For those that know me, they know that I would never intentionally try to hurt anyone. The only thing I've always wanted to do is help people, and to entertain. I might push boundaries at the same time... but I've always been the class clown. I discovered the power of seeing people laugh and smile, at a young age, and I was hooked. With learning what was funny, and what wasn't over the years... I've come to understand that before you can make fun of other people, you have to be able to laugh at yourself. Which is why I don't tend to take myself too seriously.... I just can't. It's not in my DNA. When I came up with last year's Halloween costume, it was exactly in that vein. Try to make people laugh, and don't take yourself so seriously, that you can't do drag. Everybody last year, got the joke. I had some hesitation, thinking that fellow African-American's might not get the statement I was making, in how far we've come. However, even black people I saw on the street, loved it; and tried to grab my pancakes.
Coming up with this year's idea, I knew I might need to push a boundary, but with a response so great to "Aunt Jemima", what could I do? And like a bolt of lightning... it came to me. The Minstrel. Certainly the concept of a black person, doing black face, might give people pause... but when you think about it.... it's still kinda funny. As I started applying the make-up, my mind traveled back to the African-American studies I had as a kid. I was well aware of the concepts of 'Jim-Crow', even at the age of 8. The pictures and early films I saw of the white concept of black culture were disturbing, because of their ignorance. As I greatly exaggerated my lip-line in the mirror... slowly that feeling started to evaporate. The image looking back at me was ridiculous, and the more make-up I applied... the less the images of history started to sting. Because as I went through the motions... more than anything, I wasn't mocking black people, but more the stupidity and ignorance of what the white-concept of being black was. Ironic, yes..... but definitely a joke that I though black people will get. I mean if we can laugh at Dave Chapelle, pretending to be a blind black person in a KKK suit.... could my costume be that insulting in this day and age? Apparently so. Shortly after arriving at Queens Are Wild, I had to be talked to by the director of 'Stop AIDS Project', and the manager of the venue, because one of the other black staff people had become upset with my costume. To try to explain to that person that was upset, would be futile. He just didn't get it. And rather than take myself too seriously, I agreed with the club manager's request to remove my make-up.
So, what have we learned? America is a complex place, where sometimes it's okay to make fun of your own cultural history... and sometimes it isn't. That no matter how far black people have come in terms of captains of industry, invention, society, and position, they can still cry foul in the future, when confronted by someone from their own culture, with a different point of view. Yeah, seems weird to me. I wasn't upset when I had to take it off.... if anything... it made me laugh. I shared the laugh with my friends, who know me, during the rest of the event... and as we went for a bite to eat afterward. A thought that struck me was this. Have we become so heady in our thoughts of black culture, that we have to erase everything from a darker history in time? There's a lesson that we had in my class, that stuck to me. It's not the name calling or the images of minstrels that hurt us in earlier centuries.... it was the intention behind it. The intention to keep us as buffoonish jokes, or to strike fear into our hearts and into our community was there.... but it didn't work. We're still here, moving forward, carving our place in the human existence... and history has dictated that we are more than black-face players, singing happy mammy songs, with slapstick antics. So, as a reminder.... of the stupidity and ignorance of by-gone era.... I'll be bringing the Minstrel Man back for Halloween night. Sorry, if some people don't understand who I'm mocking.... but if you have to explain a joke, it kinda takes away from the laughter.