Never in my wildest dreams could I have imagined being inspired by $1.50 worth of cocaine. Now if you think for a second that I’m comparing a bit called $1.50 Cocaine to a negro spiritual, that is appalling, and you my friend are about half right, that is all…
“Have you ever seeeen a dollar and fifty cents worth ‘o cocaine?” -Richard Pryor
Until I came across a 4-minute clip of Richard Pryor’s “Wanted” act about $1.50 cocaine, I had nothing to add to the Black History Month conversation that interested parties couldn’t just find elsewhere if they so pleased. So I felt no pressure or obligation before I had to pause a 4 minute clip 4 times for two things 1) to laugh without missing the next joke, and 2) to reflect on what I just heard.
Watch Richard Pryor $1.50 Cocaine ***Warning Offensive Language and Profanity***
It wasn’t just Richard Pryor doling out
…advice, education, warning, successfully building public empathy for a fallen black star, promoting pride, and making a political statement without making a single “political statement” -all rolled up in a hilarious bit about $1.50 worth of cocaine. It was the real black history.
In one instance, Richard quips a rebuttal to insults about young Leon Spinks’ accent; Richard briefly mentions an African country called Zaire in his onslaught of punch lines. But there is really no African American “home country” from which we trace our families. None other than the one, built by the sweat and influence of our forefathers and foremothers, that became the wealthiest country in the history of human civilization, the U.S.A.
Current data says about 12% of the U.S. population descended from the roughly 300,000 middle passage survivors from many African countries over the course of 400 years of legal human trafficking we refer to as “slavery”; we also descend from races of all continents but generally without claim to the information, experience, or wealth that is their inheritance. Oh well… Luckily, much of those are inherent in us, so we created and continue to create and define our own culture from the etched slate. So, like living art, we get to be whomever we want to be.
“I have a theory; would you like to hear it? -Richard Pryor, $1.50 Cocaine
Black History isn’t frozen in black and white or sepia- nor did it end with Dr. King’s assassination or with grandparents or great grandparents who gave us life by any means, passed onto us opportunity, and took with them a past too dark to utter- refusing to look back. We take this time to reflect on it, educate ourselves, and draw strength from the lessons buried in our hearts to help us going forward. Each generation walks off of a different type of proverbial plantation for the first time, working out kinks along the way that are completely un-captured by data or statistics.
Each venture or rung of success could be a lonely journey if it weren’t for artists like the creators of blues or rock and roll who told the stories and made the soundtracks in which we escape, Tupac who knew the costs but was willing to “not feel embarrassed” of himself (as he described it) if it meant he could still communicate with the “hopeless” and inspire them to “rhyme all day” instead of unproductive things after unintended consequences of the 80’s claimed the family structure of many races (black families were especially vulnerable), or Richard Pryor who offered friendly advice for coping once one has attained enough financial success to begin to save.
“It’s not how much you sniff; put some away, and sniff the interest” -Richard Pryor
Hey, no one said it was excellent advice- just friendly 🙂 Many everyday black people can attest to being a first at something, even I have. For us, Black History is every transition: trying, testing, finding answers, passing them onto family and strangers with a shared experience, failing and trying again, striving, succeeding, adapting, and forging ahead one step at a time.
Even a bit of comedy entitled $1.50 Cocaine could carry a sort of nouveau-abolitionist instruction on moving forward with new challenges as one might find in a slavery-era negro spiritual.
The irony in the light of the world’s relatively few Black American People is that it seems to illuminate more brilliantly on others than on each other. Long live the love of our people and all people. May we continue to inspire a world of people struggling to be heard.
Happy Black History Month, Love! ❤
So what was I reflecting on when I paused 4 times? Click below to read more
1) I admire Brother Leon Spinks. He has a good heart, but bad luck. He gave Ali a chance when no one wanted to fight him. (respect)
2) I hope Leon Spinks gets to put some money away before “they” steal it all. Put some of it away for at least 20 years. “Don’t matter how much you sniff. Put it away, and sniff the interest.” (advice)
3) “They” think Leon Spinks is dumb. What if I agree with him for fighting Muhammed Ali? He may not articulate the language but it’s not his anyway. Try your luck in Zaire (empathize / educate / restore pride)
4) “Have you ever seen $1.50 in cocaine? $1.50 worth cocaine melts away before you open the paper.” (Brilliant to not use whatever fraction of gram $1.50 was back then.) The dealer who sold it probably told; they won’t face life in prison alone over $1.50 of cocaine. (Education / Political statement / Warning)