In a recent article for Essence.com, The Write or Die Chick voices her support for Harry Belafonte’s stance regarding a dearth of activism among black celebs and younger generations in general. The piece particularly takes black women to task for their strides (or lack thereof) to take up the mantel of foremothers like Dorothy Height and Coretta Scott King:
There are plenty of women who volunteer for, evangelize and perpetuate the same rabble-rousing agenda that our grandmothers and mothers in activism did decades ago. They exist. They care. They do the work. You probably have some in your community because they pop up on the news from time to time and are the face of making things right in the modern-day. I’m not saying they don’t exist at all. Just not on the scale and magnitude that they used and need to.
While the look, shape, and scope of black women’s activism may have changed, it seems disingenuous, if not inaccurate, to argue that the scale and magnitude have downsized. Perhaps we make a mistake when we expect activism to be highly visible or publicized.
D’Angelo took the stage at Essence Music Festival over the weekend for his highly-anticipated return to the stage. After his critically-acclaimed shows overseas and his two song stint at the 2012 BET Awards, fans looked to his headlining Friday concert at Essence as a comeback of sorts. And many left disappointed.
I was there at New Orleans’ famed Superdome this weekend. I booked a last minute flight to the city and even waited an hour outside the arena after a ticket snafu, just to see D’Angelo rock a full set of his hit songs, twelve years after he disappeared from the spotlight.
More than a decade earlier, when D’Angelo came on the scene at a mere 21 years of age, his soulful tenor and syrupy-sweet falsetto captivated a generation of women, me among them. It didn’t hurt that he had full lips, chiseled features and a set of washboard abs unlike I had ever seen.
His mainstream success seemed imminent. He had the sex appeal, mystery and street edge that black women’s fantasies were made of. But it wasn’t until I put on my headphones and got lost in his music, with its infectious melodies and brilliant instrumentation, that I realized his true genius. Yeah he is fioone but first and foremost, he is an artist.
That distinction was lost on the audience at this year’s Essence Music Festival. Despite an hour-long performance in which D’Angelo crooned, played the piano and danced (yes, danced!) ’til he was covered in sweat, they were glaringly unresponsive. There were valid critiques that D’Angelo didn’t perform most of his classics (“Untitled (How Does It Feel)” and “Lady” came later in his set). But for the most part, folks were in an uproar about his appearance: his teeth, his “unkempt” hair and his stomach. A woman behind me even remarked that he had a “pouch” and needed a “Clarisonic” cleansing tool for his skin.