Sunday, June 29, 2008

Who Is David Wilson?

I saw an extraordinary program last night on MSNBC. It was called, "Meeting David Wilson". I was channel surfing and had just seen the 100th documentary on Charles Manson. (What does the media find so fascinating about him? He's nothing more than a pimp, who used drugs to get some young, spoiled girls and a male lackey to do his bidding.) Anyway, the title caught my attention... "Meeting David Wilson". My question was, "Who is David Wilson? Should I know him?"

David Wilson is a 28 year old black journalist and TV producer who did some awesome research that led him to meet and befriend a 62 year old white man from North Carolina, also named David Wilson. The white David Wilson, is a descendant of the family that owned black David Wilson's family in North Carolina. I was now hooked! (I gave up watching the HBO Saturday night movie for this and it was well worth it.) Both families met in North Carolina and embraced each other... the descendents of slaves and the descendents of slave owners. They attended church together and had a big picnic.

Well... young, black David Wilson took his sojourn even farther. He traced his family's roots all the way back to the village in West Africa that they were kidnapped from. He made the trip to Africa himself and met his true descendents. The last scene of the documentary showed David Wilson in what looked like a predominately African-American charter school, dispelling the stereotypes of Africa that the children had learned and instead, taught them about their proud heritage. He still maintains a close friendship with 62 year old white David Wilson in North Carolina.

This was a wonderful documentary... the type of story that should have been shown on BET. If they rerun it again (and, this being cable, I'm sure they will), I would advise everyone, black and white, to watch it. You can also click on the above photo or text link under the photo to go the MSNBC website to learn more about the story. It's a must see and/or must read.

One Of My Guilty Pleasures

I must admit that black erotica author, Zane, has been one of my guilty pleasures for years. I first remember a female acquaintance of mine passing around a book on a flight to Atlanta called "Addicted" several years back. It was about a young woman with a sex addiction that was brought on by years of abuse. I loved the book so, I bought it and some of her other books... "Nervous", "The Sex Chronicles", "The Sex Chronicles II: Goin' Buck Wild", and "Afterburn"... as soon as I got to the ATL and found a black book store. I've purchased several of her anthologies such as "Chocolate Flava" too.

For years, I thought that "Zane" just might be a man... (at least, that was the rumor going around) but, then she began writing for Essence magazine for awhile and I began hearing her in interviews on the radio. I was pleased to know that she was, in fact, a woman and she was a real person and not a group of writers going under one name. (That was another rumor floating around. Don'tcha just hate e-mail and internet rumors?)

Zane was on the radio this weekend promoting her latest anthologies... "Purple Panties" and "Honey Flava". I haven't read a novel or any book since February and she has always been great summer reading. I think I will stop by my favorite afrocentric bookstore and pick up my copies... I'll be the one in the long trench coat with the sunglasses on (smile)!

The "Businessman"

My grandson and I went to I-Hop this morning. While cutting up one of my pancakes and a piece of sausage for him, I saw someone that I knew from my past... I will call him W.B. He lived down the hall from me in college and he seemed destined to be the one of us who would suceed in life. He had good looks, always dressed "to the nines", and knew how to turn a phrase. Ladies loved him. He was a business marketing major and made pretty good grades. He also played basketball, until he hurt his knee during our junior year.

Two years out of college, I ran into W.B. and he made me a "business proposition". He wanted me and a few others to invest in a business he was trying to get off of the ground. He was marketing a new cologne for men called... well, I won't even name it. We talked and he brought the cologne around for me to sample. I rubbed a little of it on my arm and took a sniff. I smiled and said, "You have a unique fragrance there." (It was the most horrible thing I'd ever smelled.) Still, I bought a bottle ($29.50... Who says that I don't support my friends?) and tossed it in the trash as soon as he was out of sight.

I stopped short of "investing" any of my cash in his venture... I didn't have any cash at the time to throw away. However, one of my college friends DID throw him some cash and they went into "business" together.

W.B. got married the next year to a beautiful young lady whose father owned a barber shop and a beauty parlor in the Mt. Airy section of Philadelphia (which was, at the time, a place where most of your middle class and well-to-do blacks resided). He also got on board and invested in this cologne. He started selling it in his shops. Like I said, the stuff smelled horrible and while I wouldn't tell him to his face, many other folks did and they wanted their money back. They began to complain long and loudly, forcing his wife's father to get rid of the product.

W.B. and his partner lost their shirts (literally) on this venture and his wife's father threatened to take him to court. The couple had sunk their life's savings into this venture and they had to give up the house they bought and move to an apartment. She left him not too long afterwords and my other friend pulled out of their partnership. The last time I saw W.B., he was putting all of his belongings in his car and heading towards the Holiday Inn near the outskirts of the city.

Now, back to the present... This morning when I saw him, I was hoping that he didn't see me but, it's hard to duck someone when you've got a toddler with you. Our conversation was kind of uneasy. We caught up on each other's lives. He said to me, "Wow, you got married, huh? And, you have a grandson to boot? Who would've thunk it?" I smiled and said, "Yeah, who would've thunk it?" Then, came the uneasy question... "So, what are you doing now?" He smiled and said, "Oh, I'm living with my mother up in Southwest Philly but, you know me, I got a few things working." I smiled, "Yeah? Not another cologne?" He pointed at me and said, "Nah, I'm out of that business. I sell pre-paid attorney and pre-paid medical services. Are you interested? Everybody needs a lawyer and a doctor." I said, "Uhhh, I'll let you know. Where can I contact you?" He said, "I manage my mom's wig shop during the day... at night you can find me here at this address" (it was a neighborhood bar). He looked at me, smiled, and said "I handle most of my business in the back."

