Calling Blackness Into Question (or Being Black, With a Capital B)

flipping offHonestly, I’m tired of talking about these things. I’ve been dealing with race and racism my entire life, and now that I’m closer to 50 than I am to 40, I’m really tired of explaining myself and issues surround race and racial ideology to others. Hell, I’ve written a book on the subject, just so I don’t have to talk about it anymore. And yet the conversation still comes up, and keep engaging, because it must be done. But recently I had an encounter with someone that struck a raw nerve, an encounter in which—if I’m to understand the implication—called into question my blackness.

The news has been filled with horrific stories of unarmed black people being killed by police. You could write a book about the terrible cases that occurred in 2014 alone. It was this current state of affairs that led to a recent conversation about being black, and being profiled, and being harassed by the police. For the record, I have been profiled. I have been harassed by the police (though I’ve never suffered any sort of physical brutality). That said, I have not been bothered by the police in any way, shape, or form, in nearly twenty years. The last time I got pulled over by the cops was 1999, and I had a busted headlight. I had a pleasant exchange with the officer, who did not give me a ticket. In 2011, I intervened when a crazy man attacked an employee at the post office. I helped subdue the crazy man, wrestling him to the floor, and when the cops finally showed up, I was thankfully not shot by mistake. That was my last encounter with the police. Two encounters in fifteen years. I don’t know why it has been so few, I’m just thankful that it has been.

As I was talking about this, the person I was talking to—a black woman—began to question what it was that I was doing that kept me from being harassed. I was at a loss for an explanation. Maybe it’s because I drive a Prius, and cops ignore black men driving hybrids. Maybe it is because I’m driving through neighborhoods that aren’t as heavily patrolled. Maybe it’s because of my light complexion, or because I don’t go out much to clubs anymore. I honestly don’t know. Her theory was that maybe I wasn’t black enough. Maybe I had assimilated (sold-out) because I drove a Prius. “Maybe you’re this.” “Maybe you’re that.”

And maybe you’re full of shit.

I grew up in a predominatly white community, surrounding by black people (most of them my family). My complexion is very light (as is the complexion of much of my family). I have been accused of “sounding like a white person” when I talk. At the same time, I’ve been called “nigger” more times than I can count. I’ve been in fights. I’ve been messed with by the cops. And, perhaps quite significantly, I spent a long time trying to prove I was black. Hi-yella Negroes often find themselves in similar positions.

For me, I spent more than ten years of my life really trying to prove my blackness. I read many of the books you’re supposed to read, studied history, embraced much of the culture that defines blackness in America. I also grew my hair out. For me, with my light skin, and my “articulate” way of speak, my hair was the quickest and easiest way to send a message to the world—“I am Black, with a capital B!”

dw new2I had dreadlocks for ten years (from 1987 to 1997), and it was during this time that my blackness was questioned the least. On the left is what I looked like in 1996, about a year before I cut my hair. People looked at me, and the message of what I am was made fairly clear (though people still commented on the way I talk). It was also the time that I was harassed most by the cops. I am not going to say that there was a direct correlation. Maybe there was, maybe there wasn’t—I don’t know for sure. I just know that after I cut off my dreads, I was only pulled over by the cops because of valid reasons (once for running a red light, and the other for that busted headlight I mentioned). I have walked past cops in New York, Chicago, Atlanta, Los Angeles, and multiple other cities, and not been given a second look. Most of time when I drive home, I drive past a police station, so I see the 5-0 all the time, and nothing happens.

DW 1997This is me in 1997, just after I cut off all my hair. Maybe I am a sell out who has assimilated because I drive a hybrid. Maybe I’m not black enough. Maybe I’m no longer a threat, and therefore can longer consider myself a Black man with a capital B. The woman I’d been talking to, who alluded to all of this, may be completely right about me. She asked my why I cut off my dreads. I told here it was because at that point in my life, I no longer felt the need to use my hair as a tool to identify myself. I’m pretty sure she rolled her eyes, as if to say, “No, you just didn’t want people knowing what you are.”

