Archive | November 2005

Hip Hop clothing gets beat down

I got an interesting email today about an article in the Washington Post talking about how “Hip-hop — the clothing, not the music — has taken a beating lately.”

The article went on to say that “the evidence was there Tuesday night in Detroit, when the city’s scandal-plagued “hip-hop” mayor, Kwame Kilpatrick, was reelected, but only after renouncing his affection for hip-hop and dramatically removing his signature diamond stud.”

First of all, for all those readers not familiar with Detroit politics, almost every mainstream article that refers to Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick as the “hip-hop” mayor. I guess because he is young, black, wears an earring, and probably listens to hip hop, he must be a hip hop mayor. I think this type of terminology is way out of bounds. Now I read somewhere that President Bush prefers to listen to country music but we don’t hear commentators refer to the President as the “Country” President George Bush, so why do we do it for Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick?

My point is that the same way Country music, cowboy boots, and big brim hats embody a culture that is associated with people who live in Texas per se, no one aspect (i.e. big buckle belts) of that culture can encapsulate the essence of the Country and/or Western lifestyle. The same holds true for hip hop and one earring and one non-traditional suit does not make someone hip hop.

Just last week though, our so-called hip hop mayor was contrasted with a suburban friendly opponent. It was amazing how many in the press were disappointed with Kilpatrick’s victory. But maybe if the press realized how much hip hop is an empowering force, they would know that being labeled as a “hip hop” was not necessarily a bad thing. This is not to say that hip hop has its problems because it does. But when we see Bush in a big hat, he doesn’t define Country music or the country/western lifestyle and when Kilpatrick wears an earring and wears Timberlands (I don’t know if he has some for sure) he does not define hip hop. But when people read stories about Mayor Kilpatrick, their views are clouded by this hip hop – ness, but I should save that for another post.

So let’s just embrace the fact that lifestyles and/or genres of music cannot be defined by something frivolous as how someone dresses.

Stay up fam,


Adoption and the lack thereof

So on NPR today, I listened to Ed Gordon talk about adoption within the Black Community. Ed was joined by Antoinette Williams, assistant director of domestic adoption for Spence-Chapin Services, and Lisha Epperson, mother of two children she adopted through Spence-Chapin. As I listened, I was reminded of the movie Antwone Fisher, and how the main character described the plights of young Black children as they struggle to find families that want to adopt them. That movie really made me really think about adoption in a new light.

The panel went on to discuss that Black families will adopt our kin (i.e. our sibling’s children) out of obligation but are reluctant to take in kids outside of the family. Immediately, I thought about how Black slaves were separated from their families and forced to work on various plantations. And when new people arrived or left, the sense of family was so strong, regardless of where you were from and who you left behind. How Black people managed to make it through slavery is a constant source of pride, which makes me upset that more of us don’t adopt Black children. I mean let’s keep it real. Most people who adopt are more often than not going to adopt a child of their same race. Therefore, if we don’t adopt our children, who will?

My hope and prayer is that people will become more open to the idea of adopting because as Lisha Epperson put it, the kids she adopted were the “best thing that ever happened to her.” That’s funny because most women who bear their own children say the exact same thing. So what is there to lose by adopting? Your kids won’t look like you? It might be better if you don’t have kids playa! But seriously, when you have those mythical conversations with your mate or family about how many kids you want to have, think about adoption in a new light because you would be getting a beautiful boy or girl whose life will be a constant blessing in ways you didn’t think possible. Unfortunately, the fact is that most people will say, “hey man, that is cool for other people, but not for me, I need my own kid.” That type of thinking did help us make it through slavery and that same mentality will cripple our future as we deny the precious lives of foster children a loving home filled with the values that we dream about passing to our “real” children. OUR children can’t wait for tomorrow. They need us today.

Stay up fam,

Activist Nerds

Conservative pundits have over the last couple of years adopted a catch phrase to define legal decision-makers that they disagree with: “activist judges.” Perhaps in another post, I will break down exactly how idiotic the notion of an “activist judge” is.

But I like the concept of prepending your favority noun with the word “activist,” and therefore changing its meaning to fit the context you select for it. We can do this for all kinds of things: “Activist preachers,” “Activist infants,” “Activist insects,” the list goes on.

I’d like to use one that may be more near and dear to my heart, and perhaps a bit more useful: the “Activist Nerd.” Is this simply a rebranding of the technocrat? It could be, but it’s much more broad than that. As society becomes more dependent on information technology, policy makers will be faced with more and more technology-related legislative decisions. Examples include the respective “innovation agenda” proposals by Democrats and Republicans.

Technology decisions, like any other policy decision, is best made by those with [at least basic] experience with technology. The average baby-boomer politician lacks this experience, and that leads to very irresponsible technology legislation. An examples include HR 4194, which include directives that may limit the free expression of bloggers.

