What Happens When History Repeats Itself? It Kinda Shows us Something about the Mood in America

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The shock is still being felt in some circles from the news out of Chicago over the past few weeks. Some feel disappointment and pain that it happened in Black History Month when we’re supposed to celebrate black excellence. Maybe we can turn this into something that ends the month on a high note.

From comments on social media and the cable shows, it seems the storyline so far is that the players involved got caught up in the money-game, but on the sticky side of things. It might be a case of history repeating itself. The mood almost feels like a flashback to the O.J. Simpson time of media coverage.

The question then was if the glove fits. In the current situation the question might be if the story fits. But how about we see this moment of pain in a different light as we reach for new levels in social progress, professional growth and commercial gain? It helps if we understand the hustle and bustle of the time.

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A black history flashback to the Gold Rush of 1849 gives clues on moving ahead. That period for slaves mining gold, later led to economic growth and social change. On the economic side there were three groups that grew out of that situation; gold-money holders, working-class players and business leaders.

On the social side there were issues of race and class as we sometimes see today. With class it’s often about whether one group sees itself as better than the other. With race it’s often about issues of freedom, opportunity, equality and justice. The mood in America often ebbs and flows around larger issues of:

  1. Cultural Identity
  2. Law & Order
  3. Social Privilege
  4. Public Service

Some folks question the role race plays in America’s cultural identity. With this year being the 400-year anniversary of slaves being brought to the U.S., it’s hard to know the history without understanding the journey through Settlement, Slavery, Independence, Civil War, Reconstruction, Jim Crow and Civil Rights.

These phases in American history bought different levels of pain and progress. They also came with different encounters with law & order. A ‘war on crime’ has sometimes been used as a cover for policies that imperil certain citizens and communities. It’s given reason for people to cry-out against the system.

A certain mood in America revolves around the question of social privilege. There’s even a sub-culture that believes the new ‘native Americans’ are the white working-class. Because of social change, they feel they’re being treated like the original native American Indians, so they want to ‘take their country back.’

The current field of announced Democratic candidates running for president is 10 and growing. Some wonder if that’s overkill or if it’s just a new level of interest in public service and higher office. While elections might come and go, the public service work as citizens of a more perfect union never ends.

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So, while we sometimes have heart-wrenching moments of pain, we can use a black history flashback to the Gold Rush of 1849 to move forward. Without appearing to preach, we can do like those before us by getting past fear, doing the hustle thing, beating tough challenges and maybe even saying Hallelujah!

Tracks: John Legend – Preach  – https://youtu.be/k0r1AJMK79g

 

Alicia Keys – Hallelujah – https://youtu.be/W1sJKnQmjrM

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Senator Kamala Harris & Cardi B Using Their Voices for Social Justice Like Two Sides of Dr King’s Dream

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Social Impact

It’s an important day in the life of America when people reflect on the social impact of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Dr. King’s national holiday sheds light on the words and wisdom from his work. For many there’re moments that stand out among a catalog of quotes, like the timeless four words of “I Have a Dream.”

This year the holiday is also when Senator Kamala Harris decided to make an announcement using four words when she tweeted “I’m Running for President!” During her appearance on ABCs Good Morning America, Harris added a personal view in saying she’s doing it for the people because “I love my country.”

Those words might easily connect with folks who think about the love King had for the people. That’s also where Cardi B comes in with her take on what’s happening with the Government shutdown. Cardi’s colorful view which went viral might also be summarized in four words; “this mess is whack.”

Harris and Cardi B are using their voices for social justice like two sides of Dr. King’s dream. Harris brings her immigrant heritage from India and Jamaica, while Cardi B’s hometown heritage is from the Bronx. Harris went from Attorney to Prosecutor to Senator while Cardi B went from the streets to major beats.

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There’re things from King that might inform Cardi B (and us) on how we take social action. There’re things from King that can inform Harris on her political aspirations. King knew our walk might take different paths but our work should help with economic, social and neighborhood-rising issues in these ways:

  1. Scholar
  2. Activist
  3. Griot
  4. Empowerer (or Empower-her)

Before Dr. King became a national-figure he spent time becoming a trained scholar. Not everybody will choose the path of getting a degree in philosophy but most of us can study a subject enough to get a Ph.D. in lifer-education. This way we’re not becoming ‘dumb and dumber’ but instead mover and shaker.