The reality is that each of us defines who we are by a volatile mix of environment, genetics, socio-political ideologies, and this intangible thing that exists in each of us (I call it my soul). But until we get in touch with that intangible thing, and make peace with it, we will forever be stuck in a trap of being identified by outside forces, and by adopting mannerism and appearances that help to answer the question, “What are you?”

The two important things to remember are that those outside forces will seldom change in their attempt to define and identify you; and that true peace of mind and identity can only come from a place inside, in which you no longer need to explain yourself. That’s not to say that you can’t explain or identify yourself if you so chose, just that you don’t have to if that’s not what you want to do. I reached a place, just before I turned 30, where I no longer felt the need to shout to the world, “Look at me, I’m Black with a Capital B!” At the same time, I don’t shy away from my blackness. And I find it sad and troubling that there are still people out there, whose measure of blackness continues to be things mired in the negative—how many times you get harassed by the cops, how much time you’ve done in the joint, how many of your friends have been killed in a drive-by shootings.

If these are the measures of what it takes to be Black with a capital B, then perhaps I am not deserving of laying claim to the rich culture that I have embraced my entire life, the history that I have studied tirelessly, and the humanity that I have sought to reclaim for myself and so many others. Maybe the sad truth is that I am not black until I am harassed by the cops, or killed, or sent to prison. And if that is true, well, I guess I need to be cool with not being black enough.

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A Veteran’s Day Tale

vetAbout a month ago, I was in New York City. When I was much younger, I lived in the city, and over the years, I’ve had plenty of amazing, surreal, and terrifying experiences in the Big Apple. But something that happened during my most recent trip tops everything.

I was waiting for the subway at the Times Square station, and a street musician was performing Otis Redding’s “Sittin’ on the Dock of the Bay.” Scenes like this are common in New York, and on the subway and subway platforms, most people go into their protective bubble, and try to tune out as much of the world as possible. I, however, had only been back in the city for about three or fours hours, and hadn’t put on my New York force field of protection. That must explain why I noticed the older gentleman, somewhere in his 60s, drop some money into the musician’s guitar case, and go on to have a full emotional meltdown.

The man began to sob uncontrollably. I can’t recall a time that I’ve ever seen a grown man have an emotional breakdown like this in such a public place. And everyone around him was ignoring it—hiding behind the shields that all New Yorkers seem to use to get through the day. The only other person that seemed to notice was an African American man, in a business suit, who was trying to get the musician’s attention. Mr. Business Suit was motioning to the musician, trying to get him to stop singing the song, because he could see—as could I—that it was doing something terrible to the Crying Man. And to describe him as merely the Crying Man doesn’t really begin to convey what this guy was going through.

I kept waiting for someone to say something to the Crying Man. Didn’t anyone else see that he was on the verge of completely falling apart? Didn’t anyone else care?

Finally, after what seemed like hours, but was probably less than a minute, I approached the Crying Man. “Hey, man, are you okay?” I asked.

He looked at me, tears flowing, sobbing uncontrollably, and he shook his head. “No, I’m not,” he said.

“What’s wrong? Can I do anything for you?” I asked.

“I got all this shit inside me. It is killing me, and I don’t know how to get it out,” he said.

“Well, you got to get it out, my man. You can’t keep these things inside. Look at what it’s doing to you,” I said. “Find someone to talk to about it—to take all this shit away from you, so you can stop carrying it.”

“No one gives a fuck about me,” said the man.

“That’s not true,” I said. “I give a fuck about you. I’m standing here, talking to you right now. I’m looking at you, and I’m telling you, whatever it is your carrying, give it to me. Let me take it, so you don’t have to keep it anymore.”

The man looked at me like I was insane. So did Mr. Business Suit, who was watching the entire thing. And then, Crying Man said to me, “I was just a teenager when this song came out—a kid. I didn’t know any better. And the man, he told me all this bullshit about the things I could do, and the difference I could make, and so I went to Vietnam.”

