Archive | November 2006

Offline Problems, Online Solutions – NBPC Black Technology Now! Summit Wrap Up

As I alluded to before, I had an amazing experience at the National Black Programming Consortium‘s (NBPC) Black Technology Now! Summit (BTN) in Boston, MA on November 8-9, 2006. I would like to thank NBPC and WGBH Boston for hosting this phenomenal event and giving me a platform upon which I could share my ideas.

As you may remember, I was invited to be a member of a panel called NEW FUNKY: Virtual Communities of Color & More. The subject of my presentation was Offline Problems, Online Solutions (audio in WMA format, PowerPoint slides). In this presentation, I presented my ideas for creating communities online to address real, tangible social issues. My main point was that it is not interesting to create anything online if it does not solve a problem in the offline world. I profiled The SuperSpade, and another venture that I am a part of called Detroit Intern. I also talked about future plans for these and other ventures I am dreaming about :-).

Here, I’ll include pointers to the audio [in WMA format] of my presentation, my slides, as well as my answers to some of the discussion questions that were interesting. Enjoy, and feel free to leave/give feedback.

Offline Problems, Online Solutions Audio (9.39)
Offline Problems, Online Solutions PowerPoint Presentation

Answer to a question about finding and developing audiences (1.51)
Answer to a question about engaging people who are hesitant to participate in online forums (1.49)
Answer to a question about blogging ethics (1.33)
Answer to another question about blogging ethics (1.33)

One Love. One II.



For Richer and For Poorer (No Romance Without Finance)

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this piece are not necessarily the views of all members of The Superspade. It may be simply the nonsensical rantings of a frustrated twenty-something.

You Know What Really Grinds My Gears?

Whitney and Bobby. Reese and Ryan. Britney and K-Fed. Eddie Murphy and his wife. Babyface and Tracy. Kimora and Russell. What do all these lost souls have in common? They are no longer in marital bliss. Technically, theses people have enough money where all they have to do is be in love and live. But yet, more and more celebrities are breaking up. Why?

I have been having this ongoing dialogue with my female friends that circles around men and finance. It is my belief that women and money are a lot like fire: They can either help you or hurt you. With that said, as women begin to outpace men in the areas of education and high paying jobs, we come to a fork in the road as I perceive it. Women want men to be men. A significant portion of this traditional gender role is that a man should provide and furnish comfort and security. Or they want him to have at least the same level education/money as they have. On the surface, this seems fair. You don’t want any deadweight in your relationship. However, do these kind of expectations reinforce class in American society, especially in the area of romance? If I drive a bus or work at the post office, is it unlikely that I can date a lawyer or a doctor?

Think about it. Education, in theory, affords you access to more resources. It is an economic truism that people will buy as much lifestyle comfort as their paycheck will give them. Hence, if a woman is making top dollar, then how does this affect the dating expectations? Along with more income, comes a different environment. When you come home from a long day of work, who is more likely to understand what you are talking about if you are a doctor/lawyer/engineer? And how does this affect the power dynamic? I know some women who try to rule over their man because they hold the purse strings. Or on the other end, the man tries to over-compensate because he feels inadequate about his lady making more change. It is a real obstacle.

Perhaps this belief is only prevalent in the young adult demographic, but I have encountered frequently. However, this is like having your cake and eating it to. If a woman today is likely to rise more quickly, especially a minority woman, is it fair to put all the weight on the man?

A lot of women in my age group want the men they deal with to be a “high roller”. They are more concerned with status than character. And as men, we feed into it. I would venture to say that 75% of what we do is to please a woman somewhere.

I had a conversation not too long ago with a certain young woman and she expressed to me that she was afraid she was going to be poor if she stayed with this certain young man. She came from a little money and he was more blue collar. She continued to go on about the lifestyle she was accustomed to and the like. So I asked her, what did comfort look like to her? She replied it was paying the bills, saving, taking trips on occasion. I then asked her, how much did she need a year to feel and do those things, and she said a quarter million.

This is just one of the many conversations I have had with a variety of women. I am not saying anything is wrong with it, however, when pressed, they could not quantify these abstract wants and desires. If you cannot quantify it, then you will never be happy. Because it will never be enough. And while that man is out trying to stack, these will be the same individuals that will complain about him not helping around the house or with the kids or spending time with them. You can’t win for losing.

