Black History Month 2017 – Life Through Art – Post 4

Today we are going to be learning about Edmonia Lewis – the first professional African American sculptor.  If you saw the Google Doodle on February 1st you would have seen Edmonia Lewis.

Celebrating Edmonia Lewis

Lewis was born to a free African American father and a Chippewa Indian mother.  She attended Oberlin College in Ohio, but was kicked out after being accused of poisoning several of her white female schoolmasters.  (All of the claims were unsubstantiated.)

"The Death of Cleopatra," Edmonia Lewis
“The Death of Cleopatra”

Soon after she moved to Boston and did busts of white abolitionists.  In 1865 she traveled to Europe where she settled down in Rome. Rome was a good place for Lewis because she had access to incredible marble. She became famous for her neo-classical style of sculpture.

My personal favorite sculpture is The Old Arrow Maker which lives at the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville, Arkansas.

The Old Arrow Maker

Learn more about Edmonia Lewis below:

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Hope From The Chamber

Since this past Sunday I have entered multiple public restrooms. The key difference between this week and every other week before this one is that I never really had to think about what I would do if I had to hide from an active shooter in a public restroom. Not until an active shooter entered a night club in Orlando to create terror and tragedy.

I have similar feelings when I enter movie theaters where I’m supposed to be whisked away into another world. I still think about the man who entered a Colorado movie theater and terrorized moviegoers seeking to enjoy the world of Batman.

Every time I have entered a house of worship in the last year has made me very cognizant of the nine souls that were lost in a Charleston church.

As a junior high school student I experienced lock down when an active shooter entered the building.  Luckily, no one at my school was injured, but the same cannot be said for an elementary school in Connecticut or a high school in Colorado.

After living in Japan for 4 years, where nearly no one has guns (including law enforcement), I came to feel that the need for guns is unnecessary.  I understand and respect the 2nd amendment, but I feel that we at least need discussion.

Then something amazing happened.

I was scrolling through Facebook and saw Senator Cory Booker of New Jersey post something about clearing his schedule for the day. And since Cory Booker is forever saying things that matter I decided to see what was happening.

Senator Chris Murphy from Connecticut, along with 40 other senators, decided to take the floor during an appropriations bill to spend 14 hours discussing guns and the law.

It was nothing short of heroic and full of amazing questions, answers, and discussion.

One of my favorite moments came from Senator Kaine from Virginia when he said: “In this body we don’t have to be heroes. We just don’t have to be bystanders.”

And bystanders they were not, for by the end of the filibuster there had been an agreement from the GOP to allow gun control votes.

Let us remember the day that our Senators worked for us and continue to push them to work for us more.  Call your Senators today and continue to call them so they know where their constituents stand on each issue.  Our very lives depend on it.

Heartbreak in Orlando

Utter heartbreak came to mind when I woke up this morning. Another deadly shooting happened overnight and it made my heart hurt.  As my morning went on I continued to receive my CNN updates that this shooting had claimed the lives of 50 individuals and injured 53 more.  I hear the confirmation that this is the deadliest mass shooting in US history.  I also learned that it occurred at a gay club during Pride.  I then hear that the individual responsible for this massacre has claimed ties to ISIS.

Pulse

All of these things make one’s head spin.  And the Islamophobia that is sure to follow makes me fearful.  The beginnings of a terrorist attack start to take shape in the media and the minimizing of a hate crime become apparent.

What happened in the wee hours of Sunday June 12, 2016 in Orlando are unspeakable, but yet we are all speaking about it.  We don’t know all the information, but we know that something horrific happened out of hate.  President Obama made it clear to us by stating “Although it’s still early in the investigation, we know enough to say that this was an act of terror and an act of hate.”  We cannot forget the fact that this massacre sprung from hate.

One of my favorite writers, Gyasi Ross, has asked “Please don’t speculate, theorize or politicize the latest mass shooting in Orlando” and I believe that he is right.  We need to give families some space to process even though processing will take a lot more time than we know.

We will, however, need to talk about what we as a nation will want to do about guns and our President said it best by stating “Today marks the most deadly shooting in American history. The shooter was apparently armed with a handgun and a powerful assault rifle. This massacre is therefore a further reminder of how easy it is for someone to get their hands on a weapon that lets them shoot people in a school, or in a house of worship, or a movie theater, or in a nightclub. And we have to decide if that’s the kind of country we want to be. And to actively do nothing is a decision as well.”  I, for one, believe that we will not actively do nothing.  I believe we will rise up and figure this all out together, for the betterment of all of us and for the betterment of our nation’s future.

