Friday, June 29, 2012

Allison sounds like a Koch brothers puppet

Darrell Allison makes school vouchers sound like the best thing for black folks since Abe Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation.  He even quotes Cory Booker, mayor of Newark, N.J., to get people behind his school choice campaign.
“When people tell me they’re against school choice…I look at them and say as soon as you’re willing to send your kid to a failing school…then I’ll be with you,”  Allison quoted Booker in a quest column that appeared in the Durham Herald-Sun.  Allison used the message of the popular mayor to lobby support for House Bill 1104, the N.C. Opportunity Scholarship Tax Credit Program.  The good news is his pitch failed - at least for now.
It was unable to get out of the Senate Finance Committee.  Allison and other backers of the proposal say they’ll be back like Arnold said in the second Terminator movie.
The program would have allowed corporations to pour funds into nonprofits that would provide scholarships of up to $4,000 per student.  In return, those corporations would receive tax credits allowing them to divert up to $40 million of their state taxes.  Supporters claim the plan would improve the quality of education of poor students, but don’t be fooled.  This is a scheme to drain money set aside for public education to benefit private schools.  It’s a plan set in motion by the American Legislative Exchange Council, a group funded by the Koch Brothers.
Charles and David Koch are the billionaire brothers who have taken the fortune they’ve made by selling toilet paper and other paper products to shape the way people think.  They have funneled money into a network of foundations, think tanks, front groups, lobbyist, advocacy organizations and GOP lawmakers to push their libertarian views.  They hate government, taxes, environmental protection and public education.
Don’t blink folks.  The Koch brothers have been busy in North Carolina. The Huffington Post reported earlier this year that the brothers have funded efforts to keep 21 million Americans from voting as their money helped write and propose voting suppression bills in 38 states.  American for Prosperity, a Koch brothers’ front group, fought to remake a model school diversity policy in Wake County.  They have given more than $14.39 million in grants to over 150 universities in return for requiring some universities to hire candidates who adhere to their views.
The brothers have more than enough money to fund the libertarian revolution.  Koch Industries, headquartered in Wichita, Kansas has annual revenues estimated to be a hundred billion dollars.  The siblings operate oil refineries in Alaska, Texas, and Minnesota with more than four thousand miles of pipeline. They own Brawny paper towels, Dixie cups, Georgia-Pacific lumber, Stainmaster carpet and Lycra.  They are ranked by Forbes as the second-largest company in the United States. The Koch brothers have a combined fortune of thirty-five billion dollars.
The Koch brothers have already proven an interest in North Carolina affairs.  Look close and you may find a tie to Parents for Educational Freedom in NC, the group led by Allison.  Considering the Koch brother’s agenda and their goal to unseat Barack Obama, it is curious that Allison would use Cory Booker, a staunch Obama supporter, to plead his case.  Like that Sesame Street song, one of these things doesn’t belong with the other.
Allison spews rhetoric like a Koch brother puppet. “The N.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program is needed because more than 336,000 poor kids failed end-of-grade tests last year, according to the state Department of Public Instruction,” he wrote in his Herald-Sun quest column. “This staggering number represents more than a quarter of all traditional public school students. Equally alarming is that in Durham County, only 33 percent of poor students passed end-of-grade tests over the past five years compared to nearly 70 percent of their wealthier peers, according to DPI.”
Allison, like the Koch brothers and the rest of the anti-public school clan, assume their alternative schools will do better at preparing poor students.  It fits well within a culture that has parents afraid to risk their child’s education.  It’s a message those Koch brothers have tossed enough to convince people to buy into their libertarian message.  There’s just enough truth there to convince enough people to take a nibble. I’m not biting.
No more taxes, down with the EPA, get rid of the Department of Education and forget all that hard work and marching that led to integrated schools.
Don’t drink the Kool-Aid folks.  Those rich dudes have an agenda, and it certainly isn’t about poor, black children.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Supreme Court rules on Obama Care: The fear of not enough

