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Jennifer Lopez’s Grammy’s Performance Was A Tribute to Gentrification

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In the interest of self-preservation, I decided not to watch the Grammy’s. This morning my curiosity got the best of me. I wasn’t too interested in who won what, I just wanted to see the performances. Now, I want to bleach my eyes.

After hearing that Ariana Grande wasn’t going to hit the stage, and seeing their revised list of performers, I didn’t plan to watch. There hasn’t been anything fascinating about the so-called biggest night of music since Beyoncé graced the stage while pregnant with Sir and Rumi. But something changed my mind. CBS This Morning compiled several lists of the most tweeted performers, celebs, and songs from the evening. I noted the absence of J.Lo’s name.

https://twitter.com/CBSThisMorning/status/1094851422749769729

No one asked for this

How was it possible that a tribute to one of the most groundbreaking record labels and genres of music went off with a flicker instead of a bang? I blame The Academy. Instead of choosing any number of talented artists who were at one time signed to Motown, they chose an outsider. Jennifer Lopez isn’t from Detroit and to my knowledge has never even performed there. So, what made her qualified to take an exclusively Black sound from an exclusively Black label and give it the Gina Rodriguez treatment?

Jennifer Lopez isn't from Detroit and to my knowledge has never even performed there. So, what made her qualified to take an exclusively Black sound from an exclusively Black label and give it the Gina Rodriguez treatment? Click To Tweet

I’m taken aback by the absolute audacity, the disrespect required to believe that Jennifer “Ashanti made my whole career” Lopez could do better than any artists signed to Motown or any one of its subsidiaries. When I consider a list of artists that could have given us a phenomenal, engaging, STAN worthy performance, my head spins.

  • Mya
  • Ne-Yo (with someone that’s not J.Lo)
  • Toni Braxton
  • Babyface
  • Ashanti
  • India.Arie
  • Jason Weaver
  • Tony! Toni! Toné!
  • Shanice
  • Queen Latifah (She can SING)
  • Brian McKnight
  • Johnny Gill
  • The Entire DeBarge Family
  • The Entire Jackson Family
  • Boys II Men
  • Living Legends like Gladys, Stevie, Anita Baker, etc!

I would have even accepted Shamari “Shoulder Bouncin” DeVoe. I wanted a Dreamgirls film reunion of Beyoncé, Anika Noni Rose, and Jennifer “Screamifer” Hudson and instead received a Paper Bag Test, American Bandstand-style tribute.

She Could Never

To exploit my discomfort while writing this, I reviewed the performance again. Further disappointing myself, I observed the outright lack of Black representation in the performance altogether. Where were the Black dancers? Were they not available? Even audience reactions were distinctly fair-skinned. People understand that Motown as both a record label and sound were developed to bridge the racial divide. Still, the roots of that music are undeniably Black and American. For many of us, particularly Detroiters, Motown music is directly connected to the Civil Rights Movement.

Abdul “Duke” Fakir of The Four Tops said, “We looked at Martin Luther King and we thought, he’s doing the same thing on foot that we’re doing on the radio. I like to think that we were softening the blow for him a little bit.” Mary Wilson of The Supremes shared the same sentiment. In a statement from 2009, Wilson said:

The experience we had known being Black was not being bona fide citizens, not being able to drink out of the same water fountains, playing segregated audiences. When that started to fall away, and you saw that music was one of the components that was helping it fall away, that’s when it really felt like we were doing something significant.”

Tell me where, from those statements, from the gravity of those experiences, a woman who built her career off the vocals and work of a Black woman deserved to be the mouthpiece for such a showcase.

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ICE Raids Set Country on Edge

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Donald Trump has recently tweeted ICE’s plans to carry out raids across the country. Aiming for the seizure of 2,000 immigrants who have court orders to be removed, ICE officers will flood 10 cities.

The US Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers plan includes the detainment of “immigrants who happened to be on the scene,” whether they are targets of the raid or not. Set to take place Sunday, the massive deportation effort has spurred politicians against the raid to encourage potential targets to educate themselves. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is reminding those at risk that without a judicial warrant, it is illegal for an officer to enter their home. As citizens watch from the sidelines, it is the surest sign that some Americans have forgotten our history.

Recalling the 10 Stages of Genocide, Americans against the forced removal of immigrants recognize we are at stage seven, preparation. For several years, the polarization of Muslims, Hispanic, and Latinx peoples between North Americans has mirrored the slow, but devastating vilification Jews faced in Germany. Mainstream news media outlets flood those susceptible to propaganda with lies regarding the theft of employment opportunities and skew crime rates statistics. Even now, as the mistreatment of detained immigrants is downplayed by government officials, it parallels the increase in violence against subject populations between 1933 and 1941.

“Those six years are a very particular phase of development of the Nazi project where a lot of steps were taken inside Germany to isolate German Jews from the rest of the population, to start measures sterilizing, isolating, and eventually even to start killing, to rearm Germany to prepare for the war of conquest, but also to cover up that rearmament by talking peaceful intentions publicly so that people elsewhere in the world wouldn’t be too alarmed.”

Doris Bergen

As explained by Professor Doris Bergen, the attempt of Jewish extermination did not begin with gas chambers. So, Wednesday Trump delayed the action to see if Congress could work out a legislative solution. However, ICE director Ken Cuccinelli says the raids are “absolutely going to happen.” He continued, “There’s approximately a million people in this country with removal orders. And of course that isn’t what ICE will go after in this, but that’s the pool of people who have been all the way through the due process chain.”

