8 things I learned from The Cosby Show: One lesson for each season J plus your favorite Cosby Show memories.
I grew up in Brooklyn,NY in the 1980s and ‘90s in a loving household with a married mom and dad. In my early years I didn’t think there was anything different about this. My mother is a registered nurse and my dad worked as a NYC sanitation worker. We lived comfortably, traveled, and visited museums and bookstores. Education mattered and good grades, manners, and decorum were expected. As I grew older I became keenly aware that this was not the case in many other homes. However for me this was my very normal life. But to many people who looked like me this kind of life was anything but normal.
Before I realized my reality was not everyone else’s I innocently enjoyed The Cosby Show assuming my most of my peers did as well. The Cosby Show was like a college course on life, a course I didn’t even realize I was signed up for. Eventually I realized The Cosby Show type lifestyle wasn’t everyone’s reality, but I had no clue there was so much backlash. Many in my generation felt the show was a farce and didn’t represent what many inner city brown 80s babies lived through. I can understand that but I think the show provided so much that people from any socio-economic group could have learned from the shows many lessons Cosby himself embedded in show. I decided I wanted to share why I loved the show and why I think the lessons taught in the show were universal.
In many cases the material on the show both commented on existing norms and thoughts while at the same time shaping a way of thinking about specific topics. Underneath the surface layer of the kids’ or Cliff’s shenanigans, the real “lesson” was about living a well-rounded life, communicating with your family members, and becoming your best self. Here are my top 8 life lessons from the Huxtables-
1. Culture- Pshhhh where to start? Family and Fashion- I loved how greeting a visiting family member or friend was an event in their home. Sitting on the couch to catch up and glean from the visitor. And 80s/90s fashion courtesy of Denise and Vanessa.Yassss. Playing records in the evenings, and celebrating special occasions. Everything!
2. Jazz-A love for the art form (and vinyl) and the greats popped up throughout the series. (Plus all the entertainers and artists who guest starred over the years.)
3. Art- I learned about auctions and the importance of heaving meaningful art in your home. (The painting in the living room)
4. Feminism- Claire, Claire, Claire. Long before I was old enough to know who bell, Audre, or Gloria were; Claire laid down the foundation of equality in my mind. She let me know that my accomplishments and my voice mattered in spite of and because of my gender. Lessons that came through conversations with Bud (and the thoughts of his older brother smh lol), and Elvin really shaped my thinking on why feminism was needed and what true (not abt man bashing) feminism could look like. Thank you Claire!
5. Possible Professions- Claire was a busy and successful layer in NYC, this spoke volumes. Dr. Huxtable was in obstetrics (we learned how demanding that kind of on call schedule was, and how important a good doctor was. Plus we saw handymen, musicians, teachers, entrepreneurs, and so many more.
6. Storytelling- Many, many of the episodes were centered on Cliff or some other family member telling a story. Some were significant in a historical sense, about how something or someone came to be, while others were simple like Rudy explain her day or a dilemma. We saw families gather to listen to these stories. We say closeness being nurtured. Storytelling is such an important tradition, one I hope we continue to nurture in the present.
7. Family- The writers of the show and the creator, Mr. Cosby, took great pains to ensure that many of the parts of growing up in a big family were highlighted. I was only child, so for me I was able to learn about that entire foreign side of life. Sharing clothing, giving rides, breaking toys, growing close, and growing apart. The dynamics and characterization were so well developed on the show. I also loved how one could also gather parenting advice from Clair and Cliff (that could be a book in itself).
8. College Culture- Even if it were never mentioned in my house, watching The Cosby Show meant that I knew about college and its importance. Simple things like Cliff’s tees, sweaters, and pins, to stories of Hillman, visits from professors, and trips to reunions. All of those elements nurtured a love for academia and also for the social side and lastings relationships that could be made at a University. The emphasis on college led to one of THE best spin offs in TV land, A Different World *hums theme song”.
