Wednesday, February 22, 2017

The most recent episode of "This Is Us" centered on Ron Cephas Jones' William.
What William from “This Is Us” Taught America
About the Struggles of Black Fatherhood

William Hill has come and gone. He died Tuesday night after a short battle with Stage 4 cancer. William is a fictional character created from the minds of Dan Fogelman who created the NBC show, This Is Us. It is a show about a young couple who birth triplets but one died at birth unfortunately but fate stepped in and they adopted a newborn who was left at a fire station by William Hill, the biological father. We are drawn into this scenario for several reasons, the young couple is adorable, the multiple births are a challenge, the loss of a newborn is dramatic, the chance of being adopted immediately is rare and that adoptive newborn happens to be black that will be joining a white family when such a union during that time was not talked about or condoned. We become fixated to see this journey unfold in ever so slow disbursement of intricate layers.

The adoptive baby is given the christian name of Randall. He grows into a fine man, a family man having a wife and two daughters. He has a fine job and should be content with what he has but he isn't. You see, Randall has a demon. This demon lies within us all who never known who their father was. It haunts us, it drives us. We need to know only for the sake of who this person was. Will it answer the question of who am I, why am I here, why do I do the things that I do? Randall has asked these questions all of his life and he has the financial resources to find out and he does.

He meets William when he goes by Williams's apartment and introduces himself. It is a bold and scary moment all rolled into one gut twisting ball. There is anger but there is also resolution with Randall's emotions. He said what he needed to say for so long and now he waits for the verdict. William is patently taken aback and stunned but he is also honest. And so it begins, the short journey of son and father.

Related image

Randall takes him back home to met his wife and daughters. Over the duration, Randall will get to discover a little about who his father is. Trying to pack in thirty plus years of absence is a daunting challenge. There are only so many hours in a day that can be devoted to discussing the past. But some where in that time frame, Randall begins to bond with his father. He finds out that William is either bisexual or gay, he doesn't really know. He finds out his father writes poetry and is good playing chess and is a musician and is dying from cancer. And it is Stage 4 cancer at that. William is terminal. And if you've ever had a family member or friend have that disease, you know how devastating a disease it is.

Randall is now faced with the challenge of trying to fit as much life as he can with his father. He must face the challenge of not just losing an adoptive father who raised him from birth but also a biological father whom he has yet to know and come to love. This takes an emotional toll on Randall and he places this burden of work and family and William squarely on his shoulders and it collapses down on him hard. You just feel oh so sad for Randall. You think about being in his shoes and wonder if you could take on so much? Perhaps you did with a variation of the same results?

So we enter into this road trip to Memphis, a journey to William's hometown. Along the way, Randall wants to control the journey by ignoring his on-board GPS system and rely on conventional paper road maps. William takes them and tosses them out the window. Just drive. William seems to be taking in everything that he sees along the way. His mind is recording every curve, every tree, every moment and you get the sense that he already knows why he needed to make this trip to Memphis.

Image result for this is us

William brings up Randall's father. He's accepting of that term and admiration with Randall when Randall talks about his father. Randall describes the moments in which his father calmed his anxiety by holding his face in his hands and having him breath slowly until his anxiety fears slowly goes away. William would like to go see where his ashes were spread but Randall says that they could do it at another time. William know that this will not be as you see on his face. He insist that Randall make a detour to see his father's resting place. It's the first of so many moving moments. They arrive and William walks over to the bench and says some kind words to Jack and thanked him for raising a good son. As he gets up, he tells Randall to say a few words himself and as he walks away, you see the pain on his face that he hides from Randall.

They arrive in Memphis and the history floods back into William's mind. His days in the club were important days. It is there that we see him as a songwriter and musician. He was good. He didn't smoke, he didn't drink, he didn't party. It was all about the music and writing for him. But then things happened. He left to go take care of his mother he met a girl who was into drugs who would eventually be Randall's mother and she turned William on to drugs. He walked back into that club to find his cousin was still there, sitting at the bar. Randall is excited because he meets a cousin, a family member for the very first time. But William is trying to make amends for not coming back and we get a better understanding as to why. Forgiving someone for altering your life can be formidable sometimes but we do and we move on, it's sometimes the most human thing to do.

And so they go on. William and Randall bond over going to the barbershop getting their hair cut and talking about Afros. They go to the club and watch William perform on the keyboard playing alongside his cousin. Randall is meeting more cousins and talking to his wife about the experience and joy he is having knowing that he has another side to his history. And the next day, Randall is up, making his bed with gleeful abandon because he likes doing it. And when he rounds that door, he finds William not doing well.

