Monthly Archives: December 2008

WATCH NIGHT: DECEMBER 31, 2008

Many people ae unfamiliar with the Black American celebration known as “Watch Night”.  This quiet, yet joyous welcoming in of the New Year often occurred in Black churches throughout the South, with church congregants awaiting midnight for the new year to start. It recognized the duty of faithful Christians to be ever vigilant, prepared to stand in steadfast faith for God, and to be prepared for the coming of the New Year.

Here is a WGBH Boston program on the history of Watch Night:

Watch Night – The Program

Listen to the program here  

Watch Night has been observed by Black churches for decades. It is the meshing of welcoming in the new year, as well as the celebration of the abolition of slavery.

Watch Night originated among Black Americans as “Freedom’s Eve”, with gatherings of enslaved Blacks beginning on December 31, 1862, to await the issuing of freedom from slavery. They gathered together, free, and enslaved, in homes, fields, church, awaiting the news of President Abraham Lincoln’s Preliminary Emancipation Proclamation.

At the stroke of midnight, January 1, 1863, all enslaves (in states that were in rebellion against the Union), were declared legally free. Of course they were not free immediately, but, to those who resided in the states that seceeded from the Union, freedom was now within their grasp. Upon receiving news of their freedom, the enslaves broke out into rapturous joy and all-night celebrations. With the actual receiving of the news on January 1, 1863, that they truly were legally (on paper) free, former enslaved women, men and children raised up prayers of thanks and praise to God for they now could have their lives to themselves, and celebrated all day with feasts, songs of praise, and prayers of thanks that they made it through this journey, and were now prepared for the new journey that lay ahead. 

 

Watch meeting, Dec. 31, 1862—Waiting for the hour / Heard & Moseley, Cartes de Visite, 10 Tremont Row, Boston.
(African American men, women, and children gathered around a man with a watch, waiting for the Emancipation Proclamation.)
c.1863

Heard and Moseley.
Waiting for the hour [Emancipation], December 31, 1862.
Carte de visite.
Washington, 1863.
Prints and Photographs Division
Reproduction Number: LC-USZC4-6160 (4-21a)

Thus began the official Year of Jubilee for Black men and women who were enslaved and had their lives, labor and families assailed by the ravages of slavery, as well as the ushering in the New Year of a new life of promise to uphold the covenants of God’s laws and to give thanks from the freedom of bondage.

The origins of Watch Night predate Black America’s celebration among other cultures (the Moravians, a small Christian denomination whose roots  lie in present-day Czechoslovakia, and also with the Methodists under John Wesley) but, with the ending of slavery, and the ending of the old year, and the beginning of a new year (New Year’s Day) and the beginning of a new life (the abolition of slavery, Year of Jubilee), the celebration of Watch Night with a decidely Afro-centric twist to it, became a tradition among many Black churches in the American South.

I remember Watch Night in the Black church I attended as a child. It was a solemn occasion, with singing, the pastor’s sermon, and later a celebration of food and drink to help us remember what our Black ancestors suffered through—–and survived—-so that we, their children, would have a more abundant life free from slavery and  its brutality, as well as to quietly welcome in the New Year, with its hopes and promises of a better life, and less of any sorrow and pain from the previous year. It was also a night for church members to renew strength in the Word of God and to remember and keep his covenants.

Watch Night started as the fearful, but, hopeful dream of a life free of involuntary servitude, and a life to be able to call one’s labor, one’s privacy, one’s life—-one’s own—- free from the enslavement from another human being, as well as greet the new year with the love and protection of God.

Watch Night gives recognition with my Black ancestors belief in the power of faith. Many Black Americans living today have never had the joy of experiencing Watch Night. But, it still lives on in the churches that still celebrate this lovely acknowledgment of the hope that millions of enslaved Black people had that there was yet a better day, if not for them, then definitely, for their children, and their children’s children.

The celebration that a new year was coming full of tests, but, also full of the promise of a new and better day.

So, to all of you who have never celebrated a Watch Night, and to those of you who still observe this very important celebration of the New Year. . . .

. . . .a very Happy Watch Night, and may the New Year bring you much peace, prosperity, and blessings!

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ON THIS DAY IN BLACK MUSIC HISTORY: DECEMBER 31

#1 R&B Song 1955:   “Adorable,” the Drifters

 

Born:   Odetta (Odetta Gordon), 1930; Donna Summer, 1948

 

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1949   The Orioles charted R&B with their seasonal classic “(It’s Gonna Be a) Lonely Christmas,” reaching #5. Its B-side, the appropriately titled “What Are You Doing New Year’s Eve,” would reach #9 after only two weeks on the charts.

