By Richard Chandler Burroughs
2014 was similar to every other year that I can remember as it had twelve months, fifty two weeks, four seasons and the NY Knicks were losers. It was life on planet Brooklyn, as well as on planet earth.
Life played out on an international, national, local and hyper local level and the passing of Frankie Knuckles, Amiri Baraka, Maya Angelou, Oscar De La Renta and Robin Williams, in 2014, decreased the worlds reserves of music and mentors, majesty, fashion and funny.
Speaking of “hyper-local,” that term just missed the cutoff for my top-five overused words/terms/phrases. But rightfully so, since, at times in 2014, I’ve vowed to stab myself in the eye with a rusty hook if I saw or heard the words Yaasss, Basic, Turnt, Bros or Bae.
Those words were everywhere in 2014 and bullied the Internet by showing up in every comment section, blog post, tweet, status update and even jumped off line by showing up on T-shirts and hats. I’m sure lots of people said Yasssss, when Junior’s said no to the sellout and didn’t take the $45 Million and run. They gave a stiff arm to the real estate developers, who wanted to buy the building, and hence will keep slinging that cheesecake on Flatbush extension, in Fort Greene.
That’s a legitimate, baller move, straight out of the old school Brooklyn handbook, and surely a move that Spike Lee co-signed when he heard it, since he, like many others, are fed up with the gentrification of Brooklyn. He went off, during a Black History Month lecture, at Clinton Hill’s Pratt University, in a very Spike Lee manner; which means that his diatribe was delivered with passion, and a boat load of F-bombs,.
One of Spike’s main gripes is the “columbusing” of ethnic neighborhoods, by white people, which is definitely troubling and controversial, and has been a theme in other Brooklyn Neighborhoods as well. Williamsburg is one such neighborhood and is actually the poster child for Brooklyn gentrification, though that ‘hood makes you realize how the demographic change is as much about income, as it is about race.
In fact, Williamsburg was host to the most disruptive art exhibition in NYC, for 2014, which was Kara E. Walker’s, Marvelous Sugar Baby. Spanning the spring and early summer, at the scheduled to be demolished, Domino Sugar factory, the exhibit turned into a tourist attraction and a real lightening-rod for controversy. The large scale Marvelous Sugar Baby sculpture, was the center piece of the public art project which was curated and produced by Creative Time, and was made of pure sugar.
It mimicked an ancient Egyptian Sphinx, with the face of a black woman wearing an Aunt Jemima head scarf, with huge, visible nipples and female genitalia in the middle of her large, sugary buttocks. It had people taking selfies, while faux copulating with the sphinx and just generally being guilty of a compendium of inappropriate and awkward behavior. It was rather surreal, like my favorite music video of 2014, “Turn Down For What” by DJ Snake & Lil Jon.
The video is a depraved, carnal rift on getting possessed by some sort of sexual demon, which causes the victim to violently break things with body parts we usually like to have caressed. Though that music video is, “bananas,” which was one of the most over used words in Y2K, the toughest album of 2014 had to be Black Messiah, by D’Angelo.
It had the Beyonce release footprint, because it dropped unexpectedly like bird sh** and slapped everybody around like Dolemite in a Blaxploitation flick. D’Angelo and his band, The Vanguard, produced a soulful, mumbly, black music middle finger to the naysayers, a pièce de résistance, that was 14 years in the making.
If I wanted to buy a CD of Black Messiah, and for some reason, I also wanted to purchase a vacuum cleaner, I can no longer do that at J&R Music World, which closed in April, 2014. It had been a staple of lower NYC, on Park Row, for as long my memory has served, and was one of the first stores to reopen in the World Trade Center area, after 9/11. Yeah, they opened an J&R “Express Boutique,” in Century 21, it’s long time retail neighbor in lower Manhattan, so perhaps I should feel less deserted; which is exactly how I feel about the closing of Pearl Paint on Canal Street.
Where else in NYC can I pick up really cool art supplies, for cheap, and also pick up a really cool art chick, and take her out, for cheap? Did Pearl Paint even factor that into their decision? Another NYC institution bites the dust! Which, coincidently, fueled the paranoia of the Ebola virus, since many people thought the disease to be a certain death sentence; though Craig Spencer, a medical doctor who had treated Ebola patients in Guinea, Africa, thought different.
He returned to NYC and even though he eventually started exhibiting symptoms, he carried on with a normal life…including a night of bowling at The Gutter, in Williamsburg, Brooklyn and taking an Uber car around town. He did quarantine himself and survived, being declared Ebola free a few weeks later, though I’m surprised he wasn’t killed by Uber’s surge pricing.
2014 was also the year when futbal or soccer, finally went mainstream in America. Ok, it went mainstream-ish, as it was still some people that refused to participate; but overall, World Cup took over NYC this past summer. The games were held in Brazil, which acted like most developing nations that get awarded World Cup or Olympic games, and booted all the poor people from areas that were needed to host the games and spent billions on stadiums and accommodations, when kids were routinely going to bed hungry. It was a real multicultural affair, played out over a few weeks, but ultimately, Germany took home the cup. But honestly, I haven’t watched soccer since, so maybe it still has a ways to go in the States
Sadly, 2014 ended with the assassination of two NYPD officers, as they sat in their squad car, on Tompkins Avenue, in the Bed Stuy section of Brooklyn. The killer, Ismaaiyl Brinsley, called it retribution for police violence against people of color and their murderous actions against black men and women, and specifically, the killings of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri and Eric Garner, in Staten Island, NYC. The murders of NYPD Officers Rafael Ramos and Wenjian Liu, were either the escalation of the violence or an outlier in the statistics and only time will tell.
Unfortunately, many people have the privilege of ignoring the narrative of police violence against black people, and ignoring the importance of #BlackLivesMatter, though the push and energy to make the world accept it as a self-evident truth, shows no signs of abating.
So through all the craziness, 2014 is done and 2015 looks pretty as a picture, mainly because it’s new and if it’s one thing we all like, it’s something new!