Tuesday, October 16, 2012

NEEDY FAMILIES GET HELP FROM RITE-AID, HUMAN SERVICE AGENCIES


Representatives from Rite-Aid Corporation and social service agency representatives in Detroit held a press conference Tuesday announcing a resource program targeting low-income families in the city of Detroit. The event was held at Matrix Human Services Mt. Zion Service Center on Detroit's east side. Two women who are clients of the Detroit Healthy Start program were on hand for the conference. They and other client families enrolled in the program will be receiving infant-care supplies and other child-health resources, as donated by the Rite Aid Corporation. Among the items donated by Rite Aid included over 100 "gift" bags (including diapers, baby shampoo, and other health and hygiene items) as well as several baby cribs. Members of the Detroit Healthy Start program and the nonprofit Institute for Population Health were on hand for the event. Comments were made by representatives of all the principal organizations involved.


Sunday, September 30, 2012

RESEARCH SURVEY This is a free survey about students and video game playing. This is an anonymous survey, no money or commitments involved. If you can fill this out that would be a great help in my research. Please click below to continue: Click here to take survey

Friday, July 20, 2012

GUNMAN RAMPAGE AT BATMAN MOVIE PREMIERE

"Battle not with monsters, lest ye become a monster."--  Friedrich Nietzsche

At least 12 people are dead and dozens are wounded in the aftermath of a one-man shooting rampage in the city of Aurora, Colorado.  According to a police officer on the scene, James Holmes, 24, identified himself as "the Joker" when confronted by authorities after Holmes entered a packed movie theater showing the Batman movie The Dark Knight Rises and started shooting at the audience. http://tinyurl.com/733xbsd  Subsequently, Holmes reportedly surrendered to police without a fight, and is currently in custody.  Despite his declaration of affiliation with the iconic Batman arch-villain, Holmes had entered the theater in costuming more closely resembling the current antagonist in the Rises film, the terrorist leader Bane.

In recent months, Holmes was a graduate student studying medicine at a local Colorado university.  In keeping with "super villain" modus operandi, reportedly, Holmes has boobytrapped his apartment with elaborate riggings, and authorities are incrementally attempting to enter his now-empty residence.  Taking into account this tacit connection to "fanboy" culture, I can see the future of conventions being almost irrevocably altered. Up until now, people would have elaborate costuming, brandishing fake weapons-- people would pretend to be shot, stabbed or mock-faint,  and nobody thinks anything of it. But now...

Locally, a Michigan theater chain has now banned masks and costumes-- http://tinyurl.com/7rawxsp

I won't be seeing the movie this weekend.  I'm not sure when i'll be back in any theaters at all.  In full disclosure, for the past 3 - 4 months, whenever I'd head into a multiplex to see something, usually sitting somewhere in the middle area, I would have negative fleeting thoughts, in many respects based out of awareness of the local violent crimes here in Detroit:  "what if somebody came in here and started something... should I sit near the exit.. or is that a too-convenient target" (I remember a couple years ago walking out of a theater when some knuckleheads claiming gang ties started arguing in the seats right in front of me, right before the movie started. I have no idea what, if anything, transpired next...)

On these recent movie excursions, my head would dart around.  Nothing unusual.  Wait... Some guy's ducking down and is really intently fiddling with his cell phone.. he gets up and.. he leaves.  I'm not sure whether he comes back. Meanwhile, I'd change to an aisle seat and allow myself to relax. "Okay, Hype, you're just being paranoid..."

But now... I just don’t know.  In the past 24 hours, a maniac with a Bane outfit and weapons purchased over-the-counter really does do that thing that Mama Hype has “warned” me about for years about being ‘caught up’ in with people who are all-the-way too-deep into the sci-fi/comics/fantasy/dungeons-n-dragons world (not that the suspect’s hobbies have been firmly established, but anyway... ) Relating to personal career issues, in the past six months I’ve already sold about 80% of my comics and haven’t been to a comics store at all in that time. 

