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Archive for September, 2012

No one dates in a vacuum. 

And whether we want to accept it or not, many of the ways we respond to each other and attitudes we display in our dating/personal lives are driven by the goings-on of the many swirling around us each day.

For instance, fellas, have you ever been at the movies with a date only 44% pre-screened, when the leading male character pulls some out of this world, Action Jackson-type move to demonstrate his undying, Trey Songz yodeling-intense love like jumping on top of a moving car or disarming a robber with a mere broom handle?  And in response, had your date let out a noise from the base of her throat like Shari Headley’s character Lisa McDowell that seemed to suggest her saying–

 

That’s a real mannn, right chea!  He goes for what wants,

 

and then turns to you and says in the sweetest voice, “Would you do that for me?”  You almost get a kernel lodged in your throat from the question but realize she’s actually kinda serious.  So you look her deep within her eyes and smile for assurance, thinking all the while, “Yea, if you get me a stunt double.  Wth!”  (Google movies: Coming to America & Hitch, available on DVD and Blue ray)

Moreover, have you ever sat a little too close to the stage at a comedy show, when the comedian suddenly felt the need to get his “Steve Harvey” on with gems like “Is this your woman?” and “Do you love her?” and who can forget, “Ladies, you know how you can reeeeaaaally tell if a guy is into you…?”  Like an animal sensing danger, you take cover opting to bury your head in a mound of caribbean jerk wings and sauce, knowing all the while the night just took a major detour

And without fail, on the way home, your date asks “So was that true what he said about men?”  Earlier, when you bought the tickets, you thought you would get some points by taking her to see Charlie Murphy.  It was something different, plus, you wanted to hear more of Charlie’s hilarious “True Hollywood Stories.”  But by night’s end, what you got was a front row seat to a live taping of the Oprah show redux.  And in response to the “question of no return,” you slowly tilt your head to look out your window of discontent, thinking “I should have NEVER gave you n!%#as money!

As for the ladies, have you ever been at work when one of your co-workers had a large bouquet of flowers delivered (and subsequently posted it on Facebook, of course), and despite trying to be happy for her, you couldn’t fully because your mind couldn’t recall the last time the guy you’ve dated for over a year even left you a card, let alone a post-it?  

See oftentimes, we fall victim to the interactions and subtle innuendos at play around us.  See a man and woman feeding each other while at your local restaurant?  It doesn’t mean your relationship sucks because you don’t do it.  See a couple on Facebook that somehow seems to find the motivation to turn every weekend into a couple’s photo album with added Instagram special effects?  Again, if your man or woman thinks stuff like this is both gaudy and ridiculous then it’s ok, too.

Unfortunately, for some of us, when we see things like this, little mental alarms can go off sending messages that retweet over and over in our heads questioning who we’re dating, how things should operate, and why we have remained with them. 

So much so, that we can overlook what our own journey has built.  We forget that just as we’re trying to either size up and compare our relationship to everyone else’s, others are honing in on our lives wishing they had what we had just the same.

So whether it’s the brother that maybe unsure about taking a bullet or jumping on a car for you or one that happens to stutter when confessing his love for you at the comedy club in front of a crowd of strangers, please remember that it’s ok.  Though the world around us may corner us from time to time creating those awkward moments, it doesn’t mean that what we have isn’t worth having.

As for me, I don’t mind having flowers and edible arrangements delivered to you to show that I care. But unless he’s the McDonald’s hamburglar you can forget the idea of me confronting an armed man with a stick.  Hey, would you want a number 10 fish sandwich to be your last meal.  I didn’t think so either.

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Growing up in the south in the late 80s, amid the ashes of the Civil Rights Movement, I was routinely reminded that my generation, generation X or the post post-civil rights generation,stood on the shoulders” of those great men and women that preceded us. 

We were born well after voting rights and school integration, but one day my generation would be called upon to take the reins and write our own chapter in the history book of our people’s progress.  The notion was never contested nor forgotten.  Only thing, I was never told what to do if those who came before me would rather bequeath a cold shoulder than spare a friendly one as their generational parting gift.

