i am

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harlem, usa
same-gender-loving contemporary descendant of enslaved africans. community activist, feminist, health educator, independent filmmaker, mentor, playwright, poet & spiritual being. featured at, in & on africana.com, afrikan poetry theatre, angel herald, bejata dot com, bet tonight with tavis smiley, blacklight online, black noir, brooklyn moon cafe, gmhc's barbershop, klmo-fm, lgbt community services center, longmoor productions, nuyorican poets cafe, our corner, poz, pulse, rolling out new york, rush arts gallery, saint veronica's church, schomburg center for research in black culture, sexplorations, the citizen, the new york times, the soundz bar, the trenton times, the village voice, upn news, uzuri, venus, vibe, wbai-fm, wnyc-fm & wqht-fm. volunteered with adodi, bailey house, inc., black men's xchange-new york, colorofchange.org, drug policy alliance, east harlem tutorial program, imagenation film & music festival, presente.org, save darfur coalition, the enough project, the osborne association, the sledge group & your black world. worked on films with maurice jamal & heather murphy. writing student of phil bertelsen & ed bullins. mjt975@msn.com.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Caregiving Is A Marathon Not A Sprint

a few weeks ago i went home to native chicago after learning my 79 year-old father has lung cancer. he also shows early signs of dementia, as well as being challenged by depression & hypertension. when i arrived at the bernard mitchell hospital on the campus of the storied university of chicago in tony hyde park i was stunned at his dramatic weight loss. dad is built like a penguin (though we jokingly called him a weeble) yet laying in bed he looked like half a person. he shook my hand & told me he was glad to see me, struggling to speak.

the room was eerily quiet. perhaps because it was late evening, perhaps because his former roommate was no longer there, or perhaps because god wanted him to get some much needed rest. there was a tray of uneaten food to his side, a few nurses tending to other patients across the way & the popular game show wheel on fortune was on tv. my dad seemed oblivious to it all. he just layed there, on his left side, sort of mumbling to himself. he was not the independent, prideful, robust man i knew for the 48 years god's graced me with life.

i'd never visited my father in a hospital before. as such, i didn't know what to say to him. i tried to get some information about his condition & prognosis from his nurse, an attractive & charming sistah, before entering his room. i felt like i needed to be armed with something tangible because i was anticipating a battle of intellectual resistance. my father, like many black men of his generation, has always treated his emotional, mental & physical health as an afterthought. he was in the business of doing, not feeling. i once told him the most athletic thing he ever did was jump to conclusions. he didn't think it was funny at the time. i did. wateva.

attempting to appear like the birth of the cool was my initial strategy. not that i'm prone to displaying irrational outbursts when loved ones are ill mind you, yet something in my spirit was calm, quiet & serene. god's grace was with me. yet when he told me president-elect obama was our new supreme court justice & hilary clinton was following (w/ her traveling pants) suit i didn't know how to react. my first thought was to diffuse his dementia with sarcasm, but i didn't think it was appropriate. a small sign of maturity had surfaced: his needs were more important than me trying to extract some attention i felt he never gave me as a child.

to be honest, i didn't want my dad to see how scared i was. the unknown can be terrifying for almost anyone. so many questions permeated my consciousness: would he be hospitalized indefinitely? will our family transition him to an assistant living program or nursing home? will he return to the solitary isolation of his apartment? is he headed for chemotherapy, radiation and/or surgery? will the dementia permanently negate his short-term memory & long-term plans for breaking the casinos? was he going to die prematurely from cancer like my cousin joey at age 45 just four short years ago?

i wanted to stop thinking but i couldn't find the off switch...

witnessing the vulnerability of my dad for the first time in my life helped me fully appreciate accepting my own. american-born black men are socialized & conditioned to always appear - by any means necessary - aggressive, dominating, in control, masculine, powerful, strong, tough, virile, etc. the noted african-american poet paul laurence dunbar called it the mask of silent unity. filmmaker byron hurt, in his critically acclaimed indie doc, beyond beats & rhymes: a hip hop head weighs in on manhood in black culture, says, "black men live in this box which defines our manhood...when we live outside of this box we get called a bitch, faggot, punk, soft, weak...nobody wants to be called those things." comedian dave chappelle brilliantly asserted in a season two sketch of his self-titled comedy central show, "this is when keeping it real goes wrong."

when my dad was released from the hospital he was visibly depressed. he layed in bed all day, tossing & turning to get some relief on one side of his deteriorating frame. he refused to take off the hospital gown at home, he wouldn't eat any of the food delivered weekly by the meals on wheels program, take a (much needed) bath, or turn on the lights of his one-bedroom hyde park apartment. he seemed more like a prisoner than a person. he had a homemaker, nurse, physical therapist & social worker to assist him, yet he was resistant at every opportunity. i felt frightened, inadequate & wanted to run like hell: but where to, how far, what for & from whom? i prayed & asked god to reveal his will for me in the moment.

afternoons i'd come by & just sit with him. his bedroom looked like sanford & son. talk radio was on & his tv had colorful zig zag lines running amok. it was obvious he was not emotionally available so i stopped trying to engage him. when you're sick & folks ask a lot of questions, you don't like feeling interrogated. well, i don't ok? at one point he said to me, "mark, i want you to rescue me from the phone & the door." rescue me? my father wanted his homosexual son to rescue him? clearly he was crying for help because he didn't feel safe. my heart was deeply touched in a place usually reserved for men with a smile like morris chestnut. but i digress.

my dad lives at the very end of the 17th floor in his building. the long ass walk gives one enough time to reflect on all kinda shit. anyhoo, on one of the more bitterly cold chicago afternoons my dad came to the door, which was slightly ajar, though accompanied by a long, silver doorjack behind the knob. he insisted the door was open. it wasn't but i was not about to argue my point with him. he proceeded to sit on the lone piece of furniture in his pitch black living room, a chair in front of the windows. there were a pair of large binoculars on the window sill & he told me to use them whenever i felt like it. he said, " i'd give you a history of the city but i'm too tired. i've done everything the doctors & nurses asked me to do i just want to come home & get some rest & i'll be fine cause i got everything i need right here."

just the same he told me his building, at one point, was, unbeknownst to most folks, the tallest building in the city of chicago. this was in the mid-50's, just before rosa parks & emmitt till inspired the civil rights movement. looking out at the prudential building & sears tower this hidden fact was, of course, for me, difficult, if not impossible, to imagine. nonetheless i was grateful for the moment. he was, now, the dad i always longed for & wanted to have, a man who would take time to talk to me & teach me what was important in life: having a sense of belonging, knowing your place in history, sharing a piece of your soul when no one is looking.

the day before i flew back to harlem usa there was a peace beyond understanding in my dad's bedroom. if only i could bottle that feeling forever. i stayed with him for about an hour & left quietly to watch the bulls game with my aunt maxine, who lives on the same floor as my mother. i believe, self-centeredly, this arrangement was made because god knows how lazy i am. as i tiptoed out his room he thanked me for coming by & said he appreciated me trying to help him. what more can a son want from his ailing dad?

while walking out of his building i remembered the party for elders in the community room on the first floor. i peeked in for a moment, not really expecting to see anyone i knew, but curious about the food being served. one of the volunteers from the party's host, a non-profit for the elderly organization (their name escapes me) asked me if my dad received a plate. i told her he's not eating, he's really depressed & he's trying to come to terms with his life-challenging illness. she said she's worked with cancer patients for years. she said illness can bring families closer together or drive families further apart. but she said family members who desire to tend to the needs of their loved ones should understand caregiving is a marathon not a sprint. god speaks through people & she comforted me at the divine time.

my new role as caregiver is challenging & rewarding. as soon as i got home i did some research with cancercare, a national nonprofit organization providing free, professional support services to anyone affected by cancer: http://www.cancercare.org/. their chelsea headquarters are in the same building where i receive aids-related services for my life-challenging illness - an unexpected vehicle for us to bond. i've also enlisted the services of a few friends in new york who live with cancer & asked them to call my dad periodically for emotional support. to my surprise & delight, my dad agreed to take their calls, just not on the same day because "i don't want to feel anymore overwhelmed."

home is where the heart is. indeed.