 

1960   The future standard “Will You Love Me Tomorrow” by the Shirelles entered the charts on this last day of the year, rising to #2 R&B and #1 pop. (The Shirelles were the first girl group [and my all-time favourite girl group] with a #1 hit single on the  Billboard Hot 100, with “Will You Still Love Me”, which was written by the great Carole King (who wrote another song entitled, “On the First Day in August,” which has the same sweet beauty and poignancy to it as this song). It took the Shirelles to put the song on the charts. The Shirelles ( Shirley Owens (the main lead singer; later known as Shirley Alston, then Shirley Alston Reeves), Doris Coley(later known as Doris Coley Kenner, then Doris Kenner Jackson; she sang lead on Dedicated to the One I Love“, “Welcome Home Baby”, “Blue Holiday” and a number of B-sides and album cuts),  Beverly Leeand  Addie ‘Micki’ Harris.

 

Shirelles.jpg
The Shirelles

 

1960   A former gospel vocalist in the Manhattans and the Royaltones, Maxine Brown reached the hit list with “All In Your Mind,” her first of fifteen charters through 1969.

 

1962   Advertised as an all-night gospel sing, the Dixie Hummingbirds, the Caravan Singers, the Swanee Quartet, Sam Cooke, and Cooke’s previous group the Soul Stirrers performed at the Armory in Newark, NJ.

 

1986   Freddie Jackson, Gladys Knight, Melba Moore performed on CBS-TV’s Happy New Year America show.

 

1990   The O’Jays performed on Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve ABC-TV show.

 

1991   Bell Biv Devoe performed on Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve ABC-TV show.

 

1993   The Isley Brothers performed at Atlanta, GA’s Fox Theater for their New Year’s Eve Show.

 

1993   Donna Summer performed at the Resorts Casino Hotel in Atlantic City, NJ, for Merv Griffin’s third annual New Year’s Eve special, which was shown on Fox-TV. It was also Summer’s forty-fifth birthday.

 

1993   Grandmaster Flash, Kool Moe Dee, Kurtis Blow, Whodini, Melle Mel, and Biz Markie performed at the Apollo Theater’s New Year’s Eve show.

 

1994   Babyface and Boyz II Men performed to a sellout audience of more than 16,000 fans at Madison Square Garden in New York.

 

1994   Stevie Wonder performed at Detroit’s Fox Thearter to a sell-out crowd.

 

1995   Chaka Khan performed at a New Year’s Eve show at the Beacon Theater in New York.

 

 

Well, that’s it for tonight. Next post will be the first of the New Year.  Hope everyone has a safe and happy New Year, and a prosperous life ahead!

OperaSydney-Fuegos2006-342289398.jpg

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ON THIS DAY IN BLACK MUSIC HISTORY: DECEMBER 30

#1 Song 2000:   “Independent Women, Part I,” Destiny’s Child

 

Born:   Bo Diddley (Ellas Otha Bates McDaniel), 1928

 

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1950   Billy Ward & the Dominoes (with bass Bill Brown on lead) recorded their monster hit, “60 Minute Man,”  which spent three and a half months at #1 R&B in 1951 (#17 pop).

 

1957   Alan Freed’s Brooklyn Paramount Christmas Show extravaganza featured the Moonglows, the Heartbeats, the Dells, the G-Clefs, and the Three Friends.

 

1972   The Spinners’ “Could It Be I’m Falling In Love” hit the Pop Top 100, leveling off at #2 while going to #1 R&B.

 

 

1972   Jermaine Jackson charted with “Daddy’s Home,” reaching #2 R&B and #9 pop. The song was originally a hit for Shep & the Limelites in 1961, reaching #2 pop. Jackson once said of his famous sibling, “A lot of Michael’s success is due to timing and luck. It could have just as easily been me.”

 

1995   LL Cool J and Boyz II Men’s single, “Hey Lover,” reached #3 pop and R&B.

 

1995   The Neville Brothers played at Warfield Theater in San Francisco.

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KATRINA’S HIDDEN RACE WAR: UPDATE

Last week I posted on the murders of Black citizens in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in the area of New Orleans, LA known as Algiers Point, a mostly all-White neighborhood.

