Who is Clarence Avant – The Black Godfather?

Who is Clarence Avant – The Black GodFather? And Why Should We Care?

Reginald Hudlin produced and directed the Netflix documentary, The Black Godfather (2019) which chronicles the unusual path to power, influence, and the weightiness of Clarence Avant. In a culture obsessed with fame and celebrity, and in the ruthless business of television, film, music, and politics. This inimitable man wielded much of the power that shaped the 20th-century culture and yet did not need or seek the spotlight. To most people, he is The Godfather who just happened to be black because his goal was to ensure that all stakeholders irrespective of race and status in any deal, bought into a broader vision of fairness and respect for each other’s value. For this ultimate dealmaker in his work as a music executive, entrepreneur, and film producer, it often came down to “numbers.”

Through a career that spanned 50 years and numerous awards, like his star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame (2016), BET Honors (2013), and the Grammy Salute to Industry Icons Award (2019), Clarence Avant’s core message (laced with choice curse words) remained simple – family is the foundation for success, know your worth and demand it, move forward and bring others along, and know that real wealth comes from entrepreneurship and ownership. He is an intentional family man to his wife of 57 years, Jacqueline “Jackie” Gray and their children, Nicole (Fmr. Amb. to The Bahamas) and Alexander. He is a true friend to his lifelong buddy, Quincy Jones; and a no B.S. mentor to the countless individuals from all walks of life grafted into the bloodline of this Black Godfather.

He moved effortlessly between black and white communities connecting people, instinctively recognizing and serving the unmet need. He mentored a bloodline of high powered executives like Sony/ATV’s Jon Platt, Benny Medina; musicians and entrepreneurs like P. Diddy, Jay-Z, Snoop, Ludacris, Jamie Foxx; sports legends like Muhammed Ali and Aaron Hall; politicians like Ambassador Andrew Young, Rev. Al Sharpton, Presidents Carter, Clinton, and Obama. He helped launch the musical careers of producers like La Reid, Babyface, Terry Lewis, and Jimmy Jam; and artists like Bill Withers (Lean on Me, Ain’t no sunshine), Johnny Nash (I can see clearly now), Janet Jackson, and The SOS Band. On his now-defunct Sussex and Tubu record labels, he signed up talent regardless of race. It was Clarence Avant who made the phone call to move then Sen. Barack Obama’s unforgettable 2004 DNC speech to prime time, even though he remained loyal to his friends, the Clintons during the Democratic Primaries in 2008.

Why Should We Care?

This is someone you’ll like to know…I know I would. We learn in his story how to give ourselves in service to the greater good for all, how to receive help from friends when we fall, and how to remain authentic no matter what. From a poor kid born in 1931 in the segregated North Carolina, a teenager sent away to be raised by his aunt in New Jersey after getting into trouble, Avant became a behind-the-scenes power-broker and influencer. We watch the story of a man without advanced education use street smarts, learn life skills from his mentor, Louis Armstrong’s manager, Joe Glaser and apply them with his trademark candor and fairness to all who came into his path.

When asked about the motivation for his life-work, Avant points to the 1955 racially- motivated lynching of 14-year-old Emmett Till in Mississippi for allegedly flirting with a white woman. Heart-broken and initially enraged by the senseless torture and murder, he refused to yield to hate and chose to become a bridge. This Netflix documentary is a well-deserved tribute to a living icon and a condensed account worth watching about a man, leader, and father, who remains crystal clear about his purpose which is to recognize the value in another, to facilitate connections that move people towards the “promised land,” so that they can, in turn, help the next generation.

Onward!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Notes/References:

Reginald Hudlin:

Producer and Director for House Party (1990), Django Unchained (2012) and Marshall (2017)

Image Credit: Netflix, Billboard, Google

Youtube: The Black Godfather (Netflix 2019)

 

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Credit: Chuck Lorre Productions

Chuck Lorre’s Vanity Cards – Life Lessons and More

Credit: Chuck Lorre Productions

Never say never while you can still breathe. Don’t give up on a dream that still wants to live. I might be late on this bandwagon but sometime last year, I paused my DVR after an episode of The Big Bang Theory on CBS, like millions have done over the years to read  Chuck Lorre’s Vanity card #463. The last one. He succinctly explained, “It’s time to write the last vanity card. Which is what this is…All things that never should have happened in the first place must come to an end. Don’t cry for me Argentina. Or West Covina.”

I was sad…OK, a tad depressed. “What? After 18 years why stop now?”

For those living in a cult or under a rock, the unique vanity cards for Chuck Lorre Productions have become a “trademark” appearing at the end of nearly every episode of his acclaimed productions like Grace under Fire, Cybill, Two and A Half Men, The Big Bang Theory, Mom, Mike & Molly and many others. They are usually editorial snippets, personal musings or random observations.

I considered launching a virtual protest march demanding that we, the viewing and more importantly, the reading public,  not be starved of the non-literary gastronomical delight of peering into Chuck Lorre’s brain. Then it occurred to me – Nah… maybe without this little distraction he could have more time. Time to volunteer at a nearby shelter, become a crossing guard at any school of his choosing, you know, do something more wholesome.

