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Top 5 Underrated Pink Floyd Albums

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Click below to hear the author read this post on our SoundCloud. And yes, we know these albums aren’t underrated by true fans.


Pink Floyd sold over 250 million albums since releasing Piper at the Gates of Dawn in 1967. Most sales are for latter day masterpieces Dark Side of The Moon, Wish You Were Here, and The Wall, but they have a body of creative output worth mining beyond these. In fact, I’ve grown to favor some of these Top 5 Underrated Pink Floyd Albums over their more popular work.

Subtle changes in lineup make Pink Floyd three different bands depending on the era. I’m not alone in favoring 1969-1985 roster Waters, Wright, Mason and Gilmour, though much can be said of the history and music pre and post this era. Read drummer Nick Mason’s book Inside Out: A Personal History of Pink Floyd for that.

Let’s get to this.

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a-saucerful-of-secrets-front-image-courtesy-of-emi-records5. A Saucerful of Secrets
1968, Produced by Norman Smith
Recorded at Abbey Road, London


Most people know the Floyd through songs like Comfortably Numb off 1979’s The Wall. Is there a more iconic guitar solo in Rock? Debatable, yes, but miles away from their psychedelic, free-jazz, and improvisational roots – inspired as they were by noise-bands like AMM. I put some AMM on the other day and creeped around the apartment spying on my girl. She did NOT dig it.

 Saucerful of Secrets is the sound of a band finding a voice without Syd.

After releasing Piper at the Gates of Dawn, a milestone in psychedelic music, the band found itself in a pickle when key singer/songwriter Syd Barrett dropped too much acid and became a shadow of his former self. For most of its running length, Saucerful of Secrets is the sound of a band finding a voice without Syd.

Fans of later records will not automatically like this one. It’s not the kind of record you’d put on at a party and expect everyone to dig. Not unless it’s the late sixties, and it’s that kinda party. I’m saying if you’re selling hot-dogs from a cart, blast a different record from the radio.

The album opens with the visceral Let There Be More Light, Waters’ bassline making way for newbie Dave Gilmour, hired to fill in the gaps caused by Barrett’s breakdown. Let There Be More Light succeeds in aping some of Syd’s bombast and sci-fi leanings while pointing to a more terrestrial future.

There’s an effortlessness to Saucerful of Secrets in slow moments that build steam and ultimately let loose, like the psychedelic spaghetti western Remember a Day and early concert staple Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun. I don’t think bands could get on TV with this kind of experimental material anymore. It certainly wouldn’t make it through the American Idol filter, where music is forced to sound like commercials about feelings.

 It certainly wouldn’t make it through the American Idol filter, where music is forced to sound like commercials about feelings.

Corporal Clegg is uncharacteristically catchy and Waters first foray into the World War II imagery that would inform much of his oeuvre – including The Wall and The Final Cut. Ugh, did I just use the word oeuvre?

At over 11 minutes, the sprawling title track seems influenced, perhaps, by their live shows at the UFO where the Floyd played behind projected images while London swingers tripped their balls off. The long stretches of modular noodling, intermittent pop, and abrupt shifts in mood hint at the film scores they’d record over the next few years with visionary directors like Michelangelo Antonioni.

I think Saucerful of Secrets is the reason why seasoned producer Norman Smith taught the band to record their own demos and ultimately produce their own records – something they would take to an extreme on their record Ummagumma – a self-indulgent soundscape each member produced separately with too much pot on their hands. (I still dig it.) On the other hand, they also self produced most of their best work.

Saucerful closes with Barrett’s clever sore thumb Jugband Blues, marking the end of a short-lived era. A jaunty, druggy, noisy finale to what could have been.

 

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4. More
1969, Produced by Pink Floyd
Recorded at Pye Studios, London


This soundtrack to Barbet Shroeder’s film More is one of my go-to records. Casual fans never heard of it, but I’ve bought it on cassette, CD and two sets of remasters, so it must be one of my unconscious favorites. Yet I’ve never seen the movie. Go figure.

