About Reza Clifton / Reza Rites / Venus Sings / Reza Wreckage
I have many nicknames because I am a writer, digital storyteller and cultural navigator. I host two radio shows, including one that airs weekly, and I am the co-founder of Isis Storm (IsisStorm.com), a collective of female artists, writers and educators. In 2011, I was named “Most Musical” and a “Trender” by two Providence magazines for my work sharing music and art in the community. I also write and blog about race, gender, and poverty, and the intersections between my adventures and interests as a DJ and my work with artists and diverse communities. You can find archives and samples of my written and multimedia work at RezaRitesRi.com, VenusSings.com, IsisStorm.com, RIFuture.org, SheShines.org, WRIU.org, BSRLive.com, and WGBH.org.

2 responses to “Understanding The Intersection of Race, Music and Politics”

  1. Frymaster

    My never-presented American Popular Music History course includes the lecture “From Stephen Foster to Elvis Presley: 100 Years of White Rip-Off”. The relationship between black and white culture in the US defines US culture. And I think it’s an unhealthy relationship.

    The pain is so deep, the scars so prominently placed, that we can’t even have this conversation as a nation of adults. And by that, I mean Whitey’s not ready. Whitey may never be ready. Whitey asks, “What scars?”

    But, Reza, I think you’ve got two fingers on the pulse – the deep, throbbing, jugular pulse – of one of the only venues where anything close to the truth is approached: art. Art enjoys the luxury of being implicit, where politics must necessarily be explicit. An explicit discussion of these issues is, for white America, an impossibility. But an implicit allusion is something Whitey can accept. Whitey accepts it because it is necessarily vague. It might be about something else. It might just be for fun. 

    Not for nothin’, but Blazing Saddles is the greatest, most profound, most moving expressions of US race relations of which I know. And of this, I know a good bit. 

    If _you_ didn’t know, Whitey, Blazing Saddles was written by two teams, one led by producer/director Mel Brooks (a Jew) and the other led by the late Richard Pryor (a stand-up comic). And Pryor’s BS team is LEGEND in Hollywood. They wrote all the “ni-BONG” jokes. They wrote the doo-wop I Get No Kick skit. (De Camp Town Ladies…? Don’t think I know that one.) And they wrote the line “Damn near lost a four hundred dollar hand cart,” which is the pivot point of the entire film. 

    Hahahaha! [dead silence...]

    Of course, Stephen Foster composed Gwine to Run All Night (aka The Camptown Races, aka De Camptown Ladies in BS). Stephen Foster’s sharp, mid-19th century edge was to transliterate southern negro dialect he heard in his travels to such exotic locales as Pittsburgh and Cincinatti. According to a US music history author quoted on this Wikipedia page, it is “one of the gems of the minstrel era”. Which is to say, it’s entirely insulting. 

    So the tuned-in film-viewer gets a giant laugh at what is, for me, the most telling joke in the film. As they push that $400 dollar hand cart up the grade to go find the quicksand in which they were expected to die, our future Sheriff Bart and his friend Charlie sing this song and articulate, with great exactitude, “going to run all night, going to run all day”, with a distinct emphasis on the word “going”. 

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