black (snl) history

Drake, I totally loved that isht the other night.  While I appreciated the black bar mitzvah skit immensely (it prompted this post after all), the Katt Williams! Oh my Jesus…. the Katt Williams.  Great night for SNL!88310f8ba419c42692e4dbd7d1019c0d.467x259x1

Saturday, Jan. 18 was a big night for Saturday Night Live. Not only did rapper Drake host and serve as a musical guest, but it was also new cast member Sasheer Zamata‘s first time on the show….The former Canadian actor-turned-rapper talked about having a Jewish mother and a black father in the skit where SNL cast member Vanessa Bayer (who is known for her recurring role as Bar Mitzvah Boy) played his mother and Jay Pharaoh played his father. Read more

Ok. That hilariousness has been noted.  Now let’s take a look back in Black SNL history. We all know there’s not much of it, so this shouldn’t take too long. I like what Bond and Morris did.  I don’t like the fact that colorism is alive and well.

Julian Bond Regrets his 1977 ‘SNL’ Skit on Light Skin Vs. Dark Skin (Video)


With all of the talk surrounding “Saturday Night Live’s” new African American female cast member and writers, Julian Bond has come forward with a column in The Hollywood Reporter lamenting a skit he did during his hosting turn 37 years ago.

The civil rights leader was chairman of the NAACP board of directors from February 1998 to February 2010 and now is chairman emeritus.

Below is his column in its entirety, followed by a clip from the “SNL” sketch.

I hosted NBC’S Saturday Night Live back in April 1977, during its second season. I used to say that I was an SNL host when it was a comedy show, and people would laugh. More recently, I had taken to saying that I hosted SNL when it had black people on it. So as a former host, I was happy to read the news that an African-American woman (Sasheer Zamata) and two black female writers (LaKendra Tookes and Leslie Jones) were hired for the show because people of color, especially women, have been conspicuous by their absence.

I’m a professor emeritus at the University of Virginia, so I’m delighted that Zamata is a UVA grad. But I’m also a civil rights activist, so I’m appalled that the circumstances of their hiring would lessen — in some viewers’ minds — the talent and skills they bring to the program.

There are sure to be those who think that their race, not their talent, won them their jobs. The women were hired after an explosion of outrage at SNL’s shameful record of minority employment. Before Zamata was hired, in the 39 years since SNL began in 1975, the show had 137 cast members. Only 14 of those were African-Americans, and only four of those were women. The tally for Latinos is even more negligible — only three in the show’s history, all of them men.

Looking back at the episode I hosted, I felt discomfort with a skit we did. Appearing as myself on a mock television interview show about black issues, I told Garrett Morris, one of SNL’s original “Not Ready for Prime Time Players,” that light-skinned blacks are smarter than dark-skinned blacks. Morris, who is darker skinned than I am, did a perfect double take. I felt squeamish then but did the skit anyway, and I feel uneasy about this joke even today. I believed it treaded dangerously on the fine line between comedy and poor taste.

But that always has been SNL’s fine point, the line delineating comedy — and especially satire — from tastelessness. I always have believed that a skillful comedian — or comedienne — can make a joke out of anything. No subject is immune. Comedy is crucial in our lives, especially political satire. The ability to make fun of life’s vagaries helps us deal with them. That may be why there are so many black and Jewish comedians and why their presence on the air is so important.

SNL used to be on the cutting edge. Let’s hope Ms. Zamata helps restore some of its sharpness.

speaking of the confederate flag

ok, so, i like kid rock a little bit.  for three reasons: 1. he’s from detroit (well, Michigan anyway) 2. i think his song Amen is brilliant and beautiful 3. he has a biracial son (is that, like, racist of me…or some kind of positive prejudice…or just silly?)

