i am

My photo
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 09, 2009

Precious - A Film Review

several weeks ago i attended a matinee mid-town screening of precious, the provocative film based on the award-winning 1996 novel authored by sapphire, the artist formerly known as ramona lofton. the film tells the horrific story of precious, claireece jenkins, a dark-skinned, illiterate, obese teenager in 1987 harlem, pregnant with her second child. sapphire, who once described herself as a "recovering lesbian," was initially reluctant to see her book on the screen. she was eventually swayed to do so by the film's director, lee daniels, the now, out & proud-to be-gay-identified brotha best known for producing monster's ball, which garnered halle berry an oscar for best actress, the first african-american woman to win the award.

the buzz around this film primarily comes from the cast, as well as its executive producers, oprah winfrey & tyler perry, who came aboard at the midnight hour to secure financing challenges & hollywood name-worthy prestige. precious stars newcomer gabourey sidibe, a harlem native who beat out 400 females for the role - her first major gig. her abusive mother is played by actress/comedienne monique. other prominent actors include mariah carey as their social worker, paula patton as precious' new teacher, lenny kravitz as a nurse & sherri sheperd as an administrative assistant.

sadly enuf, the complexity of social issues presented yet never addressed in the film: emotional abuse, hiv, illiteracy, mental illness, obesity, poverty, rape, self-hatred, teenage pregnancy, violence, i.e. seems to escape the media's delusions of a post-racial america while our bi-racial president ascends to international power. ultimately, precious' deep seated problems are symptoms of internalized oppression. she lives in a dark, untidy apartment with her infant child, born with down-syndrome, as well as her mother, who sees no future beyond their welfare checks - the 'welfare queen' was a black, female stereotype tool of racist propaganda fueled in the 80's by white, male senators newt gingrich, daniel moynihan & ronald reagan; despite the fact 80 percent of women on welfare were white women.

parental neglect is normalized in the film. precious grows up with no loving black men in her life. in fact, the only time we see her absent father is when he rapes her. his face, much like his humanity, manhood & spirit, is not present. ralph ellison wrote about black, male invisibility b4 the civil rights movement jumped off: have we changed? turn on bet & decide 4 yourself. her mother can be seen in the foreground voyeuristically watching the rape & saying nothing. while precious is being raped, the director quickly inter-twines back & forth images of soul food on the stove with her father's moans, precious' screams & unrecognizable accompaniment music. how bizarre is that?

i felt like i was at ripley's believe it or not...

precious' apathetic mother, mary, was addicted to cigarettes, food & television. mary, like her daughter, is socially isolated. mary screams vulgarities at precious, damaging her non-existent sense of value & worth. mary seemed obsessed with controlling her child in one way or anotha, using food, money & terror as weapons of dehumanization. in one scene, she chastizes precious for not serving her ham hocks with collard greens; she forces precious to eat the the full plate of food in front of her, b4 making her cook dinner again.

one day, on her way to school, precious steals a bucket of chicken & runs off down 125th st. are we expected to believe a 350 pound teenager cannot be caught running with a bucket of chicken in her hand? she encounters a group of young, black males. the three guys are, of course, cutting class, rolling dice, smoking weed & listening to rap music. of course. bcuz, in harlem, that's how brothas keep it real. right? anyway, one of the guys makes a lewd comment about precious' ass. the other two laugh, oblivious to her misery & their misogyny. she tries to walk away but gets pushed to the ground instead, face first. precious' humiliation is further illustrated by a dog who eats her chicken while she lays helpless on the ground. she's both depicted & treated like an animal.

mary's repeated emotional & physical abuse - she threw the television at precious, barely missing her head, as she ran out the apartment, down several flights of stairs with her baby (!) in her hand - towards her daughter makes precious feel loveless, ugly & worthless. when mary sexual abuses precious her despair goes unspoken. at school, precious has no friends: they laugh at her & no one notices her pain. when she is home alone, she looks in the mirror & sees herself as a skinny, white girl with no problems, perhaps like marcia brady? she often visualizes her life as an adored, fashionably-attired celebrity surrounded by paparazzi, while imagining an ongoing romance with a light-skinned boyfriend.