Image result for this is us

At the hospital, the doctor explains to Randall that William's organs are failing and he doesn't have long to live. Randall finds himself at another crossroad in his life. He goes in and begins his final conversation with William. He wants to call his wife and have the kids say goodbye to William but William explains that he has already said goodbye to the girls. He's rather have him looking down at them than with them looking down at him. He leave words to the oldest girl to continue playing chess. But then William turns back the conversation on Randall and then you realize that all the moments he had with his son were played back for Randall to let him know that the short journey had not been forgotten and that the life they briefly shared was perfect. When William said let your hair grow out and not to make up the bed in the morning, it was his way of letting Randall off the hook, to not let things overwhelm you and somewhere in Randall's head, he finally understood that. William said he was scared as death approached. Me made mistakes and bad decisions in his life. Randall, being the good son, did what his father did for him. He climbed on the bed and took William's face in his hands and told him to breathe slowly and William complied. And as this flawed man looked back into the face of his son, he breathed slowly and slower and slower until there was no breath to exhale. And the journey ends.

Image result for william hill's death this is us

So, how do we eulogize Mr. William Hill? Well, you could say that here lies William Hill, a man who made a sacrifice to give up his son because the life he was facing was a dismal one. He gave his son the opportunity to grow into an exceptional human being instead of living in a life of despair, poverty, drugs and crime. He showed him that love has no boundaries and that love can be selfish for a good reason. He showed him that no matter how long you think it is, life is short so enjoy the moments because when the time comes, it will be the one you'll remember and cherish the most. Let's go see the ducks.  

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Image result
The Trump Takeaway Behind the Movie, Hidden Figures

Ever so often a film comes out that carries more meaning, more weight, more value than any other films regardless of its genre. Such is the case of the movie, Hidden Figures, the true story about three black American women working for the National Aeronautic Space Administration (NASA) during the early part of the 1960's. The women, Katherine Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan and Mary Jackson, played respectively by Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer and Janelle Monae, were the women who were in a collective with other black American women in NASA's computer service pool that many of them were support personnel for their white contemporaries. Jackson, Vaughan and Johnson were the exceptional ones. They had become the standard bearers to a whole other world that black women were not suppose to be a part of and that was in the field of science and mathematics. They were the unrecognized heroes during the heyday of the space race between the Soviet Union and the United States. But before the film jumped to this time frame, it first took us back to an earlier time of a younger Katherine Johnson nay Katherine Coleman, when she was an eight or ten year old child.

Related image

The younger Katherine, played graciously by Lidya Jewett, explores a time in our history and with black youth that is total unrecognizable and foreign to the senses. We get to witness the younger version of Katherine having this gift for math and geometry. Image result for Lidya Jewett

 What is also remarkable is seeing how the class reacts to her prowess as a mathematician. There was no snide comments , bitterness or pettiness we've come to expect with this generation of Twitter battles over the most stupid and agonizingly insipid things. Of course you also had to accept the fact that it was in the late 1920's and pettiness wasn't born into black culture then. Blacks were dealing with the Jim Crow laws that were oppressing many blacks during that time. But still, the behavior is what I took away from that scene. There was truly a sense of wonder because the vehicle in that scene was about attaining one's education. It was a moment where you would mourn for the loss to knowledge that today's youth just don't have a tolerance for and would rather have the heads bent forward into their smartphones or tablets.

Fast forward and Katherine is a widowed mother of three girls in 1961. She, along with her two cohorts, are broke down on the road to work and a white police officer pulls up and harass them just to flex his authority. Mary Jackson, the more vocally assertive of the three, wants to push back on the authoritarianism but the other two encourage her to restrain her efforts and she takes a more submissive tone with the police officer. And as she does, the tone shifts a bit from a viewer's point of view. This scene represents the first symbol of racism, the bigoted white police officer flexing his power as he laud over three black women. But this racism is diffused by all three women who allow themselves to be humble in his presence and not escalate the situation and they do so effectively by demonstrating their intelligence in very subtle tones. And as I watched this scene, I felt a twinge of moral outrage that even though this happened so many years ago, the impact still hold a weight on your consciousness.

Image result for hidden figures

As we start to get into the heart of the film, Katherine is selected to do mathematical computations as a backup to the other NASA scientist just to provide a security backup in the initial limited capacity that was doled out to her. Under redacted reports, her job became frustrating as she could not fully perform the assignment that was given to her. Compounding this effort was the fact that NASA had a policy of segregation within its workforce. Restrooms and drinking fountains were assigned as “colored” and “whites”. The only restroom Katherine could use was a long way from where she was assigned and she had to trek a great distance just to use the “colored” restrooms. This brings up another racist vestige to the forefront, the specter of separating the water fountains and the restrooms has more significance over another. They same labeling was applied to the coffee pots as well with the “colored” one not even being made ready for coffee. But I must remember that these were the times that they lived in.

