The Case Of The Uptight Black Professional at Play

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I don’t know what it is but when I go to a party geared to the young, Black professional crowd, I just know it’s going to be boring as hell.

Don’t get it twisted, there are plenty of things that black professionals know how to do very well, including landing a job, throwing frou-frou networking events with fancy cheeses and crackers, wearing pearls and snazzy bow ties and handing out business cards.  However, with all their social grace and refinement, there is one thing that the Black professional class doesn’t know how to do and that is throw a decent party.

Even with my taste for Brie cheese and Moscato, I still consider myself to be down to earth. As such when I go out for a night on the town, I like to have a good time.  For those black professionals reading this and have no idea what I mean by “a good time,” let me elaborate:  the music from the DJ booth is bumping, the liquor is flowing and everyone is out on the dance floor, smiling, laughing, and heeding the advice of the late-great Michael Jackson, leaving “that 9 to 5 up on the shelf and just enjoy..”

But that never seems to be the case at events geared to the young black professional sect. Most of these events have all the elements for a good time (good food, plenty of liquor and a decent DJ) – but everyone appears too self-conscious or self-indulgent to cut loose.  The women in tight bandeau dresses, cluster together in a group, leaning on one another’s shoulder to relieve the pain of those 4 inch platform pumps. And the men, dressed in either suits and ties or button down and slacks, stand  against the wall, sipping on a glass of wine they had for the last 40 minutes. There are maybe a handful of brave souls out on the dance floor but for the most part, professionals stand around, dressed to the nines, and look at each other, waiting for something to happen.

I was reminded of this last Friday when I attended an NABJ party here in Philadephia. After a rousing performance by Kindred and the Family Soul, ?uestlove, of the legendary Roots crew, took to the stage and got the party started off right by spinning the very best in 70s, 80s and 90s R&B classics. Never being one to ignore a trip down musical memory lane, I proceeded to pick a spot on the dance floor and get into the groove of things. However, when I looked around the hundreds of well-dressed beautiful black folks, I noticed that dancing was sporadic at best.

Granted the audience ranged from 20 to 60 years of age; however, I really challenge anyone to listen to Outstanding by the Gap Band; followed by Poison by Bell Biv Devoe, followed by the Big Payback by James Brown and not find something to your liking.  Even a footloose Roland Martin, who managed to shake a tail feather in a white suit and ascot on – at the height of summer, no less – couldn’t motivate the crowd enough to get into the swing of things.

I don’t want to sound as if I am picking on NABJ because this aversion to the boogie is indicative of just about every “grown and Hot” party, “Business attire” mixer or somewhat upscale Black event that I attend.   It’s glaringly obvious that for many in the professionals crowd, working 70 plus hours a week in hopes of climbing that career ladder has left them uptight, easily embarrassed and tittered by what others might think, even when they are supposed to be safe in their own environments. It seems that spitting out resumes and boasting about HBCU alma maters and Greek-letter affiliations have replaced any semblance of having a good time.  I guess my point is that life is hard enough for black folks, especially those walking a very narrow line of acceptance in corporate America.  And if you can’t be comfortable enough to let your hair down and go H.A.M. on the dance floor around your own folks, who do understand your struggle, who can you be comfortable around?

But you know who is partying?  Black folks in the ‘hood.  The hood knows how to turn a scene out.  Pick any spot, which is known to be frequented by the rough and roughed in America and I guarantee you that this is the spot to be at – that is until someone get’s stabbed or shot.  That’s what we call a grand opening and a grand closing in one day.  Sigh There’s has to be a happy medium where worrying about what school you went to 15 years ago and getting shot to death for accidentally stepping on someone’s shoes plays a distant second to a drink and a two-step.

Charing Ball is the author of the blog People, Places & Things.

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