Thursday, January 21, 2016

The Flint Water Crisis: #FlintLivesMatter


The Flint Water Crisis


     On January 16th President Obama declared a federal state of emergency in Flint Michigan because of its polluted water. Residents there cannot bathe in or drink the water, all children under the age of six have been exposed to lead poisoning and the national guard has been called in to help facilitate the process of getting clean/donated water to the people.

     According to USA Today Network Journalist Jessica Durrando, "Flint's drinking water became contaminated with lead in April 2014 while the city was under the control of a state-appointed emergency manager. As a cost-cutting move, the city began temporarily drawing its drinking water from the Flint River and treating it at the city water treatment plant while it waited for a new water pipeline to Lake Huron to be completed. Previously, the city used Lake Huron water treated by the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department. The state Department of Environmental Quality has conceded it failed to require needed chemicals to be added to the corrosive Flint River water. As a result, lead leached from pipes and fixtures into the drinking water."

     Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder who has been singled out as dropping the ball of this has stated for the record, "I'm sorry and I will fix it," and "Government failed you at the federal, state and local level." Aside from apologies, what are the short and long term solutions to solving this problem that has effected so many lives, especially our children? Like with many stories we see circulating in the news, some people view a crisis like this as having nothing to do with them. I beg to differ and refer you to the words of Dr. Martin Luther King who said, "Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere."

     In Niagara Falls, NY we had one of the worst environmental tragedies in American history happen in community called the Love Canal. From the early 1940's to the mid-1950's Hooker Chemical Company, with government sanction, began using a partially dug canal as a chemical waste dump which equated to almost 22,000 tons of toxic waste being buried there. After covering the site with dirt and selling the land to the Niagara Falls Board of Education for $1 with a disclaimer, construction of a school and homes eventually began on this site. By the 1970's this landfill was in proximity to approximately 800 single family homes, 240 low-income apartments and a public elementary school. It was also during the late 1970's that complaints of odors and substances seeping through the ground were taken seriously and it was discovered that toxic vapors and the contents from this chemical landfill began to were indeed seeping into the drinking water, soil and basements of the residents, for years. This exposure was linked to everything from asthma, seizures, cancer, miscarriages, birth defects and various other issues. As with present day Flint Michigan, President Jimmy Carter declared a federal state of emergency in 1978 and some of the families were evacuated. A second federal state of emergency  was declared by President Carter in 1981 to relocate the other families after being pressured by activists.

     Like Flint Michigan, all municipalities, including the one where you live, cut costs and/or corners when it comes to its citizens. Publically it's called "balancing the budget", privately it's oftentimes a very different conversation. In Flint Michigan, that cost/corner cutting, or should I say neglect, was in the area of waste water treatment/management. In your city it may be the school district. Somewhere else it may be infrastructure. Other places it's a combination of cut costs/corners, especially when a large segment of its population is poor, disenfranchised, unemployed or uneducated. In many cases these communities are primarily people of color.

     While some of your local and regional public officials are striving to do their best to serve you, many are not for various reasons. Sometimes they're self serving and aren't concerned about the citizens. Sometimes they lack a consensus among their peers to get something done. Sometimes they lack civic engagement or valuable input from their citizens. Most times there are  layers of cost/corner cutting among city employees, department heads, city administrators, contractors and etc. that public officials have to strive to deal with, if they're not a part of the problem. As the crisis in Flint unfolds, the blame game has also commenced. Although Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder must be held responsible for this water crisis, he did not act alone and public officials on the regional and local level must be held accountable too.

     This should be more than a wake-up call for us to become more civically engaged where we live. As citizens, we are not immune to neglect. If you or anyone you know wants to help the families in Flint with a monetary donation, you can do so at this website: The Community Foundation of Greater Flint [CFGF]. The city is striving to streamline financial efforts through the Community Foundation of Greater Flint; a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization and your gift is tax deductible to the extent allowed by law.


Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Is Bill Cosby Innocent or Guilty?

Is Bill Cosby
Innocent or Guilty?

