Thursday, July 8, 2010

Throwback Thursdays: Amazulu "Montego Bay"

Remember the days when BET made an altruistic attempt to represent the breadth of the collective U.S. Black community? Well, if you were born in the last 20 years, you probably don't. I grew up in the 80s, when the DC-based station was just a fledgling. Still holding fast to the upwardly mobile yet culturally rich ethos of Black America's 80s social paradigm. Amidst the battlefield of crack and AIDS, there were several shining pillars exemplifying everything from Black bourgeoisie to Afrocentricity. With Bill Cosby and Oprah Winfrey storming the Nielsen ratings, a new dimension of social and economic currency had been affixed to the Black image. And now we had a network to go with it.

I remember watching BET when I was a kid. When Donnie Simpson was the king of the network with his nightly music video program, Video Soul. Not only did Donnie facilitate the most insightful, personable interviews, he also played a broad variety of videos from the African diaspora. As strange as it may seem, I became politically aware because of BET. Whether it was the informative reports from Sabrina Dames on BET News (later Ed Gordon) or the selections that Donnie Simpson placed into rotation on Video Soul, BET helped me to form the basis of my knowledge of the Black diaspora. On Video Soul, I learned about apartheid in South Africa through music videos such as "Sun City" by Artists United Against Apartheid and "Free Nelson Mandela" by The Special AKA. I went to school, made a plaster Paris model of the continent of Africa, and started asking more questions in class. I was becoming a regular little Michael Evans at the age of 10.

Amazulu's "Montego Bay" was also one of the videos played on Video Soul. I knew little about Jamaica outside of the Kaya album cover my friend's ganja-smoking older brother used to roll his daily herbal supplements on. I remembered Bob Marley's face from the "Could You Be Loved" video BET often played, so I made the connection. However, Bob's video didn't allow me to conceptualize Jamaica, the country itself (I only remember the multi-culti kiddie version of this video, not the alternate version). The culture. The people. It wasn't until Amazulu shot this video for their 1986 song about the capital of St. James Parish that I fully understood. There were Blacks in other places around the world other than Africa and the United States?! Getouttahere!!! Anyway, enjoy this little piece of nostalgia from my youth. It brings back memories that I'll cherish forever.

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