Mary Jackson, the woman who would become the first black female engineer at NASA had her share of discrimination as well. There were policies in place that stated that blacks, and especially a female black, could not advance to be an engineer without certain qualifications even with a degree and she held a Bachelor of Science degree. She had to sue to go back to high school to earn the course curriculum needed in order for her to become an engineer.

Image result for hidden figures

I was getting more incensed by the moment with every racist slight these women endured. And I was generally shocked that these women's story never graced the history pages during my formative years and that other films like The Right Stuff,  failed to give them their acknowledgment and contribution to the space program. Two of the three women have died without receiving any noteworthy praise for their part in contributing to the NASA environment. And my outrage grows.

Dorothy Vaughan role is NASA was just as remarkable. With NASA's introduction of the IBM mainframe computers of the time that were Fortran computer based language, Dorothy had the foresight to learn the language and teach it to the other women in the computer pool. As I watched her story, I couldn't believe that even the public library was segregated. She had to “appropriate”, I will not use the word 'steal', a book on the Fortran language and she learned it all on her own without any assistance or guidance from anyone.

Image result for hidden figures

And while NASA was and is a part of the U.S. government, it was the first institution mandated to hire minorities. And even though it did, racism and sexism still rule the order of life. When Katherine made attempts to be included in the proceedings with the NASA program, her gender played more against her than her race. As she had each obstacle removed, the perceptions were also removed when she demonstrated her ability to do the work. She was a pioneer in that regard and every woman in the space program have her to thank for that.

Keven Costner said that his role was an amalgamation of several people so I do not know if there ever was a person who took a crowbar and tore down the colored restroom sign or that this person served as the metaphorical crowbar for Katherine Johnson to get through those doors. If there ever was such a real person, they should acknowledge him as being a contributing agent because one person does not go into battle alone.

Image result for hidden figures

So, what does this film about three black American women have to do with Donald Trump? In a nutshell, it has a lot to with with being disappointed and facing stumbling blocks and doing what you have to do and persevering in spite of your circumstances. I find it interesting that mostly the liberal white Americans are losing their mind over Trump's victory in the general election. There have been protests, fights, smear tactics and the like over his election to the highest office in the land. And as I watched this film, I began to put it into a perspective that perhaps the liberal white Americans should accept and acknowledge. For a long time in the history of this country, minorities have accepted the brunt of social ills for generations. It took 55 years for us to hear about this remarkable achievement of three minority women in the space program and yet a film entitled Sid & Nancy, about punk rockers Sid Vicious and his girlfriend, Nancy Spungen, was made five years after his death.

The minority community have come to accept the dysfunctional, apathetic, disenfranchising, maligning approach to what is considered fairness in this country. Donald Trump, a billionaire, won over Hillary Clinton, a millionaire. So why are the white liberals losing their minds over this? Perhaps because they do not understand what it feels like to be on the losing in for so many things. They don't know how to accept defeat in such glorious terms. Everyone ones to point blame at this or that and totally ignore the root cause to their defeat. They need to understand what it means to be a person of color. They need to take a cue from Barack Obama, from Deepak Chopra, from Cesar Chavez, from Booker T. Washington, from Madame C.J. Walker, from Rita Morena, people who understand what the obstacles are from being a person of color in America and what it took to overcome those barriers. And just because people of color have been forced to deal with these barriers, it does not mean that all hope is lost, it just mean that another approach needs to be made in order to overcome these barriers.

President Obama had to prove everyday to the American people and to the conservative arm of Congress that he was entitled to the job and he had to work twice as hard to prove it. This perception and attitude is with every person of color. It is the unwritten rule that is never discussed in polite company but it is always there underneath every thing that is expected with a person of color and this is reflected in quiet tomes in the film.

When Katherine Johnson finally explodes in the film about what she has to do to get to the restroom, it was something her white counterparts couldn't fathom doing and wouldn't do if the situation were on the other foot. This slice represents more than just a bathroom break, it represents the nature of what people of color endure. So Hillary lost and Donald won, get over yourselves. The country wasn't founded on a bunch of whiners. We have other better things to do, to accomplish, as did these women. These were real American women who happened to be black and who faced racism and misogyny and sexism and took it with their heads held high. Why can't we learn from them?
Related image

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Image result for carrie fisher
Eulogy For A Princess...

We all have experienced a loss. An emptiness that feels as large as the Grand Canyon and as deep as the mightiest water fall. It ravishes our guts and has a unique pain to it. You begin to feel this thick curtain of grief that begins to suffocate you but somehow, you endure the momentary pain but the loss is significant. We have come to honor a person who filled up life in her own uniquely fashionable way. Never one to follow the path of least resistance, her destiny was to take the road filled with potholes, cracks and an assortment of road hazards that somehow she was able to traverse and learned a lesson from that extraordinary journey. She was a daughter first. Of all the things she had accomplished within the short span of her life, she was always a daughter first, the first born. Being the daughter to Debbie Reynolds and Eddie Fisher had its inherit challenges and as a young child, she bore these challenges by accepting them as merit badges to surviving. And survive she did. Watching her parents go through a period of a tumultuous conscious uncoupling, it was not such an easy burden on a child. But as you know, life isn't fare or equal. Sometimes houses of glass and cards do shatter and fall, it just takes a lot more effort to rebuild them.