Friday, December 05, 2008

Daddy Has Cancer

daddy has cancer. those words appeared on my text last thursday pm, courtesy of my youngest sistah tracey who was in the university of chicago hospital tending to my father's debilitating health. initially i was shocked. stunned. in complete dis-belief bcuz it was happening now, for real, to my father, to our family, to me. felt like the weight of the world, his illness, the uncertainty of it all, other family member's premature demise, my emotional instability were on my suddenly frail shoulders. perhaps grandma jefferson was right, "the lord works in mysterious ways,"she used to always say, to no one in particular, though i suspect folks were listening.

at the time i was coming from a trusted friend's 16th year anniversary in recovery at a na mtg in spanish harlem. her family was present, folks carried the message of hope & freedom, food was abundant, the room was packed...my cup had runneth ova. i routinely check my messages after a mtg & received the ominous text. his doctor mentioned cancer was probable yet didn't know for sure so we had an inkling. still, when the word becomes official shit changes. as i walked home i felt anxious, frightened, insecure & sad. my body was in pain. darkness was the color of the wind as i tried to make sense of it all.

i started thinking about who to call, what to say, where to go & yet my body kept walking home in a steady pace. grandma jefferson used to also say, "let your conscience be your guide." spirit said it was safe to be alone with my fallibility & feelings. when i got home i cried. i wasn't angry with god or the doctor or my father: i just needed to cry. a friend once told me tears are liquid prayers. my intellect quickly took ova. worry is a lack of faith, i tried to assure myself. i can get thru this with sanity & serenity. but what the fuck am i supposed to do, now? i started to feel shame bcuz i only have $200 in my savings account & should be able, at 48 years of age, to have enough money in the bank for emergencies like this. my aunts jean, martha ann & maxine told me to save for a rainy day but i neva listened to anyone bcuz i wanted to do things my way.

the impending sorrow was seemingly unbearable. daddy has cancer. daddy has cancer. daddy has cancer. those three words fully permeated my consciousness like nothing in recent memory & i didn't have a reference point. you only get one father in this world. he was a decent hue-man being, good person, hard-working, law-abiding, tax-paying (well, after the irs handcuffed him) citizen. he doesn't deserve this. not cancer. not my father. not after all he's been through in almost 79 years in white america. yeah, i went there. always do. my father once told me america is a lie. he ain't lying...

we share the same perspective on america's ugly supremacist his-tory though he persists on reminding me i'm not black, i'm a a hue-man being. in fact, he cites barack hussein obama's recent historical presidential win as evidence stating, "one day we will no longer use the term black or white to identify ourselves in this country." this is the same man who predicted, in the spring of 2007, obama would win, because, "america is ready for change & hilary won't win bcuz she's white & she supported the war in iraq." at the time i thought he was crazy. typical knee-jerk reaction. his wisdom is appealing bcuz my mind opens to a world of endless possibilities.

in addition to the cancer diagnosis, he's showing early signs of alzheimer's & dementia. at one point, he thought one of his grand kids belonged to the jenifer hudson family. as if she doesn't have enough to deal with her damn self. getting him to adhere to treatment has been a religious experience by most accounts. my father hates doctors, hospitals & medicine. in fact, he resents being told what to do by anyone (!) who is younger and/or female. black male pride is alive & well in the tuggle household. unfortunately he's been dishonest, irrational & uncooperative as it relates to getting better. he thinks he can sleep his pain away. ironically, i think the same way at times, so my compassion & empathy for him is real yet we are now in a battle to save his life.

the hospital social worker suggests he consider accommodating a daily (five days, four hours) home attendant, going into a nursing home, or moving into "assisted living." if he accepted "assisted living," the pending institution would seize his pension benefits & leave him with a nominal monthly allowance. my father spends more time in nevada than las vegas: i don't think so. like a good little boy my father tells me & the medical staff he'll "do whatever they tell me to do," yet when he leaves the hospital he tells other family members a completely different story. it was suggested he see a nurse twice a week, in addition to receiving physical therapy. earlier this week he told the homemaker upon arrival to his apt to leave bcuz he "gets meals on wheels twice a week."


at present he's being hospitalized thru the weekend. for that i'm greatly relieved. its not safe for him to be home alone & as my cousin lorraine aptly noted the burden of care shouldn't fall on my mother or tracey. he needs a colonoscopy, suffers irregular bowel movements, has acid reflux, inconsistent appetite, breathes heavy, hypertension, physical discomfort, arthritis & other ailments too numerous to document. i'm going home for a week to hopefully knock some sense into his stubborn skull. like many people with various health challenges, he is his worst enemy. i don't expect a medical miracle when i get home, but he is my father, i love him dearly & will try to make him smile. after all, laughter is god's universal pill.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Same-Sex Marriage: Whose Issue Is It Anyway?

over 11 million people in california took to the polls on november 4 & by a margin of less than 500,00 votes said yes to proposition eight. the ballot title of prop 8 was eliminates right of same sex couples to marry. prop 8 also adds a new amendment to the california con-stitution which says, "only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in california." before it passed, same-sex marriage was a con-stitutionally protected right in california; a majority of the california supreme court justices affirmed this understanding of the con-stitution in may 2008.

some gay advocates blame black people for defeating this provocative issue. omg. black folk at fault: imagine that? out of the closet while hiding behind pink triangles, rainbow flags & white privilege the myth of blacks being historically homophobic continues to prevail at lgbt rallies across the country, amidst the blogosphere & around the idiot box. on a recent larry king live, hosted by the view's joy behar, among the 4 guests were a gay, white male who has adopted a child with his partner, alongside a black, male pastor who supports prop 8 as a moral obligation. folks on both sides spent $70 million on this issue, an issue george w. bush successfully used to polarize voters & steal the election in 2004. but you ain't heard it from me cuz i ain't one to talk.

is there a better way to spend $70 million? i'm certainly not an economist yet i have a few suggestions on how to spend $70 million wisely. we could start with the people in darfur. i'm sure they'd appreciate a dose of the patriotism doled out ad infinitum on talk radio. they need food, medicine & water. now. $70 million could help folks suffering from home foreclosures. $70 million could help bailout not wall street or the auto industry, but public school kids who have no after school programs, nutritional disciplines or recreational centers. $70 million could re-build our crumbling infrastructures, providing relief to an economy similar to the great depression. $70 million could benefit climate change, energy independence, green jobs, hiv prevention and/or veteran's benefits. shit...drop some cheddar on the folks at 125th street nahmean?

the dialogue on cnn was cordial, informative & polite, as behar sought to give folks equal time to share their perspectives. i was enraged when the gay, white male asserted same-sex marriage is a civil rights issue. he tried to compare it to the laws against interracial marriage (ruled uncon-stitutional by the supreme court in 1967) & the struggle black folk fought for in the 50's...as if (!) our struggle for hue-manity began in the 50's - or, as if/bcuz this issue should be as important to black folk as it is to lgbt folk: a litmus test for anti-gay initiatives or default heterosexism. my opinion? the white guy should be pimp slapped by a pimp named slick back, but as destiny's child sang, "my momma taught me better than that." the truth is i don't believe in violence, having idolized gandhi & king as a kid growing up on the south side of chicago.

several days ago comedy central's emmy-award winning host of his self-titled show stephen colbert stated 70% of blacks voted yes to prop 8, while 30% voted no. as a result of their mandate he said, "gays should boycott blacks," for not letting them experience marital bliss. ironically, the same gay, white male (syndicated columnist dan savage) who was on cnn's larry king live appeared on his show to further rally the cause of the gay movement. on the colbert however, he was a solo guest & his views remained the same. colbert tried to make vanilla of a chocolate situation. savage was a good sport.

a white man named savage is a scary proposition in & of itself...

the racism/white supremacy of the gay movement has no boundaries. the 'n' word was shouted at various lgbt rallies protesting the yes vote. emotional residue from obama's historical presidential triumph? where are the white gays & lesbians at these rallies who oppose the 'n' word proposition? why is there a whiteout from the media about the racialization of this issue? from my perspective this issue is a matter of self-determination. in 2008 black folk have more pressing concerns, among them alcohol/drug use, faith-based oppression, hiv/aids pandemic, illiteracy, mental illness, prison industrial complex, reparations, self-hatred, unemployment, violence, etc. no doubt, we got more issues than jet magazine but same-sex marriage wouldn't even make david letterman's top ten. real talk.

same-sex marriage is an extension of white male skin privilege. this issue, like most so-called gay issues, was framed by the same people whose ancestors enslaved african people on the shores of these yet-to-be united states in 1441. the gay movement - a lily-white, male movement which began around the time rosa parks & emmitt till fueled the civil rights movement - neva intended to benefit african-descended folk, or womyn. same-sex marriage neither addresses nor resolves the historic socio-economic disparities african-descended folk struggle with everyday (except oprah). same-sex marriage is more about equality & less about hue-manity. a gay man wants a str8 man to treat him as his equal. as a same gender-loving man i try to treat a str8 man as my brotha.

