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You Ask Me, “Did I Like Arsenio?” / About as Much as The Bicentennial

That’s a verse from Ice Cube’s The Nigga You Love to Hate, from his great album AmeriKKKa’s Most Wanted.

I thought that line was hilarious. Arsenio Hall was a goof of a talkshow host, but he was the first Black late night talk show host, so he was a big deal. A lot of people thought he was kind of lame.

What hooked me, though, was the reference to the Bicentennial. It was the first, and last, time I ever  heard a reference to the Bicentennial in popular song, jokes, or anything except the papers and tv.

Back in 1976, a lot of cities celebrated the 200th birthday of the United States.  It was a huge thing, with people trying to tie into the idea of the American Revolution. Washington DC was trying to get all the cities on board, celebrating it.

Los Angeles didn’t have anything planned, but they eventually got on board, eventually pretty enthusiastically. Mayor Tom Bradley had William Winston running the Bicentennial project, and maybe this was a “first” because both were Black, and the 1970s were a period when Civil Rights was still strong, but also entering into local government, through elections and appointments.

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