I just can’t compartmentalize like some folks can when it comes to events like this (go see the movie! Go shop!  Otherwise the bad guys win!) Pop culture and a horrific crime have been inexplicably, perhaps irrevocably, combined, likely with lasting cultural consequences.  This is going to stick with me for a long while.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

BLOOD AND LORE:  CABIN IN THE WOODS REVIEW


“…nobody wants to see vampire killers… or vampires… Apparently all they want to see are demented madmen running around in ski-masks, hacking up young virgins.”


Peter Vincent (Roddy MacDowall), Fright Night (1985)

If someone unexposed to horror films from the past 35 years or so were to watch a marathon of several of these films back to back (and let’s say none of them were sequels), how many would it take before he or she began to predict what’s going to happen next? For an American film audience culture that has by now endured the irony-heavy Scream franchise and the gloomily unironic spate of “torture porn” from auteurs like Eli Roth and others, can there truly be any genuine shocks in horror anymore? Cabin in the Woods film attempts to answer that question with a wink and a nod.

The new film features five college-aged protagonists, each fitting a certain stock cliché to be found in assorted horror films: the jock/de facto leader (Chris Hemsworth ), the dumb blonde (Anna Hutchison), the nerd/token minority (Jesse Williams), the druggie (Fran Kranz) and the nice girl (Kristin Connolly.) The (slight) twist is, not all of the characters inhabit these roles from the get-go, but are manipulated into them.

A creepy gas station attendant (is there any other kind?) gives an oblique warning (to the students and the audience) as the quintet heads up to the titular cabin for a weekend of unsupervised fun. Before the film is over, threads from Deliverance, Friday the 13th, Ju-On/The Grudge and more are touched on in various depths. The Saw films, which are already on their seventh (or is that VIIth?) installment, are also clipped for some thematic DNA.

The film was co-written by Joss Whedon (Marvel’s The Avengers) and directed by Drew Goddard—the latter of whom wrote and/or directed several episodes of Whedon’s Buffy and Angel TV series as well as the conspiracy-heavy TV drama Lost. Both collaborators bring a satirical sensibility to this horror entry. Cabin reveals its core conceit in its opening scenes (though less-knowing viewers may be hard-pressed to connect the dots early on), and so perhaps the film has less bite (pun intended) than it would have were it to wait until later. Still, the twists, when they happen, are more intriguing than draining, especially by the climax, which manages to be nihilistic and liberating at the same time.

Cabin functions as a witty indictment and apology of sorts for the clichés of contemporary horror cinema and the slasher subgenre in particular. Depending on how cynical the viewer is, the only way to really ruin this experience—would be to have a sequel.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

GWYN AND BEAR IT


This author is a week or so behind in tackling this particular hip-hop related scandal, but unlike the average shelf-life of a Twitter post, it still bears further discussion.  Indeed, Twitter is at the center of this particular celebrity faux-pas.

It seems that Gwyneth Paltrow-- A-list movie actress, wife of Coldplay bandleader Chris Martin, and mother to quaintly-named children Apple and Moses, found herself in a foot-in-mouth social networking fuss when she typed a tweet "Niggas in Paris for real" while at a Jay-Z/Kanye West concert (Paltrow and her husband are apparently godparents to Jay-Z and Beyonce's baby Blue Ivy.)  http://tinyurl.com/7tg2txr For the uninitiated, "Ni**as in Paris" is a Jay/Kanye song, though on radio and in the music-video it is officially referred to simply as "Paris"-- go figure, right?



In interviews, such as with Tanning of America author/hip-hop manager Steve Stoute, Paltrow is upfront about having been a rap music fan while growing up, even name-checking the likes of N.W.A.  When Paltrow's tweet went viral, any number of celebrity culture blogs and even mainstream news-talk programs brought it up.  Meanwhile, an assortment of hip-hop culture personalities like Nas, Ice-T, Russell Simmons and The Dream have come to her defense.  More often than not, Paltrow's buddy-credibility with rappers has been mentioned and the relatively innocuous context of N-word being said among knowledgable friends, particularly when spelled with an 'a' rather than 'er'.

