Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Memoirs of a Mega Church Member

A phenomenon of the 21st Century African American Community is that of the mega-church. According to Wikipedia, a mega church is defined as one that counts 2000 or more during its weekly services. It further describes one-tenth of all mega church congregations as African American.

In our community, the church remains the center of consciousness. It is yet the center of reason in times of crisis. It is the moral foundation for a people who, even in these days of complete freedom, still face the vestiges of discrimination in tandem with the pressures of life. Nonetheless, the black church has come under increased scrutiny and criticism from the black community. Questions of black church relevance dominate radio talk shows. Black oriented television talk shows discuss the direction of the black church. We are seeking to define the role of the church in these days and time. With black on black crime, joblessness, homelessness and other issues impacting the black community, the community is seeking more leadership from the church. And, with the explosive growth and metamorphosis of the church into the mega church, folk are starting to complain that pastors are more concerned with the growth of the church and how much tithes and offering they collect on Sunday as opposed to providing solutions and spiritual comfort/empowerment in the face of these trying times.

I am a member of one of the nation's largest and most respected mega churches. The pastor is a highly respected preacher with high offices within the denomination and responsibilities across the globe. Our church membership is numbered at 25,000 and five years ago, we completed construction on a $65 million cathedral which has completely changed the landscape of the Crenshaw Corridor, the largely African American Community in which the cathedral stands. My work as a broadcaster at the city's premier African American owned and operated radio station affords me the ability to hear and discuss the role of the mega church in our community. The church that I have attended for nearly 20 years is more than often the target of harsh criticism and disdain. My pastor seems to be the symbol to the community of those men of God who teach prosperity ministry and lack genuine caring for the people. Our church building is the symbol for those who say, "See, all they care about is a big church. They should have used the money to feed the homeless". There have been published opinions that say my pastor doesn't care about black people. I have even been with him on the radio when listeners called him a "pimp preacher" taking money from the community to fill his own pockets. I have been on the street engaged in conversation about the state of our people and the community, when out of nowhere the conversation turns to the black church and their lack of caring for the community and of course, my church is the example that one uses when talking about the failure of the church to support the community. And then, there's the argument that since the church is so large, then one cannot get the spiritual strength and food that you can get in a smaller church. Wow.

But the common denominator of this conversation is that inevitably, the person spewing this rhetoric is someone who has never ever set foot inside the church. How could you know what goes on inside the church if you have never attended, let alone participated in it?

Now, I have to admit, I understand what people mean when they question the support of the black church when it comes to the issues of our community. Further, I see how the black church's role has been diluted from the Civil Rights era. I sometimes do not see the black church working with community. I sometimes see the black church as being "so heavenly bound, we' re no earthly good. I see us getting bound by denominational biases and debates - spiritual gangbanging, I call it. I can even see what one means when they feel overlooked because of the sheer size of the ministry.
But even so, I cannot see the criticisms inside of my mega-church. While it's quite large, I see an easy path to making the church smaller for you. I definitely disagree when it comes to criticisms of the pastor.

Honestly, I see a man who has described himself as a "Christian Pan Africanist".. How conscious is that?!!! I see a man who's compassion for black people is reflected everywhere if you look for it. Look at the goals and objectives of the community based programs. Look at the index of sermons, listen to the messages from the pulpit. And I have NEVER seen a white Jesus in that entire church...

I find the pastor to be an extremely wise man, from whom I have learned so much. I mean, even as a grown man, I need a mentor to pattern my business demeanor after and when I look at this man, I see one who sets an example of excellence for me as a man. I see tremendous support of the community - actually ground breaking, historic strategies for church based development and support of the community. In fact, the mission of one of the departments of the church charged with community empowerment is to "seek social and economic justice and alleviate poverty as tangible expressions of the Kingdom of God". I have heard sermons dealing with our trek through the middle passage through slavery to now. I have heard sermons dealing with our responsibility to the community and to our families, and building the strength of the black community through education, preservation of the family and faith. I have seen the money put in the offering tray put to action in the streets.

Although I have never been to the Continent- and unquestionably, I am 100% Black American - I have a natural affection for Africa and I really believe when Pastor says "Africa must be to African Americans what Israel is to the Jews".. I feel the spiritual connection to my "cousins" from Africa. I see the powerful global effect my mega church has when it's moving to support Children orphaned by HIV/AIDS. Oh yes, there are those that say hey we have enough problems here to warrant help, leave Africa to the Africans... But yet, my mega church has started community development and empowered African Americans since long before faith based initiatives were in vogue.

Speaking of Faithbased initiatives, I realize that my mega church has not taken advantage of the programs in place since Bush became president. Oh sure, Pastor went to the meetings in the White House - and why not? After all, he is a preeminent black church figure. But the initiatives are blase' to us because we were already doing community development and empowerment long before Bush ever took office. So to those who say our mega church gets money from the government, we were already in the game... In fact, a lot of community development agencies take their plays from our book.

Yes, we have celebrities that attend the church. But what does that do for me? I mean, I have not been blessed with millions. I cannot slam dunk, so I did not get the contract with the NBA. I don't have any recognizable acting skills, so there are no Academy Awards on my shelf. But good for those who do possess these things. It's all good and tremendously admirable that they are centered and attend church regularly. But, outside of me going to the game or to the movies or play, they have nothing to do with me so the argument that we attend the church just because celebrities attend is null and void. I mean, I need God for my life, not theirs.... Besides, in the case of the men who fall into that category, it's their wives that I see every Sunday, and them every now and again. Blessed is the man who has a praying wife!!

Yes, the place is large. Two city blocks of campus, a bookstore, 24 hour counseling center, a five thousand seat auditorium... yup, it's big alright... There are 88 ministries and auxiliaries. While you may not be able to get to Pastor directly, there are well qualified ministers and counselors that can help you with your every need. And I found that if you get into it and go to Bible study, join the choir or attend activities outside of Sunday Morning Service, then the church becomes much smaller. It's a family, a large family but a family nonetheless.

There are those who say "Why do you need a big cathedral? The Pastor has answered that if there are multi million dollar casinos and houses of gambling and ill repute, then why can't the people of the Lord have a multi million dollar facility." It makes sense to me. Besides, I remember before we built the cathedral, we had five services and the criticism was "dag, you gotta stand in line at that church"... Now you don't have to stand in line and y'all are still beefin'..... You know what? when I look at that magnificent granite building located right here in the hood, I can't help but think, man, black people built that....

Yes, money is collected inside my mega church. It's a constant move to raise funds. But if one really pays attention, they will take note that there are so many ministries and auxiliaries and programs, all of which need funds to operate. A friend of mine finally came to church after listening to me inviting her for many years. She did not come with me but came nonetheless. Her impression was that the church talked way too much about money. She had come on one of those Sundays where appeals where plentiful because of different organizations in the church moving to execute their respective programs. We talked about this for a while. I agreed that there are many appeals for money, but pointed out that there is so much going on and it costs to do the work of the Lord. Yes, we can feed the homeless, but we need to buy the food. Yes, the education system needs improvement but our school needs stuff to operate. The Work of the Lord costs - we have to buy the "stuff" to do the work. She told me she never considered that... At my mega church you can see where your money is going...

But as for me, I find my mega church to be a spiritual place. Full of holistic activities that are healthy to the soul. I have learned about my spirituality and forged it according to what I have learned inside this huge place. The Pastor is a mentor for me. Honorable. Wise. Loving. Kind. His support staff around him to handle the congregation's life issues - you know those issues that you would go to the church for - is well qualified.

Oh yes, let me mention his wife, our First Lady. She is the most beautiful, loving, wise, positive woman you ever want to meet. She is a shining example of what the sanctified woman should be.
And if you talk to her about these issues, you'll find she's down for her people too.

As a black man, I see this mega church as a pillar in the community, not a bane. I see it contributing and bolstering our fight toward complete and utter liberation. I see this mega church helping me balance my spirituality and my consciousness. The Pastor is fighting for all people, but Black people is clearly at his center.

Yes, it's big. But the community benefits from it's grand posture. The community benefits from the programs and ministries that are in place. And the Pastor is honorable.

I don't know what happens at other churches. All I know is, my mega church is the bomb.

Sunday, April 30, 2006

Immigration Indigestion

May 1st has been designated as a date for one of the largest immigration protests the nation has ever seen. Last month, we saw over 500,000 immigrants protest downtown and in the subsequent week thousands of young people walked out of class in support of the protests. So, if this is being billed as one of the largest, then wowee, it should be mind boggling... It's interesting to note that organizers of the protest have laid out rules of engagement for those wishing to participate. Rules like, asking permission to take off of your job... driving with your lights on during the day, and wearing a white t-shirt, or bandana or ribbon of solidarity for the movement.

A week or so ago, I watched incredulously as a predominantly African American group led by homeless activist Ted Hayes, made a stand against immigration.The violence that marred the protest could have (and maybe it did) ruined the credibility of Ted Hayes' Movement. True, a fight broke out and to my eye, it looks as if Ted instigated it, but one not too quick to judge, the incident prompted me to investigate the African American position on immigration. I do not see the prominent black politicians, civil rights groups or even the church speaking out on this issue. Ted Hayes wants us to bond with the Minuteman Project, taking an almost vigilante stance against the issue. He has formed the Crispus Attucks Brigade of the Minuteman Project saying that says that continued immigration is a threat to the lives and culture of blacks in America. Jobs will be lost, educational standards will decline even more and housing - his central position - will be even more scarce... (see a CBS News Report about the demonstration/fight here)

I was surprised when I saw recently installed President of the NAACP, Bruce Gordon stand in solidarity with the immigrants, holding sway on-stage at the massive rally in Los Angeles... But, what is the official stance from the NAACP? Are you saying that immigration reform is right or wrong? Is it in the best interest of your people to allow continued, unabated, illegal immigration? What about the claim that continued illegal immigration affects the job market - especially among black folk? You can read the NAACP's stance here.. It seems ambivalent, at best...

