Summer Explains it All: Jail Time for Dummies

Any of you following the NFL might have been slightly shocked when the details of Plaxico Burress’ sentence became public.  Even I was surprised by the severity of his sentence, and I’ve been watching NFL players tango with the (in)justice system since well before, um, Ray Lewis?  For those of you who have not diligently observed the latest parade of black (American) footballers marching from locker room  to lock down, here’s what happened: Plaxico Burress, former wide receiver for the New York (football) Giants and quasi-legend of Super Bowl XLII (he caught the game-winning touchdown and predicted a Giants win) turned himself in to authorities in December 2008 for unlawful possession of a handgun.  According to reports, in November 2008, Burress, though not licensed to carry a firearm in New York City, brought a gun with him to a New York City nightclub.  While on his way to the VIP section of the club, Burress accidentally shot himself in the leg.  Burress then checked into the hospital under an alias (he claims someone else registered him under an assumed name); though the hospital was required by law to notify police when treating the result(s) of a shooting, it was never reported, and NYPD wasn’t aware of the situation until it became news.  Unlawfully carrying a firearm in New York City is very, very illegal.  Consequently, Burress was indicted on two weapons charges.  Due to NYC’s mandatory minimums for unlawful gun possession, Burress’ lawyers reached a plea deal, and last week he was sentenced to two years in prison.

Trouble the Water on DVD

If you haven’t seen it, I encourage you to add Trouble the Water to your Netflix queue, or rent it–people still do that, right?  It was released on DVD today.  I wrote a response/review of the documentary after seeing it at the Black Harvest Film Festival last year.  Trouble the Water, which follows the before, during and after Hurricane Katrina experience of ninth ward residents Kimberly Rivers Roberts and her husband, Scott, got nominated for an Academy Award, but I guess a French guy on a wire–voluntarily danger–was a lot more compelling than being reminded of this country’s EPIC FAILURE during the disaster.  That shit is a movie-going buzzkill.

The other week, my dissertation writing partner and I were talking about extreme sports.  Neither one of us could understand why folks find watching and/or participating in them so much fun, so fascinating.  In response to our lackluster feeling about the genre she quipped, “Being black is an extreme sport.”  Remembering Trouble the Water, maybe she’s right.  Check it out.

Happy Birthday, Connected!: More than Beats, More than Rhymes

I can’t believe it, but five years ago today, The Foreign Exchange (@nicolay and @phontigallo) released their album, Connected.  It’s pretty amazing stuff–just great hip hop.  What makes this album even more amazing is the fact that these cats instant messaged, e-mailed, and snail mailed beats and vocals back and forth to each other.  (At the time, Nicolay, who was living in the Netherlands at the time, would compose the beats and send them to Phonte [of Little Brother fame], who was in North Carolina.)

Save the Polar Bears, Save the World?

i guess that i am what you can call an environmentalist, or at least a mild one. i believe in reducing, reusing and recycling. i believe in and practice buying locally. Each and every day i make an effort to reduce my waste and consumption. i am concerned with global warming and all of that jazz, i promise i am.

But the plight of the billions of people in the world who struggle to acquire the basic necessities of survival like food, clean water and shelter is an even greater concern. That’s why i find the WWF’s Climate Change campaign so ridiculous and disturbing. Whenever one of those damned commercials comes on TV, i cringe.


All of the hunger and devastation in the world and they want me to donate money to save some polar bears?

Get the fuck outta here with that bullshit.

Mandela's 8 Lesson's of Leadership

In honor of Nelson Mandela’s 90th birthday last year, Time Magazine published an article on Mandela’s Eight Lessons of Leadership

a_wmandela_nv_0721I encourage you to read the article… But I thought I would share the lessons that I found most poignant

No.1: Courage is Not the Absence of Fear, it’s Inspiring Others to Move Beyond It

Mandela talks about how necessary it was to “pretend and, through the act of appearing fearless, inspire others” during his tenure at Robben Island.

Although he was constantly afraid in the prison, he knew that his fear would only function to instill fear in the people who were risking their lives everyday to fight against apartheid outside of the prison.

