Friday, December 23, 2016

Dear Santa Claus

Dear Santa,

   I know you haven't heard from me in a while but I'm writing you on behalf of those of us who still believe in you. Many of us may not say it, but we damn sure do. We believe in you just like we believe these women taking contorted body selfies actually got an hourglass figure. We believe in you like we believe the generic commentary people copy, paste and post on Facebook to look intelligent. We also believe in you like we believe these goldbricking charlatans who claim they're for "the people" yet didn't do a damn thing for the people, in-kind, this year. We may not call you Santa, or even write you letters anymore, but many of us still believe in you.
   The other day in my preschool class when one of my students asked how you made all of those toys another student said, "He don't make them, he gets them from Walmart." Although I don't think you're buying your sh*t from Walmart now, it warmed my little Five Percenter heart to know that my four-year-olds haven't been exposed to that flat earth ghetto scholarship that would have them believing your elves are snow Twa people and direct descendants of Bes.
   Anyway, I know that Christmas has always been about the children but I wanted to ask could you do something for us adults this year? I know you know everything Santa but things look a lot different here in America than on Fox News from the North Pole. Some of my people were really f*cked up behind Billary not getting elected. So if you can.., please stuff their stocking with a little pick me up. Aside from that, here's a small Christmas Wish List I came up with if you decide to do something for us adults this year:
  • Please give some substance, work ethic and the ability to execute to people who are a part of the Conscious Community or who claim to be conscious, have knowledge of self, be WOKE or promote black power. Santa these are some of the most sh*t talkiness sedentary people I've ever seen. If that's too much to ask, please just give these Monday morning quarterbacks some constructive sh*t to do next year. I speak for many people in saying that we are tired of seeing and hearing them critique stuff they have no intention of doing anything about. 
  • Please give some solid reference materials to women throwing around the title Queen. Many of these women primarily define a Queen in terms of extravagance, appearance and Diva-like decorum. Even the names some of them identify with are aesthetic, lacking substance and have nothing to do with a woman's character and virtues. Better yet, there are quite a few sisters I know who exemplify what a true Queen is. If you can just amplify their social media platforms next year so when women are looking for that sense of consciousness, integrity and empowerment, they'll primarily come in contact with them. That would be excellent.
  • I'm not sure how cool you are with Mark Zuckerburg but can you please see if you can get him to automatically flag the bullsh*t memes and gossip in some of the Five Percenter Facebook groups I'm in? I think if people are forced to only post things that practically engage others for the purpose of actually building something tangible, especially for our children, as opposed to theorizing, debating or having pissing contests on Nation History, we could lighten your sleigh Santa.  
  • I would ask for something for these die hard Trump supporters but I'm not sure how you could make their Christmas any whiter. Well, just for sh*ts and giggles leave them and their children a gang of President Obama paraphernalia. 
  • Lastly, could you please give some brothers a list of agencies, organizations and institutions in their city where they can volunteer throughout the year. We need more men involved in helping build strong communities.
   Santa I hope these things weren't too much to ask on such short notice and I understand the enormity of getting it done. I'm only asking you to help us help ourselves. As always, I will continue to do whatever I can to add-on and I want to THANK YOU again for all you do to brighten our children's day in the dark world we adults have made for them. Tell Mrs. Claus I said Peace!


Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Lover's Lane: What I've Learned In Relationships


     One of the most accurate commentaries I've ever heard to describe my life was by Will Smith during an interview with Tavis Smiley. In part, Will Smith said, "The only thing, that I see, that is distinctly different about me is I'm not afraid to die on a treadmill. Right. I will run. I will not be out worked, period. You know, you might have more talent than me. You might be smarter than me. You might be sexier than me. You might be all of those things you got it on me in 9 categories. But if we get on the treadmill together, right, there's two things: you're getting off first or I'm going to die. It's really that simple. ... You're not going to out work me. ... I say all the time, 'If you stay ready you ain't gotta get ready'." I have the exact same attitude. The only difference is I'm not afraid to die on my path or in a library. Over the last decade there are numerous goals I've reached and contributions I've made because of that attitude. Yet with that level of ambition, discipline and time appropriation, there comes many sacrifices. Many. An average day to me begins at sunrise and ends after sundown. In addition to teaching preschoolers during the day and pre-adolescents after school, my weekends consist of activities/events in and out of town. Even with all of this I'm still in my studio producing/recording music or working on articles, books, researching something or etc. Naturally people often ask me how am I able to do so much. Essentially, I'm just pretty good with my time. 

     I'm going to let you in on a little secret... In addition to time appropriation and having a strong brotherhood, one of the reasons I've been able to accomplish so much is because of the critical mass of women I am connected to and love dearly, starting with my young Queens Asiyah and Aziza. If it wasn't for their insight, guidance and support, especially when it comes to their critical analysis of other women, I would have fell victim to some BS a long time ago -like many of us men do. One of the craziest things I've seen men do is start denouncing all of the women in their life once they're in a relationship with one. Because of the life I lead I don't see the functional benefit in curving, cutting off or "acting brand new" with the women in my life simply because I'm in a relationship now. In fact, my Queen would have to genuinely appreciate these women, because she'll be joining a L.O.E.L. [League Of Extraordinary Ladies]. Not every woman is comfortable with this and I respect that. Some men, many men, aren't comfortable with a woman who has a  L.O.E.G. [League Of Extraordinary Gentlemen].  

