Thembisa Mshaka: Forgiving Chris Brown

Forgiving Chris Brown: Re-post & Update

By Thembisa Mshaka

Peep the Breakdown FM podcast we did with Thembisa on this topic

I am on record as being one who advocated for the forgiveness of the multi-talented, multi-platinum Chris Brown as far back as February 2009, when the most media and much of the public wanted to banish and boycott him forever. His missteps with the media in the aftermath turned the fury way up, as he looked far from remorseful—especially in contrast to Rihanna’s composed, deliberate testimony on 20/20. I understand the fury; I was furious about his assault of Rihanna on Grammy Night 2009 too.

But this rigid, visceral approach to such a layered issue is neither humane nor realistic. Endless castigation does not break the cycle of relationship violence. If we want young men, especially young men of color, to stop abusing women, we must condemn the behavior, and support the full rehabilitation of the person. Ron Artest has shown us that therapy can help anyone rise to become a champion in work and in life. Chris must seek help from psychological professionals, spiritual counselors, and anger management experts. Chris is going to be atoning and reconciling for years to come. That process is well underway.

The part we as consumers, fans, and members of the media can support him with is the revitalization of his career. Chris Brown is a gifted young performer who deserves to make a living at what he is passionate about. BET provided Chris Brown with the opportunity of a lifetime on the 2010 BET Awards: to pay homage to his mentor Michael Jackson with a powerful medley of the King of Pop’s hit songs and signature dance routines. True to form, the media looked for the worst from a heartfelt and otherwise technically flawless performance–until the part where Chris broke down emotionally in an effort to sing “Man In The Mirror”. His sincerity was questioned. His tears, snot and hoarse voice were called ‘staged’. Just another signal that the path of least resistance, further vilification of the young Black male, was being tread yet again. A brother can’t even emote!

But the audience on their feet at the Shrine and millions on couches across America knew that what he was feeling was very real: the overwhelm of Michael passing and finally being able to commemorate his idol’s life; the passage of the hardest of his own 21 years; the energy of the room singing when he could not, crying with him, releasing with him. This is what it means to be human. This collective catharsis was an important step in the healing process for everyone who empathizes with Chris and wishes him well. It’s exactly why that moment was the one everyone was talking about the morning after and well into this week.

The crime will not be forgotten, but the man needs to be forgiven.

We say we want him to take a look at himself and make a change; change is hard. Let him do it.

I’ve re-posted my commentary for reference. I look forward to your comments.

As posted by July 24, 2009

Thembisa S. Mshaka

This past February, Chris Brown shocked the world. In the wee morning hours of the Grammy Awards, he brutally assaulted his then-girlfriend Rihanna. On June 22, 2009, Chris Brown pled guilty. The judge handed him his sentence, convicting Brown of felony assault, mandating him to keep his distance from Rihanna (50 yards for five years), and to serve 5 years of probation including 180 days of community labor. Brown was also ordered to enroll in a domestic violence counseling program. Brown’s face registered remorse and relief that day in court; looked like it dawned on him how close he came to prison time. But was he truly sorry?

It was hard to tell. Brown’s camp released a tepid statement: “Words cannot begin to express how sorry and saddened I am over what transpired. I am seeking the counseling of my pastor, my mother and other loved ones and I am committed, with God’s help, to emerging a better person.” Meanwhile photos of the 19-year-old partying hard in Miami contrasted those of a sorrowful Rihanna in the days that followed. His silence was as palpable as his absence from television and radio. Suddenly the freckle-faced crooner resurfaced and sent a video message to the world while bowling with rapper Bow Wow on May 26: “I’m not a monster… I got a new album droppin’.” Five months after his love quarrel-gone-awry, Brown released another video apologizing: “I take great pride in me being able to exercise self-control and what I did was inexcusable.”

Was his gesture too little too late? Not only for his victim, Rihanna, but for his fans and critics? I conducted an informal poll on Facebook and Twitter. While the media was castigating him, I blogged [hyperlink to original post here] back in February that the public was too quick to dismiss him and predict his career’s end. That compassionate condemnation was in order, not excommunication.

Perhaps the apology is a hard pill to swallow because Brown seemed so cavalier after the debacle. Judging by the many responses I received, I gleaned that his silence, while understandable at the advice of counsel, allowed the negative perception of this young man to fester into the selling of T-shirts emblazoned with his image and a striking slash through his face and dubbing his namesake a slang term synonymous with a “beat down” as in “Don’t get Chris Brown-ed.”

