How Do We Get Past a Stalemate in Doing the Work Needed by Putting Country Over Partisanship?

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“It was like a scene from a fraternity. There were pizza boxes strewn all over like something out of the Animal House movie.” That’s how someone who was in the room described the actions of a group of elected officials. They were hoping to give attention to a point of view, but it was a bad example to kids.

We’re at a moment in history where something’s gotta give! There are stories of students ‘pissing’ on others at a high school football game. How do we help them move past such hurtful acts? On a broader level, how do we get past a stalemate in doing the work needed by putting country over partisanship?

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Those questions require a root-cause analysis of where we are. In one sense we’re dealing with some officials who’d rather news-cycle gimmicks that real work ethic. How else can those actions be explained when the elected officials who should know better, treated a secure facility like a schoolyard playground.

There are two public project releases that might help us get through the stalemate. One is the book by an anonymous author in the current administration. It’s expected to be a warning about the kinds of detrimental decisions and actions taken by government officials. The other is the Harriet Tubman movie.

Tubman’s legacy shines a light on the Underground Railroad, which was responsible for providing passage to freedom for hundreds of slaves. ‘Anonymous’ as the author is being known, may give us their own ‘underground’ look at some of the reasons behind certain actions taken over the past few years.

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If we’re going to get past the stalemate as existed during Tubman’s days and in these current times it might take an education approach that W.E.B. Dubois spoke about in the past. He felt then that if Democracy was going to survive, we must stop encouraging ignorance. Well if our partisan stalemate is going to break, we must stop encouraging ignorance.

History also shows that to move forward it takes civic engagement. That was an important part of the various movements that brought change. Whether it was the abolition movement then or the civil rights movement of the recent past, citizens who’re fed up are the ones who find ways to rise-up to new glory.

Society can also rise-up in enterprise. That’s what we saw after the Great Depression and after World Wars. There was an Industrial Revolution creating a surge in enterprise. After the Civil War there was a boom in civic engagement and business start-ups. Today it seems we’re in a culture war so how can we move past the stalemate?

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Maybe the Harriet movie will remind us of how social, political and economic empowerment can help release untapped potential. Maybe the ‘Anonymous’ author will open our eyes to what’s at stake. We will need a ‘bigger than self’ mindset to taking actions that are less about news-cycle gimmicks or ego-gratification. We must be guided by a sense of duty to the Constitution and real truth-emancipation.

Tracks: Andra Day – Rise Up  – https://youtu.be/lwgr_IMeEgA

Common, John Legend – Glory – https://youtu.be/HUZOKvYcx_o

Emmy Awards Aside There’s a Tic Toc Feeling in the Air Beyond the Red Carpet Fashions, Around Civic Implosion

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Social Commentary

Another Emmy Awards Gala is in the books and there’re many who’re left holding the bag. The ‘Swag Bag’ that is. In each category there’re a few nominees but only one gets to take home the statue prize. Everyone else at least gets to leave with swag merch that might help them savor the evening.

Among the winners is Jharrel Jerome for lead actor in a limited series category as Korey Wise in the Netflix acclaimed When They See Us. The film tells the story of five Harlem boys who served time after being falsely accused for a crime. The film covers the youthful days and adult journeys of the boys’ life.

Jerome was the only actor to have played both the boyhood and adult roles of a character in the film. He told Hollywood media that he spent time with Wise trying to walk in his shoes. His main takeaway was how Wise spent years behind bars trying to be a better person, even if the media story was the opposite.

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That’s something many can relate to in trying to live their best life or be a better nation. It’s sometimes a toggle back and forth between growing up as a child and adulting-up as a citizen. So Emmy Awards aside for young and old, there’s a kind of tic toc feeling in the air beyond the red carpet fashions, around civic implosion.

As citizens, the current climate in national public affairs is creating its own tic toc, around what seems like a gradual slide from Democracy to ‘Shamocracy.’ It seems as if the political, ethical and civic standards we’re admired for around the world are now being viewed as a sham!

One of the things from America’s history (younger days) and current state of affair (adult ways) that might be holding us back is Ideology. The Founders described in the Constitution’s Preamble “We the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect Union.” That was a statement of Ideals not Ideology.

Another thing from America’s history and the current state of affair that might be holding us back is money. The original fights around money was about the size of government and who’d pay for social services. The fight today is about who gets more of it in terms of give-backs for political/social appeal.

In a recent interview Oprah shared why she’s not running for office. But she explained it less as a knock and more as an ‘aha moment.’ She felt candidates should spend more time telling us what they bring and less time on the other person’s ills. Another way of saying it is they should bring a sense of discovery.

Maybe something people admire most in Oprah isn’t just her business acumen but also her integrity. That starts with being true with self. She’s true with self in not trying to run for office when that’s not her. She’s also true with fans about what she went through as a teenager before becoming a global icon.

People world over admire America for its ‘dream factory’ and biz acumen. But this will get overshadowed if our national integrity seems to be slip-sliding away. That may be something the first U.S. president George Washington had back-of-mind when he made a stirring point in his 1796 farewell address.

He said, “The common and continual mischiefs of [party] are sufficient to make it in the interest of duty of a wise people to discourage and restrain it.” Well if we replace party with Executive Branch, you get the sense his words have broader meaning today. He might see the current state of affair as a sham.

Tracks: Skip Marley ft Damian ‘Jr Gong’ Marley – That’s Not True  – https://youtu.be/Z1NPpxU_BQQ

Sting and shaggy – Just One Lifetime – https://youtu.be/DNobqcfLb2Y

Ava DuVernay Works to Bring Closure for Five Harlem Men and Exposure to The Injustice That Was Handed Them

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Social Commentary

It was the Spring of 1989 when their lives made headlines. Five boys from Harlem who became known as the ‘Central Park Five’ were accused of a brutal crime. The story was branded as a ‘park wilding’ with them being taken in for questioning. But the story was a big cover-up for political gain.

