Cosby Show : Dealing with Family Business

IMG_3190Let’s talk the Black family. And not that “ooh, my Granny makes the best sweet potato pie,” or “What city are we hosting the family reunion?” “Or who is Daddy’s favorite?” kind of talk.

Uhn uhn. Time for real talk. Time to go deeper and have those conversations that force us to tend to our wounds and start healing.

When it chose a shattered portrait of the iconic Cosby Show for its November cover, Ebony magazine was simply heeding the call to “break glass in case of emergency.” Now the alarm is ringing, we must run and see what’s the matter.

Personally, I did not take the Ebony cover literally, as if there is some fracture in the Cosby Show, its image or its influence on American pop culture – and more pointedly… the Black American experience.

Let’s state facts: Heathcliff is not Bill Cosby. Claire most certainly is not Phylicia Rashad nor Camille Cosby… ‘cause we all know after Claire had gotten wind of the allegations surrounding her husband, there would be no defense, no victim-blaming. Nope. Our Claire would have delivered her death stare, read Heathcliff for shame, left him for her old Hillman flame, and then represented the women in court. Then there is fine Theo. Down-for-my-people-speak truth to power-working-at-the-community-center- righteous-Theo. He would never sacrifice truth for Malcolm Jamal Warner’s misdirected disappointment.

Well, of course that is my imagination talking. What my imagination hopes would have transpired on our beloved, yet fictive television show.

Yet, here’s the thing about fiction and made up things: It must have some semblance of believability. The Cosby Show, for all its new millennial criticisms, may not have been a reality for the majority of its faithful viewers, but it was believable enough to offer a new hope. Some inspiration.  And while it may not fully connect with the new lens from today’s proliferation of cultural critics, it was a welcome escape in its time as the number one watched network sitcom; a hope for what the institution of family could be. An inspiration for our individual and collective aspirations. It certainly was an influence on the many throes of Black folk heading to HBCU’s and college campuses in record numbers, producing many first generation college attendees in the 90s. It was a space for us to escape our world, to exchange our real families for the one on TV.

The Real Talk we need to have…

For all the reasons I mentioned above, we can certainly say that art inspires life. But there are many instances where it does not imitate it. Exhibit A: the Cosby Show itself is still intact.  Claire can still be seen in all her glory, Cliff stays doling out his fatherly nuggets, and we can enjoy wholesome family jam sessions to our heart’s syndicated delight.

So, I find it quite ironic, yet Divinely aligned, that the Ebony cover served as “The Family Issue” in the month of November:  the start to a season where for good or bad, people are forced to consider their families. A season connected with holiday gatherings, where many are obligated to sit across the table from their childhood sexual predator, aka Uncle Leroy.

It’s the season where many contemplate suicide rather than sit in silence as their family members berate and spew hateful, homophobic rhetoric at them across the turkey as their true identities cower under a protective mask. So many will up their anxiety meds in fear of the triggers that threaten to undermine the strides made in their therapy sessions.

Let us not forget those who are pushed back into the ugliness of childhood, where Aunt Sheila beat, cursed children and directed such derogatory language to shame them, that it would embarrass a drunken soldier. And surely we could dig further and take a look at all the grandparents and relatives who choose to ignore the fact that Troy has brought yet another pregnant girlfriend to dinner, yet has not been in touch with his first 4 children since they were in the wombs of all the other pregnant girlfriends from holidays past. And everyone will ignore  that Aunt Pat, with the cast on her broken arm, seems more skittish every time Uncle Kenny gives her his ice cold stare…the same Uncle who is also known to verbally beat up on all the women in the family.

Dressing will be passed ten times before anyone addresses why Lil Mike keeps jumping up from the table, peeping out the windows and clutching his waistband. Then when Loretta has a breakdown, again, and becomes violent, nobody will finally address the mental health issues several family members are self medicating or criminalized for. And who will stay to resolve the final balance on Big Mama’s funeral arrangements or discuss how folks skipped out on that responsibility?

