Sunday, May 31, 2009

You're So Lame Award of Shame - White Men Howling At the Moon

I swear if I had a dollar for every white man supporting a supremacist agenda that has cried foul, racism, had a pity party and engaged in other mealy-mouth BS over the SCOTUS nominee I'd have quite a few extra in my pocket this week! So let's clarify that President Obama's choice of Judge Sonia Sotomayor is a big deal and SUPER SCARY to some people apparently. Somehow having a brain and a vagina is going to do some people in. Yeah I said it! Vagina, vagina, vagina. The fact is they'd prefer a woman who was afraid of hers or wanted to repress its capabilities, but that's a whole other slippery slope. A divorced woman with no children - oh my! What does that mean????

From Rush "Never Met A Racist/Sexist Cause He Doesn't Support" to G. Gordon Liddy quite a few of the Usual Suspects have been up to no good as per their marching orders from the great White Power Oz. Isn't it time we pull the curtain back and throw some water on this sucker? Liddy....shouldn't this man have been executed for treason after he called for the murder of American citizens because he didn't agree with their politics? Somehow graduating at the top of your class from an Ivy League makes you an Affirmative Action "lesser than". I suppose being a legacy admission with a C average means you're freaking brilliant and have done all the work COMPLETELY ON YOUR OWN MERITS, huh? Not! 

Anyway, I would have preferred Obama nominate another equally if not more qualified African-American female lawyer like Kimberle Crenshaw. In case you are not familiar with her work she coined the term "intersectionality". Read this excerpt from her Wiki page:
Crenshaw has published works on civil rights, black feminist legal theory, and race, racism, and the law. She often commentates on various aspects of law and racial politics and her scholarly interests center around race and the law. She is the founding coordinator of the intellectual movement called the Critical Race Theory Workshop. She is currently a Professor of law at UCLA and Columbia Law School and teaches Civil Rights and other courses in critical race studies and constitutional law. In 1991 and 1994, she was elected Professor of the Year. At the University of Wisconsin Law School, where she received her LL.M., Professor Crenshaw was a William H. Hastie Fellow. Later on, she clerked for Justice Shirley Abrahamson of the Wisconsin Supreme Court.

Crenshaw has published numerous works including Critical Race Theory, Words that Wound: Critical Race Theory, and Assaultive Speech and the First Amendment. She was also the coeditor of Critical Race Theory: Key Documents That Shaped the Movement and her works have appeared in the Harvard Law Review, the National Black Law Journal, the Stanford Law Review, and the Southern California Law Review. She has lectured nationally and internationally on race matters, addressing audiences throughout Europe, Africa, and South America as well as facilitating workshops for civil rights activists in Brazil and constitutional court judges in South Africa.

Her work on race and gender was influential in the drafting of the equality clause in the South African Constitution. In 2001, she wrote the background paper on Race and Gender Discrimination for the United Nations World Conference on Racism and helped to facilitate the addition of gender in the WCAR Conference Declaration. Crenshaw has also served as a member of the National Science Foundation's Committee to Research Violence Against Women and has assisted the legal team representing Anita Hill. She is also a founding member of the Women's Media Initiative and is a regular commentator on NPR's The Tavis Smiley Show.

Crenshaw is also co-founder, with Prof. Luke Harris, of the African American Policy Forum (AAPF). AAPF was founded in 1996. According to AAPF's mission statement: The Policy Forum is dedicated to advancing and expanding racial justice, gender equality, and the indivisibility of all human rights, both in the U.S. and internationally.
So Sotomayor has made some rulings that don't sit well with certain "progressives". She may not be the prefect candidate but she's a heck of a lot better than John Roberts "I Don't Think AIDS Is An Epidemic"...and Alito! That was Robert's stance in the 80's when he was advising Ronald Reagan at the beginning of the outbreak. It prompted the President to distance himself and ignore the future millions of people who'd die because the Republicans couched everything in "you're a dirty sinner" language instead of seeing it as a public health (and national security) threat. In case you're thinking Roberts has mellowed some guess again. He's the Chief Justice on top of it. 

I'm hoping President Obama gets to appoint at least two more Justices who will use common sense and leave their narrow religious/sexist/racist views out of the court. Yeah I know I'm asking for A LOT. But all of the things some of these men are accusing Judge Sotomayor of are the very same things they do on a regular basis. They know it - and so do we! So lay off. 

And for crying out loud - pronounce her name correctly!!
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Saturday, May 30, 2009

Ruminations On Love and Life

Jolly Saturday to Everyone (these photos are from an Oakland neighborhood that grows scary life-size giant plants):
  
 
 
This is a live post, meaning I haven't pre-written it and scheduled it to appear later. My brain is fried today so I'm just posting photos and various things from the past week or so. (Actually since I started this post a few hours ago and it took a year to download/compress and get Blogger to accept 10 minutes of a sound recording I'm totally awake now). I've been exploring different neighborhoods, being more social and making stealth (concert) recordings. Some of you online friends have been chronicling this lovely journey since I started this blog last July. Others have recently joined the conversations. Thanks to all of you for taking the time out of your busy day to spend a few minutes with me and my thoughts via Blogger and on Twitter. What a wonderful community of kick-butt individuals you are! Maybe some of you observers will feel less like a turtle and come out of your shell? I hope it's been an interesting and thought-provoking mind meld. I hope that I've challenged, motivated and inspired you as I've tried to do for myself. I've loved the feedback I've received and welcome more.

I had a personal goal of a new post every day that I've actually kept since November! Now I want to apply that level of concentration and discipline to other areas of my life. I'm still not ready to cut back my posting schedule but I prefer quality to quantity so this may be changing soon. I'm the "Little Blogger That Could" you know and still have some things to learn. Thank you for taking this journey with me. When I write about inequalities it's so that we recognize how similar we all are in our own way and how we can contribute to replenishing society - or taking from it. I focus on social justice, empowerment, changing our mindsets and being honest because if we don't how will we continue to grow as human beings? 

