Saturday, January 30, 2010

Five Products You Shouldn't Scrimp on Despite the Recession

Image Credit: Mark Stivers @

In a recession, cutting corners here and there to save a little money is a necessity. And thankfully I have been blessed with a wife who is a master of doing just that. She’s great at finding bargains and saving money. My uncle once joked that she held on to a penny so tightly that she could make Abraham Lincoln fart.

However proud I am of her bargain finding/money saving skills, I refuse to go shopping with her. It’s no in and out proposition. It’s instead a harrowing, tedious experience. I just don’t have the patience needed to clip coupons, consult other stores’ sales pages for price matches, and then calculate the exact price per ounce for each item before it gets in the basket.

Every now and then, though, I’m called on to run to the store for whatever reason, and my ineptness at the whole bargain hunting/money saving game becomes plain. My attempts to save a little money usually end up terribly. Since the recession began, I have found that recession or no recession, there are some things you just can’t scrimp on. This is my top five:

Fruit Loops

Public Service Announcement: Fruit Loops and Fruit Rings are not the same things! I found this out the hard way. I just went out to pick up a couple of breakfast items when I spotted this huge bag of Fruit Rings on sale. For the same price as a 17.2 ounce box of Fruit Loops, I could get this ridiculously large bag of Fruit Rings. Of course I thought, Fruit Loops/Fruit Rings—it’s just a matter of semantics. Right?

So, my children helped me to lift the ridiculously huge bag of Fruit Rings into the basket, and we headed home. Two hours later we were all writhing in pain with stomach cramps. Moral of the story: stick with the brand name cereals.


So I’m standing in line at Walgreens to purchase some Pepto-Bismol to combat the Fruit Rings induced stomach cramps when I spotted this sign advertising these knock-off designer fragrances. The sign read, “Same great scent as [insert your favorite fragrance here] but at half the price.” As I waited for my turn, I decided to smell a couple of the men’s fragrances, and they did smell incredibly like the original. So, I decided to take a chance.

A few days a later I’m sitting in a meeting, smelling all good with my knock-off fragrance on. Then I felt a little itch coming on. Then the itch became uncontrollable. Before long everyone is shooting these frightened glances in my direction. So, I excuse myself to the bathroom.

I look in the mirror, and my neck is all red covered with this fine rash, and my head is swollen into the shape of a light bulb. My only consolation is that as the pretty young nurse gave me a shot in my behind to counteract the allergic reaction, she gave me a compliment on how good I smelled.


I am a connoisseur of fine bacon. I especially like that thick-sliced, rind-on bacon. But nothing ruins a good breakfast like cheap bacon. You know what I am talking about. That bacon that shrinks to the size of a stick of gum once you cook it and is so wafer thin that it seems to dissolve on your tongue.

I work too hard and too long to have to settle for cut-rate bacon, and I am sure you do too. Look for savings somewhere else. I suggest you invest in some good bacon, and then buy the frozen, store brand vegetables.


Just because they stick the label “With Aloe” on lotion, does not necessarily mean it’s an effective emollient. That’s just a marketing gimmick. And when it is labeled “With Even More Aloe!”, well that’s just a scam.

So, I get up, take a nice hot shower, and then slather myself from head to toe with this new, inexpensive lotion I was trying out. Feeling all fresh and clean, I go to the library, and I’m sitting there looking perusing a few books, when this lady compliments on the interesting pattern and texture of my socks. It took a second to register that I was not wearing socks.

I looked down at my ankles, and just as I had expected, alligator skin. I looked at my knuckles, and they along with the rest of my hands were goose gray. I pulled up my sleeve, and my arms looked like they belonged to the tinman from the Wizard of Oz.

As I hurried toward the exit, I could feel my skin hardening and cracking beneath my clothes. By the time I got home, I looked like a ghost from head to toe. Not wanting to throw the whole bottle out, I tried using it again, only this time I used two layers of lotion. Then three layers of lotion. But the lotion just didn't work.

Either I am the ashiest brother in the world, or this lotion just absolutely sucks.

Toilet Paper

Need I even add any commentary? Any time you can buy so much toilet paper that you have to get another grocery cart, for the same price as you would pay for a twelve roll pack of your regular toilet paper, it’s too good to be true. Only bad things can come of this. Either you are purchasing an incredible amount of twelve grit sand paper disguised toilet paper, or the paper is so thin that you are just setting yourself up for a smelly, disgusting mess.

Either way, whatever you do, don’t scrimp on toilet paper. Even if you have to put something back, reach upon the top shelf and get the good stuff.

Are there any additional products that we just shouldn't scrimp on?

Thursday, January 28, 2010

President Obama's willingness to get out front and lead will determine how this all ends

Let me say up front, I wouldn’t want to be president. I couldn’t be president. As I watched the coverage leading up to and following the president’s State of the Union Address, it again occurred to me the incredible amount of scrutiny that encapsulates him. Every move he makes, every word he utters is instantly weighed and dissected according to the purposes of whomever is speaking; objectivism in journalism has long ceased to exist if it even ever has.

Nonetheless, the president made a strong showing last night. However, it was not the triumphant speech that I and others like me had hoped to hear. Among other things, he could not inform the American public of the numbers of people finding jobs and returning to work. He could inform the American public that the economy appeared to be righting itself and even of the many successes of the policies he has implemented since in office, but he could not promise or pinpoint an end to the morass.

And most of all, perhaps most importantly of all, he could not inform the public of the implementation of a newly reformed and revamped health care system, insuring everyone had access to adequate medical care, that we had all so hopefully and urgently anticipated.

That being said, I think what President Obama accomplished in the main on last night was to get us almost back to the point where we were at last January when he first took office. It seemed then that coming off the campaign trail, he had an august tailwind behind him, propelling him forward. And with a solid filibuster proof senate, we just knew that perhaps finally things would get better for the country.

But then something curious happened. It seemed he took a step back and delegated his authority to others. We looked for him to be out front, but we could only see those faces who, especially for those who don’t follow politics closely (which is perhaps the majority of Americans), we didn’t know from Adam; most people didn’t even know who Nancy Pelosi or Harry Reid was before the push for health care reform began.

Most people only knew that they had invested a tremendous amount of energy and faith in Barack Obama, and he seemed to be letting them down. It was at this point that progressives and others on the left began to get discouraged; it is at this point that his base felt that he was wasting too much energy and political capital in pandering to the right, chasing some elusive ideal of bipartisanship; it is at this point that the country began to appear as if it were spiraling out of control and people became frightened. And we all know that frightened people do not always make the most rational decisions.

Personally I believe that perhaps the bar was set too high for Barack Obama or any other politician for that matter. Personally I believe things got so bad under the last administration that people searched vigorously and expectantly for a miracle, a savior who would come along at just the right time and fix it all with one fell swoop, a wave of the hand and a reassuring wink. After all, in our most popular and enduring theatrical genre, the western, doesn’t some tall, swarthy stranger ride into town at the very last minute and save the day?

