Banter on Tulips and a Tribe Called Quest, Jay-Z and John Coltrane, Outkast and Othello.



My holiday weekend was an eventful one. I made it from Saturday to Monday with hair in tact (my pressed tresses narrowly escaped a drizzle but did okay until the very end, so that spelled s-u-c-c-e-s-s in my little book. And trust me, if you had to sit in the beautician's chair as long as I did, as she wielded a smoking comb and flat iron, you would see that wasn't an overstatement.) The highlight of Sunday was a beautiful wedding in which my "play" cousin played groom and his wife, my soror, played bride. The lovely couple was picture perfect and the wedding planners left no stone unturned. Ice sculpture with their names engraved? Check. Lovely floral arrangements complete with white lilies, pink tea roses and classic sprigs of ivy? Check. A wedding service where no one fell out on her train? Check. A reception in a gorgeous marble room with three entrees from the sea and the land? Check. Waiters who wait by your elbow in case your beverage should disappear from your cup? Well, you get my drift.

It was quite the wonderful experience every wedding should be and I was glad to see that once again, we can pull out all the stunts just as well as anybody. (As the new husband and wife danced at their reception, I was filled with joy for them. And, even the playing of Lionel Richie and Diana Ross's "Endless Love" didn't set off my gag reflexes in the way it normally does. It was that beautiful.) But that said...sometimes Nay Nay and Boo Boo don't need to come to the picnic, y'all. Let me explain...

No sooner than I fully took in the revelry of the evening (my calves, which played close kin to feet that were in three inch t-strap heels are still tired from the endless cha-cha, electric slides and party walks), was I forced to stare, mouth agape at a display that was nothing short of ... Hmm, what are the right words? Cullud shenanigans? No... that doesn't quite capture. I've got it... complete and utter ghettofabulosity. Yes, that's it. Imagine a conference on the state of black America with Anthony Anderson as the keynote speaker. Then, times it by three. Okay, stay with me.

At the reception, after we honored the bride in song, a family friend/play cousin's boyfriend decided that the event provided the proper venue for him to propose to his intended. No doubt, this was with some coaxing from his girfriend's family, but I digress. Anyway, the DJ calls him to the mike at which point the boyfriend calls her out on the floor and makes a grand announcement professing his undying love for her and asks her to marry him. Aside from the fact that I am elated at any display of black love and commitment, I could not... uh, "fix my face" to reflect that sentiment.

Stunned was I at the defiance of all etiquette. To make sure that I was not alone in my perception, I looked around at the guests, most were oblivious (after all, they were probably chatting about...I dunno... the bride and groom's wonderful day.) Others had expressions similar to mine (which to give you a mental picture looked something like Diahann Carrol's character in the wedding episode of "A Different World" after Dwayne rolled up at Byron and Whitley's wedding to claim his girl. Except there was no "Die, just die" and finger pointing from me. Nope, M. Elle was able to hold her tongue and her composure. Later, I communicated with an etiquette aficionado (i.e. my Louisville, Kentucky-raised grandmother) in the case that I had misjudged the newly engaged couple's scruples. She confirmed my sentiments. Another I asked, even went to far as to make a tongue-in-cheek suggestion... that the couple help pay for the wedding reception. After all, they also made it their engagement dinner, party and photo op. (They also had the audacity to greet the bride's guests at the tables as if it were their party. Hrmph!) Now, never let it be said that M. Elle is a snob. Never let it be said I don't have a heart. Never let it be said that I'm a Grade A Hater. But sometimes I have to ask myself, black people, couldja, I mean... could we, musn't we do it better? Please? *Shaking my head*

In other shameless self promotion news, as of today, M. Elle has reached her 1,500th reader. *beaming like I'm four and my mom just gave me a Koolaid popsicle* Yay!! Thanks to you guys for reading. I really just started this in late March as another writing outlet. Who knew I would become so enthralled with blogging and reading the sentiments of so many witty writers on the web (Yes, police are at present pulling me over for excessive alliteration. (*Addressing cop* Yes, officer, I understand, but if repeated consonant sounds are wrong, I don't wanna be right.) Anyways, more from me soon. *smile*


