He also took part in projects by The Staple Singers, Jerry Butler, Aretha Franklin, The Impressions and Curtis Mayfield. He became a “house producer” for Mayfield’s label, Curtom Records recording there as a member of The Mayfield Singers. Donny recorded his first single under his own name in 1969 on a duet with singer June Conquest called “I Thank You Baby”.

It was not until he signed with Atco Records after being spotted for the label by producer/musician King Curtis at a trade convention that his prominence became evident. He released his first groundbreaking single The Ghetto, Pt. 1″, which he co-wrote with former Howard roommate Leroy Hutson, who became a performer, writer, and producer with Curtom. The track appeared the following year on his critically acclaimed debut LP, “Everything is Everything”, which he co-produced with Ric Powell while also arranging all the cuts.

Donny’s star really shined when he released his second LP titled “Donny Hathaway” that consisted mostly of covers of contemporary pop, soul, and gospel songs. His third album “Roberta Flack & Donny Hathaway was an album of duets with former Howard University classmate and label mate Roberta Flack that established him, especially on the pop charts. The album was both a critical and commercial success that included the Ralph MacDonald track “Where is the Love”, which proved to be not only an R&B success but also scored Top Five on the pop Hot 100.

In my view, his most influential recording is his 1972 album – “Live”, which has been termed “one of the best live albums ever recorded” by Daryl Easlea of the BBC. However, the song that cemented Donny’s legacy was “This Christmas”. To this very day, it does not seem like Christmas until you hear this song. The song, released in 1970, has become a holiday staple and is often used in movies, television, and advertising. “This Christmas” has been covered by numerous artists across diverse musical genres, including The Whispers, Dianna Ross, , Aretha Franklin, The Temptations, The Four Tops, Stevie Wonder, Christina Aguilera, Chicago, Harry Connick, Jr., Dru Hill, NSYNC, Gloria Estefan, Boney James, The Cheetah Girls, Chris Brown, and Patti LaBelle.

On January 13, 1979, Brother Donny transitioned this life to be with the ancestors! I want to bring his name into remembrance as he continues to rest in our hearts. Therefore, I would be remissed if I did not pay homage to the musical mastery of Mr. Donny Hathaway for his spirit lives in the souls of all of us because his music uplifted, empowered, and made us proud! And that’s my thought provoking perspective…


Happy Birthday Teddy Bear

3Music is as much a part of black history as any part of our history. Therefore, today I want to salute Black History Month by paying homage to the ghost of the greats who made a huge impact on the world and the lives of us who lived it. Today, artists have one or two hits and they are called legends. I find this laughable because, frankly, there is no body of work, in most cases, to support the label or prove worthy of attention. Black artists and icons have mastered their craft and created genres that will last forever.

NO ONE did it better than the man we affectionately call “Teddy” – Theodore Pendergrass – one of the greatest R&B singer and songwriter of our time. Teddy rose to fame as lead singer of Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes in the early 1970s prior to his hugely successful solo career at the end of the decade. In a horrible twist of fate, in 1982, Teddy was severely injured in an auto accident resulting in his being paralyzed from the chest down. After his injury, he founded the Teddy Pendergrass Alliance, a foundation that helps those with spinal cord injuries.

Teddy was not unlike most R&B singers he sang often at church and dreamed of being a pastor being ordained as a minster at the age of 10. In his early career, he sang with the Edison Mastersingers and dropped out of school in the eleventh grade to pursue the music business, recording his first song “Angel With Muddy Feet.” The recording, however, was not a commercial success.

It was the result of a chance encounter with the Blue Notes’ founder, Harold Melvin, who convinced Pendergrass to play drums in the group. Then fate stepped in and during a performance Teddy began singing along, and Melvin, impressed by his vocals, made him the lead singer. Before Pendergrass joined the group, the Blue Notes had struggled to find success. That all changed when they landed a recording deal with Philadelphia International Records in 1971, thus beginning Teddy’s successful collaboration with label founders Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff. From this point there was no turning back.

I will briefly list a few of Teddy’s most memorable hits that took him high in the stratosphere starting with his self-titled album, which went platinum on the strength of the disco hit, “I Don’t Love You Anymore.” Its follow-up single, “The Whole Town’s Laughing At Me,” became a top 20 R&B hit. It was quickly followed by Life Is a Song Worth Singing. That album was even more successful with its singles including “Only You” and “Close the Door.”