“I can’t believe they gonna force everyone to pay for health insurance,” a customer at the Bean Traders fumed after hearing the Supreme Court upheld the individual requirement of President Barack Obama’s health care plan.  “Why should I have to pay for other people’s insurance?”
It’s that sentiment that stirred a group of discontented citizens to rekindle memories of tea being cast into a lake. All that talk about taxation devoid of representation took on new meaning after Obama started pressing to cover the more than 30 million Americans without medical insurance.  The popular cry of leave my money alone was closely followed with let the states decide for themselves. 
The lobby for less government intervention has been trapped in the complicated grip of massive pain felt by those who require not less, but more.  American consumers seem obsessed with avoiding responsibility for the ills of their neighbors. It’s not that Americans don’t care; the concern is they don’t have enough to carry their own load.
The debate on universal health care has been that line in the sand pitting critics of Obama against those standing with a glimmer of hope.  The detractors of Obama Care pitch a message of government intrusion fueled by a series of bailouts.  Not only has the government taken more money out of our paychecks, it’s been used to fund a corrupt banking system and failing auto industry.
So, the country has been waiting for the Supreme Court to rule on the matter.  Most of us didn’t trust the courts ability to rule beyond political ideology.  Many expected to ruling against Obama’s health plan.  We expected it to be used against Obama to validate those claims that he’s a socialist hiding in a capitalist system.  He’s not really a Christian.  He’s not really an American.  Many of those throwing that tea in the lake insist Obama is more space critter than human, and waves his hand in a Nazi salute reminiscent of Hitler.
This vote is about the heartbeat of the nation.  It’s about the war of ideas that conjures battles resembling the pre-Civil War rhetoric.   The fight to define state rights coupled with the plea to get the government out of citizens pocketbook are the weapons on the battleground to name Americas agenda.  Will we place the need of others above our own, or is there enough left to share with those pinching pennies to make a nickel.
The wail of the customer at the Bean Traders reflects his own struggle to survive after the economy collapsed.  His dream for better days eroded after his business went belly up due to the crumpling of the companies who fed his business.  Once his business was sold his health went bad.  He’s getting older.  His savings have eroded.  One bad thing was followed by another, and now he doesn’t know how to pull out from under all that happened.
He feels what so many others live with everyday.  Fear.  Fear of the unknown.  Fear of not having enough.  Fear of more money taken out of his check to take care of people he doesn’t know.  When will it stop?
Then there are those living on the other side of the need.  More than 30 million Americans live with it every day.  They too have lost work.  The difference is they can’t go to the doctor.  They live with having to bite the pain of sickness and pray that it won’t kill them.  They walk with sickness on their way to the next job interview.  Many die because they can’t afford medication.  Some die not knowing they could have lived if they had gone to a doctor.
Both truths coexist in a way that leaves us all frustrated with the options we face.  We use labels to define those who are afraid of tomorrow.  Aren’t all of us scared a bit?  Aren’t both Democrats and Republicans responding in some level to fear?  Aren’t we all afraid about not having enough and that even more will be lost along the way?
The Supreme Court decision on health care is about fear.  In the face of all that fear the ruling forces us to consider how the poor health of others impacts our own health.  Health, like so much that falls within the purview of government control, works best when taken out of the hands of corporate control.  As much as we hate to admit it, access to good health is ruled by one’s ability to pay for it – those with have, those without die.
Good health is important enough to force people to have health insurance or pay a penalty.  Some have stated that a person should be allowed to die if they don’t have insurance.  Pull the plug.  Kick them out of the hospital.  Force them to get a job that offers a benefit package.  It’s their problem. It’s not my business.
That’s not the America we love so much.  Fear forces us to consider what it means to have to pay for another person’s inability to pay.  Our obligation as “one nation united for all” rouses a collective consciousness to be our brothers and sisters keeper.  We may be scared, but this we must fix.
We can’t let them die.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Turn left on Andre' Leon Tally Road

I came close to driving my car into the tree when I saw him walking.  His tall frame formed a shadow.  The shade fashioned a sacred space for those aware of his contribution.  Sadly, no one knew his name.  No one knew his contribution.  They ran around him as he made his way around “the wall’ surrounding Duke’s East campus.
“That’s André Leon Tally,” I screamed as I yanked the wheel to the left to avoid crashing into the car in the right lane.
“Who’s that,” the duet n the car responded in a way that implied so what.
It hurt me that no one knew his name.  It hurt even more when I discovered Tally is a Durham native. He graduated from North Carolina Central University before heading to Brown University where he received a Master’s degree in French. 
Before writing more about Tally’s work, I have to ask.  Do you know him?  I’m willing to bet you don’t.
Tally moved to New York to become Andy Warhol’s assistant before becoming the most influential person in the fashion industry.  He’s editor-at-large for Vogue Magazine and gets front row seating at top fashion shows in New York, Paris, London and Milan. Tally made a cameo appearance in the 2008 movie Sex & the City and advised Michelle Obama on fashion before connecting her with Jason Wu.
Many claim the character Meryl Steep portrayed in the movie The Devil Wears Prada is loosely based on Tally.  In fashion, he is larger than life.  In Durham, he’s just a black dude walking around “the wall’.
Maybe it’s Durham’s small town ways that draws Tally back home from time to time to take those brisk walks around “the wall”.  As tempted as I am to run up to him and make a formal introduction, I don’t want to be perceived as a groupie.  Yes, I’m a recovering label whore.  I would love nothing more than to have a suit tailored by Ozwald Boatang.  Those who have read Backslide, my second novel, know my spiritual battle with all things high class juxtaposed against my fight for the poor.
To say that Tally is the king of fashion is an understatement.  He is “the man”, and Durham is his home.  I never hear mention of his contribution to fashion during that 28-day period set aside to celebrate black history.  There should be a street named after him in Durham.  Maybe then people will get to know his name.
Come to think about it, that’s how we treat the people who have made noteworthy contributions in their field.  Yes, we are quick to make mention of those who helped build Durham’s Black Wall Street.  We have buildings named after them to help us remember how they paved the way.  What about the vast others who were born in Durham or made Durham their home?  Shouldn’t we find a way to say look at what came from the place we call home?
I propose we start renaming streets in Durham.  Certainly there are enough that deserve a name change.  I have a long list: John Hope Franklin Blvd., Pauli Murray St., Shirley Caesar Rd., Zora Neal Hurston Parkway, John Lucas Freeway, Ernie Barnes Circle, Leroy Walker Rd and Nnenna Freelon St.  There are others on my list.  The contributions are vast, so don’t get mad at me if I left someone off the list.
Shouldn’t our street names reflect more than the contributions made by a few dudes named Duke, Mr. Watts, Mangum and our close proximity to Chapel Hill? A drive around the city leaves one hard pressed to find places that celebrate those who grew up within walking distance from those tobacco warehouses.
Thus begins my official campaign to rename streets in Durham.  I’m calling on the city council to pick a few streets and get the show on the road, or should I say road signs? Think about it.  How inspiring would it be to have streets named after the black men and women who make us proud to live in Durham?  What would it mean to honor a few of those living legends – Lucas, Caesar and Freelon – by giving them their roses while they are still with us?
Yeah, that’s André Leon Tally walking around “the wall”.  You may not know what he looks like, but it would be nice if people knew his name.
Turn left on André Leon Tally Rd. It’s the street after you pass the Hayti Heritage Center. Then turn right on Ernie Barnes Circle.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Legitimate black man kicked out of bar