Since the rape allegations against Bill Cosby have come out, people have also come out on both sides offering their perspectives on his innocence or guilt. Some have framed it as a white supremacist witch hunt to destroy the black father image. Others have viewed it as a man getting off easy, pun intended, because of his celebrity status. What many are not saying, or taking a look at, is the cultural context or backdrop these alleged incidents happened on or the mainstream medium they're being discussed in. What do I mean by that?

When you look at Bill Cosby's comedy career, on different occasions he's done comedy bits about slipping women a mickey; drugging women. He did it in live stand-ups, on his comedy album it's true! it's true! and on Larry King Live in 1991. This doesn't mean that he actually did these things but it does mean that this was something that his audience related to; it was an obvious part of popular culture, especially in Hollywood, going back to the 1960's where these incidents date back to. In terms of popular American culture, some of its background music historically reflects this notion about its drug culture. Here's a very popular song covered by various rock, country and etc. artists called Quaaludes Again you can listen to below. The artist even explains to you what Quaaludes are.

Quaaludes Again covered by Pork

Post WWII in the 1950's America saw an expanse of drug use that was articulated in a popular Hollywood film called The Man With The Golden Arm starring Frank Sinatra, who was speculated to be a cocaine business partner of Colombian drug lord Pablo Escobar. Even when you look at the backdrop of 1960's drug culture, including Jazz music, it's rare to find jazz artists who didn't have contact with drugs. Many died from this. In the 1970's you see it's continuation with popular heroin addict songs like Neil Young's The Needle And The Damage, Gil Scott Heron's Home Is Where The Hatred Is and novels like Faggots where the characters are constantly doing Quaaludes as a party drug used in New York gay community before the popularization of AIDS. Even in the 1980's you see it the popular film Scarface when Tony referred to his wife's drug addiction, the coming of crack and President Reagan's so-called War On Drugs campaign. This type of popular American culture continued on into the 90's and 2000's and cannot be trivialized or overlooked when considering the context of the Cosby allegations. Being a Hollywood staple for many years, Cosby and many others most certainly had contact with the drug culture. Hollywood wasn't in a vacuum nor a place in an alternate universe disconnected from popular American drug culture. Because of this, it's rare to find any comedians, actors, musicians and people working in the entertainment business who didn't have contact with drugs. With the new designer drugs of today, coupled with various drugs of yesterday, I think it's still rare to find comedians, actors, musicians and people working in the entertainment business, especially in Hollywood, who don't have contact with drugs. This has been a part and continues to be a part of popular American culture. A popular American culture that some of the present day corporate sponsored rap artists have now become one of its biggest advocates of.

Herein lies a fundamental problem; Popular drug culture is superimposed over a racist and sexist [misogyny and chauvinism] American backdrop. This is a problem that many of us overlook, ignore and ultimately fail to address. What this translates into are people of color and women being victimized in/by a system we may or may not choose to participate in. In the case of Bill Cosby we see this being played out on two fronts. First we see him being used as the face of popular American drug culture, which he is not. Yes it's possible that he sexually assaulted women in his past and got away with it because of his celebrity status and the fact that he is a male. It's possible that some of these women were active participants or outright lying. It's also a fact that various others were doing this, especially white male celebrities, yet they have not been demonized in the same way Cosby is. Take Roman Polanski for example, the famous director, producer, writer and actor who drugged and raped a thirteen year old at Jack Nicholson's house. He plead guilty to the charge of "Unlawful Sexual Intercourse with a minor" and in 1988 he agreed to pay her $500,000 plus interest based upon a civil suit. This and countless examples show you there's a contradiction here.

