Archive for the ‘civil rights’ Category

I had fallen asleep on my couch with my TV on ESPN.  However, I woke up and noticed a mural on the left hand side of the screen showing Muhammad Ali’s face.  Before my eyes could adjust and focus on the words on the screen, I knew that Ali had died.  I’d just spoken to my cousin about Ali just hours ago about how grave his condition was.

My first “favorite athlete”,  Muhammad Ali, was dead at the age of 74 years old.

There aren’t many men like Ali being produced in this country any more.  Now, don’t get me wrong.  He had his issues when it came to his wives.  He wasn’t perfect.  But he did more for this country than anyone who may have stepped foot on the White House lawn in the past 50 years.

People who don’t know the man think that he was “The Greatest” because of what he did inside the boxing ring.  No.  Ali was “The Greatest” for what he did outside of the boxing ring.  Ali inspired the world with his approach to day-to-day living.  He was a motivational speaker.  He was a civil rights activist.  He was an entertainer.  Oh, he was such an entertainer!

Ali had a relationship with the media that we will never see again.  He gave interviews that resembled stand up comedy sets.  The beneficiary of many of those interviews was a sports commentator named Howard Cosell.

Cosell and Ali were partners.  They fed off of each other in their interviews to become two of the biggest figures in sports.  The respect that they had for one another provided entertainment for more than a decade.  Despite their close relationship, Cosell remained unbiased in his journalist approach unlike what we see with some talking heads today.

Howard Cosell and Muhammad Ali turned each other into legends.

Ali won many awards and honors during and long after his boxing career.  I won’t go through all of his accomplishments because the talking heads will do that over the next week.  However, I will mention his impact on today’s culture.  Ali started a culture of brashness that we see in sports today.  This was a man who not only showed you in the ring that he was “The Greatest”, he would tell you that he was, too.  The predictions that athletes make today, the “getting in the head” of their opponents, and things like that were made famous by Ali.

Seated: Bill Russell, Muhammad Ali, Jim Brown, and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar

He embraced his blackness and his message resonated throughout black communities around the country.  He stood for his beliefs regardless of the controversies and criticisms that surrounded him which is something athletes refuse to do today.  Ali didn’t care if you liked him.  He didn’t care if he lost money from losing fans.  Heck, he didn’t even care if he went to jail for what he believed.

Muhammad Ali and Malcolm X

There are many things that I wish that I could change with the world.  There are many things that I wish that I could go back in time and fix.  But if I had one wish to change anything regarding Muhammad Ali, it would be for him to forever have his voice.

Ali was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease in 1984 and it slowly robbed him of all of the gifts that he’d displayed for us over the previous 25 years prior to that.  If he only had the opportunity to continue speaking, what would his contributions to black communities and to his religion would have meant to society today?

Muhammad Ali and Sam Cooke

Would he have put black athletes and celebrities in their place when it came to their selfishness?  Would he have continued to inspire people to do more with their lives and not be ordinary?  What would Ali have given us had his voice not been trapped inside of his body?

We will never know.  The first athletic entertainer is gone.  A lot of people speculated that Ali was in a bad place this time around as we got word that he was being hospitalized.  Over the course of 24 hours, we all knew that his condition was getting worse and that he may be passing on.  Despite that being the fact, it still feels like a body punch to the gut to wake up and find out that my favorite athlete is gone.

R.I.P., Champ.


I remember turning on the TV and seeing this video for the first time. I was mesmerized as a 16 year old to see the power within the video of a group of people coming together for a united front.  Even at such an early age I recognized what that video meant to me as a black teen.  It meant that there was still work to do to bring about equality in the United States among the races.  I had no idea how much more this video would mean to me 25 years later after Michael Brown and Ferguson, MO.

Seeing the unity that “Fight The Power” displayed in a rap video was nothing short of amazing.  This wasn’t a group of rappers coming together on their own for a cause like “Self Destruction” or “We’re All in the Same Gang.”  This was a video about a rap group marching down the streets of Brooklyn during the time of a political rally and the people just randomly started joining in.  It was just recently that I found out that the neighborhood people showed up only by word of mouth.  There was no plan to have them all there.

