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George Curry

There is Nothing Good About 'Good Hair'

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George E. CurryWhile new movies such as “Precious” and “The Princess and the Frog” are stirring intense debate among African Americans, no recent movie or documentary has hair stylist Bo Bogard more riled than “Good Hair.” To Bogard, the owner of Bo26, an upscale salon in northwest Washington, D.C., there is nothing good about “Good Hair.”

He asked, rhetorically: “What was the point?” And then he lists the major points that made him hotter than a hot comb poised for action. Bogard was most perturbed by the scenes showing how sodium hydroxide, a chemical used in hair relaxers, can eat through the skin of chickens and dissolve aluminum cans.

“When Chris Rock presented sodium hydroxide in the movie, he was showing it in its purest form,” explained Bogard. “When you show almost anything in its purest form, it can be dangerous. However, when sodium hydroxide is in a relaxer, it has been diluted with all of the other elements in the relaxer. So, it pissed me off when he was showing the cans inside the cylinders being dissolved.” Bogard was further irked after a White friend who had seen the movie asked: “Why would Black women subject themselves to that?”

That’s a question many viewers asked after seeing the documentary that was inspired when one of Chris Rock’s daughters asked him why she doesn’t have good hair. For Americans bombarded with images of Europeans as the standard of beauty, straight hair was widely viewed as being “good hair.”

Bogard argues that is only one reason Black women straighten their hair.

“There was a time in history when Black women felt they needed to straighten their hair in order to fit in,” he stated. “I will acknowledge that.  Today, in 2009, I think if a woman chooses to straighten her hair with a relaxer, I don’t think it’s just to fit into society or to be like their White counterparts.

They’re doing it now because of style – it’s a look.”

For some, straight hair is not enough – it must also be long. Chris Rock made a big deal of Black women purchasing fake hair – sometimes at a cost of $1,000 to $3,500 – and having it woven into their heads. One salon owner featured in the movie offered a layaway plan.

Although Bogard said he has had less than five women come to him for weaves over a 17-year-career – each time he referred them to someone else – the typical African-American customer has no interest in weaves.

“I wish he had balanced that with Black women who are very proud of who they are and they don’t need to wear weaves in order to fit into society,” Bogard said. He conceded the movie featured women with natural hair and even one interior decorator who is bald. But he said those examples were easily overshadowed by the overemphasis on weaves, something that did not go unnoticed by moviegoers.  “I have a client, a very beautiful lady, who is an attorney,” Bogard recounted. “After the movie came out, she went to work and a Caucasian coworker said, ‘Girl, I didn’t know you had a weave.’ She said, ‘I don’t have a weave. Why would you assume I have a weave?” The woman said, ‘Chris Rock said when you see Black women with long hair, they have a weave.’ This opens up another door. If you’re a Black woman and your hair is long, it must be a weave.”

The movie noted that in India, 10 million people have all of their hair cut each year as an offering to the Hindu gods. With Koreans and Chinese merchants functioning as middle men, much of that hair ends up on the heads of African American women.

“Another thing that annoyed me was the economic aspect of the business,” Bogard stated. “They were saying this is a $9 billion industry and we don’t have anything to show for it.  Well, how many movie studios are owned by Blacks? How many car companies are owned by Blacks? Is that something we should strive for? Sure.  But don’t pretend that this is the only industry like that.

“Living in America, unfortunately, we don’t own a lot. On another level, there are a lot of Black-owned salons, which brings me to my next point. It seemed like he picked all the mom-and-pop salons he could find. There are a lot of Black-owned salons that are upscale that don’t put weaves on layaway.  Their clients can afford them.”

After combing through most of the flaws the “Good Hair,” Bogard found another one—the definition of good hair.

“Chris Rock made it seem like if hair is straight, it’s good hair,” Bogard said. “One of the things we teach in our salon is that if the hair is not healthy, it isn’t good hair. Good hair is healthy hair, whether it’s straight, kinky, curly or wavy.”

George E. Curry, former editor-in-chief of Emerge magazine and the NNPA News Service, is a key note speaker, moderator, and media coach.  He can be reached through his Web site, www.georgecurry.com You can also follow him atwww.twitter.com/currygeorge.



Spineless Democrats Should Borrow a Page from Ted Kennedy

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George E. CurryInasmuch as everyone is sharing stories about how thoughtfulness of the late Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, I may as well add mine. While attending the national Democratic convention in Denver last August, I wrote a column about what he had to go through to attend the event.

