On Sunday, June 8th, 2014, at 8pm Eastern Time, my son and I were in an easy household dilemma in choosing which Tony to watch, however, the community we both have to navigate still causes this choice to be saturated in a dilemma. The Tony Dilemma I’m referring to is whether to watch point guard, Tony Parker of the San Antonio Spurs, go up against the Miami Heat in the NBA Finals, or, watch The 2014 Tony Awards.
The dilemma is full of gender/race generalizations and stereotypes of Black boys having a natural connection to basketball and the world that surrounds this popular sport. My son is automatically supposed to know the teams, the star players and the sneakers sold in the name of those star players; when my son doesn’t respond to those adult and peer group inquiries with proven knowledge and emotional obsession, I get the usual empathetic side conversation from adults (Men), “he’ll come around; late bloomer; my son was the same way until, etc…..” This gets said to me like I’m worried, or like it’s a problem my son doesn’t ask me to buy a hundred-dollar sneakers from a kat we don’t know.
And when family members or extended members of our community judge Black boys as only being sports and rap enthusiast, they end up creating a mute out of my son and are unable to recognize how they have narrowed the conversation to certain sports (basketball, football, baseball) and certain rappers (garbage rappers), totally missing the opportunity to get to know him better and learn why the Tony Awards was going to be our choice for the evening.
My son has been a theater kat since he was two years old. That is when he first saw the Broadway production of the Lion King and then followed that up with seeing the Broadway production of Tarzan, and our journey of theater entertainment has continued ever since, which gave great reason for us to tune into the Tony Awards. Not to mention, in the month of May, we traveled to New York City for my wife’s fortieth birthday party, our trip included “Motown The Musical” (Excellent) and “Lady Day At Emerson’s Bar & Grill” (Excellent); my wife also took in the show “After Midnight,” and me and my son are still traumatized about missing that show.
That small amount of information can open you to a piece of my son’s world and create a moment for him to share, like how the host of this year’s Tony Awards, Hugh Jackman, is also Wolverine in the X-Men motion picture franchise. My son is a comic book guru; so Hugh and Neil Patrick Harris, who does the voice of Spiderman in the “Shattered Dimensions” video game and the voice of “The Music Meister,” in the Batman (The Brave and Bold) cartoon series, are connected to my son from that unique angle, which only makes their talents that much more amazing when he sees them do theater.
For him, the Tony Awards has many threads. In 2009, Michael Jackson passed the same day we are in New York to see the Broadway production of the Wiz; besides the singer Ashanti playing Dorothy, and “Pam” from “Martin” (Tichina Arnold) playing Evilleen (The Wicked Witch of the West), the brother that played the Lion was Mr. James Monroe Iglehart, the same kat that just won a Tony for his performance as the Genie in Aladdin. But because this ain’t sports this information remains as silent as the E in Mr. Iglehart’s song “Silent E”, which he performed on the New Electric Company.
(Yeah, we watch that, and the original too! This brother is beyond talent.)
And on that same Silent E episode, Lin-Manuel Miranda rapped “Silent E is a Ninja.” In the words of the flawed secret agent Maxwell Smart,“would you believe” the very next day after seeing the Wiz we were in New York to also see Miranda’s show, “In The Heights,” which he also won a Tony for and brilliantly freestyled over the orchestra music when they tried to cut his acceptance speech short.
And the connections are endless; my wife is not a fan of McDonald’s but she is a big fan of Audra McDonald who just won for her performance as Billie Holiday in the musical “Lady Day At Emerson’s Bar & Grill.” My son loved her performance so much, at the end of the show he told me Spike Lee should have gotten her to play Billie Holiday in the Malcolm X movie, which is also a feature he really loves because of the Lionel Hampton orchestra and the “Lindy Hop” dance scene; this is why we are traumatized for not going to see “After Midnight,” but more the reason to catch a glimpse of that show by watching the Tony Awards. And they didn’t disappoint at all!!
But it is disappointing that Black fathers would not be believed to have the music catalog of Carole King; first introducing my son to her sound through the Really Rosie soundtrack. And by the way, Jessie Mueller won a Tony for her performance in “Beautiful, The Carole King Musical,” –yet another reason for us to tune in and for our community to expand their imagination of the possible interest of Black males.
If you yourself, can’t imagine that there is a Black Boy so intrigued with the creations of Walt Disney that he would research Disney’s works to find out the origins of Peter Pan, which led him to the author J.M. Barrie and then a moment of pondering two good observations, which were —1) Walt Disney sampled much of his movies and stories just like Hiphop, and 2) The original Tinker Bell was very vulgar but made cute and innocent by Mr. Disney, thus reworking an already existing work of art, like Hiphop.—-then one would also miss how this twelve year-old would be totally connected to Jennifer Hudson as she performs the song “Neverland” for the “Finding Neverland Musical,” on the 2014 Tony Awards.
There are many connections to be made, both in the 2014 Tony Awards and in understanding Black males, like my son, have many interest to connect to. The dilemma continues when our imaginations don’t allow us to see Black boys in different pools of conversation. As long as we do not allow other subjects to stay afloat, Black boys voices will continue to drown in the pools of limitations.