So I'm riding the subway yesterday like any other day, and invariably like clock work I see my first strange story of the day: a lady walking up the steps from the downtown 2 wearing a full out surgical mask like what the doctors wear when they operate. Even though I've seen people wear these masks before on the subway (and much more) this situation was different because as soon as I saw her walking up the steps in her mask, I saw another person behind her ALSO wearing a mask. And then it hit me: ah yes...Swine Flu! Quick, where's my doctor's mask?!?! I'm gonna DIE!!! AHhhhhhhhhh!!!
Well, I'm not really that much of an alarmist but the thought did cross my mind that when you live in a place like New York City, a single virus could go from Brooklyn to Manhattan and on up to the Bronx in about 20 minutes, and touch thousands of people along the way. We're kinda packed in like sardines here so if this thing were like I Am Legend, we would all either be dead or lined up at the Brooklyn Bridge talking about "I order you to scan me again!"
So just how contagious is the H1N1 virus known as "Swine Flu?" When asked this morning on the TODAY show, Vice President Joe Biden, making yet another potentially harmful gaff this time instead of his usual embarrassing gaff, said: "I would tell members of my family, and I have, I wouldn't go anywhere in confined spaces places now," explaining it was a matter of avoiding confined spaces. He added, "I would not be at this point, if they had another way of transportation, suggesting they ride the subway."
There have been cases of the Swine Flu virus, believed to have originated from Mexico, documented inside the United States already with cases confirmed in my home state of Kansas, and also following me out to my current home state of New York. (is this thing after me or what?) But not to be outdone by the east coast, California has also thrown its hat into the ring of confirmed Swine Flu cases as well. So far, one person, an infant in Texas, has died from Swine Flu. As a result, some people are hitting the panic button and calling for a closing of the Mexican-U.S. border. (because the virus hasn't entered the U.S. already right, you geniuses?)
I have invited my Doctor friends to read this blog and chime in between treating gun shot wounds to hopefully give us some more insight. In the meanwhile, I'm curious to hear what people think about hitting the panic button with regard to Swine Flu, given that 100's have died from the virus in Mexico already. Is the panic justified in the United States, yes or no?
Update - see the following for more info: http://www.cdc.gov/swineflu/general_info.htm
There has been a lot of talk in the news lately with regard to the military prison at Guantanamo Bay, the military prison at Bagram Air Force Base (Afghanistan) and the CIA Torture Memo's that are potentially applicable to both institutions.
In the Pre-9/11 film, The Seige, (staring Denzel Washington, Annette Bening and Bruce Willis), America on the silver screen was faced with the very same issue we find ourselves confronted with today: torture. Denzel's character, an FBI agent, represents the voice on the Left that believes that we can protect our nation by the book, without the use of torture. Willis' character, an Army General, represents the voice on the Right that believes we must protect our nation by any means necessary, including torture. And in one defining scene Denzel's character states the following in reference to the use of torture on an Arab detainee:
"Come on General, you've lost men, I've lost men, but you - you, you can't do this! What if they don't even want the sheik, have you considered that? What if what they really want is for us to herd our children into stadiums like we're doing? And put soldiers on the street and have Americans looking over their shoulders? Bend the law, shred the Constitution just a little bit? Because if we torture him, General, we do that and everything we have fought, and bled, and died for is over. And they've won.They've already won!"
The General's response was simple: "Escort him out." [referring to Denzel's Character] And he then proceeded to torture the detainee until the detainee died having provided no information whatsoever.
10 years later, this exact same debate is playing out right now in Washington and the Attorney General, Eric Holder, is being pulled between the polarizing views on the Left and the Right with respect to prosecuting those who sanctioned the use of torture within the Bush Administration. On the one hand, there are those who say it made our country safer and no punishment should be levied against those in the previous administration who participated in the torturing of detainees at Guantanamo or elsewhere. On the other hand, there are those who say that not only has torture failed to make our country any safer, but that we have shamed ourselves in the process because by engaging in such activity our government has violated the 8th Amendment of the United States Constitution, which squarely states on its face that "[e]xcessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted."