Nope.

Everyone will just slice their homemade version of Patti Pie and sip tea as they all boisterously share their opinion about the Cosby Show and whether or not “Cliff” “really” “raped” “those women.” air quote air quote air quote.

And now that Bill Cosby has moved to file lawsuits against a number of his accusers for defamation,  this family focused holiday season will be just like old times. The Cosby Show escape from their real family problems.

Still the opportunity is here. Ebony pushed us to the line. And it’s high time we all step up, that means Ebony too, with its new generation of editors and staff writers who may not be familiar with the “culture” that was nurtured for years in the iconic red carpeted halls of their Michigan Avenue offices. But just as they arrogantly task the Cosby Show cast as collectively inheriting the sins of its father, it may want to look in the mirror. Ask around about the dysfunction, sexism, and adult indiscretions that were  embedded within the work culture. Any employee or associate intimately familiar with practices at Johnson Publishing Company from back in the day can speak to what built the figurative house they live in, even though it currently boasts a newly renovated version.

So, yes, we have to fully consider and examine how the Bill Cosby rape allegations (can we point out the deposition confessions while we’re at it) impact the Cosby Show family as a business and cultural icon. But while we’re looking over there, we’d all better be looking right at home tending to our own family business.

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It ain’t college, it’s the real world!

It’s that time of the year… the glimmer and glam pave the way from prom to the pomp and circumstance of graduation as girls are marching beyond high school, off to realize dreams. And as a great number of our girls continue to march their way on to college campuses, far too often they do so guided by the philosophy that a college degree will be their passport to the real world. It’s true, a college degree does afford entry into greater opportunities. However, we have got to halt the perpetuating send off that says personal control over their livelihood is on hold until they return home from a 4 year stint of academic and social revelry.

The truth is,  without getting too deep into the metaphysical, the moment they leave home and have to make choices independent of parental direction or adult dictation, girls (or more appropriately young women) have stepped into their real world.

When I made my transition to college, I remember clinging desperately to lessons from the closest ideal of college life I had, the television hit show, A Different World. That show dealt with almost every possible issue a Black girl could experience on college campus.

Just like then, we should equip girls with a few key beliefs as they make their way in the real world. While A Different World is still a media resource full of lessons for our girls heading off to college campus, they also need a dose of reality. Here is a vital list of mind sets our girls must adopt when heading to college real world:

Be enterprising: tap into an innate gift and skill set to earn supplemental income while away at college. From fashion design, hair and nails, blogging, makeup, tutoring, photography there are tons of ideas for dorm room enterprise. This income can be used at their discretion to fund clothing and personal hygiene expenses; spring/summer break excursions; or general expenses. Furthermore, this is money that can be saved for major investments right after college. Think first home, relocation, car, stocks.

Be a conscious consumer: Never too early to learn this! But college is definitely an opportune time to harness power over the dollars young women spend. Take a critical lens to brands which attempt to influence loyalty without much accountability nor personal return. Look at the brands that support causes and community initiatives that are relevant to you as a consumer. And take special note of brands that offer paid interns to college students like you.

Have an open mind: There are millions of perspectives and viewpoints beyond what you were raised around. Be open to gaining new experiences and getting to know people from various backgrounds whose beliefs and perspectives may be completely different than what you are familiar with. Expand your perception.

Be intentional: There will be plenty competing for your time and attention. Everything from classes to social clubs to campus involvement. Be sure whatever you devote your time to is intentional and aligned with the goals you have set for yourself. Joining organizations, like a sorority, should be given careful consideration so that it is not about popularity or hanging out, but connected to your future career and community service goals. Even your travels and breaks should be intentional. Yes, it would be fun to party in Miami for Spring break, but remember you can gain some international exposure as well. Many universities offer study abroad courses; perfect for those looking to secure a career in foreign relations, global diversity, government, teaching, etc.

