Thursday, June 30, 2011

Vial Contempt for the President - A Disgrace!!!

Mark Halperin New York Times columnist made a shockingly offensive comment this morning on MSNBC’S Morning Joe that was completely inappropriate and unacceptable. Halperin referred to President Obama as a “Dick”. Considering the vial and vitriolic language coming from those who would, and do, disagree with everything he’s done and do; I was not too surprised by the remark. However, what disturbed me was the pitiful apology from both MSNBC and more specifically the perpetrator.

Statement from MSNBC: We apologize to the President, The White House and all of our viewers. We strive for a high level of discourse and comments like these have no place on our air. Therefore, Mark will be suspended indefinitely from his role as an analyst. (To their credit they suspended Halperin indefinitely – which remains to be seen)

Statement from Mark Halperin: I completely agree with everything in MSNBC’s statement about my remark. I believe that the step they are taking in response is totally appropriate.

Again, I want to offer a heartfelt and profound apology to the President, to my MSNBC colleagues, and to the viewers. My remark was unacceptable, and I deeply regret it.


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Wednesday, June 22, 2011

The Godfather Has Lost His Way

Some subjects produce raw emotions be it pro or con and I this post may well be received by some as negative. Nonetheless, I felt the need to say something. I was listening to an old speech of Brotha Malcolm the other day. It was called “Friends and Enemies”.

Later that evening, while watching the evening news they showed a clip of the GOP’s New Negro and straight talking contender for president. He proudly said, "If you see 100 out of 1000 black faces in the audience, that's par for the course… What lowers that is economics." Most of his comments that I have heard are as bad as the rest of the Klan - Obama this, Obama that – well you know how it goes.

The Godfather was asked about his position as the most prominent African American in the Republican Party these days; he said, he refuses to "stay on the Democratic plantation like he's supposed to" and he refuses to drink the liberal Kool-Aid. When asked why more African Americans haven't joined him at tea party rallies and conservative conventions, the millionaire ex-CEO has a shocking explanation; “African Americans are too poor to tea party.”

Population demographics was another answer he gave and what he called Democratic "demagoguing" of the Republican Party and conservatism. "If you look at the typical income of a black family of four it's going to be lower than a non-black or white family of four," he explained. "Generally speaking on average, white families are much more economically prosperous than black families." No kidding!

First, if I had the chance, I would ask if the Godfather if he could remember how big a fool they made of “Our man Steel” the so-called and one-time face of GOP. As Malcolm said in his speech, “They will find a Negro to do their bidding”. We’ve seen the likes of Steel, West, Connolly, Thomas, and Keys come out of the woodwork waving the Constitution singing God Bless America. The thousands of our ancestors who toiled in the fields as slaves would refer to people of this mindset as “House Negro’s”. I’d like to suggest, we be much harsher – in my view. I guess it just tells us that democracy isn’t pretty. Ok, I digress!


Back to the Godfather, he said, that he doesn’t appreciate the idea of being labeled an “African American.” During an interview with Bloomberg, he added that he prefers to be called an “American,” stating that the word “African” on the front of his racial identity limits him and inaccurately describes who he is. He went on to say, “I don’t like people trying to label me. African-American is socially acceptable for some people, but I am not some people.”

Sure there are those who agree with him, as there is little reason for most black people to feel any connection to the continent of Africa. Gerren Gaynor, a writer for, wrote “African-Americans/Blacks/Negroes have no true sense of identity. If you’re African-American, you’re more than likely far removed from the African continent and culture… there’s absolutely nothing wrong with omitting “African” from our nationality”. Hmmm!

However, that is not the same as forgetting that you are what you see when you look in the mirror. More importantly, what they see. So for me I take issue with the Godfather’s remarks. I will go further and just call it what it is “Ridiculous”. Believing that it is somehow inaccurate or unpatriotic for a person to call himself an ‘African-American’ rather than just an ‘American’ is absurd, and frankly how dare he fix his mouth to say such a thing.

