Friday, February 3, 2012
Five Uncomfortable Questions Black People Are Asking about the Death of Don Cornelius
*Black America continues to mourn the death of the great Don Cornelius, creator of the legendary television show, “Soul Train.”
Most of us remember doing Soul Train lines at parties, and recall our first booty-shaking exercise, which likely took place with Don’s television show playing in the background. As the shock from brother Don’s untimely death starts to wear off, there are some questions that black folks are asking about how he died. Some of the questions are not necessarily politically correct, but since when did that stop black folks from speaking their minds?
Here are some things that most of us are thinking, but some are afraid to ask out loud:
1) Who is that white woman anyway? Shortly after Don Cornelius’ death, pictures began to emerge of his ex-wife (Viktoria Chapman Cornelius), who didn’t exactly look like your standard Soul Train dancer. She also looks like she was a baby when Soul Train was in its prime. There were also reports that his wife, who Cornelius allegedly despised, is going to get a monster payday from his life insurance policy. While most of us thought that policies don’t pay out in the event of suicide, this is apparently not the case in California when your policy is at least two years old.
2) How was his health? Don Cornelius was in poor health at the time he died. The pain was reportedly unbearable, and he likely felt that it was time to ride the Soul Train to heaven on his own terms. Can we really blame him for his decision? Don lived a long and fruitful life, achieved many of his goals, and impacted the world. Why not go out in his own way?
3) What in the world would make him shoot himself in the head? There are quite a few ways to kill yourself without forcing your relatives to have to clean your insides off the floor. Some folks are wondering why Don chose to use a gun to kill himself rather than something less gruesome. Also, God forbid he’d survived the incident, for this would have obviously made his pain much worse.
4) How did he do it?….Soul Train I mean: We will always marvel at how Don Cornelius almost single-handedly built an entertainment powerhouse. He had a vision and he saw it through. Every black entrepreneur in America should read about the life of Don Cornelius in order to learn how to rise to the top while strengthening your soul instead of selling it. In many ways, Don Cornelius was the anti-Bob Johnson of his generation.
5) What are we going to do now? There is never going to be another Soul Train, we can accept that. But when I watch shows like BET’s 106& Park, which has become a how-to session for uneducated thugs, I wonder why we still don’t believe that we can be wealthy, conscientious and intelligent, all at the same time. Black entertainment must be redefined, and it’s going to take a Don Cornelius- like effort in order to get there.
Don Cornelius and Soul Train are like sturdy stone structures built 500 years ago, they will last forever. He elevated us, edu-tained us, and gave us something to look forward to after being bored to tears by shows like American Bandstand. But Don Cornelius was also human, and in spite of the immortality of his legacy, his body and mind were not meant to last forever. May Don rest in peace and may we carry a piece of him with us for all eternity.
Dr. Boyce Watkins is a Professor at Syracuse University and founder of the Your Black World Coalition. To have Dr. Boyce commentary delivered to your email, please click here.