“It is remarkable that Kennedy appeared at the convention at all,” I wrote at the time. “After undergoing an operation for one of the most serious forms of brain cancer, he flew to Denver by chartered plane, checked into the University of Colorado Hospital on Sunday, the day before his scheduled speech. There, he had a painful encounter with kidney stones. “Still in pain, he was determined to address delegates Monday night. He left his hospital bed, was driven to the Pepsi Center, and then traveled backstage on a golf cart. Kennedy walked unassisted to the stage, gave a rousing 10-minute speech, and returned to his hospital bed. It was one of the most courageous performances I have ever witnessed. I can’t think of a more deserving profile in courage.”

A few days later, a Kennedy staffer emailed me requesting my address so that the senator could send me a note.

Indeed, in a note dated Sept. 8, 2008 – my mother’s 79th birthday – he wrote: “Dear Mr. Curry, I was deeply moved by your column last week. Your kind words both touched my heart and lifted my spirits. Traveling to Denver was no easy journey, but nothing was going to keep me from that special gathering.

“Thank you so much for your generous words. You certainly gave me new strength for the weeks ahead, and for that I’m very grateful. With respect and appreciation, Edward M. Kennedy.” It was signed, “Ted.” He added, “Many thanks George.”

Again, I was moved by the man. Here he was fighting for his life yet he took the time to send me – and many others – a personal note. Over the weekend, we heard dozens of stories about his legendary thoughtfulness. That was the personal side of Ted Kennedy. Democrats should learn from the public side. The problem is that after drifting to the right for more than a decade, it is difficult to discern what Democrats stand for anymore. In the past, they always portrayed themselves the liberal alternative to conservative Republicans. However, Democrats are so busy running from the L-word that they risk becoming Republicrats, a crude cross between Democrats and Republicans.

As a nation, we admire fighters. And Ted Kennedy was a fighter; he battled for civil rights when it was not popular, he pushed for higher wages, gender equality and improving the lives of the disabled. Above all else, he was a loud and consistent voice for universal health care. Yet, neither weak-kneed Democrats nor Republicans who profess to love him so much in death have the audacity to pick up the Kennedy mantle and insist that we adopt universal health care, something that every other industrialized country has managed to do.

So far, Republicans have outmaneuvered Democrats. They’ve played the game well. It goes like this:

Republicans, claiming to be eager to sign-on to a bipartisan effort, water down whatever proposals Democrats offer, pretending there is a possibility that Obama may win more than three Republican votes. But even with stripped down proposals, the GOP eventually say they can’t sign on to a proposed bill and then vote against it en masse.

Consequently, Democrats are left with proposed laws that are weaker than when originally considered by Congress and end up with virtually no Republican support. Republicans played this game with stimulus legislation and now they’re doing it with health care.

But the real culprits are Democrats, who control the House, Senate and the White House. They have the votes to pass universal health care without GOP lawmakers. But they can’t get their act together. As we have seen, when the Republican leadership on Capitol Hill say they are opposed to something, they manage to keep their troops in line.

However, Democrats are not able to display that same level of discipline. In the end, if universal health care fails to pass, it will be because Democrats, including President Barack Obama, can’t get their act together.

If Obama wants to reverse his dwindling poll numbers, he should become, as he was during his campaign for the White House, a strong advocate for universal health care instead of caving in, as he already has, to the pharmaceutical/ health care medical complex.

It will be no major accomplishment to sign a bill into law that essentially preserves the status quo.

Ted Kennedy had back trouble but he didn’t have backbone trouble. As Bill Moyers observed recently, it appears that the backbones of Democrats have been surgically removed. If they truly want to honor Kennedy, they should borrow a page from him by displaying courage and passing universal health care.

George E. Curry, former editor-in-chief of Emerge magazine and the NNPA News Service, is a keynote speaker, moderator, and media coach. He can be reached through his Web site, www.georgecurry.com.