The Crying Man then told me about his experiences in the Vietnam War. Needless to say, this was not what I was expecting, nor was it what I was prepared to hear. But I listened, as the man told me his very sad story. I fought back the tears. I reached out, placed my hand on the man’s shoulder, then I pulled him close and hugged him, because there was nothing—and I mean nothing—that I could say in response.

The Crying Man looked at me, and asked, “Why are you doing this for me?”

“You’re a human being, aren’t you?” I asked. “Your life has some value, doesn’t it?”

He looked at me, as if not sure what to say next. He nodded his head and said, “Yeah, I’m a human being.”

“Well, we all need to be reminded of that from time to time,” I said. “You matter. I matter. We all matter.”

“No one has ever done anything like this for me,” he said.

“Well, I guess I’m not like anyone,” I said.

My train pulled up. I told the Crying Man that I had to go, but wanted to make sure he didn’t need me to stay.

“Thank you,” he said. “You saved me.”

I got on the train and rode away. I never even found out his name.

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Introducing A. Darryl Moton

motonEver since making the transition from print to the Internet, BadAzz MoFo has pretty much been a solo endeavor. I regularly get approached by folks who want to contribute, and then I never respond (sorry for being such an asshole). This has been my toy for a very long time, and ego and pride have kept me from sharing this space with anyone else. But with my increasingly busy schedule, and my new-found desire to help others get their creative voices heard, I am finally going to start including the work of a select group of contributors. With that said, let me introduce to you A. Darryl Moton. I have no idea what he’s going to be writing for the site, but I’m looking forward to it.

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How to Buy My Comic Books (and Comics in General)

docsavageA lot of my friends and family members have asked me when and where they can buy the upcoming Shaft comic series, as well as the Doc Savage Special, starring Pat Savage (both written by me). Since these are people who do not normally buy comics, I need to explain a few things to them. The most important thing is that they understand that when Shaft #1 comes out on December 3rd, and the Doc Savage Special comes out on December 17th, there is no guarantee they can just walk into a comic book store and buy a copy of either. That’s because the comic retail market is unique in how it operates. Basically, the comic retail market operates on a system that requires you pre-order your comics approximately two months in advance. The amazing writer Kelly-Sue DeConnick explains this system quite well HERE, and the video below also explains it.

If you want Shaft or the Doc Savage Special (both from Dynamite Entertainment), you have several options open to you.

SHAFT order form colorYou can pre-order from a local comic book retailer. If you don’t know where the closest retailer is to you, check out the website Comic Shop Locator. The retailer you go to will need the order codes of the comics you want. Since Shaft #1 has variant covers, there are multiple order codes (one for each different cover). You can print out the image above, and take it to your local retailer.

Some retailers will not order a single comic for you if you don’t sign up for a subscription service. In that case, you can always order from an online retailer like Things From Another World (though you will still need to pre-order). There are other online retailers, but TFAW is the only one I have used.

You can also purchase digital versions of both comics. Dynamite sells digital versions of all their titles on Comixology, as well as at the Dark Horse Digital Store. Digital stores do not require pre-orders (though you do have to create an account).

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John Shaft vs. Sam Wilson (a.k.a. It’s Time to Re-write the History of Black Characters in Comics)

shaft v falconI’m about to stir it up. I’m about to talk some shit, ruffle some feathers, and remind those that know me, how I break it down. Some of you will get pissed off, and that’s okay. Righteous indignation is a wonderful American tradition. Run with it, my friends.

As many of you know, in the world of comics, Sam Wilson, better known as Falcon, has assumed the mantle of Captain America over at Marvel/Disney. This has been a much-hyped story, that I have weighed in on (read HERE and HERE), but couldn’t go into as deep as I wanted because of a secret that I needed to keep. That secret was made public last week, when Dynamite Entertainment announced that I was writing their upcoming Shaft comic book.