Secondly we see the marginalization of women living in a misogynistic society that mirrors ancient Rome and women in the Victorian era. Because of this, females/women are devalued, objectified and their issues trivialized. Take for example the recent public outrage surrounding the Rick Ross album Black Market that was pulled from Walmart's website because the song Free Enterprise had Anti-George Zimmerman/Donald Trump lyrics. In it Ross raps, "Assassinate Trump like I’m Zimmerman/Now accept these words as they came from Eminem." This is the same Rick Ross who was slapped on the wrist for his rape rap verse, "Put molly all in her champagne, she ain’t even know it/I took her home and I enjoyed that/She ain’t even know it" on the Rocko song U.O.E.N.O. While he was kicked off of the public campaign to represent the Reebok brand at the time, he is still the face of its Rebook CrossFit training program he remixed as #RossFit. What this and various scenarios sadly demonstrate is that females/women, especially ones of color, being violated, unacknowledged and not protected comes along with the territory in a historically sexist [misogynistic and chauvinistic] society. Now I've heard the argument that some or many of the women accusing Bill Cosby of sexual assault are hoes who were trying to f*ck their way to the top. Well even if this was the case, based upon your definition of a hoe or even a woman who proudly calls herself a hoe, even a so-called hoe has the right to be conscious and coherent while she's f*cking her way to the top. In other words, at no point is it alright to take advantage of any female/woman or male/man, without or even with, their consent, period. Unfortunately, this attitude towards human life has gone on since America's unsavory inception, up until today. In addition to looking at what's happening with these allegations, another problem is people don't want to look at the sick system that helps produce, protect and perpetuate these dysfunctional behaviors.

I don't anticipate or expect this narrative to be discussed along with the Cosby sexual assault allegations. Nor do I expect some cataclysmic shift in the American culture that continues to produce, protect and perpetuate dysfunction. This would require a system to indict itself. Has Bill Cosby received celebrity privileges surrounding these allegations? Absolutely, and this is a problem. Is he being treated differently than his white counterparts who've had sexual allegations or plead guilty to sex offenses? Absolutely, and this is a problem. Are victims or alleged victims of sexual abuse, especially females/women, blamed for what happened to them and/or slut shammed? Absolutely, and this is a problem. Has there been a popular American drug culture going on since the 1960's up until today that has shaped every aspect of this society, including the commentary surrounding these allegations? Absolutely, and this is a problem too. In analyzing what's going on I would encourage people to not get sucked into an emotional game on a lopsided field governed with unfair rules, covered by unfair commentators and funded by unfair sponsors.  In the end, nobody wins but them, unless we're wise enough to not play their game. Whether Bill Cosby gets convicted of something or not, the popular American culture is still here and we'll see more people like him in the news. Whether some of the women who've accused him of sexual assault are proven to be true, the popular American culture is still here and we'll see more people like them in the news. As we critique these allegations and determine what needs to be done based upon the findings of facts, we must also examine the areas in this cultural system that need to be revamped that makes drug and rape culture acceptable. This is especially important for our youth -who are being shaped and molded into the image and likeness of this kind of culture.


Saturday, January 09, 2016

What You Need To Know About The RZA Bloomberg Interview

What You Need To Know
About The RZA Bloomberg Interview

In a recent interview on the with-all-due-respect segment of Bloomberg Politics, Wu-Tang Clan frontman Prince Rakeem Allah, AKA The RZA, spoke on #blacklivesmatter, police brutality, the black male image, Donald Trump and the 2016 Presidential Election that some have praised and criticized him about. If you have not seen parts of this interview you can view it here: RZA Bloomberg Politics Interview.

With the growth and development of the Social Media Age, everyone now has a public figure platform. A platform where whatever we say or do can be held for or against us in a court of law and in the court of public opinion. I've seen people get arrested or fired from their jobs because of a Facebook status. I've seen companies loose money because of a video. I've watched celebrities get shunned because of a snapshotted tweet they tried to delete. Aside from net worth, there's a very thin line that separates celebrities from everyday people. At any given moment, you as an everyday person can end up going viral because of something and be catapulted into the national or even international spotlight. When this has happened, most are completely unprepared and this serves one lopsided purpose: the media's ratings, web traffic and analytics data that drives economic trends. One of the main concerns I've had and have worked to address is the lacking or non-existence of effective PR representation for black/brown people, and any group that's considered a minority, when we're engaging the mainstream media -especially celebrities. Whether it's LeBron James being asked about the Tamir Rice case and his response that he hasn't been on top of it, Young Thug's response to being asked about police brutality and even Dej Loaf saying she had no clue who Boss was when I interviewed her in Toronto, this unpreparedness coupled with a lack of PR representation is not working in our best interest. The idea of news reporters looking around for the black person in the shower cap to interview is over. Now the media has learned effective tactics to shower cap people they choose to interview.