2The disco single, “Get Up, Get Down, Get Funky, Get Loose” was popular in dance clubs and after that came two more successes, Teddy and the live release, Live Coast to Coast. Hits off Teddy included “Come and Go With Me” and “Turn Off The Lights.” This was followed by the album, “TP” that included his signature song, “Love TKO” and “Is It Still Good to You.” Between 1977 and 19981, Teddy landed five consecutive platinum albums, which was a then-record setting number for a rhythm and blues artist.

Teddy’s popularity became so massive at the end of 1977 with sold-out audiences packing his shows; his manager soon noticed that a huge number of his audience consisted of women of all races. They devised a plan for his next tour to play to just female audiences, starting a trend that continues today called “women’s only concerts.”

With five platinum albums and two gold albums, Teddy was on his way to be what the media was calling him, “the black Elvis” not only in terms of his crossover popularity but also due to him buying a mansion akin to Elvis’ Graceland, located just outside of his hometown of Philadelphia. By early 1982, Pendergrass was the leading R&B male artist of his day usurping competition including closest rivals Marvin Gaye and Barry White.

2Then tragedy struck on the night of March 18, 1982, in the East Falls section of Philadelphia on Lincoln Drive near Rittenhouse Street, Teddy was involved in an automobile accident. He lost control of his Rolls-Royce Silver Spirit – the car hit a guard rail, crossed into the opposite traffic lane, and hit two trees and was trapped in the wreckage for 45 minutes; leaving him a quadriplegic, paralyzed from the chest down.

He kept recording through the 1990s in spite of being wheelchair bond and give the world his final hit in 1994, which was a hip-hop leaning “Believe in Love”. His most lasting memory for the world was “Wake Up Everybody” a tune that has been covered by a diverse range of acts from Simply Red, Patti LaBelle, Babyface, Little Brother, Kanye West, Cam’ron, Twista, Tyrese Gibson, DMX, 9th Wonder, and DJ Green Lantern.

Sadly, on January 13, 2010, the man we knew as “Teddy” left us to sing with the angels. I’ll tell you, and if you knew Teddy, the world will never be the same without his uniquely profound soulful voice. And that’s my thought provoking perspective…


Happy Birthday Sly Stone

1-The genius whose government name is Sylvester Stewart, creator and frontman, of Sly & The Family Stone harnessed all of the disparate musical and social trends of the late 60s. This group shook up the music world creating a wild, brilliant fusion of soul, rock, R&B, and psychedelic funk that broke boundaries down without a second thought. The band was comprised of men and women, and blacks and whites, making the band the first fully integrated group in rock’s history caused an integration shone through the music, as well as their message.

Before Stone, very few soul and R&B groups delved into political and social commentary; after him, it became a tradition in soul, funk, and hip-hop that evolved into the mainstream body of music. The Family Stone’s arrangements were ingenious, filled with unexpected group vocals, syncopated rhythms, punchy horns, and pop melodies. Their music was joyous, but as the 60s ended, so did the good times. Stone became disillusioned with the ideals he had been preaching in his music, becoming addicted to a variety of drugs in the process.

His music gradually grew slower and darker, culminating in 1971s There’s a Riot Going On, which set the pace for 70s funk with its elastic bass, slurred vocals and militant Black Power stance. Stone was able to turn out one more modern funk classic, 1973s Fresh, before slowly succumbing to his addictions, which gradually sapped him of his once prodigious talents. Nevertheless, his music continued to provide the basic template for urban soul, funk, and even hip-hop well into the ’90s.

During 1966, Sly formed the Stoners, which featured trumpeter Cynthia Robinson. Though the Stoners didn’t last long, he brought Robinson along as one of the core members of his next group, Sly & the Family Stone. Formed in early 1967, the Family Stone also featured Fred Stewart (guitar, vocals), Larry Graham (bass, vocals), Greg Errico (drums), Jerry Martini (saxophone), and Rosie Stone (piano), who all were of different racial backgrounds.

The group’s eclectic music and multiracial composition made them distinctive from the numerous flower-power bands in San Francisco, and their first single, “I Ain’t Got Nobody,” became a regional hit for the local label Loadstone. The band signed with Epic Records shortly afterward, releasing their debut album, A Whole New Thing, by the end of the year.

