Geechee Anne

Can We Talk About Conductor Bae?

Conductor Bae conducting. (RoderickCox.com)

Conductor Bae conducting. (RoderickCox.com)

Look, I know I'm late on this, but this is your fault, Internet.  See no one ever showed me footage of Conductor Bae until my Facebook stream did this morning, and now that footage is 5 months old.  Five months!  It has been 5 whole months since Roderick Cox, Conductor Bae, made his subscription debut with the Minnesota Orchestra as Associate Conductor, a position he just signed to extend through the 2017-2018 season, and I ain't even know.  Shameful. 

 

Check this brother out:

The man's skill is immense, his passion unmistakable.  For those who didn't do the high school orchestra or band thing, the conductor's job is to keep the ensemble on tempo, and to cue in sections of the orchestra that might not be playing anything for large stretches of a piece.  This is necessary because when you're sitting in the middle of an orchestra, you can't always hear well, and may well lose track of when you need to come in, and also because folks daydream during longer pieces (Just me? Oh... awkward.).  In order to do this, he has to follow the written music for the entire orchestra, which is thick as a book and referred to as a score.  Ladies and gentlemen, this is hard as hell. 

For example, for this one line the first violins are playing: 

First Violin excerpt for Tchaikovsky's Fourth Symphony, Finale. (Google Images)

First Violin excerpt for Tchaikovsky's Fourth Symphony, Finale. (Google Images)

The conductor is looking at all of this:

Orchestral Score, first page of Tchaikovsky's Fourth Symphony, Finale. (Google Images)

Orchestral Score, first page of Tchaikovsky's Fourth Symphony, Finale. (Google Images)

...And this one page takes just a few seconds for the orchestra to fly through.  Conducting is an intellectually difficult business, and because it requires such intense mental concentration, it typically isn't such a physical one.

Suddenly pertinent Google search. (Google)

Suddenly pertinent Google search. (Google)

Conductor Bae turns this on it's head, as this man is bopping like me 3 drinks in and Kendrick Lamar's "Humble" playing.  But he is On Point with it.  This is not a situation where guy is showboating, being all extra just for the sake of being extra.  Tchaikovsky's Fourth Symphony almost invites those who play it to get lost in the exquisite tension of the piece, and the pace of the music.  I imagine it must be incredibly difficult to rein in the individual sections of the ensemble to keep them from careening all over the place and getting off tempo, especially as a successful conductor must always be literally one beat ahead, anticipating what the orchestra is going to do before they do it.  Yet, as the orchestra hurtles full speed towards the conclusion of this piece with all the power of a mack truck, he is keeping all these individual elements on track with the mechanical precision of a metronome, though the music clearly has his mind and his body engaged.  This is Black Excellence operating at some of its highest levels, and this guy is at the beginning of his career!  It is phenomenal to watch, and has Geechee Anne googling some thangs.

Ain't Nothing Wrong With the Man Weave

Wade Menendez resurrects a client's hair. (Maquita Peters/NPR)

Wade Menendez resurrects a client's hair. (Maquita Peters/NPR)

I have seen at least 3 pieces on the Man Weave, the latest and most detailed here at NPR.  Three pieces means that this is officially a trend, y'all.  And NPR is covering it, so you know this is Serious Business.  The piece opens with a picture of Wade Menendez, the guy who runs a Man Weave school, approaching his be-weaved client with the same intensity of Jesus approaching the tomb of Lazarus.  Various students/disciples are arrayed behind him, their expressions ranging from shocked wonderment to one sister who looks like she wonders if the jerk chicken place across the street is still open.  But when I tell you he has performed an anointing on this man's head and resurrected his hair!  Geechee Anne is here to tell you, gon' head and get yo' man weave, brothers!

Sadly, before Man Weave, many balding brothers cried in the car on the way home from the barber shop. (GifSoup)

Sadly, before Man Weave, many balding brothers cried in the car on the way home from the barber shop. (GifSoup)

'Cause let's be honest--not everyone is cut out for the bald look.  I mean, if that's you, then do you.  The bald look can be incredibly sexy.  But some folk are out here only pretending to want to rock the bald look, when really it's because they thought they were out of viable hair options.  Some brothers came to a sad realization at some point of their lives -- either through serious self-reflection or just the actual reflection that comes from cleaning your mirror -- that yes, everyone, and especially Fine Shorty Over There, can tell that they've progressed beyond the thinning phase and are actively, actually balding, or past tense baldED.  So these men did the male version of the Big Chop and shaved those last 5 hairs that they thought they were successfully blending into a convincing fade and thereafter pretended that they were voluntarily choosing the bald look.  But every time they went back to the barber to get those 5 hairs shaved off again, they would cry in the car before they could drive home.  My people, that is because our dear brothers did not realize that follicular salvation was upon us in this blessed year of our lord, 2017.