What we should not do today is request our Muslim brothers and sisters to condemn a perceived act of terrorism.  We should also not forget to love each other and support one another during yet another horrible act of violence. We should also be reminded that hate crimes are very real and continue to threaten the lives of our LGBTQ brothers and sisters.

For those who are wondering what they can do to help attn: has put together some options.  If you are not in the greater Orlando area the quickest way to help is to donate to the gofundme set up by the GLBT Community Center of Central Florida.

Let us move forward still believing that love will conquer hate.

More Love Less Hate

United Shades of America Episode 1

kamau 2

W. Kamau Bell is a man who has been on my radar for ages (or so it seems). I’m trying to recall whether I saw his stand-up first or Totally Biased on FXX. Either way, it doesn’t matter – cuz he’s back on TV! His new show is called “United Shades of America” and man, is he amazing or what?

I’ve been following W. Kamau Bell through his blog since Totally Biased was cancelled and am always appreciative with how he can make me laugh even when terrible things are happening around him or to him.  One of the best/worst posts was when he was accosted at a cafe he and his wife frequent regularly.

United Shades of America was a bit different for me. I was uncomfortable and sad most of the time while watching. Of course I can’t help but laugh at the wit that comes from Kamau, but the pilot for this episode was SO impactful.

kamau 3

Kamau tasked himself with learning about the new Ku Klux Klan and there were times in the episode where I’m biting my nails down to the quick because I have NO idea how he’s going to get away from this situation.

As we go through the episode we learn so much about the thinking and ways of people raised around the Klan. The beauty of this episode? Kamau provides each person with a platform to be in their truth. And even though I felt that each perspective was so far from reality I was given an opportunity to really hear each individual. Kamau gives a bit of his perspective and you know he doesn’t agree, but he really listens. And this is the key. By allowing each person to speak we all get an opportunity to reach understanding of the other’s perspective. This is where we start. By getting to a place of understanding, we can grow.

kamau 1
I loved everything about this episode even though I was uncomfortable throughout. Kamau ends the pilot by explaining that he may be the only black man in history that has been asked to witness a cross burning (or cross lighting) and walk away from it. At this point, I promptly began crying.

Kudos to CNN for putting such an amazing man on your network and for allowing him a platform to do amazing stuff. I can’t wait to see where he goes next.

Welcome to the New HToTheJizones!

Hello everyone!

I spent a lot of years on blogger and I finally decided to take the plunge into hosting my own site.  I am excited, nervous, and everything in between.

I thank you for stopping by and beginning this journey with me.  I hope we can all learn, grow, and develop together. I also hope we can have some fun along the way.

You will find all my posts from my blogger site here now and going forward I will start to diversify my content a bit.

I have realized that in order for me to live a happy and full life I need to not only focus on the triumphs and problems with US society, but to embrace things that are a part of me as well.

So, be prepared to see not only posts about Black History and Institutional Racism, but also regarding travel, film, television, and my wonderful hometown – Des Moines, IA.

Thank you all, again for the love and support over the years and going forward on this journey.  Let’s do it – together!

Hugs and Love – Heather

Black History Month 2013 Day 8

The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air

Cultural Significance:

Fresh Prince of Bel-Air is first and foremost culturally significant for its theme song. Secondly, it is culturally significant for The Carlton. Anyone that grew up in the 90’s can give you the entire first stanza to the theme song. Plus, it is just pure genius. The Carlton, well Alfonso Ribeiro is awesome.

A couple of tidbits about this show that I found interesting were that the show was created because Will Smith was having problems financially (needed to pay back taxes and such) and so Quincy Jones helped develop the series into what we all know and love it to be. I am never and advocate for being frivolous with money, but in this instance I am a bit happy it happened.

Also, being an Iowa girl I was pleased to find that the University in the series was modeled after Upper Iowa University. The school colors (blue and white) for University Los Angeles and it’s mascot (peacock) were the same as Upper Iowa’s so the producers had to get permission from the University before using them.