As King traveled the country he saw more examples of what kept America stuck in the racism quicksand. This led him to becoming more of an activist. An activist is to social change as a catalyst is to a chemical reaction. Sometimes sparks fly, but after a while, things change from the current state to a new normal.

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These days we’re reminded not to mess with ‘girls from the Bronx.’ That’s how Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez put it after a political commentator choose to come-at Cardi B. Cortez took us back to earlier pop culture griots named the Sugar Hill Gang, as musicians, poets and storytellers who maintain an oral tradition.

There’s a feeling in social and political circles that a new kind of candidate needs to arise for the 2020 Presidential elections. We can’t continue on the current path where the leader acts like an emperor. We need to look to those who’ll be more of an empowerer of the community or an empower-her of the nation.

All it takes is four words to get our social-justice juices flowing. Harris made her presidential bid with the words “I love my country.” Cardi B shared her concerns with “this mess is whack.” Four words describing Dr. King as scholar, activist, griot and empowerer might help us to keep runnin’. Just think about the ‘what ifs’ and where we’d be without his ‘love for the people.’

Tracks: India Arie – What If  – https://youtu.be/Ae-i31wWxEo

Naughty Boy ft Beyoncé, Arrow Benjamin – Runnin’ – https://youtu.be/eJSik6ejkr0

Michelle Obama and Tracee Ellis Ross Had a Heart-to-Heart Chat on Becoming a Better You, A Better Me and A Better We

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Who’s ready to meet America’s newest pop star? Well she’s already America’s lady love but now it’s without the White House strings attached. As former First Lady Michelle Obama kicked-off her book tour, she’s sharing some previously untold stories behind the curtains as well as her life of Becoming.

Sometimes referring to herself as a “Southside girl” she takes us through her journey and the pages of the book with her signature down-to-earth style. It’s as if she’s talking with a full-house of her closest friends. Even joking of feeling like saying “Bye Felicia” as she departed the White House for the last time.

During her sit-down with Tracee Ellis Ross she had a heart-to-heart chat on going from modest means to being on the biggest stage in the world. Her ‘pop star’ message of choosing people over politics wasn’t just about her childhood dance-steps but also on becoming “a better you, a better me, a better we.”

She’s made clear that running for office isn’t on her bucket list. But she still plans to advocate for those who approach public service with love, honor and service for a common cause. These days it seems there’re those who see public service as being about money, power and fame by any means necessary.

This has been in the spotlight since the Obamas left office. America has its own ‘becoming’ story where progress happened in leaps and bounds but sometimes with backsteps. Much of what we see today seem more about ‘fear and hate’ than about ‘hope and love.’ So our ‘becoming’ needs to deal with:

  1. Voter Suppression
  2. Democracy Subversion
  3. Racial Division
  4. Truth Destruction

Imagine if Doctors today decided that they’re going to make it harder for women to give birth. It would be like doing things that made childbirth harder on mothers and families. When it comes to voter suppression, that in a sense is what we see with some politicians in making it harder on citizens.

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It took a revolution to give birth to the nation. Ever since then the work has been about moving towards a more perfect union. But when some make it harder to vote they’re messing with a key aspect of what it means to be a democratic republic. Democracy subversion gives rise to a breach in trust in government.

Some might remember as a child playing with marbles. The marbles had a certain color swirl to their makeup. Some had more color filled-in while others were clearer in appearance. No matter how a marble looked we didn’t approach one over the other with a supremacy mentality. They were all just marbles.

A mindset of people over politics is one where we appreciate all the marbles. But when racial division gets stoked it’s like trying to separate the marbles or act like there’s ‘color supremacy.’ That feeds into the idea that one color is better than another color. In God’s eyes we’re all just different color marbles.

As kids we also played the telephone game. We’d tell someone a phrase and they’d tell the next person. Usually by the time it got to the end of the line it wasn’t what was first said. But there’s a difference between miss-information and truth destruction where folks make stuff up to deceive and destroy.