This author is not so cynical as to equate Ms. Paltrow with the Ku Klux Klan for her tweet. However, what hasn't been discussed (the surface was scraped with Russell Simmons' response) is how people are going to be more nuanced in facilitating cross-cultural communication in this post-post-hip-hop America (and the world.)

For the better part of three decades people across national/ethnic lines have been assimilating hip-hop's music, street slang, dance moves, graphic designs and politics.. but for those younger folks (and those now grown) who were already of a background that could be largely considered "establishment"/middle-America, do they simply have "empathy" for the "ghetto/minority experience", or are they willing to make personal choices that, at least in some small individual way, counteract the cultural/political traditions that led to "the 'hood experience" to begin with? Can you be 'hip-hop down' but hate the idea of visiting downtown Detroit (or a neighorhood non-profit) for a day? Does loving Jay & Kanye's lavish-life themes on the Watch the Throne album mean you endorse the idea of expanding the social safety net, or are you more of a free-market/tax-free absolutist like Mitt Romney and his Bain Capital peeps, since, clearly, those guys are "making that cheddar"?

Let's face it, for a lot of folks who grew up in the 'hood, there's always been a certain counter-cultural novelty context to seeing whitebread Caucasians (and other ethnics, including outer-suburban reared blacks) speaking urban slang, however awkwardly or adeptly. Often times this is met with laughter, or for those who've been granted a 'pass', "yo, you my boy/girl" accolades [and for however long the fellowship lasts, at the concert, club, party, etc., there's an unstated solidarity along the lines of "we're all some n_____ up in here!"]

But when the lights come on and people go back to their daily lives...

Is Gwyneth going to get passed over by taxis now, in NY or Paris? Is she likely to face being detained by police for extended periods without explanation?  Would the Louis Vuitton store clerks usher her out if she says "she just wants to browse"?  Ummm.... I don't care how many celebrity rap/R&B folks are friends with or being godparents to their kids, I don't want to see Paltrow or Chris Martin-types walking up to me (or near me) at a restaurant and popping off with the n-bombs like it’s just another accepted insult-turned-term of endearment (e.g., d*ck, b*tch, d*uche, a**hole, etc.)

For countless groupings of people, “my n***as” is an accepted private joke. But a private joke, by definition, means that not everyone is in on the gag. Sometimes for good reason.  Not every person, even when they intellectually understand the cultural nuances of how an historical slur-word/phrase has evolved, and how often it may have been used in their own families and neighborhoods, is on board with said word/phrase becoming the equivalent of a marketing brand.  No, symbolic burials won't make it go away (sorry, NAACP) but pretending that taste in music or fashion automatically equates with facilitating social justice is just as naive.

The rappers and others who dismiss ‘Gwyneth-gate’ as meaning nothing are either clueless or just aren’t being fully honest about addressing the broader issues at work here.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

UNIVERSITY PROPOSES GREEN ACRES IN DETROIT


In a recent Detroit News article, representatives from Michigan State University have made a formal proposal to Detroit city officials regarding an urban agriculture research project. As conceived, the project would take over blighted, vacant land in the city and convert it into farmland. Among the objectives of the initiative are to explore the prospects of contemporary urban cities growing their own fresh food supplies, seeking to meet the needs of indigenous populations who have challenges in accessing healthy food. More here:



City leadership and some local activists have long been rigidly skeptical about urban farming. Among the concerns are prospects for locals to be hired for any jobs developed. Still yet, there are cultural and political challenges, as a segment of vocal Detroiters tend to openly equate any sort of urban-directed agriculture developments with sharecropping and slavery. To this author, such notions are baseless and reactionary.