I met a guy once in a diner. He was a truck driver and we were watching the protests on television. I was marveling at the sense of unity the latino protestors had as was he, but his perspective was much different than mine. He told me how even though he owned his rig, the already low fees he has to accept as a result of bias and perhaps, discrimination are now threatend by the proposed "reform" of immigration. How so?, I asked. He explained that the latino can come over the border with his rig and charge as much as FOUR TIMES lower than his minimum. He cannot afford that... Just think - married, two children, house note, car note, groceries.. the essentials of life. He's got to command a certain amount per trip or not survive in the city at all... The immigrant can come over the border, live in a two bedroom house or apartment with 20 other folk, divide the necessities of life and therefore maintain a much lower standard of living and consquently charge less for the gig... He further explained that this was the reality for him.. not being racist or discriminatory, that's just how it is in the real world. He underscored this claim with the observation that because the latino driver can command such a low rate, the employer may be motivated to look the other way when the immigrant's rig is below industry standards (insurance, maintenance logs, etc).. So, he's missing out on jobs left and right... But he said even at that, he worries more about the guys who are single... No one to help them... they have to accept lower paying gigs in a market that demands higher rent, food, gas... the essentials of life...

When I was on the radio, co-host of a program called Front Page, I noticed how a huge number of callers complained about discrimination in the work place. Not by white folk, as is traditionally the fight, but by Latino folk. This was amazing to me. I perceived the problem to be at City and County Jobs. Where there has been a definite rise of Latino managers... I talked to a guy in my neighborhood once who had more than 20 years working for the County. He said that the problem is even larger than Latinos taking over. He described how although the Latinos take care of their own first (hiring, promoting, the language barrier), he said that even if he has the experience and job knowledge, even as he has taken the opportunities given him in his years at the County to better his education, increase his knowledge and expertise on the job.. when it comes time to take the test for advancement, the test favors those who can speak spanish, tagalog, cantonese and other languages... he says, "good grief!! I though this was America!! Now immigrants from all over the world are getting the jobs and promotions because they can speak not only my language which is American Standard English, but thier native language.. They have the advantage not because of education and job knowledge, but because they come from another country!! Plus they will accept the job for a lower rate than we will"

The immigration issue is not a new debate in the African American Community and perhaps in another blog I will point it out, but just in case you cannot wait, click here "Immigrant Indigestion": A. Philip Randolph, Radical and Restrictionist to examine A. Phillip Randolph's position on immigration between the world wars... the issues are the same....

We are sick with immigration indigestion

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Lessons of the Duke University Rape Case

I am learning something as I read and research the Duke University Rape Case. In case you are not up on this latest piece of tragedy in our nation, the lacrosse team of Duke University had a party, hired some strippers, one of the strippers accused three of the teammates of rape. DNA is inconclusive...but the charges are not going away... The case is significant because it is a glaring case study of race, class and sex. It has exposed the ugly wounds of racism and elistism in the college town of Durham, North Carolina. We don't know if the girl is telling the truth or not, but we do hope that the truth comes out real soon....

In the meantime, I am learning about the challenges that today's twenty-something black woman goes through. In the Duke case, the guys actions are, as some scholars and philosophers have described, a manifestation of how the white male views the black female. A being that is to be submissive and sexed over, because that's how they like it and the white male is going to display his racial superiority through dominant sex. It is a view that has been a part of this nation's history since the first slaves were brought over from Africa. But even at that, the present day urban entertainment culture displays the black woman as a overly sexed being, exuding sexuality - often x-rated sexuality - just as she goes aboiut her day. This x-rated sexuality is reflected as one walks around the 'hood and sees how young women carry themselves, how they talk to one another, how they dress. One doesn't have to go too far to see how this is coming about...The music videos have a distinct impact on the images of black women. And for most white folk, this is the only glimpse of black life they see.

I've learned that the 20-something black woman can meet a white guy, and more often than not, the guy will make a comment that totally reveals that he thinks this black woman is someone who walked right out of the video screen or off the ho' track... In some extreme cases - actually quite a few from what I have been able to observe - the white guy will walk right up to a girl in the club or at the concert and smack that booty... The black woman's beauty, the curves, her essence drives the white male wild.. so wild he says and does things that are totally contrary to what his family rasied him to do when it comes to the honor of a woman... Why? Because he sees all these videos and images of the black woman as some sexual trollop. And since this is all the exposure he is going to have regarding the black community, he thinks that this is how the sista wants to be treated....So in this age of ultra integration, on the college campus, or places where you'll see more and more assimilation into society, the 20-something woman has to endure the white male coming up to them, rubbing that booty, or after a gentlemanly introduction, making lewd comments because they actually think that's what the black woman does!!! I'm not making this up, y'all!! The Duke case has illuminated this on campuses across the country. (See MSNBC article Duke Case reopens wounds for black women)

I bet you think I'm going to place the blame for all this white on black misogynism at the feet of the "evil white man"... Nope, definitely not. The man is going to be the man is going to be the man. We've already learned from scholars that this behavior has been a part of our nation since the first slave ships arrived on our shores... Oh No.... It is the brothas that are to blame for this societal problem. I mean we are the ones who promote pimps and hos in the music. It is the black man who produces the videos. It is the black man who in his quest to reign supreme in the world of entertainment and provide everyone with a glimpse of the 'hood (you know-keepin' it real?), has presented a global view of women as ho's and brothas as gangstas and thugs. The black man made the pimp game a cool pop icon..... It is our music, videos and sometimes movies that has the world thinking that we are a degenirate people. It is the brothas who first disrespects his woman by promoting her as a sexual trollop, cheap, easy... A creature who is not to be treated with any form of respect or reverence. Folk see this and think that's how the woman should be dealt with. And to make matters worse, my brothas put this treatment on videos for everyone to see across the globe...

A friend of mine went to Turkey with her husband. She was telling me about how surprised the Turks were that she did not act or look like the black folk they see on video.... hmmmmmm. The global perspective of our people is that of gangstas, thugs, pimps and hos.... Brothas, you are the ones responsible for this...

As we talk about revolution, equality and social justice. The preservation of the family unit is nuclear to the survival of our people. The way we treat our women is a glaring weak link in the history of our people and the reason why we have a HUGE gender gap within our culture. Brothas, we are not staying with the mothers of our children. Sistas, you are not respecting the man, further castrating him in this society where he is already down. They think we are thugs, crooks pimps, and they are intimidated by us That's why we don't get the jobs...and when we come home, here you come further putting us down.... (All men are dogs - He ain't nothing)

Brothas in the industry, you are promoting our women alright, but as ho's and strippers (btw, why is the number one song in America called "I'm in love with a Stripper"?). How come we can't promote the beauty of the sista, the essence of her strength, her natural inclination towards spirituality... Can't we talk more eloquently about her God given curves and sexual essence? I mean she is the mother of the earth, the center of our existence.... can't we treat her like the queen that she is??? Sistas, can't you walk with more regality? Can you get over the neck bending, tongue wagging, finger pointing? Can you not buy into the ho mentality, thinking that you cannot get a man unless you conduct yourselves like the images on video?

Folk are going to think what they think.. There's a 400 year history of that, but we don't have to encourage that behavior by promoting our culture as something that it is not.

In the meantime, we have to help our young sistas gain and keep respect - from all males - especially the brothas..... It's getting dangerous out here......

Duke Rape Case: WIll the truth come out?

Today our eye is on Durham North Carolina, where a stripper is accusing members of the Duke University LaCrosse team of rape? She was hired to dance at a party they were giving and it ended up badly - she claims she was raped... DNA was taken, no match, but yet the case still proceeds... The story has uncovered the ugly face of race, class and sexism in this town where Duke University students are perceived as elitist, snobby and sometimes rowdy - especially the LaCrosse team. Some of the team's members have been arrested and/or reprimanded for charges ranging from public drunkeness to urination to disorderly conduct. The charges have prompted the University President to cancel the team's season and the coach to resign (even though he led them to the national championship last year).

Rush Limbaugh called the alleged victim a 'ho the other day on his nationally syndicated radio program. But further investigation will show that the dancer is a divorced mother of two, working at an escort service to feed her family and work her way through full time classes at nearby North Carolina Central University (a sista gotta do what a sista gotta do!!??),,,

Witnesses say that the girl was intoxicated. But the second dancer who was with her at the party and others say she was sober when she arrived at the party and was out of it when she left. Was she drugged? You know college kids all over the country use that GHB and Extasy and other designer drugs...(what ever happened to the ol' mack lines that get you the girl.. nowadays you gotta drug 'em?.. what's the world coming to?)

