Archive for the ‘pop culture’ Category

Lost & Found: Get Up! Edition

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A few links, videos, and other online ephemera from our favorite sites this past week:

  • 389 Years: And speaking of progress, check out this typographic mashup, soon to be a poster.

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Uniqua’s Post-Racial Backyard?

Rethinking the politics of identity is more than just an intellectual exercise when you become a parent. These days, my anxieties about raising a black child with a healthy, well-rounded sense of self has lead me to unusual places and unexpected insights. Take, for instance, The Backyardigans:

Virtually every American preschooler knows about Nick Jr.’s animated show, The Backyardigans. My toddler is no exception. The show’s five friends share a suburban backyard and an adventurous imagination.

The music initially caught my daughter’s attention. The impressive mix of musical genres are inventive, fun, and provide the show with a rare kind of cultural diversity. In one episode, Pablo the Penguin imitates James Brown’s soul music. Tyrone the Moose often croons country-western songs, and in space, the Backyardigans sing contemporary African pop music with a Martian mom (voiced by Alicia Keys). Click here to open the Nick Jr. video player and search for Backyardigans clips.

But for me, Uniqua is the show’s main attraction. She is the pink, plump, and perceptive polka-dotted creature who inspires others with thoughtfulness and bravery. And while Tasha the Hippo is often cast as the princess or the diva, Uniqua is not bound by traditional gender roles. She is the brave knight, the graceful Egyptian Sphinx, and the chest-thumping Viking. Her positive energy and assertiveness are qualities that I have been trying to instill in my daughter since she was a blip on the ultrasound screen! So it also matters, you see, that Uniqua’s voice and mannerisms are that of an African-American child.

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Lost & Found: Barack O’ Lantern Edition

A few links, videos, and other online ephemera from our favorite sites this past week:

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Lost & Found: Token “Black” Edition

A few links, videos, and other online ephemera from our favorite sites this past week:

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Prince Akeem for President

Murphy as Prince Akeem

Lately I’ve been wondering how much of my fascination with Senator Barack Obama has been shaped by Eddie Murphy’s 1988 comedy, Coming to America.

Make no mistake, my reasons for supporting the Illinois senator’s candidacy for president are substantive. Education and health care reform are two of the issues that matter most to me. I appreciate the thoughtfulness and intellect that he brings to solving these problems, not to mention his prescient take on foreign relations. Even the way he runs his campaign is impressive.

I won’t pretend, however, that I don’t also have an emotional investment in an Obama administration. I’m hardly a generation removed from Jim Crow segregation. (And I live in a state that still displays the Confederate flag outside the Capitol.)

All of this is part of the network of experiences that constitute my worldview, my “cultural compass” – to borrow a term I heard Michele Norris use recently in a terrific NPR series on race and politics.

But when it comes to visions of Africa, and of black love, leadership, and royal blood in America, my cultural compass often points to, of all places, the imaginary Kingdom of Zamunda. Prince Akeem’s hilarious journey to New York takes a romanticized narrative generally reserved for “whites only” and recreates it as a modern black fairytale, rich with pop cultural parody and historical allusions, bawdy satire, and an all-star cast.

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