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Archive for July, 2009

[Curiosities]

I wasn’t even finished watching the CNN replay of the service, and up come the funeral recaps. Journalists and blog commenters all over the place find themselves “shocked” that the funeral was tasteful at all. I know, right? All these black people in one spot, and oh wow! they’re behaving. But singing? And performances? While the coffin is sitting there? Creepy! Weird! Interesting!

When my father died nearly 10 years ago, my then-boyfriend attended the service. He was a Philipino Catholic guy who hadn’t ever set foot in a black church. The first thing he said after the service was, “Wow, it was so loud! Gospel singing, at a funeral?” It was pretty apparent that the mainstream funeral tradition and the African American one were two completely different things.

I remember when Jeremiah Wright brought the “black church experience” into the public consciousness. Sure, everyone had heard of Martin Luther King, but he was a speaker, an orator… people largely ignored that this style of speaking still goes on every single Sunday. The rhythm, the cadence, the manner of celebrating — all of this is familiar to black churchgoers, but not to the public, who remained curious and enchanted and relegated this experience, considered sacred by some, to unnecessary theatrics (of course, for us, the theatrics are an element of the sacred… but that’s another post).

On another blog, it was revealed that one of CNN’s clueless commentators described the repast as an “afterparty.” This reflects both the newscaster’s insensitivity and, on a larger scale, the inability to comprehend that Michael was Black. After so many years of being picked apart and claimed by everyone everywhere, some seem completely shocked that Michael’s death has “returned” him to his roots. As if to say, “Hey, Michael was an ordinary Black guy? But I liked him!”

But of course, despite all Michael’s self explorations and transformations, he was always one of us, always fought for us. I suspect I’m not alone in having to remind myself of this as we collectively mourn him.

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