One year ago today 17-year-old Trayvon Martin was killed by a wannabe cop who was serving as a neighborhood watch captain named George Zimmerman..
Trayvon was unarmed when he was profiled and confronted for looking suspicious even after police told Zimmerman not to pursue him… One year later after all of us wore hoodies and held up skittles, what has changed and where are we both with the case and the way we deal w/ violence, racism and our collective pursuit for justice?
What was bothersome was far too many caked off the Trayvon tragedy..It was a way to get camera time by expressing outrage, but the important follow-up was all but abandoned.. For example, there was a call to push back on ALEC.. The American Legislative Exchange Council which was primary engine responsible for putting Stand Your Ground Laws in effect all over the country. We made promises to dismantle it and stop the millionairs and billionaires like the Koch brothers from using it to their advantage and our detriment
Even if Zimmerman himself will not be using Stand Your Ground, it was the existence of this law that emboldened him to chase down Trayvon and shoot him..Have been people been keeping up w/ ALEC? Have they been following the work of Color of Change which is still in the mix fighting this?
Many have all but forgotten the case of Marissa Alexander, the young mother who was abused by her husband who in defending herself from another brutal attack shot a gun in the ceiling to prevent herself from being beat.. Her actions would’ve been in line w/ Stand Your Ground.. She is now serving 20 years for her actions..
The same DA/State Attorney, Angela Corey who is overseeing the prosecution of Zimmerman is the same DA who prosecuted Alexander.. She is also the same Angela Corey who made history by trying a 12-year-old in adult court..Her term is up this year..What’s the plan of action regarding her? Will she pursue the Trayvon case vigorously? Are we concerned about her mistreatment of Marrissa Alexander?
Since Trayvon we saw a repeat incident in Jacksonville Florida, when 17-year-old Jordan Davis was shot and killed by a man named Michael Dunn who felt the unarmed teen was playing his music too loud. Dunn was finally charged w/ First degree murder..Davis’ parents are fighting ALEC and Stand Your Ground..They said they will crusade against these laws in honor of their slain son..Have we joined them? Do we care?
Since Trayvon there have been a rash of raced based vigilante attacks and killings from Oklahoma City on down to the some of the border states. For whatever reason many have not connected the killings of Brown folks by anti-immigrant Minute men types in places like Tuscon to what was happened to folks like Trayvon and Jordan..and before that, to folks in New Orleans who were shot and killed fleeing flooded areas after Katrina for higher ground..
Since Trayvon the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement issued a stunning report documenting extrajudicial killings by law enforcement and law enforcement types.. The report revealed that every 36 Hours a Black person was killed. What have we done to follow that up? Most recently a number of organizations met in Oakland to a packed house to update the findings and lay out a number of next steps to hold folks accountable and get justice.. Have we joined those efforts?
Stop the Violence March in Chicago
Right after Trayvon was shot there were some who were upset that folks had rallied his killing. Their rationale was Black folks kill each other all the time. They pointed to cities like Chicago as a glaring example of inner city violence..For those folks since Trayvon, what’s been the progress you initiated? Whats the orgs you linked up to that others can join? Whats the legislative path being pursued that others can help out on?
One year ago Trayvon Martin was killed. It angered us. It shocked us..It had us wearing hoodies..But if all we did was wear a hoodie after one year with all that has happened, I dare say we failed Trayvon and failed ourselves..What more needs to happen before the current climate is shifted?
At the end of each year all of us have things we can and should reflect upon. We assess all that has happened and make promises to build upon successes, shed bad habits and bad energy and create better tomorrows..
In looking back at 2012 I would say it was a turbulent, very contentious years..It seemed like everything that went down was in your face and folks were pulling out all the stops to literally body you.. From voter suppression tactics to stand your ground laws to a war on women where sitting law makers not only stated but tried to pass legislation that reflected a twisted belief that some rapes are legitimate while others are actually blessings… Yes, I’m looking at you Gov Mike Huckabee, Todd Akin and Richard Murdock.. Oh yeah I’m looking at you as well Congressman Paul Ryan..
In 2012 billionaires went all out to make life miserable if you weren’t in their circle, it just seemed like the pressure never let up.