But Carrie Fisher pressed forward because she had no other recourse. She wasn't going to be some fragile wallflower trying to pick up the pieces of her yesterday life. She had this wonderful mother who showed her that she could stand up and fight for yourself when nobody else would. She may not have known it then because when you're young your world view is limited to nursery rhymes of puppy dog tails. And it was that spirit that the public witness as she took on the iconic role of Princess Leia. She would not be that damsel in distress tied down to a railroad track or menaced by the big bad while she screamed at the top of her lungs. That's not what she brought to that character. It was a seminal moment in film history, a woman playing a part on the same equal footings as a man and nobody blinked. She would not accept a secondary position next to her male contemporaries. She was fearless when fearless wasn't popular. She became this role model when when women role models were in short supply. She didn't hit you over the head with preachy sermons about being in a film with a strong female role. She didn't have to, instead she led by design. She wasn't that woman with the girl next door appeal. She was that woman next door that would tell you that you are fucking up because you're a doormat if you don't stand up for what you believe, you're still going to be that doormat so you might as well stamp the word “Welcome” across your forehead.

Carrie Fisher wasn't an “in your face” type of a woman. No, she was more of a speak to the truth type of person. She was unflinching in describing her bipolar disorder and the impact it had on her and her mother. Mental illness diseases aren't talked about in many circles. There is a level of discomfort, shame, finger pointing and a host of other negative connotations surrounding mental disorders. It's not like you have a broken arm and it will be healed after a couple of months. It is an illness that you battle everyday and with medication. If someone has diabetes, for example, we would readily accept that the person would have to be on insulin in order to have some sort of sustaining life. With mental illness, it still struggles to be on a socially acceptable level and understanding in relation to other illnesses. Carrie broke through on these challenges. She talked openly about the disease. She made the illness into something human and not some boogeyman monster that could not be spoken. Her words became the ammunition needed to take down this demon. We have talked more about mental illness. It is not the big scary that's only spoken in whispers any longer. We have Carrie to thank for that.

At the time, I don't know if Carrie knew of the impact she had on so many little girls when she made Star Wars. Ah, if only social media was around then. She had come to appreciate the accept her role in fostering this ideal of women's contribution to not just working equally along side men but to honor the humanity in all of us. And it is one of the things that we shall miss the most about Carrie. We will miss a little part from column A and we will miss a little part from column B and we will miss a little part from column C because she gave us something from each area. Carrie herself would probably be amused and in disbelief that she was taken out by a heart attack. She probably would say “Are you shitting me! A heart attack? I thought sure I was gonna go by way of a sex act on a trampoline involving two midgets and a dancing Wookie in a G-string. Heart attacks are for white male Republicans and guys at Fox News.”

And now Carrie has reluctantly move on to the next chapter. She still had more to do on this earth but her presence was requested elsewhere. She left behind too many craters to fill and too many hearts that were broken. It will be difficult not seeing your face around anymore. Memories and love only last seventy-five years in humans if we're lucky. But there is your body of work that will help us remember you and we will smile and we will cry because you meant more to us than you could have possibly know. Goodbye my Princess, goodbye my General, goodbye my friend.

Image result for debbie reynolds
...And to Her Queen

Debbie Reynolds didn't start off a Debbie Reynolds. She was known as Mary Frances Reynolds from El Paso, Texas. Her life became the life of scripted movie specifically written for her. She was from severe poor humble origins when, after winning a local beauty contest, she was discovered by talent agents from Warner Bros. Studios. Hers was a true rags to riches story and no one deserved it more than Mary Frances Reynolds or as what she became to be known as Debbie Reynolds. And soon enough, she was starring along side the likes of Gene Kelly and Donald O'Connor in her first film, Singin' In The Rain. She was groomed in a era where the studio controlled everything about the stars in their stable. No move was made without a publicist knowing about it. Singin' In The Rain became known for its classic sound and for its music and it solidified Debbie Reynolds with moviegoers as this ingenue who's appeal and looks made them feel warm and she had a trusting face that would be taken advantage of as she soon found out. Along the way, she met and married her first husband, Eddie Fisher. Their union brought forth Carrie and her brother, Todd. She would go on to divorce Eddie because he had other “interest”elsewhere.

