Category: Brer Rabbit

The Atlanta Opera's Rabbit Tales — Save the Date

Rabbit Tales will premier at the Wren’s Nest on October 29th. It’s the Atlanta Opera’s first ever commissioned work and it just so happens to be steeped in the Brer Rabbit stories.

They’ve sent along a save the date worthy of this prestigious occasion —

Save the Date for the Atlanta Opera's Rabbit Tales

I’d like to extend a tremendous thanks to the National Black Arts Festival for lending their expertise and African arts and crafts for the premier.

Can’t make the big day? Just bring Rabbit Tales to your school instead. Easy!

One of Eatonton's Brer Rabbit Statues Has Been Stolen

Brer Rabbit has been stolen from Eatonton. What’s left of the Brer Rabbit statue in front of the Uncle Remus Museum is at once a total bummer, a little funny, and an apt metaphor. Here’s a photo courtesy of Stanley

Brer Rabbit Statue Stolen in Eatonton Georgia in front of Uncle Remus Museum

The Macon Telegraph has had some fun with the story, which is what I imagine Joel Chandler Harris would have done when he worked there in the 1860s.

The caper has, as the author might’ve put it, caused “a considerbul flutter.”

“You can add some humor to it, but it’s a serious theft,” Putnam County Sheriff Howard Sills said Wednesday. “People are calling. They’re upset about it.”

Thieves — no doubt sly Mr. Foxes — with a crowbar pried the statue a’loose Sunday night and, lippity-clippity, made off with a town treasure.

For now at least, the villains, well, they lay low.

“The briar patch is hard to find Br’er Rabbit in as you well know,” the sheriff joked. “We picked up Br’er Fox … (but he had) an iron-clad alibi. … We got Tar-Baby, but he won’t say nothing.”

Got any tips on Brer Rabbit’s whereabouts? Please give the Putnam County Sheriff’s Office a call at 706-485-8557.

In the meantime all we can do is remember Brer Rabbit as he once was — take a gander what the statue used to look like.

President Obama, Doug Lamborn, and Dealing with the Wonderful Tar-Baby Story

This week Brer Rabbit seemed to take President Barack Obama by storm.

First, Representative Doug Lamborn (R-CO) likened the president to a “tar baby.” Then, Pat Buchanan said “don’t throw me in that briar patch” shortly before referring to the President as “boy.”

The terms stem from “The Wonderful Tar-Baby Story” and “How Mr. Rabbit Was Too Sharp For Mr. Fox” recorded by Joel Chandler Harris. In case you’re rusty, here are both stories told together (as they usually are) by Akbar Imhotep:

[vimeo 10765411 450 253]

The phrase Akbar uses in the story and the phrase we heard from Rep. Lanborn are different.

The tar baby of Akbar’s story didn’t carry a derogatory connotation when it was told over the course of generations between enslaved Africans. Nor did it carry that connotation when Harris first heard the story while working on a plantation, nor when he wrote the story down at the Atlanta Constitution.

“Tar baby,” however, has evolved into a derogatory term when used in an insulting way. In fact, its connotation reaches so far and so far afield of its original definition that it’s difficult to say in conversation without whispering.

Just so we’re clear — I think Rep. Lamborn’s comment was offensive and intended to be offensive. Enough politicians have used the term (Mitt Romney & John McCain, for instance) that Lamborn knew the whirlwind of criticism and publicity he was entering. It’s shameless to insult President Obama through racist epithets and unfortunate to further hold America’s greatest folklore hostage with political rhetoric. (I’m less sure about Buchanan’s bumbling.)

Most media outlets that I know about have covered either the “tar baby” story or the “briar patch” one. Miss Nannie saw the story on The View, and then 50 Cent let loose on his twitter account.

While I’m thrilled that Brer Rabbit is getting a lot of attention, I’ve gotta say it’s near impossible to combat so much negative misinformation. If you run into 50 Cent, politely refresh his memory on Brer Rabbit.

You can imagine the “tar baby” is a bizarre problem to have for a small house museum dedicated to preserving the legacy of Joel Chandler Harris and the heritage of African American folklore Everyone knows it’s bad, but few are clear on its origins.

We’ve come up with two strategies at the Wren’s Nest to set the record straight about this particular Brer Rabbit story and the 190 Brer Rabbit folk tales that Harris collected —

(1) Tell our entire story. Be it through storytelling performances or research like Everything You’ve Heard About Uncle Remus Is Wrong, we won’t shy away from the controversy or the awesomeness of Brer Rabbit

(2) Change the story that’s being told by bringing the legacy of Joel Chandler Harris to the 21st century. This means instituting the KIPP Scribes Program, which pairs professional writers with the 5th graders to record an important family story. It also means collaborating with the Atlanta Opera to develop their first ever commissioned work and uplift African American folklore in new ways. Or partnering with StoryCorps to record the stories of our neighbors.

Other, less publicized strategies include “drinking beers at key moments,” “sighing quite a bit,” and remembering that sometimes controversy can be a good thing.

Otherwise, I can only describe this particular situation as “a difficult problem that is only aggravated by attempts to solve it.”

What else can we do? What else should we do? What would you do?

The Kids Are Alright: Now Available For Your Listening Pleasure

Due to popular demand (or, more accurately, the kind folks over at AM 1690) we now have the (Brer) Rabbit themed episode of “The Kids Are Alright” available for your listening pleasure!

The Kids Are Alright — “Rabbit Rabbit”
[audio:kidsalright.mp3]

The show features a smattering of songs with talking animals, storytelling by Akbar, and superb stuttering by our blatantly nervous executive director, Lain.  (Don’t worry — he starts to get comfortable somewhere in the last 3 minutes.)

My favorite part is the way the show’s host, Amy, put three versions of “Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah” back-to-back for contrast. Johnny Mercer? Louis Armstrong? Jackson 5? Yes, please! Miley Cyrus? Not in this show.

Give the show a listen and just try not to narrate your day to the tune of the Huckleberry Hound’s “Uncle Remus.”  (Example: Amelia Trace! Amelia Trace! Amelia Trace is a blog-a-writin’ gal!”) What’s your favorite moment of Lain being awkward?

Glee Season Finale — Sue Sylvester and the Briar Patch

Last night’s episode of Glee got off on the right foot with a snarky nod to Song of the South. Sue Sylvester, the deliciously evil cheerleading coach, takes a shot at Will Schuster, the dopey glee coach:

“Your hair looks like a briar patch. I keep expecting racist, animated Disney characters to pop up and start singing about living on the bayou.”

Gosh, I’m not sure whether to buy Sue a drank or punch her in the throat.

I’m thankful that the writers at Fox (a) finally made a fresh joke about Will’s hair; (b) specified that the racist characters are Disney’s; and (c) had Sue Sylvester deliver the line on the season finale.

Yet as much as I like getting folks to think about the Uncle Remus stories, I can’t say that I’m thrilled that this dimension of Song of the South is being perpetuated in prime time. Sue Sylvester is always over the top, and this is no exception. But given the film’s, uh, reputation I don’t think people will take it as such.

And seriously, how many people watch Glee? Millions!

How many people have watched this video of Akbar telling the story of Brer Rabbit and the Briar Patch? Like, 4. And half of them can’t tie their shoes.

It’s awesome that Glee provided such a great reference to Brer Rabbit, but it’s a shame that it further brands him as something so negative.

Also, can we talk about how it’s at least a little ironic that a show so reliant on stereotypes is calling out other stereotypes?

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