Saturday, December 28, 2013

Top Black Stories 2013

(Baltimore, MD) Since I've been writing this column you've been able to look back and also look ahead. There are a number of changing dynamics in the Black community at-large, but unfortunately some things remain the same.

Things that influence this year’s list include such factors as actions/in-actions of the President, the cheapening of Black Life, and the impact of post colonial life on the continent of Africa.

Let me update you first on some items I talked about last year.  The Trayvon Martin case continued to linger despite a verdict which found George Zimmerman innocent. In Mali, French forces were able to beat back a coup de tat but, the county/region continues to be unstable.

As always my annual disclaimer, the selection of subjects and news items are mine alone.

10. Slavery/Subservience goes mainstream. I have marveled at the reaction of the majority community to a pair of films, The Butler and 12 Years a Slave. These are remarkable stories. In "The Butler," we see life through the eyes of someone serving the President. In 12 Years a slave, we experience the brutality of slavery. Some people would rather you forget the indignities of being sub-servant.

9. Forget Getting a Television Show, "Gettin in Where You Fit-in." If they won't green-light your television show turn to the net. Off color humor is finding audiences. For the last couple of years one of the funniest people on the plant is Issa Rae, the creator of the online series, "The Mis-Adventures of Awkward Black Girl." ( Rae has proved her worth with an infusion of cash from Rapper Pharrell Williams. She recently signed a deal with ABC with Shonda Rhimes ( She is rumored to be in the running to be Nina Simone in a bio pic.
Issa Rae

If she can get a deal then why can't Azie Marie Dungey get one as well? Dungey has proven her worth with the "Ask a Slave Series."( Saturday Night Live please explain to me again, why can't you find Black Female comedians? Update, there is one coming in January. (

8. Bankruptcy in Detroit - Early this year people imagined Motown was on the comeback. There was a successful Broadway play (Motown). Then reality hit. The trial of Kwame Kilpatrick ended the era of corrupt Mayors,  but the city found out it was broke. The Republican Governor said enough was enough. He put the city in receivership and appointed a receiver who took the city into bankruptcy. Biggest loser’s city pensioners. If no one is betting on Motown, why is the owner of Quicken Loans buying up so much property in the city?

7. Africa Implosion - with much of Black America consumed with domestic events few are paying attention to the continent. I talked about Mali last year but, ethnic and religious strife are becoming all too common. Here are but a few items, a bombing at a Kenyan Mall, ethnic strife in Nigeria, the Central Republic of Africa has descended into total chaos, and Southern Sudan is in midst of collapse.

Renisha McBride
6. Dying While Being Black - So when is it okay to kill a Black woman? Apparently, when they knock on your door seeking help. Case and point, 19 year old Renisha McBride of Detroit.  She had been in an accident. She sought help at a home in Dearborn Heights. Instead of rendering assistance the white homeowner took his shotgun and  blew her head off thinking she was an intruder. Four days later he was reluctantly charged with murder. (

5. My Soul Looks Back and Wonders- this was the 50th Anniversary of the March on Washington. When it was conceived it was a radical idea. One of the speakers that day was a preacher named Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. His "I Have Dream” speech is now memorized by millions and serves as an inspiration, including to President Barack Obama. Dream children dream.

4. The Affordable Care Act/Obamacare - this was the year of real implementation but, at every step the presidents critics have tried to thwart it, including shutting down the government. Have there been problems? Yes, the roll out of the healthcare website, canceling of policies, etc... Did I miss that more people who didn't have healthcare are now covered? Those states with highest rates of uninsured persons don't want federal help but they're okay if these people don't have health insurance?

3. Aw Naw, people saying stupid stuff. This category used be assigned to people in the majority race but it has transcended. These weren't always you're usual suspects. From Fox's Megan Kelly's rant of Santa Claus and Jesus being white to comedian Steve Martin suggesting the spelling of lasonia would be different depending on whether you African-American or Italian-American. Don't even get me started about the Miami Dolphins Offensive lineman Richie Incognito.

But I'm not letting Black folks off. Kenan Thompson told TV Guide, the reason there are no Black female comedians on SNL "in auditions they just don't seem to be ready." Que the neck role, and the "no he didn't" from sisters.

