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Everybody’s Got Their Thing. What’s Yours?

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Everybody’s got their thing, and that thing is more important to them than it is to you. Why? Because you have your own thing, unless you’re a Nihilist or some enlightened Buddha, but even those assholes have soapboxes tucked away.

My thing was atheism for years, then humanism, and now I’m partial to rich french desserts. It was exhausting trying to get anyone to care about my thing. Most people can’t put aside their own thing long enough to care about yours. Also, sometimes your thing offends other people, who are just trying to live their lives, goddammit. Not every religious person is blowing themselves up in public. Not yet, anyway.

It was exhausting trying to get anyone to care about my thing.

My dad is obsessed with chaos theory. Which is to say he’s trying to find patterns in seemingly random numbers. Which is a nice way of saying he has a gambling problem. You can find him every day at the coffee shop with a stack of scribbled numbers within grids that would mean nothing to you or I. If you’re gonna talk to him, you’ll get an earful about his latest attempts at finding patterns and beating the system. That’s his thing. It’s not my thing, but I listen with a certain degree of interest when he talks because it’s nice to listen to each other’s things.

Some of my gay friends are super-into gay rights. Their Facebook feeds are replete with the latest headlines, political detritus, and memes around those very important issues. Same for my righteous feminist friends. You’re not gonna escape the cocktail party without hearing some stats about equal pay.

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Two men talking about their things.

Many of my black friends had some heavy shit happen to them in life, and continue to, so you’re gonna hear about it when we get together to chat. It’s their thing. It’s who they are. My Asian friends, too, for some similar and some very different reasons.

I’ve got a friend who is truly into reincarnation. You may or may not believe in reincarnation but it’s her thing and she’s thought about it in ways you haven’t. She has no kids so she isn’t interested in leaving the world a better place for them. She’s looking to leave it a better place for herself when she returns. I don’t have to believe in reincarnation to know that’s a super interesting way to think about it.

My musician friends are gonna expound on the life of a professional musician and how the landscape has deteriorated into a few money making performers and a sea of starving artists who have no chance at making a real living. Which reminds me of another friend who worked twenty years in the corporate world, slaving day and night for the man, only to have his job shipped overseas. His job and the jobs of several thousand other employees at the same company, that is. Seems unfair that you can’t make a decent living simply by doing your job well or even better than most, but there’s always someone ready to exploit you out of the equation. That’s their thing.

My brother is gonna talk about Star Wars, heavy metal, and flatulence. Not in that order, but with equal parts passion. I’ve got friends who can’t go two minutes without talking about sports or politics, or some esoteric insider minutiae based on their very specific occupation. Try talking to a Teacher without standardized tests coming up in conversation, or how stupid kids are these days compared to when we were all frickin’ geniuses.

Claire had a thing for red shoes.

Claire had a thing for red shoes.

I don’t want to imply that folks are exclusive to their “things.” Any one of the friends above can talk about a host of other issues, like I can. I’m into rights and the plight of minorities, and I think hard working Yuppies and musicians alike should be able to make a living off their hard work. But how does one prioritize all these “things” in the limited time we’re awake each day? I can listen to you talk, nod my head, actively agree with you, and then “like” a billion things on Facebook, but what does it actually add up to?

The internet has kept us apprised of each others things in ways the telephone never could. In a way, it’s too much to truly absorb, and it’s possible that someone else’s very important “thing” just became part of the wallpaper you take for granted. And that’s not fair, especially since some of those people are literally dying and are totally deserving of our full attention. Maybe cancer or some incurable disease is their thing, not politics or making a buck.

How does one prioritize all these “things” in the limited time we’re awake each day?

If the question is “where can we find fresh supplies of actionable empathy?” then I have no answer. I know what it’s like to listen to your hard-luck story yet secretly wish I could snap my fingers and be home eating something sweet before taking a nice nap. Come on, admit I’m not alone. Haven’t you ever walked home from a hard day at the office only to come across three separate homeless people asking for money? You may give a dollar to the first guy, but those next two get the “I already gave” shrug. If you can give every homeless person the same attention regardless of how many you come across, you are a better man than me. Maybe being better than me is your thing.

I do know that many of the folks I mentioned above will tell you their thing is the most important thing happening in the world right now. At least to them. They probably won’t like that I mention their things alongside other people’s things in the same essay. It’s not my intention to diminish anyone’s things. At least I don’t think it is.

This is the point where I’d summarize a way to navigate this stuff, but I have no idea. I’m still trying to figure out how to get people to stop killing each other over an invisible man in the sky. I’m totally preoccupied with my own things to a fault. It’s become a source of guilt for me to try and enjoy a piece of cake while the world around me drowns in a sea of things. How am I supposed to take a picture of my meal or a sunset, or entertain my interests in music and art when humans are dying or are being exploited every day across this planet for no good reason? Maybe I’m not meant to enjoy things and I should instead focus on fixing all the ills of the world great and small. But honestly, that’s just not my thing.

I was born and am alive but one day I'll be dead.