And while 2012 was challenging, there were some shining moments, where folks fought back and triumphed. It showed up in the form of Biko Baker and League of Young Voters doing their historic Ignite Tour around Voter Education or Bakari Kitwana of Rap Sessions who gathered up scholars, activists and artists and did a similar tour.
It showed up in the form of Javier Gonzalez and the Soundstrike which put a serious dent in SB 1070 laws in Arizona. It showed up in the form of Jasiri X, Paradise Gray and One Hood who never let up providing a sound track for many of the struggles folks were undertaking in 2012.
It showed up in the form of Barbara Arwine of the Lawyers Committee on Civil Rights and political activist Angela Woodson out of Ohio who were on the front lines dealing with Voter Suppression.. You can check them out HERE.. It showed up in the form of folks who stood on voting lines for 6, 7 and 8 hours to cast their ballot while oppressive forces were doing their best to get them to leave and not partake at all.
It showed up in the form of artists Favianna Rodriguez and activists like the Dreamers who were part of the big Undocubus Tour where folks toured the country and challenged the systemic deportations. They put in mad work and at the end of the day had both political parties and the staunchest of enemies changing their tune about immigration.. Now everyone wants to find a way to get comprehensive immigration reform on the books.
It showed in the form of Rebel Diaz and their Bronx based collective who traveled the country, spoke truth to power and showed the true meaning and power of cooperative economics. The fact that they own their own building/ community center in the middle of the South Bronx is testament to their hard word.
It showed up in the form of graf writers Refa 1 who brought us AeroSoul 3 where he gathered pioneering Black and Brown graf artists to Oakland to not only share their crafts but to talk about ways to raise consciousness and why it was important to connect the dots between Khemet and Aztlan..
It showed in the form of Serena Williams and Gabby Douglass taking Gold Medals in the London Olympics and dealing with horrific negative feedback because of how they danced or wore their hair..The disrespect that gymnastic champ Gabby Douglass endured over her hair was outlandish, but she handled it with class and dignity and kept it moving. Her 90 million dollar endorsement deal from Wheaties was also nice..
It showed in the form of Jill Stein and Cheri Hunkula who stayed the course and push valiantly the virtues and un-compromised positions of a 3rd party (the Greens). It was more than just them being in a 3rd party.. It was watching them put their principles to practice…I would encourage folks to peep the interview we did with them at the democratic National Convention
It showed up in the form of brave folks from the Occupy Movement to Medea Benjamin and Code Pink activists who shun strong light on the Drone Warfare that were are currently engaged in.. It showed up in the form of 30 thousand people who marched against the Stop and Frisk Practices in New York City.. Y’all remember the Silent March?
Elon James White
It showed up in the form of folks taking their time to create innovative broadcasts as way to fight the stranglehold of corporate media..Elon James white‘s daily This Week In Blackness is one example.. Weyland Southon and author Adam Mansbach‘s weekly Father Figure show which airs on KPFA is another.
We be remissed not to shout out Skyyhook Radio which has been innovative, woman owned and runs 24/7..and Chuck D‘s Cant Stop Won’t Stop Hip Hop Show and Occupy the Hood’s radio show. We also have scholar Marc Anthony Neal‘s Left of Black TV show along with Bruce Dixon and Glen Ford‘s Black Agenda Radio.
On the mainstream front we had Melissa Harris Perry‘s show on MSNBC and Roland Martin‘s Washington Watch on TVone . We also had Marc Lamont Hill and Alyonna on Huffington Post Live. That’s just to name a few of the many.
It showed up in the form of folks who endured 16 mass shootings, from Colorado to Oakland to Newtown and still managed to push forward, keep their humanity and fight to bring about a better way and a brighter tomorrow…I could go on and on..Here’s a few more things that stood out in 2012…
Album of the Year… It was a toss up between Nas‘ ‘Life is Good‘, Kendrick Lamar ‘Good Kid Maad City‘ Killer Mike ‘RAP Music‘ Public Enemy ‘Most of My Heroes Don’t Appear on No Stamps‘ and Brother Ali ‘Mourning in America and Dreaming in Color‘
Song of the Year…There were too many joints to name that moved me in 2012 everyone from Nas to Asap Rocky to E-40 to Melina Jones had bangers. depending on my mood, dictated what I was rocking with.. 3 Songs seemed to keep me in step all years… Public Enemy w/ Brother Ali ‘Stand Up‘ Killer Mike ‘Anywhere But Here‘ and Rebel Diaz ‘Revolution‘
The Death of Soul Train Host and Founder Don Cornelius...He was one of many people we lost in 2012 including the seemingly immortal Dick Clark and Mike Wallace from 60 Minutes. All of us grew up on those 3 gentlemen. Even though we knew they were aging we never thought they’d pass.