Be healthy! Your health is real from the moment you take your first breath, and it becomes all the more important with every new plateau you reach. The “freshman 15” is real…mentally and physically your body must adjust to its new environment. Weight gain, stress, new sleeping patterns all have an impact. Stay fit. Take advantage of your campus recreation and health care facilities.

Be protective…and selective! Take precautions to become familiar with your campus  AND surrounding areas. Being on college campus does not mean young women will be immune to real world risks. From natural disasters to sexual relations, young women MUST be prepared. Become familiar with emergency plan on school’s website. Know safe routes when walking alone or at night. Be aware of areas off campus that may pose risks such as robberies, rape, etc. Observe new acquaintances to see who is trustworthy, as well as to see who exhibits self love. Be wary of those who have destructive tendencies (drinking, drugs, bad study habits). Also, be proactive in your intimate relationships. Protect yourself. Remember STI’s and unplanned pregnancy are most high on college campuses. Dating violence is also a factor, so again be keenly aware of acquaintances and their behaviors. Have your safe stash with emergency money, condoms, up to date prescriptions for medications, emergency contacts and numbers.

A few websites to check out for safety:

RAINN (Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network)

The SIWE Project

Planned Parenthood

Black Youth Project

Federal Emergency Management Agency

This list is just a start. What else should be included? What words of wisdom should our girls pack in their luggage heading to their “real world?” Share in the comments below.

Oh and just for fun, here are a few of my favorite “life-lesson” Different World episodes:

 

Kill the Noise! Silence Chief Keef and Team Sosa

Chief-Keef-Gun-Range-585x584-580x579I am appalled! Through no desire of my own, I have been exposed to Chief Keef’s music. It always leaves me disturbed and in a mourning state. Mourning for the minds of children who produce this sick filth “music” because it is evident their entire short lives have been filled being misguided and unloved.

But I have never been as livid as I am after getting wind of his latest threat on wax glorifying  sexual violence and murder against a girl for not performing fellatio on him against her will *growl* You know this rampant and incessant obsession with violating women/girls is beyond despicable.

Not only did I hear the lyrics, I also saw the video of Chief Keef’s disturbed buddy beating and stumping a girl who did not want them in her home.

It is truly time for a counter-movement that kills all this whack, destructive hateful noise! It is past time to silence Chief Keef and all the other #TeamSosa derelicts. Time to send a clear message to the overgrown men like Rick Ross (U.O.E.N.O), Lil Wayne (Karate Chop), Jay Z (Monster) or any “rapper” who thinks it is acceptable to make music about raping women, or sexual violence in any fashion.

First things first! 

There has to be some defense against exposing our children and young adults to these messages that promote slaughter and gender violence.

I created a petition asking Chicago Public Schools to ban any Chief Keef music from school functions. That means although students may request this music from DJs themselves, the responsible adults will accept their moral obligation to set boundaries.  PLEASE SIGN NOW then come back.

Next, start a petition to your school district as well. We can silence this crap one school district at a time.

No way should hormonal boys be sent out into the night with their prom dates after getting drunk off of Chief Keef’s potent rape lyrics. Can we imagine the sense of entitlement? The belief that refusing to perform sex acts is punishable by physical harm…

Nor should girls be verbally assaulted on the dance floor; trepidation that their date might  actually carry out Chief Keef’s logic fueling their interactions of compliance.

We can’t allow that.

Industry A& R

Interscope records, who has signed Chief Keef and  who has been pilfering death into the eardrums of our community for decades now, must be held accountable. Time for some new A&R (accountability & responsibility) up in the record company offices. There is a trail from the owners of record labels connected to those who own news outlets, book publishing companies and all forms of media that have indoctrinated messages of destruction…which oddly seem to disproportionately adversely effect African-American culture.

How long before we say, and show, enough is enough?

Please take a moment to sign the petition on Change.org.