Archive for March, 2012

Suspicious

Posted in African American Interests, brutality, civil rights, personal, police on March 20, 2012 by beneaththeunderdog

Suspicious.  It is a state of mind and being that I have endured since birth.  Trayvon Martin should have known better, because he too has been Suspicious since before he was conscious of such a word.  Suspicious is as American as ‘terrorist fist bump’, ‘keep the border to Mexico closed’, apple pie, ‘blah people’… it is entrenched in the lexicon of this country.

For all of you who are upset that Trayvon is dead, I apologize on his behalf.  It is not as if he was born with every advantage of say.. a non-suspicious person.  If he had chances are he would have never been seen as suspicious for merely walking down a street.  Or walking near a non-suspicious woman with a purse.  Or reaching for his wallet.  Or being a cop making an arrest while having his gun out of his holster.  Maybe the taxi company or pizza company would have come to his neighborhood without hesitation.

He should have known better.

Suspicious people everywhere are not surprised by Trayvon’s case.  Even hearing him beg for help does not really stir the soul.  Afterall, Suspicious people have been running from Non-Suspicous people with guns since America, the land for all people who have been bestowed inalienable rights, was founded.  The sad part…the scary part is before the year is out Trayvon will be a memory because a few more Suspicious people will have been disposed of in similar ways for even more Suspicious reasons.

It is funny.  Just a couple of weeks ago Non-Suspicious people were up-in-arms over the brutality of Joseph Kony.  They wanted heads.  Before that it was bin Laden.  Ahmadinejad.  Qadhafi.  Hussein.  All men of Suspicion.  All dead or being hunted.

Ask yourself,  who killed Trayvon?  Who beat Rodney King?  Who shot Eleanor Bumpurs?  Who killed Amadou Diallo?  Who killed Emmit Till?  Why are these vigilantes.. these thugs who live right here at home and in our neighborhoods not afforded the same lights, stature, media attention and venom as our Suspicious brothers from Africa?  Why are they not infamous?  Are domestic terrorists not a more direct obstacle to the everyday way American life?

This post is dedicated to Trayvon Martin, Amadou Diallo, Sean Bell, Oscar Grant,Ousmane Zongo and all others who have been or will be victimized simply for being Suspicious in America.

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Fear Is The Greatest Enemy Of Feminism

Posted in African American Interests, feminism, relationships, Uncategorized on March 18, 2012 by beneaththeunderdog

“So de white man throw down de load and tell de nigger man tuh pick it up. He pick it up because he have to, but he don’t tote it. He hand it to his womenfolks. De nigger woman is de mule uh de world so fur as Ah can see.”    Zora Neale Hurston  “Their Eyes Were Watching God”

As a black man, my relationship with feminism is an odd one.

Let me qualify that.  It frustrates me that whenever I try to understand a subject or to explain it I do so through the lens of being a black man. In other words, I find it difficult to vet myself as a human without attaching my color.  In this instance my experiences are seen through a certain lens and perspective.

That perspective and lens is the examination of the relationship between right and wrong, rich and poor etc.  My quest is to just be… to just exist in a system and a world that wants me to emote under the veil of color blindness, while the rules never allow me to forget that I am Black.  So in an attempt to embrace alienation while simultaneously trying to eliminate it, from now on when I say ‘as a man’  I’m including all factors.  Most important for me, being Black.

This brings me back to my relationship with feminism.  I grew up with all types of men who never cared to  amalgamate how their words and deeds equalled to repression.  They were men, and their fathers taught them the lessons that had been passed down.  Most knew they were wrong  in action and deed, but they all seemed to pre-occupied or lacked the personal courage to be the impetus for change.

Luckily, through world travel and being a Marine, I have learned to strike down the stereotypes and unproven fears that serve to stymie the progress of women.  Women are just as much our equal.  Even though they make less money than we do and have to work twice as hard as men to prove their mettle.

My brothers, friends and family members, continue to rebuff my renaissance ideas about women and their, women’s, relegated place in society.  I can not blame them.  I used to be one of them.  The idea is as old as time.

There is, I think, a deeper reason for men who shun feminism as some hyper-liberal form of women wanting to be men.  I think it is rooted in the survival instinct of all of those who have the latter chromosome.  It is this:  if women have every right, advantage and privilege that men enjoy, what trump card will we hold when all factors are made equal?  It is this need for dichotomies, no matter how false or sopho-moronic, that helps them control the arguments which usually disintegrates into marathon bitching and moaning sessions.