In the case of Don Cornelius it was troubling because he committed suicide. I don’t think we ever really sat down and dealt with what that really was about..We just kinda swept it under the rug…8 months later we were all forced to confront it again with the sudden passing of former Jungle Brother, music mogul and founder of Violator Entertainment Chris Lighty. His passing shook us and made many of us reflect on mental health which is sadly a taboo subject in many of our circles.
With respect to Don we paid tribute with a great interview from Chuck D of Public Enemy who reminded us of his greatness. You peep that HERE
Comedians Dick Gregory and Paul Mooney Link Up…Earlier this year I started doing a weekly spot OLM News w/ Davey D on Free Speech TV... I interviewed lots of folks but the highlight was when I got comedian Paul Mooney who is a frequent guest on my daily radio show and comedian Dick Gregory who is also no stranger to my outlet on the air at the same time.
According to them it was the first time it had ever happened and it wasn’t totally planned. They just happened to be in town at the same time. I was scheduled to do separate interviews with them.. Mooney was running a late, Gregory needed to move his time up and boom magic happened. Out of this landmark show the two set up a successful tour together.. Enjoy the conversation below
The killing of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin set things off in a big way during 2012.. It was one of many deaths that would come to Black folks at the hands of the police.. From Rekia Boyd to Ramarley Graham to Alan Bluford to Jordan Davis, the list of folks who fell victim to police terrorism was long.. It was enough to prompt an explosive report from the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement in early July that documented all the the Black people who had been killed by police. Initially it worked out to every 40 hours a Black person died at the hands of the police… After it was updated it came down to Every 36 Hours..You can read that report HERE.
The most tragic thing about this report was it was embraced all over the world except at home including amongst our own Black intelligentsia who seemed hell-bent on keeping a lid on this so as not to disrupt a contentious presidential election that may have impacted Barack Obama..
I don’t think she and her legacy was ever fully appreciated.. Already we are seeing and hearing younger generation attribute her signature song At last to Beyoncé who sung it at President Obama’s Inauguration ..We were thankful Pittsburgh rapper Jasiri X and producers Agent of Change had a tribute song for here called Etta and ran down her amazing legacy
Atlanta based rap star Killer Mike was a high point for 2012..I feel he as an artist and his album were totally underplayed. What stood out for me with Killer Mike was how he went in on President Reagan and completely took a part the revisionist image that had been carefully crafted for him over the years…You can check out our insightful interview HERE
Bay Area rapper Too Short got into some hot water in 2012 when he was complimented by rap star 2 Chainz who called him a father figure.. Short took that compliment to another level at the urging of XXL editor Vanessa Satten by penning what was supposed to be a satirical advice column for kids. His advice included telling little boys how to take it to the hole and force sex upon ‘little girls’.. needless to say this caused a lot of outrage..
A coalition of women within the Hip Hop industry formed the 44% Coalition to bring attention to the alarming statistic that shows 44% of the women who are sexually assaulted are under 18. The women called for the firing of Satten and a boycott of Too Short.. As the debate heated up Too Short reached out and had an impassioned conversation with coalition member and writer dream hampton about misogyny… You can read that interview HERE.
