Friday, February 22, 2013

0 Does History Really Matter?

By: Marvin DeBose
Published in The Edinboro Spectator, Feb. 21st, 2013

"A people without the knowledge of their past history,
origin and culture is like a 
tree without roots" -Marcus Garvey

It can be said that seeing the curiosity and vibrancy of the youth can cause us to become more reflective of ourselves and of life in general.

I remember when I worked in a summer camp in Philadelphia about 3 years ago when I heard something from a young teen that struck my mind and caused me to reflect on many things. I was talking to a group of young camp counselors, most of them around the ages of fifteen and sixteen, while on the bus en route to a camp trip.

Somehow, one of the young counselors (who we’ll call John) mentioned the renowned poet, Maya Angelou, to which one of the young counselors, (who we’ll call Dave) responded “Who is that?”

The other counselors, in shock, asked him “You don’t know who Maya Angelou is?” Dave unashamedly responded, “No.”

John, with a shocked, semi-disgusted look on his face, began to question him, “How don’t you know Maya Angelou, don’t you know any history?” 

Dave looked John in the eye and said said something that blew me away, he said, “I don’t care about history, that’s not helping me, who cares about what happened back in the day?”

Me, being a 20-year old college student at the time, a history buff, and naturally, one of the elders of the group, I felt compelled to step in and try to “school the young brother”, as we say in Philly.
I told him, “Learning history gives you an understanding of the world around you, you gotta learn that stuff, man.”

Yet, Dave looked at me and still seemed unmoved by my attempt to “school him”, which probably came off to him as corny and preachy as a Saturday morning cartoon PSA.

This moment caused me to think, “Do we really understand the importance of history?” Fast forward to 2013, and I think to myself, “Apparently not.”

A wise man once said, "Wise people study history, because if you don't understand what was, then you can't understand what is, and you're ill-prepared for what is yet to come." Today, I clearly see where people overlook history, it’s evident in their analysis (or lack thereof) of today’s world.

We cannot make sense of the world as it is because we’ve failed to analyze the world as it was. This is part of the reason why we don’t really understand issues like discrimination, violence, poverty, inadequate education and war. We must realize that as a society, every issue, every triumph and every failure we face is rooted in   history and therefore we must study it.

This is the reason why I read books on history voraciously.

This is why I took about 7 history classes in my undergrad years, while my major was journalism.

This is why I respect people like Edinboro University professors, Dr. Joseph Laythe, Prof. Umeme Sababu, Dr. Martha Donkor, and Dr. Dennis Hickey because not only do they teach history, but they critically analyze it and help us understand its relevance to today.

So if I ever have the opportunity to speak to Dave from the summer camp again, I’ll tell him why history matters.

I’d tell him, “All history is relevant and connected to you, what happens today is a product of what happened yesterday, even you are a product of the actions of others, if you don't believe me, just ask your parents.”

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

0 You Gonna Learn Today: When Kevin Hart came to the Boro

Kevin Hart may a household name for comedy fans today, but in early 2011, he was still working his way up in the world of comedy.
That summer, his show "Laugh At My Pain" went on to break records grossing over $2 million and setting a record as the best performing concert series since Martin Lawrence's Live: Runteldat in 2002. By the end of 2011, Kevin Hart was solidified as a top star in comedy. 
But on April 2nd 2011, after bring down the house at Edinboro University, performing his then-new "Laugh At Pain" comedy show, Hart sat down (while joking about the tartan couch on which he sat, he sarcastically remarked, "Wow, a plaid couch, this is nice.") and he talked with me and two of my fellow Edinboro students who would also become successful in their own right in the years to come: Andre Roberts and Jessica Kunz.
Here's what he had to say...
(L-R Andre Roberts, Kevin Hart, Me)
"Make sure y'all make me look tall in the interview." -Kevin Hart
By: Marvin DeBose & Andre Roberts
Published on April 2011
On April 2nd, 2011, Edinboro University got a when comedian, Kevin Hart brought his “Laugh At My Pain” comedy tour to a packed crowd at the McComb Fieldhouse.

Following the show, Hart sat down and spoke with The Spectator and ETV reporter, Jessica Kunz, discussing his comedic beginnings, his family, and even his plans for the future.

Hart, a Philadelphia native stated that his early life in “The City of Brotherly Love” is what made him who he is. “Philadelphia molded me into becoming the man that I am today,” Hart said.  “It’s a tough city and getting respect from your peers there was a big deal”

It was also in Philadelphia where Hart spent his college years. He briefly attended Temple University and Community College of Philadelphia. Not long into his college career, Hart realized that he should take a different path.