So, imagine my surprise at reading  Chuck Lorre’s Vanity Card #464 after the next episode. It was a short, terse card, written by a clearly pained Chuck who realized that nobody cared enough to protest or beg him to re-consider. All he got were a few, nonchalant “literary shrugs” that didn’t cross the ear threshold. Yes, the world would still spin on its awkward axis, pigeons will still desecrate hallowed Hollywood Boulevard where knock-off stars have obstinately ( I’ve always wanted to use that in a sentence) refused to twinkle, and people were far more interested in a YouTube video of a child falling asleep after 14 strokes of soft tissue paper over his cherub face. Yep! Nobody really cared.

Credit: EmmyTVLegends.orgBut I did. It would be sad to see these “self-congratulatory snippets of a mind, screaming for attention” end. They are at least are better than the deplorable selfies assaulting our  virtual spaces, (No thanks to the inventor of the selfie stick.) even as I wholehearted agree that Chuck’s Official Vanity Card Archives are nothing short of a “Herculean attempt at curating a set of pointlessly unique, haunting, very painful, also petty, most times personal thoughts.” (All quotations are his words)

Well, if I piqued your interest, you would be very pleased to know that at this time of writing, there’s Vanity Card #500 and I hope counting. For one, I am glad. Sometimes like Chuck Lorre, we have to pause and reflect on anything we’ve been doing maybe, mindlessly for a while –  like a marriage, a friendship, a job or the attempt to immortalize oneself (a.k.a. blogging) and ask yourself:

  • Does it matter?
  • Do I matter?
  • Will anyone even miss me if I stop?
  • Why? For sanity’s sake, why am I doing this?
  • How does this promote world peace (*_*) ?

Question everything. That’s what makes us human, but never say never or give up on something or someone you love. Don’t walk away if it still wants to live. Let it.
The 2.0 version might be refreshingly more meaningful, wiser as it matures just as Lorre’s post-463 vanity cards have become. Curious? Check out card  #482 , my new favorite.

Image Credits: ChuckLorre.com & Google Images.

In Search for Passion and Meaning

Action Lady! Credit: Pixabay

Lady Action.  Images Credit: Pixabay

When did pelvic thrusts become the measure of excitement and passion? Emoji’s are facing stiff (puny, I know) competition from our need to express our approval with virtual grunts.

For most of us who work, our weekend schedule can reveal the road map to our passion – a football game, a writing workshop, a crafts hang-out, hanging out with the kids, volunteering at the food bank…you name it.  Spending our free time mindfully ignites a creative spark. If you do it once and feel the buzz, you’ll do it again.

I’m one of those with short bursts of artistic passion because come Monday, the mechanics and daily grind of life takes over, so I’m in awe of professional artists, creative geniuses and single parents. How do they do it? How do they sustain their imagination, excitement, energy and enthusiasm? Because they are eternally curious and never stop learning.

I want to be curious again, to look forward to something other than bills in my mailbox. I am working on being more consistent. Everyday, we have to give ourselves permission to be more spontaneous, follow the intuitions and hunches, break the habits that drag us away from our extraordinary core.

Image credit: Pixabay

The key is doing it daily, create new challenges and as Brené Brown advises, in her book Daring Greatly, quoting Theodore Roosevelt’s, Man in the Arena speech – “Don’t be the critic… be the one whose strives valiantly, who errs, who comes short again and again…there is no effort without error and shortcoming (for) the one who spends himself in a worthy cause.”

We cultivate passion and meaning by scheduling time to be creative, showing up daily at the roll call. Success may result in fist pumps, pelvic thrusts or whatever rocks your halo, but even more important, is rising up after a failure, choosing to not retreat but live wholeheartedly.

I’ve done some passion-seeking work from the list below. You are welcome to share your ideas.

  • Take that course you’ve put off in art, music, writing, cooking, pottery, poetry, dancing etc. ( I’m taking one – Poetry in America : 1700-1850 )
  • Keep a journal – the wise number their days.
  • Ask your parents about an old photo, a family secret, the family history.
  • Introduce yourself to your community. Visit that trail, fishing camp, Japanese garden etc.
  • Run with an idea and ask for help.
  • Rediscover the wonder of your local library.
  • Sleep in with your kids on the weekend.
  • Apologize sincerely to someone you’ve hurt. ( I’m still working on this.)
  • Explore what your soul really needs.

There’s so much more, but here’s a good start in our search for passion and meaning. We are either dying slowly or living brilliantly. Chose life.

Visible as Dawn 2 – A Haiku

Another Haiku Friday…

Haiku Friday

Image Credit: Pixabay

Visible as Dawn 2

A Haiku by Ama Danesi

The dare of tight

coils and obstinate

springs, free as air.

Visible as dawn – A Haiku

Image Credit: Pixabay

Image Credit: Pixabay

I’m all for Haiku Fridays, so here’s mine.

Visible as dawn
by Ama Danesi

Pineapple on my head
unruly stalks, roots above
ground – visible as dawn.

 

Not a pretty sight but it makes getting dressed in the mornings easier.
Inspiration – Natural hair, as in kinks, roots and all. There is both strength and vulnerability in showing up in the world raw and natural, just as you are.