Posts Tagged ‘race’

Occupy Wall Street Head Count: Who’s representing the 99?

For weeks now I’ve been observing Occupy Wall Street along with the rest of the world. I’ve sat back, a bit stand-offish, watching my Twitter timeline, news and the internet pulsing while I just try to grasp who/what this movement is about. True to my character, I’m always down for some opposition to any form of oppression and the status quo. The momentum OWS has created can only be attributed to the disenchantment of the American people. So in principle, #OWS has my moral support. But…

For one thing, I read an article which was bemoaning appearances of solidarity from entertainers such as Kanye West, but lauded that of others. The main gripe was that Kanye flaunts his material possessions in his music and dresses rather flamboyantly. Hmmm. Even as I consider all of this, I have to recognize Kanye is in no way comparatively as wealthy as billionaire bankers or those who own the media companies which distribute his music.

So, if Kanye is not a part of the 99% because he is rich today, then who makes up the 99%. Is there a certain income bracket that qualifies in that number? I have to ask. If rappers or athletes who grew up in poverty are now not allowed to represent for that faction, who gets to make that call. Who is setting the bar for the 99%?

See, I still need clarity on a few other things like the vision of outcomes. For me, growing up poor, I need to connect a few things. I need tangible follow up actions and demands that impacts the working class and the poor.

Now, I understand what it means to have presence in a march and/or demonstration, still what are the demands/action plan beyond that? What are the desired outcomes?

Because honestly vacant houses, evictions, no access to preventive health care and jobs, compounded by the shittiest education in the world has been reality of many Americans.

I mean, clearly, Katrina aftermath painted the picture of a huge percentage overlooked in the equation of slices cut from the American pie.

And while there may be those who require statistics to relate to the way poverty and systematic injustice crushes a large percentage of us, there are those who are living it. Everyday… for generations. Among that class of people, mortgages, 401Ks, college tuition, jobs are as familiar as Mars water. I mean, there’s some talk of it all, but the likelihood of experiencing any of it is yet a distant possibility in their lifetime.

This is what I am closest to. More than those who work on Wall Street, and little more than those who are typically identified as the middle class, I can relate to the working class and poor.

And many among us are asking the questions. If the 99% are rising up now, did they not feel any outrage or cause to do so after Katrina or perhaps at the fallacy of our education system- the perpetual pipeline to prisons that also profits not only corporations but middle class law enforcement personnel and rural blue collar towns across this country?

Isn’t it natural to look for the thread, feel compelled by a need to understand how #OWS trickles down to folks who are truly at the bottom, those who have been systematically locked out?

It begs the question, is there a flaw in the mathematics of the 99%?

Historically, working class/poor have ALWAYS marched and protested. Let us not ignore the history lesson of poor Blacks. We lead full revolutions that benefit America, yet marginalize us in terms of policy and systematic injustices.

They may not feel inclined to join the current “struggle.” Perhaps they have a hard time occupying anything when they have to report to a job everyday that only pays minimum wage with no benefits in which to take off to occupy a doctor’s office with their very sick child poses a calculated, catch 20/20 decision. Perhaps they want to join, but must occupy the home registered to the ankle bracelet they are forcibly wearing due to house arrest. Or maybe, even, they cannot afford bus fare to ride to the areas where the occupation is taking place in their cities. These maybes are very real for many. Can you relate to that?

Now don’t misread my commentary. There are those who believe as I do, that it is not cool to allow anyone else to fight your battles. We want nothing more than to take our swing in the ring with institutionalized injustice and systemic oppression.

Still there is the quandary: if we go all in, will we be invited to the table when they slice the pie or will get the traditional crumbs?

I’ll admit, #OWS has my admiration and appreciation. There is power in its symbolism.

And while, I am still left with doubts of how things will play out for poor Blacks in the hood, it pleased me to see this well stated article that addressed some of my concerns. And this one really is impressive.

What about you? Do you think Americans can side step historical context of racial oppression and how it feeds the system to unite in a fight that revolutionizes our country in a way it has not since the Revolutionary War?

And I promise not to sit idly by waiting to see, I’ll join and give support (resources/expertise). On the other hand though, the Black hand side, I’ll keep posing these questions.

While we’re contemplating, these maybe convincing for some

Perhaps if our President moved beyond rhetoric and offered decisive leadership, the movement would swell to a full-blown revolution. Maybe….

Pride and disappointment: Oprah Behind the Scenes

When I was a kid, I watched TV with my mother a lot. All the dramas of that time, both prime time dramas and daytime soap operas. But I loved watching Phil Donaghue’s talk show. He had these really intriguing people from a myriad of backgrounds. I loved the format; a host asking the most revealing questions, leading an audience yet also allowing them to ask questions. It was the audience that caught my attention mostly though, because it always had faces that resembled those of my neighbors and mine. And the show fed my young, curious and analytical mind. I was born a journalist at heart so Phil Donaghue’s show was a provision that fed that in me.

