Reflections on Charlottesville



Downtown Charlottesville

Source: “Downtown Charlottesville” by Bob Mical – Under Creative Commons license

I shouldn’t have been alarmed by Charlottesville. I’ve studied Dr. Frances Cress Welsing and Dr. Neely Fuller. I’ve become accustomed to the dog-whistles and divisive rhetoric as they’ve gained traction over the years. I had a talk with my mother. She lived through Jim Crow. “Are you surprised by what happened in Charlottesville?”, I asked. Unfazed, she replied, “No. They’ll never change.” The discussion itself made it hard to prove her wrong. Still, witnessing it in 2017 was jarring. Those haunting images from my history books had finally sprang to life.

The normalization of all things degenerate is dangerous. Charlottesville was a stark reminder. The need for one group to have an advantage over others. Equality being threatening to some. The possibility of a level playing field exposing inadequacies. Opportunities that were always guaranteed to some having to be earned instead. All nonsensical concepts to someone who deals largely in logic. Frightening or perfectly normal to those who don’t. The refusal to grant equal rights and access to opportunities to all is the basis for this country’s turmoil. It’s why the “Make America Great Again” slogan has always been an offensive fabrication. That turmoil has been the barrier to greatness. Which brings me to the alleged cause of Charlottesville’s riots: the removal of a Confederate statue. Chants of “Blood And Soil” and “Jews Will Not Replace Us” revealed that allegation to be a fabrication as well. 

It’s easy to dispel the myths about Confederate statues, flags and the “heritage” they represent. That “heritage” has long been established as one of inequality. One need only study when those monuments were built and when their “importance” has resurfaced throughout history. Erected during the start of Jim Crow, they reappeared to signify opposition to the Civil Rights Movement. Now, the center of riots during arguably the most polarizing presidential regime of our lifetimes.

They are overdue for demolition. They shouldn’t continue to be financed on the dime of those they oppress. They are emblematic of a history of murder, pillage and slavery. One without malice would prefer to memorialize a more progressive era of history. Statues should be reserved for those who contributed to the greater good. Liberty and equality. A mantra that this country often recites, but has yet to fulfill. A promise that can’t become a reality with those replicas as constant public reminders of my ancestors’ pain.

In the aftermath of Charlottesville, what’s the necessary step forward? Since I’m unaware of any groups’ pending mass exodus from this country, coexistence remains a reality; which requires the work of allies. Potential allies, I’ve seen your “ThisIsNotUs” hashtags. Prove it. America is ailing, use this opportunity to help heal her. Your future generations should be able to look back and find you leading the fight against inequality, not contributing to it with your indifference. Marching is no longer enough. Learn biases and history. Have ongoing conversations with people from diverse backgrounds and philosophies. Become activists. Doing so will create a “heritage” that we can all salute to.


The Blueprint 4: My Take On “4:44”

Jay-Z has always been the most confident guy in the pack. Therefore, it was a struggle to hear him compete with the new kids on 2013’s Magna Carta. We diehards fans knew he was capable of more, even as we shimmied to “Tom Ford”. Art collection and designer label bars were no longer fulfilling. Jay-Z was a father, husband and hip-hop veteran. Weren’t there more poignant issues to address?

While I rarely have lofty political expectations for artists, I anticipated heightened awareness from Jay-Z on “4:44”, given the country’s current social climate. No I.D, whom I’ve been a fan of since Common’s Resurrection, was solely enlisted for the album, so the production being solid was a given. Would Jay-Z’s lyrics match it? Well, Black economic empowerment, homosexuality, financial literacy, infidelity and generational wealth are all explored on 4:44 in ways that he’s never done so on wax. At 47, it was about time, right? Whether he’s truly baring his soul on every song or if this new layer is merely another example of brilliant marketing matters not. 4:44’s cohesion and direction make it Jay-Z’s most mature work to date. I’m seldom present for “mumble rap”, so this level of sophistication is welcomed.

Clocking in at a mere 36-miuntes, 4:44 is refreshingly concise. Jay-Z doesn’t waste bars and No I.D.’s soul loops never become tedious. There’s no obvious, radio-friendly single. Trends aren’t chased here. Jay-Z goes beyond sporadic introspection and makes candor the central theme of the album. Blacker than he’s ever been content-wise, though revealing no conclusion the “woke” brigade hasn’t already reached. Nonetheless, if one is inspired from listening; mission accomplished. Isn’t inspiration the ultimate objective of art? The lyrical wit is there, but craftier than it’s been since The Black Album. “Niggas is skippin’ leg day/Just to run they mouth” is a kill shot Kanye never heard coming.  Jay-Z sounds most at home when he does what he’s arguably unparalleled at: influencing the culture…an aspect that is key to his legendary status. Missing from his music for nearly a decade, it makes its return on 4:44. “Welcome back, Carter”.


