Wednesday, August 28, 2013

2 5 OTHER Things Dr. King said at the March on Washington

By: Marvin DeBose

50 years ago, on August 28, 1963, a quarter-million people gathered in Washington D.C. for the historic March on Washington. As I expected, a great deal of the focus and discussion surrounding this event is centered on Martin Luther King Jr. and his "I Have a Dream Speech". 

As historic and significant as that speech was, a rather disturbing fact is that we are only taught to remember a small part of that profound speech, particularly, the last few minutes of it.

What's problematic about this is that leaving out the earlier parts of the speech neglects a large part of King's message and leaves him in what scholar, Michael Eric Dyson, called "a timeless mood of optimism", ignoring his calls to actions as well as the historical context which led to his dream.

Here are the 5 OTHER things that Dr. King said on that historic day:

1. "This is no time to engage in the luxury of cooling off or to take the tranquilizing drug of gradualism... Now is the time to make justice a reality for all of God's children... It would be fatal for the nation to overlook the urgency of the moment... 1963 is not an end but a beginning."

Here, King is quick to remind us that the March on Washington was not a time to become content in the fight for justice. He clearly states that this march is far from a culmination of a movement, but the start of one. Basically he tell us that "The struggle ain't over, it's just beginning, keep working!" Maybe this part of King's speech needs to be played on TV more often.

2. "...the Negro still is not free... the life of the Negro is still sadly crippled by the manacles of segregation and the chains of discrimination. One hundred years later, the Negro lives on a lonely island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity. One hundred years later, the Negro is still languished in the corners of American society and finds himself an exile in his own land. And so we've come here today to dramatize a shameful condition."

Here, King discusses the plight of Blacks in America stating that nearly one hundred years after Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation, "Freedom" is something for which African Americans still have to fight. He mentions issues like segregation, poverty and discrimination, which are all issues which still exist to this day.

3. "In a sense we've come to our nation's capital to cash a check. When the architects of our republic wrote... that all men -- would be guaranteed the unalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness... America [gave] the Negro people a bad check, a check that has come back marked 'insufficient funds'... But we refuse to believe that the bank of justice is bankrupt."

King is pretty much using the metaphor of a "bad check" as a way of saying that the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence are merely symbols of the hypocrisy of America. Especially when many marginalized groups of people still had to fight for "life" and "liberty" in this country centuries after those documents were written. Yet, his refusal to see the "bank of justice" as bankrupt shows his hope and faith in America's potential to change.

4. "There are those who are asking...'When will you be satisfied?' We can never be satisfied as long as the Negro is the victim of the unspeakable horrors of police brutality.... We cannot be satisfied as long as the Negro's basic mobility is from a smaller ghetto to a larger one. We can never be satisfied as long as our children are stripped of their selfhood and robbed of their dignity..."

Once again King reminds us that as long as injustice exists, the struggle still continues. Notice he's not just talking about integrating buses and restaurants. King goes much deeper and talks about dignity and recognizing people's humanity

5. "Unearned suffering is redemptive"

This was King's way of reassuring all of the people who had faced violence, jail time, and ostracism as a result of their fight for justice. He's basically telling them to not let the hardship of the struggle get them down, since that is the only way that they can achieve progress. It echoes what King's predecessor Frederick Douglass once said, "Without struggle there is no progress."

Call to Action
I recommend that people actually read and study the words of leaders like Dr. King, and also listen to the speeches of others involved in the March. Study the history which led to the March, read about what happened in it's aftermath. Learn why Dr. King would 4 years later say that his dream "turned into a nightmare".

As Dr. King's speech showed, August 28, 1963 wasn't just about one man's dream, it was about challenging a harsh reality. It wasn't just about holding hands and singing "We Shall Overcome", it was also about taking steps to actually overcome injustice.

It wasn't a day of celebration in order for people to end up marching for some of the same issues 50 years later, it was an urgent call to action. The question is, in the legacy of the "Dream" of King and many others, what action will you take?

Monday, August 26, 2013

1 Miley Cyrus and the Perception of "Hoodness"

By: Marvin DeBose

Many of us saw last night's rather cringeworthy performance by Miley Cyrus on the MTV Video Music Awards. In fact, I don't know what was more appalling, Robin Thicke's zebra-striped, Beetlejuice-esque suit or Miley's "dancing".

