when you laugh to keep from crying...

ashes, ashes, y'all fall DOWN...

(originally published in ON THE VERGE v3.0 e-mail monthly - February 7, 2001)

"if yíall donít know how black humor started, it started in slave ships...the cat was on his way over here rowiní...and a dude say, what Ďchu laughiní at, man...and he said, yesterday i was a king..."
- Richard Pryor (paraphrased), "Bicentennial Nigger", 1976.

yes, itís Black History Month. no, youíre not supposed to know that it is. and no, President Bush hasnít outlawed it...yet. and yes, once again i have the distinct pleasure of lacing up the mace manís shoes and blowing off some steam by way of the opening rant. looks like iím the man for February Ďcause Jay donít even wanna deal with it. if i play my cards right, i could clean up this month like so many other Black Studies figures do. but honestly, who in their right mind would pay good money to hear my ass speak for an hour or so?

usually around this time, Jay and i catch up with each other (which ainít easy to do, by the way) and start to divvy up albums for the month. itís a special ritual that we started around a year or so ago: in February, we listen to almost nothing but Black rock and Detroit techno artists. kind of our way of putting a different spin on Black History. we figured nobody else would take this route, so weíd better do so. to spice things up and ensure a well-balanced diet, weíre also including underrated soul sisters (Nina Simone, Betty Davis, Marva Whitney), leftfield hip-hop (Kool Keith, Anti-Pop Consortium, Mike Ladd), jazz outcasts (Ornette Coleman, Sun Ra, Rahsaan Roland Kirk), and our jungle brethren as well (Grooverider, Roni Size, LTJ Bukem, yíall know the steez...). itís the type of vibe that we listen to all year round along with other stuff - we just emphasize our focus on it during February.

before i forget, lemme tell yíall what happened to Jay recently. this is by no means an isolated incident. itís happened to Black people all over the country. Jay comes home from a hard dayís work, sifts through his mail, and comes across yet another credit card offer. but not just any credit card offer:

"Jason Smith, you have been pre-approved for this special Mastercard which celebrates AFRICAN-AMERICAN HERITAGE!"

wait, it gets better: the credit card is jet black with a strip of kente cloth across the top. i thought he was kiddiní till he showed it to me. i was ready to hurt somebody and it wasnít even sent to me. he recently let his moms know. always the purveyor of truth, Mother Smithís response consisted of five words: "White folk have gone mad." not only does the brother already have a Mastercard, but this is the third time in three months that he has received the offer.

"bad credit: brought to you by kente cloth. whatís next? a red, black, and green card with a picture of Kunta Kinte?"

"either that or his decomposed foot."

"kente cloth? my life has been reduced to a strip of kente cloth??"

"have you any idea how much kente cloth costs? it ainít cheap. which would you rather be worth: a strip of kente cloth or 41 shots? consider this an improvement."

"...please tell me youíre kidding."

"better take what you can in the land of Bush & Chaney, kid. i keep tryiní to tell your ultra-serious ass: itís all a matter of perspective."

we laugh to keep from crying, folks. itís a survival tactic thatís been with my melanin-packed peops since that first mad long boat ride.

i take it this wasnít the Black History lesson you were expecting...

{vic feedle}

other Black History rants include:
2.24.02 - number three
2.2.00 - 2000 black
2.24.99 - exhaustion...

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