Beyonce Makes Grammy History with “Black Parade”

Featured

Photo courtesy

By Terrance Turner

March 14, 2021

BREAKING NEWS: Beyonce is now the most decorated artist in Grammy history.

Just minutes ago, Beyonce won the Grammy for Best R&B Performance for her song “Black Parade”, which she co-wrote. With this win, she now has 28 Grammy Awards — more than any other artist, male or female. Grammy host Trevor Noah emphasized this historic moment after Beyonce’s name was called.

As the audience applauded her historic achievement, Beyonce sat with her hands over her (masked) mouth, stunned by the honor. Upon reaching the podium, she called the moment overwhelming. “This is so overwhelming,” she said. “I’ve been working my whole life, since I was nine years old. I just can’t believe this. This is such a magical night. Thank you,” she said.

But she also reflected on why she wrote the song. “As an artist, I believe our job is to reflect the times,” Beyonce said, noting that these times are especially difficult for so many. “I wanted to uplift, encourage, and celebrate all of the beautiful Black queens and kings that continue to inspire me and inspire the whole world.” She noted, “I know my daughter is watching tonight — my two daughters and a son…My daughter won her first Grammy tonight,” she beamed. (The award was for her appearance in Beyonce’s “Brown Skin Girl” video.) Beyonce thanked her children, her fans, and her husband (“my ROCK”) in her brief remarks.

“Black Parade” addresses Black and African culture, reparations, the COVID-19 pandemic, and police brutality (the latter two issues disproportionately impact Black people). “Ankh charm on gold chains, with my Oshun energy,” Beyonce sings, “or the Dashiki print”. (According to an analysis in Elle, ‘Ankh’ is a symbol deriving from Ancient Egypt, and ‘Oshun’ is the Nigerian Yoruba goddess of femininity, love, sensuality and fertility.)

According to the website for Black-owned clothing line D’Iyanu, the dashiki originated in West Africa and dates back as far as the 12th-13th century. It came into fashion in the United States during the 1960s as a symbol of Afrocentrism and Black pride. The lyrics also reference the universally recognized “Black Power” salute, which also become a Black pride symbol in the 1960s and 1970s. “Raise your fist in the air, show Black love,” Beyonce says.

The lyrics also reference civil rights and the protests that continue across this country in support of Black lives. “Trust me, they gon’ need an army/Rubber bullets bouncin’ off me/
Made a picket sign off your picket fence/Take it as a warning,” she continues. “Stroll line to the barbeque/Put us any damn where, we gon’ make it look cute/Pandemic fly on the runway, in my hazmat/Children runnin’ through the house and my art, all black.”

“Need another march, lemme call Tamika (Woo). Need peace and reparation for my people,” Beyoncé continues. “Tamika” is a reference to Tamika Mallory, a Black female activist who helped organize the 2017 Women’s March in Washington, D.C. (She also served as co-president of the 2019 Women’s March, according to the New York Times.) Reparations for slavery have been a long-held but never-fulfilled request from many Black activists.

“We got rhythm/We got pride/We birth kings/We birth tribes,” Beyonce sings. “Motherland, motherlands, drip on me/I can’t forget my history is herstory, yeah…Here I come on my throne, sittin’ high/Follow my parade.”

“Black Parade” was released on the historic Black holiday of Juneteenth, which originated in Beyoncé’s home state of Texas. The holiday celebrates the emancipation of slaves in 1865, as the Civil War was ending. On June 19, 1865, slaves in Texas learned that they were free, more than two years after President Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation. The song arrived just hours after Beyoncé unveiled a new “Black Parade” initiative on her website.

Displayed on the website is a dizzying, dazzling directory of Black-owned businesses. The categories encompass art and design, fashion and lifestyle, bars and restaurants. The song “Black Parade” benefits her foundation BeyGOOD’s Black Business Impact Fund, administered by the National Urban League, to support Black-owned small businesses in need. And it is this song, dedicated to her people, that helped Beyonce make Grammy history.