Will Smith and his kids saw it, and they looked like they just saw the box office numbers for "After Earth".

But there are countless things that are wrong with not only Miley Cyrus' performance, but with her whole persona... and people's perceptions of it.

Miley, who was once a Disney sweetheart and a teen idol is now one of the raunchiest, most controversial performers of her time.

Miley has recently talked in interviews about how she loves "hood music" and how people think she's trying to be the "white Nicki Minaj".

Well what exactly is "Hood"? Is it a place? Can you find it on Google Maps?

And who are "hood people"? And what exactly is "hood music"? Who's a part of "hood" culture?

Let's be honest. We know that good ol' Miley Ray from Nashville is talking about Black culture, whether she admits it (or realizes it) or not. Simple and plain.

The truth is that what Miley's doing right now is promoting a gimmick, a persona or character contrived for marketing purposes, kind of like what professional wrestlers do. She's just acting out her media-influenced idea of what a "hood" girl is.

It's similar to what minstrel show performers would do in the early 20th century... except they'd take it a step further and dress up in blackface to portray their idea of a "hood" character.

And the problem is that her erratic behavior, similar to the minstrel shows of centuries past, often represents a twisted, myopic, stereotypical view of what Black culture is all about, especially that of Black women.

And people's criticisms of her are subtly reflective of those views.

People say, "Miley is acting so ghetto these days" or "I liked her before she became a hood rat".

Here are a few things that Miley, and some of those who criticize her, need to understand:

1. When you use terms like "hood" or "ghetto" as adjectives synonymous with stupidity and a lack of sophistication when, in reality, you have minimal understanding of the lives of people who actually live in places considered "hoods" and "ghettos", you are being offensive.

2. Everyone from the so-called "hood" or "ghetto" doesn't a) act recklessly b) use/glorify drugs nor do they c) start "twerking" anytime a camera is on and music is playing. 

There's nothing wrong with Miley admiring aspects of hip-hop culture, Black culture or any other culture,  but when you completely misrepresent a culture (see: cultural appropriation) and label it as "hood", especially in today's America which already has issues with stereotypes and generalizations, that's when we have a problem.

Friday, August 23, 2013

0 Youth, Teachers and Parents Rally for Education in Philly

By: Marvin DeBose
August 22, 2013

Nearly 1,000 parents, teachers and students marched in the Center City section of Philadelphia this afternoon to protest the state budget cuts in education approved by Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett.

The large group, mostly clad in red shirts, marched through the busy streets of downtown Philadelphia, all the way up Broad Street for a rally outside of the School District of Philadelphia Education Center, where, at 5:30 p.m., the School Reform Commission (SRC) would have its final meeting before the beginning of the school year.

Youth groups lead the way in this march of nearly 1,000 people

SRC, which manages the School District, is a committee which was established in 2001, when much of the control of the School District of Philadelphia went from mayor appointed school boards to state-appointed committees.

The group is largely responsible for the policy management and finance of the School District of Philadelphia. Some see the SRC as being responsible for a $304 million deficit in school funding due to state budget cuts, which led to cuts of about 3,800 School District employee positions in June.

The participants of the protest, consisting of various organizations, including Action United, the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers, as well as youth groups, Youth United For Change and the Philly Student Union, rallied at the School District of Philadelphia Education Center where numerous speakers touched on some of the issues which they saw as being pertinent as it pertained to public education.

Red-clad protesters march on Philadelphia's Broad Street in the midst of rain

"Brothers and sisters... I'd like to report a robbery," one speaker said. "The SRC has stolen our students' education."

Noticing the moderate police presence at the entrance of the School District building, the speaker turned and asked, "Officers will you please go in and arrest these representatives of the governor?"

The youth had a large presence at the rally as well, with students from all over the city some speaking about their views on public education, and many others handing out flyers and petitions.

During the rally, protesters got to hear from one Philadelphia youth currently adapting to the changes in the school system, Othella Standback.

Standback, a Philadelphia high school student and member of the Philadelphia Student Union, is being forced to attend Philadelphia's Benjamin Franklin High School this year after her former high school, University City High School Promise Academy, was closed largely due to the budget cuts.