In all of the responses I've seen about RZA's Interview, whether pro or con, it amazed me how so many people had an opinion without ever questioning the actual context and forum this interview was conducted in. First and foremost, that interview was conducted by Bloomberg L.P.; a global business, financial information and news company. Bloomberg has over a quarter of a million professional service subscribers and approximately one million business week subscribers in over 150 countries. Demographically speaking, their target audience are not Millennials, nor do they look like RZA, his 6ft 4in son, or any of us voicing our opinion. Over 85% are middle age white men with money. This is to say that many of us weren't invited to that Bloomberg conversation. RZA was speaking to a middle aged white journalist with money to other middle aged white men with money, and a lot of what he had to say was agreeable with them.

Now, here's the fundamental problem with many of us, such as RZA, who speak to audiences like this that don't reflect the minority group we're a part of, regardless how American we claim to be: we don't consider the audience and who we're talking to. As a Guest Columnist for my local paper I wrote an article in December of 2014 entitled "Of course 'All Lives Matter" in response to the blacklash the Black Lives Matter movement began to receive. Ironically, it's the same "of course all lives matter" quote RZA used in his interview yet we both took very different approaches in articulating it. Because the primary subscribers to the local paper where I live are also middle age whites, I know the audience I'm communicating to and commit myself to sharing a unique perspective that's usually not represented and/or respected in their mainstream media. In reading my article above and knowing their primary audience, ask yourself what purpose does that article serve them. In listening to RZA's interview and knowing Bloomberg's primary audience, ask yourself what purpose did that interview possibly serve them. Is that demographic more conscious of the legitimate challenges black/brown people and other minority groups deal with in regards to police brutality? Does that demographic know anything more about the valid criticisms black/brown people and other minority groups have about Donald Trump's or Hillary Clinton's policies? Do you think Bloomberg's audience received commentary that would help them become more aware and sensitive to the perspectives of black/brown people and other minority groups? 

Some of us that simply agreed with RZA's commentary are equivalent to janitors cleaning up an office, overhearing parts of a conversation about us in an executive boardroom by a black man with white executives around him and butting into the conversation to voice our opinion. Let me reiterate that this interview was by Bloomberg L.P for its share holders and subscribers, not for us -even though we were being discussed. After this interview was edited and shared with their primary share holders and subscribers, then it was shared with us; the outsiders. Many of our unsolicited opinions are only used to reinforce and quantify that conversation by a black man with white executives around him in that boardroom. Some of us who voiced our opinion have not even researched Bloomberg L.P. or their founders. As Five Percenters who pride ourselves on "doing the knowledge" first, I find this especially alarming and unscientific. While all of us Five Percenters are entitled to an opinion, this is precisely why many of us are completely unqualified to speak for us as a collective. At least know the medium you're speaking through first, who their primary audience is and then what purpose your commentary will serve. Bloomberg L.P. was founded in 1981 by four men who were all colleagues at Salomon Brothers, one of the biggest trading and investment houses on Wall Street until they transitioned into Morgan Stanley -one of the companies that was given $10 billion during the government bail out that helped spark the Occupy [Wall Street] Movement and concept of the 1% controlling the world's wealth. Both Salomon Brothers and Morgan Stanley have been in the midst of financial scandals since their inception.

Michael Bloomberg: former Mayor of New York who was first elected as a Democratic in 2001 yet changed party affiliations for the next 15 years to Republican and its minor party Independent. With a net worth of $39.3 billion, Bloomberg defines himself as a Fiscal Conservative and he was publically endorsed by Rupert Murdoch if he decided to run for President. Murdoch is the Republican face behind Fox News and its affiliates.
Thomas Secunda: a Jewish mathematician with a background in computer programming and fixed income trading. With a net worth of $1.91 billion, Secunda is also a philanthropist who funds various Environment, Arts & Culture, Education, Health organizations such as the American Israel Education Foundation, American Jewish Joint Distribution and the UJA Federation: all affiliates with the Pro-Israeli anti-Palestinian AIPAC [American Israel Public Affairs Committee].