But we, along with President Obama, have gotten a hard dose of reality over the past year. We realized the he was not our savior and that change would not come overnight. And he realized that perhaps the complete overhaul of a completely corrupt system and bipartisanship were only chimeras; playing fair and by the rules only works when both sides are in agreement just as to what those rules entail.

So, the speech has been made, and it was a good one, a real hum-dinger, a barn burner. But we already knew the brother could deliver a good speech. We already knew the brother was a master of rhetoric. The proof is in the follow through. Has he gained the ability to distinguish ideal and reality, and has he gained the intestinal fortitude requisite to get out front and lead? That we will find out in the days ahead.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

So, now we are comparing the poor to stray animals?

Everyone who blogs on a regular basis, especially those who blog about politics and social issues, can testify that blogging sometimes takes a toll on you, both emotionally and physically. Getting something of substance up on your page every day can sometimes become a real chore.

Not only that, constantly thinking about and dwelling on the abject foolishness which comprises modern politics, not to mention the other extraneous occurrences that erupt from time to time, makes my blood boil and gets under my skin so much so that I have to take a step back, clear my throat, get my thoughts back in order, and find my voice again.

I have always hoped that my blogging voice would be one of clarity, of sanity, that would elucidate, sometimes entertain, sometimes sternly rebuke; however, sometimes rage and disbelief cause that voice to tremble ever so much. Last week was one of those times.

However, I saw the above piece on television on last evening, and I knew that I would have to comment on it, if only briefly.

It seems that Andre Bauer, the Lt. Governor of South Carolina, had the temerity to compare providing sustenance to poor and needy children to feeding stray animals. The reasoning behind not feeding the poor? Because if you feed them, the poor will reproduce. But the word he used was breed.

Okay, now we are talking about other human beings as if we are discussing animals. Come on now. Haven’t we progressed any further than this? And this is a public elected official no less.

I don’t want to get preachy. But part of the problem we face in this country, and elsewhere for that matter, is our sanctimonious display of religiousity—“This is a Christian nation”—tempered by a firm disregard for religious or moral principle.

As of this morning, Lt Governor Bauer still stood behind his statements. I can only hope that the humanity in him wakes up just enough to recognize the humanity in the less fortunate.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

The "Is Black Entertainment Dead?" Episode: Who Stole the Soul?

Back in the 1990’s, African American movies, music, and television seemed to be flourishing. It seemed that in these mediums African Americans were finally elbowing our way into the mainstream. However, in the new millennium, suddenly that production seemingly has fallen off.

As concerns African American movies, quality African American movies are few and far between, and for those which do see the big screen, mediocrity seems to be the prevailing norm.

And not to even mention African American music. From where I sit, the state of African American music has become such that I don’t even listen to mainstream radio any more. African American musical artists, and I use that term loosely, seem to becoming richer and richer; however, it seems to me that the overall quality of the music, especially the messages it conveys, is decreasing tremendously.

If we discuss African American television for just a second, in the 1990’s we had The Cosby Show, A Different World, The Fresh Prince, Roc, and a plethora of other African American sitcoms that became television mainstays. However, lately even those African American sitcoms that we enjoyed, namely The Game, seem to last only one or two seasons.

Maybe it is just me. I don’t know. But you can have your say on this matter. Join me and my co-hosts RiPPa of The Intersection of Madness and Reality and Michele Grant of Black N’ Bougie as we discuss the state of African American and African American themed art and entertainment tonight on Freedom through Speech Radio [click here to access show platform]. Because of the football game, the show will be on one hour later at 9 PM EST.

And remember, the most important voice in this conversation is your voice.

Monday, January 18, 2010

For Martin Luther King, Jr. Day: Reclaiming/Redefining Our Symbols

Yesterday afternoon I was driving south on I-95 through downtown Jacksonville, and my two children pointed out a billboard to my left that read simply, “Martin Luther King was a Republican.” Underneath that statement, the billboard listed the sponsor as an association for black Republicans.

Of course my children had questions. To them the Republican Party is antithetical to all that Martin Luther King, Jr. stood for, fought for, and represented. In a word, the Republican Party seems to fly in the face of all that they believed Dr. King symbolized.

And symbols are powerful things indeed. As human beings often we often reduce the broad sentiments, the ethos, the purpose of a group of people to a symbol. And each time we confront this symbol, the group’s narrative necessarily comes to mind.

Think of the Statue of Liberty standing in New York harbor. Think of the American flag or the United States Constitution. Both have become symbols of this nation. Alternately, think of the peace sign or the upraised, clenched black fist. Both have become symbols of a movement.

But the complicated truth about symbols is that symbols are imbued with a certain meaning that can and often does change over time. And further, the meaning of symbols can and does change from person to person, group to group; what one person, one group sees in a symbol, another person or group may see something else. For one person or group, a symbol could be inspirational, while in another person or group, that symbol might evoke absolute terror or wrath.

Additionally, symbols may be appropriated by opposing groups to meet their ends.

Martin Luther King, Jr. has largely become a symbol. However, the meaning of that symbol differs according to race, according to generation, according to political affiliation. And over forty years after his death, the narrative of his life and the meaning thereof has been revisited and revised innumerable times.

Disparate groups have poured over that narrative, extracting this detail and that, all toward the end of whatever purpose they have in mind. And disparate groups have claimed ownership of that symbol. African Americans have jealously and tenaciously attempted to claim the narrative of Martin Luther King, Jr. as uniquely our own. The nation has claimed MLK as a symbol of the possibility this nation has to offer. And the world has claimed MLK in the main as a symbol of the possibilities of peace.

But of course the question then becomes, “What does MLK mean to you?”

The billboard alluded to earlier prompted questions from my children that I was forced to answer. As to MLK’s political affiliation, I honestly do not know. From some of his writings, it becomes clear that King may certainly have been a Republican. In fact, his father was a registered Republican, so it would perhaps be unusual if his son did not follow suit.

However, because of the Democratic Party’s reluctant embrace of the Civil Rights platform, you could perhaps rightly conjecture that King made the migration to the Democratic Party along with the majority of African Americans.

But according to the King Research Institute at Stanford and King years Pulitzer Prize winning chronicler Taylor Branch, King was nonpartisan.

I think the Republican party has attempted to co-opt and appropriate King-as-a-symbol in an effort to appeal to Blacks. Furthermore, ultimately it matters little if King was a Democrat or Republican. But it does matter that King-as-narrative and King-as-symbol be reconciled so as to retain the true meaning of King’s life and work.

Above all, King was an humanitarian; he believed in lending a helping hand to the downtrodden, the destitute, the exploited, to those most bereft of hope. And his message was not one of passive participation and engagement, but of direct and active confrontation of those forces who would seek to grind those perceived lesser members of society underfoot. His method was to challenge the consciousness, to assail the practices of oppression and degradation.