“The United States vs. Billie Holiday” Sheds Light on a Little-Known Piece of Black History

By Terrance Turner

Feb. 28, 2021

Tonight, singer Andra Day won the Golden Globe for Best Actress in a Drama for her portrayal of jazz singer Billie Holiday in “The United States vs. Billie Holiday”. The Hulu film, directed by Lee Daniels, dramatizes how Holiday was hounded by the Federal Bureau of Narcotics for her landmark song “Strange Fruit”.

The song, based on a poem by writer Abel Meeropol, depicts the widespread practice of lynching; the hanging of Black people was a common practice in the American South between the 1860s and 1960s. It was an unflinching description of the brutality that Black people often experienced: “The poem was inspired by a photograph of the lynching of two young black men in Indiana,” writes Guardian journalist Edwin Moore. “Copies of such photographs were very popular in the American South, and the images can be easily found on the web […] In many cases, the hanged victims are surrounded by smiling white people waving at the camera. They sometimes have their children with them. The horrible truth is that in parts of the South in the early 20th century, the hanging of black people in public was a family occasion; lynching was part of the social fabric.” It was that practice outlined in the lyrics of the song:

Southern trees bear strange fruit
Blood on the leaves and blood at the root
Black body swinging in the southern breeze
Strange fruit hanging from the poplar trees.

Meeropol wrote the poem in 1937, around the same time that a Senate bill meant to end lynching in the U.S. failed to pass. Meeropol brought the poem to Cafe Society, a club in New York City’s Greenwich Village. It had already been set to music, but it was Holiday’s version that would linger in the minds of listeners. Meeropol called her version “a startling, most dramatic, and effective interpretation.” Daniels depicts Day singing “Strange Fruit” in close-up, with lines about “a fruit for the crows to pluck / For the rain to gather, for the wind to suck / For the sun to rot, for the trees to drop / Here is a strange and bitter crop.”

The song became controversial; many club owners later refused to let her perform the song. But Holiday refused to back down. “‘Fruit’ goes a long way in telling how they mistreat Negroes down South,” she once said. The film depicts the tension between her husband James Monroe, manager Joe Glazer, and Holiday over the song. In one scene, Glazer decides to remove the song from Holiday’s setlist. “I’ve scratched it,” he tells her bluntly. Holiday protests that she should be allowed to sing the song: “It’s important to me.” Besides, “People pay good money to hear me sing it.” (Indeed, her 1939 recording of the song sold over a million copies, becoming one of her best-known songs.)

Glazer retorts that it’s written by Abel Meeropol, “a commie”. “I don’t care,” Holiday responds. She accuses both Glazer and Monroe of being friends with Harry Anslinger (the first head of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics). Anslinger decides to prosecute Holiday for the song. In a closed-door meeting with lawmakers, he insists that “this Holiday woman’s got to be stopped. She keeps singing this ‘Strange Fruit’ song, and it’s causing a lot of people to think the wrong things.”

“Why is this so important to you, Harry?” asks one man. (Anslinger might’ve responded that after the failure of Prohibition, his department was soon becoming obsolete. Instead, he uses Holiday’s drug problem (and racism) as justification: “Drugs and niggers are a contamination to our great American civilization.”

It is that basis on which the federal government begins harassing Holiday. On May 16, 1947, Holiday was arrested for possession of narcotics in her New York apartment. On May 27 she was in court. “It was called ‘The United States of America versus Billie Holiday’. And that’s just the way it felt,” she recalled. She was sentenced to 366 days in jail — one year and one day. Forced to go cold turkey in jail, she eventually lost her cabaret card, which forced her to perform in concert venues and large halls. It was one more indignity in Holiday’s existence, which was marked by sexual abuse, domestic violence, and a heroin addiction that ruined her voice and her life. She was arrested and handcuffed to her hospital bed shortly before her death from cirrhosis in 1959, aged just 44.