This series ran for 148 episodes over 6 seasons and is still in syndication worldwide. The show won multiple awards, including Young Artist and Image Awards, and dealt with relevant issues during its run. It is still referenced culturally and will forever remain a part of our hearts.

Personal Significance:

If you know me even a little bit you know that I think Will Smith is one of the greatest people on God’s green earth. I think he is such an amazing person, role model, actor, and (from what I can tell) father. I have watched loads of interviews with him and seen almost his entire body of work. I think the man is for lack of a better phrase ‘super cool.’ 

Plus, he raps happy. First Ever Rap Grammy. Miami. Parents Just Don’t Understand. Lost & Found.

Fresh Prince of Bel-Air was the first time I had ever seen Will Smith. The show is infectious and it keeps you watching no matter how silly the story lines are. The cast is brilliant. Hilary and Carlton were such great (and ridiculous) characters, but you always loved them. No matter what. Fresh Prince could make you laugh and cry in the same episode and I always knew how much Aunt Viv and Uncle Phil loved Will even though he constantly made them crazy. Watching Jazz get tossed out of the house was always expected, but still never disappointed. I did, however, always feel bad for Geoffrey because they were mean to him. I know he was the butler, but DANG!

Fresh Prince makes me recall my childhood and represents the beginning of my love of Will Smith. However, when watching the show as an adult it still holds up as a great series that dealt with many different kinds of themes. One of the most memorable for me is when Will’s absent father comes to visit and gets his hopes up for doing lots of stuff together and that he will be around again. The emotion that comes always catches me off guard and reminds me that being loved by a parent is needed at any age, but especially for teens.

Take a look back at this wonderful series. You won’t be disappointed.

And for an added bonus, check out this Tumblr with Fresh Prince quotes.

Black History Month 2013 Day 7

Today’s feature comes to us courtesy of my good friend Marvin Dangerfield. Check out his thoughts on Imitation of Life.

Imitation of Life (1934/1959 film)

First, let me say that I’ve copied lots of information from Wikipedia and I guess it could have been easy for me to say just go to Wiki and read about this, but since I wanted to add a few words of my own (my 3 cents) in between that of what I copied from Wiki, I will ask for your attention and beg that you read on and then after you’ve digested my 3 cents, then go to Wiki and maybe even youtube and read about and watch the movie. Thank you and now let’s begin.

My 3 cents:

As you can grasp from the title of the film there is some type of soul searching going on here, somebody is living in a lie or a fantasy. Well yes, that is true, but not exactly a Hollywood or Bollywood type fantasy of today, no CGI or special effects going on here, just true to life despair, put on the big screen, not once but twice. The original film was made in the 1930’s (no joke!) and the remake was made in the 1950’s (again no joke). You’re like that is old, how in the heck can this film be relevant today or worthy of discussion?

Well the movie was based on a novel written by Fannie Hurst (a Jewish novelist), so why did I mention Jewish and what does that have to do with the “imitation of Life”. Ok, here we go. The story has too many plots, but several sub plots all wrapped together tightly and the actors and actresses who performed in the film did Academy Award nominee level work.

Plot 1: A White lady and a Black lady become friends back when this was not really cool to do. The Black lady works as a servant, but by choice to help the White lady (strange but true in the movie.) They both have daughters who grow up together in the same house and are like sisters. (strange but true in the movie)

The White lady becomes a movie star, but the Black lady still plays the role of maid, but is a true friend to the white lady and the white lady never treats her bad because she loves her friend.

Plot 2: The Black lady’s daughter is very very very light skinned. She basically she looks white and unless she told someone she was black, they would never guess it. So now we are getting there. Since this little Black girl looks White and grows up like a little white girl, she decides to hide the fact that she is Black and let’s everyone think that she is related to the rich White lady and not the daughter of the Black lady servant. This is the deepest part of the “Imitation of life”, Black girl looks white, has a dark skinned mom, but runs away from her so that no one will know that she is really black and she breaks her moms heart, to the point of illness and and then death of a broken heart.

Plot 3: The White lady’s daughter hardly knew her mommy growing up as she was busy becoming a star, so they have no real mommy daughter connection. The White daughter falls in love with mommy’s BF and stirs up a lot of mess.

