Richard Prince's Journal-isms™

Hatin' on "Colored Girls"

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Sunday, November 7, 2010

After Perry Film Debut, Writers Compete for One-Liners

NAHJ, in Funding Crisis, to Claim All Incoming Dues

AP Explores Why Unwed Mothers Bear 72% of Black Babies

Sunday Talk-Show Hosts Resist GOP's "Obamacare" Term

Soledad O'Brien: Jesse Jackson Didn't Think She Was Black

U.S., Mexico Editors to Meet on Violence Against Journalists

Dad's Death a Reminder That Health Care Is About Real People

An Honor for Chronicling "Disappearing Minority Viewpoints"

Short Takes

Boston Globe critics Ty Burr, left, and Wesley Morris review "For Colored Girls." Morris said, "It’s too much — too much screaming, too much crying, too much preaching, too much reaching, too much healing, too much feeling, and, by the time a man dangles two small black children from an apartment window, it’s too much too-much." (Video)

After Perry Film Debut, Writers Compete for One-Liners

The hatin' on Tyler Perry's film "For Colored Girls" was so intense that Ronda Racha Penrice, writing on, had to find solace in the opening weekend's box office take:

"Negative reviews from respected film critics like The Hollywood Reporter's Kirk Honeycutt, who proclaimed Tyler Perry's For Colored Girls . . . 'this train wreck of a movie' didn't keep black female filmgoers away. Although Friday night's box office numbers suggested that 'For Colored Girls' was on pace to gross $28 million, its actual weekend box office receipts of $20.1 million are more than respectable," Penrice wrote on Monday.

"In an age when most black films must fight to get just a thousand screens, 'For Colored Girls,' according to BoxOfficeMojo, played on nearly 2,900 screens in 2,127 theaters, averaging a healthy $9,450" per screen. "Those numbers may mean little to you but, in Hollywood, they are huge. With a reported total production budget of $21 million, a $20.1 million opening means that 'For Colored Girls' will be profitable. Hopefully, that also means that more black directors besides Tyler Perry will get to make films starring black people."

Then she got to the hatin'.

"Mainstream reviews of the film have been laced with a viciousness rarely seen when evaluating the work of other filmmakers. ' "For Colored Girls" is so shamelessly terrible it would make a great midnight hoot-fest, if you had the stomach to laugh at Shange or some of the best (and most underused) actresses of their generation: Kimberly Elise, Kerry Washington, Anika Noni Rose, Phylicia Rashad, and, as a cartoon sexpot, Thandie Newton, who gets by on her killer timing,' writes New York Magazine's David Edelstein. The Boston Globe's Wesley Morris, who is African-American, began his review with 'Tyler Perry is no stranger to kitchen-sink melodrama. But "For Colored Girls" is the kitchen sink, the washing machine, the curling iron, the sofa, and the ironing board.' "

"For Colored Girls," based on Ntozake Shange's 1975 "choreopoem" that became a classic, was the cultural event of the weekend for much of black America.

And there were in fact a few kind words.

Jenice Armstrong wrote in the Philadelphia Daily News, " 'For Colored Girls,' inspired by Ntozake Shange's 1975 poetic play, isn't the movie to see if you're feeling fragile. But if you're in a healthy place, definitely go. Just take Kleenex and a girlfriend because you're going to want to talk it out afterward. Phylicia Rashad, Loretta Devine, Elise and Thandie Newton tear the screen up. Elise, in particular, puts on an Oscar-worthy performance in her role as a battered mother who goes to hell and back after witnessing the unthinkable. My favorite line comes near the end, when Elise's character declares, 'I found God in myself and I loved her fiercely.' What a lesson there is in that."

But the headline on Courtland Milloy's column Monday in the Washington Post was, "For black men who have considered homicide after watching another Tyler Perry movie."

And Teresa Wiltz wrote on, "It's an exceedingly hard slog, 2 hours and 14 minutes of overwrought melodrama, bleaker than bleak, and unleavened by humor or wit."

Keli Goff, writing on, said that considering all that she has read about the film, she's reached her own conclusion. "I simply remain as on the fence about seeing 'For Colored Girls' as I’ve been on the fence about other recent films with similarly negative reviews," she said.