Tonight, Andra Day won the Golden Globe for Best Actress in a Drama for her uncanny portrayal of Holiday. The last Black woman to win in this category was Whoopi Goldberg in 1986. (She won for her wrenching performance as Celie in “The Color Purple”.)

Historic Wave of Black Actors Score Emmy Nominations

Photo via Collider.

By Terrance Turner

The Primetime Emmy Award nominations were announced today. According to Variety, 35 of the 102 acting nominees are Black — the most ever. Black actors make up 34.3% of the nominees, which is substantially higher than last year’s 19.8%. (In 2018, the percentage was 27.7%, which was a record at the time.) Frank Scherma, CEO of the Television Academy, pointed to the racial unrest sweeping America as a reason for the noticeable change in representation. “2020 isn’t just about the global health crisis. This year, we are also bearing witness to one of the greatest fights for social justice in history, and it is our duty to use this medium for change,” he said today.

Billy Porter is nominated for Outstanding Actor in a Drama Series for his work on “Pose”. Last year, Porter became the first openly gay black actor to win that award. This year, he’s nominated again, amidst a crowded field that includes actor Sterling K. Brown (for “This is Us”). Brown won in 2017, and in his acceptance speech he honored Andre Braugher — the last black actor to win that award (in 1998). Ironically, both are competing in the same category this year.

Braugher is nominated this year for best supporting comedy actor for his role as Detective Pendleton on the Fox comedy “Brooklyn Nine-Nine”. Brown is also nominated for best supporting actor in a comedy, for his portrayal of Reggie in “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel”. (Deadline reported Brown as saying that he would be happy to return as Reggie next season.)

Singer and actress Zendaya scored a best drama actress nomination for her performance as a teenager recovering from drug addiction in the HBO series “Euphoria”. She, too, is in a crowded field that includes Jennifer Aniston, Laura Linney, and Sandra Oh. (Zendaya’s father is African-American; her mother has Irish, German, English and Scottish ancestry.)

Don Cheadle scored an Emmy nod for best actor in a comedy for the Wall Street-themed Showtime series “Black Monday”. Anthony Anderson and Tracee Ellis Ross are nominated for best comedy actor and actress, respectively, for “Black-ish”. Ross is nominated alongside actress and writer Issa Rae, nominated for her work on “Insecure”. Her co-star Yvonne Orji, who plays Issa’s (ex?)-best friend Molly, is also nominated for best supporting comedy actress.

It was the supporting and limited/guest actor categories, in fact, where black actors shined. Black and Italian actor Giancarlo Esposito scored three nominations, including best guest actor in a drama for “The Mandalorian”. He is also nominated twice for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series — for playing the kingpin Gus Fring. (He played the role in AMC’s “Better Call Saul” and its legendary predecessor “Breaking Bad”.)

In the category of best actress in a limited series, three Black actresses are nominated: Regina King, (“Watchmen”), Octavia Spencer, (“Self Made”) and Kerry Washington (“Little Fires Everywhere“). Washington is cast opposite Reese Witherspoon in “Little Fires”, based on the novel by Celeste Ng. The Hulu series depicts two women grappling with class differences in Cleveland. Spencer portrays legendary Black businesswoman Madame C.J. Walker in “Self Made”. Walker built an empire of hair and beauty products to become the first self-made female millionaire. She plays a detective fighting white supremacy on “Watchmen”. King reacted to the news on Twitter:

“Watchmen” scored a stunning 26 nominations, leading the pack among all other series. (Oscar winner Lou Gossett, Jr. is up for best supporting actor in a limited series.) The HBO series is based on a graphic novel. Set in Tulsa, Oklahoma, the show depicts a town where white supremacists have threatened the police — who must wear masks to protect themselves.