Mama Pope Said…


Prior to this latest season, I’d almost given up on Scandal. The plot lines had jumped the shark; Shonda’s pen had lost some of its luster and there was simply a plethora of superior-written shows on my radar. However, a few gems kept me from completely abandoning the show: Eli’s and Mama Pope’s monologues. They were sermons, if you had collection plates handy. So, you can imagine my excitement when I learned that Mama Pope would be making an appearance for the season finale. In true return-to-Gladiator form, I was front and center last Thursday night with an Olivia Pope-sized glass of Pinot Noir. Not only was I rewarded with perhaps the best scene I’d ever viewed on Scandal, the world was lectured on Black feminism.

In the span of one minute and fifty seconds, Mama Pope summarized the plight of Black women, while masterfully weaving in the impact of toxic masculinity. “Being a Black woman. ‘Be strong’, they say. ‘Think like a man.’ ‘Support your man.’ ‘Raise a man.’ Well, damn. I gotta do all that? Who’s out here working for me? Carrying my burden? Building me up when I get down?”, she asked Eli. A question that has become urgent as I see more Black women on the front lines of social justice movements, leading households, teaching our youth and solely uplifting each other. We are our Sisters’ Keepers, but who are our remaining allies when Sisters are emotionally and physically spent?  Who do I overwhelmingly prefer as those allies? While I expect reciprocity from anyone I’ve shown solidarity for, I primarily seek out Black men as additional allies. Why? Shared history, familiarity and kinship.

“When people share a common oppression, certain kinds of skills and joint defenses are developed. And if you survive, you survive because those skills and defenses have worked. When you come into conflict over other existing differences, there is a vulnerability to each other which is desperate and very deep.” – Audre Lorde

 Other existing differences? Gender inequality to be exact, which stems from patriarchy and misogyny; tools of oppression that have been used to misdirect rage and resentment towards Black women when the intended target is the system of white supremacy. Ultimately, if there’s a larger oppressor out to destroy the both of us, it’s imperative that Black men and women don’t destroy each other. Otherwise, who’s left to fight? As I scroll my social media feeds on any given day, I encounter degrading memes or posts of Black women. Yet, when Black women attempt to address the issue, the responses I’ve witnessed from Black men have often been defensive or dismissive. Instead, Black men, I implore you to lower your guards and simply listen. Don’t abruptly invalidate our experiences and feelings. Don’t assume that our individual accomplishments shield us from oppression or that your support isn’t needed. Mutual empowerment and protection are essential to our continued survival. Gender wars don’t begin to resolve the issue. Awareness does. Therefore, I salute Shonda Rhimes for using her platform to convey my sentiments to the masses. The echo chamber has become momentarily quieter.  Even if her messages don’t fully penetrate, placed on the world’s stage, they at least become harder to ignore.


Maneuvering Trump’s America

“As democracy is perfected, the office of president represents, more and more closely,  the inner soul of the people. On some great and glorious day the plain folks of the land will reach their heart’s desire at last and the White House will be adorned by a downright moron.” – H.L. Mencken, On Politics, A Carnival of Buncombe

After Inauguration Day, I vowed to acknowledge Trump as little as possible. Why waste precious brain cells on a man who’d obviously lost his? Nonetheless, politics shape the lay of the land. I’d be impacted whether I paid him dust or not. Therefore, it was wise to stay informed. However, that’s become an arduous task with this administration. By the time I absorb one news story, my phone is buzzing with another and that’s by design. If you’re able to keep up with this administration by putting their deliberate fragments of information together, you may actually be able to affect change. More disturbing than the constant news barrage is the explicit tone that has been set in Trump’s America. Complacency. With mainstream media at the helm, this country is normalizing the worst of its “isms”, mediocrity and incompetence.