On Early Cullud Vacation

Now playing: the classic soul hit "I Want to Thank You" by Alicia Myers

I usually frown upon such endeavors...but this was pretty fun to fill out. Ahem, yes I'm taking the lazy way out...don't clown cause y'all aint even coming into work today (LOL). *Nodding my head cause I caughtcha*...Well, anyway, these "blogthing" folks are right, I'm a combo of the three. Till we me again, may your Memorial Day weekend be filled with burgers on the grill, peace, love and sooooul *smile*

Your #1 Match: ENTP

The Visionary
You are charming, outgoing, friendly. You make a good first impression.You possess good negotiating skills and can convince anyone of anything.Happy to be the center of attention, you love to tell stories and show off.You're very clever, but not disciplined enough to do well in structured environments.
You would make a great entrpreneur, marketing executive, or actor.

Your #2 Match: INTP

The Thinker
You are analytical and logical - and on a quest to learn everything you can.Smart and complex, you always love a new intellectual challenge.Your biggest pet peeve is people who slow you down with trivial chit chat.A quiet maverick, you tend to ignore rules and authority whenever you feel like it.
You would make an excellent mathematician, programmer, or professor.

Your #3 Match: ENFP

The Inspirer
You love being around people, and you are deeply committed to your friends.You are also unconventional, irreverant, and unimpressed by authority and rules.Incredibly perceptive, you can usually sense if someone has hidden motives.You use lots of colorful language and expressions. You're qutie the storyteller!
You would make an excellent entrepreneur, politician, or journalist.



"God makes you valuable. Whether you recognize the value or not is one thing." - Mos Def, "Black on Both Sides"

So, I admit I was one amongst the crowd yesterday. It was 10 p.m. and after a great dinner chat with a friend at a nearby spot, this chica was resigned to being a groupie...of album release dates, that is. Try as I might to wait a couple of days until I bought Common's "Be" (I had previously been listening to the preview on okayplayer), I found myself at the Virgin Records store in Union Square. Standing in line (and M.Elle would rather march on Washington behind Al carrying his bucket of Popeyes than stand in somebody's line *smile*). Deciding whether to purchase the regular version or the two dollar DVD enhanced version. (I decided on the former. Big head Kanye was already getting enough of my money for his "jewry" endeavors. LOL)

Admittedly, I had heard enough snippets to convince me that it was indeed a gem (we talked about that yesterday). Though, I'm not necessarily a member of the Church of "Instant Vintage" Latter Day Rappers. (i.e. I agree with Panama, let's let this stew a bit, before we put it on the shelf next to Tribe's Midnight Marauders or Mos and Kweli's Blackstar or dare I say 'Trane, Miles and Ella.) That said, it IS the BEST thing I have heard in a long, long time. And, though I won't write a review on said blog (I'd much rather use this free space to emote LOL), I will share the particular effect the end of the complete version of "It's Your World" had on me.

As pops Lonnie gave yet another spectacular delivery of spoken word/truth/
admonition/encouragement to the masses who might put said sounds to their ears, I found myself doing something I hadn't done since I first listened to the piano-driven soul wrenching title track of Lauryn's Miseducation. I cried. Lest you think I'm a sappy girl *turning my nose up at you if you do*, it wasn't out of sadness, really. It was really out of a profound and deep respect for the power of music. Of words. Of youth starved for honesty. I thought about how the song probably started as a concept in someone's head. (Maybe it began with the beat in Kanye's...Common laid the verse and his father topped it all off along with a bevy of young kids talking about what they wanted to "be".) And before they knew it, they had crafted a piece of art/journalism/ghetto hymn that gets some kid through his high school exams and spurs him onward, that encourages a single mother waiting to transfer trains in between jobs, that tells a writer that she's doing something worth doing. I started to get emotional as the kids in the song rounded off what their plans were "I want to be an artist... I want to be an astronaut...I want to be the first African American female president." Such a simple thing, youth giving voice to their aspirations. But speaking delivers such power. And then, Lonnie delivered the real goods...