   When I meet any woman that I'm getting to know, the fundamental question I ask myself is, "What role does she play along my path?" Whether getting to know her evolves into exploring a potential companionship, business relationship or something platonic, I always debrief her about certain things that come along with my path, as I am also debriefed about certain things that come along with hers. In assessing those things, be it personality, profession, core values or principles, it's all about compatibility and congruence when it comes to exploring a potential companionship. I once met a woman who had two things to read in her home besides the mail. She lived in a city for almost a decade yet didn't know where her local library was. Although her profession, looks and sexuality may have been compatible and congruent with someone else, that, among other things, didn't work for me. I couldn't imagine being out in the public, or not being present, and someone asks her opinion about a project I've done, an article I wrote, book I published and she doesn't know what to say because she never saw it, cared to see it or didn't even know it even existed. This is not pride or self importance talking. I'm talking about a person not being genuinely invested in, an Ambassador of or defender of our legacy. Don't get it twisted, this goes both ways. If my Queen was an artist and she had various pieces she's working on, selling and displaying at galleries, I should know the ins and outs about that. I wouldn't want to drop the ball speaking to a person who appreciates the arts or an art collector looking to invest in her work. Of course my twenty-year-old immature self didn't think like this; I evolved and continue to grow. The worst part is some of us men never evolve to think like this and regardless of our path we're only interested in what a woman looks like, what she feels like and what that mouth do. Not a legacy.

                                               "Love is a rose but you better not pick it
It only grows when it's on the vine
A handful of thorns and you'll know you've missed it
You lose your love when you say the word 'mine'."

-Love Is A Rose, Linda Ronstadt-

   As I grow, one of the most important things I've learned is that it's a better investment to share time with a potential companion along our path, not apart from it. Being apart from my path, there are women I've "crossed paths" with, or veered off of my path to share time with, that I don't even cross paths with anymore. Why? Because we crossed paths to begin with. We genuinely didn't share the same path nor were we headed in the same direction. Some of that time I enjoyed. With others, I know my time could have been better invested. Hell, some of them may think the same thing about me. Sharing time along my path means I've learned to invest time with women who are already going in the same direction. Going in the same direction doesn't mean if I'm an MC she got to have bars or we both need to be preschool teachers. I'm talking about sharing some of the same core values, a similar vision of the future and a tangible investment in a legacy. For example, I may work in the field of education, she make work in government, yet we're both pro-advocates for social justice. She may work in the entertainment industry, I may be a tradesman, yet we're both invested in community outreach and volunteerism. Our paths gotta be compatible and compatibility is about being congruent, not clones. We don't need to do the exact same thing, we just need to be headed in the same direction. When people cross paths, they are not going in the same direction. This doesn't mean that crossing paths is wrong or it won't last. Sometimes one or both people who cross paths may join their partner's path or they may choose a new path to share. That can be a very exciting and positive thing! The negative side of crossing paths is when either person tries to force someone on a path they didn't choose for themselves, even if they think or feel it's for all of the right reasons. 

   We all have our own expectations, boundaries and goals in regards to how a companionship should be and look like. Some things that work for others may not work for us. Some things will. As a public figure and one of the more visible representatives of the Five Percenters/Nation of Gods and Earths, there is a definitely degree of scrutiny that comes along with what I do, or don't do, that some don't even think about. As a Preschool Teacher, Author of over a dozen books and now a Human Rights Commissioner for my City, this further compounds that scrutiny. I have to be on point in ways that some could never imagine because they don't share my responsibility. My life is very different than working a 9-5 and then coming home to watch the ball game on T.V. If some dudes choose the wrong companion they can just change their Facebook relationship status and move on. If I choose wrong that would unquestionably affect thousands of people who trust my sense of discernment and see value in the things I consistently do. Over the last few years I've thought a lot about the level of scrutiny my Queen would have to deal with simply because she is by my side. There were some women I once took an interest in I knew would not be able to handle that when I saw how they consistently responded to being scrutinized by a handful of local people. They were overwhelmed. So I knew it would be more difficult for them to cope with people globally scrutinizing them, or coming for them, simply because she's my companion. This is often why you see certain public figures yet not their companion. Their companion is not in the public eye or all over social media to minimize the scrutiny of them, their companionship and the bullsh*t that will come along with that. Usually they were prepared for what to expect; debriefed and coached by public relations staff for how to handle being in the public eye and use social media. I never thought I would be in a place in my life where I would have to even consider things like that and I've only begun to accept that reality over the last few years. In accepting that, I also learned that it would only be right to share that responsibility with someone who is willing and able to positively represent, defend and add-on to our legacy. I, nor she, deserve nothing less than that.


Friday, November 25, 2016

Madam Alchemsa and the Metaphysical Music Serum

   As a Creative Artist I'm always inspired and working on some project whether it's literary or musical. The other day I woke up with an idea of putting an album together and making it a free download so I went into my studio and about an hour later I was finished. To include my readership and listening audience I put out a call on my Facebook Page for people to share a photo of themselves, an image they took or an image they created and encouraged people to vote on the one they liked best. The one with the most LIKES I would use as the Album Cover for this music project. I received many entries and all of them would have made beautiful covers yet the winner was the above image submitted by a Queen named Shaina. Based upon her image I also came up with the Album Title: "Madam Alchemsa and the metaphysical music serum."