"And I’ve ultimately decided to wait to see those on Netflix. (For the record, I read the somewhat positive review in the New York Times, one of the film’s few, but the critic, Manohla Dargis, lost credibility points with me the moment she declared that part of Mr. Perry’s baggage is that 'Black people love him and white people don’t get him.' Um, this black person would like you to try again Ms. Dargis.)"

NAHJ, in Funding Crisis, to Claim All Incoming Dues

Michele SalcedoThe National Association of Hispanic Journalists, wrestling with an ongoing financial crisis, has decided "to nullify chapters that have been inactive for more than a year and reclaim their share of membership dues," and, as an emergency measure for 2011, to claim all incoming dues, funds that had been split 50-50 with local chapters, President Michele Salcedo announced Friday on the NAHJ website.

"The convention numbers are in. Without allocating the cost of staff time to the convention, we made money," she began.

"I wish I could tell you that’s good news, but here’s why it’s not: When staff time and other overhead are factored in, our profit is more than wiped out. The convention is NAHJ’s main moneymaker, and we were counting on making a substantial chunk of our revenue for 2010 from the convention. Falling short means we have to find other sources of income. With an economic climate as tough as the one we’re in, that’s no easy task."

Brandon A. Benavides, president of the Washington, D.C., chapter, one of NAHJ's most active, told Journal-isms, "This was a complete surprise to us. We were not told this was in effect. Nor were we told this was being considered.

"We were planing to use the funding as seed money for a chapter conference in the spring. We lost up to $3,000 for local programming. Right now we get $35 from each member. We have more than 100 local members.

"The chapter board is discussing its options. We have a membership meeting on Wednesday at NPR headquarters at 7 PM."  He sent a similar message to members.

Presidents of other active chapters did not respond to inquiries.

The group No Wedding No Womb opposes "the rampant births of children who are born without physical, financial and emotional protection."

AP Explores Why Unwed Mothers Bear 72% of Black Babies

"One recent day at Dr. Natalie Carroll's OB-GYN practice, located inside a low-income apartment complex tucked between a gas station and a freeway, 12 pregnant black women come for consultations. Some bring their children or their mothers. Only one brings a husband," Jesse Washington, the Associated Press' race relations reporter, wrote from Houston on Saturday.

"Things move slowly here. Women sit shoulder-to-shoulder in the narrow waiting room, sometimes for more than an hour. Carroll does not rush her mothers in and out. She wants her babies born as healthy as possible, so Carroll spends time talking to the mothers about how they should care for themselves, what she expects them to do — and why they need to get married.

"Seventy-two percent of black babies are born to unmarried mothers today, according to government statistics. This number is inseparable from the work of Carroll, an obstetrician who has dedicated her 40-year career to helping black women.

" 'The girls don't think they have to get married. I tell them children deserve a mama and a daddy. They really do,' Carroll says from behind the desk of her office, which has cushioned pink-and-green armchairs, bars on the windows, and a wooden 'LOVE' carving between two African figurines. Diamonds circle Carroll's ring finger.

"As the issue of black unwed parenthood inches into public discourse, Carroll is among the few speaking boldly about it. And as a black woman who has brought thousands of babies into the world, who has sacrificed income to serve Houston's poor, Carroll is among the few whom black women will actually listen to.

" 'A mama can't give it all. And neither can a daddy, not by themselves,' Carroll says. 'Part of the reason is because you can only give that which you have. A mother cannot give all that a man can give. A truly involved father figure offers more fullness to a child's life.'

"Statistics show just what that fullness means. Children of unmarried mothers of any race are more likely to perform poorly in school, go to prison, use drugs, be poor as adults, and have their own children out of wedlock.

"The black community's 72 percent rate eclipses that of most other groups: 17 percent of Asians, 29 percent of whites, 53 percent of Hispanics and 66 percent of Native Americans were born to unwed mothers in 2008, the most recent year for which government figures are available. The rate for the overall U.S. population was 41 percent."

Sunday Talk-Show Hosts Resist GOP's "Obamacare" Term

In politicians' latest effort to spin the language, Republicans lined up on the Sunday talk shows to define as "Obamacare" the health-care legislation they say they would repeal. To their credit, the journalists resisted the spin, except in quoting Republicans.

