Thursday, June 29, 2006

Who Should be New on The View

Now that Star Jones Reynolds is leaving The View -- in the midst of accusations by Star that her departure felt like a firing and Barbara Walters saying she felt "betrayed" by Star -- we turn out attention to who should be Star's replacement.

Lots of names mentioned: Phylicia Rashad, Vanessa Williams, Oprah's BFF Gayle King.

But our choice is Sheryl Lee Ralph. Not only is the Dreamgirls star and Moesha mom bright, opinionated, charismatic and a committed humanitarian, she is married to our favorite state senator, Vincent Hughes.

As for Star, who fell out of favor with The View's audience for shamelessly promoting her wedding sponsors and her disingenuous weight loss, something tells me she'll be OK. She's proven to be a more than competent fill-in for Larry King on his CNN talk show and a capable businesswoman. She'll find a way to maintain the lifestyle to which she has become accustomed.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Did You Check Out That Kiss?!

Observations from tonight's BET Awards, which seems to get better every year: Did you go slack-jawed like I did when, during their "DJ Play A Love Song" duet, Jamie Foxx and Fantasia engaged in such a big, sloppy open-mouthed kiss that it required Fantasia to wipe her face afterward?

It would have been embarrassing -- and Fantasia, who looked like she's packed on a few pounds acted as if it was -- if not for Foxx's ability to recover and not miss a beat.

That wasn't the only highlight. Beyonce and Jay-Z, hip hop's royal couple, opened the show with Beyonce's "Deja Vu," revealing the Dreamgirls star's new svelte figure. The hyper Chris Brown, 17, winner of the new artist award, did a back flip off the stage. Winner Mary J. Blige proved that she still rules as the queen of hip-hop when she rapped with Lloyd Banks, Missy Elliott, Papoose, Rah Digga, DMX (via video) and surprise guest Eminem on Busta Rhymes' "Touch It" remix.

But the show's biggest moment occurred in a musical tribute to lifetime achievement award winner Chaka Khan: she, Prince, Stevie Wonder, India.Aire and Yolanda Adams combined for a Khan medley. Gospel artist Adams proved that she could put a hurting on secular music by belting out an powerful rendition of "I'm Every Women.," And with Stevie Wonder and Prince providing the musical accompaniment, it proved once again the old school is indeed the best school.

Monday, June 26, 2006

Living with AS: My Friend's SEPTA Incident

My friend, Kim Pearson, is a professor of English and journalism at the College of New Jersey. She is also afflicted with ankylosing spondylitis, or arthritis of the spine. The following is what happened to her Friday while traveling on SEPTA. I pasted this from her blog, Professor Kim's News Notes:

Having lived with AS for 20 years, I've grown fairly accustomed to the precautions I have to make when I travel. When I'm going to an unfamiliar place, I often call the airline or rail line I'm using to arrange for a wheelchair so that I can avoid long and tiring walks to baggage claim or through large terminals. If I think I need it, I arrange for an accessible hotel room. When I used a wheelchair some years back while waiting for my hip replacements, I always checked the accessibility of my routes and destination in advance.

I've generally had very positive experiences as my job has required me to travel all over the country in recent years. Airport, train, hotel and bus personnel have been supportive and helpful, in general. But yesterday I had an experience that made me realize that I was getting just a little complacent.

I had an errand to run that caused me to go Philadelphia's Holmesburg Junction station, a stop on the R7 commuter line that runs between Philadelphia and Trenton, New Jersey. SEPTA, the agency that operates the station acknowledges that Holmesburg Junction is not on its list of accessible stations for that route, and this picture makes part of the reason clear: you have to be able to climb steps to get to the platform, at least on the northbound side.

Yesterday, around high noon on one of the hottest muggiest days so far this summer, I climbed the steps with relative ease and was prepared to board my train. As this image shows, because the platform is low relative to the train, even able-bodied passengers have to use handrails and a wooden step to get on or off. Earlier in the day, I had successfully disembarked from a southbound train at the same station.

However, when I stepped on to the wooden step to get on the northbound train, I found that I could not get my foot up on the bottom step of the train. I asked the conductor whether he had a stepstool. He said, "This step [that we were standing on] is all they give us." I tried again to get my leg up to no avail. I asked the conductor whether he could help me, thinking that if he could brace me, I could use my arm strengh to hoist myself on to the step in some way. He stared at me. Finally he said, "Make a decision; I've got to go." I said, "What can I do? I can't get on the train?" He said, "Call Para-Transit" -- assuming, I suppose, that I knew what that was or how to take advantage of this service. "I'm stranded," I said, backing away from the train. He just looked at me, hopped aboard, and the train left.

There was no ticket office; there was not so much as a telephone posting a number that one could call for help. Fortunately, I have family in Philadelphia and this is the age of cell phones, so I was eventually rescued. I also happened to have a bottle of juice with me so that I could keep myself hydrated as I waited in the heat for help to arrive. But I had plenty of time to wonder what would have happened if I had not had those resources? And is a stepstool such an unreasonable thing to ask for? After all, SEPTA's guidelines for disabled passenger state that people who can stand, "can request to use ramps or lifts for boarding."

Have others run into this problem? What did you do?

Sunday, June 25, 2006

In Their Rightful Place

It hurt to hear that Martin Luther King's papers were scheduled to be auctioned at Sotheby's next week. Sure, the civil rights leader's adult children stood to make millions from the hand-written speeches, papers, documents and books, but nevertheless it was distressing to hear that they were willing to sell their own -- and America's -- legacy.

The good news is that a consortium of Atlanta business people including Mayor Shirley Frankin, who, by the way, is a Philadelphian, have acquired the archives for Morehouse University, King's alma mater. That insures that they will be taken care of, and more importantly, made available to the public.

