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.
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.