Wow! You’re really not from America are you?
Jimmy Kimmel to Daniel Kaluuya
His mom is originally from Uganda. The ever passionate late night talk show host, Jimmy Kimmel, was happy to teach actor Daniel Kaluuya proper American etiquette on a recent appearance. Daniel Kaluuya appeared wrapped in the innate African regality of his skin and full of princely charm that stood in stark contrast to Kimmel’s Brooklyn-born wit. Kimmel didn’t hesitate to point out the obvious cultural contrast, even offering a fundamental lesson in Ebonics or black speech to the England born actor.
The term Ebonics is back in the news because how could it not be with all the talk of praise and resentment of hip-hop. If you haven’t heard anyone say that hip-hop is the dominant culture in the world in the last 5 minutes then wait 5 seconds. Some may remember the term Ebonics from the late 90s when it first appeared in mass media as the new way to describe ‘black speech’ in America.
It’s difficult to think of it now but back then, Ebonics was as controversial as hip-hop itself and without regressing a couple of decades, it’s important to know that many people thought the term provided an excuse for black people not to learn what is called proper English. However, the term was coined but a reknown African scholar from UC Berkeley and without mentioning any names, it was also said that certain powersthatbe resented the work being done to liberate black Americans from mental slavery and the inundation of white supremacy. So there’s that.
Now that we know that Ebonics is the assimilated language of black Americans in the diaspora then we can get into how and why it was possible for Jimmy Kimmel to give Daniel Kaluuya a lesson in black speech… however thwarted that lesson may have been. “MAR’IN” LOL! smh
“You know the proper way to pronounce Martin in America…”
“You say the proper way but the proper way isn’t American.”
“The proper American way… ahem. The proper way, is Mar’in’. you say Mar’in’. That’s how Gina use to say it.
If Ebonics is your first language, if you’re a black American, if you say ‘han me dat ding righ dere’ because historically, your people understood the public health risk of spitting on the person you’re talking to, then you are probably wondering who tf Mar’in is. TBFS was wondering the same thing cause we don’t know Mar’in but we damn fasho’ know and looove us some Ma’in! The good news is, Martin Lawrence, who is apparently a big Kaluuya fan, is probably getting a big eared laugh out of this whole thing cause that’s the kind of brother he is. We know that cause we know him. He’s OUR Ma’in and this is our dialect to protect.
Part of the late-90s’ controversy came from proponents of black speech that felt if it became mainstream, would be highly subjected to misappropriation. These folks ran the gamut of scholars to the working class that all wondered why we had to go snitching on ourselves… again. Why couldn’t black speech stay within the soulful confounds of black people? Aren’t coded messages meant to hide secrets? Why would we tell everyone or care that some people don’t know what they aren’t meant to know? o-0
The Negro Spirituals were coded messages sung to inform enslaved Africans of what to do and when to do it and even how it should be done. Songs like Wade in the water, Swing Lo’, Balm in Gilead and others were less about worship a stringy haired hippy then they were about getting tf out of bondage. When the water is troubled by somebody, when you see the waves turning but can’t feel no wind on your face, that means it’s time to scoot boot! That’s what Wade in the water was for and that’s what happened when it was sung. If you just so happened to be the descendent of enslaved Africans in America and have forgotten why the song was sang then there it T I is.
The song about the chariot that never really made any sense… same thing. The chariot was a black woman with a switch stuck on beastmode named Harriet. Last name Tubman. TBFS didn’t get a chance to interview her but we are okay asserting that there was probably nothing sweet about her. Besides being the subject of a new short film project, Harriet Tubman is remembered in the hearts and minds of many Africans in America understanding their freedom came at a cost and there is still a ways to go.
And that Balm in Gilead? Tf is a balm and why is that weird word in a song title? They had alternative gospel artist back then? Strange shit like that is usually the first clue that the song is probably a code. Besides the fact that the chorus has absolutely NOTHING to do with the verses and the other fact that hardly ANYBODY even knows the verses to Balm in Gilead or that it even had verses is your biggest clue that the song is a code. Add in the fact that enslaved Africans were probably not to keen to abandon their gods, ages old, to worship the god of their most immediate enemy and you got yourself a definite code song about one of the most powerful plants ever created with more benefits being discovered by the day.
There is a definite pattern to be noted here. There is a definite theme of Africans orally transferring messages through song and story from one group to the next and one generation to the next. There is a theme of coding messages to protect them from the other while appearing to assimilate. There is a theme of survival by any means.
Have Africans in America forgotten to pretend? Do we now believe that their god is ours and a chariot can be sweet and is coming to take us home and that black people can not only swim but we can do something called wading in water? 0-o Word?
“American English can’t be proper because it’s American and English comes from England,” asserts the African.
“It’s proper because it’s the way African people say it in America,” says the English American.
“Where the fuck is Dr. Geneva Smitherman?” says TBFS.
Here’s a couple books TBFS recommends fyi…
Black Feeling Black Talk by Dr. Geneva Smitherman
Black Street Speech: Its History, Structure, and Survival by John Baugh
Or if you just want to read a really good article about it then it should probably be an academic one. Try The Western Journal of Black Studies. You don’t have to go to college to read it or subscribe. Some might say a subscription to some good journals may even be a better use of tuition funds.
One article like Ebonics Is Not Black English by Dr. Ernie Smith and Karen Crozier from The Western Journal of Black Studies will do the trick! 😉
Read an excerpt here and hunger for more.
Shout out to Jimmy Kimmel. We love that guy.