"Be here, be there. Be that, be this. Be grateful for life. Be grateful to life...Be you...Be aware. Be boundless energy...Be food for thought to the growing mind. Be the author of your own horoscope.. Be amended, five fifths human...Be a brilliant soul sparkling in the galaxy, while walking on earth...be eternal."

As I've written before, res ipsa loquitur. Or as the age-ripened deacons say in street corner churches -- Amen and amen.


Trickles from a Faucet

Now Playing: "It's Your World" by Common (the smoov brotha's back!)

So, I've been blog-hopping as of late, reading the contributions of all the myriad talented verbal freestyle artists on the web. (Big shouts out to everyone I've parleyed with on comment pages in the last couple of days). Can't really say that I have a solid topic today, but just had a few thought drops I thought I'd share if you'll indulge me...

a. This is old news to many of you, but Common's Be is hot!! I don't think I've been this excited about an album coming out since Lauryn's Miseducation. Then, at the end of the summer just before I was about to go back to college for my sophomore year, I remember hounding brotha man in the record store around my way in Jersey until he agreed to give it to me a day early. (What can I say, a little negotiation and charm never hurt before *smile*)

b. I posted a l'il nod of agreement on Sid's site (she originally stated this sentiment) but Public Service announcement #101: Joss Stone is overrated! Please don't accuse me of racism, but how much of a look would she have gotten had she been a big bone-ded girl (read: Jill Scott) or a soulful singing sista with nappa haya (read: India.Arie)? I thought she couldn't sing when I first heard her album riding around in Cali with my cousins last spring. And, the Gap commercials just reinforce my perception. My dislike isn't about color, I love me some Teena Marie (*whisper* And you might catch me listening to Simon and Garfunkle and Average White Band from time to time, but that's off the record.) But, I don't like people pretending that they're trying to sell her on talent alone. It's like Vanilla Ice, or Snow (remember the vanilla reggaeman from the 90's?) ... If we can agree that she's getting a look because she represents a certain wish for domination of everything...including soul music, then it's awl good as them gulls from OutKast's album say, but when the truth isn't told about that, I get a little annoyed. *Brushing the hateration off my shoulders* Okay, that said, where is Remy Shand these days? I liked that cut he released. LOL

c. Meritocracy triumphs: Naima wins as America's Next Top Model, Yay! I told myself I wouldn't write about reality TV show results on said blog, but I'm really glad that the best person actually won. She took the best shots (even though the judges were trying to hate at the end, what was up with that??) and won it all. Maybe the Detroit native can now go back and help run the city. It seems like Kwame da Mayor could use some help (LOL)

d. One of these days, I'm going to have to learn how to cook. I've either ordered out or dined out every day this week. See, what had happened was, my original plan was to have a live in chef (tee hee, that's right), but I haven't yet gotten there. Still waiting to blowuptuate, homies. But, here's to next year. Stay tuned, bloggahs...

Okay, back to Common. * Humming "It's Your Wor-rrr-rrld. Oooh." *smile*


On Life's Golden Pond

He walks across the room, bellowing like the years have earned him that right. In this instance, they have. He's clad in a fishing hat, khaki jacket and with the wisdom of time. So, one expects that the first utterances you hear from him will be filled with insight and perspective. Patience. Except that for all of his sagacity, there's something major perplexing him. He can't seem to figure out what do with the daggone telephone.

"Hello?! Hello?! What do you want?" he asks the operator impatiently. Moments ago, he had her ring him to make sure the phone in his Maine summer phone worked. But seconds later, he forgot why someone would be calling him, just after he and his wife have arrived. A life with sunset nearing, it seems, can't be lost in the particulars.

This is how I met James Earl Jones this week, who with the wonderful Leslie Uggams, stars in the wonderful re-adaptation of "On Golden Pond" on Broadway's Cort Theatre. And, in this performance, Jones, the legendary baritone behind Darth Vader and "this is CNN" and winner of Tony awards for his past performances on the "Great White Way", very well could have been my late granddad.