I also enjoy popular culture, music, art, etc. Anything that uplifts our spirits - even some things considered risque. It has become rather obvious how we need to take back control of how images are being disseminated, particularly those of Black women. Clearly being one means I have a vested interested in how we are shown (though that isn't the case with every BW sadly). We laugh, cry, smile, bleed and live just like everyone else but somehow we are being presented as inauthentically as possible. We are NOT the gum on the shoe of the world. Even if you don't personally have anything to do with that, you can certainly help thwart those that are. Of course I also want others to live in peace as well, but we all have our individual paths to take and purposes to fulfill. I believe this is one of mine.

We should also be able to live our lives freely without fear of recrimination. No one should go hungry. Greed must not be allowed to rule the day. Even as we take more responsibility and learn to make better choices we still need each other on some level. Everyone has to pull their own weight, but that doesn't mean it's ok to kick the person on the ladder below you when climbing it. Fairness doesn't always balance out but I don't see why goodness can't prevail when it really counts. As frustrated as I get with things I can't control it's because I'd like to see the bar raised with more opportunities for people. Or at least a minimal skill set that we know how to navigate for us and future generations. We may not all have the same privileges but that should not be a virtual death sentence for a quality life. Accountability goes in many directions.

So with that I bid you a fair day/evening and here's hoping it's a good one.
   
Amel Larrieux bootleg. I had to cover the lens and just get a sound recording but isn't it great! She even made her voice sound like a horn to accompany the other instrumentalists. I could only get this one still as she exited the stage and she turned so quickly all you can see is her back. Next time! There was a little reverb added to compliment her vocals but not one touch of Auto-tune was required. The other photos are of Ben Harper and a photo of the inside of the Fillmore before show-time. *Just added a little bootleg Ben (see above) and it's jumpy because they were already telling people no cameras the second we walked in - and yet there was a "professional" photog there hogging all the space :-(
 

Friday, May 29, 2009

Old School Friday - What Do You Do When You Listen to Everything?

So this week's meme is "Outside My Box", but I dabble in all genres of music so this isn't going to work for me. See not all of us limit ourselves. I have my preferences of course but I do try to listen to everything (except degrading songs of course). So now I've got to find some obscure pan pipe music from the Andes or something - nah I won't do that to ya'll. I'll just put up something I think some of you might not listen to or be that familiar with: like the two artists I just saw this week (I still have to download footage by the way). I had a slew of messages on Twitter not on the blog if you want to check my archives for those conversations. Which was also why I wasn't able to schedule my posts for future feed parsing. This is live baby! So consider these selections a precursor to a future concert series of blog posts......

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Thursday, May 28, 2009

Deploying A Little Negro Spirit: The Responsibility of the (Sometimes) Buying Public

So this was supposed to be the end of my series of cultural abandonment and appropriation but I think it bears continuing even as I expand the way it has been framed thus far.

I've had some very good conversations in real life and online from a variety of people (notably a majority of Black women) who are tired of seeing our sisters being dragged through the mud. We want to hold others accountable for spreading the virus but it starts with us. It begins with looking in the mirror at what we support and why we choose it.

I went to a meet and greet session with music artist Ben Harper yesterday (I'll have photos on my Flickr account shortly). Now quite a few people may not know who he is (or like his style of music) but that's because many of us aren't seeking out music that isn't played on terrestrial radio. Artists that don't fit into the R&B/Hip-Hop radio format of today may be ignored by the average listener. They're missing out on a lot of great music. Or at least missing out on hearing diverse styles. 

During our time with him he mentioned how he has never stopped seeking out ways to improve his musicianship (he plays guitar, piano and dabbles with other instruments). He also practices regularly. He talked about his exposure to a variety of genres thanks to his parents and grandparents being open-minded about what they played. He also discussed early hip-hop songs that blew him away. The difference of course is that he actually reads and plays music and isn't dependent on knob-fiddling to produce a sound. 

He doesn't need to reach back two decades ago for a great song to sample to center his songs around. Now one could argue that learning to use an MPC is a skill, that mixing is a skill but to what end?  Truth be told even the great DJs have seen the emergence of what I call the "CD Players", who don't even bother sequencing a song properly and just hit the start button and cue up songs on a laptop. I've been to many clubs where it's some variation of Top 40 boredom. 

Some of these lauded "music" makers have even been exposed as having used preloaded music for their "hits".
We as consumers have gotten so used to listening to watered-down music we wouldn't know quality if it bit us on the...If we demand more from music artists things will change. If we raise the bar for what we deem quality we will see an immediate improvement. The market will have to meet our needs instead of the other way around.

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Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Prop 8 Fight Rages On: What About Trans Women and Men?

Now while the fight for marriage equality for LGBTs doesn't directly affect me in my daily life it certainly bothers my sensibilities. One of the major arguments about the passage of Prop 8 in California is how it discriminates against a marginalized group. Who has determined the criteria for marginalization? There has also been this somewhat successful meme-stealing by linking Civil Rights for African-Americans to Marriage Rights for gays. As an African-American woman I cannot express my continued outrage over this!! Not to mention the fact it posits those LGBTs being discriminated against must only be white. I have intentionally used "gay", because it's a dirty little secret amongst the LGBT "community" that it is in fact as fractured as what we commonly refer to as the "Black community".

There is a well-documented history and current bias that gays and lesbians engage in by attacking members of the trans community. I honestly had no idea it was as prevalent and entrenched as it is. Why would I - it's not as if they're going to ADVERTISE it!! I've been reading Voz Latina blog hosted by a transwoman who has been educating me on the history of violence and oppression by gay and lesbian activists against trans men and women. *She asked that I remove her name from this post for security reasons. Even in attempting to dismantle the biases of people within the LGBT community, transwomen are under additional scrutiny and potential for harm. This is why when we speak of all the "isms" we must make sure to get ALL sides of the story and tell the WHOLE truth. Otherwise we're nothing short of an echo chamber that feeds our ego and point of view. 

