5.30.2008

Fashion, Hip Hop, Growth, Movement



I love late night public television for its simplicity and straightforwardness. Compared to primetime broadcasting, especially during sweeps week, it’s significantly less frenetic. I’m particularly fond of Tavis Smiley and Charlie Rose. They’ve nailed the formula-- timely and relevant guests, simple backdrop without the bells and whistles (nor audience that claps or laughs on cue) and a focused line of questioning.

“Growing Pains”

Wednesday night I watched a re-run on the Tavis Smiley show where he interviewed the Stars of the Heart of the City Tour; none other than Hip Hop entrepreneur Sean “Jay-Z” Carter and the Queen of R&B Soul Mary J. Blige. Smiley was obviously giddy at the opportunity to interview with Jay, and spent much more time engaging him than long time friend Mary. But he was particularly interested in the way themes of struggle and growth played out in their careers. And is particularly interested to hear from Jay what they can do to debunk help the myth that “it's easy; you get a record deal and you rich.” They don’t come to a conclusion, but talk about what distinguishes the millions of folks with deals from those who are actually successful; highlighting the work ethic and diligence it really takes.

Later they talk more about the entrepreneurial side of their work, the branding even without using those terms. Jay talks about how much he pays attention to his audience, and how that lead him to Rocawear. Later they discuss the branding of Mary’s image, the dark sunglasses and black lipstick that signals the point in the show where Mary’s about to perform the Waiting To Exhale classic “Not Gon’ Cry.”

If there is anything they’ve both branded, it’s their own paths of evolution. Jay for better or for worse has been able to keep his game tight. Whether you dig Jigga (lyrics or otherwise) or not, there is no denying the man’s entrepreneurial prudence.

Unfortunately Mary’s lyrical content suffered at the expense of her happiness. She profited greatly from the sad songs that she made, because… well… as the saying goes, “Misery loves company.” But it’s a good thing that she’s happy now (she talks about this in another interview), because if she didn’t grow or learn from her past, she’d still be dangerously depressed, her fan base in tow.

I’m glad they are doing this tour together. I’m happy they both seem to be happy and successful, are married appear to be content with their success.

“Contentment has to be defined by your SELF" – Sarah Jessica Parker

Last night I watched as Charlie Rose sat with Sarah Jessica Parker and Michael Patrick Smith as they talked about Sex and the City, the movie which hits theaters today. Charlie quizzed them on everything from what the production process looked like, and how they got everyone back on board, to the impetus behind developing the movie after the television series wrapped so well.

It got interesting when Rose queried Smith on how he manages to know women’s emotions so well. Even I got uncomfortable as I watched Smith; visibly a little skittish as he tried to logically explain:

“I grew up with three sisters… they were my friends… I didn’t think boys were better than girls… people are just people…”

Some might view his response as progressive, anti-sexist even. But I can help but wonder if it reveals some thing deeper. I think I got uncomfortable because I as listened, I wondered if in being so direct, Rose unwittingly and perhaps innocently may have pushed Michael into a familiar and unpleasant space. It doesn’t seem far fetched that as some point he’s had to defend his, arguably less than apha-male, masculinity, lest he be thought gay. It’s a narrative of male identity that I hope more an more men will be comfortable in resisting. If Smith is gay, I hope he is out, or will come out soon. If he isn’t I hope he will grow more comfortable with himself, especially in situations such as this.

Toward the end I think Charlie tried to squeeze a spoiler out of Jessica, asking “Are you happier than Carrie” to which she cleverly replied “I’m very happy” working not to reveal anything before folks get a chance to judge for themselves.

5.28.2008

Bi-Coastal and Recognized





I'm from NYC. I live in California, presently in Los Angeles, but soon to be the YAY AREA(!!!) My partner lives back east, headed to the Bay soon too. When the marriage opinion came in from the Supreme Ct. I texted her saying: "We can get married here now."

We didn't get to talk about it until some time later. Then, she told me a somewhat comical story about how her mother responded when my partner shared the news. I have an affirming mom-in-law (to be) so she was more concerned that we were planning on rushing to the altar (LOL).

For a while I contemplated moving back home. Partly because there is nothing like New York, partly because I haven't lived there consistently for nearly a decade now, partly because Los Angeles is wearing on my spirit. But since my partner has no desire to continue residing there, so that wouldn't necessarily work long term. We've been long distance LONG enough.

But when I was thinking about it (moving to NY), even as a passing thought, it dawned on me that I didn't want to live somewhere where my relationship wasn't affirmed. I've spent enough of my life fending off the self-hatred I was brought up to believe in, you know all that stuff about how I'm "going to hell" because I love a woman rather than a man. So the Supreme Ct. opinion made California all the more, though it didn't do much for Los Angeles! I am even more comfortable with the prospect of beginning to build my life in the Bay.

But in a bold move on the behalf of the executive branch New York, the New York Times reports that Governor David A. Patterson has issued a directive that same sex unions granted elsewhere be honored in the state. It didn't make moving back home more appealing, because I still can't have a ceremony there. But it did make me happy to know that when I DO ;) get married in California, I will be legally protected even when I go to NY to see my folks and my family.

