CBS series The Crazy Ones took its reliance on celebrity guest appearances to a new low, integrating lingerie-clad Victoria’s Secret models. The hotties allowed the program to show some diversity, offsetting the predominately White cast. And the heterosexual appeal was offset by homosexual tension between Simon Roberts and Gordon Lewis.
Friday, December 06, 2013
Campaign asked, “Why are there so few female creatives?” Advertising agencies in the U.K. have a dearth of dames too? Imagine that. Then again, the trade journal managed to find a handful of White women to weigh in on the topic. Which means on the ad industry corporate totem pole, White women are only a head below White men—and waaaaay above minorities.
Thursday, December 05, 2013
Why the Dutch Love Black Pete
By Arnon Grunberg
WHEN I was growing up in Amsterdam in the 1970s, the phenomenon of Santa Claus was relatively unknown. Christmas was celebrated without Santa and mostly without gifts. St. Nicholas — Sinterklaas in Dutch — was the man with the presents.
If one had the good fortune to be Jewish, one received presents not only on Dec. 5, the eve of Sinterklaas’s name day, but also at Hanukkah. Only in recent years has Santa Claus, who comes on Dec. 25, made his rise to stardom in Holland, and today a Dutch child — or a Dutch adult for that matter — no longer has to be Jewish to cash in twice in December.
Sinterklaas arrives from Spain by steamboat in late November, travels farther on horseback, climbs onto roofs and on Dec. 5, known as “Pakjesavond,” drops presents through the chimney with the help of the Black Petes, a crew of dark-skinned helpers wearing large earrings who cavort and entertain and, as Dutch parents often tell their children, owe their blackness to chimney soot.
Black Pete and Sinterklaas also conspire to form a punitive team. In the traditional holiday songs, Sinterklaas brings gifts for good boys and girls; naughty children get a spanking with Black Pete’s bundle of twigs.
I grew up in a predominantly white neighborhood, and every November, whenever I would come across someone from Suriname — in those days, most black people in Amsterdam were from Suriname, a former Dutch colony in South America — I feared that I had run into a Black Pete in plain clothes.
Until recently, Black Pete was uncontroversial. Not because the Dutch are particularly racist, but because Sinterklaas, like the royal family, is sacred in the Netherlands, perhaps because of a dearth of other, specifically Dutch traditions. A matter, in other words, of conservatism.
Such traditions are even more important today, given the view that, in order to safeguard the Dutch national identity, homegrown culture and folklore must not be tampered with — a view expressed primarily, though not exclusively, by the extreme right wing Party for Freedom, run by Geert Wilders.
But just as the defense of traditions has grown stronger, so has the criticism that Black Pete is a racist holdover from the Netherlands’s colonial past. In January the United Nations High Commission for Human Rights sent a letter to the Dutch government stating that Black Pete perpetuated the image of people of African descent as second-class citizens and constituted a “living trace of past slavery.”
The Dutch government responded by saying that it regarded the Sinterklaas tradition as a children’s celebration, that it was aware of the differences of opinion concerning Black Pete, but that it was highly committed to combating discrimination in all forms.
Both letters received publicity only in October of this year, when the public debate over Black Pete resurfaced.
Emotions were running so high that a popular singer, Anouk, who is white and had called for the abolition of Black Pete, received numerous insults and threats via social media. A plan for a Sinterklaas parade with a proposed compromise, Green Petes, had to be canceled after threats were made against its planners.
In The Hague, the seat of government, a demonstration was organized for the preservation of Black Pete, while a pro-Black Pete Facebook page received two million likes almost immediately. Even the nation’s highest-circulation newspaper, De Telegraaf, agreed that the United Nations letter constituted interference in the Netherlands’s domestic affairs.
In a debate in Parliament, Mr. Wilders’s party asked the minister of education, culture and science whether she shared the view held by some that “Dutch traditions” should be made subordinate to “multicultural drivel.” Not to be outflanked, both Prime Minister Mark Rutte and the mayor of Amsterdam recently spoke up in defense of Black Pete, albeit with reservations. Sinterklaas, Mr. Rutte said, would not be Sinterklaas without Black Pete.
Of course, there were Dutch people who saw things differently, and there were many with no opinion either way. Yet the general tenor among the Dutch public was that “they” should keep their mitts off “our tradition,” an opinion you can hear in any number of variations on any street corner. By “them” people mean the United Nations and “unnatural” Dutch citizens, by both birth and naturalization, who want to put an end to this admittedly dubious tradition.