So we should be asking who does it benefit stepping over transpeople when you are trying to get your "homo" agenda pushed ahead? Who's the "real" victim? There have been cases where transwomen have had to sue companies for the right to use the women's restroom. The latest is a Denny's restaurant case but there was an rather embarrassing kerfuffle at the Beverly Hills Hilton last year with a music producer who was ejected based on her masculine appearance. Since she showed her driver's license and identified herself as female that should have been the end of it, but she was humiliated for being "different". Yes even in LaLaLand! 

Now admittedly I've had to do double-takes from time to time with whom I've shared a public space with but I've also had to get a group of women to commandeer stalls designated for men when there weren't enough available for us to use - which is practically all the time. I don't think I'd deserve to be presumed guilty of some uncommitted offense just because I was a cis-gendered woman. 

So I've written a few posts about the unsolved assaults and murder of transwomen like Duanna Johnson as well as the ongoing fight for gender parity and racism. It's all the same thing that manifests itself differently. I suppose we'll never have utopia but I can't abide with hearing about how "wrong" it is for two LGBTs who want to be themselves and be together from a pseudo-religious person who's following "God". Especially when I know and THEY KNOW they were doing everything under the sun before Sunday service or sit in harsher judgment of people than the Almighty ever would. We have come far but we have a long way to go. So let's continue the good fight and check ourselves along the way to have a little slice of heaven in THIS life.

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Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Poor, Single, Overworked or Other: Are We Our Own Worst Enemies?

Have you ever been on a "diet" and found yourself eating junk food you'd never bought before? Do you claim to be broke but can't put down the credit card? Do you decry racism that personally touches you but say nothing about the sexism you personally engage in? Is it normal for you to say people are jerks and wonder why you have so few friends? Are you dissatisfied with your dating pool but you won't go outside your "acceptable" zone to meet a variety of people? Are you a cis-gendered person who won't acknowledge your homophobia or an LGBT who won't accept a transwoman and wonder why someone else is still oppressing you?

There may be institutionalized forms of oppression that have been in place for a long time but what are we doing to dismantle them? Or find a workable solution around them? If we want gender parity but ignore our own privilege how is it any surprise that there will be divided loyalties? If there is never going to be a level playing field why is the term equality being used at all? Isn't that a lie to keep perpetrating the concept when it will never happen? Who gets to benefit for keeping people in a permanent fly-over formation that never allows them to land?

I was reading this article in the Washington Post titled: Poor? Pay Up that posits being poor costs people so much more in basic expenses that they'll never be able to break the cycle. I like to label articles such as these, "You're already screwed so don't even try" diatribes which actually reinforce negative attitudes and weak choices. This article is being written under the guise of the sympathetic "liberal" slant that only reinforces helplessness amongst people who may already be downtrodden and depressed. It does nothing to get them (us) to change their way of thinking, which would change their actions, which would alleviate some of the problems they're facing. 
"The rich have direct deposit for their paychecks. The poor have check-cashing and payday loan joints, which cost time and money. Payday advance companies say they are providing an essential service to people who most need them. Their critics say they are preying on people who are the most "economically vulnerable."
Statements like these only reinforce a false argument. Most states now offer second-chance banking where you can in fact have a free checking out and set up online bill payments. At the very least you can stop going to the rip-off joints. So there's really no excuse. There's another segment of this indoctrination manual where a man complains about paying a $15 fee because he lost his drivers license. So instead of paying to replace it he pays the check-cashing fee instead? What does that have to do with being financially-challenged?

The article mentions that stats for those that live below the poverty line yet only focuses on those that live in "urban" read: Black residential areas. You know..the hood. People in rural areas have the same problems but their general makeup is different and why would the corporate media want to attach the face of poverty to someone white?! The only time dysfunction is ever shown as normative it supports their purpose by attaching it to Blackness.

It also feeds into the opposite reaction and charge of people not pulling themselves up by their "bootstraps". It's a little hard to do that when the boot is on your neck. Other times people don't have a boot..or shoelaces even. It's a nice way to reassure those suffering from "white angst" that they are still large and in charge afterall that guy in the White House is an anomaly compared to the rest of "those" people. 

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Monday, May 25, 2009

You're So Lame Award of Shame - Bill Maher

When musician M.I.A. announced on Twitter that she was appearing on Real Time with Bill Maher I was looking forward to the interview. I had been pleasantly surprised by the quality of the interview with Tavis Smiley which occurred in February shortly before she gave birth to her first child. I felt confident that Maher's skill would result in an equally engaging segment.

Boy was I wrong! M.I.A. has a lot of patience because I would've had to clamp my arm from reaching out and smacking Maher over his misogynist tirade, talking about her baby weight and making light of the very serious ramifications over the Sri Lanka Civil War. You know Bill Maher is a smart guy but he's blatantly antagonistic in indulging his misogyny. 

She has some important details to discuss and has made it the base of her music which should be lauded. Considering all of the foolishness in rap music where people dance to the beat of destruction, it's nice to hear an artist who discusses something of such importance and makes it compelling to a mass audience. So I guess she realizes the advantage to enduring a few minutes of his nonsense to get a larger message out, but he deserves to be sent to the corner for trying to diminish that.


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Sunday, May 24, 2009

Motherhood: 1 - Wife: 0

I call this Palin-itis. Whereby the female gets pregnant, keeps the child but decides there's no dad required. Per this article in the Orlando Sentinel, a Babytalk Magazine poll shows:
76 percent of the married mothers liked the idea of not fighting with a partner over the best way to raise a child. Other pros to being single were not having the chore of keeping up a healthy marriage (69 percent), and not dealing with in-laws (30 percent).

And single moms agree.