When considering whether or not to prosecute members of the Bush Administration, it is important for Eric Holder to ascertain what they knew at the time. That includes whatever legal counsel they may have received and relied upon in good faith with regard to whether torture could be used or not. To that end, a former Bush Administration official who used to serve under Condoleeza Rice in the State Department came forward this week with some very inculpatory evidence for those Bush Administration officials who claim to have acted upon sound legal counsel. That individual, a lawyer by the name of Phillip Zelikow, reviewed the CIA memo's supporting the use of torture back in 2005 and drafted a memo of his own which, in essence, revealed the many legal weaknesses of the CIA torture memo's. He distributed his memo to the administration at the time, however, not only was his memo rejected by the Bush Administration, but the Administration took affirmative steps to have any and all copies of it destroyed. Holy cover ups, Batman!!!
It is one thing to disagree with the legal research and analysis of Mr. Zelikow on the merits with respect to torture, it is quite a different matter altogether to seek to silence that analysis. Such actions smack of a guilty conscience.
Which brings us back to the fundamental question: to torture or not to torture. President Obama has already declared on more than one occasion over the past few weeks of his presidency that America will no longer torture. But there are those on the Right, like Dick Cheney, who feel this type of a philosophy will only make America weaker. So before we have Attorney General Holder go through all the trouble of opening up Pandora's Box with this investigation, we need to ask ourselves as a nation:
SHOULD America torture terrorists and other detainees if it will keep America safe?
The Black Slave, after receiving this indoctrination, shall carry on and will become self refueling and self generating for hundreds of years, maybe thousands.
Willie Lynch James River/Virginia 1712
This quote was taken directly from the original Wilie Lynch letter, spoken on the banks of the James River hundreds of years ago. Yet as the writer stated, these tactics to this day are embedded in the fabric of the African American culture and psyche. Many people are not aware of this infamous letter and others have placed it under realm of conspiracy theory, without ever giving it a worthy acknowledgment.
These simple tactics which were used by slave owners to "control" their human stock were meant to divide and conquer. At the time of this letter, slave owners had become afraid of their slaves, because of the many uprisings and mass murders that had occurred at the hands of slaves, who were willing to choose death over slavery. Most notably the great Nat Turner, who was sentenced to death for one of the bloodiest slave revolts ever documented.
The slaves were beginning to realize the power in their numbers. As rumors of each successful revolt and escape spread through the plantations and through the Southern States, slaves began to develop more confidence, more will and the desire for freedom became something that was now attainable, often through violent means. According to historians there were upward of 20 slave rebellions between the 1600's and the end of the Civil War in 1865, also the year slavery ended. It was imperative in order to protect the interests of slave owners, that they come up come up with ways to initiate better control over their "products." Beatings and mutilations were good, but this damaged their goods and murders were wasteful. It became clear that reformations were needed and that a policy needed to quickly and quietly go into affect. A prominent slave owner from the Island of Haiti, had the answer, entitled, "The Making of a Slave."
By placing slaves against each other, through the manipulation of several simple differences such as, skin tone, gender, age, etc, Lynch had resolved that a measure of control could be ensured, by ensuring the absence of unity and securing it's perpetuation. Hundreds of years later the stench of slavery is still in the air. Partly because the conditioning and the social engineering is constantly being perpetuated through various hidden elements, but is also partly due to the black mans subscription to this notion of "black is wack and white is right." Despite the amazing progress of black folks, through unprecedented turmoil and our unique ability to overcome tremendous adversity, the effects of this curse does still resonate and manifests itself in many ways.
The Stench of Slavery is an attitude, a mentality, a culture, a perception, all birthed from many generation of fear, oppression and constant victimization. This "stench" takes on many forms both negative and positive and is fueled by a never ending struggle for respect, acknowledgment and equality. At it's most deplorable, this "stench," carried on by the bloodline of slavery has manifested itself through the mass murder of blacks by other blacks, weather by the hand of violence or by addiction. Again Lynch shows it's ugly face by pegging dealer against dealer, addict against addict and the corrupt cops, both black and white will sort out the rest. Does anyone see where I'm going with this?? Carter G Woodson wrote a book called "The Miseducation of the Negro." This classic work, took an unprecedented look at the black mans social conditioning and sought to raise our consciousness, first through the acknowledgment that our minds were in fact, in bondage. The assault of Social engineering did not begin with Hip-Hop, crack, or malt liquor, it began when slaves started showing signs of unity and rebellion. Whenever a movement amongst our people shows signs of progression and the bells of unity and freedom begin to ring, so does the alarm and this is when the Willie Lynch tactics reinvent themselves through the use of modern tools.
