Posts filed under history

Meeting the Legendary Joyce Bryant (Part Two)

"Up to the debut of Joyce Bryant at the Aladdin Room...no black entertainer had ever performed at a Miami Beach hotel."-Ben Burns

"Up to the debut of Joyce Bryant at the Aladdin Room...no black entertainer had ever performed at a Miami Beach hotel."-Ben Burns

 

(READ Part 1)

“It is such an honor to meet you”.

A smile preceded her words.  But when she responded I realized that I was not prepared for the person I was about to encounter.

“Why, thank you so much.”  It was a simple phrase in part, but she spoke it with such power in her voice that I was taken aback.  When I admitted this to her toward the end of our visit, she responded, "What did you expect?"  Even in her 80's she refused to be defined by perceived limitations.  She would be understood on her own terms.  I know now that this approach was inevitably behind her rise to the spot light and her enigmatic existence since purposely leaving from in front of it.

Her words were immediately followed by a hot plate of food with a taste and smell so good that they still linger in my memory today (two weeks later).  I was sitting down for a meal with Joyce Bryant.

jb_46.jpg

I raved and raved about the food.  I publically confessed that the only reason there was food still on the plate was because I didn’t want to embarrass myself.

“Eat!  That’s what it’s there for!  You don’t have to sit up here trying to eat pretty on account of us.  Eat son.”  I smiled.  Everyone else laughed.  It was a laughter that suggested they knew very well that she would then and for the rest of our time together speak exactly what was on her mind.

“You cook?”

I paused.

“Obviously, not very well if you have to take that long to think about it”.  The same laughter ensued.  This time I was prepared for it.  I felt like part of the family.

“I know my way around the kitchen; let’s just say that.”  I was curbing my comments knowing that I was in the presence of the person, her niece Robyn, who invited me…an organic chef who had prepared meals for Aunt Joyce and A-listers for years.

“What is one of your best dishes?” she asked.  I told her about my new favorite kale dish and my honey Dijon mustard, pecan encrusted salmon.  She was affirming but not overly impressed.

I gobbled down the rest of my food and played friskily with Jazz, the adorable Rottweiler puppy that had been weaving between our feet.  When Aunt Joyce finished her food we picked up the conversation and followed it wherever it lead.  Like kids running down a trail in the woods for the first time there was both the mystery of the unknown but the confidence that the trail would be safe -the grass beaten down before us signaling that others have been this way before.

We talked about race relations in the American South.  When I told here I was in Atlanta now she asked if they were still lynching folks down there and if I felt safe.  When I said that I did (for the most part), she seemed to have a flash back to her days performing and touring in the south.  She lifted her head and peered off in to the distance commenting that they’d lynch you in a heartbeat back in the day.

joyce bryant beautiful dark skin.JPG

I stared at her beautiful skin.  It was dark and smooth.  There were no wrinkles in sight.  When I asked her what her secret was, she invited me to touch it.  It felt like her voice sounded.   She asked to touch mine.  I leaned in closer and she touched my face –forehead then cheeks.  She told me some ‘beauty secrets’ and warned about keeping it moist.  The advice was followed by a very interesting conversation about dark skin wrinkling less than light skin.

With a sudden turn on the trail, we ended up somewhere that totally caught me by surprise.  What seemed like out of the blue she commented on my voice and asked me if I could sing.  Like earlier when she asked me about my cooking, I paused.

“Oooh, I guess not.  Here you go taking forever to think about your answer,” she responded.  Everyone erupted with laughter…again.  I told her that I could definitely hold a tune and that I was raised in the Baptist church.  She knew exactly what I meant by that.  The moments that followed will forever be etched in my memory.