The accusations include the utterance of racial epithets by the guys at the party. The white guys got excited and aggressive, the accusers say. One of the guys yelled out "Hey b***, thank your grandpa for my cotton shirt"... Dag, why you gotta go there????
Black women; white men. A stripper; and a team party. Wealthy white athletes – probably from prep schools. The elitist atmosphere of Duke. A working girl from a historically black university (North Carolina Central). Race, class and sex.
Rev. Jesse Jackson points out that ""The history of white men and black women – the special fantasies and realities of exploitation – goes back to the nation’s beginning and the arrival of slaves from Africa. The patterns associated with this history arouse fears and evoke too many bad memories."
Durham, North Carolina is not some redneck township of the old south. The Mayor is black. The police chief is black. Most of the City Council members are black. It's realtively prosperous with high tech being one of the chief business sectors enjoying success in the area. The nation's largest black owned insurance company is headquartered there. There's two black banks. And like any other metropolitan area, there is poverty - disproportionately black. And Duke University (like USC here in Los Angeles) is a private school stocked with affluent, mostly white students located in a mostly black area...
Sure, the case has and will continue to generate race based protests, discussions and debates. But one has to consider that Duke is probably no different than other universities in the way black women are perceived. Rebecca Hall of the University of California at Berkely studies images of African American Women in culture and says "Just turn on a music video. The black woman is somebody who has excess sexuality. It's excess sexuality that white men think they are entitled to"
So... what happened? Is this another Tawanna Bradley case? Is sista pissed because the white guys in the party called her a ni****? Thus did she fabricate the story? Did the raw desire of the white man for the black woman especially in a sexually charged situation such as stripping frighten her to her core? Did these guys really rape her? If the team is exonerated, will she apologize? The DNA failing to match casts reasonable doubt on the case for me. I mean hasn't the advent of DNA resulted in the release of murderers and rapists even though they had served decades in prisons? Is the case being pursued because the DA wants justice or is it politically motivated. After all, he's up for election in May and his opponent is a black man in a town already racially divided... On the other hand, the team is already known for thier unruly behavior. Did they take liberties with a stripper as they got geeked up over her sexuality. Did they feel entitled to help themselves? Even strippers have rights - no means no means no...The case certainly uncovers thje fragile racial peace that has existed in this community for years... What will a finding of not guilty do to those efforts fighting for equal social justice...? Will a guilty verdict silence strengthen the cause of respect for women?

Duke University - Let's pray that the truth comes out..... soon!

Thursday, March 09, 2006

The Skin I'm In...

This week a new reality television show debuts on the FX Networks. It's called Black. White. The premise is that two families switch roles in terms of color. A white family , through the magic of technology and major makeup will go about life as black people and a black family will go through life as white people. This social experiment hopes to prove that race matters in America.. I would hope that they are doing it to seek solutions also....

I have been working with the project a little as they are advertising it on our radio station. It has evoked water cooler discussions, observations and political commentary. For me, being the deep thinker that I am, I have been analyzing this series and trying to come up with a sense of why the producers want to do this and what will it really prove... The foundation of the experiment is similar to a book my mom gave me when I was a young lad... Black Like Me by John Howard Griffin. This book chronicles the experiment of Mr. Griffin as he underwent treatments to turn himself into a black man (or, negro as we were called in those days) His journey takes place in a entirely different time and culture. 1959 -1964 in the deep south was not the most friendly place for a brotha... Mr. Griffin reasoned that to really understand what the Negro was going through, one had to become a Negro. He further reasoned that a simple interview of the Negro would not reveal the truth because the Negro had learned that if he told a white man a truth that the white man did not like, it could be hazardous to his health.

Black Like Me is a poignant examination of race relations in the Deep South - the JIM CROW deep south. It was a shocking expose to my mind as we did not have Jim Crow here in California, but leave it up to my parents, they wanted me to understand what black folk were going through in other parts of the country. They wanted me to be a part of the future of hope, of success, of inspiration, succeeding in the wake of the Movement. That's why I got books given to me from Ebony, I had to read Native Son by Richard Wright....

Fast Forward to present time. I am kind of curious about this Black. White. series. Will it really show the racial idiosyncracies that exist even though our generation tries to ignore them? But then again, how can a television show really display what it's like to be in the skin I'm in?

Me, I walk with confidence. I speak well. That's sometimes a surprise to white folk as I get the ol' "Oh he speaks so well" and the ol' "he talks like a white boy" from my own people. I think I write well. I'm educated.... But, from time to time, I am reminded that I am still a black man in America. You know, like the time when you go into a Macy's to shop and suddenly you feel as though you are being followed, look around and yup, security is on you... Or when you go into the same Macy's and the sales associates pass you by to assist white customers. Or my all time black man in America adventure. I was in New York on a business trip. I stayed in the Omni in Manhattan. I had a day full of meetings and presentations with major advertising agencies. Got up, got my best suit on, went out the front door to hail a cab, and this lady who was checking into the hotel comes up to me and says, "boy, take my bags to the front desk".....

But, it's not just white folk who stumble on racist blunders, we do it to ourselves. Just the other day, I was shopping for a new shirt. I was at Bloomingdales in the Beverly Center. Had my suit on, you know, it was a work day... Sister comes up to me flustered because no one had come to help her.. "Don't you see me waiting here for assistance? I need...." I cut her off, "relax, lady, I don't work here".... Or even this past Saturday, when we were preparing for the Soul Train Awards, I was in Gelson's an upscale grocery store, buying flowers and the stuff to dress our booth with. This Gelson's was in the new Pasadena Mall, very chic, upscale... Black lady comes along in line behind me, looks at me from head to toe and instead of engaging me to ask what was going on, she asks the white clerk, "He's got a lot of fancy stuff there, what's he doing?"

I don't know what 'Black. White.' hopes to prove. All I know is that even when we would hope that we have moved away from biases, racism and prejudice, something happens that reminds us that Race Matters in America. But not just white on black. We do it to ourselves. We promote negative images that some folk are more than happy to help us get to the world stage.Our biggest cultural heroes are pimps, gangbangers, dope dealers. Cultural fashion and trends always seem to promote backwardness. We hate each other so much so that groups that are racist and hate us don't have to do anything to get rid of us, we are doing it to ourselves.
But how does Black. White. hope to solve problems? I mean my skin is my skin. God gave this to me. I can't hide it, I can't pass. Because I'm a child of God, and this is the skin he gave me, I walk proud. This is no makeup job by some hi-tech Hollywood studio, this is God's work. But when I walk in the door, or get on the elevator and the lady clutches her handbag, or bristles uncomfortably, that's real and has been apart of life all my life. Will the show demonstrate those types of life's elements or gloss it over....? I ask how can you really tell what it's like being black in a matter of weeks? It does not equate to a lifetime of moving about America as a black man. You can take that makeup off. It's an act, a game.. but being black is not a game. And then, how do we as viewers really get a sense of what the experience was like when the producers are picking and choosing what they want us to see? So the results of this social experiment are not objective conclusions, they are biased results based on what the producers think will make good television. This is not real life.

I guess we should give the producers some credit for trying to shed light on an old problem. I hope there are some redeeming solutions in thier presentation. But in the end, we are going to have to get over it and embrace ourselves as human beings, God's children. We need to love the rainbow of colors that we come in. For me, Haile Selassie said it best - "That until the philosophy which holds one race superior and another inferior is finally and permanently discredited and abandoned: That until there are no longer first-class and second class citizens of any nation; That until the color of a man's skin is of no more significance than the color of his eyes; That until the basic human rights are equally guaranteed to all without regard to race; That until that day, the dream of lasting peace and world citizenship and the rule of international morality will remain but a fleeting illusion, to be pursued but never attained...

ahhhh, the skin I'm in......

And the Oscar Goes to....

"It's Hard Out Here For a Pimp!!!"

Wow. I can appreciate the Academy's need to display the diversity that is filmmaking. I really saw it this year, in thier images, in thier marketing, even in the way they ran the awards show.... but I cannot for the life of me wrap my brain around the hub bub of Hustle and Flow. The film's lead Terrence Howard got a nomination for best actor and the film's central song received the Oscar for Best Song...

Yup, It's hard out here for a pimp... so maybe someone can tell me how did the "sportin'' life" gain so much popularity? How does the mack game gain prominent standing in mainstream America? Does this mean the primary representation of the Urban African American Lifestyle is the Pimp? I mean all the popular songs that crossover to mass audiences are talking about pimpin', gangbanging, drug slanging, booty slappin'.... Ludicrous, (who, by the way, gets my vote for the sharpest dressed in his Armani tuxedo,) was part of Hustle and Flow. He was also in Crash... the Academy recognized both of those films with nominations and even wins (Crash won for Best Picture). Last year, Luda's top single was "Pimpin' all over the World"... a number one smash...

I was actually shocked when the Three Six Mafia took the stage with Taraji Henson to perform "It's Hard Out Here for a Pimp"..It was performed in typical Academy Award style with dancers theatrically trying to emulate street walkers and pimps.. Taraji Henson was really feeling it and she was belting out that song like she had caught the holyghost. At the end of the song, she took center stage and screamed the chorus in a finish that was supposed to be grand and explosive.... Ok, so here's a graduate of one of the most prestigious African American Universities (Howard), who's struggled and achieved at tremendous levels to get to where she is today, and finally gets to the stage on her craft's biggest night and her defining moment is screaming at the top of her lungs "It's Hard Out Here for a PIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIMP!"

Yes, George Clooney, this is the same Academy you so eloquently described in your acceptance speech that presented Hattie McDaniel with an Oscar at a time when blacks still had to sit in the back of the theater (I wonder did Hattie have to enter through the rear on the night of her Oscar or did she walk the Red Carpet), but this is also the same Academy that has taken the lowest common denominator of black life and issues and rewarded those portrayals with it's highest honor. A couple of years ago, I was so proud that Denzel won the Oscar, but I had to agree with the pundits who questioned why for his role in Training Day as opposed to Malcolm X, Hurricane Carter, Antwoine Fisher, among others.... I agree with the questions of Halle Berry's win.. just because the imagery in her film was so strong and struck a deep nerve in the black community that the general market will never understand....

I was actually extremely surprised at Terrence Howard's nomination. Oddly enough, I liked the film, but it took me a while to tear away the layer that judged the character and embrace the core story... Pimpin ain't easy and Terrence Howard's character needed to get out of the game so that he could become a whole person.... The story was good, the plot developed well in the technical sense of cinema storytelling, but how did it make it to the nominations of the Academy Awards?