She would go on to marry two more time with disastrous results that nearly led to financial ruin. But Debbie persevered. She picked herself, she didn't feel sorry for herself, she faced her failures and laughed about them. She won the battle and she won the war. She became a savvy business woman and made the rules up as she went along. Her memories from her past and how she grew up would not be repeated with literally not having a pot to piss in. That fear was deafening and she had two mouths to feed. She knew what she had to do.

Along her film career, Debbie had the foresight to collect many of the wardrobes and accoutrements to some extraordinary films. She amassed this collection and held on to them. She had warehouses filled with Hollywood stars clothing. There was Marilyn Monroe's dress from The Seven Year Itch. There was Frank Sinatra and the gangs tuxedos from the Ocean 11 film. There was Dorothy's ruby slippers from The Wizard of Oz. That was just a small sample of the many things she had the foresight to hold on to and they sold big. The ruby slippers sold for $690,000 alone and the Marilyn Monroe dress sold for $5.58 million. That was more than enough for Debbie to recoup her initial investment into collecting Hollywood memorabilia.

She had traveled far since those humble days in El Paso, Texas. She never knew how to dance until they taught her. She never knew how to sing until they taught her. She never understood heartache until Eddie taught her. She never knew how to run a business until she taught herself. She never knew how tough grief felt until Carrie taught her. She always understood unconditional love was the most important thing to have a fulfill life and that she had. So long Mary Frances.

Image result for carrie fisher

Image result for debbie reynolds

Saturday, December 3, 2016

Image result for grace vanderwaal
Grace Vanderwaal
-The Little Engine That Did-

Late night talk show host, Jimmy Kimmel, often describe those singing competition shows like The Voice and American Idol as karaoke singing contests. And while NBC's America's Got Talent is more than a singing competition show, in its eleventh season, it anointed twelve year old singing sensation, Grace Vanderwaal, the grand prize winner. If you have no interest in these types of talent competition, sometimes it is hard to watch people demonstrate an ability that you find questionable and maybe not talent worthy, you are not alone. Having to sit through any of American Idol's singing challenges is often brutal after you listen through a parade of individuals who have deluded themselves into thinking that they can sing just as good as Celine Dion or the late Marvin Gaye. My ears are too sensitive to endure the shattered vocals of someone like a William Hung, one of the more notable bad singers who has graced the stage and yet found stardom in being a lousy singer. Ah, fame, thy mistress is cruel.

But for Grace Vanderwaal, her time was now as the stars were in perfect alignment as she sauntered out on stage, this tiny wisp of a young lady. She introduced herself in polite accord to the panel of judges and she began to sing. And as the camera panned to the faces of each judges, their faces registered a sense of astonishment. Here was this twelve year old girl, playing her ukulele, and belting out some very poignant lyrics to a song she had written. And as the audience members responded positively to her song, it threw her off momentarily. She quickly recovered and finished the song to uproarious applause.

America has just witness a musical prodigy. Judge Howie Mandel was the first to speak and he began to heap praise on this twelve year old phenom. And after about a couple of minutes of talking with her about her talent, he hit this button that automatically moved her forward through the competition. Simon Cowell, judge and creator of the show, commented that he wished he was able to hit the button first that gave Grace the opportunity to move forward. And you can understand the sentiment as she had just demonstrated the power in the lyrics to her first song, I Don't Know Your Name, and this sense of maturity that came within this twelve year old body. Adding to all of this was her vocal range and the haunting sense that you've heard it before from someone much older.

What Grace had demonstrated was pure raw talent on this night. There was no mixing, there was no retake, there was just this purity of an untrained voice, a musician who had just learned how to play the ukulele a year ago, an innocence to the surreal and contentious world that is the music industry.

And as she has enjoyed the accolades from people from within the music industry and enjoyed the popularity from her new fan base and absorbed the social media whirlpool, how will that raw and unfiltered talent be channeled into something more mainstream? With winning comes capitalization of the artist. Time is essential and she has come out with her debut album. It perhaps was easy for her to do as all of the songs she had performed on America's Got Talent were her original compositions.

As I listened to these songs, you hear what the studio performance has done for her voice and her instrumentation. I Don't Know My Name, Beautiful Thing, Clay, Light the Sky and an all together new one, Gossip Girl, is the collection. Each song seems as if they are an anthem of empowerment for little girls, teenage girls and even adult women. So let's go through each one and examine them closely.

I Don't Know My Name was her debut song that started the ball rolling. On America's Got Talent, she sang with an uptempo rhythm in it's rawest of forms. The studio version is a bit slower and the acoustics with her voice has been brought out where you can now hear every word that she says. She does keep the intent of the song intact in the same manner as the first time she performed it however, as the song gets closer to the end, we here a cello come in to give it some more depth and as it continues, a full orchestra sound comes in that builds up to a crescendo which gives it a more fuller sound. The only thing I found not to my liking is the abrupt end with the ukulele chord. It needed to linger just a bit and it seemed like it was cut off too soon.