It is a shame.  Too many people fail to realize that if all people were treated as equal then the quality of life on this planet would increase.  Not kings.  Not bitches.  Not dummies.  Just human beings.  Simply being born without a penis should hold no  disadvantages for women save for the ability to stand up and pee.

Women, not just black women, are the mules of the world.  They carry our  expectations, shortcomings, requirements, ridicule, and failures on their back. Most women never complain.  The too have been brainwashed by the old guard of men who have done the work to poison the sown seeds of prosperity  it is high time that someone spoke up for these unsung heroes.

What Exactly is Wife Material?

Posted in African American Interests, mariage, relationships, Uncategorized on March 17, 2012 by beneaththeunderdog

Stop me if you’ve heard this before.  Man meets woman.  They fall in love.  They move in together.  They pick drapes and plates.  They get engaged.  She’s thrilled and he’s just ok.  They are still engaged.  Still engaged.  Still engaged.  Still engaged.  Man calls off engagement and leaves woman and all she has left is ugly drapes and brittle plates.  Man finds new girlfriend, impregnate her and marries her right away.

This scenario plays itself out all the time.  To the great pain and mental detriment of women the world over, men seem to be leaving seemingly happy and ‘perfect’ existences in favor of other pastures.  Often time the women that the men were with initially are decidedly more attractive.  So what gives?  What makes a woman more desirable than another?  Are men actually shallow creatures?  What exactly is wife material?

A few answers can be found by looking at the studies of scientists and sociologists.  In a British study 3,500 men were asked about their fiancée only 20% used words such as ‘sexy’ or ‘gorgeous’.  The others focussed on their girlfriend’s personalities.  This suggests, that by and large, that a woman who is naturally beautiful is at a distinct and quite measurable disadvantage when it comes to marriageability.  Men seemingly prefer substance over status when it comes to marriage and the women they prefer to have children with.

 

Further evidence can be seen through studies about choosing a mate.  Women seem to base their decisions on a mate on a loss vs reward threshold.  Women, according to the study, choose a man based on his looks, next to her looks and the chances that she can lose him to another woman.  So a man must fit between a tolerable high/low scale to even have a chance.  A man, on the other hand, has a broader range.  He is more likely to date or mate with less desirable and less attractive women.  It is proven that during dating cycles men care more about a woman’s face, but her body type is more important when it comes to marriage.  So all of you women who are searching for a husband better throw away that M.A.C. makeup and pick up a taebo class or two.

Polling the men who work with me I found five universal traits that men are looking for:

  • Can You Burn?  Yes this is 2012 before you say anything.  Men do still expect a woman to perform traditional duties such as cook.  Most men have ben pampered by the women in their lives so a woman who can’t or won’t cook is at a distinct disadvantage when encountering a man like this.
  • Do You Like Family?  Men do not want to bring women into their lives who are going to cause friction with his own family. Equally troubling are women with daddy/mommy issues who are estranged from or engaged in battle with her own family.  Men want a seamless transition whenever it is time to blend the groups.  Also, men want their own family; a drama free, and happy family.
  • Are You a Go Getter?  Do yo want things out of life or are you happy with the level you are at now?  If you have no goals, then how can you dream with your man?   Real men do not want to be babysitters or dads to their girlfriends.
  • Do You Upgrade Me?  Being equally yoked is important.  Being equally invested in the overall happiness, direction, and health of the relationship is important.  You love him and he will love you back.
  • Will You Age Like Wine or Vinegar?  Do you have that ‘everything’ for all time’ quality?  Is this love or lust?  Can I see us rocking on the porch drinking ice tea when we are old?  Are you graceful?  This part you can not fake.  It will be obvious to both of you.

There are no sure-fire ways to get and keep a man.  Ultimately if he is going to stay he is going to stay.  Knowing the secrets will give you an advantage over your competition.  Men are seemingly simple creatures, but inside stirs a lot of emotion.  It is up to you to make him want you.  Afterall, we don’t know better.

Tao of a Redskins Fan

Posted in Uncategorized on March 16, 2012 by beneaththeunderdog

There are titles that one can say are callings.  There are things that people are just born to be; tasks that they are born to perform.  Burdens that they are born to carry.  These things…the titles or burdens aren’t scribbled on construction paper in the kindergartens in America.  How many times have you heard a kid say they wanted to be a priest?  United States Marine?  Used Car Salesman?  It just doesn’t happen.

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I hold such a title: Redskins fan.  See, if that didn’t illicit any kind of tingle in your spine there definitely was scorn, embarrassment, laughter or pity.  Maybe all of those things flashed inside your mind.  It, being an undying and unapologetic Redskins fan, is a cross to bare.  But I do it everyday.  I wear my ‘skins hat with pride and defend them vigorously from all naysayers.  Men… women… the erogenous zones mean nothing.  If you criticize any one of my burgundy and gold brothers you will feel my verbal wrath.  Small children…babies.  no one is safe from my verbal sword.