In Other Words

Maybe I am tripping. But I know for most people in their twenties, you don’t have a dime. You just finished school and you got bills. You have not made any real money and you just trying to get by and adjust to the “Real World”. Yet, when you go out, all the shorties is checkin for the dudes with the rims. Where do the real women hang out at? The ones who see your potential and love you for you? What happened to finding a good dude with some goals and who treats you like a queen? What happened to working as a team and making it together? By making the profit motive supreme, you miss out on some really good people. But like they say in the mob, “Nobody wants to work for it anymore.”

What people do not realize is that when you struggle and come up with somebody, it brings you closer. It is not predicated on a business transaction, it is based on some real, hell or high water type stuff. Then we wonder why the number of unmarried couples outnumber the married couples. Whether it comes to money or relationships, you have to have teamwork. A woman cannot expect to sit around while a man is working, or vice versa. Both people need to play their position. The money will come. It is more important that you share the same goals and values. And anyway, everyone needs to focus on getting their own in this world and stop waiting for someone to give it to them. As my mama says, “If you waitin for somebody to do something for you, you gonna be waitin a long time.”

I could just be voicing my insecurities, because I was never the dude with money. I have lived on a budget for as long as I can remember and I had to work for everything I have. Yet, I am a decent dude. I might not be able to “cake” a woman off now, but I am resourceful and she will never have to guess where she stands with me. And by the way, I am going to be rich. But you do not want someone who is going to fold on you as soon as money is tight. Every man needs a Hilary-stand-by-your man-ride-or die chick. I want to know that the woman in my corner is loyal and she is real. And fortunately for me, I have found that one. ;).

Final Thought…For Now

Ladies, I am not saying that you are gold diggers for having standards. But make sure your expectations are reasonable. You should hold yourself higher than any dollar amount a man could give you. Demand more than his money, demand his heart and his time. If you have that, you wont ever have to worry about finances.

Fellas, if we want to demand the ladies step it up, we have to make sure we are real men. I am Old School, and it is my belief that the man should set the tone for the relationship. We must lead by example. Prove to the ladies that you are worth the risk and that by hooking up with you, she is joining something great. If all you have to offer is that same ghetto-mentality and lame duck excuses, do us all a favor and just turn your wallet over now. Many a good woman has been ruined because she was under “bad management”, ya dig?

I could go on for pages, and I got a little off topic. But this is just how I see it being played out in my neck of the woods. I will revisit this issue from time to time and report my findings.

But in the meantime, you, the SuperSpade community, let me know what you think. What is the role that class plays in romance? How important is money really? How are prevailing attitudes affecting our relationships? Sound off.

Truth and Peace,
Steven M DeVougas


Friendships & Relationships

The Weekly Dream: The Matrix Has You…

Life is but a dream”

“The theory or idea of a Centre begins with the observation of man’s chaotic reality, his confusion, his sorrows. These are attributed to his ignorance, which renders him easy prey to inessential phenomena, to “shadows” which, eventually, turn him against himself, against his fellowman, against the world. In an effort to counteract the effects of man’s deadening and enslaving dependency upon the multiple and confusing variety of existential phenomena, the men of wisdom in Asia had sought to perceive the substance or essential Centre of existence–the Centre where…dazed and pained blindness became calm clarity, the unintelligible became intelligible.” (from Secrets of the Samurai)

Life, what can I say about it that has not already been said? One of my closest friends suffered a terrible loss recently, and it has had quite an affect on me. The suddenness and finality of it all. It made me realize that most of what we see and care about is not real. And death and other trauma has a way of bringing that into focus. But why does it take something like tragedy to help us remember how limited our time is here?

Most people spend their time not thinking about death and dying, but to me, that is like the elephant in the room that no one wants to talk about. The ancient samurai would meditate on death daily. By doing so, they confronted their greatest fear and consequently, found the freedom to live and do their duty.

In my short time in adulthood, I have learned that you must ultimately learn to do two things: take responsibility and take losses. Every year, there is no shortage of things that I am responsible for, things that I “must” do. Responsibility is the price of freedom and comfort. But more importantly, we must learn to take losses. Whether it be personal or professional: we must learn to come out of the corner swinging after suffering failure and disappointment.

Ashes to Ashes

Sometimes, life is a dream that can seem like a nightmare. Situations sometimes seem to continue to stack up and they seem insurmountable. At times, you don’t know where you get the strength to put one foot in front of the other. However, there is a light at the end of the tunnel. When you realize that what is in front of you is not necessarily what is real, then there is no reason to fear or lose your head. Once you realize that this life and everything in it will fade, then you will live every day as your last. You will not take your loved ones for granted. You will not hold grudges. You will not worry. You will not procrastinate. You will begin to truly live. You will begin to live the truth.

