50 Days to 50 Years, Day 09: Santa Fe Foodie Excursion and an evening with Evan O’Connell

23 07 2016

Day 2 of the Santa Fe Foodie Excursion started with this gorgeous view outside our condo. Who wouldn’t want to wake up to that every morning? Well, at least we have one more morning to enjoy it.

Even though downtown Santa Fe was a mere four blocks downhill, the thought of walking uphill with full bellies was not something either Lynn or I wanted to look forward to; so like the Angeleans that we are, we drove, and paid for parking. You can take the O’Connells out of Los Angeles….

And our bellies were definitely filled to the brim! Carlos of Food Tour New Mexico was our guide for the day’s excursion. He did a great job of mixing the love of food with the love of culture, along with a sprinkling of New Mexico history.

Our first stop on the tour was San Francisco Bar and Grill, in the heart of the Santa Fe Plaza.The Plaza is the central part of the city, hosting Indian and Spanish markets, along with community gatherings and cultural events, so it was a short walk from the center of the Plaza to the restaurant. They served us an awesome Chicken Enchiladas with Chimao Red and Hatch Chiles, commonly known as “Christmas” style.

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Stop #2, and my personal favorite,  was to Thunderbird Bar and Grill, which boasts over 100 different tequila varieties, extensive wine and beer offerings, and other spirits. The Green Chile Pork Soup with Acedero (a Mexican form of Mozzarella) was simply divine. Carlos offered a little foodie tip: To increase the flavor of meats boiled in liquid, allow the meat to cool in the liquid. You could definitely taste the infusion of richness in the pork. I could have had another bowl, but it was on to the next leg of the tour.

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To cleanse our palates, Stop #3 was to The Original Santa Fe Olive Oil and Balsamic Vinegar Company. Carlos made us a “Birthday Cake” combination of Pineapple Balsamic Vinegar and Avocado Lemon Olive Oil. You could have it over ice and drink it, it was that scrumptious!

In between stops we were treated to some historical wonders and spectacular views from the La Fonda rooftop, the rooftop of the 5th Floor Presidential Suite of the Inn and Spa at Loretto, the Rosary Tree, and the Miraculous Staircase at the Chapel Loretto.

We also continued to meet some fun people. A couple of the participants in the Johnny Vee cooking class were there, along with some new faces. Three friends in particular captured my writer’s interest: Brittany, Julie, and Katie decided to take a mini-respite to Santa Fe, so Brittany and Katie drove up from Midland, Texas, and Julie flew in from Florida to meet up. I just love stories, and friendships like that. Katie also won the award for most fashionable, with a great dress and hat combination.

Since we had adequately walked off the burrito and the soup, we headed to Stop #4: Upper Crust Pizza for a New Mexico specialty: Hatch Green Chile Pizza.

Upper Crust Pizza is in an historical building in the oldest part of town. The crust is unique to this region; can’t be replicated anywhere else… kind of like Chicago Deep Dish! I was sold—both the Hatch Green Chile and the Red Chile pizzas were well worth the wait; and I was happy we had walked off the earlier fare so I could scarf down three slices!

And, of course, what would a foodie tour be without dessert! Stop #5 was to Senor Murphy Candymaker, which has been serving Santa Fe for 71 years. We sampled a quartet of treats including Bolitos and Pinon Fudge. The shop specializes in Pinon treats (“Pine Nuts” to the rest of the U.S.) which is a nut found exclusively in the state of New Mexico.

This leg of the excursion ended at Senior Murphy’s, and Lynn and I did a little bit of exploring the open air market, looking at the historical spots along old Route 66, and admiring some of the unique artistic endeavors that characterize Santa Fe before heading back to our condo to meet up with Evan.

One of the nice bonuses of marriage is that you get an extended family. I love Lynn’s brothers and sisters and their kids, and often wished they lived closer; but then, we wouldn’t have an excuse to visit if they did! Albuquerque is an hour south of Santa Fe, so Lynn’s nephew Evan wanted to drive up to see us this trip—so very sweet of him!