...and in a weird sense, I am kind of proud of Three Six Mafia. They probably had no idea, no expectation that they would win the Oscar. That's why thier jubilation was off the chain... And you wanna know something else? they were the ONLY ones who said Thank God, Thank You Jesus! I mean that has gotta matter somewhere,eh?

But Pimpin' ain't easy, and it seems to me that the Academy just pimped us by reinforcing and celebrating negative stereotypes of the black male as a hedonistic, woman abusing, criminal. Just as long as y'all play those types of roles, you know, keep it urban. Crime, violence, cussing, ghetto lifestyle.. that's what will get you the accolades. That's what will get you success. In the meantime, we'll just keep your schools inadequate because you really don't need to know how to speak English or write well, just get out there and pimp and deal drugs to your community and we'll reward you with millions of dollars, lavish lifestyles and even an Academy Award! We don't want the stories about the brotha who's working hard to keep his family together, that's boring... Let's promote the film about someone who's irresponsible lifestyle is choking the life out of your communities. We'll throw significant budget behind the making of this film and if it's even halfway good, we'll give you a nomination.

It's the image of the black male criminal that is placed in mass media the world over. If you travel to foreign countries, the folk look at you strange when they see you're not what they see on videos and in movies. You are not a pimp, thug, gang banger..... Blacks are gaining more and more ground in the promotion of our images, but why is the criminal taking prominence?

At the same time, are we really the keepers of our own images? Are we the central motor for pushing the pimp image on the mass market? Are we responsible for shining a light on a low form of the community and glorifying it?

It's hard out here for a pimp........ Would Hattie McDaniel be proud?

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Blacks vs. Latinos: Can we all just get along?

I have been contemplating this blog for weeks as I observe the rising tensions between blacks and latinos in our community. And now, in the wake of the on-going fighting between blacks and latinos in the Los Angeles County Jail System, I have to begin comment...

For those of you who don't know, there has been major violence at the Peter Pitchess Detention Center in North Los Angeles County for weeks, perhaps months.. Blacks, who are heavily outnumbered, have been fighting with latinos who, by some accounts, have been given the green light to kill and hurt blacks by the Mexican Mafia. There have been deaths and serious injury and the entire Los Angeles Jail system is on lockdown. We don't hear about the state penetentiaries that are on lockdown because of black vs. brown fighting.

There's an article in today's Washington Post (Calif. Jail Riots Display Divide) which provides an interesting overview of the problem. It's center thesis is that the Jail riots point to a larger problem on the streets of Los Angeles. That is, Latinos and Blacks are engaged in a fight for survival in LA. Blacks are being shut out of jobs, violence between the two groups rocked 12 schools last year. And in the area of hate crimes, which was dominated by whites vs. blacks in years past, now are overwhelmingly latino vs. black.

On May 5, (Cinco De Mayo - a Mexican Holiday that celebrates the Mexican Army's triumph over French Soldiers in the 1800's), black students have stayed home the last couple of years, because Latino graffitti at the schools have warned them to do so... The graffitti tells them that if they come to school they will get shot. Last year, a widely spread e-mail warned the city of such violence and while the e-mail was determined to be a hoax, unofficial estimates say that more than 70% of all black students in the LA Unified School District stayed home on that day. The e-mail was supposedly generated from an official at the LA County Probation office who called themselves warning the community based on what they heard from thier "clients". Last year, there were reports of graffitti that point to latino only bathrooms and black only bathrooms. To violate this street edict will get the student hurt. It is a scary time for the community.

I remember the aforementioned e-mail well, because I was invited to participate in a student forum that was supposed to get high school and middle school students from the "inner city" interested in going to college and pursuing a career. The forum was held on the campus of Cal State Pomona and included around 500 kids. The past week had been tumultuous at several high schools, the most serious issues taking place at Jefferson High School where rioting between blacks and browns caused the school to be shut down. I went to the parent-teacher assembly hastily put together by school officials, including the LAUSD Administration, local politicians and police officials. I heard the rhetoric for peace from the stage. I heard the appeals from so-called community activists. I saw the parents, black parents outnumbered ten-fold by latino parents, taking it all in.. I witnessed the looks of hatred given by latinos to blacks and returned by blacks - I'm talking the parents here... I heard the student body president, who was latino, aggressively proclaim "We run this school!!" Now, I don't know if she was saying that from a universal student aspect including all the students, but it sounded like she was proclaiming latino supremacy.

I heard the black students not only express thier fear, but thier wish for solidarity with latino students, but I noticed that they had no political clout. This school is on the track system.. and each track has its own student government. As each track stepped to the mic to represent, I noticed they were all latino, all saying the same thing how they ran the school - some adding that they would solve thier own problems..The black students had no voice... I also noticed that, according to the black students, the LAUSD School Police had a lot to review in thier handling of the violence. Seems they got a little over zealous in dealing with the black students, traumatizing some of the students as they tearfuly described how the school police responded....

Later that week, I was at the aforementioned student forum. I took the opportunity to discuss the black vs. brown issue with the kids. There, I learned about the threat to black students on Cinco De Mayo. The latino students told me that there were a few bad apples causing all the problems and that we were "all the same" but racism and prejudice has overtaken the campus and the black students would probably get hurt if they came to school on May 5. Some of the latino girls told me how racism is prevalent in thier homes especially from relatives from south of the border. They had to sneak if they wanted to date black boys. At the dinner table, their parents and relatives would dinigrate thier black neighbors. I mean, I really got a sense of just how bad the issue is...

I've heard, from my time on the radio, how blacks exhibit attitudes toward the latinos, that rivals what any klan or white supremacy rhetoric can dish out. I mean, how we look at immigration policies. How we talk about the "takeover" of America by immigrants. How we need to police the borders.. If you hear this talk and then compare it with white supremacy websites and conservative talk shows.. the rhetoric is the same!! It's a very interesting paradigm...

Now, I live in the community. I actually have no problem with the latino. I'm trying to live my life loving all of humankind.. That is my edict as a man of God, but I gotta admit, I see the hatred exhibited by latinos towards us. On the street, in the grocery store, being served by latinos, nowadays in a store or restaurant, you can feel the disdain they have for us... I'm a native Californian(this is rare) and cannot for the life of me figure out what went wrong. I mean back in the day in San Diego, a border town, we were together, blacks and browns. We marched with them as they addressed greivances in the fields and they marched with us as we addressed greivances of discrimination. Even those of you from LA can remember the latino walking side by side with us in battle after battle. Even Mayor Villaraigosa comes from that coalition of black and brown together - in fact, it is on that platform that he won his election. So what happened? How do we fix it? Is it fixable?

Just to give you a glimpse of the numbers, according to radio audience measurements, Los Angeles is 43% latino and 9% black. Statewide, almost a third of California's 36 million people are Hispanic while blacks have fallen to 6.7 percent of the state's population.

Last week, a parade of activists, clergy and journalists were allowed to visit Peter Pitchess Detention Center. They were allowed to speak with inmates, both black and latino. This was a good move, I feel on the part of the LA Sherriff Department, but I understand that most of the visitors seeking solutions were black. I wonder where the latino clergy and activists were? This is the problem sometimes... I don't see the latinos trying to come to the table of peace. Maybe I'm wrong, but I just do not see it... I don't see them trying to move toward cooperation and peace. I see black folk doing what they can to try and deal with the issue, but I don't see brown people. hmmm

One of my colleagues went on such a visit and she tells me that the latinos who are from here blame the latinos who are south of the border. This makes sense to me because I feel most of the attitudes coming from those latinos who are newly immigrated... Such latinos are called "southsiders"... They are highly organized and some are hardened by war in thier native countries. They are vicious and take advantage of the small numbers of blacks plus the fact that blacks can't seem to form a united front against the attacks (hmmm).. And you know what? They can't stand the northern latinos!! But still they find a way to unite...

My brother-in-law has experience with the California correctional system and he tells me that when you get off the bus, there are some facilities where you know it's run by latinos and you better fight or die. And then there's others, while declining, that are run by blacks. He also tells me that yes, blacks are majorly outnumbered inside the jail system. Sometimes when you get on the bus to go to court or to the various jails throughout the county, there's 40 latinos to 10 blacks. It's pressure.

But how does what happens behind bars dictate to us free, law abiding folk the way we should live, or regard other people??

My church had law enforcement Sunday this past weekend. It is an annual event where all the members who are law enforcement, military, and fire get to wear thier uniforms and remember the fallen. They ask for our prayers and support as they go about thier dangerous jobs. For me, it's an interesting day,because here you are with a bunch of cops - WITH GUNS - in the house of the Lord.. It's a unsettling picture for me... But the LAPD Chief was there, the LAFD Chief was there, the head of probation was there and tons of cops, sherriffs, wardens and superintendents from various correctional institutions around the state all came to praise the Lord with us that day. There was a lot of ceremony around the loss of officers in the line of duty as it should have been, but not one word was uttered about the black vs brown problems inside the jails. After church I introduced myself to the Asst. Warden of Corcoran (Corocoran is one of California's most notorious prisons), I asked him about the black vs. brown issue. He told me that it is way worse than what we are reading in the papers. He told me that Corocoran has been on lockdown for a year and a half while they try to deal with the issues. He is at a loss... it's a culture he said that browns can kill and hate blacks. A culture.... wow.

He has a lot to say about it and soon I will get his conversation on tape as soon as I can arrange it...

We live in the same neighborhoods, we even like the same music, clothing styles why can't we get along?

In the work place, we are seeing more lawsuits and grievances filed against latinos by blacks who say they have been discriminated against or passed over for promotions and jobs in favor of latinos.. This, in an area that used to be dominated by lawsuits of blacks vs. whites.