Boycotting Glenn Beck’s Sponsors is not Enough

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George E. Curry, NNPA Columnist

Some of the nation’s blue chip companies many that rely on African- American consumers for a significant portion of their profits – advertised on right-winger Glenn Beck’s incendiary program on Fox TV. They include:

Procter & Gamble, Kraft Food, ConAgra (maker of Healthy Choice foods), Clorox, UPS, the U.S. Postal

Service, Honda, General Electric, Travelocity, State Farm Insurance, Geico, Farmer’s Insurance, Pfizer, Wal-mart, Best Buy, Office Depot, RadioShack, Sprint, CVS, Red Lobster, Nestle, Progressive Insurance and pharmaceutical companies Roche and Sanofi-Aventis (maker of Plavix). Beck touched off a firestorm when he labeled President Obama “a racist” who has “deep-seated hatred for White people.” ColorOfChange.org, an Internet-oriented Black grass roots advocacy group, quickly organized a petition drive urging advertisers to stop sponsoring his show.

One by one, more than 30 sponsors, some claiming there had been a “miscommunication” about their ever wanting to advertise on Beck’s program, requested that their spots be aired elsewhere on the Fox network. While this was a partial victory for ColorOfChange.org, it did not address the larger issue of Fox’s overall hostility toward progressives and people of color. As Marketwatch.com noted, “For its part, Fox News said through a spokeswoman that while some advertisers have ‘removed their spots from Beck,’ they have just shifted to ‘other programs on the network, so there has been no revenue lost.”

Hear that? No revenue lost. When commercial sponsors or Fox experience lost revenue, that’s when we’ll get the change we’ve been waiting for. Meanwhile, Beck supporters have organized defendglenn.com to pressure advertisers to stay with the controversial host.

Interestingly, many of the major companies that advertised on Beck’s radio and TV shows until it became a public liability, specifically told ABC radio that they didn’t want any of their ads airing on liberal Air America programs. MediaMatters.org, the watchdog group, obtained an internal memo in 2006 that named the companies, including Wal-Mart, Office Depot, General Electric, Farmers Insurance, Nestle, Red Lobster, State Farm, Travelocity, the U.S. Postal Service and Wyeth Pharmaceuticals.

Other companies that advertised on the television and radio programs of conservatives Rush Limbaugh and Lou Dobbs (who likes to pretend he’s an independent) while prohibiting ads from running on Air America were: JC Penney, Frito-Lay, Home Depot, Visa, the American Heart Association, the U.S. Navy, Bayer and Allstate.

Allstate and Red Lobster said, contrary to the memo, they never requested that their commercials not appear on Air America.

Beck’s attack on Obama was not an isolated one. Earlier, he said Obama’s congressional priorities were driven by his support of reparations and the desire to “settle old racial scores.” He said the president was moving the U.S. “into a system of fascism” and called Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor “a racist.”

Rush Limbaugh, apparently reading from the same playbook, alleged Obama “is the greatest living example of a reverse racist.” He claimed, “Obama’s entire economic program is reparations.” And he said, “Of course, I want Obama to fail.” He added, “We are being told that we have to hope he succeeds, that we have to bend over, grab the ankles…because his father was Black.”

CNN’s Lou Dobbs claims that the birth certificate provided by Obama is not “the real document.” He incredulously asserted, “A certificate of live birth is not a birth certificate.”

What are we to think of companies that support loud mouths that make such outlandish charges? I have two suggestions for the boycott organizers. First, continue to monitor companies that remain sponsors on Glenn Beck’s radio and TV programs. I’ll print the list of all of the companies in this space once you’ve completed the research.

My second recommendation is that we compile a list of companies that sponsor the radio and TV programs of Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh and Lou Dobbs. Cross check the names of those firms with our major Black radio stations. I know we can’t list everyone, but let’s start with radio programs hosted by Joe Madison, Bev Smith, Tom Joyner, Steve Harvey, Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton, Michael Eric Dyson, Gary Byrd in New York and Cliff Kelley in Chicago. Let’s use those as starters; we can expand the list later.

Once the list of major sponsors has been compiled, the National Newspaper Publishers Association (NNPA) should compare that list against its national advertisers and publicize that information.

Simultaneously, we should develop a list of companies that are supportive of the Black Press and make their names public as well. Working with these two lists, we will be able to identify those companies that support us and those that support our ardent foes. The list should be compiled every year.

The next step is a natural one: We shouldn’t support companies that don’t support us. According to the Selig Center for Economic Growth at the University of Georgia, the annual buying power of African Americans will grow from $318 million in 1990 to $1.2 trillion in 2013. We shouldn’t spend one cent with companies that support the likes of Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh and Lou Dobbs while neglecting to support the Black Press.

George E. Curry, former editor-in-chief of Emerge magazine and the NNPA News Service, is a key note speaker, moderator, and media coach. He can be reached through his Web site, www.georgecurry.com.