“Cain’s remarks about the pitfalls of being called an “African American” remind us of the kind of assimilation expected by those who somehow feel that blackness is a liability. The truth is that our dark skin is reflective of our African roots, and not knowing anything about Africa is no excuse to deny ourselves access to thousands of years of storied and valuable culture. White Supremacy 101 tells us that we can be successful in spite of being black, rather than finding success because we are black.”

For some reason, this guy seems to think by connecting himself with those who enslaved his forefathers; he is somehow attached to the heritage of his blue eyed brothers and sisters. But the reality is that when he denies his genealogical roots, he is disrespecting those who carried the blood that runs through his veins. Personally, I’d be ashamed to have a great grandchild who decided to negate my connection to him simply because he knows nothing about our struggle.

At a time when we have the first black president, Godfather your position should be one of unity not descent. Frankly, I think he would dangerous for America as president and certainly dangerous for us. Godfather there is nothing wrong with appeasing your Tea Party Klan, if that is your wish. However, I hope you realize that in the eyes of many who look like you; you are being reduced to a political cartoon character. Finally, the commentary you direct at our president does not demonstrate much dignity nor pride in who you are.
I want to close, for the first time, with a pray; God in your name condemn the resurrection of these dormant seeds that harm our lives casting descent in the world you created in Jesus name. Amen!

Mr. Cain you are no Barack Obama!
And that’s my Thought Provoking Perspective.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Celebrate Juneteeth and Father’s Day

Let us take care to not only remember Father’s Day but less not forget to celebrate Juneteenth the oldest known celebration commemorating the ending of slavery in the United States. Dating back to 1865, it was on June 19th that the Union soldiers, led by Major General Gordon Granger, landed at Galveston, Texas with news that the war had ended and that those enslaved were now free. Note that this was two and a half years after President Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation - which had become official January 1, 1863.

The Emancipation Proclamation had little impact on the Texans due to the minimal number of Union troops to enforce the new Executive Order. However, with the surrender of General Lee in April of 1865, and the arrival of General Granger’s regiment, the forces were finally strong enough to influence and overcome the resistance. Later attempts to explain this two and a half year delay in the receipt of this important news have yielded several versions that have been handed down through the years.

The story that is often told is of a messenger who was murdered on his way to Texas with the news of freedom. Another story is that the news was deliberately withheld by the enslavers to maintain the labor force on the plantations. Then there is yet another story that federal troops actually waited for the slave owners to reap the benefits of one last cotton harvest before going to Texas to enforce the Emancipation Proclamation. All of which, or neither of these version could be true. Certainly, for some, President Lincoln's authority over the rebellious states was in question. Regardless, the conditions in Texas remained status quo well beyond what was statutory.

One of General Granger’s first orders of business was to read to the people of Texas, General Order Number 3 which began most significantly 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."

The reactions to this profound news ranged from pure shock to immediate jubilation. While many lingered to learn of this new employer to employee relationship, many left before these offers were completely off the lips of their former 'masters' - attesting to the varying conditions on the plantations and the realization of freedom. Even with nowhere to go, many felt that leaving the plantation would be their first grasp of freedom.

North was a logical destination and for many it represented true freedom, while the desire to reach family members in neighboring states drove the some into Louisiana, Arkansas and Oklahoma. Settling into these new areas as free men and women brought on new realities and the challenges of establishing a heretofore non-existent status for black people in America. Recounting the memories of that great day in June of 1865 and its festivities would serve as motivation as well as a release from the growing pressures encountered in their new territory. The celebration of June 19th was coined "Juneteenth" and grew with more participation from descendants.

The Juneteenth celebration was a time for reassuring each other, for praying and for gathering remaining family members. Juneteenth continued to be highly revered in Texas decades later, with many former slaves and descendants making an annual pilgrimage back to Galveston on this date. A range of activities were provided to entertain the masses, many of which continue in tradition today. Juneteenth almost always focused on education and self improvement. Thus, often guest speakers are brought in and the elders are called upon to recount the events of the past. Prayer services were also a major part of these celebrations.

Dress was also an important element in early Juneteenth customs and is often still taken seriously, particularly by the direct descendants who can make the connection to this tradition's roots. During slavery there were laws on the books in many areas that prohibited or limited the dressing of the enslaved. During the initial days of the emancipation celebrations, there are accounts of former slaves tossing their ragged garments into the creeks and rivers to adorn clothing taken from the plantations belonging to their former 'masters'.

