Monday, March 30, 2009

J-Hud set to Marry?

I read about Jennifer Hudson's wedding date announcement after she taped a special segment for American Idol. She said it was a secret. This brought to memory the moment when we were backstage at the NAACP Image Awards. She had just won the Best Supporting Actress Oscar for her stellar role in Dreamgirls... She was kind of indignant as questions about her relationship with then-boyfriend David Payton came up.. She was also asked if she had plans to marry... Click the vid to see... What do you think?

Sunday, March 29, 2009

The Circle of Life...

I am at the stage in my life where I have to confront the unfinished business of my past. I have pushed to make a career as a broadcaster. I am fairly well known as a broadcast media marketer. I've been on the air occasionally as a host and co-host... I made my mom and dad proud...

And now, mom and dad have passed on... My dad made his transition on May 18, 2005... Mom left us suddenly on October 30, 2006. These events landed me in my hometown for lengths of time far longer than I have ever been since the age of seventeen, when I went off and joined the Marines.... Oh sure, I would come home for a weekend... talk to my dad and kiss my mom, but never in my adult life had I spent more than two - three days at home... or maybe a short leave of 14 days or so...

Now, here I am... In these brief years since my parent's passing, I have spent more time in my hometown than ever before. I am like a fish out of water here... After a lifestyle of continuous music and media, I am now in the midst of quiet solitude. I am closing out my parent's lifetime of success, spirituality and collections...

It is very very quiet here. I do not have any connections to any of my friends from back in the day. My home church is not the place as I feel I have outgrown it spiritually. And so I commute two hours on most Sundays so I can attend my church... or watch it on the Internet.

The good thing is that I have connected with my daughter (from my first marriage) in a way that we have never been connected before. She is a young woman with four (yes. 4) children. Wow!! I have four beautiful grandchildren. I have been able to help her in times of trouble, but it is still a work in progress... pray for me here.... Nonetheless I am able to spend time with the young ones... and that is a huge blessing!!!

I learned about my first love. I have often wondered where she was and how she was doing... Over the years I had even found myself looking for her on the Internet.... I found her sister on Classmates.com, and we made contact... I learned that my friend was murdered more than ten years ago and her body has never been found. I was devastated. I had to share with them the news of my parents as they knew them too... My mom and her mom were in the Navy together... They shared tidbits of the story with me.... This event tripped me out because I did not know... I had not heard the news... I even wonder if our episode in life caused her to make the choices in life... Was I the cause of her destructive lifestyle?

In the '70's, When I went away to the Marine Corps, I had no real claim to a girlfriend. But this girl and I had an unspoken love between us... In high school we went on quite a few dates... We spent quality time together... And in the years after school, even when I did not purpose to see her when I came home on leave, we would run into each other, and go out....

Somehow, I planned to marry my baby's momma. I really should have never done this, but hey that's a whole blog by itself.... I ran into my friend and asked her to dinner specifically for the purpose of telling her I was going to get married... I even had the rings in my pocket. We went to a nice place... we even got on the subject of marriage, but I did not have the courage to tell her.... On my wedding day, there was a reception in the hall next to mine... Coincidentally it was the wedding of a young lady who went to school with me... I kissed my mom and thanked her for pulling together such a beautiful wedding ceremony and went to change my clothes... As I turned from my mom, I bumped into someone... it was my friend.... I was devastated. I really did not know what to say... She was visibly hurt.... deeply hurt.

I never saw her again......

I talked to her on the phone once or twice.. just to see how she was doing and to apologize... My marriage lasted a few months and I moved on to Los Angeles.

This was years ago.... and as time has passed I have wondered every now and again how she was doing, was she happy... how many children did she have... did she ever realize her dream of being a veterinarian.... But instead of all that, I learned of her demise... And I did not learn of it until more than ten years after her death.

I have to admit, I cried for an entire weekend after learning this.

I have been married for more than 23 years. My spouse is my best friend, no doubt. She is rolling through this part of my life right with me... The passing of my parents changed her too as she was really close to them particularly my dad.

The passing of my parents has been a life changing experience. I am back in my hometown now... commuting to the City for work, church and events... I am spending quality time with my daughter and her children... I am in a space of quiet solitude where I can hone and increase my creative gifts...

I don't know how long this will last.... This town is not me... But for now, it is what it is... and the next generation needs me....

wow. The Circle of Life...

