Sunday, July 12, 2009

Sentiments on Michael Jackson

It has been almost two weeks since the passing of Michael Jackson and not one day has gone by that without the mentioning of his name in public or private. Just this week alone in warmer than usual Bay Area weather, at any given time a car passes along the streets with blaring sounds of Michael Jackson’s hits. It’s strikes me a funny to see even a hard-core brother who looks like he’s be banging out rap beats is playing MJ’s tunes instead, rather I am touched.

It was 1969, while I sat on the floor in the den in the house we live on Buckingham Road in Los Angeles, watching the Jackson 5 for the first time one Saturday morning. It was the first time my eyes locked on the television screen focused on Michael, my heart froze. Barbee dolls fell from my hands while my little girl heart skipped a beat then fluttered for the first time. Wow, what a feeling. Who is that little boy who could dance and sing like that? I was smitten henceforth for the rest of my pubertal years.

Sometime later during the pre-thriller years, my musical taste matured to a new infatuated passion for other artist like Prince and Marvin Gaye until MJ’s come back with the talented producing of Q that not only reawakened my love for MJ, but appreciation of him as an artistically talent who had masterfully overcame the labeling of a childhood star to come into his own identity and his own voice which so few are able to achieve.

My fondest and cherished memory is when my mom Margie, my aunts Dot and Verna decided to treat my beloved grandma Chandler or Ma’Dear for a special night on the town for her birthday to see the musical Dream Girls at the Schubert Theatre in Century City. This was so special for Ma’Dear who was from DeKalb, Mississippi although she was living in Los Angeles she never left the house nor was it customary for her to dress up in fine clothes, pearls and heels for an evening outting. But on this night, we surprised her and took her out to see the play which brought her and all of us true joy. That evening while at the Shubert, I went to the lobby during the first act to go to the ladies lounge when while walking through the lobby I turned my head to speak to Dot who was just steps behind me. Suddenly I bumped into someone, practically stepping onto his foot. I paused and looked up. Inches from my face was the face of the incredibly sweet and handsome Michael Jackson looking down at me with a hospitable smile. He simply said, “hello.”

I was too startled to speak or move. I smiled back nervously. Once I snapped out of the trance, suddenly I realized that there was a trail of fans in the lobby that began to push and shove as the reality of the situation registered in my brain. Once I could move my legs,I was finally able to step aside for him to pass. I shall never forget as this was the highlight of the evening.

We love Michael because he continued to forge his identity while redefining the superstardom that the world had never seen before his existence. There are few world figures like Princes Diana, Mother Theresa, the Pope; Nelson Mandela that came at a time that many countries on the globe would embrace a global figure. Michael Jackson would be the only superstar musical performer that would supersede all others. You have to wonder, could it be that he was simply persecuted in the media and by those because he loved too much? Could it be that he was Christ-like, pure in heart and wrongly persecuted and died because of that? In MJ’s case, I think that there are several to blame. I cannot help but feel sad and sorry for this pure loving and passionate man.

Perhaps my thoughts and comments are redundant and echo many other comments. But just like everyone and anyone who has been touched my MJ, I too have my sentiments and feel the need to express my grief and sorrow as well as the need to reminences the sweet sentiments and joys of the past that his music was much like the score of a movie that played throughout many scenes.

All that matters is that he loved his children, his fans and his music. No matter what anyone says, his music was honest, pure. ”No legacy is so rich as honesty.” William Shakespeare. We love you Michael, rest in peace.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

The African Presence in México: Present History Revealed

The restrained mouth of history for where once was a hundreds of thousands of wrestles truths buried insignificantly in shame and all but forgotten has been rescued and resurrected from centuries of silence to reveal timely cultural treasures in the exhibit of African Presence in Mexico: From Yanga to the Present now showing at the Oakland Museum of California. This is a small exhibit, nonetheless powerfully significant.