In the 40 years since “Unbought and Unbossed,” I’ve watched the once audacious and divergent Congressional Black Caucus (CBC), which once drafted a Black Declaration of Independence, grow larger in number and influence but shrink further and further from political relevancy and independence within the Democratic Party.  

So much so, that since the enactment of the King Holiday, I’m afraid many of my peers would fail to pinpoint any resonating, forward-looking proposal or cohesive action taken by the now 43-strong “conscience of the Congress” to rally around for the future.  Case in point, their recent walkout of the Capitol with the rest of the Democrat caucus contesting Attorney General Holder’s contempt vote this past June, barely raised an eyebrow in comparison to their Annual Legislative Conference (ALC) scheduled this week.

Although there are no more Adam Clayton Powell’s or Shirley Chisholm’s, the sole address for African-American politicos reads like a short list of “Who’s Who in Black History.”  Some are the former foot soldiers of SNCC, BPP, and the NAACP.  

Conversely, individuals like Georgia stalwart Rep. John Lewis remain irrefutable legends in their own right, while others have simply become relics of a proud but bygone era and political calculus better suited for the last century.

During his 2008 primary fight, then-Sen. Barack Obama alluded to being 14 years Sen. Clinton’s junior as an edge in recapturing the spirit of the younger generations, as well as breaking through the stifling arguments that consumed much of her husband’s presidency.  

Unfortunately, like the former first lady, more than half of the members of the current CBC are of the retiring baby boomer generation or older.

In the past, the story of our progress as a people was always inscribed in the voices and vigor of our youth.  In 1905, it was a 37 year-old Dubois that helped form the Niagara Movement

Dr. King was only 34, when he stepped onto the bright, marble steps of the Lincoln Memorial in 1963; and Rep. Chisholm and then-Sen. Obama were both candidates for the highest office in the land by the age of 47.

Yet, for the first time in our history, and against the wisdom of the past, we have kept our aging foot soldiers on the front lines effectively turning our politics into a venture of veterans.  Thus, alienating the very vitality and endurance of our youth that has always been at the very core spearheading our progressive campaigns.

In 1971, when the CBC was founded, the median age of its members was 45.  Today, that number has skyrocketed to 62, almost seven years above the median age for the entire House of Representatives.  This 17-year jump is mostly due to an aging class of pols groomed in the throes of the civil rights movement that insist on maintaining their seat at the head of the table of the black body politic.  

For example, after almost a century of combined Congressional tenures, longstanding members like Representatives Conyers and Rangel, ages 83 and 82, respectively, stand emblematic of our present problem.

This unwillingness to transition on into an elder statesman/mentor role and effectively enlist those of us who grew up reading about the Edmund Pettus Bridge rather than marching over it, has, in my opinion, left many of my generation not only estranged from the political process, but worse yet, more cynical about participatory politics.  

While out registering young people to vote in 2008 for President Obama, I was told by several African-Americans on the streets of Philadelphia that the national elections were not only rigged but that there was “no way” a black man could be elected President.  

Though the tenuous history between African-Americans and the ballot box is well documented, I believe some of the fault for these perspectives can be laid at our feet.  In almost every facet of life, be it academia, pop culture, sports, or religion, young African-Americans have long witnessed a “passing of the torch” or sea change.  Well, all except for, you guessed it–politics.  

In the world of politics, it’s as if Larry, Magic, and the rest of Jordan’s 1992 Dream Team are still first string, even though Lebron and Kobe are well into their prime.

During the 2010 midterms, I watched a brazen Tea Party movement, fully steeped and brewed, hijack the national political conversation and put forth candidates from Delaware to Nevada that echoed their sentiments around issues of taxation and debt

And last month, I watched that movement bear fruit on the national stage when 42 year-old Congressman Paul Ryan was chosen as Mitt Romney’s running mate on the national Republican ticket.  