Now can you feel me?! A Jewish lady born back in the old old old days comes up with this story of a black girl hiding the fact that she is black, a rich white girl hating mommy for not being there, when she needed her… all this going on back in the 30’s SAY WHAT!? The 30’s then again in the 50’s, when American was basically White washed and Blacks lived with Blacks unless they were servants and nothing bad ever crept into the basic White washed American world.

So, that is why I think this story was historical and should have won more acclaim back in the day, but remember America was White washed back then. If we had made this story in the 60’s or even the 70’s it would have opened many eyes.

Think about the plots and tell me that this is not real, not deep, not something to think about and then think about when the film was made. WOW!! End of my present 3 cents.

I hated Troy Donahue after I saw this movie, but I guess that is a compliment to his acting. He was the BF of the light skinned black girl who pretended to be white. He was a joke and a ‘letter man” and when he found out the truth, he beat the crap out of the girl, that’s why I hated him. All the actors and actresses were great in the movie!!

Well I will say that this was one of the most heart breaking movies, I’ve ever watched and it changed my life completely. I, being of very light skin, remember when I was young wishing I was darker, like my mom and my brothers and sisters and feeling out of place. I kinda understood that the black girl wanted to blend in. But I decided, I’d never try to blend in, I’d always be me and represent my ethnic heritage.

It also opened my eyes to the fact that a black person could love a white person and visa versa, skin color is only that and true love lies within our hearts and minds.

As for the other plot of lack of communication with the mother and daughter, I make every effort to communicate and educate my children as much as possible. Even when I am extremely busy, I will listen to them and make sure they know I love them.

In the movie there is a sad ending, but also a ray of light, in that the black girl decided not to pretend to black anymore and to live her life as a black woman and the little white girl and mom were able to mend bridges and start communicating.

It is such a sad and enlightening movie and story that was written well before its time. Go to wiki and read about this and then go to youtube and watch the movie. (See the embedded video below.)

Peace out!
Marvin

Black History Month 2013 Day 6

Major Payne/Undercover Brother

Cultural Significance:

Again today’s features are films that are not Oscar winners, but they are absolutely amazing.

Major Payne was a film loosely based on the film The Private War of Major Benson starring Charlton Heston. (Which was news to me while I was researching this.) Now this movie was panned by critics, but the thing that made this movie pop out as culturally significant to me is that Major Benson’s character would have fit any actor profile. When you watch this film I feel that it was cast colorlessly. Damon Wayans was obviously the best choice, but only for his comedic qualities. The script relied on funny jokes that had nothing to do with race. Looking back on it now it is a breath of fresh air to know that it was that way, especially in 1995.

Undercover Brother is one of the best spoof films I have ever seen. It makes fun of blaxploitation films from the 70s and spy films (such as James Bond). It also walks a fine line of completely making the viewer guffaw at the ridiculousness of racial inequalities. This movie is brilliant. It makes dumb jokes and pokes a lot of fun, but underneath it all there is a lot of heart and realism. This movie was actually praised by critics for these very things that I have discussed above.

Personal Significance:

These two movies help define two parts of my life. Major Payne was a movie that we used to watch as a family, a lot. It was my first experience with Damon Wayans and my first time seeing Karyn Parsons outside of The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. It is also one of the most ridiculous/funny films I can remember. It is a movie that my dad can quote front to back along with my brother and I. I will say that is not a cinematic masterpiece, but any comedy fan I have ever met has told me that this movie is hilarious and is up there on their list of favorites.

One of my favorite scenes in the whole movie is when he decides to tell the young ones a bedtime story. It is classic Damon Wayans and an absolutely hilarious way to tell ‘The Little Engine That Could.’

My father is also a retired Marine so this movie was a way for him to connect with his kids through watching something related to the Corps that wasn’t too violent.

Undercover Brother on the other hand helps me define my college experience. It is a movie that we would all sit around watching together when we were supposed to be studying. (Shh…that’s our secret.) Now, my friends Ferg and Sherm would quote this constantly which would lead to the three of us in hysterics from laughing so hard. Our friend Staci would sit and roll her eyes because she believed the movie to be ridiculous which would lead us to quote it even more. It was such a fun way for us to then lead into more serious discussions about race relations and our thoughts on ‘The Man.’ It will not only make me laugh from the content, but also from the images of friends quoting it in my head.