Friday, March 27, 2009

TI's Troubles in Time of Turbulence

I see that TI has received a little more than a year in prison for trying to purchase some weapons and silencers.... WTF????

I just need to understand how these rappers and ball players (remember Plaxico Burress??) still feel the need to carry or have access to guns... But not just guns , guns AND silencers... what?What was TI thinking? Hasn't he had enough music hits to stay out of trouble? And even if the heat is hot, can't he hire a security team?? I know at least three brothas who are PD, FBI, and others with transportation companies and protection details.. This is thier business...

Why can't a TI hire someone like my boys.... This seems really lame, TI... I mean dag....

This comes in a season when the image of the black male is enhanced through the election of President Barack Obama - the Chris Browns, The TI's, The Bebe Winans - these are the type stories that get front and center in the media becuase Im telling you, they are looking for SOMETHING to discredit the black man....

Now, in all fairness I wasn't there, but the circumstances are strong enough for the system to lock Brotha TI down for a bit... one year and some months.... In addition to time in a cell, TI got:- property forfeiture;
- supervised release for three years after he leaves prison;
- 365 days of home confinement (he has done 305);
- 1,500 hours of community service (he has done 1,030);
- drug counseling;
- DNA testing;
- can never own a firearm;
- must submit to reasonable searches;
- and a financial audit.

Seems like a lot of hassle for someone who just plays a gangsta on records... I mean after you become successful at the level of a TI, I'm thinking it's poppin' champagne on the regular... eating good across the world, that he can have "whatever he likes"....And so then, you gotta get down and dirty for some guns... and get Popped for it??? Just seems foolish is all...

Good Luck man...

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

What happened to the Soul of the Airwaves?? A remix

I work at a major market station which is one of the last independent, black owned and operated stations in the nation. I am fiercely proud of this urban radio heritage.

Radio is often the first media choice of black people looking for culturally relevant content, music, news and information. During morning drivetime, the format is mostly the last bastion of culture for the African American driving into the workplace before they assimilate into general market America for the day. A captive audience for the exchange of information. In the home, the radio stays locked to the station for hours as the music, news and information speaks directly to the lifestyle of the African American consumer.

I have always marveled at how Arbitron measures the radio audience, particularly the black audience. The radio audience measuring company has always seemed to pride itself on its efforts to deliver accurate results when measuring the urban radio listener. At best, the diary system was a shaky yet agreeable method by which to measure the listening audience.

Now, they've come with the Portable People Meter. This new technology is being heralded as the best thing since sliced bread. General market stations love it's so-called accuracy. And Arbitron reps are really looking to convince us that it is a much more effective method to measure audience than the diary system.The Portable People Meter (PPM) is a pager like device that is worn daily by the respondent.

The device measures what the respondent is exposed to, not what the respondent actually listens to.

Consider this: Typical African American woman from the community participates in the program. We know that her primary station is the local black radio station. If she could, she would listen all day because the station is culturally relevant, and provides honest and trustworthy information on products and services, plus the news and public affairs keeps her aware of issues and concerns in her community, from her perspective.She turns on the device at 7:30 am as she darts to her car, thereby eliminating the detection of the first two-three hours she was listening to radio while getting ready for work. Nonetheless, the meter hears her favorite station in her car. It registers the applicable info.

On her way to work, she has to stop at Starbucks. The radio inside the store is tuned to the top forty station. Not her choice, but just because she visited this establishment, the meter records this as as one of her stations.

At lunch, she stops at Home Depot because she needs some stuff for her home. In the Depot, the local country and western station is blaring. A station she would never listen to but because she was in the store for more than five minutes, her meter records the station as one of hers...

When she arrives at her place of employment, she conforms from the chocolate diva from around the way to capable chocolate corporate.... The radio at her workplace stays on a station that she doesn't listen to and probably is not really listening to because it does not play the music she likes or provides information that matters or speaks to her directly. But the meter records this station as one of hers...

Is this theory of exposure an accurate measurement of this woman's radio consumption? Even though she is exposed to these out of home formats, does that mean she is a listener? How does this exposure translate into real advertising dollars? I mean if the station does not speak to her, how then does she really hear the advertising and take action to patronize the product or service? Is exposure an indicator of real listening? Or a by-product of where the respondent happens to go as she moves about this world.