Headlines are written to draw readers to the article.  They serve as a summation of what follows and entice us to give the piece a chance.
Like most readers of news, I depend on headlines to help me weed through the massive choices in front of me.  Many headlines let me down after promising a sensational discovery only to deflate me after presenting news that fails to live up to the billing.  I got hyped after reading “Hip-Hop Mogul indicted on murder-for-hire charges”.  The headline lured me in because of a false assumption.  Had authorities finally arrested Suge Knight for the arrest of Tupac?
Nope. It was James Rosemond who was charged in New York for ordering others to kill a man in 2009 as payback for an assault on his 14-year-old son.  Rosemond is best known for his work with Salt-N-Pepa, Big news, but it’s not Suge Knight.
That headline served its purpose.  So did the one I read from happenings over in Raleigh, NC.  “Harvard graduate student thrown out of bar in North Carolina allegedly for being black” Those were fighting words.  It was just enough to get my blood churning.  I’d had enough of black men being treated wrong, and this one had me overly sensitive because it happened less than 25 miles away.
That’s the first thing I wanted to know.  What city was it?  My assumption was correct.  It happened in Raleigh.  I can’t imagine something like that happening in Durham, NC.  Not after being voted the most tolerant city in America by The Beast. The bars in Durham are a haven of multiculturalism.  No one in their right mind would kick out a person because of their race.  With that being said, I couldn’t make that assumption.  I’m still not over the burning of three crosses in one night in Durham.  Anything is possible.
After confirming it happened in Raleigh, I read the rest of the story. “What was so demoralizing about this reality is that I have worked to do everything right,” says Jonathan Wall, a 21-year-old graduate assistant at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.  Wall is a graduate of Morehouse College and is set to begin graduate studies at Harvard.  He has played by all the rules.  That statement from Wall, and the headline that flushed out the power of all that hard work, had me thinking about what made this a big story.
It’s the Harvard in the headline that brought legitimacy to his claim.  The more I thought about it, the more I envisioned a more honest headline.  How about “Legitimate black man thrown out of bar.”
We shouldn’t minimize Walls pain.  From all accounts, something went array that night.  Wall says he and a friend went to The Downtown Sports Bar and Grill on a Sunday morning.  It was only his second time in a bar.  Wall smells squeaky clean.  The type of kid a father would introduce to his daughter – educated, motivated and he isn’t one to spend time in a bar.
They were told they couldn’t go in because the bar requires membership. Somehow he made it inside, and was quickly confronted by the general manager who told him to buy a drink or leave. Wall explained he was waiting for a friend to use the bathroom when he says the general manager put him in a headlock and forced him out of the bar. 
Wall told a police officer on patrol in the area about the incident, but no report was filed. The bar denied Wall’s claims in a statement released to the press on Friday. “Mr. Wall was not roughed up or improperly treated.  Mr. Wall was not the subject of racial discrimination,” according to the statement.   It continues to state that Wall “took advantage of a crowded door situation after being told he could not enter without being a member or the guest of a member.”
I kept looking for evidence to prove that Wall was kicked out because he’s black.  I searched for a racial slur, a comment about your kind of people, anything to give credence to the claim that he was removed from the premises because of his race.  I’m down for the protest.  I have a new pair of we shall overcome shoes ready to take to the streets and march.  I couldn’t find it in the story.  As bad as I feel for Wall, and I sincerely do, there is no evidence to validate his claim that race was the motivation behind all that happened.
That’s not to say it’s not about race.  Wall is probably correct to assert that the headlock and boot came from an ole hillbilly with built up racial anxiety.  The only way to measure things like this is to walk in those shoes.  It’s often what isn’t stated that gets at the truth.  It’s how things are done that leave people like Wall thinking there’s an underlying thing going on in the midst of the battle.  I feel you dude.
But, there are deeper implications related to what makes this news in the first place.  It’s what Wall said.  It’s what is stated in the headline that got me invested in the story: “Harvard graduate student thrown out of bar in North Carolina allegedly for being black”.  After playing by all the rules Wall, and others like him, have the right to be treated with dignity and respect. How dare they treat him that way! He’s not just a black man, he’s a black man headed to Harvard.
Let’s face it.  This would not be news if Wall was a student at Shaw University or St. Augustine.  The headline failed to mention Wall is a graduate of Morehouse.  Harvard brought credibility that the HBCU couldn’t.  The use of Harvard forced everyone to stop and ponder the rest of the story. Sadly, that's what it takes to be heard, the validation of an institution that you’re not a loud mouth black dude who blames white people for all the wrong in your life.
Would the story get headlines if the man choked has a GED, is unemployed, has two baby mama’s and is two months behind in child support?  It’s the saddest part in covering the news regarding black men.  Their credentials end up in the headline as a way to confirm or deny the credibility of their claim. 
It’s difficult to respond to Walls assertion of racism.  Unless there’s more to this story, I’m forced to reserve the use of my race card.  That doesn’t mean I can’t feel my brother’s pain.  I do.  I want to fight for him.
I want to fight, but not because he’s black.  I want to fight because he’s a black man headed to Harvard.  He played by all the rules darn it.
Bow down and show respect for a man like that!  But, what about the dude in the chokehold with a GED?