Duncan MacMillan: also a mathematician and investment banker, MacMillan and his wife Nancy are endowed faculty chairs at Rutgers University which means they provide permanent funding to the University for "genomic" research; a branch of biotechnology that applies the techniques of genetics and molecular biology to the genetic mapping and DNA sequencing of sets of genes. While his net worth is unknown, it's speculated that he's worth at least $300 million.
Charles Zeger: also Jewish, Zeger has a masters degree in computer science and has a net worth of $1.46 billion and made his money by developing the software for Bloomberg. Founder of the Zeger Family Foundation, Zeger and his wife Merryl are the only trustees who keep their grant funding broad and donate to many things. While their foundation accepts unsolicited ideas, they do not accept unsolicited grant proposals.  

Geopolitically and socioeconomically, that says a lot. The criticism RZA has received is primarily coming from black/brown people and other minority group's whose issues were under represented or not represented in his commentary, including Wu-Tang fans. However, Conservatives, Animal Rights Activists, Vegans, Patriots [Americans], Taoists and Law Enforcement were. That is a legitimate criticism I find problematic anytime a member of a minority group doesn't utilize their public platform to include the legitimate concerns of that group, especially in a mainstream medium where that perspective is usually not represented and/or respected. Another thing that was problematic is how non-indictments and police brutality against children like Tamir Rice, women like Sandra Bland and others that don't fit the black man profile wasn't addressed. They weren't men and their deaths had nothing to do with attire, dressing more refined and cleaning themselves up. Their deaths also had nothing to do with invoked fear. Saying to black males they need to take more responsibility for cleaning up their image, how law enforcement stereotypes them and it can contribute to police brutality is one thing. Saying to middle age white men with money that black males need to take more responsibility for cleaning up their image, how law enforcement stereotypes them and it can contribute to police brutality is something different. Either RZA knows what I'm speaking about and chose to speak in the best interest of the Bloomberg L.P share holders and subscribers or he doesn't know what I'm speaking about which means he's not as politically sophisticated as he needs to be before conducting interviews like this. As a man of knowledge, I'm sure that he's learning something from the public and private response to his interview. I also will that we are learning something too.


Friday, January 01, 2016

9 Keys To Resolutions

9 Keys To Resolutions

Reflecting upon 2015 and looking towards the next Gregorian Calendar Year, I just wanted to take a moment to share some of my thoughts with all of you… First and foremost, I want to THANK all of you who invested time in reading my articles, researching the links/information I share via my Facebook Page, checked out and subscribed to my Youtube Channel (A.S.I.A. TV) and Radio Show (Atlantis Build Talk Radio), purchased my literature/music (Quanaah Publishing), and connected with me in whatever capacity we were able to. It is very much appreciated!! The numerous dialogues, testimonials, letters, questions and constructive advice I receive on the daily lets me know that what I do is not in vain. It's serving my intended purpose; encouraging positive growth & development. There are also many people I’ve had the pleasure of meeting for the first time and others I’ve had the opportunity to build/rebuild relationships from all over the world. None of us are in each others lives by chance and I look forward to what these bonds continue to positively produce for the future. You are also all very much appreciated!! My Queens are doing very well, I’m very happy about our state of health and there were many things I was able to consistently and successfully accomplish. As far as Resolutions are concerned, I don’t have any. I am a work in progress so I’m always exploring ways to improve myself so that I can be a greater resource to others. Living a way of life that includes the phrase ‘striving for perfection’ as a part of its fundamental principles is the essence of any/all Resolutions. Therefore, I will continue being as resolute as I have been.