As we take part in this yearly ritual, this yearly celebration of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s life and works, it becomes incumbent that we protect the meaning thereof. And, additionally, it becomes incumbent that amid the replay of his speeches, amid the parades and public celebration, we allow this meaning to guide us in our everyday lives and praxis. Let us become living billboards, living symbols of the principles he lived and died for.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Freedom through Speech Radio: The Barack Obama Scorecard and Call to Service Show

This has been an interesting week to say the least. At the beginning of the week, “Negro” seemed to be the word in the streets. First of all, the inclusion of “Negro” as a choice in the racial identification categories on the upcoming census set all the Negroes a titter and a Twitter.

But before that conversation could even finish, the revelation that during the 2008 presidential campaign, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid listed then candidate Obama’s not speaking in the “Negro dialect” as one of his major qualifications for office. Well, this just made Negroes giggle and most could even see the truth in Senator Reid’s statement. It even inspired me to translate my favorite Shakespearean sonnet, Sonnet 29—When in disgrace with fortune and men’s eyes, into the “Negro dialect.

However, the Republican Party didn’t see the humor in Senator Reid’s remark. And because they just love Negroes so, they trotted out Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele to demand his resignation. I wrote about that here.

However, this argument was not able to get any traction before the news of a catastrophic earthquake devastating Haiti. And the African American community responded tremendously. On Facebook, on Twitter, and through various other mediums, we coalesced to raise a remarkable amount of money in a remarkably short time.

But the question then becomes, what happens when the coverage of the tragedy ceases to dominate the news and moves from the front page to the back page? What will we do then? What will the world do?

Tonight at 8 PM EST on the Blog Talk Radio show I co-host along with OneChele and RiPPa, Freedom through Speech Radio, we will be discussing these issues along with giving a grade to President Obama’s first year as president. Sitting in will be Average Bro from and Thembi Ford from

So, stop by, call in, and let your voice be heard. And remember, the most important voice is your voice.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Public Service Advisory: Would the Following People Just Please STFU!

You know what I hate the most, what really chafes my behind? I absolutely abhor people who just won’t shut up. And it seems that the people who make the least sense, those spouting and espousing the most non-sensical BS are the ones who are always doing all the talking.

But usually, I am a laid back, mellow kind of fellow, and the BS doesn’t get to me. I just shake my head and move on. From time to time when the BS gets too deep, however, I will take the time to address it.

And since President Obama’s presidential campaign began in earnest last summer, the BS from the right, and sometimes from the left, has piled up wide and deep. From time to time I have addressed it, especially when it became such that I just could not ignore it.

This week the BS continued unabated, but at this point it has gotten so absolutely foolish, they I feel I must call for a BS timeout. I must call for some people to just STFU and give us all a break for just a minute. So, could the following people please just STFU for the time being:

Michael Steele, you make less and less sense as you go along For the record, I believe that for our political system to work for African Americans we must be represented across the political spectrum. In other words, it does no good for African Americans to commit fully to either party; that is tantamount to putting one’s eggs in one basket. We must make our voices heard from the right and the left.

However, African Americans on the right, and left for that matter, must not commit to just merely regurgitating the political bile you are fed, but instead be committed to truth. And from time to time, Michael Steele has slipped and told the truth, but political exigency has caused him to have eat his words.

Anyway, this week began with Steele demanding the ouster of Senate majority leader Harry Reid because of his remarks that because President Obama was light-skinned and he did not use “the Negro dialect,” he would make a formidable presidential candidate. According to Steele and his cronies on the right, this remark was racist in nature, right up there on par with Trent Lott’s seeming endorsement of a segregationist candidate and platform.

But if Steele was honest with himself and with the rest of us, he would be able to admit the truthfulness of Reid’s statement. What made Reid’s statement so remarkable was his use of antiquated language which proves only that culturally he is quite out of touch.

But to attack Reid but say nothing of the largely racist rhetoric which has become part and parcel of the right’s efforts to regain relevancy decries a certain lack of sincerity. Michael Steele, your own party has little or no respect for you, and as time goes on, you become simply a caricature, a big joke. Do yourself and the rest of the country a favor and just STFU.

Rush Limbaugh is not a racist; he just plays one on TV I had a debate with one of my African American conservative friends concerning whether or not Limbaugh is actually a racist. But does it even matter if he is a racist or not when the racist rhetoric he constantly espouses reaches so many and does little more than reify and concretize the boundaries of race that keep us apart and prevent real progress.?

To tell you the truth, I don’t think he even believes half the bile that issues forth from that vile orifice he calls a mouth, but when you are getting filthy rich from little more than reinforcing the racist views of a handful of ignorant bigots, why not?

But to maintain this racist, bigoted persona even in the face of remarkable human tragedy and suffering is morally despicable. And to go so far as to discourage your viewers from not contributing to the rescue and recovery effort should earn you a special place in hell.

However, I am most disappointed that no one from the right, no one from the party that claims to represent morality and Christian values even bothered to come out against you. So, Rush, until you assume your proper place amid the fire and brimstone of hell, I wish you would just give us all a break and just STFU!

What Would Jesus Do (WWJD), Pat Robertson? Speaking of Christian values, what values were on display when 700 Club founder and pastor Pat Robertson blamed Haiti’s misfortune on a “pact with the devil” the country made hundreds of years ago so that it might throw off the shackles of slavery and gain its independence from France?

When I heard this clip, what I actually interpreted Robertson’s remarks to mean is that “those Negroes had the unctuous audacity to insist on being free and then to take their freedom by force, and they are now paying the price for their refusal to be slaves.” Or maybe I’m just reading too much into it.

If, in fact, Haiti made a deal with the devil, it was throwing in its lot with the United States and allowing the United States so much influence in the political processes of the country.

Anyway, this is not the first time Pat Robertson has been in violation. Every now and then he says something off the wall that simply links him to a long line of racists who wrap themselves in the flag of Christianity.

My greatest hope is that Black Jesus will reveal himself to Pat Robertson in that moment before he enters into eternity; spending eternity with the image of Black Jesus burned into his subconscious is hell enough for Robertson, but right now I just wish he would STFU!

Honorable Mention: William Jefferson Clinton, please step forward and explain yourself Before we were interrupted by the catastrophe in Haiti, we spent the first days of this past week debating the meaning and import of Senator Reid’s remarks. However, no one seemed to pay any real attention to the remarks of our purported first black president, William Jefferson Clinton, that at one time then presidential candidate Obama would be bringing him and Ted Kennedy coffee.

This remark could be interpreted one of two ways. It could just mean that because of Senator Obama’s relatively newness to the senate, he would be beholden to them as senior members. Or it could mean that that uppity Negro has seemingly forgotten his place.

Despite the notion that Clinton has done so much to help black folk, if his record were critically examined, you would find that his contributions to African Americans have been little more that symbolic gestures.