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Every year a stupor..a lethargy washes over me around March-April.  The Redskins usually do just enough to win the preseason Super Bowl.  We sign all of the sexy and splashy free agents.  We welcome our new players with the greatest pomp and circumstance.  Then September rolls around  and our annual marathon of doing enough to snatch defeat out of the jaws of victory begins.    Up by 5 with under 4 minutes to go?  Why not throw an interception on our own end and build an unfettered pathway for them to their end zone.

Get knocked down on a play?  No worries, just lay down on the field as the quarterback weaves his way around you on his way to the end zone.  You are a Redskin, and over the last 20 years we have perfected the art of nothingness and you better do your part to preserve our history.

Hogs Haven

It’s March and as usual we are making a splash.  A blockbuster deal to get our next franchise quarterback.  Heath Shuler comes to mind.  We’ve signed a great wide receiver to catch the passes from our new savior.  He will not be like Michael Westbrook… hopefully.  We have a surefire hall of fame coach.  Forget the Steve Spurrier experiment.  I am ready to go.  September can not get here fast enough.  I just hope we signed another ortho doctor to help with the carnage of broken limbs and shredded ligaments that will ensure our 26th consecutive season of mediocrity.  Go Skins!

Things could be worse.  We could have the Steelers cheerleaders.

Time to Think Regionally: 7 Cities Today, Norfolk Metro Tomorrow

Posted in Uncategorized on March 16, 2012 by beneaththeunderdog

You ever ride down Virginia Beach Blvd  near Newtown Road and feel a thump-thump underneath your car?   You ever get confused when going to a concert wondering which one of the amphitheaters or venues to go to?    Tired of living in a city that often gets overlooked for new business opportunities and prestige that seem to always go to Virginia Beach and Norfolk?  Wondering why  the Tide stops in the middle of a residential area and does not stretch from the NOB to the Oceanfront?  Well, most of us are tired of and confused by these issues and a lot more.  Companies all over this land are combining forces.  The idea of ‘a little bit of something is a lot better than a whole lot of nothing’ is sweeping Wall Street.  Mergers of large technical and financial companies are happening at a record pace, making the landscape for small and medium-sized companies into a desert with nary a mirage in sight.  The same can be said about the metropolitan areas in America.  The top ten largest cities in the U.S.  is a venerable who’s-who list of industry, politics, economics and clout.

Rank City State Population  
1 New York City New York 8,175,133  
2 Los Angeles California 3,792,621  
3 Chicago Illinois 2,695,598  
4 Houston Texas 2,099,451  
5 Philadelphia Pennsylvania 1,526,006  
6 Phoenix Arizona 1,445,632  
7 San Antonio Texas 1,327,407  
8 San Diego California 1,307,402  
9 Dallas Texas 1,197,816  
10 San Jose California 945,942

One has to conclude that the federal government and large corporations give more favor to our larger cities.  How can Hampton Roads capitalize on such good fortune?  Let’s look at that chart with the 7 cities’ and their populations combined.  (Virginia Beach, Norfolk, Chesapeake, Hampton, Newport News, Suffolk,  and Portsmouth).

Rank City State Population  
1 New York City New York 8,175,133  
2 Los Angeles California 3,792,621  
3 Chicago Illinois 2,695,598  
4 Houston Texas 2,099,451  
5 Philadelphia Pennsylvania 1,526,006  
6 Phoenix Arizona 1,445,632  
7 Norfolk  Metro Virginia 1,401,281  
8 San Antonio Texas 1,327,407  
9 San Diego California 1,307,402  
10 Dallas Texas 1,197,816

This would make Norfolk Metro the seventh largest city in the United States.  Strategically and geographically New York would be our only competition on the entire eastern seaboard, and because of the deep ports and industries already established here we would have an advantage in several key areas.  There are key roadblocks that will keep this from happening.

People Don’t Want a Regional Government:  The meer mention of combining cities brings out the worst fears in everyone.  Will Suffolk, with its small population, have as much of a voice and influence as the larger cities?  Who is going to deflect Newport News’ crime and poverty numbers?  Who will be responsible for elevating Norfolk’s schools and test scores?  Will Virginia Beach have to share their considerable cash advantage with everyone?