The Black Pete debate underscores how deep within the Netherlands’s prosperous and safe society lies the fear of losing identity, undoubtedly fueled by globalization, migration and the notion that the European Union is gradually doing away with the European nation state.
During the triumphal entry of St. Nicholas into the Netherlands this year, a national happening whereby a sort of street theater is performed on the children’s behalf, the Black Petes were in attendance once again, albeit this time with less ostentatious golden earrings. For security’s sake, the saint himself was accompanied by armed Petes in bulletproof vests.
The truly disturbing thing is the aggression conjured up by this public debate, the thinly disguised xenophobia that roiled to the surface when attempts were made to make Black Pete less black. A civilized person, after all, could say: “Personally, I don’t have much of a problem with Black Pete, but if others do, well, then, why don’t we make him Green Pete or Blue Pete?”
But no. To my utter amazement, at least two million Dutch people have taken the stance: “Black Pete, c’est moi.”
Which once again goes to prove that national identity often boils down to distasteful folklore.
Arnon Grunberg is the author of the novels “The Jewish Messiah” and “Tirza.” This essay was translated by Sam Garrett from the Dutch.
Wednesday, December 04, 2013
Tuesday, December 03, 2013
Words of Love, Pain, Protest and Motown
By Dwight Garner
Zora Neale Hurston (1891-1960) was probably the first great African-American food writer. She regularly hauled her appetites into her prose.
When you’re too old for sex, Hurston wrote, there is “great comfort in good dinners.” She compared trying to live without friends to “milking a bear to get cream for your morning coffee.” She declared: “I do not weep at the world — I am too busy sharpening my oyster knife.” Perhaps most famously, she said: “I have been in Sorrow’s kitchen and licked out all the pots.”
Hurston was eloquent about almost everything, and an observation of hers, from her 1928 essay “How It Feels to Be Colored Me,” strikes a chord that lingers over Bartlett’s Familiar Black Quotations, a necessary and preternaturally lively new reference book.
That observation — it appears on Page 179 — is this: “Sometimes, I feel discriminated against, but it does not make me angry. It merely astonishes me. How can any deny themselves the pleasure of my company?”
Bartlett’s Familiar Quotations, the canonical Western reference book that first appeared in 1855, mostly denied itself the pleasure of black writers’ company until its 14th edition, which appeared in 1968. That was the year that Emily Morrison Beck, its new editor, diligently remade the book, adding such figures as Frederick Douglass, Harriet Tubman, Derek Walcott and Ralph Ellison. It had been, to borrow Sam Cooke’s words, a long time coming.
The need for a book like Bartlett’s Familiar Black Quotations might not be immediately apparent. For one thing, as the critic and scholar Henry Louis Gates Jr. points out in his foreword to this volume, collections of black quotations are nothing new: The first dates to 1898.
For another, we are swimming in books of quotations: legal quotations, sports quotations, movie quotations, squishy quotations for the chicken soup’d soul, probably even stumpy quotations for the mindful lumberjack. James Gleick once surveyed the shelves of these books for The New York Times Book Review and commented, “To compare them is to stroll through a glorious jungle of incestuous mutual plagiarism.”
Bartlett’s Familiar Black Quotations steamrolls any objections. It is not only the most comprehensive book of quotations from black thinkers over some 5,000 years of recorded history, but it also possesses something no other book of quotations quite does: a potent and sweeping narrative arc. It is possible to consume this book avidly from end to end.
The first quotations here are from ancient Egyptian sources, like “The Song of the Harper,” from roughly 2650 B.C. (“Remember: It is not given to man to take his goods with him. No one goes away and then comes back.”) Among the last is one from Kanye West at the time of Hurricane Katrina: “George Bush doesn’t care about black people.”
In between are the words of politicians, poets, songwriters, slaves, athletes, novelists and many others. This book’s editor, Retha Powers, has gone out of her way to scour obscure sources: There are quotations from letters written to slave masters, from oral histories, from notes found in houses after slave rebellions, from newspaper editorials.
The former slave, orator and statesman Frederick Douglass is an early commanding presence here. “The destiny of the colored American,” he said in 1862, “is the destiny of America.” As she moves forward, Ms. Powers blends calls for nonviolence with the opposite, to intense effect.