After breakfast and this encounter, I walked towards my car with my grandson and headed for home. Needless to say, I don't ever intend to contact him (smile).

Friday, June 27, 2008

The Black Man's Country Club

My father introduced my brother and I to the barber shop at a very young age. As children, we entered into a world that we automatically recognized as distinctly male, free, and liberating. Here, surrounded by peers and away from the prying ears of both the world of women and, more importantly, the white world, these black men were able to talk and express their honest viewpoints on just about anybody and everything.

I probably heard many things in the barber shop that my mother didn't want me to hear but, what could she do? She wanted our hair cut so we would look like the neat and clean little colored gentlemen she was attempting to raise and would one day unleash on an unsuspecting world. So, this was the price that had to be paid. Besides, she was never privy to the sometimes salacious and definitely subversive conversation that went on there. My father, my brother, and I all understood that this was men's talk and what was said in the barber shop stayed in the barber shop.

Flash forward to the future and I'm 17 years old... I was working, had a little money in my pocket, independence, and a need to make my mark in the world. I began by choosing my own barber shop. The shop I chose is in a "bad" part of town (not that there were any "good" parts of town that I could function in with autonomy). The two young barbers were not much older than me and the owner was somewhat of a neighborhood character (he was asleep most of the time). I don't ever remember him being awake (I always wondered if he was alive or if he was actually dead and being used as a front). I chose this particular shop because everybody knew that you could get cuts that were really "fly" from there and any up and rising young "playa" had to maintain a "fresh cut".

The guys in this shop were guys my age. Most of them were either working somewhere like me or selling weed. Cocaine was not yet affordable in the black community and nobody in his right mind would've entrusted kids our age to sell heroin. This just goes to show you how much times have changed. All of us, regardless of how we made our money, were still just kids... still unsure of ourselves and insecure.

A lot of bragging and boasting went on back then... from who had the sweetest "j" (jumpshot) to who slept with who and how many. It wasn't until I was around 26 years old that I figured out most of what was said by those guys were lies. There was a lot of lying and tall tales told in the barber shop. But, here (as in the barber shop of my father's generation), we were still free from the world of women and the white world, which hadn't started to effect us yet. We were safe in the company of each other and could express any idea in our minds, no matter how radical or outrageous.

Several months ago, I introduced my grandson to this "last bastion of male independence". He was not impressed. The little guy had a fit as soon as he heard the electric whirl of the clippers. Only a lollipop calmed him down. He's far too young to appreciate the secret society he is being inducted into... I'm sure that in time, he will understand.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Rules Of The Game

Yesterday, Ralph Nader accused Barack Obama of "talking white". He said that Obama appears to be distancing himself from issues that directly effect the black community (and, in reality, every community) such as predatory lending (something that I have felt strongly about for a long time) and the corporate greed that subsequently creates ghettos and keeps them that way.

The controversy police jumped all over Nader, just as they did with Don Imus the day before. To make matters worse, Obama (who campaigned and worked hard for the moratorium on the Death Penalty in his home state of Illinois) said that he favors the death penalty for some child rapists (WTF?). This was clearly a sign of pandering to the conservative crowd. Now, the things Ralph Nader said probably will anger some but, if we look at how things in this campaign have gone in the last few weeks, it does bare him out a little. From Obama's chastising delinquent black fathers at a black mega church to this... I have been sitting back and watching and remaining silent.

Barack Obama is a politician and let's all remember that. He's not Jesus... he's not the savior and whether he is elected or not, he is going to have to play by a whole new set of rules that even he is not going to be accustomed to playing by. He's black... he's never going to be able to get past that and unlike Clinton, Edwards, Kerry, McCain, or whomever, he is always going to carry that extra burden. It's always going to come up. America can't help it... it's obsessed with race. He is going to have to walk the same tightline that every black person in America walks of being black but, not TOO black when dealing with white America lest we sacrifice our "rapid "move up the ladder.

He is inexperienced... that's not a knock, that's the truth. Bill Clinton was inexperienced too when he entered the White House and he got a very rude awakening from Newt Gingrich, Bob Dole, and a very hostile Republican Congress. If Barack Obama wins the election, he will have the advantage of having a Democratic Congress but, he's still going to get a rude awakening Washington D.C. is a rough town. I don't envy him.

He's already bending and flip-flopping on some of his long held beliefs and positions and he hasn't gotten to Washington yet. He wants to win. I understand that and in order to win, he's got to be a politician (whether he thinks he is or not).

He's saying he's about change and that he's not going to be about business as usual but, the reality is he's entering into a game that is rigged. He can only hope to make some of the changes he talks about. He's going to have to compromise more than he'll probably want to but, this is the game and reality of the system. The game is rigged... play or get played. If he is fortunate enough to get a second term (and that would be historical) then, he can play the lame duck president and stand on his bully pulpit and force through the change he is talking about right now. He'll have nothing to lose.

Here are Nader's actual remarks from yesterday. You decide for yourself if you think anything he said was wrong.

"There's only one thing different about Barack Obama when it comes to being a Democratic presidential candidate... he's half African-American". Nader said in what the Denver newspaper described as a wide-ranging interview... "Whether that will make any difference, I don't know. I haven't heard him have a strong crackdown on economic exploitation in the ghettos. Pay day loans, predatory lending, asbestos, lead, etc. What's keeping him from doing so? Is it because he wants to talk white?"

Nader added, "I mean, first of all, the number one thing that a black American politician aspiring to the presidency should be doing is to candidly describe the plight of the poor, especially in the inner cities, and the rural areas. Well, we haven't heard a thing.

