It was DuBois, the social scientist and cofounder of the NAACP, after all, who coined the term "double consciousness" to describe, in part, the dual realities - one friendly, one foreign - inhabited by people of color in America. That was way back in 1903.
If anything, the existence of our nation's first black head of state has only heightened our national obsession with matters of race. But at least the last 110 years have taught us how to laugh at our own psycho-social mess.
Which is where contemporary urban chameleon reporter, Funnel Cake Flowers, comes in. Armed with a microphone and a bougie accent, the star correspondent of Tickles.TV makes it her business to expose the secret realities of code-switchers, or "urban chameleons," who regularly navigate between cultural extremes. The character Funnel Cake Flowers is the creation of Emmy-nominated writer/performance artist/producer and New York native HaJ, who initially became aware of her own code switching status while majoring in acting at Carnegie Mellon University. As the only black female in all of her classes, she regularly found herself "'chameleon-ing' in these different environments."
It became the foundation for a series of satirical skits mocking issues of identity and race, which she and her friends shot guerilla-style and posted online. This weekend, she takes Funnel Cake Flowers & the Urban Chameleons to the stage, where the show debuts on 7 Stages' mainstage in the lineup for the second annual Atlanta Fringe Festival. (There is still one show remaining, Sun., June 9, at 2 p.m.)
Presented in an interactive talk-show format with video clips interspersed, the show will expose the harsh realities faced by urban chameleons, like the female black professional steeped in the prim-and-proper cultural mores of the white corporate world during the week, who must then transition to ghetto-ology 101 when it's time get her beauty needs taken care of every weekend ("Traveling Back to the Hood to Get Your Haid Did"). Or the successful black college professor who climbs his way out of the inner city only to have his less fortunate nephew tell him he ain't shit without a BMW ("Without a BMW, I'm Just a Negro With an Opinion").
With all the "change" (Obama pun intended) that has occurred around the framing of race in America, I wanted to know if HaJ foresees a time when urban chameleons will be an endangered species.
In a lot of ways it seems like we're better able to laugh at our differences in the Obama era, but in other ways it seems like his being in office has brought a heightened sensitivity and awareness to racial differences. How do you process that?
HaJ: Well, you certainly see more commercials with black men.
(Laughs) Really? I hadn't noticed.
Yeah, my mom [filmmaker Ayoka Chenzira, who directs the show] and I, we laugh about that.
You know, it's interesting because I think it's always about who's telling the joke. And in a lot of ways, of course, there's a huge celebration about Obama being in the White House, and I feel like the [show] is actually really timely because urban chameleons look at him like: 'Oh brother, that's what you've got to deal with? We know what you really think; we know what you really feel.' But all those things aren't really being said, especially in mainstream media. When you hear the attacks on Michelle - her hair, her body, the fist-bumps and things like that - it's a huge eyeroll in some ways. We really want to get on the mic about it because it's only a slice of the black perspective.
But I think as black people we always have a very interesting relationship to humor. I was just talking to somebody about this, she was like, 'Oh my God, my friend is just so extra-militant, you can't say nothing.' That's a typical skit right there: the friend is extra-militant. As soon as she see's a piece of chicken, she's like aaahhhh!!! [screaming mad]. Meanwhile, she's critiquing the piece of chicken while eating chicken.
And that's a focal point that we deal with in the show. The executive says to Funnel Cake, What's the big deal about eating chicken, I eat chicken. And Funnel Cake is like, 'One white person eating chicken somehow does not attack the entire race.' But it's like, why is it so complicated. We like chicken but we don't want to talk about chicken. (laughs)
Exactly what role does Funnel Cake Flowers play, because sometimes I'm not sure which side she's advocating for?
She's a bit of a chameleon herself. You can't really pinpoint her accent, it's kind of crazy, sometimes she's just showing off how she can say words without really trying to show off. She must walk around in a cape no matter what time it is. She is an activist at heart but she's very proper. Her hair is always in that ponytail. But she's kind of almost finding herself.
The plight of the character is she is trying to get her show, "The Urban Chameleons," to stay on the air. But the network executives who are of a different culture don't quite understand this demographic. But that's the irony of our culture, there are things that can't be captured by statistics, research, and data. We don't operate by those same rules. Therefore, the data's always going to be off. So that's funnel Cake's plight. In the meantime, [she's] highlighting these different scenarios that urban chameleons face.
How did moving to Atlanta give you material that was different than what you experienced while living in L.A. or New York?
Since I've been in Atlanta I've had less urban chameleon moments. I find Atlanta to be actually kind of segregated still. There's a black world and a white world. So anytime I'm trying to cast characters for videos, I have to call people and be like: OK, do you know any white people? And they're like: 'I havent' seen one in a while, but you know who you might call... ." (laughs) That's how it is.
Do you foresee a time when urban chameleons will be an endangered species?
Never. But it's like when Dave Ramsey - the financial guy who used to have the show on Fox - said we're never going to become more conservative, we're only becoming more liberal. So it'll actually be such a thing that I think people really won't think about it. But not for the same reasons that people don't think about being an urban chameleon now. It'll just be natural to like Jay-Z and Yo Yo Ma. To eat sushi and friend chicken. If anything the chicken wing hopefully will not be such a big deal. And you know, hip-hop has done that, sports has done that. It's been a mashup, as people call it. You're not even thinking about crossing between cultures because we're all sitting here.
different city parks do different things, I think keeping the fulton county diamond, or the…
"The Coming Medicaid Cost Explosion" _______________________________ Right has been running around like Chicken Little for…
QM, you have commandment 5 wrong. It should read: Thou shalt not kill except it…
yeah, because Grant Park is miles away and isn't a park
""She admitted that she was drinking and driving,' attorney Jackie Patterson told reporters following her…
I thought Ted had "commented" on the development shortly after it happened, although the response…