Tag Archives: Class

Woman of the Ghetto: marlena shaw dealing the cold truth

 

I just found a copy of “Woman of the Ghetto” by Marlena Shaw for 4 bucks! Killer Chicago recording from 1969.  The song has been sampled multiple times, among them:

St. Germain sampled from “Woman of the Ghetto” from Live at Montreux used in “Rose Rouge” on Tourist (2000)

9th Wonder and Buckshot also sampled “Woman of the Ghetto” in the track “Ghetto”, and Evil Dee (of Black Moon)’s remix of the same song.

Early integration of a Kalimba in popular western music. Richard Evans production. Jazzy Funk mastery. Lyrics below.  Nuff said. 

I was born, raised in a ghetto
I was born and raised in a ghetto
I’m a woman, of the ghetto
Won’t you listen, won’t you listen to me, legislator?

(ging, gi-gi-gi-gi-ging…)

How do you raise your kids in a ghetto?
How do you raise your kids in a ghetto?
Do you feed one child and starve another?
Won’t you tell me, legislator?

How do make your bread in the ghetto?

How do make your bread in the ghetto?

Baked from the souls in the ghetto

Tell me, tell me, Legislator?
Strong true,
my eyes ain’t blue
I am a woman
Of the ghetto

I’m proud, free,
Black, that is me
But I’m a woman of the ghetto

(ging, gi-gi-gi-gi-ging…)

How do we get rid of rats in the ghetto?

How do we get rid of rats in the ghetto?

Do we make one black and one white in the ghetto?

Is that your answer, legislator?

How do you legislate, brother?

How do you legislate, brother?

When you free one man and try to chain up another,

Tell me, Tell me legislator?
How does your heart feel late at night?
How does your heart feel late at night?
Does it beat with shame, or does it beat with pride?
Won’t you tell me, legislator?

(na-na-na-na-na-na-na, …)

My children learned just the same as yours
As long as nobody tries to close the door
They cry with pain when the knife cuts deep
They even close their eyes when they wanna sleep

We must all have identity

That’s the only way that we can be free

Now peace, you say
is all that you ask
But self-respect is a separate task

You may be sitting up there
in your ivory tower
60 stories tall

Now you may have seen at least one ghetto
But I wonder have you lived there at all?

Places like Watts,
ah, Detroit, tell me
Chicago, ah tell me,

Harlem, tell me,

Washington, tell me

See the women cry

See  the children die….

(ging, gi-gi-gi-gi-ging…)

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Hey, White Girl! Susan Gregory’s Chicago Story

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The intersection of race and class. In Chicago. In the late 1960s.  That’s the backdrop of a memoir (rather cheekily) titled “Hey, White Girl!” written by Susan Gregory (Norton, 1970). 

In the book, teenage Susan transfers from well-heeled, suburban New Trier High School to attend infamous-even-then Marshall High School on Chicago’s West Side for her senior year.

What’s notable about this book is that save certain specificities (slang, style of dress, et al), the story would probably play out identically today: that’s how little race and class lines have shifted since then in the Windy City.

There are many notable moments in the book: some poignant, some funny, some perfect slices of Sixties Chicago.

“What jam can I mash on you?” the disc jockey asked… The words, the phrases were endless.  But I learned them, and slowly they became my own…

…A “humbug” was a fight. A “box” was a record player.  “The hawk” referred to the wind… Marshall and WVON helped me build my vocabulary.   — from Hey, White Girl

Find a copy, if you dare.  Definitely worth the search.  It’s wild.


Teddy (1971)

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(runtime 00:16:16)
Produced by the University of California at Los Angeles, Extension Media Center, and Directed by Richard Wells. This is a beautifully raw short film shot in 1971. The opening scene portrays kids, fresh out of high school, but already short on hope. The public domain film presents the first-person experiences of a black teenager coming up in Watts whose brother is in a soul band. He expresses his views on ‘the System’, education, war, drugs, revolution, his community, the Black Panther Party, and the police.

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Choosing Food

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Yes, I love Englewood. I love the people because they refuse to quit.

I love the vacant lots because I can envision growth. I love the schools because I can envision a child learning to read and developing a love for knowledge. Block by block, Englewood shall rise and reclaim our children and community, and I love that too.

– Evelyn Johnson
Lindblom Park

from the Journal of Ordinary Thought, or JOT (Fall 2008), published by the Neighborhood Writing Alliance.

The Neighborhood Writing Alliance is an organization based at 60th Street that “provokes dialogue and promotes change by creating opportunities for adults in the inner city of Chicago to write, publish, and perform works about their lives”. They also publish the Journal of Ordinary Thought.  I am a fan.

Join them tomorrow night:

Choosing Foodscreening of the movie Soul Food.
Thursday, February 19th
Hull-House Museum
800 S Halsted
5:30-8:30pm.

After the movie screens, join activist LaDonna Redmond in a discussion on food and community. She’ll talk about her perspectives on the local food movement; the lack of diversity in dialogue about local, sustainable food; and the unavailability of fresh and healthy food in certain neighborhoods, including the “food deserts” on Chicago’s West and South sides.This event is free, but reservations are required. Please call NWA at 773-684-2742 or email rsoni@jot.org.


Book Review: More than just Race

(Norton Press, 2009)

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According to William Julius Wilson, author of More Than Just Race: Being Black and Poor in the Inner City (in stores March 2009), “the disproportionate number of low-skilled black males in this country is one of the legacies of historical segregation and discrimination”.  This statement cuts cleanly the notion that class-ism is the new racism.  Racism’s shockwaves have not yet subsided.  The book’s title alludes to the notion that race for race’s sake is not the virus plaguing America: it is “structural forces” (that is, individual decisions and “the machinery” (law, policy, and institutional practices).

In this book, Wilson essentially alludes that when the fight for integration took precedence over the fight to end impoverished conditions, neighborhoods (and people) suffered dramatically.  They still do.

Class-ism is not the new Racism.  It has lingered with us since Jim Crow and was, perhaps, the heavyiest load of old guard racism.  In More than Just Race, Wilson quotes the late black economist Dr. Vivian Henderson as saying thirty years ago that “racism put blacks in their place, but changes in the modern economy make the place in which they find themselves more and more precarious”.

After the election of Obama, news sources nationwide asked, “It racism over?  Is this the earmark we’ve all been looking for?”  Wilson responds with this book.  Race alone is no longer the issue that divides us.  It is no longer nearly that simple.