Give the Children Music: Inspiring Our Youth Through Hip Hop

Give the Children Music: Inspiring Our Youth Through Hip Hop
Charles Howard, Huffington Post, February 26, 2011

During the month of February, cries of disappointment in our education system have been made by a number of Philadelphia youth. In one neighborhood, students staged a walk-out in an effort to get their voices heard over what they see as a long list of unacceptable conditions in their high school — a list that includes a high teacher turnover rate and being on their third principal this school year.

Students in another school struggle to find inspiration to study under a curriculum that has produced a 30 percent graduation rate with only 10 percent of their senior class enrolling in college.

Healing the school systems of our cities is a complex issue that will take a committed and coordinated effort from a number of institutions addressing curriculum, health, public safety, poverty, funding, testing mandates, teacher motivation, family life and much more. At the center of the problem, as exemplified above, is that students do not feel that they are being heard.

Instead of institutions of learning, many public schools have become places where students find themselves uninspired. This speaks to a glaring need of our children: a place where their voices can be heard and a place where they can be inspired.

Our urban youth are still inspired by at least one thing: Music. Specifically, the music and lifestyle associated with Hip Hop culture. Hip Hop is a beautiful thing. Being born in the cradle of the genre and youth movement in the late 1970s, it has been an ever present soundtrack to my life. At its core, Hip Hop is a critical, creative, prophetic, dialogical space — an open “cipha” where all have a voice. A place where reality and inspiration pop, lock and break, daring you to get out of your seat and move.

Nathan Jones and his colleagues at The CODA Program seem to think that Hip Hop can also be a part of the solution of urban educational struggles by providing a place for kids to speak, be heard, and be inspired.  (Read more)

American Workers Vs Multi-Billionaires

Since we’ve released the video “American Workers Vs Multi-Billionaires” the response has been overwhelming! It’s seems once again we touched a nerve and spoke to the hurt of millions of working class Americans that are tired of being manipulated by Fox News and Billionaire puppeteers. What’s cool is that the AFL-CIO sent it out today via Twitter and even cooler was that in New York City, at one of the 50 rallies all over the USA in support of the people of Wisconsin, someone decided to make me into a protest sign. With thousands of people still camped out in the statehouse in Madison despite a police order, let’s continue to rally, support and pray for them because what’s happening there is surely coming to a state near you, very soon.

If you didn’t get a chance to read the incredible story of how we even got to Madison check out, How Fate Brought a Hip-Hop Pioneer and a Activist MC to Madison, Wisconsin

God's iPod

I was going to serve up a nice little nihilistic rant to begin the week, but I’ve thought better of it.  Instead, I will provide you with a list.  It’s been a while since I’ve done a list, right?

Last week, I failed to give a special birthday shout out to Nina Simone.  After posting my blog, I spent most of the day listening to Nina (partly because it was her birthday, partly because I needed to get Soulja Boy’s “Speakers Going Hammer” out of my head).  The exercise lead me to Youtube.  One of the comments on a clip of “Sinnerman” reads: this is on God’s iPod.

I’m stealing that idea for today’s blog.  What, exactly, is on God’s iPod?  A few guesses (which may just look like a list of some of my personal jams, because the God I believe in has the same [excellent] taste in music that I have.  Me being made in His image and all.):

Looking Towards An Odd Future…


Welcome to the world of Odd Future Wolf Gang Kill Them All (OFWGKTA) by way of 17 year old Earl Sweatshirt. You thought Chicago youth were bad, peep the hard truth of LA. This is your first day of millennial purgatory, complete with super drugs, aggressive sexuality, and lyrical violence. If you ask me, Earl’s morbid mind should be given credit for his ingenious acceptance of the axiom: you can be whatever you want to be. You may be looking at your children right now, hoping that they never meet Mr. Sweatshirt; shoot, even his mother sent him to boot camp. But even I’m incapable, as a youth, of seeing what I’d do if I had a similar kid. All that we can do is recognize that the video “Earl” universally scares parents and youth worse than any youth project in history. Every single nightmare combines within this young imagination that no one’s ready to see televised. Earl has an apocalyptic charisma that represents the strength of my generation’s will. A new language is among us that will actually take some listening to enjoy.