And given he and his wife’s seemingly racially derogatory remarks during the darkest days of her campaign, I think he should be pressed to come forward and provide an explanation of his remarks. Until he does, he can just STFU!

Thursday, January 14, 2010

When Morning Comes (Thinking about the Haitian Children)

I made the mistake of leaving my television on as I slept last night. And throughout the night the reports of the rescue and relief effort in the aftermath of the earthquake that has ravaged Haiti played, and subconsciously I guess that registered in my mind because several times during the night I got up and walked the length of the house to check on my two children as they slept.

And I felt comforted in knowing that they were alright. I felt comforted in knowing that in the morning they would arise to a hot meal. That both their parents would be there to greet them and wish them well as they departed for the school day. I felt comforted in knowing that except for some unforeseen catastrophe, their world would remain intact for the time being.

Perhaps because I have been a child, because at some time or another I have been hungry, I have been frightened, I have felt vulnerable, utterly helpless, in the face of those things seemingly out of my control, whenever I hear of a disaster such as Katrina, such as the earthquake and subsequent aftershocks in Haiti, in my mind I automatically think of the children. In my mind I automatically put myself in the place of the children.

But I wonder most about that first night. Did the children even get to sleep that first night? But how do you sleep with all that death and destruction and devastation around you? How do you sleep knowing that the world as you know it has suddenly been turned upside down? How do you sleep if a parent or a sibling or a beloved family member is missing and has not been heard from?

But most importantly, how do you close your eyes, how do you sleep, how do you seek repose when you are not sure of what the morning brings? When the only promise the morning holds is that the death, the destruction, the devastation of the night previous will step out of shadows only to be framed by the light of day. What you could only imagine was there, what you really would like to believe was simply a nightmare is only confirmed as real as the morning sun welcomes you to a new day of confusion, of chaos, of disbelief?

It is at this moment I understand my limitations as a human being. It is at this moment when I realize how fragile life really is. It is at this moment that I realize how short my arms really are, how restricted my sphere of influence because if I had my way, when I awoke in the middle of the night, after walking the length of the house and checking on my own children, I would have liked to keep on walking.

I would have liked to find my way from here to those hungry, frightened, bewildered children so that I might put my arms around them and calm them, and reassure them that soon everything would return to normal, or as normal as can be given what has transpired.

I would like to be there when exhaustion finally allowed them to sleep so that when they awake in the darkness, I can be there to comfort them and let them know that in the morning, we will begin rebuilding. We will begin anew. And soon when the morning comes, the horror of the moment will be all but forgotten, and the new day will be greeted again as a thing of promise and not simply as a continuance of a nightmare.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Shakepeare's Sonnet 29 translated into the Negro dialect by Maxwell R. Reddick

William Shakespeare’s Sonnet 29—When in disgrace with fortune and men’s eyes

(translated into the Negro dialect by Maxwell Reddick)

Wheneber meh luck done run plumb out and folks is looking at me crazy,

I just goes somewheh and sits by mehself thankin’ and stankin’

Even dey gud Lawd above ain’t even payin’ me no mind,

I just shakes meh head and wundeah how I gots meh-self in this heah predicament,

Sometimes I just wishes I be somebody else,

Somebody dat ebery-body lubs and that has friends an’ such,

I wishes dat I has some kind ah talent, some-ting,

Dem tings I likes the most, I hab the bery least of;

And sometimes I almost just hates meh-self,

But den I thanks ‘bout you, baby, an’ I feels betta’

Just lak a bird sanging when dey sun comes up in dey morning

Sanging so loud dat it can be heard to high hea-ben;

An’ baby wit’ dey good lub you gives me, I is rich

An’ as long as you heah wit me, I wouldn’t eben change places wit a king.

[Original sonnet]

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Republicans, thank you for finally showing me how much you care about black folk.

You know, dear reader, I am composing this post with a decided sense of relief. You see, I consider myself a moderate. On some issues I veer left and on others I veer right. For some time now, my political affiliation on my voter’s registration card has been listed as NPA for No Party Affiliation. That way I could reserve the right to vote for a Democrat or a Republican or an Independent or whatever candidate best articulated a platform that most approximated my political beliefs.

That being said, though I have voted for Republican candidates in the past, it has been a while since I have done so. At some point I sensed the Republican political rhetoric to be steering from covertly to blatantly racist, and though I am not overly sensitive when it comes to matters of race, you cannot expect my vote if you cannot respect and acknowledge my humanity. You might hate me in private, but at least put on a good show of it in public.

But that has all come to an end. My suspicions and apprehensions surrounding the seemingly rampant racial rhetoric and racism of the Republican Party have been allayed. The Republican Party has finally shown that they really do care for African Americans.

When Senator Harry Reid’s atrocious remarks during the 2008 campaign that Barack Obama was electable as president in the main because of his light complexion and “he had no Negro dialect unless he wanted one ” finally came to light, who had the courage and the temerity to call him out for his lack of forethought and sensitivity but the Republican Party?

Never mind that though we are loath to admit it, Senator Reid told the truth. He just lacked the eloquence of language in which to frame his remarks.

But only the Republican Party could make the connection to then senate majority leader Trent Lott’s 2002 insinuation that we would be a better nation had we elected segregationist Strom Thurmond to the presidency in 1948 thereby evincing an implied support for a racist, white power platform.

Now I can dismiss the Republican silence when conservative talk show host Rush Limbaugh unveiled the snappy ditty “Barack the Magic Negro,” and another Republican politician packaged this with other seemingly racist and sexist tunes and circulated the CD among his supporters on the right.

And I can forget the chill that ran down my spine late in this past presidential campaign when presidential candidate John McCain and his running mate Sarah Palin decided to appeal to the most base elements of the party and substitute racially explosive and provocative rhetoric for a comprehensive, substantial platform; from where I sat, each cry of “SOCIALIST, SOCIALIST, SOCIALIST!” sounded an awful like “NIGGER, NIGGER, NIGGER!” but evidently I was mistaken.

And I could have been mistaken when I thought I heard the same sentiments expressed by the whole Tea Party Movement thing. And I could have been mistaken when I thought I heard racial overtones in the inquisition, excuse me, confirmation hearings of Justice Sotomayer.

However, I felt much better when I awoke recently to find my favorite soul brother, Republican National Committee chairman Michael Steele, pointing out the hypocrisy of the Democratic Party. His song and dance would have been more convincing, though, had he not used the racially insensitive statement, “Honest Injun,” only days previous in communicating the soundness of the Republican Party platform.