But Watchmen wasn’t the only HBO show to make an impression. In fact, “Insecure” received eight nominations, including its first-ever nod for best comedy series. The half-hour series will compete with seven other nominees, including The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel and The Good Place. Remarkably, Insecure was also nominated twice for Outstanding Cinematography for a Single-Camera Series (Half-Hour). Ava Berkosky is nominated for “Lowkey Lost”; Kira Kelly is nominated for her work on “Lowkey Happy”, which Berkovsky directed.

Image
Lawrence and Issa on an art exhibit in “Lowkey Happy”, which scored an Emmy nomination for cinematography. (Photo via Twitter @InsecureHBO.)

The episode “Lowkey Happy” was written by “Insecure” actress Natasha Rothwell. (You can read my rapturous review of that episode — and of Kelly’s luminous cinematography — here.)

In an interesting twist, the former President and First Lady were also in the running for awards this season. According to The Hill, President Obama and Michelle Obama’s production company earned seven Emmy nominations this year with two acclaimed documentaries. “American Factory” and “Becoming” were both were recognized for directing.

“American Factory,” which follows the story of a factory in Ohio after it’s reopened by a Chinese billionaire, was nominated for three categories: outstanding picture editing for a nonfiction program, outstanding cinematography for a nonfiction program and outstanding directing for a documentary/nonfiction program. “Becoming”, which follows Mrs. Obama on a book tour involving her memoir, is a contender for best documentary.

Remembering Rep. John Lewis

Rep. John Lewis in the 1960s and in 2020. (Photo courtesy of New York magazine.)

By Terrance Turner

Rep. John Lewis — author, congressman, civil rights icon — died yesterday after a months-long battle with pancreatic cancer. He was 80.

“It is with inconsolable grief and enduring sadness that we announce the passing of U.S. Rep. John Lewis,” Lewis spokeswoman Brenda Jones said in a written statement early Saturday. “He was honored and respected as the conscience of the US Congress and an icon of American history, but we knew him as a loving father and brother. He was a stalwart champion in the on-going struggle to demand respect for the dignity and worth of every human being.” 

Part I

Born on Feb. 21, 1940, near Troy, Alabama, John Robert Lewis was the son of sharecroppers. He was the third of 10 children born to Eddie and Willie Mae Lewis. He lived on the family farm, which the Lewis family bought from the white man who owned it. The New York Times states that young John shared in the work picking cotton (!), peanuts, and corn. There was no plumbing, running water, or even toilet paper. (There was, however, an old Sears catalog in the outhouse.)

Young John Lewis cared for the chickens on the farm: feeding them, reading to them, even preaching to them from the Bible. His family called him “Preacher”, which is what Lewis had wanted to be. In fact, it was a preacher who would inspire him to confront the segregation that permeated life in the Jim Crow South.

As a boy, Lewis saw signs of segregation everywhere. “Whites Only” signs were on water fountains, restaurants, bus stations, and even movie theatres. Black children were escorted to the balcony, while white children were seated on the lower level. “I would come home and ask my mother my father , my grandparents, my great-grandparents: ‘Why?’ They would say: ‘Accept what is; don’t get in the way. Don’t get in trouble,'” Lewis recalled in 2013. “But one day, in 1955, at the age of 15 — in 10th grade — I heard about Rosa Parks. I heard the words of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. on the radio.”

Hearing King preaching on the radio — after the landmark ruling of Brown v. Board of Education, no less — changed everything. To young John, it felt like King “was speaking directly to me,” Lewis told the audience at the 2013 American Library Association annual conference. “I felt like he was saying: ‘John Lewis, you can do it. You can make a difference in the struggle to defend the dignity of all mankind.'”

Inspired by King’s words, a teenage John Lewis took a stand. “In 1956, at the age of 16 — with some of my brothers, sister, and my first cousin — we went down to the public library in the little town of Troy, Alabama,” he remembered. The goal was “to try to get library cards, to try to check out some books. And we were told by the librarian that the library was for whites only and not for coloreds.” Lewis didn’t go back to that library in Pike County until July 5, 1998, for a book signing of his memoir Walking with the Wind. Hundreds of black and white citizens showed up, he recalled. “And at the end of the event, they gave me my library card.”