marriage is essentially a heterosexual model for relationships. this model is rooted in faith-based oppression manifesting itself in anti-black, anti-female & anti-homosexual perspectives. we've been colonized & socialized & terrorized to believe the heterosexual model is the standard for divine hue-man loving expression. yet, the divorce rate is nearly 50%. folks who embody the teachings of the bible, koran & torah have my profound respect. but they don't have a monopoly on universal qualities like balance, compassion, empathy, freedom, harmony, integrity, joy, kindness, love, peace, truth & wisdom.

i believe in fairness, justice & respect for same-sex couples. i should be vested in & have full access to the health care benefits, insurance claims, pension benefits, wills, i.e., of my partner, just as heterosexual couples do today - by virtue of the law & their unions. i deserve these rights not because of my sexuality, but because, as alice walker would say, we demonstrate loving kindness by trusting the absolute goodness of the universe. same-sex marriage is currently legal in connecticut & massachusetts. one day i may want to jump the broom. but for now, i'll use the broom as it was originally intended, to clean my dirty apartment.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

America Historically Elects Barack Obama As Her 44th President

illinois senator barack obama became the 44th us president in a landslide victory over arizona senator john mccain. in a stunning record turnout - folks everywhere waited in line, some for several hours - over 13 million people voted in this election, many of them under 30 & those for the very first time. this was the largest turnout in 100 years, the last time the cubs won the world series. obama received about 53% of the popular vote, yet his electoral college numbers more than doubled that of mccain. the historical nature of obama's win will be analyzed, discussed, studied & written about for years to come all around the world.

obama delivered a victory speech shortly after 11pm est to 125,000 folks in chicago's grant park, the largest political gathering in our nation's history. just 40 years ago grant park was home to one of the many rebellions around the country in response to the assassinations of rev dr king jr, democratic presidential nominee robert kennedy, the war in vietnam, poverty, racism & social unrest. in fact, before kennedy met the fate of his brother, president john f kennedy who was assassinated less than five years earlier, he prophetically stated, "in 30 or maybe 40 years i believe the american people will be ready for a negro president."

is this why some folks believe someone has to die for others to live?

the improbable campaign began 21 months ago on the steps of the capitol building in springfield, illinois. the temperature was seven degrees, a typically frigid day in the land of lincoln. with confidence, faith & in dramatic style, obama referenced abe, jfk & announced his candidacy for president to thunderous applause from his hometown supporters. he had no money, no endorsements & no name recognition. what he did have was a belief in the generosity of the american people, support from his brilliant wife michelle & their two daughters, as well as the audacity of hope.

the obama campaign is a success story for politicians to model. his grass-roots efforts were evident in nearly every state. his volunteers knocked on one million doors the last two days before the election. he raised about $650 million, most from small donors on the internet. he utilized technology with rigorous e-mails & text-messages to people throughout the campaign, fully accessing consumers from all walks of life. in a bold move unprecedented, obama produced a hollywood-style, marketing-savvy, slick infomerical lasting nearly 30 minutes on several major news stations, on the same day the world series was being played. but they said he was too soft...

some mccain supporters, particularly at rallies held by his vp running mate alaska governor sarah palin, accused obama of being 'liberal', 'muslim', 'socialist,' and/or 'terrorist', even though obama has publicly admitted to being 'christian,' 'patriotic', and a 'mama's boy'. obama did not assassinate the character of his opponent, instead he linked mccain's policies & voting record to bush. he primarily focused on the economy, gender pay equality, local/national service, universal health care & the war in iraq. mccain was in above his head.

during his 15-minute concession speech in arizona, mccain was eloquent, gracious & unifying - at times amidst a chorus of boos whenever he mentioned obama's name & resounding victory. where was this hue-man persona during the campaign? mccain said his congratulatory phone call to obama was "an honor." mccain pledged his abiding support to the president-elect & urged his supporters to do the same. they continued to boo, stopping only because he raised his hands in a gesture of surrender. he shared his faith in the creator, acknowledging obama's grandmother, "the woman who raised him to be the decent man he is today," died the day before. he admitted their political difficulties will prolly remain, yet knows they both want what is best for the country. he admired obama's ability to inspire young & new voters. he also recognized this victory has a "special significance for african-americans."

when obama humbly walked onto the stage at grant park with his wife michelle & their two lovely daughters to deliver the most important speech of his young political career, the windy city erupted. folks were crying, hugging, jumping up & down, screaming, unable to contain themselves. media cameras caught rev jesse jackson with tears watering down his face. oprah winfrey was beaming in the front row. michael jordan was noticeably absent. it was truly a family atmosphere. 70,000 tickets were given to people to attend the monumental event, though it is estimated over one million people were in & around grant park to hear obama change the course of american history & write a new chapter in the political landscape.

obama won 90% of the black vote, 67% of the latino vote & 67% of the youth vote. the so-called minority is the new majority. his wins in florida, ohio & pennsylvania affirmed his universal appeal. at the outset of his speech obama honored mccain's hard-fought campaign, as well as his lifetime, selfless service to america. his supporters applauded with respect. obama proudly referenced lincoln, president franklin d roosevelt & rev dr martin luther king jr. he said, "to those who would try to tear us down we will defeat you, to those who come in peace & security, we offer our support." the most poignant moment came when he talked about a 106 year-old black woman from atlanta, ann nixon cooper, whom has seen america's "heartache, hope, struggle & progress before we had cars on the ground & planes in the sky...she was unable to vote for two reasons, because she was a woman, and because of the color of her skin."

yes we can.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Obama/McCain: The Final Debate

hofstra university in new york was the scene for the final debate wednesday october 15, 2008 between democratic presidential nominee illinois senator barack obama & republican presidential nominee arizona senator john mccain. veteran cbs correspondent bob schaffer served as the lone moderator. after brief introductions the two men politely shaked hands, exchanged cordial greetings & sat down at a large table facing schaffer, who, at the outset, asked the energetic audience to remain silent throughout the 90-minute debate.

schaffer stressed the debate would focus largely on domestic policy although other pressing issues would be explored. schaffer asked each candidate to focus on the question at hand - being mindful of the two-minute time allotted for responding to each question - while encouraging them to rebut and/or ask questions of each other. each question would be given nine minutes to discuss yet it's improbable to expect candidates in a heated, highly-contested & historical battle to adhere to rules, no matter who's in charge. anita baker kept it real: rules are meant to be broken.

despite various media pundits, bloggers & the like, i neither think about nor care who (supposedly) wins or who loses a debate. what concerns me are the participants' morals, values & principles: hue-man qualities like compassion, humility, integrity, kindness & love. i'm concerned about who can inspire, lead & unify a country in the midst of economic crisis, military unrest & spiritual heartache. the personalities of the two candidates are strikingly opposite, which showed in the debate. obama was calm, earnest & respectful. mccain was anxious, frustrated & manipulative. when i listen to mccain speak two words immediately come to mind: anger management.

i never expect to learn anything new about a candidate in a debate. i expect them to affirm their platforms, rally their parties & seek new voters by any means necessary. what can/will they say about themselves or their views or each other that hasn't been espoused already? much of the debate was centered around refuting each other's mis-guided, mis-informed or mis-quoted statements. thank god for the baseball playoffs. but i digress. at one point mccain admonished obama for not repudiating georgia senator john lewis, who, in mccain's eyes, likened him to 1963 george wallace - "...i say segregation now, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever."

mccain said he was hurt by lewis' implications of racial polarization & obama's steadfast refusal to offer a personal condemnation & public apology. obama countered by acknowledging the recent rallies of republican vp nominee alaska governor sarah palin where her supporters rant, in reference to obama "terrorist," or "kill him." mccain said he's made an honest effort to quell their venom yet smiled when honoring his voters, "the most loyal, hard-working, patriotic americans i've ever known." wtf? palin's rallies are reminiscent of a kkk lynching. she smiles through the hate while cindy mccain stands to the side in her thousand-dollar designer outfits. folks in the audience are paralyzed by apathy, credit card debt, depression, home foreclosures, illiteracy, little or no health insurance, rising gas prices, substance use issues & unemployment...yet cindy mccain is perched in prada? i don't think so.