So yeah those are the lessons I got from the show/course/history book known as The Cosby Show. I had so many specific show memories but I thought I’d let you share yours across the Brown Sugar social media platforms. Thank you for the outpouring of memories. Here are your favorites (Yall love some Theo stories lol)-
“Theo in the real world when they cleaned out his room!” - @brendassun
“Gordon Gartrelle!!!” Lol- @taleeheat
“Theo with his earring”- @aldonell
“For me it was the one when they made Theo pay rent w/ the Monopoly money”-@olderj
“Theo’s prom night gone all wrong, Dr. Huxtable’s dance-off with Rudy’s tap dance instructor, Sondra and Elvin announcing they aren’t going back to school but are instead working at a wilderness store, Cockroach shaving his head, Claire singing at Hillman college with their choir, the family singing with Stevie Wonder, Denise designing a terrible shirt for Theo, there are too many lol” – @cosmicinsanity
“When Theo wanted that Gordon Gartrelle shirt and Denise made him a terrible replica” -@bestablished73
“Please help….the lip syncing episode that included the whole family in tribute to the grandparents….I’m sure this adds to comments in agreement already posted ????”- @jermainelewis
“The very first episode where Cliff schools Theo about life decisions and getting an education–that really set the tone for the rest of the show’s 8 year run. The Gordon Gartrelle fiasco, LOL. Tailwind Turner and Combustible Huxtable–the track & field episode. All the men were pregnant, HA!!!!! And the very last episode….Phenomenal”. – Shawn Allison II
“I loved many many episodes but the one in which a group of elderly women became upset about the dented cans sold in their neighborhood store. The store in a suburban neighborhood had better selection and no dents. The wen formed a collective, made a plan and took a bunch of pennies to the store. Their actions held up the lines and caused a huge hassle. The women won their case and were granted better selections. Social Justice, community organizing, black women agency, and much more all in one episode. I’m sure I left out details & maybe mixed some things up but you probably remember that show”- Chaka S. Holley
“The Real World [episode], when Denise tried to make Theo a Gordon Gartrell shirt. LOL—that cracks me ALL the way up and the episodes with Lena Horne & BB King (loved hearing Kenny and Vanessa sing the blues)”- Tamarra J
“Me Say Ey, Mon”- Ms Pj aka Pj Leslie
“Way too many to list but a few notable mentions are: The Biiiig Fun/Wretched episode, the episode where the family tried to teach Theo about real life by pretending to be his landlord etc. and the episode where Cliff and Claire visited Sandra and Elvin’s raggedy apartment! I also loved any episode in which Claire delivered one of her signature reads or when she spoke Spanish! – Ugh she is just everything. I love the Cosby show!”- Sabrina Lewis-Brown
Perfect Quote to end on! We love The Cosby Show! Its memories and lessons are ever present with us some 20 years later. Now that’s a lasting impact! Thank you Bill Cosby, the producers/writers and the beloved CAST- Bill Cosby, Phylicia Rashad, Sabrina Le Beauf, Lisa Bonet, Malcolm-Jamal Warner, Tempestt Bledsoe, Keshia Knight Pulliam, Geoffrey Owens, Raven-Symone, Joseph C. Phillips,
Brown Sugar is written by Angie C for Fresh Radio. Media and interview requests email@example.com Follow on Twitter and IG @abitofbrownsuga
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“Don’t bump the tables” & other rules to live by: A Primer for Party Goers
How not to piss off your favorite DJ ~~~> *leans in and whispers* The good ones really don’t like it when you request songs. O_O oops I didn’t know either, yall. Much to our surprise fellow music lovers a real DJ pretty much HATES it when you come up to their tables and give them suggestions of what to play. An experienced DJ knows how to read a crowd for what to play and when to play it; they’ve also created a flexible set list in their mind of what they wanna rock that night. So basically LET THEM LIVE. Trust them enough to play music that’s going to make you move and nod. I’ve never personally tried to request a song but I have seen it go terribly wrong when pushy party goers try to tell a DJ how to do their job lol it’s not pretty.
J Live posted a shirt on Instagram about the “no request rule” and I was really curious about why it mattered so much to turntablists. I decided to go to one of the best DJs I know ? so I spoke with Fresh Radio’s creator Philly’s own DJ Bee about the subject.
DontBumpTheTables <—Click here for the entire article! (Wouldn’t format right SMH)
“I love to give artists room to grow in their art. Jane looks like she’s having a blast just being her & we love it. The evolution of Janelle Monáe has given us a nostalgic yet fresh take on everything thing that’s right about house parties, friends, & college in her latests video for the track Electric Lady. It’s mos def #BROWNSUGARAPPROVED – Ang
“How Much More You Need?” A Brown Sugar Interview with author, Jermaine Lewis
If you follow me online, you know I rarely read fiction. I haven’t read an entire work of fiction since undergrad, I just prefer non-fiction writing. I made it a goal however to revisit fiction in 2013 and I’m staying with it. A big part of my return to the “world of make believe” happened because of my good friend, author, poet and barber JERMAINE LEWIS. As a barber he cuts hair with precision, and as a spoken word artist and writer he spits words with an equal amount of skill and passion. Mr. Lewis, known as J LEW to most has quite a way with words. More than that he uses his social media to draw in readers and keep ‘em wanting more. He released his debut novel “How Much More You Need?” on Valentine’s Day. I recently spoke with him about writing, his readers and more.
BROWN SUGAR-When did you fall in love with hip hop?
JERMAINE LEWIS-I remember falling in love with hip hop in the 5th grade. I was widely known for being a “church boy” with good reason. Gospel music was the only thing I ever listened to. In fifth grade my whole school had to learn the lyrics to “Self -Destruction”. I love the words, the force and power in which they were rendered. I became a lover of words and word phrases that rhyme at that moment. I later fell deeply in love with the likes of Lauryn Hill, Black Thought, Nas, Mos Def and Talib Kweli, basically those who wanted to teach me something while they entertained me.The list is much longer but. . .
BROWN SUGAR-So I met you as a barber and then learned you were a writer and a performer. How do you balance your professional and your performance life?