We're hearing the stress of the everyday citizen who is tired of going to work and dealing with prejudice and discrimination but then when they come home, in thier own community, it's more of the same from thier latino neighbors.

The situation is critical. What should we do? What is the solution?

Can't we all just get along?

Monday, February 20, 2006

Activists - who asked them to lead?

In the course of my work, I have to deal with a peculiar brand of people. That is the community activist. Now, their work is important - seeking and vanguarding equality and social justice for people in the inner city. When there's a shooting by LAPD or they administer the beatdown on black and brown people (a regular occurence in LA) these guys are on the case, demonstrating and adding pressure on the political folk to do something... When there's gang violence, they have been at the forefront of holding vigils and seeking to promote peace among the gang sets...When a case or incident breaks they are on the spot making noise... But as I have observed these folk, I have come to a few conclusions. And I have some questions. The most glaring is Who asked them to speak for us? Who made them the leaders? Why are they the leaders? Why does the mainstream media continue to give them play?

I was one of the targets in an action last year, where the activists did not agree with some moves the station made. They swiftly posted up in the lobby of the station, demanding to see the station's public file. Now this is the public's right, but it was right at a time when the station was seeking to renew its license. Accompanying this action, the "street committee" was generating rumours that the station was not black owned and we were perpetrating a myth on the black people of Los Angeles. Further the activists at the apex of this activitiy put out thousands of leaflets demanding my resignation and our program director's. The leaflet said we were black nazi's and the spirit of hitler lives in us. It was a mess... The activists accusations were totally false and misguided. I was in the background at a couple of events where I heard the activists preaching about the station's plan to sell-out the black community and that myself and others in the station were at the center of this diabolical plot. wow...

Then Hurricane Katrina hit.. we had hundreds of volunteers, mobilized black organizations from here to Mississippi, ran several tractor trailer trucks to the south.. this was a massive operation centered on self determination. But where were these activists?

During the turmoil surrounding the execution of Stanley "Tookie" WIlliams, one of the talk radio stations in town known for its extreme right wing rhetoric, ran a promotion called "Kill Tookie Hour" where they would broadcast calls from the public calling for the execution of Williams. It was a crude and sometimes racist presentation. The activists went into action calling for a press conference to denounce the station and the jocks perpetrating this promotion. But the conference was held in the safety of the 'hood, not near the offending station, right here in Leimert Park. And even worse, the jocks from the Kill Tookie Hour attended!! Like, "what you guys gonna do??"... My observance here is that the activist will storm the building of the black owned station who's trying to do good in the 'hood, but will throw rocks long distance at the white station whose rhetoric is truly showing you that they ain't checkin' for us... COWARDS!

When there is a hi-profile shooting in the community, how do these activists become "representatives of the family"? I can't tell you how many times, I get a call from the grieving mother of a youngster gunned down in senseless violence who says to me that "he does not represent us".... It is here I'll share the story fo young Byron Lee. He was 14 years old. Last year he was shot dead 19 times by gang members. He was an innocent child riding his bike on a Saturday afternoon. A car drove up and emptied 19 slugs into his young body. His death became a city wide symbol of a community that has had enough of the violence. Mucho news coverage. Every city official, county official, the state government, civl rights organizations came forward to express thier condolences and outrage against the violence in our city. I was the first in the city to interview the mother. On the following Monday morning, during my early morning talk show, my gang activist friends brought the mother to the show. We had her describe the situation. Stevie Wonder called in and offered to pay for the funeral. I said he didn't need to do that, because the community was outraged and they would come forward to handle the expenses. We raised $15,000 for the boy's funeral. I was on the news frequently and was just as frequently trying to turn away interview requests. During this time, I was instantly one of the boy's family members running to and fro making funeral arrangements. No activists. Me. But then I heard activists claiming to be "representatives of the family". One activist even took delivery on a huge fruit basket from a concerned citizen. He made sure it got to the family alright.. AFTER he ate all the fruit in the basket!!

Another activist came to me with the mom of a 12 year old that had been killed by a hit and run driver just before last Christmas. I looked the mother in the eye and tried to extend comfort and concern for her loss and tried to determine what I could do for her... The activist kept telling me that "I'm a community activist and if I could just get on the radio..." I told him I was aware of who he said he was, but I wanted to talk to the mother.. it was about her, not him... At the end of the meeting I asked the activist to bring me a description of the accident, and the official LAPD offer for reward. I would get that into our news department and on the website. To this day, he has not given me the stuff. His campaign as "repesentative of the family" was all predicated on him getting publicity for himself.

If I had time, I'd tell you about the activist who got into a fist fight with the nation of Islam, over which media would cover whom... or the activists who was physically removed from a townhall meeting dealing with gang violence because they were extremely disruptive....if you're trying to be a part of the solution, we disrupt a community meeting... because you could not lead the discussion? who are you???

This is not at all saying that everyone claiming to be an activist in Los Angeles is a less than honorable solider. But it has to be pointed out that there are a LOT of activists who are in the media on a regular basis. Who the mainstream media trusts and seeks out for comment when there is a major crisis in the city and said comment is the gauge for how the community feels on the issue. Conversely there are a few activists who are totally legitmate and strong in thier fight for equality and social justice.

We have major issues in Los Angeles. We need solid leadership. We need to do away with the frauds. We need to unify and center our movements. I mean why is the LA SCLC mad at the people who want ot open a branch office in Compton? Why is it that the church community cannot seem to unify and combat the problems of gang violence, drugs, HIV/AIDS and other issues in the 'hood. They are too busy engaging in spiritual gang banging.

Who are our leaders? and who asked them to lead?

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Man with a Gun

Ok, is it me or do you feel that Dick Cheney, the sitting Vice President of these United States should be charged for shooting his friend? I mean, I am shocked and appalled that they rushed to declare the shooting an accident. Then they indicated that the victim was getting better, but then his condition worsened. That felt to me like they were trying to cover the seriousness of the situation. Make it like it was a minor accident...but the guy was in intensive care!!! That's serious! omigod!! The spin doctors have been busy!! The incident has made plenty of fodder for comedians, but seriously, this is not a laughing matter.

If you or I were in the same situation, we would be under extreme police scrutiny. Why isn't Cheney? If it were you or I, the news reports would say an investigation is underway to determine if the shooting was an accident. They declared it an accident almost immediately. We find that alcohol was involved. Although he says he only had one beer during lunch.. we don't know that and who's going to go against him? He should not have had any beers while dealing with firearms. And what about firearm safety. Here is one of the biggest proponents of the right to bear arms, and he goes out and has an irresponsible "accident" after drinking beer...

Cheney was interviewed by Fox last night and I have to repeat my assessment of him... This is a cold dude... heartless... I mean he is showing no remorse for the accident. Even though he takes full responsibility(that's the spin), he's not showing remorse. His friend is close to death and he's acting so high and mighty like he is above the law... His biggest complaint was that the White House Press Corps was angry because they did not get the story, the Corpus Christi Times got it first... SO WHAT!!! You're friend is dying and you're worried about some press people!! Or maybe you are angry, because the story broke before you had a chance to spin it.... No chance to meet with your cronies and concoct another fabrication for the gullible public. Of course, he is part of that elite class that so far, is above the law...

He got a warning from regulatory authorities. What a CROCK!!! Even if it is an accident, if that were me or you, we would have gotten a major fine and been under investigation for the filing of criminal charges. Plus he did not have the proper hunting license.. that's a major infraction right there!! I wonder if his weapon was properly registered. A Warning!! Charge that rich fool!! He should be charged with some sort of negligence....unsafe operation of a firearm while under the influence of alcohol... In these violent times, he must face charges... Just like the gangbanger on the streets of Los Angeles would face weapons charges, he should face the same...

And, what if his friend (heaven forbid) dies from his wounds or is permanently maimed or otherwise disabled as a result of this accident... What then.. Are you going to slap him on the wrist and let him go? What kind of example does that set for the country.... ? What happens when the same situation happens in the inner city? Men playing with guns, one accidently shoots another.. hmmmmm.. attempted murder? Negligent assault? Assault with a deadly weapon? Weapons charges?

What it proves to me that once again, the laws of this country are selectively applied.... Dick Cheney should be under more duress than a slap on the wrist. His actions during his hunting trip were irresponsible, a threat to public safety and could have gotten someone killed.

We are a country of laws... Let Justice speak!

Monday, February 06, 2006

Grammy Week: Let the Fun begin!!

It's Grammy Week and I'm in the mix! Whoo-Hoo! This is music's biggest night-our biggest week - our Academy Awards. It brings music's top stars from all over the globe, from every genre, from rap to classical, they are here in LA this week to participate in the honors and information as presented by the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences. Although I am involved in the R&B/Urban/Gospel side of the industry, I always love the professional gatherings where folk from all genres come together... it's kind of cool when you are sitting with someone who deals in rock, or classical or latin...I am what''s known as a power networker, my style is unassuming and gentle. I can talk to anyone, no matter what sphere they orbit in. I specialize in building relationships. And it is in that mode that I operate as I work a room at a multicultural function.

I went to the Grammy Salute to Gospel luncheon on Saturday...It was quite elegant. Not as cool as last year, but at least gospel is getting it's due from the Recording Academy. They honored Shirley Ceasar, Billy Ray Hearn (founder of the EMI Christian Music Group) BIll Hearn, (President of EMI Christian) and Richard Smallwood. It was great. There were performances by Kim Burrell, Andre' Crouch, Edwin Hawkins, Walter Hawkins, Jonathan Butler, and Kirk Whalum.. What a great event...

