Race Reversal: A Hypothetical Scenario Of What Would Happen If Trayvon Martin Were White And George Zimmerman Were Black, And Why Race Has Everything To Do With The Case
If you don’t understand how deeply and viciously racist has been the official and right-wing reaction to the murder of Trayvon Martin, all you have to do is consider what would have been the official and right-wing reaction had the races of Martin and his killer been reversed.
Imagine a lanky white teenager was walking in a strange neighborhood at night. He’s a good kid—according to one of his teachers “an A and B student who majored in cheerfulness"—although he’s not above making the foolish teenaged mistake of getting caught with an empty baggie with marijuana residue inside it. But he has no criminal record. The worst anyone can say about him is that he smokes some pot, which puts him in the company of nearly half of all American high school students, something more than half of all American adults would legalize. But he’s a good student and has no criminal record. In other words, he’s a pretty typical teenager. A good kid.
Then one night this typical teenager is walking alone in a strange neighborhood, munching on some junk food and talking on his cell phone. And remember that we’re reversing the races here, so now he’s a white kid walking alone in a strange neighborhood, and it’s a black man who steps out of an SUV and starts following him. A black man who outweighs the teen by nearly a hundred pounds. A black man who steps out of an SUV, pulls up a hoodie, and starts following the teen. The kid tells his friend on the cell phone that someone is following him. He tells her because he doesn’t understand why someone is following him. He’s nervous. He’s just walking along, munching on junk food, and someone has started following him.
Finally, he decides to confront the guy. Even though he is nervous, he probably can’t imagine that simply walking in a strange neighborhood would lead to someone shooting him dead. He’s standing up for himself, but the thought of violence, the thought of gunfire, doesn’t even enter his head. But when he confronts the big guy who had been following him, and asks why he has been following him, the big guy pulls a gun. It happens so suddenly, the teen probably barely has time to realize that something serious is now happening. This was just an innocent evening stroll, a big guy had started following him for no reason, and now his life is being threatened. This was just an innocent evening stroll, and now he’s looking at a gun. Pointed at him. By a big guy who had been following him for no reason. A big guy who now shoots him dead.
Three witnesses later report having heard the boy’s desperate cry for help. The police report (pdf) says he was found face down, with his hands under him. He was carrying no weapon. He was carrying no drugs. He was carrying the type of junk food typical teenagers carry. In our reversal of races scenario, the story then is that a lanky white teen was walking in a strange neighborhood, snacking on junk food, talking to a friend on his cell phone, when a large black man stepped out of an SUV, started following him, frightened him, and shot him dead. Imagine the reaction.
Now suppose we find out that the teen’s killer had a history of race-based paranoia. Suppose we find out that the teen’s killer’s neighbors had complained of his aggressive behavior. Suppose we find out that the teen’s killer had once been arrested for “resisting arrest with violence and battery on an officer.” Suppose we find out that the teen’s killer that night had ignored a police dispatcher who had told him to stop following the teen. And suppose that after all that, the much larger black man who had stepped out of an SUV, pulled up a hoodie, and started following the white teen had ended up shooting the white teen dead. What would have been the official response? What would have been the right-wing reaction?
Would a police officer have tried to coach a witness to change her story? Would the local state attorney and police chief have overruled even the lead homicide investigator, who recommended that the killer be charged with manslaughter? Would the police have neglected even to give the killer a routine drug and alcohol test? Would the police have neglected to contact whomever the kid was talking to on the phone just moments before he was shot, ignored the witnesses who contradicted the killer’s story, and later reported that the killer had been bloodied in a confrontation with the dead teen, even though the real time reports suggested no such thing, and even though the police surveillance video shows the killer had no discernible wounds or discomfort, and even though the funeral director who prepared the dead teen’s body for burial says there was no evidence he had been in a fight?
If Trayvon Martin had been white and George Zimmerman black, this would not have become a national story. If they had reported it at all, the right-wing media would have praised Martin for trying to stand his ground before a dangerous violent thug. It defies credulity to think they would be dismissing the killer’s behavior, making despicable excuses such as blaming the kid’s clothing, or if— unthinkable in this reversing-the-races scenario—there had been no criminal charges filed against the killer, dismissing the story altogether. The questions here don’t even need answers. The questions answer themselves.
