Archive for the 'Politics' Category


A Generational Disagreement…

photo Back in February I went downstairs in my apartment building to wash clothes.  Often it’s pretty crowded when I decide to wash (when all of the working crowd is home) but on that day it was one of those fortunate situations where I had my choice of machines.

As I waited for my last cycle of clothes to finish, I noticed an older gentleman of color seated in the bench closest to the door.  He looked to be closing in on 75 or so and upon first glance struck me as if he might be somewhat friendly.  And he was.

“Hi sir.”

”Hello, young man.”

”It’s pretty empty down here today,” he remarked.

“Yeah, I’m trying to get my clothes done so that I can go upstairs to see the rest of the returns.”


“Yeah – from the primaries.  This is Hillary’s home state, but they say there’s a lot of support of Senator Obama.”

“Oh-bam-uh?  Is that that Black guy?”

“Yes, Senator Obama is the junior Senator from Illinois.”

“I don’t know why people think that guy can ever win,” he declared.

“Well, Senator Obama won the caucuses in Iowa.  He’s got a solid backing from many key Democrats and more support rumored to be on the way.”

“Young fella – I know what you are saying.  But trust me – these eyes have seen things and there ain’t no way that he’s gonna ever get to be no president.”

“I don’t know.  I have a feeling that his campaign comes at a time when the country is looking for a fresh new direction.  Senator Obama is getting a huge amount of support, not only from his constituency here in the States, but abroad as well.  People aren’t too keen on Americans these days and it might help that his backgrou…”

“Listen, I hear all-a what you saying.  But this country is not gonna let that happen.  It just ain’t.  I’ve heard him speak on the TV and Bar.. O-bah…what’s his name?”

“Obama.  Barack Obama.”

“Yeah, Obama.  Well, he speaks like he has sense and he sounds good and all, but it’s gonna take more than that to get even close to the White House.”

“Well, I understand how you feel given the climate in the country – particularly in some areas where people who look like you and I don’t live. People just get an image projected on television and draw this conclusion.  But I work around a lot of people of many different races.  Particularly in New York and New Jersey, it just isn’t quite the way you might think anymore.  The generations have grown up around people of color now.  I think most people realize that there are good and bad people in every nationality.”

“Yes, but what does that have to do with him being elected to the White House?”

“Well it means that attitudes are changing – people are a bit more open to good leadership regardless of race or gender.”

“Listen – back when I was still working… we used to go to a bar after work.  It was me and this guy from my job – White fella.  While we were in this bar, I went to sit down and this other white guy there said the seat was taken.  So we went to sit somewhere else.  And when they brought us the drinks, they didn’t look right.  So I saw the guy at the bar watching us – waiting for us to take a drink.  So we exchanged some words and when I went to complain to the guy who ran the bar, he told me, ‘If you don’t like it, you can get out’.  And I told him you don’t have to worry about me coming back here again.”

“Wow.  That’s unfortunate.  I got stopped one time when I was driving to Jersey City through Bayonne.  This officer pulled me over and asked me where I was going and why I was in that neighborhood and who I was there to see.  It was upsetting.  But don’t you think we can’t let things like that stop us from believing police officers or white bar owners aren’t all racist anymore than you and I aren’t like the guys on Cops who run around with no shirt on, hiding under kiddie pools running from the police?”

“Yeah, but it’s gonna be a long long time before anything that big happens.  You talking about President of the U-nited States.  I’ve been around here awhile.  I know we ain’t gonna see that.”

“Well, I definitely respect your struggle and what you’ve been through.  Lord knows you’ve probably seen more than me.  But I believe in hope and in the fact that way things were isn’t how they will always be.”

“I hear you, young fella, but I still don’t b’lieve he gonna win.”

“Well, I guess it won’t be too long until November.  We’ll find out.”

…and nine months later, if I could see you today, fine sir… I hope you would feel as elated as I do that your doubt wasn’t shared by many.

As I sit with eyes that are way too fatigued from unexpected tears, today all things truly are possible.


If You’re Out There….

