Saturday, March 5, 2011

Honorary Black?

Back in the olden days -- (the early 1990s), before the web was GUI,
when there was less than one tenth the
number of people using the internet as there were by June 2010, I was looking for connection, for
community on it.
An emerging stay at home mom with time on her hands, I learned Listserv  technology and used it to start what I called
  "GIRLFRIEND: a cyberforum for Black and Black-identified women."

It was--and may still be-- basically an email distribution list where all types of topics were discussed by a community of-- I think it got up to about 300 before I passed ownership along-- subscribers in various stages of life, in various places in the world, who were 'Black or Black-identified women'.
The descriptor 'Black-identified'  was so unrefined awkward to me-- and still is,  but I couldn't just leave it at 'Black women', because... well; because of Teena Marie.
I'm from the Soul Train era (yeah, I watched American Bandstand, too.)
Teena Marie was a white girl--ethnically. Culturally, musically -- is dancingly a word?--- she was black.  It didn't occur to Teena Marie's best friend that Teena Marie was white until her friend saw that her mother was!


My jaw almost unhinged when I saw her for the first time. She was popping while performing
Square Biz on Soul Train. "She can DANCE TOO?!" This woman was a phenomenon! A slayer of stereotypes! She could sing her ass off! She was a capable musician and elegant lyricist with evocative phrasing-- 
To sample all three, listen to the following line
I close my eyes, and still somehow I see...you're here with
me...and you are such a blessing...in my life.
It's pretty common now to see white women riffing and sounding more R&B
than some Black R&B singers, but Teena Marie was the first,  Back
in my day, she was the only.   She, and any woman like her, would
have to be welcome to GIRLFRIEND. I still don't know how to aptly describe Teena
Marie, but I'm ever thankful for her talents and that Berry Gordy signed her so she could share them with us.  

Raise your glass, y'all. Happy Birthday, Teena Marie; 
rest in peace.

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