Immediately, I began to wonder: “Where was our young “Paul Ryan” of color?  Where were our new breed of foot soldiers for the 21st century to counter the Janesville native?  We can’t afford to wait on another “Obama” candidate!  

Mr. Ryan was first elected to Congress at age 28, and I cant help but think if some Congressional seats opened up in some of the traditionally minority districts, then maybe we could begin grooming our own twenty-something gurus to champion our modern issues.  He or she wouldn’t listen to AC/DC as Ryan noted, but possibly Jay-Z and Weezy.  They could begin to “occupy” our own street and start restoring the channels of communication and understanding between the youth and the policies that stand in their way.     

Don’t get me wrong, I believe we owe a great debt to the lions and lionesses of the civil rights generation, I just think they have brought us as far as they can.

I believe it’s time for the world to be introduced to the starters of the second half of our movement, men and women that can harness the full vernacular and power posed by social media like Obama, and be responsive in a moment’s notice through Twitter like Newark’s Cory Booker.  

These men and women would organize around green technology jobs and internet access and freedom in the same vein those great men and women of the past organized around living wages and voting rights in their day.

Like anyone, I am grateful for the past efforts of the caucus, but they must understand that today is a new day.  Our parents have their stories of how they helped tackle the larger issues of their day, its time we were left to tackle ours.  And if we are made to wait much longer, I’m afraid we do so at our own peril.  

Years ago, Rep. William Clay, Sr., a founding member of the CBC, famously stated, “black people have no permanent friends, no permanent enemies, just permanent interests.”  And with all due respect, sir, though I thank you for your service, I now believe you’re on our time.

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In case you missed it, one of the most amazing and yet utterly ridiculous things to probably occur during the race for the Republican nomination happened the other day.  No, it wasn’t the former Speaker’s doubling down on his Jacksonian-like claim to manifest destiny well into the final frontier and create a moon colony in space before the end of his second term.  Nor was it Mitt Romney’s odd compliment to Michiganders for the “perfect” height of their state’s trees.  In fact, for a brief moment, through all the back and forth between the GOP hopefuls, one of the three stooges of conservatism actually landed a pretty decent attack on the President.  Only problem, it didn’t make sense.

Last week, Santorum took home the week’s “ridiculist” prize for his inane statement that President Obama was a “snob.”  Not that such claims of elitism and “uppity”-ness have never been levied against the nation’s first African-American president, but the senator did not refer to the President as a snob for the more obvious: his Harvard credentials, avid golf playing, or vacations in Martha’s Vineyard.  The senator from Pennsylvania evidently conjured up the spirit to accuse the President of snobbery because of his encouraging words for the nation’s young people to attend college.  Imagine that!

It has to make you literally scratch your head to figure out what target audience in the Republican Party that gem of a statement was aimed for.  But it has to make you pause and wonder even more why while such a statement has created instant fodder on center-left and left blogs such as the Huffington Post and received both ridicule and extensive examination from networks like MSNBC and CNN, the comment has been barely discussed if not defended by that bastion of cable conservatism, FOX NEWS.

Therein lies the problem.  In a nutshell, our mainstream news structure operates like your current cable package—tailored to your personal viewpoints and interests.  Want more NBA?  Tune into NBA TV.  Love black and white movies?  Well, you don’t want to miss the AMC movie channel.  Feel like President Obama is not your president no matter the results of the election?  Try the Fox News channel on for size.  Believe that Republicans despise poor people?  You’ll feel right at home at MSNBC.

Our nation’s news has become too subjective.  Long gone are the days of Cronkite.  Today, American’s political news sources have a case of ADD, and exists in a constant wrestling match over ratings.  In my opinion, if we are truly concerned about the state of our news, then we must make less room for punditry and make a return to objective “hard” news.  It is not enough to reject those messages from politicians that manipulate and divide, but also the programmers and messengers in the media that frame and dissect our current affairs to exploit our emotions as well.  And, if you disagree, then I’m sure there’s a channel for that too.  Or maybe it’s only on the moon?