To add insult Kayne West, who  doesn't know when to stop, suggested he was going to change the meaning of a confederate flag. So he embossed the emblem on a jacket. I guess a lot Brothers down south didn't buy this?
There were a lot people saying stupid stuff. In the age of social media all this got attention, Why?

2. Grambling - this HBCU has had a storied career. It's former head coach, Eddie Robinson, always did more with less. This came to a head this year when the school forced the team to travel 20 plus hours to a pair of games. While their rivals flew to the site (FYI they lost the game). They fired Hall of Fame Coach Doug Williams because he asked his friends to donate money to put a new floor in the weight room. The President didn't like he what he did and used it as cause to remove him. The interim coach had a full scale mutiny on his hands when the team refused to practice, then refused to play a Jackson State Homecoming game. The schools President says his hands were tied because the governor cut his funding and it was time for the football team to feel the pain the rest of the university was feeling. Not a good look all the way round.

1. The death of Nelson Mandela - I never meet Dr. King, or Malcolm X but I did meet Nelson Mandela. It was on a tarmac at Washington National Airport during his first visit to the United States. Innocently, he asked a small group of us why we were there? He knew the answer. I would win a National Journalism Award from NABJ for my coverage of him.

 I watched him come out of jail after 20 plus years without any bitterness. I saw him become the President of South Africa. He asked those who were oppressed and the oppressors to forgive. It was tough. Then when his term was over he retreated back to the village he called home. He wasn't a saint. Mandela kept his friends despite the many critics who wanted him to distance himself from them.

There is a void without him. He had moral authority and that unique ability to "converse with the Kings, Queens and Heads of States and yet keep the common touch." I know I will never see nor meet anyone like him in my lifetime.

Person of Year - Shonda Rhimes

If you don't know who she is you ought to. She is on a hot streak like no other in Hollywood. She is the creator of Scandal and the executive producer of Grey's Anatomy. She has taken ABC from a basement dweller to the top of the heap in ratings. Her story lines blur traditional storytelling. What really makes her "hot" is she has been able to marry traditional media with social media (Scandal is one of the most tweeted shows on television). She actually did a rerun with tweets. They have literally given her the right to greenlight (which means to go into production) on any show she wants.

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Monday, January 21, 2013

Take 2

(Washington, DC) – The promise of Obama was seen in the eyes of a young man who was carried on the shoulders of a father, in the eyes of people who lay like a carpet stretched from the base of the Capitol to the expanse of the nation’s mall and into the many homes and hamlets not seen nor heard.
I, like hundreds went back to see Barack Hussein Obama again take the oath of office for President of the United States. There is a pride and a sense that the American experiment is enduring.  The idea of co- equal branches with a leadership imbued in the President is uniquely American.  This is the Obama generation where vision meets reality.

Unlike the first Inauguration I didn’t have a front row seat, I was in the crowd which seemed surreal. There were families, there were young and old people, gay people, foreign born and many yet to be born. “I want to take a look at this one more time,” said the President as he exited the stage.

The theme of today was “WE.” “We the people declare today that most evident of the truths - that all of us are created equal is the star that guides us still,” according to the President.  There were a number of references  to “WE” in the speech. There was also a sense that we are all in this together. It’s part of the fabric that binds us together.
The American quilt was expanded in the President’s Inauguration Speech. To mention Selma, Seneca Falls, and Stonewall (a gay bar where a riot broke out in New York) in the same breath, broke with the past. Gay rights are out of the third world.  From woman’s rights, to immigration rights, he’s speaking to a rising majority.

Once again this was not about the President, it was about the people. Why have they responded, and is this the end? The people in this audience have brought forth a political juggernaut that his critics cannot beat back with money or media biases. This is the "Age of Obama." He has another four years that will make him a historical figure that people will point to as people look at President Ronald Reagan. Enjoy the moment, because for as much as you will remember this age, it will not come around again.

Taking it All End

There is nothing like finding precious gems on an event like this. I find stories within stories. From the out of towners asking for directions to being able to share the moment with a young journalist. I'm always impressed by the multiple entrepreneurs who find ways to make a buck. From bars having specialty events tied into the Inauguration and of course the street vendors.