Republican Party, I acknowledge your efforts in standing up for me and all other African Americans and you have my deepest and most heartfelt appreciation. Now can you take a timeout from the posturing and jousting with windmills so that you might actually get down to the business of governing.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Are You the Person You Imagine Yourself to Be?: An Ocassion for Self-Examination

“What someone is, begins to be revealed when his talent abates, when he stops showing us what he can do.” –Friedrich Nietzsche

"The measure of a man’s character is what he would do if he knew he never would be found out." –Baron Thomas Babington McCauley

It seems that not a week goes go by without reading or hearing about some athlete or celebrity’s colossal blunder or momentary lapse of judgment. And if you are like me, such instances are met with a dismissing shake of the head and self-aggrandizing moralizing about what I would do if the roles were reversed, if I were the one with that much money, that much privilege, that much access.

However, this weekend I had the privilege of having good conversation with good friends who possess a certain measure of good sense and intellect about this very same subject, athletes and celebrities and the horrific personal decisions they make.

However, the conversation did not turn out as I thought it would. I went it with a certain body of assumptions that undergirded my understanding of the whole matter in general and my relationship to the whole issue in particular. But this is what good conversation with good friends causes you to do—think. And if you do not have friends who challenge you intellectually, then begin searching for some.

But I digress. After the conversation, I had to step back and ask myself a few questions. If I had a camera following me 24/7 what would people find out about me? What would I find out about myself?

Shakespeare once put into the mouth of one of his character’s, “This above all: to thine ownself be true.” But how true are we really to ourselves? How well do we really even know ourselves? Often that self we see is that self we see in the mirror of the eyes of others which is essentially the self we consciously project, the self we would like them to see.

But when we are alone with ourselves, what self do we then see? Are we pleased with this self?
And the role money, or the lack thereof, plays in curbing our most base instincts suddenly occurs to me. A broke person moralizes with ease. It is easy to say what you will do or what you will not do when your financial situation limits your access to the world, but if suddenly you found yourself with the financial resources to do anything you wanted to do, if suddenly you found yourself with unfettered access to the world and all the things in it, would your moral code then change? Would that change the person you are and what you believe?

I’m sorry to hit you with something so heavy on a Monday morning, but I have the occasion of examining my own values, of defining myself and my values and attempting to erect some moral boundaries and just wondered if you ever ask yourselves the same questions as well.

And as always, love yourself and be a blessing to somebody.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Some stuff I saw this week but can’t tell anyone because they wouldn’t believe me anyway: The Good Greens Edition

Sometimes I feel like Cassandra. Remember Cassandra? She was that character in Greek mythology who was granted the gift of incredible insight by the gods, but in the same instance, the gods cursed her so that no one would even believe her.

As I travel about, I see all kinds of fantastical, unbelievable things, but when I tell others about what I have seen, no one will even believe me. So, I just drop them off here, and you have the option of believing them are not; I just want to get them off my chest.

Since our last episode, these are just a few of the crazy things that I have seen or that have happened to me.

Penguins in My Bed

If you have been following this blog for any length of time, you know that when I eat pork or fried or spicy food before I go to sleep, I have these crazy, fantastical nightmares. Yep, I have had another crazy dream.

So, a few days ago I just happened to be in the vicinity of my daughter’s school, so I decided to stop and pick her up and take her to lunch so that we could spend a little quality time together. I asked her where she wanted to go, and she recommended this little rib joint that we have not been to in quite some time.

We went to the rib joint, and we both ordered a rib sandwich and fries absolutely drenched in the spicy sauce. She is her father’s daughter. But before I even got up from the table, “the ‘itis” was all over me. I could barely make the drive home.

When I got home, I lay down to take a nap and fell into a deep, deep sleep. And while sleeping I began to have this all too vivid, all too lifelike dream. I dreamed that about a half dozen or so penguins jumped up into the bed with me and began squawking uncontrollably. I kept trying to shoo them out of the bed so I could return to sleep, but they kept squawking louder and louder.
Finally, I raised my head up to look at them and found that their feathers seemed awfully dry and dusty. So, I began to appeal to them to just quit squawking, and I would find someone to take them to water. But they just got louder and louder…

…and then my wife shook me awake. When I awoke, there stood my wife with my two children standing behind her with their eyes as big as saucers. My wife told me that I had been calling my children to come get the penguins out of the bed and get them to water for a while.

I immediately called my partner RiPPa to tell him about this foolishness. RiPPa told me that he was busy with his new baby daughter and didn’t have time to play games with me. I called OneChele and she was even less congenial.

You believe me don’t you?

Black Santa Drops His Weed

So I attended a charity Christmas party during the break which featured a black Santa. During the party as the organizers lined the children up to speak to Santa and receive their gift, I excused myself to the restroom.

I entered the restroom to find Black Santa putting the finishing touches on his whole Santa Claus getup. We exchanged greetings, and he departed. But just as he left, I saw a suspicious looking rolled up baggie on the floor. I took a closer look, and my suspicions were confirmed. I thought to myself, “Did Black Santa drop this?”

And then I got my answer. Black Santa stuck his head back inside the door and asked, “Brother, did you happen to see a bag of weed somewhere in here?”
I pointed to it. He retrieved it and thanked me.

I immediately fled the restroom to tell my wife so that she could help me figure out how to handle this. Did I tell the organizers that Black Santa was really a big pothead? Did I keep it to myself? But my wife just looked at me incredulously: “So you’re saying you just saw Santa smoking weed in the bathroom?”

“No, he wasn’t smoking it. He just has it with him! He put it in the inside pocket of his Santa jacket”

“So he just showed you his stash out of the blue?”

“No, he didn’t ‘just show it to me.’ He dropped it and picked it up and left.”

She just wouldn’t believe me. In fact, she suggested that I pour out my eggnog, surrender the car keys to her, and just blog about it when I got home. I just dropped it. But I can but only admit that Black Santa was the merriest, jolliest old elf that I have ever witnessed.

The Secret Ingredient to Good Greens

One Saturday during the winter break, I stopped by one of my fraternity brother’s house just to wish him and his family a happy holiday. When I arrived, his wife and mother-in-law had just returned from a marathon shopping expedition, and his mother-in-law sat in the family room with her feet soaking inside this big, huge, blue-speckled cooking pot.

We had a wonderfully uproarious conversation. His mother-in-law was pretty funny. We finally got around to talking about the cooking pot she was soaking her feet in. I commented that on one side of the pot, the speckles came together to form a frowning face because the pot was not being used for its expressed purpose.

Anyway, we enjoyed each other’s company so much that she invited me to return the following evening with my family for dinner. Of course the very next evening I returned with my family in tow. And let me tell you one thing—this woman put on a spread! But as I looked around the kitchen at all the delectable dishes she had prepared, my eyes fell upon a particularly pot on the stove, a big, huge, blue-speckled cooking pot with a distinctive pattern which looked as if the pot was frowning.

I went over to take a peek in the pot. Greens! And just then from behind me I heard my wife say, “Miss May Francis, I cannot wait to taste your greens. They smell absolutely delicious!”

Immediately, I ran into the family room like Will Smith running to save the world in any of his movies to warn my family about the greens. I got to my children first.

