Let me admit from the outset that I was very conflicted about writing this article. This morning, Orlando Jones, an acclaimed comedian and actor, retweeted one of the articles I wrote (link) that heretofore has been avoided by anyone who is part of the “establishment”. The article in question touched on the third rail that is race and identity in America; a third rail that burns violently those who have the courage to speak truth about this most sensitive of subjects. It takes courage to speak truth on this topic for the consequences faced by those who deviate from the race orthodoxy is a swift defamation of one’s character and the repercussions that follow.
So I was more than mildly surprised when Orlando Jones not only read the article, he went one step further to send it out to his network of fans and followers. The reason I was in a bind about whether or not to write about his action and in the process praise him for his valor is because I did not want this article to be one of quid pro quo and in the process use the platform that I’ve been entrusted to give kudos to someone based on what someone did for me. After all, aside the times I have seen his shows and his comedy routines, I don’t know Orlando Jones anymore than I know anyone else I see on TV or follow on social media. But after much reflection and contemplation, I decided to write this article for one reason–I have to acknowledge an act of courage when I see it.
It’s funny how this universe works at times. Two days ago, I signed up for Netflix and the first thing I decided to watch was Dave Chappelle’s new stand up comedy series. Besides the fact that Dave Chapelle is back at it as he uses wit and side-splinting humor to discuss society’s most divisive social taboos, there was one bit that Dave talked about that hit me like a thunderbolt. As he was relaying his absence from Hollywood for the past ten years and how the industry swallowed whole one of its most talented stars, he said something that made me take note of what happens when stars decide to not play by the rules.
He was relaying how “black media” got on his case for not showing up to a Flint, Michigan benefit as he attended the Oscars instead. Chappelle was vilified for making this decision and he went on to describe a run in he had with a particular reporter. The reporter was grilling him for not making it to Flint and David said in response, allow me to paraphrase, “where were you at while I was getting destroyed, where was my support as I was chased off TV and had to watch Key and Peele co-opt my show and thrive while I was blackballed”. This is a common theme in Hollywood, fame and fortune are heaped on those who toe the line. Condemnation and consequences given to those who choose to be authentic. This happened to Lauryn Hill (link), Dave Chappelle, and endless stars who refused to submit to Hollywood masters.
We laugh most at the jokes of comedians when their jokes hit home and connect to a pain we feel deep inside. We live in an age of outrage after outrage but few of us are willing to come to the side of those in distress as we fight for justice in far off places. What Dave Chappelle went through is not a one-off incident. Star after star have seen their careers cut short and many more have been effectively blacklisted because they refused to keep silent and do as they are told. In a sense, fame and fortune become chains and slavery for those who have been blessed by Hollywood elites. The stars we see in movies and the rich and famous we follow like idols have to live under the constant threat of their livelihood being yanked away.
This is a mark on Hollywood that goes back to the era of the “Red Scare” as a purity and loyalty test were imposed on actors, actresses and any major figure associated with the entertainment industry. Ronald Reagan rose to fame because he took part in this miscarriage of justice as he was one of the main actors who imposed standards and restrictions on the very free speech we cherish. Though Hollywood looks back at the age of blacklisting and expulsion with a sense of shame and disgust, in many ways this practice never ended–it just evolved and took on new forms.
Instead of the Red Scare and the threat of communism being used as a cudgel on stars and entertainment industry players, what is used now is whisper campaigns and political correctness to destroy the lives and careers of anyone who dares to question the Hollywood matrix. Like everything else in this world, even among the rich and wealthy, there are the elites among the elite and the uber wealthy who are able to use their money and influence to cow people into compliance. You see, it is easy for someone like me to speak truth to power. My livelihood is not dependent on paychecks from the moneyed gentry and, in the big scheme of things, Ghion Journal is just a blip on the radar. But would I retain this courage if Ghion Journal was making me millions and I became super famous? I would like to think I would, but I know just how corrosive proximity to power is and how fame can blend away someone’s courage.
It is for this reason I am writing about Orlando Jones. I researched his work and more importantly spent the day going up and down his timeline on Twitter. I wanted to see if the one act of courage he took to tweet out one of my more fiery articles was just an incident or part of a broader patter. What I discovered is that Orlando Jones is not afraid to delve into issues that splinter our country and he does so not based on partisan or ideological lines but speaks up based on truth as he sees it. While I might not agree with all of his stances, I am nonetheless inspired by his audacity to state his beliefs instead of running behind political correctness and tired dogmas.
This man is not to be dismissed as just a comedian. He is a thinker who dares to question the paradigm and to push the boundaries. It would be easy to collect checks and utter platitudes to make it seem like he is “woke”. Orlando Jones instead chooses authenticity and to incite discussion even though doing so comes with consequences. Deviating from the script that “black actors” are supposed to speak from and refusing to be either a liberal toady or a conservative stooge and instead choosing to speak from the heart is apt to get one run out of Hollywood. This is why so many stars choose the road oft traveled and refuse to use their voice to speak up and speak against injustice. Most are just acting it out as they pretend to be social justice warriors when in reality they are demagoguing in order to get their next movie role.
I am glad to see that there are those who don’t let fame and status be their gods and instead use their status to speak truth as they see it. Orlando belongs in the latter, the roles he chooses to play are those that have depth to them. He had one of the most moving scenes in “American Gods”, a series that uses mythology and deities to relay the history and narrative of America. Orlando plays the part of a god who uses foreshadowing to recently enslaved “Africans” as they are stuck in the bottom of a cargo ship. Art is being used to preach a message of resistance and defiance over a life of subservience and submission even if the decision to rise up leads to severe consequences. Sometimes actors speak to us through movies if we are just able to listen.
I am grateful to Orlando Jones for tweeting out not only the Jason Whitlock article but for doubling down and sending out another article I wrote about the real culprits behind the death of Malcolm X and Martin Luther King Jr. (link). I know I condemn a lot of personalities in the media who choose to use their status to spread lies and pass them off as historical truths. But I should spend equal time highlighting profiles in courage of folks like Dave Chappelle and Orlando Jones who take a stand. Ultimately, we as consumers can choose to reward those who choose valor over status. Let us do more to support those who speak up instead of listening to those who pretend to be “black leaders” when all along they are overseers. Salute to Orlando Jones, thank you for lending your voice to my article; more importantly, thank you for speaking the truth that is in your heart. #Jones4Courage
“The opposite of courage in our society is not cowardice, it is conformity.” ~ Rollo May
If you appreciate this write up and want to encourage more stars like Orlando Jones to speak up and not fear consequences, share this article on social media using #Jones4Courage While you are at it, follow Orlando Jones on Twitter @TheOrlandoJones and LIKE his page on Facebook by clicking HERE.
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Check out the Ghion Cast below that dares to pick up the third rail of America’s greatest moral stain and speaks truth to power and the lies that keep us imprisoned in the past. Check out what few have the courage to speak on but what Orlando had the grit to pick up. Also, make sure to see the clip below the “We Are Not Black” video to find out more about “American Gods” and Orlando’s part in retelling America’s past.
Check out the interview below where Orlando Jones discusses his role in American Gods and you will realize the intellect behind the man who dares to speak up.
Originally from Ethiopia with roots to Atse Tewodros II, Teodrose is a former community organizer whose writing was incorporated into Barack Obama's South Carolina primary victory speech in 2008. He pivoted away from politics and decided to stand for collective justice after experiencing the reality of the forgotten masses. His writing defies conventional wisdom and challenges readers to look outside the constraints of labels and ideologies that serve to splinter the people. Teodrose uses his pen to give a voice to the voiceless and to speak truth to power.