Had Trayvon Martin been white and George Zimmerman black, Zimmerman would be headed for death row. Right-wing media would be hailing Martin as a hero. A martyr who had stood his ground against a dangerous predator. They would be saying that it’s too bad Martin hadn’t somehow fought back against Zimmerman, and that if he had somehow succeeded in fighting a man so much larger than him, it would have been justifiable if he had left Zimmerman dead.
There is no polite way to explain what has happened. There is no polite way to explain the reflexive defensive rationalizations by the right-wing media and their right-wing fans. This was a racist killing with a racist cover-up and the right wing’s reaction has been virulently and viciously racist. To understand the depth of the right wing’s racist depravity, all it takes is to consider the very different reaction to this horror had the races of the victim and his killer been reversed.
Welcome to post-racial America.
A bunch of my heroes in this picture…especially those two ladies in the middle!!! I can’t decide who I love more: the gorgeous 49 yr old first black First Lady of the United States aka FLOTUS? OR the gorgeous 44 year old first time marriage to a friggin billionaire president of an investment firm?? I want to rub on them both like to apollo log. Oh yeah those others dudes in the pic are cool too…
Hi, I saw your ad on Craigslist, my name is Jerry. I am a 48 year old white male living in the Village. I practice yoga at home, 1-2 times per week. Recently my instructor left town, so I am looking for a new instructor. I had back surgery about 12 years ago, so I prefer gentle restorative yoga with a lot of assisted stretching. Also, I am a nudist. So I prefer being nude during the session. My previous instructor was comfortable with me being nude and she joined me after a few sessions. Are you available for this type of yoga?
No insult intended,
And I couldn’t think of a better way to end it! Last night the Avengers met The Rat Pack met Wu Tang Clan at the Comedy Cellar. I mean I thought it was just a regular Wednesday night. Especially since the night before my #2 and #3 Dave Chappelle and Chris Rock had been onstage together casually discussing plans to take over the world…
I was counting my blessings after having that in my mind grapes. Knowing that my idol and friend (still cant believe thats a thing) was still in town I stopped by the cellar (for the 6th night in a row) to see what I thought was a solo farewell (for now) performance. Definitely got more than I bargained for. As usual with our late night ninja tomfoolery I knew Dave wasn’t going to be onstage a minute before midnight. So, I didnt arrive until almost 1am after doing a late night mic. Perfect, he was already onstage. Little did I know the audience consisted of Chris Rock, Kevin Hart, Marlon Wayans, Bill Bellamy, Questlove and a few other members of The legendary Roots crew from Philly.
After about 15 minutes of watching Dave, Kevin walked onstage, then Marlon, then Bill and I turned to Chris standing next to me and said, “You might as well…” With a Kanye shrug and a slow shuffle in a moment straight out of a crystal ball a handful of heroes were onstage. And what did they do? They mostly told stories hilarious stories about their lives and each other. Chris of the first time he met a prepubescent Marlon and stole a girl from him that he was trying to talk to because he “didn’t know what to do with that.” Marlon of growing up and finally being able to repay the favor to a befuddled Chris once he came of age. Kevin of his shenanigans spilling pineapple juice on the jeans of Jay-Z at the disgust of Beyonce. Bill of giving a 16 year old Dave a ride to the path train after a late night at the Peppermint Lounge in (my home state) New Jersey. Dave of Chris being the only person he opened for (while still in high school) that he felt the need to wear a suit. Both Marlon and Kevin telling stories of Dave busting in the door of their dressing rooms at their respective shows in his (present) home state of Ohio requesting cigarettes from both non smokers. Kevin not knowing the existence of thousand dollar bills. Marlon of wanting to rob Kevin because he was so rich. Chris being the “grown up” and warning Kevin not to spend all his money and end up like MC Hammer. Dave of opening for Martin Lawrence as a kid with his mother and grandmother in the front row and Martin calling them out for looking at him as if they’ve never…umm the ending of that story is not suitable for a lady’s blog :-) and all the while Questlove is quietly taking it all in (per his usual) sitting at the piano stating that he simply wanted a front row seat to the “greatest night of his life.” And if you know anything about Questlove’s life that’s saying a hell of a lot. It was a historical night for comedy. A momentous night for black comedians. And just an all around unbelievable experience that ended with me being at a club with Kevin, Dave, and Busta Rhymes. My dreams are becoming my reality… *drops mic*
Soooo this happened last week: http://news.yahoo.com/blogs/sideshow/applebees-waitress-fired-pastor-receipt-193820748.html
Disclaimer: This is probably going to offend someone. And if it does that probably means you are a shitty tipper!