“Listen, don’t eat the greens. That woman had her feet in that pot that she cooked them in.”

My daughter looked at me curiously. “What are you talking about, Dad? She just went in there and put her foot in the pot?”

My son was even less credulous. He told my daughter, “I think Dad has a little too much time on his hands lately. He seems to be just making up stuff. The other night I heard him telling something to Mother about smoking weed in the bathroom with Santa at that party. Mother was not amused. We need to find him a creative outlet.”

Undaunted, I went to warn my wife. “Don’t eat those greens! That woman had her feet in the pot”

My wife questioned me, “Well, when did that happen? Since I’ve been here she hasn’t moved from that spot on the sofa. Did they bring the pot of greens in here?”

“No, see yesterday when I was over here…”

She cut me off and would not allow me to finish. She instead suggested that I put down the scotch, surrender the car keys to her, and blog about it when I got home.

And as we were eating dinner, everyone complimented the cook on what a delicious dinner it was, especially the greens. Then my fraternity brother intoned, “Mother May Francis, these greens are good. You must have used your secret ingredient because you really put your foot in this batch!” I began to choke on a lima bean.

After the whole choking episode ended, I loaded up my plate with greens. If you can’t beat them, join them. And everyone was right. The greens were absolutely delicious

Friday, January 8, 2010

I Saw You Yesterday (A miscellaneous scribbling from my writer's notebook)

Hey, you! It’s me. Surprised?

I saw you yesterday. I mean I am not so delusional to believe that it was actually you. But it was someone, some absolutely beautiful lady, who looked just as I guess you would look right now after all these years. At first my heart leapt and its pace quickened; I am not sure if what I felt was fear or surprise.

But the pretend you, the stand-in, just stood there seemingly oblivious to my presence, chatting with two small children, two beautiful and lively little girls, who so very much resembled the lady who looked so much like you.

And don’t laugh. Don’t believe that I have finally gone completely crazy. Perhaps it was just a flight of fancy. Or maybe I turned and you seemed to be standing there because for some reason you have been on my mind so frequently lately.

I guess your prediction finally came true. Or was it not a prediction but a curse? You said the day would come when I would find out what a horrible, egotistical little man I really was. That someone would come along and treat me exactly as I treated you. That someone would take me for granted just as I took you for granted. That someone would return my good with bad, my love with antipathy, my virtue with contempt.

And it happened just as you said, and it happened sooner not later. Does that make you happy? How does that make you feel?

I went through a long period when everything I touched seemed to turn to pure shit in my hands. Every relationship went bad even before it got started good. I was used. I was lied to. I was taken for granted. And in every instance when the truth finally came out—the truth always does—it was your face that came to mind. It was your voice that I heard in my ear.

And several times when I was at my lowest, I imagined that it was your arms thrown around my shoulders comforting me, quieting me, telling me that it would all work out in the end, that soon my lesson would be over.

And it finally did. The lesson finally ended. I met someone. And she is beautiful. Just like you. And she is gracious. Just like you. And she is wise. Just like you. And she is strong. Just like you.

And I am trying to do the right thing this time. I am trying to be the man you thought I was when you met me; I am trying to be the man you spent so much time and energy extolling me to be. Isn’t it almost ironic that you should invest so much time and energy in someone like me, and then I end up with someone else? Or should I even mention that?

But I’ll end now. I don’t want you to think that I have lost my mind or make you feel uncomfortable in any way. I just wanted you to know that I get it now. I really do. And, also, every now and then you cross my mind and I smile. And I saw you yesterday, and I wonder if when you are out and about around town, do you ever see me too?

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Why Do We Do What We Do?: A Question for the Black Blogger

So, on yesterday I wrote that there were two occurrences over the winter break which caused me to sit down and seriously assess and reassess the motivations and reasons behind some of my actions and activities. I presented you with one then. I shall present you with another now.

The weekend before Christmas I attended a birthday party for a member of my wife’s family. During a discussion with some of the attendees, the conversation turned to my blog. I was pretty much surprised that this particular group even had knowledge of it. However, it seemed that they had actually read a post here and there, and they were supportive of my efforts.

But then came the question. It didn’t surprise me because I could see the conversation heading in that direction. How much money do you make from blogging?

Of course I had to answer nothing, not one red cent, which seemed to surprise them because for some reason they seemed to have believed me to be raking in money hand over foot. And then came the inevitable question: “Then why do you do it? You seem to invest a considerable amount of time and energy in blogging, but it makes no sense to put that much time in something that pays you nothing.”

As I set at home during the winter break, this question returned to my mind again and again.

However, during the winter break I began a special project. Wayne Hicks of The Electronic Village and the AfroSpear blog think tank and network had been keeping the Black Blog Rankings (BBR) which ranked blogs owned and operated by African Americans. However, because of changes in the rating system at Technorati, he decided to discontinue the BBR. I asked could I pick up where he left off, and he graciously gave me permission.

During the break, I speak quite a few hours combing through about 1,700 blogs as I verified their URLs, and transferred them to a new rating system. From time to time, I came across the original AfroSpear blogs, some of which dated back to as early as 2006 [see The History of the AfroSpear].

What I found was a group of intrepid of men and women from various backgrounds representing various schools of thought and political affiliations who had nothing in common but the melanin in their skins and a unique voice and perspective that would not be denied, that could and would not be silenced or marginalized.

And from their earliest beginnings, the group sometimes spoke softly and individually; at other times they combined their voices until the pitch reached a cacophonic roar. Through their blogs, they argued and debated the various issues affecting the people of the African Diaspora, always with an eye toward definite and pronounced progress.

These voices gradually built to a crescendo which peaked around the election of President Barack Obama. Then gradually many of these original voices began to exit the stage as they pursued other endeavors and followed other avenues.

Now, as I check the black blogosphere, the number of black owned and operated blogs has grown by leaps and bounds. The number of African American owned and operated blogs grows each day. Additionally, many black owned and operated sites are moving upward into the rarified air of the upper reaches of the blogosphere with unprecedented reach and influence.

Also, at this time I find the gossip, hip-hop, and pop culture sites dominating the rankings. But that doesn’t mean that I do not believe there is a place in the black blogosphere for these sites; all voices are important and have a place.

However, I do look forward to a resurgence of those booming voices, new and old, that are willing to reach across the imaginary lines of color, class, gender, political affiliation, and whatever else divides as, in constructive and productive conversation and debate as we work toward uplifting brown and black peoples.

So, maybe I have managed to answer my own question. Maybe I have sat here and written and revised long enough until I have answered my own query. I blog because I feel I have something to say. I feel that I have a voice that is like none other. And with that voice I can sometimes speak in dulcet tones of compassion, forgiveness, and empathy, and at other times, I can speak in loud, bellowing tones of rage and disbelief.