Sorcery! (Maquita Peters/NPR)

Sorcery! (Maquita Peters/NPR)

Look at this sorcery!  Look at it!  If you don't have the shapeliest cranium nor the facial features to pull off having ne'er a follicle on your head, then get thee to a weavologist.  Go straight to the chair.  Do not pass go, unless it's to collect $200 for your Man Weave installation.  And for the brothers with the sketchy beards that won't grow right, looking perennially 15 by the chin -- NPR says they doing beard weaves now too.  Baby boy, this could change yo' life!

Traveling While Black

Green Book cover, 1949 edition. (Google)

Beyond an encounter with law enforcement or maybe a job interview, is there any time that we're made more conscious of our lack of privilege than when we're traveling and therefore out of our element?  Of course this isn't a new phenomenon -- enterprising Black folk of the past published The Negro Travelers' Green Book to address just this issue, and back then it was truly a matter of life or death.  The Green Book ceased publication in1964 when the Civil Rights Act was passed, and the Book's overly optimistic publishers thought it wouldn't be needed anymore, that we had reached that time "...when we as a race will have equal opportunities and privileges in the United States."  Yet here we are, in 2017, still planning trips with a certain amount of trepidation.

Now, I'm not trying to make light of what our forefathers went through.  Though race-based violence can also be a reality for us, especially when we have a run in with the cops, today we mostly worry about bad service, verbal abuse or the cancellation of services once we show up and the host realizes we're guilty of Traveling While Black.  Our grandfathers, on the other hand, traveled with the absolute assurance that they would be lynched if some racist woke up on the wrong side of the bed, or in the case of Emmitt Till, if someone decided to lie just to get some attention.  There is a clear difference here that I am in no way trying to conflate or mitigate.  Yet the fact remains that vile pockets still exist where our safety is not assured, and where our money may not be good enough. 

So how many of us check to see if that Airbnb condo owner looks like us, or at least has some reviews by people of color before we book before we end up with our reservation canceled for having a "Black sounding name?"  How many of us read all the bad reviews of a hotel on TripAdvisor to make sure that no one mentions any instances of racism on the property?  Once arriving, how many of us Lyft around the area instead of trying to stand outside and risk the humiliation of being suddenly invisible to cab drivers?  How many of us scour the internet looking up the neighborhood a restaurant is located in before buying that Groupon?  How many of us have tried to convince ourselves that these steps aren't necessary, and then got burned?  Consciously or not, each of us has sought out and researched our own personalized version of the Green Book.

 “There will be a day sometime in the near future when this guide will not have to be published. That is when we as a race will have equal opportunities and privileges in the United States. It will be a great day for us to suspend this publication for then we can go wherever we please, and without embarrassment,” the Green Book said in 1948, nearly 70 years ago.  They thought that day had finally come in 1964, yet the machinery of racism and prejudice simply adapted itself to the times, showing itself in new and unexpected forms.  When will the Green Book's optimistic statement finally be true?  Maybe in another 70 years.

The Day They Tore Ol' General Lee Down

General Lee being knocked off his pedestal. (Scott Threlkeld/AP)

General Lee being knocked off his pedestal. (Scott Threlkeld/AP)

I was in New Orleans last week, and apparently there was this controversial Thing, where the city had decided to knock down some dusty ass monuments that had been erected to individuals that committed treason and promulgated terrorist acts right here in the USA.  In-fucking-sane, right?!  First, that these things were placed in a position of prominence, and then that when sanity prevailed, that there would be any sort of controversy involved in taking them down.  These were monuments to m'fuckas that literally fought against this country -- like, literally -- and they killed people.  Like, literally.  And the city of New Orleans was like 'well, hell -- these guys need to be celebrated!  Let's put them on pedestals in squares across the city!'  Like, literally.