Green is the Colour is a hidden gem, sweet and sunny, that shows Waters stepping into his own lyrically.

Waters handles most of the writing and Gilmour all the vocals. The results are some of the most fragile and raucous music the Floyd ever stacked side by side. At the same time, there’s more of an effort to be beautiful, like in creepy cathedral opener Cirrus Minor and the melancholic Crying Song – where Gilmour foreshadows the guitar God-ery to come on later records.

There’s a lot of varied sounds here, sonically it’s all over the map. The Floyd get a little spacey in the AM radio friendly Cymbaline, a Bowie-ish track that name-drops Dr. Strange 46 years ago.

Green is the Colour is a hidden gem, sweet and sunny, that shows Waters stepping into his own lyrically. It shows a band open-minded about what they were writing and recording, not pigeon-holed into a psychedelic brand.

Heavy hung the canopy of blue / Shade my eyes and I can see you / White is the light that shines through the dress that you wore.

from Green is the Colour

The Floyd take the opportunity to rock-out uncharacteristically in the The Nile Song and minor variation Ibiza Bar – a sound they would play with the rest of their careers to underline aggression or express a release of tension.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Eu-Ma6bdFnA

There’s a distinctly late sixties palate of B-Movie Sci-Fi meets lounge-music especially in tracks like Main Theme. The Floyd imbibe other instrumentals like Up the Khyber and A Spanish Piece with some more traditional world music sounds, yet the 7 minute Quicksilver reminds us that noise-rock was not distinct to the Barrett-era. It’s a beautiful slow grinding Ed Wood fever dream with sprawling Hammond organ and trippy effects. True early seventies stoners must have spent hours staring at the record cover listening to this track.

Certainly cohesion was something they would master on later records.

For good measure, things also get a little bluesy, specifically in the instrumentals More Blues and the closer Dramatic Theme. Certainly cohesion was something they would master on later records.

More is an acquired taste for sure, and a bit more accessible than follow up Atom Heart Mother (which also has some great tunes on it).

 

pink-floyd-meddle3. Meddle
1971, Produced by Pink Floyd
Recorded at AIR, Abbey Road, Morgan Studios


Off the heels of the divisive Atom Heart Mother, the Floyd reeled it in, compacted their sound into more digestible pieces. There are 6 songs on Meddle and none of them sound like they’re from the same album.

There are 6 songs on Meddle and none of them sound like they’re from the same album.

Old school Floyd fans get their bellies rubbed up front with the double-bassed instrumental One of the These Days and again at the end with 23 minute opus Echoes, which takes up the entirety of side two, back when records had sides. Bookended in psychedelia, the middle is anything but.

They do some Meddle songs in the 1972 concert film Pink Floyd : Live from Pompeii which I fell in love with in 1987 renting the VHS tape from a local video store over and over. Most live shows are shot before cheering fans in the best arena. This one is shot in the Amphitheater of Pompeii with no audience, just the Floyd and a skeletal film crew.

If meandering psychedelia in the Italian sun is your bag, you are in luck. I love it, including Nick Mason’s This Is Spinal Tap mustache.

Strangers passing in the street / By chance two separate glances meet / And I am you and what I see is me.” – from Echoes

 A Pillow of Winds shifts things 360 degrees, the sonic equivalent of lazing about in a hammock, hearing a song from a neighbor’s radio.

An early example of the Waters/Gilmour machine, Fearless is an unappreciated track that is as good as anything Pink Floyd have ever put to tape. There’s a few tactics in this track they’d explore on Dark Side of the Moon and Wish You Were Here.

Some have called San Tropez superfluous but I dig it. They played with this sound on the B-Side Bidding my Time a few years earlier. It’s an anti-Pink Floyd song, sure, but it’s Yacht Rock by guys that have owned a yacht or two. Hell, Dave still records on a houseboat. I think it’s perfectly executed, and has a decidedly English tongue in its cheek. Its got a McCartney-ish carefree attitude.