I got on board the PE train with their first album, “Yo! Bum Rush the Show!” in 1987.  I was fascinated with the side of blackness they taught that I couldn’t get anywhere else at the time.  Remember that this was roughly five years before people starting regularly using the Internet.  In fact, a majority of the black history that I learned as a youth came from listening to Public Enemy.  I would listen to their album and then go to my city library to learn about the people they mentioned.   Stokely Carmichael.  H. Rap Brown.  Huey P. Newton (Huey Freeman on the “Boondocks” series is named after him).  These were people that were never talked about in any history books that I read at school.  And regardless of how people felt about them and what they represented they were still a very important part of black history which is essentially American history.

The video also contained images that will forever be embedded in my brain of Angela Davis, Medgar Evers, Jackie Robinson, signs that encouraged voter registration, and most importantly, youth participation.  There were kids everywhere in this video.  Also, one of the most powerful scenes at the time was at the 6:00 mark when teenager, Tawana Brawley, was shown standing in all white.

Tawana was part of a huge rape case back in 1987 when she accused six white men of raping and defiling her.  Although it was ruled in 1988 that she made up the false allegations against her accusers, she has always stuck by her story and said that the rape occurred.  Seeing her smiling and participating in the video was a sign that she was still standing strong with the support of the black community.  The community had her back.  That sentiment was also shown in Spike Lee’s movie, “Do The Right Thing,” with a scene that displayed graffiti on the wall that said “Tawana told the truth.”  I can still remember the applause in the theater when people saw it during the movie.

“Fight The Power” would prove to have an impact on the consciousness of many people of all colors as it depicted how black people came together to promote unity.  Another important part of the video to note is that it showed how blacks can be peaceful yet firm in making an impact on society.  Despite the “nervous” police presence according to P.E. front man, Chuck D, there were no incidents.  Not one.

Enter 2014.  Music has changed tremendously.  The only people rapping about political consciousness aren’t on the radio.  Gone are the days where KRS-1 is rapping “Why is That?” or Gang Starr is dropping knowledge on “Who’s Gonna Take The Weight?”

I’ll continue to hold on to old school rap although I know it’s next to impossible to pass down to younger generations.  They just aren’t buying into things from back in the day.  However, I’ll do what I can to expose them to conscious rap with hopes that it catches on.  I won’t let Public Enemy die with my generation.

So, click on the video below and “Fight The Power” in 2014.  We still have a long way to go.

I know that the title is unsettling.  I heard my father say that recently. He said that at the rate black people are destroying their communities, that 100 years from now we won’t even exist.  Think about that for a second. That’s a strong statement!

If you’re not black, then you may feel uncomfortable agreeing with that thought or speaking on it. If you are black, then you should feel uncomfortable in knowing that although it may not be true, you can understand the concept.

Here in Jackson, MS, a 15 year old girl was shot outside of Wingfield High School after a fight. She died later at the hospital from a gun shot wound to the chest. Shortly after this tragedy occurred, videos surfaced showing multiple fights at that high school from this year and last year. At least eight videos ranging from classroom brawls to outside gatherings.

Kids fighting is nothing new.  It happened when I was in school, too.  I think that the difference is today is that it’s glorified on an entirely new level in 2013.  Teachers no longer have control over classrooms due to the policies put in place that restricts them.  Parents have no control over kids at home because most of them are either single parents or too immature to be a parent.

So, if kids are steadily engaging in acts of violence and parents don’t know how to guide them to behave like human beings, then why shouldn’t my father feel the way that he does?

Nelson Mandela just passed away a few days ago.  He represented something we may never see in any leader, regardless of color, again: restraint.  Mandela could have easily lashed out against white people for putting him in jail for almost 30 years.  But, he decided that it wasn’t worth it.  He spent the remaining years of his life trying to install peace into society instead of the opposite.  Sometimes your worst enemy will learn to love you if you show compassion.