Economic and cultural forces provided for a decline in Juneteenth activities and participants beginning in the early 1900’s. Classroom and textbook education in lieu of traditional home and family-taught practices stifled the interest of the youth due to less emphasis and detail on the activities of former slaves. Classroom text books proclaimed Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation of January 1, 1863 as the date signaling the ending of slavery - and little or nothing on the impact of General Granger’s arrival on June 19th.

The Depression forced many people off the farms and into the cities to find work. In these urban environments, employers were less eager to grant leaves to celebrate this date. Thus, unless June 19th fell on a weekend or holiday, there were very few participants available. July 4th was the already established Independence holiday and a rise in patriotism steered more toward this celebration.

The Civil Rights movement of the 50’s and 60’s yielded both positive and negative results for the Juneteenth celebrations. While it pulled many of the African American youth away and into the struggle for racial equality, many linked these struggles to the historical struggles of their ancestors. This was evidenced by student demonstrators involved in the Atlanta civil rights campaign in the early 1960’s, whom wore Juneteenth freedom buttons. Again in 1968, Juneteenth received another strong resurgence through Poor Peoples March to Washington D.C. Rev. Ralph Abernathy’s call for people of all races, creeds, economic levels and professions to come to Washington to show support for the poor.

On January 1, 1980, Juneteenth became an official state holiday through the efforts of Al Edwards, an African American state legislator. The successful passage of this bill marked Juneteenth as the first emancipation celebration granted official state recognition. Edwards has since actively sought to spread the observance of Juneteenth all across America.

Juneteenth today, celebrates African American freedom and achievement, while encouraging continuous self-development and respect for all cultures. As it takes on a more national, symbolic and even global perspective, the events of 1865 in Texas are not forgotten, for all of the roots tie back to this fertile soil from which a national day of pride is growing.

The future of Juneteenth looks bright as the number of cities and states creating Juneteenth committees continues to increase. Respect and appreciation for all of our differences grow out of exposure and working together. Getting involved and supporting Juneteenth celebrations creates new bonds of friendship and understanding among us. This indeed, brightens our future - and that is the Spirit of Juneteenth.

So less not forget!!! And that’s my Thought Provoking Perspective.


Monday, June 13, 2011

A Salute to Black Music Month - Motown

This month, Black Music Month, is as profound to the African America Diaspora as Black History Month. We are the inventors and creators of sounds that changed world cultures.

If we were to begin way back in the cradle of civilization centuries ago it all began with the drum. When we were captured and brought to the so-called New World we brought with us the rhythms that dictate our souls. It is a fact that African American people are responsible for the great music known as Jazz, Gospel, Blues, Soul, R&B, Rap, Hip Hop, and just about every musical sound we hear that featured and directly speak to the glorious past.

During the despicable era of slavery and segregation prior to the Civil Rights Movement the hallowing sounds of gospel music delivered an in-your-face sound that fed the souls of a people and that outlet produced some of the most timeless music ever created. Before I go further, let’s remember that it was Michael Jackson whose music video was the first black music to air on MTV.

This brings me to historic and game-changing record label - Motown and its founder Mr. Barry Gordy. Let's be honest, can you imagine a world without The "Motown Sound". For many who don’t know or have forgotten, prior to Motown Records rarely did you see the face of an African American on the cover of an album or black music heard on white radio. The music we enjoyed was called “race music” and it was segregated in the same way America was prior to 1959, when Motown was founded. Prior to Motown Records few black performers enjoyed anything close to crossover success. By the way, an album is what was used to play music before CD’s.

Motown was the first record label owned by an African American to primarily feature African-American artists and its soul-based subsidiaries were the most successful proponents of what came to be known as The Motown Sound, which was a style of soul music with a distinct influence. From its Hitsville U.S.A building on 2648 West Grand Boulevard, Detroit, Michigan that served as Motown's headquarters produced the most universally recognized stable of songwriters and performers of our time or anytime.

