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The Black Cornerempty posted on: 8.01
Mike Ramey Mike Ramey
We Can Compete
No Matter The Odds!

by Mike Ramey
some text

Remember a few years back all of the howls and threatened protests by the NAACP and other African-American leaders concerning the 'lack' of our progress in Hollywood--both on the big and small screen? While enjoying some 'quality time' with my remote on one recent morning, I happened across 'The Early Show' on CBS-TV, and 'The Today Show' on NBC-TV. Up for discussion were the releases of Eddie Murphy's 'Dr. Dolittle 2' and the Wayan brothers 'Scary Movie 2', during one of the busiest, most lucrative times of the Hollywood year--the Summer box office season. Both movies were the result of public demand for sequels to well-written, and well-acted movies. Both films featured black actors and actresses, and as far as I know, many of them managed to keep their clothes on in these films (while for some, some of the language may leave a lot to be desired). Meanwhile, a few weeks earlier, Russell Simmons and company had their 'Rap Summit', about the state of this music genre in the public eye. One of the unexpected issues, which generated press attention: Why more rappers couldn't up with cleaner songs like mega-star Will Smith.

Yes, other music genres need to be cleaned up. However, since I am an African-American, I am more concerned with what is happening in the 'hood, and what is coming into OUR homes. Brothers, for the past few years, the public mood has been changing. More of us have gotten the message that what we see, or what we listen to--OUR media choices eventually become a part of us. It's no accident that a lot of our young people have wound up dead, in the lockup, or on X Row, influenced by their media choices. And, those who make their living producing questionable 'entertainment' are getting the message, because many of us have grown up, and started to put our money where our morals should be--into things that support the family, our women, and our children--and taking our money away from those things that make WE as a people look like less than we are. No, it's not perfect. But, judging from what I am seeing and hearing from the entertainment and music industries, many are starting to realize that the best way to grow a customer base is to encourage them to stay alive--not kill each other off with senseless violence, nor 'birth babies' without the benefit of marriage. We can compete in the marketplace with entertainment offerings that have uplifting themes. If you read on, you'll see what I mean, when I present some items from our past to demonstrate my point.

Brothers, it's gratifying to see that many of our communities are re-discovering the virtues of morality and upright living. Far too many of our youth have seen the downside of living 'outside of the straight line' with out-of-wedlock births, and the like. However, Hollywood, the rappers, and the rest of the entertainment industry are slowly getting the message: Morality IS good for business. Drug-addicted actors, loose-living actresses, gun-toting recording artists, and low-living television performers don't do well with the mainstream public, regardless of their color. Add to this the fact that, as recently as last year, studies surfaced showing that 'R' rated movies and music are losing sales revenue--and have been for a long time, TV shows with negative themes are losing viewers, and corporations that put forth health care benefits for same-sex marriages and domestic 'partners' will take it on the shins, financially. This doesn't mean that the various entertainment venues won't continue to try to put forth the 'Lifestyles Of The HellBound and Rebellious', but many of us won't be participating at the box office, at the mall, or on-line.

The publishing industry is not immune to trash-slinging. However, it is nice to note that more and more new books are coming out, with themes that inspire, uplift, and are truthful as to the state of the individual, and the need to understand the biblical truth of our times. One such book is making the rounds, the second volume in the landmark series by Dr. Frederick K.C. Price on "Race, Religion and Racism". I would highly recommend this work to be added to your summer and fall reading lists, if you REALLY want to know why things are the way they are, concerning the race issue in the USA. In this second volume, Price picks up where he left off in the first book, taking firm, unswerving, and biblical aim at those lies in society which have led to the poor race relations America has suffered, both in the marketplace and in God's church. This time, Price systematically picks apart some of the racial misconceptions in the famed Dakes Study Bible. After he picks apart the lies, through the excellent use of the Scriptures, Price unfolds the need for individuals, on both sides of the color line, to REALLY take a firm look at Jesus Christ, and what the Bible says about our economic progress, and race relations. In Price's view (and mine as well), we of the African-American race who claim to believe in the church, need to 'stop messing around' when it comes to working with each other. It was not by accident that black folk don't trust one another--but a pre-programmed time bomb left over from the Slavery era. We need to diffuse the bomb and get back to work rebuilding our communities, our families, and our faith in God.

When one scans the entertainment media available in the marketplace, itís all about making the right choices for uplifting viewing materials. The same holds true for our musical selections--fill your collections with the good stuff, and weed out the bad stuff. Recently, PBS aired the ten-part "Jazz" series by Ken Burns. It was a masterful work, full of our music, interviews with those in the Jazz realm, and a detailed look at the history of Jazz, from its inception, through the War years, and on into the present day. It aired in January, 2001, and will probably air again during the Summer and Fall of 2001, based upon public demand. Plus, the entire series is available on video cassette, and will be available in a great DVD set. However, itís the music that gets the toes to tapping. Digitally re-mastered on CD, with a compilation that will give even the most die-hard rap fan a firm understanding as to how music can be, when done without a 'scratch' track. Duke Ellington, Count Basie, 'Lady Day' Billie Holiday, Louis 'Satchmo' Armstrong, Charlie 'Bird' Parker, and new times heroes Herbie Hancock, Dave Brubeck and Miles Davis are only a few of the artists who have their best works on their own, individual CDs in this masterful music series. In all, the Columbia/Legacy and Verve Music Group Collection has some 22 CDs by individual artists (some of whom I have mentioned, but this is not the end of the list), a five CD set of the music used in the actual "Jazz" series, PLUS a CD that is described as the 'Best of the Best', a quick, and portable pick of what one could call 'Jazz Introduction On The Go'. One of the hallmarks of the jazz era--besides the orchestrations--in my mind, has always been style and class. Whether you can pick up the entire collection at once, or build your collection one CD at a time, you won't go wrong with these works. For you future writers, entertainers, or singers--we did not come from inferior stock. Yes, there is some humor about our coming of age in America. But, never forget that our history is just as rich as any other culture on these shores. And deserves to be handled from an upright position. Let me put it this way. Would YOU want your children to see what YOU call 'Art'? If the answer is NO, then why be shocked when the public won't put up with what you dump in the marketplace. Our kids deserve to see us at our best. Not at our worst. Why should I give my child my money to let him/her see or hear something that will tear us down, and not lift us up? Hopefully, the reviews on some of the materials that currently exist in the entertainment marketplace will provide a new (and maybe the current) entertainment generation with a view of what could be done, if done with an eye towards our history, and a sense of class and style. Remember; it's not too late to come up with a 'Sounder 2'.

Mike Ramey is a writer and nationally syndicated columnist.
Copyright © Mike Ramey/Barnstorm Communications. Used by permission.

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