The record stiffed, but the follow-up, Dance to the Music, generated a Top Ten pop and R&B hit with its title track early in 1968. Life followed later in 1968, but the record failed to capitalize on its predecessor’s success. “Everyday People,” released late in 1968, turned their fortunes back around, rocketing to the top of the pop and R&B charts and setting the stage for the breakthrough success of 1969’s Stand! At this point, the group took over the sound of the music industry!

Featuring “Everyday People,” “Sing a Simple Song,” “Stand,” and “I Want to Take You Higher,” became the Family Stone’s first genuine hit album, climbing to number 13 and spending over 100 weeks on the charts. Stand! Marked the emergence of a political bent in Stone’s songwriting (“Don’t Call Me Nigger, Whitey”), as well as the development of hard-edged, improvisational funk like “Sex Machine.” The Family Stone quickly became known as one of the best live bands of the late 60s, and their performance at Woodstock was widely hailed as one of the festival’s best.

The non-LP singles “Hot Fun in the Summertime” and “Thank You (Falettinme Be Mice Elf Agin)” b/w “Everybody Is a Star” became hits, reaching number two and number one respectively in late 1969/early 1970. Both singles were included on Greatest Hits, which became a number two record upon its fall 1970 release.

While the group was at the height of its popularity, Sly was beginning to unravel behind the scenes. Developing a debilitating addiction to narcotics, Stone soon became notorious for arriving late for concerts, frequently missing the shows altogether. I personally paid to see Sly and the Family Stone on three different occasions and have yet to see him perform. However, it did not deter me from being one of their biggest fans.

Stone’s growing personal problems, as well as his dismay with the slow death of the civil rights movement and other political causes, surfaced on “There’s a Riot Goin’On”. Though the album shot to number one upon its fall 1971 release, the record — including “Family Affair,” Stone’s last number one single — was dark, hazy, and paranoid, and his audience began to shrink slightly.

During 1972, several key members of the Family Stone, including Graham and Errico, left the band; they were replaced by Rusty Allen and Andy Newmark, respectively. The relatively lighter Fresh appeared in the summer of 1973, and it went into the Top Ten on the strength of the Top Ten R&B hit “If You Want Me to Stay.” Released the following year, Small Talk was a moderate hit, reaching number 15 on the charts and going gold, but it failed to generate a big hit single. High on You, released in late 1975 and credited only to Sly Stone, confirmed that his power and popularity had faded. “I Get High on You” reached the R&B Top Ten, but the album made no lasting impact.

Sly virtually disappeared for years later to resurface destitute and homeless, but the sound he created lives on. It is said that most people get 15 minutes of fame while others become infamous for inspiring generations with a sound that changed the music world for all times. And that’s my thought provoking perspective…


Remember: The Terrorist Attack Of Bloody Sunday

007_1000They asked us not to forget the 911 attacks! I would ask them not to forget Tulsa, Oklahoma or the brutal terrorist acts on peaceful black people marching for the promised right to vote and the simple right to exist. One such attack was the Bloody Sunday rampage, and the atrocity at the hands of white bigots might be more appropriate. I’ll add that this act of terror and brutality was under orders of the government issued to the police. If it sounds familiar, we saw the same thing this past summer in Ferguson, MO. So we have not moved very much in terms of racism, particularly when you read the DOJ report and see other racial events around the nation. White Supremacy is still evident, and racism is not dead.

What is lost in the Selma story is that, in large part, it all began as a result of the murder of Jimmie Lee Jackson. Another significant fact is that the bridge is named Edmund Pettus, an enthusiastic champion of the Confederate cause and slavery. Pettus was a delegate to the secession convention in Mississippi and a Grand Wizard of the KKK. Ironic that a staunchly racist and bigoted so-called patriots name is connected with being the spark to give unheard of civil rights to the people he hated.

This was in no way the most horrific crime by the wretched system of racism in America. There was Black Wall Street in Tulsa, Oklahoma where planes were used to bomb a black community. There were also, by most accounts, nearly five-thousand lynching’s during the first half of the last century with many for the entertainment for the white community. There was also the horrific murder of children like Emmitt Till and the bombing that killed four innocent little girls in a Birmingham church. Appalling and despicable acts of terror perpetrated by America’s homegrown terrorist like the KKK and others the so-called law.

