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Aguilera’s Super Bowl song: A Southern minority and cultural view Special

By Carol Forsloff     Feb 9, 2011 in Lifestyle
Natchitoches - “Equality is about so much more than slavery. If a white woman is born with a soul voice and sings with "soul" she is just sharing a God given talent.”
Delilah Brosset speaks about Christina Aguilera’s performance of the National Anthem at the Super Bowl. Brosset has that voice of opinion of the Southern woman, many might not hear very often. But like Viola Luizzo, who died while helping register voters in Mississippi, white women have played a role in the changing ways minorities impact the culture and how people respond to differences.
While some folks criticized Aguilera’s performance of the National Anthem at the Super Bowl, in the genre of music known as soul, these criticisms have also been made about Christmas carols as well as other traditional activities and events that people see as custom.
Brosset is that woman of the South who learned to speak with a different voice in a place people associate as that region in America where blacks have been mistreated the most. Yet she is one among a group of women who continue to speak out on issues related to cultural differences. That’s because, as she tells us, she found in the ways of the South injustices that got in the way of perception. She wrote to me on Facebook shortly after I had posted a story on Aguilera’s performance of the National Anthem as soul. Other white women, mostly from the South, participated in a dialogue about culture as they believed it to be both instructive and constructive.
Brosset tells us, “In 1971 I came back to Natchitoches. briefly but was witness to the first freedom speech at NSU. It was a peaceful "sit-in" at the student union. I remember a black male with a very large afro saying "Northwestern do you REALLY know what time it is"! This statement generated a standing, cheering, clapping event that lasted well over 15 minutes--with hugs and handshakes moving through the crowd.”
Brosset had participated in several civil rights demonstrations during the 1960’s after she had left Natchitoches, Louisiana that had been her home. From there her world expanded, to include ongoing contacts with different racial groups, contacts that were now different than the stratified culture in which she had been raised as a child. Over time her perception changed in ways that have continued to help her grow, even in the embrace of different forms of entertainment. Her narrative of that embrace continues:
“When Lady Sings the Blues came to the theater, I was living in New Orleans. I saw the show in a predominantly black theater in the Ninth Ward. I was with a group of people (mixed races) and never felt threatened. That same year Liza Minelli starred in Cabaret, for which she won the oscar over Diana Ross. I was disappointed about that since I thought Ross was the better choice, despite Liza’s great portrayal of the character in Cabaret.
I moved to Dallas shortly after that and had the pleasure of meeting Charley Pride. He had been afraid to show himself as a black man in a white country culture. He went on to become famous.
I have learned over the years from talking, reading and interacting with people what cultural differences have done to change and to make things different, but I have seen it sometimes brings new understanding and appreciation of the ways of music. If you ask anybody in the music industry from blues to rap and anything in between, they will tell you black artists are the people that based the foundation for all musicians, song writers and dances. Billie Holiday, Al Green, Otis Redding,, Bessie Smith, Chuck Bery, Barry White Aretha Franklin, Charley Pride, Marvin Gaye, Louis Armstrong, Fats Domino, only to name a few opened the door for many musicians white and black. Some of their songs and sounds are not considered unusual today, but they were at one time.
I think many middle age and older people are irritated to see the black culture move on. In the movie Great Balls of Fire, Jerry Lee would sneak down to the black clubs and watch the musicians thru a window--and when criticized by his cousin( the preacher) for giving in to the devil and playing that "black" music that would cast him in to hell,--he replied, "well cousin, if I'm going to hell, I'm going playing the pianer".
Chris Paige describes the compassionate view he believes folks need to take when talking about cultural differences, including the performance by a white woman of a soul-rendering version of the National Anthem. Paige is an African American man, a long-term member of the Natchitoches Parish Council and an inhalation therapist at Natchitoches Regional Medical Center. Paige explains how people need to come together and open their eyes in new ways during these changing times. He points out that Christina Aguilera’s performance should not be treated as a negative, because she fumbled words or because it was not traditional, but a way to understand different cultural patterns and to take what he describes as “the Christian compassionate view.”
“For me, I like the traditional way of doing the National Anthem. But know what? I was so impressed with planes flying overhead, the song America the Beautiful that was sung before, the joy on the faces of people in the stadium, as well as people weeping with emotion, I didn’t know Aguilera made a mistake. I found that out afterward. It’s not that I’m not patriotic; it’s just I was listening to her beautiful voice. Besides when someone is performing before millions of people like that, it has to be pretty scary. We need to be more like Christians and see things like that and not be petty. We need to comment but be careful when we do because we aren’t in that other person’s shoes. I thought she did great just because of that voice. And I’m someone who likes the traditional ways at the games.”
Two views from the culture framed in the South, different from others perhaps, but giving the rest of us a way of looking at the world they told me they hope helps people grow. For this black man and white woman of the South explain they have seen the worst of times themselves and learned lessons from it. What might be to some a trivial event in the host of things can be used to foster understanding, Paige and Brosset explained.
It was in the mid-1970’s Elvis Presley played a concert at an arena in Pittsburgh, this man who had early on in his career been criticized for his brand of music, borrowed from the black community. During that concert, which stands out in a reporter’s memories of Pittsburgh triggered by the recent Super Bowl events, Elvis mumbled words to several songs, one of them “The Battle Hymn of the Republic.”
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