Lewis graduated high school and began theological studies at the American Baptist Theological Seminary in Nashville, Tennessee, per the Times. While there he met several civil rights activists, including the Rev. James M. Lawson. Rev. Lawson mentored Lewis and taught him about nonviolent resistance. He taught him about Henry David Thoreau, Mahatma Gandhi, and their principles.

While at the Seminary in Nashville, Lewis applied to the all-white Troy State University in his hometown. Lewis was testing the mettle of Brown v. Board, which had desegregated public schools nationwide. But he never heard back. Lewis sent a letter to King (by then a minister in nearby Montgomery, Alabama) for help. King sent him a round-trip bus ticket, and in 1958 an 18-year-old Lewis went to meet King. When they met, King dubbed Lewis “the boy from Troy” — a moniker that would stick with John Lewis all his life.

By 1959, Lewis was participating in workshops about nonviolent demonstrating. In October, he and other young students formed the Nashville Student Movement. On Feb. 1, 1960, four black men sat at a lunch counter in Greensboro, North Carolina, and asked to be served. Twelve days later, on Feb. 13, Lewis and a number of fellow NSM members did the same. They seated themselves at lunch counters at K-Mart and Woolworths, among other places. The protests would last until early May.

Journalist David Halberstam, then a reporter for The Nashville Tennessean, later described the scene: “The protests had been conducted with exceptional dignity, and gradually one image had come to prevail — that of elegant, courteous young Black people, holding to their Gandhian principles, seeking the most elemental of rights, while being assaulted by young white hoodlums who beat them up and on occasion extinguished cigarettes on their bodies.”

In May 1960, after three months and after repeated, well-publicized sit-ins, the city’s political and business communities gave in to the pressure. Nashville became the first major Southern city to begin desegregating public facilities. By that point, the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) had formed. Activist Ella Baker organized the meeting that led to the formation, and Lewis was one of SNCC’s founding members. But John Lewis’s work was far from over.

Part II

In 1961, Lewis received his B.A. from American Baptist. That same year, the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) formed the “Freedom Rides,” aimed at desegregating interstate busing. Thirteen participants (seven whites, six blacks) rode on buses from Washington, D.C. to Jackson, Mississippi, according to the King Institute. The ride was turbulent. Lewis was beaten in South Carolina, but the worst of the abuse came in his home state. In Anniston, Alabama, members of the Ku Klux Klan were given carte blanche by local authorities to do whatever they pleased to the protesters. So they slashed the tires and firebombed the bus.

A Freedom Rider bus went up in flames in May 1961 when a fire bomb was tossed through a window near Anniston, Ala. The Freedom Riders escaped without serious injury. (AP file)
This bus on which the Freedom Riders rode was set ablaze in May 1961 in Anniston, Alabama. (Photo via the Atlanta Journal Constitution.)

In Anniston, Lewis and the Freedom Riders were trapped inside the burning bus by Klansmen who barred the door. They finally emerged, only to beaten by an angry mob. In Birmingham, Lewis and other passengers were attacked at a bus terminal — this time with baseball bats, iron pipes and bicycle chains. In Montgomery, Lewis was hit over the head with a wooden crate. That knocked him unconscious.

Nevertheless, he persisted. “If there was anything I learned on that long, bloody bus trip of 1961,” he wrote in his memoir, “it was this — that we were in for a long, bloody fight here in the American South. And I intended to stay in the middle of it.” It would indeed be a long and bloody battle, as evidenced by the 1961 photograph shown below.

John Lewis and fellow Freedom Rider James Zwerg collect themselves after surviving a bloody attack at a bus station in Montgomery, Ala. in 1961.
John Lewis and fellow Freedom Rider James Zwerg collect themselves after a bloody attack at a bus station in Montgomery, Ala. in 1961. (Everett Collection Historical / Alamy Stock Photo)

The next year, SNCC organized in Selma, Alabama, to register blacks to vote. In 1962, Lewis was elected to the board of King’s Southern Christian Leadership Conference. The organization had the goal first of ending bus segregation, then of eliminating segregation altogether.