The Grammy experience is not all about glitz and glamour, they are really doing some great things in the community. For instance, today, they have the Grammy Career Day where they are gathering more than 1,300 high school students at USC's Thornton School of Music for a day of dialogue and experimentation. Top music industry pros will be on hand to discuss the realities of the music business and available careers in the industry. I am so glad they do this, because you meet so many young people who want to make it in this business but all they want to do is be in front of the mic, on camera, rappin', singing, just performing when there's a whole plethora of jobs - good jobs, behind the scenes...The event will feature panel discussions and will be followed by a variety of workshops addressing various fields in the music industry. This is valuable stuff for the young folk, I mean look at this roster of participants : Current Grammy nominees Amerie, Earth Wind & Fire, Fantasia, Sean Garrett, John Legend, Leff Lorber, Keb Mo', Omarion, Kanye West, Michelle Williams, Multiple Grammy Award winning Producer/songwriter David Foster, Dave Koz and more. Moderators of the panels include Randy Jackson from American Idol, Multiple Platinum super-producer Jimmy Jam and E! Entertainment's Dave Adelson. Not only these performers and producers, but HEAVYWEIGHT executives will participate also: My friend Jeannie Weems from ASCAP, My other friend Gail Mitchell Editor of R&B/HipHop Billboard Magazine, Universal Music Publishing Creative Affair EVP Tom Sturges and a host of other top notch execs.

Another Grammy Experience is the MusicCares Person of the Year banquet. This year, an exceptional group of music legends will honor James Taylor as the 2006 MusicCares Person of the Year. The Person of the Year honor is presented to a music legend whose extraordinary musical achievements and philanthropic commitment to arts, environmental and humanitarian causes are extremely notable and visible. The evening is one of Grammy Week's most prestigious and will feature a concert by India.Aire, Jackson browne, David Crosby, The Dixie Chicks, Dr. John, Carole King, and a host of music luminaries.

This Wednesday is the 48th Grammy Awards. It will be televised on CBS and features a host of outstanding performances. I just learned that they are paying special tribute to Sly and the Family Stone... (one of my FAVORITE groups when growing up - Everyday People, Higher, Hot Fun in the Summertime, If you want me to stay...). Your man Jay-Z will be joining Linkin Park on stage - now THAT should be interesting...

On Grammy day, I'll be jostling for postiion on the red carpet to get as many interviews as possible for the radio and my soon to be released website and my internet radio presence... Maybe I'll post some here...

After the stars arrive, I'll be in the media room, providing behind the scenes reporting to the station, while getting some of the hottest interviews around.... My favorites? John Legend and Stevie Wonder... For a review of the R&B Category, check out the nominees here.... also you can go to www.grammy.com for the latest Grammy info....

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Coretta: Living the Legacy

This week, we learned of the passing of Coretta Scott King, the widow of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. This is a poignant time as we observe Black History Month (boy, have I got a blog for you on the subject of our "month")... We are witnessing the generation of Freedom Fighters pass on, leaving the legacy to us to carry on, nurture and build upon.

I am a child of the Movement - too young to march, but old enough to hear the conversations, the meetings in church, old enough to know the words to "We Shall Overcome" and understand what it meant. Old enough to understand when Grandma told me that things would be better for me and my generation...Old enough to understand when my Dad took us to Texas, his home state and showed us the Colored Only/Whites Only way of life.....and I hear him even now telling me to "get an education, stand up straight... look them in the eye and walk in the same door as them... don't cow tow to them"...In Dad's town, they had to move off the sidewalk when white folk approached...

I remember so vividly, the photo of Mrs. King in her black mourning clothing at the funeral of Dr. King... It was on the cover of Ebony.... I used to study her face and wonder what was going through her mind... She looked so regal, even at a time when we were saying "if they would kill King, then what will they do to us?"

I lost my Dad last year... and I find myself really worrying if I am the man he raised me to be... Am I living up to his legacy? Am I the man he prepared me to be in this world? Oh yes, I've had my ups and downs in this life... some instances where I know he wasn't so proud.. but am I really living up to his name? Someone told me that this is part of a grieving process. That's funny. I don't feel like I'm grieving.. Grieving is when I break down and cry at the oddest times, thinking about him (yes, I still have those moments). At any rate, I just wonder what kind of legacy am I living as he prepared me for this life...

So too, I now wonder what kind of legacy are we living for Mother King... Mother Parks... Mother Hamer.... Mrs. King said nonviolence.. ok, we got non violence against the system, but we are brutally violent against one another... I even heard a story the other day about the escalation of crime in a certain part of Houston, Texas. It is a section that is filled with evacuees from Hurricane Katrina. These are black folk, mostly, but they are becoming victim to brutal attacks from black folk from Houston. Schoolyard riots are breaking out- Houston vs. New Orleans, Graffitti around the projects cursing New Orleans... People upset at the evacuees, cursing thier mention.. In Los Angeles, gang warfare is a regular report on television and when you walk through the neighborhood, black folk are more angry at one another than at the system.

The music and culture of African Americans is tainted with debaucherous songs, clothing styles and actions
of some that are lewd, rude and crude... I mean it's interesting to note that gangstas can be the top pop stars in America....
As a child of the movement, I see that these are our children... What have we done? What have we allowed to happen?

What kind of legacy are we living for Mother King.... Mother Parks... Mother Hamer... They are gone now, so it's up to us to make a difference.... Are we? Or has the Dream passed on with our elders?

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Tonex Exits the Industry/The Devil is Busy

Got a call late Sunday night... It was the station, they were telling me that Gospel Superstar Tonex had dropped an exclusive bomb on them... I was like, ok, what could it be? Did he win a 9th Stellar Award? (Black Gospel's top honor was held Sunday Night in Nashville), Did his already gold album go platinum? what?

"Naw, Brotha Greg", the guys told me, "he's retiring!!" Retiring?!!! I could not believe it. He was relatively new and definitely an artist for the youngsters, wonder what brought this on.... For those of you who are not in the know about gospel music, Tonex is like... Prince or Usher, only gospel.... He's beyond revolutionary with his ministry (when describing gospel it is, er, should be, always ministry)...This was HUGE news.... The guys told me that they had invited Tonex on the air to talk about his participation in the upcoming BET Gospel Celebration television taping. He talked about it alright but when he did he announced that it was going to be his last appearance....

He was fed up with the industry, he went on to say... The phoniness in gospel... One line he said really surprised me and that was that "you'd be surprised at how many gospel artists really hate each other but when the get on television and these shows they would have you think everyone get's along and loves one another... they are God's children"... Whoa!!! Now this is monumental news and some major revelations he's giving us...

He went on to talk quite candidly about his divorce to his wife Yvette. A lot of folk don't know he is divorced... I sure didn't.. last time I saw them, they were pretty cozy.... But stuff happens... But as some of the listeners pointed out, how could it happen to two people who were supposedly sanctified?? Interesting question and maybe we can blog about the subject later....

All I know is that this brotha was hurting.... and hurting bad... he cited financial problems... he said he had all these awards, all these record sales, but had no furniture in his house.... He said his record label was not taking care of him, careful not to blame them.... He points to his blog that he had written earlier that day to get the real emotion of what he was feeling... (www.myspace.com/tonex)

Dag, another casualty to this crazy industry... Gospel or no, I have seen this business tear the spirit out of many an artist, executive, and just every day workers... it is sad...

I remember my first meeting with Tonex. This meeting will always stick in my heart and soul as evidence that spiritual warfare is real. He was a guest at our annual KJLH Gospel Showcase at Knott's Berry Farm. He was fairly new and definitely cutting edge... But he rocked the house. The day long event was over and we were lounging in the resort hotel lobby. I was getting the last of the limos off for artists who had to get out of town for the next gig... and saying my thank yous to the artists who were staying the night and were just relaxing, networking in the lobby. Tonex, his wife and their background singers were sitting in the center of the lobby and I sat down with them - talking about their ministry, San Diego (that's my hometown too), what it's like to be in the industry after coming from San Diego... all that stuff... when this woman comes up to us and just joins in the conversation-uninvited....just walked up and jumped right in the conversation like she had been there all along... we found the woman's intrusion strange, but it was cool...

After about three minutes, a VERY strange look came over the woman's face and she started talking about stories and concepts in the bible that were, in her opinion, untrue. Now, it was not like a spiritual debate, more like a mocking of the Word... Tonex took her on and they discussed the Bible for a few minutes and then Tonex, just jumped up and said, ok, get thee behind me! You have no authority here!!! I was like, Huhhhh? Tonex said it again, Get thee behind me!!! And then started speaking in tongues.... I was like whoa.... The lady got louder and louder with her arguments which now started to turn into blasphemes...

She looked in the eyes of everyone in our group and uttered some kind of assessment of thier spirit... Curiously to me she said.. "ahhhh you're weak, I don't want you...." Tonex admonished everyone "just don't listen, don't take any of that into your spirit.. Plead the Blood of Jesus!! I was still flabbergasted by what I was witnessing... The woman looked at Yvette, (Tonex's wife) and said "You have such a beautiful voice...Why are you letting him take the spotlight, you are the one who should be a star... You should be out front!!!" Yvette told her "you don't have any authority over me...." the woman answered "you won't be blessed with any children.. you can't have children"...

By this time, the commotion was getting really loud in the lobby and people were starting to look our way to see what was going on... Tonex conitnued speaking in tongues and then he said, everyone speak in tongues, pray, rebuke the demon!! join hands in a circle around this woman!! We did and soon all of us were praying, speaking in tongues, rebuking the spirit that was before us... The woman started screaming and speaking in a really ugly language.. her eyes started rolling back into her head.... and after about three to four minutes, she collapsed right there....