"I think as a group, entertainers should fight Jim Crow because as individuals we can't break it down."-Joyce Bryant

"I think as a group, entertainers should fight Jim Crow because as individuals we can't break it down."-Joyce Bryant

“It’s all in your breathing,” she said as she sat straight up in her chair.  For the next 15 minutes, Joyce Bryant coached me on how to breathe.  It was a lesson that surpassed any expectations that I had of my visit.  It was a lesson with meaning that stretched far beyond any implications on bettering my vocal ability.  It was a lesson about centering.  It was about being present.  It was about being fully present.  It was a lesson about being whole.  As we sat exhaling and inhaling together, I felt connected to myself and to a woman who I had just met for the first time –a woman who as I was seeking so hard to know more about, so many before me seemed to have forgotten.

There at that dinner table, I was remembering how to breathe by someone who probably doesn’t have as many breaths in front of her as those she has already taken but insisted on teaching someone else while reminding herself to make each one count.

For that I’m forever grateful.  For that, I want to work harder to ensure that who she is, the breaths she has taken, the lives she has touched, and the breaths that she has helped others take more deeply are not forgotten.                                                    

It’s not every day you get to meet a legend.  Yesterday I did.  I’d like to introduce you to her.  Her name is Joyce Bryant.

READ PART 1

-carlton mackey
Creator of 50 Shades of Black

------
**A Special Tribute and Exclusive Reflection by Joyce Bryant's Niece is featured in our Coffee Table Book, 50 Shades of Black Vol. 1! 

----------------------

Posted on November 21, 2013 and filed under art, history, music, personal stories, sexuality, skin tone, race.

Slaves going to the coffee harvest with oxcar - triptych

Listening to NPR this morning and learned about photo exhibit of Slavery in Brazil. 
Went to the NPR website to see/learn more.
Saw a photo and started writing.

slavery-exhibit-3-triptic1.jpg

Light Skin but still a slave

no straight hair could save

me and my daughter today

from the perils of the trade.

 

slavery-exhibit-3-triptic2.jpg

Too small yet to walk

hold you in my arms to talk

to you about the faults

of a time when we all could be bought.

 

slavery-exhibit-3-triptic3.jpg

This little piggy went to the harvest. 

This little piggy wanted to stay home. 

This little piggy wanted a piece of bread. 

This little piggy got none. 

This little piggy found a way to make it through another day.

Until it was time to go back home. 

 

TO BE CONTINUED... 

A detail from a photo of slaves going to the coffee harvest with oxcar. Vale do Paraiba, Sao Paulo, 1885.

A detail from a photo of slaves going to the coffee harvest with oxcar. Vale do Paraiba, Sao Paulo, 1885.

Posted on November 12, 2013 and filed under history, education.

Meeting the Legendary Joyce Bryant (Part One)

Joyce Bryant on the 1955 Cover of Jet Magazine

Joyce Bryant on the 1955 Cover of Jet Magazine

It’s not every day that you have the opportunity to meet a legend.  Yesterday, I did.  It was a Sunday evening. My plane landed at LAX just hours before.  My singular mission for the day was meeting two women who, by no means other than a divinely orchestrated plan, had entered my life.

During the infancy of 50 Shades of Black, I was researching extensively about the lives of famous black men and women and the stories behind their rise to fame.  As much as wanting to know about them, I was interested in knowing how their skin tone played a role in how we perceived them.  I wondered what the relationship was between their historical context and perceptions of beauty that were commonly held.  How did they understand themselves in that context?  How was their talent, the magnetism of their personalities, their sex appeal, their physical appearance all wrapped up into a package that we would come to uphold as iconic.

The first photo that I saw of the woman some deemed as the Black Marilyn Monroe.

The first photo that I saw of the woman some deemed as the Black Marilyn Monroe.

 …and then I saw a photo of a woman whose image captivated me.  She was unlike any other.  Her radiant skin, her perfect teeth, her hour glass figure…and in photo after photo her signature hair all captivated me.  I wanted to know more.  Who was this woman who many had deemed The Black Marilyn Monroe.  I wrote a blog post about this breath-takingly beautiful woman who I previously had never heard of named Joyce Bryant.