In 1963, Lewis — now chair of SNCC — helped organize the March on Washington and was one of its keynote speakers. Lewis gave a stirring speech just before the iconic “I Have a Dream” by King. The speech was initially intended to be more militant: “We will march through the South, through the heart of Dixie, the way Sherman did,” he had written. President John F. Kennedy’s civil rights bill was “too little, too late,” he wrote, per the Times. But Dr. King and other elders worried that those passages would offend the Kennedy administration, whom they felt they could not alienate in their drive for federal civil rights action. They told him to tone down the speech.

Lewis acquiesced. But he still roused the crowd. According to the AJC, Lewis was interrupted by applause 14 times. “By the force of our demands, our determination and our numbers,” he said, “we shall splinter the segregated South into a thousand pieces and put them together in the image of God and democracy. We must say: ‘Wake up, America. Wake up!’” Lewis said. “We cannot be patient; we do not want our freedom gradually. We want to be free now […] we cannot stop, and we will not and cannot be patient.”

Within months of that iconic day (on which some 200,000 gathered at the Lincoln Memorial), Lewis was back at work. In 1964, “Freedom Summer” began. Lewis and the SCLC began coordinating voter registration drives in Mississippi. The next year would change everything.

On March 7, 1965, John Lewis and Rev. Hosea Williams led a crowd of about 600 across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama. The goal was to bring attention to Jimmie Lee Jackson, who had been killed weeks earlier by a state trooper after trying to protect his mother during a voter registration march. But they didn’t get far. Police blocked their exit from the bridge and ordered them to disperse. “Major, please give us a moment to pray,” Williams asked. The police agreed — for about 90 seconds.

“Troopers advance!” the major then shouted.

“We had no chance to turn and retreat,” Lewis wrote in his autobiography. “I remember how vivid the sounds were as the troopers rushed toward us — the clunk of the troopers’ heavy boots, the whoops of rebel yells from the white onlookers, the clip-clop of horses’ hooves hitting the hard asphalt of the highway, the voice of a woman shouting, ‘Get ‘em!’”

The police (who had recruited all white men over 21) came forward with baseball bats, shotguns, tear gas, nightsticks, and rubber tubing wrapped in barbed wire. Demonstrators were tear gassed and clubbed. According to the New York Times, some officers had cattle prods. ABC interrupted a showing of the 1961 film “Judgement at Nuremberg” with a special report depicting the violence. 17 people had to be taken to the hospital as a result of their injuries; some were beaten unconscious. Lewis was among those taken to a Selma hospital. One police officer beat Lewis with a billy club, then hit him again when he tried to get up. Lewis suffered a concussion…and a fractured skull.

Photo of what’s now known as “Bloody Sunday”: March 7, 1965. Note the billy club in the hands of the cop; note also that Lewis is holding his head. (Photo

The images shocked and horrified viewers. But they also galvanized support for the movement. Within eight days, President Lyndon B. Johnson had proposed voting rights legislation. The Voting Rights Act was signed on Aug. 6, 1965. The law gave Black Americans the right to vote, doing away with poll taxes and literacy clauses and numerous other tactics meant to stop them.

The Voting Rights Act was essentially gutted in 2013 by a controversial Supreme Court ruling. The decision by the Court struck down a crucial section of the law that required nine states (including Texas) to notify the federal government before making changes to their voting systems. Now, many observers are calling for the law’s restoration. A restoration bill has been sitting on Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s desk for over 200 days.

