Friday, September 16, 2005

o week: three

legends who lunch Posted by Picasa
why didn't i say so?/why didn't i just call?/one day just to say/hey, i think you're such a legend...
--lamya, 'never's such a long time'
well, oprah will never have to sing and mean such lyrics. because, well, it seems along with being a poor black girl from mississippi, oprah's a doer...with a helluva lot of money to correct her "my bads".

as the story goes, oprah was inspired to coordinate a legends lunch when cicely tyson sent her a 50th birthday gift. oprah had failed to invite the screen legend to her birthday party. feeling bad for this faux pas, o decided to invite tyson to lunch. not wanting to think small, o then wondered how much fun it would be if ruby dee could come, too, "and thus began the idea of legends. i started thinking about all the women who'd come before me, many of whom have now passed on -- women whose steps created a journey of no boundaries for my generation. i wanted to thank them, celebrate them, and rejoice in their spirit."

now i'm going to refrain from asking, "what the fuck does it mean to rejoice in someone's spirit?" and continue with this synopsis. so o calls up her guy, colin cowie who is apparently an entertainment expert. (this is an example of white people creating their own jobs.) she came up with a list of 25 african american women who had built "a bridge to now" along with 45 young african american women who have at some point crossed this bridge. after all of her hard work, o, "handed it over to god and let it become what it was meant to be--one of the greatest experiences of [her] life...this weekend was the fulfillment of a dream for me: to honor where i've come from, to celebrate how i got here, and to claim where i'm going."

now for this post i'm going to focus on one of two things: 1) oprah's complex. (number 2, the politics of the legends lunch will be up sometime this weekend.)


whenever i speak of oprah, i tend to use religious rhetoric like "god" and "devil". understanding that i'm a sarcastic asshole who often uses hyperbole to get her point across, i've tried to unpack my issues with the divine ms. o with some concrete examples of why i think she is worthy of such deific terms. as a result, despite my theatrical approach, i think there's maybe an ounce of something i hope folks will think about after having read my (terrible) writing.

that said, when you're oprah winfrey, you pretty much have no peer. can you imagine what it must be like to casually mention something, and all of a sudden sales of it go through the roof? or to decide that you like something, and have that thing rise from obscurity to damn near legendary status? what if you had garnered so much power that every word that you said and step that you took was uncritically admired? what if you could become one of the richest people on the planet and still be considered a "true humanitarian"? is that not having your cake and eating it, too? who else can do that? only god, maybe. i mean, s/he's the only person/entity/spirit/whatever that immediately comes to mind. i truly believe if oprah could and would flood the united states for 40 days and 40 nights, anyone who survived that shit (meaning white, middle and upper class folks with gas money and suvs and 2nd homes) would say there was a message in such madness.

i am thoroughly convinced that oprah winfrey has lost her damn mind. no one, and i mean no one can raise a critical eyebrow(n) to what she is or isn't doing.** when john h. johnson, founder of ebony magazine died, the chicago defender editor, roland s. martin, published a pair editorials critical of winfrey's apparent silence in the wake of johnson's death. martin's offices attempted to contact winfrey several times, but received no response. martin was perplexed as to why winfrey, someone he thought directly benefitted from johnson's work, wouldn't have at least made a statement extending her condolences or something. after the story ran, an extremely furious winfrey called martin to say that what he wrote was unfair and untrue. she told him that she'd sent the johnson family flowers and a note, that she does not make public statements, and that, if i may quote my girl rrrrachel interpreting this final point, "i was, like, totally in hawaii when he died. goooooodddd!"

now for those of you who aren't up on your black periodicals, the chicago defender held a very prominent and important position in african american society during the early and midde parts of the 20th century. from teaching newly arrived southerners how to behave themselves in the city, to profiling and photographing african american celebrities of the day, the defender was an extremely important newspaper. in recent years, however, it's popularity has waned, and the defender is working to revitalize itself. in the three years i've lived in chicago, i've picked up a defender maybe once. and the only reason why i picked it up then is because i had never seen a current edition. though it is a daily, copies of the defender can be very difficult to find, even on the southside of chicago.

i say this to illustrate the point of this diatribe. if i, one who frequents the southside (ok, so it's hyde park, but technically it is the southside) on a regular basis, can't get a copy of the defender with ease, how in the hell did oprah--vacationing in hawaii, mind you--get access to this? (when's the last time oprah was on the southside?) martin made several efforts to contact winfrey through her people, but couldn't get through. yet all of a sudden, he writes one critical article on winfrey and he get's a phone call from the one and only? it would be one thing if the defender had the social standing it once did. but, as i've said above, the paper is struggling to regain its footing. in a nutshell: the chicago defender shouldn't even be on her radar. (hell, it's barely on mine.) and for a moment, it wasn't. but as soon as martin cursed god oprah, she left the beach long enough to give him a call.