“Anytime you fail a pop quiz in community college… education might not be the thing for you,” Hart said. “I couldn’t go to school and help provide so I got a job to help out my mom.”

Consequently, Hart worked as a shoe salesman in sneaker stores to help pay the bills, he even claimed to be so good at his job that if it weren’t for comedy, he’d probably be working for Nike.

However, comedy was in his blood, so with the advice of a few friends, Hart started doing standup comedy at amateur nights throughout the city and eventually quit his job to assertively pursue a career in comedy.

But apparently, the city of Brotherly Love didn’t have to much love for a young comedian trying to get into the business, Hart recalled some of the roughest times he had in Philly when he first got into comedy.

“People have thrown buffalo wings at me at one point,” Hart said. “I remember one time I got hit in the head with a Lemonhead candy because this guy was so mad at my jokes.”

Hart also stated that some of his biggest influences were comedians like Richard Pryor, Eddie Murphy, Redd Foxx, and Sinbad. However, he held one particular comedian to an even higher standard.

“I think my biggest influence is probably Chris Rock, he’s probably one of the smartest businessmen out there… he’s a self-made mogul,” Hart said. “He goes above and beyond the word ‘success’.”

Success is something which Hart would see in his career as he started work bigger venues and eventually earned movie roles in films like Soul Plane, Death at a Funeral, and Little Fockers. These days, he’s touring all over the country, is set to star in multiple films, and even has a pilot for a sitcom.

A great deal of Hart’s comedy revolves around his family. Like many entertainers, Hart, a father of two, faced the hardships of working while maintaining a family.

“It’s tough, but you have to understand that you’re doing something that’s not just for yourself, so many people benefit from my success,” Hart said. “My kids reap the biggest rewards from [my work] financially, mentally and emotionally, they have all the support in the world.”

With all of this success, one must wonder how the funnyman from Philly keeps himself grounded.

“I don’t look at the fame or walk around with the attitude of ‘I’m famous, you’re not’,” Hart said. “I think once you do that, you’ve made a transition into the kind of person that people don’t want to win… I try to stay as humble and levelheaded as I can and treat everybody with respect.”

Many fans wonder if Hart will always do stand-ups, since many comedians tend to primarily do movie roles.

“Stand up is what feeds me, that’s my drug, that’s what started everything,” Hart said. “I’m always going to do standup, hopefully they’ll stay funny if they don’t, I apologize.”

Sunday, February 17, 2013

2 NBA Dunk Contest: Get back to dunks, you're celebbing too much

I'm getting tired of the NBA Dunk Contest. 

To me, it seems like every year it gets worse and worse. In fact, I'm having trouble remembering the last time I saw something at a dunk contest that made my jaw drop.

Don't me wrong, I'm not hating on the hard work of the young men of the NBA. I admire and respect their passion and what they do, but from a fan's perspective, from a entertainment perspective, I'm not impressed. I think I've seen more impressive stuff on YouTube.

But the dunk contest is failing miserably and I've come up with a few reasons why:

1) Too much focus on theatrics- A prime example: Last night, James "Flight" White brought out flight attendants and air traffic control personnel for his dunk. At first, it made people (including me) take notice and say "Oh, that's clever". But then, White missed the dunk like 5 times before landing it, which made the whole "flight" theatrics just seem goofy and unnecessary, which brings me to my next point....

2) Not enough focus on perfecting the dunk itself- I'm sick of getting my hopes up for a dunk just to see someone come out and choke. While watching instance like these, I think to myself, "How much did you practice your dunk?"

3) Too much focus on celebrities- I like to see celebs involved in all-star weekend activities, but it seems like when I watch dunk contests, the camera is always checking on what Spike Lee is up to, or what Big Sean seems to think, or what did JJ from Good Times think about the last dunk, or how Little Richard is doing (you never know, he might be there too).

You never know who will show up at the Dunk Contest.

The icing on the cake for me was when I saw the camera show Drake running around on the sidelines after someone's dunk looking as excited like a kid who just got a Charizard in his pack of Pokemon cards. 

I thought to myself, "What does Drake have to do with anything?"

I was just waiting for one of the NBA players on the sidelines to give him a "He doesn't even go here!" (word to the movie Mean Girls).

Basically, the Drake incident combined with other instances of celebrity focus (or celebrity attention-whoring) just caused me to react to many celebs like this guy, 15 secs into this clip from Martin:

But on a positive note, let's try to get back to what the dunk contest used to be, let's make it less about Drake, less about corny theatrics, less about Charles Barkley ripping on the NBA players' fashion choices (scratch that, keep Charles Barkley, he's hilarious, or as he'd say, "Hil-lurious")...