That’s where Mrs Obama draws the line. With voter suppression we might have to recall the Voting Rights Act. But with truth destruction our democracy and personal security are at stake. So whether Brooklyn or the Bay Area, Tennessee or Texas we’re still on that road of becoming “a better you, a better me, a better we.”

Tracks: Arrested Development – Tennessee  – https://youtu.be/6VCdJyOAQYM

Lou Rawls – Lady Love – https://youtu.be/a-CwWMXpsX0

Beto O’Rourke vs Ted Cruz and A Sore Spot in America: What Elections Reveal About The Character and Climate of the Country

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Social Activism

On the day after midterm elections in America, the dust is still settling. Scores of history-making results are being celebrated far and wide. The impact of women in the political process continues to break glass ceilings. Even Muslim candidates and Native American voters stepped-up their game across the land.

But the Senate race in Texas between Beto O’Rourke and Ted Cruz might be a sore spot in America. Lots of effort was put into giving O’Rourke a shot at winning. Some big-named celebs tossed their support in his corner. This moment made us consider what elections reveal about the character and climate of the country.

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The final push leading up to the elections had a flurry of ads that were sometimes more negative than informative. There was even an ad that was pulled by a few news outlets because it was too blatant. Plus, when the message was checked-out, there were more wrong things about it than there were right things.

In the rush of going about our daily lives it’s hard to get a handle on what the ads are saying that the candidate is for or against. The sum-total of the message doesn’t give the sum-total of the candidate. That can only be understood based on how they plan to serve people, policy, purpose and process.

There were major gains for those who want to put democracy and accountability back in its rightful place. But there’s still more ground to cover in response to those things that added a toxic strain to the character and climate of the country. The road ahead might be best understood and travelled by dealing with:

  1. Threat vs asset
  2. Racist vs pluralist
  3. Divider vs inspirer
  4. Darker vs brighter

When O’Rourke was asked about the NFL kneeling protest, his response went viral. This told us much about how he would serve the people. His take showed great awareness or ‘wokeness’ as some might say. But it also said something about how he prefers to see others as an asset and not as a threat.

One problem with politics these days boils down to if we see those around us as ‘others.’ If viewed as a threat, then a more racist approach is applied to policy. If viewed as an asset, then a more pluralistic approach is done. A racist-view tends to see ‘others’ as a threat. A pluralist-view sees ‘others’ as an asset.

When you study great leaders the ones who stand tall above all are those who inspired a generation. An inspirer is someone who adds hope, value or esteem to their role as a leader. A divider usually does the opposite. We have to watchout for those dividers who’re like wolfs dressed in sheep’s clothing.

The difference is seen in their campaign style & process.  Think of it the way a ‘worm’ might be used for fishing or for hacking. The worm on a hook helps to catch a fish. A fish is a good thing. But a ‘worm’ inside a computer system is a bad thing. A divider uses a bad ‘worm’ process in how they campaign.

Sometimes at a fast food restaurant when you place your order you get asked whether you want to supersize your meal. That usually means you can add to your order at a small price. Where we are in our politics today, we need to ask whether we want to supersize our values and ideals as a nation.

If we don’t answer right, then the wolf will try to bring in other wolf-minded figures. They will swoop in and try to divide and even Trump-etize those values and ideals. With the small price to pay of our vote, we can revert to a darker time or move towards a brighter day for our kids. O’Rourke will be back because he’s made for now and for a brighter day!

Tracks: Kirk Franklin – Brighter Day  – https://youtu.be/itbi6V9oFIk

Janet Jackson – Made for Now – https://youtu.be/seh_fZJqB94

Trevor Noah & John Legend Give Voter-Advice That Would Make Us Winners on Jeopardy and at the Polls

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Common Good

It’s hard to watch your favorite show these days and not see political ads in between. With the mid-term elections season in full effect, candidates are trying to make the case to earn our votes. Some ads go negative while others seem fact-based. Then of course there’s commentary that might add some spin.

Even a late-night comic like Trevor Noah made a few points in between the laughs. He and John Legend find time to give voter-advice that would make us winners on the TV show Jeopardy and at the polls. Noah has some experience on seeing politics at its worst from growing up in Apartheid South Africa.

