Friday, January 30, 2009

Catch Me on NPR


Later today I'll be a guest on NPR's "News & Notes." I'm featured in a series on up and coming young, black journalists. The show will air a story I did on African Americans learning Spanish. I'll also be joining a reporters roundtable discussion on major news stories. The show airs in different parts of the country. Check your local public radio station for times. You can also try the "News and & Notes" website or podcast. Thanks for listening!

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

DILF: Dads I'd Like to Feature on my blog

Thought I meant something else didn't ya? I was listening to Michael Baisden while battling LA traffic today. The topic of discussion was how men change when they get into relationships. Baisden said they don't have the same freedoms from their single days because women have them on lockdown. Then Baisden and co-host George Willborn went on about brothas getting soft and joked about men pushing grocery carts in the stores and
carrying babies in slings. That's not being soft, that's being a real man. A man should hold his kids and push the cart at the grocery store when his lady is shopping. His actions shows he cares about his woman and family and he's a gentleman. When I see a man do that for his woman I find it sexy and masculine. That's the kind of man I want. He can push the basket, hold the baby, open the pickle jar for me and help me take down my braids when it's time to get my hair done. Sing with me ladies--"One day my prince will come." I remember my mother told me when dating a man make sure he's husband AND father material.

I'm keeping this post short because I'm on deadline. This Friday NPR's "News and Notes" is running one of my stories and interviewing me. I'm excited but I have work to do. Check your local public radio stations for air times.

Photo Credit:
1. Corbis
2.Babies R Us

Monday, January 26, 2009

A Treat for our "Post Racial" Society

I was so consumed by the MLK/Obama festivities last week that I totally missed this crazy story. Apparently a bakery in New York's Greenwich Village was selling racially-offensive cookies to commemorate the Inauguration of Pres. Obama. There's an example of the twisted dessert to your left. Ted Kefalinos of Lafayette French Pastry called the cookies "Drunken Negro Face." That's creative. According to the Gothamist, when pushing the cookies, Kefalinos allegedly told customers that Obama is "following in the same path of Abraham Lincoln" and "he will get his."
Much of the hype is over the cookies' image. They are offensive but I have a problem with is the baker's alleged "he will get his" comment ( I'll let the Secret Service tackle that one). There's been so much talk during Obama's rise to the White House that we live in a "post-racial" society. No we don't. Since when is this country post race? This cookie along with the baker's alleged comments disproves that idea. So does the New Year's killing of the young Oakland man by the BART police. And I can type a host of examples. Just because our president is black doesn't mean that racism isn't an issue. If people start to believe the society is post-racial will this lead to more slashing of affirmative action programs? Will complaints of racial discrimination on the job be ignored? While I'm proud that Americans looked past Obama's skin color and elected him, I know there are some people who aren't thrilled over the idea that leader of the most powerful country in the world is a brotha. We live in a great country, but it's not perfect.

Baker Ted Kefalinos has since apologized for "offending" people with the cookies. Oh and it gets worse. Remember the plane that recently crashed on the Hudson River because geese flew into the engines? Well the crash inspired the baker's other creation, "Dead Geese Bread." His heart must be made of biscotti.


Photo Credit: Gothamist
Also See: The Assimilated Negro

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Heather Headley Goes Gospel


Happy Sunday Chicas. Thank you to everyone for reading my blog. I've received great feedback and I appreciate the support. Please feel free to make comments and start discussion.

Singer Heather Headley is back with a new set of love songs. This time she's singing about her love for the Lord. Her first gospel album "Audience of One" just hit stores over a week ago. If you look at the album cover to the left, you can't tell it's a gospel album. I read that some of her fans were caught off guard when they purchased her CD and noticed the music wasn't secular. I listened to snippets and the songs are beautiful. The album doesn't have that Southern church, choir rockin', Bible thumpin' sound. It's mainly a collection of slow, angelic medleys. They're the kind of songs that you play when life is going so fast and you need to go to a quiet space in your soul and just say, "Thank you Lord." Headley's gospel roots come from growing up in Trinidad where her dad was a preacher. She says she learned how to sing in her dad's one-room church.

Heather Headley has a beautiful voice but she doesn't get the mainstream attention she deserves. I don't know if it's because she doesn't have "the look" or because her music isn't about shaking her butt in the club. Regardless, the sista can sing. Check out a live performance of her first single "I Wish."





Photo Credit:EMI Gospel

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Sasha and Malia Dolls and other Cocoa Bits


UPDATE Chicago Business.com reports that the First Lady finds the dolls "inappropriate." The toy company better watch out. Aside from being the most powerful couple in the world Mr. and Mrs. Obama are both lawyers. I'm sure they know what's up when it comes to the rights of their daughters' privacy and image.