Beautiful Thing, a song she wrote about her relationship with her sister, is a ballad with a solo piano accompaniment to her voice. It's one of those songs that you could listen to over and over again for a long time and not get easily bored with it. You don;t know if this song was always meant to be accompanied with a piano because she performed it on ukulele. I found this to be a favorite selection.  I predict that this song will be played at a lot of weddings and during a pivotal scene on Grey's Anatomy.

Clay is a powerful song about bullying. In the video below, you are grateful for adding the lyrics because some of the words were hard to understand until you read them. This is a string and piano composition performed effectively and not overpowering as the lyrics drive this piece. More teens should listen to this song and not feel the pressure that they endure from peer pressure and bullying.

Light The Sky reminds me of a song that came out of the folk song era during the 60's. It starts off slow for a few measures then it picks up the tempo mainly performed on the ukulele with a little orchestration and percussion. It's one of those songs where you don't care who is around you while you , as the lyrics say, dance like no one is around. Ah, now I remember who this song reminds me of, Donovan. He is a Scottish singer who blended folk, jazz, pop, psychedelia, and world music into his own unique sound. Grace has embraced the folk side of her talent for a new generation.

Gossip Girl is a song that wasn't performed on America's Got Talent. This song is new to her fans. This song is a definite pop ballad in it's arrangement with background vocals and uptempo beats. It will eventually make its way up the music charts and expand Grace's repertoire of styles.

It will be interesting to see how Grace develops her music and her lyrics as she gets older. Will they be more weighty, more introspective with subtle nuances, more relevant, who knows? What I do know is that she does have a sound, her own unique voice that I have dubbed the VanderWaal Sound.   Some people would say that an old soul inhabits her body.  Maybe, maybe not.  How could a person so young write such powerful lyrics with such an understanding?  I wish you well young Padawan and may the force be with you.

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Image result for black conservatives

The Slow and Meticulous Rise of The Black Conservative Movement

If you were like Joe Chandler, the man who went for days not knowing who had won the presidential race between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton until it was recently revealed to him, you'd probably have a hard time dissecting the numbers and statistics surrounding the 2016 election as well. Between race, age, non-Hispanic whites, income, education, and the other precise categories the polling companies adhere to, there was one section that was at best marginally discussed. In Donald Trumps victory over Hillary Clinton, he won the office by going after the voters from the rust belt states and the rural votes, predominately white middle class constituents. Clinton's votes came from the urban areas and the ever consistent minority voter. But inside that voting sector came a surprise that neither she nor others in the Democratic wing foresaw or for that matter, the mainstream media has failed to acknowledge with any sustenance. It was a significant rise of black voters voting for Trump.
Image result for black conservatives
Let's look closely at that closely. In 2012 when Mitt Romney ran against Barack Obama, he received 6 percent of the black vote. In 2016, Donald Trump received 8 percent of the black vote. Basically, that is a 35% increase in voters that Donald Trump received. On the surface, it may seem insignificant to the average pollster but imagine if the candidate wasn't someone who was divisive as Donald Trump who was running for the highest office in the land. In that 8 percent, did they see Trump as the candidate, despite all of his bluster, as the genuine article? Did they look past the controversial statements, the grabbing her by the pussy remarks, and saw him as this businessman who moves forward despite the bankruptcies and failed business dealings and still wind up on top? For whatever reason, he struck a cord with this core group, this growing silent minority.

But what about the Democrats, shouldn't they be taking notice as well? Let's take a look back in history to see where and how this ll began. It started with Abraham Lincoln freeing the slaves in 1862. The freeing of slaves open up the passage into the political arena and many freed black men immediately associated themselves with the Republican party thanks to Lincoln. 
Related image
 The Southern Democrats at the time, opposed any rights to blacks of any kind. It was only until Franklin D. Roosevelt's term in office did things start to evolve when FDR entered into the New Deal era which saw some economic prosperity for blacks even though discrimination was still in full force. 77 percent of the black vote went to the Democratic party while only 44 percent described themselves as members of the Democratic Party. Those numbers would increase when Harry Truman came into office and ended desegregation in the military and the end to racial discrimination to federal employment.
Image result for jfk and lbj
John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson brought the black vote home for the Democratic party with the passage of the Civil Rights Act. This piece of legislation brought broad sweeping change to not just black Americans but to every citizen in the United States. The Democrats had the black vote locked in and could count on it for many years to come in hopes of garnering the necessary votes to carry a candidate or to sway a piece of legislation. But history is a lesson we usually forget and of late, memories have become short termed. The George W. Bush Administration is about as far back some would rather go. The Clintons would like that.

