If You Book Us, We'll Come ... Not

White people in Cincinnati can't live with Negroes, and they can't live without us. We all know majority-sponsored street festivals in Cincinnati are excuses for white people to get drunk in publi

May 31, 2001 at 2:06 pm

White people in Cincinnati can't live with Negroes, and they can't live without us.

We all know majority-sponsored street festivals in Cincinnati are excuses for white people to get drunk in public. Someone was afraid some black folks with nothing to lose — and isn't that most of us lately? — would show up at Taste of Cincinnati and literally crash the party.

In a call for "peace," y'all wanted us to lazily stroll the Taste midway so bad you scrambled around booking black musical acts faster than you booked us on those one-way trips on the slave ships. And you wanted more than the few chosen local Negroes both safe enough to entertain and desperate enough for inclusion in your white-boy reindeer games.

Nah, you wanted those singin' and dancin' Negroes who would, you hoped, make us drop everything and boogie on down to Taste of Cincinnati. Was it really the entertainment you were concerned with nailing down, or a last-ditch effort to appease us?

After all, music soothes the savage beast, doesn't it?

We all know the drill.

First were the Isley Brothers. Smart move. They grew up in Lincoln Heights, and Negroes love that old-school stuff. It reminds us of simpler times when Negroes all pretty much lived in the same neighborhoods and our only worries were what to wear to church and how to keep our white-walled tires spotless.

But shame on y'all. I didn't see this same effort to get the Isleys or Midnight Star or other local, nationally known Negroes for Pepsi Jammin' on Main. That lineup was purely whitebread Rock & Roll.

Oh, that's right. I forgot. WEBN runs that show.

(Note to anyone who cares: For a successful, reasonably integrated lineup for a music-based street fair, check out the Third Annual Indy Jazz Fest this coming July.)

Then the Isleys backed out. Sorta smacked of apartheid and Sun City in South Africa, eh?

Hmmm. Let's see. Who else is sorta local and on the who's-gonna-save-our-asses-and-show-the-Negroes-we-ain't-so-bad speed dial?

The O'Jays? Still too relevant, maybe too expensive and waaaay too Negro specific.

Nancy Wilson? Jazz. That's out.

Hey! Who's that old black guy who could do the splits really well? You know, the one with the bad home perm who used to record here a long time ago? Charlie Brown? James Taylor?

James Brown! Yeah, he'll do it. He needs the money. He'll play anywhere.

So while a few, scattered non-protesting blacks and a whole lot of whites waited for the Godfather of Old around noon on May 26, the Taste of Cincinnati could be summed up in two separate freeze-frames.

First, a white yuppie — in a move to call attention to himself, prove he was down for the cause or work out white guilt — wore a T-shirt with George Clinton's P-Funk manifesto, "Paint the White House Black."

Nearby, a white police officer loudly and deliberately explained the mysteries of equestrian behavior to two young black boys petting the nose of a police horse.

Everyone tried too hard. Each scenario was a photo op. Each illustrated how schizophrenic this city is.

Speaking of schizophrenic, it's funny that Mayor Charlie Luken heretofore turned a deaf ear to what precipitated Officer Stephen Roach's shooting of Timothy Thomas but could figure out what James Brown was saying.

Luken says he spoke directly with the Godfather of Mold before and during Brown's in-and-out visit. Whatever was said between the two strange bedfellows, it worked, and Brown came.

The media was reporting attendance figures during Taste of Cincinnati like this was some sort of competition, like someone was going to "win."

There was a winner, all right. It was the Godfather of Stole, who shimmied off with 15 grand after one, wack-ass karaoke song and a brief, indiscernible speech.

Peace is a mutha'. But like James Brown says, "You got to have a mutha' fuh me."

contact Kathy y. wilson: [email protected]