Sick and Tired: Being Black, Woman, Poor, Sick, and (Uninsured)

In 1964 at the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party Convention, Fannie Lou Hamer said, “All my life I’ve been sick and tired . . . Now, I’m sick and tired of being sick and tired.” Even though these words were distinctively about Southern racism, I find myself unconsciously gravitating to these words to talk about the current health care debate and what it means for poor women of color, like my older sister, Trina. Right now, my heart is heavy because for the last eight years my sister has battled various infections, muscle diseases, fevers, weight loss, weight gain, swollen hands and swollen feet, relentless body aches and chills while working at jobs that either did not provide health insurance or provided health insurance only after 12 months of full time labor.

Not only has she battled infectious and muscle depilating diseases mostly uninsured, but she also has to contend daily with the demands of her pink collared job and the invasive downright dehumanizing practices of the welfare agency that says, “You cannot make a certain amount of money and receive food stamps.” So, my sister like many poor women of color must make tradeoffs meaning only one parent can work and the other must stay at home and watch the child because daycare is expensive and to receive food stamps and health insurance for your children you must live on the poverty line. Isn’t this maddening. Isn’t sickening. I feel sick. I tell you, there are days when I do not even have to look at my sister to know she’s sick and she’s tired of having to negotiate the demands of living at the crossroads of poverty, labor market’s demands, blackness, femaleness, being a wife, being a mother, being a recipient of governmental aide, being a survivor of parental domestic violence, and at the end of the day being the uninsured sick.

So my heart is heavy.

So, my question is what do you do when you’re not only sick, but tired, black, woman, poor, and uninsured? How do you survive? What is your fate?

Perhaps, it’s my sister’s fate enduring the inconsistent findings of clinic doctors who are often over burdened with caseloads. Or, perhaps it’s my mother’s fate where you simply ignore the pains and pretend your weight loss is because of your new diet and that it has nothing to do with the boil on your leg. Perhaps, it’s the fate of my aunt who simply uses other people’s prescriptions to ease her bodily pains. Or, perhaps it’s the fate of countless numbers of black women who die from Cancer because they catch it too late and can’t afford premium healthcare. Perhaps, these examples are tad bit dramatic and may deviate from most black women’s everyday reality. However, it seems quite likely that these examples are widespread. You ignore your sickness. You find cost effective strategies to buy medicine. You simply die because you don’t get treated. It’s pretty unfair that only those who can afford health care should be healthy.

Well, I started this post by talking about my sister because for the last week she’s been in the intensive care unit and I’ve been trying to wrap my mind around how she got to where she is . . . always fighting for dear life. And it finally dawned on me that it was not just that she was uninsured most of her life, but that other variables are at play like how her receptionist job exploits her labor making her work long hours without “adequate” compensation, like how society looks at her as if she’s a bad mother because sometimes she feeds my niece and nephew McDonalds, like how her social welfare caseworker test her truthfulness every time she walks though their governmental door, like how she had to grow-up way before most children do to become a surrogate mother for me and my siblings often neglecting herself, and like how she had to endure an education system that prized her athletic skills and not her ability to excel academically, and countless other “like how” variables.

Yes, some of you are saying that this post is about healthcare why add other variables? My response is simply this: “Walk a day in my sister’s shoes and tell me what you see. As you walk burdens weigh down on you making you more susceptible to disease perhaps even becoming sicker than she.” Yes, this is a wee bit dramatic, but the point is simply this that many oppressive things converged to make my sister in the timeless words of Fannie Lou Hamer, sick and tired.

Perhaps, this national health care debate is not simply about granting governmental run health care, perhaps its about examining the mutli-layered physically oppressive nature of being at the intersection of poverty, sexism, and racism.

MICHAEL VICK…the dawg[sic] killer




 Michael Vick, who was once the highest paid man in the NFL with his 135 million dollar contract, is back with the League as a Philadelphia Eagles (according to ESPN).  In this First Take clip , one gets the opportunity to hear from some expert NFL commentators about how they felt about Michael Vick’s 60 minutes interview. The question which is posed by the host, Jay Crawford, of the show is do you think Michael Vick was sincere or coached for the interview. Ryan Stewart of “2 Live STEWS” comes immediately to the defense of Michael Vick saying “this guy was once the face of the entire league. After doing [time] in jail, after admitting to drowning dogs and killing dogs he better be coached!” Doug Stewart of “2 Live Stews” also seconds the defense that Michael Vick was coached, but still Doug Stewart “definitely believes [Michael Vick] is sorry.”  The First Take clip goes on, but this is where I want to start our conversation about Michael Vick.


Feel Like a Woman?


