09 September 2020

Beethoven was black...!



I have no idea if Beethoven was black but he was called The Spaniard because of his dark complexion and the composer Samuel Coleridge-Taylor, himself of African descent, made the claim 80 years after Beethoven's death which is recounted in this  article I found the other day in The Guardian. As the article points out this phrase became a mantra: ""Stokely Carmichael raged against the deeply ingrained assumption that white European culture was inherently superior to black culture, the baton was passed. “Beethoven was as black as you and I,” he told a mainly black audience in Seattle, “but they don’t tell us that.” A few years earlier, Malcolm X had given voice to that same idea when he told an interviewer that Beethoven’s father had been “one of the blackamoors that hired themselves out in Europe as professional soldiers”." Read the article here...

—Alexandre Dumas—

Alexandre Dumas was black!

This article reminded me of in incident with our beloved nephew TJ (RIP). TJ came to live with us twice and I greatly enjoyed watching him grow up but he died too soon. When he was in high school at John Marshall here in Los Angeles, his reading teacher gave the class an assignment to read a black author and write a one page report on the book. When TJ came home that day he asked me if I could recommend a book by a black writer he could read. I asked him if the writer had to be American and he said only that the author had to be black. Knowing TJ had a taste for adventure I pulled a copy of The Three Musketeers by Alexandre Dumas. We had watched an old movie of the book and he liked it so I figured he would like to read the book. He read the book over the course of the following week and wrote a little one page report/summary. He told me several times how much he liked the book and I was happy he found reading a pleasure. A few days later he came back with the report and it had a big red F on the front with a note that Dumas was not black but French! I was furious to say the least and wondered how this teacher did not know Alexandre Dumas was black...and French! I went to a parent teacher meeting and asked the teacher if she had assigned the class to read an American black author and she said no he could read any black writer but that Dumas was French. After much discussion I was able to get her to understand that while Dumas Grandfather was white his grandmother, Marie- Cessette Dumas, was, in fact, of African descent. Alexandre Dumas the great French writer was black. This was a fact well known in Dumas' lifetime and something he never hid. Dumas wrote a novel call Georges about a man who was of mixed race. TJ's grade was changed and he got an A which was probably the only A he ever received. You can read about Alexandre Dumas here

Many white people have a hard time conceiving that cultures and races other than white European culture have any value. Of course this is the genesis of the problems we are experiencing in American now. Black lives are valued less than white lives for no reason other than the color of the skin covering their bodies beneath which we are all very much alike. This same entitlement reminds me of the outrage that was expressed when Larry Kramer (RIP) announced that Abraham Lincoln was gay even though that same thought had been expressed obliquely by Carl Sandburg in his multi-volume award-winning biography (read here for interesting commentary). If one is an example of white European entitlement the other is an example of heterosexual entitlement.

Update on Henry

On September 1 Henry had surgery on his left hip and thigh at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in West Hollywood. The surgeon, Dr. Moon, removed the hardware from his hip and cleaned out the MRSA infection. Blood cultures now show no sign of infection. He spent a few uncomfortable days in serious pain after but was able to sit up and take himself to the toilet. On Sunday, September 6, he was transferred to California Rehabilitation Institute in Century City where he is going through rehab under Dr. Cushing and his team on the fourth floor. He's doing great and spending the days in therapy and watching tennis on the television. We hope he will be able to come home next week. He currently can only have one visitor a day and visiting hours are between 5 and 8 in the evening. Please call him if you plan on visiting as he has a schedule of visitors already and can only have one visit per day. Of course this is all due to the Covid pandemic and we want to make sure he and the staff remain virus free. I hope you are keeping safe and isolating when possible as well. Los Angeles seems to be coming out of a critical time but that doesn't mean the virus is gone. I suspect you and I will be living this way for a very long time.

Remain fierce and thrive!




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