The hotel security came and carried her away... They told us that the woman had been there all day trying to get into the theme park to see the concert but had no ticket. She had been disruptive all day... so, that meant she did not even know who Tonex was, so how could she have known anything about Tonex or his wife...We were like, where did she come from, was she drunk? no smell of alcohol.... it was weird... Tonex stated he saw her lurking about and he had an idea that the devil had consumed this woman's soul.. I asked him how, he told me that he has a very strong discernment.....

Yo, this was a really scary scene, but as God as my witness every word is true... I think about it from time to time and wonder, no I'm convinced that I was face to face with one of Satan's minions and was a particpant in batlling that demon down.... Now, some of you reading this may or may not belive in the gifts of the Spirit, but I do.. (I am a Pentecostal).. but even if I didn't, what I witnessed there at the Knott's Berry Farm Resort was true, actually happened, went down, occurred... it was real!!!

Anyway, that's my Tonex story.... If you are reading this blog on the same date that I posted it, then you are hearing a transcript of Tonex's shocking announcement. If you'd like to thear more hit this link: www.kjlhradio.com/tonex

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

The Right to Vote - a nappy perspective

Much has been made over the last year or so about a speech supposedly delivered by Camille Cosby. In it she talks about the Voting Rights Act of 1965 expiring in 2007. The prospect of this expiration has caused some very paranoid chatter on the 'net, on radio shows and other venues. So I wanted to explore just how the Voting Rights Act came to be.

I don’t know about you, but my parents instilled in me the obligation to participate in the vote. It’s our chance to express our views and opinions while maintaining one of the most important and hard-fought victories of the movement. In their generation, in their communities, voting for black folk was subject to literacy tests, poll taxes, good character vouchers and other disenfranchising strategies designed to keep black citizens from participating in elections.

The Voting Rights Act of 1965 did away with all of that madness. The Act strengthens the 15th Amendment of the Constitution which guarantees that no person in the United States, should be denied the right to vote because of race, color or “previous condition of servitude". You see, prior to the Civil War, the Constitution did not protect the voting rights of citizens. While a few free blacks in the north were allowed to vote, the privilege was practiced almost exclusively by white men. Slavery, state law restrictions, and community standards prevented black people for getting to the polls. After the Civil War, Congress enacted a series of laws and amendments that provided for the re-admission of confederate states if they adopted certain standards. For instance, the Military Reconstruction Act re-admitted states that permitted the right to vote for all males. The 14th Amendment, ratified in 1868, granted citizenship to all persons born or naturalized in the United States. The 15th Amendment (1870) guaranteed everyone’s right to vote, overturning all state laws barring the black vote. Congress then enacted the Enforcement Act and the Force Act providing for federal oversight of the election. The result? All of a sudden counties and states all over the confederacy found Black people forming the majority of the eligible voting population. Black candidates began to win elections for local, state and federal offices.

Enter the Ku Klux Klan… The hooded ones tried to prevent the enforcement of the 15th Amendment through violence and intimidation. By 1876 the Supreme Court diluted the scope of the Enforcement and Force Acts and Federal troops were withdrawn from southern states, giving the Klan a stronger platform to execute violence designed to hinder black voter turnout. They also used fraud to "select" whites to offices previously held by blacks. Once whites regained control of these statehouses, they changed the boundaries of the voting districts to further weaken black voter strength and reduce the number of black elected officials (Isn’t re-districting still an issue among black elected officials??). The newly "selected" whites enacted state laws designed to re-build and entrench white supremacy. They instituted Poll taxes that discouraged blacks and poor whites from voting while blacks who paid the tax could vote but under extreme duress. Additionally, Party rules and state laws barred blacks from participating in the Democratic Primary!

In Texas (where my folks are from), the legislature (led by Democrats) passed a "white primary" law in 1923. Due to an unrelated Supreme Court decision, Texas Politicians saw a loophole that allowed them to conclude that the courts could not protect blacks who wanted to vote. The following year, Lawrence Nixon, a black physician and member of the El Paso NAACP challenged the white primary law in Supreme Court (Nixon v. Herndon). The Court found the White Primary Law unconstitutional – violating the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment. But the ruling left open the prospect that Democrats could do privately what the State could not officially do. So they passed a measure giving the Executive Committee of each state the power to decide who could vote in its primary.

The Democratic Executive Committee adopted a resolution that allowed only whites to vote in its primary (In Texas, they used a similar tactic to wrest the vote from Mexican Ranchers). Again, Lawrence Nixon sued and won (Nixon v. Condon). This time, the Supreme Court ruled that the Democratic Executive Committee did not have the authority to speak for the party in this matter. Shortly after, at the Texas Democratic State Convention, Democrats adopted their own resolution to ban blacks and conduct White Primaries, replacing the executive committee’s resolution. This too was challenged in Supreme Court but the Court decided that the Democratic Party was a private organization and could decide who could and could not vote in its primaries.

We could go on and on here, but the end game is that the Voting Rights Act of 1965 has guaranteed our right to vote. (A renewal debate is set for 2007)

But now, we face another dilemma. After all the aforementioned battles, there is great apathy in our community. And, there's an entire nation of black people who are not eligible to vote. According to the African American Registry (www.aaregistry.com) there are more than 1.4 million African American men who are not able to vote on Election Day because of past felony convictions. That’s more than the combined census of every black male and female living in Atlanta, Cleveland, Boston, Miami, Phoenix, St. Louis, Kansas City, Richmond, VA, Pittsburgh, Louisville, San Diego and Sacramento. Further if all disenfranchised former felons were included, the total number would be 3.9 million. This number would comprise the country second largest city. If they formed a state, they would be the 27th largest.
Only two states (Maine and Vermont) have no limitations on voting rights for convicted felons. Fourteen states permanently deny felons the right to vote (unless they apply for gubernatorial pardon), twelve states automatically restore voting rights at the end of incarceration, 32 states forbid felons from voting while on parole and 28 of those forbid felons from voting while on probation. Most of these felons are black folk. In Florida (scene of one of the presidential election crimes), 647,100 people are disenfranchised – more than any other state. Nearly a third of them are Black Men. Texas follows with 610,000 former felons. One Quarter of those are Black folk. Rep. John Conyers indeed has introduced several bills that deal with allowing convicted felons to vote in federal elections. But nothing has come about quite yet.

Get the picture? America has a history of keeping Black People from participating in the most powerful American right – the right to vote and decide how our government is run and by whom.

After all, isn’t it by the people, for the people? In the Struggle isn’t it Power to the People?? If we have the right.. then why are we so apathetic.

Sunday, January 15, 2006

King: A Question of National Security

As I spend this weekend reflecting on Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., I am processing the experiences I've had thus far as I participate in the many events, parades, banquets and such that celebrate his life. Just today I was at the California African American Museum for a day of cultural expressions including a series of awesome short films, compelling photo exhibits and listening to reflections and observations from children (BIG PROPS to 68th Street Elementary, you guys are the BOMB!!!) community activists and local politicians.

And after all the stuff that I've seen, it's hard to believe that back in the day, Dr. King was considered a threat to national security - almost parallel to the types of threats we are told about today in the so-called war against terrorism.

In 1962, Dr. King was placed on the FBI's Reserve Index, Section A, one step below the list of individuals targeted for "preventative detainment" in special secret prisons in the event of a national emergency. Declassified memos prepared by FBI counterintelligence specialist Charles Brennan at the request of his boss COINTELPRO Chief William C. Sullivan (and outlined in the book, "the COINTELPRO PAPERS written by Ward Churchill & Jim VanderWall and published by South End Press Classics), asserts in an 11-page document that "civil rights agitation represented a clear threat to the established order of the US and King is growing in stature daily as the leader among leaders of the Negro Movement. So goes Martin Luther King, Jr., also so goes the Negro Movement in the United States."

Sullivan's assessment runs right alongside Brennan's as he issued a memo shortly after King's "I Have a Dream Speech". "We must mark King now, if we have not before, as the most dangerous Negro in the future of this nation from the standpoint of communism, the Negro and national security. It may be unrealistic to limit our actions against King to legalistic proofs that would stand up in court or before Congressional Committees"

This meant the FBI would go on to promote propaganda meant to discredit Dr. King. Propaganda that promoted his supposed communist influences, sexual proclivities and harassment by the IRS. When it was announced in 1964, that Dr. King would receive the Nobel Peace Prize, the FBI overwhelmingly increased efforts to discredit him. According to the COINTELPRO PAPERS, "Two days after the announcement, William Sullivan caused a composite audio tape to be produced, supposedly containing "highlights" from tap's of King's phones, and bugs placed in his various hotel rooms over the preceding two years. The result, prepared by FBI audio technician John Matter, purported to demonstrate the civil rights leader had engaged in a series of orgiastic trysts with prostitutes and thus, according to declassified memos, "the depth of his sexual perversion and depravity". The finished tape was packaged along with the accompanying anonymous letter (prepared on unwatermarked paper by Bureau Internal Security Supervisor Seymore F. Phillips on Sullivan's instruction), informing King that the audio material would be released to the media unless he committed suicide prior to the bestowal of the Nobel Peace Prize."

