Just some thoughts and ideas going around in my head while trying to figure out where I am and where everyone else is going.

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Henrietta Lacks

My father’s father died in his 60’s from cancer. My father died in his 60’s from cancer. Neither one of them smoked, I do. I wonder, what the chances are of me reaching to my 70’s? Probably not that great; but then I long ago figured that I wasn’t going to live forever. I mean who does? No one I know of for certain unless of course you think about Henrietta Lacks.

Henrietta Lacks
Henrietta Lacks, an African American, was born in 1920 as Loretta Pleasant in Roanoke Virginia. As a child she would grow up under her grandfather’s roof and marry her first cousin and then move to Maryland in her 20's

At the end of 1950 after the birth of her fifth child, she discovered unusual lumps in her groin accompanied by profuse and abnormal bleeding.  She was referred to Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore where they found that she had cervical cancer. During treatment, part of Mrs. Lacks’ cervix that contained both good and cancerous cells was removed without her knowledge and sent to Dr. George Otto Gey.  However, by the end of 1951 no medical treatments had worked for Henrietta and she died only to be buried in an unmarked grave in the family cemetery in Lackstown.

Dr. Gey soon found that unlike other human cells which usually subdivide and die after few days, Mrs. Lacks’ cells could not only survive indefinitely, but they would grow. Gey was able to isolate a specific cell from the tumor which he called HeLa, after Henrietta Lacks. This cell line was then mass produced and was sent to doctors around the world for successful research in areas such as cancer, polio, AIDS, radiation poisoning, gene mapping and many other medical projects too numerous to mention.

Of course many people have made a name for themselves using the HeLa cell and no doubt many people have been saved because of it. But many people have made millions for themselves producing or using the cell while members of Henrietta’s family remained poor and in the dark about their mother’s or relative’s contribution to medical science. An error perhaps, or just benign neglect on the part of those who thought little about the source of where their material came from and more about fame and or fortune that would head their way? I don’t know.

I didn’t really know what was right or wrong when I saw "Immortal" an episode of Law & Order based on this a few years ago when I thought something like this couldn’t possibly happen in real life. I know even less now what to think now that I know that it was true. All I do know that is if her surviving children can take some solace in knowing that their loss has provided so much relief and comfort in the lives of others, including perhaps my own when I reach my 60’s, then it may have been worth it all.

This has been my meager little attempt to recognize Henrietta Lacks in this year’s Black History Month.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

My how times have changed

Hattie McDaniel
You know I'm probably one of the few black men not born before 1939 who actually like's Hattie McDaniel's performance as Mammy in the movie Gone With The Wind. Ms. McDaniel showed a strength, integrity and loyalty in a role that was probably very unreal for people who had lived that role in real life. But her truth shines through and maybe that was the reason why she received the award for best supporting actress in a movie, I don't know. What I do know is that I'm always very happy to remember her and see her act even if it is once every 10 or 12 years.

Octavia Spencer
I suppose that I will have the same feeling when watching Octaivia Spencer in her Academy Award performance in The Help. I don't really know because I haven't seen it yet. I mean there's only so many times that I can accept excellence being recognized in black women when they play maids.

Sure someone will bring up Whoopi or Halle or God forbid Mo'Nique, but somehow that just gives me the feeling of everything being circular and that black women are back where they started and it makes me feel a little disturbed.

But it's Black History Month and you get what you can get when you can get it and this is what they they will be writing about in the years to come, so my hat's off to Octavia Spencer and all the others that will follow her. Congratulations!

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

As The Vultures Circle.

I was going to just to do one blog concerning Black History Month. It was probably going to be about how Phyllis Hymen made love to me in the Blue Note in New York and she didn't even know that I existed. But it probably isn't a good time right now due to the recent circumstances. Instead I'll try and think of something else and figure out a way of seeing how it relates to me.

Until then, lets all try to figure out why people on TV are so crass. Or...have they always been that way and it's taken people like Jon Stewart and his gang to point it out?

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Why Does It Hurt So Bad?

I refuse to make this blog the damn obituary page...but when I was going to school in East Orange and she was singing with Teddy Pendergrass, I fell in love with her. I never met her or saw her in person, but she was Nippy the local girl who was going good and getting big and had the voice of an angel. She was beautiful.

But that was a long time ago so why....?

Friday, February 10, 2012


Nothing political that I want to get into, so a bit of fluff.

For some reason I can't seem to get enough of Misfits. It's a show that has no social morés worth talking about, played by kids that you know if you met in the street you would cross the road and with a script that doesn't make any sense about 70% of the time; but I've seen all the episodes and I love them. Maybe that says more about me than about anything else.

Hmm.....I shall have to think about it.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Don Cornelius

You’ve got to be shitting me, Don Cornelius is dead? The legendary writer, producer and host of Soul Train has been found dead from a self inflicted gunshot wound? Well fuck me! Hmm…

Well I suppose this is where I should speak about all the good things that he brought to American television, black entertainment and world music. This is the part where I droop my shoulders and lift my head to the sky and relive and feel the warmth of childhood memories. I think of the joy of watching his show every Saturday morning, listening to the many artists who would perform. From black to white, from young to not that old, from R&B to pop, you were never disappointed by who was there. They gave their all as they lip-synched to their own hits wearing clothes so tight that sometimes you could tell the religion of the men and which of the women had had boob jobs or were in need of one. I remember watching week after week and finally recognizing many of the individual dancers who would be there and grading each one of women on how they danced or the men on how questionable their masculinity was. I remember being thrilled waiting and watching for the Soul Train Line where the dancers in pairs would wait to perform their 5 to 10 second bit and I would dream about what I would do if I was there. That’s what I should talk about, but I won’t because remember him as being a miserable cunt.

I’m sure I’ve written about this before, I just don’t remember when, but I remember seeing Don Cornelius at the MGM Hotel in Vegas at the Tyson Bruno fight. I was there with a bunch of community kids and a few adults as guests of the boxing promoter Don King. The boys were there happy to see people, celebrities that they had only seen on TV and were collecting autographs and snapping pictures of everyone. I saw a couple of the boys who were about 9 or 12, recognize Cornelius who was sitting down on one of those ottoman things the hotel had looking up sad and old speaking to someone. They ran over to him and excitedly asked to take a picture of him. He looked at them, brushed them aside like yesterday's lint and waved them off.


Evelyn, one of the adults in charge, walked over to them and apologized to the man and took the boys away with her. He didn’t even flinch and my disgust for him grew instantly. I walked away.

Well this hasn't actually been a tribute and someday I’ll have to see someone about those traits in me that make me have these visceral feelings, but until then all I have to say is, and I really do mean it, “…as always in parting, we wish you love, peace and soul!” RIP Don Cornelius.


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