A wealth of green-industry jobs can be initiated in the city of Detroit. Detroit can be a much ‘greener’ city than it is now. Creating new uses for land in the city is an absolute must. A recent Detroit News article identified agriculture as experiencing slight growth in the state of Michigan, despite the ongoing challenges of recession and unemployment. There are those who feel that an urban environment and farming can’t coexist. I disagree vehemently. I feel that there should be a City Department of Agriculture Development that encourages both large-scale commercial farming as well as smaller neighborhood-based farming communes. Schools in the city can also participate- especially with partnerships with state colleges and universities, they can have dedicated plots of land, where students can work on them for credit, especially during the spring and summer. Detroit schools can emphasize earth-science curriculums, leading to career fields as forestry, agriculture, urban planning, botany, new energy, and more. Age-appropriate green-industry jobs training for high school students, college students and non-student adults can be a long-term boost to the local economy.

Monday, April 09, 2012

DETROIT NEEDS TO LOOK TO THE PAST TO SEE ITS FUTURE


There has been a lot of well-meaning but empty rhetoric about “job creation” in the city and state. When people speak of “jobs” in Detroit, I think it has to be parsed out exactly what type of jobs jobseekers are looking for, and from there just what type of jobs are jobseekers qualified for?

The parts of Detroit’s economy which are not working mostly involve manufacturing. This cannot be over-stressed. Historically, Detroit has placed an inordinate amount of resources into assuming that the heavy-industrial manufacturing industry would be here forever. There was a time in which various factory and heavy-industry-related jobs were plentiful for local residents, whether they were simply a high school graduate, or even a dropout. At the risk of understatement, that era is over. From the 1960s forward, there has been both drastic and gradual disinvestment, by both larger corporations and smaller businesses, which has economically crippled the city of Detroit and made the metropolitan area much less prosperous than in the past.

Manufacturing as an industry farmed jobs out to foreign countries while downsizing dramatically within our borders. Today, even entry-level jobs at various companies require some form of formal skills training, such as a degree or certificate. This prevents a high percentage of Detroit residents from even being considered for various jobs. Thus, even so-called blue-collar jobs—which have come to define much of the city’s cultural identity—are not a sure thing for anyone unskilled seeking employment.

In light of recent developments with the consent agreement between the City of Detroit and state government, there needs to be a state/city partnership on job creation. All the principals involved in managing Detroit city government need to start thinking outside of the box. If urban Detroit’s real unemployment lies between the state’s official rate of roughly 18% and the higher unofficial estimate of nearly 50%, then unemployment for Detroiters is an emergency that needs to be directly addressed. If cash help to the city coffers from Lansing is out of the question, then a pragmatic alternative would be to start a sweeping program to address unemployment in the city.

Specifically, I submit that Governor Rick Snyder and the Michigan state legislature need to create a Michigan version of the Civilian Conservation Corps and/or the Public Works Administration, both of which were federal initiatives that took place during the Franklin Roosevelt presidential administration. These modern-day CCC and PWA programs would directly target currently unemployed and underemployed Detroiters, and put them to work tackling large-scale infrastructure and land-management projects.
Such projects should include, but not be limited to:

Blight removal: Detroit has a notoriously visible problem with blighted structures: houses, apartment buildings, storefronts, warehouses, abandoned factories and other commercial structures. These abandoned structures are not only eyesores, but they are hotspots for criminal activity and dangerous for passers-by with respect to loose debris. It is difficult to get a handle on exactly what type of new developments are possible when there is so much blight that could be removed and this could give city planners a better idea on what type of commercial or residential developments could be beneficial to a given area.

Recycling- A city-wide curbside recycling needs to be instituted, expanding the recent pilot program for certain neighborhoods. Recycling efforts can also incorporate organic materials recycling, especially that which comes from abandoned lots.

Landscaping- Much of Detroit’s landspace has recklessly been reclaimed by nature, and the trend continues. Illegal dumping and general inattention by landowners has made many neighborhoods look grossly inhospitable. Further, abandoned former industrial sites throughout the city have left contaminated land that needs to be redeveloped for future use. Brownfield redevelopment could be a key element to Detroit’s long-term revival.

Local electrical grid and lighting: There is no excuse for a modern city like Detroit to have the problems it has with public lighting. A full revamp of Detroit’s electrical grid and lighting system needs to take place.