"Suillivan then instructed veteran COINTELPRO operative Lish Whitson to fly to Miami with the package; once there, Whitson was instructed to address the parcel and mail it to the intended victim (The instructions by Sullivan to WHitson and others are summarized in a memorandum from a member of the Internal Security Section names Jones to FBI Associate Director Cartha D. DeLoach on December 1, 1964, captioned simply "Martin Luther King, Jr." For further information, see Lardner, George, Jr., "FBI Bugging and Blackmail of King bared, Washington Post, November 19, 1975. Also see Horock, Nicholas M., "Ex-officials say FBI harassed Dr. King to stop his Criticism, New York Times March 9, 1978)"

When Dr. King failed to comply with Sullivan's anonymous directive that he kill himself, FBI Associate DIrector Deloach attempted to follow through with the threat to make the contents of the doctored tape public:

(Again, from declassified memos):

"The Bureau Crime Records Division, headed by DeLoach, intiated a major campaign to let newsmen know just what the Bureau claimed to have on King. DeLoach personally offered a copy of the King surveillance transcript to Newsweek Washington Bureau Chief Benjamin Bradlee. Bradlee refused it, and mentioned the approach to a Newsday Colleague Jay Iselin".

In the end, the FBI could find no takers of the story and found their plot null and void. Additionally, a planned investigation of electronic surveillance by government agencies was announced by Senator Edward Long (D-Missouri), a fact that caused J. Edgar Hoover to order the rapid dismantling of the electronic surveillance operation against King and the SCLC. However, the FBI's counterintelligence opreations against King continued right up to the moment of King's death by sniper on the Balcony of the Lorraine Motel in Memphis.

And surely, as once again declassified memos demonstrate that the FBI's operations continued against a few of King's projects even after his assasination. (The Poor People's Campaign) By 1969, FBI's efforts to "expose" Dr. King continued with gusto even though Dr. King had been dead and buried for a year. The FBI also furnished information and propaganda used by conservatives to attack King's memory and tried to block efforts to honor the esteemed civil rights leader.

Even as we celebrate the message of nonviolence, peace and hope in America as set forth by Dr. Martin Luther King, I cannot help but think that now, as then, the government seeks to jeopardize the whole system of freedom of expression which is the cornerstone of our great nation. Are we now and have we always been a police state? Who of those that the government now considers a threat to national security will 40 years from now be a revered national icon? Does the government apologize?

We trust the government (or do we??), but are they doing the right thing? If thier record against Dr. King is an indicator, then I say, we must start asking questions now. Even now, thier surveillance tactics are being argued and justified on Capitol Hill. George Dubya, like his dad before him is hell bent on amending our rights so that the government has more and more power to listen, view and otherwise gain surveillance against citizens of the US. We fall for it becuase we believe in the wat against terrorism. But is it right or are we dismantling the basic freedoms that this country was founded upon? History shows a different view doesn't it?

As the lady says, The Struggle Continues, But Always, To God Be the Glory!!!!!!

King: Dream or Nightmare, part two

More reflections on the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King.
I am a child of the Movement. I was 11 about to turn twelve when Dr. King was assasinated on the balcony of the Lorraine Motel in Memphis Tennessee April 4,1968. I had a paper route. and I distinctly remember the headlines, that fateful morning. I remember the adults whispering about how if "they would kill King, then we really don't have a chance..." I seem to remember a new resolve in the movement after the King Assassination. The push towards academic excellence would increase. The lectures about looking the "Man" in the eye, speaking proper American Standard English, getting a job, reading... these subject became the more. Also, the mantra "lest you forget the struggle" and "never forget your history"...

Now, as a grown man, my generation can celebrate a national holiday dedicated to the life and legacy of Dr. King. We have huge resources where we can read about Dr. King and other elements of the Struggle. We are the ones who attended the integrated high schools, in fact, some of us (like me) are the first fruits of the social experiment known as integration. We watched and listened as the adults worked in the struggle. It was in our Sunday School classes that we learned to love one another, that we were promised a better and brighter day than our parent's generation (most of whom escaped the brutal policies of Jim Crow and segregation for the sunny climes of Southern Cali)... It was in our neighborhoods that we learned that someday we would not be "judged by the color of our skin, but my the content of our character.." We also learned, especially if you listened to my Grandma, "the more things change, the more they stay the same..." I remember the trips back south with my Dad and Mom... they showed us the railroad tracks that you could not cross. I noticed how the side of town my Dad grew up on was all dirt roads while the side of the tracks where white folk lived was nice and paved... I saw the signs Whites Only, Colored Only....

As I reflect on the Man of God known as Martin Luther King, I wonder what he would think if he were able to look upon today's headlines. I wonder what he would think about the most recent gang shootings. What about the police shootings of a teenager who had a slipper in one hand - the cops thought it was a gun and gunned the youngster down with nearly 20 bullets.... I wonder what he would think about the lust for corporate sponsorship dollars donated in his name to parades and activities that fill the pockets of individuals and do not go to the empowerment of some local programs that try to work the Dream.... I wonder what he would say to the young people who take advantage of the large gatherings of folk - together to celebrate the legacy of a man- to fight, shoot and loot....

I wonder what he would say to the folk I encountered today running the Martin Luther King Day Parade in Long Beach. I brought a professionally built float. The workers from the float company were all Latino. I have to say that my people, most of whom were employees of the City of Long Beach had issues with these guys. The way they talked to them... the way they tried to hinder them from doing thier job, the whole issue was surprising to me. I spent a good deal of the morning defending my workers.... It was a trip.... Now, these are black folk, coordinating a parade honoring a man of peace who says that we should judge by the content of ones character and not by the color of one's skin...

In mid-2005, The United Way of Los Angeles and the Los Angeles Urban League released a report called the State of Black Los Angeles. If Dr. King were to read this report what would he say? The report says that "while achieving equality becomes more complex in an increasingly diverse society, more is at stake than the fate of a single ethnic group if we fail to find ways of creating more fair and equitable conditions. As Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. observed in his famous LETTER FROM A BIRMINGHAM JAIL: We are caught in an inescapable network of mutality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly".

Yes, Dr. King struggled and died for equality, but the report reflects that in Los Angeles. "Blacks have the lowest median household income at $31,905, compared to the median for Latinos at $33,820, Asians at $47,631 and Whites at $53,978. At nearly 14%, unemployment for African Americans is more than double the rate for Whites and Asians, with Latinos between the two-a longstanding pattern in Los Angeles. 41.9% of Blacks children are living in homes with the Mother Only - more than three times than other ethnic groups. Homcide rate among black males is at 78% compared to 5.5 among Asians, 18.7 among Latinos and 6.6 among WHites. Even more, the mortality rate among adolescents in Los Angeles is at 131.4 % among blacks, 77.9 among Latinos, 61.7 among Whites and 58.2 among Asians...

African American Students had the lowest proficiency scores in 2004: Reading at a proficiency or advanced level declined from 26% in the fourth grade to 17% in the 11th grade. Math proficiency declined from 28% in the fourth grade to 12% in 11th grade.

Driving While Black: Black drivers are stopped by the LAPD at a rate of 19.8 % compared to the national rate of 12.3%

Incarceration: About 13% of black men ages 18-40 are incarcerated, with rates up to 25% for school dro[outs, a sharp increase since 1970. 32% of black males born in Los Angeles in 2001 are likely to go to prison during thier lifetime, compared to 17% of Latino and 6% of whites.

The Dream.

We have to fix ourselves if we are to take the Dream to another level....

King: Dream or Nightmare?

This is the time of year when we commemorate the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.. I have been busy setting up the station's activities for the commemoration which includes 4 parades, an ecumenical service, a weekend of special exhibits at the California African American Museum, getting a parade float built, negotiating for donated cakes for our King Day Birthday party, getting the choir from Frank D. Parent Elementary School all set for our birthday party. Also, some young 6th graders who wrote a speech about Dr. King and won a local oratory contest with it.. I'll be promoting them at our King birthday Party as well.. It all takes place in Leimert Park - the center of African American Culture in Los Angeles... Councilman Bernard Parks(yes, Bernard, the former LAPD Police Chief and wannabe mayor) is shutting the streets of the park down for a huge festival... The parade ends at Leimert Park so we anticipate thousands of folk will attend.

Additionally, I wrote and produced several radio promos that detail what the station is doing over the course of the King Holiday Weekend, and some promos that include people on the street with reflections of the life of Dr. King... The latter was quite the wake up call...

After setting forth our arsenal of King parade promos and promos touting the broadcast of our special radio docudrama, I got the bright idea to produce a short series of bits featuring listeners, you know, people in the community. I wanted to know what King's Dream meant to them.... After getting the appropriate approvals and such from our programming department, we hit the streets of Inglewood and South Los Angeles... Simply asking "What does King's Dream mean to you?". Let me just say that I was not prepared for the amount of people who did not want to comment. Not only did they refuse comment, they had a huge attitude about it... But getting past that, I was not prepared for the ummmmmmm, misinformed way that my people expressed thier thoughts:

Us: Hi, we'd like you to comment on the legacy of Dr. King

Them: Ok, yeah..

Child with Them: Momma, I know about Martin Luther King, let me talk!!

Them: ok, baby.. uhhh can she talk?

Us: Sure, that would be cool...... Hi.. what school do you go to?

Little One answers: I go to ******* school

Us: What grade?

Little One: 5th Grade

UsL: ok, cool... who was Dr. Martin Luther King?

(microphone is on)

Little ONe: ummm, he was a slave that had a dream about......

Us: Are you sure he was a slave? Who told you that?

Little One: Oh, we learned that in school... saw a movie and everything....

Us:

Little One: He had a dream that one day all the people like casucasions, black people and mexicans would all get along...

us: ok, so then how did he get out of slavery?

Little One: He didn't.... Somebody shot him and he died....

Momma: Stop it child, you know Martin Luther King wasn't no slave!!!

Little One: he was too, momma....

Us to Momma: ok, look, the library is right there why don't you take her there to teach her about Dr. King and his legacy and what it means to her life right now.... If you don't have time now, please make sure you take the time this weekend to inform her correctly......

Momma: aiight brotha, thanks a lot man... I'm sorry.....

Us:


hmmmm....