This book does have its repetitious patches. So many important black political figures, like so many white ones, lived estimable lives but rarely uttered memorable things. The collected wisdom of Thurgood Marshall, John Hope Franklin, Desmond Tutu, Barbara Jordan, Kofi Annan, Condoleezza Rice and Cory Booker, to name but a few, is hard-earned and uplifting, but does not exactly leap from the page.
Shirley Chisholm is among the exceptions to this rule. Her 1967 campaign slogan is reprinted here: “Unbought and Unbossed.” So is her response to the question, posed in 1969, “What do you Negroes want now?” She began: “My God, what do we want? What does any human being want?”
You begin to scan Bartlett’s Familiar Black Quotations for stray bits of wit and probity, and you are seldom disappointed for long. Here is the actress Hattie McDaniel: “Why should I complain about making $7,000 a week playing a maid? If I didn’t, I’d be making $7 a week actually being one!”
Here’s Sammy Davis Jr.: “Being a star has made it possible for me to get insulted in places where the average Negro could never hope to go and get insulted.” In the introduction to his 1964 memoir, “Nigger,” the incomparable Dick Gregory wrote: “Dear Momma — Wherever you are, if you ever hear the word ‘nigger’ again, remember they are advertising my book.”
Among the more infamous inclusions here: “Bitch set me up” (Marion Barry Jr.); “If I Did It” (O. J. Simpson’s book title); and “There can be no doubt that Saddam Hussein has biological weapons” (Colin L. Powell).
Bartlett’s Familiar Black Quotations is worth the price of admission for the song lyrics it collects alone. We are reminded that Otis Blackwell wrote the Elvis hits “Don’t Be Cruel,” “Fever,” “All Shook Up” and “Return to Sender,” as well as the Jerry Lee Lewis hit “Great Balls of Fire.”
To give a sense of the rest of the lyrics here, forgive me if I omit composers (space is tight), and let a few snippets stream in your mind:
“Aunt Dinah has blowed de horn”; “Nobody knows you when you’re down and out”; “Oh, C. C. Rider, a see what you done done”; “There’ll be peace in the valley for me someday”; “Is you is or is you ain’t my baby?”; “God bless the child that’s got his own”; “I know a change is gonna come”; “It make me wanna holler”; “Nowhere to run to, baby”; “Well, we’re movin’ on up, to the East Side”; “I shot the sheriff”; “Many rivers to cross.”
By the end, we are up to Tupac Shakur, Jay-Z and 50 Cent. Also P. Diddy, who gave us “It’s all about the Benjamins, Baby.” (Cuba Gooding Jr. crowing, “Show me the money!” isn’t here, the editor explains, because that line was written by the film director Cameron Crowe.)
I can quibble with Bartlett’s Familiar Black Quotations. Stanley Crouch, Anatole Broyard and the cookbook writer Vertamae Grosvenor (to name just three writers whose work happens to be fresh in my mind) have said more interesting things than they are given credit for here. I wish brief details about each speaker or writer were given before each new set of quotations.
This highest praise I can give this book, however, is that it lives up to something the orator Timothy Thomas Fortune said in 1884. You can find it here on Page 131: “The truth shall be told, though it kill.”
Monday, December 02, 2013
Archie Comics co-CEO accused of gender discrimination by male employees
Nancy Silberkleit is accused by her male employees of gender discrimination such as referring to them as ‘penis’ instead of by name, but Silberkleit contends that the case should be tossed out because white males are not ‘a protected class’.
By Dareh Gregorian / NEW YORK DAILY NEWS
The co-CEO of Archie Comics’ says she couldn’t have discriminated against her underlings — because they’re white men.
In papers filed in Westchester Supreme Court, Nancy Silberkleit’s lawyer says a gender discrimination lawsuit filed against her earlier this year by a group of Archie Comics employees should be tossed in part because white guys aren’t members of “a protected class.”
The embattled co-CEO’s filing also mocked the five employees’ claim that she’d used her “gender as a weapon” by yelling “Penis! Penis! Penis!” during a business meeting.
“Plaintiffs fail to allege that any such comments were directed at any of the plaintiffs in particular, or they could cause extreme emotional distress even if they had been,” her court filings say.
The lawyers for the plaintiffs, who include Archie president Mike Pellerito and editor-in-chief Victor Gorelick, countered that Silberkleit used the anatomical term many, many times.
“[T]he word ‘penis’ became somewhat of a campaign slogan and her preferred method of referring to employees in lieu of their names,” their new filing says.