These two movies will always go down in my personal history book as greatness. If not for amazing social commentary then non-stop laughs. Do yourself a favor and check them both out. You won’t be disappointed.

Black History Month 2013 Day 5

Remember the Titans:

Cultural Significance:

Remember the Titans sprung from the true story about the 1971 T.C. Williams High School football team in Alexandria, VA. Coach Herman Boone was given the job of head coach over a more popular coach from Alexandria, Coach Bill Yoast. The movie loosely follows their rise to State Champions. It is a powerful story that has affected audiences worldwide. It had a worldwide gross of $136.7 million and has a 73% critics approval rating on Rottentomatoes.com and a 91% audience rating.

Most people will call this a fun, inspirational and exciting football film that makes anyone smile when they watch it. Although the film follows the real story loosely and changes details to make the story flow you can still get a feel for the times this community was living in and the struggles that children can go through even when it is something that they may not fully understand. I think it deals with the struggle that children face when influenced by their parents thinking in a way that is organic and natural. It also shows that at our core we are all human beings that have the same emotions as anyone else and I believe this story will transcend the test of time to inspire generations to come.

Personal Significance:

This movie. Well, let me start off by saying that I have probably watched this movie about a hundred times. I’m a sucker for sports films, based on a true story films, and race-relations films. This was a movie that had them all rolled into one. I was in heaven. Plus, it has a killer soundtrack that I have nearly memorized. Plus, it stars Denzel Washington and (Des Moines, IA native) Greg Alan Williams. It can’t get much better than that.

One of the other reasons I love this movie so much is that it really shows how love and friendship is just that: love and friendship. It is simple and it doesn’t need to have all these restrictions surrounding it. Coach Boone was able to take these kids and show them that they were all just people working towards the same goal. He was also able to help them realize that they could be real friends that watch out for each other and love each other.

I have friends from all over the world and I know these lessons to be true. You are my friend because you are nice and I like you. It’s as simple as that.

When I was a student at William Jewell College (WJC) I had the opportunity to meet the real Coach Boone when he gave a lecture at WJC. It was really inspiring to hear from a person who really changed people’s lives with such simple lessons. He is definitely an example I’d like to follow.

Black History Month 2013 Day 4

Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner/Guess Who

Cultural Significance:

I believe that these two films really reflected the times in which we were living in when each film was made. Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner? starred Sidney Poitier and was made in 1967. His fiancé was white and she took him home to meet the family. Guess Who starred Ashton Kutcher and was made in 2005. His fiancé was black and she took him home to meet the family.

1967 was a time when interracial relationships were frowned upon no matter the union, but the content of the film focused on a black man marrying a white woman. The film was set up under the premise that Sidney Poitier was the perfect man for the young woman. He was a doctor, came from a good family, and really loved her; however, he was black. This film was able to take a serious look at an issue that has become more common in recent years and show that love can prevail. Now, it is a Hollywood story and didn’t magically change the world, but it did start these conversations and give interracial couples confidence to be more open regarding their love and relationship.

2005 was a time when interracial relationships were a lot more common, but a black woman with a white man was still pretty uncommon. It is still pretty uncommon. The film was set up on the premise that Ashton Kutcher was not exactly the perfect man for the young lady, but he really, truly loved her. He had recently lost his job and he was always trying to impress her father so a lot of white lies were being told along the way. This film was a comedic way to look at this issue and it has a few uncomfortable scenes that show a few of the differences between cultures. However, it is again a Hollywood story so it was a happy ending story, but it was able to look at this issue from another way while also making people laugh.

Personal Significance:

Well, I will first say that Bernie Mac, rest his soul, has always been one of my favorite actors. He is hilarious and so much fun to watch on screen. Sidney Poitier will always be one of the great actors of the 20th century. Both of these men should be looked at fondly by cinematic history.

These movies are great. They touched my soul in different ways, but in ways that I could understand. I truly believe that love is love and so when I see people struggling over relationships based on things like skin color I can’t fully understand it. I have liked lots of people from all kinds of backgrounds, but it has always been on whether they are nice to me (and if they have cute shoes). LOL. Seriously though, these films are important to me because they put out a positive message of love, but it also shows some of the things that people struggle with when having interracial relationships.

Take some time and watch both of these films. I think you can enjoy both.