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)

 

Qui Vive

Already, this year has been exceptionally trying, but I have chosen to serve and to give out what I need most – an encouraging word. My hope for you all today is that you do not become weary from expecting the good. I am so ready for the harvest that comes after the waiting…

Qui Vive by Ama Danesi

In whatever state we find ourselves

God is working out the opposite.

When we fall, He lifts us up.

When we are bound, He frees our souls.

In the face of certain defeat, He is working

out a victory that cannot be denied.

In our darkest nights and earnest watching – qui vive.

His love roars loud and clear above the taunting waves.

He calms our heartbeat to the rhythm of His breath.

He sent us a helpless baby as Savior of the world.

Once an alien in Egypt but rich in gold, silver, and myrrh.

The pain and suffering that He allows, ushers in

destiny and purpose. He plants in untilled soil, that the

harvest may be wild and unrestrained reaching to

the ends of the earth and places marked “x.”

In the face of sorrow, our hope & joy is His name –

Emmanuel, God with us.

 

Alert & hopeful,

AD.

Historical Fun Fact:

Even motor boats have a purpose and are remembered for their service. The USS Qui Vive (SP – 1004) was part of the United States Naval Fighting fleet from 1917 – 1919. She served as a patrol vessel then as a hospital boat in the 5th Naval District during World War 1. Originally built by the Hutchinson Brothers (Alexandria, NY) for Houston Barnard (Rochester, NY) she was chartered by the Navy until she was decommissioned and returned at the end of her naval career. Her current state is unknown but her work and service endure.
(Bio and image credit: NavSource.org /Wikipedia/Pixabay)

Silence Breakers – May Willows Surround

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WILLOWS OF WADI SURROUND – A poem by Ama Danesi

My mouth kisses my palm

and holds back welling tears

I remember I was a stranger there

his hands groping, seizing,

searching for certainty here.

As long as wicked is in the room

may willows of the wadi

surround and mark me safe.

This pain is not measured

by the scale of years

but unraveled by melodies

and as shadows reflect mysteries.

My river once turbulent

is no longer frightened for

tree of harps are singing out

names and redemption songs.

Once hushed and gray as a moth

my whole soul sings too, loud.

Me who moved further from shore,

now, rushes home in an exquisite

finery of light, sculpted in palace style.

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Time Magazine deservedly honored the “Silence Breakers” as Person of the Year 2017. These women and men challenged the status quo of sexual aggression and I stand with every girl, boy, woman, and man who has suffered the injustice and humiliation of sexual assault and abuse. We will not keep silent concerning our bodies and limbs.

We celebrate its splendid frame and the brave hearts rising across the world to confront small, weeny “gods.” We celebrate the power of each voice and the collective refrain. Hear our souls sing out loud. The sound barrier is broken and people will be silent no more!

In Service,

AD

Image Credit: Pixabay and Time Magazine 2017: The Silence Breakers

Giving to Live

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“They throw caution to the winds,

Giving…in reckless abandon.

Their right-living, right-giving ways,

never run out, never wear out.”*

There are primarily two ways of administering our gifts to the world, as a matter of enthusiastic generosity or as a grudging obligation. Which defines your posture? Honestly, that’s about all we can control. I often find myself holding back when I prejudge or speculate about the reward as if I am entirely responsible for that. I find we can trust the blueprint and fearless design encoded in our being that gives rise to our natural abilities, to also amaze us with its commitment to reward our service and offerings beyond our expectations. A stingy farmer gets it stingy harvest but since many of us have sown love, laughter, care or blood, sweat, and tears; then as nature does, we must go through the process of seed, time, and harvest.

When we perceive the world as an inherited land, we can see ourselves as both the seed bearers and sowers. Imagine that every obstacle is an opportunity to learn from those who have gone before or time to color outside the lines. There’s a good reason why there are no easy, cookie-cutter answers to specific problems. Notably, those particular issues that test our enduring human spirit. University of Houston’s research professor and empathy advocate, Brené Brown encourages us to “Dare greatly.”

The best-selling author of Without Rival (2016) Lisa Bevere at the recent Confident Woman conference said, “Sometimes you have to stop looking around and look within because you’re supposed to do something that’s never been done before.” She asserts that we are not only unique, we are without rival. Therefore, in our authentic spaces, we bring an essence that can only be imitated but never duplicated.

We are all given something we can give away. Right-living demands we believe that. Right-giving requires a full commitment. Excuses are for wimps. I know that because I’ve held that office for some considerable time, but the ache of floundering snarls and nags at you like an addiction that will not quit till you either leaving as dead or show up as your authentic self. The lyric from the band, United Pursuit’s Let it Happen (2015) says, “You’re full of life now. And full of passion. That’s how he made you. Just let it happen.” Every seed planted in truth will grow, and every tree that shows up will have enough headroom to flourish.

On a practical level, I believe that today’s superheroes are entrepreneurs and visionaries. People with the drive to create, develop, refine, and nurture a crazy idea till it becomes an empire or offering that enriches the lives of others. Risks and profits considered, these are “doing” people. The scary part of the equation is actually doing something, putting something out there. Talk is not only cheap, but it’s also mediocre. It’s like putting your hand to the plow and looking back to the safe zone or the cozy couch –  the place without judgment and expectation – warm as an eagle’s nest to an oversized eaglet.

Let it happen. Verbs are the most potent expressions. They transform any passive line into an active and engaging one involving an action, the responsible party, and a reaction. My verb and doing word is “write, ” and because it comes easy, I often think it’s not valuable to anyone else. Now that’s a partial lie, applicable only to my journaling. Don’t buy into partial lies or let them stunt transformation. Greatness is not handed down, it is cultivated. If I want extraordinary results and life, then I have to work at writing, show up on the field and generously plant words as seeds. To others, the seed may be a new business, a new app, a sketch, a song, or another dance audition.

Final word to me and the wise – “Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use it will be measured to you.”** And that is so you never run or wear out. Find your verb and do it every day you are blessed to see the sunrise.

In service,

AD.

Credits:

Image – Pixabay

2 Corth. 9:8 (MSG)

Luke 6:38 (NIV)

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.