I think Erick Holder had it right when not long ago when he said, in essence, that Americans were cowards when it comes to talking about race. It’s ironic that this assertion would come from another “first” person, the first black attorney general in the U.S., appointed by the first black president. One would think however, that we had eclipsed the issue of race on at least one issue in this country – music. In all probability, there is not a field of endeavor where race has played as critical a role, yet is almost never honestly discussed, as is the music industry. In fact, one can argue that with respect to art in general and music in particular, candid dialogue and interchange among the races has actually regressed to a polite acceptability. Acceptability (going along to get along) has replaced spirited debate. And where there’s no debate, there’s no truth. This “separate but equal” façade defines the media cultural landscape in America. In this landscape, white music and culture are superior to all others.
Throughout U.S. popular music history, African Americans have had to accept the mainstream media’s anointing of a white as the “king” or the “greatest” practitioner of a form or style of music created in black music communities. Paul Whiteman was labeled the king of jazz in the 1920s, Benny Goodman, the king of swing and of course, Elvis Presley the king of rock and roll. They are few and far between who would not attest to jazz’ black origins or at least acknowledge that black musicians played a paramount role in the music’s development.
However, over the past thirty or so years, the majority media and in particularly, a white journalistic elite, have systematically hewn a theme that rock and roll is and has been a genre that was born in white communities, with blacks having peripheral impact and nominal contributions. In other words, both the nomenclature and the music was hijacked. Ironically, like the selection of Mr. Holder, this too has been a first.
Roughly, since 1975, rock and roll has been proclaimed by elite journalists as the exclusive domain of white folks, allowing for black inclusion on rare and intermittent occasions. In the minds of the elites, black popular music (so-called rhythm and blues) is not seen as seminal to rock’s creation and they consider it almost tangential to rock’s development after 1960. Their narrative regarding the history of rock and roll primarily begins with Elvis (and Bill Haley, Jerry Lee Lewis, Chuck Berry – pioneers of rockabilly) in the mid-fifties but rarely is it conceded that rock existed in the forties in the persons of Louis Jordan (the father of rock and roll), Big Jay McNealy, Wynonie Harris, Joe Turner and Ruth Brown. Nor do white journalists give appropriate credit to the hugely popular vocal and doo-wop groups of the late forties and fifties that were every bit as prevalent and integral to the rock scene as rockabilly. After the British invasion of the sixties, a credible alternative to a “black sound” for rock was established and ever since the mainstream media has focused its attention on the “white” music alternative.
For many of us, the commonplace manifestations of our musical apartheid system are palatable. No one will get too bent out of shape when some yahoo declares (on the front of TIME and Newsweek magazine) that an unknown, mediocre musician from that hotbed of artistic innovation – Asbury Park, New Jersey – is the future of rock and roll. We’re similarly undisturbed when Rolling Stone decides Kurt Cobain is the greatest artist of the 90s and in the same issue declared that the “future of music” would look like Caucasian female folk singer, Beth Orton. We don’t seem to care that white rock radio stations won’t even play Prince let alone funk bands, jazz fusion, etc.
Rock and roll stations play their brand of the genre – metal, punk and the interminable gradations of folk or indie – in other words, music by white men for white men. And of course, the media presents this as mainstream, essential, universal, popular music – crossing and including boundaries, ethnicities and races. The black music industry dutifully takes its place off of center stage, comfortable with the commercially viable space it is allotted. That one will never hear the protest anthems of Gil Scott Heron, Gary Bartz or even Marvin Gaye will barely raise an eyebrow. After all, we’ve got Sasha Fierce.
Things get a little more dicey when MTV refuses to play any black artists, as it did during its first few years of operation. Or, after listening to Lauren Hill’s groundbreaking album, The MisEducation of Lauren Hill, Washington, D.C. shock jock, Doug “The Greaseman” Tracht exclaimed “no wonder they drag them behind trucks” – a sick reference to the racist attack and murder in Texas of James Byrd.