Within days of making the post, I received an email from a woman thanking me for the post, for the work I was doing with 50 Shades of Black, and for my interest in her Aunt.  It was a stunning surprise. Could this be?  Did someone related to a woman who had graced to covers of vintage Jet Magazines just contact me?  Is Joyce Bryant still alive?  How is she?  What would be appropriate to ask?  What would I want to know?

50 Shades of Black Page 60 -  ORDER HERE

50 Shades of Black Page 60 - ORDER HERE

It wasn’t long before many of these questions would be answered.  In a series of email exchanges, phone calls, and what I cannot describe as anything other than spiritual dialogues, we built a relationship.  As we made the turn from our exclusively virtual platform to our first printed volume of 50 Shades of Black, Robyn graciously contributed a written reflection later titled The Black Marilyn Monroe to You, Aunt Joyce to Me.

It was an eye opening, heart felt, honest, and deeply personal reflection.  It spoke of success and fame, triumph and struggle, discovery and memory.  It reflected deep gratitude yet longing.  Yet, it was all undergirded by the utmost respect for a woman who, though incrementally being rediscovered, may still not be completely understood.

And then, there I was.  Standing outside of the house about to knock I began to feel the weight of the moment.  I didn’t know what exactly to expect and I felt humbled by that uncertainty.

Robyn’s smile and open arms were as big as I could have ever hoped for.  Her greeting was just the settling gesture I needed to balance my wariness.  When I walked in there was a familiar-ness about the environment:  the smell of freshly cooked food on a Sunday afternoon, the ambient sound of a television in the background, and the wagging of a puppy’s tail wavering between its enthusiasm to meet a new friend and (like me) the uncertainty of new introductions.

I greeted a lovely woman with a huge smile on her face who I later learned was Robyn’s mother and turned to lay eyes on the woman who I too had been affectionately referring to as Aunt Joyce.  When I reached out my hand to say hello, a handshake was not immediately returned.  I paused.  “She can’t see your hand,” someone murmured from the background.

I reached further to touch hers.  This moment was the beginning of our true ‘seeing’ of each other.  Not limited by physical sight, we encountered each other’s presence and it marked the beginning of an exchange that I will not soon forget.

Carlton Mackey
 -Creator of 50 Shades of Black

READ Part 2 HERE


"She was called one of the most beautiful black women in the world. And now, for the first time, a dark black woman had become a certified national sex symbol."-Donald Bogle

"She was called one of the most beautiful black women in the world. And now, for the first time, a dark black woman had become a certified national sex symbol."-Donald Bogle

Posted on November 7, 2013 and filed under blog, family, history, music, personal stories.

50 Shades of Black Tribute to John Carlos feat on Carlos' Official Website

    The goal of this photo shoot was to honor this iconic act with a unique creative twist. Shakira both as Carlos and as Smith embraced the singular power of those two men in that defining moment in 1968 while simultaneously acknowledging the same potential for inspiration that is possible through black women today.

 

The goal of this photo shoot was to honor this iconic act with a unique creative twist. Shakira both as Carlos and as Smith embraced the singular power of those two men in that defining moment in 1968 while simultaneously acknowledging the same potential for inspiration that is possible through black women today.

We are so honored to have the concept photo shoot with our friend Shakira featured on the official webpage for Dr. John Carlos!  

According to his website: October 16 marks the forty-fifth anniversary of the day two young athletes brought protest to that most unlikely of places: the Olympic Games.

This entire shoot and tribute was a collaborative effort and would not have been possible without Shakira herself, her husband Brooks Pollard, Kari Mackey who sourced and styled the shoot, and  Chevon Dominique who did an amazing job with the makeup.

We honor the legacy of John Carlos and are humbled by the decision to include this tribute on his official webpage.  Special thanks to Mark Stoddart at L.I.W.I. the acronym for LIVE IT WEAR IT -a Toronto based clothing company with a vision to create a brand representative of an individual’s journey to strive for their passion, dreams, and desires.    L.I.W.I. creates the official John Carlos 68 shirt worn below.

Posted on October 24, 2013 and filed under activism, history, personal stories, press.