Oprah Winfrey back in the day

Yet, the game changed when along came this Black woman doing the same thing Phil was doing. Now it was no longer just the audience, voyeurs but the host, OprahWinfrey who I could identify with. I remember seeing her and thinking how much she looked like my kindergarten teacher, Miss Akebe, whom I loved.

Oprah from there to here

Instantly I loved Oprah, too. And I wanted to be just like her, in charge and telling stories, finding answers.

She's got her OWN thang!

Fast-forward to my big girl dreams, and Oprah is still the measure of possibility. Simply the best to ever do what she is doing, on her terms. In fact, this next chapter in her life is so ambitious and next level, it churns inspiration and faith into some kind of ‘dream big concoction” and I’m sure I wasn’t the only one sipping it on New Year’s day when she launched the Oprah Winfrey Network.

The 36th Annual NAACP Image Awards - Show

We celebrate Oprah and her intrepid living. We embrace her accomplishments as our own. We own a pride manifested simply because of her being, after all she epitomizes the very best of our people for the world to see.

And maybe that all equates to illusions of ownership. Maybe we believe we can claim Oprah…that she somehow belongs to us.

That would explain why I always feel a stinging pang of disappointment when I faithfully tune in. And though the inference is there in her selection of guests and topics for her show, the Oprah Season 25: Behind the Scenes gave us all clarity. As O herself coined for us, she gave us our very own “Aha moment.”

This program was to honor the 464 staff employed by arguably the most influential woman. (I would be remiss not to note how monumental that feat is for a Black woman). Oprah opened the program by saying, “Over the past 24 years you’ve seen me as the face of the Oprah show. But, I do not do this alone. Now meet the team behind the scenes, they are the best in the business.”

And then we got our “big reveal.” From all appearances, it looks as if only 5% of her staff looks like her, shares her roots. Still, more telling than that is the fact that her senior staff is void of ANY color. Hmmm.

I can’t help but feel some kinda way. Does this mean that in her estimation, the best creative minds, the most astute producers in the business do not look like her. On behalf of all the intelligent, talented, creative, tenacious, ambitious, capable and trained producers like me; I have to wonder almost like a child whose parent won’t claim them “why am I not good enough for her.”

Too deep huh? Maybe. Maybe not.

I can definitively tell you that producers often have just as much power (if not more) over the messaging and tone of productions than the hosts. Which is why I feel caught up in this quagmire of feelings back and forth between pride and disappointment when I look behind Oprah and see no Black women, no Latino representation nor heterosexual men in senior level production positions.

My feelings are further validated when one of her senior producers, a white gay male, adamantly fought against a segment he thought would give a platform to anti-gay rhetoric. This was his rationale…

“As a gay man, I have a strong opinion. We have 130 slots left to change the world; make our mark, I don’t understand why this would be one of them. We don’t just portray the reality on our show. We pick and choose what we want based upon criteria of how we want to produce the show.”

See, producers bring their perspective and experiences to their jobs just as much as anyone else. Is it wrong to feel Oprah owes it to her community, to ensure our perspective adequately represented? What does she owe the many little Black girls and boys who grow up training and aspiring to be like her if not empowering job opportunities? If Black women are not up to her standards, why not adopt a school of journalism at an HBCU?

Her philanthropy cannot be challenged. O gives unequivocally. But what of the missionary who does not see the value in those she shares gifts with? The exchange is only valuable when the philanthropist realizes there are gifts to receive from the recipient as well. No greater fulfillment comes from reciprocity that you can repay to your charitable giver.

Miss O summed up her next level living with her vision for OWN. She says it is “a network that empowers you the viewer to turn your dreams into reality.”

I wonder if I, as a viewer, will see myself enough to feel empowered.

Then again, maybe Oprah doesn’t owe me a thing…

Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy for Girls

Kanye, quite unnecessary but big of you to apologize to the little man

Just for clarity and background…I am an extreme critic when it comes to art and culture. It is not easy to impress me. That’s why in the summer of  2003, I was the ultimate critic of a new kid on the hip hop scene. There was a popular concert series here in Chicago called Neo Soul Explosion that featured up and coming “neo-soul” artists. Folks like Eric Roberson, Ledisi, Raheem Devaughn, Anthony David,  and Floetry. I was producing for WVON, who was the media sponsor. There was this guy joining one of the series and everyone was making a big deal over…Kanye West. My intial thoughts were “The rapper guy? Affiliated with Jay Z? Why is he performing in a neo soul concert series?” One of my excited colleagues even asked him for his autograph. I’m thinking, again, “dude is a rapper…and he is affiliated with Jay Z.” Now personal hang ups with Jay Z aside, I’d heard his single, “Through the Wire,” and while I thought is was an interesting sample and great story telling, I hadn’t heard any particular line that inspired nor empowered me, my measurements of good hip hop.

But later in the summer I heard Jesus Walks! That was the moment I cared who Kanye West was. This certified dude for me. Ever since then, I have been a Kanye West fan. he is my Chi-Town brethren and I am biased, so you should know that before reading further.

