One thing comedian Clark Jones has learned about owning his gift and living his purpose is that it comes with a responsibility. The native Chicagoan had to recite a special pledge in grammar school that ended with him acknowledging his identity. “At the end, we had to say ‘I am an American, an Afro-American.’ That was everyday. I had to say it so I was constantly reminded of it,” he recalls.
What he didn’t know then is how tough it made him when he’d be challenged as an adult or how thick his skin became as a result.
“When it comes to black art or anything related, you get hazed. No matter what you do, we are going to make sure we put you through the fire. The older dudes are going to put you through the fire to make sure you know how to handle it and it’s out of love because there are plenty of Chicago comics that didn’t make it,” he shares. “I have to make people laugh. If I say I am a comedian, or if I say that I am anything, I am responsible for giving that to people.”
“Stop looking for Jay Z to say how we should handle Ferguson. Stop looking for Kanye West to make a statement because ‘they are experts.'”
Performing standup on stages from Rhode Island to Idaho has taught Jones a thing or two about cultural differences. “In America, you are either rich or your are not rich. That’s really the only line. They will let you think it’s color but you either got money or you are broke. That’s where the differences lie.
“When I first started doing comedy, I wanted audiences to see a Black person that they had never seen before. To reference Bill Cosby, his whole thing was in the ’60s you can talk about the Civil Rights Movement. I could but I’m in Idaho. So, I need this sea of white people to feel like I have the same problems that they have. There’s two ways go about it. I could say hey you are racist, you are killing us and it’s terrible but we still find a way to laugh about it. Or, I can break down the fact that they think that just because they are in New Mexico their lives are some how different than mine and I’m going in like … No we are going through the same things.”
Jones loves Black Twitter, the virtual community of informed, outspoken social networkers who have a strong voice in pop culture and on sociopolitical issues. “People are on to it now. Executives and marketing companies are looking to see what Black Twitter is talking about so they can reassess how to go about rolling out movies like the Wedding Ringer with Kevin Hart, and use our hashtags we created. It helps in comedy. We must be mindful because they are crossing over but other communities are profiting. We should support each other so we can make our own movies based on terms we create.”
The way we command music artists to be our thought leaders is a pet peeve for Clark Jones, a Morehouse graduate.
“When we have these arguments on Facebook, before posting make sure we know what we are talking about. Stop looking for Jay Z to say how we should handle Ferguson. Stop looking for Kanye West to make a statement because ‘they are experts.’ The Mark Lamont Hills, the Shaun Kings study these issues and come up with great strategies on how to deal with what’s going on. You need a hit record that’s when you go to Pharrell Williams. Don’t ask Pharrell about what we should do about Ferguson. Let’s look in the right places for subject matter experts and demand Al Sharpton use his powerful platform. Let’s stop demanding Kanye do what Al does.
“We should ask our communities to study. We should be studied up before we post most things we post because we are playing with a different set of rules, right?”