Pt. III

By 1966, the winds of change were in the air — and blowing against Lewis. Black people across the country were starting to reject nonviolence in favor of direct (and violent, if necessary) confrontation. Within the SNCC, agitators led by Stokely Carmichael felt Lewis was too chummy with President Johnson and Dr. King. In 1966, Lewis was replaced as SNCC chair by Carmichael, who moved to ban all white workers from the conference (according to the AJC).

He kept going. The next year, in 1967, Lewis earned a bachelor’s degree in religion and philosophy from Fisk University. Simultaneously, he worked to register voters at the Voter Education Project. That same year, according to the Times, he met librarian and teacher Lillian Miles. They were married in 1968. Mrs. Lewis died in 2012. Mr. Lewis is survived by their son, John Miles Lewis.

Lewis’ output slowed in the 1970s. But in 1977, President Jimmy Carter (a fellow Georgian) appointed Lewis to lead ACTION, a federal volunteer agency. In 1981, he launched a successful bid for Atlanta’s City Council. He served there for five years. In 1986, Lewis ran again for Congress, winning in a closely divided contest against friend Julian Bond. He would serve in the House of Representatives for over 30 years.

Lewis represented Georgia’s 5th District, which includes College Park, Decatur, and much of Atlanta. His Democratic colleagues called him “the conscience of the Congress”, and indeed, Lewis took principled stances on a number of hot-button issues. And he fought for causes he believed in.

In 1988, as a freshman senator, he and Texas Cong. Mickey Leland introduced a bill to create a national African American museum within the Smithsonian. Though there was opposition to the project in Congress, Rep. Lewis introduced the bill at every session of Congress for over a decade. The bill wasn’t signed, however, until 2003 — by then-President George W. Bush. A location was chosen in 2006, near the Washington Monument. Doors finally opened to the building in 2016.

He opposed the Persian Gulf War in 1991 – and, later, the Iraq War. He repeatedly accused President George W. Bush’s administration of lying, and was among the first to call for Bush’s impeachment, per the AJC. But he also worked with Republicans to reauthorize the Voting Rights Act.

Lewis endorsed President Barack Obama in 2008. After Obama’s swearing-in, he signed a commemorative photograph for Lewis that credited Lewis for his historic feat: “Because of you, John. Barack Obama.” The two marched together at the 50th anniversary of the Selma marches in 2015.

After 49 people were fatally shot at Pulse nightclub in Orlando in 2016, Lewis led House Democrats in a sit-in on the House floor to press the GOP to advance gun control legislation. The group huddled around Lewis and sang protest songs like “We Shall Overcome” for nearly 26 hours. Republican leaders cut the C-SPAN camera feed, dismissing the protest as a political stunt; Democrats broke House rules by streaming the events live from their cellphones.

In her remarks at Lewis’ funeral today, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi said that she thought Lewis might be suspended for the protest. But she quickly added: “It was disruptive, good trouble. It was clear to [Capitol police], if they were going to arrest John Lewis for doing that, they were going to have to arrest the entire House Democratic caucus.”

Pelosi grew emotional as she remembered Lewis. She ended her remarks with a poignant goodbye: “We always knew he worked on the side of the angels. And now, he is with them.”

Beyoncé Releases New Single “Black Parade” (UPDATED)

Image

By Terrance Turner

June 19, 2020 (updated Nov. 24)

Beyonce has released new music.

THIS IS NOT A DRILL.

Beyoncé surprised fans with a late-night release of her new single “Black Parade”. The song (a Tidal exclusive) is a celebration of Blackness and Black people. “We got rhythm, we got pride/We birth kings; we birth tribes,” Beyoncé sings. “I can’t forget my history is herstory. We black, baby. That’s the reason why they always mad.”

The song’s lyrics address African culture, reparations, the COVID-19 pandemic, and police brutality (the latter two issues disproportionately impact Black people). “Ankh charm on gold chains, with my Oshun energy,” she sings, “or the Dashiki print”. (According to an analysis in Elle, ‘Ankh’ is a symbol deriving from Ancient Egypt, and ‘Oshun’ is the Nigerian Yoruba goddess of femininity, love, sensuality and fertility.) According to the website for Black-owned clothing line D’Iyanu, the dashiki originated in West Africa and dates back as far as the 12th-13th century. It came into fashion in the United States during the 1960s as a symbol of Afrocentrism and Black pride.

