Thursday, December 31, 2009

Justice on New Year's: Oscar Grant Rally and Vigil

I hope everyone is enjoying the holidays. This Christmas was one of the best for me and it had nothing to do the with the gifts I received, but just laughing and reminiscing with family. And I'm getting some good hog-head cheese and R&R. I'll tell you about that in my next post.
I imagine this holiday hasn't been easy for Oscar Grant's family. Grant,22, was shot in the back and killed by a BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit) police officer early on New Year's Day 2009 in Oakland . He was returning from celebrating the New Year in San Francisco. On New Year's there will be PEACEFUL events happening in Oakland to remember Grant and speak against police brutality. If you're in the Bay Area, here's where you can show your support on January 1, 2010:
2-5 pm Family Vigil at the Fruitvale BART station in Oakland
5-6pm Rally at the Fruitvale Village in Oakland (this is in the same area as the Fruitvale BART station)
6-11pm Gathering at Humanist Hall 411 28th Street, above Downtown Oakland
Have a safe and blessed New Year. Thank you to everyone who reads Cocoa Fly. I'll be making fly changes to Cocoa Fly in 2010 and I can't wait to bring you more FLY content in the New Year.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Box Office or Bootleg
Disney's Princess Tiana Is My Kind of Woman

Sunday afternoon I checked my frustrations with LA holiday traffic and other 30-year-old woman woes at the movie theater door. I channeled the 7-year-old girl inside of me who used to parade around her house in a white-sequin tiara and a flower girl dress she outgrew. That day, I was ready to go on this magical journey to New Orleans. Finally, a black Disney princess. Finally, an American princess. Finally, The Princess and the Frog.

You can't help but fall for the heroine. Tiana (Anika Noni Rose) is beautiful and embodies the American dream. She's a hard working girl, taking on a few waitress shifts to help fund her and her father's dream of owning a restaurant. She believes in the American principle "with hard work comes success." Tiana isn't like other Disney damsels waiting for Prince Charming to rescue them (sorry Cinderella). For Tiana, men can wait. Business comes first. This is completely opposite of Prince Naveen's (Bruno Campos) life philosophy. The spoiled, lazy royal is cut off from mommy and daddy's fortune. He travels to New Orleans looking to marry a rich woman (Now I ain't sayin' he's a gold digger...). Instead he meets the Shadow Man (Keith David), an evil Voodoo doctor, and is turned into a frog. Tiana gives the froggy Naveen some sugar to break the spell, only to be turned into one herself. During their lily pad adventure, Naveen shows Tiana it's okay to make room for love and fun in her life. While she teaches Naveen the gift of responsibility and independence.

I love Tiana for her determination and heart. I love her because she's a woman from a lower-class neighborhood with a lot of class. I love her for being a good daughter and a big dreamer. I appreciate how her character redefines the notion of "princess" through her independent spirit. The little girl in me loves Tiana because she looks like me. Full lips, wide nose, brown skin just like me. Tiana could be my mother, my little sister, a friend, a cousin, you. I was so proud of her image I teared up. I couldn't help myself. As a black woman, I've wanted to see a movie like this for so long. Media are powerful whether we like to admit it. Images have an effect on how individuals see others and themselves. I was absorbed into the storyline but I still had my racism/sexism radar on and Princess Tiana passed the test for me.

I enjoyed the film. However, it does not wow me like Beauty and the Beast or Lion King. The writers should have given Voodoo Priestess Mama Odie (Jenifer Lewis) more scenes. She is so much fun to watch. The face off with the Shadow Man is not very climactic, compared to suspenseful villain showdowns from movies like The Little Mermaid or Sleeping Beauty. But the Shadow Man is wonderfully sinister and creepy. I liked how Disney writers made New Orleans a central character. The movie tries to represent the soul of the city with bright colors, food, people and of course music. Jazz and gospel gave vibrancy to the story. The charachters' Southern accents made the setting feel more authentic. One of the shining co-stars is Tiana's friend Charlotte (Jennifer Cody). She is a wealthy socialite and obsessed with finding a prince. She is hilarious and reminds me of a girlfriend always on the prowl for a man. We all know someone like Charlotte.

I am disappointed Tiana stays a frog most of the movie. I wanted to see more of her pretty face and poise, but Disney made the amphibian storyline work. She and the frog prince are able to see past their slimy bodies and fall in love. True to Disney canon, we're reminded to love someone for what's on the inside and not the exterior. I relearned that lesson during the movie because I had prejudgments about the Bayou firefly Ray. His missing teeth and ragged whiskers screamed "coonery" when I first saw pictures of him on the web. I had a change of heart during the film. The snagga-tooth insect is adorable. I still think the Disney artists should have given the brotha a dental plan, but Ray is one of my favorites.