Sasha and Malia are hitting the toy shelves. Notice I didn't say Sasha and Malia Obama. The Associated Press reports that the makers of Beanie Babies are releasing dolls called "Sweet Sasha" and "Marvelous Malia. " They're from Ty Inc.'s line called TyGirlz Collection. The company says the dolls are not in the likeness of the fly First Daughters. I guess it's just a coincidence that the dolls have the same names as the First Kids and were released in limited supply during the month of the Inauguration. The dolls are cute but they don't look like Sasha and Malia. Check out the AP for a slideshow of the dolls.


Seeing Red
Much of the world still seems to be on an Inauguration high. Our First Lady was definitely the belle of the balls Tuesday night. But I also want to give props to our Vice President's lady in red, Dr. Jill Biden. It's a color we haven't seen in Washington much since Nancy Regan's days in the White House. Although Michelle Obama did wear a striking red dress when the Bush family gave the Obamas a White House tour. I thought Biden's short Fleurette coat and tall leather black boots she wore to the Inauguration ceremony were hip and classy. And she looked lovely in her flowing red strappless gown by Reem Acra. Sadly, the media is trying to start stuff by comparing Jill and Michelle's style. I've seen articles asking who dressed better. You'd never hear someone comparing Obama's and Biden's bow ties. Mrs. Obama and Dr. Biden have different styles but they both looked great the other night.


Cocoa Grooves
There are two songs I've been listening to lately. India Arie's new album is coming out Feb. 10th. The first single "Chocolate High" features Musiq. But I'm really digging her duet with artist Anthony David called "Words." It's sweet, romantic with a smooth melody. I'm late on this song because it's been out for some time. Wish India and Anthony luck at next month's Grammys because "Words" was nominated .



And if you haven't OD'd on Obamania just yet check out "America's Song." When David Foster, Will.i.am, Bono, Faith Hill and Mary J. Blige get together, you can't go wrong. Whether you're on the right or left it's a spirited, patriotic song. I have Republican friends and relatives so if any of them are reading this don't watch the video. Just close your eyes and listen to the music.






Photo Credits: AP

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Our First Lady




President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama. Doesn't it feel good to say it? I gotta type it one more time--United States President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama.
Amazing.

I'm excited about our first African-American president. But like many sistas I'm thrilled about Michelle Obama. She looked stunning in her gold suit as she strolled down Pennsylvania Avenue during the Inaugural Parade. I melted when she and President Obama danced to Beyonce's rendition of "At Last" at the Neighborhood Ball. I loved how Barack caught Michelle off guard and said to the crowd, "How good looking is my wife?" That's what I'm talking about! Finally a black woman, who is not an entertainer, is upheld as beautiful and graceful throughout the world. She's not a singer or model. She's just Michelle, a sista from Chicago's South Side with an Ivy League education.

I think we're fascinated with how Barack caters to Michelle because we don't always see that type of affection toward black women in the home or the public sphere. Like many black children in America, I was rasied by a single mother. The single black mother has to be the man and woman of the house. If something breaks in the home she has to fix it. When it's time to eat, she cooks. And if there's a creepy noise in the middle of night, she has to make sure the family is safe. The black woman raises her daughters to be women and teaches her boys to men. When she's struggling with her roles at home and on the job or jobs--there's no man to tell her "baby it's go be all right." There's no man to run her bath water and hold her when she needs comfort. I don't care how "strong" of a black woman she may be, every woman wants to be treated like a lady. But it's important for black girls to see loving interaction between man and woman so she can know how a man should treat her. And it's critical for black boys to have an example of how to treat a woman. But many of us children of single mothers don't see our mothers being kissed, hugged and treated delicately by men. With 65 percent of black households headed by single parents that's too many sistas not getting the love they deserve. Then when you look at the media, these images are affixed to all black women. If all we see in media of a black momma is a cook, cleaner, hard worker, and maternal figure who can't get a man-- then when is she ever perceived as a lady? Sojourner Truth put it best, " Ain't I a woman?" That's why Michelle Obama is a breath of fresh air. She's a mother, leader, fashion icon, intelligent, loved, sexy black woman. I know sistas like her exist. But it's nice for the world to know women like her exist.


I watched with pride yesterday as this chocolate colored sista from the hood (just like me) entered First Ladyhood. I couldn't help but think about our ancestors who toiled in the fields and the big house against their will. I thought of the pregnant enslaved women who layed their bellies in small holes when the slave masters whipped their exposed, tired backs. I remembered how historians tried to deny President Thomas Jefferson's affair with his slave Sally Hemmings, and just write her down as a dark secret in American history. I thought about the women who marched and took beatings during the Civil Rights Movement. I thought about the black women and girls who are told they're not good enough, smart enough. I thought about the time my high school crush told me dark skinned girls weren't that pretty. I thought about all the black women in our diaspora from Brooklyn to Brazil who probably ooohed and awwed when they saw Mrs. Obama look elegant in her suit and gown. Then I imagined Sojurner Truth looking down from heaven with teary eyes. She's watching our First Lady dance with her husband on a replica of the Presidential Seal and says to herself, "Now ain't that a real woman."





