Day 12

It all happened at the White House. Lady Bird Johnson had invited 41 distinguished guests to a luncheon that centered on youth violence in inner cities. Eartha Kitt was one of seven Black women there. And with every clank of silver, unfurling of a napkin, and comment about beautifying the ghetto, I can imagine her blood boiled.

She was not ladylike.  She said, “I’m a dirt person. I don’t trust diamonds and gold.”  Eartha Kitt was born on a plantation in South Carolina. She was given away by her mother - unwanted. Sent to live with an aunt who tolerated her. Raised in abject poverty in Harlem. Often slept on subway cars to avoid violence at home. And here she sat that day in the White House, listening to speeches with easy “fixes” to the streets that raised her. 

Not today. 

It was her turn to speak.  She adjusted the mic, braced herself, then denounced the Vietnam War. She had spent her life advocating for Black children.  “You send the best of this country off to be shot and maimed. No wonder these kids rebel." Then she turned to her hostess, "...and you have children of your own, Mrs. Johnson – we raise children and send them to war." Lady Bird Johnson burst into tears.

For her anti-war speech, Kitt was blacklisted in Hollywood for decades. She received death threats.  The CIA even planted a McCarthy-era dossier about her troubled family life.  It called her a “sadistic nymphomaniac.”  And that’s where they messed up. In resistance, she became an international sex symbol.  

 

 

 
 
 

BLACK HISTORY BOOTCAMP

Day 12: We are the #DaughtersOf Eartha Kitt


Orson Welles called her “the most exciting woman in the world.”  And she was. Eartha Kitt sang in 11 languages. Danced with Katherine Dunham. Broke boundaries for Black women in Hollywood when she played Cat woman. She was nominated for Tony Awards, Grammy Awards, and Emmys. And still, she felt unwanted, unloved. At the end, she was asked to summarize her life in six words. She said, “Rejected, ejected, dejected, used, accused, abused.”
 
 
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Use #blackhistorybootcamp to speak up.  The juiciest conversation is happening on Twitter.

 

- Do you feel loved? Where do you look for love and why?

- Like Eartha Kitt, we sometimes achieve to prove our worth. Are there less labor-intensive ways to be valuable to the Black community?

- "I’ll never forget how my own people treated me."  Eartha Kitt said that her light skin "deemed her untrustworthy."  She said, "Nobody wanted me, Negro or white." Let's talk about desirability, rejection, and white oppression.

- Which Black women are leveraging their celebrity or influence for Black liberation now? Let's tag them and shout them out!

- Eartha Kitt played Batwoman.  What other iconic characters need to be played by a Black woman?

TODAY'S BLACK POWER PLAYLIST 
 
- MUSIC: Daughters of Eartha Kitt A Spotify Playlist for Your Walk.
 
- INTERVIEWS: Unfiltered Earthaa summary of her life storyThe first three minutes are a masterclass on resistance. Plus, they discuss her speaking truth to power at the White House.
 
- PERFORMANCES: Eartha singing in French, performing live on stage, and working out in a commercial. 
 
- ACTION:  Support Black artists on Patreon, through Spotify's Music Relief or through CashApp directly.

This is a reminder that COVID-19 is still real and it is still killing Black people disproportionately.  We ask you not to walk in groups until we flatten the curve in our communities.  To support your mental health we are walking virtually together each day.  This is a solo training mission to build your own discipline and fortitude for the days ahead.  Please wear a mask, practice social distancing, and wash your hands when you return home.

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Did you miss any of the powerful content provided in the past weeks? Catch up here. Listen to the Walk & Talks hosted by co-founders T. Morgan Dixon and Vanessa Garrison on Spotify or Apple podcast.
 

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Something good is happening! Black History Bootcamp, a 21-day walking meditation (for daily resistance!) that celebrates one Black woman each day.  Go to blackhistorybootcamp.com to receive the daily emails.
 
 

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