Feeling Salty & Oscar Brown, Jr.

I’m sick. Do you think they care about my illness in graduate school? Nope. Still have to read books, highlight articles, and write papers. Luckily, most of this stuff can be done from bed. And I guess if I’m forcing time to blog, I must not be as sick as I want to believe. *sipping tea*

Speaking of which, I just finished reading Toni Cade Bambara’s The Salt Eaters. I won’t say that I hated it necessarily, but when a professor mentions her reason for selecting a text is to force us to read a non-traditional text (i.e. non-linear story, flat characters, etc.) and find something scholarly in it (in so many words), I already knew the deal. So, I read a few short stories in Gorilla, My Love. Liked them. But I’m telling you . . . Not only did I have to stop reading The Salt Eaters at page 100 and start all over again, but even after reading really slow and carefully following the “story,” I still wasn’t pleased. It felt like Bambara put every single thing that was on her mind at the moment into this book. Ice skating, voodoo, black feminism, astrology, death/loss, Christianity, the plight of the black community, black leadership, snakes–you name it, she wrote about it. And yes, right now I’m really ignoring the overall connectedness of these topics because I’m in a hateful mood. Now it’s up to me to sort through the mess and write a paper. Tomorrow. The hard part is over. Have you ever finished a book and just felt like cheering and dancing? I mean, I honestly feel like I crossed some sort of finish line—with an injury.

On another note, as part of my assistantship, I am also given lists of tasks to complete. Most times this stuff has to be finished ASAP, regardless of what else I may have due. I don’t allow myself to complain or question. I just nod my head, smile, tap, and shuffle. To tell the truth, most times I learn something(s). Well, this time, in my search for “Watermelon Man poetry relating to race,” I came across the works of Oscar Brown, Jr. What I didn’t know is that he’s the author of the cartoon shown on BET titled “Bid ‘Em In.” Have you seen it? No worries.

The other version is also worth viewing.

So what do you know about Oscar Brown, Jr? What did I know about him before my research began? I’m ashamed to say nothing. I couldn’t even make that “Bid ‘Em In” connection before now.

Mr. Brown was most often described as a jazz singer, and he initially achieved fame by putting lyrics to well-known jazz instrumentals like Miles Davis’s “All Blues” and Mongo Santamaria’s “Afro Blue,” but efforts to categorize him usually failed. As a performer, he acted his songs more than he sang them; as a songwriter, he drew as much from gospel, the blues and folk music as he did from jazz. He preferred to call himself an entertainer, although even that broad term did not go far enough: he saw his art as a way to celebrate African-American life and attack racism, and it was not always easy to tell where the entertainer ended and the activist began.

His song “Brown Baby,” recorded by Mahalia Jackson and others, was both a lullaby for his infant son and an anthem of racial pride. Other songs, like “Signifying Monkey” and “The Snake,” took their story lines from black folklore. The album “We Insist! Freedom Now Suite,” for which Mr. Brown wrote lyrics to the drummer Max Roach’s music, was one of the first jazz works to address the civil rights movement.

(Read more or View the Official Website)

Anyway, I dedicate the final clip to the boyfriend. He always makes time to read my blog, reads the 1,000s of emails I send him each day, and even patiently listens to me blabber endlessly about (everything and) nothing on the phone. Every weekday he wakes up at 5:30ish to go crack skulls at a high school and he has the nerve to believe that I don’t value all that he does. The nerve.

Happy learning, ya’ll.


5 thoughts on “Feeling Salty & Oscar Brown, Jr.

  1. Hey Trenee,

    I hope you get better soon, there is nothing like a cold or illness to us humans in a unhappy emotional state. Here is wishing you a speedy recovery.


  2. Trenee,

    It is good that you feel the urge to go look up, and know something about your family history. You will possibly find all kinds of very interesting people back their. And, possibly members or a member of another ethnicity. Booker T. Washing said that he had no family history to look back up on, so he said I will build a family history for my children starting with me (Booker T. Washington). I will tell you Trenee, it is a very powerful impression — that is left on the essence of a person when they see black and white photos of family members who live before the 1930s. To sit and look at photos, and see men and women from different ethnic group who married into the black side of your family leaves a very powerful good feeling inside of you — because there was love among the married couples during those time periods. You respect all that they went through because it was not easy being in interracial relationship doing those times.

    Too see all of the mixed race, and biracials, and Native Americans of ones family in black and white photos that were taken long ago is inspiring. You look in the mirror and you see in your physical appearance how all of those ethnic groups have contributed to your phenotype (physical appearance). You realize you are connected not just to one group of people but to two or more. You are an international mixture of humanity.

    So my little mixed race girl (Trenee) — I hope you find out what is in that hidden family tree.

    Go for it!!!!!


  3. First, thank you for the well wishes. I don’t have much choice but to get well, right? I wake up and try to convince myself, “oh I do feel better today.” Riiiight.

    As far as your “little mixed race girl” comment goes, I just have to keep laughing. I’m guessing this comment was meant for a previous post, but no matter. I still want to look up my family, but now I’m feeling like why can’t Henry Louis Gates, with his endless budget and contacts swing on in and take care of it for me. I’ll sit on the other end of the library table as they present the photos, paperwork, and information. “And he did what? Wow! My great grandfather?” Finding out family history is like buying healthy food–it costs so dang on much!


  4. @ Naysue,

    Yeah, I started to post it on the other post — that you said you are interested in researching your family history. Then I said, I will post it on your more recent post instead. Yep, Yep, Henry Louis Gates jr got all of that money and large endless budget to do research on the family histories of people. As for the little mixed girl hey you sure are mixed, I could your admixture (mixed with another race or ethnicity) in your phenotype (physical appearance) when you had your avatar photo up.

    Take care, Naysue


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