8.29.2008

3 Year Anniversary of Katrina - Preparing for Gustav



It seems too easily forgotten that 3 years ago today Hurricane Katrina and it's aftermath ravaged so many lives, did irreparable damage to families and left so many homeless in the Gulf.

And while today marks the three year anniversary, I have seen little dedicated to remembering these folks and the concern that yet another storm might hit this blighted area that our nation has YET to really address.



So much of our energy and focus is tied up in Long Weekend plans, parties, the very calculated choice of VP for Senator McCain, and Senator Obama's historic bid for the presidency.


But I URGE you, PLEASE - Do Not forget to consider New Orleans.

Please, stop and think about it.

Please, don't forget.

Please do not consider CHANGE WE CAN BELIEVE IN, without considering the right of return for so many people.

8.27.2008

Communication Skills: AC Transit #57, Oakland High School & Me



There are some days where my optimism for the world's potential is blindsided by the coarseness of stubborn ignorance.

I’m new to Oakland, and for that reason I’m usually quiet. I spend most of my time observing the good and bad about my surroundings. I make notes about things that I haven’t seen since my childhood, and things I’ve never seen before. I am reminded why I was so pressed to get to Andover, and why when I got there I still wasn’t settled and couldn’t wait to leave.

I am overwhelmed by my self-awareness/consciousness and and I’m frustrated that I’m still learning how and when to pick my battles, be it about race, sexuality, class or something else.
Being in Oakland, I have less to worry about when it comes to my blackness – by and large Oakland is a black place, a brown place and a poor place. San Francisco is a whole different ballgame, and when I finally get up the nerve and the energy to go across the bridge to San Francisco and I am once again in the minority. But in Oakland, I am constantly aware of my woman-ness and how it conflicts with the masculine exterior I adorn and what that implicitly means to most – that I’m a Lesbian. I am shocked though, when even amongst black people, I sometimes pass as being a boy. In L.A, it usually only happened around other races, and I attributed to the fact that masculinity is racialized, and is oft associated with blackness. But I am learning this isn’t always the case.

I don’t know if I passed while I was on the bus yesterday coming home – freshly cut fro, button up, tie, slacks and square toed shoes. I sit proud on the bus – I’m not too proud to take public transportation, even if it can be unreliable at times, and I enjoy being around black people more often – even if the young kids on the bus make me embarrassed for their parents. But I can’t quite understand how it came to be that these young black women felt it appropriate to be openly and loudly homophobic, while sitting next to me unless they THOUGHT I was a boy. Most times I listen and take mental notes when people come out of pocket. I prefer not to provoke the situation, lest I risk my safety and get into an argument that I still am not confident in having with people whose minds are made up about what my sexual orientation IS and means in their lives.

But I went out on a limb yesterday – perhaps because I’d just gotten another job offer, perhaps because I had already sat quiet listening to homophobia rear its ugly head at the barbershop and partly in the hope that I could reach these little girls.
The interaction wasn’t stellar, to say the least and while I didn’t expect to change their minds I did impress upon them the problem with speaking your thoughts, loudly and in mixed company – you’re subject to challenge. I also made it a point to shut down the biblical BS about how “They’re (We’re) going to hell” and “It’s in the Bible.” I told one of them that her judgement made her just as much a candidate for hells gates as the gay people she was talking badly about. And I even blew their minds when I told them that I knew Lesbian pastors and ministers.

But what kinda jarred me, beyond the comments, was when I noticed that the loudest and most antagonistic of the bunch employed and arguing tactic that I use, but was never quite able to understand. She looked straight ahead rather than look at me when she spoke. She raised her voice to talk over me, still never looking at my face. I learned to do that when I had hard conversations about sexuality with my mother (or rather sat through lectures). I do that when I have hard conversations with my partner and I’ve done that with my friends. It’s a sign, to me, of intimidation – I hate confrontation and I rather not acknowledge my participation in it (even when I am) than take it on full steam ahead.

I don’t know that I made a difference in their mindsets. I am glad that I at least aggravated their train of thought long enough that the conversation simmered a bit, got quieter and in effect came to a pause. And as pissed of as I was when I got off of the bus, and frustrated with the Mis-Education I generalized that our youth were getting, shorty taught me something about myself. And to her lil’ homophobic self, I’m thankful for that.

8.18.2008

BBTV, Make BET say "UHHHH! Na, Na, NaNa!"



I reminded why one should never doubt the seeds of Black Ambition - 'cuz a tree will sneak up on you!

I've been settling in, post my move to the Bay Area, and have neglected to offer any new posts. But an email I just received was just the right thing to spring me back into action.