I’m not going to lie. I really wanted to write a Falcon story for Marvel. And not just any story—I wanted to write the definitive Falcon story. I wanted to write something that would elevate him above his status as nothing more than a sidekick, which has remained unwavering now for 40-plus years. I even put together a pitch. It was pretty good. I managed to consolidate the convoluted history of Falcon, and reinvent him as one of the most dangerous characters in the Marvel Universe. Unfortunately, I never got to pitch that story, because Marvel, in all their progressive wisdom, decided that the best way to give a black character a badass storyline was to have him assume the role of a white character. And as disappointed as I am, I ain’t that disappointed, because I’m writing Shaft for Dynamite (sorry, I know, it’s shameful bragging, but I can’t help myself).

My love for the character of John Shaft is no secret. I was introduced to the character in the films of 1970s, but really began to appreciate John Shaft through the original series of books, created by Ernest Tidyman. A lot of people are surprised to find out that Shaft started as a novel, followed by six sequels, and that his creator was a white man—which is irrelevant to me. I’m just eternally grateful that Tidyman created Shaft in the first place, and in doing so helped to change pop culture. I also need to be very clear about this…my vision of Shaft—the one that will be in the comic—comes from the character that Tidyman created. There will be glimpses of the character from the films, but that Shaft is a shadow of the man in the books.

cover montage 1The idea to do a comic series based on Tidyman’s novels first occurred to me years ago, but back then it was more of a dream than anything else. As a writer of comics and prose, my goal has always been to have characters of color that are complex. But the reality of mainstream comics is that black characters with complexity are few and far between. To be sure, they exist, but they exist in worlds controlled by large corporations, that seldom deviate from the status quo. These characters are like toys that are owned by someone else, and only a select few people get to play with these toys, which come with rules for how you get to play with them.

Without bragging, I could have given Marvel a Sam Wilson/Falcon story that would have made him the most iconic black character they have in their toy box. But I no longer have any interest in that, because I’ve been given a better toy, with fewer rules attached. And just so there is no confusion…I know that Falcon is a superhero and Shaft is just a plain old badass. But they are both characters, and one comes with a tremendous amount of untapped potential, and the other comes with a ton of baggage and rules.

By letting me write Shaft—whether they realize it or not—Dynamite is changing the game. From this point forward, whenever people talk about black characters in comics (or black creators), they will need to talk about Shaft. (They also need to start talking about Watson & Holmes, Molly Danger, Midnight Tiger, Concrete Park, Genius, and all the other amazing comics that keep getting overlooked and ignored.) In other words, the time has come where the history of black characters in comics needs not just a new chapter, but an all-new book. In that book, there will be a paragraph or two about the time Sam Wilson took over for Captain America, and the buzz/outrage it created. And hopefully, in that very same book, after the chapters about Milestone, Jackie Ormes, Morrie Turner, Brotherman, and the rich legacy that came before me, there will be an entire chapter on a comic publisher that licensed an iconic black character created by a white man, and then hired a loud-mouthed black guy—with a bad habit of bragging and talking shit—to bring it like it’s never been brought in comics before.

Shaft #1 debuts in stores on December 3, 2014. Pre-order your copy now.
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I’m Not Mike Brown

Victims 1I am not Mike Brown. I’m not Darrien Hunt. I’m not Trayvon Martin, Eric Garner, or Yuseff Hawkins, or Emmett Till, or one of the Central Park Five, or one of the Scottsboro Boys. In fact, when push comes to shove, I’m a lucky black man. I’m getting ready to turn 46. I have no criminal record. I have a college degree. I’m doing work that I love, and moving around in the world in ways that my father, and my grandfather, and all the men in my family never could. My great-grandfather was born a slave—his father was also his owner, and his mother was sold off to another plantation. So, yeah, I’m pretty damn lucky. I have it better than those that came before me. But sadly—heartbreakingly—I also have it better than many of those that came after me.

Mike Brown was old enough to be son. So was Trayvon Martin, and even Darrien Hunt. If he’d lived, Emmett Till would’ve been old enough to be my father. Same with Fred Hampton.