"In a few weeks I'll... [have to] adjust to being a school with 400 more students and I'll have to figure out how to build relationship with new teachers and other staff," Standback said. "Since this is my senior year I should be focusing more on graduating and what I'm going to do after high school."

Standback also reflected on the staff layoffs which the budget cuts intensified in many schools.

"How can a school have no counselors, no extra-curricular activities or nurses?" Standback asked. "A building with only teachers and security is not a school at all, it's just a prison."

The rally even attracted youth from outside of Philadelphia, like Trey Murphy, a teen from Baltimore who is a member of the Alliance for Educational Justice and the Baltimore Algebra Project, a youth-ran organization which advocates math literacy and student rights for Baltimore students.

"I find it to be a disgrace what Governor Corbett and the City of Philadelphia are doing to these students," Murphy said. "It's evident that the state of Pennsylvania and the City of Philadelphia have failed these schools, these students and these teachers."

Parents, teachers and students alike are still fighting for government funding to increase the quality of education. One speaker said, "We've got to keep this up," in reference to the energy directed towards this cause.

Action United, an education advocacy group, has scheduled another rally for Tuesday, August 27 at 9:45 a.m. starting at their office on 846 N. Broad St. In this rally, they plan on discussing corporate control and privatization of public schools.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

0 Questlove: The man and the musician

There are some artists who simply make music, and there are those who live music. Ahmir "Questlove" Thompson, drummer, producer and co-founder of hip-hop band, The Roots, is clearly the latter. In his compelling memoir, Mo' Meta Blues: The World According to Questlove, he gives readers a glimpse at his personal and musical roots (I couldn't wait to use that pun).

Mo' Meta Blues gives us a look at not only Questlove, the musician, but it gives us a rare in-depth look of Ahmir Thompson, the man.

Readers get a feel for his introvertedness as well as his calm, collected demeanor as he discussed his career highs and lows and his journey to help develop The Roots' career.

Questlove discusses the influence of music in his early life with stories of his father's music career in the 1970s and being on the road how he traveled all over the country long before he even reached stardom himself.

There even exists a humorous account of a young, frightened, screaming Questlove running into and running from the rock band KISS in a hotel lobby during one of his dad's tours.

In certain chapters of Mo' Meta Blues, Questlove also includes lists of songs which were the soundtrack to his life in the particular period that the chapter discusses. He stunningly reflects on how these songs affected him, what stood out about them and how they related to that time in his life.

An interesting, recurring theme throughout the book is Questlove's admiration for the music talents of Prince. He discusses Prince lyrics, sexual themes of his music, provocative album covers and even buying his albums as a child and having to hide them from his newly-religious parents, who banned Prince's controversial music from their household. It's likely that this memoir will gain Prince many new fans.

Overall, Mo' Meta Blues is a fantastic literary journey of a master of his craft which is cleverly woven with brilliant musical analyses and enlightening, profound, and often, amusing stories, such as Questlove's account of going to a rollerskating party hosted by Prince or witnessing the wild hotel antics of comedian Tracy Morgan.

This reflective work, recalling the life, career and influences of this music aficionado is sure to impress many readers and make them appreciate music even more.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

0 Why Kendrick Lamar took "Control"

By: Marvin DeBose

"In Hip-Hop, the weapons are lyrical. 
To be the best you challenge the best and the blessings are spiritual" 
-Nas "Rule"

In the past 24 hours, ironically a few days removed from the 40th birthday of hip-hop, the internet has been buzzing with talks of Kendrick Lamar's groundbreaking verse of Big Sean's "Control".

In the song, Kendrick issues a fiery, cautionary message in a nearly growling voice to all of his peers in hip-hop about his place in the game.

For an idea of how hard Kendrick went on this verse, let's use this example: Remember how LeBron James played in the NBA finals after his headband came off?

