Aretha’s Hat


Wasn’t that a thing?

A millenary confection in grey felt, glittering with rhinestones, trimmed in black grosgrain. My. Oh my.

I’m hearing from white friends who thought it was, well, tacky and overdone. I think they missed the point entirely.

Aretha’s hat was a full-on diva crown, in the best African-American Sunday Suit tradition.

Hats are tremendously symbolic in the AA community, with a whole lore surrounding them. In traditional black churches, you don’t show up on Sunday without your crown — the sartorial sign of the nobility of black women. You may clean hotel rooms or sling hash in a crummy uniform six days a week; but on the seventh day, your church hat puts the world on notice that you are nonetheless a beloved daughter of God.

That (well, that plus the bitter cold) is why you’ve been seeing so many men and women wearing them to inauguration events over the past few days. In black culture, hats are still an important mode of self-expression, and a potent statement of respect for yourself and the event you’re gracing with your presence.

I was halfway hoping Michelle would make a nod to that tradition, and sport some fabulous headwear of her own. No such luck: she’s more modern than that. But Aretha’s showstopping topper more than took up the slack.

And it also may have been the first sign of an emerging fashion trend. It’s entirely possible that with African America finally Having Arrived — as of today — that the love of a great hat will finally make its way back out into the larger culture.

You read it here first. Love that hat or hate it, you’re going to see more of them.

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More Maroons in Federal Way

Orcinus, January 16, 2009
Back in 2007, the school administrators in the working-class Seattle suburb of Federal Way found themselves on the wrong end of Jon Stewart’s wit when they refused to allow An Inconvenient Truth to be shown in their classrooms because the movie was “controversial.”

The same maroons are back at it again today. According to a Daily Kos post by Andrew Villeneuve (which in turn pulls from Seattle’s KING5 news), the Federal Way school administrators in their manifold wisdom have decided that kids need permission slips from their parents to watch the Obama inauguration at school.

Evidently, they also consider our new president “controversial.” (One wonders if they’d have made the same call if John McCain had won; or if in that case, attendance would have been mandatory.) Somebody in the front office is all too well aware that reality has a liberal bias, and is doing their level best to make sure that it doesn’t intrude on their attempted indoctrination of Federal Way’s youngest citizens.

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Breaking News: BC’s FLDS Patriarch Arrested for Polygamy

Orcinus, January 9, 2009

Photo of Winston Blackmore by Ian Smith of the Vancouver Sun

The Canadian press has erupted in the last hour or so with the news that former Bountiful, BC polygamist Mormon patriarch Winston Blackmore and his second-in-command Fred Oler have been arrested and charged with polygamy.

Blackmore ran the Bountiful compound until being displaced in a power struggle with Warren Jeffs two years ago; these days, he’s set up nearby with a new place of his own. He’s thought to have 26 wives — including, as he publicly announced at a 2006 polygamy conference, several “very young ones” and at least one who was under the age of 16 at the time he made that claim. And then he repeated that statement on Larry King. This is a man who knows he’s a child rapist, and is rather pleased with himself for his ability to get away with it.

Today, that ended. What’s most interesting about this, though, is that the two men were directly charged with polygamy — a step no jurisdiction dealing with the FLDS has yet dared to take. Through the decades, prosecutors have focused on the fallout crimes that result from these communities: child abuse and abandonment, forced marriage, rape, consipiracy to transport minors for immoral purposes across state lines, that kind of thing. But, so far as I know, no prosecutor has yet dared to stand up and charge any of these men directly for committing polygamy. Which makes today’s arrest a historical landmark of sorts.

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