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

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

Ava DuVernay & Lin-Manuel Miranda Speak on Winning a Game but not Losing Our Civil Liberties – #HometownChat

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#HometownChat – “Smart Community, Special Service, Civic Dreams”

“Hey Martellus Bennett, Patriots just won the Superbowl, what are you doing next?” That question might remind us of those past ads for Disney. Bennett’s not planning to do the usual stuff. He’d probably love to hear Ava DuVernay or Lin-Manuel Miranda speak on winning a game but not losing our civil liberties.

While Monday morning quarterbacks broke down the game, other folks were happy seeing the Obama’s back in town. During their two-week vacation there was even a sighting of BO’s look-alike ‘cool Barry’ with his cap turned backward. They returned just in time to settle into Washington’s business as ‘Reality TV.’

What we’re seeing these days is just a new look of some old ways. That’s what a doctor might say when examining a patient or a historian might say when examining the political, social and economic system. We’ve gone from slavery to Jim Crow to an emerging system condition that could be called John Crow.

It’s called John Crow because of a certain far-away bird that takes advantage of the death, misery and ‘lost way’ of animals. This system has a new set of ‘isms’ (along with WMDs – Weapons of Mass Dah) to benefit from death, misery and lower socio-economic status. So to #LetThePeopleKnow when it’s a John Crow is to:

  1. Check the system for signs of ‘Vulture-ism.’
  2. Churn (agitate) the establishment for the acts of ‘sham-ism.’
  3. Challenge the laws against rounds of social schism.
  4. Cheer the people to avoid the pitfalls of fake realism.

Executive Orders recently issued by the Republican Administration appear to have a negative impact on the everyday citizen. Vulture-ism is seen when perks for Wall Street dig potholes on the roads for Main Street. It’s when concerns for poverty and income inequality are stunted by policies of ‘purge & reward.’ We’ve got to save our streets from being attacked by a ‘republic of vultures.’ (Is it just coincidence that Trump’s middle name is John?)

Even the idea of possibly taking Iraq’s oil to pay for U.S. troop deployment in the Middle East is like a John Crow beast preying on the least. The thing to watchout for is whether the shifting administration policies are really about ‘Make America Great Again’ or adding more power and prime rib to their plate.

These efforts to undermine & override are not being overlooked by ‘people in the know.’ Maybe that’s why Nancy Pelosi made the statement that Trump Advisor Steve Bannon is a shot-caller for white supremacy. Howard Stern saying he feels Trump ran for president to get more money for hosting The Apprentice.

By putting those two thoughts out there some political observers have concluded that we’ve got to callout the administration for the acts of sham-ism. A ‘sham’ is a thing that is not what it’s advertised to be. There’s reason the establishment has more explaining to do on their proposed policies and procedures.

In his letter written while in a Birmingham jail Dr. King outlined the issues of his time. He challenged those who questioned his non-violent protests against laws that protected Jim Crow but oppressed, suppressed or distressed John & Jane Doe. King was saying ‘Yo, that’s some social schism.’

Fast-forward to John Crow today with policies that threaten 1st Amendment rights to a free press and religion but protect 2nd Amendment rights to bear arms. The administration wants weak vetting on cabinet picks but extreme vetting on immigrant visas. We find them shutting down Obamacare signups while saying a replacement won’t be ready until 2018. Does that mean they’d rather have people die, denying them insurance while delaying them any chance for a supposedly better plan? Yo, that’s some social schism right there.

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So DuVernay and Miranda are doing their part to rally the people against losing touch with realism. She recently quoted James Baldwin who said A civilization isn’t destroyed by wicked people. It is not necessary that people be wicked. Only that they be spineless. Another philosopher once said Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it. (Is there a ‘true dat’ or amen?)

These notes are reminders to take off any ‘blinders’ that cause citizens to be tone-deaf, street dumb or side-eye blind. They might even suggest it’s a time to have ‘antennas up’ to get the reception and record straight. Smart community understands the past in order to better relate it to what just happened last.

When an Ohio minister says a ‘Chicago gang wants to work with Trump’ it makes people say, really? Then 24 hours later he walks it back, saying he miss-spoke as he was still tired from the recent campaign. He’s not the first minister with the campaign ‘trying to keep it real’ but showing straight-up fake realism.

The job of media, Congressional leaders, constitutional experts and engaged citizens is to keep the ducks in order. Some have committed to doing their part to fight the power as well as ‘floss Trump’s tweets’ (and the rest of his team) because the words in-and-out of their mouths can affect America’s future well-being.

‘Alternative facts’ is the new WMD in the John Crow system used as a cover for miss-information. We’ve been here before in Jim Crow times. So as we rise, let’s not be weary but stay true to realism. We’ll know if what we’re seeing will lead us to a place of more ‘still waters’ or towards a storm of some rough waters.

Groove-tracks: Isley Brothers – Fight the Power – https://youtu.be/KdJ0uv6oMRU

Solange – Rise/Weary – https://youtu.be/mKwxz23H5UY