precious' fantasies are rooted in anti-black conditioning...

none of the heroes & heroines in precious' world mirror her shade & size. why? were these casting choices intentional, or simply the status quo for a downtrodden black girl in the hood? precious' new teacher, in her 'each one teach one' class, is compassionate, kind & light-skinned. she invites precious into her cozy home, where precious meets her lesbian partner, anotha light-skinned sistah. precious' family social worker (who appeared contemptuous working with precious & her mother) is light-skinned. also, the caring nurse at the hospital has a similar hue. any wonder she seeks a life light, bright & damn near white?

lee daniels' work on other independent films include monster's ball, the story of a black woman in love with the racist white prison guard assigned to execute her husband on death row; shadowboxer, the story of an incestuous romance between two cold-blooded bounty killers: a black man & his white stepmother; & the woodsman, the story about a pedophile struggling to change his life. some critics say he pushes the envelope at all costs with characters generally untouched by mainstream film. this writer feels his cinematic choices demonstrate problematic & recurring themes of dehumanizing black images on screen.

farai chideya, the brilliant host of national public radio's news & notes said "filmmaker lee daniels seems to head right for the fire." in a june 2006 interview with national public radio's ed gordon (after his directorial debut in shadowboxer) daniels says, "certainly the offers don't come as frequently as they had been...but what they want is something that i'm not willing to give, which is a stereotype of an african-american."


daniels' father, a police officer, was killed during a robbery when he was 13. he goes on to tell gordon, "my father was also abusive physically to me because he didn't want me to become a writer & he thought that that was not a masculine thing to do & he thought that i would amount to pretty much of nothing...so i was abused & i think that it's therapeutic...my work is therapeutic...monster's ball, the woodsman & shadowboxer, because i don't go to therapy & i sort of live through my films."

why didn't gordon question daniels about his decision, consciously or not, to seek therapy in order to heal his woundedness? does gordon - who also revealed in the interview losing his father as a teenager - believe therapy is un-african-american? does therapy challenge their notions of manhood? an eerie silence pervaded this interview: two adult, successful, black men who've undoubtedly experienced feelings of grief, loss & sorrow with their fathers at a young age, yet neither one of them have developed the ability to share their hurt, pain & vulnerability.

writer ishmael reed recently wrote a scathing essay entitled, "the selling of precious: the myth of the black male sexual predator." reed is suspicious of sarah siegel, the white woman who invested five million dollars in the film; siegel's 'niche dilemma' marketing plan is currently available on you tube. reed says, "sarah siegel has joined an innovative marketing plan that couples obama's name with the most extreme of sexual crimes. this woman might have invested in a movie that some are calling the worst depiction of black life yet done."

new york press critic armond white (who shares many of reed's sentiments regarding the film) compares precious to the film, birth of a nation, directed by d.w. griffith - credited as an early film pioneer. reed says, "i would argue that this movie makes griffith look like a progressive. moreover, i've looked at a number of pictures that show how the nazis depicted blacks & though jewish & black men appear as sexual predators in many, i've never run across one in which minority men are shown as incest violators."

reed is critical of winfrey & perry's roles as executive producers. he noted a new york times article dated 2/4/09 which reported, "a deal did not emerge for push (the title of sapphire's novel) until about a week after the festival (sundance film festival) ended, with potential distributors balking over the price insisted upon by cinetic media, a new york marketing & sales company for independent film, according to two people with knowledge of how the deal came together but were not authorized to speak publicly. a spokeswoman for cinetic declined to comment, but bidders said ms. winfrey & mr. perry had been crucial to the deal coming together."

(sigh) it's 2:06 am & i've yet to finish this damn review. i'm tired of writing about precious. real talk. suffice it to say, the film provides more questions than answers. the ending of the film was confusing. frustrating. boring. precious improved her reading skills, yet this teenaged single parent walks out of school with her two kids, alone - homeless, jobless & penniless. where is she going? who will help her raise her kids? how will she learn to navigate life in harlem with her myriad of social issues?