   I want to THANK EVERYONE who participated by submitting images and voting and I will that this project is inspirational, empowering and educational.


Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Deconstructing Kanye West

   Kanye West is arguably one the most creative, insightful visionaries of our time. Many would also argue that he is one of the biggest a**holes and the most immature. Whatever we think or feel about him, fifty years from now it would be virtually impossible to discuss Pop Culture during the Millennial generation without mentioning the social commentary, musical and fashion contributions of Kanye West. 

   Since the mid 90's of his Roc-A-Fella Producer days up to the present, West has evolved into somewhat of a Pop Cultural Messianic Figure and people either love him or hate him. Coming from an educational background in Chicago, I could always see a growing social consciousness throughout West's music and that's what resonated with me. It wasn't until September 2nd, 2005 that he took a public stance and vocally expressed it during the live Hurricane Katrina telethon by stating, "George Bush doesn't care about black people" in regards to how the government handled this natural disaster. Although he later clarified his statements, West's often unpredictable social commentary began to take center stage, often to the point of eclipsing his artistic contributions. Since 2004 to the present date West is known for his anti-Award Showism. He's done everything but storm out of, publicly criticize, boycott and even take the microphone from an artist who received an award he felt she didn't deserve. Some shows have strived to accommodate this by giving West a platform to speak and this often comes back to bite them in the a**. He's walked out in the middle of concert performances and stopped performances midstream to share his philosophical views about everything from the music industry, fashion, politics and humanity. He's turned interviews upside down, he's shared his frustrations with the Paparazzi and has even announced his run for Presidency in 2020. On top of that he dated stripper Amber Rose and eventually married and has two children with Kim Kardashian who was catapulted into the limelight because of her sex-tape with Ray J. Most recently West cancelled the rest of his Saint Pablo tour dates before being hospitalized at the UCLA Medical Center for sleep deprivation and exhaustion. Through all of this, and more times than not, West has expressed very lucid thoughts on everything from capitalism, politics, human/civil rights, religion, the music/fashion industry, relationships and etc. Oftentimes his delivery is questionable. The very best interview I've seen was with Zane Lowe for BBC Radio.

"I've been sent here to give y'all my truth even at the risk of my own life, even at the
risk of my own success, my own career. I've been sent here to give y'all the truth."
-Kanye West-

   I think in order to gain a sense of where Kanye West is often coming from it's important for us to consider, and strive to understand, the perspective of a Creative. Although the content and contributions may be different, as a Creative, there is not much of a difference between Michael Jackson, Phyllis Hyman, Dave Chappelle, Nina Simone, Basquiat, Sly Stone, Lauryn Hill, Jimmy Hendrix, Zora Neale Hurston, Richard Pryor, Marvin Gaye and many others. To be a Creative and simultaneously exist within a racist/sexist entertainment industry that seeks to capitalize off of ones intellectual property is very difficult to cope with. Many have literally lost their mind. Others became drug addicts and alcoholics. Some left America while others walked away and became a recluse. Many died here, from a broken heart. 

   Being a Creative requires a person to think differently about life and solve problems in a new way. In order to do this, Creatives face fears, self-doubt and take risks that many people don't. Thought leaders; Creatives are ambassadors of an uncharted territory the world has yet to discover and fully appreciate. They are the subject matter experts of the unknown. To be this kind of person we must be open to inspiration at all times. Inspiration that often defies social norms and conflicts with the status quo. As a painter that may mean working countless hours and through sleepless nights to finally unveiling a social justice painting at a gallery owned by the very people who've fought against it. As an actor that may mean turning down the highest paid role you've ever received and Grammy shoo-in because it conflicts with your core values. As a musician that may putting your career and family security on the line to fight getting out of a record contract. As a fashion designer or model it may mean walking the long hard road of independent slow money instead of selling out your image, and images, to the highest bidder. All of these are life decisions that people often take for granted that Creatives have to make. There are many times I've literally been in my recording studio all night. There are many times I've been stirred out of my sleep in the middle of the night with an idea that I immediately start writing about. Many of these articles and chapters in my books are the result of this process. Being a Creative is like being on call from the universe because inspiration is a round-the-clock devotion to work. Although the beauty of what we manifest is timeless, the backstory, blood, sweat, tears and hours of dedication that often goes into forging such beauty is something many never see. What many also don't see is the stress, frustration and physical/social strain. As I've said, many Creatives have always strived to find various methods to cope with this in a society that tries to quantify, package, sell and often simultaneously marginalize, genius. West is not known for having a history of drug use or alcoholism. Aside from past lovers, he has not been associated with any women except his wife. The question many of us should be asking is how has he coped? I would argue that what we've seen from his off-the cuff interviews, public meltdowns and concert rants is not him simply venting or throwing a tantrum. I would also argue that this medium has become his coping mechanism; a platform he's learned to use as an outlet and form of therapy.