NEW YEARS RESOLUTION 2013: BLOG MORE
Since race is always on my mind I figured I might as well start my first blog of 2013 and Black History Month with a commentary on it. The above news story went viral last week and I applaud the server in question. However, the saddest part is that I knew the race of the shitty tipper before I even saw her picture. I don’t know what it is about black people and leaving a proper tip but if you ever thought you might not be racist or judgmental become a server at a restaurant for a couple weeks. Over the course of six years I worked at (and was subsequently fired from) four different restaurants and God willing I will never have to return to the ranks of the most unappreciated race: The server.
I’m not sure what it is about bringing food to a person’s feeding hole that leads to automatic dehumanization but I’ve had my fill of it this lifetime. The customer is NOT always right. Not only have I become more racist but I also gleaned a hierarchy of tippers.
BEST TIPPERS (in ORDER):
1. Interracial couple BLACK WOMAN/WHITE MAN
BEST TIP EVER! Across the board something about this mix ALWAYS left me a good tip. Never failed. Is it because a black woman that dates white men is bouzhier than the average bear and didn’t fall asleep on the segment of “Proper Gratuity” in her “How to Snag The Man 101” finishing school syllabus? Is it because a white man that dates a black woman was leaving me a better tip because he wanted to add me to his list of colored concubine conquests? Whatever the reason whenever this mix would sit down in my section, not only would I not be expected to run around the restaurant like a chicken with my head cut off fetching gratuitous garbage for the pair BUT it was always at least an 18% tip (usually 25%) left on a credit card that would leave me a renewed ablity to cope with the BS reality of being a server for another shift. I was willing to go to blows with another server when I saw this duo walking in the door.
ARBITRARY ASSIDE: Mellody Hobson is one of my HEROES (along with FLOTUS)! Every time I see her on the red carpet Lucas is gripping her like his Star Wars residuals depend on it. He’s fulfilling his mammy fantasy the sexiest way possible. If I can be that hot at 43 I will not mind aging (OR dating an old white man PAGING LAWRENCE O’DONNELL http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/02/02/lawrence-odonnell-tamron-hall-msnbc-anchors-dating_n_1249456.html
2. GAY MEN
I love me a hippity hoppity happy ass homo as much as the next liberal (probably waaaaayyyy more). I loved them even more when a table full would sit in my section at any of the restaurants I’ve been fired from (translation every single one I’ve ever worked for). They’d brighten my bleak work shift with a barrage of “Heyyyyyy girlfriends” “Ooooo what do you put on you skin its fabulous!” or “Another round of Apple Martinis biatch!” I adored their energy, complisults, and most importantly tips. There was never a dull moment and never a cheap tip.
Arbitrary Aside: Lesbians on the other hand were a crap shoot depending on which side of the construction bed they woke up on that day.
3. High Drug Dealers
One of my former restaurants in question served a lot of seafood. And one of the advertised specials was “Unlimited Crab Legs.” Fun Fact: Drug Dealers LOVE crab legs! A ravenous pack would come in from the night like a murder of crows in a cloud of weed smoke and sit down in my section and go H.A.M. I loved this for a number of reasons: First off, If a person is high enough that you can smell the “medicine” wafting up from their timberland boots 9 times out of 10 they are in a good ass mood.
Secondly, high drug dealers are HILARIOUS. They crack on me, each other, the restaurant, the other servers, babies, old bitches, even the furniture. And it was never not funny. These dudes are comedians that just never got on stage.
and Last but most importantly not least: High drug dealers are VERY generous. They’d never look at the bill or even count the money. Yeah I’d get a $400 tab paid to me in singles and fives because as one of them put it, “You can go in THIS pocket ma, but not this one…” but I didn’t mind. Singles and fives are garbage to a drug dealer (a good one). So rather than wipe their ass with federal reserve toilet paper they’d dip into the trash receptacle that was their oversized Sean John jeans pocket and toss crumpled bills on the table. I guess they figured even if they couldn’t use it some lesser law abiding mortal would. I’d usually make out with at least 50 bucks on top of the automatic gratuity that was already on the bill because lets face it, a high drug dealer has no idea who that nigga “Gratuity” is and why he ate with them (nor does he care).