The music produced by Motown made a nation of people living in this nation without a nationality proud with its awe-inspiring run of hits that spoke to the essence of our souls. Form a tiny little basement studio we were introduced to Michael Jackson, the Supremes, Diana Ross, Smokey Robinson, the Miracles, Mary Wells, Marvin Gaye, the Temptations, Four Tops, the Commodores, Lionel Richie, Stevie Wonder, Jr. Walker and the All Stars, David Ruffin, Eddie Kendricks, Gladys Knight and the Pips, Rick James, Nick Ashford and Valerie Simpson, Teena Marie, DeBarge, the Jackson Five, Martha and the Vandellas, the Marvelettes and Motown's Funk Brothers studio band; just to name a few of the artists that graced our souls and touched our hearts making us proud.

Many of Motown's best-known hits were written by Smokey Robinson, Barrett Strong, Norman Whitfield and the songwriting trio of Holland-Dozier-Holland who became major forces in the music industry. For example, it’s a known fact in the music industry that in order to get a number one hit song someone would have to write more than thirty songs. Holland-Dozier-Holland had a string of more than fifty hits in a row with some becoming number one with several different artists like the hit “I heard it through the Grapevine”. This is profound and will never happen again. No songwriter will ever achieve this feat – guaranteed.

Although Mr. Gordy sold Motown and it’s now in the hands of others its legacy resides in a very special place in my heart. I’m sure with you and millions around the world as well. So again I say, thank you Motown for the music, the love, the magic, and the many great memories.

Lastly, to the legends who are no longer able to perform for us today - thank you for your contribution - Rest in Peace. My guess is that they are walking around heaven all day singing with gleeful harmony the same way as it touched our souls when they were with us in this earthly realm. It must make haven more glorious and wonderful than I could ever imagine. And that’s my Thought Provoking Perspective.


Monday, June 6, 2011

A Day Worth Remembering

I really enjoy using this venue to share information, particularly that which relates to the African American Diaspora. It has often been said, “There are no perfect men, only those with perfect intentions”. This could very well apply to Homer Adolphe Plessy, which brings me to the topic of this post.

Tuesday is the anniversary of Homer Plessy’s decision to buy a railroad ticket for a train trip from New Orleans to Covington, which is on the other side of Lake Pontchartrain. I wanted to share this in order to highlight the significance of that fateful day because it resulted in a national policy of segregation that became known as “Separate but Equal” that lasted as the law of the land for over sixty years.

It was a setup from the start says New Orleans historian Keith Weldon Medley in his book “We as Freemen” who describes how the Comite des Citoyens (Committee of Citizens), an organization of freemen of color, planned the legal strategy for more than a year. They meant to challenge the segregation law using the post-Civil War 14th Amendment’s equal-protection clause.

Plessy, a shoemaker from the Treme neighborhood, volunteered for the job and was the perfect candidate. Seven-eighths white, he was “colored” in the eyes of the law. He bought a first-class ticket, sat in the white rail car and when asked to leave, he answered that he was colored, refused to leave and was arrested by a private detective. It had all been worked out in advance.

Homer Plessy’s paternal grandfather was Germain Plessy, a white Frenchman, arrived in New Orleans with thousands of other Haitian expatriates who fled Haiti in the wake of the slave rebellion led by Toussaint L'Ouverture that wrested Haiti from Napoleon in the 1790’s. Homer Plessy was born less than three months after the issuance of Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation. The New Orleans city directory from 1886-1924 listed his occupations as shoemaker, laborer, clerk, and insurance agent.

As a young man, Plessy displayed a social awareness and served as vice president of an 1880’s educational-reform group. At age thirty, shoemaker Homer Plessy was younger than most members of the Comité des Citoyens. His only attribute to this effort was being white enough to gain access to the train and black enough to be arrested for doing so. He volunteered for a mission rife with unpredictable consequences and backlashes. This shoemaker sought to make an impact on society that was larger than simply making its shoes. When Plessy was a young boy, his stepfather was a signatory to the 1873 Unification Movement—an effort to establish principles of equality in Louisiana.

The Comité des Citoyens ("Citizens' Committee") was a civil rights group made up of African Americans, whites, and Creoles. The committee vigorously opposed the recently enacted Separate Car Act and other segregation laws. They retained a white New York City attorney, Albion Winegar Tourgée, who had previously fought for the rights of African Americans.