And some days many others drop by to hear which voice I use while other days those that pass through are few. And some days many compliment me on my voice for that day and even stop to engage me in conversation while other days I get no feedback at all.

But nonetheless, this is my voice. This is my platform. This is why I do it. But the question then becomes, why do you do it?

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Why Do We Do What We Do?: Collective Black Uplift or Individual Black Privilege?

This past holiday season I got a rare but needed chance to just rest, relax, and reflect. And I guess that because I am an intrinsically introspective person, one or two occurrences gave me occasion to seriously ponder and assess why I do some things that I invest a considerable amount of time in doing. I will present one today and one tomorrow with the hope that I might learn from your collective wisdom and experience.

The first caused my wife and I to have a short but intense quarrel; however, upon returning to the instance again and again in my mind, I suspect that she might be correct in her assessment. I will give you the details as I remember them. I will endeavor not to leave anything out.

We attended a nighttime charity Christmas function at an inner-city institution. As we were leaving, I found that I needed to stop for fuel. However, at the first station we came to I found the fuel cost two or three cents a gallon above what I usually pay. So, I kept driving, but at every station I came to, fuel cost roughly the same.

I muttered about a “poverty tax” for a minute before my wife pointed out that the further we drove out of the way, by the time we found a station with an acceptable price I would have effectively negated whatever savings I hoped to achieve. So, reluctantly I pulled into the next station I came to.

I got out. I tried to use my credit card at the pump. It did not work. I got into my car and drove to the next pump. I tried to use my credit card at the pump. Again, it did not work. I got into the car. I drove around the island. I tried once again to use my credit card at the pump. And again it did not work.

Just then my wife leaned out of the car and suggested that perhaps the pay-at-the-pump option had been disabled, and I should go inside and pay and not waste anymore time. Just then I noticed a disheveled, unkempt black man of about fifty sweeping the lot and emptying the trash. He confirmed what my wife said and directed me inside to pay. My wife decided she wanted some mints, so she accompanied me into the store.

Upon entering the store, I noticed the clerk who seemed to be of Eastern Indian origin thoroughly ensconced in a booth surrounded by about two inches of glass separating him from the customers. Now, I really, really dislike going into an establishment like this; that two inches of glass always seems to say to me that the person behind the glass does not trust me, fears me even.

I pushed my card through the slot in the glass and informed the clerk of the amount of fuel I would like to purchase. He picked up the card. He looked at it. Then he looked at me for a second. Then he asked for ID. I was somewhat taken aback because I was not used to being asked for my ID to use a credit card. But I acquiesced.

Then I remembered the mints, so I asked for a pack of mints since all the gum and mints seemed to be locked in the glass booth with the clerk. But he seemed not to understand. “Mints,” I repeated and pointed through the glass at the mints behind him.

He grabbed a package of small plastic bags from the shelf and held them up. Shocked, I repeated myself, and pointed emphatically at the shelf. “No, mints!” He turned, picked up a little glass tube with a rose in it and held it up.

Now, I was insulted. I tried to maintain my cool; I had no desire to quarrel with another person of color. I thought it might just be a language problem, but that theory was disproved when the disheveled, unkempt black gentleman from outside came into the door, and the clerk launched into a profane tirade against him because of something he had neglected to do. The black man simply looked down at his feet like a child.

At that point, I had had enough. I loudly and emphatically chastised the clerk for talking to the black gentleman in that manner. After all, he was a man? He was a human, right?

And I chastised him for using foul language in front of my wife. And then I chastised him for overcharging the people in the neighborhood and separating himself from them behind two inches of glass like they were all highway robbers and crooks.

Just then a little black lady who had come in after us and waited behind us in line urged me to just pay and go. She said she was in a hurry to get home. She said that no one had asked me to stand up for them and that the black man who still stood in the door staring at his feet was nothing but a crackhead anyway. But what she said next stung me—“You are not from around here anyway. Go on back to where you came from with that old bougie bullshit.”

On the way home my wife was uncharacteristically quiet, so I knew she was not pleased.

“You embarrassed me,” she told me.

“But,” I sarcastically argued, “I was just attempting to stand up for you and the rest of the black folk, but y’all seem less than pleased with my efforts. Maybe y’all like being talked to like a dog.”

Then she explained to me, “It was never about black folks. I was never about that black man. It was never even about me. That was all about you. You were inconvenienced, and that frustrated you.

She went on, “You expected, and you expect, deferential treatment because of what and who you perceive yourself to be, and when you do not achieve deferential treatment, you fall back on your blackness. You get extra black, and you pull all black folks into your fight with you. Most of the time, you are sincere in your efforts, but not this time. If everything had gone your way, if you had not felt as if you had been insulted and demeaned, you would not have said a word. Even when he cursed that man, you would not have said a word. You wish to claim the very privilege you decry.”

And I did protest. I did attempt to defend myself. But the longer the quarrel went, the more evidence she offered up to defend her position, and finally I could only fall silent and ponder within myself if there was any such thing as black privilege.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

The Stories that Are Told about Us: Seizing Control of Our Narratives

Human beings are essentially beings made of words, created through language. From the cradle to the grave, from our birth certificate to our death certificate, a narrative account testifying to our very existence is constructed; without these documents, without some narrative account of our being, then we do not and cannot exist and never did.

And who possesses the knowledge and ability to tell my own narrative other than me? Who is better able to describe my experience, my thoughts, my emotions, my being in relation to the world than I?

And we can extend this to groups of people as well. Who is better able to describe the experience of being black than blacks? Who is better able to describe the experience of being a woman than women? Who is better able to describe the experience of being gay and lesbian than gays and lesbians? Who is better able to describe that experience of being persecuted, of being mistreated, of being maligned, than those who have been persecuted, mistreated, and maligned?

Those who are able to seize control of their narrative, those who are able to communicate their narrative unfettered and uncompromised are empowered; all others are, well, simply pitiable.

I bring this up now because lately I have engaged with a number of narratives representing various mediums—literature, movies, television, music—that purport to be black, that purport to be authentic representations of the black experience; however, once you dig below the surface, once you look further than the text, or the screen, or the CD, once you look past the black faces and the black dialect, you find a narrative that is black in conception only. Those varied cultural artifacts should come with the disclaimer, “Names have been changed to protect the innocent, and any depiction of actual persons or events is purely coincidental.”

Take for instance the recent release of the movie Precious based on Sapphire’s novel Push. It received perhaps just as much praise as it did criticism. However, a movie of this type, confronting the subject matter that it does, is bound to engender such passionate and heartfelt reactions from either side.

And I did see the movie, and thought it to be a very well-told narrative. In fact, as a person who works with young inner city children, I found most of the movie to be unsettling. In the case files and cumulative folders of many of the young women within my purview, I have found similar narratives; watching these narratives come alive on screen tugged at my heartstrings a bit. The faces of many of the young women I know and have known periodically replaced that of the main character, Clareece “Precious” Jones.

