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So I finally watched OWN’s premiere of Dr. Maya Angelou new music video for “Harlem Hopscotch” and it got me seriously wondering to Sal, “how come you ain’t got no brothers up on the wall here?”
If you haven’t seen the video, you can check it out above. In fact, I implore you to watch it first, before continuing this essay. If the name of the song and lyrics sounds familiar, the song is really a re-conceptualized version of Dr. Angelou’s 1969 poem of the same name. According to BET.com, the song is the first single from Dr. Angelou’s posthumous 13-track album called Caged Bird Songs, which was released last month. The album, which was produced by both her estate and RoccStar and Shawn Rivera (formally of the group AZ Yet), features Dr. Angelou’s vocals and poems over pop and other contemporary beats.
Rolling Stone wrote a brief article about its release in October and included a free listen of album, if you’re interested. Apparently the album was a dear project of the late poet, writer, dancer and activist. And as quoted in the Rolling Stone article, Dr. Angelou said of the importance of the album: “It’s woven into the tapestry of our lives, and we’re being serious and giving and kind about it. So obviously, it’s going somewhere. And we have to release it to go there.”
According to the BET.com article, the video, which was directed by Emmy Award-winning duo Tabitha and Napoleon Dumo and premiered on Oprah.com the Tuesday before Christmas, is said to use “dance to interpret Dr. Angelou’s inspirational poem about persevering through life’s challenges.” But in spite of its aim, it’s actually hard to see how video actually corresponds with the poem itself. For one, while it is true that some parts of the video were filmed in Harlem, New York, particularly the beginning; the rest of the video takes places in other locations far outside of the track’s namesake, like Hollywood and Los Angeles.
In fact, we would be hard pressed to see any bit of “Harlem” in this video. I mean, it is there, but sparsely and it looks a lot like the newly gentrified Harlem with the high rents and higher incomes than the one Dr. Angelou wanted us to know about in 1969. In fact, the main focus of the video is a bunch of smiling faced, happy feet celebrities, including Alfonso Ribeiro, Zendaya and one of the dance crews from So You Think You Can Dance and America’s Best Dance Crew, who dance along side of chorus line of mostly smiling White faces in the streets of Hollywood.
Now granted, I can appreciate the fact that lots of people of various colors and ethnicities also appreciated Dr. Angelou’s work. And I can also understand that the Phenomenal Woman belongs to us all. But that’s the thing: there is a difference between appreciation and straight up white-washing over the woman’s work in order to not offend some folks’ sensibilities. White folks’ sensibilities. And for that reason, I kind of have a huge problem with this music video.
For more clarity, let’s look at the poems stanzas:
One foot down, then hop! It’s hot.
Good things for the ones that’s got.
Another jump, now to the left.
Everybody for hisself.
In the air, now both feet down.
Since you black, don’t stick around.
Food is gone, the rent is due,
Curse and cry and then jump two.
All the people out of work,
Hold for three, then twist and jerk.
Cross the line, they count you out.
That’s what hopping’s all about.
Both feet flat, the game is done.
They think I lost, I think I won.
Without previous knowledge of the “Harlem Hopscotch” poem, it would be easy to conclude all sort of whimsical irrelevancy to the current “Harlem Hopscotch” song. The danceable beat and upbeat tempo of the song does help sell the theme. And in fact, the music video does a good job of playing up the whimsy angle of a game of hopscotch without any mention of the poem-now-song’s deeper meaning. To be even clearer: the poem/song is actually about poverty – Black poverty to be more exact.
A good and simple analysis of the poem comes courtesy of this blog post, which writes in part:
“Harlem Hopscotch” adds a whole different meaning behind the actual game of hopscotch, being that fact that this game is being played in a community full of poverty. Usually when one plays a game, in this case hopscotch, it can almost always be associated with fun. However, in this scenario the game is to teach the children a lesson of the rough times in life, letting them know not to expect good things. Comparing poverty and struggle to a game of hopscotch emphasizes the real meaning of poverty in the sense that a game of hopscotch is looked at with complete innocence, according to Sparknotes.com. Racism is tied into the poem because of the fact that the game the children are playing takes place in an extremely poor black community, Harlem. “Since you black, don’t stick around”, line 6 from the poem, exemplifies racism because the whole point of the game is to move forward, and this line commands the question of who should move or not. There are many different ways to interpret the theme, and many different ways to state what the theme is. The overall theme that is clearly expressed is childhood poverty, struggle, wealth, work and leisure in the African American culture.”