In 1892, the Citizens’ Committee asked Plessy to agree to violate Louisiana's Separate Car law that required the segregation of passenger trains by race. On June 7, 1892, Plessy, then thirty years old and resembling in skin color and physical features a white male, bought a first-class ticket on the East Louisiana Railroad running between New Orleans and Covington, the seat of St. Tammany Parish. He sat in the "whites-only" passenger car. When the conductor came to collect his ticket, Plessy told him that he was 7/8 white and that he refused to sit in the "blacks-only" car. Plessy was immediately arrested by Detective Chris C. Cain, put into the Orleans Parish jail, and released the next day on a $500 bond.

Plessy's case was heard before Judge John Howard Ferguson one month after his arrest. Tourgée argued that Plessy's civil rights, as granted by the Thirteenth and Fourteenth amendments of the U.S. Constitution, had been violated. Ferguson denied this argument and ruled that Louisiana, under state law, had the power to set rules that regulated railroad business within its borders speaking to what segregationist call “States Rights”.

The Louisiana State Supreme Court affirmed Ferguson’s ruling and refused to grant a rehearing, but did allow a petition for writ of error. This petition was accepted by the United States Supreme Court and four years later, in April 1896, arguments for Plessy v. Ferguson began. Tourgée argued that the state of Louisiana had violated the Thirteenth Amendment, that granted freedom to the slaves, and the Fourteenth Amendment, that stated, "no state shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any state deprive any person of life, liberty, and property, without due process of law."

On May 18, 1896, Justice Henry Billings Brown delivered the majority opinion in favor of the State of Louisiana. In part, the opinion read, "The object of the Fourteenth Amendment was undoubtedly to enforce the absolute equality of the two races before the law, but in the nature of things it could not have been intended to abolish distinctions based on color, or to enforce social, as distinguished from political equality, or a commingling of the two races upon terms unsatisfactory to the either. ... If the two races are to meet upon terms of social equality, it must be the result of voluntary consent of the individuals."

The lone dissenting vote was cast by Justice John Marshall Harlan, a Kentucky Republican. In his dissenting opinion, the first Justice Harlan wrote: "I am of opinion that the statute of Louisiana is inconsistent with the personal liberty of citizens, white and black, in that state and hostile to both the spirit and letter of the Constitution of the United States."

The "Separate but Equal" doctrine, enshrined by the Plessy ruling, remained valid until 1954, when it was overturned by the Supreme Court decision in Brown v. Board of Education and later outlawed completely by the federal Civil Rights Act of 1964. Though the Plessy case did not involve education, it formed the legal basis of separate school systems for the following fifty-eight years.

After the Supreme Court ruling, Plessy faded back into relative anonymity. He fathered children, continued to participate in the religious and social life of his community, and later sold and collected insurance for the People’s Life Insurance Company. Plessy died in 1925 at the age of sixty-one, with his obituary reading, "Homer Plessy — on Sunday, March 1, 1925, at 5:10 a.m. beloved husband of Louise Bordenave." He was buried in the Debergue-Blanco family tomb in St. Louis Cemetery #1.

Know and understand where you came for in order to know where you are going. History often repeats itself and with the makeup of today’s Supreme Court who knows what might develop. And that’s my Thought Provoking Perspective…

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Gil Scott-Heron remembered R.I.P

The phenomenon that was Gil Scott-Heron was truly a powerful voice that spoke to the world with profound essence. I’ve often heard that genius is a rare gift and those who have been given “IT” walk a fine line between that which we appreciate and that which they know themselves to be. To me he was Gil. I will call him that because he was one of us and from the first time I heard him; it felt like he was within me. His astute stature demands, however that he be called Mr. Heron and with that said, the bother will live forever and his prose will be eternal.

I must admit that it took me a minute to find the words to pay homage to this remarkable man. I don’t know for sure why I could not find the words; whether from shock or I didn't want to believe he was gone. Regardless, I will say with certainty that he was real, and although troubled, I felt his pain and I admired him for living life on life’s terms.