The next generation of political leaders will not have this problem to the same extent, but it will still exist. Why? Because we tell people who are technically apt (either by trade/training or naturally) to worry about their fields and not about politics or social issues. Similarly, when someone is eloquent and expressive, we tell them let the “nerds” worry about that “other stuff.” What I see is a merge of these two “types” of people on the horizon. That is a great thing, and it will produce a diverse set of capable leaders that can make informed decisions on a wider array of issues. My hope for these leaders it that their technical expertise will enable them to make more objective decisions since they are more used to parsing massive amounts of both technical and non-technical data effectively.

For those who want to be more nerd than activist, there are solutions. A great example is Riot Tones, a service starting next month that will allow you to create/download/share politically motivated ring tones for your phone. Great idea. Fun idea. Nerdy idea. For those who want to be more activist than nerd, start a blog. That’s what I did.

Flexible Work Hours

I have spent two months officially making my trek through corporate America. And one thing I know is that this 9-5 gig is kicking people’s butt! I often joke with my friends that I don’t understand how people can juggle work, marriage, children while staying sane. I readily admit my naivete given my age BUT seriously. Something has to give. People are working to die, not live. What’s really good? Thankfully, an article was released today in Christian Science Monitor that talked about a report showing the increased benefits of employers providing flexible work hours. Now let’s keep it real. Even if you could find things to do for the entire work day, you know that after about 3:30-4:00 no task is going to get your complete and undivided attention. And even if it is you are thinking, “This isn’t due by the end of the day, I will finish it first thing in the morning.” Therefore, you waste an hour and a half checking emails, doing online banking, or making task lists for what you have to do after work. (That might just be me.)

Nevertheless, I know that if I could leave at 3:30, I would still get all of my work done timely and accurately. The article stated, “For the business, it just matters that employees are best able to contribute and be productive so that the customers and internal shareholders are served.” In fact, one of the companies included was Deloitte and Touche and their managers had nothing but good things to say about the benefits of providing flexible work hours. Maybe if flex time became the norm, maybe people could remember why they work crazy hours and maybe, just maybe view their job as an interesting life activity as opposed to an activity that drives their live. Just think about the first question you ask when you meet someone. After their name, which you always forget, is what do you do? Maybe if we could provide some flexible work time, the answer to that question would be a lot more interesting.

Civil Rights & Why Voting Matters

The Washington Post ran a story Sunday about the changing DoJ Civil Rights Division. In summary, the article is informing us that over the last year, the Civil Rights Division has been losing veteran lawyers and handling less “Civil Rights” cases. That means that instead of working on Equal Opportunity Employment breeches, they have been spending time on immigration matters. Now, I’m not against immigration, but I do believe that if the division is spending 40% less of its time handling the types of cases it was created to be involved in, then there are some serious issues present.

Nevertheless, this has been the case over the past 5 years. Since I believe wholeheartedly in coincidences, I’m going to refer to it as a coincidence that the change in focus of the division as well as its personnel bleeding have nothing to do with the current administrations attitudes towards Civil Rights. Right. The two are unrelated.

Let’s pretend, however unjustifiably, for a few seconds that it is not a coincidence. Then, maybe, I would not be suprised to see that the Civil Rights Division would need to shift focus away from issues such as intimidation of minority voters and disenfranchisement of low-income Americans. Had the Civil Rights Division served its historical purpose, there may have been real investigation at the federal level into the attrocity that became Election Day 2000. I wonder how this administration feels about Sen. Obama’s new voter intimidation legislation? We can’t possibly waste precious resources in the Civil Rights Division prosecuting individuals based on that; there are too many immigrants to harass.

I digress. Instead, lets go down a more pratical road. The SuperSpade is about practicality. How does this information point to personal action(s) that can be taken? This, to me, adds to the infinite list of reasons why voting is important. Brothers and Sisters, all of us who have had illegitimate run-ins with law enforcement, or know someone who has, feels as though their Civil Rights have been violated. Students wanting to attend non-HBCUs that were refused admissions due to factors outside of their control feel as though their Civil Rights have been violated. Individuals who never recieved call-backs, job interviews, or job offers due to the nature, spelling, or pronunciation of their names feel as though their Civil Rights have been violated. The Civil Rights Act of 1957 created the Civil Rights Division on 9 December 1957. This office was established to address issues discussed earlier in this paragraph. Granted, as times change, the definitions of Civil Rights expand, but I am not a fan of the core focus being forgotten. We need our people to be proactive and work towards electing to our representative democratic government individuals that represent our views. Anyone who has encountered the above and didn’t like it has concrete evidence as to why they need real representation.

