It Was Al Smiles
Promoting Culture as a Civic Religion
Social Fridays at The Gallery is the place to be if you are looking for a hip place to hang out after work in Brunswick Georgia; it’s a great way to begin the weekend. Promoted by the progressive young entrepreneur Luke Engram – an Atlanta transplant who was tutored in the entertainment business by Dallas Austin – Atlanta showbiz mogul and Executive Producer of that marvelous film and cultural treasure on black college life and culture, “Drum Line” – Social Fridays is both a chic and culturally unique affair. It is a reflection of the values of the best and brightest in the Afro-American community; that Brother Luke embodies those values is readily apparent in the choices he has made as to what these stylish soirées are about.
I attended one last Friday and as the program progressed I began to feel like I was in some sort of secular church, which was devoted to a fruitful marriage between culture and commerce that will take us higher as a people. There were poets, authors, a master musician, and black entrepreneurs – both males and female. The crowd was stylish, intelligent and charming: elegant black, brown and beige beauties were everywhere! Some pecan tans and teasing browns too. It was a boottlious affair! The setting seemed made to serve as the background for this smart affair; the ambiance was perfect.
The evening was filled with poetry, dramatically rendered with pathos, passion, joy and pain. In the interludes between the Poetess’ songs we heard testimony from highly motivated positive people who are trying to do great things. They had our rapt attention because they embody our highest hopes and dreams….”the better angels of our nature.” People were given prizes…good books! It was a celebration of outstanding members in our community who are neither entertainers nor athletes. Not to disparage these noble professions in which Afro-Americans have found unparalleled success and amassed great wealth. Yet they get more than their share of recognition in the black community, and it’s hurting us!
Although this is also true in the white community, white kids can easily identify with people in many fields of lucrative endeavor. That’s why Afro-Americans must recognize people who are in less glamorous or exotic fields yet are doing the good work that is critical for a community to advance. For, unless we quickly and consciously replace the wildly influential hip/hop nihilist model with an ethic that values discipline, industry and hope, we are going to experience a disaster in the very near future. All the data shows that there will be virtually no descent jobs in America for people with less than two years of college training, yet we have record drop out rates. Hence it is an ancestral imperative that we celebrate intelligence and the power of the mind to create a good and productive life. That’s the over whelming message Social Fridays is designed to convey. It epitomizes Tom Joyner’s slogan: “Party with a purpose!”
The evening was capped off with my speech on why we should work our asses off to reelect President Obama and return the House of Representatives to the Democrats. A combination of P.T. Barnum and successful entrepreneurs everywhere, Luke has the promotional instincts and style of a carnival barker and the habits of a conservative bean counting businessman. But he has another dimension as a cultural promoter with a genuine interest in promoting the best in Afro-American culture. A product of the Hip/Hop generation, Luke prefers the lyrical insights and gravitas of “Common” to “Wacca Flacca;” whose non-sense lyrics and banal beats he says is driving him crazy, blaring out of loudspeakers everywhere he turns.
His fight with the ignorance and negativity that threatens to overwhelm the black underclass is out in the open. But he also understands that the black bourgeoisie has got to pull its head out of its butt and become politically active before we look up and find that we’ve been robbed of all the gains made by working Americans – especially black folks – over the past fifty years. That’s why he invited me to rap with them. I viewed the opportunity as a chance to enlist some capable black folk in the fight to re-elect President Obama, by explaining to them in no uncertain terms the dimension and character of the looming catastrophe we will face should the Republicans succeed in taking over the Senate and the Presidency in the 2012 election cycle.
As is always the case when people come out expecting to party and are hit with a political speech, I recognized that some portion of the crowd – the exact or even approximate percentage being unknown to me – would be politically disengaged and even wear their ignorance of politics as a source of pride. But political ignorance and apathy are old problems to me and represent an inviting challenge to my teaching skills; being a compulsive pedagogue I welcome the challenge. First I define the minimal essential goals I’d like to accomplish in the speech and craft a strategy to accomplish it. No matter how eloquent and exciting the oratory: If there is no learning going on there is no teaching going on.
I wanted the audience to understand several basic things: The Republican Party represents the interests of the super-rich! Their professed concern for working people is a lie; a purely rhetorical exercise designed to camouflage their virulent anti-working class policies. The far right segment of the GOP is driven by the so-called “Tea Party Patriots,” who are deeply racist and are willing to shut down the government and destroy the “good faith and credit of the United States” in order to wreck the Obama Presidency. They continue to speak of him as if he is a secret alien committed to the destruction of America when all the facts show he has presided over some of the worst crisis’ in American history with Solomonic wisdom.
My job therefore was to convince them that Republicans are irrational. They cannot govern because they hate government and are pledged to fatally wound the institution so that it will have the power to do little other than make the world safe for the rich by turning the government into one giant national security apparatus. Thus to not support the reelection of this President and restore the House of Representatives to the Democrats is self-destructive folly! The smart progressive audience got it: I wish all of my battles were so easy.
Pretty Georgia Peaches Were Everywhere
Styling and Profiling
Black, Brown and Beige Beauties
Strutted Their Stuff
Competing With The Art Works
For Roving Eyes
Some Cambodian Flava!
A Lady Of Class
Queen Of the Ball!
A Splendid Hostess
Hospitality Can Be An Art
The Way Alicia Does It
The Setting Was Spectacular!
Elegantly Framed Paintings Cover The Walls
Slices Of Real Life
Reality Cast in Black and White
And Shades Of Grey
A Magical Space Where Beautiful Birds…
…Take Flight In Your Mind
Pulchritude and Beauty
Was Everywhere On Display
Makes It Happen!
The Promoter and the Poet
Promoting Serious Culture
A Black and Tan Fantasy
An Author Displays Her Text
Music Filled The Air!
As Master Saxophonist “Travis” Made Magic Vibes
At the Art Downtown Gallery and Theater!
Promoter Luke Engram and Gallery Owner Lynda Dalton-Gallagher
It Happens One Enchanted Friday Each Month
Down Town in Beautiful Brunswick Georgia
If You are Ever In Brunswick on A “Social Friday”
Check Brother Luke Out
Text and Photos by: Playthell Benjamin
July 18, 2011