Evan met us at the condo, and we drove back into downtown Santa Fe, and stopped at a French restaurant for dessert. L’Olivier (how apropos) had a lovely patio, the manager played Getz/Gilberto in the background, and to add to the magical, Franco atmosphere, it rained!

One of the best features was a quote painted on the inside wall of the restaurant:

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Evan is an exceptionally talented artist, and through his studies, is getting well-versed in architecture. We walked around the Plaza at night, talking about the church structures and unique features of some of the monasteries in the West.

All-in-all, a pleasurable ending to our second day in Santa Fe.

 





50 Days to 50 Years: Day 28, Happy Independence Day!

4 07 2016

“The harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph. What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly; it is dearness only that gives everything its value. I love the man that can smile in trouble, that can gather strength from distress and grow.”
― Thomas Paine

Despite the horrid events of late, and all that is wrong in our political and social processes, I am still grateful to have been born in the U.S.A., and proud to be an American. You want my opinion on those two other things, go look at my page at Communities Digital News or some of my posts here from years past. Today is a day to honor the establishment of the United States as a free nation, and to commemorate our Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776, when said document was first read to the people.

Freedom isn’t free. It is bought and paid for by those who have the courage to stand for it. Every point of freedom I possess today was paid for by someone: from Crispus Attucks, to Harriet Tubman, to Frederick Douglass, to Ida B. Wells, to Martin Luther King, Jr., a price was rendered, and a sacrifice was made. What I find most tragic is many of today’s young people go in one of two directions: they either consider the day simply about fireworks and barbecues, or they rail against celebration or denigrate the U.S. because of the dishonest and twisted claptrap they learned in the public school system or a liberal college environment. Yeah, I said it; what they learned is no better than the whitewashed or sterling accounts about the U.S.A. peddled in certain conservative and right-wing circles.

Part of the reason for the social and political ills mentioned earlier is that many people have abdicated their freedoms for security, ease, and perpetual entertainment. Others spend their lives fighting battles that have nothing to do with life, liberty or the pursuit of happiness and wonder why they are unhappy and nothing ever changes. The two likely nominees of both parties are a clear indication that we have lost our moral compass and are far to easily swayed by pablum and promises. But I digress….

I pray a generation emerges that has the courage to right the ship. But while we still have some freedoms left, I choose to celebrate the reason why we can.

Here is the preamble to the Declaration of Independence:

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed, by their Creator, with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.

That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles, and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.

Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object, evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.”





50 Days to 50 Years: Day 43, Walt Disney’s Carolwood Barn with Theresa and AJ Danna

19 06 2016

“Cherish your human connections – your relationships with friends and family.” — Barbara Bush

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Theresa and I have been friends since the early 1990s, when we both were part of the now-defunct Masters of Professional Writing program at USC. She was one of the best parts to come out of those years in graduate school. She is a keeper (she says the same about me—verklempt), and we have watched each other’s lives through boyfriends and breakups, forced moves, intentional moves, job milestones, job losses and job stresses. But I am most thankful for being a part of her life because I got to see her son AJ enter the world and grow up. AJ turned 18 yesterday, marking a milestone in all our lives.

Theresa had AJ at 40, and I was there during the pregnancy, babysat him when he was little, and got to hang out with him at all sorts of things: from the kids show at the UCLA Los Angeles Book Fair, to the Chinese New Year celebrations, and various times and birthdays in between. They were a part of many Thanksgivings and Christmases in Los Angeles, and they had a front row seat as I met and married Lynn. My sister June was a pivotal part of their lives too, and they grieved right alongside me when she died.

I am honored and blessed by our family connection, and am so proud of the young man AJ has become. AJ is not your typical millennial: he knows what he wants, and he is pursuing it with passion and smarts. He has already gotten some major screen time doing background coverage in film and television, and he has a really spectacular voiceover reel over at his YouTube channel. He has met, and is being mentored by some of the best names in the voiceover and entertainment business. That is all AJ’s doing—no one handed it to him—he pursued them, was offered the opportunity, and made the necessary space for it.