The age old problem, however, is the “my candidate lost, so what’s the point now” phenomena. Let me offer a suggestion through a simple analogy. Anyone who cooks (especially as badly as I do) knows that it’s hit-or-miss. When what I attempt to prepare does not come out as intended, I am presented with two options: throw it away, or work with it. Lets examine both options:

1. Throw it away
I can discard my food and therefore invalidate the time it took to prepare it, the resources it took to gather the ingredients, etc. This does, however, afford me the opportunity to start over again from scratch. However, I will again need to set aside the needed time and ingredients to prepare the meal a second time; a situation that may or may not be possible now. Not to mention, this effectively makes the meal twice as expensive.

2. Work with it
It doesn’t taste good. Why not? Is it bland? Add some salt. Is it cold? Put it in the microwave. If you were not able to get what you wanted on the front end, you can work with it on the back end until you have something edible.

The same logic applies to voting, or any other form of positive action. If your candidate loses, you have the same options: you can throw your hands up in the air and give up. This way, you’ll end up pissed off because you got racially profiled, again, and have no real legal representation, agian. Or you can work on improving your current situation despite them, while at the same time building up a stronger opponent to the now incumbent to challenge them in the future (which could turn out to be you). Black folks are better than any people on the planet at being triumphant in the face 0f adversity. Why give up because the person you voted for lost. We have more heart than that.

Shout out to for referring me to this article. The post is here.

Cuts in funding for Sudan

The Republican-led Congress is crazy. They voted to trim the $50 million that lawmakers had approved earlier in the year for the African Union force. Let’s take a step back and get a big picture view for a second. Most Americans think that we spend too much on foreign aid when in fact, we spend as a country less than one half of one percent on foreign aid. One half of one percent!! And now the Republicans who all of a sudden want to try and manage this out of control deficit by cutting spending. What’s worse is that we promised this money to the African Union last year and because politicians play on the citizen’s apathy and ignorance, they often times get away with tomfoolery of the grandest scale. Now I know $50 million might not sound like a lot in terms of the trillion dollar budget we wrangle over. But this money will help bring stability to a nation that has been ravaged by poverty, corruption, and the blind eye of rich nations that can’t seem to see understand why they are so despised in the world. Many people say 9/11 changed everything. It changed nothing as we continue to give more reasons for people to kill themselves as they try to break the oppressive will of the United States and its allies.

Image Improvement from the Bottom Up

The New York Times Op-Ed section took on the 2005 Detroit Mayoral election today.

Here’s a clip:

…Mr. Kilpatrick – “America’s first hip-hop mayor,” a sobriquet he once seemed to relish and now wishes to shed – finds himself in the position of Michael Corleone, sitting on that park bench at the end of “Godfather II”: in control, after something of a scare, contemplating how to pick up the pieces…

..He may not deserve an award, but with the auto-parts maker Delphi bankrupt, the credit rating at G.M. and Ford junk, and Michigan having the country’s highest rate of joblessness, he deserves to at least be graded on a curve…

Sadly, this is arguably one of the most upbeat articles about Detroit politics written over the past 3 years. It’s no secret that most of the country has a negative view of the city. What’s sad is that there is little national [and to some extent local] coverage of positive things happening in Detroit. Often in news coverage we see nationally syndicated stories about positive local events in othe major cities (e.g. New York, Seattle, etc.), but seldom about Detroit.

How do we combat this? There are many approaches, but the one I suggest requires a three-tier model of all of the stakeholders:

Tier 1: citizens of Detroit
Tier 2: local Detroit media
Tier 3: national media and the US populace at large

How it works is that the actions of the “lower” tiers will essentially require responsive actions from the ones above it.

The citizens of Detroit who are interested in its future will continue their great work throughout the city. Examples of tier 1 efforts are Think Detroit and New Detroit among others. Much of the work of these groups and their peer organizations goes unnoticed due to lack of attention. This attention can be garnered through strategic alliances with each other, as well as with City government and local media. We always complain about how the media portrays Detroit, about how it portrays black people. This is a strugle that will be fought and won by organizing our message and pushing it to a point where it can no longer be ignored. I call on organizations to present themselves as partners with local government. The different city departments could each sponsor a team in each of Think Detroit’s sports leagues. Working together, they can bombard tier 2 with positive information. The interesting piece here is that for t!
his to be successful, tier 1 must SUPPORT tier 2. The way we influence the media is by how we consume it. I propose that instead of a boycott approach to changing the media, we go on the offensive: give them better news and follow up until that better news is what’s on display.

The same logic applies to tier 2-tier 3 dynamics. This bottom up approach in my opinion is much more effective than lobbying some disinterested national media syndicate to change their story. That top down method will fail because it makes the improper assumption that the top even cares. You don’t put the roof on first. That’s the final piece of the Puzzle.

The 20 something generation is tired of the top down ideology. It worked before, but I and my peers have doubts about its effectiveness going forward. However, by creating a solid foundation of positive action, we can achieve our goals: a better community, a better image of that community.

What better place is there to use this approach than Detroit.

Sent via wireless handheld