A Healthy Dose of Gangsta?


These days I’m feeling more and more like a bastard when I hear “hip hop,” because the Hip Hop that raised me was intellectually gangsta. Guess that explains the initial hunger that goes through me when I hear a song by Somali emcee, K’naan. His debut single, “TIA: This Is Africa,” directly disses the American “hip hop” scene, calling rappers “p*ssy.” K’naan’s 3:53 of critical bars left me wondering of the whereabouts of the classic and genuine corner store heroes, American youth found at their local intersections. K’naan is the realist, when he teaches the so-called “illest” in the West that:

It’s no secret we know how to squeeze lead, But the pre-set is not to squeeze it/ Used to be at peace but now using t-shirts, And it reads RIP cause the peace dead… The rap game just got itself a new day, This is Africa, hooray/

Where Are the Obama Youth? Busy Building Their Own Futures

Where Are the Obama Youth? Busy Building Their Own Futures
Jamilah King, Colorlines, October 29, 2010

There’s something intangible that makes this year’s election different than most. For many, Barack Obama’s candidacy brought to the forefront a new, more accessible form of democracy. There was a massive communications network that engaged voters online, on the phone, and on their blocks. And there was Obama himself: a man of color who seemed to code switch his way from Chicago’s South Side to Harvard, who talked openly about racial profiling and boasted having Jay-Z on his iPod. He was a well-packaged newcomer who looked, talked, and presumably saw the world through the same eyes as many young people of color. And those eyes weren’t accustomed to the view from the White House.

Though Obama himself warned that his brand of change would be a gradual one, his election inspired many young voters—particularly African Americans—to engage in a political process from which they had long felt alienated. African-American young people voted in unprecedented numbers; their generation was believed to have come of political age in 2008. They had grown up alongside civil rights lore, had been told from birth that they were benefiting from decades of racial, economic and gender struggles that all seemed to culminate on election night in Chicago’s Grant Park. It’s unclear whether young voters themselves were ever willing participants in that narrative. But what’s certain is that two years later, the story arc has become decidedly less triumphant. In cities like Milwaukee, one pervasive question stands above the rest: What has happened to hope?

But youth voter advocates warn that’s the wrong question altogether. If you want to get young people of all colors involved, they say, it’s crucial to understand what drives them into politics. And more often than not, it’s got little to do with partisan campaigns or any particular candidate and much more to do with feeling that they’re heard and can control their own destinies.  (Read the full article)

Wacka Flocka Flame's "Flockaveli"

I did not expect to enjoy Wacka Flocka Flame’s debut studio album, Flockaveli.

I expected to laugh a lot; cringe even more, and at best have total indifference towards the album overall. As an emcee, Flocka lacks nuance, wordplay, inventiveness and flow in equal measure.

But then I realized that such grievances are totally irrelevant to understanding the appeal of his music. Flockaveli is brash, hard-edged, and unremittingly bleak. It strips hardcore Hip Hop down to an unapologetically dark, fatalistic core that frightens and fascinates in equal measure.

Hate on him all you want, but Flockaveli is a great album.

Fed anti-bullying campaign falls short for black kids

Fed anti-bullying campaign falls short for black kids
Monique W. Morris, The Grio | October 28, 2010

Earlier this week, the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights (OCR) issued a “Dear Colleague” letter to educators, elevating the importance of reducing bullying in schools. In the 10-page letter, Assistant Secretary Russlynn Ali wrote, “some student misconduct that falls under a school’s anti-bullying policy may also trigger responsibilities under one or more of the federal anti-discrimination laws enforced by the Department’s Office of Civil Rights.”

The letter covers broad ground with respect to the need for schools to intervene on behalf of students whose rights may have been violated by hostile actions, words, or environments that encourage harassment of students as a result of their race, ethnicity, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, religion or disability.

The document also provides several hypothetical examples of abusive and/or harassing behaviors that would be a violation of students’ civil rights, and for which the school would be “responsible for addressing.”