Thursday, June 21, 2012

The meaning of shackles on my feet

Please excuse my language, but what the Hell was Adidas thinking when they introduced the shackle shoes?  I’m not buying the line “Got a sneaker game so hot you lock your kicks to your ankles?”
It’s hard to imagine that in this age over hyper cultural sensitivity not one person at the German sports apparel maker considered the correlation of those shackles and the enslavement of black folks.  Not one person? No one had the insight to blow the whistle in the middle of the presentation and call a foul? Nobody?
The implications related to not knowing any better raises serious question regarding who was in the room when the shackles were presented.  I can only assume there was the absence of a black person to scream “no you didn’t!”  If so, that brother or sister needs to have the black card removed and sent to a class on what pisses other black folks off.
Someone needed to yell about the large numbers of black youth who purchase those high price shoes.  I know young people with enough invested in shoes to pay for their college education.  I’ve heard young people scream at their parents for refusing to purchase the most recent version of Jordan’s foot crack. Youth are addicted to shoes like an old wine-o standing on a corner begging for change to get another bottle.  “Please mama, please, got ta have my shoes!”  Show me a parent not dealing with the insanity connected to a kid’s shoe addiction and I’ll give them an award as parent of the year.
Which may be the point behind Adidas shoe concept – telling the truth about those who fork out all that cash to buy the crap.  As much as I want to strangle everyone in the board room who gave the nod for the shoe, I have to give them credit for being honest about the lure of the shoe industry.  Those who buy their products are slaves to the shoe.  You might as well put a shackle on them to make it official.
And it goes deeper than the shoes they wear.  Their dreams for education and a life of a modest level of security are enslaved by their spending habits.  Their parents can’t get past making it from one check to the next due to their need to show up at school with new kicks on their feet every day.  Add to the cost of shoes the rest of the wardrobe.  You might as well call them what they are – slaves.
As much as I hate the concept of shackles on shoes, there’s something about that memory from slavery that gets at a truth that needs to be preached.  Since they want to wear them, put shackles on them.  Make them walk around school with a symbol of subjugation.  Make them tell the truth about their obsession. 
Outrage on the release of the shoe forced Adidas to offer a formal apology. "The design of the JS Roundhouse Mid is nothing more than the designer Jeremy Scott's outrageous and unique take on fashion and has nothing to do with slavery," the statement said. "We apologize if people are offended by the design and we are withdrawing our plans to make them available in the marketplace."
Adidas had no choice but to back down.  With high profile critics like Rev. Jesse Jackson banging at their door they had to find a way to back out of their plan to place shackles on the feet of youth. "The attempt to commercialize and make popular more than 200 years of human degradation, where blacks were considered three-fifths human by our Constitution is offensive, appalling and insensitive," Jackson said before Adidas' decision to withdraw them from the marketplace.
I’m certainly relieved that Adidas pulled the shoe, but maybe this was an opportunity to make a point to those black kids fixated on shoes.  We had a chance to force them to wear a label like in the “Scarlet Letter”. Make them tell the truth.
I wear shackles on my feet because I’m a slave to my shoes.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Rodney King: a name we will never forget