Back to the March, between 1961 and 1964, the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) led voting registration campaigns in Selma, Alabama, a small town with a record of consistent resistance to black voting. When SNCC’s efforts were frustrated by stiff resistance from the county’s law enforcement officials and political leadership, meaning the Klan. Dr. Martin Luther King and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) were persuaded by local activists to make Selma’s intransigence to black voting a national concern.

SCLC also hoped to use the momentum of the 1964 Civil Rights Act to win federal protection for a voting rights statute. During January and February 1965, King and SCLC led a series of demonstrations to the Dallas County Courthouse. On February 17, protester Jimmy Lee Jackson was fatally shot by an Alabama state trooper. In response, a protest march from Selma to Montgomery was scheduled for March 7. Six hundred marchers assembled in Selma on Sunday, March 7, led by John Lewis and other SNCC and SCLC activists crossed the Edmund Pettus Bridge over the Alabama River en route to Montgomery.

Just short of the bridge, they found their way blocked by Alabama State Troopers and local police who ordered them to turn around. When the protesters refused, the officers shot tear gas and waded into the crowd on foot and horseback beating the nonviolent protesters with billy-clubs and ultimately hospitalizing over fifty people. What was significant about this was that all of the television networks interrupted programming to televise this horrific terror attack that became known as “Bloody Sunday”. The images were of this day of terror were beamed around the world.

Martin Luther King called for civil rights supporters to come to Selma for a second march. When members of Congress pressured him to restrain the march until a court could rule on whether the protesters deserved federal protection. King found himself torn between their requests for patience and demands of the movement activists pouring into Selma. King, still conflicted, led the second protest on March 9, but turned it around at the same bridge. King’s actions exacerbated the tension between SCLC and the more militant SNCC, who were pushing for more radical tactics that would move from nonviolent protest to win reforms to active opposition to racist institutions.

On March 21, the successful final march began with federal protection, and on August 6, 1965, the federal Voting Rights Act was passed, completing the process that King had wanted. Bloody Sunday was about more than winning a federal act. It highlighted the political pressures King was negotiating at the time, between movement radicalism and federal calls for restraint, as well as the tensions between SCLC and SNCC. In that sense, it was a successful strategy!

In closing, let me bring you back to the present, 50 years later, with this point having seen racism rear its ugly head since the election of the first black president. We’ve seen brutal acts of aggression on black people though laws and its agents, the police. To include stripping the voting rights act and in Ferguson, which is the Selma of today. We see the same issues today as they marched for then. The Republicans are no different than the Citizens Council of Selma’s day.

I get a lot of disparaging racist comment concerning what I write and post about black history. To those people, and I use that loosely; you want me to believe and love the Constitution that says I am 3/5th human and not to forget the holocaust or 911. I say, I will never forget what your ancestors did to my ancestors or believe the whitewashed version of what was done, which continue today. Truth be told, the sins of your fathers are acts of terror that I will never forget! And that’s my thought provoking perspective…

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 FERGUSON 2015


History’s Most Courageous Harriet Tubman

1Harriet Tubman, in my opinion, was the most courageous woman who ever lived, and my personal hero. Hidden in the tiny “dash” on her marker is her life’s work of being the great conductor of the Underground Railroad, a scout, spy, and nurse during the Civil War.

Harriet Tubman was born Araminta Ross sometimes referred to as “Moses.” The date of her actual birth is suspect because as a slave accurate birth records were not kept. Therefore, no one can say for sure as to the actual date. She always proclaimed her birth as 1825 but most historians believe she was born around 1820 or 1821.

After escaping from the slavery into which she was born, she made thirteen missions to rescue over seventy slaves using the network of antislavery activists and safe houses known as the Underground Railroad. She once remarked that she could have saved a lot more if they had only known they were slaves. Her courage was that of unimaginable proportion because death was the penalty for such work.

Early in her life, she was told that she was of Ashanti lineage from what is now Ghana where her grandmother was captured. Her mother, Rit, struggled to keep their family together as slavery tried to tear it apart. Edward Brodess sold three of her daughters separating them from the family forever.