Almost two-thirds of the unmarried moms felt that it would be harder to be a parent if there was a man in the house. Of the single ladies, 55 percent said that they feel relieved to not have to worry about working on a marriage too, and 38 percent said they feel more free to follow their own dreams.
Now I'm not a wife and I'm not a mother, but I think I still have some marbles left in my head! What in the HELL-O is wrong with these women? This isn't Bristol Palin and Levi Johnston people. Levi is the fall-guy for the ex-VP candidate's stance on abstinence and he went on the Tyra Show to discuss how a) Momma knew her daughter and boyfriend were sexing each other b) Now that the baby is here they're limiting how often he can see his own child because they broke up and are otherwise dissatisfied with him and his family. 
It would seem some truly selfish and clueless women actually think it's better to raise a child alone. Now it's one thing if the father is unfit but...shouldn't there have been some requirements considered in the first place? Like being able to provide and protect? Like discussing what type of life and lifestyle you'll be living? Like giving some consideration to the person you'll be tied to FOREVER when there's a kid involved? Somebody explain this to me so I can understand. Since this article doesn't talk about adoption these are the biological children of these women. Why not take a child that's been abandoned or can't be cared for properly? If it's simply about being a MOTHER why does it have to have one's DNA? Why would a woman want to intentionally push a man away? 

Something isn't adding up here. I have to stand by my statement about some women being selfish and willfully ignorant. Before someone accuses me of blaming the female in this scenario alone I say youth can be a time of great foolishness but there comes a point where wisdom must prevail. If we want women to be in control of all reproductive choices then they must also know how to discern those choices wisely.  That doesn't always guarantee an agreement but nor should it invite constant chaos.

Of course there are numerous situations where a girl or young woman was taken advantage of, or assaulted or otherwise put in harms way. We also make mistakes. This isn't one of those scenarios. Besides, there are plenty of options available for those who are capable of procreating not to. One of them should be having common sense. Sadly it is often lacking. In both the sperm and egg donor. We see the results of how fatherless children or those born to weak men behave and the negative impact it has on society. So let's not add to its burdens intentionally.

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Saturday, May 23, 2009

Donna Edwards On Support & Accountability

See this is why I just love what (D-MD) Donna Edwards has done while in office. She is a true progressive and always make SENSE!!! It's as if she wants us to take back the world "liberal" and make it clean again. This is why I mention those in the Republican Party who either aid or abet because that leadership single-handedly put a hex on anyone who tries to be reasonable and work with others to come to workable solutions. The Democrats don't help by either being Republicans in disguise or just rolling over with no backbone. At the end of the day we're all just people. We want to be loved and to care for our loved ones. The best societies encourage thriving intact families. When there's an imbalance of suffering, greed and other wrongs it throws everything off kilter. Eventually it will plunge that society into ruin. We are still so on the verge of catastrophic failure that I don't people really get it. So I'm glad Rep. Edwards has reminded us that we have to monitor ourselves and others for good to prevail. 

Donna, can you come and BAIL OUT California!!! Pretty please.....
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Friday, May 22, 2009

Red Lobster & Cheddar Biscuits = Fine Dining?

This was one of the funniest scenes + no profanity = yeah! from The Boondocks. This was the episode from Season One where the grandfather falls for a working girl who sadly returns to the life. The grandchildren are upset that he's not taking them out.

So when I saw this video at BelleJenkins blog (h/t Harry Allen) where she asks people if they consider Red Lobster fine dining I immediately laughed when recalling that episode. The responses are funny, especially considering some of the people who'd be considered "hood" do understand the nuances between a chain restaurant and a 5-Star joint. Note at 1:45 someone mentions the cheddar biscuits. There you go!

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Old School Friday

Oh yeah! It's Friday and it's time for a little fun. I want you to break out the iced tea, juice, water or alcoholic beverage of choice and kick back cuz it's the weekend baby!! This week's meme is: THIS IS DEDICATED TO. So I'm thinking: to all the haters because it's just been that sort of week. Cheney is bashing the President. Glen Beck has lost his mind. The American Idol "voting public" doesn't like a man who wears guyliner. The Governor of California doesn't like its residents. Sarah Palin worships the idea of motherhood but really hates women whose choices don't align with her own. Reality TV is rotting meat for the brain. And Mother Nature has left the building. Have I missed anything else?


Just had to throw in something fun!
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California to Ah-nuld: DROP DEAD

Subtitle to this post: Schwarzenegger's Revenge.

California's about to go Third-World! 

Why you may be asking?

Well some of us haven't received our unemployment checks for weeks. Others have actually had them BOUNCE. Yup, I don't think anyone would have anticipated a check from the Federali with no legal tender but it has happened. Despite the funds having been released by them it would seem California may be holding on to that money because the State is BROKE-BROKEDY-BROKE! Since this is his last hurrah and HIS MONEY IS SAFE he thinks he can tell all of the non-wealthy, working-class and poor Californians to suck it. 

I guess he's pissed about that little recall thing mounting...

Here's an excerpt from the LA Times that ought to get your blood boiling:
With deficit forecasts growing darker by the day, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger is considering a plan to slash California's safety net for the poor by eliminating the state's main welfare program, health insurance for low-income families and cash grants to college students. Advocates for the poor said elimination of those health and welfare programs would come at a steep price. Tens of thousands of families and children would be stripped of temporary financial help and health assistance, and the state would lose a huge pool of federal money that pays the majority of the program's costs.

Anthony Wright, executive director of Health Access California, said federal dollars cover up to two-thirds the cost of the Healthy Families program, which is for the working poor. The federal government pays about 58% of the cost of CalWorks.

"It's beyond draconian," Wright said. "It's insane. Not just for dropping 1 million children from healthcare, but also for losing substantial federal funding."
Okay, we get it Arnie. Nobody bought the Ballot Measure Sandwich you were offering. So now you're playing hard-ball...but don't count everyone out just yet. The blowback will be severe. Just watch. Trying to cut off your nose to spite your face will not have the desired results you may be seeking. Still, there is NO white horse riding in to save the State. 