there were moments when both candidates agreed on certain issues like energy independence, reducing american addiction to foreign oil & offering tax breaks to folks who need it. nonetheless, with less than three weeks before election day, i doubt if this final debate did little if anything to sway folks' honest opinions. i believe white folks walk into the booth with an american flag & when the curtain is closed they pull out a confederate flag. i can't prove this with an exit poll yet how did bush win (read: steal) the last two elections? how did he get 10 percent of the black vote in 2004? where do those negroes live & do their parents know?

the latest figures show obama with leads of up to 8 percent across the country yet my cynicism, as well as my understanding of white supremacy, tells me both the undecided & unregistered voters will make a huge impact in the final count. i'm afraid some of the hilary vote will go to mccain by default, especially since he's exploiting the fears of women with the inexperienced & unknown pailn as his running mate, yet we all know a large number of americans are dishonest about their feelings on race. whenever i listen to palin speak three words immediately come to mind: roseanne rosanna danna.

i can only hope folks will vote with an open mind & an open heart. if mccain/palin wins this election i don't know what i'll do. i don't have money to flee america in disgust. but i'll think about it. on the other hand, if obama wins, i'm afraid some indifferent redneck from anywhere usa will put a gun to his head. i don't have the spirit to hurt someone white i don't know in retaliation. but i'll think about it. i wish my 97 year-old great-grandmother eugenia jefferson were here to help me calm my worries. she had a unique way of making me feel safe in her presence. i don't feel safe about this election. not with our his-tory. i think obama will win yet al gore & john kerry had the very same thoughts...

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Hopes for Cubs/White Sox Subway Series Crashes Early

perhaps it was too good to be true. perhaps history was the better team this year. perhaps next year the same opportunity will present itself yet neither the chicago cubs nor the chicago white sox will do what the new york mets & new york yankees did for their rival fans in 2002. despite all the hype, there will be no subway series in chicago this year: a series which was supposed to generate $120 million for the city.

the western division champion los angeles dodgers surrendered just six runs in three games to the national league's leader in runs scored. led by new manager joe torre & former red sox all-star outfielder manny ramirez - acquired in a stunning mid-season trade - the dodgers will play the eastern division champion philadelphia phillies for a world series berth. philadelphia defeated the wild card milwaukee brewers in four games.

the eastern division champion tampa bay rays, fueled by solid pitching, timely defense & clutch hitting, defeated the white sox in four games. the 2005 world series champion sox had to win three straight games against three different teams, all on the road, to get into the playoffs. after losing the first two games on the road to the exciting & young tampa bay team, the white sox were faced with a similar challenge of having to three consecutive games, a daunting task they were unable to achieve. the wild card & defending champion boston red sox defeated the 100-win anaheim angels in four games & will play tampa bay for the al crown.

it was painful for me to watch the cubs lose in the playoffs. again. why did i think because its been 100 years since the cubs last won the world series they'd historically prevail? most baseball experts lauded the cubs as the team to beat; a virtual shoe-in for the world series. of course folks said the same things about hilary clinton & she's still prolly saying to herself wtf? tho i'm pissed at alfonso soriano for not performing well i'm angrier at manager lou pinella for giving him a leadoff spot when he's primarily a home-run or strikeout artist. my two-cents? the leadoff hitter should be someone who has the patience to take a walk, talent to bunt for a hit and/or the willingness to utilize the entire baseball field when the team needs a hit. soriano is the wrong man for the right job.

i also expected more because the cubs' pitching staff was exemplary this year. in fact, starters ryan dempster & carlos zambrano (who threw a no-hitter this summer), along with reliever kerry wood were all-stars for the first time this year. rookie catcher giovanni soto, anotha first-time all-star, was among five starters (mark derosa, derek lee, aramis ramirez & soriano) who hit 20 or more homers. newly acquired outfielder jim edmonds & pitcher ted lilly played well & gave them much-needed veteran leadership. still, they were unable to move forward in the playoffs.

cubs fans are among the most loyal in america. whenever the cubs play road games their caps, hoodies, jerseys & t-shirts are prominently displayed in the stands. sometimes crowds cheer louder for the cubs than the home team. just as the dallas cowboys were crowned america's (football) team in the 90's, the cubs have become america's team of the 21st century. shame we might have to wait anotha century before they actually win a championship worthy of america's praise. perhaps in 2009 we'll see a subway series between the cubs & white sox. tomorrow i'm going to subway to get a foot long veggie delight. at $5 a pop, you can't beat that with a bat.

Monday, September 29, 2008

No Playoffs for Mets or Yankees

writing as a proud native of chicago, i'm neither a huge new york mets nor new york yankees fan. still its disconcerting to have both local baseball teams absent from this year's fall classic. the fate of the yankees was officially sealed last week, ironically after a win. yesterday the mets surrendered their opportunity for a wild card berth by losing the last game of the season to the florida marlins. the milwaukee brewers secured that spot by defeating the national league central champion chicago cubs on the strength of cc sabbathia's magnificent left arm. both teams will move into sparkling new stadiums to open the 2009 baseball season.

the yankees are undoubtedly the most storied franchise in modern sports history. legends like ruth, gehrig, dimaggio, berra & mantle are revered worldwide because of their championship teams yet for the first time in 13 years the yankees will watch their rival american leaguers vie for a coveted world series ring. they split a day-night doubleheader with the boston red sox yesterday. in the opener yankee veteran right-hander mike mussina became, at age 39, the oldest player to win 20 games for the first time. the savvy mussina finished the year at 20-9, with help from future hall-of-famer mariana rivera, winning 6-3.

the mets suffered their second consecutive year coming up a day late & dollar short. new manager jerry manuel will prolly shoulder the blame from their fickle fans & the arrogant media for playing an inconsistent september. a couple of weeks ago the mets were in first place yet lost their lead to the eastern champion philadelphia phillies, who were led by mvp candidate fist baseman ryan howard. newly acquired johan santana pitched a glorious three-hit, nine-strikeout, complete game shutout to tie the mets with milwaukee on saturday, thus setting the stage for the season's final showdown. unfortunately the mets potent offensive trio of david wright, carlos beltran & carlos delagdo were quiet as they lost 4-2.

both teams had emotionally charged farewell ceremonies during their respective final home stands, welcoming past players onto the field for the fans to celebrate their legacy one last time. shea stadium in queens was primarily known for the '69 amazin mets - who overcame an eight-game deficit in september from the struggling chicago cubs to make the nl playoffs & ultimately defeat the baltimore orioles in the world series with timely defense, clutch hitting & solid pitching. loyal new york baseball fans will have to make the necessary adjustments to the new stadiums - as do the players - yet we can all be grateful for the wonderful memories provided by two classy franchises.

many people predicted another subway series. not me. i'm hoping the chicago white sox can pull off a miracle by winning their last regular season game today against the detroit tigers. if the white sox are successful, they'll play the resurgent minnesota twins in a one-game playoff for the american league central crown. the white sox won the world series in 2005. the last cubs world series win? 100 years ago. omg. i want a chicago subway series! that's my story & i'm sticking to it. it would be both an historical & improbable achievement to see the cubs & white sox play for the title. as a life-long cubs fan (on the down-low) i'd welcome the thrill of victory & the agony of defeat...

yes we can.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Roger Federer and Serena Williams Triumph at 2008 US Open

Roger Federer & Serena Williams were victorious singles champions at the 2008 US Open. Federer won his fifth consecutive title, just one shy of tying Bill Tilden, who won six straight titles in the early 1920's. Williams, who upset #1 Martina Hingis as a teenager in 1999 for her first Grand Slam title here, won her third title at Flushing Meadows without dropping a set. Williams also claims the number ranking as a result of her win. Federer remains the #2 player on tour.

The men's draw promised to be a showdown between newly ranked #1 Rafael Nadal of Spain & Federer, who lost to Nadal in the finals of the French Open & Wimbledon this year. In fact, prior to this tournament Federer had not won a major; he lost to world #3 Novak Djokovic of Serbia in the semi-finals of the Australian Open. Federer avenged his loss to Djokovic by defeating him soundly in the semis in four sets. Nadal lost in the semis to world #6 Andy Murray of Britian - in a match delayed by rain & continued the next day - in four tough sets.

Federer played Murray on a beautiful Monday afternoon. Murray was coming off a hot summer & clearly the underdog, this being his first Grand Slam final, yet he has a career 2-1 match edge over Federer. Murray has worked hard over the last 18 months on his fitness & mental toughness, also changing coaches a few times to spearhead his rise to the top. Both players are brilliant shot makers & excited the crowd with their talent, but Federer was his usual charismatic self as he won 6-2, 7-5, 6-2. As a result of his fine efforts here, Murray will become the #4 player in the world.