Once a trader from Georgia approached Brodess about buying Rit’s youngest son Moses; she hid him for a month, aided by other slaves and free blacks in the community. At one point she even confronted her owner about the sale. Finally, Brodess and “the Georgia man” came toward the slave quarters to seize the child where Rit told them: “You are after my son, but the first man that comes into my house I will split his head open.” Brodess backed away and abandoned the sale.

Because Tubman’s mother was assigned to “the big house” and had scarce time for her own family, as a child Tubman took care of a younger brother and a baby. At the age of five or six, she was hired out to a woman named “Miss Susan” as a nursemaid. Tubman was ordered to keep watch on her baby as it slept. When it woke or cried, Tubman was whipped.

She told of a particular day when she was lashed five times before breakfast. She carried these scars for the rest of her life. Threatened later for stealing a lump of sugar, Tubman hid in a neighbor’s pig sty for five days, where she fought with the animals for scraps of food. Starving, she returned to Miss Susan’s house and received a heavy beating.

Tubman was beaten and whipped regularly by her various masters to whom she had been hired out. She learned to protect herself from such abuse by wrapping herself in layers of clothing but cried out as if she was not protected. Tubman also worked as a child for a planter where her job was to go into nearby marshes to check the muskrat traps.

Even after contracting the measles, she was sent into waist high cold water. She became very ill and was sent back to her master. Her mother nursed her back to health, whereupon she was immediately hired out again to various farms. As she grew older and stronger, she was assigned to grueling field and forest work: driving oxen, plowing, and hauling logs.

Tubman’s father Ben was released from slavery at the age of forty-five, as stipulated in a former owner’s will, though his real age was closer to fifty-five. He continued working as a timber estimator and foreman for the Thompson family, who had owned him as a slave.

Several years later, Tubman contacted a white attorney and paid him five dollars to investigate her mother’s legal status. The lawyer discovered that a former owner had issued instructions that Rit, like her husband, would be manumitted at the age of forty-five. The record showed that a similar provision would apply to Rit’s children and that any children born after she reached forty-five years of age were legally free, but her owners ignored this stipulation.

Around 1844, she married a free black man named John Tubman. Although little is known about him or their time together, the union was complicated due to her slave status. Since the mother’s status dictated that of her children, any children born to Harriet and John would be enslaved. As a result of her master’s death the likelihood that Tubman would be sold increased and the family would be broken apart as their master’s widow would sell the family’s slaves. Tubman refused to wait for her owner’s family to decide her fate, despite her husband John’s efforts to dissuade her.

She escaped to Philadelphia and returned to Maryland to find her husband. However, John had married another woman named Caroline. Tubman sent word that he should join her, but he insisted that he was happy where he was. Tubman at first prepared to storm their house and make a scene but decided he was not worth the trouble. Suppressing her anger, she found some slaves who wanted to escape and led them to Philadelphia. John and Caroline raised a family together until he was killed sixteen years later in a roadside argument with a white man.

It is said, that she freed hundreds but when asked she said I could have saved many more if they only knew they were slaves. I don’t know what it says on her final marker but it should contain a simple inscription that says – “Servant of God”. In my opinion, she was the most significant black woman in our history!  And that’s my Thought Provoking Perspective…

Just a Season

AMAZON


Elegance and Grace Personified aka Lena Horne

1There is nothing that gives me more pride than paying homage to the remarkable trailblazers who paved the way for others to follow. None was more significant that the lady known as “the Horne”! The electrifying beauty and uncompromising performer Lena Horne shattered racial boundaries by changing the way Hollywood presented black women for six decades through a singing career, stage, television, and in films.

She is best described in her own words saying, “my identity was clear because I no longer have to be a ‘credit,’ I don’t have to be a ‘symbol’ to anybody. I don’t have to be a ‘first’ to anybody. I don’t have to be an imitation of a white woman that Hollywood sort of hoped I’d become. I’m me, and I’m like nobody else.”
In 1933, Ms. Horne was pushed into a job at the Cotton Club by her mother, who knew the Harlem nightclub’s choreographer. The segregated club attracted white clientele, who liked to watch the top black entertainers of the day, such as Duke Ellington and Cab Calloway, surrounded by what was promoted as a “tall, tan and terrific” chorus of girls.