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“Favoritism and influence are not…avoidable in representative politics.” – Justice Anthony Kennedy

In the world of comic books, most “super” beings can be readily identified by their backstory: natural selection by a panel of other “super” beings, serendipitous contact with a foreign green fluid-like substance, outer space ancestry, or a certain affinity for dark eye shadow.

And in the real world things aren’t so different. 

In early January 2010, one year after the current president was sworn into office, a panel of nine Washington, D.C. – based supreme beings handed down a decision that gave way to the newest group of “super” beings in our democracy —the “super” donors. The panel—the Supreme Court, and the decision, was, of course, the controversial Citizens United case.  Until then, individuals could spend unlimited sums of money supporting or opposing their chosen candidate, but only directly.  Now, individuals who once could only give $5,000 to their chosen candidate’s political action committee (PAC), are now empowered to give unlimited sums to Super PACs at their own discretion anonymously

To some, this new campaign reality has been a godsend, but to many others it is a step even further in the wrong direction for our democratic republic. In an article, by Lawrence Lessig, entitled Democracy After Citizens United, he states, “the framers did not intend to make representatives dependent upon contributors…representatives were to be dependent upon voters, or, more generally, the People alone.”  With the ever growing influence of money in politics, super donors are elevated to exert a level of influence over the electorate that hasn’t been seen since its founding.  In a way, Businessman Foster Friess becomes John Adams; Casino billionaire Sheldon Adelson is Benjamin Franklin; Paypal founder Peter Thiel is Alexander Hamilton; and PACs such as Mitt Romney’s and Newt Gingrich’s Restore Our Future and Winning Our Future Super PACs can stand to replace the entire Republican Party.

The Center for Responsive Politics, an organization that tracks all kinds of campaign finance and lobbying numbers has recently reported that since Citizens United, the amount of outside money spent in federal elections has grown an alarming 234 % since 2008. At this point in time, during the 2008 presidential campaign only $37.5 million had been raised by PACs, but today a whopping $88 million has already been spent in PAC money.

Today, when citizens of all stripes clamor for a more responsive and flexible government, one that seats all of us at the leadership table they’ll have to keep waiting.  Unfortunately, until the “super” in super donor is no more, very few of our votes will matter much at all.  So until the Supreme Court’s decision is reversed, I’ll gladly take a shot of green fluid to go.

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“I don’t like this forest, it’s dark and creepy.  Of course, I don’t know, but I think it’ll get darker before it gets lighter. Do you suppose we’ll meet any wild animals? 
We might…” –Wizard of Oz

Along the winding yellow brick road to Tampa, the Republican Party’s candidate of choice will require a lot more than mere brains, heart, and courage to win the party’s nomination in the fall.  This presidential cycle, the party seems to be experiencing a bit of primary déjà vu as they select a candidate to contend for the land’s highest office. 

Since the early days of the Bush administration, the party that has grown wealthier and whiter with each election cycle, has become all the more socially conservative and religiously-affiliated; mostly due in part to the growing influence of the “religious right” and rise of the Tea Party. This new alignment has left many moderates behind, and thus moved the center of the party much closer to Oz than Kansas

Today’s Republicans are not just looking for a candidate to tout the traditional plank of a healthy disdain for government, blind allegiance to the free market, and a no taxes or bust mentality; but one who can mend together its disparate wings of corporatism, social conservatism, and libertarianism, in other words, a Reagan-esque figure. Only problem is, even Reagan wouldn’t survive in this right wing political climate.

With the current crop of candidates remaining, it has become all the more apparent to even the most casual political observers that not only can none of the current candidates satisfy the party’s political appetite but no candidate living or dead. The former Massachusetts Governor is said to need more courage on the stump, the Keystone Senator has been accused of not using his brains, and the former House Speaker could stand to have a little more heart in his personal life. This occasional dissatisfaction with the status quo always leads to the beating of a familiar drum—third parties.