Michael Vick Has Paid His Dues

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George E. Curry, NNPA Columnist

When it was announced that Michael Vick had been signed by the Philadelphia Eagles, echoes of “Who Let the Dogs Out?” became popular again. Bigmouths on sports radio, proposed some new lyrics for the Eagles’ fight song:

“Die, Fido, die…”

The auction site eBay offered Michael Vick chew toys for dogs. Some fans threatened to cancel their prized and limited season tickets and others were standing in line, hoping they would follow through on their threat.

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), the animal rights groups, made clear that it plans to continue hounding the pro quarterback.

“PETA and millions of decent football fans around the world are disappointed that the Eagles decided to sign a guy who hung dogs from trees. He electrocuted them with jumper cables and held them under water,” PETA spokesman Dan Shannon told the Associated Press. There was no doubt that Vick’s treatment of dogs was horrifying and I described such acts in detail in an August 27, 2007 column. http://www.georgecurry.com/columns /michael-vick-let-the-dogs-out But some so-called animal rights hypocrites remain critical of Vick while refusing to challenge state laws that provide licenses to those who hunt deer and other innocent animals. And the “animal rights” groups are not the only cowards.

As a nation, we like to say how much we believe in forgiveness and pat ourselves on the back for giving someone a second chance. In reality, however, there is a strong revenge streak that remains even after a person has paid for his or her offence.

Vick was the No. 1 draft pick in the 2001 draft. The Atlanta Falcons signed him to a 10-year, $130 million contract, making him the highest paid player in the league. After the dog fighting charges surfaced, Vick was banned indefinitely by the NFL and eventually filed for bankruptcy. He was part of underground dog fighting ring in rural Virginia and pled guilty to running an operation that killed at least eight dogs that failed to do well in test fights. He decided to plead guilty after his three co-defenders had agreed to testify against him. Vick served a year and a half in federal prison. During that period, he was visited by Tony Dungy, the former coach of the Indianapolis Colts.

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has conditionally reinstated Vick on July 27, meaning the earliest he can play in the preseason is Aug. 27. The most inspiring part of the Vick saga is the role played by Eagle quarterback Donovan McNabb. He told ESPN.com, “I pretty much lobbied to get him here. I believe in second chances and what better place to get a second chance than here with this group of guys.”

When was the last time you lobbied your company to hire someone who could possibly replace you?

And McNabb’s enthusiasm rubbed off on Head Coach Andy Reid, who lobbied Team President Joe Banner and owner Jeffrey Lurie. The Eagles signed Vick to a two-year deal: $1.6 million and a second-year option worth $5.2 million, plus incentives that could total up to $3 over the two years of the contract.

Ironically, while the NFL is gradually bringing Vick back into acceptance, it has wasted no time exploiting his name. Even though Vick has yet to be fully reinstated, NFLShop.com is already selling replicates of Vick’s Eagles jersey. As sports blogger Jeff Schultz notes, “The NFL is not ready for Vick to be the face of the league –but it is ready for Vick to be the face on the ledger.”

Of course, the Eagles could have avoided an unneeded public controversy by staying away from Vick. While they don’t go looking for controversy, they don’t run from it. Don’t forget that this was a team that took a chance on controversial wide receiver Terrell Owens.

Another bright spot is that the National Humane Society has been acting humanely. It has accepted Vick’s offer to talk to youth about animal cruelty and will reserve judgment on whether’s he’s had a true change in heart.

Vick’s interview with James Brown Sunday night on “60 Minutes” was largely designed to win over some doubters. It was largely successful. It was clear to me that he was well-trained on how to deal with hostile questions.

BROWN: And the operation, Michael, that you pleaded guilty to bankrolling, to being a part of, engaged in barbarous treatment of the animals—beating them, shooting them, electrocuting them, drowning them. Horrific things, Michael.

VICK: It’s wrong, man. I don’t know how many times I gotta tell, I gotta say it. I mean, it was wrong. I feel, you know, I feel, you know, tremendous hurt behind what happened. And, you know, I should’ve took the initiative to stop it all. You know, and I didn’t. And I feel so bad about that now. And I know, you know, that I didn’t I didn’t step up. I wasn’t a leader.

BROWN: In any way, for those who may say it showed a lack of moral character because you didn’t stop it, you agree or disagree?