"Obama wants to show that he is not another politically threatening African-American politician," Nader said."He wants to appeal to white guilt. You appeal to white guilt not by coming on as, "'black is beautiful, "black is powerful.' Basically, he's coming across as someone who is not going to threaten the white power structure, whether it's corporate or whether it's simply oligarchic. And, they love it... whites just eat it up!"

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Gotta Be A Leader

In 2003, a young lady I was acquainted with founded an organization called "Uplifting Sisterhood". Its mission statement said that the organization was dedicated to "Uplifting the consciousness and greater well being of all African-American women." A very noble goal indeed. And, by the way, this was back when I was hanging with E. and S.

The young ladies rented a storefront, put a very professional sign on the front, and did a really nice job of cleaning and renovating the inside of the storefront. It was very afro centric inside, with books by numerous black female authors and poets... There was always fresh coffee brewing , throw pillows on the floor and nice soft lighting. They had a huge sound system with jazz and neo-soul music playing softly. E., S., and some other brothers in the neighborhood helped them set up shop. It looked like these girls were on to something.

The young lady (who I knew in college), got five other young ladies to come out to their first meeting. The meetings were a series of long conversations between the five women concerning what they could do to help out the young women in the community. There were also book reading sessions in which they would pick a certain book to read and come back the next week to discuss it. A lot of theorizing was going on... a lot of energy... and I was honored to be able to sit in on these sessions. Eventually, 5 women became 10, ten became about 15, and everything looked great.

Then, my friend decided to have a "networking" event at a local club to bring in more members and to let the community know that "Uplifting Sisterhood" existed. I had a lot of contacts... my Kappa brothers, Ques, Alphas, Deltas, AKAs, and Zetas. I knew 'em all and I delivered. Between my contacts and the contacts of some of the other ladies, we filled that club up on this particular Friday.

Here is where I began to see a problem. All of these people were college educated, somewhat successful, and with only a few exceptions, none of these people actually lived in Philadelphia anymore. The biggest thing that bothered me was this... the very people they said they were trying to reach, the neighborhood women, were nowhere to be found.

O-H-H-H... but, there was "networking" alright. Numbers were being loaded into cell phones, guys and girls were coupling up, and each organization was hawking its next event (including my own... I'm not going to play the saint here... guilty as charged!). By the end of the night, nobody in the community knew anything more about this organization than they did before and, certainly, no one was "uplifted"... except, of course, those guys who went home with one of those girls. I'm sure they had a very uplifting experience.

I expressed my concerns to my friend and she more or less brushed me off. Further, I said that she and her new organization should host some things like "AIDS awareness", "Drug Prevention & Awareness", "Teenage Pregnancy Seminars", and information on "Day Care Centers & Early Childhood Issues." The response... she had the nerve to tell me that was a "Ghetto Initiative". I told her that these were things that would concern the young women in the community and that they could go to the clinics and local hospitals to ask young professional black women working there to come and speak to their group at anytime. She politely informed me that this was her organization and was not her "agenda".

What soon became 15 women, shrunk to 10... and, by the end of 2004, there may have been about nine left. They had 3 or 4 more of those "networking" events and no one came except maybe 5 of the 9 members and their boyfriends. At the last event they gave, only my friend and her fiancé, E. and J. came and me were present. It was embarrassing.

The event that really pissed me off with my friend and her organization occurred on a summer day, shortly after this. About 6 or 7 teenage girls got to arguing rather loudly on the corner one day about somebody stealing somebody's "man". It also got rather physical and then, in true Philly style, somebody's mother, somebody's aunt, somebody's cousin, and her girlfriends got involved. The next thing you know, you had about 30 girls out in the street fighting. It was a mini riot, right in front of the storefront that read "Uplifting Sisterhood."

I ran to the door and pounded on it. My friend came to the door and I said, "Get out here. You've got to do something." My friend said, "Sheeeeit, I'm not even gettin' involved in that ghetto chicken head mess." I said, "Ghetto chicken head mess? Those are young girls... young black girls... these are the girls you should be talking to... these are the young women of the future." She replied,"Whose future? Those hoochie mamas in training ain't in my future." I looked at her and I said, "If you're not talking to them then who ARE you talking to?" I hung my head and walked away.

Me and E. stood across the street and watched as the police had 7 girls handcuffed and laying face down on the pavement in front of the storefront that read "Uplifting Sisterhood - Dedicated to uplifting the consciousness and well being of all African-American woman." It almost looked as if the young white policeman saw the irony in that sign and the scene in front of him and snickered a little. While, down the street, about 6 or 7 young women were being loaded into a paddy wagon. I was reminded of what drug kingpin, Proposition Joe, told Stringer Bell on “The Wire”... "What we have here is a crisis of leadership." The descendants of WEB Dubois's "Talented Ten Percent" failed to be role models and leaders for the working poor and in the end, it led to tragedy.

Today, that storefront is empty... "Uplifting Sisterhood" finally called it a day near the end of that year. Here was another good idea and well meant intention that lead nowhere. It could have been so much more.

"I am you and you are me"... an old African Proverb!

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

R.I.P. George Carlin (1937-2008)

Comedian George Carlin died yesterday. I will miss his fearlessness and his edge. He not only said things that made you think, he was funny on top of it. I was introduced to him in the mid-70's when I was still in high school. He represented all of the naughty subversiveness that I was embracing at that time. He caused me to question everything around me and like Richard Pryor, challenged me to think beyond the laughter. If I was laughing at all, it was because what he was saying was so true. I'll quote Stephen Winn of the San Francisco Chronicle who wrote:

"Carlin never lost his ability to simultaneously startle, provoke thought, and charm audiences across the spectrum. He never got stale or simply repackaged old ideas in new wrapping. My parents weren't alone in feeling thrown back on their heels. Even listeners much younger than him could feel challenged to keep up with Carlin's febrile, high-velocity humor."