If you are at risk of detainment, visit https://www.wehaverights.us/ to learn how to handle potential encounters in multiple languages.

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Pose Has A Colorism Problem

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Critically acclaimed FX series, Pose, drew attention last night to the vicious and dishearteningly overlooked murders of Black trans women and other women of color. While it’s important to highlight the stories, both real and fictional, of trans people that move through society with little protection, fans are calling out the show for missing the opportunity to discuss colorism as well.

***WARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD***

Watchers of the FX series, Pose, are mourning the loss of the beloved character, Candy Johnson-Ferocity. But for Black viewers, Candy’s departure left them feeling slighted. As one of the only two dark skinned characters on the show, Candy’s experience was harsh. She was depicted as catty, a product of her mistreatment by those around her, and seemed to exist without a storyline. Candy was given every trope they refused to assign to Angel, another trans woman of color. However, Angel possesses lighter skin.

In the past, writers and showrunners have been careful to avoid depicting acts of violence against trans women of color in a predictable fashion. So, the choice to show Angel in a seemingly stable situationship with Stan was well received. But why couldn’t Candy have a moment in the sun? The experiences of trans women are not separated by skin color, making it entirely possible for her to be loved out loud by others and herself. Presenting her as a damaged trans woman who lived dangerously as a sex worker without the knowledge of what threats she faced makes her death incomplete. And to use a dark skin trans woman to convey the message in a world that does not value dark skin lives felt excessive.

Candy left us without definition, shapeless as a character whose story would never take form. Her moments of glory went uncelebrated as she was frequently the butt of the joke, spoken of highly only in her passing. And for many, her death felt like a forced but necessary reminder to protect Black trans women. Yet, as some have pointed out on Twitter, LuLu’s passing would have hit just as hard and the message would still have been received. But here we stand, with only one dark skin character left in a series promising representation for all. Let’s hope Elektra is used for more than tragedy.

How did you feel about the most recent episode of Pose? Will you continue to watch?

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Do We Really Need Making The Band 5?

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Feeling nostalgic, Wale requested Diddy resumes the MTV series Making the Band. But knowing Diddy’s problematic history regarding artist treatment and alleged lack of compensation, do we really need the show to return?

Humble Beginnings

Harlem native Sean “Diddy” Combs got his start in the music industry in the early 90s as an intern at Uptown Records. Although he was fired from the company, Diddy went on to lay the foundation for Bad Boy Records in 1993. The label built itself on the shoulders of Biggie, securing other notable acts like 112, Mase, Total, and Faith Evans along the way. However, the untimely passing of Notorious B.I.G., following the East-West rap beef, came at an immeasurable cost. Along with losing a close friend, Diddy’s label struggled to maintain relevance. Then, came Making the Band.

Hardly remembered, the first three seasons of the series were not actually about Diddy’s unique requests and consistent studio shutdowns. It initially focused on the time-tested formula of boy bands. Looking to recreate the magical hold the Backstreet Boys or NSYNC had over our teenage years, Lou Pearlman spearheaded the first iteration of the show. Conducting a nationwide talent search, he selected 25 singers before dwindling down to the final five that would later become O-Town. The three-season run focused on the grooming of the boy band, initially signed to Transcontinental Records, their transfer to Clive Davis’ label J Records, and their subsequent split. All rising to and falling from stardom in the span of just three years, the series that birthed a boy band was pressured to continue. But how? In came Diddy.

“Bring Me Some Cheesecake”

Attempting to season the show, Making the Band 2 began airing October 2002 and suffered the same fate as it’s marshmallow version. The series focused on Diddy’s search for talented rappers and singers to form a hip-hop super group. But it all came crashing down in April 2004 by Diddy’s own hand. The first season of the new series centered on the selection process, but season 2 was where the content was. As we then laughed at the hilarious and over the top demands of his new artists, to see a man worth $820 million degrade lower class Black people for amusement now would be sick. Diddy subjected his artists to strange and arbitrary tasks, all to appease himself. As they dredged through the stop-start mud of production, Too Hot For TV, the debut album of Da Band would sell fewer than 1 million copies.  Now, Da Band exists only in obscurity and memes, but that wouldn’t stop Diddy from continuing the show.

Successful Artists?

It would be fair to say Making the Band 3 was influenced by the popularity of Destiny’s Child, given the shift to creating a girl group in 2005. Diddy joined forces with Laurie Ann “Boom Kack” Gibson to form a successful group that would assume the name Danity Kane. However, problems plagued the members and were chronicled in a special titled “The Rise and Fall of Danity Kane”, which aired in 2009. As Diddy was working to form the girl group, his relationship with Cassie, who was also signed to Bad Boy, became public knowledge. He also had other artists whose careers he’d simply abandoned.

Diddy signed a rapper named Aasim in 2004, whose debut through Bad Boy was never released. He’d also picked up Yung Joc, who along with Cassie helped Bad Boy Records chart with top five singles. However, Joc only released two albums with Bad Boy before being relegated to self-released mixtapes for most of his career. In fact, Diddy has lost 47 artists over the 26 years of Bad Boy’s existence. At this moment, out of the nine acts currently signed to Bad Boy, only five of them have no familial relation. Several of the artists once signed to Bad Boy alleged that Diddy crafted contracts that made them glorified work horses, making him millions and leaving them destitute. Although he vehemently denies any wrongdoing, do we really need to risk another instance of Making the Band when Diddy has no recent history of successfully leading an artist to stardom?

At any rate, Diddy and MTV are testing the waters to see if you want your MTB. Do you want Making the Band 5?

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