I’ve long held the belief that regardless of who was elected, “business as usual” would be the mantra. I was certain that Trump would provide more entertainment than his predecessors, but wouldn’t drastically deviate from the status quo. One-hundred and twelve days in and no comedic sketch or drama penned has rivaled this administration’s shenanigans. As if the House passage of the Affordable Care Act repeal wasn’t enough of a blow to humanity, the firing of FBI director, James Comey set an accountability precedent we may never recover from. So, how am I responding?

Charity begins at home. Clichéd, but the most feasible solution I’ve encountered. Hopefully, I’ll be proven wrong, but I doubt there will be any further investigation into Russia or an impeachment. It’s easier to make progressive changes from the bottom up. Therefore, I plan to participate in every local election I’m eligible for. Additionally, I want to make this era about my personal growth. Shouldn’t that be automatic? Perhaps, but remind me of a time when an extra motivator caused more harm than good. I plan to sharpen my talents and develop my skill-sets. Learn new ones. Join organizations with like-minded individuals. Escape more often, catch the sun every chance I get; because no orange turd or supporter of said orange turd is going to darken my horizon or knock me off my square.


Colorism: My Reflections On The Elephant In The Room


“I’m not Black, I’m brown”, I told my grandmother. I was four. I don’t know where I’d gotten the perception from, but Black was ugly. Black was evil. Brown wasn’t the ultimate, but anything was better than Black. A few years passed and it became less of an issue to me. My childhood circle of friends and I shared the same hue, so the jokes flew, but were dismissed as quickly as they were launched. So, why are these scars still here?  I thought I’d reconciled those feelings about skin tone during my “woke” phase in college. Yet, whenever a dark-skinned, Black woman is attacked, I feel as though the dart pierced me. I become angry, defensive and lately, disheartened.

W. E. B. Du Bois and Marcus Garvey had the blueprints for liberation and were possibly derailed from collaborating on them due to colorism. In the past month or so, we’ve seen former NBA player Gilbert Arenas, suggest that dark-skinned women aren’t attractive on one end of the spectrum and blogger Luvvie Ajayi, imply that light-skinned Blacks are using social awareness to make up for their lack of melanin on the other. Fewer decades removed from slavery, it’s easier to conclude that the Garvey and Du Bois colorism beef was a product of it’s time. However, Arenas’ and Ajayi’s comments can be ascribed to willful ignorance, considering our history and the resources that exist to inform us of it.

There’s no quick solution for an internalized issue, but today’s advantages are the multiple platforms we have available to address colorism. The least we can do is examine why we have preferences and prejudices, avoid generalizing based on complexion and be cognizant of the language we use regarding skin tone. You never know what wounds your actions or words may open.

“DAMN.”: Kendrick Lamar Album Review

“I can’t fake humble just ‘cause your ass is insecure.” – Kung Fu Kenny

Kendrick Lamar was either a fake-deep Hotep or the best thing since sliced bread, depending on whose opinion you solicited when “To Pimp A Butterfly” dropped. Fast-forward to April 2017: Would Kendrick continue down the eclectic lane of “To Pimp A Butterfly” or give his “Good Kid, M.A.A.D. City” devotees something a little more palatable? Well, “DAMN.” is a mixture of both, with a bit of “Section 80” thrown in for good measure and the consensus is literally: “DAMN.”.

We’ve come to expect conceptual masterpieces from Kendrick Lamar and this album doesn’t quite match his previous two projects in that aspect, but not many do. What “DAMN.” lacks in cohesion, it makes up for in versatility. The experimental production, lyrical exercises and forays into pop all work. The Rihanna-laced “LOYALTY.” has the most mass appeal, but it’ll have to share the Summer Seventeen spotlight with the Prince-tinged “LOVE”.  “FEAR.” reacquaints us with the introspective Kendrick we fell in love with; “DNA.” and “FEEL.” remind us why he’s peerless. The album’s apex is “DUCKWORTH.”. Sure, we’ve heard Kendrick tell compelling stories before, but 9th Wonder’s flame-worthy beat switches here make you wish he could’ve done more work on this project.

How does “DAMN.” impact Kendrick’s legacy? For a snapshot, it makes him four for four in solid-to-great albums, further demonstrates that he was clearly born to rap and cements him a spot on the GOAT list. Tall accomplishments for an artist who likely hasn’t reached his peak. Time will reveal if “DAMN.” is truly classic material, however it will certainly be on my year-end, top 10 list. “I am legend, I feel like all of y’all is peasants.” I dare you to prove him otherwise.

Rating: 4.5/5