Astounding.  At least until I clarify that these were monuments to White terrorists of an era that too many in this country think of as being sadly bygone instead of righteously buried by the sands of time.  Now that we know the color of these terrorists, we are no longer surprised to hear that the decision to remove these artifacts of a more openly, opulently racist time was met with controversy, intellectually lazy protest, and indescribable foolishness

So many idiots out there invoking "history" or "southern heritage" in their defense of the indefensible.  I was on a cheesy tourist bus when we circled the monument to Robert E. Lee, his stony visage glaring haughtily down from his 60 foot tall perch, looking like he wished he could still will his frozen lips to call me a nigger.  The tour guide mentioned that this would be General Lee's last day on his pedestal, and some idiot in back of me booed his removal.  My head whipped around of its own accord and I fixed a glare on the woman, who immediately stopped and couldn't hold my gaze... Though she got the ovaries up to boo again moments later in a softer tone that she clearly hoped I could not hear.  Since I did hear, I loudly said to my husband, "Are people seriously booing the removal of a treasonous terrorist from a position of prominence in this city?"  Another brave White soul in back of me whispered "But it's history."  Oh yes, history, that old intellectually lazy argument, typically used by those who do not want to admit their racism.  So let's talk about that.

Arlington National Cemetery, former home of General Robert E. Lee which the federal government turned into a cemetery. (Wikipedia)

Arlington National Cemetery, former home of General Robert E. Lee which the federal government turned into a cemetery. (Wikipedia)

Let's talk about the fact that this statue wasn't erected during the Civil War, when it might have made at least a tiny bit of sense to put the damn thing up.  No, it was conceived during Reconstruction, an era that also saw the great expansion of the KKK, and it was placed there for much the same reason.  To intimidate former slaves and their descendants and to serve as a reminder that Black folks should always fear.  The statue was elevated so that we must always look up to it.  It was gargantuan in its proportions, turning Lee into a larger than life, imposing figure.  He was placed facing the north, so that he could always glare in the direction of his enemies, arms folded over his chest in defiance.  This was not just history.  This was a symbol when it was erected, and it remained one until the day it was removed.  So fuck that noise.  Now if you really want to consider the opinions of people that were actual contemporaries of Lee, let me remind you that the federal government gave so few fucks about this dude that they confiscated his home in Arlington, Virginia and turned it into the military cemetery that we know today.  Savage.  Arlington National Cemetery?  Yeah, that's where General Lee used to call home.  So don't talk to me about history, or judging people by modern standards, or whatever other BS White Supremacy is currently using in an attempt to justify keeping this stuff around. 

Geechee Anne cheering the removal of Lee's statue.  (Google Images)

Geechee Anne cheering the removal of Lee's statue.  (Google Images)

The next day I rode a different cheesy tourist bus down the same route through New Orleans, and watched as cranes surrounded the stone figure of General Robert E. Lee, ready to topple him from his lofty pedestal.  On this bus, the racial mix was different, and a feeling of excitement was in the air as the tour guide explained what was happening.  Gleefully, we Brown and Black folks watched, hoping to get a glimpse of the actual removal, some of us disregarding safety to lean our bodies off of the top of the bus in an effort to get a snapshot of the actual moment.  My husband and I smiled our quiet satisfaction, and clasped hands, savoring the moment together. 

The day after this we boarded the last cheesy tourist bus of our stay in New Orleans.  This time as we passed the monument there was nothing at all at the top of the pedestal.  Nothing but a blank space, which our tour guide did not feel the need to draw attention to.  The city has not yet explained what they will do with these spaces; there are 3 more empty monuments across the city and there has been talk of replacing the offensive statues with something or someone more meaningful to the city, such as a statue of Louis Armstrong.  I would argue that Armstrong deserves his own, unsullied monument and not the tainted seconds of a place once dedicated to the promotion of hate and White Supremacy.  The site now sits empty and barren, its place of honor left void and scarred from the removal of what should never have been there in the first place.  Seems fitting to me.

Autism Awareness for the Black and Brown

Here we are at the close of Autism Awareness April, and as usual, there remains one area I hardly ever see awareness being brought to.  The fact that there exists a huge disparity in the diagnosis and therefore treatment of Autism in minority children, and especially in Black and Brown boys.  And as the mother of a little Black boy with Autism, one of the most important things I can do this month is speak to the serious of that issue.

...whether from overt racism or implicit bias, when Black children present with the exact same symptoms their White counterparts do, the professionals in their lives are much more likely to marginalize these children and label them, as opposed to seeking a cause and getting them help.