FROM WHENCE WE ALL CAME

Screen Shot 2013-10-18 at 4.07.58 PM.png

Out of one, many.   

 #50 Shades of Humanity

Well-Preserved Find 1.8 Million Years Old Drastically Simplifies Evolutionary Picture

The skull offers evidence that humanity's early ancestors emerged from Africa as a single adventurous species, not several as believed, dramatically simplifying human evolution, an international research team said Thursday. -Wall Street Journal

The skull—the most complete of its kind ever discovered—is "a really extraordinary find," said paleoanthropologist Marcia Ponce de Leon at the University of Zurich's Anthropological Institute and Museum, who helped analyze it. "It is in a perfectly preserved state."

Read Complete Article at

http://online.wsj.com/news/articles/SB10001424052702304384104579141600675336982

 

Posted on October 18, 2013 and filed under africa, education, history, race.

Today In History: James Meredith Integrates University of Mississippi

  Integration at Ole Miss:   James Meredith walking to class accompanied by U.S. marshals. The men flanking Meredith are U.S. Marshal James McShane (left) and John Doar of the Justice Department (right) October 1, 1962  Photographer:   Marion S. Trikosko for U.S. News & World Report Source: Library of Congress

 Integration at Ole Miss:  James Meredith walking to class accompanied by U.S. marshals. The men flanking Meredith are U.S. Marshal James McShane (left) and John Doar of the Justice Department (right) October 1, 1962 Photographer: Marion S. Trikosko for U.S. News & World Report Source: Library of Congress

What do you see when you look at this photo? 

There is an entire novel I could write based on the characters in this photo alone.  The tight lipped scowl on the face of U.S. Marshall James McShane on the left, the disheveled appearance appearance of John Doar on the right whose suit seems to bear the discomfort of the mounting tension of the day.  I could write a horror film about the lurking presence of the two men behind Doar's left shoulder -one's soulless stare haunting me the more I look at it.  I see a mob -a mixture of men with white government issued hats and those who sans the presence of those hats would not hesitate to do what mobs of men have done to men like the one in the middle for years.

Then there is James.  James Meredith.  The look of poise and determination on his face is seemingly poetic.  In a photo where every nearly every person who is immediately surrounding him is looking down or who have eyes that have appear hollowed, stands a man with poise -the knot of his tie flawless.  What was he thinking?  Where did he get the courage?  When will we?

On this day (October 1) 51 years ago, James Meredith forced the United States Government and President John F. Kennedy to not feel settled with having signed laws that ensured the civil and human rights of all people.  By carrying out his mission of enrolling and thus integrating the University of Mississippi (Ole Miss), he would consequently pressure the government to enforce those laws.  Up to this point, Ole Miss had been a whites only school and it had absolutely no intentions of changing that.

There is so much to learn about the months, days, moments leading up to this defining moment and the riots and deaths that ensued.  Learn More at 

http://microsites.jfklibrary.org/olemiss/home/  

-carlton
creator of 50 Shades of Black

Posted on October 1, 2013 and filed under activism, education, history, race.

50 Shades of Black - Book In Production

Book Cover-web.jpg

Ladies & Gentleman, It's official. A Book Is About to be Made.
(Tears)

ORDER TODAY AT:www.indiegogo.com/projects/50-shades-of-black/ Book Release June 22. Details to Come.
(More Tears)


SPECIAL TRIBUTE TO THE LEGENDARY JOYCE BRYANT

The Legendary Joyce Bryant

The Legendary Joyce Bryant

She has graced the cover of many vintage Jet Magazines. She's been called The Black Marilyn Monroe, The Lost Diva. She is the Legendary Joyce Bryant & somehow very little is known about her or her latter years...until now. We are honored to include a special tribute and feature story on Joyce Bryant which includes exclusive photos and a story shared only with 50 Shades of BLACK by her loving niece and current caretaker.

Your support makes the production of this publication possible and provides a platform for stories like these to be shared.