NOW on the opposite end of the spectrum I could smell a bad tip coming from a mlie away. And sadly enough it usually involved a table full of people that looked like me.
1. INTERRACIAL COUPLE Black Man/White Woman
Worse tip EVER! The bigger the white woman the smaller the tip. Probably because she was sick and tired of paying for this freeloading freestyler’s meals (the white woman always pays) and my tip was the thing that would suffer in this situation. When I saw them trucking I’d do my best to make sure my section was full or get them in and OUT as quick as her glutenous gullet could swallow a 6 course meal at midnight right before the restaurant would close. Ugh!
2. The cast of Girlfriends
Not the actual cast (I would hope these hos are good tippers, even though I wouldn’t put it past them not to be, especially the non mixed two). But I’m sorry to say a group of black women waiting to exhale do NOT know how to tip (for the most part). Additionally, they’d run me around the restaurant asking for every little thing individually, send back perfectly good food, ask to see the manager, complain about the service, get a discount/comp of something off the bill, not tip, then come back religiously and request to sit in MY section because “You know you my Homegirl!” hate, Hate, HATE!! And don’t let them be celebrating something. Because celebration means more drinks and possibly even dessert. And the higher the bill the lower the tip. I once got 15 bucks on 170 and THAT was from my cousin and a group of her friends. They thought that was a GOOD tip.
When I moved to California for the first time I made the switch from my home restaurant in NJ that served a shit load of cheesecake to a location at the Grove in LA. Translation: TOURISTS! Granted it wasn’t their fault that in most every other nation (in the 1st world) tipping isn’t customary because those countries don’t treat their servers like serfs and actually pay a decent wage so they don’t have to maintain a livelihood based off the non existent decency of restaurant goers. However, I cant really give it to them because on our billfolds it said in plain English (and approximately 10 other languages) that tipping is a custom of the US and they are not in Kansas anymore. When in ROME fuckers! The worse was a table full of Chinese people because they had the most decent non American custom of ordering less entrees than the amount of people at the table to share the food so as not to exercise one of the seven deadly sins on a Tuesday at Noon. But they never knew how to follow up the classiness with an acceptable tip. I can blame ignorance, but do you really not know in this millennium of the Internets that we tip in America, REALLY? If you have more than one stamp in your passport you should be aware of other countries customs. Am I right?
~Now I know what you might be thinking: Maybe you didn’t get good tips because you’re such a judgmental biatch towards the restaurant goers. Not true. When I was on, I was ON, had the tables loved me and laughed themselves silly. Sometimes I was told I was the best restaurant experience they’d ever had. (I’m an excellent actress.) The table’s never knew that I was judging away because my face would say with a smile, “Welcome to (insert prison franchise) my name is Joyelle and I will be your server today!” I was a damn good server. Then how did you get fired so much? Well there’s but so much I could take and when the tough got going on the wrong day I’d snap and “Condescending Bitch Joyelle” would show up the ruder the customers became. And I’d have an epiphany: I do not give a damn about this job. That happened way less than it COULD have. But just enough to ensure that public service was not to be in my job description for life. Of this fact I’m happy.
And as far as Pastor Alois Bell is concerned I’m glad she got her cheap bitch card pulled because nobody deserves to get stiffed on a table of 20 at Applebees with the use of the LORD as an excuse. Being a server at Applebees is punishment enough. Pastor Blah is embarrassed (as well she should be). In my opinion if you’re going to get fired that was the best way to do it, by taking down a hypocritical bitchy ego with you! ~JUSTICE SERVED (pun intended)~
The past two weeks I’ve been burning up the road with shows in Atlanta, Indiana, Seattle, Idaho, and Vancouver, BC. And for the most part I was the minority. As a matter of fact I was informed that I was the first black woman to be paid to perform at The Comedy Attic in Bloomington, IN. Which kind of surprised me. Never thought I’d be the first black female to do something. It was a shocking revelation and truth be told I’m proud of myself. I mean its 2012 and I wasn’t sprayed with a fire hose and a German Shephard did not go for my jugular but its interesting that even in this day and age there are still things black women haven’t done.
Needless to say we’ve come a long way. What I am used to is being is the ONLY black female a lot of places.