VICK: I agree.

Vick has repeatedly accepted fully responsibility, he has served his time in prison and is surrounded by talented people such as Tony Dungy. It’s time for PETA and others to call off the dogs.

George E. Curry, former editor-in-chief of Emerge magazine and the NNPA News Service, is a key note speaker, moderator, and media coach. He can be reached through his Web site, www.georgecurry.com.

Another Side of the Maligned Joe Jackson

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George E. Curry, NNPA Columnist

In the non-stop hoopla surrounding the death of Michael Jackson, Joe Jackson has become the person everyone loves to hate. TV commentators drop all pretense of objectivity by openly dismissing him as a kook. They make fun of his admittedly incoherent answers. And though he was later proven correct, they laughed at his assertion that Michael Jackson may have been killed.

What made me take a second look at Joseph Jackson was a statement he made on “Larry King Live.” The elder Jackson said that he had recommended that his son be paid in euros rather than U.S. dollars for his upcoming concerts in London. That showed me that, as one of my elementary school teachers said, he was using his head for more than a hat rack.

And I began to think about what they said about the domineering fathers of Tiger Woods, Venus and Serena Williams and, in this case, the original Jackson Five. Yes, they were all pushy and ambitious fathers -- so pushy that they pushed their children right to the top of their respective professions.

Of course, Joe Jackson’s greatest claim to fame was not that he molded one of the most successful groups in music from the rough streets of Gary, Ind., but that he beat his kids. There were many stories told about Jackson pounding his kids with his fist when they made a mistake, of his throwing them against walls and, in one instance, holding Michael upside down by one leg and pummeling him.

If true, no one can condone such acts. However, lost in all the storytelling is that the Jackson Five became the first American group to have their first four singles rocket to No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 singles chart. And Michael and Janet went on to stardom as solo artists. If you’re going to talk about Joe Jackson, talk about the good as well as the bad.

The most interesting perspective of Joseph Jackson came from Michael in a fascinating speech he gave at Oxford University on March 21, 2001.

“You probably weren’t surprised to hear that I did not have an idyllic childhood,” he said. “The strain and tension that exists in my relationship with my own father is well documented. My father is a tough man and he pushed my brothers and me hard, from the earliest age, to be the best performers we could be. He had great difficulty showing affection. He never really told me he loved me. And he never really complimented me either. If I did a great show, he would tell me it was a good show. And if I did an OK show, he told me it was a lousy show.

“He seemed intent, above all else, on making us a commercial success. And at that he was more than adept.

My father was a managerial genius and my brothers and I owe our professional success, in no small measure, to the forceful way that he pushed us. He trained me as a showman and under his guidance I couldn’t miss a step.”

Looking at his father from the perspective of an adult, Michael said:

“I have started reflecting on the fact that my father grew up in the South, in a very poor family. He came of age during the Depression and his own father, who struggled to feed his children, showed little affection towards his family and raised my father and his siblings with an iron fist. Who could have imagined what it was like to grow up a poor Black man in the South, robbed of dignity, bereft of hope, struggling to become a man in a world that saw my father as subordinate. I was the first Black artist to be played on MTV and I remember how big a deal it was even then. And that was in the 80’s!

“My father moved to Indiana and had a large family of his own, working long hours in the steel mills, work that kills the lungs and humbles the spirit, all to support his family. Is it any wonder that he found it difficult to expose his feelings? Is it any mystery that he hardened his heart, that he raised the emotional ramparts? And most of all, is it any wonder why he pushed his sons so hard to succeed as performers, so that they could be saved from what he knew to be a life of indignity and poverty?”

He explained, “I am forced to think of my own father and despite my earlier denials, I am forced to admit that he must have loved me. He did love me, and I know that. There were little things that showed it.” Michael said for his own healing, he needed to forgive his father. “I have begun to see that even my father’s harshness was a kind of love, an imperfect love, to be sure, but love nonetheless. He pushed me because he loved me. Because he wanted no man ever to look down at his offspring. And now with time, rather than bitterness, I feel blessing. In the place of anger, I have found absolution. And in the place of revenge I have found reconciliation. And my initial fury has slowly given way to forgiveness.”

If Michael Jackson could forgive his father, why can’t everyone else? George E. Curry, former editor-inchief of Emerge magazine and the NNPA News Service, is a keynote speaker, moderator, and media coach. He can be reached through his Web site, www.georgecurry.com.

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