anywho, i do not like his use of the confederate flag.  to be fair, i don’t like anyone’s use of it.  especially if the user has a child of some significant color.  i understand that to some people the flag is simply a symbol of “southern pride.”  i really do believe that said people do not view the flag as a pro-slavery emblem… they don’t go around looking at black people wishing they were allowed to own them.  that’s too easy, too “obvious racist bad-guy.”  but, i think it is from a vantage point of either white privilege or ignorance (or both) that one can insistently be so insensitive as to say (or infer) “i know that this flag is hurtful to many, it reminds them of a time when they were considered less than human and were treated no better than cattle, it may make them feel unsafe…they may get the idea that i think back on those days as the good old days and wish we could revert back to them.”  i’m sorry, but the flag is just  not THAT cool, not worth all of that.  nothing is.  i would like to believe that it would be an easy “sacrifice” to put that flag away (as in not on your car, belt buckle, t-shirt…but whatever you want in your own home…) so as not to bring up all of that hateful, hurtful stuff to the people who are still negatively affected by the history of the flag, the implications of it.  how about a little more love, compassion, sensitivity… amen.

i mean, this is really not that much cooler than this….

not enough to warrant offending people to their core… even if it’s only 14 people, even one… especially if the one might be your kid, Kid.

Kid Rock’s NAACP Award Protested Over Use Of Confederate Flag

via HuffPost Entertainment

Some people don’t think Kid Rock is meeting their great expectations.

The rocker is set to accept the NAACP’s Detroit chapter’s Great Expectations Award at their annual Freedom Fund dinner in May, and some members of the historic black rights organization are so unhappy about it, they’re boycotting the 10,000 person affair.

It’s the singer’s use of the Confederate flag in his stage shows that has them so upset, according to the Detroit News.

“It’s a slap in the face for anyone who fought for civil rights in this country,” Adolph Mongo, head of Detroiters for Progress and a boycotting NAACP member told the paper last week. “It’s a symbol of hatred and bigotry.”

For his part, Rock defended the use of the flag in a 2008 interview with the Guardian. “Why should someone be able to own any image and say what it is?” he said. “Sure, it’s definitely got some scars, but I’ve never had an issue with it. To me it just represents pride in southern rock’n’roll music, plus it just looks cool.”

He also spoke about touring with a famed rapper and how it impacted his audience.

“I’ve got Rev Run [from Run DMC] on tour with me right now – we have fun trying to count the number of black people every night. We’re like, ‘There’s 14 tonight, yeah!'”

Though he was a staunch defender of President George W. Bush, the singer went to back for Barack Obama after his election, in the process defending America against accusations of racism.

“It’s good the U.S. has proved it’s not as racist as it’s sometimes portrayed,” he told Metro UK (via Spin Magazine).

He also spoke about his own experience growing up with black people in the interview, saying, “Black people were kind to me growing up and taught me hip-hop and the blues.”

For more on the NAACP controversy, click over to the Detroit News.

need to know more

I have been trying to find out more info on these intended house boys all day.  I can’t find anything!! Anyone have any clues?

Also, I really like the “civil rights is colorless” part of the article.


NAACP marks 100th anniversary, steps into new era

By Stephen Magagnini

Recruiting at churches, schools, job fairs and community events, the Sacramento branch has nearly tripled from 323 adult members to 845 over the past 14 months, with another 45 youth members, said president Betty Williams.

“They’re white and black, Asian, Hispanic, Jewish, Muslim,” said Williams. “I think people are discovering that civil rights is colorless, whether it’s a gender issue, a religious issue, a same-sex issue.”

Jeanette Flowers Kimmons, who’s recruited more than 100 new members herself, added, “I always say don’t wait until something happens to be part of the solution.”

The Sacramento chapter – formed in 1916 in response to lynchings and kidnappings of mixed-race children who were to be raised as house boys – will mark the NAACP’s100th anniversary Nov. 14 with a fundraiser.

duboisnaacp2smlAn image from 1929 of W.E.B. Du Bois with a chapter of the NAACP, Image courtesy of

more obama love

As someone who is consistently accused of either holding negative ideas about what being black is and/or trying to be white, I cannot tell you just how much gratification I got out of reading President Obama’s response to the reactions to his recent NAACP 100th Anniversary speech.  In this Washington Post interview with Eugene Robinson he explains that though he was speaking directly to a group of affluent, successful, educated African Americans who are dedicated to raising their children to be the same that one should not

“underestimate the degree to which a speech like the one I gave yesterday gets magnified throughout the African American community,” Obama told me in the Oval Office, where a bust of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. surveys the room in silent admonition. “Folks on Friday go in and get their hair cut, they’re getting ready for the weekend, they’re sitting in the barber’s chair, and somebody said, ‘Did you see what Obama said yesterday?’ It sparks a conversation. . . . And part of what my goal is here is to make sure that I’m giving a lot of folks permission to talk about things that maybe they’ve talked about around the kitchen table but don’t get fully aired in public.”


