Monday, May 27, 2013

Dr. Dre and Dr. Kimbrough Should Have A Chat

I don't remember exactly what I was doing when I saw the newscast of Dr. Dre walking the campus of USC with Jimmy Iovine with a headline that read something like "BIG DONATION".  I do, however, remember thinking that it was a generous gift and hoping that Dre had required stipulations that would insure that kids from his native Compton might have more access to the USC campus, which currently sports a miniscule African American population.  Little did I know the furor that would soon arise from educators such as Dr. Walter Kimbrough and Dr. Boyce Watkins.

Until he decides to write his tell all book, we're not going to know much about educational aspirations Dre might've had when he was younger.  As someone who has spent almost a decade nowon the West Coast , I can say with confidence that he didn't grow up with the same romanticized notions of HBCUs that I did.  As a youngster in Philly, I was raised by parents who were tied to a network of HBCU alums.  My father went to Cheyney, and I also grew up around folks who went to Howard (my aunt), Morehouse, Spelman, Lincoln.  There was a familiarity with these schools because so many of the influential adults in my life had attended them and a push that you got to experience a particularly cool slice of Black Americana if you went to one.  So I grew up wanting to go to Morehouse.  Had their swim team been a little better, I might be a "Morehouse Man" today.  I wanted to experience what I saw in movies like School Daze and shows like A Different World.  What I've come to understand more clearly as an adult raising kids in Cali is that it is hard to immerse them in that atmosphere when there's not an HBCU within 300 miles.  So I can hardly blame Dre that when he was approached about the idea of giving his money to a school, neither Dillard, nor Howard, nor Alcorn State crossed his mind.  This action speaks to a continuing shift in the centrality of race in identity expression for many minorities. It appears that many from a previous generation like Dr. Kimbrough are having trouble catching up.

Dr. Kimbrough is right in his letter where he asserts that it would have been nice for Dre to reach back and offer some of his charity to underserved communities like Compton which have helped make him so popular, but he doesn't owe them that.  The man is rightly trying to create a legacy that his kids kids can benefit from and who can blame him?  As race shifts from the center of identity focus for many minorities in this country, socioeconomic status seems to be the heir apparent. It is made clearer everyday that if you cannot somehow elbow your way into the 1% in this country, you've got a tough road to navigate because increasingly it's not paved with opportunity.  If those who are tasked with leading HBCUs like Dr. Kimbrough want to boost their endowments to the levels of the historically "elite" schools in the country, then perhaps they should do a better job of marketing their institutions and making it clear to the Dr. Dre's, and Jay-Z's of the world why it's in their benefit to do so.  The era where shared skin color is the great motivator have long ended.

On Another Note:
- Good to see somebody finally got to President Obama about wreckless drone use
- Can we please stop being distracted by what the President says or does not say in a commencement speech and focus on finding a policy around which to rally for change? (ex: housing, education, law enforcement)

Friday, May 10, 2013

Oprah and Fatherless Sons, Peeples, Shrinking Financial Aid Packages

I randomly caught Oprah's Life Class special on Fatherless Sons last Sunday and it stayed on my mind for the next three days.  The impact that not having a father present during thier youth had on grown men with their own kids had me riveted to the screen.  I felt for the dudes who admitted that they had trouble loving and getting close to others because of the trust issues they developed after being abandoned by their fathers.  I was eating up everything Oprah and life coach Iyanla Vanzant had to say until one of the audience members was overcome with emotion as he told his story and received a hug from Roland Warren of the National Fatherhood Initiative.  I was moved to post this tweet in the immediate aftermath:
I took issue with Iyanla calling this emotional moment between two men "male mothering" because it plants the seed that to be nurturing and affectionate is inextricably tied to being feminine.  If this is the message that I pass on to my sons, than I am setting them up to struggle in relationships throughout their life.  One of the benefits of a two parent household is that a child can see that men and women are capable of the full range of emotions.  That is what makes us human.  It is not solely one parent's job to be the "hammer" while the other is the "comforter".  When a child grows up understanding that it is okay to experience and express the full emotional spectrum, they are much better equipped to deal with life's ups and downs.  I wish there would've been somebody on the panel to push Iyanla and Oprah in that moment because it was a key "teachable moment.
On Another Note:
Black people get another opportunity this weekend to demonstrate whether or not they will support films featuring predominantly black casts in a way that will make Hollywood studios take notice.  Peeples starring Kerry Washington, Craig Robinson and David Alan Grier, debuts today and was written and directed by Tina Gordon Chism.  The film was produced by Tyler Perry's 34th St. Films (shout out Amber Rasberry), which exists to produce projects not written by TP.  There is always chatter particularly where Tyler Perry is involved that the spectrum of stories that gets told featuring actors of color needs to broaden, that Perry's films appeal to the "lowest common denominator".  Here we have something different.  Gordon Chism has a history of making box office winners with ATL (2006) and Drumline (2002) on her resume.   Both opened in the top three their opening weekend.  Between that credibility, Perry's following, and starring one of the hottest actresses in Hollywood in Washington, that should be a recipe for a hit, but we shall see.  I hope that it is not a scenario where Perry putting his name on the project actually works against him.  I'd prefer to see TP's involvement work out like it did for Precious ($11M first weekend of wide release).  Peeples is opening in three times as many theatres as Precious so that should not be a problem.  I'm putting my money where my mouth is and will have my gummi bears and soda next to me for a 1p showing.  Gotta support my Peeples.
Final Note
I wrote recently about the increasing privatization of public schooling and how it makes it so those without means have no viable vehicle out of poverty to better themselves.  That argument was further reinforced for me this week as I read that a study conducted by the New America Foundation concluded that low income students are getting less merit-based finanical aid than students from wealthier families. The study noted that in an effort to keep their US News & World Report rankings up colleges will offer multiple small aid packages to families who can afford more of the tuition versus one big aid package to the family who can afford less.  The rules of the game keep changing and it's a sad state of affairs.  Looks like Team Carroll needs to start doubling down on our college fund investments.  Full article