Silberkleit told the Daily News on Friday that she’s baffled by the bevy of allegations against her, including claims she’s “stalked” employees and made them feel “unsafe.”
“It’s cruel and mean and inaccurate,” the former art teacher said.
“I do not act the way it’s been reported,” she said, calling the accusations “extremely damaging to myself and Archie Comics.”
And Silberkleit’s lawyer, Thomas Brown, said the employees’ allegations don’t even rise to the level of gender discrimination. “It’s absurd,” he said.
Silberkleit, 59, took over as co-CEO of the iconic comic book company — home of Archie, Jughead, and Sabrina the Teenage Witch — after her husband’s death in 2008.
She appreciated the opportunity.
“Archie Comics to me stands for very high values that are global values,” including “community, support and laughter,” she said.
But her fellow CEO, Jonathan Goldwater, filed suit seeking her ouster her in 2011, charging she was unstable and threatening to run the company into the ground.
That case settled last year, with an agreement that Silberkleit would have limited interactions with the employees, and that a go-between would represent her interests with the company.
The dispute erupted again earlier this year, when the go-between Silberkleit selected, Samuel Levitin, filed papers in Westchester Surrogate’s Court charging that she’d become unhinged — and even wanted to tart up beloved characters Betty and Veronica. He said she needed to be removed altogether.
Silberkleit responded with claims Levitin had sexually harassed her — and demanded that he get the boot. That case is still pending.
Then in October came the $32.5 million suit by the Archie employees. They’re seeking a court order keeping her two miles away from the office, and say her “deliberate and disturbed campaign of outrageous conduct” has them so freaked out an armed guard’s been posted in the office.
Silberkleit, they say, invited Hell’s Angels to Archie’s Mamaroneck offices in an apparent effort to “intimidate” them, and has repeatedly inquired about the whereabouts of the handgun and 750 rounds of ammo her husband kept at the office. She’s also stalked the employees and their families, the suit says.
Silberkleit called the accusations “untrue and twisted.”
“I have not had any interactions with these people,” she said. “It’s all very puzzling. I don’t know what’s going on in their heads.”
She added that she’s rarely even in the office.
“I go around the world and promote Archie Comics. That’s what I do,” she said. She said she still think the spirit of Riverdale will win out in the end.
“I’m hoping it will all get straightened out,” she said. Asked if she’s considered walking away from the company, which was co-founded by her late husband Michael Silberkleit’s dad, she said, “That hasn’t even crossed my mind.”
“I love what I do. I love the brand,” she said.
“Everyone has that, ‘I heart Archie’ in them, and I’m proud of that.”
Sunday, December 01, 2013
The Huffington Post reported the following:
On Sunday, the Republican National Committee tweeted out an ill-advised tribute to civil rights icon Rosa Parks, praising the late activist for “her role in ending racism.”
Revisiting a legend of black Los Angeles
Tom Reed, once L.A. radio’s ‘Master Blaster,’ has spent a lifetime telling the story of the city’s black community; at 77, he is still pursuing his quiet brand of activism.
By Doug Smith
Of all the memories of the 1960s, nothing stirs as much fondness as the magic of AM radio pouring out the rough-cut exuberance of doo-wop, the English invasion, surf music and anti-war ballads.
We all had our favorite call signs: KRLA, “Color Radio” KFWB, 93/KHJ. And then, there was KGFJ, the station that carried the rich sounds of rhythm and blues.
I was reminded of all that recently when I heard from Master Blaster, the ambassador of soul who brought singers like James Brown to the mix of counterculture, psychedelic, anti-war and hurdy-gurdy sounds that paced that chaotic time.
I had pretty much forgotten about Master Blaster — or Tom Reed, his real name — until his book arrived, autographed and inscribed with the flattering words, “You cover Los Angeles like a warm blanket of hope and fairness.”
The author of “The Black Music History of Los Angeles, Its Roots” is quoted regularly in The Times. For the past dozen years, Reed has been the go-to guy for our obituary desk when it needs a deft, one-line remembrance of a black Los Angeles musician.
On the 2007 death of Nellie Lutcher, who had 10 top R&B records, Reed said: “She did it all. She was an entertainer, composer, arranger, writer, pianist, singer.”
Digging deeper in the archives, I unearthed a surprising memory: I had written about Reed 25 years ago.
I interviewed him in his apartment in a massive Los Feliz complex of long, dark hallways. He had fashioned it into a combination living space and one-man video production studio where he shot interviews for a twice-monthly TV show on the history of black Los Angeles.