   There's an earthly gift and worldly curse that comes along with being a Creative. On one had you may be gifted to write the most beautiful poetry or paint the most brilliant picture the world has ever seen about love, yet be companionless or experience some of the most tumultuous relationships a person could imagine. Creatives are some of the most complex, sophisticated people to understand and the perimeters of a world always proves to be a societal box not large enough to contain their spirit. To paraphrase what Dave Chappelle once said, it's easy to call someone crazy. It's dismissive. It doesn't require you to examine anything they're saying or what's behind them acting the way they do. Maybe the environment West, and countless other Creatives have been in, is a little sick. If that is even part of our conclusion, we must ask ourselves what can we do to teach them, about healthy ways to disengage or healthy coping skills to thrive? I challenge all of us to not just consider that but strive to actively seek solutions; the mental, physical and socioeconomic health of our growing Millennial and Alpha generation depends upon that. 


Friday, November 11, 2016

5 Ways to Combat PTED; Post-Traumatic Election Disorder

   Now that I've given it some time for the dust to settle I wanted to take a moment to offer some insights on this year's Presidential Election. Before I do that I want to again direct you to an article I published on August 29th of 2015 entitled Trumpla: Political Reality TV that predicted this election's possible outcome based upon pop culture and the political trajectory I saw. 

   For those of you who are unaware, I am a certified Machine Inspector for the BOE [Board Of Elections] in my County so I work at assigned polling sites during elections making sure the voting machines are operating properly, assisting citizens with their ballots and other things that come up. This is always an eye-opening experience and I get to meet and converse with people I probably wouldn't meet unless it were election day. So on November 8th I worked the polls from 5 am to 9 pm and like always, I wasn't disappointed. I'm sharing this to say that as a certified BOE Machine Inspector, a former 2013 County Legislature Candidate and now a Board Member for my City's Human Rights Commission, alot of my perspectives and talking points about the political process are from the inside looking out. This damn sure don't make me an expert, this experience just equips me with the knowledge to help others better understand realms that many of us don't enter, especially as Five Percenters. Anyway, PTED is a variation of PTSD [Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder]; a mental health condition that's triggered by a terrifying event -either experiencing it or witnessing it. In this case, that event was the 2016 Election. Basic symptoms include flashbacks, nightmares, mild to severe anxiety, depression, avoiding work, insomnia, irritability, loss of appetite, difficulty concentrating and uncontrollable thoughts about the event. From what I've seen every day published in the media, overheard in conversations and witnessed on social media are clear signs that this election was traumatic for many people and will continue to be traumatic for at least the next 4 years. Unlike most clinical diagnosis where the individual is labeled, PTED is the labeling of society -particularly its maladaptive political process. This is something we're all directly or indirectly dealing with and here are 5 ways to address it:

1.) According to exit poll data collected by Edison Research for the National Election Pool, which consists of ABC, CBS, NBC, CNN, Fox News, the Associated Press and the NY Times, almost 65% of white men and over 50% of white women voted for Donald Trump. A whopping 13% black men and only 4% black women voted for Trump. 93% black women supported Clinton. What's also important to consider is that more than 50% of the Baby Boomer and Traditionalist Generations voted for Trump while over 50% of Generation X and the Millennials voted for Clinton. This data, including data around voter's income and education, highlights the fact that there is not only a racial divide in this country. This country is also divided along gender, generational, education, income and political party lines. This country is divided regardless how cool Brad and your drinking buddies are during your tailgating parties or how close you are to Becky with the girl hair who cries and confides in you about her personal life. More than half of the time they've been smiling in your face but quietly rationalizing, and identifying, with Trump's misogynistic, xenophobic, racist rhetoric. The fact that over 50% white women voted for Trump but only 4% black women also says something about the Feminist Movement and to black feminists and their so-called white allies directly... Some of us were already aware of these divides and have been striving to communicate this to the masses of people for some time now. The problem is many of us didn't and probably still don't believe that certain segments of the American population are deliberately keeping us, people of color, women, low/middle class and the youth apart from their own socioeconomic equality. Hell, some of the 13% black men who voted for Trump are striving to keep people apart while they're being kept apart. The irony. This exit poll data, including looking at the voting data in the region, county and city where you live, gives you a very good critical analysis of the people, and their politics, around you. There's a great deal of mental stability having this knowledge.

2.) Trump supporters celebration victory of hate crimes, vandalism, embolden racism, sexism, religious fanaticism, homophobic violence is a stark reminder of this country's divide many of us have chosen to ignore. From Muslim women getting their hijab ripped off, Mexican children being taunted/bullied in Kindergarten, Black college students finding swastikas spray painted on university landmarks and black baby dolls with nooses around their neck, the elderly and disabled being ridiculed/assaulted and etc., this is and has always been a face of America. I say "a" face to imply that America is two-faced; it parades ideals of freedom, justice and equity for all citizens yet they've never lived up to them. It many cases it hasn't even tried. Considering this level of hatred and outright ignorance on the part of Americans I can only see heightened attacks on people of color, women, non-Christians, the LGBTQ community, the disabled, our youth and anyone else who is not the face of a White Nationalist American Male status quo. Because of the exit poll data it also indicates that there are many allies/sympathizers with this status quo who are not white males. We need to protect ourselves, not out of fear, but because self defense is important. First we need to arm ourselves with knowledge to expand our awareness of the American landscape outside of the perimeters of the status quo. In addition to checking out my books at Quanaah Publishing, I encourage you to follow the blog of my Educator's Educator Life Justice: Black Consciousness on the 3rd Stone from the Sun. Next we need to literally arm ourselves by learning combative arts, survivalist skills and purchasing legal weapons. If we, especially our children, need to defend ourselves intellectually, emotionally and physically, we need to be prepared to do that without fear or hesitation.