Maybe some of what we see today is media-spin that’s packaged as a PR strategy. Noah might relate to what happens when the politics of a nation has lost its standard and its way in serving the common good. It’s as if living by lying has become the new normal and the political show is more important than integrity.

Then there’s that old saying of ‘cleanliness is next to godliness.’ But with politics at its worst it’s more like ‘hollowness is next to corruption.’ It’s where acts of stupidity get sold as profiles in courage. Just look at what happens when the Oval Office gets turned into a side show and you wonder how low can things go.

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Noah helps us see through the fake of politics. Legend helps us get through the fog. They continue to be advocates for change and models for citizens at their best. It’s one thing to have a PR strategy but they are more about an RP Strategy of Real Power in our roles as engaged citizens. They’d say to:

  1. Use your vote
  2. Raise your voice
  3. Build your vision
  4. See your village

The vote is the best way to represent your interests. Noah says (jokingly) that if votes are suppressed, then folks should register with the other party to avoid being purged from the voter rolls. In a sense it’s how you use your vote the way folks in the ‘60s used their dollars through boycott to effect change.

How is it possible that in at least two statewide races for Governor that a candidate can affect the outcome through actions taken by also being the Secretary of State? That’s not right much less fair. We raise our voices in the public square to show that politics at its worst will not outlast citizens at their best.

That’s what Dr King was trying to achieve during the March on Washington when he gave his ‘I Have a Dream’ speech. He was building a vision around economic evangelism, social activism and hope over skepticism. His vision statement said ‘I have a dream that’s deeply rooted in the American dream.’

King was trying to help us see our village. Someone once said “look at a person the way they are and they remain the same. But look at them the way they could be and they become what they should be.” As you build the vision and see your village you see the skyline and success-line emerging in the distance.

Take ‘Politics at its Worst’ for $100, the answers would probably cheapen the value of public service. Take ‘Citizens at their Best’ for $500, the answers would raise the value of our civic duty. History shows that sometimes we have to reach-out and touch and sometimes we have to fight the powers that be.

Tracks: Yolanda Adams – Reach out and Touch  – https://youtu.be/OnLZZW1HCgs

Isley Brothers – Fight the Power – https://youtu.be/8QZvoOqUkqw

Dream it Forward – John Bunn Tells His Story of Being Jerked Around by the System and How He’s Approaching Life Now

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A Stroke of Courage for Standing Tall

In the space of a week, two stories hit front page news that have people shaking their heads and demanding accountability. First came the tragic death of Botham Shem Jean who was killed in his Dallas apartment under questionable circumstances. His family wants answers as co-workers grieve his loss.

Then came the viral video of John Bunn who was recently released from prison after 27 years for a crime he didn’t commit. These stories once again brought front & center the challenges of the justice system. One person is taken out by a law enforcement officer and the other is jerked around by the system.

It’s hard to imagine being one of those individuals, but it could have been. With Bunn having the murder charge wiped from his record he’s trying to stay positive about his future. In one sense it feels like the system is ‘sorry but not sorry’ when situations like these keep happening. What can we learn from it?

Well there’s the hometown tale of a tourist wanting to know more about making Jerk Chicken. That person asked the question, how do you know which chicken is the jerk before you cook it? But the gravity of these justice matters asks, ‘how do we know the system is jerking folks around before it happens?’

Bunn explained that he was intimidated by a police detective who was someone in a position of power. Some people are made to believe that if they confess that they’d be taken care of. Others have even been tricked into going on record with information that wasn’t really the facts of what happened.

But Bunn is a model of courage that makes him stand tall even in the eyes of J.K. Rowling. Maybe that’s because his new lease on life gives inspiring lessons for living life forward, understanding it backward and enjoying the now. He did time for a wrong he didn’t commit. But he also spends time doing right by:

  1. Setting the record
  2. Dreaming it forward
  3. Squeezing the moment
  4. Breaking the clouds

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(Photo Credit: CNN)

During the court hearing prior to his release Bunn was heard telling the judge that he was confident of his innocence. He knew the truth was on his side and that it would eventually come to light. It’s been said that when you do right it will come to light. Bunn was setting the record straight for himself and the system.

While behind bars he remembers falling in love with reading. He says this gave him the chance to take his imagination beyond the walls. He may not have seen how paying it forward could be of any help at the time. But he made it through his nightmare situation by expanding his mind and dreaming it forward.