Order your copy at http://www.50shadesofblack.com/shop

Part 1: Why the Kenyan lioness should listen to the Jamaican hummingbird’s tunes lamenting “politricks” of yesteryear.

On December 3rd, 1976, Bob Marley, his wife Rita and some friends were wounded by gunmen at his home in Kingston, Jamaica and in 1980 Jamaica saw close to 900 murders: what’s the connection? In 1976 and 1980 there were bitterly contested national elections between the People’s National Party and the Jamaica Labour Party.

The last few general elections have not been mired by as much violence. Everyting hasn’t always been irie during Jamaican elections. Jamaica’s experience with election violence in the post colonial period offers salient lessons to be imparted to Kenya and other countries that experience a high incidence of violence and murder during elections from Jamaica’s reduction of election violence incidence through distrust of “big man” politics and forging of a strong national identity.

As I write this I’m attending a daylong conference on Kenyan election violence: “Fragile Democracy? The 2013 Kenyan elections between reform and regression”.  Although two very different places I see some parallels between the two situations based on my conversations over the years with Kenyans and following the news coverage of Kenya’s recent elections. The memories of the over 1000 of Kenyans who were murdered in the aftermath of 2007 election and the haunting conversations that I had with Kenyan friends are still very much present.

Crystal .jpg

Crystal  was one of my first friends in college. We instantly clicked. An 18 year old me was utterly fascinated with anything African. She was the first Kenyan woman I met, and to finally get to have conversations about all the things I read about Kenya as a teenager was bliss for me. She was surprised by my knowledge of Kenya’s history, I remember how taken a back she was when I was asking her about Jomo Kenyatta, the Swahili coast and asking her about the tensions between Kenya's many ethnic groups. A few weeks into our freshman year she introduced me to Njeri and Wangari, two of her friends who were going to Salem College, another school in Winston-Salem. I also became good friends with the both of them. I loved hearing them speak Swahili –mellifluous is how I’d describe it—I remember them telling me that they liked my accent, and we all loved reggae and dancehall. To this day whenever I hear Brown Skin by Richie Spice, I think of these three Kenyan friends and remember how we bonded over cultural exchange.

The first time I realized the centrality of the ethnic identity to Kenyan political sentiments was in the run up to the 2007 presidential elections. It was at this juncture that it was clear that Wangari and Njeri were Kikuyu and Crystal was Luo. Crystal was very vocal about her support for Raila Odinga, who like her was Luo and a close family friend. She exhibited almost blind support and was effusive in her praise of the man and exhibited unwavering belief that Raila’s victory was imminent. I still remain somewhat scarred by the conversations I had with the three of them in the initial stages of the violent social upheaval in the aftermath of an election marred with irregularities and where Odinga is believed to have been robbed of the presidency. Needless to say Crystal was shattered.

Fast forward five years. We are now 23 year olds. You can imagine how much of a shock it was for me to hear that Crystal had relinquished her job with the EU in Nairobi to become campaign manager for a Muslim candidate from Northern Kenya. Say whattt???!!! This surprised me on so many different fronts, I had to get to the bottom of this what had changed about how the Christian Luo woman saw herself to make this unexpected turnabout. Had her “Luoness” waned???  A hundred more thoughts had come and gone in a matter of minutes. And, then we Skyped.

The course of that conversation made it  clear that both of us had matured as political beings, no we had evolved. The naiveté, unbounded idealism, and the political views and attitudes inherited from our parents had in some ways evaporated or undergone some critical assessment and reworking. This bodes well for Kenya’s future. This is political maturation both at the micro and macro levels. During the conversation that ensued I told Crystal that Kenya and other countries that have to contend with social divisions and high levels of social inequalities and resulting outbursts of conflict such as election violence could learn from Jamaica.

To be continued…See Part II here.

Posted on May 2, 2013 and filed under music, history, education.

IF A LITTLE BLACK GIRL ASKED YOU "WHAT IS BLACK HISTORY"...

How would you answer?

How would you answer?