It is difficult to look at the injustices that have been endured by the generations that came before me, and it is even more difficult to witness the oppression and dehumanization of the generation that has come up behind me. And then there is my generation. I’m only a few years older than the Central Park Five. I was living in New York when that travesty happened. Eric Garner was only a few years younger than me. I never met him, but I knew guys like him. Just like I’ve known guys like Darrien Hunt and Mike Brown. I’ve known too many. And I can’t say that I am them, in the way that has become so popular during these news cycles. How many people donned hoodies and proclaimed that they were Trayvon Martin? Hell, I did it. But I’m not Trayvon, or Jordan Davis. I’m alive, writing this, trying to make sense of it all—sense of the fact that so many others before me and after me have been killed, and that I’m still alive. I’m trying to fully comprehend all of the people in prison for crimes that can be directly linked to a system of oppression and inequality that leaves people of color at a disadvantage, dead, and incarcerated.

victims 2The moment you know one person who has been killed, whether it’s by the police or gang violence, you know too many. Once you know one person who has committed murder, who has gone to prison, has been caught up in the cycle of crime and violence, you know too many. Every story of injustice, systemic oppression, dehumanization, murder, rape, and all the other terrible things people do to each other, all these stories open old wounds. And I’m not just talking about my wounds, or the wounds of the families that survive the horrors that have befallen too many of us. I’m talking about the wounds of everyone—of the entire nation. The murder of Mike Brown and the ensuing violation of human rights that followed in Ferguson opened wounds in every person in this nation, even those that don’t know they were hurt in the process.

This wound has been opened so many times, that it never gets to heal. Some people think that it heals, because we stop talking about this incident or that incident, but that’s not the case. Darrien Hunt reopened the wound that was still open from Mike Brown, Eric Garner, and John Crawford, just to name three. It hurts to think about all of these people, and so many more. People who have been killed. People who have been incarcerated. People who have been chewed up and spit out by a system that was never meant to serve everyone, just a select few. And it hurts to talk about them, because talking about the bigger picture of racial ideology and systemic oppression is scary and infuriating and depressing. But if we don’t talk about it—if we don’t scream about it, and point it out, and make sure that everyone knows the truth, things will never get better. It’s like this—the wound keeps getting opened anyway. It never heals. And it never will heal, until we look at what really keeps opening it up—at what is causing all this blood to be spilled, and all these lives to be ruined.

I know it hurts. I know it makes you angry and sad and depressed. I know. But we can never stop talking about it. We can never stop pointing it out. One hundred years after the last cop has gunned down the last unarmed black person, we will still need to be talking about it, so that there will never be another Mike Brown, or a Trayvon Martin, or an Emmett Till. We can never stop talking about it, pointing it out, reminding the world of all the horrors that add up to sustained genocide. We can’t stop fighting. Because if we stop, it will keep happening.

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I’m Just Talkin’ ‘Bout Shaft.

Shaft01-Cov-A-CowanFor months now, I’ve been talking about a top secret project that I couldn’t actually talk about. Well, now I can talk about it. I’m writing Shaft for Dynamite Entertainment. This has been a project long in development, and definitely one of the biggest things I’ve ever done. I’m working with an incredible artist named Bilquis Evely, and she is killing it. The first issue will have several variant covers, including the masterpiece pictured above by Denys Cowan and Bill Sienkiewicz. You can read more about it at Comics Beat. The series will be steeped in the world created by author Ernest Tidyman, author of the Shaft books. It was with the help and the blessing of his widow, Chris Clark-Tidyman, that this project got off the ground. Dynamite has put a lot into this series, which debuts in December (just in time for my birthday). I’ll be posting more about it in the days, weeks, months, and hopefully, years to come.

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Rose City Comic Con 2015 Schedule

Okay, boys and girls, I’ll be at the Rose City Comic Con in Portland, Oregon, Sept. 20-21. And guess what? I have an actual schedule.