Well, in this song, it's safe to say that Kendrick's proverbial headband came off, check it out:

"I heard the barbershops spittin' great debates all the time bout who's the best MC? 
Kendrick, Jigga and Nas
Eminem, Andre 3000, the rest of y'all new n*ggas just new n*ggas, don't get involved...
I'm usually homeboys with the same n*ggas I'm rhymin' wit

But this is hip hop and them n*ggas should know what time it is
And that goes for Jermaine Cole, Big KRIT, Wale
Pusha T, Meek Millz, A$AP Rocky, Drake
Big Sean, Jay Electron', Tyler, Mac Miller
I got love for you all but I'm tryna murder you n*ggas
Tryna make sure your core fans never heard of you n*ggas
They dont wanna hear not one more noun or verb from you n*ggas
What is competition? I'm tryna raise the bar high
Who tryna jump and get it? You better off tryna skydive"

Now some people were confused by this verse, some took it as being disrespectful to the artists he mentioned, some saw it as a foolish publicity stunt, but what people need to understand is that what Kendrick did was simply utilize one of the aspects which hip-hop was founded upon: Competition.

These days, many people have negative views of competition in hip-hop because they tend to associate hip-hop battles with personal feuds and violence. However, history shows that hip-hop's competitive spirit is isn't as violent or negative as it may seem.

Originally, hip-hop battles were simply used as friendly ways for artists to sharpen their skills, and in many it was used for artists to prove their skills. It could be compared to a sparring match between boxers, or a pick-up between basketball players.

Some of the pioneers of hip-hop were born out of this legacy of competition. Hip-hop legend Kool Moe Dee's prestige as an artist rose from his battles with MCs in New York in the early 1980s. Renowned hip-hop artist, KRS-ONE was put on the map through his song, "South Bronx" which dissed legendary Queens rapper MC Shan and Producer/DJ Marley Marl for what he perceived to be a failure to acknowledge the birthplace of hip-hop, The Bronx.

Rappers Big Daddy Kane, Rakim, LL Cool J and many others took friendly competitive jabs at one another during the primes of their careers.

Even 50 Cent's claim to fame was his 1999 song "How To Rob", in which he jokingly rapped about robbing many of the top hip-hop stars of the time.

Nearly all of the greats had to put their lyrical skills to the test at one point or another. Even in what is considered by some to be the "Golden Age" of hip-hop, one of the greatest rappers of all time had to defend himself to maintain his status as "The King".

"This goes out to those that choose to use disrespectful views on the King of N-Y 
F**k that, why try? Throw bleach in your eye. 
Now you're Brailling it, snatch that light sh*t, I'm scalin it...
Ain't no other kings in this rap thing, they siblings 
Nothing but my children, one shot, they disappearin'"

-Notorious BIG "Kick In The Door"

Today, we're entering another Golden Age in hip-hop, where there are many young, hungry, talented lyricists competing to be the best. Kendrick understood this and his verse was a clever, strategic move which distinguished him from the rest of the pack while upping the lyrical standards for rappers everywhere.

Kendrick is a student of hip-hop and his verse on "Control" proved that. Now, the student is ready to do some schooling.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

3 What Family Reunions Mean to Me

By: Marvin DeBose

Yesterday, I attended my family reunion, which my family coordinates annually out in Philadelphia's Fairmount Park. 

It was a sunny, yet cool day. People danced to songs like "The Electric Slide" and "The Cupid Shuffle". Smiling, energetic sweat-drenched young children played dodgeball and had sack races in the fields.

Yet, while I was helping to serve food, I got the opportunity to do a little bit of people-watching and I began to notice something disturbing among some of the family members. This was the fact that many didn't seem to understand now appreciate the importance of a family reunion.

This lack of understanding and appreciation was largely evident in people's actions. Some didn't make an effort to meet family members they might not know. Some family members sat away from where most of the family was congregated and, quite frankly, some people seemed to just be there for the food.

I thought to myself, "How is this a family reunion, if the family isn't uniting?"

This bothered me because I see family reunions as being very important, especially for Black families. The reason why I find it so important for Black families is because many of us come from a culture where much of our lineage and history was stripped from us.

When I say "stripped from us", I mean that in the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade, much of the history, customs, indigenous languages and names of people of the African diaspora were neglected, rejected, and literally beaten out of us.

Additionally, during slavery, Black families were often intentionally broken up. A mother's children might get sold to another plantation, husbands would be separated from wives, and fathers would be taken away from their families.

We often forget that some of the first Black family reunions were coordinated by runaway slaves who escaped  plantations in the night to seek their loved ones, risking their lives in the process. 

This is why historically, family reunions were nearly seen as sacred events for Black families because of the deeper significance they held as it related to our past.