Williams came into the tournament seeded #4. Like Federer, she had not won a major this year. Williams played her sister Venus, the defending Wimbledon champion in the quarterfinals during prime time. Serena saved 10 set points in her thrilling 7-6, 7-6 win. In the semis she soundly beat the hottest player on the tour, Dinara Safina of Russia in straight sets. Safina had an opportunity to become world #1 with a US Open victory. In the other semi-final match, world #2 Jelena Jankovic of Serbia defeated Olympic Gold medal winner Elena Dementieva of Russia. Like Safina, both women had a shot at being #1 with a US Open victory.

The women's final was moved to Sunday night because of the rain. Hurricane Gustav swept through New York Saturday afternoon, postponing all matches until the following day. While Jankovic & Williams have a career 3-3 record, the feisty Serbian (like Murray) has never been in a Grand Slam Final. Under difficult conditions & lasting nearly two & half hours they played one of the most competitive women's singles matches in recent history. Jankovic is known for her defensive prowess & Williams for her offensive firepower. Both players had trouble holding serve in each set, though Williams finally prevailed 6-4, 7-5.

Monday, September 01, 2008

Obama Tells 84,000 People Yes We Can & Yes I Do!

In front of over 84,000 people at Invesco Field in Denver, Colorado, Illinois Senator Barack Obama accepted, "with profound humility and deep gratitude," the Democratic nomination for President of the United States. Obama's historic affirmation took place exactly 45 years after Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. addressed over 250,000 people in Washington, DC in front of the Lincoln Memorial with his internationally acclaimed "I Have A Dream," speech.

The 2008 Democratic National Convention culminated on August 28 with the largest audience in political history to show their support for Obama & Senator Joe Biden, his Vice Presidential running mate. A star-studded lineup of musical performers such as Stevie Wonder, Michael McDonald, Sheryl Crow, Will.i.am, John Legend & Jenifer Hudson entertained the crowd. Also, there were spirited speeches from community activists, grassroots workers, local organizers, military families & politicians, as well as everyday people affected by home foreclosures, inadequate health care, the recession, unemployment & the war in Iraq.

Obama was fiery, passionate & very specific in sharing his plans for changing the current landscape of American life. The dynamic young Senator proposed affordable health care for all Americans, a world class education from pre-kindergarten through college, to bring home the military troops from Iraq responsibly, cut taxes for 95% of all working families, end American addiction to foreign oil in 10 years, offer women equal pay for equal work & provide young people who commit to serving their community or their country an affordable college education. When Obama shared his heartfelt desire for an end to politicians who attack each others' character & sense of patriotism, the crowd stood in unison.

Senator Obama welcomed a debate with Arizona Senator John McCain, the Republican Party nominee for President. Obama drew laughter from the crowd upon noting how McCain has chided him publicly for lack of judgment, stating, "how can he talk about judgment when he voted for Bush 90% of the time." He added, "I don't know about you, but I don't want to take a 10% chance on his judgment for the American people." Obama spoke warmly about the familial influences of his mother, grandmother & grandfather. Then, in response to a recent McCain ad showing Paris Hilton & Britney Spears in the backdrop of an Obama campaign stump, the African-American said, "I don't know what McCain thinks about celebrities, but these are my heroes."

Throughout the almost 45-minute speech, Obama outlined "eight years of failed polices of the Bush Administration," saying, "America cannot go back, America cannot go back...we must move forward into the future because you can't fight 21st century problems with 20Th century ideas." Obama received thunderous applause when he graciously acknowledged his differences with McCain on such issues as abortion, gun ownership, immigration & sexual orientation discrimination. Also, Obama defiantly challenged McCain's stand against Osama bin Laden stating, "McCain wants to chase bin Laden into the gates of hell, but he won't even chase him into the cave he lives in."

I watched the convention all day, everyday on C-SPAN, occasionally eavesdropping on local news coverage. Since I only have basic cable service, I'm unable to assess the views on CNN, Democracy Now & MSNBC. My opinion of channel five? Fuck Fox News! Real talk. Anyhoo, never did I think I'd see with sober eyes the day when a brotha had a legitimate opportunity to permanently occupy the Oval Office - well, at least for four years. Michelle Obama, who brought me to tears of joy, love & pride with her powerful speech in Colorado on Monday evening, will make a brilliant First Lady. In less than 65 days, the country will decide who should lead the nation: an old, white male or a young, Black male. Hopefully, the winner will do the right thing for the right reason when he takes the solemn oath in January, 2009.

Friday, August 15, 2008

48 Years and Counting

God blessed me with anotha year of life August 6. I call it my earth day, because I believe hue-man beings are all born once on the same planet - except Serena & Venus. I wonder who reads this will get the joke? But I digress. I've been wanting to write about the meaning of anotha year of life for a number of days yet making a decision & taking the action seems to often leave me in a quandry of sorts. I wanted to write but didn't. As if that's a news flash. Same shit, different day.

I don't remember beng this lazy as a kid. Then again, I don't remember what I had for breakfast today. My energy level, or lack thereof, plays a critical role in my willingness to sit in front of the computer in my un air-conditioned office (used to be my bedroom) & just write. I'm grateful to be alive. Really I am. No, for real. I just don't feel like writing as much as I think I should be willing to. I think about writing all the time. Well, not all the time. But I think about writing more than I actually write, which makes me feel anxious, frustrated & guilty about not writing at all. Wateva.

Can I get paid for thinking about writing?

Here it is, nine days after my earth day & I'm writing about, today. August 15. A part of me says: why bother? Anotha part of me says: learn to trust your instincts. Anotha part of me says: go back to bed. There are other parts of me but I don't feel like writing about them today. Yeah, I'm a mess. But in a good way. I've learned so much about the exact nature of my beingness: my attitudes, beliefs, emotions, fantasies, motives, patterns, shortcomings, etc. I never thought I'd be able to appreciate my strengths & limitatations. The stress I've endured the last nine days because I didn't write about my earth day on my earth day has dissipated; prolly because I'm writing about it now. Wateva.

Less than 10 people called, e-mailed and/or texted me on my earth day with kind words. Less than 10 people! Was I disappointed by the lack of acknowledgment? Is water wet? Will rain fall? Can sun shine? Does Stevie Wonder? Was Marvin Gaye? Ok, so I was surprised considering I know so many people. In fact, I have over 500 folks on my e-mail adress book, some of whom have utilized the birthdayalarm.com to keep track of the day, as well as others who know my Leo-ness, then there are others who rarely or never reply to the info I send them. Is it an unrealistic for me to expect to hear from one or two family members even though I've been negligent in acknowledging their special day? Wateva.

48 years on earth for a Black man in America is a dubious accomplishment. Why? Black men die prematurely, often related to preventable and/or treatable health issues men neglect. What did men like Rick James, Gerald Levert, Bernie Mac & Luther Vandross have in common? Besides being incredibly successful artists, they all transitioned before the age of 60. AARP age status. Additionally, they (not each man) struggled with addiction, cancer, diabetes, hypertension, obesity, etc. - all of which we now have spiritual solutions for.

I live with AIDS. Diagnosed 12/19/94 & taking better care of my body, mind & spirit thru His grace & mercy. I'm also challenged with anxiety, depression, asthma, bronchitis, arthritis, gingovitis, insomnia & vertigo. I got more issues than JET Magazine. But I don't worry about my health. I worry about running out of food, money & porn - masturbation is my occupation. I got a shit load of health issues yet I don't complain I abstain: no alcohol or other drugs, no caffeine, no nicotine, no pork, no red meat, no white bread, no white eggs, no white flour, no white milk, no white salt, no white sugar. i.e. Most of the time I buy organic & vegetarian foods, fast quarterly, pray & meditate daily & workout at the gym weekly. I'm ok. For real. I really am.

Sometimes it feels like God's will is something I enndure & not enjoy. I've been single four years now. Not a prospective partner in sight, online or within memory. I chat practically every day with guys from all over the world who think I'm attractive, caring & wise. One handsome guy in particular affectionately calls me angel & tells me he loves me. But A trip to Nigeria is not practical. I opened a passbook savings account in May with the intention of saving $100 monthly & not touching the account. At all. So I can go to Barcelona next fall. My current balance is $100. $100 won't last me an hour in Brooklyn.