When Obama won in 2012, he had 93 percent of the black vote compared to Clinton who had only 88 percent. Some of the details to that were that she failed to energize enough black voters, there was apathy on their part, the issue of her being trustworthy still was in play, given these and perhaps a few more points to debate, the black vote was easily up for grabs and the election was not as solid as Clinton had imagined. All the polls showed her ahead but these polls were skewed.

They were skewed because the people who were responding to them weren't being truthful or honest. Supporters of Trump were being targeted just for merely backing him. And there has been a silent dissatisfaction with the way things have been going under the Obama Administration. The Affordable Care Act wasn't what it was promised. Premiums are going up and even those who were attempting to qualify for the program saw the cost of their premiums and couldn't afford to pay it. Over the course of Democratic promises for the minority community, the community has received lip service. Ever since the so called war on poverty touted during the Johnson Administration, the historically disenfranchised community remains the historically disenfranchised community. Unemployment for blacks still remains high, double the rate next to their white counterpart. The gap for education has gotten wider between blacks and whites with blacks being the ones at the disadvantage. Even with have a black president did the status quo remain the same. And let's not talk about crime and punishment and race relations are tenuous at best.

If there is a silent rise to the black conservative movement, why aren't we hearing more from them. Well, there is no face to put on it. Unlike the Democrats where you could toss a rock and hit one in a Hollywood gathering where it would ricochet off Whoopi Goldberg's head and hit twenty more, the same couldn't be said about a celebrity black conservative. Michael Steele is not the face or Image result for black conservativesBen Carson. It would be somebody who could withstand the verbal beat down Whoopi Goldberg would elicit on her talk show where she shouts down any semblance of a rationale discussion.  Anything or anyone that is diametrically opposite to Whoopi Goldberg's panel of Democratic values, they are treated like scourges and reprobates unworthy of being in the presence of the general populous.

If I was representative of the black male vote, my choices were Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump and I didn't care for either choice. I am neither Republican or Democrat. At one point, I could have been described as being a Democrat but as each presidential prospect emerged, I found my views were more and more conservative. As I told a colleague of mine, “If I had to choose, I'd rather vote for Donald than her.” Apparently that's what a lot of people did and a lot of black votes didn't show up for her as well. Hillary Clinton had been in politics for way too long and hadn't realized that her stint with the American people had reached it's expiration point. 
Image result for hillary clinton
 She can blame FBI Director James Comy for her loss if she wants but there are a myriad of issues that she needs to confront and the first is to look in the mirror and find the cause. If she wanted to make this about gender politics, 54 percent of white women voted for Trump. It wasn't about that. The country is ready and has been ready for a woman to be president but not Clinton. I believe one of the labels that she put on herself was that she was a grandmother. Trump is a grandfather but he never made such a public declaration. Grandma is running for president, vote the geriatric ticket. It now becomes a generational issue just by the branding. Bernie Sanders had the youth vote and he's 75 years old. I wouldn't necessarily call it sexist when she referred to herself as that, more like a self inflicted wound. And you have to acknowledge that she's been a part of the American psyche since 1992 when Bill Clinton first ran for president. We're not counting the time he was governor of Arkansas.

Unlike the black Democrats who have squandered their votes on empty promises time in and time out because the Democratic National Committee has conferred a presumptive nominee on them and that candidate has issued a grocery list of promises that has failed to garner any traction, black conservative will be more measured with Trump because they see him as business like and he will attempt to run certain aspects of the government like a business. How much he will succeed is the $64,000 question.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Image result
Film Review of the Movie Loving

I want you to imagine for a few seconds that you had lived in the United States in the year of 1958. You just committed a crime in the State of Virginia. You have been sentenced to 25 years of banishment from the state or face two years in orison. What is your crime? It wasn't for smuggling illegal contraband, it wasn't for running a con against the elderly and it wasn't for any type of animal abuse. Your crime was for the heinous act of being in an interracial marriage. Thus begins the true story of the movie Loving that chronicled the lives of Richard (white American) and Mildred Loving (black and Native American).

Richard Loving, portrayed by Joel Edgerton, and Mildred Loving, portrayed by Ruth Negga, were just two everyday ordinary people who were thrust into becoming the pioneers of ending anti-miscegenation laws in the United States after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that it was unconstitutional on June 12, 1967. You would have to look at that year again to fully understand the impact that ruling had on millions of interracial couples in the U/S/ The portrayals from Negga and Edgerton reflected the time in which they lived and experienced. Edgerton's role as Richard Loving had to be a little submissive because he perhaps knew that by marrying a black woman, he couldn't be demonstrative in a county that had clear racial divisions. Negga as Mildred Loving also played the role as a more submissive person and again in the times and geography in which they lived. It's a helluva thing to live life in a Virginia county where the police can merely walk through your front door and bust down your bedroom door and charge you with a crime of being in bed with your wife.