...if the box office numbers are profitable, does anyone smell a sequel?

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Yankees Win 2009 World Series

the new york yankees defeated the defending champion philadelphia phillies in game six of the 2009 fall classic, 7-3, to win their 27th world series title. mariano rivera recorded the final four outs in typical fashion, to the delight of the cheering crowd at the spanking new, $1.5 billion yankee stadium. yankees designated hitter hideki matsui was named most valuable player. matsui, in limited duty, hit an astonishing .615 with three homers & eight runs batted in to help a balanced offensive attack.

manager joe girardi wore number 27 with the intention of inspiring his players to return to the coveted championship game, their first series appearance since losing to the, then, expansion club, arizona diamondbacks in 2001. during the off season the yankees spent $420 million to secure left-handed starting pitcher cc sabbathia, right-handed starting pitcher aj burnette & first baseman mark texiera. all three players were instrumental in the yankees' success.

before, during & after the regular season most of the media focus was on alex rodriguez, who, earlier this year admitted to using a banned substance in 2003. the charismatic all-star third baseman embraced the support of his teammates, as well as the loyal, albeit fickle yankee fans. one local paper headline called him a-roid, yet he finished the year with 30 homers & 100 runs batted in, despite losing over a month of playing time due to a hip replacement surgery.

the yankees also acquired outfielder nick swisher who finished the year with 29 homers, while sometimes batting ninth. the yankees slugged 243 homers in their new park, a franchise record. all-star shortstop derek jeter & second baseman robinson cano became the first infield pair (second base/shortstop duo) to record 200 or more hits in a season. texeira led the american league with 122 runs batted in & tied tampa bays' carlos pena for the lead in homers with 39.

while sabbathia & rivera are likely cy young award candidates, it was the consistent pitching of 37 year-old veteran lefty andy pettite players lauded in their world series journey. in fact, pettite clinched the winning game in all of the playoff series; first against the minnesota twins, who the yankees defeated three games to none, secondly against the feisty los angeles angels, who the yankees defeated in six games & finally against the phillies. pettite was 2-0 in the world series, winning game three & six.

phillies all-star second baseman chase utley tied yankee legend reggie jackson's major-league record by hitting five homers. phillies all-star first baseman ryan howard set a dubious world series record with 13 strikeouts. veteran pitcher pedro martinez, acquired from the mets during the regular season, lost both games he started. phillies lefty cliff lee, former cleveland indians teammate of sabbathia & last year's american league cy young winner was victorious in game one & five.

the yankees held a parade in downtown manhatan friday. the day b4 several of their players attended an espn televised game in madison square garden to watch the cleveland cavaliers play the new york knicks. knicks fans applauded their newly crowned champions but lost the game anyway. the yankees got a prime return on their investments. some folks say they paid for their title. baseball is a business. maybe next year i'll be able to afford a ticket to see them play. in the meantime, it feels good to be associated with a winner...

Thursday, November 05, 2009

Bloomberg Narrowly Wins NYC Mayoral Race

michael bloomberg won a third consecutive term as mayor of new york city, defeating former city comptroller william thompson by less than 55,000 votes. bloomberg won 51% of the vote, compared to thompson, who received 46% of the surprising highly contested, albeit racially polarized vote. in total, the expected low turnout was comprised of about 1.1 million folks on a brisk tuesday.

bloomberg was victorious in three of the five boroughs, manhattan, queens & staten island. his opponent won 73% of the african-american vote. it was estimated bloomberg spent $180 per voter. thompson accused bloomberg of running the most negative campaign in the history of new york city's mayoral election. among other things, bloomberg accused thompson of gambling with the city's money as comptroller - taking contributions unethically. his campaign theme was progress, not politics as usual.

thompson faulted bloomberg for usurping his power over the city council to change the term limits from two terms, as citizens voted, to three terms. winning the boroughs of brooklyn & the bronx, thompson sought to discredit bloomberg's character & paint him as a man with a lot of money but little common sense. the bespectacled african-american also tried to align himself with president obama as a man of change, yet the incumbency proved too much for him to overcome.

there was hardly any excitement about a mayoral race in the city that never sleeps. bloomberg & thompson debated twice, yet the indifference among jaded new yorkers was evident at the polls. moreover, the myriad of complex issues facing working class folk - escalating rents, faulty school system, high unemployment, incompetent transportation boards, poor economy, rising taxes, i.e. - was not enuf to generate interest in our political future. is it true when they say money talks & bullshit walks?