Here is the previous post:  https://kathmanduk2.wordpress.com/2008/12/22/ethnic-cleansing-katrinas-hidden-race-war/

The deliberate hunting down and slaughtering of defenseless Black people by racists, the callous coldness of the local law enforcement in not pursuing these heinous crimes, and the non-existent news coverage (except for The Nations report), is more proof-positive of the lack of human regard for the lives of Black Americans.

If these were Black women going on a gun-toting mission to murder White women and men, the whole world would have heard about it by now. But, these are murdered Black people, not White people, therefore they have no value in the eyes of this country.

These are not Missing Pretty White Women:  https://kathmanduk2.wordpress.com/2007/08/08/missing-pretty-white-woman-syndrome-conclusion/

But w ith The Nation’s incisive report on these atrocities, and putting feet to fire, the New Orleans Police Department had to take notice of the contempt towards Black human life, including their’s and the white community of Algiers Point, and finally launch an investigation into these murders:

 

 

 

 

NOPD RESPONDS TO ‘NATION’ INVESTIGATION

December 26, 2008

By A.C.Thompson

 

 

New Orleans Police Superintendent Warren J. Riley made a Christmas Eve announcement that he will now investigate alleged crimes reported in a story published December 17 by The Nation. The story, “Katrina’s Hidden Race War,” shows how white residents in one New Orleans neighborhood repeatedly threatened and shot at African-American men in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

 

A New Orleans Police Department press release sent December 24 to the media and local government officials said that Riley “is currently looking into the allegations, and asked if anyone has substantial information relative to any incidents of this type to call the New Orleans Police Department Bureau of Investigations.”
 

 

In the Nation article, two African-American shooting victims–Marcel Alexander and Donnell Herrington–describe being blasted with a shotgun by a white man in the Algiers Point neighborhood on September 1, 2005, a few days after the storm made landfall. And several members of a self-styled vigilante group, all of them white, recount a string of shootings targeting African-Americans. “Three people got shot in just one day!” said one of the militiamen.

 

As documented in the Nation story, Herrington and others approached police officials about the attacks. But Riley claimed that the NOPD was unaware of this violence prior to the story’s publication. The department, according to Riley’s statement, “did not receive any complaints or information to substantiate any of the allegations of racial conflicts or vigilante type crimes in the City of New Orleans including the Algiers Point on the west bank of the City.” NOPD officials declined to respond to a detailed summary of each incident documented in the Nation article over a period of months.

 

The product of an eighteen-month investigation, “Katrina’s Hidden Race War” was underwritten by The Nation Institute’s Investigative Fund, with additional support by ProPublica.

 

SOURCE:  The Nation:  http://www.thenation.com/doc/20090112/thompson

 

 

A companion video of the race killings can be viewed here:

The NOPD. . . .finally investigating these incidents, was not aware of this anti-Black violence before the news article report. . . .now wants to talk to anyne who has information on these murders, now that the trail has gone stone-cold, and the killers are not only hiding but will not be outed by their accomplice protectors.

Yes, the devaluation and cheapness of Black human life in America should be no surprise to anyone knowledgeable about this country’s race war history against her Black American citizens.

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ON THIS DAY IN BLACK MUSIC HISTORY: DECEMBER 29

#1 R&B Song 1962:   “You Are My Sunshine,: Ray Charles

 

Born:   Patti Drew, 1944; Yvonne Elliman, 1951

 

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1954   The Nutmegs’ “A Story Untold” (#2 R&B) was released. It took six months to hit the national charts.

 

 

1956   The Orioles’ “For All We Know” and the Ravens’ spiritual yet secular ballad “A Simple Prayer” were released.

 

1962   Ray Charles reached #7 pop with “You Are My Sunshine.” Ironically, the R&B icon was putting cash in the pocket of a segregationist with every record sold, as the tune was written by former Louisiana governor Jimmie Davis.

 

1962   The Crystals charted with “He’s Sure the Boy I Love” (#11 pop). Unfortunately, as with their previous hit, “He’s A Rebel,” it wasn’t the Crystals singing on the record but Darlene Love & the Blossoms, thanks to the decision-makimg shenanigans of producer Phil Spector.

 

1962  The Supremes charted R&B with “Let Me Go The Right Way,” reaching #26 (#90 pop). It was their first of forty-three R&B hits through 1977.

 

1966   The Jimi Hendrix Experience appeared on London’s Top of the Pops show, performing their first single, “Hey Joe,” a cover of the Leaves’ hit.