I am no Obama, but I must admit that I feel like this is exactly what I’m trying to do.  Get everyone talking about this uncomfortable stuff in ways that almost seem too honest because we’re just not used to having the conversation.  I have been accused of airing “our” dirty laundry.  This always leaves me thinking, “Why not?  Dirty laundry just creates stagnant funk.  Let’s air it out and move on.”

This next bit really spoke to me as well.  Whenever I highlight the widely accepted generalizations of blackness that tend to be negative and also tend to inform the definitions of blackness held by both whites and blacks, I am hoping that by looking back and seeing where these ideas came from and how they seeped into our consciousness that they will be exposed for the ridiculous, limiting notions they are and then will be dispelled.  I’m never saying “that is what blackness is and we ‘mulattoes’ are not like that.”  I just mean that there are many ways to be black.  Mainly just being born black and then living your life as you.  Whoever that turns out to be.  Whoever you turn out to emulate, hang out with, enjoy the music, company, writings of.  I think we’re American first.  And yes being black in America is still not the same as being white in America.  We are still on the outside.  But, in my opinion, the tragedy lies in thinking that’s where one belongs and making a conscious choice to stay on the outside.  Perhaps in order to reject the mainstream as they have rejected us. But with all of it’s faults, this country has a lot to offer a life.  Sometimes I think people are so busy being “black” (or whatever one has been taught to believe should infom their identity) that they miss out on some of the riches of simply being American.

“One of the ways that I think that the civil rights movement . . . weakened itself was by enforcing a single way of being black — being authentically black. And, as a consequence, there were a whole bunch of young black people — and I fell prey to this for a time when I was a teenager — who thought that if you were really ‘down’ you had to be a certain way. And oftentimes that was anti-something. You defined yourself by being against things as opposed to what you were for. And I think now young people realize, you know what, being African American can mean a whole range of things. There’s a whole bunch of possibilities out there for how you want to live your life, what values you want to express, who you choose to interact with.”

…Said Obama: “I do think it is important for the African American community, in its diversity, to stay true to one core aspect of the African American experience, which is we know what it’s like to be on the outside.

President Obama, I just love you and I promise that by focusing on my “unique experience” I am not detaching from the larger struggle. K?

christia adair

Christia Adair (1920)


In 1920, Christia Adair took some schoolchildren to meet the train when Republican Warren G. Harding was campaigning for the presidency. After seeing him shake hands only with the white children, she became a Democrat.
[b.1893 – d.1989]

Christia Adair was a teacher, a community leader, and a tireless activist for the rights of women and African-Americans. Born in Victoria on October 22, 1893, Adair spent her early years in Edna, then moved to Austin with her family in 1910. She attended college first at Samuel Huston (now Huston-Tillotson University) and then at Prairie View Normal and Industrial College (now Prairie View A&M.) After graduation she moved back to Edna, where she taught elementary school.

She married Elbert Adair in 1918, and they moved to Kingsville. There she opened a Sunday school, and also began her community activism. She joined a multiracial group opposed to gambling, and then became involved in the suffrage movement. At that time neither blacks nor women could vote, and anyone who knows her feminist history knows that there was some racism in the suffrage movement. Indeed, after the 19th Amendment was ratified in 1920, blacks were still turned away from the polls because of racist whites’ tactic to deter them: the white primary. Since the South was wholly Democratic at that point, the primary basically decided the election. Thus excluding African-Americans from the primary effectively disenfranchised them. Adair had this to say:

“Back in 1918 Negroes could not vote and women could not vote either. The white women were trying to help get a bill passed in the legislature where women could vote. I said to the Negro women, “I don’t know if we can use it now or not, but if there’s a chance, I want to say we helped make it. 

“We went to the polls at the white primary but could not vote…We kept after them until they finally said ‘You cannot vote because you are a Negro.'”

This was a smart strategy, because that gave them grounds to sue. And sue they did. The Adairs had moved to Houston in 1925, and Christia had become very active in the Houston chapter of the NAACP. As executive secretary, she was a driving force behind the landmark lawsuit, Smith v. Allwright, which overturned the white primary – and helped set the stage for Brown v. Board of Education.