I got wind of a press release stating that in a year, New Orleans native and Hip-Hop Entrepreneur (Percy) "P. Miller," formerly known as the grumbling Master P, will launch "Better Black Television." A company statement that the network will offer "positive content for a black and brown culture." (The Gazette)

As the only other cable network in existence of this type, it will naturally rival the network that people, for better or worse, have been subject to for nearly three decades, Black Exploitation Entertainment Television. BET is criticized for it's salacious content, particularly for "BET UnCUT" which features videos not fit for daytime TV, and is shown during the wee hours of the morning, and serves as the veriable substitute for pornography. It is also noted for its repeated refusal do away with content that generates the stereotypes of the black community that we are so desperately trying to shake. Fortunately (for BET I guess), they've a year to clean up it's act if it is to compete with what is sure to be a provocative business venture on behalf of Miller.

I'm sure people will line up see how well the network to do, if they should be so optimistic. I'm not naiive, I know they are looking upside this black man's head like "This RAPPER is going to start a positive network?" YES. He is, I hope. I can't say that I worry that like BET this venture might fall short of the seemingly innocuous ideals set forth. At the very least, it might inspire BET to approach the straight and narrow, since henceforth protestations from segments of the black community have done little to amend the situations.

I can't say that I know that it won't succeed. Even for a lack of lyrical skills (IMHO- LOL) Mr. Miller has been a successful entrepreneur and CEO of a major organization. He has to get credit for that. I think I've been awed by his growth over the years, I think much of which can be attributed to his hustler spirit and fatherhood. He set an example for his son and they continue to do good things, including their joint venture into starting a clean record label called "Take A Stand."

I think this project is promising, if not only to inspire other folks to make change. Too often we think that because something already exists for black people, that means it is the only organization that can exist. That's a marginal mentality. No one notices that nearly every other cable network could be considered a "white" organization. Whenever a new cable channel begins, it is at odds with other cable channels for those ever important Nielsen ratings. Black channel(s) -- well channel to date but channels come August 2009 -- should be no different.

Furthermore, folks in marginalized communities often tolerate sub par businesses, customer service etc. because we think "We have to support" or because there is known alternative. It's as if it is essential part of bLaK-ness (whether your Black, Latino, a woman, gay, transgender or otherwise). But it just takes ONE person to add something to it and give you options that can change the game.

So don't sleep on my boy Percy. I'm willing to give him an opportunity to give us something we can be proud of. And trust, the man is NO dummy.

"BBTV advisory board members include Oscar winner Denzel Washington; Vault Load Films president Jim Finkl; NAACP executive director Vicangelo Bullock; NBA player Derek Anderson; cable industry veteran Prof. Sal Martino; hip-hop pioneer DJ Kool Herc and entrepreneur Olatokunbo Betiku." (The Gazette)
Check out the Preliminary List of Better Black Television Programming:
   -- Sunset and Vine -- Hosted by Vyshonn Miller and Brittany
Phillips -- This video show will showcase the top 8 at 8pm, the top
hip-hop and R&B acts as well as play classic videos and will feature
a section where you can vote on new indie unsigned artists who will
showcase their talent and the audience will have the option to place
them in the "You Pick It Video" section by voting for them online.
-- One Shot Comedy Show -- will consist of clean hilarious comedy and
will be hosted by Gary Johnson (a.k.a. G-Thing) and some of the
funniest comedians around. It will give upcoming comedians the
opportunity to hit the stage.
-- Gee Gee the Giraffe -- Children's educational show featuring Gee Gee
the Giraffe, a magical friend that takes kids on educational
adventures focused on reading and writing. (Will air on BBTV Kids
Saturday Morning Show).
-- Manage Your Money -- Featuring financially successful people lending
information to viewers to help promote financial literacy.
-- Close to the Starz -- A behind the scenes show that takes the viewers
up close and personal to their favorite celebrities.
-- Karma TV Show -- Bilingual soap opera with an African-American and
Latino cast.
-- What's Cooking TV Show -- Talk show that covers wide aspects of
entertainment and current events while cooking and enjoying a good
meal. The host and guests prepare healthy, budget-conscious meals.
-- The Black List Movies -- Family friendly content featuring or created
by top filmmakers and actors. From the classics of the past to the
biggest stars of today, from original BBTV productions to quality
independents, you'll find them on "The Black List."
-- Hip-Hop Garage Show -- Saturday show that will play nothing but the
hottest new and upcoming artists in their latest music videos and
interviews selected with content appropriate to BBTV's mission and
standards.
The site opens with a playlist of music (lyrics cool, but family friendly content questionable LOL).
What do you think of the venture?
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