Bunn says he wants to use his experience to fulfill a greater purpose. So he started a library program for prisons. He also spends time speaking to elementary school kids about the importance of their education. He’s squeezing the moment by turning tears of pain and anger into life-juice that’s like liquid gold.

These situations tend to leave a cloud hanging over those affected. But Bunn’s doing what pilots do on an overcast day. They use on-board instruments during takeoff. That’s their go-to move for breaking through the clouds. Bunn is using his talents and other human/social instruments for breaking the clouds as well.

The system can never replace the time taken from Bunn. There’re still gaps in justice that can make a grown man cry and should make a caring nation weep. No matter the complication or indignation we have for a lowly or unfair plight, Bunn chose to ‘breath out, breath-in’ to keep his spirits up from the neck up.

Tracks: Zion I Kings – The System ft Pressure & Akae Beka  – https://youtu.be/3ZaHo_UFW0o

Rihanna – American Oxygen – https://youtu.be/Ao8cGLIMtvg

Aretha Franklin – The Queen of Soul Was Rock Steady from Start to Finish

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Tribute to an Icon Who Made us Groove

Most of us can remember where we were when certain major news stories hit the airwaves. It could be the day of the terrorist attacks on September 11th, the passing of Michael Jackson or Prince. These events leave us thinking about what our loved ones or music icons mean to our everyday experiences.

Then of course there’s the news of the passing of Aretha Franklin. She became known as the Queen of Soul for her musical prowess that started at a young age. But it’s not only remembering where we were when that news first broke. It’s also about how Ms. Franklin made us feel in our coming and going.

Long before Video Music Awards were a thing, Franklin was a chart-topper on the Billboard scene. She became the youngest inductee into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. She’s also the most decorated female Grammy winner of all time. That’s another way for saying Franklin was ‘rock steady’ from start to finish.

As the tributes pour in from past Presidents & showbiz figures, we remember Franklin as a person whose music through soul went beyond the mold. Her work was not limited to one genre of music. Franklin made hits across pop, gospel, R&B, jazz and even a little country. If for nothing else her music had S.A.S.S.

Ms. Franklin didn’t get lost in the diva-girl persona that seems to cloud some artists. Her music was usually built around a Storyline. In some cases it became Anthemic. It had a Soundtrack quality to the groove. But it also had Swizzle by delivering ‘soul with sizzle.’ That‘s the Aretha many came to love.

Recording artists, music industry pioneers and fans might not all agree on whether Michael Jackson was more talented than Prince. But they’ll likely agree that Franklin was in a class of her own. She left us with memories from her music that’ll be around for a long time. She also left us some takeaways from her life.

When it comes to the intersection of American history and pop culture Ms. Franklin might also want us to:

  1. Raise our voice in local as well as high places.
  2. Raise our value in a career game and other spaces.
  3. Raise our volume of impact that leaves a legacy for the ages.

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Franklin had the chance at an early age to develop her singing voice at her father’s Church. After honing her chops there she went on to become a hit-maker and crowd-pleaser. She even had the chance to sing at the Inauguration of President Barack Obama wearing that fancy hat which is now at the Smithsonian.

When you look at her music you find the evolution of a career across three record companies. Columbia Records introduced us to her voice as sales weren’t quite through the roof just yet. Then Atlantic Records took us through mid-career as she became a household name. And still the hits kept coming.

Then there’s the partnership with Arista Records which brought a more hip sound to her music. This is probably the period for which her work speaks volumes. More people both young and old came to fully appreciate her longevity in the music biz. Her Kennedy Center Honors in 2015 was like icing on the cake.

Many remember that moving performance of Natural Woman that had the audience drooling at her feet. Even The Obamas were on a Franklin high. So the jury might be out on whether the favorite female artist these days is Cardi B or Nicki Minaj. But there’s no mistaking that Ms. Aretha Franklin was Soul Sister #1.

Tracks: Jennifer Hudson – I Never Loved a Man (The Way I Love You) – https://youtu.be/6BWU5dCYHkY

Fantasia – Aretha Franklin Tribute – https://youtu.be/bRWzzaB-Png