In the Jim Crow South, these activities made Adair and her colleagues targets for racist whites. The chapter received bomb threats with alarming regularity. The Houston police were not helpful. In fact, they were a hindrance. According to Adair’s entry at the Handbook of Texas Online:

In 1957 Houston police attempted for three weeks to locate the chapter’s membership list. While the official charge was battery – the illegal solicitation of clients by attorneys – Adair believed the real purpose was to destroy the organization and its advocacy of civil rights. She testified for five hours in a three-week trial over the attempted seizure of NAACP records. Two years later, on appeal to the Supreme Court, Thurgood Marshall again won a decision for the organization. Adair never admitted having membership lists or having member’s names. In 1959 the chapter disbanded and she resigned as executive secretary, though she later helped rebuild the group’s rolls to 10,000 members.

Now that’s a hardcore sister. And she didn’t stop there. She was a lifelong leader in the Methodist Episcopal Church and a precinct judge for more than 25 years. She also helped to…

* desegregate Houston’s public buildings, city buses, and department stores
* win Blacks the right to serve on juries and be considered for county jobs
* convince newspapers to refer to blacks with the same courtesy titles used for 
* desegregate the Democratic Party in Texas

Any one of her achievements is impressive. Taken together, they’re downright amazing. And folks noticed. Adair was recognized by many for her brave and principled activism. Zeta Phi Beta sorority named her Woman of the Year in 1952. In 1974 Houston NOW honored her for suffrage activism. In 1977 she was selected as one of four participants in the Black Women Oral History Project, sponsored by the Schlesinger Library at Radcliffe College. That same year the city of Houston named a park for her. And in 1984, she was named to the Texas Women’s Hall of Fame. Adair died just a few years later at the age of 96, on New Year’s Eve 1989, leaving behind her an indelible legacy of justice and equality.

Above bio from: NOW National Organization for Women
Photo and paragraph directly below photo from: 
‘The Face of Our Past: Images of Black Women from Colonial America to the Present’ edited by Kathleen Thompson and Hilary Mac Austin

WOW!!!  Such an important woman.  How had I not heard of her before?  Thank you, Omega!

speaking of angelina weld grimke


Angelina Weld Grimké (February 27, 1880 – June 10, 1958) was an African-American journalist, teacher, playwright and poet who was part of the Harlem Renaissance and was one of the first African-American women to have a play performed. Born in Boston, the daughter of Archibald Grimke, a prominent journalist who served as Vice-President of the NAACP. The Grimkes were a prominent biracial family whose members included both slaveowners and abolitionists. Two of her great aunts, Angelina and Sarah, were prominent abolitionists in the North. Angelina Weld Grimke was named after her aunt who had died the year before.Her paternal grandfather was their brother Henry Grimké, of their large, slaveholding family based in Charleston, South Carolina. Their paternal grandmother was Nancy Weston, an enslaved woman of European and African descent, with whom Henry became involved after becoming a widower.  Grimke’s mother, Sarah Stanley Grimke, a white woman, left her husband under the influence of her parents who never approved of her interracial marriage, and took her three-year old daughter with her. However, at the age of seven, Angelina was returned to her father, and although she and her mother corresponded, they never saw one another again. Sarah Stanley died of suicide several years later.

Grimké wrote essays, short stories and poems which were published in The CrisisOpportunityThe New NegroCaroling Dusk, and Negro Poets and Their Poems. Some of her more famous poems include, “The Eyes of My Regret”, “At April”, and “Trees”. She was an active writer and activist included among the figures of the Harlem Renaissance. Her poetry dealt with more conventional romantic themes, often marked with frequent images of frustration and isolation. Recent scholarship has revealed Grimke’s unpublished lesbian poems and letters; she did not feel free to live openly as a gay woman during her lifetime. 

Grimké also wrote a play called Rachel, one of the first plays to protest lynching and racial violence. She wrote the three-act drama for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) to rally public support against the recently released film The Birth of a Nation. The play was produced in 1916 in Washington, D.C., performed by an all-black cast. It was published in 1920.

After her father died, Grimké left Washington, DC, for New York, where she lived a reclusive life in Brooklyn. She died in 1958 after a long illness.é