3.) The Golden Era of Hip Hop was a time when the most creative, conscious and substantive rap music was born. This took place in the late 80's to the late 90's at the tail end of the Reagan Administration, during the Bush Administration and during the beginning of the Clinton Administration; the Crack, War on Drugs and Three Strikes You're Out Mass Incarceration Era. I am from Generation X so I lived through these Administrations and in hindsight can see how the various policies that came out of them effected the regional/local landscapes where I and many other black, brown and poor whites lived around the country. It wasn't good. Yet the social commentary of that time, via Hip Hop culture and rap music in particular, kept us consciously orientated and positively committed to one another in a way we hadn't seen since the 1960's inception of the youth-centric Five Percenters. The Black CNN as Chuck D called it, gave us life and life more abundantly during the most turbulent time of my generation. Because of this, I predict another cultural Renaissance. This also puts Generation X in vital position to help guide our peers, the Millennials and our Alpha Generation who may potentially experience similar policies under a Trump Administration with a Republican controlled House of Representatives and Senate. Our younger generation don't have the experience nor do they know what to expect. Even in light of what they're now witnessing with police terrorism and the post election white supremacy, many are still under the false impression that we're in a post-racial America. Half of the Baby Boomers and Traditionalists voted for this Administration or don't have the energy/ambition to lead so it's on us. If we don't model the core values, principles, collective work and responsibility and cooperative economics to lead the people it's a slim chance that it can happen. Additionally, realizing that our family is the vital building block of our communities, cities, regions and nation, we must reassess our views on relationships, motherhood, fatherhood and the role of the nuclear family. With more than half of all black, brown and poor white Millennials and Alpha Generation born out of wedlock, "Family First" must be our living motto, regardless how radical a change we'll need to make to our rugged individualistic, career woman and bachelor pad lifestyles. Our future literally depends on us.

4.) Regardless of our reaction to the election results, we must be willing and able to respond. For those of us who are protesting to raise awareness about the flaws of the Electorate College, Trump being elected or any other thing we're dissatisfied with about this government I commend and encourage you to also demonstrate this disapproval financially. There are businesses, organizations and agencies who share your sentiments, reciprocate your support and amplify these same ideals. Many were founded specially to do this! They are allies and a necessary connective base to help redirect the resources, build the institutions and transform the policies of this government.     

5.) Now is not the time to be investing a bunch of energy trying to convince people about Trump's incompetence, his wife being an Amber Rosian FLOTUS or how ignorant his children are. Energy is better directed at striving to get together with people of like minds who are striving to help each other out. Let me repeat, HELPING EACH OTHER out. Some of the key words during these next 4 years are: Collaboration, Partnership, Family, Community, Youth Advocacy, Localism, Volunteerism, Entrepreneurship, Alternative Energy, Underserved, Social Capital, Trades, Optimal Health, Investment, Consensus, Savings and Residual Income. There are others yet these are some vital ones to conceptualize and add to our language. We will need every one of them!

   In closing I want to again remind all of you that this isn't the Rapture. Without a doubt we are going to have some tough times ahead of us, yet to weather any storm we must be willing and able to rise above our petty differences and unify. It seems like this election has forced many of us to realize this. I have confidence in our ability to work it out and I'm here, as I've consistently been, to add on. If you're striving to reach me directly my email is:


Sunday, November 06, 2016

Your Vote Kinda Don't Matter, But Kinda Does, Well Let Me Explain...

   This 2016 Presidential Election has been a mess. If America were a person its Face Book relationship status with the world would be 'complicated'. Every time I'm over the boarder visiting our Canadian neighbors they bring up this year's race with a somber air of condolences as if I just lost a family member. Seriously! Right now America is an international embarrassment and the world is sitting back watching what's happening in this country like it's a Monty Python marathon. I can see why so many people say they don't vote, they're not going to vote and their vote ultimately doesn't matter. Hell, I facilitate a program for adolescents and work with other youth of various ages every day and they are disgusted about what they're seeing and hearing this election and they're not even old enough to vote. So the statistical statement that Millennials are not interested in or engaged in the political process is right and exact. Because of this degree of dissatisfaction, and me having the experience as a 2013 County Legislature Candidate in my city, I'm consistently in the position to educate others about the political process. And I'm not talking about educating people based upon some "your grandmother died so you could vote", "if you don't vote you can't complain" or "your vote doesn't matter" script either. I'm talking about making the political process more accessible through breaking that sh*t down in layman's terms. In regards to terms, as in the four year term of the president, the truth is, your vote in this or any presidential election kinda doesn't matter, but kinda does, well let me explain. 