However, less guidance is provided when it comes to how these schools should address the issue, opening the door for a potential reliance on ineffective zero-tolerance policies. While many schools have adopted anti-bullying policies that seek to address the problem holistically, many more have dealt with bullying through zero-tolerance policies that exacerbate racial disparity and increase the criminalization of youth without addressing the culture and/or root causes of the abuse and violence that they seek to remedy.  (Read the full article)

NBA Tip-Off

Tuesday night was a big night for me. NBA Season has officially started and the league did the thing right, didn’t they? Boston-Miami to kick it off, to finally put an end to all of the hoop-la. The stage was set perfectly. In the weeks leading up to this shining moment in NBA history, NBA.com did a series of short videos on each of the teams, documenting the meteoric rise of Boston’s Big Three, focusing on the sacrifice they all made, culminating in words of warning from Jesus Shuttlesworth: “Don’t come into (the season) expecting to be the same player you were before”. And NBA.com documented the path of Miami’s new Big Three. In the videos Miami’s threesome spoke of their excitement, their willingness to sacrifice, their understanding of the unique situation they were in and the delicate chemistry they would have to balance.

This game was to be a passing of the torch, so to speak. Miami would go in and make a statement early in the season. At least that was the thought. That’s the angle. Boston’s triumph was an amazing one. It started the NBA’s current climb back to grace and Miami is supposed to finish it. Game 1 of a long NBA season was supposed to be the first step on that journey.

The Arts, Expression, and New (Found) Media


This was an artistic week for me. Last Friday I performed poetry, sang, and played guitar at our yearly coming out monologues event. On Thursday I performed a neo-futurist piece about HIV/Aids and the downfalls of the black community to accept the disease as being “associated” with black people. On Monday I performed a short skit that was influenced by one of the most well known directors in the country Anne Bogart, and her ideas on viewpoints.

I obviously love the arts. I think that art gives us hope for the future and commentary about the past. I think art makes people laugh, cry, think, and question. I think our emotions are connected with artistic expression as much as a fetus is connected to its mother in the womb. It saddens me that the arts seem to be dwindling in black communities and disadvantaged areas around the country. In the past couple weeks I have found a new art that has sparked my time and interest.

First Lady Honors Arts Programs For At-Risk Youth

First Lady Honors Arts Programs For At-Risk Youth
NPR | October 20, 2010

Kids took the stage and celebrities sat in the audience Wednesday as first lady Michelle Obama honored community arts programs that help young people around the country develop their talents and succeed in life.

Mrs. Obama presented 15 after-school and out-of-school programs, many of them serving at-risk youth, with the 2010 National Arts and Humanities Youth Program Award. She said the programs teach young people that “each of them has something of value to contribute.”

The East Room erupted in whoops and hollers after a handful of solemn-looking youngsters from an arts program in Hartford, Conn., carefully took the stage and then burst forth as a jazz combo performing with tap dancers.

“You never know the hidden passion that’s in a kid,” Mrs. Obama declared after their performance.  (Read more)

Don't Whip Your Vote Back And Forth: The Case For Alexi Giannoulias

I did not intend to write a political blog this week. After watching Kanye West’s Runaway short film I was fully intent on blogging about the creative genius of the Louie Vuitton Don. I watched the 34-minute film three times, and meticulously took notes on the subliminal messages evoked by the ballerinas in the all black leotards against the backdrop of the Black dinner guests adorned in all white.  However, I’ll have to save my color commentary on the colorism in Ye’s video. I also was going to write about the preteen sensation that has everybody breaking their necks right about now- Willow Smith. How many 9 year olds do you know that can shut down Twitter? Yet, even Jada and Will’s pride and joy will need to take a back seat this week. We are exactly two weeks away from Election Day, and it is crucial that we stay focused on the important issues that will affect our lives.

Last night I had the opportunity to talk policy with U.S. Senate candidate and Illinois Democratic nominee Alexi Giannoulias. About 100 University of Chicago students and I were afforded an opportunity to press Gianoullias about everything from the Dream Act to expanding broadband infrastructure in marginalized communities.  I came into the forum not knowing much about Mr. Giannoulias other than the fact that he was the former Illinois State Treasurer. But after an intimate 40 minute discussion with the candidate I was impressed enough to provide him with an endorsement. Allow me to make the case for Alexi Giannoulias.