From there Too Short agreed to be apart of a well attended town hall meeting at Oakland City Hall… Unfortunately while Short was well received by the audience, local media outlets never bothered to stay for the talk and instead ran unflattering hit pieces that had very little to do with the intense conversation that took place that evening. You can read about that HERE
Jimmy Castor who gave us the b-boy anthem ‘It’s Just begun‘ along with fun funk songs like Troglodytes (Cave Man) and Bertha Butt Boogie..Although him and his band The Castor Bunch were funk legends, they were also cornerstones to Hip Hop.. many a bboy move was done to his signature song…
We were sorry to see so many music and entertainment outlets overlook him when he passed as well as in their end of year tributes. Chuck was a giant among giants. His musicianship was exceptional. The GoGo sound was essential in continuing DC’s long music legacy as well as helping shape Hip Hop’s evolution. Here’s our tribute to him who always kept it 100% and in the pocket. Looking Back, Remembering Chuck Brown and the Go Go Sound He Pioneered
We Lost MCA from the legendary group Beastie Boys after he endured along battle with cancer…We paid tribute to him and had an insightful interview w/ author Dan Charnas of the Big Payback about MCA’s legacy
Here’s our tribute mix to him courtesy of DJ Sloepoke out of LA who did him true justice
We lost the iconic Whitney Houston in 2012 Her funeral which was viewed by folks all over the world was moving and much needed considering all the drama surrounding her death. It was something to behold..
We lost actor Michael Clark Duncan.. His passing caught many of us off guard, because we had no idea he was sick until we got word he had a heart attack and his finance former Reality TV star Omarrosa helped revive him.. We didn’t hear anything more for what seemed like a few weeks and then we got word the popular actor had passed at age 52.
We lost George Jefferson (actor Sherman Hemsley) We lost Moesha star Yvette Wilson. We also lost music legend Donna Summer
“Woke up this morning and got hit w/ this foolishness from the bottle thrower named Drake.. He’s just told the Jewish press he’s the ‘first person to successfully rap and sing’ I was ike WTF? This is why Hip Hop history should be required b4 putting out a record.. Can we start with Angie Stone of Sequence.. she raps and sings better.. Maybe Drake forgot 8x Grammy winner Lauryn Hill? Cee-Lo, Mos Def, hell Black Thought kills it in both genres? Did dude forget Queen Latifah, Force MDs, Devin the Dude? Hell, Teena Marie, Blondie and Tom Tom Club blow Drake out the water doing both.. First time I heard singing and rapping was in 78-79 when GMF and the Furious 4 came to Bx Science and harmonized routines.. Later I heard Crash Crew and of course we had Cold Crush who killed it everytime on the singing/ rap tip y’all remember this from back in the days?? http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PCTjA9zapLc&feature=related.. Damn Drake even ja Rule and 50 Cent kill u on the sing rap tip..LOL
An interesting conversation went down on ESPN’s ‘First Take‘ the other day around Robert Griffin III (RG3) and how he identifies with race and him being Black. Sports writer and panelist Rob Parker raised the question whether or not RG3 was a brother or a ‘cornball brother‘.
Parker took issue with the way RG3 answered some questions about race in a recent USA Today interview.
‘For me, you don’t ever want to be defined by the color of your skin’.. ‘You want to be defined by your work ethic, the person that you are, your character, your personality. That’s what I’ve tried to go out and do….I am an African-American in America. That will never change. But I don’t have to be defined by that.’
In response to those quotes Parker asserted; “Well, he’s black, he kind of does his thing. But he’s not really down with the cause, he’s not one of us….He’s kind of black. But he’s not really the guy you’d really want to hang out with because he’s off to do something else.”
When questioned as to what he meant by saying RG3 is not one of us, Parker noted that because the rookie quarterback has a white fiance and that there were rumors he might be a Republican his Blackness needed to be called into question.
When asked about his braided hair style, which often times has led to Black people being denied employment, Parker responded; ‘That’s different…wearing braids, you’re a brother’. But he didn’t move off his initial point that RG3 might be a cornball brother
Needless to say this conversation caused a lot of outrage especially among those who read RG3’s USA Today remarks and concluded that it was admirable he appeared to be trying to rise above the minefields that often occur when it comes to discussions about race. Parker’s cohorts Stephen A Smith and Skip Bayless attempted to rein him in and ESPN issued a statement saying Parker’s remarks were inappropriate.
Now on the surface all this can be seen as some BS with Parker arguably making controversial remarks as a way to get attention and boost ratings. After all, this is the same Parker who once wrote that baseball Hall of Famer Hank Aaron was a coward for not showing up to see Barry Bonds break his home run record.
With all that’s going on in the world why should we be concerned about such discussions? On the other hand, there’s a lot to consider especially when it comes to the types of demands we have long put on athletes to be better role models and to speak out. It wasn’t too long ago that many of us decried athletes like Michael Jordan for playing it safe by remaining silent or taking apolitical stances on important issues that seemed to downplayed his Blackness.