The Popular Vote vs. The Electoral College Vote
   When we think of voting, it's different on a local, regional and national level. When we're voting to elect local or regional public officials such as our School Board, City Council, Mayors, County Legislators, County Coroners, Senators, Assemblymen/women and etc. they get elected based upon the popular vote. in other words, we directly elect these public officials with our vote. When it comes to the national level, we are not directly electing the President and Vice-President with our popular vote. We are actually voting for representatives in our State who are then expected to vote on our behalf for the President and Vice-President we choose. These representatives are called Electors and this process is called the Electoral College. Sometimes these Electors are actually on our ballot. A lot of times they aren't on the ballot and we don't even know who the hell these people are. Electors are usually people affiliated with a Presidential candidate, state-elected officials or political party leaders. In other words, people with clout who can pull the strings, buy, bully and also destroy opponents popular voting power in order to get their own candidate elected. The Electoral College is made up of 538 Electors; a number equal to this nation’s 435 Representatives, 100 Senators and 3 Electors in the District of Columbia. These 538 people are the ones who cast votes to actually decide the President and Vice-President of the United States, not the people directly. So when we go to the polls on Tuesday, we will be choosing which candidate receives our State’s Electors. The candidate who gets a majority of electoral votes (270) wins the Presidency and Vice-Presidency. With the Electoral College there have been instances when a Presidential candidate won the popular vote, but lost the Electors vote. The most recent example is when Al Gore won the popular vote but the Electors said f*ck it and voted for George W Bush instead. Although this doesn't happen all of the time, the fact that it has happened and can happen again, is a problem. A fundamental problem, and flaw, in this system. To guard against this, different states have laws requiring Electors to vote for their statewide winner of the popular vote and/or sign pledges promising to support their party. In this 2016 Election we've already seen Democratic and Republican Electors step down or openly agree to break the law and accept paying a fine if they're required to vote for Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump, regardless what the popular vote is in their state to support these candidates. This is the exact kind of political atmosphere that has caused a candidate who won the popular vote, lose the Electors vote or who lost the popular vote, win the Electors vote.

   So yeah, I can understand when people say their vote for the President doesn't matter but here are a few things we can actually do about it:

1.) What does matter is what we can politically control on a local and regional level, not just as voters but as lobbyists, constituents. We need to financially support the campaigns and initiatives of those candidates we want to see represent our concerns in public office. Here in New York State the Jacobs Family who owns Delaware North Companies are Governor Cuomo's best friend. Delaware North is a food, venue and management company that operates around the country in  various sports arenas, state parks and etc. The Jacobs have a pretty large family during election time each family member makes a huge contribution to Cuomo's campaign. Then they make a collective donation to his campaign as a family. Because of that support, Cuomo's policies and initiatives always lean in favor of his friends, the Jacobs family. If we don't see any candidates we like, we need to financially support local organizations, businesses and community members who have initiatives that are addressing our concerns. If we don't see any of them, then we need to create something and/or look for others to create it so you can financially support that. The bottom line is we need to put money where our mouth is, especially those of us who have the most to say about what people are or aren't doing. 

2.) Another vital part of local and regional control is finding out who our state Electors are, how they were vetted, holding those who gave them this position accountable and what we can do to lobby for Electors we think best represent us in the Electoral College. As Five Percenters we often talk about our ability to master city science, social science and high science. In this regard, we must ask ourselves how can we use our city science or knowledge of local and regional politics to utilize the social science or social capital to influence the higher science or politics on a national level with our Electors? An excellent example of this is the political pressure that was put on Donald Trump's Ohio campaign chair and Elector Kathy Miller for making openly racist remarks about black people during an interview with The Guardian. She resigned just hours after the interview came out. 

One of my signs from my 2013 County Legislature Campaign

3.) If you want to be involved or on the fence about being involved in the political process, realize that you do have the ability to be a candidate or encourage others you would support as a candidate. It's obvious, especially on a local level, that many of the people you see on the School Board, City Council, Legislature and even your Mayor don't have any special qualifications to sit there. And yes, I mean sit there because that's what some of them are doing. You don't need no doctorates degree in political science, 10,000 hours of community service or know how to use $50 dollar words. We've had actual Presidents and Presidential candidates that are far from being people like this. So hell yeah you're qualified to represent your community, city or school district if you genuinely care about people having the proper resources and services to succeed. That's the first thing you need, heart! Heart is your moral compass that helps guide you as a candidate, and be a guide to a candidate you support, in a sea of intellectual impotence and egotistical tides of petty politricks. If you're not comfortable enough to put yourself out there as a candidate then volunteer to work on the campaign of a candidate that you support. 

   As I write this article we are two days away from Tuesday's General Election and what my Christian family calls The Rapture -yet neither of these political candidates are coming to save America. Those of us who live here, and plan on staying here, must save ourselves. If you're like myself, someone who doesn't support Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump, keep in mind that there are two other candidates you can research and feel good about voting for; Dr. Jill Stein of the Green Party and Gary Johnson of the Libertarian Party. If you still don't feel good after researching these candidates then I encourage you to just write-in Rev. X