Lastly, the person who always listens to my experiences on the road was with me on this trip. My wife, Robbie, has endured my endless stories from my first meeting with Barack Obama, being on the front row for the first Obama Inauguration, and often looks over the things I write. She got the experience firsthand on this trip.

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Sunday, December 30, 2012

Top Ten Stories of 2012

(Baltimore, MD) Welcome once again to my annual Top Ten list of stories. As a simple disclaimer, these are my personal takes on stories that impacted Black people and those of the African Diaspora. They cover a wide range from political to pop culture. Some of the stories may be on your list and others may not. No worries, I’ve always suggested you “take the bull by the horns” and create your own list. So, here it goes.

10. Mali. Once was considered a bastion of democracy, things have gone radically wrong. There have been a number of coup de tats and it’s impossible to keep score. What is known is a group with Al Qaeda backing has taken over the northern portion of the country. In the south, soldiers arrested Prime Minister Cheikh Modibo Diarra at his home late on Dec. 10, 2012. This comes as a number of countries in northern Africa are still in the throes of so called “Arab Spring,” and the Central African Republic is falling apart. Can you say messy?

9. Black women and hair. It became abundantly clear during the Olympics that “sisters” need to check themselves when it comes to hair styles on athletes. The last time I checked when you’re a gymnast aka Gabby Douglas the judges aren’t checking your “do." They're checking your routine.  What made this really cruel was she won the gold and her hair is all you can talk about? Please.

8. Mental Stress. Shhh!!! Black folks suffer from mental stress and mental duress. Case in point, the curious case of Rep. Jesse Jackson, Jr.  Jackson was diagnosed with bipolar disorder and checked himself into a hospital. Despite this admission, he ran for re-election won, and then resigned. Stress is a bitch.

7.  The underestimation of minorities – There was a bizarre assumption on the part of GOP Party that Blacks would be less enthusiastic about the prospects of President Obama being re-elected. There was also a calculation by the GOP if we just bring out Hispanic politicians everyone would forget that the GOP Presidential Nominee Mitt Romney suggested all the undocumented workers in the United States should “self deport.” Did Romney forget that he wasn't just talking about Latino’s; there are Asians, Middle Eastern People, etc….Duh!!!

6. Trayvon Martin scenario – When Trayvon Martin was killed and the alleged murderer suggested he was attacked; and used Florida’s "Stand Your Ground Law" to justify the killing. People were right to question if it was open season on young Black men. Now a second case involving a young Black man, Chavis Carter in Arkansas is raising alarms ( Chavis, who was 21 years old, allegedly committed suicide while handcuffed in the back seat of a police vehicle. This doesn’t sound right. FYI, the Martin case begins in 2013.

5. Obsession with Reality. Look, I don’t bemoan various TV/Cable networks from trying to capitalize on various lifestyles on the extremes of American life. Are we laughing, making fun of, or being voyeuristic? I’m guessing the latter. From the over-the-top excesses of “Basketball Wives,” to the trailer park obsessive walk in the park of “Honey Boo Boo.” Okay, I’ve watch TI and his family, but Shawty Lo (creator of Laffy Taffy) has a reality show about his 11 children and 10 baby mommas’ – in my ESPN voice – “C’mon Man.”

4. The Courts and the President – There is a general belief that President Ronald Regan and Presidents George H. Bush and George W. Bush stacked the courts with enough conservative judges to thwart liberal attempts to bring about social change. Well, there was a problem. You can’t use poltical ideas on faulty law.  It started with attempts to mandate voter I.D. laws, limit early voting, and a challenge to universal health care. All struck down. Sorry the legal argument didn’t carry the day. Bad news is more challenges are coming to existing laws.

3. 47 Per Cent. Things have a way of making it into political campaigns that no matter how you try and spin it, they just don’t work. Mother Jones, a left leaning website, posted a conversation taped of Mitt Romney talking to high end fundraisers about the U.S. electorate being a bunch of takers and “47 percent would not vote for him.” You could have taken a fork to the candidate and just said “he’s done.” But no, those on the right swore, “he just said it badly,” Give me a break.