Turrible, just Turrible.

... and more about the point of the slam dunk contest, which is the art of the dunk. Simple and plain, no need for all the extra stuff.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

0 Being present makes a difference

Published in The Edinboro Spectator: Sept. 20, 2012

Eight years ago, when I was in high school back in Philly, I had an English teacher named Mr. Brown, who always used a famous quotation that stuck with me.  It seemed that almost every day he’d tell us “Always remember: Wherever you go, there you are”.

Now at first, being a young high school student, I thought to myself, “What the heck does that even mean?”
But today, as a grad student, getting closer and closer to being in “the real world” it makes more sense than ever.

To me, that quote can be summed up in two words, “Be present.”

Now when I say “be present”, I don’t mean just “showing up” or just “being there” because these days it seems that people can be in one place physically, but be in a totally different place mentally. I’m talking about putting full focus into absolutely everything that we do.

We all seen people who haven’t learned how to be fully present, like people go to college physically, but live with a high school mentality, or the person who goes to class on Friday, but spends all 50 minutes of class with his/her mind on the party on Saturday.

Kudos, young scholar.

One problem is that we often we get caught up in a mindset of anticipation, where we constantly tell ourselves, “I can’t wait until this happens”  or “Once I go here everything will be fine” and we forget to focus on being present in the present.

We also have to realize that another thing which inhibits many people from being present is the world of distractions in which we live. We have smartphones that can do almost everything besides cook our breakfast, we have addictive social networking sites, we get non-stop text and emails, and we also live in celebrity-obsessed culture in which we focus on the lives of people that we don’t even know.

But it seems that the more that we try to get connected to the rest of the world, the more we fail to connect with ourselves and the world that exists right in front of us.

One of my favorite examples of someone who know how to be fully present is NBA player, Kobe Bryant. When the LA Lakers play, whether he’s out on the court, taking a rest on the bench, or he’s injured, his mind is on nothing but the game.

I remember watching one game last season where comedian, Chris Rock, was on the Lakers bench and awkwardly found out about Kobe’s focus.

In the middle of the game, The Lakers had a comfortable lead and Kobe was resting on the bench. Chris Rock, who sat two seats down from Kobe, attempted to tell him a joke while he was watching the game.
The TV cameras caught the moment perfectly, Chris Rock slightly leaned over to Kobe and went on for about 20 seconds telling a joke which was inaudible to TV viewers. But, Kobe, who was sitting inches away from Rock and obviously within earshot of him, didn’t even look at Rock nor acknowledge his joke.

As awkward as that moment might have been for Chris Rock, (who played the moment off well by laughing and turning away), anyone who understands how intense Kobe’s focus is, understood his reaction.
When someone is fully present and focused, anything that doesn’t have to do with the task at hand is seen as irrelevant.

This should serve as a lesson to what we have to do as college students, administrators, professors, and just as human beings in general, we have to know how to become fully engrossed in what we’re doing in order for us to be effective at what we’re doing.

In our jobs, our classes, our relationships, and in our lives, we have to master the art of being present and being focused, because just “being there” isn’t enough.

As my old English teacher, Mr. Brown would say, “Always remember: Everywhere you go, there you are.”

0 The Lost Art of Listening

Published in The Edinboro Spectator: Feb 14, 2013

When I was a kid, to my parents it often seemed like I lived in my own world. I was imaginative and focused on whatever I chose to be focused on. 

However, on the flipside, living my own world often caused me to get into trouble. My parents said that I was a bad listener. My Dad would tell me, “Boy, you gotta learn how to listen.” My mother, more frustrated with me, would say, “You heard what I said, you just didn’t listen.”

As I got older I made a conscious effort to become a better listener, but I problem that I notice today is that it seems as if our generation doesn’t understand the importance of listening.

Hogan knows the importance of listening, brother.

Have you ever heard a group of friends have a conversation in which no one really listens to anyone else? Nor do they even think about what the other person is saying, they just all wait for their chance to talk.

Today we live in what I call a “my voice” society where communication is viewed from a largely self-centered perspective. We send tweets, make Facebook statuses, text and send emails, but one must ask, in this age of increased communication, do we know how to listen to people?

Aside from the obvious importance of listening to people in order to follow directions and rules, do people really understand the importance of being a listener?

Well, that is a question for you to answer; yet, I believe that listening to people is a lost art.

You can learn so much about a person just from listening to what they have to say and paying attention to the way that they say it. Every person that we interact with is like a new book, which means they all have their share of stories and important lessons to share.