Indeed, he will be missed.

Poor Don Imus

John Donald Imus, Jr.

It seems the controversial syndicated radio talk show host has put his foot in his mouth again. Apparently, this happened when he was being told about the legal troubles of newly traded Dallas Cowboy, Adam "Pacman" Jones (Jones has had numerous run-ins with the law and could easily become a topic of one of these blogs). Imus was doing alright at first, when told that Jone's last altercation occurred in a night club. He said, "Oh well, a nightclub... there is drinking going on there and sooner or later something is bound to happen." He should've stopped there but, he didn't. He then asked, "What color is Jones?" When told that Jones is African-American, Imus replied, "Well, there you go." So, from this, another controversy is born.

This incident is not as bad as the "nappy headed hos" remark of last year that cost him his job. Imus claims that he was actually defending Jones. He said that he meant that Jones was targeted so many times because he is black. You know what? I'm going to go out on a limb here and give Imus the benefit of the doubt.

The big question that everybody was asking last night... Why bring up race in the first place? We all know the answer to that... because race is still America's dirty little secret. Race is still the skeleton in America's closet. Race is still that thing that we really don't want to talk about anymore. (When did America want to talk about race?)

Race was a controversial subject in 1908, one year before the NAACP was founded. Now, one hundred years later, it is still just as controversial. America may be on the verge of electing its first African-American president and while that will say that America has come a mighty long way, it won't change much for the other 34 million African-Americans who still remain almost invisible sometimes. Those of us who aren't running for president, running to catch a touchdown, running to shoot a three pointer, or running across the stage to do a split are invisible to some white Americans. If you're not running, you're marginalized.

Imus is merely a reflection of our times. While I won't go so far as to call him any kind of crusader, he is an agitator. He's the drunken uncle that we all have who says something totally outlandish that we've all been guiltily of thinking but, would never say because we are sober. Are we?

I don't care if it's Don Imus or Rev. Jeremiah Wright... they both say things that we all say in private when we are amongst our own but, would never say near a hot microphone. (Most of us, whether we are black or white will never get near a hot microphone.)

The point I'm making is... a lot of what these men say is viewed as truth to some. Wouldn't it be nice if we could have an honest discourse on all of these things? Take it out of the "tribes" and put it out there in an open but, (painfully beautiful) discussion. Just get it all out. Not gonna happen! We can't take it. We would be too uncomfortable and that's why it's so cool to have Don Imus and Reverend Wright. We can just chuckle and say, "Boy, those guys are s-o-o crazy!" (wink-wink)

Don Imus, Howard Stern, Rev. Wright, and all the other flame throwers will continue to say controversial things and we will publicly and hypocritically hang them out to dry, while winking and agreeing with them in our barbershops, churches, beauty parlors, and neighborhood bars. Seems kind of unfair, don't cha think?

Friday, June 20, 2008

Philadelphia Walk Of Fame

Maze Featuring Frankie Beverly

What a day it was in Philadelphia for Frankie Beverly, the smooth, Philadelphia-born soul and R&B singer. At 12:00 noon, Frankie and the group he's fronted for three decades, Maze, was honored as they received the 107th plaque on the Philadelphia Walk of Fame. Loyal fans were asked to come out and cheer as a replica of the bronze plaque was unveiled at a ceremony in front of the Merriam Theater on Broad Street, though the sidewalk installation will actually be a few steps south on the Avenue of the Arts.

My wife was on hand to see some of the festivities during her lunch hour. Some well-known people who were also present to salute our homeboy and his crew were fellow musicians The Three Degrees and Kim Sledge... hometown DJs Doug Henderson and Joe "Butterball" Tamburro... representatives from the Philadelphia Music Alliance... and other city dignitaries.

The second phase of Frankie Beverly & Maze's blowout is underway right now as he and the group are the headliner for a show at the Mann Music Center in Fairmont Park, with special guest Chaka Khan. In some other place, she would be the headliner... but here, Frankie and the gang's huge and loyal following placed them on top.

Speaking as someone who has followed the man, the group, and their music since junior high school (And, I mean all the way back to "While I'm Alone", the very first cut, by Frankie Beverly & Raw Soul. Remember them?), I can truthfully say that the honors they received today are long overdue.

Congratulations, Frankie... you were always a "class act" and you did Philly proud. Now, it's your turn to have the spotlight and receive a permanent place in our rich musical history. You should know that, through the years, you already had a permanent place in our hearts.

CBS3 Eyewitness News Video

Moon Walk Other Philly Walk of Famers...