 

1982   To honor the recently departed Bob Marley, a commemmorative stamp was issued by the Jamaican government.

 

1990   Lou Rawls hosted the Lou Rawls Parade of Stars Telethon to raise money for the United Negro College Fund. Also performing was Patti LaBelle.

 

1992   B.B. King performed for 300 inmates at the Gainseville Drug Treatment Center in Gainseville, FL. Among the prisoners was his daughter Patty, incarcerated for three years for drug trafficking. Forty-one years earlier to the day, B.B. had charted with his first R&B hit, “3 O’Clock Blues.”  Amazingly, despite a career that’s still going in the twenty-first century, and with more than seventy R&B hits, that first one was his biggest, reaching #1 for five weeks.

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ON THIS DAY IN BLACK MUSIC HISTORY: DECEMBER 28

#1 R&B Song 1974:   “Boogie On Reggae Woman,” Stevie Wonder

 

Born:   Billy Williams, 1910; Johnny Otis (John Veliotes), 1921; Leonard “Chick” Carbo (the Spiders), 1927

 

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1956   Alan Freed’s Christmas show at the Brooklyn Paramount set a one-day attendance record of  $27,200. The show was part of his eight-day Christmas extravaganza featuring the Moonglows, Shirley & Lee, the Dells, the Heartbeats, Screamin’ Jay Hawkins, Jesse Blevins, and the G-Clefs.

 

1957   Jackie Wilson, the Five Satins, the Ravens, and the Hollywood Flames performed at Chicago’s Regal Theater.

 

1966   Jimmy Ruffin, Gladys Knight & the Pips, the Temptations, Stevie Wonder, and Martha & the Vandellas performed at the Fox Theater in Detroit in what became known as the Motortown Revue.

 

1968   The top two singles on the pop charts were both by Motown acts Marvin Gaye at #1 with “I Heard It Through the Grapevine” and Stevie Wonder at #2 with “For Once In My Life.”

 

 

 

1968   Richie Havens, Chuck Berry, Marvin Gaye, Junior Walker & the All-Stars, and others performed at the Miami Pop Festival in front of more than 100,000 fans at Gulfstream Racing Park In Hallandale, FL.

 

1994   At the seventeenth annual Kennedy Center Honors, ahown on CBS-TV this night, honoree Aretha Franklin was feted with performances by Patti LaBelle, the Four Tops, and Detroit’s New Bethel Baptist Church choir.

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IN REMEMBRANCE: DECEMBER 28

Published: December 25, 2008
 
Eartha Kitt, who purred and pounced her way across Broadway stages, recording studios and movie and television screens in a show-business career that lasted more than six decades, died on Thursday. She was 81 and lived in Connecticut.
 
 
 
December 25, 2008    
Eartha Kitt, a Seductive Talent, Dies at 81

Popperfoto/Getty Images

Eartha Kitt in 1960, performing on British television in “Sunday Night at the Palladium.”

Multimedia

Eartha Kitt Performances (YouTube)

 
 
 
December 26, 2008    

Judith Pszenica for The New York Times

Eartha Kitt in 2007. She was an Emmy winner this year.

 

 

 

 

 
 
 
December 26, 2008    

Associated Press

Eartha Kitt with Nat King Cole in “St. Louis Blues” (1958).

 

 

 

 

 
 
 
December 25, 2008    
Eartha Kitt, a Seductive Talent, Dies at 81

Michelle V. Agins/The New York Times

Eartha Kitt performing in Manhattan in 2006.

 

 

 

 
 
 
 
December 25, 2008    
Eartha Kitt, a Seductive Talent, Dies at 81

Central Press/Getty Images

Eartha Kitt posing for her London stage show “Talk of the Town” in 1960.

 

 

 

 

Richard Termine for The New York Times

Eartha Kitt performing at the Café Carlyle in 2007.

 

The cause was colon cancer, said her longtime publicist, Andrew E. Freedman.
 
Ms. Kitt, who began performing in the late ’40s as a dancer in New York, went on to achieve success and acclaim in a variety of mediums long before other entertainment multitaskers like Julie Andrews, Barbra Streisand and Bette Midler.
 
With her curvaceous frame and unabashed vocal come-ons, she was also, along with Lena Horne, among the first widely known African-American sex symbols. Orson Welles famously proclaimed her “the most exciting woman alive” in the early ’50s, apparently just after that excitement prompted him to bite her onstage during a performance of “Time Runs,” an adaptation of “Faust” in which Ms. Kitt played Helen of Troy.
 
