Chocolate Milk Action Speaks

Chocolate Milk Action Speaks


ChickenBones: A Journal

for Literary & Artistic African-American Themes



Chocolate Milk is a uniquely New Orleans mix of funk and lyricism, hip dance music

and sing-a-long melodies. Regardless of not making a major splash

as a commercial band, Chocolate Milk is classic late seventies Crescent City funk



CDs by Chocolate Milk

Action Speaks Louder Than Words Best of   / Ice Cold Funk  / In Funk We Trust

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Chocolate Milk: “Action Speaks Louder Than Words”

Breath of Life Music Commentary by Mtume ya Salaam & Kalamu ya Salaam



New Orleans is internationally known as one of the major music cities of the world. Visitors are always looking for “real” New Orleans music, meaning, I suppose, music that is different from the commercial music on the radio that one can hear anywhere in the world, music that seems to be oblivious to industry demands, music that seems to just grow organically out of the atmosphere; in other words, music that doesn’t exist anywhere else in the world—and if the truth be told, such music hardly exists in New Orleans anymore. Today, music everywhere is influenced, if not outright determined, by the dominant forces of the marketplace, even so-called independent music is judged by whether it has a definable audience. Pre-Katrina, there was a strong local audience for some forms of music that don’t exist anywhere else in the world, but post-Katrina… well, let’s just say it’s going to be a long, long time before there is a large, local, neighborhood-based audience. But there certainly was a time…   The eight-piece funk band Chocolate Milk is one great example of real New Orleans music. The band members during their major period were: Amadee Castanell (tenor, & soprano sax), Ernest Dabon (bass), Robert Dabon (piano, clavinet, moog), Joseph Smith III (trumpet & flugelhorn), Frank Richards (lead vocals, percussion), Dwight Richards (drums), Mario Tio (lead & rhythm guitar) and Kenneth “Afro” Williams (percussion). Although they had a number of singles that charted, they never had a top-10 hit.  During their major years between 1975, when they first signed with RCA and released Action Speaks Louder Than Words, until their last album, 1982’s Friction, they wanted to top the charts and tried everything from funk to soul ballads to disco. They first scored attention as the backing band for Allen Toussaint’s live performances and as a house band for Toussaint’s Sea-Saint studio productions. Their debut album was the strongest of eight releases over the eight year period of 1975 – 1983. Four of the five tracks in the jukebox are from Action Speaks Louder Than Words. “Groove City” is from 1979‘s Milky Way album. Each of the five selected cuts has its own flavor and together the songs give a full representation of Chocolate Milk. Chocolate Milk is a uniquely New Orleans mix of funk and lyricism, hip dance music and sing-a-long melodies. Regardless of not making a major splash as a commercial band, Chocolate Milk is classic late seventies Crescent City funk and their aptly titled “Action Speaks Louder Than Words” remains not only a classic musical statement, the song is also a parentally/perennially important social statement.—Kalamu ya Salaam

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The REAL New Orleans        Kalamu is of Chocolate Milk’s generation. He remembers how they got together and he remembers that this album came out then and that album came out there and so on. But I was just four years old when Action Speaks Louder Than Words came out. Obviously, I don’t remember any of those things. For me, Chocolate Milk songs like “Action Speaks Louder Than Words” and “Groove City” were just kind of “always there.” When you’re a kid and there’s a family get-together or a barbecue or what have you, you don’t choose the music. You don’t even think about the music. It’s just part of the atmosphere. To a kid, the music is inseparable from the people, the food, the grass and the trees. It’s like the air you breathe. What I’m trying to say is, these songs remind me of the New Orleans I grew up in. The REAL New Orleans.

There’s this show on Fox named K-Ville. It’s set in post-Katrina New Orleans. As a born-and-raised New Orleanian who’s chosen to live somewhere else, I really wanted to like the show. I wanted the show to make me feel good about my city. But I couldn’t even get all the way through the first episode. I don’t know why I expected more (maybe it was just wishful thinking), but K-Ville was nothing but one cliché after another…and not even good ones. It presents an image of New Orleans that comes straight out of the fantasies and nightmares of people who don’t know anything about the city. In the first thirty minutes of the show, there was a jazz funeral, two jazz performances, at least two episodes of the lead character drinking hard liquor while on the clock (and he’s a cop) and three or four major characters whose last name was some weird Creolized French-sounding thing that may or may not have been invented.