Local water/sewerage system: Similarly, Detroit’s water system is in dire need of comprehensive repair. This is an initiative that could put many Detroiters to work and will help in making the city more green-friendly.

As far as partners in this effort, Michigan’s corporate and philanthropic communities should be recruited for co-underwriting and other resources. Detroit’s many skilled-trade unions should be partnering in this initiative, training people in their respective disciplines, grooming them for future employment even after certain projects reach their climax.

I am not someone who feels that government “cannot” create jobs. By default, any paid public official who promotes this notion is being intellectually dishonest. Large-scale government-initiated job creation has been done in the past, and it can happen again. If the re-visioning of Detroit is going to work, it has to incorporate a means of addressing core infrastructure issues for the long-term and not just budget-cutting to save money for the fiscal year. I want Detroit to work as a city, and I want Detroiters to feel as if they have a direct hand in remaking the city into what it could be.

Saturday, April 07, 2012

DODGING THE DRAFT


A writer for TheRoot.com offers the opinion that recent talks in NBA management are looking at the possibility of requiring college players to stay at the amateur level until 20 years old: http://www.theroot.com/buzz/nba-draft-age-limit-high-enough-already


This is ridiculous. The writer, Deron Snyder, skirts dangerously close to making a "college is annoying, so why bother?" argument. Long-term NBA "stardom" isn't remotely guaranteed for anyone. The writer seems to still be fascinated with the narrative of working class black American boys becoming millionaires before the age of 21 based on their ability to drive the lane, and how restrictions on joining the draft straight out of high school amount to "player hating" or even racial bias.


Has the writer produced any stats on people who have finished at least an undergraduate degree since leaving college early to join the draft? The American major-league baseball system has had a longstanding intriguing setup, where scouted folks can go to the minor leagues right out of high school or play in college. The minor league system offers a liveable (though not millionaire level) salary, and the players work on fundamentals in smaller-market venues before they can be recruited to a major ballclub.


But in today's "instant gratification" culture, such a system seems quaint-- witness how black Americans have a much lower presence in the major leagues compared to decades ago (you will see a more consistent presence of Afro-Latin players from the Dominican Republic, Venezuela, etc.) Aside from urban-infrastructure issues regarding baseball (availability and quality of local parks, lack of funding for baseball programs at the middle and high school levels) part of this is that contemporary black American youth (and sometimes their parents) don't see baseball as leading to "instant big money" down the line. In contemporary black culture, professional sports club aspirations boil down to football and basketball now. Would it make sense for high school football players to join the NFL draft, and right away start going head-to-head with the bruisers that exist at that level? Whatever the frequently self-serving decisions that have been made over the years by Stern and the NBA team owners, people need to be less concerned about this than about the increasingly marginalized presence of black men in college settings.


Snyder offers that ex-college players can always go back. While technically true that "anybody" can put off going to or finishing college, the reality is that when a person is older and in the "working world", life responsibilities evolve from what they were when you were 18, and scheduling becomes a major issue depending on what your "day job" (or night job) is. Also, no one ever stops to examine just how college-aged men who have shelved their formal education tend to manage their money after becoming wealthy "overnight."


Young black athletes being recruited by colleges need to realize how privileged they are, and how the decisions they make now can affect them for the rest of their lives. There are thousands of black youth who would love to get to go to college for free based on playing a sport they love, but it doesn't happen for the vast majority. "Making it" to the NBA is quite literally like facing the odds of winning the PowerBall lottery. People can invest time and major money into the effort of asserting themselves to make the cut, but it still may not be enough.


Most disturbing in Snyder's article's subtext is the trend of encouraging young athletes to treat college as just as onerous, grudging obligation before segueing into a presumably worry-free existence of championship rings, mansions and endorsements. This is patently reckless and continues the anti-intellectual subculture that is curtailing American leadership in industry and commerce. Particularly for African-American culture, it continues to uplift the stupidity that "instant" wealth (typically, without the budgeting/management skills to maintain it) is always around the corner for those who pursue entertainment and athletics as careers.