Moreover, his political commentary is what impressed me. He had the ability to rebuke bygone bogeymen such as Nixon, Reagan, and Agnew. Darts were also flung at contemporary targets, notably Barack Obama. “My president’s black / But the plan remains the same,’’ rapped Enoch 7th Prophet and who can forget the classics “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised’’, “Winter in America’’, “Beginnings (First Minute of a Brand New Day)”, and “Whitey on the Moon.’’

This man was the precursor to rap with some saying he was the “Godfather of Rap” although he often bristled at the suggestion that his work had prefigured rap. “I don’t know if I can take the blame for it,” he said in an interview last year with the music Web site The Daily Swarm. He preferred to call himself a “bluesologist,” drawing on the traditions of blues, jazz and Harlem renaissance poetics.

For sure, he was a poet and recording artist whose syncopated spoken style and mordant critiques of politics, racism and mass media made him a notable voice of black protest culture in the 1970s and an important early influence on hip-hop. He did establish much of the attitude and the stylistic vocabulary that would characterize the socially conscious work of early rap groups like Public Enemy and Boogie Down Productions. He also remained part of the DNA of hip-hop by being sampled by stars like Kanye West. Chuck D, the leader of Public Enemy, told The New Yorker in 2010 that Gil Scott-Heron is the manifestation of the modern word… He and the Last Poets set the stage for everyone else.”

Gil once described “Washington, D.C. as both capital and home town: “Symbols of democracy, pinned up against the coast / Outhouse of bureaucracy, surrounded by a moat / Citizens of poverty are barely out of sight / Overlords escape in the evening with people of the night.” He lived most of his adult life in New York, yet also spent some years in Washington, including a stint in the 1970s when he taught English at Federal City College (a predecessor of the University of the District of Columbia).

He was born in Chicago on April 1, 1949, and reared in Tennessee and New York. His mother was a librarian and an English teacher; his estranged father was a Jamaican soccer player. In his early teens, Mr. Scott-Heron wrote detective stories, and his work as a writer won him a scholarship to the Fieldston School in the Bronx, where he was one of 5 black students in a class of 100. Following in the footsteps of Langston Hughes, he went to the historically black Lincoln University in Pennsylvania, and he wrote his first novel at 19, a murder mystery called “The Vulture.” A book of verse, “Small Talk at 125th and Lenox,” and a second novel, “The Nigger Factory,” soon followed.

Working with a college friend, Brian Jackson, Mr. Scott-Heron turned to music in search of a wider audience. His first album, “Small Talk at 125th and Lenox,” was released in 1970 on Flying Dutchman, a small label, and included a live recitation of “Revolution” accompanied by conga and bongo drums. Another version of that piece, recorded with a full band including the jazz bassist Ron Carter, was released on Mr. Scott-Heron’s second album, “Pieces of a Man,” in 1971.

“Revolution” established Mr. Scott-Heron as a rising star of the black cultural left, and it’s cool, biting ridicule of a nation anesthetized by mass media has resonated with the socially disaffected of various stripes — campus activists, media theorists, coffeehouse poets — for four decades. With sharp, sardonic wit and a barrage of pop-culture references, he derided society’s dominating forces as well as the gullibly dominated:

During the 1970s, Mr. Scott-Heron was seen as a prodigy with significant potential, although he never achieved more than cult popularity. He recorded 13 albums from 1970to 1982, and was one of the first acts that the music executive Clive Davis signed after starting Arista Records in 1974. In 1979, Mr. Scott-Heron performed at Musicians United for Safe Energy’s “No Nukes” benefit concerts at Madison Square Garden, and in 1985, he appeared on the all-star anti-apartheid album “Sun City.”
But by the mid-1980s, Mr. Scott-Heron had begun to fade, and his recording output slowed to a trickle. In later years, he struggled publicly with addiction. Since 2001, Mr. Scott-Heron had been convicted twice for cocaine possession, and he served a sentence at Rikers Island in New York for parole violation.

Some of the content for this article appeared in print on May 29, 2011, on page A26 of the New York edition with the headline: Gil Scott-Heron, a Voice of Protest And a Music Pioneer, Dies at 62. R.I.P.