MJ’s “Earthsong” or Rihanna’s “Rude Boy”?

Rihanna’s “Rude Boy” is not your mama’s old school video.

Perhaps Michael Jackson’s “Earthsong” reflects tastes of the past. Maybe environmentally conscious videos are only in the past!? In Jackson’s video, deforestation of the Amazon, the ecological impact of war, and endangered species are highlighted. Ah Michael, you cared about the earth and the people inhabiting it. Here are some of the lyrics from “Earthsong”:

What about sunrise
What about rain
What about all the things
That you said we were to gain.. .
What about killing fields
Is there a time
What about all the things
That you said was yours and mine…
Did you ever stop to notice
All the blood we’ve shed before
Did you ever stop to notice
The crying Earth the weeping shores?

But back to Rihanna. What’s up with the lion and zebra?

Who is the sexual object? ? Rihanna? The men? The stuffed lion? The stuffed zebra?

Rihanna: Good Girl Gone Bad?

Somebody call PETA because Rihanna is a rude girl abusing stuffed animals. There ought to be a law.

Well, both videos have zebras . . . I am most assuredly old school.

Black Boy Scouts: Today and Yesterday

On Sunday, February 14, 2010, I headed to the 11a service at Cascade United Methodist Church (CUMC). For some reason, I took my camera with me. I was surprised to learn that part of the day — a portion of the service, a gathering after the service, and a tree planting — was devoted to the 100 Years of Scouting of the Boy Scouts. I snapped some photos of a thriving CUMC Boy Scout Ministry:

Back home after service, I looked for “The Outdoor Code” of the Boy Scouts:

Boy Scout Symbol

As an American, I will do my best to –

  • Be clean in my outdoor manners
  • Be careful with fire
  • Be considerate in the outdoors, and
  • Be conservation minded.

Speaking of being considerate and conservation-minded, read a bit of Scout history in an article that goes back to the 1940s titled “Negro Youth and Scouting, A Character Education Program” by Stanley A. Harris.

Consider taking your son to Join the Boy Scouts.

Billie Holiday and Strange Fruit

I  listen for environmental references in lyrics. The first to come to mind is Billie Holiday singing “Strange Fruit.”

Billie Holiday

The lyrics go like this:

Strange Fruit — Composed by Abel Meeropol (aka Lewis Allan)

Southern trees bear strange fruit
Blood on the leaves
Blood at the root
Black bodies swinging in the southern breeze
Strange fruit hanging from the poplar trees
Pastoral scene of the gallant south
The bulging eyes and the twisted mouth
The scent of magnolia sweet and fresh
Then the sudden smell of burning flesh
Here is a fruit for the crows to pluck
for the rain to gather
for the wind to suck
for the sun to rot
for the tree to drop
Here is a strange and bitter crop

Abel Meeropol

Abel Meeropool, a Jewish New Yorker, wrote the lyrics because he was horrified when he saw an image of two black men who were brutally lynched. In the song, the tree, in my estimation, represents lynching and its strange fruit are racism, violence and death during the first half of the early twentieth century in the United States.

Listen to:

“To Love the Wind and the Rain”: African Americans and Environmental History

Back in 2006, I co-edited a collection of essays titled “To Love the Wind and the Rain”: African Americans and Environmental History. Please do read the Introduction, along with the essays. To read my favorite essay by Colin Fisher on parks go to the library or buy the book!

To Love the Wind and the Rain: African Americans and Environmental History

Rooted in the Earth: Reclaiming the African American Environmental Heritage is also coming out on in August 2010 at your local bookstore or online.

Please do share your work–whether through service, a blog, a book, and more–here on the blog and with the members of the Rooted in the Earth Facebook Group.


Mother, Lumberjack, and Turpentine!?

Daphne, my mother, all 120 lbs of her, laid down sod and chopped down trees when we lived in our second house in Queens, New York during the 1980s. She was very serious about getting the trees down because she was tired of raking and bagging the leaves in the fall.

Daphne is Second Over from the Right with Her Sister and Brothers.

Two stories . . .

My mother would start by killing the tree by hacking away at the trunk with an axe. She started on one of many tree projects and our next door neighbor came running. She’  had crossed the property line–there was no fence–and was attempting to bring down our neighbor’s tree.

Some months later, she worked on a tree in the backyard. Whack. Whack. Whack. The tree started falling towards our HOUSE. The same neighbor came running out. With ropes he leveraged the tree from falling on the house.

I know everyone is saying poor trees. Looking back, I’m thinking the same thing. But remember it was her yard and it was the 1980s.

Consider some context for my mother’s own suburban world and experience. African Americans worked in logging and turpentining in the South so there is a parallel concerning labor/work and perceptions of trees as natural resources. To learn more about African Americans and the turpentine industry during the first half of the twentieth century, go to: http://www.cfmemory.org/Learn/Stories/StoryView.php?s=19.

I have no idea what became of the wood from the trees my mother chopped and sawed but looking back I hope the wood was used in someone’s fireplace. Utility trumps waste?!