Many got upset with Jordan when he refused to speak out about all the Black inner city youth killing each other over his high-priced basketball shoes. He was famously quoted as saying ‘Republicans buy sneakers too usually at full retail’, when asked to address the issue.
Jordan further enraged people when he refused to weigh in on two racially charged elections in which former Charlotte Mayor Harvey Gantt, an African-American, challenged long time far right conservative Senator Jesse Helms for his US Senate seat. A lot of attention was on Gantt who stood a good chance at becoming the second or third African-American win a Senate seat.
Gantt sought an endorsement from Jordan who refused.. He played it safe and many accused him of not being ‘down for the cause’. It wasn’t until Jordan met Helms and the Senator dismissively looked him up and down and called him ‘Fred’ that Jordan began to rethink his position. For those who don’t know calling a black man Fred was a long-standing ‘joke’ Helms had when dealing with African-Americans. He’d call them Fred no matter what their name was, because Fred was the generic name for ‘the Help‘. Jordan reflected on that incident after Helms died and admitted there was more to life than making money.. You can read about that encounter HERE.
All this is not to suggest that RG3 would ever be like Jordan. Perhaps RG3 is the type of guy who will proudly step up and support worthwhile candidates and speak out on issues of importance. He also may be conservative whose opinions stand in stark opposition of the ones held by the majority of Black folks. Time will tell if RG3 is ‘down for the cause’..
This leads to the next point..’What cause was panelist Rob Parker expecting RG3 to be down so he could avoid being classified as a cornball brother?
Did he want him to talk a certain way? Often times some Black folks who speak in a certain tone or are too articulate are accused of not being Black and acting white.
Did Parker want him to dress a certain way? Go to a particular church? Have a Black girlfriend?
Did Parker want RG3 speaking out about the recent killing of Jordan Davis, a teen shot to death by a white man in Florida who felt his music was too loud?
Or did he want RG3 to be ‘down for the cause‘ by weighing in on the controversy surrounding the firing of KTBS whether reporter Rhonda Lee? She was fired for responding to a racist Facebook comment where a viewer told her to get rid of her natural hair and wear a wig. Was this a cause for RG3 to be down for?
Would RG3 be less of a cornball brother if he said he was a fan of Chicago rapper Chief Keef and could kick the lyrics to all his controversial violent themed songs? Would that be an indication that he’s down for the cause?
Parker said he was just being honest and reflecting what folks say on street corners and in the barbershop. Perhaps..The irony is that in many of those barber shops, RG3 may carry himself in a way that they deem satisfactory, while calling Parker’s Blackness into question. For example, some might say Parker is a cornball brother for sitting on a panel, cheesing at white owned ESPN, a Disney company vs showcasing his talents on Black owned TV1.
Perhaps he’s a cornball for not speaking out about the plight of unions and how Black folks in Detroit, a city he once worked in, will be disproportionately hurt by recently passed anti-union right to work bill.
Some might call him a cornball for publicly blasting RG3 vs sitting him down and talking to him behind the scenes about his politics and ways in which he engages Black culture. Parker’s public condemnation of another Black man for something so personal is the type of behavior we often advise youngsters to avoid for fear of it leading to unnecessary beefs and violent confrontations. How is it ‘being down for the cause’ to call someone out like that? Was he trying to shame Mr Griffith into a particular way of being? Should RG3 upon hearing these remarks dump his girlfriend?
We could go on and on playing ‘I’m Blacker than thou games’ pointing out where and how someone falls short of some mythical mark. Someone can always claim they are ‘Blacker’. Perhaps we should be more concerned with the types of causes RG3 gets behind.. In short lets choose substance over style. It may have been a bit more instructive if Parker had noted that the folks in the barbershop were looking for RG3 to come hang out at the local youth centers, or speak out on some recent occurrence impacting Black folks who live in DC and the surrounding DMV. Even better would be if Parker himself could’ve invited the star quarterback to join him and others to an activity or be a part of cause that would enrich the community. To simply suggest he’s a cornball brother is in the words of James Brown, is talking loud and saying nothing.