The 23 minute Echoes pings into existence from the primordial ooze like a half remembered dream. The Floyd take their time, some say self-indulgently, between movements, but there’s a song to be found inside with heavy lyrics about empathy. It gets a little funky in a 70s skin-flick kinda way before some free improv and one heroic finale.

Echoes becomes a template for how the Floyd tell a story going forward.

 

61HYrCLz0ZL._SY300_2. Animals
1977, Produced by Pink Floyd
Recorded at Brittania Row Studios, London


By now Floyd had already hit it big two albums previous with Dark Side of the Moon. Previous album Wish You Were Here is also regarded as a rock masterpiece. Two very cohesive records. Concept albums, if the term doesn’t offend you. A format Waters would work in exclusively up to an including the present.

There are allegories on Animals about humanity as dogs, pigs and sheep that you may or may not agree with, but thankfully Roger speaks his mind regardless.

Who was fitted with collar and chain / Who was given a pat on the back  / Who was breaking away from the pack  / Who was only a stranger at home

from Dogs
Opening with Pigs on the Wing (Part 1), a minute and a half of exposition. Waters bookends Animals with appeals for empathy.

If you let it, Animals will grow on you in the way the best music does – improving the more you know it. Take the track Dogs, precise not fragile, with more space between notes than usual, an efficiency to how it quiets down and snaps back. 17 minutes of pure uncut Pink Floyd. Sometimes quite accommodating, then unapologetically challenging – a more worldly and politically minded Echoes with a bigger budget, more seasoned musicians and better technology. It owes something to that version of Floyd that took rocking seriously.

And they still sneak in some free-improv 8 minutes in. Even that sounds more expensive.

In more than one way, the cascading “listy” ending of Dogs is reminiscent of Dark Side of the Moon closer Eclipse.

Meek and obedient you follow the leader down well trodden corridors into the valley of steel.

from Sheep
There’s a cohesive sound to the record, tight and muscular, distinctly 1977. Tracks like Pigs (Three Different Ones) follow a pattern of rocking solidly for most of their length, veering off into those dreamy grooves Floyd was famous for, getting weird a few minutes, then amping the outro into a frenzy.

I love Richard Wright’s keys on this record, especially the intro to Sheep. It’s like a bottle of 1977 on a windowsill with the sun shining through it. There’s plenty of shifts in style over the next ten minutes, as we follow a sheep to slaughter.

I remember distinctly driving my grandmother somewhere and her asking me to turn this song off. It gets a little surreal in the middle, which you have to be in the right frame of mind to dig. I love how Water’s vocal slides along the music and curdles into distortion during that last verse. Grandma just didn’t get it. Out of the car, Grandma!! 

Waters returns with Part 2 of Pigs on the Wing, reminding us that solace can be found despite everything you just heard.

 

44-pink-floyd-obscure-by-clouds1. Obscured by Clouds
1972, Produced by Pink Floyd
Recorded at Strawberry Studios, Château d’Hérouville, France


Obscured by Clouds is the last record before they’d hit it big with Dark Side of the Moon. It’s the sound of a confident, tight band moving steadily into 1972 – owning their ground, grooving on it, stomping on it mercilessly, and covering it with a little sugar and tetrahydrocannabinol.

It’s the sound of a confident, tight band moving steadily into 1972.

As the last of their records to be made without a unifying concept (until post this lineup) there are strong individual songs that don’t necessarily speak to a larger theme, and  that’s not a bad thing.

Kicking off with two instrumentals, it’s like Jaws not showing up for an hour into the movie the first time you hear David Gilmour and Richard Wright’s voices in the beautifully meandering Bridges Burning.

The slow-burn of Obscured by Clouds gives way to the thrashing When You’re In, a sound only hinted at previously in songs like The Nile Song on More.

These are radio-ready yet never got on the radio. Take The Golds It’s In The... and Childhood’s End. These could sit right alongside rock radio classics of the era yet never got the attention – even after they hit it big and their next record stayed on the charts for 741 weeks.