AJ knows the players in his industry, and knows more about networking than any career coach I have encountered. In fact, as we were leaving the Barn, he ran into Mark Silverman, the voice of Rod Serling from the Disney Theme Park ride “Tower of Terror”, and just struck up a conversation with him. AJ’s confidence and his comfort in his own skin and his purpose are well beyond his years. He is focused and dedicated to his craft; but more importantly, he is one of the most personable and kind people I know.

Both AJ and Theresa are practically Disney historians, so I got to spend a bit of time with them at Walt Disney’s Carolwood Barn in Griffith Park. This is a FREE thing in Los Angeles, and right in my backyard, so even on this 107 degree Los Angeles day, it was a win-win, not just for the fun exploration, but to have some time with them both.

Fifty years on this earth teaches you that time is precious, and people’s presence in your life through the sorrows and the celebrations, growing up, and growing older makes it even more so. Thank you, Theresa and AJ for loving me and being part of my life . I love you both very much.





Black History Month 2015: Harriet Tubman

2 02 2015

harriet-tubman

“I freed a thousand slaves. I could have freed a thousand
more if only they knew they were slaves
.
-Harriet Tubman

This famous quote by the “Black Moses” could well be applied today. The chains of slavery are evident in the mind, attitudes and allegiances of our race, and are being reflected in the lack of leadership and focus in the modern civil rights movement:

“Seeing the power, presence, and passion of Dr. King artfully portrayed by actor David Oyelowo, as well as the re-enactment of the give and take between Ralph Abernathy and Andrew Young of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, and John Lewis of the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee, merely spotlights the total lack of conviction or moral authority in the civil rights movement of today. In place of an intelligent, articulate, and anointed Dr. King, we have the mush-mouthed Al Sharpton, and the empty bumper sticker slogans of “No Justice, No Peace,” and “Black Lives Matter.”

Dr. King is flipping in his grave.”

Read the rest at my Communities Digital News column: Martin Luther King Day, Selma, and the moral scarcity in modern-day civil rights.





In My Orbit: A Tale of Two Videos

17 08 2012

Digital Image courtesy of Danilo Rizzuti / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

It’s actually a tale of three, but I loved the title and didn’t want to change it!

It is the story of my life that in most social and business situations, I am among the few, if not the lone Black person. It is more a point of curiosity, than a point of discomfort, and when I am among the chosen few, I sometimes sit back and observe the level of discomfort among the other Blacks in the same situation. I find this kind of sad–something I’ll expound upon on another day.

My friends have always been people of different races, and I am happy to say I have never experienced racial animus in my 27 years of working life. I have been persecuted for being smart and efficient (too many times), but never, ever, because I was Black.

This doesn’t mean I’ve never experienced racism, been called a nigger, or had negative fallout from being Black; that would be unrealistic and untrue. I’m just saying that compared to what my parents and grandparents had to walk through, my life thus far has been a cakewalk.

My mother grew up in the deep South (Arkansas and Tennessee), suffered under Jim Crow, and had lots of racist horrors perpetrated against her and those she loved. So while I could not agree with her perspective on all white people, I did understand her mistrust and hostility toward them; except at the voting booth: Mamma made sure Richard J. Daley stayed in power by voting straight Democrat every election. Heck, the way Chicago runs elections, she’s probably still voting, even though she passed in 2001. This type of disconnected political thinking exemplifies by some in my family (and other Blacks) has always befuddled me… but I digress.

Now to Video #1, which I cannot embed here, unfortunately, but here is the link: The Daily Caller: Toure-Niggerization of Obama.

The video comes from MSNBC’s “The Cycle,”, which should tell you all you need to know right there. Apparently the co-host Touré  said that Governor Mitt Romney was using racial code against President Obama.

How Touré and his ilk come to these perspectives mystifies me. These Gen X and Gen Y Blacks who grew up with more privilege than my mother could have ever imagined, who didn’t have to use the back door or sit in the back of the bus, yet somehow they look for, and find racism under every rock.

