Tag Archives: teena marie

Honorary Black Person

16 May

Remember when Bill Clinton was called “our first Black president” in a 1998 New Yorker essay written by novelist, Toni Morrison?  Morrison, who admired Clinton as a president,  was defending him in light of the media and public reaction to the Monica Lewinsky scandal.

I found an interesting article written back then by Suzy Hansen for Salon, where she interviewed journalist, DeWayne Wickham, on his thoughts about why Clinton was liked and trusted by the black community when he was president.

You can read it here:

So, Clinton was considered an Honorary Black Person, and you know what, so was I.  It was declared right around the same time  as Bill’s, when I worked at the John Heuss House, a 24-hour Drop-In Center for mentally ill homeless adults in lower Manhattan, where I was an Art and Recreation Therapist.

I was sitting in the inner-office at lunch time.  The staff at JHH was very diverse, and I think that day at lunch, it was me and three or four black co-workers, who were case managers and outreach team members.   The conversation was turned toward something that pertained to being black or black culture, and leading the conversation was Susan, a dark-skinned, young woman, who seemed to never be at a loss for words, or witty come-backs.  One phrase I remember her using often, came when someone like Leslie, the Jamaican cook at JHH, referred to Susan’s skin tone.  She’d break into a Caribbean lilt, and snap back, “…the darker the berry, the sweeter the juice.”

Just as I was about to feel left out in that afternoon’s conversation, Susan turned to me, and said, “don’t worry, Wendy, you can be an Honorary Black Person.”  We all laughed, and I thanked Susan. I probably tried not to let on too strongly how I felt, but inside I beamed with pride that I earned the validation, the seal of approval, the wink of coolness, the honor of being an Honorary Black Person.

I want to in turn name my own Honorary Black Person.  Perhaps I shouldn’t have the right to do that since I’m white, but I do know that the person I am about to name is held in high regard by the black community for her soulfulness and authenticity as a performer.  My Honorary Black Person is singer/musician, Teena Marie.

If you are black, (or not), and have someone to nominate, famous (or not), to be named an Honorary Black Person, please send your suggestions.  Be sure to tell us who, and why you think they deserve to be named an Honorary Black Person.