Thursday, April 05, 2012

CONSENT DISCONTENT


Regarding the recently accepted consent agreement between the City of Detroit and the State of Michigan, I want results. No more well-meaning but empty rhetoric from any of the principals involved: Mayor Bing, Governor Snyder, or the City Council. I want working streetlights: many neighborhoods have no working streetlights. On major thoroughfares it's bad enough, but in the broader neighborhoods, sometimes streetlights are the only ambient illumination (no businesses keeping lights on after dusk) and when they are gone, entire blocks are shunt into 'complete' darkness.


I want a regular police presence: I mean police cars patrolling the neighborhoods, officers on bicycles, and even beat-walking officers. Currently, people can wait for hours and longer after calling for police help-- and of course, sometimes police don't show up at all.


I want a responsive fire department, ambulances and emergency medical service: seconds literally count in emergency medical circumstances, and the current status-quo of frequently broken-down emergency vehicles and overall diminished number of vehicles is untenable.


I want reliable mass transit: currently, that means bus service, which in the past year has regressed from passable to maddeningly inefficient. Commuters are frequently stranded for hours waiting on an assortment of buses, and even if a bus shows up, it may be so packed that the rider deliberately passes by riders for lack of space. Bus drivers face a hostile, frustrated public, some of whom fall into the maniac category and have taken to physical assaults on drivers and even armed assault on buses.


I want blight removal to be taken seriously. Too many structures throughout the city: houses, apartments, storefronts, factory grounds, warehouses and more, lay empty and devastated. Many exist in half-demolished states that are not only eyesores but dangerous for the unwary passerby. Scrappers and urban-ruins explorers put their lives at risk entering and lurking in these buildings, whether for personal profit or a guerrilla-photography muse.


If city planners want to get a proper assessment on what residential and commercial developments are appropriate for the future, they need to be actively getting rid of blighted buildings. Almost no one wants to move in next door to a house that could double as a haunted house. Almost no one is willing to open a business where the adjacent property resembles a burned-out tomb. Records databases have to be drastically improved to see just who owns these properties to begin with. If absentee owners are heavily fined in the process, so much the better.


I want a non-obstructive, functional city bureaucracy. People shouldn't have to travel downtown to the Coleman A. Young Municipal Building to address every single civic issue. Parking is scarce downtown, and by default costs money that poorer folk and working-class folk have little of to spare. Many people take time off from work or school to address business at the CAY building. Time is precious. Most if not all city-business documents should be made available online, with a functioning, user-friendly website for people to navigate and download what they need. This would enable many forms to be filled out before people arrive in-person at city offices. Forms should be able to be filled out online as well (as well as a component to facilitate online payment.) This would help to streamline city government and reduce all the back-and-forth scenarios that frequently happen when a person is directed from one office to the next, and often with a limited time-window to achieve their goal.


I don't want this to last forever. I want Detroit's fiscal stability restored. Detroit's citizens deserves better. They deserve to not live as second-or-third-class citizens.

Sunday, April 01, 2012

A COLD DRAFT

An article in black culture website TheRoot.com deals with the phenomenon of college basketball athletes leaving school as early as their freshman years to attempt to join the National Basketball Association through the annual draft:

http://www.theroot.com/buzz/freshmen-exodus-nba-only-natural#comments


I'm really not sure about the point of this article. What happened to supporting education for its own sake, and not just as a grudging stepping-stone move to theoretical long-term riches from athletics fame and endorsements? I think it would help if there were some published statistics that explain how many ex-college players ended up getting their undergraduate degree after leaving school to join the NBA or other professional teams. I suspect that it is far from 100%, or even 50%.

Sure enough, higher education can't be "forced" on anybody. But hey, America has become a place that is more invested in people having formal credentials-- and in most areas of "white collar" employment, that means a college degree of some kind. Even much "blue collar" employment nowadays requires some type of formal, vocational certification at the very least, even at the entry-level. America is not a place anymore where people can just have a high school diploma or a GED, and expect to find readily available entry-level jobs for those who are unskilled or semi-skilled.