C6073662 I’ve gone on record before as saying that I’m bothered at the amount of attention that is being given to Senator Obama’s race (or at least one HALF of his race).  I totally understand the significance of race in this country.  Considering the fact that only fifty years ago Senator Obama might not have even been able to sit at the same table to have dinner as Joe Biden, this could indeed be an incredible point of arrival for this country.  However, my pride comes from the fact that he represents so much more.  I am sorta in between Generations X and Y.  And speaking for them, we’ve always had these legends told to us about being able to stand up tall knowing that your Chief Executive in the White House was someone who you could be proud of.  It’s funny to see pictures of relative’s homes and see images of John Kennedy and Martin King on their walls in the background.  And it’s not to say that we don’t identify with those men.  We certainly do.  But the question which has always lurked in the back of our minds is, “Where is OUR John Kennedy?”  Is the best we can aspire to now to sit and dream of images of our leaders of old?

I had a close friend laugh at me when I sent her the YouTube links to the Obama-inspired songs (Yes We Can and We Are the Ones).  She’s kinda reductive anyway (and she admits that she is).  But her comment was, “Do you think that a song or a video will coerce me into voting for a candidate.”  And although I didn’t take the time to properly respond (because you can always tell when someone is tuning you out) but if I did take the time to respond, it would be to suggest this: while I don’t believe that a song done ‘We Are the World’ style can tickle your emotions and cause you to action, the songs are more than just blind faith celebrity driven anthems.  They represent the things that I have been wondering whether or not people cared about anymore (particularly the ‘We Are the Ones’ video.)  After all, these are all pretty much millionaires who are supporting a man who tells them that in order to do the things that we need to do that he’ll raise their taxes (everyone making under 250K lowered taxes, assumption is that the ones over will contribute more.  We’ll see.)

But more than this, I have fears about tomorrow.  (Tuesday November 4, 2008.)  Will this be the day that we can start on the road to disproving everyone who says that the kind of change that has been talked about since January is false hope?  “How does he think he can get all that stuff done?”  Well, here we are again.  Every first Tuesday of November – seemingly every four years since 2000, I literally sit up, in the dark, after having cast my vote earlier and watch Tom Brokaw…and get a headache.  No, not a figurative headache.  A literal headache.  This is before the returns are even in.  It just happens.  Perhaps it’s anxiety.  (Maybe even it’s the fact that I’m watching TV in the dark.)  But it happens.  I am about as nervous as I’ve ever been with this election.  And my anxiety extends even past the election, but that’s another post.

My fears are largely concerning the fact that I wonder if all the shirt-wearing, bumper-sticker wearing folks that I didn’t see when I stood on empty voting lines in 2000 and particularly in 2004, will show up.  I just worry that people aren’t seeing the bigger picture and the potential unity that this might represent.  Everyone was partying when Senator Obama won the nomination – I didn’t quite understand why we were partying during halftime at the Super Bowl where there was no score.

Back during the Democratic Convention, someone told me that John Legend had written a song about the hope that Barack represents.  But more so about the call to action that it requires for this to become a reality.  I was working during the convention, so I only saw the speeches made by each candidate when I got home.  But I did download the song.  And I cried.

Continue reading ‘If You’re Out There….’


High School Musical: This Explains Columbine A Bit


Can you spot the kid in black who isn't dancing? Probably not at first glance, but look again.... closer.

Recently I watched the highly successful Disney production, High School Musical. I felt kinda left out, and in my futile efforts to slow down the aging process, I’m making attempts to peek in on the younger generation.

In short, it was predictable, superfluous, and somewhat shallow.  But for children growing up in 2006 (when the original was released), this might be just what the doctor ordered.  It’s clean (for the most part) and the message (in places) can help children to discover their individuality.

As I watched, my thoughts gravitated towards my nephew (who is approaching his 2nd birthday – wow how time flies.)  In this age of innocence lasting only as long as children can’t find the power button to the remote or before they can reach the keys and type ‘g-o-o-g-l-e<Shift><Enter>’, you do everything you can to try to hold on to their youth.  Corny as it may sound, we want them playing tag and wearing pajamas.  We want them to wake up Saturday mornings and watch cartoons and eat cereal.  I began to think, perhaps this is the high school that I’d want him to attend some day.

But then, I began to look a little deeper at the movie.

