BHM: Griot Spotlight: Richard Pryor

It's been my first official week of sabbatical and I already miss teaching. So this blog is going to have to become my classroom. With that in mind, allow me to explain the principles of my main teaching method (Socratically based); one where I often tell my students that "in my class, Google is one of your best friends..."

I'm going to give you a name, a perspective and and example of their work (via link to printed or video-based material) and eave it up to you to find the rest. Agreed? Okay, so here we go:

As an academic, I've chosen to reflect of Black History Month as a sort of time of reflection and rejuvenation around the socio- political experiences of being Black in America. I find the whole notion of a national theme for Black History Month remarkably insulting, and yet another irony in the Black experience. When does Black History Month become a time of enlightenment? When does it actually get used as a time to fulfill the objectives of Carter G Woodson?Instead it becomes another opportunity for us to act as intellectual sheep.

In this light, allow me to use this time to reflect on the Griots of Black America. Griot, a collective term for a tradition found in several West African cultures of storytellers, philosophers, poets, oral historians, advisers, mentors and teachers of our collective cultural roots; who in American culture have often been reduced to the roll of street corner poets and store-front knowledge droppers.

In light of this, I would like to hold up one of the greatest and best known griots of the 20th Century, Mr. Richard Pryor. While stand-up comedy was his forum, there are few Black orators, actors, teachers, philosophers and/or journalists who could equal or surpass the razor- sharp insight that Mr Pryor had as it related to the social, political, economic and cultural experiences of Black people in America, particularly race relations. Teamed with the equally brilliant Paul Mooney (subject of a future Griot Spotlight), Richard Pryor became one of the most insightful voices in America. Enjoy the clips below.