Sen. Jim DeMint, R-S.C., used the term six times on NBC's "Meet the Press"; Sen.-elect Rand Paul, R-Ky., once on ABC's "This Week"; and Gov. Tim Pawlenty of Minnesota once again on CNN's "State of the Union." On that program, however, moderator Candy Crowley found herself using it in quoting Rep. Eric Cantor, R-Va., in a letter to House Republicans. "If all of Obamacare cannot be immediately repealed, then it is my intention to begin repealing it piece by piece, blocking funding for its implementation and blocking the issuance of the regulations necessary to implement it. In short, it is my intention to use every tool at our disposal to achieve full repeal of Obamacare," Cantor wrote, according to Crowley.

On "Fox News Sunday," regular panelist Bill Kristol, editor of the conservative Weekly Standard, worked in the phrase no fewer than nine times, three in the same passage.

Last month, Edward Schumacher-Matos, ombudsman of the Miami Herald, took his paper to task for including the word in a headline in what he called an honest mistake.

"What the issue does point out is the power of headlines, the dangers we all face over being politically manipulated by word usage and the inexact science of deciding when a term has entered the popular lexicon and is acceptable," Schumacher-Matos wrote.

Meanwhile, in an interview that aired Sunday on CBS-TV'S "60 Minutes," President Obama defended his many recent media appearances. CBS correspondent Steve Kroft pointed out that the president has been on everything from "The View" to "The Daily Show," Molly Stark reported for TV Newser.

Obama replied, "I guess my attitude is if I’m reaching people, if I’m talking to them. If I’m engaged with them, whatever the venue, then hopefully that makes people a little clear about what it is that I’m trying to do, and understand the challenges that we face. And so I’m willing to take the risks of overexposure on that front."

In another development, Robert L. Johnson, co-founder of Black Entertainment Television, sent a letter urging the Congressional Black Caucus to support Rep. James Clyburn, D-S.C., in his bid for House Minority Whip. Current House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer of Maryland said he might seek the same post. Clyburn is currently House majority whip.

"The Democrats’ loss of the U.S. House majority in Tuesday’s election will cost them the powerful speaker’s position, which current House Minority Leader John Boehner will assume in January when the new congressional session starts with Republicans in control of the chamber," James Rosen and David Lightman explained Monday for McClatchy Newspapers.

"That means there will be one fewer House leadership [spot] for Democrats. Clyburn and Hoyer indicated neither of them is willing yet to be odd man out."

Soledad O'Brien: Jesse Jackson Didn't Think She Was Black

Soledad O'BrienIn a new memoir excerpted on the CNN website, Soledad O'Brien, who has an Irish Australian father and black Cuban mother, recalls the day "Jesse Jackson managed to make me ashamed of my skin color which even white people had never been able to do.

"Even though I am not sure what he is saying, I can tell he is angry," she writes in "The Next Big Story." "Today he is angry because CNN doesn't have enough black anchors. It is political season. There are billboards up sporting Paula Zahn and Anderson Cooper. He asks after the black reporters. Why are they not up there? I share his concern and make a mental note to take it back to my bosses. But then he begins to rage that there are no black anchors on the network at all. Does he mean covering the campaign, I wonder to myself? The man has been a guest on my show. He knows me, even if he doesn't recall how we met. I brought him on at MSNBC, then again at 'Weekend Today'. I interrupt to remind him I'm the anchor of 'American Morning'. He knows that. He looks me in the eye and reaches his fingers over to tap a spot of skin on my right hand. He shakes his head. 'You don't count,' he says. I wasn't sure what that meant. I don't count — what? I'm not black? I'm not black enough? Or my show doesn't count?

"I was both angry and embarrassed, which rarely happens at the same time for me. Jesse Jackson managed to make me ashamed of my skin color which even white people had never been able to do.

". . . It wasn't until recently that I called him and reminded him of what he'd said to me that day. I had done 4 documentaries on race in between the two conversations. He was totally surprised and barely remembered the details. He had not known I was black! He said he honestly did not know, that when he said I didn't count he was alluding to the fact that he thought I was a dark-skinned someone else. That is how precise the game of race is played in our country, that we are so easily reduced to our skin tone. That even someone as prominent in African American society as Rev. Jackson has a box to check for black and one for white. No one gets to be in between. I thanked him for his candor."