With proponents of third parties, the argument is always the same. If we abandon the current system then more work would get done. Fewer allegiances equal less gridlock. Less gridlock equals more deal making and ultimately centrist policies. All of these ideas would do wonders for our politics, but in the end are no more realistic than little green munchkin men and magical ruby slippers

The issue with our current system is not the number of parties, but the influence of special interests, advantages incumbents have over political newcomers, and the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision which deregulated campaign spending by corporations; any new party, whether Green or Libertarian, would be subjected to corporate money and special interests to remain viable under the current system. 

In my opinion, if we truly want to revive our system and make it relevant and responsive once again, whether you’re a tin man or a statesman, we should probably start with nothing more than a little brains, heart, and courage. Sound familiar?

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“What’s real?  What’s not?  That’s what I do in my act, test how other people deal with reality.”  — Andy Kaufman

There’s a war going on outside no (wo)man is safe from. 

No, I don’t mean the “War on Terror” or our country’s entanglement in Afghanistan.  Nor am I referring to the Republican Party’s “War on Women” advertised on CNN, or the President’s purported covert “War on Religion” ginned up by FOX News. 

The battle I speak of poses more of a threat than the one between ‘real’ America, and, I suppose, ‘fake’ America residing between the ears of VP candidate-turned-‘Today Show’-host Sarah Palin, but thankfully requires far less funding than the installation of a Romney family car elevator. 

This war takes place weekdays in living rooms all across the country, inciting both fear and division, laughter and indifference; but the bounty isn’t land, freedom or treasure, but what one man has coined as: “truthiness.” 

In one corner, sits leviathan heavyweights CNN, FOX News, NBC and ABC News; and, in the other, hailing from Comedy Central, satire powerhouses Jon Stewart and Stephen T. Colbert.  Yes, in the information age, where knowledge probably yields more power than it ever has, it appears we left the most important battle to a bunch of comedians.   

Long eclipsing their closest contemporaries at SNL, so-called ‘fake’ news hosts, Stewart and Colbert, nightly pummel those pusillanimous pussyfooter politicians and pundits of all political stripes, Agnew once bellowed about.  Ask them their political leanings and many will assume Democratic, but the two largely operate above the fray due to their seamless dual roles: part pundit, part parody, or in other words, Bill O’Reilly meets Ron Burgundy.  This duality, has left many in mass media and beyond, wondering are they comedians or civic activists?  And, better yet, is the joke on the networks or us?

For six years, the tag team of Stewart/Colbert has sought to “Restore Sanity and/or Keep Fear Alive” in our political discourse by blurring the lines of satire and reality.  Colbert, alone, has testified before Congress, created a Super PAC and held a political rally on the Washington Mall.  Masterfully, the two entertainers have inserted themselves into the vein of the mainstream, creating a political looking-glass for us to better examine our own political culture and beliefs by examining theirs. 

Though many question if they are diluting the very “seriousness” of our politics, it is undeniable that they are engaging a segment of the population that would be turned off to politics otherwise.  Their comedic format has allowed for a more in depth and unhinged approach to discussing issues that the networks have long abandoned.  Wonder why there are no viable third parties?  Why watch a panel moderated by Anderson or Hannity when you could watch a dramatization of a third party being formed through a Stewart/Colbert party filing in your home state?  In my opinion, they are the animated, more mature, modern day version of Schoolhouse Rock’s “I’m Just a Bill.”  And, as far as the joke, if in fact it is on us, then fortunately for us don’t we usually remember the best ones?  

 

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“I only love her if her eyes brown” – Jay-Z (3 Kings)

Growing up southern in North Carolina (pronounced Noire Ka-lina if you’re from the Wood) without sisters or an extra “X” chromosome, in the dark ages before the dawn of Living Single and Family Matters, in a household where a year-long subscription to Boys’ Life made much more sense than one to Essence, you could probably understand why I was privy to very little about the opposite sex. 

In fact, if it were not for the precocious antics of Kenny aka “Bud” of the Cosby Show and his relentless weekly pursuits of all things small, brown and Huxtable, I really don’t know where my insight into the lives of those little brown girls I became so fond of would have come from as a kid.