[we can criticize bill gates, but not oprah winfrey? okay. so despite the white male, black female issues, economically gates and winfrey are sort of in the same, i am rich beyond even my imagination stratosphere (give or take about 45 billion dollars). ok. let's try someone else.

we can criticize condi rice, but not winfrey? winfrey is only 10 1/2 months older than rice. though rice comes from a middle class background, she and winfrey hail from the south, from states (alabama and mississippi) who perennially competed in the most racist pageant (before,) during (and after) the jim crow period. and though winfrey has been "criticized" for spitting liberal politiks, if you agree with what i suggested on day one, their poltiks aren't all that different. (is there an argument to be made about black females born during this period? hmmm) now what oprah has in her pocketbook, condi makes up for in political clout. and let me tell you, if your country gets stamped with the "condi's axis of evil club" sticker, you're in a western world of trouble...]

the term "god complex" may be a bit of a stretch. then again, maybe not. adam and eve didn't hear from god until they fucked up and ate a goddamn apple. even if we still wish to eat everything lord oprah is feeding us, can we please create a viable space for her to be critically observed so that she can appear at least somewhat, i dunno, human?

thou shall not, i guess.

**i used to call them eyebrowns when i was a kid.

coming up this afternoon/weekend: legends lunch part 2, and a photo entry on the lunch


language alone protects us from the scariness of things with no names. language alone is meditation. ~toni morrison


Blogger a. said...

LOL@"i was, like, totally in hawaii when he died. goooooodddd!"

I haven't been hating Oprah as much lately because of her shows on Katrina. I'm sure the hate will return at the beginning of the season.

16/9/05 14:59  
Blogger princessdominique said...

I love your blog. Can't wait to see what the Star Jones Project is all about :)

16/9/05 16:01  
Blogger Alii said...

im mad that my writing teacher is in that picture. We might need to have a little talk.

But i wont hate, i cant hate. If oprah plugged my book ill be in that pic too. shit, i'd do a playmate apread in the centerfold spread if she plugged my book

16/9/05 16:07  
Blogger Hollambeeee said...


17/9/05 09:03  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

All I can say is, somebody needs to be paying you for this shit. It's clever as hell, and on point like a mutha fucka. Oh, and I hope you bring this much passion and fucking comedic genius to that screenplay, nig.

18/9/05 02:03  
Blogger Harold Gibson said...

The rift between Oprah and Roland Martin is very interesting to me. If you were to read the article on the Defender's website, it opens as if Roland and Oprah have an established, relationship.

It starts by saying "Roland this is god, I mean Oprah."

And when I read the article I think that Oprah was upset because (unlike you) many of us fail to understand that god, I mean she is seeking to change the way we view life and death.

In the Martin's article, Oprah makes a big deal about honoring legends while they are alive. When they can respond and "smell the roses." This also explains living the in the spirit, for god, I mean Oprah can only communicate with living non-embalmed souls.

Therefore I reject the notion that Oprah did not show respect to Johnson by not showing up at Mr. Johnson's last dance.

Showing up at a funeral where flashes are ablaze and cameras are rolling is in my opinion nothing more than a photo-op. In my business, attending a funeral is often an obligatory gesture to my funders rather an act of homage to the casket occupant.

18/9/05 08:16  
Blogger fuss said...

Just started reading your O week coverage and as an unapologetic O lover, I love it already! I am (luckily?) disconnected enough to not believe that Oprah (or anyone else for that matter) is beyond criticism. Howard Stern and Robin Quivers (I know!) went off on her Hermes show for 30 minutes this morning and it was fucking hilarious and most of it spot on. Does this make me love O any less. Hell naw! I can applaud her success while realizing how fucked-up alot of the shit she does and says is. I kinda feel the same way about Condi Rice.

Bottom line for me is she is an entertainer. If people have gotten collective amnesia about the sensationalistic roots of her chosen genre, that's their business. If people don't think you can bottle and sell "spirituality" and "humanitarianism" than they haven't been down the self-help aisle lately and they may want to take another look at their rubber bracelet collection. IMHO, you can criticize her arrogance, but not without examining our own hypocrisy. Don't many of us want Oprahesque fame and fortune? Do we believe that level of ubiquity will come and we will remain just plain folks? Or is it more likely that we'll simultaneously put on heirs and attempt to keep real a la Ms. Winfrey? The fact that her people see her as some sort of saint (a de-racialized, de-sexualized => defanged saint at that; very good Miss O.) says more about great marketing than it does anything else. I can certainly see the negative effect that Oprahism has on our culture and around the world, but in the grand scheme of things it's pretty toothless, particularly in comparison with the good that can come it, given that most people ain't doing shit about shit, either out of apathy, ignorance or inability.

20/9/05 16:40  
Blogger summer m. said...

@fuss: i can fuck w/ your argument. and i swear to you i don't want oprah fame and/or fortune.

i'm just sick of muhfuckas--and o herself--thinking she's more than an entertainer who stumbled upon a grand marketing scheme.

but you're right, she does do a helluva lot more than my hatin' black ass.

21/9/05 15:58  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

get a life and stop hatin, jealousy is negative energy and will only attract more negative energy to yourself. duah!!

14/10/05 11:58  
Blogger summer m. said...

@anonyous: get off your oprah, and think before you comment on my blog next time.

or, how about next time you get the impulse to comment on my shit, you go out and buy a berkin bag instead?

point: fecundmellow.

14/10/05 12:19  

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