Here is my theory: we have become so far removed from REAL racism, that we feel the need to dig it up as the excuse for all ills against Blacks in general, and this so-called Black President, in particular. It makes no difference that he is doing an abysmal job (unemployment above 8 percent for three years, 1.5 percent GDP growth), and that he seems to care less about the rule of law or actually working within the bounds of his office, using executive privilege like “get-out-of-jail-free” cards.

Yet, this meme is being plugged among the mainstream media, and among Black communities. Setting up the President as some new Black martyr, to cover up and excuse what is simply fecklessness, lies, and overreach.

Which leads to Video #2, another MSNBC laughfest, which has Ron Reagan (son of the late President Ronald Reagan and now a liberal commentator), saying he is “astounded” at the level of disrespect from Republicans toward President Obama. Why? It must be because he’s Black!

I snagged the video off a relative’s Facebook page where said relative ranted (and used scripture) that we need to respect the office of the President, and that this treatment of President Obama is obviously racist. I rebutted this view in the comments, then left the page. This is also a discussion for another day.

It continues to amaze me that when it is mentioned that our economic situation is dire, and the two wars we are in continue  to drag on and on, that Blacks and others always want to blame George W. Bush. But when it comes to the maligning and disrespect of the office of the President, President Bush is conveniently forgotten.

One of my nephews expressed outrage when Representative Joe Walsh famously yelled, “You Lie!” during President Obama’s 2009 State of the Union. My nephew immediately labeled Representative Walsh as a racist. When I mentioned in the comments that worse things were said and done to President George W. Bush, my other nephew commented, “Well, he was an idiot!”, as if that excused what was done toward President Bush while he held that same office.

Appropriately named “Bush Derangement Syndrome (BDS)” by Charles Krauthammer, BDS started manifesting sometime before the 2004 elections, and became a full-blown epidemic once President Bush’s reelection was secured. Terms like “BushMcHitler”, T-shirts that read: “BuckFush”, “Kill Bush”, and assassination artwork and films all targeted our 43rd President. It was all Bush-bashing, all the time, and rarely did I hear any protest about “respect” for the office of the President, even if we disagreed with his policies. Crickets, from the Left and in many cases on the Right–no one was clean.

Michelle Malkin recently reminded us of exactly how hateful the climate was, and how conveniently Dems and Leftists forget this, now that they are trying to protect their pet President. How Quickly They Forget.

Dems and Leftists also acquire convenient amnesia about President Obama having a fully Democrat House and Senate at his disposal for the first two years of his presidency. Despite his promise of a  “laser-like focus” on jobs, he decided to push through a bloated stimulus, where Solyndra, SunPower and foreign companies got much of the money, and to work at instituting Obamacare, which is already costing us more than it’s actually giving back.

If President Obama was any color other than Black, we’d be calling for his impeachment and doing all we could to get someone else elected. But not so. Any criticism or obstruction to this President is because Republicans, the Tea Party, and anyone who disagrees with his policies are simply racists.

Which leads me to the Video #3. I found this gem via HotAir. Ms. Kira Davis‘ “Open Letter to Toure of MSNBC” says it much more succinctly and articulately than I ever could. This young, Black, conservative woman remained respectful, while speaking truth to power.

Ms. Davis opens up a greater argument: all this irresponsible, and dare I say, illegitimate bandying around of these terms cheapens and waters down what was truly reprehensible and racist in our past, and any acts of present-day racism that still exist. This nonsense needs to stop, and it needs to first stop with the people who were (and still are) affected by it.

I’ve said it before, and I say it again: This is not a fulfillment of Dr. King’s dream, but a perpetuation of a fraud.

Wake up, my people.





In My Orbit…

6 06 2012

Digital Image courtesy of Danilo Rizzuti / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

The political junkie in me is totally strung out today–too much news to discuss, so I’m hitting the larger themes.

Winners and Losers

I am not hiding the fact that I am thrilled, thrilled! at the victory of Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker over the Union-backed recall effort to oust him from office. I would feel this way for any leader of principle who merely sought to deliver what he had promised to his constituents upon winning the election, then suffered a temper-tantrum from the Union strongholds, who were merely being asked to sacrifice like the rest of the state, but chose to instead mount a campaign to oust him. Well, the Unions lost spectacularly, and spent a lot of money doing so.