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Comic Fans: Geek out with Cartoonist Kayfabe

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Cartoonist Kayfabe is a YouTube channel hosted by comic-book makers Ed Piskor and Jim Rugg.

Comics have come a long way since they were just for kids – and anyway, those kids have grown up and rightfully embrace it as  an artform. Cartoonish Kayfabe expertly walk you through the finer points of comic creation and appreciation, referencing some high quality images along the way.  If you’re a comic geek, you will dig it – especially if you’re into 90’s era and independent comics.

Recording as Electronic Device, Brooklyn artist and writer Eric Curran releases his debut record "Two Dull Boys" in 2021.

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Chadwick Boseman Forever!!

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It is clear that Chadwick Boseman chose iconic roles like Thurgood Marshall, James Brown, Jackie Robinson and Black Panther with deliberate intent and for a specific purpose. In an age where positive roles for Black actors is often sparse, Chadwick managed to land and portray historical figures that made most respect his talents if not revel in his ability to transition effortlessly for one character to another. Even I had to give his African accent a solid B+ (It’s the highest grade the Nigerian Standards Bureau can give for an African accent to a non African FYI.)

Holding out and preparing for these dynamic roles came with both great frustration and incredible resolve I’m certain. Not to mention the taxing ordeal of battling Colon Cancer as the grueling scheduling of filming and increasing responsibility for positive representation loomed. Even under extreme duress, Chadwick’s commitment to others appeared to outweigh his own tribulations, unbeknownst to us all.

Black Panther may have been just a movie to some and that may be because some can easily rattle off 10 movies with a king of non Af-Am origin. It represented a lot more to others. Albeit imagined, imagery on cinema often accomplishes more to augment the social narrative and society itself than actual reality. If negative stereotypes influence perception then positive ones absolutely have the same converse effect.

Even in jest, the cultural misappropriation of raisins in potato salad on SNL skits directly spoke to the tampering of black culture to which T’challa championed, represented and aptly responded “Oh hell Nah Karen!”

If you don’t understand the relevance of representation, it’s probably because you are thoroughly represented. After all, no one is ever grateful for every breath they take until they are gasping for air.

R.I.P Chadwick Boseman. Thank you for breathing life into the possibility of Black excellence.

Alfred Obiesie is a writer with over 12 years of online content contribution (Onetrackmine.com, Cartermag.com, Essence.com) and author (You Made It a Hot Line; The most influential lines in hip hop.) The book chronicles hip hop lines from the genre’s most notable artists spanning almost 40 years. It is illustrated by Grammy award winning Illustrator Shah Wonders and has garnered praise from multiple media outlets (Sirius XM, Vibe, Brooklyn Public Library, Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, New York Public Library, etc...)

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10 Easter Eggs of Segregation in Lovecraft Country Episode 1

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We’re all familiar with movies hiding easter eggs throughout their films sending winks and nods to pop-culture references. Sometimes it will be a tip-of-the-cap to an author, actor, or creator. Sometimes it is paying homage to an inspiring series, book, or film that’s near and dear to the director’s heart. This week I’ve seen a first. A T.V. series that has several easter eggs depicting segregation and oppression that only eagle-eyed aficionado’s of the black struggle might have caught on to.

Lovecraft Country is littered with important details that would fly over many people’s heads, and as I watched it again, I caught more nods to the true oppression of many African-Americans during the post-World War II era.

As a film buff, nothing makes me happier than watching a review, breakdown, or hidden easter egg video on a TV show I enjoy. Yesterday I did the same with Lovecraft Country, and while many of the melanin-deficient reviewers on youtube touched on the themes of literature, horror, and fantasy, many understandably missed some of the most important historical references.

Here are 10 Easter Eggs of Segregation in Lovecraft Country Episode 1.

 

1. H.P. Lovecraft’s little poem.

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While we all know H.P. Lovecraft as an innovator of modern horror, fiction, and fantasy in literature, many people (including myself) didn’t know about a poem he wrote that spoke horribly about African Americans. Lovecraft Country alludes to the poem, but never recites it. Once they mentioned the title, I went straight to my Google Search. Below is the poem called: On the Creation of N*****s (1912)

When, long ago, the gods created Earth
In Jove’s fair image Man was shaped at birth.
The beasts for lesser parts were next designed;
Yet were they too remote from humankind.
To fill the gap, and join the rest to Man,
Th’Olympian host conceived a clever plan.
A beast they wrought, in semi-human figure,
Filled it with vice, and called the thing a N****r.

I’m sure Jackie Robinson beating the S**T out of Cthulhu at the beginning of the episode was a collective middle finger from the black community to Mr. Lovecraft.

2. Seating for Black People

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Scene from episode 1

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Actual photo of a segregated bus

While this may not come as a surprise to many of you, a lot of people are ignorant to the fact that, yes, black people were made to sit in the back of the bus. Many know the story of Rosa Parks’ defining moment, but for decades this was the way of life for black people. Where insult to injury is predicated in the show is when the bus breaks down and the bus driver gets a local pick-up truck driver to ride the stranded passengers into the city. Immediately in the next scene, the only two black passengers were seen walking down the road into Chicago.