Notwithstanding the more outrageous expressions of racial bias in music, in general, the popular music scene is comfortably segregated. It’s as If American culture is now about deferring to a white male consciousness or aesthetic, a strange thing given the election of Obama. One would think blacks would be more willing to step out of the box and take control of the polemic with respect to art and music. Instead, we confine our thoughts and commentary to our own communities and music, because we’re conditioned to do so. This is the case despite the fact that black music has been the most impactful and dominant in the world in the last century.
What are we to say about this new American aesthetic? Once upon a time in America, to be a cutting edge musician (black or white) you had to be able to play jazz. Everybody danced the new steps being created in black communities. And, corner boys from all ethnic groups harmonized about love and romance – up on the roof. Now dancing isn’t part of rock and roll. John Cougar Mellancamp is inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame before Rick James, Lionel Ritchie and Anita Baker. And Rolling Stone declared Bob Dylan a greater singer than Stevie Wonder. What are we to say about this new, post-racial American aesthetic?
Before the GS Boyz developed a case of "Stanky Leg," before Soulja Boy had folks doing the "Superman" and even before Cupid had us all doing their "Cupid Shuffle," there was this thing called Hip Hop and she was beautiful. Hip Hop still is beautiful, she's just going through some things right now; a transitional phase if you will. She'll be alright though. She always is.
Like many other things in this nation's history, Hip Hop was born right here in New York City as the African and West Indian influences of beats, rhythms and speaking poetry over music collided with the traditional Blues and Jazz of decades past. It spread all over Harlem and the South Bronx at places like Club 371, on through Queens and into Brooklyn during a time in the early 80's when heroine, gangs and violence permeated the landscape. Just as Jazz was born not only from the post-slavery time period but also by what was evolving naturally in the New Orleans environment, so Hip Hop was also born from the post-civil rights time period and the eclectic New York environment. It was one of those things that was bound to happen at some point considering the nearly 20 million people who were packed together in the same metro area everyday, but looking back on how it got here we're reminded that it couldn't have happened any other way.
Last night I had the honor and privilege of listening first hand to the history of it all chronicled by one of the greatest "baton carriers" (as he would classify himself) the Hip Hop community, and indeed the music world, has ever seen: Q-Tip.
A good friend of mine and former co-worker by the name of Nick Rosenberg (shout out to Nick) has a brother by the name of Peter Rosenberg (shout out to Rosenberg Radio) who hosts his own show on Hot 97 with DJ Cipha Sounds (and of course, shout out to Cipha). They got together along with another friend and decided to put together an event called "Noisemakers," which is effectively the Hip Hop version of "Inside the Actor's Studio," only instead of James Lipton interviewing actors about the history of their professional careers in front of a live audience, Rosenberg interviews Hip Hop artists. Last night's guest: the infamous Q-Tip.
Now for my 17 year old brother's crowd (et al.) who may not know who Q-Tip is (I know, I know...blasphemy...forgive them, they know not) the most main stream bell ringer I can probably throw out there for you is "Vivrant Thing," which, by the way, pretty much single handedly ushered in a new era of Hype Williams video chicks appearing in every video from that point forward. (If ya don't know, youtube it)
Recently, Q-Tip released his latest album entitledThe Renaissance which is a must grab for all Hip Hop heads out there. It's one of those albums that you can let play from start to finish which we don't get too often anymore with all of these finger snappin' one hit wonders. Plus, he has some great collaborations on there with people like Raphael Saadiq, Norah Jones, Amanda Diva and, back from the dead, D'Angelo. Yes, that's right, I said D'Angelo.
But as great as all of that is, that wasn't even the best part about last night. Not even close. No, the best part of last night was listening to Q-Tip talk about how he used to rummage through his father's old jazz albums to come up with Hip Hop tracks, how he was driven by his passion for music at a young age as a means to escape the nonesense that was going down out on the corner during that time, how he and Phife Dawg went to school together and just so happened to walk down to the studio one day and met De La Soul before De La Soul became De La Soul and before he and his friends would become the infamous A Tribe Called Quest.
There were two things that really impacted me last night listening to Tip speak.