Both sides of the aisle are spinning it for their advantage, and the Left in particular is crying foul, “democracy died“, and blaming outside money and the 7-1 overspending of the Republican and Tea Party machines. I thought the Tea Party was dead?–psyched your mind!

It is interesting that those same liberals and leftists are not decrying the SuperPACs campaigning and collecting money for the Obama 2012 re-election or the deep pockets that President Obama is courting to contribute to his re-election coffers… but I digress.

For this transplanted Midwesterner from the freakishly blue state of Illinois to an even scarier blue state of California (both union strangleholds), this is just a huge coup. Signs of sanity are even evidencing themselves in Cali’s local elections: in a landslide vote, both San Jose and San Diego citizens approved ballot measures to cut pensions for city workers–so you know the dam is breaking. Now if it will only burst forth and wash Los Angeles in its reformist wake. I continue to hold out hope.

But back to Walker: that a leader says what he means, means what he says, and actually follows through with action is a rare thing to behold. But the greater fact that other people of principle rewarded Walker’s consistency, courage and stick-to-itedness by keeping him in office says volumes. And he won by a larger margin than he did in 2010! That’s something you aren’t hearing from the mainstream media outlets. Jonathan S. Tobin said it best: Courage Rewarded. Give it a read.

The Weekly Standard echoes this as well, but places the victory squarely where it belongs:

“Walker turned a $3.6 billion deficit into a $154 million surplus. Unemployment is down. So are property taxes. Businesses, even with uncertainty about the U.S. economy, are optimistic about the direction of the state. Even with the political divisions, it’s hard to imagine a more successful 16 months as governor.

“Results matter. And that, more than anything else, explains why Scott Walker won.”

No matter what pundits have to say, it will have a resounding effect on the November elections and the political process at large. My sweet home Chicago Tribune attests to this in an editorial today:

“On Tuesday, a majority of the voters who for a year and a half have spent the most time weighing those sorts of numbers reaffirmed that they think their Wisconsin governments had grown too elephantine, too expensive.

“There’s another elephant in the room: Act 10 ended the compulsory collection of union dues by government employers. It turns out that when workers have a free choice of whether to keep paying, many decide that it isn’t worth the money. We were surprised last week by a Wall Street Journal report that Wisconsin membership in the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees plummeted from 62,818 in March 2011 to 28,745 in February 2012. At the American Federation of Teachers, 6,000 of 17,000 Wisconsin members have walked away.

“Drop-offs that stark have implications not only for the unions, but also for politicians who rely on union donations to fund their campaigns.” (emphasis mine)

Unions will be less of a piggy bank for political causes, because the very workers who fund their efforts will now have more of a voice on how their dues are used; and in some cases, will be able to choose to not retain union membership. That’s a big deal.

He’s Baaack!

Because certain Angeleans continue to be useful idiots, the city will once again be subjected to a near traffic shutdown with yet another fundraising visit from our President. I continue to be thankful that I no longer work anywhere near the West side. Let the NIMBYs in Bev Hills and Brentwood have what they deserve!

I just love these Hitler videos. Speaks to both of my musings quite nicely.

 





Black Heritage Month: Week 4–Black Progress

1 03 2012

So leap day came and went, and Black Heritage month has officially ended. But I wanted to conclude my series with some thoughts on Black Progress.

The word “Progress” among Blacks is a relative term, and its parameters change depending on who you talk to. If you talk to a black young man in the inner city, he would probably say that Blacks have made little progress, and racist systems still hold our people back. Talk to a different black young man from a middle class neighborhood, who has greater access and opportunities, and he might see it differently. I know I had a much different take on Black progress growing up in a home that (initially) was in a middle class neighborhood, than my older brothers and sisters who spent much of their formative years in an apartment in the Cabrini-Green housing project.

Black Progress is a lens which, dependent upon the filter, projects a different image.