However, everything is designed to help you forget that. Life is full of so much distraction and so many things that do not matter. We waste so much time and energy on frivolity. But that is the nature of the Matrix. You spend so much time putting out fires until one day, you wake up, you are old and you realize you never really lived the life you wanted. Don’t let it happen to you. Don’t get sidetracked. Because tomorrow truly is not promised. We would like to live a long life, but there is no guarantee. And when your number is called, you have no choice but to get in line.

However, that should not worry you, it should free you. As I once heard someone say, “You only scared to die when you know you not living right.”

Gone but Not Forgotten

I am sorry if the tone of this is not as upbeat as usual, but I owe it you and all of us to be real with what is going on. I wasn’t even going to write on this, but after thinking about it, nothing else seemed as important.

Take heart, life is just beneath the surface.

I pray to God we all make the best use of the time He has allotted us and teach us to number our days.

R.I.P.: Ms. Davis, You were still needed down here, but God needed you more. You will be missed.

Truth and Peace,
Steven M DeVougas

The Weekly Dream

Thoughts on Media Reform

I am back in Seattle, and still catching my breath from my trip to Boston last week.  It was absolutely phenomenal!  I will talk about that in more detail in it’s own post.

I met an individual from Free Press at the conference, and I was invited to attend their National Conference for Media Reform next year.  As part of the process for preparation, I wrote out my thoughts on media reform, and I kind of liked them.  Therefore, I’d like to share them with you all.  Enjoy.

Every change in this world, every revolution that has taken place, every movement that has been started, began with one thing: a change in the way that people think. There are many ways to change the way the people think about their position, their beliefs and their lives. One effective way to do this is to open their eyes to things, people, or ideas that they have had little or no exposure to in the past. To open eyes, to give light to, to expose people to facts and information is the mission of the media. Sadly, the media has lost sight of this mission and the integrity implicitly needed to carry it out. Catering to special interests, political motivations, and monetary incentives have become more important than the transmission of knowledge. A change must be made to bring this system back into line with its mission. When media is freed from these vices, it can be used to ensure that people think critically about world they exist in. Armed with unbiased truth, they will be able to change their situations. Equipped with disinterested facts, they will be able to revolt against forces that oppress them. Empowered by knowledge and wisdom, they can move forward. All of these are possible today. All of these can be achieved through media reform.

My website, The SuperSpade (, presents critical commentary on social issues and current events from the perspective of three twenty-something, college-educated Black Men inspired to create this space out of frustration with the media as it exists today. My role in the media reform movement involves critiquing current media outlets while simultaneously presenting an alternative that is not a slave to the entities that keep today’s press from handling its responsibilities. While attending the University of Michigan, the Black male support network that I chaired focused heavily on critiquing, combating, and providing alternatives to images and stereotypes of Blackness and masculinity perpetuated by corporate media. We held meetings on campus that showcased progressive media interpretations of Blackness and masculinity. We encouraged people to create media that managed Black images, not accepting the image given to them.

My NCMR experience will benefit everyone I touch. SuperSpade participants will benefit from my exposure to new techniques of presentation. My communities in the Greater Seattle and Detroit areas will benefit from communication of the importance of media reform and the need to reject agents of the press that lack integrity. Most importantly, individuals will gain confidence, knowing that groups like Free Press are working to ensure that their voices are given the credence they deserve.

My community’s involvement in media reform is threefold:
1. Spirit of support of alternative radio, television, and Internet media outlets and distribution channels. Old media cannot exist without an audience; neither can reformed media.
2. Spirit of proactive contribution. My vision of reformed media is a participatory one, where consumers evolve from readers/watchers to participants/co-contributors. We are doing this at The SuperSpade. I encourage my peer content producers to embrace the same participatory spirit in their own work.
3. Spirit of commitment. Creating sustainable and substantive reform today’s media takes loyalty to progressive media approaches and ideological endurance.

All of these apply concretely in the short and long term. I support, and will continue to support and encourage others to support new age media. I encourage proactive contribution from participants at The SuperSpade, and will push forward in changing the paradigm of interaction between producer and consumer of news and media with my future ventures. My ideological commitment to alternative media will be the foundation of my content creations for the rest of my creative existence.

One Love. One II.


Post election analysis: How to keep affirmative action

This post comes to you from the friendly skies en route to Baltimore, MD. It is good to be home and I really miss my Superspade family. I want to continue my post election analysis by providing some insights I learned while trying to keep affirmative action policies in the state of Michigan.