'Woke Up Black' Premiere This Friday

Premieres February 25, 2011 | Purchase tickets here

“Woke Up Black”, focuses on five black youth, along with their struggles and triumphs as they start their journey into adulthood. The documentary will premier on February 25, 2011 at the Gene Siskel Film Center and will be broadcast on WTTW, Chicago’s public television station, in late Spring.

The film places at its center the voices of Black youth– their ideas, attitudes and opinions that are often overlooked in today’s society.

For two years, Morten and associate producers Keisha Farmer-Smith, Aparna Sharma, and Marisol Ybarra followed five youth from the Chicago area to explore their experiences when it comes to navigating the world they live in. As they move through their personal challenges this documentary also mirrors the complexities of this often ignored group that are at the center of many socio-political issues including discrimination, political participation, sex and relationships, music, and the media portrayal of black youth.

An interview-driven film with footage provides context for young people who are often criticized and frequently misunderstood. Small group conversations punctuate the individual vignettes on each young person.

Boston Club Apologizes for Discriminating Against Black Harvard Students

Boston Club Apologizes for Discriminating Against Black Harvard Students
Associated Press | February 25, 2011

BOSTON — The owners of a Boston nightclub issued a public apology and agreed Friday to pay a $30,000 fine to settle allegations that it abruptly shut down an event after the annual Harvard-Yale football game because most of the attendees were black.

Some students said they were turned away from the November event after employees at the Cure Lounge complained that a large group of young black people in line would attract “local gangbangers.”

Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley called the club staff’s behavior “the essence of racial stereotyping” and said it violated public accommodations and consumer protection laws.

“Massachusetts businesses cannot refuse to host events because of racial reasons,” Coakley said. “In this case, club staff made harmful and ill-conceived conclusions based on the simple fact that most of the guests were black.”

Coakley’s office and the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination filed a complaint and consent judgment Friday in Suffolk Superior Court. Coakley said the complaint resolves a lawsuit against Paige Hospitality Inc., the owner and operator of Cure Lounge.Under the consent judgment, Paige Hospitality must send its staff to annual anti-discrimination training and pay the state $30,000, which will distributed by Coakley’s office mainly to groups that support black students seeking higher education opportunities.

After court approval of the consent judgment, Paige Hospitality issued a public apology, which will remain posted on the Cure Lounge website for 30 days.

Three black graduates of Harvard College hosted the event, Coakley said. Harvard alumni, as well as graduate students from both Harvard and Yale, received invitations to buy tickets to the event. About 400 people bought tickets before the sold-out event.

The event began at 10 p.m. Nov. 20. During the next hour, guests arrived and there were no problems inside or outside of the club, but at about 11:15 p.m., Cure Lounge abruptly ended the event and told all of the guests that they needed to leave, according to the complaint.

In its apology, the club said it “does not tolerate racism.”

“The owners, managers and employees of Cure Lounge wish to extend our deepest apologies to all of those affected, both directly and indirectly, by the unfortunate events that occurred on the evening of November 20, 2010,” the apology states.

It goes on to apologize for statements made on its behalf by its public relations group in the days after the event. “Those statements were uninformed and in no way reflect the values or beliefs of the owners, managers, and employees of the Cure Lounge,” the apology states.

In a story published in The Boston Globe on Nov. 27, 2010, George Regan Jr., chairman of a Boston public relations firm, denied that the club management had done anything wrong.

Regan said the club had worked out an agreement with promoters of the event that everyone who attended the two-night event would have to show identification to prove they were affiliated with Harvard or Yale. He said that on the first night, all of the guests presented identification.

Regan told the Globe that on the second night, “There were a lot of people in line known to police and police and security circles as bad people, OK? They probably couldn’t spell the word ‘Harvard.’”

Regan told the Globe that the staff shut down the club because of safety concerns when guests waiting in line did not show identification and the promoters refused to cooperate with that request. He denied that club workers used the phrase “gangbangers” when speaking with alumni or students.

In a brief telephone interview Friday, Regan said he does not believe he owes anyone an apology.