The Horne, as she was endearing called because of her striking beauty and voice, considered one of the most beautiful women in the world, attracted the attention of Hollywood in 1942. She was the first black woman to sign a meaningful long-term contract with a major studio, a contract that said she would never have to play a maid. This single act transformed the image of the African American woman in Hollywood.

As a film historian, Donald Bogle said, “Movies are a powerful medium and always depicted African American women before Lena Horne as hefty, mammy-like maids who were ditzy and giggling… Lena Horne becomes the first one the studios begin to look at differently… Really just by being there, being composed and onscreen with her dignity intact paved the way for a new day” for black actresses.

In Hollywood, Ms. Horne received previously unheard-of star treatment for a black actor. Her reputation in Hollywood rested on a handful of classic musical films. Among the best were two all-black musicals from 1943: “Cabin in the Sky,” as a small-town temptress who pursues Eddie “Rochester” Anderson; and “Stormy Weather,” in which she played a career-obsessed singer opposite Bill “Bojangles” Robinson. She shared billing with hugely famous white entertainers such as Gene Kelly, Lucille Ball, Mickey Rooney and Red Skelton but was segregated onscreen so producers could clip out her singing when the movies ran in the South. “Mississippi wanted its movies without me,” she once told the New York.

Metro Goldwyn Mayer studios featured Ms. Horne in movies and advertisements as glamorously as white beauties including Hedy Lamarr, Rita Hayworth, and Betty Grable. James Gavin, who has written a biography of Ms. Horne, said: “Given the horrible restrictions of the time, MGM bent over backward to do everything they could. After MGM, she was an international star, and that made her later career possible, made her a superstar.” Ms. Horne appeared on television and at major concerts halls in New York, London, and Paris. She starred on Broadway twice, and her 1981 revue, “Lena Horne: The Lady and Her Music,” set the standard for the one-person musical show, reviewers said. The performance also netted her a special Tony Award and two Grammy Awards. She was formidable and the first black cabaret star for white society.

As a songstress, her repertoire consisted of sophisticated ballads of Cole Porter, George and Ira Gershwin, Frank Loesser and Billy Strayhorn. She loved the music but also said she liked surprising the white audience who expected black entertainers to sing hot jazz or blues and dance wildly. In her singing, Ms. Horne showed great range and could convincingly shift between jazz, blues, and cabaret ballads. New Yorker jazz writer Whitney Balliett praised her “sense of dynamics that allowed her to whisper and wheedle and shout.”

She told the New York Times in 1981, “I thought, ‘How can I sing about a penthouse in the sky, when with the housing restrictions the way they are, I wouldn’t be allowed to rent the place?” In the late 1940’s and 1950’s, she chose to focus on quietly defying segregation policies at upscale hotels in Miami Beach and Las Vegas where she performed. At the time, it was customary for black entertainers to stay in black neighborhoods, but Ms. Horne successfully insisted that she and her musicians be allowed to stay wherever she entertained. One Las Vegas establishment reportedly had its chambermaids burn Ms. Horne’s sheets.

In 1963, Ms. Horne appeared at the civil rights March on Washington with Harry Belafonte and Dick Gregory and was part of a group, which included authors James Baldwin and Lorraine Hansberry that met with Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy to urge a more active approach to desegregation. Ms. Horne also used her celebrity to rally front-line civil rights activists in the South and was a fundraiser for civil right groups including the NAACP and the National Council of Negro Women.

Working closely with NAACP Executive Secretary Walter White, Ms. Horne said she wanted to “try to establish a different kind of image for Negro women.” They successfully challenged the casting system that had long marginalized black performers onscreen by having them portray servants, minstrels or jungle natives.

To Ms. Horne’s surprise, her efforts to overcome servile screen parts was resented by many black actors who viewed her as a threat more than a pioneer. She said she was perceived as a danger to the system of informal “captains” in the black acting community who worked as liaisons with film producers when they needed “natives” for the latest Tarzan picture.

After the triumph of her 1981 Broadway show, she led an increasingly isolated life in her Manhattan apartment. Over my lifetime, I have seen and known giants who have illuminated the world. None shined brighter than “The Horne”. A life rich in wonder who now belong to the ages. Rest In Peace Ms. Horne as you take your rest among the ghost of the great. And that’s my thought provoking perspective…


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