Ward Connerly is hopping around from state to state trying to ban affirmative action programs primarily in higher education, public employment and contracting. He did it in Washington via Prop 5, California with Prop 209, and most recently in Michigan with Prop 2.

Now for anyone from Michigan or elsewhere who didn’t lift a finger to help register people to vote or educate people on the effects of banning affirmative action but felt smug enough to say after the election, “I knew Prop 2 was going to fail,” shame on you. I have had it with so-called conscious folks who love to philosophize for hours on end about the plight of Black folks and how we need to raise up but when you ask them to do something that actually requires work, their calendar is suddenly filled to the brim.

Being conscious is a step in the right direction but it is not enough. When I ask you to help do phone banking, I don’t want to hear you talk about the nuances of institutional racism. There is a time and a place for that but right now, all I need is a yes or no. I already agree with you and I am only going to nod my head in agreement. And if you claim to be as conscious as you claim to be, let’s see to it that our actions have the same intensity.

I got a little side-tracked for a minute, but I do not apologize.

Anyways, Ward Connerly is putting ballot initiatives up that attempt to ban affirmative action which means that in order to beat this guy, we have to make sure people vote in favor to support affirmative action. But we forgot about a crucial lesson in Michigan that I hope you don’t make in your state as well. Before you start screaming, “Vote to Support Affirmative Action!” make sure the organizing coalition you are apart of actually implements a comprehensive voter registration drive.

Why do I say that? Well, once you actually do voter registration, you can then call these people and educate them on affirmative action. When this doesn’t happen, your get out the vote efforts are not strategic and all you end up doing is conducting a visibility campaign, which will inevitably result in mobilizing people to vote that are not registered to vote! It sounds so simple I know, but registering people to vote is taken for granted more often than you would care to realize.

Secondly, most research shows that in order to win a campaign to support affirmative action, you have to target white women because they will provide the necessary electoral support to tip the election in your favor. On its face, this thinking is logical and reasonable. However, not ALL of your efforts should be devoted to targeting white women. Why? Because you will more than likely develop a coalition that is largely comprised of men and women of color and then you will try to get this coalition to convince White women to vote to support affirmative action. This strategy is not only embarrassing but it is not sound. Most people tend to trust people that look like them, period. So what ended up happening in Michigan (in my opinion) is that largely people of color targeted white women while neglecting the very communities of color that need to educated on the effects of affirmative action. Now I am not saying that only Blacks can talk to Blacks, but what I am saying is that in terms of strategy, never forget to take care of your base.

In fact, I know a large number of White women that understand and can explain the benefits of affirmative action for all people. For example if you have a strategy to send me (tall Black dude) to do canvassing in a majority-White suburb versus a white girl, who would you send? I am not saying I wouldn’t be effective but let’s think strategically. If white women need to be targeted, then we need to recruit conscious white women that are willing to go out in their communities and tell people about the truth of affirmative action.

As for people of color, don’t assume that all people of color are automatically going to support affirmative action. Many families of color do not have the pleasure to check email, read the news/blogs etc. at work or at home for that matter. Do you even know how fortunate you are to be reading this post right now? Stop taking your access to information for granted and throwing a fit when you talk to a person of color that never heard of affirmative action.

Lastly, don’t wait until the question is on the ballot before you act. If you wait until then, the battle will be immensely difficult moving forward. Proposition 2 should never have even made it on the ballot and you should be making plans now so that it doesn’t make it on your ballot. One thing that liberal minded people haven’t quite mastered is the supreme importance of framing the debate before the debate. The way that Prop 2 was worded was so twisted that many people thought that they were supporting affirmative action when in fact they were voting against it. Here is how it worked in Michigan, voting no meant that you wanted to support affirmative action. And voting yes meant you wanted to ban affirmative action. In other words, no meant yes, and yes meant no. By not addressing this backwards logic will greatly hamper your organizing efforts so get in the game early.

I just realized this post is getting really long so I will just stop for now.

Stay up fam,

Brandon Q.


Post election analysis: Affirmative Action

Guess who’s bizack? What’s up fam, my extended absence was due to my job doing political organizing leading up to the election. To Garlin and Steve; thank you for holding it down and continuing to bring the fire. So due to the political nature of my job, it is only fitting that I provide some post election analysis as it pertains to the banning of affirmative action.