New obsession: Gender Tests. Yesterday, I read an article about South African runner Caster Semenya, who has been asked by the IAAF (International Association of Athletics Federations) to take tests in order to confirm that she is, in fact, a woman. Apparently she got really good, really fast, and that raised some estrogen levels, er, eyebrows. The 18 year old has been slaying the competition during the world championships, which probably did not help her case.

Transsexual, Transgender, DragQueen, Internalized Homophobia, and Liberation???

blog week 9 drag

When I was in the six grade there was a kid in my class (we’ll call him Rudy) that was what I like to call “The Kyle Washington type”(for all of those who have seen college hill south beach you know exactly what that means). If you have not seen College Hill, allow me to explain.

blog #9 kyle

The “Kyle Washington Type” encompasses characteristics like being loud, flamboyant, over-weight, insecure, and always taking there internal hatred out on the innocent victims that rub them the wrong way, no matter how justified that person might be. For anyone who is relatively familiar with the gay community, the “Kyle Washington Type” is no secret. They are the best friends of some, and the worse enemies of others.

Now imagine all those characteristics in an openly gay 12 year old transgendered kid. To put it lightly, Rudy got made fun of A LOT.  The students teased him to the point that his parents pulled him out of the middle school that I attended. I was never one of those individuals who initiated the attacks against Rudy, but I cannot lie and say that I never laughed at him. I knew he was gay—he never tried to hide that—I knew I was confused about who I was suppose to like at that age and I knew that laughing at him would make me safe from being ridiculed for my hidden homosexuality.

This is a very small case of internalized homophobia on my part. That’s what I call it when someone that is gay/DL, in attempts to hide their “true self”, bullies or ridicules other LGBT people. I have seen internalized homophobia on greater scales. I knew a football player in high school that brutally beat and teased every LGBT kid he could find. Then the same football player tried to come on to me.

blog #9 lgbt symbol

People are many times afraid of what they don’t understand.

People are many times afraid to be what others don’t understand.

It seems the only way out of this vicious cycle is for people to educate themselves. And this cannot always be done by reading a book on the subject. One reason why Rudy got made fun of so much is because he was different, and his peers—including myself at the time—did not understand him. Most adults to this day don’t understand the differences among being transsexual, transgender, and a drag queen. So allow me to take a moment to break down these terms.

Individuals who identify as “transgender” or “transsexual” are usually people who are born with typical male or female anatomies but feel as though they’ve been born into the “wrong body.” For example, a person who identifies as transgender or transsexual may have typical female anatomy but feel like a male and seek to become male by taking hormones or electing to have sex reassignment surgeries. Transgender is the umbrella term for gender identity. Transgender people may identify as heterosexual, homosexual, bisexual, pansexual, polysexual, or asexual; some may consider conventional sexual orientation labels inadequate or inapplicable to them. To be transsexual relates to having some type of sexual reassignment or a sex change. A drag queen is a person, usually a man, who dresses, and usually acts, like a woman often for the purpose of entertaining or performing. There are drag artists of all genders and sexualities who do drag for various reasons.(Main source of information comes from Intersex Society of North America

Many people I grew up with in my church would not of taken the time to finish the last paragraph. So to conclude the series on a Gay Man’s Struggle, is liberation possible? So far Wisconsin, Iowa, Vermont, Massachusetts, have all formed some type of legalized marriage or civil union. Not to mention the United States has to deal with the thousands that got married in California last year. And every generation that passes becomes more understanding and accepting of the LGBT community. It is only a matter of time before liberation—legally and socially—becomes a reality. Once people begin to reach out and try to understand something they didn’t want to talk about before, that is the beginning of liberation and that is when this fear of a certain group of people begins to end. History speaks for itself, with every movement. The gay movement is only leading to one place. A place where discrimination ends, and equality is gained. Then maybe a gay man’s struggle will become a gay man’s triumph.

gay liberation blog #99

Today in Pre-Race History: Mad Men as Race Men?

I like Mad Men. It’s a good show, well-written and -acted. All of that. I’m not turning myself into a Mad Men avatar like other fans, but I get the allure. (Besides, there’s no maid’s uniform.) The world of Mad Men is sleek, shiny, colorful; it totally messes up my “the only colors available in the olden days were black and white” argument. I probably think this way because I am, like, totally generation neon. As good as it is, MM is also very white–whiter than, say, a drinking game at your local frat house. But I value MM for what it is, which I suppose could be described as privileged white people being their privileged white selves.