So no offense to developing nations but this is how revolutions occur. The "powers that be" kill off the infrastructure after robbing a nation blind. They depose an (in)adequate leader for an even more corrupt and inept one. All hell breaks loose and things collapse. Then people get mad enough to bring out the pitchforks and kick some *ss. What exactly will the rich people do when they have no $2/hr workers cuz they chased everybody away? I have NO idea what these lawmakers are doing, but they are seriously gonna get it. It's time for some heads to roll  - that's all. Arnie won't get elected for dog-catcher after this but he certainly deserves to be in the dog house for a long long time.

I just remembered to add the contact info to this post so it's not simply one long (but justified) rant-o-thon. Phone calls, faxes and emails are so much more effective. Lots and lots of BAD PRESS!! California you CAN save yourself from tyranny and incompetence if you want to.

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger
State Capitol Building
Sacramento, CA 95814
Phone: 916-445-2841
Fax: 916-558-3160 ( new number )

Los Angeles Office
300 South Spring Street
Suite 16701
Los Angeles, CA 90013
Phone: 213-897-0322
Fax: 213-897-0319

San Francisco Office
455 Golden Gate Avenue
Suite 14000
San Francisco, CA 94102
Phone: 415-703-2218
Fax: 415-703-2803

Washington D.C. Office
134 Hall of the States
444 North Capitol Street NW
Washington D.C. 20001
Phone: 202-624-5270
Fax: 202-624-5280

Oh and don't forget EMAIL.

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Thursday, May 21, 2009

Non Conformity As Resistance to Mediocrity

Some would argue there is truly no non-conformity only pockets of rebellion that may lie within each of us. I remember being in my twenties and hearing staunch declarations of how some friends were so "different" from the norm. They wore it like a badge of honor. Yet often these same people were in fact quite a homogeneous bunch, who relied on their parents' generosity for income and hadn't moved very far mentally or in consciousness away from their suburban upbringing. Yet somehow they thought they were cutting edge because they wore eyeliner, listened to certain styles of music and owned a pair of Doc Martins. Ah the innocence (ignorance) of youth. 

Those that actively challenge the status quo of conformity are often held with a fierce derision. Often those who react so negatively have no idea why, but it's such a visceral and immediate response. Why do we punish non-conformists?

So, if you've read my posts that have appeared late Tuesday evenings/early Wednesday mornings you know I've been following American Idol. I readily admit to not having watched it for some time or waiting until the it comes down to the final three contestants. The front-runner is usually quite obvious by this time. For example the season Carrie Underwood won I knew she would be chosen. She had a marketable look and wanted to perform country music which was an untapped market for Idol. I liked her but I knew for certain that Bo Bice was utterly amazing and yet didn't quite fit the mold. His 1970's flavor wasn't going to impress 19 Management though he was obviously talented. 

Then I skipped a few seasons - happily - until I kept hearing a buzz about this one guy from Season 8. So I watched Adam Lambert perform and was immediately impressed. So many of the contestants were a cut above the norm and yet he was still able to raise the bar. I was curious at how self-possessed he seemed and at ease with himself which was something the others competing didn't show. I also picked up his theatre background by the way he presented himself. There were discussions about his sexual orientation couched in code words like "theatrical" which I found mildly annoying. 

I couldn't quite explain why I'd suddenly become so invested in a complete stranger who was clearly the best out of the bunch yet made people so uncomfortable - including the judges. I thought somehow they'd do something to tank his chances despite themselves to pick someone safer, nee blander. Since it's supposedly up to the viewers to vote (which they don't actually verify who votes, the number of times, the amount of or any of that) I wondered if people would actually come through and vote for an alleged "gay" Idol. See we don't actually know but we suspect. As progressive as some people may like to think they are, they often want cookie cutter conformity surrounding them because it verifies their chosen identity. 

I've been seething about this American Idol loss and I know there's a deeper meaning underneath. One of the contestants was of Indian descent and I had honestly rooted for Anoop Desai to go far simply because I knew certain people in this country would not support him regardless. I also felt the lone Black female finalist, Lil Rounds was treated horribly by the judges and overly criticized. She was given so many divergent messages of who she needed to be to satisfy them that she floundered. This may be about pop-culture "fluff" to some but there's always a bigger issue at stake.

My posts questioning whether Adam would actually win seem rather prescient now. Then I remember it came down to two white men and perhaps I shouldn't be so invested. Yet I see how one was made to be the other while the winner Kris Allen was deemed acceptable. Even he admitted he didn't quite deserve to win - yet he's fully accepted the reward for being the safe choice. 

Isn't it time we stop playing it safe? 

As a woman we're looked at as odd if we choose to not give birth to or raise other people's children. As if the sole purpose of being a woman is to be a mother.

Not everyone wants to get married. As long as it comes from a place of empowerment - and all legal documentation is in order involving children, pets, property, holdings, etc then who are we to say it's wrong?
 
Black people who don't want to follow the rules of Blackness some would say particular actions verify it. It has become increasingly rare to see the image of Blacks in the normative because so much dysfunction is touted as being regular. That is a lie. Think of how many youths define themselves by wearing extra baggy clothes which is emulated after prison attire. Or dress in extra tight clothing that reveals their bodies. No one ever questions why they do the things they do.

Children should not be teased for being perceived as different. We seemed so surprised at the rash of youths that killed themselves over being taunted as gay. Children pick up on the viewpoints and language of their parents without a filter so why was it a shock to find out that certain people are very intolerant?

Traveling outside your immediate area. Leaving the country is a must. Immersing oneself into another culture is vital to one's development as well-rounded person. 

There are numerous ways we can think outside the box and it first starts with being curious and listening to dissenting viewpoints. Now we must always be wearing our thinking caps about the messages we're being sent, but isn't it wonderful to find yourself being challenged in ways you hadn't anticipated? Having a shift in consciousness can be quite liberating.
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Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Karen Bass on the California Special Election

Speaker Bass sounds so reasonable and is so personable. Perhaps if she had been able to talk to more people...nah! Nobody was buying that temporary increase with a decrease in services argument. Yet, I'd still like to see her run for Governor. 