O'Brien, who was named 2010 Journalist of the Year by the National Association of Black Journalists, concludes, "Black is not a credential; it's not even a skin color. African American culture is so much more than that. I feel like it's important to say 'I'm black.' I'm proud of my roots. I am a bit Irish too, by way of Australia. Should I not say that? I am certainly Latina. Latino is an ethnicity, not a race. Latinos can be of any color from any place. I can be Latino and also black. So why can't I have a father from Australia but be black when my mother is black. People looked at me all my life and saw black. And, I am thoroughly proud of the black I am.' "

U.S., Mexico Editors to Meet on Violence Against Journalists

The American Society of News Editors Monday announced "a two-day summit of Mexican and U.S. editors, press freedom monitors and government officials, to be held next month in the border city of El Paso, Texas. The summit will focus on the startling violence unfolding against journalists in the region, and will look for solutions to what has become one of the most deadly and vexing journalism issues in the hemisphere.

"The meeting will take place at the University of Texas-El Paso on Dec. 5-6, and will be organized in conjunction with the Inter American Press Association.

"The goal of the program, which will be presented in English and Spanish, is to draw on resources, ideas and leadership in both Mexico and the U.S., to begin to identify a response to the violence that has taken the lives of at least 11 journalists in Mexico this year."

ASNE President Milton Coleman, senior editor at the Washington Post, has learned Spanish and interacts with Latin American news executives through the Inter American Press Association, of which he is an officer. Next year's ASNE convention is to be held in San Diego in conjunction with the IAPA.

Death a Reminder That Health Care Is About Real People

Dr. Rawle Farley, a native of Guyana, had been a professor of economics at the State University of New York, College at Brockport since 1966. He was the founder and first chairman of the Department of Economics at SUNY Brockport, and was named professor emeritus in 1995. He was the author of seminal works that helped shape the study of the economics of the developing world, including "The Economics of Latin America: Development Problems in Perspective."

He died in Rochester, N.Y., at age 88 on Saturday, and his journalist son, Christopher John Farley of the Wall Street Journal, wrote that day that "On shows like 'House,' ailments are exotic and are diagnosed and solved in 60 minutes, with a couple commercial interruptions. On TV talk shows, talking heads scrap over health care policy and try to score political points. What’s typically missing is the human element — how health care decisions actually affect flesh-and-blood people. . . .

"My dad and mom raised four sons. All of us went to public school, and all of us went to Harvard or Harvard Law School or both. All of my brothers, thanks in large part to their guidance, have gone on to interesting jobs of one kind or another.

"But this last night was a final lesson. Part of reaching maturity is accepting, without fear, that life ends. Staring into that mysterious abyss makes other challenges seem small. I felt privileged that I had gotten to go to the edge with him. Dad helped teach me how to live, and how to die too."

An Honor for Reporting "Disappearing Minority Viewpoints"

Richard PrinceThe author of this column has been named the 2010 recipient of the Oakland PEN's censorship award, because of his "tireless chronicling of disappearing minority viewpoints from the nation's newsrooms, an act of de facto censorship as we see it," writer and novelist Ishmael Reed, the board chairman, said.

Lifetime achievement awards are to go to Paul Krassner, the satirist best known for his 1960s magazine the Realist, and Vance Bourjaily, the novelist who died in September. The ceremony is to take place Dec. 11 at the Oakland Public Library.

PEN Oakland is "a Bay Area Chapter of the International Organization of Poets, Essayists, and Novelists" and "was founded in 1989 to address multicultural issues, and educate the public as to the nature of multicultural work."

Among past winners of the censorship award are Kitty Kelly, author of  2004's "The Family: The Real Story of the Bush Dynasty," which met with the Bush family's displeasure, and Jefferson Morley, a 15-year journalist at the Washington Post whose 2008 book, "Our Man in Mexico: Winston Scott and the Hidden History of the CIA," discusses the man who was CIA chief in Mexico from 1956 to 1969.

Richard Prince has written the Journal-isms column online for the Maynard Institute since 2002, and in print from 1991 to 1998 for the NABJ Journal, publication of the National Association of Black Journalists.

In 2009, the American Society of News Editors reported that in the previous year alone American daily newspapers shed 5,900 newsroom jobs last year, reducing their employment of journalists by 11.3 percent to the levels of the early 1980s. The loss has blunted diversity efforts.

Short Takes

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Richard Prince's Journal-isms originates from Washington and is published Monday, Wednesday and Friday. It began in print before most of us knew what the Internet was, and it would like to be referred to as a "column." For newcomers: The words in blue (on most computers) are links leading to more information. The Web site provides passwords and user names to some registration-only news sites, but use may be illegal in some states. Any views expressed in the column are those of the person or organization quoted and not those of any other entity.