Ms. Kitt’s career-long persona, that of the seen-it-all sybarite, was set when she performed in Paris cabarets in her early 20s, singing songs that became her signatures, like “C’est Si Bon” and “Love for Sale.”
 
Returning to New York, she was cast on Broadway in “New Faces of 1952” and added another jewel to her vocal crown, “Monotonous” (“Traffic has been known to stop for me/Prices even rise and drop for me/Harry S. Truman plays bop for me/Monotonous, monotone-ous”). Brooks Atkinson wrote in The New York Times in May 1952, “Eartha Kitt not only looks incendiary, but she can make a song burst into flame.”
 
Shortly after that run, Ms. Kitt had her first best-selling albums and recorded her biggest hit, “Santa Baby,” whose precise, come-hither diction and vaguely foreign inflections (Ms. Kitt, a native of South Carolina, spoke four languages and sang in seven) proved that a vocal sizzle could be just as powerful as a bonfire. Though her record sales fell after the rise of rhythm and blues and rock ’n’ roll in the mid- and late ’50s, her singing style would later be the template for other singers with pillow-talky voices like Diana Ross (who has said she patterned her Supremes sound and look largely after Ms. Kitt), Janet Jackson and Madonna (who recorded a cover version of “Santa Baby” in 1987).
 
Ms. Kitt would later call herself “the original material girl,” a reference not only to her stage creation and to Madonna but also to her string of romances with rich or famous men, including Welles, the cosmetics magnate Charles Revson and the banking heir John Barry Ryan 3rd. She was married to her one husband, Bill McDonald, a real-estate developer, from 1960 to 1965; their daughter, Kitt Shapiro, survives her, as do two grandchildren.
 
From practically the beginning of her career, as critics gushed over Ms. Kitt, they also began to describe her in every feline term imaginable: her voice “purred” or “was like catnip”; she was a “sex kitten” who “slinked” or was “on the prowl” across the stage, sometimes “flashing her claws.” Her career has often been said to have had “nine lives.” Appropriately, she was tapped to play Catwoman in the 1960s TV series “Batman,” taking over the role from the leggier, lynxlike Julie Newmar and bringing to it a more feral, compact energy.
 
Yet for all the camp appeal and sexually charged hauteur of Ms. Kitt’s cabaret act, she also played serious roles, appearing in the films “The Mark of the Hawk” with Sidney Poitier (1957) and “Anna Lucasta” (1959) with Sammy Davis Jr. She made numerous television appearances, including a guest spot on “I Spy” in 1965, which brought her her first Emmy nomination.
 
For these performances Ms. Kitt likely drew on the hardship of her early life. She was born Eartha Mae Keith in North, S.C., on Jan. 17, 1927, a date she did not know until about 10 years ago, when she challenged students at Benedict College in Columbia, S.C., to find her birth certificate, and they did. She was the illegitimate child of a black Cherokee sharecropper mother and a white man about whom Ms. Kitt knew little. She worked in cotton fields and lived with a black family who, she said, abused her because she looked too white. “They called me yella gal,” Ms. Kitt said.
 
At 8 she was sent to live in Harlem with an aunt, Marnie Kitt, who Ms. Kitt came to believe was really her biological mother. Though she was given piano and dance lessons, a pattern of abuse developed there as well: Ms. Kitt would be beaten, she would run away and then she would return. By her early teenage years she was working in a factory and sleeping in subways and on the roofs of unlocked buildings. (She would later become an advocate, through Unicef, on behalf of homeless children.)
 
Her show-business break came on a lark, when a friend dared her to audition for the Katherine Dunham Dance Company. She passed the audition and permanently escaped the cycle of poverty and abuse that defined her life till then.
 
But she took the steeliness with her, in a willful, outspoken manner that mostly served her career, except once. In 1968 she was invited to a White House luncheon and was asked by Lady Bird Johnson about the Vietnam War. She replied: “You send the best of this country off to be shot and maimed. No wonder the kids rebel and take pot.” The remark reportedly caused Mrs. Johnson to burst into tears and led to a derailment in Ms. Kitt’s career.
 
As bookings dried up, she was exiled in Europe for almost a decade. But President Jimmy Carter invited her back to the White House in 1978, and that year she earned her first Tony nomination for her work in “Timbuktu!,” an all-black remake of “Kismet.”
 