As a comedienne I frequent the alternative and mainstream comedy circuits. The majority of black female comics stay on the urban scene. Only a handful of black chicks in each market cross over intentionally. Also, you can count on one hand the amount of black female comics in each market that do ALL of the scenes (read: urban, alternative and mainstream). The crossover takes confidence and courage that I haven’t always possessed. So here’s the story of the day I lost my confidence:
When I was younger I was really smart (almost genius level). At first it was assumed I was just a menace to the classroom. My third grade teacher would call home to my mother and complain about how I finished my work too fast and I would disturb the rest of the class. (As if a 9 year old with an over active brain was supposed to sit still with hands folded in silence.) My mother’s response? “Give her more work!” Duh teacher bitch! Thusly, I was sent off to tutor the 2nd graders after I finished my busy work. After a couple months of this I was tested and invited into the gifted and talented program. I was the only black girl. There was one other black guy, but he was a cocky dick (redundant I know) so we didn’t spend any time bonding or lamenting on the plight of our people against the “man”.
Gifted and Talented was kind of like a mini Mensa in my school district in New Jersey. All this meant to me was that I had to take college courses on the weekends when I could have been sleeping. My 19 year old cousin was taking classes at community college at the time and we had the same textbook.
At the behest of my mother I signed up for a course entitled “Space Probe”. She sold it to me based on her obsession with the first black female to land on the moon, Dr. Mae Jemison.
I figured she’s cool, I’ll take the course. First day I show up and I felt like I was on the auction block. A room full of entitled, cocky, intelligent white boys (including the instructor) and me. I walked in the room and it was as if a pin dropped. In my head I automatically looked down on myself, How could I compete with them? This group was Hitler’s wet dream. The only thing I remember from the class was a single day.
Our Professor was oblivious to my self consciousness. On the particular day in question he decided we’d have a bring your parent to class day. Of course my single black mother either had to work or had just pulled a night shift so she wasn’t able to attend. Who did come though? All of the white boys and all of their fathers!
No they didn’t show up with backpacks, but this is how I see white boys and their dads in my head.
Anywho, so in case you weren’t keeping track there are approximately 13 genius white boys, 13 rich genius white boy dads, one genius astro physics instructor, and me.
I was intimidated to say the least. But I gave myself a pep talk. You can do this, you’re just as smart as these guys, anything they can do you can do better! (yea I didn’t really believe that last part but I want to think thats what my mother would’ve said to me).
The project for the day was to make paper airplanes. My immediate thought: I GOT THIS!! I took my sheet of paper and folded it a total of four times. BAM, paper airplane bitches, what what! Snack time!
Then I looked around the room. The Klan were all gathered around their individual desks, heads down intent on their single sheet of notebook paper. There were scissors, graphing calculators, protractors, and bunsen burners abound. And like a table full of fat fucks with food no one was talking. I looked back at my airplane, and I figured maybe I’m missing something. I folded again. This time trying to get a couple more in the fray. I’m still done faster, kicking my heels against the table and thinking about Super Mario Brothers and snacks (reminder: I was 10 years old). Approximately 15 minutes later everyone is done. Now the teacher makes an announcement, “Okay class now that everyone is done with their airplanes we’re all going to the front of the building to test them out at the top of the stairs to see whose goes the furthest. One by one the confident white boys walk out, I’m trudging behind reluctantly beyond aware that this situation did not bode well:
Each white boy stands at the top of the stairs to throw his airplane. They take off one by one…Delta! Continental!! AIR FORCE FUCKING ONE!!!
I’m looking at these mini G5s thinking to myself, yea this probably isn’t going to end in my favor (I was smart enough to know that at least.) Then it was my turn. I got to the tip of the steps. All of the white boys and their fathers were crowded around the balcony and all eyes were on me. I threw my airplane into the air (along with my hope)….
It landed directly at my feet with less vim than the first Wright Brothers attempt. It didn’t even get to the bottom of the stairs. Did they all laugh at me? No, actually. It was more of a silent pity party. What was the black girl doing in the class anyway?
Needless to say ever since then my intimidation factor in front of white men has been at an all time high. Ironic how I chose a profession (and an audience) that puts me in front of the same people that I’ve internally feared since my preteens. Which brings me to one of my favorite quotes: “Courage isn’t the absence of fear, its the acknowledgement that something else is more important.” And for me thats healing people with laughter and getting paid to do it. If only because I’m a stand up comedienne I know that I’ve come a long way! So I know that I have courage. And soon I’ll have more confidence (and eventually stop hating on the “man”).