Saturday, October 31, 2009

President Obama Signs Historic Hate-Crimes Bill Into Federal Law

president barack obama signed a law making it a federal crime to assault an individual because of his or her gender identity or sexual orientation. hailed by supporters as the first major federal gay rights legislation, the expanded federal hate-crimes law was added to a $680 billion defense authorization bill signed by obama at a packed white house ceremony.

the matthew shepard and james byrd, jr. hate crimes prevention act was named for matthew shepard, a gay wyoming teenager who died after being kidnapped and severely beaten in october 1998, and james byrd, jr., an african-american man dragged to death by a group of young white males in texas the same year. the appropriations bill signing was attended by shepard's mother, judy, as well as vice president joe biden, attorney general eric holder, defense secretary robert gates and other leading members of congress.

obama cited the work of the late massachusetts senator edward kennedy and others "to make this day possible." to loud applause, obama hailed the hate crimes measure in the bill as a step toward change to "help protect our citizens from violence based on what they look like, who they love and how they pray." later that day, wednesday october 28, obama stood with shepard's parents and relatives of byrd, jr. at a separate white house event honoring passage of the expanded hate-crimes law.

noting reports of 12,000 crimes in the last decade based on sexual orientation, obama called the historic bill another step in the continuing struggle for human rights. obama said, "because of the efforts of the folks in this room, particularly those family members standing behind me, the bell rings even louder now." upon finishing his remarks he hugged the weeping relatives as the audience applauded.

several religious groups are concerned a hate crimes bill could be used to criminalize conservative speech relating to subjects like abortion or homosexuality. however, holder said any federal hate-crimes law would be used only to prosecute violent acts based on bias, not to prosecute speech based on controversial racial or religious beliefs. former president george w. bush threatened to veto a similar measure but obama brought a reversal of that policy to the white house.

when the bill won final congressional approval last week, human rights campaign (hrc) president joe solmonese called the hate-crimes measure "our nation's first major piece of civil rights legislation for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people." earlier this month, obama told the hrc - the nation's largest gay rights group - our nation still needs to make significant changes to ensure equal rights for gays and lesbians. while addressing the group at their annual dinner, obama said, "despite the progress we've made, there are still laws to change and hearts to open...this fight continues now and i'm here with you in that fight."

among other related initiatives, obama has called for the repeal of the 'don't ask, don't tell' ban on gays serving openly in the military, a policy hotly debated by both obama and biden during the 2008 presidential campaign. obama has also urged congress to repeal the defense of marriage act and pass the domestic partners benefit and obligations act. the defense of marriage act defines marriage, for federal purposes, as a legal union between a man and a woman. the act allows states to refuse to recognize same-sex marriages. the domestic partners benefit and obligations act would extend family benefits now available to heterosexual federal employees to gay and lesbian workers.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Harlem's Mart 125: The American Dream

a couple of weeks ago i attended an interesting film & culture series at medgar evers college in brooklyn. the ongoing series is free & offers filmmakers from the african diaspora the opportunity to share their work in a culturally affirming environment. b4 the film an open mic is available for poets & spoken word artists. after the film a panel discussion is held to explore various concerns & issues impacting our community, as well as to engage the audience in dialogue. in the spirit of activating social change, we exchange ideas, raise awareness & speak truth to power.

the film, harlem's mart 125: the american dream, was brilliantly directed by rachelle salnave gardner, a native new yorker who moved to atlanta. this documentary film is about the history of mart 125 & how it correlates to the 'revitalization' of 125th street - harlem's main commercial sector. right from the opening moment, the film gives viewers a historical journey depicting the economic transition of 125th street from the late 60's (rev dr king/malcolm x era) to our current post-obama reality.