Walter Mosely says he writes every day for three hours. Three hours! I hate him. Spike Lee says he writes every day for three hours. Three hours! I hate him. A former English professor told me she writes every day for three hours. Three hours! I really hate her. I'm tired now. Need to drink something. Snack on something. I wanted to write about the significance of anotha year on earth. And I will. Maybe tomorrow.

Sunday, July 06, 2008

Venus Williams and Rafael Nadal Win Historic Wimbledon Finals

The 2008 Wimbledon Championships in London treated the international tennis world to two weeks of glorious grass court tennis, climaxing in historic fashion with Venus Williams & Rafael Nadal triumphing in the women's & men's finals respectively. By defeating her sister Serena in two tough, well-played sets, 7-5, 6-4, the 28 year-old African-American joined Martina Navratilova, Steffi Graf & Billie Jean King as the only women to win five singles titles at the hallowed All England Lawn Tennis Club.

Venus has reached the Wimbledon finals in seven of the last nine years, ironically losing both times to the younger Serena, who has eight grand slam singles titles of her own. Williams now owns seven grand slam singles titles & has evened her lifetime match record against Serena at eight victories apiece. They played each other in four straight Wimbledon finals from 2000-2003, with both sisters winning twice, though Serena has bragging rights because she's won all four grand slams singles titles, a record Venus has yet to accomplish. Later in the evening, the two paired to win the women's doubles title in straight sets over American Lisa Raymond & Aussie Samantha Stosur.

In what Hall of Famer John McEnroe called "the greatest match I've ever seen," Spain's Rafael Nadal defeated five-time defending champion & world number one Roger Federer of Switzerland, 6-4, 6-4, 6-7, 6-7, 9-7. The thrilling final featured exceptional serving from both men, two rain delays & Federer saving three match points, culminating in over four & half fours, the longest men's final in Wimbledon history. Nadal is the first man since Sweden's Bjorn Borg in 1980 to win the French Open & Wimbledon back-to-back. The 22 year-old Nadal surrendered just four games in his straight set demolition of Federer on the red clay of Paris in late May.

The last Spaniard to win Wimbledon was Manuel Orantes - a lefty like Rafa - in 1966, when the tournament was played on clay. In fact, both Borg & Orantes were on hand for the emotional trophy ceremonies. After witnessing world number two Nadal blaze through Federer to win his fourth consecutive French Open title, Borg boldly predicted Nadal would win on grass at Wimbledon this year. Though Nadal narrowly lost the last two Wimbledon finals to Federer, his all-court game has transformed in a short perod of time. The hard-working Nadal has beefed up both his first & second serves, improved his volleys & turned his backhand into a lethal weapon.

Nadal is destined to finish the year with the number one ranking. And, it is no secret amongst tennis experts he wants to be numero uno. Nobody in recent memory can match his intensity, preparation & tenacity on the court. The humble Spaniard broke Federer's serve four times in the match, an amazing feat considering Federer entered the final having been broken just twice, with 84 aces & four double faults. Federer finished the tournament with over 100 aces, yet could not hit first serves when he needed them the most. Also, the gifted Swiss squandered 13 break points against Nadal's serve, who was broken just once the entire match.

Records are made to be broken. When Nadal took Federer to five intense sets in last year's Wimbldeon final, it was the first time Federer was forced to go the distance in a final on grass. Most people thought Federer - as did his idol Pete Sampras - would win the French before Nadal won Wimbledon. In fact, Nadal beat Federer the last three years on red clay, though Federer never threatened Nadal to a fifth & deciding set, as Nadal did last year at Wimbledon. The 26 year-old Federer is just two majors shy of tying Sampras' all-time record of 14. Sampras says he'll be present if and/or when Federer plays for the 14th major, admitting he hoped it would be in "either London or New York."

The way Nadal is playing tennis, Sampras might not be traveling for awhile.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Celtics Rout Lakers In Game 6 for 2008 NBA Title

The Boston Celtics thoroughly dominated game six on both ends of the court to win the 2008 NBA Finals, defeating the favored Los Angeles Lakers 131-92 in their historic battle. Boston claimed their 17th NBA title, as both teams have participated in half of the league's 62 NBA Championships. Paul Pierce, the 10-year Celtic veteran who admittedly wanted to be traded during the off-season, was named MVP for his terrific scoring, timely passing & tough defense on league MVP Kobe Bryant, who, also wanted to be traded during the off season.

The Celtics won a league-best 66 games during the regular season & had the best team on paper, yet some media experts worried they might suffer the fate of the Dallas Mavericks, who last year were stunned in the first round of the playoffs by the eighth-seeded, run & gun, three-point shooting Golden State Mavericks in six games. 2008 was a stark contrast to a year ago when Boston won just 24 games & finished with the worst record in the league. In fact, the Celtics dynamic year culminated with the greatest one-season turn around in NBA history, improving by 42 games.

Danny Ainge was named Executive of the Year & Doc Rivers was second on the ballot for Coach of the Year as Boston made some brilliant summer trades to go for the gold. The initial signing of veteran sharpshooter Ray Allen created some buzz, but when Kevin Garnett was acquired from the Minnesota Timberwolves, the media circus around the Celtics' three superstars led to a barrage of names such as the PGA Tour, the Three Amigos & Three-Peat. Garnett humbly told anyone who would listen, "this is Paul's team."

Later in the year, the Celtics added veterans P.J. Brown & Sam Cassell (who has 2 rings from the Houston Rockets' back-to-back 94-95 teams), James Posey (a central part of the Miami Heat's '06 title team) & Eddie House. Long before the pre-season began, the Celtics were expected to win their first title since the Bird-McHale-Parrish team of 1986. The buzz in the building quickly returned, season ticket sales went through the roof & Garnett's #5 jersey was being worn by kids, teenagers & adults all over the state of Massachusetts.

When the playoffs started, no one gave the eighth-seeded Atlanta Hawks a chance against the Celtics. 20 years ago, Coach Rivers was the all-pro starting point guard for the Hawks, who took a three games to two lead in the Eastern Conference Finals over Boston. Game seven featured a shootout - particularly in the 4th quarter - between the Hawks' Dominique Wilkins & Boston's Larry Bird. Wilkins scored 47 & Bird scored 34, yet the Celtics won game seven, a game, to this day, that Rivers finds too painful to watch. Even though Boston lost the NBA Finals to the Lakers that year, the irony of Rivers now coaching a team that destroyed his only hopes of winning it all seems bittersweet & somehow something reserved for a Hollywood script or made-for-tv movie.

Despite Ray Allen's poor perimeter shooting, Boston triumphed over Atlanta in the first round without a road victory - frustrating for a squad with the best regular-season road record at 31-10. Their superior bench, led by veterans Brown, Cassell, House & Posey, as well as rookies Glen "Big Baby" Davis & Leon Powe, helped solidify a semi-finals victory over last year's surprise finalists Cleveland Cavaliers, who were spearheaded by LeBron James, a third-place finisher in the league's MVP voting. In a thrilling game seven, James' 45 points were not enough to overcome Pierce's 41 points, point guard Rajon Rondo's court leadership & Garnett's solid defense to move on to the next round.

Still, the Celtics could not win a game on the road & some feared they'd be surely tested against the defensive-minded, more experienced & 2004 NBA Champion Detroit Pistons in the Eastern Conference Finals. When Boston lost game two, their home court advantage was gone for the first time in the playoffs. Staring adversity solidly in the face, Boston won games three & six on the road to win the hard-fought series four games to two. The Celtics had little time to celebrate as the Lakers waited patiently in the wings after soundly defeating the defending champion San Antonio Spurs in five games.

The Lakers were clearly playing the best team ball entering the Finals, having swept Denver in the first round & beating the Utah Jazz soundly in six games. Their strong bench featured consistent all season play from Jordan Farmar, Rony Turiaf, Sasha Vujacic & Luke Walton. The Lakers' mid-season acquisition of all-pro center Pau Gasol from the Memphis Grizzlies was the steal of the year, as they finished the season atop the Western Conference, one game ahead of the vastly improved New Orleans Hornets, led by Coach of the Year Byron Scott & all-pro guard Chris Paul.

Everyone was excited about the historic significance of this series: coaches, fans, media & players alike. In the 80's, Boston & LA won eight of the decade's NBA titles, playing each other three out of four years from 1984-1987. Their legendary rivalry gave rise to the Lakers' showtime ball, led by Hall of Fame guard Magic Johnson, as well as the Celtics' all-pro front line - many believe the best in NBA history - of Larry Bird, Kevin McHale & Robert Parrish.