All of which is not featured in the video.
And I get it: poverty is depressing. I mean, who really wants to watch a video of some sad-face poverty stricken Black kids, playing chalk hopscotch in the age of Playstations and iPads? Nobody. I don’t even believe Dr. Angelou intended that with the poem when it was drafted in 1969 – at likely the height of poverty in Harlem. But when the alternative is to create visuals of a multi-racial bunch of celebrities as well as random White people dancing in streets, which are not Harlem, we kind of gloss over what Dr. Angelou really wanted us to pay attention to in the poem.
And intentions matter. No one convinced us of that more than Dr. Angelou herself, who a few years before her passing, publicly denounced the Dr. Martin King Jr. Memorial for how the statue’s inscription misrepresented the civil rights leader’s words for the purpose of brevity and space. In many respects the washing over the poem and now song’s theme is guilty of that same misrepresentation.
Unlike what the description for the video would have you believe, this was not an inspirational poem “about persevering through life’s challenges,” but rather this was an inspirational poem about Black people preserving through poverty and racism. And as good stewards of Dr. Angelou’s legacy, intention as well as the issue of Black poverty and racism in general, we should not allow those themes to be written out of the narrative.
Ladies, if you don’t already know him, meet “The Haves and the Have Nots” actor, Tyler Lepley. He plays Benny Young on the hit OWN show, and before he was a hit on-screen and with the ladies, the Philly-born cutie moved to Los Angeles and paid the bills by doing personal training. After auditioning for and nabbing a role in an independent feature, his first film role, Lepley caught the acting bug. He took some classes and eventually was cast in small roles in movies like Baggage Claim, and is now doing big things on Tyler Perry’s hit show, “The Haves and the Have Nots” alongside Tika Sumpter (he plays her half-brother). He’s a talented actor on the rise, and did we mention that he’s easy on the eyes? Check out this week’s evening eye candy and we think you’ll agree with us!
Even today, there are a lot of theories surrounding Teddy Pendergrass’ car accident. All we really know was that the singer was riding with a transgender woman and was subsequently paralyzed from the accident.
Sadly, folks got very hung up on questioning Teddy’s sexuality and no one really took the time to find out what happened with these two.
So it’s very interesting that the people at OWN, tracked down Tenika Watson, the woman who was riding with Pendergrass the day his life changed forever, told OWN’s cameras, “I never really got a chance to tell my side of things and it was important to me. Very important to me.”
How they met
I met Teddy in the seventies. I was coming down the street where I lived at. It was close to the studio where he recorded. He called me over to his car and it was a Rolls Royce. I thought he was a pimp because I wasn’t really used to people really having Rolls Royces. So that was the first time and I ran from him.
Watson, a former prostitute, told OWN that she was working as a nightclub entertainer and model when she saw Teddy again at a popular club in Philadelphia.
I went over and spoke to him and said hi. And I said I just wanted to speak to you. He said ‘Ok.’ And I said ‘I’m leaving because I have to get up early tomorrow.’ And he said ‘I’m getting ready to leave too. Would you like a ride home.’ So I said sure. So we proceeded to go to his car and drove away and that’s when the accident happened.
The accident and the aftermath
First the car started speeding up really fast. And I was wondering is he driving fast. But he wasn’t. It was out of control. And I noticed he was struggling with the wheel and all of a sudden I heard this great big bang. Next thing I know the press was there and I got into the ambulance with him and I helped him as much as I could.
I had contusions from the impact and I had a chipped tooth, which is nothing compared to him.