mart 125, a now-defunct space across the street from the apollo theatre utilized by business owners of african descent, is used as a metaphor to examine the plague of perplexities surrounding this unique black community & its relationship with the plans of urban renewal from a commercial standpoint. the film offers a microcosmic analysis of the displacement (read: genocide, or its politically correct term, gentrification) of black american communities today.

the film is dispersed with candid interviews from activists, entrepreneurs, politicians, residents & stakeholders whose conflicting views about how harlem changed right b4 their eyes illuminates the complexity of issues surrounding a community in peril. one of the statistics which resonated with me was how rent skyrocketed in a decade. in 1997 a one-bedroom apartment was available for $650/month. in 2007 that same apartment was $1500/month. the question on many folks' mind: who benefits?

i was inspired by the ensuing panel discussion. expertly facilitated by the series' mc, miles mcafee, the spirited audience was treated to food from the soul. in addition to the beautiful filmmaker, the panelists were kanya vashon mcgee, founder of the tree of life bookstore in harlem (circa 1969), kevin powell, activist, author (recently defeated in a brooklyn community district primary), fred saunders, real estate developer & pierre thiam, owner of the dakar restaurant in brooklyn.

miles immediately pointed out another sistah - in the spirit of gender equity - was invited yet could not attend. he also shared all of the panelists were personal friends, in other words, be kind to my peeps. after opening remarks, panelists shared their perspectives on the film & the many underlying issues disturbing our community: apathy, hiv/aids, mental illness, prison industrial complex, racism, substance use, unemployment, violence, etc. the audience was encouraged to ask questions in what miles termed "the liberation zone." he also suggested we network afterwards, as well as return for their upcoming film on october 15.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

U.S. President Barack Obama Wins 2009 Nobel Peace Prize

us president barack hussein obama was awarded the 2009 nobel peace prize. the nobel committee said he won it for "his extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy & cooperation between peoples." his efforts to support international bodies & promote nuclear disarmament highlighted the committee's choice, deemed controversial by some, considering his inauguration was less than two weeks before the february 1 nomination deadline.

early friday morning the president was awakened by his youngest daughter malia who exclaimed, "daddy you won & its bo's birthday." his other daughter sasha was quick to remind him, "we have a three day weekend coming up." upon addressing the white house he said "its good to have kids to put things in perspective." obama said he didn't feel he "deserved to be in the company of such transformative figures" who'd previously won the prestigious award. among the record 205 nominations were zimbabwean prime minister morgan tsvangirai & chinese dissident hu jia.

the nobel laureate is chosen by a five-member committee. five norwegians are chosen by norway's parliament to sit on the nobel committee. those qualified to nominate candidates include academics, international judiciary, members of national governments & previous prize winners. the committee compiles a shortlist of between five & 20 candidates. details of the nominations & selection process are kept secret for 50 years, augmenting the awards' mystique.

reactions to the committee's decision were swift & varied. mark mardell, bbc north america editor said, "there was already a huge weight of responsibility on obama's shoulders & this medal hung round his neck has just made it a little heavier." mohammed elbaradei, the head of the un's nuclear watchdog, the iaea, stated, "in less than a year in office, he has transformed the way we look at ourselves & the world we live in & rekindled hope for a world at peace with itself." taliban spokesman zabihuilah mujahid told the reuters news agency "obama should have won the nobel prize for escalating violence & killing civilians." republican national committee chair michael steele said, "the question americans must ask is what has obama really accomplished?"

in a prepared statement, the norwegian committee said, "only very rarely has a person to the same extent as obama captured the world's attention & given its people hope for a better future...his diplomacy is founded in the concept that those who are to lead the world must do so on the basis of values & attitudes that are shared by the majority of the world's population." asked why the prize was awarded to obama less than a year after he took office, nobel committee head thorbjoern jagland said, "it was because we would like to support what he is trying to achieve...it is a clear signal that we want to advocate the same as he has done."