Monday, October 31, 2016

Conspiracy Theorists Guide to The Birth of a Nation


   Before I saw The Birth of a Nation I, like many of you, have been bombarded with controversy surrounding this film. Unlike the original 1915 American silent film The Birth of a Nation (The Clansman) that revered the KKK and was screened at the White House, this version by Nate Parker focuses on the life of Rev. Nat Turner and his slave revolt that took place in 1831 in Southampton County, Virginia. From two-faced people who praised The Great Debaters now crucifying Nate Parker about a decades old rape allegation, to people critiquing its weekend box office numbers like its a rap album trying to go platinum. From black feminists who didn't see the film debating about scenes that didn't exist, to white folks writing bruised ego reviews because they looked bad. Everybody and their dog has had something to say about this film that has evoking many people to feel some kinda way. Many reviews have been calling it a strait box office flop. My question is, how Sway? How? To begin, this was a $100,000 personal investment for Parker. That's how much he put up. The rest of the $8.5 million production budget was made possible by other investors. Premiering at the 2016 Sundance Film Festival, the largest U.S. independent festival which annually takes place in Utah, The Birth of a Nation was honored as the Best of the Fest and won the Audience Award of a U.S. Drama and the U.S. Grand Jury Prize. To get this kind of reception at this festival is BIG! It was so big that following its premiere Fox Searchlight Pictures, The Weinstein CompanySony Pictures Entertainment and Netflix got in a bidding war to buy it. That doesn't look like a lemon to me. Parker eventually sold its "worldwide rights" to Fox Searchlight Pictures for an unprecedented $17.5 million. Remember, this was a $100,000 personal investment for Parker. When the film was finally released in 2,105 theaters across America on October 7th, the opening weekend brought in $7 million. At the date of this writing, the film has grossed $15 million; a $6.5 million profit when you subtract the $8.5 million production budget. The only way to describe that is profitable and this profit is not even considering its Lifetime Gross potential. For example, The Color Purple had a budget of $15 million and in a generation has grossed $98.4 million to date. Naw The Birth of a Nation didn't have no $245 million production budget like Star Wars: The Force Awakens, a package that was flipped almost 9 times since December 2015 to reach $2 billion worldwide, but The Birth of a Nation is still a profitable investment that will appreciate in value over time. It's modest slow money.

   One of the main criticisms surrounding this film, that has been levied at Nate Parker, has been some 1999 rape charges Parker was acquitted for in 2001. I cannot say for sure what went down yet the court transcripts can offer those of you some insight. What I will say is that black actresses, actors, producers, directors and etc. are treated very different in Hollywood and in the Media. For example, take white writer, actor and Oscar-winning director Roman Polanski who was arrested and charged in 1977 for rape by use of drugs, perversion, sodomylewd and lascivious act upon a child under 14, and furnishing a controlled substance to a minor. Polanski took a plea deal of a lesser charge of engaging in unlawful sexual intercourse but before the sentencing he fled to France and has been living as a fugitive ever since. Now living in Poland, its Prime Minister Zbigniew Ziobro has recently called upon its Supreme Court to extradite Polanski to the US. Here's the kicker, over 100 Hollywood directors have stepped up in the past, even signing a petition, to show their support for Polanski while well aware of his plea deal. One of those supporters, another writer, actor and Academy Award-winning director Woody Allen who actually married his step daughter who was thirty-five years younger than him, has also been accused of molesting a 7 year old child. I mention this to give context to a double standard. At this very moment Roman Polanski and Woody Allen are still praised, awarded and looked upon as Hollywood Icons yet people aren't really talking about how pervasive this sickness is in America, including women rights activists and feminists. I did back in January when the Bill Cosby accusations came out. All things being equal, I would love to see a larger discussion about men like Polanski, Allen, other men and women like them, and even boycotts of their films -especially from those who are leading these critiques about Nate Parker's accusations. 

My Grandmother, Inez Dorsey Frank

   In regards to the film itself, let me start by saying I appreciated it in a way that some may not be able to relate to. I am a direct descendant of prisoners of war [slaves], literally. My great-great-great grandfather Josiah Henson was born into slavery in Charles County Maryland on June 15th, 1789. A forerunner of the Underground Railroad, Henson was enslaved for 41 years until he escaped to Canada with his wife and four sons. Once settled he was instrumental in helping other blacks organize to find the land and found the Dawn Settlement through negotiating the purchase 400 acres. He was the catalyst behind establishing the British-American Institute for fugitive slaves and military strategist who organized a Black Militia who fought in the Rebellion of 1837. In addition, he continued to travel back into America many times helping hundreds gain their freedom. I was blessed to learn this as a child and it gave me a sense of pride in a legacy that many of my people didn't have the benefit of knowing. Josiah had twelve children altogether and from his family was born a great grand-nephew named Matthew Henson; a famous explorer who traveled to the North Pole that many learn about during Black History Month every year. Matthew Henson fell in love with a beautiful Inuit woman named Akatingwah and they had a son, his only child, named Anaukaq.  

     I mention some of my ancestry because throughout the film I couldn't help but recognize the striking parallels between the life of Josiah Henson and Nat Turner. In fact, I would not be surprised if Nate Parker used elements of my great-great-great grandfather's life for Nat Turner's narrative. Why wouldn't he? Harriet Beecher Stowe, author of one of the greatest American novels Uncle Tom's Cabin, didHere are just some of those parallels:
  • Both Josiah and Nathaniel are biblical names.
  • Both were born into slavery and prophesied by elders to be great leaders among their people when they were children. This prophesy was true in both cases.
  • Both learned scripture as children. 
  • Both of their fathers, at three or four years old, were separated from their family after assaulting a white man.
  • Both were raised by their mothers.
  • Both became Reverends in their late teens.
  • Both were given permission to travel to various plantations to preach.
  • Both were married in their early twenties.
  • Both organized black militias to fight against oppression.
   One of the most important parallels is both of these freedom fighters have been buried in American History with their names used to shield its dirt. As mentioned, elements of Josiah Henson's life were used for the novel Uncle Tom's Cabin, yet he was no Uncle Tom. In the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel The Confessions of Nat Turner that Time Magazine included in its TIME 100 Best English-language Novels from 1923 to 2005, Nat Turner is characterized as a sex crazed bisexual simpleton. That is why it's important to share and control our narrative. If not, our future generations will think Josiah Henson was like Uncle Ruckus and Nat Turner was Ray Lewis. That is a tragedy. It's also tragic if this happened to our life when we're no longer here. 