Which brings me to a pivotal gauge of Black Progress: How Blacks are portrayed on screen.

The Helpa movie about Black maids in the 1960s telling their stories to a white writer, was the talk of 2011. But despite its critical and box-office success, the movie was not received with open arms by everyone: liberal film critics dismissed the movie as racist, and certain aspects of the Black community were also up in arms.

The consensus among the detractors was that this was simply a rehashing of old stereotypes of “maids and mammies”, in a pastiche, cookie-cutter way. The fact that it was adapted from a book by white author Kathryn Stockett, who modeled her fictional character on the Black maid who raised her, didn’t help matters either.

The Association of Black Women Historians went as far as penning “An Open Statement to Fans of The Help“, decrying the stereotypes, phony dialects, and the glossing over of serious issues suffered by Black domestics like sexual harassment and physical abuse. Jessica Cumberbatch Anderson of the Huffington Post even felt the need to counter what she felt was a one-dimensional portrayal of Black women during the time period in which The Help is based, penning an article and slideshow “Black Female Trailblazers in the time of ‘The Help’“.

This last piece is informative, and nicely written; but it summarily discounts the acts of defiance, and the trail forged by the maids portrayed in The Help. What they did and chose to do was as much a part of the struggle for freedom as a Rosa Parks or a Fannie Lou Hamer.

The New Republic (of all places) actually called critics on the carpet for dismissing the movie as racist, and talked about the subtle nuances, rich characters,  and good storytelling that gets missed when projects such as this are rejected on their face. “‘The Help’ isn’t Racist. It’s Critics Are.”

The movie continued to stay in the forefront of conversation, particularly since it received several nominations. Viola Davis, played the central character “Abileen”, and Octavia Spencer played the supporting role of “Minny”. Both were nominated for Best Actress and Supporting Actress nods, and Octavia Spencer won the prize.

I have loved Viola Davis‘s work for many years; so the fact that she was nominated for an Academy Award came as no surprise. I consider Viola to be in a league of her own, creating seminal work and characters that are multi-layered, diverse, and amazingly credible.

Granted she was amongst her strongest peers, particularly Meryl Streep, who is also in a league of her own, and known for doing transformational work to achieve a character. Seventeen nominations and three wins says volumes.

But I was still greatly disappointed that Viola did not take home the Best Actress prize. It was, as they say, Meryl’s year. Among certain black–and white–peers, was the sense that despite The Help’s amazing performances, and focused reflection on an aspect of history that gets little regard or mention any more, Viola’s performance was possibly passed over by the Academy simply because the character was a “stereotypical maid.”

Back in August of 2011, Octavia Spencer spoke with Chris Witherspoon of The Grio about her role in the movieYou can watch the video (linked below), but one quote from her interview that stood out was when Chris Witherspoon asked her how she felt about playing a “stereotypical maid”:

“What is a stereotype of a maid? I’d like to know. Is it because she’s wearing a gray uniform serving people? Our moms do that every day, they just don’t wear a uniform […]

“We all serve as women: we serve our husbands, we serve our children, we serve each other in a sisterhood. So, I get really pissed off because I think that it’s discounting a person’s value.

“Do you know the some of the doctors and lawyers that we somehow aspire to be on screen are probably, perhaps, the most one-dimensional characters you ever get to play? These women–men and women–whether they’re butlers or gardeners or whomever; just because it’s not your station in life, doesn’t mean that you get the right to discount it. So, if it’s a maid, and if it’s a maid with dimension, if it’s a person with redeeming qualities, hell yeah I want to play her, and I don’t have a problem playing a maid.”

Octavia Spencer defends her role in The Help

In 1939, Hattie McDaniel was the first Black, and first woman to win a Best Supporting Actress Oscar for her portrayal of the maid “Mammy” in Gone with the Wind. As Blacks moved into more empowerment in the 60s and 70s, Hattie’s performances were criticized, demeaned, and not considered an image that reflected Black Progress. But Hattie herself said, “I’d rather play a maid than be one.”

