Friday, November 14, 2008

A Great Tree Has Fallen: Miriam Makeba (1932-2008)

I wanted to give honor and tribute to Miriam Makeba. (March 4,1932 - November 10, 2008) Here is a bit of herstory I found on the web at wikipedia and some videos of her songs:

She was a South African singer and civil rights activist. She was born in Johannesburg, South Africa to a Swazi Sangoma mother and Xhosa father. She began singing when she was a child and started her professional career in the 1950s with the Manhattan Brothers then formed her own group called the Skylarks - blending the sounds of jazz and traditional South African melodies.

Her break came when she starred in the anti-apartheid documentary Come Back, Africa in 1959 by independent filmmaker Lionel Rogosin. In 1966, Makeba won a Grammy Award for Best Folk Recording together with Harry Belafonte for An Evening With Belafonte/Makeba. The album dealt with the political plight of black South Africans under apartheid which resulted in her South African passport being revoked.
This did not move Makeba, in 1963 she testified against apartheid before the United Nations - with this South Africa revoked her citizenship and her right to ever return to her country.

In exile, Makeba went on to release her famous hits, "Pata Pata", "The Click Song" and "Malaika". In 1968 she married civil rights activist and Student Non-violent Coordinating Committee leader Stokely Carmichael which caused controversy in the United States, and her record deals and tours were canceled. As a result of this, the couple moved to Guinea, where they became close with President Ahmed Sékou Touré and his wife. Makeba separated from Carmichael in 1973, and continued to perform primarily in Africa, South America and Europe. She was one of the African and Afro-American entertainers at the 1974 Rumble in the Jungle match between Muhammad Ali and George Foreman held in Zaïre. Makeba also served as a Guinean delegate to the United Nations, for which she won the Dag Hammarskjöld Peace Prize in 1986.

After the death of her only daughter Bongi Makeba in 1985, she moved to Brussels. In 1987, she appeared in Paul Simon's Graceland tour. Shortly thereafter she published her autobiography Makeba: My Story (ISBN 0-453-00561-6).

It was not until 1990 that Makeba returned to South Africa at the request of Nelson Mandela. In January 2000, her album, Homeland, produced by Cedric Samson and Michael Levinsohn[5] was nominated for a Grammy Award in the "Best World Music" category[6]. In 2001 she was awarded the Gold Otto Hahn Peace Medal by the United Nations Association of Germany (DGVN) in Berlin, "for outstanding services to peace and international understanding". In 2002, she shared the Polar Music Prize with Sofia Gubaidulina. In 2004, Makeba was voted 38th in the Top 100 Great South Africans. Makeba started a worldwide farewell tour in 2005, holding concerts in all of those countries that she had visited during her working life.

Makeba addresses the United Nations...

On November 10, 2008 Makeba suffered a heart attack on stage while giving a benefit concert for writer Roberto Saviano in his stand against the Camorra a mafia-like organization local to the Region of Campania, Italy. The final song she performed was "Pata Pata".

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Michelle Obama: A Sistah In The House

The last couple of days - if not the last couple of months have been interesting...and I woke this morning with the thought that "Ummmm...a Sistah will be living in the white house...What does that mean?" I have heard and read a lot in the last day or two about the impact of having a black president in office. Some people are amazed and elated - they believe it proves Amerika has finally "melted". Others are wary that this is just trickery and that a black president will be used as the one to usher us into deeper oppression...Personally, I find myself just observing all the reaction. At this time I tend to have more questions than I do solid affirmation of a "change consciousness of Amerika..." I will see...we will see...

I am reminded of the part in the scary movie where the audience thinks the hero has slain the ugly villain but the clue is that you haven't seen the "dead body" to confirm that it is actually true and later on his journey the hero is once again is confronted with a wounded but even more vicious villain. This country was built on the bloody rock of racism and unrelenting oppression - with such a foundation one must be careful about the way we access "change". We should not just use our two eyes but also our third.

What does it mean to have a Sistah in the white house? My friend Christa called on election night and said "Gurl, there are going to be five African women in the white house! Michelle, her mother, her two daughters and Oprah!" We laughed but then THAT IS A LOT OF SISTAH WOMB ENERGY IN ONE HOUSE! It has been said that a woman can change the feeling in a room using the power of her womb! I can't say for sure what type of woman Michelle Obama is but I have read things she has written and listen to her speak and there is a part of me that senses she is present and watchful AND brothas know that when it comes down to it - this is the kind of Sistah your gonna want on your side. A Sistah who is down for you AND who is going to tell you the truth (the "real deal") - one who is going to advise you.

I don't want to go any further with assumptions about who the Obama family is - I think only time will tell. My only wish is that we all continue to fight oppression, demand justice and continue to heal ourselves regardless of who is in the white house...
Sistah C