What on earth can MSNBC do with one of the few people in America who thinks The Help was a really bad movie? Give her her own show, that’s what.
Tulane University professor Melissa Harris-Perry first came to our attention as a contributor on Countdown with Keith Olbermann, when she was Melissa Perry-Lacewell and wore her own hair. She is every rightwingnut’s worst nightmare – an articulate, educated, beautiful, black single mother with a successful career as a college professor and author, and a truly wicked sense of humor. Ms. Perry-Lacewell became Ms. Harris-Perry last year when she finally gave up her singleness and not only got married, but moved to New Orleans and got a head full of braided extensions.
Melissa was born in 1973, daughter of William M. Harris, Sr., the dean of Afro-American affairs at the University of Virginia and Diana Gray, a white community college professor and activist who worked for non-profits that assisted poor communities. Melissa has said of her heritage, “I’ve never thought of myself as biracial. I’m black.” Perhaps her next book might look at the psychology and life choices of biracial persons in America, given both her attitudes and the problems of our President. Melissa took her bachelor’s in English at Wake Forest in 1994 and her PhD in political science at Duke in 1999. She also has an honorary doctorate from Meadville Lombard Theological School. She is a member of the Delta Sigma Theta sorority.
From 1999 to 2005, she taught political science at the University of Chicago and from 2006 to 2010 was on the faculty of Princeton University.
Melissa’s first book, Barbershops, Bibles and BET: Everyday Talk and Black Political Thought won the W.E.B. DuBois Book Award and the Best Book Award from the American Political Science Association. Her second book provided the distaff view of black American political development, Sister Citizen: Shame, Stereotypes and Black Women in America. She is also a contributor to The Chicago Tribune, The Los Angeles Times, Crain’s Chicago Business, and Newsday, as well as a regular column in The Nation called “Sister Citizen.”
From 1999 to 2005, Melissa Harris was married to Dennis Lacewell, with whom she has a daughter. Last year, she married James Perry, a 2010 candidate for mayor in New Orleans. That is when she transferred from Princeton to Tulane.
Melissa has substituted for Rachel Maddow many times, which is the new way at MSNBC to get your own show. It used to be that Keith Olbermann’s subs did the jump to permanent positions, as Maddow and Lawrence O’Donnell did. Melissa will be the second Maddow sub to get a weekend show. Up With Chris Hayes premiered a couple of months ago, runs from 8 to 10 a.m. on Saturday and Sunday. Melissa’s show, which starts February 4, will hold the 10 a.m. to 12 noon slot and be followed by Weekends with Alex Witt from noon to 2 p.m. MSNBC has run for years without a weekend line up of substance. They had relied on a sort of headline news show and showing Meet the Press, which ran on the parent network, NBC, and filled the rest of their time, from 10 p.m. Friday night to 6 a.m. Monday morning with their prison shows. Both CNN and Fox had a range of weekend programs, from special reports to Sunday review and analysis shows. MSNBC is slowly expanding its lineup to compete. All three networks have pulled out of the true 24/7 reporting that CNN pioneered, showing repeats with headline updates during the night. This has proven to be a bad choice as events in the Middle East and Asia happen during our nighttime, and Americans have to wait for 6 a.m. to find out what’s really going on in any depth.
Melissa Harris-Perry is a delightful lady. It is very rare for her to get angry or indignant in her conversations, preferring humor and a light touch to make her points.
I have only one complaint….the extensions. They make Melissa look like she needs Rogaine, way too much scalp. I’ve never understood them any more than I’ve understood young black women who dye their hair turquoise or magenta. It’s a holdover from my 1960s hippie days. I think women are beautiful in their natural state, no matter what that might be. I look at those extensions and see bald spots in the future, like the late actress Patricia Morrison, whose extremely long hair was always pulled up in a pony tail. She ended up with a tonsure from the weight of the pony tail.
There is one thing I would like to see from MSNBC as the year progresses – that they get more of their commentators and correspondents out of the studio. Both Rachel Maddow and Ed Schultz have done reports from the real world, Maddow in Iraq and Schultz in Wisconsin. But the left needs more. We need people to see the real stories out in our country, the reality of welfare and unemployment and homelessness, the real barriers facing young people looking for work that matches their very expensive college loans. We need to see the truth about illegal immigrants and the work they do, more than what Steven Colbert did last year. We need a successor to Edward R. Murrow’s Harvest of Shame and the NBC White Papers of my youth – exposure of facts to counter the propaganda that people choose to be unemployed or on welfare or are taking American jobs. MSNBC identifies itself as the opposite of Fox. Well, it’s not doing a very good job of that if they don’t get out of the studio and prove it.