Fast-forward to present day, as the woke film director Ava DuVernay works to bring closure and exposure to the injustice that was handed them. Even after DNA evidence came back without a match to any of them, the prosecuting attorneys still went ahead to frame the story in a way opposite to the facts.

So DuVernay with the support of Oprah Winfrey as an executive producer, decided to produce the Netflix special ‘When They See Us’ to tell the true story. Her approach was one of looking at the criminal justice system from four angles: policing, prosecution, parole and the prison industrial complex.

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She got high praise from Tyler Perry, Levar Burton and others for the project’s cinematic depth. Her social justice work aims to open eyes, inform minds and touch hearts to inspire broader change. This project fits that mold and begs the question, “What if the ‘Black to America’ story were told with similar gusto?

This summer commemorates 400 years of that journey which began around August 1619 at Jamestown Virginia. The upcoming ‘America in Color’ Report presents a new way to see history, family, culture, country and social issues with a better picture quality for a higher level of citizenship.

One way to unpack the 400-year journey is by the 7 phases, 3 communities and 2 questions that overlap the story. Parts of the story call for celebration, parts describe periods of determination and parts of the story include racial oppression. It’s a story of ‘strong citizens’ and their ‘citizen shining moments.’

Many Americans know a more recent idea of strong citizens which got its start after Superstorm Sandy hit the East Coast in 2012. As elected officials visited some affected areas in New Jersey, a sentiment began to surface. The point of pulling together to recover and rebuild was later phrased as ‘Jersey Strong.’

This caught-on in other areas across the country, including after the Boston marathon explosion where we heard ‘Boston Strong.’ The idea of strong citizens may have started during some of the darkest times in the ‘Black to America’ journey. But it also shows up today as a ‘Hometown Strong’ feeling.

So having an ‘America in Color’ perspective means seeing the larger storyline with a similar kind of truth-telling to better understand American history from five angles: Justice, Political, Education, Immigration & Tax systems. This helps to give a better picture quality for seeing social issues more clearly.

DuVernay said in a recent Oprah chat that she changed the name of the project from ‘Central Park Five’ because she wanted to present a new take for how the story is told. Well, ‘America in Color’ is a new name for how the ‘strong citizens’ story is told and #WhenWeShowThem represents what it means to survive and even thrive no matter the personal/social challenge.

Tracks: Mary J. Blige ft Nas – Thrive  – https://youtu.be/98YJEr9NaXc

Koryn Hawthorne ft Lecrae – Unstoppable – https://youtu.be/us7hvF6lsoc

Wake Up America! Here’s What to Do When Your Brackets Get Busted or Your Politics Gets Haunted

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Social Commentary

Lots of folks woke up today with one of two questions on their minds. One is “what happens next, now that their March Madness bracket got busted?” There were upsets in the early rounds. Duke had a close call in winning by one point against UCF with a last second rebound, but the Sweet 16 looks strong.

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Others woke up with the question of “what happens next with the Special Counsel’s report now that their politics got haunted?” The report is raising cheers in some circles and concern in others. It’s hard to know whether things will get swept under the rug or just swept-up in the frenzy of this political climate.

Those who study history and pop culture know there’s always been an aspect of the social/political back-and-forth where sports can help us see through the layers of the issues of the time. We see that in recent news of an agreement reached with the NFL on settling the collusion lawsuit filed by Colin Kaepernick.

For Kaepernick, the agreement didn’t come with as much money as some had hoped. But it closed a chapter in the collusion part of the story. It took a couple weeks before the agreement dollars became public. Some wonder what might happen in politics if the Special Counsel’s report isn’t made public.

To understand how sports helps explain social issues of our time, just look at the question of “what is collusion?” Maybe the settlement agreement between Kaepernick and the NFL didn’t quite explain that term. To satisfy the public’s need-to-know here’s why collusion isn’t a question that gets answered easily.

First, collusion is a kind of ‘wink wink’ that’s hard to describe. Kaepernick’s reason for bringing the lawsuit is to callout the league for keeping him out of the game because of his social justice protest. Now, exactly how they might have done that is hard to describe legally, just as in the case for a political campaign.

It doesn’t mean collusion didn’t happen. It’s just hard to describe and thus hard to prove that it happened. Second, collusion is a symptom that’s hard to diagnose. It’s obvious to fans that Kaepernick was kept out of the game unfairly. But how do you diagnose the effects of that action on the overall game?

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Intelligence officials say a foreign power interfered with the 2016 Presidential elections unfairly. But how do you diagnose if that interference had a provable effect on the outcome of the elections? That’s the ‘grey area’ that makes the actions hard to prove legally even though it obviously happened in plain sight.

Lastly, collusion is a kind of bargain that’s hard to dismiss. Think about those times when you’re shopping, whether at the mall or at a car dealership. You see a sign on the store window that says, “closeout sale, everything must go, 90% off.” Or the car salesman drops the price so low you can’t turn away.

That’s some of what we see from the Special Counsel report. Those who flirt with collusion will settle for the lowest of lows in their actions as a ‘wink wink’ in the political game. Since collusion can be hard to describe, diagnose or dismiss, we might miss the fact that it can bedevil our culture/politics like a plague.

Tracks: Erykah Badu – Didn’t Cha Know  – https://youtu.be/Np21rH7Ldto

India Arie – Get it Together – https://youtu.be/QpiWkSa19eI

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

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