First photo from AP. Second photo from Vogue magazine. Third photo from AFP.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Happy (Belated) King Day


I know I'm on CP time with this post but I hope you had a nice Martin Luther King Jr. Day. And I hope you're enjoying this 4-day weekend because a lot of people are taking off for the Inauguration. I'm sure some of you are going to come down with the mid-winter bug that's been going around (wink, wink) and call in sick Tuesday. I celebrated the day with friends and sorors on Crenshaw Blvd. at the annual MLK parade (see photos below). But it felt more like a MLK celebration/Obama Inauguration pre-party. I can't even tell you how many people were wearing Obama shirts, buying Obama shirts and selling Obama shirts. I had a great time at the parade. The temperature hit 80 and people were just enjoying the moment. And my day was even more enjoyable, thanks to the brotha who offered me his outdoor chair so I wouldn't have to stand.


Tomorrow is THE big day. It's the day people have been hoping
for years would come. To be honest, it's a day I thought I'd never live to see. I'm thankful for activists like Dr. King who fought and died so days like January 20, 2009 could exist. But I'm also thankful for the everyday freedoms we sometimes take for granted. Freedoms I have in 2009, but would not have had 50, 60 years ago. My grandfather recently recorded an audio bio for the family. He told the story of an aunt who was either working or eating in a restaurant in Biloxi, Mississippi. She had to go to the restroom. She couldn't use the restaurant's bathroom because it was for whites only. Her only option was to go to a secluded area on the beach and relieve herself in the ocean. The cops caught her but they didn't arrest her. I know that seems unbelievable today but could you imagine?

We've come a long way but we still have a long way to go. Can you say BART Police? In the meantime honor Dr. King's dream and hope our next U.S. President will bring about the change this country needs.













Saturday, January 17, 2009

Box Office or Bootleg?
NOTORIOUS


Siskel and Ebert used their thumbs. My movie rating system is Box Office or Bootleg. Let me explain. We all know going to the movies is not cheap. Two tickets, a bucket of popcorn and drinks can easily cost you $30 plus. Don't forget to add parking fees if you live in LA. If I'm going to spend that kind of money, the movie better be good. There are some films where I don't mind breaking out the wallet because I want that movie theater effect. Then there are some movies where they look okay, but it's not worth a trip to the box office. In that case go to a friend's house and watch a $5 bootleg copy. You see where I'm going with this?

This weekend I saw Notorious. The film chronicles the life of the late, great rapper Christopher Wallace. Better known to us hip hop fans as Notorious B.I.G.or Biggie. At first, I wasn't going to see the movie. I know how the story ends. I was a senior in high school when Biggie was murdered. I didn't want to be reminded of all that West Coast vs. East Coast foolishness that led up the deaths of both Biggie and Tupac. But I changed my mind after watching the cast and Biggie's mom, Voletta Wallace on 106 & Park.

I'm glad I changed my mind because Notorious is a great film. Actor/rapper Jamal Woolard who plays B.I.G must have channeled the hip hop icon's spirit because Woolard nailed this role. Woolard had the crooked smile, heavy breathing, and Biggie's stage swagger down. Voice lessons at Julliard worked because Woolard sounded like B.I.G. I was so engaged in his performance that at times I forgot Woolard wasn't Biggie.

The film is a raw and sometimes fun journey that humanizes the rapper. You see the dope dealer and womanizing side of Biggie. But you also see a dreamer, a father a, son. And then you really understand how he brought his life to to his art.
It's also a journey through hip hop. The music and costumes takes you back to that era of hip hop where people were really feeling this new sound from Bad Boy records. I saw the movie at Magic Johnson's Theater on Crenshaw and people in the audience were bobbing their heads and mumbling lyrics during concert scenes.

There's not only drama on screen, but behind the camera. Lil' Kim isn't happy about how she's portrayed in the movie. The Queen B told Hip Hop Weekly that she wasn't pleased with former 3LW singer
Naturi Naughton being cast to play her. Kim says Naughton never contacted her when prepping for the part. Mind you, Puffy is the executive producer of the film. Lil' Kim is a character in herself and playing someone eccentric and wild as her I imagine is not easy. But Naughton brought Kim's firery attitude and in-your-face sexiness to the big screen. While at the same time showing Kim's love for Biggie. I thought it was interesting that Lil' Kim's character was the only one nude in the movie. Could Lil' Kim be unhappy about the story because she's portrayed as B.I.G's side dish? While his wife Faith, played by Antonique Smith, is his main love. I would've liked to see some input from Lil' Kim. I wonder if the film would've been different if she had some say. Maybe she'll tell her side of the story in her own movie or book. Say you want to say about Lil' Kim. I bet a biopic on her life would be very interesting.