SATURDAY

Monkeybrain Comics: The Collaborative Process – Room: Panel Room 2, Time: 1:00PM – 1:50PM
While some comics are the result of a single person writing and drawing their own work, many are the result of collaborations between writers and artists. But no two collaborations are the same. Join Monkeybrain Comics co-founder Chris Roberson and the creative teams behind some of Monkeybrain’s most critically acclaimed titles, Christopher Sebela and Ibrahim Moustafa (High Crimes), Adam P. Knave, D.J. Kirkbride, Nick Brokenshire (Amelia Cole), David Walker, Carl Sciacchitano (Army of Dr. Moreau), and Paul Tobin, Colleen Coover (Bandette), for a discussion about how they work together.

Making it in Comics: The Myth of the Overnight Success – Room: Panel Room 5
Time: 5:00PM – 5:50PM
Behind every overnight success in comics there are years of struggle and sacrifice. Join this panel of creators who discuss how they got to where they are, who they were before you heard of them, and what it takes to be an overnight success. Moderating this panel is David Walker (Number 13) with guests Ibrahim Moustafa (High Crimes), Tyler Jenkins (Peter Panzerfaust), Brian Michael Bendis (Ultimate Spider-Man), and Michael Avon Oeming (Powers)

SUNDAY

With Great Power Comes Great Responsibility: The Role of the Fan in Geek Culture – Room: Panel Room 6. Time: 2:00PM – 2:50PM
Every fan has an opinion, and we all know what opinions are like (and why they stink). The fact of the matter is that the fans can help shape the course of whatever it is they love. They have all the power. In this panel hosted by writer David Walker (Number 13, The Army of Dr. Moreau), with guests Adam Rosko (Trek in the Park), Rachel Edidin (Wired and Comics Alliance), Mike Russell (culturepulp.com), and Kenna Conklin (Geek Portland) talk about the responsibility that comes with that power.

I’ll also be hanging out at Carl Sciacctano’s table, #J-06. I’ll have comics, books and other fun stuff.

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Black Westerns: A Brief Overview

black westerns 1This piece originally ran in BadAzz MoFo #4, which came out in 1999. It is part of The BadAzz MoFo Collection, now on sale.

The cowboy has long been a perennial part of American folklore. Like the Japanese samurai, or the European knight in shining armor, the cowboy has gone on to become the American ideal of heroism, manliness, truth and honor. Thanks to the motion picture industry, images of Roy Rogers, John Wayne, and Clint Eastwood all come mind as the arch-typical hero of the old west; and have kept the cowboy white.

In truth, the black cowboy did exist in the Old West. But while the popular fiction and yellow journalism of the day was quick to call attention to lawmen like Doc Holliday or Wyatt Earp and outlaws like Billy the Kid; their Black counterparts were largely neglected. U.S. Deputy Marshall Bass Reeves was long considered one of the greatest lawmen of the old west, with a career that spanned thirty-two years. Outlaws like Cherokee Bill were as ruthless as Billy the Kid, and The Rufus Buck Gang committed a crime spree worse than the Dalton and James Gangs combined. Yet these historical figures are barely known, and hardly discussed.

Thanks to the whitewash of history, the contributions of Blacks (not to mention Chinese, Indians, and women) has been neglected. Likewise, Hollywood has been notoriously irresponsible in their depiction of truth, justice, and the American way. The great explorer Jim Beckworth, who discovered the Beckworth pass, which connects California and Nevada through the Sierra Nevada Mountains, was portrayed by white actor Jack Oakie in the film Tomahawk.

Despite Hollywood’s reluctance to show Blacks riding tall in the saddle, the Black cowboy has found a home in the movies. One of the first Black Westerns was the 1921 silent film The Crimson Skull. World famous rodeo star Bill Pickett appeared in Crimson Skull, and two years later Pickett would star in the documentary Bull-Dogger. The comedy short A Chocolate Cowboy appeared in 1925, in an attempt to give Black audiences a cowboy hero.

The big break through for Black Westerns came during the race films of the thirties. In 1938 Herb Jeffries (a.k.a. Herbert Jeffrey) starred in Two Gun Man from Harlem, the first in series of films that would establish Jeffries as the Black singing cowboy. Appearing as the heroic lead in Harlem on the Prairie (1938); The Bronze Buckaroo (1938); and Harlem Rides the Range (1939) Jeffries would go on to be come a matinee idol for the segregated audiences of the time. Riding to the rescue on his trusty horse Stardusk, Herb Jeffries became one of the first black action heroes in the history of film. (NOTE: Years later, Jeffries would confess that he was not of African descent, but merely passing as being black.)