2. Obama Mojo – The cool calm collected POTUS almost had his butt handed to him in the first presidential debate (“aloof and uncaring”).  But during the second and third debates he came In like Muhammad Ali, “float like a butterfly and sting life a bee.” Pundits suggested this was going to be a tight race.  Millions of dollars were raised to defeat the President. Karl Rove, the Republican Prognosticator, who was so confident that the GOP would win.  He was baffled when the FOX Network called the race for President Obama. Now with a fiscal calamity about to hit the US, the right wants to know why the President won’t compromise, MOJO.

1.  Guns and Gun Culture – the Newtown Massacre was a wake up call, but were people asleep in Chicago, Baltimore, Atlanta and various other cities where the murder rates are intolerable. Appreciate the President going to the mass shootings in Tucson, Aurora, and yes Newtown. These tragedies say a lot about society. Sorry the NRA’s answer is out of touch, more guns. There needs to be a conversation about assault weapons and mental illness that I hope will occur.

Person of the Year, Gabe Douglas – Gymnast extraordinaire. Not only did she win gold, but beat back the bizarre critics who questioned her hair style. Young people her story is about sacrifice. Also, she left her hometown of Virginia Beach to train with the best in Iowa. She was all of 13 years old. If anything, Gabby has shown her “haters” that being physically fit means sweating, and getting in the gym and off the couch. Consider this, if you spent between $60 - $100 on hair and your body is out of whack who looks more outrageous? If you want to be beautiful…you can do so when you’re out of the gym.

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Friday, September 07, 2012

Quid Deinde

(Charlotte, NC) Barack Obama is toast. However Novembers election turns out the POTUS will never address a Democratic National Convention again as his party's nominee for the highest office in the land.

The President took in the crowd as he delivered a speech to an awaiting crowd . He scored points for its simplicity and pointed attacks against his opponent. This was not the upstart politician who I first met in 2004. This was the seasoned veteran who had been tested by two wars, vilified by his opponents (trust me they are coming for him again), and  humbled by those who came home from the scars of serving overseas.

He had the same charm and warmth, but time has a way of making you reflective. It was clear in several lines from the speech. "I am tied of hearing the line, 'I approved this message.'"As he waved good-bye to the crowd to begin the arduous journey of campaigning for the last time, I could see exhaustion. His followers however are dedicated and give him the energy of a marathon runner who has less than a mile and can see his opponent within striking distance. Those who joined "the Obama Phenomena"  were and have been a big part of a movement.

As he exits who will enter from the wings to become the leading man or woman. Inevitably, they will all be compared to the POTUS. They must find their own voice, governing styles and continue to awake an electorate turned off by partisanship.

So, Who's Next?

I put that question to some season veterans reporters and new comers to find out who they are watching and why. The Huffington Post recently tried this idea but, it is a lame list. About the only person I agree with is Corey Booker (FYI, he was my Person of the Year on this blog). I didn't go looking for the  usual suspects and neither did my colleagues. Their selections run the gamet from big city mayors, to state legislators, and community activist. They aren't all Democrats (yes, several talked about Republicans). I was intrigued that some of my friends had been watching them since they were teenagers. Lastly, these Reporters/Writers/Bloggers/Pundits aren't just watching Black Politicians they are also looking at others who are part of this great mosaic of America.

I have marveled at how the political process works and there is no rhyme or reason why someone leaps frog another. There is this interesting trait in all their DNA's. They have lost an election that they thought they should have won. For the President it was losing to the Rep. Bobby Rush. I have no idea if any of these individuals will cut through the clutter and you're likely to have your own personal favorite. If you can keep it simple I'd like to know so I can compile a much larger list for the NABJ Media Institute on Political Reporting which we will convene after the election. Look for the email at the bottom.

Clarence Page - Chicago Tribune

Mayor Corey Booker Addressing DNC
videoThe question caught him off guard, but he is quick to note the emergence of Mayor Corey Booker. Booker who has taken the tested city of Newark off "one the worst places to live in New Jersey." Rumor has it he'll run for Governor of the Garden State to challenge the sitting Governor Chris Cristy. Hell, the man ran into a burning building to save a family. "Doesn't that make him Superman."