(Note to anyone who’s going to do a movie or show or story about New Orleans: many, many black people in New Orleans are surnamed Smith or Jones or Williams or Johnson or whatever else they’re named everywhere else in America. The “Creole” thing is a subculture of New Orleans. Everyone IS NOT named Boulet or Lebeau or whatever. We also don’t attend jazz funerals everyday. (I think I may have been to three or four in my lifetime.) Our cops generally aren’t drunks. Mardi Gras only comes once per year and some of us are actually happy when it’s over. We don’t go to blues clubs every weekend – the tourists do that. Etc., etc., etc.)

Chocolate Milk’s music reminds me of everything the show was missing. It’s a lot of what New Orleans sounded like when I was growing up. It’s nothing flashy or pretentious. Just real, ordinary, funky music. It’s also music that is consciously trying to gain a wider audience. That’s part of what New Orleans is too. New Orleans is a landmark city, but it’s not New York, L.A. or Chicago. For that matter, it isn’t even Houston, Miami, San Francisco or Atlanta. It’s a great city, but it’s not a big one. New Orleans is always falling just short of being what it wants to be. When it comes to succeeding economically, New Orleans is a perennial “almost” city. But there’s also a near-mysticism about New Orleans, something that generates a lot of curiosity for people who don’t know the city. Here in San Diego, co-workers and friends always ask me what New Orleans is really like. I don’t try to tell them because there’s no short way to tell anyone what a city, any city, is all about. I just say, it’s really hot and the food is good. And the music is good too. But a lot of it—especially back when I was coming up—is more like Chocolate Milk than Dixieland jazz.—Mtume ya Salaam


posted 24 September 2007

*   *   *   *   *’s 25 Best Selling Books

For July 1st through August 31st 2011  


#1 – Justify My Thug by Wahida Clark #2 – Flyy Girl by Omar Tyree #3 – Head Bangers: An APF Sexcapade by Zane #4 – Life Is Short But Wide by J. California Cooper #5 – Stackin’ Paper 2 Genesis’ Payback by Joy King #6 – Thug Lovin’ (Thug 4) by Wahida Clark #7 – When I Get Where I’m Going by Cheryl Robinson #8 – Casting the First Stone by Kimberla Lawson Roby #9 – The Sex Chronicles: Shattering the Myth by Zane

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#13 – For colored girls who have considered suicide  by Ntozake Shange

#14 – For the Love of Money : A Novel by Omar Tyree

#15 – Homemade Loves  by J. California Cooper

#16 – The Future Has a Past: Stories by J. California Cooper

#17 – Player Haters by Carl Weber

#18 – Purple Panties: An Anthology by Sidney Molare

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#20 – Children of the Street: An Inspector Darko Dawson Mystery by Kwei Quartey

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#23 – Thugs And The Women Who Love Them by Wahida Clark

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#25 – I Dreamt I Was in Heaven – The Rampage of the Rufus Buck Gang by Leonce Gaiter


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#10 – John Henrik Clarke and the Power of Africana History  by Ahati N. N. Toure

#11 – Fail Up: 20 Lessons on Building Success from Failure by Tavis Smiley

#12 –The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander

#13 – The Black Male Handbook: A Blueprint for Life by Kevin Powell

#14 – The Other Wes Moore: One Name, Two Fates by Wes Moore

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#16 – Black Titan: A.G. Gaston and the Making of a Black American Millionaire by Carol Jenkins

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#18 – A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life’s Purpose by Eckhart Tolle

#19 – John Oliver Killens: A Life of Black Literary Activism by Keith Gilyard

#20 – Alain L. Locke: The Biography of a Philosopher by Leonard Harris

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#22 – 2012 Guide to Literary Agents by Chuck Sambuchino #23 – Chicken Soup for the Prisoner’s Soul by Tom Lagana #24 – 101 Things Every Boy/Young Man of Color Should Know by LaMarr Darnell Shields

#25 – Beyond the Black Lady: Sexuality and the New African American Middle Class  by Lisa B. Thompson