This a fun movie for the young and old. Although Disney is one of the largest media companies in the world, save some of your bootleg money for popcorn. Brave the cold and take the kids to a matinee. It's worth the fun and Disney magic in a theater is priceless. Speaking of Disney magic, true story, my mother told me she opened her front door yesterday. There was a little frog sitting on her porch. How did a frog end up in the hood in East Oakland? Either this was a coincidence or Disney is taking their marketing to another level. In case you're wondering, my mom didn't kiss it.

If you saw the movie, SPEAK YOUR MIND and share your opinion.

Fly Lady of Day
Remembering Norma Fox Mazer

Norma Fox Mazer wasn't just a good writer. She was a great storyteller who cemented captivating tales in our hearts for more than forty years. The young- adult novelist died from brain cancer in October at 78.

I met Mazer in 2003 at Bennington College in Vermont. We were there for the National Book Foundation's summer writing camp. Mazer was a writing mentor and I was a fellow. I've had some cruel writing teachers in my career, but Mazer was fair. She sat in one of my workshops to offer feedback. Reading your work in front of strangers to be publicly critiqued is not easy. I don't care how long you've been a writer. Mazer gave honest criticism that didn't put you down, but made you a better writer.

Another thing that struck me about Mazer was her humbleness. I remember two girls and I were eating lunch and she asked if she could join us. An award-winning writer asked to sit with us newbies? She was not cocky, but I imagine self-assured. A woman with true self-confidence doesn't have to brag about her successes. Mazer asked us about our hair and complimented our styles. One had locs, the other girl and I sported cornrows. I remember her saying something about her hair being thin and she couldn't wear our kind of styles. I told her that's why fake hair exists and I had extensions. She was amused. As we all talked about writing and her career I noticed Mazer was filled with wonder and a youthful spirit. That energy kept her looking young because the girls and I were shocked when she told us her age. Mazer didn't look 72 at all. The photo posted is how I remember her and that does not look like a woman in her 70s. Young-adult literature was her calling.

One of the girls I lunched with that day told me Mazer passed away. We are both still writing. Mazer's stories and words ignited the imaginations and hearts of many young people. She wasn't afraid to touch upon heavy themes like death, secrets or divorce. The special thing about being a writer is long after you're gone, your words still have breath for generations to come. I have a tween sister and I can't wait to introduce her to Norma Fox Mazer.

Read New York Times Obituary here.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Did Tiger Woods Do Black Women a Favor?

36th Ryder Cup - Gala Dinner

First off what Tiger Woods did with his pack of jumpoffs is not racial. He's a cheating husband which last I checked crosses all color lines. What he has done to his wife and children is just plain sad. There are many lessons to be learned from this hot- mess- on- a -platter scandal. But today I want to talk to my sistas. Particularly, my sistas who can't stand to see a black man with a non-black woman. And don't let him be an educated, rich black man who is down with the swirl. Some of my sistas have steam coming out of their ears just thinking about it.

Here's the lesson from Tiger Gate: Don't judge a brotha with a non-black woman because you don't know what's really going on in their relationship. I know some of my sistas are disgusted with Tiger because he doesn't seem to date black women, nor sleep with them. I've even heard people complain, "Damn, he couldn't have had an affair with at least one black woman?" Hell no and I thank him for not sleeping with a black woman. Black, white, brown, purple--why would any woman share a bed with him after this? I remember when Woods first married his wife. Go to a black beauty salon back then and many sistas shared the same feeling: If only he married a black woman, made pretty black babies and took the Huxtable family dream into the stratosphere. Fast forward to today and some of you have a different stand. The grass isn't always greener in Cablasia. Money, fame and influence can't heal their family. Woods has a problem keeping it zipped. There's an international AIDS epidemic going on and black women are at high risk for so many STDs. The last thing a sista needs to do is make a visit to the clinic because Tiger allegedly sleeps with any thing who winks at him. I pray for his wife's sake he used protection when romping with these women. Then there's the embarrassment factor. What wife, aside from Kate Gosselin, wants their rocky marriage discussed all over the world? If Tiger never jumps on the black side of love, that's fine by me.