3. Propaganda for the Negro Soldier

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In Lovecraft Country, the above poster is not shown in this episode, but instead, it’s a black soldier telling other young black men that if they enlist, they can see the world. While Atticus walks by the soldier, there’s a glance of recognition as if Atticus was once one of those impressionable young men, and he knows their being lied to. Black men had to be enticed to enlist by different methods than whites because it was hard to show patriotism to a country that still to that day had kept them oppressed. So, they would show a poster of Joe Louis joining the fight…why don’t you? Get to see the world! Little did they know seeing the world would involve PTSD, death, and despair.

4. The Negro Motorist Greenbook

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Scene from episode 1 depiction of the Green-Book

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Actual Green-Book

The synopsis according to IMDB.com is: “Lovecraft Country follows Atticus Black as he joins up with his friend Letitia and his Uncle George to embark on a road trip across 1950s Jim Crow America in search of his missing father.” While this is true, it’s not the whole story. Why are they embarking on this trip? It’s to help update what many people may know as, The Negro Motorist Greenbook. Yup, just like the movie, The Greenbook. If you don’t know, this book was originated by Victor Hugo Green as a travel bible for African Americans. It provided details of safe roads to travel, places for food, repairs, and lodging where they wouldn’t be turned away or even worse, assaulted.

5. James Baldwin’s monologue on racial divide

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During one of the scenes in Lovecraft Country, we see a montage of our protagonist’s road trip. In the montage we see different moments where they face discrimination, others facing discrimination, and the hardships of ignorant people with all the privilege in the world monopolizing on their entitlements. Usually, during movie montages, a composer would play a score to envoke emotions during the collection of scenes. Lovecraft Country went in a different direction. Instead, they played the monologue of James Baldwin’s renowned speech at Cambridge University where he debated with William Buckley on the subject of the United States racial divide. James Baldwin was a brilliant playwright, novelist, speaker, and activist that eloquently described the plight of the black man as it still stands today. Merged with the scenes during the montage, it speaks volumes about the state of America.

6. Ice Cream stand Scene

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Scene from episode 1

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Gordon Sparks photograph

In one of the scenes in the montage, we see a black man and his children waiting at an ice cream stand for service. Right over them is a sign that says “colored” and on the other side of the stand is a group of white people with ice cream being tended to by the servers. This scene looked extremely familiar to me. When I did some research, I realized this scene was based on a famous photograph by Gordon Parks, photographer and journalist who well-documented scenes of the segregation and civil rights era. Years ago I saw his work in its full brilliant quality at the High Museum in Atlanta. The color and detail brought a realism that a black-and-white photo could never do. It made this a real thing.

7. Mother and daughter under the neon sign

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Scene from episode 1

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Actual photo

This scene once again pays homage to another photograph by Gordon Parks. A mother and her daughter dressed elegantly as if they were going to church, standing under a large neon sign that says ‘Colored Entrance’.

8. The billboard across from the gas station

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Scene from episode 1

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Advertisement the billboard is based on

While Atticus and company are at a gas station filling up their car, they are approached by a gas station attendant pretending to be a gorilla to mock them. Leticia holds Atticus back from approaching the man as the attendant intensifies his ignorant behavior and she forces Atticus into the car. As they pull off, you can see a Billboard for Aunt Jemima in the background. Aunt Jemima has always been a misrepresentation of black culture through the lens of the white man and advertised to his fellow man as the overall perception of black people. The image of  Aunt Jemima is a source reflection of the learned behavior of the gas station attendant.

9. Sundown towns

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Scene from episode 1

Two years ago was the first time I’ve ever heard of a Sundown Town. No, not through a history book, but as a warning about staying too late in a little town in Texas that exists today! If I didn’t hear about this first hand, I would’ve thought it was a theme of the past, but no. There are currently county’s that do not condemn the abuse of black people once the sun goes down! While the billboard here might be a relic from the past, Sundown Towns are definitely alive and well across America!

10. White walls

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Scene from episode 1

Not only is this one telling, but it also holds all kinds of subliminal messages. While the group finds a Green book safe haven for dining called Lydia’s, they are surprised to find the restaurant is now called, Simmonsville Dinette. Still, they walk in and are greeted by unwelcoming faces. While the server goes to the back for what seems like their coffee orders, Atticus realizes that the walls are painted white. He asks his uncle to remind him why the white house was white. His uncle tells him about the war of 1812 when British soldiers torched it and when slaves were tasked to rebuild it, they had to paint it white to cover up the burn marks. This tells us two things. Lydia’s restaurant was burnt down and rebuilt by trespassers (obviously for being a safe haven for blacks in this all-white town) and the blackness of this restaurant was erased and covered up by the ‘white’ paint. My goodness, I could go on and on about this one!

I was expecting this series to be littered with easter eggs, but knowing they have incorporated easter eggs specifically about the black movement and struggles has me fired up to see what else is in store for these characters. Did you see any easter eggs that I missed? Comment and let me know.

 

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