As you watched this film, you see that it was Mildred Loving who initiated the cause during the impetus of the Civil Rights marches conducted by Dr. Martin Luther King. She saw his efforts of bringing together thousands with the march on Washington. Taking her cue from that, she wrote a letter to the then U.S. Attorney General, Robert Kennedy. That letter subsequently landed at the desk of American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) attorney Benjamin Cohen played effectively by Nick Kroll.

In an era where every actress wants to play the “strong woman” or “strong black woman” role, a factor that has become nauseatingly tiresome and overworked and overused, Negga plays a real life woman who's strength is internal and subdued. I don't know if some female actors will have a problem with the Mildred Loving role? She doesn't reflect the strong woman role that many expect these days. You will not find her yelling or screaming against this antiquated law. You will not find her screaming or berating her husband. It is important that Negga not take any liberties with her portrayal because that is the beauty of this role.

Edgerton too must refrain from doing the same as Richard Loving shares the same dynamic as his wife. Richard Loving was a brick mason. He went to work and came home. He didn't seek any fame or notoriety unlike many today who find the need to be famous through social media.

As a filmmaker, this is the film I had wanted to do. I had seen some archival footage pf the Lovings and found the subject matter extremely interesting. A quick Google search showed me that a film, this film, was currently being filmed. Now that it has arrived, you have empathy for them. They have no understanding of the law and how long a case takes to go through the system. You have empathy for their children as they are considered bastard for being mixed race.

Loving v. Sate of Virginia became THE test case the made same sex marriages the law of the land. I don't think the gay community knows this as they owe the Lovings respect and thanks for being the reluctant pioneers for marriage equally. This is a film worthy of placing on your list to see over the holiday weekend not only for the beauty of it but for also the history lessons we tend to miss that history books often fail to record when it comes to race.  At the end of this film they tell you what happened to them following their victory ruling with the Supreme Court.  Richard Loving was killed by a drunk driver seven years after the victory.  Mildred died in 2008, never remarrying but still in love with her husband.  Grade A +.

Monday, November 14, 2016

Image result for Dave Chappelle

Dave Chappelle Hits the Re-Start Button and We Are Pleased

Mark the date, November 11, 2016.  This was the day that Dave Chappelle reintroduced himself back to the world with 6.2 million people watching. As the host of Saturday Night Live, he reminded the viewing public what pure comedy was all about. It has been eleven years since Dave left the airwaves. He alluded to the fact that his return was a “comeback” but I don't see it that way. I see it more as a pause in play. I do not know if you could call what we witness that night as television history because what we saw was a reflection of something we hadn't seen in years and it's as if Dave has emerged from a chrysalis and morphed into this worldly comedian that speaks the truth. The public hadn't seen this type of comic that could hit on social issues since the heady days of Richard Pryor and George Carlin. In his opening monologue on Saturday Night Live, you watched as he slowly unfolded the controversy of the Donald Trump victory and addressed the conflict with the protesters to the Trump win.

He laid out his take that made you laugh but made you think about how foolish it was for the actions of the protesters given that this was a free election and right or wrong, Trump won. It wasn't angry humor or beating you up humor or Amy Schumer humor, is was more than that. Chappelle made those who were watching to hold a mirror up and look at what we have become. Sure, the historically disenfranchised still have a long way to go but as Dave said, he would give Donald Trump the chance to govern. Time will only tell if he has become the voice of the unrepresented but he did give a voice to what has been missing for eleven years.

We've had other comics who've entered the picture since he left but their humor left me humorless. I've sat through countless hours of comedy shows and my laugh meter ran low of many of these alleged celebrity comedians. You can't attack your own audience and force them to leave just because you don't agree with their politics. You can't shame an audience member when you bring him on stage and chastise him for his political choice. Your job is to entertain with humor and when you stray from that obligation, you've lost your audience and your appeal.

Dave Chappelle chose to walk away from a lucrative contract because the powers that be had an agenda to conduct. Dave would not be a party and contribute to those who would take his humor and manipulate it for their own means to an end.

On that glorious night, Dave became this old/new social media comedian. He didn't have the tools at his disposal eleven years ago but now the tools are literally at his fingertips. Seeing him perform all of those old characters became relevant again. We still have a crack/heroin problem. We still have racism that's more blatant than ever. We still have sexism. We still are violent and extreme with it. We still are at war with an enemy bent on destroying our way of life. We still are at war with each other. Maybe, just maybe Dave Chappelle can bring a spotlight to one of these issues and through his brand of humor, we can bring about a change? Richard Pryor and George Carlin are looking down and saying, “Well how about that, we've got our voice back.”