Wot’s… Uh The Deal? is another sweet slice of acoustic Gilmour replete with that easy-breezy Wright piano that reminds us he knows what music sounds like on earth, too. Mudmen certainly points to the band that will make Dark Side a year later, as do the sexy guitars in the otherwise uneven Stay. I mean, I love the music, and parts of the vocal, and how the chorus almost sounds like Steely Dan. But it has at least one or two cringey lines in it, lets be honest.

Childhood’s End, a song that suspiciously pops up on a lot of my mixes over the years, shows they still know how to burn one down. Another radio ready hit that never was.

What else? Man this article is long. Roger used some of that Corporal Clegg energy and made a toe-tapping ditty about dying in the war called Free Four. Waters would base most of The Wall and The Final Cut on this subject, but here he’s using broader strokes. 

“The memories of a man in his old age are the deeds of a man in his prime.”

from Free Four

And in case you were wondering where those psychedelic guys that made Echoes went, album closer Absolutely Curtains puts the whole thing to bed neatly with a little more restraint, and two minutes tribal chanting to end the record.

Obscured by Clouds is the end of an era. They would never make another record of such loose and unrelated songs again. Dark Side of the Moon would change the stakes going forward. They would get more literal and less psychedelic every release going forward.

 

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Success would change the dynamics of the band and ultimately this lineup – who stopped playing together live in 1981 and who went on without Waters in 1985.  They wouldn’t play together in this lineup again for 20 years, reuniting for Live8 in 2005.  I never thought I’d see them together again.

Rick Wright would unfortunately die in 2008 making a true reunion impossible. Gilmour and Mason released one last Pink Floyd record last year in Wright’s honor, working with many of Wrights unused recordings. Famously, this was another Pink Floyd record without Waters.

Gilmour is busy for a man about to turn 70. Apart from releasing that Floyd record, he dropped a single last week in advance of an upcoming solo album and tour. Ever experimenting, the single is based on a jingle used in the French transit system. I like it. I think it’s the least uptight thing I’ve heard from Dave in years.

At 71, Waters is just coming off the hugely successful The Wall tour and upcoming film. He’s working on new material and re-releasing his under-appreciated 1992 solo record Amused to Death in September. He released the revamped What God Wants video from that record this week.

I’ll admit I was on Team Waters back in high school. I love all his solo records and he’s ultimately one of my top 5 favorite songwriters and recording artists.

Nick Mason is also 71, but he shaved the Spinal Tap mustache years ago.

 

Brooklyn's own MC Krispy E has an opinion about most things you can put in your ear, eye, and mouth holes.

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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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OPEN LETTER TO CONGRESS

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Dear Members of Congress,

The tipping point is here and we need to put aside our political differences to save this country right now! Silence and remaining behind party lines is no longer an option. A unified address by our elected officials in Congress on the issue of police brutality and equality under the rule of law is required to begin the healing process as well as ensure the future of this nation.

There are three steps that immediately need to be taken to bring this to fruition. The arrest and charging of the three remaining individuals involved in the death of George Floyd must occur as the first step of good faith. The second step requires clear and transparent action items stated to the public in order to address the issues at hand. Those action items should include:

  • The revision of Qualified Immunity to specifically address the problematic assertion that “Qualified Immunity means that government officials can get away with violating your rights as long as they violate them in a way nobody thought before – Institute of Justice
  • The reforming of Civilian Review Boards with the purpose of increasing the decision-making abilities on the disposition and discipline of police officers.

The third step is the creation and funding of a systemic racism task force with the goal of dismantling systemic racism.

  • Accelerating judicial system reform
  • Equating the public education system
  • Eliminating redlining

These are just the preliminary steps that will begin the framework of the changes we need enacted to better the experiment called the United States.

I look forward to seeing a response in the form of action on the behalf of the citizens of this country.

HB aka The World Traveler is fully committed to exploring and sharing with you what the world has to offer in travel and music. Get on board and enjoy the ride!

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