Black families may not be able tell you exactly what country our ancestors came from. We don't have too many centuries-old family crests or heirlooms, but we do have each other, and each member of our family is a valuable resource. Everyone from the infants to the elders has an important role within our families. 

Understanding our family history and strengthening those family connections is how we rebuild the history that was stripped from us and create a stronger sense of community. 

On top of that, regardless of cultural backgrounds, our family is supposed to be our source of pride, our dynasty; something which we hold to high esteem.

Therefore, we have to cherish and respect the opportunities that we have to connect with our family members. To be unappreciative of that is a disservice to those who came before us who would have gave their lives just to be reunited with family.

Friday, August 9, 2013

0 Nice People... Where'd They Go?

By: Marvin DeBose

When I was a residence hall coordinator at Edinboro University. I once had someone show me how powerful being nice to someone really is.

It was the the beginning of the school year, I was just starting grad school and beginning my graduate assistantship as a hall coordinator as well. Although I was familiar with the environment since I was an RA the previous semester, like anyone going into a new job, I had my doubts.

"Do I even know what I'm doing?" and "I don't want to mess up" were some of the recurring thoughts in my head.

That day, one of my friends checked into my building. At the time, I'd only really known him for a few months, so he was really more of a casual acquaintance then a "friend".

After I helped sign him into the building and gave him his keys, he said something that shifted my whole perspective. As he picked his bags up to go upstairs, he turned to me and said, "You know, Marvin, you're doing a great job."

And just like that, I wasn't as worried anymore and I wasn't as stressed. In fact, I spent the next few hours occasionally reflecting on how nice of a gesture that was.

Then I had to ask myself, "Why don't more people act like that?"

Then I remembered that sometimes the world can be a harsh place, it takes a toll on people physically, mentally and emotionally. Like the great poet Curtis "50 Cent" Jackson once said, "Death gotta be easy, cause life is hard/It'll leave you physically, mentally, and emotionally scarred."

Sometimes, as a response or a defense mechanism to the harsh, negative, "hard" aspects of life, people themselves become hardened mentally and emotionally, and respond to the world with harsh, negative attitudes and actions.

Yet, I believe that the best way to counteract this coldness that the world can bring is through genuine gestures of warmth. Whether it's a smile, a compliment, a thank you, or just a greeting, it all goes a long way, and it may affect someone more than you'll ever know.

I'm not saying you have to be obnoxiously nice and walk around whistling Dixie with a smile 24/7 singing songs  (that'll just make you look nuts). I'm not saying that you have to be the guy who holds the door for everyone, or that you have to be a pushover and try to please everyone.  But you get what I mean.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

0 Growing up and "Getting Old"

By: Marvin DeBose

Recently my 10-year old sister was talking about her upcoming birthday in September. Like most kids, the fact that her birthday is less than two months away makes it a reason to talk about it incessantly. "I want a party, at [whatever place that 10-year olds like to go to for their birthdays (I wasn't really paying attention)]."

My younger brother and I, naturally felt the need to tease her as if we weren't going to celebrate her birthday this year.

"You're not having a party", my brother said. "Mom and Dad are saving all the money for my 16th birthday party this year."

Then I jokingly chimed in, "No, neither of you are having a party because we're saving up for my 24th birthday party." And as those words "24th birthday" came out, it was like an alarm went off in my head. I stopped in my tracks and thought to myself, "Damn, when did I become an adult?"

For the rest of that day, I thought a lot about how fast the last ten years seemed to go. I thought about how fast high school went, how quickly college went by, and how fast my grad school years came and went. Then, I began to think about how fast the next ten years would go.

Yet, recognizing how fast the years go by can have sort of a sobering effect on you, it helps you puts things into perspective. It made me realize that now is the time to do more, experience more and accomplish more.

I'm not saying that going into your mid-20s is "getting old", nor it is for your 30s, 40s, or 50s for that matter. In fact, it's my belief that "old" has nothing to do with age. Not to sound too deep or esoteric, but I believe that the concepts of oldness and youthfulness are related more to our spirit, and the body is merely a vehicle of the spirit.

Yet, I think that age should be a reminder of the value of time, and the value of life as well.

So thinking about how fast the years go by I learned a simple lesson: Go out be what you want to be, do what you want to do, go where you want to go, because, either way, the years are still gonna go by.

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