archbishop desmond tutu of south africa, a former winner, said, "it is an award that speaks to the promise of president obama's message of hope." french president nicolas sarkozy said the award confirmed "america's return to the hearts of the people of the world." furthermore, the statement of the nobel committee said, "mr obama had created a new climate in international politics...multilateral diplomacy has regained a central position, with emphasis on the role that the united nations & other international institutions can play." the committee added the us was now playing a more constructive role in meeting "the great climatic challenges" facing the world & that democracy & human rights would be strengthened.

obama is the first american president to win the prize since former us president jimmy carter in 2002. former vice president al gore shared the prize in 2007. among earlier leaders, theodore roosevelt won the prize in 1906 & woodrow wilson won in 1919. first awarded in 1901, the nobel prize was invented by the swedish industrialist & inventor of dynamite alfred nobel. obama's new found gifts include a diploma, gold medal & $1.4 million, which he's donating to charity. the prize-giving ceremony for the peace award is scheduled to take place on december 10 in oslo, the norwegian capitol.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Family Reunion Looms On The Horizon

my mother, youngest sistah & i've been talking about having a family reunion lately. nearly half a century on the planet & i've yet to participate in a family reunion. back in tha day the o'jays recorded a wonderfully heartfelt song about family reunions but i thought they were singing about somebody else's family. not my family. my family has a long-standing reputation of always showing up late to family functions. the one's we plan!

after speaking to a few folks who've experienced family reunions of their own, the consensus is it takes at least a year to plan such an event. are folks genuinely interested? will they show up or cancel on cp time? where should we gather? what will we do? how much will this cost? does anyone know oprah? well, seems everyone knows oprah but the most practical way to get to her is thru her best friend. gayle king. but i digress.

after we gauge folks' interest it was suggested to establish a planning committee. can't imagine how that would work considering we plan poorly in this family: plan b means fuck it cuz i ain't going. although i must admit the women in our family have always held it down, especially when it comes to nurturing the kids. ah, yes. bebe's kids. there are so many now. can't remember every one's names. of course, with all these hip hop inspired, post-9/11, weird ass spellings...what happened to simple names like john, paul, george & ringo?

i was watching an episode of america's next top model & one of the participants was a fly young sistah from the west coast; california, i believe. her name was spontaneus. 4 real. i gagged. what was her momma thinking? or drinking? why do black folk do shit like that? ok, i prolly spelled her name wrong - she changed a letter here & there. u know how we do. tryna be creative. & shit. something different. oh, how we lie to ourselves. but that was her name. a model named spontaneus. right. she lost early. not bcuz of her name. but it wasn't a plus. trust me.

the idea of a family reunion intrigues me for so many reasons. most of our tribe lives in chicago, yet we got folks scattered in florida, indiana, missouri, new york & texas. our world has become more & more isolated as we speak, or tweet. nobody talks to each other. krs-one once rapped about the difference between civilization & technology. growing up we talked about the cosby show or the weather, but not about how we felt. do i expect a reunion to change family dynamics? no. but we can have fun in the spirit of unity. also, we can model the young folk a template for love.

from what i understand, family reunions are unique opportunities to learn about ancestral legacies. we learn to practice patience as we wait for the elders to take out their teeth before they talk. we learn to practice more patience as we wait for the elders to remember their train of thought. we learn to practice more patience as we wait for the elders to wake up when they fall asleep. we learn to practice even more patience as the elders go on & on & on about stuff nobody understands. yo, i don't care what nobody says: u can't make a long story short. why? bcuz it's a long story...

granted, some folks would rather text than talk. some folks prefer e-mail to real mail. i'm cool with it all yet i believe a family reunion could impact us in ways none of us might imagine. after all, it'd be a first. a new experience. we'd be together bcuz we really wanted to, not bcuz we feel we have to, like when someone dies, for example. we can start a valuable tradition for generations to come. many of us come home from work & bury ourselves into the computer, tv or latest video game. others don't connect. at all. i miss being around my peeps more & more as i get older. so, i hope we do it sooner than lata.