By now a diva and legend, Ms. Kitt did what many other divas and legends — Shirley Bassey and Ethel Merman among them — did: she dabbled in dance music, scoring her biggest hit in 30 years with “Where Is My Man” in 1984, the same year she was roundly criticized for touring South Africa. Ms. Kitt was typically unapologetic; the tour, she said, played to integrated audiences and helped build schools for black children.
 
The third of her three autobiographies, “I’m Still Here: Confessions of a Sex Kitten,” was published in 1989, and she earned a Grammy nomination for “Back in Business,” a collection of cabaret songs released in 1994.
 
As Ms. Kitt began the sixth decade of her career, she was still active. In 2000 she received her second Tony nomination, for best featured actress in a musical in “The Wild Party.” Branching out into children’s programming, she won two Daytime Emmy Awards, this year and in 2007, as outstanding performer in an animated program for her role as the scheming empress-wannabe Yzma in “The Emperor’s New School.”
 
All the while she remained a fixture on the cabaret circuit, having maintained her voice and shapely figure through a vigorous fitness regimen that included daily running and weight lifting. Even after discovering in 2006 that she had colon cancer, she triumphantly opened the newly renovated Café Carlyle in New York in September 2007. Stephen Holden, writing in The Times, said that Ms. Kitt’s voice was “in full growl.”
 
But though Ms. Kitt still seemed to have men of all ages wrapped around her finger (she would often toy with younger worshipers at her shows by suggesting they introduce her to their fathers), the years had given her perspective. “I’m a dirt person,” she told Ebony magazine in 1993. “I trust the dirt. I don’t trust diamonds and gold.”
 
 
 
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On Christmas Day the world lost a one-of-a-kind diva, a gift from God given 82 years ago, and taken away from us to leave us in a world bereft of such profound magnitude. Eartha was a chanteuse the likes of which this world had never known. Eartha was a dancer, singer and artist extradinaire. Eartha was an activist who spoke her mind and never backed down from the truth. Eartha was the original pussycat doll.
 
Earth knew what it was like to be abandoned as a child, and as an adult. She knew what it was like to stand up to the president of the United States and his wife, President Lyndon Johnson and “Lady Bird” Johnson, on the moral hypocrisy of the Vietnam war. Eartha knew what it was like to have no one stand up for her when she spoke out against that administration’s use of young men as cannon fodder for a war that still did not stop communism nor prevent the rupture of Vietnam into two countries—-North and South.
 
I got to see the legend herself years ago at a wonderful performance she gave at Jones Hall in Houston, Texas.  I got to see her up close and speak to her. I was still a very young teenager, but I definitely remember Ms. Kitt. I am so glad I was able to see her before she left this world.
 
A brilliant and beautiful light has gone out from among us.
 
No more will we be able to hear—live—the lilting, purring, sexy, voice, that made “Catwoman” Eartha’s role. No more will we be able to see—-live—-those lovely cheekbones. No more will be be able to see—live—those lips that spoke in that uniques voice that was Eartha’s alone; those alluring eyes; that smile that radiated such insousiance. Her wit. Her sass. Her elan. Her verve.
 
Earth was attacked in life, and now she is lauded to the high heavens in death.
 
Would that she could have received such praise while she lived.
 
 
Rest en pacem, Eartha.
 
SALUTARE.

EARTHA MAE KITT January 17, 1927 – December 25, 2008

  Eartha Kitt
Eartha Kitt

 Eartha Kitt    
  Eartha KittEartha Kitt
Eartha KittEartha Kitt
Eartha Kitt  Eartha Kitt
Eartha Kitt Eartha Kitt
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 Eartha Kitt with husband and daughter
Eartha Kitt with daughter
Eartha Kitt with daughter
Eartha Kitt with daughter and granddaughter

 


        OFFICIAL EARTHA KITT WEBSITE:   http://www.earthakitt.com/index.html
 
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JAMES L. BEVEL, AN ADVISOR TO DR. KING
 
 
Published: December 23, 2008
 
The Rev. James L. Bevel, an adviser to the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. whose influence spurred a pivotal event of the civil rights movement, the “children’s crusade” in Birmingham, Ala., but whose reputation was later marred by fringe political associations and a criminal conviction this year on incest charges involving a teenage daughter, died Friday in Springfield, Va. He was 72.
 
 
 
The New York Times

The Rev. James Bevel in 1967.

 

Another daughter, Sherilynn Bevel, confirmed the death, The Washington Post reported. Mr. Bevel had been released from prison in November because he had pancreatic cancer.
Charismatic and eloquently quick-witted in a vernacular style, Mr. Bevel was known as a man of passion and peculiarity. He often wore overalls over a shirt and tie; he shaved his head and sometimes covered it with a yarmulke in honor of Old Testament prophets.
 