Until then this will be me in my head:
Poppin my instagram cherry last night in A-town w/ two comedy animals… (Taken with Instagram)
Presently, I live in the projects of Brooklyn (translation: the super hood). When I think of my own personal Hell on Earth there are a combination of project happenings that, if combined, would put me in a straight jacket and make me mentally unable to escape from high security head prison. Similar to the physical feeling gained from my first sew in weave…
(that shit HURTS, and no that is not me).
Hellish Sounds: I live on the 2nd floor of the PJs and Spanish families live both above and beneath. On the 1st floor it seems to be a mother w/ two kids in a dysfunctional relationship with a man. Why do I say seem? Because I don’t bother introducing myself to people. Then how do I know what it seems like? Cause this bitch is ALWAYS yelling at random times: 6am Saturday morning, 3pm Tuesday afternoon, midnight on Sunday. She’s cussing either at her kids or this man and let me tell you she goes OFF; threatening their lives w/ weapons, and actually throwing shit across the room sporadically. Its like listening to a Novela on Sabado Gigante. Ironically, I prefer her to the Spanish couple above us; at least this hussy is entertaining.
Above, they have an amazing speaker system that if it isn’t Bose, it puts Bose to shame. Comes complete with full DJ equipment and sub-woofers. They could do the audio engineering for the summer stage at Prospect Park from the crib (and we live in Bensonhurst). What’s their favorite song to play on loop, on BLAST, at the random times a day while Sofia Vergara is yelping at her defenseless hijos? The Spanish version of “Stand By Me” by Ben E. King. This song would be my soundtrack in hell! It drives me positively madcap jarring me out of my sleep like a pair of nails on a chalkboard…
…like a pair of cats fighting. Which I’ve also been hearing a lot in the PJs. Apparently the summer heat does the same thing to cats that it does to thugs.
A cat battle would be the background vocals while the Bachata Ben E plays in my Head Hell. For me, that is one of the most disgusting wordless sounds I can think of at the moment. I’d rather hear lions. Something about the low pitched “roar” makes my spine tingle in the wrongest way. Speaking of satan’s favorite pet I was introduced to a Savannah Cat last week:
The tiny cat head with a cheetah body??? Kill me now if at any part of my life I have to cross paths with that thing!!
Arbitrary Aside: I hate cats a lot. Reason? My grandmothers cat, Skippy, used to attack me as a child. The bitch would wait underneath the furniture and scratch at my ankles as I’d walk by on some premeditated ‘I get my ass whooped by granny all day and can only take it out on you because you’re little and can’t do anything about it’ vendetta type shit. It also once mauled me on the sofa. (which rereading is CMTFU like this chick). Anywho, I hate cats (but I fucks with Tigers, from a distance obviously).
Hellish Smells: Fun fact about me, I usually can’t smell a thing. Joyelle is to noses what Ray Charles was to eyes; except lucky for me mine comes and goes. The weird part is it has to be a very strong smell for it to come, which usually means I want it to GO. Some of these abstract Afrin inducers include the Yankee Candle Co. and Cinnabon. Neither of which are scents I’m a fan of but could be isolated with in a large ventilated area. My scent in hell is definitely the project stairwell. To say its disgusting is an understatement, more like an abhorrent aberration. I’ve often made the mistake of biting into a to-go food item in my perpetual running out the door road quest right before I step into the project stairwell and simultaneously my nose clears and I taste not only the delicious food item, but also the piss and shit scented stairs. Its enough to make me want to drink a Kool-aid cocktail in Jonestown.