I'm giving Governor Patterson a thumbs up. Not only is he the FIRST black Governor of NYC (fourth EVER in the nation) and breaking down racial barriers, he is also breaking down prejudice based on sexual orientation (not to mention that he's reppin' for differently-abled folks!).

Despite the mess that is going on with our economy, the Democratic primaries that continue to carry on, I can say that there are sparklse of greatness emerging for this nation.

Relevant Reading:
Living Out Loud with Darian
From the Associated Press
From the Huffington Post
GLAAD Weighs In
Marriage: To Be Or Not To Be? (My Previous Post on the Subject)

IMPORTANT!! From Pam's House Blend
Take Action:
ALERT on California and marriage equality
from Blender Paul Barwick:
The office of Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger is polling reaction to the California Supreme Court decision overturning the ban on gay marriage. Most of the response they are getting is in OPPOSITION to the court action. To vote in support of the Supreme Court's decision on same sex marriage:

1. Call 916-445-2841
2. press 1 (for English) or 2 (for Spanish)
3. press 5 (for hot issue topics)
4. press 1 (same sex marriage)
5. press 1 (for support)

5.15.2008

Marriage: To Be or Not to Be?



"That is the question... Whether it is nobler in the mind to suffer the slings and arrows of OUTRAGEOUS fortune, or to take arms against a sea of troubles and by opposing END THEM."

The Supreme Court handed down it's opinion today on the case of same-sex couples ability to marry in California. LGBT organizations across California declared it a victory, although the opinion is in many ways very mixed.

The conversations I've had today about the whole thing have been similarly nuanced.

One friend, with whom I frequently go on academic diatribes with, did not want to be too hasty in his excitement. The opinion did overturn Prop. 22. It also deemed the denial of same-sex couples the ability to marry, when opposite-sex couples are given that right, unconstitutional. But it was by no means a piece of definitive legislation. What's more, the effort on the behalf of the opposing organizations appears to have produced the 1 million signatures necessary to put a constitutional amendment on the ballot in November. If Californians vote in favor of that measure, the opinion today will be overruled.

Some of my black friends are skeptical. One person took the moment to recognize the domestic struggles that some black straight couples face, even as their marriage is recognized. To her the victory was more symbolic. She even went so far as to point out how this move only re-established privilege for those who tend to benefit most from any gay civil rights measures, gay white men. She is a partnered black woman.

"Weddings are for CAKE"

LOL. One of my friends is opposed to marriage in either case. She and I agreed that it is mostly a symbolic gesture. Family and friend get dressed up, eat cake and dance (and generally all one poor saps dime). She stressed that if you're in a committed relationship it shouldn't matter. And jokingly, but truthfully, pointed out that if her and a partner needed to be married in order for her to feel secure in the relationship, then they had "bigger problems."

All have good points. Others of my friends were in awe, some rejoiced openly. I am still milling.

I am both a skeptic and an optimist here. I think I've heard only a smidgen of the important critiques of this moment. I think that we cannot accept this "victory" without being even slightly critical. The marriage movement has been bittersweet for me, as someone who identifies with my many intersecting identities.

As a black person, I can't ignore that there tend to be are more pressing issues for black queer folks. Mental health high on my list of them. As well a person of lesser economic stature, I can't ignore that those of us who don't have the expository income, are often quieted by the raucous roars of those who can put their money where their mouths are. As a young person, the prospect of marriage is both alien and seemingly fantastical. I am not at a place in my life yet where I am ready to be married, but I would like to in the foreseeable future when I have established myself.

Looking through all of those lenses and working among those who are "gay for pay" I also know that we are staggeringly not present in those private meetings where the agenda is decided and the messages are crafted.

Marriage Means Something

But identities aside (or taken together- however one looks at it), as a thinking person I know that this means something. In the same way that Brown v. Board of Education meant something for black folks, and Loving v. Perez meant something for interracial couples, so too does this case mean something for gay folks, of all walks of life.

Having it acknowledged that it is unconstitutional for same-sex couples to be denied equal protection under the law. It takes one step closer to bringing the lives of same-sex individuals off of the margins. I don't really want to be mainstream, but I don't deserve to be discriminated against because who I love and because others have failed to update their archaic perspectives and views.

I think that I am CONTENT. And I feel fortunate to be alive to witness this event. [Hey, that rhymed ;0)]

People like the Alicia Heath-Toby & Saundra Toby-Heath (pictured above) in NJ are still unable to marry in their state. But I think this ruling sends a powerful message, to loving and lasting couples like them, that things can change. They are an important figure in this movement especially when it comes to help ing bring the issue home for black folks.

Supreme Ct. Opinion (PDF 172pgs)

Here are some notable quotes

"As past cases establish, the substantive right of two adults who share a loving relationship to join together to establish an officially recognized family of their
own — and, if the couple chooses, to raise children within that family —
constitutes a vitally important attribute of the fundamental interest in liberty and
personal autonomy that the California Constitution secures to all persons for the
benefit of both the individual and society.