Now, please understand that I enjoyed the film.  I laughed a bit.  Often I had to turn away because the story was getting so sappy that it was on corny-overload.  But it wasn’t at all a bad film.  As I watched a bit closer, I noticed that the one area that the film deliberately chose to exclude were the other kids.  Yes, being a Disney production, you can find faces of all different nationalities (and even physical structures.  Well, somewhat. They had one overweight girl who liked hip-hop.  Go figure.)  But the other kids that I’m referring to are the ones that you avoid in the hallway.  The ones that your parents and even some friends tell you to watch out for.  The ones whose eyes have seen so much at such a young age that their eyes glaze over at the audacity of an adult telling them about ‘the real world’.

If you look at High School Musical in contrast to what children experience today in all but the most pricey private schools, you realize that the truth is very different.  Watching High School Musical for a child who lives in Cabrini-Green or Baisley Projects (um, excuse me…Baisley Houses) must be quite a depressing experience.  ‘Wow…look at their clothes.  Look at that science lab… Check out that drama class – it has a real mini-stage inside.  And Tariek isn’t around to ask them what colors they are reppin’.  Man, no wonder they look so happy.’

OK – so we know High School Musical is a bit of a utopia and I’m not faulting it for being so.  Most of us watch movies to escape the horror that we experience in our own lives – even if only for an hour and fifty minutes.  But something else occurred to me about the movie outside of the way that it contrasts real life for many children.

Continue reading ‘High School Musical: This Explains Columbine A Bit’


About the Whole “Jesse Jackson Statement” Thing….

art.jackson.wls Over the past few weeks since the incident where Rev. Jesse Jackson was captured on microphone saying unfavorable things about Senator Barack Obama, I’ve had discussion where a few friends have shared their thoughts.  An overwhelming number of people think that the statements were crude and that they aren’t consistent with the character of a man who, despite not being perfect, has led a life trying to help and unite others.  On the other end of the spectrum are a few who say that his comments are his own – they happened at a time where he thought the microphone wasn’t on.  They feel that despite the fact that it wasn’t wise for him to make comments on a stage regardless of whether the “On Air” sign is glowing or not, our first amendment allows him to make those comments as his own opinion.

The most interesting response forwarded to me was one written by a gentleman named Najee Ali.  In his ‘Open Letter to Jesse Jackson’ he acknowledges Jackson’s accomplishments, but in the same breath he accuses him of being an opportunist and of hurting Barack Obama’s chances in the upcoming election.  The most interesting charge was much more personal.  He admits to knowing Jackson’s youngest child Ashley, and then turns the letter into a personal attack, saying that perhaps Jackson should pay more attention to Barack’s most recent message to fathers around the country.

And it’s here where my silence must break.

Continue reading ‘About the Whole “Jesse Jackson Statement” Thing….’


John Adams (HBO Series): Reason to Be a Prideful American

John Adams Today we celebrate the independence of our great country.  I’m proud and blessed to be a citizen of this great nation (although I feel like we deserve more in the quality of those who lead us.)  The road to this country’s existence may seem like a passive chapter in a history book for some.  But clearly there was a deeper story to be told.  I remarked with a friend at work about some of the films that have been released and how superior they are in quality to the bland and lifeless retelling of our nations history by teachers who seemed to be narrating from a teleprompter.  While this may seem a bit extreme, I believe it would be far more effective to substitute 5th grade history class with a 60” Plasma television, comfortable chairs and a DVD Box Set of the HBO Original Series John Adams.  If the quality of history teachers is anything now like it was when I was a lad, this would be a far more effective lesson.

John Adams is an HBO original series based on the book by David McCullough, but calling it a “TV series” is almost degrading.  This is a high quality theatrical production.  I call it a film and think of it as a film, because truthfully that’s what it is – only one that was cut up into seven parts and had it’s theatrical release omitted.

I don’t know how historically accurate the film is, but considering the scrutiny that films find themselves under these days, I would have to say that it’s probably as accurate as it could be (for a retelling of events taking place 230 years ago.)  I thought initially that this would be a long and boring undertaking.  After all, seven parts of any film is an investment that you may later regret.  But as soon as this one gets started, you realize that this is no typical American history retelling.  No faux flutes and patriotic music to drown out the bad acting here.  This one has some substance.