Now that we’ve got that out-of-the-way, shall I proceed? Thank you for the digital head nod.

Watching the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina and its devastation on NOLA, there was a collective sense of helplessness; a shared sense of neglect; a communicable outrage at the lack of emergency assistance, and moreover the outright disdain shown for the American people struck by this natural disaster. Looking at news coverage, it was obvious that a disproportionate amount of those Americans had a couple of things in common. One, many were poor. More than half hey were Black. It was heartbreaking to watch, especially when you heard the words refugee and looters media notables like CNN’s Anderson Cooper used to label the survivors.

More than anything, watching as a Black person, it became crystal clear…this country has yet to value or embrace Blacks as first class citizens.  Watching as a Black person, one could not help but imagine them self in the same predicament, abandoned by their government, ridiculed and exploited by their fellow countrymen. It was a time of collective suffering for Black Americans. At what to do when you are wounded and hurting? Lash out. So it came as no surprise to me that Kanye West seized his opportunity to speak truth to power during NBC’s Concert for Hurricane Relief.

Kanye’s proclamation that “George Bush doesn’t care about Black people” was quite fitting. Hell it is exactly what I was thinking and what our audience on WVON had been calling in to say since the levees broke and drowned the lower 9th ward of NOLA.

Too bad more influential Blacks did not come forth to speak that same truth. Kanye’s delivery may have been brash and ill-timed. But he stepped up to shed light on a dark place in America’s history-making moments. The moment that gave yet another entry into the plight of race in our Nation.

So I find it very telling that George W. Bush would take Kanye West’s opinion of him as one of the “most disgusting” moments of his presidency. Really?

Now I’m a person one either loves or hates. I accept that about myself. There have been some pretty mean things said about me, hell but that is true about anyone who lives more than a month on this planet. Not even crying, colicky babies get a pass.  Still, most mature people understand that not everyone is going to like them. Mature and rational people totally accept that they cannot please everyone, that folks will feel some kinda way about them. That’s human nature. You chalk it up and keep moving…that is unless there is a strand of truth in their assessment of you. Well, then their evaluation haunts you.

Judging from Bush’s congratulatory remarks to FEMA executive Mike Brown telling him he was doing a “Heck of a job,” and his analysis of his administration’s response, Bush has not given a second thought to the people who had suffered.  And again, those people disproportionately were Black and poor.

The media genius Rachel Maddow shares with us how Bush in his own words proves Kanye’s theory:

I’d like to hear what legislation, commitments, initiatives, resources he developed and lead during his 8 year administration that would discredit Kanye’s observations.

Crickets….

Fast forward to 2010 when NBC’s Matt Lauer decides to take Kanye to task for his passionate remarks made in 2005. First of all, I watched the tape several times. Virtually I gave a high five to Kanye on Myspace and Facebook for his accurate summary of George W. Bush and all those who identify with his “cowboy” oil-slicked mentality. Kanye never used the word racist. Though if we could hear some of the hunting conversations between Bush and his buddies, and by analyzing some of his Presidential priorities, that point could be proven, too. But don’t put that in Kanye’s lap. He did not call George W. Bush a racist…he said the man does not care about Black people. Huge difference.

Furthermore, as a producer, I recognize the effect The Today Show team was going for when they staged Kanye’s previous remarks to play under his present interview. Every decision made by the executive producer and tech director is for effect, one that does not require the knowledge or input of the subject. And Kanye, being the intelligent Black man that he is, understood he was indeed a subject trying to be manipulated. I am proud of him for thinking through his responses and for asserting himself to Matt Laurer.

Yet, even more than his own defense, I was proud to see Hip Hip mogul and cultural influencer, Russell Simmons, send out a support signal to his young brother.

Unfortunately, not many others have seen fit to do so. Black intellectuals love to pontificate on matters like the death of hip hop and misogyny, but even James Baldwin would’ve clearly seen the juxtaposition of Black celebrity and corporate media. The thought that Black culture is to be exploited and celebrated if/when it mocks itself. When Black artists portray themselves as villains and helpless, then they are “cool.” But let them have an opinion that is remotely political and they are Muhammad Ali’d.

Not to mention the corporate triangle in all this that my boy, Davey D connected for us.

Kanye has made albums in which he questions himself and his contradictions, speaking about his tendencies to fall for the patriarchal leanings of this society when he refers to women in derogative terms. But I don’t see anyone taking him to task for that.

But I digress. All of this to say, America needs to knock it off. Stop the damn farce. Be honest about where Blacks stand in this country and how we are tolerated only if we don’t step out of the boxes deemed for us.

Then too, I’d like to give George W. Bush a few other disgusting moments from his presidency. I found this site, one of several, that gave a very thorough account of all the disgusting missteps of this duck-brain. http://www.netrootsmass.net/hughs-bush-scandals-list/

Feel free to add your own.

Oh, and just to make a point, look at how he insults a blind journalist.

Let’s face it. Bush owes the American people an apology for (fill in the blank).

Blind man insult