Here in Michigan, there was a ballot proposal sponsored by the wrongfully titled Michigan Civil Rights Initiative. The ballot proposal asked Michigan voters to amend the state constitution to ban affirmative action programs. The ballot initiative passed by an astounding margin of 56% to 42%.The text of the ballot read as such; (emphasis mine)

A proposal to amend the state constitution to ban affirmative action programs that give preferential treatment to groups or individuals based on their race, gender, color, ethnicity or national origin for public employment, education or contracting purposes.

Now if you were oblivious to the long lasting effects of banning affirmative action, I could see how it would be reasonable to think that voting yes for this amendment is in line with your values and beliefs. However, I want to spend a little bit of time on the loaded term, preferential treatment. These two words are powerful because it assumes that we are all equal and therefore, any group getting so called preferential treatment is unfair to the people that don’t get preferential treatment. In fact, affirmative action tries to actually level the playing field. But here is where I think lies the deep philosophical difference between supporters and opponents. Opponents of affirmative action like to believe that the playing field is equal and proponents of affirmative action try to level the playing field. I just find it sad that in 2006, so many people are in refusal of believing that discrimination is not an institutionalized feature of our society.

And as for this colorblind mess, I can’t stand it. Humans are not dogs, we see in color. Many White people will think that their Black counterparts in college got there by affirmative action, due to athletic scholarship, or just otherwise have not earned the right to be where they are. Taking away affirmative action will not heal race relations and will not make racism and discrimination disappear. Let me say that again, taking away affirmative action will not heal race relations and will not make racism and discrimination disappear.

Ward Connerly and his conservative backers will be taking his ban on affirmative action to five different states. Banning affirmative action has a very salient effect into tapping into the anger that is just beneath the surface of many white people. And before I think it crazy that the government should take positive action to make up for discrimination, I like to refer to Dave Chappelle.

This ballot initiative is bad for Michigan and I can only hope that the decision would have been different had people voted using logic instead of emotion. And as my co-worker so eloquently expressed to me, “Not everything should be decided by the people.”

In the next post, we will look at ways to blunt the effects of this decision and what to do if Ward sets up camp in your state.


The Weekly Dream: A Different Set of Rules

“A man gots to have a code”
-Omar, The Wire

“If you don’t have any parameters, you got nothing”
-Armand Asante, Gotti

Question of the Week: What things make up your code?

Whether you realize it or not, we all live by various codes of behavior or conduct; guidelines and rules that instruct us as to how to live or how to approach various situations. In fact, life in civilized society demands it. They are rules in action and there are consequences for violating the code. The Sicilian mafia code was called Omerta, which meant that the people did not cooperate with the police about Mafia activities. Individuals who violated the code often found themselves in uncomfortable predicaments. There is a code to the streets, which we call Street Smarts or Common Sense, which governs dealings in the real world. Politics have a code. Like layers of an onion, the various codes we are subjected to intersect, so that we live a disciplined life. They tell us when something is right and wrong. Our own personal code takes the form of our conscience. But have you ever really given thought as to what comprises your code?

To tell the truth, besides wanting to leave something for posterity, The Weekly Dream was partly an outgrowth of an innate desire to articulate the rules I live by. Growing up, my code was formed by my spiritual beliefs, my family tradition, books, and experience. By sharing my thoughts and perspective, I hoped to perfect the Code by eliciting insight from the outside.

The Nature of Codes

Rules apply in various situations and circumstances. However, what gives codes life is the fact that they are lived. What good is having a code if you do not apply it in the appropriate situation? Now the consequences of not keeping your code may not be life and death, but it may show a lack of character or integrity. Confucius said that when a person knows what is right, but does not do it, it is weakness. There is no hope for that person. People who do not have a code are capable of anything, they are worse than animals. At least animals have consistency in behavior.

As adults, more and more we are required to police ourselves and make sure we are living lives consistent with our internal law. For instance, if you profess to be Christian, then you must study our code book and seek to order your life accordingly. Because codes are a lifestyle.

Stick to the Script

Rules can change, but we are seeking something deeper-principles. Principles apply in every situation. They are constants, like the Ten Commandments. It is a rock that grounds your code. I challenge everyone to write out their codes: Rules and Principles. What set of rules do you play by? What do you believe? When you do something inconsistent to that, how do you feel?

For instance, I seek to live a life where truth and peace is manifested, consistent with the mandates of my spirituality. Therefore, I try to avoid lying, deception, unnecessary and unproductive conflict. I try to be generous and walk in love-even towards my enemies. These are lofty goals, but that is where my code demands I go. I might miss it sometimes, but having that code lets me know what I can and cannot do.

Articulating the code will ensure that you maintain your integrity on the stairway to success.

Truth and Peace,
Steven M DeVougas