“This incident happened over three months ago. I only repeated what I was told by the owners. It wasn’t until the attorney general’s Office started to put pressure on them that the owners wanted to rewrite the facts, for obvious reasons,” Regan said.

Managers of the nightclub did not immediately return a call seeking comment Friday.

Was It OK For Beyonce, Usher, and Mariah Carey To Perform For The Qaddafi Family?

According to the New York Times, as well as documents obtained by Wikileaks, a slew of pop megastars have received massive paychecks from the dictatorial/psychotic Qaddafi family of Libya, in exchange for private concert performances.

While the people of their country were living in utter poverty and misery, and tortured and/or imprisoned if they ever dared to express dissent, General Qaddafi’s sons were throwing lavish parties in St. Bart’s, extending invitations to some very big names. A recent New Year’s Eve blowout featured back-to-back performances from Usher and Beyonce. The year prior, Mariah Carey rang in the New Year with the Qaddafi’s. All reportedly netted a whopping $1 million a piece for their services.

Such a Painful Black Girl Reunion: Oprah and Iyanla

As a middle school student, I remember reading Iyanla Vanzant’s One Day My Soul Just Opened Up and thinking who is this black woman to write such a book about spiritual recovery that did not mention Jesus Christ as the penultimate factor in spiritual rejuvenation. Yes, back then I was a burgeoning Christian fundamentalist who enjoyed reading big girl books that I was not suppose to read including Terri McMillan’s How Stellar Got Her Groove Back and T.D. Jakes’ Woman Thou Art Loosed. So, now to watch Iyanla on Oprah tell her story of decline made me think about what it means for Black women to tell each other the “cold” truth in a world that in some very real ways are bent on our mental, spiritual, and physical demise or at the bare minimal our collective demoralization.

New York Latest Target of Black Anti-Abortion Billboards

New York Latest Target of Black Anti-Abortion Billboards
Lynette Holloway, The Root | February 24, 2011

**Update: A controversial ad that raised the ire of Planned Parenthood and the mom of the child depicted in it will be taken down, according to a statement by the Rev. Al Sharpton’s office.

It’s safe to say that few things shock New Yorkers. But a new anti-abortion billboard erected in New York City’s SoHo neighborhood has created a firestorm of controversy. It depicts the image of a pensive 6-year-old girl in a red sleeveless summer dress beneath these ominous and portentous words: “The Most Dangerous Place for an African American Is in the Womb.”

The billboard — placed at the bustling intersection of Sixth Avenue and Watts Street by the nonprofit pro-life organizations Life Always and — is about half a mile from one of three Planned Parenthood locations. Those facilities jointly reported nearly 17,000 pregnancy terminations in 2010, according to Life Always.  A Planned Parenthood spokesman confirmed that number, adding that about 92 percent of terminations were conducted during the first trimester. Twenty-eight percent were medication-induced abortions performed within the first nine weeks.

Planned Parenthood and other pro-choice advocates have lashed out against the startling advertisement. In a prepared statement, Planned Parenthood called the billboard “an offensive and condescending effort to stigmatize and shame African-American women while attempting to discredit the work of Planned Parenthood.”  (Read more)


Waiting for union reform

There’s this unbelievable willingness to turn a blind eye to the injustices that are happening to kids every single day in our schools in the name of harmony amongst adults.

-Michelle Rhee, Waiting for Superman

I’m applying for work at Columbia University in the hopes of getting a free education. I’ve submitted quite a few applications but because many jobs are restricted to members of certain unions, I am unable to apply even though I’m qualified for the positions. I expressed annoyance to my mom and to my chagrin she labeled me a Republican, suggesting I go to Wisconsin and help out. She also stated that unions were the only things keeping people from working for slave wages and breadcrumbs. “Bullshit,” I mumbled and since I didn’t know much about unions, I only had one line of defense, “Waiting for Superman.”

Let me begin by saying, I’m not an expert on unions. I am not against unions. My annoyance was more panic, related to being unemployed than some grand statement on the state of unions in America. For the record, I think groups are great. However, I still think the teachers’ unions, in their stubbornness, as portrayed in Waiting for Superman are giving the Republicans just the fuel they need to wage this kind of war.