Happy Mother's Day to all. 

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Mr. Cee Wishes He Had What Jason Collins Has

Last Monday Jason Collins went from being a journeyman NBA center at the tail end of his career to a media darling, and a hero depending on who you ask.  His announcemnt that he is gay put a face on the "active gay athlete" and garnered him praise and salutations from peers in the NBA all the way up to Presidents Clinton and Obama.  To me the announcement was ironic because a month ago, I met the original gay NBA trailblazer, John Amaechi, who confirmed his homosexuality shortly after retiring.  In attendance at the talk that Dr. Amaechi gave at Harvard Westlake was Jaron Collins (pictured right with Dr. Amaechi making me look short), one of HWs proudest alums, twin brother of Jason, and former teammate of Amaechi.  I came to find out last week that part of Jarron's reason for catching up with his old teammate was to put him in contact with his brother, who he knew was thinking about coming out.  As the media circus unfolded last week, I couldn't help but think how lucky the NBA is to have Jason Collins be that "first".  He's not someone who's had trouble of any kind during his career.  To a man, those who have played with him over the last decade have had positive things to say.  Knowing Mr. and Mrs Collins, I felt that Jason wouldn't face the type of questioning that others would because of the "Huxtable-like" family he comes from.  As this week has unfolded, I'm sure Hot 97 Mister Cee wishes he had such a support system.

The famous NY deejay, noted for his relationship with the Notorious B.I.G (RIP) was arrested this week for soliciting an undercover cop posing as a male prostitute, his third such arrest.  While he instantly become a popular hashtag topic and rival radio personalities like Power 105's Charlamagne tha God called for him to "come out" the DJ continued to identify as heterosexual.  Much of the discussion around whether or not a homosexual athlete could confirm their sexual orientation and therefore affirm their full identity centered around the response that would come from the lockerroom.  The lockerroom, in these discussions is characterized as the "chapel of true manhood"  and Chris Culliver of the 49ers confirmed that line of thinking during Super Bowl week when he spoke about not wanting "that sweet stuff" around him.  While ex-NBA player Larry Johnson has been one of the few voices to echo Culliver's sentiment of being uncomfortable, many in the NBA, such as Kobe Bryant and Metta World Peace expressed support and noted that a players sexuality meant little to the ultimate goal of getting buckets and winning.  The response of the hip-hop community has been far less welcomng, and it is no wonder that even if Mister Cee is homosexual, that he would feel the community where he makes his money would accept him.

In his 3:00 "Donkey of the Day" Charlamagne calls for Mister Cee to "live his truth", but also calls him "sis", "boo", and a "serial purchaser of penis"for all of NY to hear.  Can we really be surprised that while Charlamagne was ranting, Mister Cee was defending himself on Hot 97 spinning a tale of how the police are out to get him?  You can tell me all you want that the hip-hop world is ready to except homosexual figures like Frank Ocean.  I think the evidence proves otherwise.  So while Jason Collins can come out in a league where it is now bad for the bottom line to be a homophobe, bolstered by the cache of where he went to school and the people he knows, not to mention the cocoon of a loving family and millions in career earnings, Mister Cee will be material for memes, tweets and hip-hop lyrics for years to come.  Damn shame because no matter a person's orientation, they should be able to feel fully human.  Unfortunately, being a mainstream male rapper still means having to sport an ultra-masculine persona.  Success and prowess in hip-hop is gained by "battling" aka "manning up".  Being a homosexual does not fit that archetype.

On Another Note

Lil' Wayne
lost his deal with Pepsi over lyrics in a song where he invoked the name of Emmit Till in a manner that the Till family didn't find to respectful.  This comes on the heels of Rick Ross losing his Reebok deal over lyrics deemed to be cosigning rape.  I hope rappers in particular and entertainers in general are starting to understand that they can have all the freedom of speech they want, but it will affect their pockets at some point.  I don't agree with what Pepsi did because I could write a paper on damaging Lil Wayne lyrics before this one set the Till family off, but I do understand the rules of the corporate game.  So rappers have a choice to make:  bring the lyrics within the boundaries of what big companies are willing to throw money behind or take full advantage of freedom of speech and unapologetically tell the stories you want?  The answer will show how truly street smart some of these cats are.