There are so many emotions stirred by the death of Rodney King.  There’s the usual stuff that rises to the top whenever I hear his name.  I get pissed off because his name reminds me of every time I’ve been stopped by the police for no other reason than driving while black, walking while black or shopping while black.  His name reminds me of why I pray every morning before stepping out into the real world.  As much as people refuse to admit it - it’s tough being a black man in America.
Black men have to be careful with how we talk about race.  We get accused of using the race card or living with a victim mentality.  People are quick to challenge us to pull up our pants by our bootstraps and take responsibility for what we have done to limit our own progress.  We’re told that others struggle just like we do, and that it’s not our black skin combined with manhood that causes all the hostility others have toward us; it’s our attitude blocking progression toward that American Dream.
Rodney King is one of the many reminders of what happens when black men show up.  Other example can be found: the Jena 6, Trayvon Martin, the harassment of Harvard Professor Skip Gates by police when he was unlocking his front door, the conviction of Brian Banks for a rape he didn’t commit, the wrongful conviction of Daryl Hunt for the death of a Winston-Salem journalist and the conviction of Mumia Abu Jamal for the death of a Philadelphia police officer.  When a black man is arrested the first thought is he’s guilty until proven innocent.
The uproar that followed that release of that dreadful tape, that showed Los Angeles police beating King with their clubs, was stirred by years of police brutality. Complaints by citizens weren’t enough to convince authorities to change the unwritten code that gave a green light to beating black men expected of wrongdoing.  The riots that followed reflected a community's pay back for being fed up with being used as beating boards. 
When King came out and begged the world to “just get along,” his tone and face said more than his words.  53 people were dead after those riots, and the nation had become even more torn by race.  Black people were incensed by the notion that black men deserved to be beaten, like former slaves, for minor acts of disobedience.  Like the burning of Watts in August of 1965, it was in retaliation to police brutality.  Enough is enough.
Few know the name Marquetta Frye, the 21-year-old black man pulled over by a white California Highway Patrol motorcycle officer.  Frye was arrested and by midnight 13,900 people were in the streets protesting.  Watts went up n flames, but few know Frye’s name.  Few don’t know King’s name.  That name, Rodney King, is synonymous with police brutality.
King’s drowning in his home pool won’t change any of that.  His name will be remembered because he provided the evidence the black community needed.  It showed up on tape.  It couldn’t be refuted.  It was no longer the word of the police against that of another black man griping about the abuse of power.  It was there for the world to see.  After the nation watched, the conversation regarding police brutality shifted.  It no longer became a figment of the black community’s imagination, it was there to watch.
Rodney King’s body was sacrificed to uncover truth.  The $3.5 million King received to compensate him for the blows on his body helped heal the ache of that night.  The money paid for the brutality, but there are some things money can’t make go away.
No matter how much money a black man has in the bank, it’s not enough to avoid the suspension of those who assume him guilty for no other reason than the color of his skin.
Ask Skip Gates.

Friday, June 15, 2012

I celebrate my Independence Day on Juneteenth

I refuse to celebrate the 4th of July.  I recognize it as a significant date in American history.  I understand why people gather for cookouts, wave flags and meet at the ballpark of fireworks.  It’s up there with hotdogs, apple pie and baseball as things that define what it means to be a citizen of the county that waves the red, white and blue.
I still refuse to celebrate that date.  It would be a lie to do so.  It denounces all that followed that day when a group of men came together to make it official – we became a nation free from the rule of England.  My folks weren’t free yet.  I simply can’t force myself to commemorate a day that fails to tell the rest of the story.
I celebrate my independence on June 19th.  That’s the date set aside to remember the end of slavery in America.  It was on June 19, 1865 that the Union soldiers, led by Major General Gordan Granger, landed at Galveston, Texas with news that the Civil War had ended and that the enslaved were free to leave master’s rule.  It was two and a half years after President Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation announced the freedom of slaves on January 1, 1863.
The Emancipation Proclamation had no impact on Texas due to the small number of Union troops to enforce Lincoln’s Executive Order.  With the surrender of General Lee in April of 1865, the arrival of General Granger and his troops were enough to overcome the resistance in Texas.
That’s the day I celebrate independence.  On that day General Granger read General Order Number 3 to the people in Texas.  It began with:
"The people of Texas are informed that in accordance with a Proclamation from the Executive of the United States, all slaves are free. This involves an absolute equality of rights and rights of property between former masters and slaves, and the connection heretofore existing between them becomes that between employer and free laborer."
Many slaves left before the order was affirmed by their former masters’. With nowhere to go, they left embracing their freedom. Some went North while others sought to find family members in neighboring states.  They fled to Louisiana, Arkansas and Oklahoma.  Since that day in June of 1865, people have paused to remember the struggles of their descendants.  The Juneteenth celebration remained vital in Texas decades later, with former slaves and descendants making an annual pilgrimage back to Galveston.
When Ralph Abernathy called people of all races, creeds, economic levels and professions to come to Washington, D.C for the Poor People March in 1968, many returned home and initiated Juneteenth celebrations. On January 1, 1980, Juneteeth became an official state holiday in Texas.
The Durham Juneenth celebration is organized by Phyllis Coley, publisher of Spectacular Magazine and NC State Juneteenth Director.  Coley has been pressing state legislators to recognize Juneteenth as a state holiday. 
People will gather on Saturday to hear local music, enjoy food and hear speeches.  The keynote speech will be delivered by Rev. William Barber II, president of the North Carolina NAACP. Barber will talk about the importance of voter registration and remind people to show up and vote during the fall elections.
The Danish Philosopher Soren Kierkegaard says that life must be lived forwards but can only be understood backwards.  The reality of a particular age may not become apparent until it is drawing to a close. The meaning of that day in Galveston, Texas was not fully understood by those who walked away from a life of subjugation to embrace freedom.  We look back moved by their determination to find meaning beyond what kept them in bondage.
It’s my Independence Day.  I wave this flag of truth.  Lest those who follow from behind forget, we remind them on Juneteenth.
We free now.


Eighth Annual Durham Juneteenth Celebration
WHEN: June 16, 1 to 10 p.m. 