This year the NBA Finals offered a unique two-three-two series, which meant the Celtics' home court advantage would be neutralized & they'd have to win a game on the road to avoid going home with a potential game-ending scenario. Boston handily won the first game 96-88 behind Garnett's double-double, yet nearly squandered a 24-point lead (the Lakers closed the gap to within two points late in the fourth quarter) to eke out a victory in game two, 108-102.

The Lakers defense shut down Boston in game three, as their offensive rebounding & solid free-throw shooting (Bryant made more free throws than the Celtics attempted as a team) propelled them to an 87-81 win. In game four, LA dominated early & led by as many as 24 points in the first half, holding the Celtics' big three to under 40 percent field goal shooting. Undeterred in the second half, Boston would mount the biggest comeback in NBA Finals history, defeating the stunned Lakers 97-91, with solid performances from Allen, Garnett, House, Pierce, Posey & Rondo.

Game five went back & forth as both teams traded baskets in the tight fourth quarter, yet Bryant's 36 points gave the Lakers a hard-fought 103-98 victory, sending the series to Boston for game six. Sasha Vujacic torched the Celtics by scoring 20 points off the bench in a game the Lakers desperately needed to win in order to stay alive. Game six showcased the Celtics' superior team-defense as they lead 24-20 after the first quarter. Boston, inspired by Rondo's four steals, would allow just two free throws in the final 4:30 as the halftime lead ballooned to 23 points. Allen tied an NBA Finals record by hitting seven three-pointers; the team would finish with an NBA Finals record 18 steals.

Many Celtic greats were on hand for this historic occasion, among them Bill Russell, John Havlicek, Jo Jo White, Tom Heinsohn, M.L. Carr & Cedric Maxwell. Coach Rivers assured the team in the locker room another game would not be necessary. Boston was destined for this championship, as Garnett, Pierce & Allen showed the world what commitment, discipline, heart, sacrifice & unity were all about. The Boston Celtics succeeded in accomplishing what they expected of themselves, as well as what others expected: the 2008 NBA Finals Champions.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Tiger Woods Wins US Open Golf Championship

Tiger Woods overcame a mediocre start, veteran's surge & wounded knee to win his 14th major golf tournament in sudden death at the 2008 US Open Championships, held in Torrey Pines, California. Woods birdied the 18th hole to force his good friend & fellow American 45 year-old Rocco Mediate into an 18-hole playoff. The US Open is the only major which takes a tie score among players after four rounds into another 18 holes.

Among his many incredible accomplishments, Woods has never lost a major when leading or sharing the lead after 54 holes. Though he took a one stroke lead into the final round, Mediate, Lee Westwood, Geoff Ogilvy & Ernie Els were right in the thick of things through the front nine. After Els & Ogilvy tailored off, Mediate, Westwood & Woods stood atop the leader board approaching the 16th hole. Westwood faltered on his second shot, leaving Woods & Mediate to battle the 18th, with history awaiting either player, as Mediate sought to become the oldest first time major champion.

After the first ten holes, Woods took a commanding three stroke lead & seemed to be on his way to an easy victory. As he'd admit his ups & downs of the tournament in a press conference later, Woods double-bogeyed 11 & bogeyed 12, while Mediate birdied the next three holes to take a one stroke lead into the 15th hole. They matched each other shot for shot going into the 18th hole. Mediate had a golden opportunity to win in front of a record-setting crowd with a birdie on the par five, yet his nerves got the best of him & he settled for a par, opening the door for Woods to create magic as only he can.

Both players survived 90 holes of golf, yet a sudden death hole was upon them, beginning with the par four 7th hole. Woods hit a massive tee shot, followed by an equally impressive tee from Mediate. Woods' second ball was just off the green, while Mediate's wayward drive almost hit a spectator & he was forced to take a ball drop. Woods nearly birdied the hole, coming inches from the cup & he tapped in his par, as Mediate looked on in awe. Mediate, one shot behind on the hole, had to sink the next shot to win & sadly fell short in the process.

Woods, the 32 year-old father of one, is now just four majors away from tying Jack Nicklaus' record 18 majors. Ironically, this victory came the day after Father's Day, with the spirit of his late father, Earl, encouraging him every step of the way. It was evident that Woods labored in pain throughout the tournament; at times he'd groan in agony after a hard drive. Some folks confused the expression on his face with disappointment - Woods is the ultimate perfectionist - yet, he was simply gutting it out & making no excuses.

When all is said & done, Tiger Woods will undoubtedly go down as the greatest golfer who ever played the game, once reserved for whites only. Before the tournament began, the media tried to create a buzz, or rivalry of sorts, between Woods & Phil Mickelson, otherwise known, in my opinion, as the 'great white hope of golf.' Mickelson started poorly & never recovered, finishing eight over par. Their so-called rivalry is an American myth that was never fully realized...

One of the greatest legacies in individual sports competition (such as boxing, golf & tennis) are rivalries that transcend difference & welcome diversity: Ali vs. Frazier, Leonard vs. Hearns, Nicklaus vs. Palmer, Borg vs. McEnroe, Evert vs. Navratilova, i.e. When Woods starting dominating the sport by winning majors at ease, many golf pundits became obsessed with finding a rival to generate intrigue, revenue & spectators. Mickelson would never meet the challenge because Woods is, as the Tina Turner song goes, "simply the best...better than all the rest...better than anyone."

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Obama Clinches Historic Presidential Nomination

Illinois Senator Barack Obama became the first African-American male to win the Presidential nomination last Tuesday by reaching the 2,118 delegates needed for the Democratic Party. His fierce rival, New York Senator Hilary Clinton, is expected to concede Saturday, despite her impressive victory in South Dakota & Obama's win in Montana. Hopefully, both candidates will channel their efforts towards defeating Republican Party nominee Arizona Senator John McCain.

The historic battle was the longest & most contested race in our nation's history. Clinton sought to become the first woman to head the Oval Office. She has served as First Lady twice - for 12 years when husband Bill was Governor of Arkansas, as well as eight years when Bill was Commander-In-Chief during the early to late 90's. Many media analysts & party loyalists have been calling for a so-called Obama/Clinton dream ticket from as early as the spring, though it appears unlikely this will happen.

Obama & Clinton have maintained they are friends, both praising the other with personal admiration, professional respect & public accord, yet the media framed the campaign, as well as their relationship, with issues of race & gender & religion. At one point, Obama was forced to end his 20 year bond with Reverend Jeremiah Wright, pastor of Trinity United Church in Chicago, because of sermons Wright made which were perceived as anti-American, controversial & polarizing.

Less than a week after 9-11, Wright, a decorated ex-Marine who advised Bill Clinton before he entered the White House, challenged America for her history of cultural genocide, inept foreign policy, racism, spiritual arrogance & white supremacy. The fiery sermon made its way to youtube & was eventually linked to every major media outlet in America. Wright was demonized & Obama suffered both personal & political backlash for weeks on end. Nevertheless, he persevered with dignity, grace & humility.

Obama has run the most conscientious campaign in modern history. The diversity of his supporters have baffled even the most experienced political pundits. His primary concerns have been affordable college tuition, ending the war on Iraq, healing the housing crisis, lessening governmental reliance on lobbyists, revitalizing the nation's depressed economy, universal health care & valuing the work of teachers. He has successfully raised more money than any Presidential candidate before him, quieting critics' early doubts of his management skills.

No one expected this incredible nomination to ever become a reality. Well, maybe no one except Oprah, who called him "the real deal," when Obama appeared on her show with his beautiful & briliant wife Michelle a couple of years ago. Long before the campaign began in Iowa, Clinton was a virtual shoe-in & Obama was a vested question mark. Most of the media folk concluded Clinton's international experience, name recognition & senatorial work gave her the edge over a field of nine Democratic nominees.

Obama rose to national prominence when Massachusetts Senator John Kerry, the then Democratic Presidential nominee, appointed him to give the keynote address at the 2004 Democratic National Convention. In the spirit of Texas Congresswoman Barbara Jordan - who gave a heart-felt keynote address at the 1968 Democratic National Convention - Obama's charisma, eloquence & passion was a breath of fresh air in an otherwise stale election. Though Kerry lost, Obama's presence was felt & he benefited immensely from that once-in-a-lifetime experience.

It will be interesting to see who Obama selects as his Vice President, as well as the person who gives the keynote address at the upcoming convention in August, which will be held in Denver, Colorado. When asked about this a month or so ago, Obama admitted it would be presumptious but Clinton would be on his short list. Some feel Senators John Edwards & Bill Richardson will play a key role, after their recent endorsements of Obama. I feel joy witnessing the power dynamics of a compassionate, decent, handsome, intelligent & successful Black man at work.