I didn’t find out Teddy was paralyzed until it got in the paper. I tried to reach out to him right after the accident. I went to the hospital where he was and there was a woman there. And she said, ‘You’re not going to see him before his son does.’ And she caused this big scene and I just left.
The story, as I’ve heard it, always made it seem like Pendergrass and this woman were in a full fledged relationship. But in reality, they were just meeting.
What do you make of Watson’s story? Is it different from the way you’ve heard it? You can watch the full clip in the video below.
“I’m Talking No Money In The Account Bad” Flex Alexander Details Financial Struggles In New Flex And Shanice Trailer
Earlier this year, we told you that Flex and Shanice were getting a new reality show on OWN. And now that the time is nearing for the show to premiere, we’re getting more and more information about what we can expect from the series. The network recently released an extended trailer. In it, we see Flex and Shanice dealing with their unorthodox family structure. Having all of those people (at least 4 extended family members) living in the crib can be a strain. The family argues about which relatives are bringing money into the household and which ones are kind of freeloading.
In addition, the couple opens up about their financial struggles and getting back into their prospective fields. Shanice is back in the studio, sounding stronger than I remember. And Flex is back on stage performing as a stand up comedian.
We all know the funniest stories are the true ones. So it only makes sense that Flex is using his recent filing of bankruptcy as material. Check out a few excerpts from his set and then watch the full video below.
“Me and wifey, we went through it y’all. We was ballin’, making 1.5, 1.7 million a year, just balling and then just [makes car screech noise] boom! Somebody cut the lights out!
I’m going to tell you what’s really embarrassing? Filing bankruptcy. The funny thing is me and wifey go down there and wifey she’s like ‘I don’t want to do this…’ I’m like ‘baby, we gotta do it. Donald Trump did it 12 times.’ Went in there and we’re like ‘Lord please don’t see no Black people because they’re going to know who we are!'”
You can watch the end of the bit in the video below. Forgot how funny that Flex Alexander is. Take a look in the video below.
The show “Flex and Shanice” will air on OWN starting Saturday, November 1 at 10/9c.
Also on the next page there’s this adorable video of Flex and Shanice talking about how they’ve managed to keep their marriage going strong after 14 years and Shanice talking about Flex being her Snicker.
“Who Holds Him Accountable?” Amina Mosley, Eldest Child Of Jay Williams, Writes Open Letter To Iyanla
We’ve talked extensively about Jay Williams and his large family on this site. We’ve talked about his parents, the women who had his children and even the other men who seem to be following in his footsteps. And while Iyanla said she dealt so heavily with the mothers because she knew they were raising the children, aside from that meeting with Jay on the couch, we didn’t hear too much from them.
Well, all of that changed recently when Jay’s oldest child, daughter Amina Mosley, wrote an open letter to Iyanla, sarcastically thanking her for fixing her father. In it, she explains that instead of being held accountable for his actions, Jay got to walk away from the experience a bit of a superstar, without dealing with the broken relationships with his children.
See what she had to say.
I joined my siblings on the couch as we sat across from you, and then my father entered the room. In that particular moment, it felt like seeing a ghost. I hadn’t had any contact with my Father in over a year, and I was not at all pleased to be in presence. I just could not seem to wrap my head around my father knowing exactly how to reach me and where to find me all of this time but was only willing to talk when there was a camera around. Needless to say, my guard was up, and I did not believe that anything positive could come from this show. I began to worry about my siblings feelings, my family’s reputation, and I even questioned how I could receive any healing with my Father from that conversation. I left Atlanta feeling frustrated. All of the feelings about my Father that I had long since suppressed had resurfaced, and I did not want to deal with them, so I didn’t. I tucked my feelings away as I had so effortlessly done before, out of site out of mind. That is until the first show aired.
It was as if I was listening to someone else’s story, about a family that I didn’t even know. I could not believe that this man has 34 children! I could not believe that all of these women just let him get away with this! Why didn’t he just get a vasectomy? How did he get to this point? Furthermore, How can this be “fixed”? So just like any other viewer, I tuned into the next episode, and the next, and the next. I was able to see how what he created actually looked from another perspective, and was left with one question: Who holds him accountable?