WHERE: CCB Plaza, downtown Durham



Saturday’s Juneteenth entertainment schedule:

1 p.m. Opening ceremony

1:15 p.m. King Ayoola

2:05 p.m. Tones of Harmony

2:40 p.m. Fierce Eclipse All Stars 

3 p.m. Q.S. Bullock & Sacrifice

3:35 p.m. Solo acoustic guitar

4:05 p.m. AIDS awareness session

4:30 p.m. Jerome Waller & Anointed Praise 

5 p.m. William Barber II, keynote address

5:30 p.m. DJ Kool

6:30 p.m. Models against domestic violence

6:50 p.m. Kamus

7:05 p.m. Reggie Pr1me 

7:30 p.m. Yolanda Rabun

8:15 p.m. Johnny White & The Elite Band

9:05 p.m. Sybi


Thursday, June 14, 2012

21c Museum Hotel is the missing piece to Durham's economic development vision

It’s the move that promises to take Durham to the next level.  We’ve been here before - West Village, The Revolution Restaurant, The American Tobacco development, the Durham Performing Arts Center – all have taken Durham to a step beyond it’s former self.
 It’s happening again. 
Greenfire Development has partnered with 21C Museum Hotels to transform the Hill Building into one of the companies marque hotels that blends art, cultural center, resturant and luxury rooms to the Bull City.  The union between Greenfire and 21 C Museum Hotels promises to transform the old CCB headquarters into the place to be in downtown Durham.  It’s more than we hoped for when Greenfire purchased the building and began pitching it’s dream.
What makes this move so special is the company’s approach to the arts.  Anyone who has been to Lousiville, Kentucky knows about the fine art on display at the 21 C Museum hotel.  Philanthropist and contemporary art collectors Laura Lee Brown and Steve Wilson wanted to reverese the nasty trend of urban sprawl by revitalizing Lousiville, KY.  They teamed up with world-renowned architect Deborah Berke to revitalize a series of 19th century tobacco and Bourbon warehouses in Louisville’s downtown district. 
21C was an instant hit, and critics from Travel Leisure, The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, National Geographic Traveler have raved about their experience at the hotel.  The readers of Conde Nast Traveler Magazine voted 21 c Museum Hotel Lousiville among the top ten hotels in the world in 2009, 2010 and 2011 Reader’s Choice Awards.
Brown and Wilson have taken their vision that art can be a economic driver for a community to other places.  21c is under construction in Cincinnati, Ohio and Bentonville, Arkansas.  The Bentonville hotel will be owned by members of the Walton family. The Walton family owns 45% of Wal-Mart, a stake vauled at $85 million.
The Durham project will cost 45 million.  It will offer 125 hotel rooms, musuem space that will be open to the public and free, a resturant and bar,  more than 150 new permanent jobs, and more than 200 jobs for the construction of the project.  It will be a unique gathering place for those who visist Durham. 
If members of the city council give the nod for a incentive package Durham will be added to the list of places with a 21c Musuem Hotel.  The backing of the Durham City Council is important for reasons beyond minimizing the cost to get the project done.  It’s important that both the city and county  honor the worth of the project as a sustaintable econonomic development iniative.  Yes, it brings jobs to Durham.  It does all of that while drawing visitors to Durham.  People will come for the art.  They will also come for the Durham Performing Arts Center and all the other great things happening in downtown and throughout the city. 
Help me understand why the city council would say no?  They have to say yes.
I may be a bit selfish on this one. I love art.  I especially love contemporary art.  The thought of having the museum at NCCU,the Hayti Heritage Center,  the Nasher, the Arts Council and 21c Musuem Hotel all in the same city is incredibly attractive.  It enhances what has already begun in downtown Durham – a place to showcase art.  From the Art Walk, the wonderful local art displayed at local restaurants, bars and coffee houses to the places that display art, Durham is close to challenging Asheville as the art hub of North Carolina.
Did I mention admission is open to the public and free?
Add it to the list of why Durham is the best place to live in America.  As that cable guy says, “Get er done!
Check out the company link:

Monday, June 11, 2012

Is it ever right to choke your baby girl?