And though my crush was thoroughly documented and confirmed by the countless scrunched faces and poked lips of Kenisha Johnson, my grade school muse, and a puberty-driven tri-obsession with Rudy Huxtable, Ashley “Bel-Air” Banks and singer Shanice, I can admit that for all my inner Cosby cravings and clamoring for an “I Love Your Smile” Pt. 2 remix, my interest never veered into the personal.  As a teenager, virgin to everything estrogen-related, my interest remained purely surface or superficial. My mind was so focused on getting the chance to get close to them that my mind never considered what it may have been like to walk in their shoes and be them.

No, not in the physical wear and tear or brand name label way, but figuratively-speaking what it took to occupy those little cocoa brown bodies day in and day out in a world that still seemed to prefer its women with several extra shots of milk and whip cream on top.  As a boy, I honestly couldn’t have been more oblivious or clueless to the so-called complexion hierarchy or “pecking order” of beauty, as Andre 3000 alluded to in Frank Ocean’s song, Pink Matter:

“This saddens me, I see the pecking order / Quote-unquote “bad b*tches” work the whole floor / Those that get laughed at sit off in the corner / Like a lab rat nobody want her”

and how it seemed to usher some girls to the front of the line and behind the golden ropes into VIP, while steadily keeping others on the curb freezing wishing they’d stayed at home.  I was in my own world trying to get my own girl.  Besides, I had a lot of other things that kept me more than preoccupied: sports, Sega genesis, a perfectly curved part in the front of my fade, Jordans, getting my braces off, and my engineering of the best pick up line to combat “Kevin Hart” syndrome or “Carlton Banks” disease, and other modern male height deficiencies known to be deadly in most female dating circles (Hey, Im 5’8 and needless to say, it kept me busy).

When I got to college, however, I noticed on several occasions that my appreciation for brown skinned women suddenly came under fire. Apparently, to many of my female peers, my dark skinned Omar Epps-like complexion and preppy dress made me a likely candidate for those black men that strictly dated light skinned females and white women.  Heavens to Murgatroyd! 

And though I explained several times that it had been brown-skinned women that seemed to captivate me more often than not.  It didn’t go over too well.  Plus, having a light skinned girlfriend at the time didn’t help my cause either.  

In years since, I’ve noticed remnants of the same phenomenon. Whenever I’m out on the town with a woman that happens to be dark skinned like myself, either on a date or just out for a bite to eat, I’m usually on the receiving end of several smiles or frozen eyes from female onlookers.  To me their eyes suggest I’m doing something courageous or heroic.  “Look at him!  They do exist!”  I imagine this is what it was like for President Obama when black women first realized his wife’s complexion didn’t fit the lighter skinned stereotype of the “wife of the accomplished black guy.”

One time, while out with one of my exes, I was actually congratulated by a black woman for dating a darker skinned woman, “Go ‘head, Currrtttiiisss!”  I was caught off guard!  I didn’t know if I had won some secret black community cash prize, an Obama affirmative action tax credit, or a NAACP Image award (doesn’t almost every Black person seem to get one of these at some point).  I had heard the complaints before through female friends of mine, that at times we black men (especially celebrities), haven’t been the most hospitable to the darker shades of the diaspora, and therefore, had cemented the idea that lighter was better, but was it really this pervasive?

I wondered if I was to travel this road all my life.  Forever turning dark skinned women off with my very presence who had already made up in their mind that either I couldn’t or wouldn’t want to date them.  Personally, I thought this sh*t was cray.  Then I wondered if I ever had a daughter someday, if she might have justification to think the same despite my love for her.  Maybe I’m making wayy to big a deal of all this.  And then again, maybe I’m not.

So far, I’ve honestly had girlfriends of all complexions from Vanessa to Denise, but if it just so happens that the woman who captivates me most is a doppelganger for Grace Jones, then I don’t mind putting in more effort to show my sincerity.  After all, I surely believe my little “Rudy” would deserve the same from her “Bud” someday.

Follow me @hesgot2haveit on twitter.

 

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