The first thing that struck me was how small our world is. Although I wasn't born or raised in New York City, being in a large urban environment such as this one, as I'm sure my Philly blogger brethren can attest to, you are constantly reminded of how connected we are with everybody else. Tip was talking about how his high school buddy of years just nonchalantly mentioned to him one day during class that his uncle just so happened to be DJ Red Alert. Q-Tip said his jaw hit the floor because, ironically, this fact was mentioned to him after he had already been in the Hip Hop game for a few years looking up to the legends of the time like DJ Red Alert. And that was how he hooked up with Red Alert. Just like that. After that, he hooked up with Busta Rhymes, ran into Wu-Tang, Biggie Smalls, and the list goes on and on. All because they all had a common love to make Hip Hop.
To further illustrate the small world point, I can still remember where I was when I heard all the Tribe classics like "Bonita Applebum," "Can I Kick It?," "Scenario," "Award Tour," and "Electric Relaxation." And I was a good 1500 miles from New York City at the time living back in the midwest. I'm sure many of my fellow Hip Hop heads reading this right now can likewise remember each of these songs and how they played into our lives growing up. And even though Hip Hop has taken on a few somewhat different forms and variations today, even the most attenuated of these fresh new 106 & Park artists were influenced by the baton that this chapter of Hip Hop passed on to them...even if many of them don't even realize it.
And to think that we all owe much of what we hear on the radio today in part to a 15 year old kid from Queens who decided to rummage through his dad's old jazz collection...
The second thing that struck me was how selflessly dedicated these cats were to Hip Hop. When Q-Tip and Phife and Afrika and the rest of them were all getting together to create this music, their primary driving force wasn't fame or fortune or even appearing in somebody's music video. It was simply for the love of Hip Hop. The one story that probably best illustrated this point last night was when Q-Tip described a young new artist trying to get a start who came up to him one night after a show with a demo tape. Many of today's artists who are arguably in this for the money are not concerned with wasting their time on listening to other people's demo music. Q-Tip, on the other hand, listened to it, liked what he heard, and gave the new guy a shot. That new guy turned out to be Detroit's very own Slum Village member, JDilla. When asked why he took the time to listen to the tape, Q-Tip replied that he viewed Hip Hop like one big marathon in which every artist has to do their part in taking the baton from the artists of the past and passing it on to the artists of the future. Spoken like true Hip Hop.
Which begs the question, has the cancer of commercialization become untreatable at this point for Hip Hop, or do we still have enough artists out there who are doing this thing for the love of good music?
That's right folks, we're back to this topic again.
As I'm sitting there watching the opera this weekend, something profound was brought to my attention: (i) all of these characters have relationship issues; (ii) this opera was written over 100 years ago; and (iii) it might as well have been written in 2009. That is to say, the same relationship problems that existed back then are literally the same problems we are dealing with today when it comes to trying to make this thing called Love work. You had people cheating on their spouse, people stuck on stupid for their exes, people checking up on where their significant other has been the night before and the significant others responding with the classic one-liner: "why are you checking up on me?" Same stuff. Different time.
This led the group of us who were in attendance this weekend to embark upon a record setting all-day rap session in which we covered an array of topics, one of which I thought may make for an interesting point of debate regarding relationships. This point stems from an old sex ed class at our alma matter wherein a professor proposed three formulaic equations regarding relationships. They are as follows:
1+1=1 This means that when a relationship happens between two people, one of them is the more dominant party of the couple, and one is the more subservient party of the couple who ends up being subsumed by the dominant party. In a 1+1=1 relationship, one person basically gives up their life's interests for the other person's interests, thus becoming "1" with that person. For example, in a situation where a man and woman are together and the man happens to be the dominant party of the relationship, the 1+1=1 woman will discard her friends and adopt the man's friends as her own; she will give up on her own dreams and ambitions and follow the man as he pursues his own dreams and ambitions. In essence, she gives up her life and makes her life all about his life. This may sound familiar to some of you.
1+1=2 In this scenario, the couple is more equally suited for each other in terms of drive, ambition and relationship experience. Neither party exerts any dominance over the other party in terms of relationship dynamics, however they are so wrapped up in their own individual worlds that they fail to take the time to develop their own relationship together, thus 1 person plus 1 person = 2 separate people. Typical examples of this are professional couples who are both obligated to their own high powered careers which demand, and to which they readily give, the majority of their time and energy. This may also sound familiar to some of you.