Notorious
gets my Box Office approval. Angela Bassett brings out the pain and hope of Biggie's mom. Anthony Mackie plays Tupac and Derek Luke plays Puffy. They were pretty good. Like Lil' Kim, those are hard personalities to bring to the screen. The movie was missing the friendship bond between Puffy and Biggie. But it was fun to go back in time when two of hip hop's greatest reigned--2Pac and Biggie.




Wednesday, January 14, 2009

KNOW MONEY, KNOW MONEY, KNOW MONEY


Today I thought I'd drop a little Cocoanomics. We're all hurting from the weak economy. The foreclosure crisis has even hit home for our girl Fantasia. The American Idol star nearly lost one of her houses. But she reportedly worked out a payment plan and will be able to keep it. Now I know Fanatasia has had a tough life. She shot to fame quick and probably didn't know how to manage her money. Fantasia's not the only celeb whose had money problems. TLC, Toni Braxton, Evander Hollyfield, Damon Dash.....

Black people, we need to do better with our money. Financial illiteracy is a problem in this country. But with 25% of black folks living below the poverty line, we really need to get our money right. A few months ago I did a story for the public radio show Marketplace Money about how black churches are helping African Americans save their homes from foreclosure. The directors of the programs both said financial illiteracy was a major problem for their clients. When buying a house their clients signed mortgage papers but didn't understand what they were really signing. That's one reason why so many of us took out subprime loans. And some people were duped into bad loans They also told me they've seen cases where people were refinancing their homes to buy cars, electronics, clothes, etc. Once their mortgage rates adjusted to sky-high payments, they were stuck. Trust me, I know the feeling of thirsting for something I have no business buying. I have a 30% off Coach coupon that's about to expire. Would love a new Coach, but I'm on the job hunt myself. It's either a Coach bag or rent. I can't live in the purse no matter how cute the inside lining. So I choose rent.

Now that we know better, we can do better. Last year I learned a lot about finance reading and watching Suze Orman. The woman is a finance goddess. She takes complicated money terms and breaks it down to elementary language. Suze is giving away a
free copy of her latest book "2009 Action Plan" on Oprah. com The deadline is today, Thursday. If this whole market meltdown has your head spinning like me, read her book. I glanced over it. She explains Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, Wall St. etc. And she gives tips on how to manage during the recession. Also, check out another book she wrote "The Money Book for the Young, Fabulous and Broke." I read this book last year and learned so much. She explains basic personal finance and home buying to young readers under 40. "Young, Fabulous and Broke" has been out for some time but it's still relevant. Suze covers it all-- IRA, 401 k, fixed-mortgage loans vs. ARMs, mutual funds, etc.

Speaking of funds, I'm scaling back to save my own funds. I do my nails instead of going to the salon. But I couldn't give up getting my hair done. Sorry, can't do it. I get my hair pressed every three weeks instead of two. So I'm saving money and still looking good.

In '09 instead of no money, let's KNOW money. For all those out there like me hustling to make it in this market mess, here's a little inspiration...




Tuesday, January 13, 2009

First Day



Welcome to Cocoa Fly! This is my first post and first blog. I have a bit of the jitters. It almost feels like the first day of school. But I'm excited and ready to chat about music, books, politics, art, theater. You name it. I know you're probably wondering where I came up with the name Cocoa Fly. Well, I like chocolate and dragonflies. Not together of course. But it's deeper than that. Cocoa Fly is out of the box. Hybrid. I love the word "fly" because to me it means endless and surpassing all boundaries. And "fly" is my favorite slang word. As for Cocoa it's flavorful. Rich. Just naturally good.


Speaking of naturally good Prince graced the pages of the LA Times this past weekend. Seeing Prince's face when I opened my newspaper Sunday morning was a nice surprise. As you can see I still use the vintage method o
f getting some news. I LOVE Prince--ruffle shirts, platform shoes and all. Black must not crack becuase he looks way to young to be 50. A music critic interviewed Prince at his mansion. He spoke about being a Jehovah's Witness and his three upcoming albums. All may be released without a major label. Prince is always reinventing himself and he's bold. He even goes door-to-door talking about his faith. If Prince came to my apartment I don't know what I would do. Actually, thinking back to a Chappelle Show skit, I'd probably offer him pancakes.







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