So here’s what I learned from this process; It was never about highlighting the extraordinary circumstances of my family, it was about healing and finding your inner peace. This has tested my ability to compartmentalize the feelings that I have toward my father, so that I don’t allow his mistakes to mold my decisions. I also have to be cautious as not to project my feelings onto others. I am not just the eldest of 34. Who I am and what I feel as an individual does matter. His absence in my life is not a detriment. In fact, it has actually made me stronger, and serves a greater purpose. I know that things may not ever be perfect between my father and I. I am also aware that the time has passed for him to be a Dad, but I felt that this experience would at the least open up dialogue between us, possibly even maybe one day developing a friendship. So, with that thought in mind, before I left Atlanta I took a picture with my Grandfather and my Dad just so that I could have some inspiration to hold on to.
When I look at that photo, I see a young woman standing in between two of the most important men in her life. She is happy because she knows that the man to her right loves her, provides for her, protects her and she trusts him. She knows that when she calls he will answer, and that he will always put her first. She is his first child, Daddy’s little girl And he always has her best interest at heart.
She also knows that this is not real. This photo represents a “fantasy” of the Father that she never had. The reality is that this is the first photo she has ever taken with the two of these men together at the same time.
“I Had To Learn To Stop Dating Little Boys” Vivica Fox Talks Love Life And Missing Motherhood With Oprah
This Sunday, Vivica Fox will sit down with Oprah for her “Where Are They Now” episode. Vivica’s a charismatic lady so you know she and Oprah gelled well together. Plus, Oprah’s able to ask questions most of us can’t get away with. Anyway, during their sit-down she asked Vivica did she ever regret the fact that she didn’t become a mother and her answer was very candid and a bit sad, actually. See what she had to say.
Oprah: Do you ever miss being a mother?
Vivica: Of course.
Vivica: If that’s the biggest regret of my life that I have was that I didn’t have a child but I’m a good godmother.
Vivica: Oh yeah, I bring the best gifts and throw the best parties. If that’s the one thing that I have a regret about, that would be that I didn’t have a child.
Oprah: I didn’t expect that answer.
Vivica: Yeah, that’s the only thing. I’ll never forget seeing Halle on the red carpet and she’d just had Nahla. And I said, “Wow she so beautiful.” She said, “Vivica if I knew then what I know now I would’ve had 5 of them.” And she said the joy I see in her eyes is just like no other high that I’ve ever experienced so I don’t get to see my eyes in a child.
Wow. It’s so beautiful but also really unfortunate for Vivica, considering it seems like it was clearly something she wanted for her life.
But on a lighter, much more hilarious note, Oprah asked her one of her staple questions: what do you know now that you wish you knew then. I would think Vivica would speak about something in her career. Instead, the conversation veered off into her love life and how she used to get completely distracted by a six pack and a smile.
Oprah: What do you know now, that you wish you had known then that could have saved you so much time?
Vivica: Just to have a little bit more patience. Not to basically fall in love so quick. I have a tendency– I would jump into the shallow end of the pool head first. Now I’m a little bit more cautious with getting to know people, especially for my love life.
Oprah: So what are you now looking for that you weren’t then?
Vivica: Gosh, a man more than anything else. I had to learn to stop dating little boys. I had to learn to stop falling in love with a six pack and a smile, honey. It used to just be the curse for your girl. I did honey. if a six pack and smile came my way, I was just the worse.
I can’t help but think of at least a couple of men she’s referencing. *Calls 50 Cent and Vivica’s former fiancé Omar “Slimm” White to mind.* I know she’s happy to be out of that phase…
You can watch these clips from the interview in the videos on the next page.