Here's what she says the State will do in response to this crisis.
Here's a video highlighting the reign of Arnold and what it means. A little over the top but some valid points are made.
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Arnie If You Want Real Reform Here's Where You Start

So the Governator's second round of ballot measures got the perverbial smack down last night. Every Propostion with the exception of 1F which called for cap on Legislator salaries in an economic downturn. With low voter turn-out California voters sent a very clear message they're not happy with Schwarzenegger. Why should we be. He rode in on his "Savior Horse", using the myth of his movie hero status and a wife part of a political dynasty promising to "PUMP UP CALIFORNIA". Well now that such ideas have not only been deflated but kicked to death and stuffed under the baseboards - we can turn our attention to the 2010 election and who else people think is going "save" them. Hint: it will NOT be Newsom so try not to fall for the okey doke AGAIN people!!

In the meantime an second recall initiative is officially underway. For real this time. With an October deadline and a 1M signature requirement I think it will go through. The state is currently $21B in the hole for this year alone AFTER this past budget shortfall of $53B. Now I know other states have high unemployment, high taxes and Governors who may not be the most popular *cough New York cough* BUT their states are in no way near as bad shape as California. Patterson and the NY Legislature BALANCED their budget. What's up with California? 

They can't keep blaming it on the economy. Not with Pelosi, Boxer and Feinstein being such poltical powerhouses. Not when the Governor and President have a cordial relationship. Not when the state is getting BILLIONS in stimulus funds. Sure we can point to individual politicians and the fact that passing a budget here requires a 2/3s majority - which is just plain FOOLISH. If Ah-nuld had run as a REGULAR candidate, mounted a great campaign and had won fair and square (ha) then perhaps we could take all of these other factors into consideration. Except his political ambitions got the best of him and he listened to the bees buzzing in his ear about how awesome he was....about how they could change OUR constitution to allow for a foreign-born to run for President....and the Republicans still had an iron grip on local, state and national politics in collusion with their corporate media bedmates. 

When Gray Davis was trying to get MILLIONS back to the state from ENRON who supported BUSH and BILKED us in fake fees, rate hikes and rolling blackouts, the Republicans planned for a little hostile takeover of California. And so many people fell for it that I still find it scary to this day. People were really sleeping at the wheel. Davis was no "saint" but he certainly wasn't a villian either. As soon as Arnie got in office, the Enron recompense effort was halted and I bet many people would love to have that money back NOW. He also tried to go right-wing in California of all places, by going after the unions of teachers, nurses and fire fighters and cutting our vital services. It failed spectacularly! Can you imagine if the fire fighters had held a grudge and told us to bugger off with all the wildfires that have been unleashed? 

His first set of ballot measures FAILED and there was grumbling about getting rid of him less than two years into it. He quickly saw the writing on the wall, retreated and miraculously found money to put back into education that he'd taken away. How do you "find" $2B? By the way are you aware the state spends more on incarcerating people than education? Let's think about that for a minute. Instead of PREVENTION the solution is to LOCK EVERYBODY UP. That Lynwood facility where they send all the celebs to, process and spit out due to overcrowding is one such example.

So we can blame nearly ALL the politicians for having their priorities askance. We can vote them out. But I take offense to the very idea that a man who had NO EXPERIENCE WHATSOEVER made wild promises about fixing the State only to make it worse in every way possible. He should be held accountable because he said he could handle it. The budget should not be based on future projections of earnings and overinflated home prices. Non-violent criminals should be released (with discretion of course). We shouldn't have to pay a fee on top of a fee with yet still another fee. 

Yesterday's ballot measures failed because they called for an open-ended period of time of tax increases and a reduction of services to divert funds. There was no guarantee that IF the State did get that money that they'd be responsible with it. Now I know people don't like the idea of paying more taxes but if there was an even exchange for vital services it could be argued to pan out in the end. These recent increased coupled with double-digit unemployment just are just a blanket pile-on because they can't add and subtract. So now I've got to give serious consideration to living in a state that may soon resemble a third world country with the expense of the Soviet Union. 

I want to see a PLAN Arnie about how you're going to turn things around and STAT! Taxes should be proportionate. Firing teachers at public schools when you send yours to private ones is NOT a good look man. Don't threaten to "let criminals run loose" in (white) neighborhoods to manipulate votes. Don't say you're looking for buyers for State-owned properties that hold value with people. Don't force the SEIU to work for minimum wage when the average politician earns six figures AND a per diem. You look desperate, undisciplined and just plain MEAN. use some of that charm to convince people we're all in this together and you have solutions that are different from the ones you've proposed before. Otherwise I can see that recall effort picking up speed by July I guarantee it. 

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A World Without Zora and Malcolm

Yesterday three giants shared a birthday. Lorraine Hansberry, Malcolm X and my mother! What if they had never been born? Imagine the impact of that and how the dynamics of their existence hadn't taken shape. We are familiar with Hansberry's work from A Raisin in the Sun but what of another woman who was ahead of her time?

Hurston
"I am not tragically colored. There is no great sorrow dammed up in my soul, nor lurking behind my eyes. I do not mind at all. I do not belong to the sobbing school of Negrohood who hold that nature somehow has given them a lowdown dirty deal and whose feelings are all hurt about it.... No, I do not weep at the world--I am too busy sharpening my oyster knife."

“Sometimes, I feel discriminated against, but it does not make me angry. It merely astonishes me. How can any deny themselves the pleasure of my company? It's beyond me.”

She understood what imperialism was. She knew the value of us freeing our minds. She celebrated being a woman at a time that wasn't even considered. She challenged the so-called Black elites of her day. She found a way to earn a living as a full-time writer at a time when African-American women were usually employed as maids and washerwomen. She wasn't appreciated or celebrated until another woman (Alice Walker) forced society to giver Hurston her due.

Malcolm X
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Adam Lambert or Kris Allen As the Next Jeff Buckley?