But too often, instead of wanting to read the book of someone else’s life, we want the world to listen to us read our own book aloud. But this mindset is often a reflection of selfishness.

What people fail to realize is that listening to someone is also one of the highest forms of community service. To some, that statement may seem farfetched, I mean, after all, how much work does it takes to listen to a person? 

But what we fail to realize is that when we choose to listen to someone we’re giving them something, we are giving them our time and our attention. 

Those are remarkable gifts because in one way or another, we all just want to be heard.

But more importantly, people need to realize that in addition to listening more we have to learn how to speak less. One thing that I’ve noticed throughout my short, 22 years on this earth is that most people who talk too much are usually the ones who speak the most nonsense.

But as Abraham Lincoln once said, “It is better to be silent and be thought a fool than to speak out and remove all doubt.”
Abe Lincoln: A wise man, with a impeccable taste in stovepipe top-hats.

So let’s all make a conscious effort to be better listeners, to use our ears in proportion with our mouth and listen twice as much as we speak.

As the old proverb goes, “The wise old owl sat on an oak, the more he saw, the less he spoke, the less he spoke, the more he heard, why aren’t we like that wise old bird?”

Now there’s a question to think about.

0 Living Fearlessly

Are we conquered by fear?

Published in The Edinboro Spectator: Feb. 7, 2013

A few months ago, I was watching a trailer for Will Smith’s new movie, After Earth, when I heard something that stuck in my head ever since. In the trailer, it is shown that Smith’s son, Jaden Smith’s character, who plays his son in movie as well, faces the insurmountable task of surviving in a post-apocalyptic world ruled by hostile animals.

In the trailer, Smith gives his son some sound advice, he stated, “Danger is real, fear is a choice.” Needless to say, for me, that line was thought-provoking.I began to think about the power of fear and the limitations which fear puts on us. Then, I began to examine major human fears, including my own. I realized that we live with many fears; the fear of standing out, the fear of taking risks, the fear of the unknown and the fear of harm.

But what many people fail to realize is that our fears often inhibit us from reaching our fullest potential and last month this idea of the power of fearlessness became solidified in my mind.

Last month we celebrated Martin Luther King Day, and for the entire day I thought about how fearless of a man Dr. King was. Many people believe Martin Luther King was just a universally loved leader who only faced opposition from Southern segregationists.

But what most people don’t know is that Martin Luther King was vilified for most of his life, especially in his later years. His unconventional views and his power as a leader caused many people to see him as troublemaker. He faced death threats, assassination attempts and even was harassed by government agencies. He sacrificed his relationship with his family, his reputation and eventually, his life. However that didn’t stop him from speaking against injustice.

Reflecting on King’s life, I thought to myself, “What right to I have to give in to fear?”

Last semester, I had to ask myself that question.

As a young kid, I always had an interest in the performing arts, specifically acting. My mother often reflects on how I wanted to be on the show Barney as a 3-year old. 

But as I got older something happened to me, fear began to take over. When I got to high school, in the back of my mind, I wanted to participate in the theatre club but was afraid to because I didn’t want to be associated with a group of what many people saw as “weirdos”.

I wanted to fit in, I didn’t want to be different. I feared standing out. Then, my fear grew deeper, I began to question if I was even talented enough to act. But as I went through college, I began to notice that the more I began to take risks and do things I was afraid of, like public speaking (believe it or not), the more benefits I reaped.

Then, I began to regret missing out on many potentially remarkable experiences in my past because of my fear. I made a vow to myself to never allow fear ever stop me from doing reaching my goals. In fact, I began to use fear to motivate me.

Fast forward to last fall semester, I found out about auditions for a play on campus. With one more semester of grad school left, I told myself, “Forget fear, this is my last chance”, and I auditioned, expecting to get a minor role if anything.

The next day, I found out I had been cast in the play. The day after that, I found out I got the lead role.
I thought to myself, “Why didn't do this sooner?”

The Cast of my 1st show, It's A Wonderful Lie... Notice Drunk Santa on the bottom left.

My point Is that we all face fears, whether you’re taking a stand like Dr. King, taking a difficult class, mustering  up the courage to approach that person you've had your eye on for a while, forgiving someone, or just stepping out of your comfort zone.

Now don’t get me wrong and confuse fearlessness with carelessness or recklessness. I’m not telling anyone to flip out on their boss or do anything crazy. With fearlessness comes responsibility. 

Fearlessness isn’t about not caring; it’s about caring enough to take the right risks.

Hopefully we will all someday learn to take the right risks and choose to use fear to our advantage. After all, we can’t learn to fly until we’ve conquered our fear of falling.

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