JERMAINE LEWIS -I balance my life in a very simple way. I cut hair by day and perform at night. Some would say that I perform all day. The barbershop has become an interesting place to train and perfect my speaking craft. Captivating a barbershop with the spoken word makes performing at all other venues seem as easy and carefree as a person feels walking through a park on a sunny day singing along with their favorite song on their iPod. Singing uninhibitedly free because they believe that no one can hear them. It’s a beautiful feeling when people are purely entertained by you as a result of practice and effortless execution of what it is they expected to see from you…
BROWN SUGAR -How long have considered yourself a writer?
JERMAINE LEWIS -To be honest, I really don’t consider myself a writer as not to offend those who have really studied the art and have replaced their hearts with a pen and pad and their blood with ink. I don’t really know all the rules. My sentences still run on and are spliced with commas. I rest on the fact that I must write in order for the story to reach the masses. I don’t write right, but I believe I am one of the best story tellers to ever live. A man told me once, “It’s the story that the people want! We can find a million people to write it right.” I just do my best to make sure that the writing doesn’t get in the way of the story. .
BROWN SUGAR -Can you remember the first poem you wrote/performed?
JERMAINE LEWIS -I can’t remember the first poem I ever wrote because I have been writing your standard “Hallmark Greeting Card” poetry since I could put thoughts and sentences together. The spoken word pieces on the other hand. The pieces that I would memorize to perform in front of an audience, I can remember like it was a few hours ago. In the year 2000 on a Wednesday night I heard a poet named Hamza of the Seventh Sun captivate an audience with his words and decided on that day that I would do my best to be able to do the same. Knowing even then that I was a great story teller, I wrote a story that just happened to rhyme and named it “What I Saw.” I wrote and performed that piece to receive thunderous applause and I knew that performing poetry was one of the things that God had given me tremendous ability to do at a very high level.. .
BROWN SUGAR -You have quite a following on fb and via email regarding several of your writing series. What is the most common reason fans give you for loving your work?
JERMAINE LEWIS-They love the connectedness of all of the characters. Everyone and every action seems to affect another person in some way, shape, form or fashion. They love the redemptive power of Jesus Christ that finds it’s way into each life and story line without being “preachy or holier than thou.” They tell me that they love the fact they know each character. The readers appreciate the real pain, real drama, real relationships, real intimacy and the real love. They say that they are able to find themselves in the pages, see their issues in a particular character, apply the actions of the character to their own lives and find resolution or at least see their lives from a different angle.. .
BROWNSUGAR- I had the privilege of previewing some of “How Much More You Need?” it is so addictive and hard to put down. Is there a technique you use to hook your readers?
JERMAINE LEWIS-There is definitely a technique used to hook the readers. I try to pull them so far into a situation that they can’t sleep without finding out what will happen next. I put a gripping cliff hanger at the end of each chapter that will force a person who cares about the characters to be unable to stop without finding out what happens next, only to run into another situation they will find it hard to walk away from. I try to recreate these addictive situations chapter after chapter. Before the readers know it there are no more pages to turn. . .
BROWNSUGAR- In short the novel is about our expectations when it comes to love. What do you want readers to take away from the experience?
JERMAINE LEWIS I want readers to take away from the first novel that in a lot of cases they already have all they need to be happy. I want them to slow their lives down, take a survey of all that they have been blessed with. I want them to ask themselves, “If I have joy, do I really need more money? If I already have power do I really need prestige? If I have a loving commitment do I really need a diamond ring?” I then want them to ask themselves the questions in the reverse to really realize the point being made. For example, “What if I had money, but no joy? What if I had prestige, but no power? Or what if I had the biggest diamond ring in the world but yet no commitment?” I just want people to finish this reading and be a little more appreciative of what they may already have. I want them to ask them selves, “How Much More Do I Need?”
BROWNSUGAR- How much of your real life seeps into the lines of your pages?
JERMAINE LEWIS I feel like the only way that I can connect to the reader is to write from extremely real places. I can answer this question easily. Everything I write comes from real life. It’s all personal to me. I have either experienced the situations myself or been really close to them. All of them are amazingly real. I am a believer in that reality is indeed stranger than fiction!
BROWNSUGAR -Any encouragement for writers out there who would also like to publish their work?
JERMAINE LEWIS -I would encourage a writer that wishes to publish their work to write in front of a live audience. I would suggest that they get a couple of friends they trust to read their work as they went along. Having friends take the journey with them will prevent them from creating a world that only they enjoy. The daily feedback from honest friends will also keep them on the right track. I also recommend that if they feel that their own story is so amazing that they write it as a fiction or write it and not publish it until they have done something of note. Until they are “somebody” no one will care about your story. That’s not true, some will care, but I don’t know if there will be enough people to really make them feel successful. If their own story is what they want to write, I say write it! They will know when the masses will want to read it. . .
BROWNSUGAR -What can readers look forward to from Jermaine Lewis in the coming months?
JERMAINE LEWIS- Please stay tuned from more work from me. My goal is to publish a book every four months for the next few years. My next title will be available in May 2014. A person can keep up with my projects by visiting JermaineLewis.com
Info on all things Jermaine Lewis- JermaineLewis.com
His debut novel How Much More You Need is available in print and digitally- http://www.amazon.com/How-Much-More-You-Need/dp/1484843177
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