Precious is an important and timely narrative despite its gross dependence on stereotypes. So, the actual film itself does not incite my ire; however, the process through which the film came to the big screen does. Novelist and essayist Ishmael Reed penned a very informative critique of the film for counterpunch magazine entitled “The Selling of ‘Precious’” which details that process. I do not subscribe to everything Reed writes in this article, but the article is a worthwhile read nonetheless.

But before most movies deemed “black films” or “black-themed films” come to the screen, they must pass the crucial test of how will mainstream audiences receive them. Will mainstream audiences see the film as an authentic depiction of black life and the black experience? Will mainstream audiences be able to relate to the film?

In other words, the mainstream audience becomes the final arbiter as to the authenticity of the work, and you can probably guess who makes up the mainstream audience. And of course, the bottom line is the deciding line. To receive the green light and backing from the major studios, the film must evince the ability to make money.

This means that someone other than the subject defines that experience. Thus the narrative you see on the screen cannot be thought of as the actual narrative, but someone's interpretation of that narrative. But it sometimes seems as if we are so anxious to see a black face on the screen, we are so excited about the "progress" we are making in the various arts that we except that interpretation without protest.

This extends to other mediums as well. I recently spoke with a friend of mine who is in the process of publishing another book. However, on the day I spoke with her, she was distraught because her editor wanted her make changes to the book to make it more marketable, more “believable.” The editor wanted to change one of the lead characters, a love interest, from a black doctor to a corn-rowed night janitor at the hospital replete with a record and a string of illegitimate children.

Certainly, there is nothing wrong with being a night janitor. However, there is something wrong with the notion that a wider mainstream audience would not find a black chief of surgery believable. Though I sometimes believe that mainstream America has not gotten the message, but we can be found in all career fields and at all points within the socio-economic spectrum.

But there is a need and a place for narratives like Precious. We cannot confront rid ourselves of the problems and pathologies within our community unless we are willing to acknowledge these problems and pathologies and confront them head on.

However, pathology is not inherent in the black experience; we have not cornered the market on pathology. Our narrative is much broader and deeper. It is much more varied and multi-faceted. And this should be reflected in the range of our narratives; the profane should be able to exist alongside the secular, and the powerful alongside the pitiful, and the beautiful alongside the grotesque.

But until we seize control of our narratives, until we are able to speak honestly to ourselves and the world about ourselves, about our experience, our thoughts, our emotions, our being in relation to the world without that experience and those thoughts, emotions, and our being in relation to the world, without our utterances and artifacts being filtered through and judged by a third party with only the bottom line in mind, our narrative will continue to be told from the point of view of slaves.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Freedom through Speech Radio: The New Year's Resolution Show

Do me a favor. Take a good look at the video above. You don’t need to watch all of it, but just enough to get the gist of what the brother is attempting to articulate. The brother Paul Brunson, who bills himself as The Modern Matchmaker and a certified life coach, made the video in response to the Washington Post article Bitch Is the New Black which had the black blogosphere all abuzz a few weeks ago.

We began a discussion of the article and the issues it raises on our BlogTalkRadio show, Freedom through Speech Radio, about two Sundays ago, but because of time constraints, we were never able to bring closure to the issue.

But this is the thing with me. I am almost apt to agree with the brother, but in the same instance, I believe that his explanation is only part of the truth; the reasons why successful black women cannot find suitable life mates are so numerous and at once so personal and individual that no singular explanation can suffice. What are your thoughts on this issue?

Also, we will be discussing the events and issues of this past year as well as the events and issues which stand out in the upcoming year. And my co-host and blog sister, OneChele, has a new book which hit bookstore shelves on January 1st, Heard It All Before, so we will definitely have to discuss this.

Our special guests tonight are the gentleman mentioned earlier, Mr. Paul Brunson of, and every man’s dream, Tracy Renee Jones of mebeinganonymous and

So, come on over and join us at 8 PM EST on Freedom through Speech Radio on Blog Talk Radio.

Friday, January 1, 2010

From Behind the Mask: My New Year's Resolution

We wear the mask that grins and lies,/It hides our cheeks and shades our eyes —Paul Laurence Dunbar, “We Wear the Mask”

I want to be an honest man and a good writer. –James Baldwin

Okay, I guess it is time for me to end my vacation from blogging or any other meaningful and constructive pursuits. This holiday season I simply did nothing but rest and relax, enjoy the company of my wife and children, and get my mental together.

Though I am usually annoyed by inactivity and idleness, this season of unproductiveness seemed so much different; it allowed me to step back from the usually relentless fast pace of my life and put engage in a bit of self-examination and put a number of things in perspective.

A week or so ago I wrote a post highlighting President Obama’s propensity toward compromise. However, in thinking things through this week, I realized, or was finally willing to admit, that I share that same propensity.

Perhaps, it is all those years being the only or one of a few African Americans in majority white institutions. Perhaps, somewhere along the way, I found the path of least resistance to be the most desirable path. Perhaps, I learned that to move forward, I must necessarily present myself as none-threatening and subdue my voice in such a way that it does not offend.

But perhaps my acquiescent attitude arises out of past privation. I have tasted the metallic emptiness of hunger and want before, and I do not wish to go back. I cling tenaciously to my precarious station in life.

Nevertheless, over the years I have developed a repertoire of masks that I skillfully and seamlessly slip in and out of given the situation. There have been some days that I have changed masks so frequently that I have to stop and remind myself just what mask I was wearing. And with each change of masks, I can only question whether or not I leave a bit of myself clinging to the innermost surface of the mask.

During this holiday season, I happened to find myself at a little impromptu get together with a number of friends and colleagues, some of whom I have known since grad school or as far back as undergrad. We were having a good time, and I let my guard down and really cut loose.

However, on the periphery there was one young lady who I don’t know very well but who I have met and spoken to on occasion. But this whole time she is staring at me with this perplexed look on her face. Finally, I just had to give in and ask her just why she was staring at me in this manner.

She shook herself out of her trance and told me that she had never seen me like this before. She had never seen me so animated. She had never seen me so full of life. Then someone else spoke up and said, “Well, this is the real Max. This is the one we all got to know back in the day but who rarely comes out anymore.”

And someone else chimed in: "Yeah, just during holidays and when we are by ourselves."

Then everyone fell silent for a minute and looked around as if some accusation had just been made.

The real Max? This hurt me, threw me for a loop. Then all those other Max-es are fake? If this is so, then I spend most of my time being something I am not simply to appease others, to appear less threatening, to go along just to get along? The real Max, huh?

But this is my one New Year’s resolution: I will drop the masks, and I will begin to take risks. I will not continue to abdicate my strength because this abdication has become my weakness. I will endeavor to push onward, ever upward toward my goal of becoming, just as Baldwin wished, an honest man and a good writer.

And just what do you propose to do differently in the up-coming year?

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