Marian Anderson * Lee Andrews & The Hearts * Frankie Avalon * Pearl Bailey * Baker, Harris & Young * Samuel Barber * Eric Bazilian * Thom Bell * Jerry Blavat * Joseph Bonsall of The Oak Ridge Boys * Boyz II Men * Michael Brecker * Randy Brecker * David Bromberg * Stan Lee Broza * Joe Burke * Solomon Burke * Chubby Checker * Dick Clark * Stanley Clarke * John Coltrane * Linda Creed * Jim Croce * Danny & The Juniors * James Darren * Peter De Angelis The Delfonics * The Dixie Hummingbirds * Mike Douglas * The Dovells * Nelson Eddy Fabian Russell Faith * Eddie Fisher * Four Aces Featuring Al Alberts * Kenneth Gamble & Leon Huff * Stan Getz * Dizzy Gillespie * Joe Grady & Ed Hurst * Gary Graffman * Buddy Greco * Bill Haley * Daryl Hall & John Oates * The Heath Brothers * Doug "Jocko" Henderson, Sr. * Natalie Hinderas * Phyllis Hyman * Rob Hyman * The Intruders * DJ Jazzy Jeff * Joan Jett * Philly Joe Jones * Kitty Kallen * Patti LaBelle * Eddie Lang * Mario Lanza * Hy Lit * Bernie Lowe * Jeanette MacDonald * Larry Magid * Kal Mann & Dave Appell & Robert Marcucci * Sid Mark * Al Martino * Pat Martino * Ed McMahon * Harold Melvin & The Blue Notes * Anna Moffo * Gerry Mulligan * Riccardo Muti * Peter Nero * Joe Niagara * Eugene Ormandy * Teddy Pendergrass * Vincent Persichetti * Molly Picon * Leon Redbone * Kal Rudman * Dr. Max Rudolf * Todd Rundgren * Bobby Rydell * Rudolf Serkin * Nina Simone * Bessie Smith * Jimmy Smith * William Smith * Phil Spector * Allen Spivak * Richard Sterban of The Oak Ridge Boys * Leopold Stokowski * The Stylistics * Joe "Butterball" Tamburro * Joseph Tarsia * Arthur Tracy * McCoy Tyner * Charlie Ventura * Clara Ward & The Ward Singers * Grover Washington, Jr. * Ethel Waters * Andre Watts * Marion Williams * Georgie Woods * Efrem Zimbalist, Jr. *

Thursday, June 19, 2008

To Be Young, Black, & Electronic

Sometimes on Saturdays, I like to get up early and drive to my favorite coffee shop. Here I can sip coffee and browse through my favorite magazines and newspapers. My favorite reading material tends to be VIBE, ESSENCE (I like to know what's on my sistas' minds), ESQUIRE, GQ, NEWSWEEK, BLACK ENTERPRISE, and occasionally JET. The coffee shop I patronize is in a part of Philly called Manayunk, where you get a cross section of people both black and white, young and old. It used to be that all of the patrons were doing the same thing I was doing... sipping coffee and reading. Now days, I notice that the patrons are younger, and the black patrons tend to be the very educated bohemian types. Even more noticeable is that there is less reading going on.

You see, my coffee shop has become "Wifi-compatible" now. Practically all of the patrons are now hooking up their laptops or sipping coffee while feverishly sending and receiving text messages on their cell phones or Blackberrys. Women are chatting on cell phones and teenagers are listening to iPods. (Amazing how fast CD's have become almost obsolete isn't it?). There's also a satellite radio station that plays a cross section of Neo Soul and Hip Hop over the speakers (which I find is much better than the dry classical music they used to play).

The last time I was at my coffee shop, my friend had his laptop hooked up and was checking out the sports scores from the night before. Me, I was still fumbling through the sports section of the local newspaper.

I look on all this with bemused amazement. I believe there is at least one laptop in my house and I may be taking that with me the next time I visit my favorite coffee shop and write this post from there. I'll be feverishly taking cell phone and text messages that day too. I do have an MP3 player with Jay Z's Black Album downloaded on it but, I haven't used it in a year (I gotta get reacquainted with it). Is there an I-Pod in my future? Sooner or later, I'm sure it will be.

I'm also amazed at how Blackberry's, cell phones, and iPods have become almost part of the modern wardrobe. Tell me, when is the last time you saw anybody in public without some type of electronic device attached to them? How many of you have ever walked out of your house without at least your cell phone? You felt kind of naked, didn't you? It was as though you left home without your pants on, wasn't it? (And, believe it or not, I have done both in my lifetime!)

These are really signs of our times... we have become "electronic". It's cool... I've just got to get on board. I will say that a laptop and a Blackberry takes up a lot less space than all my magazines and newspapers. Maybe then, I would have enough room to order another coffee and actually eat something!

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Teddy Bears & Barbie Dolls (Part II)

In order to understand why more boys aren't finishing high school and entering into institutions of higher learning, let's go back to the days of Teddy Bears and Barbie Dolls...

When a little boy and a little girl begin school they are pretty much equal. Both are excited about learning and both are eager to go to school. Flash forward six years and look at that same boy and same girl and there have been some notable changes. While that girl may still be doing her work and engaged in the learning process, that same boy is now totally turned off by school. Usually, by the ninth grade, he hates school and somewhere in between 10th & 11th grade, he no longer sees the need to go anymore and in a lot of cases, he begins cutting school. Okay, you may ask me why has there been such a drastic change in the boy? Glad you asked... here is my theory.

In most public school, the teachers are largely female (I know I'm going to get in trouble here). A lot of these female teachers really don't understand males and how male children by their very natures are different. Boys like to fidget... boys like to do things with their hands... boys are very physical and like to wrestle and "roughhouse." This is just who and what boys are. Boys develop their communication skills a little later than little girls do. You can get little girls to focus and cooperate a little easier than you can little boys. It doesn't make boys bad, just different.

Now, imagine this little boy being made to sit in the corner, getting detentions, and being told that he is "bad" all those years. By the sixth grade, school has now become a place of humiliation and imprisonment for him. More male teachers and the involvement of more black fathers in their sons' education would go a long way in ending this cycle.

I am by no means berating female teachers. I just feel as though little boys need a male teacher and male guideance counselors (who understand them) to help them along in school. A father at home and supporting the mother, has a lot to do with the rate of both males and females finishing high school and going on to college.

I know that my theory is outlandish but, it's just a theory. I was that little boy who couldn't sit still... I was that little boy who had to stand in the corner and was told that he was "bad"... and I was that little boy who was totally turned off with school by ninth grade. But, I also knew that my father and mother would put a foot up (you fill in the blank) if I didn't get it together. So, leaving school and not graduating was never an option.