His character, Norman Thayer, is English professor emeritus from the University of Pennsylvania. (My granddad, son of a sharecropper, was a Meharry graduate.) Norman is regal and his cadences hold on to familiar trills of the South. (Forthright in manner and speech was the only way the kind man born in Camp Hill, Alabama did it.) Despite his letters, Mr. Thayer has an impish way about him, admitting it only when his wife calls him on it. (I remember my granddad smirking as he tried to hide a piece of peanut brittle before dinner.) Norman finds his way when he goes fishing with his grandson. (My granddad drew his joy seeing us wide-eyed at his tales of battles with Indian chiefs or listening to him lend his earth shattering baritone to "Swing Low, Sweet Chariot"). If there is an award for playing a black grandfather to perfection, Jones gets a nod from me. (More of note for him, I'm sure, is that incidentally, he's deservedly up for a Tony.)

But his prowess and proximity to my granddad's way of doing isn't the entire reason the show affected me. Even more than Jones' knockout performance, is a story line that winds around and into the depths of the definition of family and of life. The lack of communication that confounds those connected by biology. Expectations met and missed. And the one that sometimes eludes us the most -- forgiveness.

Without giving away the play, it ends with a realization that life is precious, especially as life begins its journey to twilight. That point hit me most when Jones, near the close, suffers a fall, a result of his weak heart and carrying too heavy a load. I, sitting amongst throngs of elderly groups of men and women out for the matinee performance, gasped, wishing/hoping/praying that he would get up and the play wouldn't end with his demise. Before the conclusion was revealed, the effect was already felt. I thought about all of our lives' journeys and the meanings within the dash (that line that separates our entrances and exits in the world.) And, suddenly, there was no protective barrier of "this isn't real" between the stage and my seat. I was forced to think about how long the great ones like Jones would be around to continue to deliver their all (After all, granddad had since passed on eight years ago and we more recently loss Ossie.) It made me think about myself. How could I better go about injecting meaning into the dash? How could I make the time matter? I thought about my sister, who in 12 short years here, somehow found her way. Cancer didn't take away her joy. It didn't take way her laugh. Her love for people. Her light. Her memory.

Wiping my misty eyes, I pored out of the theatre amidst the chattering old ladies who conferred with each other. I walked past the old men, who paused on the sidewalk for a smoke, before making their way to hotels or the subway. I thought about all of them . What they had done in their years. The uncertainty of their futures as day by day their friends pass on. Walking down the street, I aimed to make my seconds, minutes and hours count. They may not be perfect.

But they can be golden.

For my sister (May 11, 1988 - June 30, 2000)


Bucking the Force

nouveau tech vs. raheem's gargantuan original

Why this Black Girl is Ipodless

“I’m asking if y’all feel me and the crowd left me stranded.” – Talib Kweli, “Respiration” (Blackstar)

I recently had a discussion with a good friend of mine. She’s a smart, funny, African American law school student and she’s admittedly part of the force. A newly transformed Bostonian, she marches with the beat of the urban intelligentsia, tuning in daily. She’s on it jogging, walking to class, waiting for the T train. Together, she, with the legions of sporting metal rectangles and earbuds, with the click of a finger, beams up her inner Scottie. Her method of choice: the Apple I pod portable music device.

As sure as there are bourgeois black folks up in Fort Greene, as sure as Amy Ruth can put her foot in some chicken and waffles up on 116th and Lenox Ave., the “I force”, the legions of folks with the metallic machines, are in every city. The energetic young man tucks it into his messenger bag briskly walking to his Midtown Manhattan office. The daddy’s depositing my allowance into my account trust fund baby cloaks hers with pink jewels from Sunset Blvd. And the upwardly mobile children of minority baby boomers display theirs with their keeping-up-appearances to uplift the race Louis Vuitton book bags in DC and the ATL.