The next time the Academy saw fit to convey this honor on a Black person was in 1963, when Sidney Poitier won the Best Actor statuette for his portrayal of an itinerant handyman in Lilies of the Field. Fast-forward to 1982, 19 years later, when Louis Gossett, Jr. won Best Supporting Actor for his turn as “Sergeant Emil Foley”, a role originally written for a white actor. Seven years later, in 1989, Denzel Washington won Best Supporting Actor for his role in Gloryabout the first all-Black regiment during the Civil War.

Since 1989, nominations and actual wins became more consistent. Whoopi Goldberg won Best Supporting Actress in 1990 for her portrayal of the medium “Oda Mae Brown” in Ghost. In 1996, Cuba Gooding, Jr. won Best Supporting for “Rod Tidwell” a failed football player who gets a resurrected career in Jerry Maguire.

Two-Thousand One was a high water mark: Denzel followed in Poitier’s footsteps, winning Best Actor for Training Day. Denzel played against type, taking on the role of a corrupt L.A. Police detective “Alonzo Harris”. That year was a two-fer, as Halle Berry took home the Best Actress prize for her performance of the brokenhearted widow “Leticia” in Monster’s Ball.  A mere three years later, Morgan Freeman won for his role as “Eddie ‘Scrap Iron’ Dupree” in Million Dollar Baby.  Then 2005, gave Jamie Foxx the Best Actor prize for Ray, as he powerfully enveloped the legendary Ray Charles. And the year 2006 saw Jennifer Hudson take home Best Supporting Actress for her turn as the talented, proud, and determined “Effie” in Dreamgirls.

Forest Whitaker won Best Actor in 2008 for The Last King of Scotland, channeling the crazed dictator Idi Amin.  Mo’Nique won Best Supporting Actress in 2009 for her frightening role of “Mary”, the abusive mother in Precious, and in 2011 Octavia Spencer picked up the same prize for her turn as “Minny”.

And this is only a list of Academy Awards for movie portrayals. There are countless television movies and series, from Roots to House of Payne that reflect Black images that have been lauded, applauded, and related to by audiences, as well as the award purveyors.

Among those Academy Award winners, we have a gamut of portrayals: dirty cop, military officer, washed-up football star, crazed world leader, medium, widow, boxing trainer, abusive mother, and maid. Why is one any greater than the other? They ALL represent the wealth of the Black experience–the wealth of life experiences of any race or color. Not to mention, we now have a substantial group of Black talent who can pick and choose not only the roles they wish to play, but make the movies they wish to see, and create the images they feel worthy to be portrayed on screen. Anyone heard of Spike Lee? John Singleton? Julie Dash? F. Gary Gray? And that’s just the short list.

As I said last week, framing the conversation and achievement within certain parameters does a disservice to those who fought, blazed trails, and worked just as hard to change the face of America in their corner of the world. They were as much a part of that Civil Rights Movement that transformed the nation, and they deserve rightful recognition.

Picking and choosing what Black images are an acceptable portrayal does the same thing as hunting for a “national black leader”. Freedom and equality is about looking at the full tapestry of the struggles and experiences, and these have no racial designation.

In discussing the role of “Abileen” in an interview with Urban Daily, Viola Davis challenged:

“I just feel like the most revolutionary thing that you could do is to humanize the Black woman. What I mean by that is there is no way, I am not going to believe this, that if Jodie Foster, or Meryl Streep, or any number of fabulous caucasian actresses were sitting in front of you–Emma Stone–is that you would–or anyone would ask them why they did a role if there was something about that character that they didn’t feel was politically correct. They would just look at the role. They would look at the complexities of it […]

I don’t want to play an image. I think the most revolutionary thing for me as an actress is just play the role. Whatever it is. However ugly it is, however politically incorrect it is. If I can do that for me, then I am sitting in the same seat as a Jodie Foster, or a Meryl Streep, or an Annette Benning.”

Hattie McDaniel did not have these options in 1939. In 2012, Viola Davis sets the tone and makes the choices. Is this not representative of Black Progress?

We would do well to clean the lens and adjust our filters.