“Need another march, lemme call Tamika (Woo). Need peace and reparation for my people,” Beyoncé continues. “Tamika” is likely a reference to Tamika Mallory, a Black female activist who helped organize the 2017 Women’s March in Washington, D.C. (She also served as co-president of the 2019 Women’s March, according to the New York Times.) Reparations for slavery have been a long-held but never-fulfilled request from many Black activists. The idea gained national traction this year amid mentions by Democratic candidates Elizabeth Warren and Tom Steyer, who explained his position in a Yahoo! News interview in January.

“Black Parade” was released on the historic Black holiday of Juneteenth, which originated in Beyoncé’s home state of Texas. The holiday celebrates the emancipation of slaves in 1865, as the Civil War was ending. The song arrives just hours after Beyoncé unveiled a new “Black Parade” initiative for black-owned businesses.

Happy Juneteenth,” Beyonce writes in a message on her website. “Being Black is your activism.
Black excellence is a form of protest. Black joy is your right.” The message then informs the viewer that “Black Parade” benefits her foundation BeyGOOD’s Black Business Impact Fund, administered by the National Urban League, to support Black-owned small businesses in need. The next thing we see is a dizzying, dazzling directory of Black-owned businesses.

The categories encompass art and design, fashion and lifestyle, bars and restaurants. One featured restaurant, soul food café This Is It, is located in Beyonce’s hometown, in Houston’s Third Ward. The Lemond Kitchen, which caters gourmet Southern cuisine, is also based in Houston. (Its Heights location, on 612 Archer St, now offers home delivery and pickup!)

The products include everything from candles to cayenne to colored glass; the businesses have a wide stylistic range. The Lit Bar, in Brooklyn, is an independent bookstore/wine bar; another Brooklyn business listed is Dorsey’s Art Gallery (est. 1970). In L.A., Little Kingston’s serves authentic Jamaican cuisine; in Maryland, the Spice Suite offers balsamic vinegar, garlic olive oil, white pear, pure maple syrup, Jamaican jerk rub, and other delicacies.

In Minneapolis, Metro Behavioral Health offers group/individual therapy, crisis intervention, and psychiatric support. Areas of clinical expertise include anxiety, ADHD, PTSD, and substance abuse, among other issues. Two of the doctors are bilingual, speaking in both English and Somali; one of them, Dr. Ahmed Karie, has worked with children from Laos, Somalia, Liberia, Eretria, Oromo, Ethiopia, Kenya. Another is fluent in both English and Vietnamese.

All of these businesses have their names and cover photos displayed in the directory. The “Black Parade” directory accompanies the single. The song is Beyonce’s first song since her appearance on the remix of “Savage”, with Houston rapper Megan Thee Stallion. The song hit #1 on the Billboard charts last month, and Beyonce and Megan are donating the proceeds from this song to Houston nonprofit Bread of Life. Located at 2019 Crawford St, the charity aims to end homelessness and improve the quality of life for the needy. Rudy and Juanita Rasmus founded Bread of Life in December 1992, with the serving of hot meals to homeless men and women inside St. John’s United Methodist Church.

According to its website, Bread of Life began serving one hot meal weekly that eventually led to serving 500 meals per day to the homeless in the sanctuary at St. John’s. Years later, the Bread of Life works with HIV/AIDS prevention, providing solutions to food insufficiency, housing the homeless, and disaster relief.

UPDATE: “Black Parade” has been nominated for four Grammy Awards, including the prestigious prizes of Record of the Year and Song of the Year. The record is also nominated for Best R&B Song and Best R&B Performance. Those four nominations make it the most nominated song at the Grammys, and Beyoncé leads all the artists with nine nominations.