These are really important questions that need honest and tough answers.   The sacrifice will be less that rewards we reap as an area.  The network of schools, hospitals, and civilian services(police and fire) really would not have to be touched.  Quality of life most definitely improve for all over time.  Some people could see a minimal  reduction in quality of life i.e. increased traffic or increased building that would not have existed before the merger.

What’s First?  Light Rail is the first spoke in the wheel to improvement.  The cities are segregated because of a circuit of roads and bridge that serve individual communities but do little to nothing to improve travel and commuting from city to city.  Light Rail will, eventually, be an artery that seamlessly links Portsmouth to the oceanfront.  Williamsburg to the Norfolk Naval Base.  Great Bridge to Waterside.  The only links between these distant locales now is a myriad of congested roads.  Light Rail will make these trips more palatable and frequent.

Next, regionally there are no real convenient links to our closest competitors in Raleigh, Charlotte, or Washington D.C.  Creating more convenient routes to these cities will create more convenient routes to our area.  We are essentially cut off from the rest of the larger region and realistically cut out of the economic and industrial possibilities that often go to other cities.  Widening the highways and the creation of more direct paths to our competitors by way of rail(Amtrak) and air(improving and expanding the Norfolk airport) will only serve to help the area.

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Conclusion.  We are decades from realizing our potential as a major city.  The facts are it will take almost a decade of state and federal wrangling to allow the cities to combine.  After that it will take decades to make the improvements that are outlined in this essay and the myriad other things that have to happen to make this venture profitable and impactful.  The first step has to come in the form of reconciliation and the creation of a regional adventurers spirit.  On paper it works.  Just like anything else that is put in blueprint form one needs an architect to make those plans a reality.  Who or what will be the spark to get this ball rolling?

The Brighter Side of Darkness: Love Jones Resonates…Still

Posted in Uncategorized on March 16, 2012 by beneaththeunderdog

What Is Love Jones?

‘gravitational pull, rendering one helpless to its power’

Stylish black movies are rare.  Black movies that fail to mention guns, thugs, rap, hookers and hoods is even rarer.  Slinky, smart and sexy Love Jones breathed new life into the ‘boy meets girl’ story by adding a healthy dose of sultry poetry and a pinch of spice with a soundtrack laced with smooth jazz.  The result is a delicious dish of black love served in a dish that is 90s Chicago.

Today is the 15th anniversary of Theodore Witcher’s debut, and only, film.  Love Jones follows a group of middle-class black artists and professionals–which is to say, it shows a world more unfamiliar to moviegoers than the far side of the moon.  Darius Lovehall, played masterfully by Larenz Tate, is a poet/author who pursues and conquers the venerable and sultry photographer Nina Mosely, played by Nia Long.  The magic that ensues is…palpable.

Love Jones:  The Story

 ‘they call me brother to the night.  and right now i’m the blues in your left thigh trying to become the funk in your right. is that alright?’

I love this movie for everything that it is not.  It is not another portrayal of desperate black women and ignorant stupid black men.  These characters have substance and style more akin to the majority of the African-American population. It is not a movie masquerading as something serious set to the hyper-violent and misogynistic hip hop soundtrack.   This movie has depth of character and story and is filmed using metaphors that are both straightforward and subtle.  It  does not pander to an audience.  It dares to tell a story in an uncoventional, un-Hollywood manner using characters that do not look like the usual fare who play in complex, layered, dramatic films.

 

The mood is well conjured; cool, enticing and magically bourgeois.  The story takes place in Chicago but one cannot escape the feeling that the director was trying to capture and recreate the feeling and momentum of the Harlem Black Renaissance.  The characters in the movie are all in some state of post-college, pre-career status trying to find their way in the world.  While they find their place they form a sibling-like bond with each other and explore deep issues such as love, how to find love, how to maintain love, and the lengths one should go to maintain love.

The relationship between Darius and Nina is sensuous.  From their first encounter in The Sanctuary, a poetry/jazz bar, their chemistry is electric.  Darius lets Nina know his feelings after renaming his poem A Blues for Nina exclaim in at one point that he was a sight raped hunter blindly pursuing his prey.  From that point forward the heat and steam that ensues between these two never lets up.

At a time when Black movies were hyper violent (Menace to Society, Boyz in the Hood), stereotypical (Waiting to Exhale),or just banal (Booty Call), Love Jones dared to be original in all of the right ways. To say that there is a need for more movies like this coming out of Hollywood would be a gross understatement.   To see a named Black actors in movies that are sans gross comedy, cross dressers, or halting stereotypes are rare.  Maybe we can dream that Tyler Perry and Spike Lee can drop their beef and get busy creating art that tries to capture the spirit of Witcher’s work.