Those sounds combined with that smell and sprinkle in the heat of the un-airconditioned cement box during the summer is enough to drive anyone straight down the rabbit hole. I’m thankful that none of this depravity has coexisted at the same time for me. If it did this would be my suicide blog post. Everyone please love each other more :-)
October 22, 2011 I walked past a large chalkboard downtown Brooklyn that encouraged people to finish the statement: Before I die I want to…
So I wrote on it. I’m not afraid to admit I worship the ground on which Dave Chappelle walks. Killing ‘Em Softly is my favorite comedy special and I can quote every line from it because I’ve seen it dozens of times. My living inspiration and idol in comedy is this man. The first time we met was in Los Angeles my first year in comedy: 2007. He came into the Laugh Factory as a surprise and performed onstage for 5 and a half hours. I didn’t miss a single moment. Like a 3 year old watching Yo Gabba Gabba I was focused. After this marathon performance I had the opportunity to talk to him and take a picture. (probably because most of the audience had left at this point, it was 4:30am)
From then on I’ve seen him a couple times a year. Seemingly by accident we’d cross paths and each time the friendship has grown. We’ve been out to eat several times on both coasts and had long conversations including everything from comedy and politics to relationships and religion. Every time we’re together I have the moment: You’re really with Dave Chappelle! There are even times when we sit in silence. I really appreciate these the most because there aren’t many people you can do that with let alone a major super star.
At the beginning of June, while I was in Chicago on my comedy grind, I came across an article in The Humor Mill. It reported that Dave was performing in Little Rock and Memphis the following week and both shows had been sold out. All I could think was: I’m there! But how? On a whim, I reached out to him via FB. Three days later he responded that my name would be at the door. Immediately my levels of excitement and disbelief sky rocketed.
Last Tuesday morning I left NYC at 8:30am on a flight to Memphis w/ a stop over in Philly armed with merely a backpack and pouch (yeah I know a pouch is corny to most but they’re practical for travel, so I’ll use mine to the fullest, I don’t care what the naysayers say). Bitch I’m fly:
Anyway, the connection was delayed two hours and I didn’t land in Memphis until almost 5pm. From the airport I hopped on the transit bus that read: Downtown. After an hour of riding through the “First 48” killer streets of Memphis I arrived, had dinner with myself and walked the mile that was left to the theater.
When I got to Will Call this is how the exchange went (around 7:15pm):
Me: Hello, I’m supposed to have a ticket under my name.
She: What’s your name?
Me: Joyelle Johnson.
She: We don’t have a ticket under that name.
mild panic sets in.
Me: This might sound crazy but I’m a friend of Chappelle’s and he told me he was going to leave my name at the door. Is there someone else I can talk to?
She: Well maybe you can try the stage door around the corner?
I walk to the stage door and the same thing happens. I don’t have his number yet so inside my head a plethora of emotions exchange. The highlights include: “You idiot! Did you really think Dave Chappelle was leaving YOU a ticket to his show??” ”Did you really just fly to Memphis like a dummy and waste a day of your life?” “Calm down! There’s no way the Universe would bring you all the way here to not let you get in. It’s only 7:30pm the show hasn’t started yet. Don’t panic!” And my personal favorite: “I want my mommy!!!”
Invoking the patience of a zen buddhist I calmly left the lobby area. As I walked past all the ticket holders streaming in beaming with excitement I decided to traipse over to the Bank of America and make a deposit to keep myself busy. On the way I passed a ticket scalper and noted him as a possibility. Feeling like a creep I got back to the will call area and loitered in the lobby stalker style. Around 8:15pm this exchange happened w/ Will Call:
She: What’s your name again?
She: How do you spell it?
She: Oh well we have a ticket here for a J-O-E-L-E
Me out loud: “Yea thats me, they must’ve spelled my name wrong.” in my head: “You stupid bitch!! Got me over here worried to death wondering what the fuck I was doing in Memphis and you had my ticket the whole TIME??!! Namaste.”
I go in and the show was unreal. He warned me he was “coming off the bench.” But it was Dave. In my humble opinion rusty Chappelle is better than the majority of seasoned pros. He even saw me from the stage and shouted me out in front of the crowd of two thousand, “Everybody this is Joyelle, she’s one of my favorite up and coming comedians, watch out for her in the future.”
Awestruck after the show ends I was one of three people to walk to the back to say hi. (In case it wasn’t clear at this point I only have a backpack, pouch and no real plans for the night, if worse came to worse I’d make my way back to the airport and take a nap until the next flight to NY.) However, best came to best and not only was I able to hang with the small entourage but while we shared a plate of fried green tomatoes he asked me casually, “You wanna open for me in Little Rock?’ Ummmmmmmmmm in a word: yes.