Friday, June 23, 2006

Black Folks' Dirty Laundry: Shout It Out

My Wednesday column of June 21 elicited this response (and a book suggestion) from an intellectual observer:

Ms John-Hall:
I read your column of 6-21 (Stop Coddling...) with great interest because it coincides with research interests I am pursuing.

Your observation that "Historically... black folks march in lockstep when it comes to public opinion...racist treatment...compassion..." is entirely correct, based on my reading of the subject.

There is extensive literature on this general topic, including the following book edited by Toni Morrison, who contributes the first chapter.

Race-ing Justice, En-Gendering Power: Essays on Anita Hill, Clarence Thomas, and the Construction of Social Reality

The thesis that Toni Morrison and the contributors explore is subordination of African American women (the treatment of Anita Hill by the Senate Judiciary committee and by the African American community) and the theme of racial solidarity (pride in Clarence Thomas as an African American man and his nomination to the Supreme Court).

My own research encompasses more than a willingness to be tolerant of "celebrity" misdeeds but extends to everyday actions in the community. This is the case with subjects that are not spoken of openly because they might reflect unfavorably on the African American community when viewed by outside observers. The specific subject matter of my own research is the mistreatment or abuse, in the form of violence or street harassment, of women by African American males. As long as the community remains silent, there are negative consequences that remain unaddressed by potentially effective intervention strategies. (Other similar "taboo" subjects include males "on the down low" and HIV/AIDS, and abusive child-rearing practices.)

Keep up the good work by calling attention to social patterns that have long-term negative consequences for the African American community.

Donald B. Wallace, PhD

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

A Reason Not to Get TiVo

Every time I hear the opening line to Etta James' "Sunday Kind of Love" it makes me stop, drop what I'm doing and rush to the television.

Problem is, it's used only as the soundtrack for a 60-second Dockers commercial.

Just hearing James' voice, if only for a minute, simply reaffirms the need to give the R&B diva a TV special.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Abolish the "N" word: A movement?

Today's Daily News cover featured a story about a group of Brooklynites who are trying to abolish the "N" word.

The web site is impressive. Be prepared for a graphic intro, though.

Geno('s) in a Bottle

Wow! My Wednesday column about Geno's and American culture really struck a nerve. Yeah most folks thought I worked their last nerve, judging from the 50-plus emails and 20-plus voicemails I received.

Here's a sampling:

From John Bodnar in Yardley: "Is Gino's supposed to hire someone who could speak Spanish in order to take their orders in Spanish? If so, should Geno's also be required to hire people who could speak German, French, Chinese, Russian etc? Will the City of Philadelphia pay their wages?

From Carolyn Sloane: "I, with Mr. Vento, are sick and tired of having to 'press one' for English...What part of I-L-L-E-G-A-L don't you get???.....I guess you and everyone else out there who is trying so desperately to be politically correct (which nauseates me, btw) have to be reminded of what it took for my grandparents, and so many others like them to get over here LEGALLY.

From Kass M. Perretta: "I'm sick and tired of every ethnic group being catered to. I totally agree with Geno's and would send financial support to him if he needs it. And I would never pay to have my lips or derriere made larger. I am totally satisfied with my lily white, northern European complexion. Who would want a shelf butt!!

Shelf butt? Moi?

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Tiger's Tribute

Just in time for Father's Day: A poignant video tribute from Tiger Woods to his dad, Earl, on

The video shows images of Tiger and his dad throughout the years and captures the closeness the two shared. At the end, the ad reads, "To Dad. And Fathers Everywhere."

Earl Woods, the man Tiger described as his best friend, died of cancer May 3.

Monday, June 12, 2006

Madea: Come Back!

According to my girlfriends, whose opinions I value as much as any critic's, Tyler Perry's new sitcom, "House of Payne," which launched in the Philadelphia market last week, is painful to watch.

Here's the problem: The series, which stars Allen Payne as a fireman forced to move back with his parents, looks and sounds too much like one of Perry's stage plays. And that just doesn't translate well to TV, especially if Madea isn't in it.

That's right. Perry chose not to reprise his famous role as the pistol-toting granny for "House of Payne." In fact, it may be a while before we see Madea on stage again. Perry says he's putting her on hiatus.

The fifth of 10 espisodes aired today, and word is the second half of season is supposed to be better than the first.

If not, Perry can always fall back on his writing career. His advice book "Don't Let a Black Woman Take Off Her Earrings," written in Madea's voice, is holding steady at No. 9 on the New York Times bestseller's list.

Friday, June 09, 2006

The "N" Word on Trial

Interesting piece in the New York Times yesterday about the trial of a white man accused of a racially motivated beating of a black man in Howard Beach last summer.

Central to the trial has been the usage of the "N" word and it prompted Harvard Law School professor Randall Kennedy to testify on the word's behalf.

Kennedy, author of "Nigger: The Strange Career of a Troublesome Word," testified that the word, once spewed solely as a racial epithet, now carries many different meanings. It's used by all different people, he said, and in music videos and popular songs.

His testimony seemed to help the defense, which claims that the black man, Glenn Moore, was about to commit a robbery when the accused, Nicholas Minucci, used the word as a form of "benign address" while he beat him with a baseball bat.

Excuse me, but when some white person is calling me a nigger while chasing me down the street with a bat, I would tend to think that it's racially motivated.

I interviewed Kennedy when his book was first published a few years ago. I asked him how he would counsel his children if they were ever called the "n" word.

He told me that his own parents had given him varying pieces of advice. His father told him that the slur gives any black person to respond physically if need be. His mother told him to "ignore it and run away."

Kennedy said he'd give his kids his mother's advice.