Everyone by now is aware that Paul Giamatti has the lead role, but aside from Laura Linney (Abigail Adams) and David Morse (George Washington), there aren’t many faces here that I’ve seen before.  And this is a good thing.  In fact, it’s a great thing.  This adds completely to the authenticity of the film.  Instead of finding yourself saying, “Hey, look at Patrick Stewart playing Thomas Jefferson!”, you instead find yourself lost in the story and exploring the ideas through unfamiliar faces.

As well directed and well acted as the entire series is, what I took away most from the series was authenticity.  Sure, it’s difficult to even attempt to paint a picture about what really happened in an event so critical to American history and, for that matter, the history of the world.  But it’s the little things that helped me to commiserate with the plight of Englishmen in a foreign land, trying to push away their mother country.  The flies that make the first Congressional meetings uncomfortable.  The dialect of the different characters.  The toys that the children play with.  It’s the little things that seemed to grab me.

There were many details that we learn throughout the more than eight hours of viewing.  Some of them you’ll find that you knew.  But whether some of the ideas that we learn about (like Adams lack of people skills and Ben Franklin’s taste for French culture) are factual may be somewhat debatable.  But the authenticity is only part of the point.  What’s great here is the discussions that might ensure afterwards.  Whether we’re discussing rumors about our forefathers or actual accurate details, the point is that we’re discussing them.

Continue reading ‘John Adams (HBO Series): Reason to Be a Prideful American’


Can we stop thinking of Senator Obama as “the Black guy who might be president”?

I had been kinda holding in my less popular political views for some time now – particularly those that pertain to people of color.  (I have a tremendous amount of respect for Bill Cosby and his accomplishments.  I think his indictment of Black fathers and whether our priorities as they pertain to education are probably the right message, but delivered in the wrong forum.)   I received an e-mail recently that sent me over the top.  In the e-mail were several animated images (GIFs) of popular Black actors dancing.  These are actors that you might see in sitcoms (George Jefferson from The Jeffersons, Carlton from Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, Whitney Houston had one from one of the many embarrassing moments in Being Bobby Brown.)  The subtext of the e-mail was that it was time to sing and shout because, “Obama got the ticket”.  (Meaning that he’s become the apparent Democratic candidate.)  And that was all I could take.

Please don’t misunderstand my sentiment.  I’ve been a fan of Senator Obama since reading a story about his life in a men’s magazine (it was either GQ or Men’s Health) a few years before the John Kerry endorsement speech.  And then when I heard him speak at the 2004 Democratic National Convention, I thought, “Whoa.  This is the guy who I might be able to get behind!  Let me stay tuned!”

Since that moment where he spoke so passionately at the DNC four years ago, he’s had a similar impact on many other people.  My dear friend at work (who happens to be of Korean descent) and I talk all the time during our much treasured lunches about the fact that he’s peaked our interest.  Very early in January, before Obama-mania hit, he went to a rally to hear more about his policies and where he stands on certain issues.  And despite my respect for Senator Clinton (although that respect has been tested over the past few months), I felt that Senator Obama represents a segment of the country who hasn’t been heard.  He represents a compassionate way of dealing with the problems that we’ve inherited.

All that said, please understand: I’m a huge Barack Obama fan and I anxiously look forward to his career, whether or not he becomes President of these United States.

So what’s so unsettling about this e-mail?

In a large part, I think it represents an apathy on the part of my people (people of color.)  Now, I do love my people and I have a tremendous amount of pride about where we’ve been and our road to citizenship in this country – including the part that it has played in allowing people from other ethnic backgrounds who are also dark in complexion to participate in our freedom.  But I’m starting to reconsider whether Bill Cosby’s tactics, as mean-spirited and as accusatory as they may have appeared, might not have been right on time (as Michael Eric Dyson debated in his book.)  The truth is that our priorities are completely in disarray.  I’m including myself in this indictment.  We often complain about not being business owners of the restaurants that we patronize or the business in which we shop, but we don’t seek the power through business ownership ourselves.

Continue reading ‘Can we stop thinking of Senator Obama as “the Black guy who might be president”?’