In the diary system, the respondent was able to reinforce their listening habits through comments. They would document the personalities and times that they listen, thereby giving radio stations a seemingly more in-depth analysis of the audience. The listener could describe the emotional connection they have with their primary radio station choice. In black radio, the emotional connection is the gold. The music of the community, the news of the community and in some cases, the personalities with whom the listeners could relate because they were the brothas or sistas that lived in their neighborhood or went to church or school with. The soul of the airwaves is captured through the ability of the station to be culturally relevant.

With PPM, the soul of the airwaves is muted through a emotionless technological advancement that shows how a listener is exposed to media no matter where he or she goes.. It eliminates all consideration of that listeners qualitative proclivities. The cultural relevance of black radio is silenced. It's personalities now forced to an even more minimal on-air role as the quest to get exposed by whatever people meters are out there becomes all important. This means desensitizing your broadcast presentation to become more vanilla, transparent and soul-less.

And while this may sound good in a world where multiculturalism is the goal, I submit that we can still achieve the goals of multiculturalism by remaining true to who we are as black or urban radio. Those who seek us desire the rhythm of our format. And most importantly they crave the cultural consciousness of our broadcast flow. We don't care who is listening, just as long as they listen and they listen because they can identify with the essence of the station. Does random exposure generate results for advertisers? I mean if the respondent is only half listening to whatever radio station is ambient at the time and location they are in, then how does that spur the listener to take action at the cash register?

Is the PPM holder more likely to respond to advertising on the ambient radio station? or to advertising on their P1 choice??

How many PPM's are in the field? More to the point, in a city like Los Angeles, how many PPM's are on black women 25-54? In Philadelphia, they said there were two (yes, two!) in the entire market. and each person represented more than 50,000 people. That seems like a huge guess!! I mean who validates this information? How is this acceptable?

I wish I had answers here, but I don't. What I do have is a perspective. One that is centered with the experience of marketing black radio. And like it or not, PPM is here. And so how do we cannibalize black radio to become more of the general market so that we can show up on the PPM rankers? Is the age of the personality dead? And what of the emotional connection forged by black radio through news, public affairs and the music? Does PPM kill black radio? Do we abandon the heritage of doing black radio? Is the art form of radio dead? These are the issues of the day. The Soul of the Airwaves is dead. Do we resurrect it? Or is it a bygone legend of the past??

Lord help us.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Obama's Drama: War is Hell

The first days of President Barack Obama's administration have been wrought with controversy, intense scrutiny, misinformation, and (in most cases) undue criticism. It seems that mainstream America(read: white conservatives) are just looking for something to diss President Obama on...

Whether it's the debate on his handling of the economic crisis or their incessant inference that he is about to break campaign promises, folk are reaching for something. During a recent appearance on CNN's Larry King, even Mitt Romney dipped into the fray, asking why is Barack smiling so much??

It occurs to me that what we are seeing are the fruits of war. President Obama is turning over generations of greed, authoritarianism and graft as laid out by the Bush administration. And even before that... If we are to believe even a smidgen of conspiracy theories, we know that Bush, Reagan, Daddy Bush are spiritually bound to take the masses of the people to depths lower than low.... they want to usher in the one world government. And what we are seeing are the fruits of that corruption and graft. This economic crisis is a hurtful travailing as policies that engorge the wealthy/greedy are being overturned, reversed and destroyed.

This is not to say that some damage has not been done already... I see that in its zeal to manipulate the economic system to the select few's benefit, we have left the door wide open for foreign investment, thereby making the nation beholden to China and the oil barons of the middle east. Just look up who owns the majority of the skyscrapers in most major cities. You'll find the Arabs and Israelis and the Chinese. Our major corporations and business titans are paying rent to international governments and business entities!!! Why just yesterday, I read that all the "toxic" debt we have been hearing about is being bought up even as we speak by China. Have you looked at the tag of your clothing lately? China. What about the kids' toys? China.

We are being co-oped by China. We are oil-slaves to the middle east. They know what they are doing. This is not the Cold War.. This is a war about green. The situation is getting so critical that now the UN is suggesting that we get rid of the dollar all together.. One World Government. One World Currency.

And so the battle that President Obama is fighting is perhaps one that will stem the tide of Chinese and other international corporate raiders. Or is it to reverse the damage done by his predecessors. The Skull and Bones crew. The Presidents who have made a pact to create havoc on the global economic front. So that the haves will have more and the have nots will suffer more....