In the past 10 years, look at the ascent of Jeremy Lin, Yao Ming, Mano Ginobli and other non-African-American players in the NBA. The league, as a corporate entity, is looking to recruit more from global and multicultural communities. Not everybody who jumps ship from college early to join the draft is going to become Kobe or LeBron. Not by a long shot. To "Make it" in the NBA, it's increasingly not good enough to just be a talented black American young man from the hood or suburbs anymore.

And when it comes to the post-athletics career, look at what's available. There are only so many slots to be TV sports commentators. Not every ex-athlete is guaranteed a front-office job, especially without a degree.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

JAY-Z'S EX-BOSS HAS 99 (OR 100) PROBLEMS...

Kareem "Biggs" Burke, a former executive at Roc-A-Fella Recordings, has pled guilty to charges relating to a 2010 arrest in a wide-reaching anti-drug sting (which reportedly netted as many as 50 arrests.) In particular, Burke was charged with possession (with intent to distribute) over 100 kilograms of marijuana. http://tinyurl.com/7brtuhp

With Burke and Damon "Dame" Dash at the helm, Roc-A-Fella Recordings launched the career of Jay-Z and several late-90s/early-00s artists like Memphis Bleek, Beanie Sigel and Kanye West.

Leaving aside what this author feels about legalizing (or at least decriminalizing) much of today's pharmaceutical contraband: This is just so damned stupid and illustrates what is wrong with today's hip-hop and urban culture. Wasn't this guy getting checks on all the Roc-A-Fella albums for years? If he was on tour with Jay-Z, Memphis Bleek and the rest he was probably getting paid as part of the (official/unofficial) entourage, too.

This guy should have made enough money from selling his stake in Roc-A-Fella to live off that, or make legitimate corporate investments. But of course, homeboy goes the dope-smuggling route. Classic black man move. Bravo, Kareem, you just set the race back another few decades. Chances are, thanks in part to you, your criminal defense attorney's kids or grandkids have their college funds and trust funds on lock. What about yours?

Saturday, February 25, 2012

WHAT CAN BROWN DO FOR YOU?


Black culture website The Root has published a blog editorial about the woes of frequently embattled R&B singers Chris Brown and Bobby Brown. Bobby Brown claims that he was pushed away from the funeral of his recently deceased ex-wife, Whitney Houston. Chris Brown has reportedly been recording songs with ex-girlfriend Rihanna, whom he was convicted of battering in 2009. http://tinyurl.com/7n6974a


You know what? Stop it! Neither Bobby Brown nor Chris Brown are revolutionaries! They are not human rights activists! They are not Afrocentric academics! They're not! Just because they can sing and dance does not mean they are particularly wise, ethical or moral. Talent does not indicate that they are open to advancing their knowledge, formally or informally. They are both celebrities who have (especially in the case of Bobby) squandered much of their goodwill with self-indulgent, petulant behavior over the years. Just because they are singers with an "edgy" street-wise quality does not make them into martyrs for black manhood. Chris Brown is not Malcolm X! Bobby Brown is not Fred Hampton! Am I supposed to admire these dolts because "They have swagger"? Really?? I really wish black pundits would present a more balanced portrayal and not just have a bunch of reactionary rhetoric for the mainstream media (who, in keeping with their cultural hegemony, will likely ignore it).


When it comes to the likes of Chris Brown, Bobby Brown, R. Kelly, Michael Vick, T.I., the Game, Kwame Kilpatrick, the list goes on, why do well-compensated black men still seem to be prone to making recklessly ill-informed, self-destructive decisions? And then when the inevitable pushback and criticism comes, we have to circle the wagons and damn near beatify these people? Based on the comments of many of these men, before, during and after their respective crises, they are clearly obsessed with the concept of hordes of anonymous "player haters" having something against them on principle-- supposedly for being black men who are cocky, talented, and with money. Get over yourselves!! All these guys have the millions to pay high-powered lawyers to get them out of the trouble that ordinary black men with little or no affluence would not have access too. What infuriates me is that folks like Grant Hill or Hill Harper have managed to avoid any crazy scandals, and people look at them as "soft". People have NO IDEA who Dr. Neal Degrasse Tyson is.