Tiger Woods has been inducted into my "Brothas I Wouldn't Date If They Went Back To Black Club." Other members include O.J. Simpson and Wesley Snipes. All successful, rich, handsome black men many of us would have loved to be their Mrs. But, wife batterers, killers and tax evaders just don't turn me on.

Sistas next time you see a handsome black man with a non-black woman don't give them the evil eye. He can date who he wants and you don't know the circumstances. The man could be husband of the year or no good, lying dirty dog of the year. Do yourself a favor. Drop the evil eye. Instead, look for the men around you who seem available and are checking you out. Or be thankful for the good man you have at home. Hopefully Tiger Woods does ALL women a favor for a while and keep his strokes on the golf course.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

What Tiger Woods Scandal Teaches Us About People Desperate for Fame

Tiger Woods walks with his wife Elin during the opening ceremony of the Presidents Cup in San Francisco

I'm not going to spend an entire blog post shaking my finger at Tiger Woods. He's a grown man and knows sleeping with multiple women while married is wrong. But I have to call him out on two things. Tiger you married roughly at 28 years old. Dude, you're young, make a gazillion dollars and have women from here to Antarctica throwing panties at you. Why in the world would you get married so young? Obviously, you still like swinging your golf club on other courses. Sorry, I couldn't resist. Another thing, why in the world would you leave a digital trail of text and voice mails on your jump off's (that's slang for someone used strictly for sex) cellphone in this media-frenzy age? Plus you said your name on the voice mail message?! , "Hey it's wife may be calling you..." Come on T. LOL You act like Tiger is as common as the name Harry.

Enough of Tiger. The problem I have with this scandal are the jumpoffs. I'm ready for a ban on fame whoring. I'm tired of women having sex with famous men and blabbing about their home wrecking. They disgust me. Remember the days when the other woman slept with the married man, kept it to herself, then maybe wrote a book about it after he died? Oh, I miss the 80s. If you're going to creep around with these married keep it to yourself. Self-pimping to get a taste of fame is W-R-O-N-G. People today are so obsessed with fame because you don't need talent to be a leading story on Entertainment Tonight. Either lay down, make a sex tape and get peed on, crash a White House party, cheat on your wife and 8 kids or all of the above. Then you're rewarded with a reality show or a book deal. Something isn't right about this. Is Jaimee Grubbs, the LA cocktail waitress who released the voice mail, proud of herself for sleeping with a married man and father? If she does shoot to stardom after this scandal, all I'll see is a woman who sleeps, tell and sells... her story. Media prostitution at its finest. Then there's Rachel Uchitel, a VIP nightclub manager who denies an affair with Tiger. She's the alleged mistress we first heard about. What does Miss Rachel do to stay out of the limelight? Fly to Hollywood, hire high-profile attorney Gloria Allred and wear sunglasses to popular restaurants where paparazzi scope out stars. It's fame phenes like Grubbs, Jon Gosselin and other women claiming Tiger pounced them, who are desperate to walk the corners of TMZ Blvd and Enquirer Drive for any attention. They may be able to charge thousands of dollars for a 15-minute romp with fame. After the tabloids leave the money on the night stand, these "fame walkers" will probably spend up their earnings in a Gucci minute. If they're not smart. Then it's on to the next hi-profile Joe Blow.

Tiger pays the biggest price in all of this mess he started-- possibly ruining his family. He's lucky. On the night of his car accident, Tiger could've paid the same price as Steve McNair. Will they ever learn?

Mr. President, What About the Wars On Our Home Soil?

Obama outlines plans for 30,000 more troops in Afghanistan during West Point speech

More troops, huh? I'm not shocked. Mr. Obama did say on the campaign trail that the war should be fought in Afghanistan. I'm no war expert so I'm a bit torn on this issue. On one hand we need to find the terrorists. But, I'm tired of young people dying over old men's war as they say. Al Qaeda has terror cells all over the world. We can't even keep some wannabe socialites with bootleg formal wear from crashing a White House party. How effective are we gonna be in stopping Bin Laden and his followers. A lot of American and Afghan lives will be lost in 18-months. But there are plenty of wars here we need to fight. What about the war on drugs in poor communities? How about declaring a war against the rising HIV/AIDS infections? World AIDS Day just passed. There are some cities right here in the U.S. whose infection rates nearly match those in African countries. What about the war on poverty and poor education? Poverty and bad schools are damaging our children and their future. If they don't have skills how will we stay a first -world nation when I'm a grandma? President Obama's speech last night left me with more questions than answers. What did you think?


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