Along with Jeffries, other black actors of the day appeared in the handful of westerns that were produced. Spencer Williams appeared in several films along side Jeffries, including Harlem Rides the Range, which Williams wrote. Mantan Moreland appeared in Come On, Cowboy (1948), a comedy western musical, and Louis Jordan starred in 1946’s Look-Out Sister.

woody strode rutledgeThe 1950s saw virtually no screen presence for the Black cowboy. It wasn’t until 1960, when Woody Strode appeared as the title character in John Ford’s Sergeant Rutledge (above), that Black actors would begin to start appearing mainstream Hollywood westerns. Strode would prove to be the forerunner to the black action heroes of the seventies; making several appearances in horse operas throughout the sixties. Strode’s performances ranged from memorable cameos (Once Upon a Time in the West) to co-leads (Sergeant Rutledge, Boot Hill and The Professionals).

As America (and the film industry) began to desegregate, so to did the Hollywood western – albeit grudgingly. The path that was blazed by Woody Strode would be followed by Jim Brown. Roles in Rio Conchos (1964) and 100 Rifles (1969) would help to establish Brown as the leading black action hero of the 60s. Sidney Poitier and Ossie Davis would also make appearances in westerns during the sixties; Poitier in Duel at Diablo (1966) and Davis in The Scalphunters (1968).

outcastsTelevision westerns were never more popular than they were during the sixties. Taking advantage of changing racial attitudes, popular western television series like Bonanza, Daniel Boone, Gunsmoke, Rawhide and Big Valley occasionally would have black guest stars. Yaphet Kotto, Brock Peters, Woody Strode, Frank Silvera, Sammy Davis, Jr., and Raymond St. Jaques were among the actors that usually played former slaves or buffalo soldiers. In 1968, ABC premiered the series The Outcasts (left). The offbeat series followed the adventures of two bounty hunters; Earl Corey (Don Murray), a former slave owner, and Jemal David (Otis Young), who co-starred with Jack Nicholson in The Last Detail) a former slave. The shaky alliance between the two bounty hunters allowed producers to explore issues of racism in the old west.From a historical standpoint, the series offered what may have been television’s first black action hero. The Outcasts held a certain amount of promise, unfortunately, it only lasted one season.

legend of nigger charleyDuring the seventies, the blaxploitation genre was taking America by storm, and it seemed as if there was finally hope for Black westerns. Jim Brown started the decade by starring in 1970’s El Condor. Two years later came Buck & the Preacher, starring Sidney Poitier and Harry Belafonte; and Fred Williamson in The Legend of Nigger Charley. Cleavon Little appeard as perhaps the most famous of all on-screen black cowboys, in Mel Brooks’ comedy Blazing Saddles, which had been co-written by Richard Pryor, who was originally to star in the film. Pryor would get his shot at a comedy western when he appeared in Fred Williamson’s disappointing Adios, Amigo. Williamson starred in a series of westerns (Joshua, Take a Hard Ride), doing his most to make the Black cowboy a familiar part of the American consciousness. Unfortunately, Hollywood has been reluctant to release it’s stranglehold on the western, and white cowboys.

John Wayne, and the white cowboy has become the last bastion of hope for the white race; promising to ride up on his white horse to save this great nation of ours, from whatever savages threaten our safety. Through Hollywood and the western, lies and half-truths can continue to be propagated, and the Black cowboy, the true original cowboy, will remain forever an oddity.

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I’m Not Dead…

…just really busy with a ton of projects. I know someone, somewhere, is concerned about my lack of posts this month. And for that I am appreciative. Lots of interesting stuff in the works, stay tuned.

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Posted in Life & Times, NEWS & UPDATES, Random Nonsense | Leave a comment