The saddest part regarding the arrest of meg-Church pastor Creflo Dollar is the response from those after they get word that Dollar choked, kicked and punched his 15 year-old daughter.  The first response from most of the people I’ve spoken to is, “she must have deserved it.”
She got what was coming to her.  She must have done something to push him over the top.  That’s what a daddy is supposed to do when baby girl disrespects the authority of the man of the house.  As much as I hear that, I’m not buying it for one second.
You see, there is a much deeper message at the bottom of all of this.  With all the talk about domestic violence among young people, why would we support a father who is modeling to his daughter what it means to be in a loving relationship with a man?  As much as I understand the need to discipline children, we have to be careful in not endorsing activity that may become confusing for those young girls who get a piece of poppa’s venom when she acts like she’s grown enough to step in his face.
If daddy is the one to teach her how to be with a man, what’s to say that the beat down doesn’t come with that package? Is that what love looks like?  Is that the treatment she is to expect from the  man who is supposed to be like her daddy?  I think not.
If it’s true that father’s teach their daughters everything they need to know to be in a relationship, are they to conclude that it’s acceptable to get choked by their man if she crosses the line and fails to give him proper respect?  I would hope that instead of a choke move, kick to the side and left hook to the face, that daddy would remain calm, even when its difficult, and teach how to engage in a conversation that does utilize a loud voice and threats to whip that ass.
I’ve lived with the philosophy that it’s my responsibility to be the man who opens doors for my girls, is the first to buy them roses, takes them out to one of the multiple star eateries and listens to them when their hormones are out of whack and their comments and tone reflect they done lost their mind up in here.  Trust me when I say Krista and Lenise, my daughters, have said and done some things that have taken me to that place where beat downs begin.  I haven’t gone there.  Never.  Lenise is 30-something and Krista is 25.  I refuse to go there because I will hurt the man who does that to them.
Parenting can be humbling.  There have been times when I wanted respect from my children, but the truth is I didn’t deserve any.  That’s what comes with being a pastor.  My children have been hurt by the church.  They have found themselves in bondage due to how things might look if the church folks sawthem out.  People make assumptions.  People talk.  It’s not their fault that you decided to pick up the phone and answer that call from God. 
I’ve made my share of mistakes as both a parent and a pastor, but one thing is clear.  I haven’t choked my girls, kicked my girls and punched my precious little babies.  I dare any man to cross that line.  I will call on Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Jesus and my grandpapa before finding the sucker who has the audacity to use force to get their attention. Not playing that.
I remember the time I was forced to humble with my Sugar Baby.  That’s the name given Krista.  Lenise is Sweet Baby.  I was driving to Durham after picking her up in Charlotte for a weekend visit.  It was after my divorce.  Our times were special.  I used the time driving from Charlotte, don’t hit me, taking care of business on my cell phone.  She was furious.  She started crying.  When I finally ended my business I was near Greensboro.  She let me have it.  She let me have it good.
“I don’t get to see you much, and when I do you stay on that phone,” I was hurt.  Not because I felt disrespected, but because she was right.  I held back the tears.  She kept crying.  I wanted to wipe the tears from her 13-year-old face and tell her I was sorry.  I needed more than words.
Once in Durham, I made my way to the nearest Kroger. I went inside and purchased flowers.  I made my way to the car where she was still fuming.  I patted her window and gave her the little puppy face.  She rolled down the window.  I apologized and promised never to do that again.  I kept my promise.
Since then, both my daughters have had their “let me tell you how I feel” moments. I’ve had to suck it in. Even when I didn’t want to hear it, or when I felt what they said was unfair to me.  Why? Because it’s their truth, and they need to be taught, by their daddy, what it means to be patient, and kind and loving, devoid of conditions.
So, it’s never appropriate to punch, kick or choke those little girls.  We have to show them how to be a man when we fail to get our way. 
Even when they are wrong

Friday, June 8, 2012

Omar Beasley gets 7,500 signatures to run the race

Omar Beasley has the 7,500 signatures needed to allow him to run the race.  More than 10,000 signed the petition, but some were ineligible to vote.  It’s been a grueling battle to get to this point, but Beasley, coach for the Carolina Elite Track Team, has made it to the track.
“Some people think it was easier to go this route,” Beasley told me after giving me the word that he had received enough votes to be placed on the ballot for the Board of County Commissioners.  “This has been a difficult challenge.”
Beasley was forced to run a petition drive due to the timing of his switch from being classified an Independent to Democrat.  He was unable to run as a Democrat during the primary because he didn’t change his classification in time.  It was the first of many roadblocks that exposed Beasley to the tough political culture in Durham.
“It’s a dirty game,” Beasley says.  “You have to learn how to work with people despite all of that.”
Beasley wouldn’t give specifics about Durham’s dirty political culture.  What is clear is that many didn’t want him to run.  He was asked to end his bid for the office.  The official word of him making it to the race has significant bearing on the political endorsement of the five survivors of the primary.  The People’s Alliance and the Durham Committee on the Affairs of Black People endorsed only four candidates in the primary.  Will both do the same in November?  Will either include Beasley among the four given each lost candidates in the primary?
It’s conceivable that the Durham Committee will endorse Michael Page, Brenda Howerton and  Beasley.  There’s talk among members of the Durham Committee about not endorsing Foster.  It is believed that Foster has swayed too far in support of the PA’s agenda, and the price could be replacing Foster with Beasley.
 Foster was seen passing out the PA slate during the primary instead of the Durham Committee’s list of candidates.  Foster received the Durham Committee endorsement despite his stance against 751.  Many wonder about his position against 751 given how the development could create jobs for blacks living in Durham.  His position against 751 is considered to be in conflict with his role as President of Durham’s chapter of the NAACP. How does one take a position against jobs when part of the agenda of the NACCP is finding work for those who need it the most?
Foster’s strong showing in the primary was the result of endorsements from both the Durham Committee and PA.  The recent grumbling regarding Foster is reason to slow the roll on the push to place him on the board to fill the seat left by Joe Bowser after he resigned. 
 The People’s Alliance is certain to endorse Ellen Rechkow, Wendy Jacobs and Foster.  They may endorse a fourth person, and if that happens they are left with Beasley.  Given their attack on Page and Howerton due to the 751 project, it is unlikely that they will shift in supporting either.  Beasley makes sense as a fourth endorsement, but it comes at the risk of losing Foster if the Durham Committee fails to endorse him.
What is clear is the will of the people.  The gathering of 7,500 signatures has to be respected by those holding political endorsements in their hands.  The difference between Beasley and the other candidates is significant.  Maybe that’s what Beasley meant when he mentioned the dirt in Durham.  The scramble for those precious endorsements can be filled with compromise.  It’s a tug of war that pits the fight for jobs against our ecosystem.  The two bullies in the room keep fighting the candidates to determine which one will end up with the lunch money.
“I want to thank the 7,500 and the 2,845 who signed for giving me a chance,” Beasley says.  That’s a lot of people who signed for him to run. 10,345 people placed their name on a petition.  Some weren’t registered to vote.  Some names weren’t legible.  Others had moved and couldn’t be found in the system, but they all signed for Beasley to run.
Many people worked to get Beasley on the track.  “I want to thank everyone who worked with me to make this happen,” Beasley says.  “It would not have happened if not for them.”
There’s a significant difference between what Beasley accomplished and what others achieved to be placed on the track.  They decided to run.  The people cheered Beasley on and decided to allow him to run.  Beasley understands running.  He’s a track coach. 
He’s on the track now. Run Omar run.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Looking for Soul Food in a city consumed with Sushi