This is how I described him then: “Tom Reed today is a more mellow — and yet evidently more pained — metamorphosis of the young disc jockey with the Afro hair who spoke to Los Angeles rapid-fire on KGFJ radio in the days of civil rights and anti-war protests.”
When I first ran across Reed his radio days were long over. But he wasn’t living on his reputation.
Reed had started a TV production company and began making documentary videos on black life in Los Angeles. He told the straight story, without the hype and stereotypes required for commercial success.
His shows didn’t falsely glamorize black subjects but emphasized the contributions they had made. I assumed his enterprise would be short lived, a victim of its own ideals.
So I was intrigued to discover that in the intervening years Reed had written the definitive book on the South Central Avenue music scene. It’s more of a catalog than a literary work, giving thumbnails of the famous — Ray Charles and Dexter Gordon — alongside the obscure, such as Nellie Lutcher, with equal devotion and brevity.
He received me in a neat condo on a quiet street in North Hills.
Though he has spent three decades chronicling black life in Los Angeles, Reed has embraced the multicultural city. When priced out of his mixed Los Feliz neighborhood, he found his way to the northeast San Fernando Valley where his neighbors are Latino, white, black and Asian.
At 77, Reed is slightly stooped, but slender and still stylish, dressed in all black with a shock of gray-white hair falling under a black porkpie hat.
Reed led me through a white living room hung with portraits of Black America, and then up a staircase to his studio where he keeps a collection of music literature and LP records.
Reed started at the beginning, telling me about a kid in St. Louis whose goal in life was to play in the black baseball league like his cousin, Elston Howard, the first black man to play for the New York Yankees.
Reed got as far as a tryout. After serving in the Navy, he found his voice on South Central Avenue in Los Angeles, where the black music scene was at its peak.
Reed’s DJ career ended abruptly. He said he was fired for taking a stand for better pay for black announcers.
An activist he has remained, and a far more persistent one than I had imagined in 1988.
Since then — contrary to my expectations — he continued to produce TV documentaries, which come out about once a quarter. He proudly calls his show, “For Members Only,” the longest, continuously running African American TV show.
Today, he has four part-time employees who sell ads, prepare scripts and manage finances. He still runs on a shoestring. He has to pay upfront for time on Channel 18, the Asian-language channel. It's a manifestation of the L.A. he loves that a black-oriented documentary holds an audience on Asian TV.
His documentaries have tackled black radicals Malcolm X and Ron Karenga. He’s also explored sensitive topics like crime, drugs and deadbeat dads.
He gave me a DVD of one of his favorites on the roots of black choral music. It’s a melange of glowing interviews, historical and archival photos — far from slick in production value but full of beguiling moments.
His next production, due to air Jan. 15, will celebrate Martin Luther King Jr.
It’s a little hard to make out Reed’s take on himself. “I’m a legend,” he said, “still out there doing it, still carrying the torch, still telling it like it is.”
He said that when the day comes, his life’s work will be maintained either at UCLA or USC — he hasn’t decided which.
In another moment, he dismissed all forms of adulation as trifles. “It’s not about awards,” he said. “It’s about making a contribution, about doing something with your life.”
Nor is it about money. “If you go for the big bucks, you have to do it their way.”
What counts, he said, is the contribution: to his craft, his race and his society.
I left him suspecting that I would never see this man again, but glad I had the chance to catch up on his story before it becomes material for an obituary.
In 1988, I found Reed interesting. Now I find him enviable.
I’m hoping that in another 10 years, when I reach his age, I’ll still be telling the story of Los Angeles like Master Blaster.
Saturday, November 30, 2013
Advertising Age reported NASCAR hired Kenny Mitchell as managing director-brand and consumer marketing. Imagine that. A sport which has openly struggled with diversity manages to find and recruit qualified minorities—while its advertising agency has been driving in circles for decades on diversity.
People on the Move: Nascar Taps Sports Veteran Kenny Mitchell
By Fallon Atta-Mensah
Kenny Mitchell has been named the managing director-brand and consumer marketing for Nascar. He will be responsible for developing and executing the annual Nascar marketing plan and overseeing the company’s media strategies and planning in close collaboration with other Nascar departments. Mr. Mitchell joins the team from the Drew Tour, a division of Alli and the NBC Sports Group, where he served as VP and general manager. He holds a bachelor's degree from Dartmouth College and a MBA from Dartmouth’s Tuck School of Business.