For those of you who’ve made Resolutions for 2015, here are 9 Keys I revised from an article I wrote a few years back that will help you achieve your goals in this upcoming year:

1. Although it is your personal Resolution, your Resolution should be something that improves (progresses) you with the intent/consideration of making you a better resource to others and this World we share. Life i...s interdependent, we all play a role in how the World turns, and there is a constant process of giving and receiving. This intent/consideration ensures that our Resolution is in tune with the universal order, and is something that is sustainable -because we are actively providing a service that others, and the World, needs. If all we are thinking about is what we can get (keep), and not what we are able to consistently give, what we get (keep) will eventually run out. If you don't believe this, try it with your breath. Keep it to yourself and see how long it takes for your oxygen to run out...

2. Make sure our Resolution is real and obtainable. It’s less likely we’re going to change EVERYTHING at once, so it's important to work on what we can change, one goal at a time. Also, take things one day at a time.... It took awhile to create habits and it’s going to take time to change them. The smaller goals we accomplish serve as stepping stones; helping us build confidence, and gain the tools & experience that are necessary to achieve our larger goals. And with any goal, one of the first and most important steps we need to take, and habits we need to create is to "Get our day underway with a positive, productive attitude." That attitude sets the stage for our altitude.

3. Make your goals specific. Instead of saying something like, "I’m going to read more" say something more specific like, "I am going to read two novels every month." This is called Specificity. This not only helps you better focus on your goals, but it encourages you to be more responsible and committed to your goals. If you were to say, "I want to be healthier in 2013" there is no sense of ambition or plan of action to achieve that goal. Now if you said, "I am going to only eat baked chicken once a week and go to the gym three times a week for 1 ½ hours" that has a sense of ambition and provides part of a plan of action to achieve your goal of being healthier in 2013. If it's not clear, your path won't be cleared.

4. Set a projected time/date for your goals. Setting a time/date creates a sense of urgency, responsibility, and accountability to meet your goals. If you don’t meet your time/date then set another one. Without setting a time/date then we’re saying our goals aren’t really a priority (important) -because under these circumstances they can happen any time, and any day. That is not resolute, and if you don't have a time/date, there will probably never be a time/date.

5. Write down your Resolutions. I’ve known people who had challenges with organizing their day, appropriating their time, and focusing on achieving their goals. One of the solutions I shared with them was writing down their goals on index cards or signs and posting them in visible places around their home. This helped reinforce/remind them of their goals so they wouldn’t allow themselves to get lost in the hustle & bustle of the day.

6. Only share your Resolutions with those who have shown themselves to be supportive of you fulfilling them! If they’re not there to help you, then they’re only going to hinder. 

7. Look into networking with people/organizations that will help you fulfill your physical and mental health goals. If you want to cut back on the substances you’ve been using like drugs/alcohol, or have some mental health issues going on, reach out to any local, regional, national organizations that specifically deal with drug/alcohol abuse and mental health. There are no Resolutions when you don't have your health.

8. Keep a Positive Outlook! Some days it will be easy to maintain a level of positivity and other days you need ‘social equality’ (fellowship) with others -who share the same goals and are just as resolute as you are about positivity. This means, whatever religious, cultural, or secular organization you are a member of or affiliated with, invest the time to be there and learn as much as you can about the positive principles/values they’re sharing with you. This is part of your foundational network and will help you maintain a Positive Outlook when you need the support, which we all do.

9. Your Resolution is not the end all be all. Some people live to have a Wedding while others strive to be Married, have a family, and etc.. While the former is a place, the later is a state. So although your Resolutions may help you arrive at a place, the ultimate goal should be to achieve a state of existence. And this state of existence should set the stage to help us achieve even higher/greater goals! It’s all about constant growth and elevation, not stagnation. Life is constantly changing & evolving, and so should the living.

In closing, I want to wish every one of you and our families a very safe, happy, healthy and productive 2016!! I also will that while reflecting on this past year, we consider those negative things we've held fast to that has not only destroyed our ability to unify with others, b.u.t. has undermined our ability to accomplish anything significant on our own. If we think/know we have offended, wronged or hurt somebody, then take advantage of this moment in time to apologize. If you think/know you've been offended, wronged or hurt by somebody, then take advantage of this moment in time to forgive. Begin your New Year with the right mindset, on the right foot and making the right decision to move forward. We’ve all had challenges within ourselves, and with others, this past year, and I will that 2016 is much more positive and progressive for us all!