It is common place in the US that Americans traditionally discuss race relations in terms of American History, past and present. At times it appears that most American students have little knowledge about geography or anything about countries outside of the US. Unlike many European nations and countries that were colonized by the United Kingdom with educational institution established by the monarchy, most students outside of the United States have a far better awareness of countries and geographical locations. Perhaps this can partly be attributed to Great Britain’s successful colonization and claim on several countries. Whereas in the US, history largely focused on the mark of establishing independence from Great Britain and later the Civil War that was fueled by the political dissension of providing freedom to enslaved blacks.

But here we are today in the twenty-second century with the booming influx of Mexican and Hispanic immigrants over the last two decades; while challenging the politics of black and brown race issues and immigrant workers, the Nation Museum of Mexican Art tours the exhibit of African Presence in Mexico revealing the third root that made a strong cultural influence on art, music, food, and wars.

Who Knew
Between 1580 and 1640, Mexico had the largest African population in the New World.
1570 New Spain’s (Colonial Mexico) population includes 23,008 blacks and mulattoes.
1573—Professor Bartolome de Albornoz of the University of Mexico writes against the enslavement and sale of Africans.

1598 Isabel de Olvera, a free mulatto, accompanies the Juan Guerra de Resa Expedition which colonizes what is now New Mexico.

1600-1790s—Persons of African ancestry are among the founders or early settlers of numerous towns in Texas, New Mexico, Arizona and California including San Antonio, Laredo, El Paso, Santa Fe, Albuquerque, Tucson, San Diego, Monterey and San Francisco.

1602 By Spanish law, mulattoes (people of combined African and European ethnicity), convicts, and "idle" Africans may be shipped to Latin America and forced to work in the mines there.

1609 Fugitive slaves in Mexico, led by Yanga, sign a truce with Spanish colonial authorities and obtain their freedom and a town of their own.

1617 The town of San Lorenzo de los Negros receives a charter from Spanish colonial officials in Mexico and becomes the first officially recognized free settlement for blacks in the New World.

1646 New Spain’s (Colonial Mexico) population includes 35,089 blacks and 116,529 mulattoes.

1750 The census of Albuquerque reveals that 25% of the families have some African ancestry.

1778 A census of San Antonio, Texas shows 759 male residents including 151 blacks and mulattoes but only four are enslaved.

1781 Los Angeles is founded by 44 settlers including 26 who have some African ancestry.

1820-1825 Free African Americans from the United States settle in Mexican Texas. One of the most notable is former North Carolinian William Goyens who settles near Nacogdoches in 1820. By the time of his death in 1856, Goyens will have acquired 13,000 acres of land.

1824 A New Mexican Constitution adopted on October 4 outlaws slavery throughout Mexico including Mexican Texas.

1829 On September 15, Mexican President Vicente Ramon Guerrero mixed of African Indian ancestry, issues the Guerrero Decree which prohibits slavery in any form in Mexico. Guerrero however issues a subsequent decree on December 2 which exempts Texas from the ban.

1831 Pio Pico, a descendant of persons of African ancestry, becomes governor of Mexican California after overthrowing Colonel Manuel Victoria, another person of African ancestry.

1835 At the beginning of the year there are approximately 25,000 English-speaking inhabitants of Mexican Texas including 5,000 enslaved African Americans. The Tejano population is approximately 6,000 and there are 14,500 Indians.

Pio Pico again serves as Governor of Mexican California. He is the last governor during Mexican rule.

1846-1848 War with Mexico.

1848—On February 2, Mexico and the United States sign the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo. The treaty transfers control of California, Arizona, New Mexico, Nevada, and Utah from Mexico to the United States. Mexico also relinquishes its claim to Texas in exchange for $20 million.

1849 The California Gold Rush begins. Eventually four thousand African Americans will migrate to California during this period.

Early African American settlers in San Francisco create the first two mutual aid associations for blacks in the far west, the West Indian Benevolent Association and the Mutual Benefit and Relief Society.

1850—The Compromise of 1850 revisits the issue of slavery. California enters the Union as a free state, but the territories of New Mexico and Utah are allowed to decide whether they will enter the Union as slave or free states. The 1850 Compromise also allows passage of a much stricter Fugitive Slave Law. Despite California’s status as a nominally “free” state, approximately 1,000 blacks are in slavery with most of the bonds people brought in from slaveholding states.


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