"We therefore conclude that in view of the substance and significance of the fundamental constitutional right to form a family relationship, the California Constitution properly must be interpreted to guarantee this basic civil right to all Californians, whether gay or heterosexual, and to same-sex couples as well as to opposite-sex couples."

"We therefore conclude that although the provisions of the current domestic partnership legislation afford same-sex couples most of the substantive elements embodied in the constitutional right to marry, the current California statutes nonetheless must be viewed as potentially impinging upon a same-sex couple’s constitutional right to marry under the California Constitution."

Who else is talking about it:
Pam's House Blend
Living Out Loud with Darian
The Daily Voice
Rod 2.0

5.14.2008

The Audacity of John (Edwards)



It's official. Senator John Edwards will put his bid in for Senator Barack Obama, news outlets say. My boss texted me about it, and The Los Angeles Times came up at the top of my Google news search.


Sen. Clinton secured a win in West Virginia yesterday, by a landslide, as many projected she would. She does well with those so-called "white working-class" voters, especially the elder ones. Edwards' endorsement will likely evaporate mist of doubt, that threatened to form into a cloud, that came with Senator Clinton's victory. That mist, I think, unwarranted considering Senator Obama's lead on ALL fronts, popular vote, delegate count, contests won (not to mention competitive fund-raising).

I hope that it will spur the Superdelegates into action and perhaps help draw a close to the race that Sen. Clinton vows not to "give up" until the very end.

I know I've grown weary of this primary election season as much as the next person. And yet I also know that my weariness may be due in part because I've never seen an election be this important to people and that I personally placed my vote a long time ago. It may be a good exercise to get folks back in shape to be active members of this "democracy," but a part of me worries that this will just tired them out. That wouldn't be good for either candidate, come November. It would be especially bad for Sen. Obama, who's campaign stresses the importance of the electorate's active participation.

And then again, I am reading "The Audacity of Hope." I want to be as optimistic as Sen. Obama projects himself to be. I think he an I are aligned in many views (NOT ALL). But I am awed by his sense of finding the common good in people, even President BUSH!

I'm tired, but I'm keeping my ears to the ground.

Other Coverage:
Bloomberg News

5.12.2008

Struggling Around The Globe



I'm not a big fan of news media. In fact, my line of work has made me even more critical of the major vessels that produce news. But I find myself following the news more closely these days, perhaps because of that disdain, and sometimes in spite of it.

I am sad.

Sad for the sums of people worldwide who have been victim to natural disasters like Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, the Tsunamis of the Indian Ocean, the various tornadoes that have made unexpected landfall on U.S. soil, the recent victims of the cyclone in Myanmar (aka Burma) and today the victims of the earthquake in China.

I remember when, in my childhood, the amalgamation of unimaginable events was a sign of the apocalypse for my infectiously Christian elder community. This was alo before the millennium, a time when no one was sure what life could look like once our calendars struck 2000 (and beyond).

Now nearly a decade into the millennium, tax dollars of United States citizens are supporting a war that most oppose, rather than domestic programs to help those who need it most in our own nation. We are also on the eve of seeing a Democratic nominee of a minority group (either a white woman or a black man), and we cautiously inch toward more sustainable practices.

As easy as it could be for me to block everything outside of this nation out, like most U.S. citizens do, and be blindly caught up in the outcomes of shows like "Dancing with the Stars," and the evermore inconsequential "American Idol," my eyes are turned outward. To the people worldwide hit hardest by the fall of the U.S. dollar, rising prices for oil (and thus gasoline), the hunger stricken in places like Haiti. I am aware but feel powerless.

I can barely support myself.

And then I get a little bit angry. I am angry because there is so much going on that sometimes I can't even settle in myself enough to pick something to blog about. I'm a little angry because I have the privilege to "blog" about what's going on in the world, and so many people are suffering through it. I get a little angry that I didn't pursue a more lucrative career, where at this point I would be climbing someone's (likely a straight white man's) ladder to prosperity, and would maybe have the ability to hedge those funds into a project to help others.

But I am ESPECIALLY angry at Senator Clinton at this moment. Perhaps unfairly.
I am angry because she can afford to lend her campaign $6.4 million in order to "remain competitive." I'm also annoyed and still wondering why some pundit hasn't jumped on that.

First of all, wouldn't being "competitive" suggest that her campaign was "raising money" like Senator Obama's campaign is. Unlike Senator Clinton, he doesn't have the privilege to drop some of his savings into his campaign. He's not only been able to out-spend, but also out-fundraise Senator Clinton's campaign. This race stopped being competitive a long time ago.

I call myself out for being a smidgen unfair, because the amount of money spent by either campaign to gain the hearts and minds of a large masses of uneducated voters is somewhat disgusting in the wake of so much misery. But I think Senator Clinton has just a bit more audacity.

I think that money could have gone to something more fruitful. She could have donated $6.4 million to humanitarian aid, or if not as a donation, hell, she could pay out of pocket the cost of the nonsensical "gas tax holiday" she was promoting.

But then again, I'm an idealist, bleeding heart, with a mind for social justice. If I had it my way, the world look a whole lot different, if even such a world is possible.
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