I have just watched a few hours of the life of Norman Lear on tv and how he made it making movies on the lives of Black folks and Jews. Lear was a Jewish television film maker who regretted the tragic loss of his father in World War II because he was of the Jewish faith. Lear wanted to get even with his father’s killers.
Lear ended up in the fi lm making businesses making fi lms portraying the world, not as his enemies would, have it, but as it in fact was. His portrayal of America included Archie Bunker being Kissed by the Black Jew
entertainer, Sammy Davis, Jr. It included a series of a rich Black Family, the Jeff ersons, George and Weezy, who ended up in the dry-cleaning business and moving upto the West Side of the mythical New York. Also a series of three Jewish Sisters living the good life, including Betty White and Bea Arthur, also on the rich side of New York.
A Black Family which included a young Black militant man, and a Black male artist, named JJ, always found a Black subject to paint, like one of a Black beauty who wanted something special for her husband’s birthday,
or a well-off Black Father wanting his daughter to fi nd a man outside
the Ghetto. Instead, she found JJ. There was Wilona, another Black Beauty who Lear created to highlight the Beauty of Black women in his shows.
One Black woman played the mother of the family (Florida) and her daughter Thelma portrayed black hair styles. Florida, seeking to better herself by finding her way to night college and always encouraging her man, James, the diligent underpaid father, to do better in education and employment. She encouraged her
beautiful daughter to do better but not by belittling herself or her family. Family came first for all the family. They had moved on up in every way.
For Norman, pride was always there, even the local Wine O, was a contributor to a positive theme as he was a partner to young Michael, the young militant family member. Lear left no stone unturned. He even used mythical gangs and thugs in his successful eff orts to portray the true Black family. Needless to say, Thursday nights in America found us all huddled around the Television watching “Moving on Up,” “Good Times,” and “All in the Family,” and many other such shows. Black people criticized Lear’s productions but, other than Amos and Andy, and crime shows, these shows were what was happening. The Black Panthers even demonstrated
against Lear’s shows, but in the end, we were all moving up with Lear’s shows as models. As people criticized the shows, and many Black people said they were not good for our progress, my wife played a Gospel Song (“No Charge”) sung by Shirley Caesar for one our sons, as a life’s lesson. He had asked her for payment for a task around the house. She responded by playing him that song. He responded, “That’s a cold song mom.” Today
he is a college professor with a PhD. We need to thank Norman Lear and tell him no charge for lessons for living through his shows.