“A wild man from Itta Bena, Mississippi,” Taylor Branch called him in “Parting the Waters,” the first volume of his history of the civil rights movement, “a self-described example of the legendary ‘chicken-eating, liquor-drinking, woman-chasing Baptist preacher.’ ”
 
Nonetheless, Dr. King relied on his counsel. A loud opponent of American involvement in Vietnam, which he viewed as an extension of white oppression of nonwhites, Mr. Bevel was instrumental in Dr. King’s increasingly vocal opposition to the war.
 
In 1963, as the Alabama project director for the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, the organization led by Dr. King, Mr. Bevel persuaded Dr. King to allow children to participate in antisegregation demonstrations, in which they would almost surely face arrest. Though initially reluctant, Dr. King finally agreed.
 
The demonstrations, early that year, overwhelmed the city, and the news coverage, complete with televised images of black children being arrested or soaked and bowled over by law enforcement officers wielding powerful fire hoses, helped rally much of the American public to the side of the civil rights movement.
 
In March 1965, Mr. Bevel, a fiery orator, spoke at Brown Chapel A.M.E. Church in Selma, Ala., the starting point of a symbolic march to the Edmund Pettus Bridge, where demonstrators had been beaten two days earlier — a day remembered as “Bloody Sunday” — in a first attempt to march to Montgomery to protest discriminatory voting practices. (The completed march, which led to the passage of the Voting Rights Act, took place two weeks later.)
 
James Luther Bevel, one of 17 children, was born on Oct 19, 1936, in Itta Bena, in central Mississippi, and divided his childhood between there and Cleveland, where he worked in the steel mills as a teenager. He appeared headed for a career as a pop music singer — he had signed a contract with a record label — when he felt called to the ministry and enrolled in the American Baptist Theological Seminary in Nashville, where he joined the local chapter of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference.
 
In 1968, Mr. Bevel was at the Memphis motel where Dr. King was assassinated, and in a bizarre post-mortem, he claimed that the man who was arrested for (and later convicted of) the shooting, James Earl Ray, was not the killer and that he had evidence — which he declined to reveal — that Mr. Ray was innocent.
 
Though not a lawyer, Mr. Bevel offered to represent Mr. Ray in court. This was followed by a number of erratic-seeming episodes in his life. John Lewis, another King confidant who has been a Georgia congressman for more than 20 years, recalled in a memoir that at Spelman College in Atlanta, Mr. Bevel once declared himself a prophet and made his student disciples drink urine to signal their loyalty.
 
Politically Mr. Bevel drifted to the right, supporting Ronald Reagan’s presidency and tying himself to Lyndon H. LaRouche Jr., the perpetual fringe candidate for president. Mr. Bevel was Mr. LaRouche’s running mate in 1992, a time when Mr. LaRouche was serving time for fraud and tax evasion.
 
In April of this year, Mr. Bevel was convicted of having sexual intercourse with one of his daughters in the 1990s, when the girl was a teenager. Court testimony revealed that accusation had stemmed from a family reunion during which several family members recalled having been molested by Mr. Bevel. He told the court that he was the father of 16 children by 7 women.
 
“I’m very proud to be the daughter of a man who contributed so much to the world through his civil rights work,” one of his daughters, Chevarra Orrin, of Winston-Salem, N.C., told The Associated Press. “I am equally devastated and disgusted by his pedophilia.”
 
SOURCE:  The New York Times:  http://www.nytimes.com
 
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HAROLD PINTER, PLAYWRIGHT OF THE PAUSE
 
 
Published: December 25, 2008
 
Harold Pinter, the British playwright whose gifts for finding the ominous in the everyday and the noise within silence made him the most influential and imitated dramatist of his generation, died on Wednesday. He was 78 and lived in London.
 
 
 
 
December 26, 2008    

Everett Collection

Julie Christie and Harold Pinter on the set of the 1971 film “The Go-Between.” Mr. Pinter adapted the screenplay from a novel by L. P. Hartley. More Photos »

 
 
 
 
December 26, 2008    

Anthony Crickmay

John Gielgud, left, and Ralph Richardson performing in Harold Pinter’s play “No Man’s Land” in 1975. More Photos >

 

 

The cause was cancer, his wife, Lady Antonia Fraser, said Thursday.
 