The Root has recently been including profiles of its Young Futurists of 2012. http://tinyurl.com/6rsrkca In this author's opinion, they will contribute more, pragmatically, to our culture than the celebrity "bad boys". Yes, some of the mainstream press coverage gets batty-- but hey-- on some core level, maybe they have a point. It speaks ill of the intellectual discernment and political capital of black folks when we start going to the wall defending literally every black celebrity who's been struck by megalomania.


Look, I'm not stumping for Armstrong Williams' spot (or Stanley Crouch's, either). I see plenty of imbalance in contemporary American cultural narratives about African-American men. There are plenty of ongoing issues in which with the mainstream press and in pop-culture that deserve vigorous critique. But when it comes to the "ne'er-do-well distant cousins" of our community, I can defend their humanity, but I will not defend their pathology. At all.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

LIN'S SIN IS HIS SKIN

"I'm not playing to prove anything to anybody," Lin said. "That affected my game last year and my joy last year. With all the media attention, all the love from the fans (in the Bay Area), I felt I needed to prove myself. Prove that I'm not a marketing tool, I'm not a ploy to improve attendance. Prove I can play in this league. But I've surrendered that to God. I'm not in a battle with what everybody else thinks anymore,"
Jeremy Lin, San Jose Mercury News, February, 2012.

Boxer Floyd Mayweather, sportwriter Jason Whitlock and others have made some flippant remarks concerning the recent ascent of professional basketball player Jeremy Lin. A guard for the New York Knicks who recently scored 38 points in a game against the Los Angeles Lakers. With those who are starkly critical of the attention being paid to Lin, one of the underlying assumptions here seems to be that only black guys are entitled to play ball. By this same line of reasoning, black people had no reason to be proud of the Williams sisters in their tennis career. Lin's ascension illustrates that as of 2012 maybe it’s not good enough to just be a talented young black man from the ‘hood anymore, especially now that the NBA corporate culture is trying to do more multicultural, global outreach to recruit players. Incidentally, Lin was born and raised in California, so he's no more "foreign" than this author is.

Lin is also a Harvard graduate, with a bachelor’s degree in economics. How many young black men only go to college just as a mandatory stepping stone to going into the NBA, and getting their degree is a secondary, if not tertiary, concern? If the league still allowed for graduating high school seniors to enter the NBA, how many would jump at the chance while saying “(bleep) college”?

Haven’t Asian-American youth been growing up watching college and NBA players over the years, same as the young black, latin and white kids? It stands to reason that some would be interested in sports besides tennis, soccer and golf—and not every Asian kid is into martial arts, either. For whatever its worth, Lin clearly paid his dues, being a non-drafted player who played in the NBA’s minor league squads before being put on by the Knicks.

I really hope that people don’t start reflexively bashing him with a bunch of Asian jokes, or, particularly for some of our “afrocentric” peeps, trying to smear him based on the ongoing problems of confrontations with Asian-owned businesses in black communities. Lin isn’t involved in any of that and doesn’t deserve to be associated with it.



To be clear, I'm not much for all of the "second coming/savior of the league" talk concerning any rookie/semi-rookie, mainly because it's frequently entirely too much pressure to put on these guys. Whether he ends up as a 'premier' player or a role-player has yet to be seen. Hopefully he will be allowed the space to naturally develop as a consistent contributor to his team's W column. Lin has publicly identified as a person of faith, so hopefully it will help him maintain some personal-life equilibrium (it would suck if he were to get gassed and start wilding, and getting in legal trouble like... well, the anecdotes are legion. Google 'athlete arrested'.)


When it comes to the NBA, I'm more concerned with parity in minority ownership and front-office/non-athlete jobs, than whoever is their 'marketing face' to sell season tickets for the fiscal year. But Lin getting some current shine shouldn't be taken as an affront to the skills of the dozens of his contemporaries. That's all..