   Because The Birth of a Nation is still very new I encourage you to see and judge it for yourselves. Regardless if you choose to see it or not, I also encourage you to do further research on slave revolts in North America. One of the best resource books I've read on the subject is Black Rebellion: Eyewitness Accounts of Major Slave Revolts by author Dr. Sujan Dass.


Wednesday, October 05, 2016

5 Ways To Keep Luke Cage Relevant

5 Ways To Keep 
Luke Cage Relevant

The new hit show Luke Cage literally broke Netflix last week and some are wondering if it's a fluke or will it remain relevant.
As a youth advocate and preschool teacher from Generation X, I was born between 1961-1979, there are many things I learn from and teach our Millennials [Generation Y], Generation Z and Generation Alpha I primarily interact with everyday. Born between the years 1980-1995, 1996-2010 and 2011-2025, these are the generations who represent the Ambassadors of our future and what they know and understand will be the infrastructure and decorum of that future. It's important to mention this because we often overlook the fact that they will one day be in charge of social security, senior citizen housing and any legislation that will directly effect us as their elders. It's not only important to consider what they think but be involved in their growth and development.
Anyway, prior to this Marvel Television web series release I've kept up with the comic book narrative of Luke Cage with hopes of seeing "Power Man" on the big screen. The day came, the internet went batshit crazy and review after review heralded this superhuman Harlemite with unbreakable skin as the crime fighting [Black] God the Five Percenters have identified themselves as since 1964. Among its detractors were some white folks crying about the Harlem backdrop not being a gentrified North Manhattan and Wendy Williams posted a picture of Mike Colter [Luke Cage] with his white wife during an interview to discredit his Marvel Universe archetype, in real life. While people have been debating the social impact and relevance of this web series, many have failed to ask our Millennials and Generation Z what they think. I have been. I've also been checking out their commentary and reviews of Luke Cage and what I've found is they generally don't care or know enough of the social/cultural context to actually appreciate it. To many of them it's more of a novelty, not a statement of sociopolitical consciousness. For example, unless children born between 1980 and 2010 have Generation X or Baby Boomer parents and grandparents schooling them about the past, they'll have no idea what "70s Blaxploitation" is -which Luke Cage has been touted as. Of course there are exceptions, but even the best of Millennials and Generation Z who claim Hip Hop have no clue where episode names like "Who's Gonna Take The Weight?", "Manifest" or "DWYCK" came from. In mass, those who seem to appreciate this web series the most are my generation, Generation X, and some of the Baby Boomers.

The beauty in this is I've found myself challenged to introduce our youth to a deeper perspective and appreciation for where they are and what they have in Luke Cage, especially in a time where we are seeing un-human black men with breakable skin being murdered by police every day. From this introspection and experience I came up with 5 ways we can help build upon this narrative so our youth can get the most out of this web series and what's happening around it. These are 5 things I encourage you to consider if you're invested in doing the same:
1.) Watch the web series, encourage our youth to watch it and watch it with them if you can. Invest in the web series when it's available and keep it in your digital library. 

2.) Have open discussions that include Luke Cage within the Marvel Universe conversation alongside other super heroes/sheroes. Contrast and compare his ability to others. This morning in my preschool class I began teaching one of my 4 year old boys about Luke Cage, AKA "Power Man", by showing him who he was on my computer. When comparing him to Superman he said he needs a cape to which I simply responded, "He doesn't even need one, he looks and dresses just like you."
3.) Research social/cultural themes that are expressed or implied within the web series. For example, every episode is named after a Gang Starr song and this is an excellent opportunity to share their contribution to Hip Hop.

4.) Support positive products/services that reinforce these themes within the web series.
5.) If you celebrate Halloween, encourage the youth to dress like one of the web series characters and/or dress like one of these characters yourself along with them. How cool would it be as a Father to be Luke Cage? If you celebrate Christmas, support products, especially from black owned businesses, that reinforce the themes within the web series.

The ultimate goal here is to own, control and build upon this narrative. In regards to identity, it's important to orientate ourselves with language, symbols and archetypes of empowerment, especially in a society that promotes white nationalism, supremacy and iconography. It's also important to seek out and support black comic book writers, graphic designers and etc. Unlike our past generations, today our Millennials [Generation Y], Generation Z and Generation Alpha have the benefit of knowing and identifying with a Storm, Black Panther, The Falcon, Deadshot and now Luke Cage. We must take advantage of these opportunities. More importantly, we must create our own. Lastly, we need more positive images in real life, real men and women of power who are fighting crime and setting a righteous standard so that our families don't have to live in fear. This doesn't require us to gain superpowers in a sabotaged cellular regeneration experiment. It requires care and commitment to our people.