Yes, President Obama is waging war... and the financial crisis is just one by product of his battle. War is hell.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Gay Rights: A Moral and Spiritual Conflict

Last fall’s election was historic and monumental not only because we elected the first African American President, but also for the unprecedented social movement of the masses of the people calling for change. The movement resulted in an emotional season of self evaluation for the nation. The nation paused to reinvest itself into the established system, using it to debate the political, military, economic and moral issues facing the nation. We’ve re-examined the way our nation and society views folkways and mores of the United States. One such examination is the issue of gay rights.

The issue of gay rights is one of the most hotly contested issues of today’s society. The LBGT segment is growing rapidly as more and more people profess to the lifestyle. Thier emergence or “coming out” is met with vociferous objection. Vociferous objection based on moral precepts emanating from tenets of our faith. Vociferous objection based on our political values which have been in place since the inception of the Republic. Vociferous objection based on societal folkways, mores, traditions and community standards.

Conversely, the masses of the gay community say to object to thier demands is tantamount to hate, prejudice and bigotry. They say the struggle for gay rights is a struggle for civil rights. A struggle for human rights. The LBGT community has demanded tolerance and social acceptance of the lifestyle.

And so during the last election, the nation engaged in one of history’s most wide open debates on gay rights. Proposition 8 in California asked if the State should ban same sex marriage. Most of the voters answered YES. It remains a passionate issue in the state even as most argue that we should not allow the government to legislate who one chooses to sleep with let alone who one should marry. To say anything against this makes you a bigot… a fascist… So they say…
and so off to court we go…

There are those of us who voted yes on 8 based on the moral standards of faith. Is this bigotry? This is a question asked in one of my earlier blogs. However; those of us in opposition of gay marriage have to know and agree that the gay community deserves protection against violence, discrimination and tyranny. The right to live safe in this nation and indeed the world should be a proprietary human right. I don’t agree with the lifestyle, but I do agree that they should not be judged by me(that’s between God and them) and have a right to live free and safe in this world just like me. Therein lies the dilemma for the Christian. Our spiritual center makes us disagree with the lifestyle and we certainly do not agree with same sex marriage, but that spiritual center also makes us disagree with human rights atrocities. Rape, murder, genocide, discriminiation, bigotry, hate… After all aren’t gay people human? So, what do we do?

Last week, my spiritual leader, COGIC Presiding Bishop Charles E. Blake was criticized for signing an affirmation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. It was a major ceremony and world diplomacy action as religious leaders and heads of state from all over the globe converged on The Netherlands at the invitation of Queen Beatrice to participate in this signing. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights was originally drafted by the United Nations and executed in 1948 in the aftermath of World War Two. It was meant to provide a global, legal platform to protect the rights of humans from tyranny, genocide, rape, chaos. In fact, the document is one of the foundations for the issuance of a United Nations arrest warrant for Sudan President Omar Al-Bashir for crimes against humanity particularly in the region of Darfur. The affirmation ceremony marked the 60th anniversary of the Declaration and re-committed heads of states and religious leaders to the protection of human rights.

Bishop Blake was strongly criticized for signing the document. The criticism started with a headline that said “”Bishop Charles Blake endorses gay marriage declaration “ This headline is a misleading, untruthful, slanderous statement which was widely discussed and written about all over the internet. It did not have anything to do with sexual orientation and homosexual rights. Again the affirmation of the UN declaration signed by Bishop Blake was about human rights and their inherent right to protection from genocide, tyranny, rape and other chaos. The Church of God in Christ is pretty clear and implicit in its position on same sex marriage.

This morning, we heard the news that the Obama administration intends to endorse a declaration for the world wide decriminalization of homosexuality. And now church folk are demanding that Bishop Blake rescind his signature from the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. They are calling it an unholy covenant.

Now as I understand the story, this is a separate and “new” declaration that would not have Bishop Blake’s signature on it. It has nothing to do with the UDHR or Bishop Blake’s support of it. It has everything to do with the goals and objectives of President Obama’s administration to seek justice for all.

So for a Christian movement that voted for Barack Obama, this poses an interesting scenario… It was known that he was a supporter of certain gay rights.. I mean, hey, the LBGT community is huge and that equals votes. This is the moment we had in the back of our minds - The moment when we would, perhaps, disagree with the administration of President Barack Obama.