besides, like antwone fisher, i can eat.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Juan Martin Del Potro and Kim Clisters Win 2009 US Open Singles Titles

20 year-old juan martin del potro of argentina stunned world #1 roger federer of switzerland 3-6, 7-6, 4-6, 7-6, 6-2 to win his first grand slam singles title at the us open in flushing meadow last monday. the thrilling match lasted well over four hours, starting in the early afternoon and climaxing at nite with one of del potro's many powerful forehand winners. del potro became the second south american (guillermo vilas '77) to claim the heralded crown. surprisingly, for a non-american, he admitted, "this was my dream, my favorite tournament, i've always wanted to win here and i can't believe this moment."

del potro crushed world #2 rafael nadal of spain in the semi-finals 6-2, 6-2, 6-2 in less than two hours. his booming serve and flat, hard ground strokes were too much for nadal, who, despite a sore abdominal strain, played better as the tournament progressed. del potro is now the only man to beat both federer and nadal in a grand slam tournament. del potro was in tears after he shook hands with federer, who set the record of 15 grand slam men's singles titles upon beating american andy roddick in a five-set epic at wimbledon this summer.

clearly the hands-down favorite - he'd never lost to del potro - federer was primed for a record-tying sixth us open crown. the elegant swiss was up a set and a break at 5-4 in the second set before del potro broke his serve with an incredible running down-the-line forehand winner. in the third set del potro double faulted on set point yet showed maturity and poise beyond his years to come from two sets to one down for his unforgettable triumph. federer was 50 percent on his first serves and converted only five of 22 break points, conceding in the post-match press conference, "i had my chances...he played well...its not the end of the world."

kim clisters of belgium handily defeated surprising first time finalist 19 year-old caroline wozniacki of denmark 7-5, 6-3 to win her second us open singles title. clisters won in 2005 and abruptly retired to get married and have a baby. she returned to the tour this summer and played well in three tournaments. clisters became the first mother since evonne goolagong in 1980 to win at flushing meadow. after delivering a forehand winner at the net on match point she dropped to her knees and cried tears of joy.

clisters admitted after the match, "this wasn't our plan...i just wanted to play some matches and get used to the environment again." her 18-month old daughter jada joined her on court later to the delight of the record-setting crowd. the beaming clisters, popular and well-liked by all, was gracious in congratulating the young dane for her impressive run to the finals. the ninth-seeded wozniacki, who showed a steady calm in each of her matches, survived the onslaught of upsets as 16 of the top 32 seeds lost in the first two rounds.

the unseeded clisters was given a wild card this year and used it wisely. she didn't lose a set the entire tournament, playing hard each match with nothing to lose. clisters defeated venus williams in the fourth round & her sistah serena williams in a controversial semi-final match. williams was fined $10,000 (as well as $500 fine for racket abuse) by the usta for shouting verbal obscenities at a lines woman who called a foot fault on williams as she served 5-6, 15-40 in the second set. though contrite during her post-match press conference, the following day williams issued an amended apology to the lines woman, the usta, clisters and her fans for her, "inappropriate outburst."

Thursday, September 10, 2009

White House Environmental Adviser Van Jones Resigns

last week white house environmental adviser van jones resigned from his gig as obama's green jobs czar. some republican leaders actively sought his demise amid revelations (some deem controversial) from his past activism, all of which caught white house officials off guard. jones joined the administration in march as special adviser to the council on environmental quality. as he did not report directly to obama, he did not require senate conformation and avoided the kind of vetting cabinet officials are generally accustomed to.

after jones stepped down from a progressive post many were excited about he said, "on the eve of historic fights for health care and clean energy, opponents of reform have mounted a vicious smear campaign against me. they are using lies and distortions to distract and divide." jones continued, "i have been inundated with calls from across the political spectrum urging me to stay and fight, but i came here to fight for others, not for myself. i cannot in good conscience ask my colleagues to expend precious time and energy defending or explaining my past. we need all hands on deck fighting for the future."