Mr. Pinter learned he had cancer of the esophagus in late 2001. In 2005, when he received the Nobel Prize in Literature, he was unable to attend the awards ceremony at the Swedish Academy in Stockholm but delivered an acceptance speech from a wheelchair in a recorded video.
 
In more than 30 plays — written between 1957 and 2000 and including masterworks like “The Birthday Party,” “The Caretaker,” “The Homecoming” and “Betrayal” — Mr. Pinter captured the anxiety and ambiguity of life in the second half of the 20th century with terse, hypnotic dialogue filled with gaping pauses and the prospect of imminent violence.
 
Along with another Nobel winner, Samuel Beckett, his friend and mentor, Mr. Pinter became one of the few modern playwrights whose names instantly evoke a sensibility. The adjective Pinteresque has become part of the cultural vocabulary as a byword for strong and unspecified menace.
 
An actor, essayist, screenwriter, poet and director as well as a dramatist, Mr. Pinter was also publicly outspoken in his views on repression and censorship, at home and abroad. He used his Nobel acceptance speech to denounce American foreign policy, saying that the United States had not only lied to justify waging war against Iraq, but that it had also “supported and in many cases engendered every right-wing military dictatorship” in the last 50 years.
 
His political views were implicit in much of his work. Though his plays deal with the slipperiness of memory and human character, they are also almost always about the struggle for power.
 
The dynamic in his work is rooted in battles for control, turf wars waged in locations that range from working-class boarding houses (in his first produced play, “The Room,” from 1957) to upscale restaurants (the setting for “Celebration,” staged in 2000). His plays often take place in a single, increasingly claustrophobic room, where conversation is a minefield and even innocuous-seeming words can wound.
 
In Mr. Pinter’s work “words are weapons that the characters use to discomfort or destroy each other,” said Peter Hall, who has staged more of Mr. Pinter’s plays than any other director.
 
But while Mr. Pinter’s linguistic agility turned simple, sometimes obscene, words into dark, glittering and often mordantly funny poetry, it is what comes between the words that he is most famous for. And the stage direction “pause” would haunt him throughout his career.
 
Intended as an instructive note to actors, the Pinter pause was a space for emphasis and breathing room. But it could also be as threatening as a raised fist. Mr. Pinter said that writing the word “pause” into his first play was “a fatal error.” It is certainly the aspect of his writing that has been most parodied. But no other playwright has consistently used pauses with such rhythmic assurance and to such fine-tuned manipulative effect.
 
Early in his career Mr. Pinter said his work was about “the weasel under the cocktail cabinet.” Though he later regretted the image, it holds up as a metaphor for the undertow of danger that pervades his work. As Martin Esslin wrote in his book “Pinter: The Playwright,” “Man’s existential fear, not as an abstraction, but as something real, ordinary and acceptable as an everyday occurrence — here we have the core of Pinter’s work as a dramatist.”
 
Though often grouped with Beckett and others as a practitioner of Theater of the Absurd, Mr. Pinter considered himself a realist. In 1962 he said the context of his plays was always “concrete and particular.” He never found a need to alter that assessment.
 
Beginning in the late 1950s, John Osborne and Mr. Pinter helped to turn British theater away from the gentility of the drawing room. With “Look Back in Anger,” Osborne opened the door for several succeeding generations of angry young men, who railed against the class system and an ineffectual government. Mr. Pinter was to have the more lasting effect as an innovator and a stylist. And his influence on other playwrights, including David Mamet in the United States and Patrick Marber and Jez Butterworth in England, is undeniable.
 
The playwright Tom Stoppard said that before Mr. Pinter: “One thing plays had in common: you were supposed to believe what people said up there. If somebody comes in and says, ‘Tea or coffee?’ and the answer is ‘Tea,’ you are entitled to assume that somebody is offered a choice of two drinks, and the second person has stated a preference.” With Mr. Pinter there are alternatives, “such as the man preferred coffee but the other person wished him to have tea,” Mr. Stoppard said, “or that he preferred the stuff you make from coffee beans under the impression that it was called tea.”
 
As another British playwright, David Hare, said of Mr. Pinter, “The essence of his singular appeal is that you sit down to every play or film he writes in certain expectation of the unexpected.”
 
Though initially regarded as an intuitive rather than an intellectual playwright, Mr. Pinter was in fact both. His plays are dense with references to writers like James Joyce and T. S. Eliot. The annual Pinter Review, in which scholars probe and parse his works for meaning and metaphor, is one of many indications of his secure berth in academia.
 

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