To boost my argument, San Quentin Prison has teachers from UCLA and the University of California at Berkley teaching college level courses to inmates. The instructors have said that the inmates are more motivated and engaged in education than many of their co-eds in the free world. When one inmate was asked why he was so motivated to get an education now, when he could have done this before he got locked up, he replied by saying, "I always felt humiliated in school, like I would be laughed at if I didn't know something. Here (prison), I'm with other guys who are just like me... I mean we are all in the same boat so, I tend to do better." He made my argument. Prison is no place to get a college education.

Go back to the days of Teddy Bears and Barbie Dolls and save the children.

Teddy Bears & Barbie Dolls (Part I)

It's June and in addition to being a month known for weddings and Father's Day, it is also a month known for graduations. I work at a major university (which I won't name) but, if you know the city I live in, you can use the process of elimination and pretty much figure it out. Anyway, I go to the university's graduations occassionally and I make note of the racial make up of the graduates. The great majority of the graduates are, of course, white. Asians make up the next great majority with Hispanics and African-Americans bringing up the rear. Of the African-Americans, it dismays me that females almost always make up the majority of the graduates. In fact, they usually outnumber the males three to one.

When I attended college in the late 1970's-early 80's, it was like four to one. (Of course, me and my partners loved those kinds of odds back then but, that's another post for another time.) There is a high school directly across the street from where I work and it's population is 99% African-American. I look at the graduation class and I can realistically say that maybe 3- 5% of it's graduates will actually be eligible (by GPA) to attend this university and of that 3-5%, only half of those kids' parents will actually be able to afford to send their kids to this university.The rest will almost certainly need aid of some sort.

I attended a state university, which was supposed to be affordable and my parents still didn't have enough money to pay for me straight up. I had one scholarship and had to pay for the rest with student loans. I was 31 by the time I finally paid my student loan off. (I finished college at the age of 23 so, it took me eight years to pay off an "affordable school.") If I had attended this university, chances are, I would still be paying my student loans... which is okay because you can't put a price on the value of an education. For those of you out there who are still in school, working to support yourself, and paying off your student loan(s), I applaud you...I feel you...I've been there.

This brings me to my real point. Where are the young men? A lot of our young men aren't even finishing high school and this will most certainly lead them to attending another institution... a correctional institution. I have a theory about what happens to young black men and young men in general during the school years. I will delve deeper into this in my next post.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Role Models & Autographs

Here is another story from my past (I swear, I'm already working on my autobiography)... but, I'm writing this for a reason that has to do with now.

When I was 15, I was with a friend of mine and his dad... we were avid sports fans and we happened to run into a so called "Living Legend", at least as far as Philadelphia sports is concerned. I will not reveal his name because he is still alive and beloved here in this city. Besides, no one would believe me anyway if I did reveal his identity. My friend's dad went up to this guy and said, "I can't believe it's you. I named my son after you. Can we have your autograph?" The "Living Legend" said, "Man look, do you know how many guys have or will name their sons after me. Go away from me. I'm drunk. Can't you see I've been drinking. Get the hell away from me."

My friend's dad was visibly embarrassed. He looked at us and managed a weak smile but, he clearly felt like crap. Me and my boy were stunned. We watched this guy on television, followed his career, tried to walk and talk like him, and here he dismissed the three of us like we were nothing. On top of that, he was plastered. I never forgot it and it probably hardened my heart. I vowed never to ask another "famous" person for their autograph or anything.

Flash forward to 1983... I'm 25 years old and the 76ers have just won the NBA championship. The entire city is in a state of euphoria. I happened to be walking through this particular restaurant... a place that the city's athletes and movers 'n' shakers are known to frequent. I see a certain member of the Philadelphia 76ers who made it all happen. Once again, I won't reveal this person's name but, I will say this... he is sitting with another basketball player from the Houston Rockets who will himself win an NBA title a few years down the road. I forgot about what happened to my friend and his dad just 10 years before. I ran up to this guy and gushed like a school girl, telling him how great I thought he was and asking for his autograph. He told me, rather tersely, "Son, I don't do the autograph thang." I looked at him and didn't crack a smile. I simply said, "Cool" and walked away. That was in 1983... I have not asked another celebrity for anything since.
I have been in airports around the world and have personally seen the following celebrities: Charles Barkley, Allen Iverson, (both are really nice guys in person), Left Eye of TLC, (right before she died) Keith Sweat, Halle Berry, Terrence Howard, Jay-Z, Bill Clinton, The Roots, and John Legend. I have never asked any of them for their autographs. I've never approached them. I've merely acknowledged them from a distance.

I figure, I make my money (far less, of course) just like they make theirs. Anyway, what are you going to do with it once you have it? It's a name scribbled on a piece of paper. A great conversation piece, provided the person you are talking to believes you in the first place. Half the time, the writing is so illegible that you can't verify that it's the person you say it is anyway.

I don't stress myself out over celebrities anymore. I admit that I follow their careers, I keep stats on them if they are athletes, etc. but, I have never based how I live, how I carry myself as a man, and what I believe on somebody playing a kids game, running up and down the floor in short pants. I have never based my actions on someone who can sing well or play an instrument that I more than likely will never meet. My role models were my parents, grandparents, uncles, aunts, and maybe one or two teachers I had along the way. I could touch them, talk to them, and watch them up close.

So, you see, it is not the responsibility of an athlete, rapper, musician, actor or politician to provide a role model for children. Parents, teachers, preachers, and we... the individuals who finish school, go on to college, join the military, and work 9-5 jobs... will engage these kids and to show them how to be young men and young women. Charles Barkley said as much and he was right.