For every Mandela, there seem to be 10,000 non-Mandelas born each day.  Black people who just don’t believe in leaving the world in a better place than how they found it.  My generation (70’s babies) were the cause of that.  We were the generation that decided that we would allow our kids certain freedoms that our parents wouldn’t allow us.  Now we have a generation of kids who only want what they want regardless of the end result.

It’s that mentality that makes being violent feel like option number one instead of a last resort.  It makes taking care of your kids seem like a burden instead of a responsibility.  It makes dating the opposite sex seem like a game instead of an opportunity to find someone to share your life.

How can a race of people possibly survive against those odds?  Maybe my father was right.  Neither one of us will be here to verify in the year 2100, but maybe this blog post will serve as notice to those who will.

It’ been a couple of weeks now, but it appears that I have more to say on this Jay Z / Belafonte argument. We touched on this subject on the radio show, but it’s still getting a lot of press. Here is what happened for those who are unaware: performer and Civil Rights activist, Harry Belafonte, publicly called out Jay Z and Beyonce for not doing their part in regards to Civil and Human Rights. He basically stated that with their presence, they could accomplish a lot.  Jay Z responded by dissing Belafonte in a song from his newest album.

Here’s my take: Belafonte didn’t have to call out Jay publicly, but I don’t have a huge problem with that. This country became as great as it is because people challenged others to do great things.  However, I do have a problem with how Jay Z handled it. Dissing an 86 year old Civil Rights activist in a rap song? What are you, 12? You can’t even address the man like an adult or release a statement?

Some of you are saying, “well, just because he’s 86 doesn’t mean that he can’t get dissed!”  I totally disagree with you and that line of “thinking.”  The fact that he’s 86 is the main reason Jay Z should have handled this differently.  You don’t treat older people like you do younger people.  And if you don’t believe that, then punch an old man in the face and see what happens to you.  The cops will throw you a “blanket party” on the way to the jail house.

Older people are treasured in other countries, but that’s not the case for the United States. Regardless if you sacrificed your life for the freedom of others, fought for equality or the right to vote, there are plenty of young people out there ready to push you out of the way. “You had your time, now it’s my time. Never mind the fact that I can prosper today because of what you did 50 years ago.”

That’s beyond sad and ignorant to me. Harry Belafonte grew up during an era when people tried to leave the world better off than how they found it. Jay Z comes from a generation that tries to leave the world with enough money as humanly possible.  Because of attitudes like that, the world is spiraling out of control.  Companies are steadily sending jobs overseas.  Politicians are more corrupt than ever.  Racism is still rampant around the country.  We still have plenty of problems in this country, but no one with the stature of Jay Z is willing to risk speaking out against it.  After all, why alienate people and ruin the opportunity to turn $600m into $650m?

Belafonte comes from a time where a “village raised a child.” So, being chastised by someone older other than your parents was commonplace. Respect was something you worked for to earn the title of “man” or “woman.”  Jay Z comes from a time where parents instruct their kids not to listen to other adults.  Respect is expected just from existing.  You can even call someone a “hubby” or “wifey” without being married.

So, there’s a huge gap in thinking in just 40 years between Belafonte’s generation and Jay Z’s.  I’m from Jay’s generation, so I’m one to not criticize him for how he lives his life.  He says that he’s a “symbol of hope” to many.  That may be true.  It’s not true in my case, but it could be true to others.  Besides, what he does with his money and his time is his business.  But, I do have a problem with him calling out a real hero.  Jay Z calling Harry Belafonte a “boy” and dissing his contributions to the world is the equivalent of Lebron James calling Muhammad Ali a “has been.”

Jay Z donated to Katrina victims and participated in eradicating water shortages in the world.  He also became a pioneer in how money is made in the music industry.  Harry Belafonte was a successful singer and actor.  He bankrolled Dr. Martin Luther King’s family when he was on the road.  He bailed MLK out of jail.  He helped finance the Freedom Rides and more.  All of this ultimately led to black people receiving their Civil Rights.

Jay Z changed the way rappers do business in the rap game, but Harry Belafonte changed the world.

Who do you think owes the apology in this scenario? 

Dorothy Dandridge and Harry Belafonte (1954)