American Idol is almost over. This is it! I will be so happy once this season is done and the winner declared! I swear if it hadn't been for the flurry of Tweets about Adam this and Adam that I wouldn't have bothered watching. Then I got sucked into the Idol vortex, lol! Just "crown" your newest pawn and be done with it. Unless...Kris pulls out a last minute victory. Whatever, I'm over this (almost). Sorry I'm still rooting for Adam. He has a lot of passion for performing and makes it look so effortless. I really admire that because it is RARE for an unsigned artist to be so self-possessed and confident. I love it!

This is the "official" Idol Single - No Boundaries - not feeling this! 

Kris Allen: Is it me or was something just off about this performance?

Had to switch out videos because all of the Adam performances have been pulled. Is that an indication of who has won? Here's his earlier rendition of Mad World.

Though the thought occurred to me that if they MUST package Adam as a banal (straight) rocker they could certainly take a step OUT of the box by doing something similar to the style of the late great Jeff Buckley. Now of course they're two totally different individuals. I don't know if Adam writes or can play an instrument since he hasn't done so this season. Vocally though this could be interesting. Jeff put a lot of passion into his into his music and although he wanted to be thought of as an instrumentalist first, it was his voice that really MOVED me! 
The irony of course is that Kris more closely resembles Jeff between the two of them and plays guitar and piano. If he was able to do a bit more with his vocal styling he would've been considered a serious threat all along. Adam has great precision but he isn't soulful by nature whereas Jeff oozed it. Jeff had his theatrical side as well. He was a huge Edith Piaf fan as well as Nina Simone. Either way whomever ends up the victor I'd advise them to study the Buckley "playbook" for cues how to be a multi-faceted performer.
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Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Deploying A Little Negro Spirit: When Black Female Artists of Substance Are Ignored

This is the fourth conversation in a series where I discuss race, culture, appropriation and the abdication of African-American touchstones due to devaluation of our unique perspective and shame.

Right now as I write this there's a fight going on between the RIAA, radio broadcasters and the public. Only we don't realize what's at stake and who's fighting for what, but when the dust settles we may be regretting our collective lack of participation. The RIAA is the lobby group for the record labels and distributors. You know, the majority of white men with all the money. They're the ones suing 12 year olds for downloading music files. They also claim to be working in the interests of musicians, but in my opinion the fox doesn't look out for the best interests of the hen house.

The irony is Rep. John Coyners introduced the Performance Rights Act legislation calling for a royalty to be paid to those performing on records. The United States has been woefully behind the times by not paying this fee when every other country in the developed world does so already. There are fees already being paid to songwriters however. So the argument is that Aretha Franklin isn't getting a cut when she sings Respect, because she didn't write the song but Otis Redding does. This doesn't take into account that there are usually contracts involved paying performers a flat fee for their services and other forms of compensation.

So of course Al Sharpton has to weigh in on this and is in opposition. The counterclaim is that these fees will wipe out the few Black broadcasters left as they can't afford to pay an additional airplay fee and that it will hamper the ability of radio to play artists who aren't on major labels. Bye bye local music. This will also be a blow to internet radio and kill any new plans to work around the huge conglomerates that own radio now. If you'll recall when Bill Clinton signed the Telecommunications Act of 1996 it allowed companies to own multiple media formats in one market. So one company could be guaranteed a majority (and a monopoly). Clear Channel was born...and Fox News. Yeah such fun for us all.

Government agencies have such a long track record of doing the right thing - not! The last time I checked there was an indecency fine imposed by the FCC that nearly wiped out a local station when they were fined for playing Sarah Jones. It's a mess and there's no guarantee that the fees collected will ever actually go to those that performed. Right now artists signed to a typical label are locked into a contract that isn't generated in their favor to begin with. Also being that there are only 4 record labels right now, multinational corporations have an uncanny ability at cooking their books in favor of...themselves surprise surprise. By the way I really liked John Gorman's perspective on this.

So what does this have to do with appreciating Black female artists? Why it's the staying on top of the games being played, knowing who the players are and what their agenda is. The good thing (in theory) is that when these songs are played the performers will get some money. It may be a few dollars here and there but it's something. We know how shady the music business is and how Black people have traditionally been at a disadvantage. So if the playing field is littered with mines we need to know how to sidestep them to get what we want.

Right now I want there to be an appreciation for all Black female artists. I want the return of the female MC to the forefront of the industry. I want female producers and songwriters. I want a woman-centric perspective and one that uplifts. Again we had artists who were doing these things. They may not have been the biggest sellers or being promoted well, but they were in the mix. Now there's absolutely no balance. So this isn't about looking back at the past at what was, it's about looking ahead to the future of what will be. We've got to get back to creating - and use a lot more business savvy now. The great thing is that technology has blown the lid off many of the gatekeepers, obstructionists and selfish few who'd like to keep all the keys for themselves. We have a lot of work to do so let's get busy!

So to refresh our memories this is what's at stake:

1. Only certain types women are being signed to record deals
2. The disappearance of the female MC who isn't male domination oriented
3. The oversexualization of women (Sapphire/Jezebel imagery)
4. The disappearance of the all-Black female group
5. On a personal note I find a lot of artists boring - we need more creativity
6. As mentioned by another blogger we need the resurgence of the Black Arts Movement

Also I thought we should reflect on some of the fierce women we've had like Nina Simone, Eartha Kitt, Gwen Guthrie, Phyllis Hyman, Angela Bofill, Melba Moore, the Pointer Sisters and Stephanie Mills. All of these women were unique and offered something different. We could look in a mirror and see an image that often reflected our own looks or someone we knew. Being polished is one thing but demanding an artist look like a racially ambiguous, size zero, 17 year old is something else entirely.

Again, this comes down to having an appreciation for African-American heritage and our contributions without shame. Also honoring the unique beauty of the entire phenotype spectrum. I admit my mother listened to these artists and I didn't have the appreciation for them that I do NOW. Especially now that a lot of them are gone. Disco music had its hedonistic tendencies but it called for women expressing their needs and expecting them to be met. That was VERY threatening to male pecking order.