The only reason that the kids aren't listening to the everyday people in their lives and are learning from the rappers and actors per se is because somewhere along the line, we stopped engaging them. We became afraid of them. We stopped mentoring them because we were so busy on our own grind trying to make it. I fear we may have lost an entire generation because of it and have left them to be mentored by "celebrities." Let's try not to lose another generation.

(A heart-filled thank you to the "drunken but, beloved black athlete". You set me on the right path. Please have a drink on me and wherever you are today, I'm sure that's exactly what you're doing. This Bud's for you!)

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Whew...What A Weekend This Has Been!

Tim Russert died... an unfortunate occurrence for him. He loved reporting on politics and this year had all of the drama and excitement one could look for. I feel bad for him that he won't be around to see it unfold.

R. Kelly got off (no pun intended) scott free. Should everybody lock up their teenage daughters now? Just kidding. I really love the man's music but, let's be serious. I saw the tape (in two different barber shops) and that is definitely him on that tape. If I wasn't 100% sure of that, I wouldn't write it.

The Lakers are just minutes away from making a last stand against the Boston Celtics. (This could be the night OG!)

I haven't checked yet, but I'm sure people have been killed somewhere in Philadelphia this weekend. Death doesn't take too many holidays. I heard that the highways were crowded this weekend so, I'm guessing that the hoodlums couldn't get away this time!

My Father's Day

I was treated to brunch and a movie (The Incredible Hulk) by my wife, daughter, and grandson. My daughter took these photos.

All About Father's Day

Who came up with the idea of Father's Day?

Her name was Sonora Louise Smart Dodd and she lived in Spokane, Washington. Sonora was the oldest of six children raised by their father, William Jackson Smart, when their mother died during childbirth. Sonora honored and revered her father, and while listening to a Mother's Day sermon in 1909, she determined there should also be a day to honor fathers.

Sonora gained local support and made her dream a reality one year later within her own city of Spokane, Washington. Sonora married John Bruce Dodd. She died March 22, 1978, several years after Father's Day became a permanent national observance.

Why June?

In 1910 Sonora chose June 19th as the day to celebrate Father's Day because that was her father's birthday. With support from the Spokane Ministerial Association and the YMCA, the first Father's Day was celebrated in Spokane on June 19, 1910.

When did the United States begin celebrating Father's Day?

1910 Spokane, Washington celebrates Father's Day.
1924 President Calvin Coolidge proclaimed the third Sunday in June as Father's Day.
1926 The formation of National Father's Day Committee in New York City.
1956 Father's Day was recognized by Joint Resolution of Congress.
1966 President Lyndon B. Johnson signed a presidential proclamation declaring that the third Sunday of June as Father's Day.
1972 President Richard Nixon established a permanent national observance of Father's Day to be held on the third Sunday in June.

Do other countries celebrate Father's Day?

Father's Day is celebrated in every part of the world. In the United States, Canada and most countries in Asia, Father's Day is celebrated on the third Sunday in June.

Happy Father's Day!

Friday, June 13, 2008

Well, It's About Time

Today, Ron Paul (Republican) and Mike Gravel (Democrat) both decided to end their campaigns for the presidential nomination of their respective parties. After losing in every primary and not picking up a single delegate, it was inevitable that this would happen. So, It looks like John McCain and Barack Obama will be the nominees of their respective parties.

Remember, you read it here first!

The Unthinkable!

I'm doing the unthinkable. I'm actually rooting for the Boston Celtics to win this year's NBA Championship. You have to understand, I'm a Philly guy and the 76ers and Boston Celtics have had a rivalry that goes back to the 1960's. In the 80's, every guy I knew who laced up a sneaker, rooted for every team but the Celtics... (Sixers, Lakers, Bulls, Pistons, Rockets. etc.). Well, that was then and this is now.

One of my favorite players, Kevin Garnett, is a Celtic now. I've followed his career since the day he was drafted. In Minnesota, he never got past the first round. This is the deepest he's been in the playoffs in his career. I'd love to see him get a ring. Ditto for Glen "Doc" Rivers, the coach. I followed him too, from his college days at Marquette to his days of backing up the "Human Highlight", Dominique Wilkins on the Atlanta Hawks, and his first coaching stint at Orlando. I'd love to see "Doc" coach his team to the championship.

In the 80's (except for 1983 when my Sixers beat them in four), I was a fan of "Magic" Johnson's show time Lakers. I loved James Worthy, Kareem Abdul Jabar, Mike Cooper, and Byron Scott. If you fast forward to now, this ain't those Celtics and this certainly ain't those Lakers. So, here I am doing the unthinkable... rooting for the Boston Celtics. Say it ain't so. I like quality and this Boston Celtics has that kind of team. Until the 76ers become a contender again (and that might be sooner than anyone thinks), I will be a Boston Celtics fan.

As for the Lakers, I didn't dig 'em early in the decade when Shaq was there either because they seemed like the bullies of the NBA. They were just that good... seemingly invincible... with Kobe at the helm. They're not bullies but, seem to have that arrogant swagger of entitlement. The Boston Celtics of this year just seem like another hungry team that wants a championship (even though they have about 16 now, don't they?)

I can't believe I'm writing all of this... Unbelievable!

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Thank You For Your Patience

This is just a note to say, the source of the pop-up ads that have been "attacking" my blog for the past few months has finally been discovered and eliminated.

I apologize for any inconvenience it may have caused to anyone and, in particular, for the adult content (OMG!) that may have offended some of you. Please know that was not my intention.

Hey Zack, surf's up (smile)!


Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Love 4 Wifey

In all the drama of the past week, both in my personal life and in the nation in general, I nearly forgot that last Tuesday, June 3rd marked another personal milestone for me. I've been married for 19 years. I've known my spouse for twenty-something years (but, who's counting) and all of them were good. Not easy but, still good. They were growing years... we raised a daughter together, purchased a home together, and we are now watching our grandchild grow-up and develop together. The operative word here is "together".

Last night, I thought about how nice it is to just have someone to enjoy a nice, peaceful, and uninterrupted sleep with... that is definitely not something I would've considered during the 80's when I was out there trying to get my swerve on. But, by 1989 I was 31 years old and ready to "settle down"... although, not that much. It's funny what becomes important by the time you mature.

All of that to say, this is a toast to a wonderful woman, my wife Rosalyn. If not for her, I wouldn't know what a blog is and what you see here would be spelled wrong and devoid of all the nice graphics and photos. So, to my partner in crime and everything else, this is my way of saying I love you and thank you for everything.

19 years and counting... and, they said we'd never last. Guess we showed 'em, huh?

Black love is truly black wealth!

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Too Black?

Little Barack and his parents

If I were running for President of the United States right now, would I be electible? If what I think I heard on CNN is true, the answer would be "NO". You see, both of my parents were African-American and I'm considered a little "rough around the edges" for some whites (though, not all... some of my best friends are white).

Three pundits, two black and one white, were saying that Barack Obama's multi-racial heritage is what was "getting him over" with a lot of white voters. They said that, while whites realize that he is black, he's not THAT black. I was about to go to sleep but, when I heard this, I perked up. I couldn't believe what I was hearing. It was a black pundit who said this, not the token white pundit.

Barack and his paternal grandmother

The other brother (and I'm giving him the benefit of the doubt here) said, what Barack and Dr. King had in common was that they were not perceived as "angry blacks" and that white people felt safer around them. Apparently, neither one of these guys were alive when Dr. King was living. Dr. King was perceived as a "trouble-maker" amongst the very whites they were talking about... those without a high school education, who more than likely voted for Hillary Clinton and now might vote for John McCain. (In 1968, they would've voted for Richard Nixon or George Wallace.)

It's history stupid... history. The white pundit said, the problem other white voters had with Obama is that he is "cocky" and wasn't waiting "his turn". His Turn? What is that supposed to mean? Whether one likes Obama or not isn't what I'm talking about here. Why is it that a black man has to wait "his turn"? Does anyone ever ask any of the other candidates to "wait their turn?" and when is this turn supposed to come around anyway?

Barack and his maternal grandparents

I swear, I thought I was watching Fox News for a minute. Does anyone ever accuse any of the other candidates of being too Catholic, too Jewish, too Presbyterian, or too Gay? So, why does a candidate who is of color only become acceptable to the larger population only when he is of mixed racial heritage?

I'll stop my ranting here because these were only the opinions of these three men. It doesn't necessarily have to be the viewpoint of all those people who vote. I just thought what they were saying was way off base. I halfway expected one of them to say, "Boy, that Obama sho is a credit to his race. Yass-suh, he sho is."

Monday, June 9, 2008

Since I've Been Gone

Well, it's good to be back amongst the living again. I was gone for a little while. While I was away...

Obama finally won the nomination. Hillary Clinton didn't exactly concede... she uh, suspended her campaign. (Does this mean that she'll resume running should Barack Obama, trip and stumble into traffic?)

The Boston Celtics took a 2-0 lead over the Los Angeles Lakers in the NBA Finals.

Those lovely folks over at the "fair and balanced" news for the Fourth Reich (aka Fox News) have found a new (made up) controversy...the missing Michelle Obama tape.

In one afternoon, Lou Dobbs praised Obama (for taking on his challenge to get rid of lobbyists and influence peddlers in government) and buried him (Calling him a liar for implying that he and Rush Limbaugh actually agree on something?) are fanning the xenophobic flames of anti-immigrant sentiments.

Oh yeah, and gas finally spiked to $ 4.00+/gallon!

As you can see, I'm having fun with the latest news stories. I'm sure I'll have plenty more to get off my chest in the coming days. A-h-h, the world just keeps on becoming less of a fun place, doesn't it?

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Fortunate Son

On May 30, 2008, my mother departed this life. For the past few days, I have been busy taking care of funeral arrangements, hosting relatives and friends of the family, as well as trying to honor my mother’s final wishes to the best of my ability. I haven't had time to really grieve, nor have I started to miss her the way I know that I eventually will.

If I can reflect on one or two things, I can say that she spent her life teaching me how to live in the world and how to be a man... but, her final lesson to me was how to die. My mother survived breast cancer a few years ago. Last year, she developed colon cancer. After two operations and much chemo, it looked as though she might just pull through. After yet another operation in early May, she sat us all down and told us the grim news... they had found more cancer and that it was "inoperable."

Unknown to any of us at the time, she signed herself out of the hospital and went home. She began an all natural health food diet and she was up and about... walking and joking with everyone as though everything was going to be alright. She never allowed me or anyone else around her to be sad and she always made sure that all of her visitors were comfortable and laughing. She kept saying,"I'm not going nowhere... I haven't packed yet."

I never saw any fear, denial, or self pity. She left here as she lived... fiesty, on her own terms, and with great courage. For that, I am fortunate. What a great example of how to live and how to die.

She passed away in her sleep early last Friday morning. I am just too proud of her life to shed any tears right now and although it may not be popular or masculine for some, I will say that I loved her and felt very fortunate and honored to be her son.


"Mommy, can I go to Timmy's blog and play?"

Click on image to enlarge for reading

Click on image to enlarge for reading

Click on image to enlarge for reading