“I Trusted You And You Left Me” Iyanla Tells Man With 28 Children What It’s Like To Be A Single Mother
After dealing with the women, the mothers of children from men who had fathered several, Iyanla turned her attention to the fathers. In this clip, Iyanla talks to another father, Nathaniel, who has 28 children from 16 different women. And what’s interesting about this conversation is that it involves four people. There’s Nathaniel, standing in front of him is Iyanla and behind Iyanla is Jeff Johnson (formerly Cousin Jeff). And behind Nathaniel is Jay Williams, the man we’ve been following for the past month and some, with 34 children, was standing with his back to him, supporting him, holding him up.
At first, she asks him what it feels like to wake up knowing he has this much responsibility on his plate.
Nathaniel: “When I think about my children, I feel helpless. I’m full of shame and guilt. I’m bitter.”
Iyanla: “Let me talk to you as a woman, as a single mother. I gave you the most intimate part of who as I am as a woman. I opened my soul to you when I allowed you to lay with me and I trusted you. I trusted that you would be there. I trusted that you were the promise that my daddy never gave me. I trusted you with my soul, with my body, with my being. I trusted you and you left me. Not only did you leave me, you left me here with this child. Just like you don’t know who you are, I don’t know who I am. And now I’ve got a child and I’ve got to figure it out. And you tell me, that you get to go off and figure it out and have other women and I’m here with your child? I don’t get to go figure it out. That’s where she is.
Nathaniel: All of them, though? Even that the ones that we weren’t in a relationship…
Iyanla: Doesn’t matter.
Oprah called this moment one of the most powerful she’s ever seen on television. And judging by the audience reaction, she might have been right. Men and women alike were crying real tears, like twisted face tears.
If you’ve followed Iyanla’s career, you know this tidbit about her life. But rarely, have I ever seen someone so accomplished, someone who’s established themselves as a leader open up and share the raw, gut-wrenching truth about what it really feels like to be a woman who believed in a man and ending up having his child, only to have that same man leave. It was intense and so honest.
Did you watch this recap episode?
Watch the full interaction Iyanla and the man in the video below.
When the story of Jay Williams and his 34 children by 17 different women aired on OWN, social media erupted with all types of judgement. Judgement for Jay and judgement for the women who dealt with him in the past and those who continue to deal with him. Iyanla said that more than anyone, she wanted to make sure the women, the mothers, were working towards healing because they were the ones who were raising the children.
So she followed up the three part series with Jay by meeting up with the women again. But this time she had other women in the audience because, as Iyanla said, over and over again, the women who had been with Jay were not all that different from us all.
If you missed the series, know that she dropped some knowledge. Here are some of the lessons we took from the episode.
Oprah struck a full gold mine with “Iyanla Fix My Life.” And with each season, the show gets better and better. There’s something about watching other people’s dysfunction that either, makes you see your own or makes you feel a bit better about your life. For the past three weeks, we’ve watched as Iyanla met with a man, Jay Williams, who has fathered 34 children, with 17 different women. We’ve talked about it before but now, after seeing all three parts of the mega fix, there are some things we just have to talk about.
Tyler Perry and Oprah may have another victory on their hands! According to theJasmineBrand.com, the two mega superstars have finally settled a nasty legal battle.
The battle involved Vanessa Lynn and Parables Entertainment. Lynn claimed she wrote the screenplay “Affairs” a number of years ago, which was eventually recreated and developed as “The Have and The Have Nots” for OWN. The drama Lynn created revolved around a small town family, a father running for mayor, a health challenged mother and a daughter named Peaches. Sound similar right? Also another similar storyline was the storyline that included a friend of Peaches having an affair with her father. (Side eye we know)
“Affairs” was turned into a play and eventually released on DVD by Parables Entertainment. Lynn claims Tyler Perry stole the idea of “Affairs” to create the show “The Have and The Have Nots”.
The lawsuit requested an injunction to prevent the show from airing and also a fair share of the profits made by the two giants. Lynn also wanted to be listed in the credits.
However, on September 17th, Parables Entertainment dismissed the entire lawsuit against Perry and OWN. From this dismissal alone we can only assume, Lynn and Parables Entertainment were awarded a hefty fee. The group also dismissed with case with prejudice. Therefore, they cannot file another lawsuit against the same claims.
Someone was clearly paid very nicely. Thoughts?