The report says that one Obama Administration official said that “The United States is an outspoken defender of human rights and critic of human rights abuses around the world” The Bush Administration refused to sign the document when it was presented at the United Nations on December 19.

66 of the United Nations’ 192 member countries signed the declaration.

More than 50 countries oppose the declaration.

Homosexuality is illegal in 70 UN member countries.

Some Islamic countries say that protection of sexual orientation could lead to “the social normalization and possibly legalization of deplorable acts”…. This leads to spiritual immorality and corruption within the people… The Vatican also opposed the declaration.
In some countries, homosexuality is punishable by execution.

Do we want that in our society? No. We may disagree with the lifestyle, but do we consider homosexuality a capital crime? We may disagree with the lifestyle, but when people inflict violence against the homosexual in a rage of hate, we know that is wrong. We disagree with the lifestyle, but I don’t think we want discrimination in the workplace, schools, etc. (although as a veteran, I do not think homosexuality in the military should be tolerated.)

So then how do we protect folk from widespread violence and discrimination while still maintaining our moral position? This is the dilemma of human rights when it comes down to Christian values and thought.

To what degree do we define and defend Human Rights? Do we even care?

Friday, March 13, 2009

So Heavenly Bound, We're no Earthly Good...

I learned something this week.

I knew that the Universal Declaration of Human Rights(UDHR) is a declaration adopted by the United Nations in 1948.

I knew that the UDHR is considered the most translated document in the world.

I remember learning in my political science classes that the Declaration was derived directly from the world's experience of World War II. I knew that it represents the first global expressions of human rights.

I am aware that various treaties, constitutions and laws have been formulated with the UDHR as their basis.

I knew that during the course of it's 60 years in existence, the Declaration has the force of international law.

I have read that, in the face of genocidal atrocities under the administration of President of Sudan Omar Al-Bashir, the UN has issued a warrant for the arrest of President Bashir under the auspices of the Declaration and the ICC (International Criminal Court).

I've learned that this past December, in celebration of the 60th anniversary of the adoption of the Declaration, the Queen of the Netherlands, Queen Beatrice invited Church of God in Christ Presiding Bishop Charles E. Blake to participate in a signing of a document known as the Faith in the Declaration of Human Rights. It's purpose is to affirm that, even after the tragedy of World War Two, sixty years ago, we still agree that human rights must be protected around the world. Many diplomats and religious leaders from around the world joined in this auspicious occasion. And so Bishop Blake sent an emissary to participate on the Church's behalf.

I've also learned that this action has ignited a firestorm of controversy. There are those in the church world who have gone on record to say that participating in this exciting demonstration of peace keeping is to endorse gay marriage. Huh?? How did you get that out of this signing?? Nowhere in the Universal Declaration does the issue of gay matrimony come up. Rights where it comes down to sexual orientation are not mentioned here... The document clearly is designed to deal with tyranny, slavery and genocide.... not sex.

Then I learned that there are those who say to participate is to violate and ignore denominational doctrine. They say why are you participating with other religions.... They don't believe how we believe... The fact that Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists and a host of other religions participated in this event is interesting. For my perspective, there is one common denominator with all these religions... Peace is at the foundation of total human completeness..... I don't know if that is doctrinally sound, but from my view of the world that's a fact...

Are the people of the Lord supposed to sit in our pews and do nothing as world tyranny, poverty, atrocities and the like just run rampant in the community and the world? I mean, God is in me and when he says move, I move... I believe in the supernatural power of the Holy Spirit and in it I am directed to move about the community building peace, love and working to promote social and economic justice, and alleviate poverty as tangible expressions of the Kingdom of God...

These days people are seeking God more desperately than ever, isn't that evidence that the Holy Spirit wants us to get busy in the direction of combating the evil principalities in the world and promote peace and love?

Church folk need to stop getting so caught up in holiness that you can't see the forest for the trees.. We need to get out of our pews, get from behind the walls of our churches and get out in these streets and advance Christ's agenda.. Be demonstrative to the masses that which is the commandment of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ - love one another. In today's world, we cannot show love sitting up in our churches with our hats and suits, we have to hit the bricks whether it's in our communities or on the world stage...

As to the argument that we should not be associating with other religions, that in and of itself is an interesting conversation. This is the part that feels to me like folk are reducing the issue down to spiritual gangbanging.... I prefer to think it's about relationship with God not Religion.