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Salvage the Bones

A Novel by Jesmyn Ward

On one level, Salvage the Bones is a simple story about a poor black family that’s about to be trashed by one of the most deadly hurricanes in U.S. history. What makes the novel so powerful, though, is the way Ward winds private passions with that menace gathering force out in the Gulf of Mexico. Without a hint of pretension, in the simple lives of these poor people living among chickens and abandoned cars, she evokes the tenacious love and desperation of classical tragedy. The force that pushes back against Katrina’s inexorable winds is the voice of Ward’s narrator, a 14-year-old girl named Esch, the only daughter among four siblings. Precocious, passionate and sensitive, she speaks almost entirely in phrases soaked in her family’s raw land. Everything here is gritty, loamy and alive, as though the very soil were animated. Her brother’s “blood smells like wet hot earth after summer rain. . . . His scalp looks like fresh turned dirt.” Her father’s hands “are like gravel,” while her own hand “slides through his grip like a wet fish,” and a handsome boy’s “muscles jabbered like chickens.” Admittedly, Ward can push so hard on this simile-obsessed style that her paragraphs risk sounding like a compost heap, but this isn’t usually just metaphor for metaphor’s sake. She conveys something fundamental about Esch’s fluid state of mind: her figurative sense of the world in which all things correspond and connect. She and her brothers live in a ramshackle house steeped in grief since their mother died giving birth to her last child. . . . What remains, what’s salvaged, is something indomitable in these tough siblings, the strength of their love, the permanence of their devotion.—WashingtonPost

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Incognegro: A Memoir of Exile and Apartheid

By  Frank B. Wilderson, III

Wilderson, a professor, writer and filmmaker from the Midwest, presents a gripping account of his role in the downfall of South African apartheid as one of only two black Americans in the African National Congress (ANC). After marrying a South African law student, Wilderson reluctantly returns with her to South Africa in the early 1990s, where he teaches Johannesburg and Soweto students, and soon joins the military wing of the ANC. Wilderson’s stinging portrait of Nelson Mandela as a petulant elder eager to accommodate his white countrymen will jolt readers who’ve accepted the reverential treatment usually accorded him. After the assassination of Mandela’s rival, South African Communist Party leader Chris Hani, Mandela’s regime deems Wilderson’s public questions a threat to national security; soon, having lost his stomach for the cause, he returns to America. Wilderson has a distinct, powerful voice and a strong story that shuffles between the indignities of Johannesburg life and his early years in Minneapolis, the precocious child of academics who barely tolerate his emerging political consciousness. Wilderson’s observations about love within and across the color line and cultural divides are as provocative as his politics; despite some distracting digressions, this is a riveting memoir of apartheid’s last days.—Publishers Weekly

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Sister Citizen: Shame, Stereotypes, and Black Women in America

By Melissa V. Harris-Perry

According to the author, this society has historically exerted considerable pressure on black females to fit into one of a handful of stereotypes, primarily, the Mammy, the Matriarch or the Jezebel.  The selfless Mammy’s behavior is marked by a slavish devotion to white folks’ domestic concerns, often at the expense of those of her own family’s needs. By contrast, the relatively-hedonistic Jezebel is a sexually-insatiable temptress. And the Matriarch is generally thought of as an emasculating figure who denigrates black men, ala the characters Sapphire and Aunt Esther on the television shows Amos and Andy and Sanford and Son, respectively.     

Professor Perry points out how the propagation of these harmful myths have served the mainstream culture well. For instance, the Mammy suggests that it is almost second nature for black females to feel a maternal instinct towards Caucasian babies.

As for the source of the Jezebel, black women had no control over their own bodies during slavery given that they were being auctioned off and bred to maximize profits. Nonetheless, it was in the interest of plantation owners to propagate the lie that sisters were sluts inclined to mate indiscriminately.

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The White Masters of the World

From The World and Africa, 1965

By W. E. B. Du Bois

W. E. B. Du Bois’ Arraignment and Indictment of White Civilization (Fletcher)

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Ancient African Nations

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The Death of Emmett Till by Bob Dylan  The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll  Only a Pawn in Their Game

Rev. Jesse Lee Peterson Thanks America for Slavery /

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The Journal of Negro History issues at Project Gutenberg

The Haitian Declaration of Independence 1804  / January 1, 1804 — The Founding of Haiti 

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update 26 December 2011




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