1+1=3 This scenario is a healthy combination of the two previous equations. In the 1+1=3 relationship, one person has their own life, dreams, ambitions and goals, the other person has their own life, dreams, ambitions and goals, yet they succeed where the "1+1=2" fails because they recognize the importance of their relationship together and they mutually agree to come together and meet in the middle in order to make it progress just as they progress individually in their own pursuits. Thus, 1 person plus 1 person plus 1 relationship = 3 entities all progressing equally at the same time.
Which brings us to the question that was proposed to the group, if the 1+1=3 is the ideal formula for relationships (assuming that we agree on this point, which may itself be a question we need to debate) then why do we continue to see so many of the other two types? Specifically, for the ladies out there, why does it seem to be that so many of you end up in the "1+1=1" category as opposed to the "1+1=3" category?
As I stroll down South Broad Street in Philadelphia, enjoying my daily spring, lunch walk, with no particular destination in mind, I pass a number of newsstands with tons of magazines posted to the top of their little sheds. Suddenly a feeling of shame infiltrates my now tainted mind as I am hypnotized by the scattered booty, which now surrounds me. Ashamed at who or what, I am not sure, but the feeling is a quick yet uncomfortable one. God forbid I stop for a pack of gum, or a daily news. Every magazine cover I see has a beautiful woman's behind or voluptuous boobies, posing to perfection. I am immediately thrown off as my mind has taken a dramatic, undesired sink into the gutter. I have to pray and meditate to regain my focus and I continue to go about my day. This exaggerated description is only slightly apart from the undeniable truth of the matter. You cannot escape SEX!!!
Yet the women on these covers possess a sharp contrast to the women I see rushing through the streets in pumps on their way to work, pushing strollers through the park, or in pants suites carrying brief cases. What do these women think or feel when they see these newsstands completely saturated with photoshop edited women, who are covered only by thongs or sometimes less, possessing near perfect bodies that they may be unable to compare to. What of the men who's perception of women has been warped by not only this representation, but also the music video culture, or even television, where everyone's skin is flawless, every body perfect and each actor is dressed to impress, except for the women, who aren't usually dressed at all.
What does the concept that "sex sells" say about our culture, when you have to dig through layers of soft porn to find something of substance to purchase at a newsstand? Of course these magazines have their purpose, which is to entertain and entice, they provide jobs to many writers, models and photographers, but what do we make of the excess of this genre? It's the same story in New York, on Court Street where the NY Times has reported of complaints by passers by and even politicians, regarding the nature to which these magazines are organize on the newsstands. No doubt there are tons of other magazines that are available for purchase at these places, yet virtually the only ones on public display are the raunchiest.
We realize that the constitutions protects this way of business, however does that mean we should continue to allow it? Is this the image that we want our sons and daughters exposed to before the proper time? I love women as much as the next man, but the last thing I need is having my nosed rubbed in their beauty at every waking moment...I'm trying to focus here people...I'm trying to be good!!!
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This blog is a collaboration of seven writers, who hold each other in high esteem, to address social, political and other issues which resonate within the populations in which they feel most connected; race, age, socioeconomic and political status, personal experience and any other identifying factor that can join us, rather than divide us. The Janitor is an attorney in NYC and he and Godson worked together as organizers on the 2008 Obama Campaign. Godson, a published author, is a former Chief of Staff for a State Representative in Philadelphia. The Fed, as the name implies, is in the Federal Gov in Washington D.C. and works with law makers on the Hill. Shady Grady is a computer expert, critical thinker and accomplished blogger from Michigan. The Storyteller is a news producer in Jacksonville, Florida who originally hails from South Side Chicago. GrandCentral is a former Wall Street banker turned public interest advocate from New York. Old Guru is an attorney and former military officer in Washington D.C. who served our country in Iraq. These 7 writers share very similar views on many issues, however, all 7 have a different perspective. This blog will be a platform that will bring forth many new and fresh ideas and concepts that are extremely noteworthy. So let's begin...