If you had to name a superstar Black female recording artist who's come out in the last 5 years who would it be? Rihanna? She's sure looks pretty in front of the camera, is tall and statuesque but she's not a great singer. I will give her props for moving herself out of the predominantly black ghetto of hip-hop and R&B. Her team's decision to promote her as a cross-over artist made her career. That and a haircut. For all of that effort though I still see her having a certain shelf life. I'm not even gonna talk about that ex-boyfriend of hers.

This music was created at a particular time and depended on particular circumstances. Even if these songs were written by men they had empowering messages for women. They discussed an even exchange and to leave if the man wasn't doing his part. What happened to that message?! If the music reflects the culture it stems from then we should be able to see that sharp decline in quality that exists today. We can turn things around if we want to.

I have many examples of a variety of artists in my archives. I'm going to add a few more that aren't posted. Think of it as a nice trip through memory lane:
Looking ahead at a current artist we can support NOW: Choklate who's new album drops today! Go get it. 
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Monday, May 18, 2009

What Was And What Will Be: Where Do We Go From Here?

Last week I asked if Blacks were prepared to step it up a notch or be replaced. So much of our thinking has to do with looking back at events from the past. From freedom post-enslavement period through Civil Rights to now, the rules of engagement have changed. We are now in an era where far too many are resting, satisfied with themselves while enjoying the efforts of the ones that came before us. That's okay for a brief moment but it was never meant to become the norm. There's far more work yet to be done and things that need to be accomplished for some to start skipping along the path. There are those sharing that road who want to bump us off of it as well as others who want more space for themselves. 

True equality has not been achieved and cannot be assured will be available to a majority. In the fight against white male patriarchy lies the fight amongst ourselves over gender, orientation, religious freedom  - really anything and everything. The key here is to continue working towards goals and constantly reassessing our status. Other groups of people do this all the time, yet African-Americans seem to resist the idea of introspection. There are arguments about "not airing dirty laundry" or not liking the "tone of what was said"or "who said what when" that is damaging to the collective such that it is. 

It's the thinking that having a Black President means racism is done that is most damaging as of late. I've had conversations with Blacks who think we've "overcome", tying this to MLK where they're willing to trust whatever the President does with little scrutiny. I've also had to FIRMLY tell some non-Blacks that racism is alive and kicking. One action by a group of people (i.e the Nov election) does NOT wipe the slate clean or mean there's been a significant change. It just means the circumstances were ideal at a particular time for a particular person. 

In the United States African-Americans are not the largest "minority" group anymore. Still the amount of work and contributions made by previous individuals helped advance the collective. Those efforts also paved the way for other groups to advance and should be recognized. I hope somewhere people are taking notes because the "students" are now more prepared than the "teacher". They were led by example with such efforts as the Civil Rights movement and because they were a more cohesive bunch the observers have positioned themselves well.

What's going on now is an all-out effort to delegitimize the contributions of African-Americans by those who know better. Coupled with a certain laziness and misdirection on the part of Black leadership and many have forgotten who they are. Individual pursuit takes precedence over protecting the interests of the majority. That's why there's no cohesiveness. Once integration was available and Blacks didn't have to live amongst each other many decided to leave and took an entire infrastructure with them. Yet truth be told we can't be certain there was a group of like-minded individuals who chose to be together or a forced mingling of people based on external categories. Many were only interested in maintaining a certain status quo that benefitted them if they could be the exception.

Some would remove the "Black" from the Black Experience. There's a lot of (learned?) confusion about who is African-American. We all have class distinctions and personal viewpoints that inform our behavior. There's an ongoing argument about whether the person growing up in a majority Black environment determines ALL aspects of their outlook. I lived in all-Black neighborhood. It wasn't really by choice. The city I grew up in practiced blatant housing discrimination to keep separation of races intact. There were a few who managed to move into white neighborhoods. Race alone doesn't make it automatically better though. 

I sought a variety of activities and a variety of people in my social circle. I was determined to be my own person, but I wasn't ashamed of who I was. I found that far too many wanted to limit their interactions and deny their historical legacies in an effort to be like everyone else. Since when is "diversity" from a white hegemony a bad thing? 

It seems today there are far too many amongst us who are ashamed. Otherwise why do they mock others and engage in the lowest common denominator behavior? They may discuss freedom of choice in identifying their heritage but it's predicated on denying their "Blackness". There seems to be a discomfort and so many want to shrug it off as if it were a coat being worn in a warm climate. 

I'm going to use quotes from some who've been commenting as to what some of the core issues are:
From Khadija:
Self-determination; COUPLED & INTERTWINED WITH(b) self-esteem BASED UPON devaluing and distancing oneself from any "Black" identity (i.e., anti-Black racism). In short, modern anti-Black racism is cloaked in the language of choice and self-determination. And most of us are too confused to understand this.

From CDWriteMe:
Every person of color (even the sellouts) know that white don't look at "half-whites" as white. They may be nicer to them, but they still consider them "the other".

Regarding white people, predictable. They have tried every trick in the book, historically, to maintain domination. This is no different.

And, they will win if we don't stop them. Alot of whites in America could care less if we were all hung or put in jail. In this political climate, however, they have to come at us more subtly.

Take away recording of races you take away the statistics. Take away the statistics, you take away the evidence. Take away the evidence, you have nothing to fight the ever-predictable white denial with. Let the white denial win out and there is no compulsion for civil rights enforcement.

White people may be alot of things, but, they're not dumb. We need to educate each other and the biracials. We need to stay alert.
Do I have to state the obvious? Race is not racism. All Blacks aren't African-American, but AAs are Black. White Africans who emigrate to the United States can NEVER be AA. They can never be BLACK. The day the entire white collective allows for all Blacks with any white ancestry to be considered WHITE then we can talk. It would be best for all those concerned to be able to draw a line in the sand, pick a side and stop straddling the fence. When it's no longer convenient then we find out who our true allies are.

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