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For Colored Girls reviews

Whether you like or hate For Colored Girls any critic or reviewer or columnist who evaluates it should at least seriously discuss their reaction. All those cheap, cynical and mostly cliched one-liners don't do anything other than reveal an inability or unwillingness to consider the subject matter. No one's obliged to like a Tyler Perry production because they are popular and there are many that make me cringe due to serious weaknesses in writing, direction and overall cohesion and presentation. But they still should [be] approached with a degree of professional respect, not used to show how hip or clever some writers think they are. It is precisely this type of elitist attitude that so many folks in the Black community despise and why they pay so little attention to much of what they see in the press irrespective of the skin color of the writer.

Bob Johnson of BET Infamy/Letter to CBC

Mark his letter to the Congressional Black Caucus -- the kiss of death for Rep. James Clyburn (D-SC). Johnson made it clear long ago that he was not a friend of the Democrats nor POTUS. So, why insinuate himself into this situation? Johnson needs to caucus with his buddies -- Boehner and Cantor and stay out of black folks business, IMHO.

Oakland Pen Censorship Award 2010: Richard Prince

Richard Prince is truly the one of our nation's media assets and so deserving of this award. Richard 's body of work is truly iconic and life altering on so many layers.

You are a living warrior against the censorship and exclusionary practices of those in the media industry who have contempt for the  essence of the voices, words and language of Black America.

Whenever and Wherever our interests are in play and in peril it is critical for the Black media interests to be present.

Thank You Richard for all of your efforts in promoting and safeguarding the interests of Black Americans in America's media industry.

Soledad : Doth Protest too Much

Jesse from my advantage point was on the money about Soledad O' Brien for all of the work she has done on CNN apparently she forgot the legacy of the "one drop rule" and the politics behind such a racist convention.

In this context for her to claim she was more offended by Jesse's candid comments than the very culture which created her racial angst is revealing.

Apparently telling the world that Jesse Jackson words are more lethal than the reality of white racism sounds like a marketing plea to appease and sell some books...

Greg, I could not agree more.

Greg, I could not agree more. There has been a move to demonize African American leaders, particularly those connected to the civil rights movement as if they had been the purveyors of racism and separatism – as if the one-drop rule and Jim Crow were Black creations and not something cooked up in the white community to preserve some notion of “purity.”

Ms. O’Brien, a better reading of the history of race in this nation may have given more credibility to your reports and made them seem less like Marlon Perkins touring the Wild Kingdom.


Soledad : Doth Protest to Much


Thanks from my perspective Soledad's journalism is a template of how many Black folks posture in both the corporate and media industry..It is troubling because these folks are significant to the community given the state of affairs for to many Black communities of late..

That is why the presence of Richard's body of work is so valuable he is a rare diamond in the midst of pebbles like Juan Williams, Soledad O'Brien, Gwen Ifill,Page,Michel Martin etc...


Congratulations on your recent PEN award. Well deserved!


Lucie Faulknor, Producer, Faubourg Treme: The Untold Story of Black New Orleans

Congratulations, Richard!

I am grateful for your insightful columns that continue to put a spotlight on the problems that exist in the biz and the shrinking voices of people of color. This is a terrific platform and perhaps it should be showcased elsewhere as well. The Root and HuffPo would be great starters, as a way to reach a broader audience that may not be aware of your column. 



Journal-isms on

Thanks, Cindy!

Many Journal-isms columns now do appear on the Root.


For Colored Girls reviews

Recent reviews of “For Colored Girls…” should come as no surprise to those who recall the play’s origins.

Like today, male critics blasted the script, the writer, the cast, the message, and made many of the same comments being heard today. Men then also complained that the play was not for them and railed against what they called negative stereotyping. Some men even sought to boycott the production. Others misnamed the play “for colored girls only.”

That “for colored girls who have considered suicide when the rainbow is enuf” is now regarded as a classic only shows how little some remember and how little some even know about the play.

I remember the play very well and fondly. To me, it was an expression of self-realization. And yes, while the themes were universal, it truly was a theatrical anthem for Black women. The play impacted me so much that I produced and directed it while in college at the University of Colorado in 1983. We played to packed houses and one negative review.

Some things never change.



tylerperry your a great

tylerperry your a great actress and  a great player and i love your movies except madea goes to jail the movie .and i can do bad all by myself the movie.but i  did like all of plays.







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