Autism symptoms present fairly early on, and if you know what you're looking for the signs are obvious.  Yet, whether from overt racism or implicit bias, when Black and Brown children present with the exact same symptoms their White counterparts do, the professionals in their lives are much more likely to marginalize these children and label them, as opposed to seeking a cause and getting them help.  If there's a speech delay, which is a huge red flag, Tad may be referred over to a therapist, whereas Carlos' mom might be told that "your kids often just talk later."  If there are behavioral issues, Jax is more likely to receive a referral to a specialist, while DaShawn is kicked out of daycare after daycare and labeled an unreformable bad kid before he even sets foot in an actual school.  Sisters: If you have concerns, do not be put off by an "expert" telling you that your child is okay, he'll grow out of it, or that's just how some kids are.  To be sure, some kids ARE like that.  And some kids have a neurological disorder called Autism, where the earlier the diagnosis, the better the outcome.  Statistics are very clear on this: Black kids are diagnosed on average 1-2 years later than their White counterparts, and since early intervention is key, this delay leads to greater deficits down the road.  A missed or a late diagnosis can have repercussions that will reverberate throughout a child's entire life, especially when you consider that since the average age of diagnosis across all races is 4, that puts the average age of diagnosis in Black children at 5 or 6, when the child might already be in Kindergarten or 1st grade.  That is simply unacceptable.

So what can our community do if our trusted professionals aren't on top of this?  BE AWARE.  Know the early indications, and be proactive on your child's behalf.  Autism lays on a spectrum, and symptoms and/or severity differ based on the individual.  Don't let yourself be convinced by family and friends that your child's symptoms don't bear looking into because they "aren't that bad" and don't fit a stereotypical picture of Autism that may not even be accurate.  Often, we as a people can become preoccupied with stigma, and would rather keep hoping and wishing that our child's symptoms are something they'll grow out of, or that they'll just poof and one day disappear, leaving us with a neurotypical child.  As with any other health issue, if you think your child is exhibiting symptoms of Autism, get it looked into.  If your child is referred over for a multidisciplinary evaluation and your kid ends up not having Autism, awesome!  You looked into it and can put your mind at ease.  If the results of the evaluation show that your child is on the Spectrum, awesome!  Now you have a diagnosis and can get a game plan together knowing that you have helped your child immeasurably by getting the earliest diagnosis you could.

So while other parents and organizations have taken this month to focus on acceptance, or awareness on a larger scale--as the mother of a little Black boy with Autism, I urge you to simply Be Aware.  It is awareness in our own communities which will push these statistics in the right direction, and get our kids the help they need that much earlier.

Oooh No, Shea Moisture -- What Is You Doing?

Photo from Geechee Anne's own bathroom.

Photo from Geechee Anne's own bathroom.

For real, y'all.  Who did this?  Was it Miss Jessie's momma, Mrs. Jessie?  Carol's other daughter?  Probably Lady Clairol, who few people know has the first name Becky.  Clearly this was some sort of industrial sabotage.  Because I cannot believe that Shea Moisture sat down and actually conceived an ad specifically targeted to decimate their demographic, large swaths of which will now be pushing their stacks of coins at other companies.

Look, I've rolled with Shea Moisture for years.  I have greater love for that coconut and hibiscus line than I do members of my own family.  And I don't care what white women use in their hair.  More Black owned companies should be getting that Caucasian coin, 'cause lord knows their companies have been marketing their products to us and to our detriment since forever.   But there's a way to do that without creating the Beckyest of ads which relegates Black women with the kinkiest of hair to literally a tiny box in the last 2 seconds of the thing.

Yes, I'm aware that they apologized.  But I can't forget that woman in that tiny box.  See, it's that Black woman, seen onscreen for just a second, and without a speaking role, that has been the champion of Shea Moisture over the years.  It's that sister that has written about the brand in countless natural hair blog posts, or done a million vlogs about the products on YouTube.  It's that woman that taught me how to cultivate my own curls when I didn't have a clue.  And like me, there are millions of other sisters that became unpaid ambassadors of the products because they not only worked, but it seemed like the company Got It and that we were important to them as a people, and not just a stack of dollars.  Until now.

Because the problem isn't just the commercial itself, it's what it says about the company behind it.  I mean, don't get me wrong -- I am powering my computer right now using the energy harvested from rolling my eyes so hard.  The ad is beyond problematic in the way that it centers women with European-approved locks whining about their hair as if Black women haven't had discrimination against their locs literally codified into law by the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals.  "I got fired from my job because Black hair in its natural state is deemed unprofessional."  "I have red hair and once dyed it blonde.  OMG, we're the same!  In fact, I'll be taking your spot in this commercial!"  But companies can only be so tone deaf when they have grown away from the community that they serve, and no longer value them or their opinions, not only as customers, but also as integral members of their corporate teams and structures.  You cannot convince me that if there was adequate representation of Black women at this company, that this ad wouldn't have been side-eyed out of its initial brainstorming session and never seen the light of day.  No.  These sorts of colossal blunders only occur when our voices are either excluded or marginalized to the point where they can be ignored, and that's a bigger and more insidious systemic issue of which a dumb commercial is only a symptom.