Of course I spent the next 18 hours in a cocktail mix of blissful hysteria. After a chill day of conversation outside the Westin hotel Dave and Frederic Yonnet (one of the coolest men in the world) rode motorcycles to Little Rock while Fred’s wife Carla Sims (one of the coolest women on the planet) and I rode the tour bus. I spent the two hour drive getting my head wrapped around the insanity that was about to prevail. A major part of that was me trying not to overreact!
We arrived at the Capital Hotel at 6:50 pm and I had 15 minutes to get my life together and look pretty for the stage. After a local opener I went on around 7:50pm and had the most exhilarating 18 minute set of my life to date. Performing in front of over two thousand people is a one of a kind experience that I cannot express in words. Unfortunately, I’m not that eloquent. Just imagine your wildest dream coming true and feel it from the inside out.
Dave didn’t see my performance (this time :-). However, he was informed of it as soon as he walked into the building post showering off the “Rebel w/o a Cause” road trip sweat. I’m standing in the wings elated to see him walk up and the first words out of his mouth after a hug are, “Sorry I wasn’t here but I heard you ripped that shit!” And I’m not gonna front. I did. Then he went on and did the Chappelle thing that was even better than the night before. The entire three days and nights are full of road trip stories that are too much to include on this already gregarious blog. (ask me about it and ill tell you in person :-)
The question that I’ve been getting the most thus far: Is Chappelle making a come back? There’s no answer to this question yet. All I can say is let’s hope and pray, not only for my own selfish reasons of wanting to be his opener on the tour, but honestly because I miss his voice. Our generation needs his perspective, especially in this political climate. Not to mention, for me, his non-presence on the TV and silver screen leave much to be desired from the industry.
I’ve been blessed enough to be in his orbit while he’s been off the scene but its never enough. Separation anxiety sparks for me each and every time we part. I constantly have moments of disbelief that I have him as a friend and mentor; it’s the greatest testament of my career to date. After making a firm statement October 22nd less than 8 months later on June 12th I made one of my wildest dreams come true. Additionally, one of the best pictures of my life was taken last week. Until next time folks: Rough Ride!
I love traveling. i’ve been bred for the transient nature of the stand up comedienne ever since i was little. my mom owned the house on the nice block in the city w/ the terribly shitty public schools. (East Orange, NJ represent!) Soooo i would go to school illegally in Union, NJ and stay at my aunts house during the week (translation: i always had my bags packed). Even got caught a couple times and almost expelled. Arbirtary aside: real gangsters steal education.
anyway, I just left Chicago. And I had a blast. I did the mainstream club Zanies in St Charles, IL, the hoodest room at a spot called DJs in Dolton, IL and everything in between. Extremely contrasting natures. At Zanies the patrons were white and pleasant for lack of a better word. They all looked like they just came from a game of golf. At DJs dudes barely cracked smiles and the women had tattoos everywhere. Arbitray Aside: I’ve realized something scarier to me than a neck tattoo on a chick; two on the titties! Yipes!
Ironically, the hood crowd was equally as pleasant. Moment of honesty: Crowds compromised of what appears to be strippers and hustlers are scary to me. I’ll be the first to admit it. I still get on the stage but I have to force myself through my fear. It’s like the movie Rookie of the Year. (Tangent Alert) Long Story as short as possible the kid in this movie broke his arm which gave him the ability to pitch really fast so he got in the pros. FFWD to the end of the movie and the boy loses this talent at a major game. right before he pitches w/ his regular 13 yr old arm thats only sufficient enough for masterbation he (and everyone he knows) screams out “OMIGOD OMIGOD OMIGOD OMIGOD OMIGOD OMIGOD OMIGOD!” ~That’s exactly how I feel right before I get onstage in a rough hood room. S/O to Uptown in ATL, The Savoy in Inglewood, Moca’s in Harlem, and now DJ’s in Dolton.
Here’s the thing about these rooms though, while they are super scary to me, when they love you they LOVE you. The Zanies audience is too polite, they laugh but its not raucous. When black people find something funny they fall out of chairs, shout lovingly foul terms of endearment, scream, hoot, and holler. It’s one of the best feelings in the world. Akin to sex and I’m not kidding. DJ’s LOVED me!! (guess I have to stop being shocked at this) But so did Zanies. Only a handful of comics do both. Its a necessity for me. I think its going to make me great. Three more shows tonight in Philadelphia (black owned comedy club but not hood :-)…then onto Harrisburg!!