Denise Clay - "The Mad Political Science Blog"

 Philadelphia Councilman David Oh
videoClay who's been around and is a savvy watcher of politics. Being from Philadelphia she pointed to her own Mayor Micheal Nutter who is doing everything in his power to get attention. The Blogger/Journalist is smart enough to know "those are the usual suspects." When pressed she pointed to a Philadelphia Councilman David Oh. He's a Republican and happens to Asian. He is the first Asian to be on the Philadelphia City Council. "He realized early, if you don't work with the other party you're not going to get anything done."

Gromer Jeffers - Dallas Morning News

Marc Veasey
Mayor Julian Castro
The demographics in Texas are changing at lightening speed. Some usually reliable GOP districts are turning blue. The biggest question mark is the Hispanic/Latino populations in the state. Despite efforts to limit their influence they are flexing their muscle. Jeffers' points to San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro (FYI, he has a twin brother, Joaquin). Mayor Castro was given a prime time speaking assignment at the DNC. Don't count out Texas legislator Marc Veasey. Veasey has broken through a unique trend. While running for congress he won in a majority Hispanic district. The Dallas area will now be represented by a pair of Black Congressional Representatives. Jeffers' made one of the boldest predictions from our group. Texas will go from a reliably Red to Blue. "The demographics dictate that Texas will turn Blue it's just a matter of when."

Condace Pressley - WSB Radio Atlanta

Pressley points to her own Mayor, Kasim Reed. Mayor Reed follows in the foot steps of  legendary mayors from Atlanta. As Mayor he is often called on to defend the POTUS programs on the Sunday Political Talk Shows. This has given him a national profile that others envy.

Zinnie Abraham -
I met this young man while waiting for a shuttle bus to go to the Charlotte Convention Center. He is a media entrepreneur (he thinks of himself as Blogger). He lives in the Bay area. He comes from the grand tradition of Frederick Douglass, "power concedes nothing without a demand." He's young and dynamic, and I love it (thanks for turning me on to Tout). He suggests Oakland Councilwoman Libby Schaaf. Abraham says he urged her to run for Mayor of Oakland, instead she ran for City Council and won with 73 % of the vote. According to the Blogger, she is the only homegrown member of the Oakland city council. "She eats, sleeps, and drinks Oakland 24 hours a day...but bends toward the conservative side."

Richard Muhammad - The Final Call

LeAllan Jones
videoI have known Richard for nearly 20 years. We meet during Nelson Mandela's first trip to the United States. It is always a pleasure to see him and talk politics. His choice was  LeAllan Jones who is a member of the Green Party. Muhammad says the Chicago native was profiled in the NPR series Ghetto Life 101. He told his story of growing up in the notorious Cabrini Green Projects on Chicago's Northside - he was barely a teenager.  He graduated from college. In 2010 he ran  for the United States Senate in Illinois. He lost that race. "Has a great amount of political potential. He has a great heart and love for Black people and wants to change.

Micheal Steele - MSNBC

Most people know this contributor as the Former Chair of the RNC. I met him many years ago when I asked a perennial Baltimore GOP Mayoral Candidate, Victor Clarke, who should I be watching? He pointed to Steele. That was 1988. As if on que Steele was ready. Mia Love from Utah "is the flavor of the month." Steele had been trying to build a bench of Black Republicans while he was with the RNC. He has nurtured the next crop of GOP hopefuls.He's putting his money on a pair of individuals, Rufus Montgomery from Atlanta, and Angela Sailor who works on the RNC political side. There has been an uneasiness between the party and communities of color in general. "The party has got to respond to that they've got to reach out to them; they've got to embrace them; they've got to pump up their leadership and opportunity... the country is changing and its demographics are changing. We need to adapt.

Charles Robinson -Maryland Public Television

Now I'll put on my Maryland political hat. The center of Maryland's Black politics has been Baltimore, but it is shifting to Prince Georges County. The first person I want to talk about is Lt. Governor Anthony Brown. Brown says he is exploring a run for Governor. There's a problem. No Lt. Governor has ever been elected to be Governor. The other is Angela Alsobrooks, the Prince Georges County State's Attorney. She brought down the counties crime rate through tough prosecutions, but has done it in an that is understated way.

Lastly, if you've got some ideas you can post them in the comments section or try me at

The title for the blog is Latin, for What's Next?


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