When I see them on the subway in the Apple, they’re often looking into space, lost in an Ipod induced haze. Fiddling with my lesser CD player, I imagine that they smirk at me. In reality, it is only the blank looks on their face that signify something real. As one magazine put it, we pod, therefore we are. The unwritten subtext being: and you are not.

I was asked by this same friend, on a recent visit to Boston, would I consider getting one? Looking up from my computer, I answered, almost if on reflex, “Heck naw”. Why, she wondered? To paraphrase Lauryn Hill, “‘Scuse me if I get too deep” but the whole idea seems to run counter to music. The first “beats, rhymes and life” were organic, created by primitive people who meted out their stories with no more high tech tools than their calloused feet and hands. Music told a story/ gave a warning/ worked the healing. Literally, it sprung from the earth.

Fast-forward to now and we seem to think that how we hear our music is a symbol of entitlement, not of shared entertainment. It’s an object to own instead of one to enlighten the masses, a measure of privacy, not one of bombastic playfulness (see: Radio Raheem of “Do The Right Thing” lore). To me, it’s a sign of the times. By allowing us to retreat into our separate corners, we brush the communal “dirt off our shoulders,” like Jay Z says. For, we think, the Ipod haze becomes us and we are one with the machine. And, lest you think I’m speechifying, I’ll be the first one to admit that my portable CD player is linked to my dome. I do understand the need to be alone with your tunes, playing the off-the-cuff notes that only you might need to hear. You know -- that secret playlist with a little latter day Keith Sweat sprinkled with Another Bad Creation's B sides and Positive K (the one hit wonder of “I Got a Man” fame)? LOL

It’s just that all of this uniformity makes me want to try to question the current we’re moving in. Getting a daily look at those white earbuds just makes me miss the time when music meant community, openness, an exchange of energy, not solely commercial goods. I’d love to see people “clap their hands just a little bit louder!” like little Stevie Wonder asked a live audience to do in “Fingertips Pt.2”. And when I’m walking down the city streets, it might be nice for old time’s sake, to see a high top faded-brother break out the shoulder top radio, or nod intently, as LL Cool J said, to the bass of a “booming system” as cars ride by. If only to nod to Public Enemy and fight the tiny metallic powers that be...


Mirror, Mirror on the Wall

self-love: always a good look Posted by Hello

Listening to "I Can't Stop Loving You" by Kem, who admittedly is a broke Al Jarreau. *smile* But so I love this song...

I told myself I was going to fade "quietly into that good night" (A sista got a project to finish. Or to paraphrase another Kem song -- a deadline's "calling my name, gurl.") But a friend recently informed me that the blog powers that be were looking for me. So, being the law-abiding citizen that I am, I thought I'd nod to protocol and like the mighty O'Jays, "give the people what they want". That is, before ducking out again for a bit. (Gotta get this work done before I'm fired, then evicted and end up writing by the light of a skreet lamp and trashcan fire. That would be most unfortunate because to my knowledge, they don't air ANTM in Central Park...

So, getting back to the matter at hand, today, I watched with much appreciation as several bloggers, including my Soror X, Cee, Kajuana and Brown Sugar posted about the age-old question of color, hair, etc. *M. Elle sings* Talkin' bout good and bad hair / Whether you're dark or you're fair/ Go on and swear / See if I care / Good and bad hair. Being that I'm a relative neophyte to blogging (been at this for exactly five weeks), I don't know any of you personally. But, I was really, really moved by the fact that this whole issue has affected all of us to some degree. Regardless of what shade we say we are -- Mocha Almond, Caramel Frappe, or in my case, Choco Latte (LOL) this issue has got us all hemmed up. So while, I thought I was going to quietly dip out, this discussion has been one that has been so near to my heart, that I, well, had to chime in.

What you'll see below is a story on issues of self: color, hair texture, self-love from a friend that after 25 years, I'm proud to say I now know very well. The story is called "Majority of One" (you might have seen it in "Chicken Soup for the African American Soul"). It's only the voice of one woman, not intended as a treatise for anyone else to follow. But, I do hope it's fodder for the discussion. And, till we meet again, (soon I promise) peacables chulrens.