Yesterday I asked: If a Buddhist Monk asked you What is Black History what would you tell him.

Today, the question is the same, but the people asking are different.

What is Black History

What is Black History

If an Ethiopian school child asked you "What is Black History?...how would you answer?

If an Ethiopian school child asked you "What is Black History?...how would you answer?

So...WHAT IS BLACK HISTORY?

Is it a uniquely American celebration?  Would the way you answer the question differ depending on who asks?

Was the crowning of an Ethiopian Immigrant as Miss Israel considered a "Moment in Black History?"  Why?  Why Not?

All photos in this series by Dietmar Temps, Cologne and adapted by 50 SHADES OF BLACK Creator Carlton Mackey under Creative Commons licence ‘Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike’ Agreement.

Share your Thoughts.

IF A BUDDHIST MONK ASKED YOU "WHAT IS BLACK HISTORY?"...

Now that "Black History Month" is officially over, 50 SHADES OF BLACK presents this latest art series that asks what is it that was just celebrated and how would you explain it to someone else titled: WHAT IS BLACK HISTORY?

What is Black History

What is Black History

If a Buddhist Monk asked you "What is Black History", how would you answer?

All photos in this series by Dietmar Temps, Cologne and adapted by 50 SHADES OF BLACK Creator Carlton Mackey under Creative Commons licence 'Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike' Agreement.

Share your Thoughts.  More to Come in the Series.

BEFORE RAY LEWIS, TONY DUNGY, OR WALTER PAYTON: FRITZ POLLARD

50 shades-fritz pollard-nfl

50 shades-fritz pollard-nfl

After last night's Superbowl win with Ray Lewis and the Baltimore Ravens, we take a moment today to highlight an NFL pioneer who paved the way for not only every other black professional football player to follow, but also for the (significantly fewer in number) National Football League head coaches.

Fritz Pollard, an All-America halfback from Brown University was a pro football pioneer in more ways than one. The 5-9, 165-pound back, who led Brown to the Rose Bowl in 1915, turned pro in 1919, when he joined the Akron (OH) Pros following army service during World War I.  In 1920, the Pros joined the newly founded American Professional Football Association, later renamed the National Football League.  That season, with Pollard leading the charge, the Pros went undefeated (8-0-3) to win the league's first crown.

As a member of the new league, Pollard immediately earned a place in pro football history as one of just two African Americans in the new league.  In 1921 he earned another distinction becoming the first African American head coach in NFL history when the Pros named him co-coach of the team. -taken from the Official Site of the Pro Football Hall of Fame

50 SHADES OF BLACK salutes Fritz Pollard.

LOVE AND MARRIAGE: A CONTEMPORARY PHOTOGRAPHER CONVERSES WITH HISTORY

50 Shades of Black:  Love and Marriage

50 Shades of Black: Love and Marriage

Tomorrow we will proudly reveal our second special series of archived photos leading up to the release of the 50 SHADES OF BLACK book.  Each series is designed to offer a unique perspective of the project and to highlight the work of one of the project's contributors.  The title of the upcoming series is called LOVE AND MARRIAGE.  It features historic weddings photos from Africa, India, Korea, North America and includes a Chippewa wedding ceremony.  The series was inspired by the contemporary images of fusion and destination wedding photographer Ross Oscar Knight.

The series was uniquely curated to not only foster a dialogue between the work of Knight and these classic images, but to stimulate a conversation between the viewing audience as well.  Knight's images and commentary will serve to offer us more insight into the lives and narratives of the people in these historic images that go largely untold.  By bridging history with his contemporary work, we hope that these images together offer us more insight into our own lives and help us reflect more deeply on the intersection of love, sexuality, and skin tone in the shaping of our own identities.

We hope you join us and accept our invitation to share your stories with us.

-Carlton Mackey Creator, 50 SHADES OF BLACK

Facebook:  www.facebook.com/50shadesblack Twitter:  www.twitter.com/50shadesblack Instagram:  www.instagram.com/50shadesblack