The Twitterverse had much to say about Brown’s remorse. “Why not release the video the day after the verdict?” asked one Tweeter. Another said Brown’s apology would have been deemed more sincere and set a strong example to his young fans about facing consequences if he’d done so immediately after the final verdict. Some believe his public remorse opens the door for fans to begin liking him again with one female tweeter professing: “Chris Brown, I love you more than ever.” But it was a male respondent who expressed the optimism that forgiveness should render: “He’s young enough to change.”

Sure, the execution could have been tighter, but I challenge anyone to recall an apology that felt smooth as silk following an egregious action. Taking a slice of humble pie and expressing remorse is usually awkward and delayed, requiring time. Reconciliation takes patience and work and Brown has taken his first step. Some might argue that Brown’s timing is off, but I believe an apology has no expiration date. Brown deserves forgiveness. What if Chris Brown was your son, nephew or brother? Assuming a zero-tolerance policy on abuse is fine, but judging someone unfairly and withholding support can interfere or jeopardize the healing process and ultimately redemption. We can stand against violence by looking its perpetrators in the eye and demand that they be and do better, but remember, it’s never too late to choose forgiveness over judgment.

Thembisa S. Mshaka is a 17-year entertainment industry veteran and author of the mentorship and career guide, Put Your Dreams First: Handle Your [entertainment] Business

An Open letter to President Obama about Oscar Grant

I sent this to the White house. Although it may never reach him, I sent it anyway.

“The price of having hope is sometimes disappointment, but the price of having no hope is always failure…” ~ Immortal Technique

Dear Mr. President,

I am writing to ask that you bring national attention to the Oscar Grant trial in Los Angeles, CA. While I know you have other priorities, this too should grab your attention, if at least not your compassion.

Injustice is once again being administered through the justice system. A life was unjustly lost & publicly recorded. Please take notice.

Many have lost hope in big government because it proves over & over that it fails to protect those who are not the wealthy and privileged with resource and access. The common man helped you win your presidency, so please don’t forget about the common man now.


Sara Hill

I think this was an important letter to write..Thanks for doing this Sara… We just did a radio show today where Wyking an activist and freedom fighter out of Seattle reminded us that we should be hitting at all angles-inside, outside and everyway in between.. Sure we can rally the troops out on the streets and we should, but the President can make stuff happen with the stroke of a pen.. one that was paid for by our tax dollars..
-Davey D-

The Rise of Facism: More & More Journalists are Being Attacked by Police

Seems like with each passing day we are hearing and seeing more and more police getting drunk with power. Even though most are one of two paychecks away from being in deep financial trouble, many ignorantly like to go overboard and smash on people who they know are legitimately protesting policies that in the long run will hurt them too.

In recent months we see more and more cops acting brazenly even when they know cameras are trained up on them. many are crossing the line and going after journalist. many feel that the police unions they belong to have partnered up with corporate interest enough so that they are likely not to be convicted or even punished for crossing the line.

Below we see a disturbing videos of police attacking reporters. What’s the excuse for such behavior? Agitation? Them being provoked? Hardly.. Our men and women in blue along with their apologists have sadly gone down the wrong path. They are now holding it down for corporate based interests that will one day turn on them…

I’m willing to bet some of those corporate interests will be backing the police unions attempts to make it a felony to video tape officers which is what many departments are pushing for as we speak..Here’s a story that speaks to that issue:

Here’s a video of a reporter Jesse Freeston for Canada based Real News Network being attacked by cops in Toronto during the G20 Summit who were no where on the scene when ‘Black Block Anarchists‘ showed up, but were all up in people’s grill when people protested them beating on a man who is deaf..

Here’s angry police officers ganging up on a ABC cameraman who was dispatched to a public hospital to cover the shooting of several officers. The camerman had been working the beat for 30 years. He was forced to retire because Oakland police made him feel unsafe when he would show up at events to cover them. He is now suing the department

Here’s an out of control cop going after two reporters who were covering an accident. Remember the police work for us and ideally the media is supposed to be extended eyes and ears for the public, I guess that’s not the case in El Paso, Tx

Below is an angry Newark, NJ Police officer going after a CBS cameraman. Lucky for him there was a City Council woman nearby and he has the lawyers of CBS fighting for him.. Such may not be the fate of indy journalists.

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