All I know is that you will not lose any portion of the light that burns inside you if you share it with the world... In fact it is that light that will attract the world to you so you can be a witness to the essence of God in Jesus Christ...

For me, the symbolism of joining the world in making a stance against genocide, tyranny and injustice is powerful to me. To do nothing says that we're so heavenly bound, we're no earthly good.





Monday, March 09, 2009

Chris vs. Rihanna: Love Hurts when it's coming from a fist...

Jim Brown, James Brown, Bobby Brown... Chris Brown... There must be something in a name... All beat thier women... All came under the scrutiny of the law.... All of thier women took them back after the beatdown...

So there I was, backstage in the media room of the 2009 Grammy Awards.. The awards show people had just passed out the rundown of the telecast... it showed that Chris Brown would be performing early in the show... Rihanna was supposed to be a part of a number also...

But then, I saw a frazzled PR rep scurrying through the media room, flushed and concerned.... She shared with us a shocking piece of news... Chris Brown would not take the stage that evening because he had beat Rihanna down and hospitalized her.... I remember thinking.. what??!!! Chris Brown?? Rihanna?? heck to tha naw... that had to be some sort of rumor... These artists were the epitome of clean cut young black America... no way did this happen....The Rep went on to tell us that the LAPD was "actively" looking for Chris.... I was like, dag!!!!... Chris Brown? Actively being pursued by the LAPD??? What did he do dang near kill the girl??

And here we are weeks later... we have seen the photos... we have seen the detectives notes and we saw as Chris faced the judge... We have even seen Rihanna say she has taken Chris back...

What message is being sent to our young people with this so-called reconciliation? That it's ok? Doesn't Rihanna know that if he does it this time he will do it again?? Or is it that Chris has done it before??

What message does this young black man send to the masses that are his fans??? That's it's cool to hit your woman?

Why does a man need to get physical with his woman? Under no circumstances is this acceptable behavior. What did she do to provoke him to this magnitude of violence?? I can hear her now, "What you gonna do, hit me???" When are the women going to learn it's not acceptabe to provoke the man....?

No matter the case, this is a sad story.. Chris Brown represented, finally, a clean cut, All American image of the black male. No pimpin, no thuggin... Rihanna is the darling of the industry for the moment, pretty, cleancut, wholesome..... And now this... right when the black male image receives a positive boost from the election of Barack Obama as president... Just when the young black male could walk a little taller...

And I don't know about you, but if a dude hits my daughter, it's gonna be on... I'm ridin'.... Who's ridin' on Rihanna's behalf?? Is Chris watching his back?

In the end, this is sad... Some will say it's immaturity... Some will say it's love... All I say is that (in the words of the Poetess)

Love Hurts When It's Coming From a Fist....

Sunday, March 01, 2009

A Powerful Weekend.... My brain is swollen...

Whew!! what a weekend!! Since the close of business Friday, I have been exposed to a deep element of black intelligentsia... A massive assault on my brain has occurred at the hands of some of the best and brightest from black America... Just in the last 48 hours, I have met, personally talked to and/or heard speeches from:

Dick Gregory
Sherri Shephard (The View)
Dr. Bill Releford (Black Barbershop Men's Health project)
Norm Nixon (Ex LA Laker and Clipper, now broadcaster)
YoYo (hall of fame hiphop artist)
Mark Ridley Thomas (LA County Supervisor 2nd District)
Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa
Councilman Danny Tabor (Inglewood)
Mervyn Dymally (former politician - too many seats to mention here)
Tavis Smiley
Danny Bakewell (Publisher LA Sentinel)
Dr. Juwanza Kunjufu
Julianne Malveaux (President Bennett College for Women)
Dr. Cornel West
Rev. Al Sharpton
Michael Eric Dyson
Natalie Cole (no, not that Natalie Cole, I'm talking about the Publisher, Our Weekly)
Synthia St. James (noted artist)
Courtney Vance
Angela Bassett
LaTonya Richardson (Samuel L. Jackson's wife)
J. Anthony Brown
Tom Joyner
Bishop Charles E. Blake (Presiding Bishop COGIC worldwide - my pastor)

I think there are more, but I cannot remember at this sitting... The interactions here are up close and personal.... So much knowledge and wisdom,....

My brain is swollen....