Friday, May 02, 2008

Three NYPD Cops Acquitted in Sean Bell Murder

Last week, three New York Police Department (NYPD) officers were acquitted in the murder trial of Sean Bell. The 23 year-old African-American father was leaving a Queens nightclub in November of last year after spending time with friends. Apparently, Bell & his friends - all unarmed innocent civilians - were pulling out of the driveway when officers Marc Cooper, Gescard Isnora & Michael Oliver fired a total of 50 (!) shots, killing Bell & wounding his friends Timothy Benefield & Juan Guzman. Bell was engaged to be married the day he was murdered.

This story is not an isolated one, in that the daily assault & compromise of Black male life in New York City, as well as in other American cities, by corrupt cops often resolve without criminal accountability, financial hardship, legal discipline and/or political outrage. The officers' justified their shooting because they believed they heard gun shots, yet no weapons were found on the premises.

Of course, this same faulty logic was used against the likes of Michael Griffiths, Eleanor Bumpurs, Reginald Baez, Amadou Diallo, Patrick Dorismond and countless other people of color who died at the hands of the men in blue. In this incident, one of the cops reloaded & fired 31 shots at Bell himself. How dead did he have to be before he was no longer a threat? When is enough enough?

Rev. Al Sharpton, President of the National Action Network, immediately responded by spearheading the fight for justice on behalf of Bell's distraught fiance & devastated family. Additionally, a diverse contingent of activists, community-based organizations & progressive folk employed the strategies & tenets of the civil rights movement immediately after Bell's murder: boycotts, demonstrations, marches, press conferences, sit-ins, town hall meetings, i.e. were held to mobilize the masses, raise awareness & spark dialogue on issues of police brutality, racial profiling & unjust treatment of African-descended people.

I faithfully attended a number of these events & was encouraged by the commitment, energy & passion of ordinary folk who probably would not convene under other circumstances: New York can be a cold & indifferent place to live at times. You can learn about folks' beliefs, character & values when somebody is killed, especially a young, Black male, as people handle trauma differently, often depending on their cultural, familial & spiritual roots.

For example, a few days ago I received an annoying chain e-mail suggesting folks to wear all black all day on Monday, April 28, as a means of protesting the verdict. I stopped to meditate on this suggestion, then I realized I've been wearing all black all day since I was released from the womb of my mother on August 6, 1960. I fully respect & understand the importance of symbolism, but is this the best we can do as a conscious people? I don't think so.

In New York, a coalition of civil rights advocates are calling for a permanent state-level special prosecutor to handle police brutality cases. Sharpton said, "we strategically know how to stop this city so it will stand still & realize that you do not have the right to shoot down unarmed innocent civilians with no probable cause. But they show now that they will not hold police accountable. Well, guess what? If you won't, we will."

There were also calls for the intervention of US Attorney General Michael Mukasey & the announcement of a massive protest march planned jointly by the nation's leading civil rights organizations. Charles Steele, national president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), was one of several national civil rights leaders to discuss strategy in response to the verdict. Steele said, "we are going to march. We can't let this get away. We can't expect a system that enslaves us to save us. We must do this for ourselves."

Personally, I'm tired of marching. My feet hurt. In fact, I've grown more corns than a farmer in Iowa :-) Yes, marching serves a purpose, yet more importantly, as freedom fighter Frederick Douglasa prophetically stated, "power never conceded anything without a demand...it never has & it never will." I believe in critical thinking, cultural affirmation & self-determination. If we want freedom, we need economic & political power. Also, I wonder what Senators Clinton, McCain & Obama think about this case...or, are they too busy running for office to give a damn?

Friday, March 14, 2008

Sex Scandal Forces New York Governor's Swift Resignation

Earlier this week New York Governor Eliot Spitzer was forced to resign amidst compelling reports of his involvement in an alleged prostitute ring. The reports listed a "client number 9," who sought the services of "kristen," whose real identity became public via her my space page & subsequent local news stories. According to some reports, Spitzer paid up to $80,000 over the course of several months for her services.

Spitzer, accompanied by his somber wife, gave a brief press conference apologizing for not living up to the people's expectations, the expectations of himself & the expectations of his office, yet he did not address the salacious charges, some of which could find him behind bars for behavior he attacked, condemned & prosecuted as attorney general four short years ago. Within less than a week, Lt. Governor David Paterson will become the first African-American Governor in the history of New York State.

Although Spitzer stated this was a public matter, many people find these allegations hypocritical for a man who made his reputation as a ruthless, often unapologetic champion of punishing illegal & illicit criminal conduct. Watching television coverage of this story has been interesting in that people believe he deserves to be treated as any other person accused of breaking the law, regardless of his power, privilege & pain.

Next Monday morning Paterson will secure his historic transition in a most unlikely, yet rewarding manner. The legally-blind 53 year-old has a calm, charming & conciliatory nature many people find refreshing in political circles. His three decades of public service is characterized by decency, humility & integrity. Some reports suggested there was dissension between Spitzer & Paterson, implying Spitzer's downfall is welcomed by Paterson, yet he has demonstrated empathy for Spitzer & his family during this difficult time.

More will be revealed as it relates to this sad & shocking story. So many questions have gone unanswered by Spitzer. Will Spitzer successfully plea bargain? Will he serve time for more than ten separate charges, some of which involve different area codes? Will he be pardoned by the next President of the United States? Will his wife stay or leave? You can learn a lot about a person when they experience stress, face adversity & lose something they care about. It seems the old saying is really true: politics makes strange bedfellows.

Friday, February 08, 2008

NY Giants Shock Pats for Super Bowl Win

In what many people feel is the greatest upset in Super Bowl history, the New York Giants defeated the New England Patriots 17-14, their third such championship in the team's storied history. The often maligned Giants quarterback Eli Manning was named Most Valuable Player for his gutty performance down the stretch, directing an exciting fourth quarter drive - reminiscent of Terry Bradshaw, John Elway & Joe Montana - with less than two minutes in the game culminating with a touchdown pass to wide receiver Plaxico Burgess.

Super Bowl 42 was considered a foregone conclusion as the explosive Patriots offense pursued perfection with an 18-0 record. Though their players downplayed the significance, history was in the making: the only team to finish unbeaten was the '72 Miami Dolphins at 17-0. Led by quarterback Tom Brady, who set an NFL single-season record with 50 touchdown passes, wide receiver Randy Moss, who set an NFL record with 23 touchdown receptions & wide receiver Wes Welker, who set a team record with 112 catches, many experts expected a blowout as the team scored an NFL record 551 points during the regular season.

The Giants were a wild card who struggled with adversity all year. They opened the year with two consecutive defeats & nearly lost game three to the Washington Redskins. After they won six straight games, they settled into second place in their division behind the Dallas Cowboys, who were picked to make it to the Super Bowl. At one point, the merciless New York media called for the benching of Manning & resignation of coach Tom Coughlin. in fact, nobody thought they'd make the playoffs, except their players, coaches & personnel.

New York finished the season at 10-6, setting an NFL record by winning 10 games on the road. Improbable playoff wins against Tampa Bay, Dallas & Green Bay gave them an opportunity to do what no one anticipated or believed was possible; in fact, they'd lost earlier in the season to Dallas & Green Bay, which meant they could avenge their loss in game 16, as well, to the Patriots. Though New England won 38-35, many people felt the Giants' competitive showing & season-ending momentum would serve them well in the Super Bowl.

The game turned out to be a defensive struggle, one of the most exciting games in Super Bowl history. Manning led the Giants to a first quarter field goal in the game's opening drive - a drive which lasted nine minutes & fifty nine seconds, an NFL record for an opening drive. Brady maneuvered his team down the field for a first quarter touchdown, giving the Patrots a 7-3 lead which they held onto the fourth quarter. The Giants defense was superb, sacking Brady five times, forcing one fumble & causing him to hurry many of his passes.

Some will call the Patriots season, despite all their records, a colossal failure, as their goal from day one was a Super Bowl ring. The disappointment, frustration & shock will be difficult for them to heal during the months to come. Though not a Giants fan, I was happy to see the home team prevail, as I generally root for the underdog. Also, I think Patriots head coach Bill Belichick deserved to be suspended a few games for cheating at the beginning of the season in what has now become 'spygate,' as they filmed practice sessions of the New York Jets.