I thought it over and green is dead ‘Till I change my mind, the color is red…. #TheWizTurns40

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Look here! I was 5. In 1978, I was a very clever, observant and musical-obsessed 5 year old.  The Wiz was EVERY-LITTLE-THING to a little Black American girl, like me.  I remember my Mother being so besotted by the very thought of a “Black Wizard of Oz”. Oh she called my Aunts and talked up a storm. This movie made her happy, which in turn made me happy.

I didn’t see The Wiz until it was adapted for television. I wouldn’t see this piece of amazing artistry until 1984. In Chicago, it was shown on “Channel 2” also known as CBS.  I begged and pleaded with my Mother to let me stay up and watch it. I told her I’d be good for the rest of the year. (I lied, but I was 11. Don’t you judge me! And yes, my bedtime was ridiculously early – why do you think I’m so smart! LOL!)

WELP! MY WHOLE WORLD WAS ROCKED! Now I was a fan of Judy Garland and the original Wizard of Oz – but throw them out with the kitchen sink and hand me a pould of fried smelts. Here in front of me was the Wizard of Oz with people who looked like me, who sounded like me, who danced like me and who — at least on that screen and in my mind – were free – like I always wanted to be.  

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It was a #BlkCreative’s paradise. A feast for the senses.  The dancing, the music, the colors, the characters – Mike, Lady D, Nipsy and Ted.  … And how can we forget Richard Pryor – being a quirky, relatable and comical distraction as he was born to  be.  I looooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooove #TheWiz. Period. In 1978, 1984, when I turned 21, when I moved to New York at the age of 25, on my 30th birthday, when I gave birth, upon my divorce, last Christmas, today, tomorrow and when Jesus finally returns to rid the earth of humanity…. I WILL LOVE THIS MOVIE. {Testify Erica! Testify!!!!!}

Did you know that the movie opened to “critical acclaim”? Oh Hong Kong phooey and booey on the critics. They were hating because the cast was all black. Sorry. They (America) was not ready for all that Blackness and they certainly wasn’t socially evolved to picture the Wizard of Oz story line with very humane, relatable Black characters. Even at the wise old age of 5, I knew of  racial “hateration” before Mary J. Blige coined the phrase. They called Diana Ross cold and stoic. HOW DARE YOU? Have you seen her eyes? She cannot ever be cold and/or stoic because her eyes tells the tale of Black American dreams, folly and triumph – damn you! They praised Michael… as they should.  However, Mike was not my favorite character.  It was Nipsy! Nipsy Russell gave us his whole life in the “Tin Man”. He made me want to re-evaluate my own self worth and I was only 11! His character made me want to be nicer to the savages I went to grammar school with… I was re-evaluating if I really had a heart. Now that is thespian artistry at its finest, I tell you!

However we cannot discuss The WIZ without discussing my all time favorite scene in the movie. Which is – you ask? Ans: It is the EMERALD CITY!!!!!! Help me Lord I’m weak, happy and in nirvana just thinking about it. Take a look-see via YouTube shall you:

Just for kicks…. my favorite lyrics!

I want to be seen green
Wouldn’t be caught dead, red
‘Cause if you are seen green
It means you got mean bread
You’ve got to be seen green
To show that you’re stuff’s layed
If you’re not seen green
You better be wearing jade
Oh, you’ve got to be seen green
Don’t tell them your cupboard’s bare
That you gave up one week’s feed
To pay for your colored hair
Oh, oh, oh
AN ANNOUNCEMENT FROM THE GREAT POWERFUL OZ:
I thought it over and green is dead
‘Till I change my mind, the color is red

 

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As I sit here marveling that this wonderful cult classic came to be 40 years ago and I sit here as a 45 year old SuperMom and Unicorn… the take away from the impact of The Wiz on Black Americans like me is this:

  • Representation matters – seeing people who look like you gives you a sense that you matter, you are important – even though this is what you’re supposed to get from your parents, community, school leaders and extended family; it makes a difference when you see someone who looks like you on the big screen.
  • Black Americans are talented and we don’t need validation. Look at the culture and how many people try and co-opt it.
  • Quincy Jones is a musical genius.
  • One of the Flying Monkeys looks like someone’s Uncle John – some where in the community.  (Don’t you even be in denial about that.)
  • The disappointment they felt when they realized the mighty Wizard was just an ordinary man mirrors the grave disappointment Black Americans feel towards America when they realize that racism will never stop and the Democrats are just as un-invested and uninterested in the success and rebuilding of Black America as the Republicans.
  • The Bad Witch had a humanity that we all could relate to… we’d just never admit it.
  • Adventures are great, but there is truly no place like home.

Now with that said, I want you to play that YouTube video 3 times and then perhaps sing it in the shower tomorrow morning, just to jump-start your day in the most fabulous of ways!

Ooo! Oo! Oo! Ah! Ah!
I wouldn’t be caught dead
And if I’m caught at all
Then catch me in dead, red
Ooo!
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#TheWiz #EmeraldCity #DianaRoss #MichaelJackson #TedRoss #NipsyRussell  #RichardPryor #QuincyJones #CultClassics #Musicals #TheWizardOfOz #BlackAmerica #BlackAmericanCulture #MusicalsForBlackPeople #EaseOnDownTheRoad #GlendaTheGoodWitch #LenaHorne #Green #Red #Gold #YouveGotToBeSeen #TheWizTurns40 #1978 #1984 #CBS