It’s disturbing to me that it’s easier to find a place in Durham with sushi than Soul Food. Don’t get me wrong, I love sushi.  I’ve been to them all - Sushi Love, Yamazushi, Mount Fuji, Shiki Sushi, Sansui, Peony - yes I love sushi.  As much as I crave raw fish wrapped in sticky rice, you would think Durham would be known more for Soul Food.
There are a few holes in the walls to keep me happy.  There’s the Chicken Hut on Fayetteville Street across from the Food Lion.  Pan Pan is in the Northgate Mall.  Get this. Pan Pan is owned by an Asian family.   I’m not hating on the owners of Pan Pan, but I’m used to Soul Food being cooked by black people with old recipes from grandma’s cookbook.
The lack of Southern cuisine in a city known for all things Southern is troubling. Back home in St. Louis I’m forced to choose between Del Monico’s and Sweetie Pies.  It’s a shame that the Midwest does Soul Food better than the place known for the Black Wall Street. Could it be that black culture in Durham has assimilated into mass culture?  Is it possible that the death of Soul Food reflects a deeper concern regarding the traditions of black folks living in the Bull City?
With all the chat about Durham being a wonderful diverse community, I’m beginning to wonder what price has been paid for that diversity.  Has Durham become a place that celebrates and honors the mixtures of different cultures, or have different cultures taken over a community that was deeply embedded in black culture?  Is Durham changing due to gentrification?  Has the reconstruction of Downtown Durham combined with the influx of people from other places forced a transition that compromises black culture?
Do people in Durham care?  If not, what happens as a consequence of the apathy related to preserving that culture and communicating the history of Durham’s black community?  Do we even care?  The logical response is to say yes, but consider the truth screaming in our faces.  
Exhibit A. Consider Chuck Davis and the African American Dance Ensemble.  It pains me that the organization maintains an office in the basement of the Art’s Council.  Is that the best Durham can do to celebrate the work of one considered a pioneer in introducing African Dance to America?  Shame on Durham for relegating Davis and his company to the basement of the Art’s Council.  Is that the way we honor a living legend? 
Exhibit B. The sad state of the Hayti Heritage Center.  It started with a broken air conditioner.  Activities at the center were put on hold because there wasn’t enough cash to keep the place cool.  You have to be kidding me.  How did that happen?  If it wasn't hard enough to find $200,000 to fix the A/C, add the bad news that the nonprofit has to pay back a portion of a Golden Leaf grant due to the misappropriation of funds.
The Heritage Center was awarded $300,000 to develop a “permanent exhibition and cultural tourism trail”.  After receiving $240,000 of the grant, the remaining $60,000 was rescinded after it was discovered V. Dianne Pledger, the former executive director, misappropriated the funds.  Pledger resigned from the center prior to the disclosure of the audit findings.
Those who read this account will be quick to throw stones at Hayti and Pledger, but there is more to this story than meets the headline.  This isn’t about Pledger taking money and funneling it into her personal account.  This is not about a poorly managed organization that needs a kick in the behind for failing to properly handle their business. Pledger got caught up in having to rob Peter to pay Paul, and was unable to get enough money from Jane to give back to Peter.
Hayti suffers due to being undercapitalized.  Why is that?  
How does one sleep when payroll has to be covered in there is no money in the coffers to pay those who worked hard over the past two weeks?  How do you sleep knowing the only way to cover expenses is to lay folks off, or, maybe I should.  Maybe I shouldn’t….Okay, I’ll pay them from those restricted funds and pray the good Lord makes a way for me to put it back before it’s too late.
Yes, it’s wrong, but who is to blame for Pledger being put in that position?  We are.  We have failed to support Hayti in a way that offers long term stability.  Don’t we care enough to want more than what has been there?  Durham deserves more than this, and it’s our fault that we haven’t received more.
When I say we let me make it clear what I mean by that resounding we.  It’s the black community I blame.  It’s our history and culture.  It’s our art and music and dance that deserve to be showcased.  We have sacrificed our own by failing to subsidize organizations that reflect who we are as a people.  We may have stopped singing “We Shall Overcome”, but we should never forget the lyrics to that song!
Yes, I love sushi, but every now and then I want smothered chicken with collard greens and corn bread.  If this continues the only thing we’ll have left is the sushi.