Majority of One
I wanted to do it for so long--throw out my chemically relaxed hair for a natural. I had long admired sisters who sported braids, afros or locks and tossed their heads in defiance of mainstream-endorsed beauty regimens. I want to be one of them, I often thought, but continually struggled with the idea of shedding the thick, dark brown, longer-than-shoulder length hair that I had been told I was blessed with.

It was so tied to my identity that I could not bear to part with it. From my wide-eyed childhood to long-legged adolescence, each trip to the beauty parlor was marked by a beautician's friendly question. "Chile where in the world did you get all that hair?"

Not knowing exactly how to reply to the question, I would look at the floor and whisper, "Thank You," while secretly harnessing the attention my hair brought. Those precious times were a marked contrast to how I often felt about myself as a darker-skinned black adolescent, when it seemed that lighter-skinned people were all the rage, in the suburb where I grew up.

I once asked my mother, who like the rest of my family has a caramel brown tone, if I was adopted. She pulled out ultrasound images from a scrapbook to assure me that I was not. And later, she created a poster of chocolate toned blacks, like Iman and others, to show me I was beautiful. As thankful as I was for her reassurance, I thought she was doing her motherly duty and still struggled to find something about me that was beautiful. I thought about those trips to the hairdresser, how special they made me feel, and so I turned to my hair for acceptance.

People had always made a big deal about my longer-than-average-black-girl hair. It was special when my mother allowed me to wear my hair "out" because on those days, I could truly swish and sway my hair with the best of my lighter-skinned peers.

[In college], I was glad I didn't have to wear a weave or extensions... But by my junior year, I realized how long I'd been buying into the mainstream-enforced black women accepted notions of beauty. The ruse was exposed and I was not, after all, like Samson. My hair just didn't hold that much power anymore.

Again I questioned, "What about me was beautiful?"

That summer, I wrote a poem celebrating African Americans who had the courage to make strides that included wearing their hair natural in the sixties and seventies. One line read, "I wasn't there but I heard about those who dared to put down the hot-comb for a minute, don a dashiki and look themselves in the mirror, exclaiming, "Beautiful." I longed to be like the people I felt so strongly about, people who found their beauty and acceptance in themselves. The excuse I made to myself was that natural hair was a statement of beauty for another time and plaece. But deep down inside, I was really unsure whether I could ever be beautiful if I discontinued my 14-year relationship with no-lye chemical relaxers. I knew I had long been afraid of finding out. So, after as false start my senior year, I thought I would give it another try.

I am going to go natural, I told myself.

The first three months were easy. I had gone longer without a perm before. The real test began in the spring, when my "waves" grew into full-fledged naps. April came, and my friends at church, who, like me, knew no lives without perms or presses, asked, "What are you planning to do with your hair again?"

I was confident in my decision, but at times felt like Thoreau's "majority of one." Weeks went by. I pressed on but not without doubt. Was I crazy? Was this reasonable? Would this allow me to live and work in mainstream America?

I felt like the world wanted me to just pick up an Optimum no lye and be done with it. But I had to fight, I had to do it...By May, I decided, for the first time, to get braided extensions so no one but me could witness the war being waged between my fragile, permed hair and the stronger natural roots that rose like defiant Zulu warriors month by month.

As the mercury rose, my roots encroached on the territory the relaxed hair had held unchallenged for years -- my heart. July came and it was time to take out the micro braids. Once they were completely out, I vacillated between going back to a perm and continuing my quest. I started to shield my roots from the public view with a scarf. Then on a Friday in August, I looked in the mirror, grabbed scissors from a drawer and snipped a little from the back. Just enough so I can change my mind and get away with it, I told myself.

I snipped some more.

When I was done, I knew it would be an adjustment. I could no longer toss my head to and fro and have my hair swish. But I could finally look myself in the mirror, and smile, exclaiming "Beautiful." And that was all right with me.