in recent days jones had issued a couple of public apologies, one, for signing a petition in 2004 from the group 911 truth.org. the embattled group questioned whether bush administration officials "may indeed have deliberately allowed 9/11 to happen, perhaps as a pretext for war." the other apology he offered was for using a crude term to describe republicans in a speech he gave before joining the obama administration. of course, some will question the sincerity and timing of his apologies, but i digress.

another source of contention was jones' brief involvement with the bay area group, standing together to organize a revolutionary movement (storm), a group which was allegedly influenced by marxism. additionally, jones admitted he's a staunch advocate and supporter of political prisoner mumia abu-jamal, the brilliant and profilic brotha institutionalized on death row (falsely) convicted of killing a philadelphia cop in 1981.

fox news channel host glenn beck, who recently warranted national attention for calling obama a racist, led the charges against jones after a group jones founded in 2005, colorofchange.org, organized a successful advertising boycott for beck's show specifically due to his callous attack on the president. rep. mike pence (r-ind.) ushered the call for jones' resignation stating, "his extremist views and coarse rhetoric have no place in this administration or this debate."

senator christopher s. bond (r-mo.) urged congress to examine jones' "fitness" for the position. in an open letter, bond wrote, "can the american people trust a senior white house official that is so cavalier in his association with such radical and repugnant sentiments?" echoing bond's concerns was senator john cornyn (r-tex.), chairman of the national republican senatorial committee. cornyn wrote on his twitter account, "van jones has got to go."

on fox news sunday, senator lamar alexander (r-tenn.) and former house speaker newt gingrich declined to criticize jones directly but alexander questioned why the obama administration appointed so many czars. "i don't think he's the issue...i think the czars are the issue," alexander said. former vermont governor howard dean, who (also) signed the 9/11 truth.org petition - admittedly by mistake - said of jones' resignation, "i think he was brought down...it's too bad...it's a loss for the country."

white house adviser david axelrod appeared on nbc's 'meet the press' sunday and mentioned he had not spoken with obama about jones' decision. axelrod said, "the political environment is rough, and so these things get magnified...but the bottom line is that he showed his commitment to the cause of creating green jobs in this country by removing himself as an issue and i think that took a great deal of commitment on his part."

jones' meteoric rise to national prominence in the environmental movement is a unique commentary for a strong black man in a conservative multicultural society. he was a civil-rights activist in california before shifting his focus to energy and environmental issues exclusively. jones was respected for articulating, organizing and strategizing a broad visionary plan for green jobs in a manner ordinary folk could embrace and feel inspired by pre-obama. he undoubtedly benefited from a yes we can america. yet less than six months on the job many republicans are saying, no you can't.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Michael Vick Signs Two-Year Deal With Philly

former atlanta falcons star quarterback michael vick just signed a two-year deal with the philadelphia eagles. the first year is reportedly worth $1.6 million & the second year with an option for $5.2 million. why is this breaking news? the unemployed & supposedly, now, bankrupt vick was released from prison on may 20 after serving just 18 months for his implicit role in an ugly yet profitable dog-fighting ring which made him the default poster child for animal rights lovers around the world who despise anyone who knowingly harms innocent pets. the folks at peta must be pissed.

nfl commissioner roger goddell's decision to both reinstate vick & extend him the ability to earn a living also raises concerns about the real values (read: ratings bonanza/revenue bonus) of the nfl. vick's swift return to football glory is unusual, in that goddell typically suspends athletes at least a year for off-the-field activities unbecoming to the league's tarnished image.

cleveland browns wide receiver donte stallworth pleaded guilty to a dui manslaughter in june yet served only 24 days in jail after he killed a man attempting to cross the street. goddell suspended the talented flanker for the entire 2009 season for violating the league's substance abuse policy & intends to reinstate him after the super bowl. stallworth recently signed a lucrative seven-year deal.

what, if any, role does vick's african ancestry play in folks' perception of his microscopic media assessment? black male athletes in america are demonized for egregious, immoral and/or unethical transgressions - muhammad ali, ron artest, barry bonds, kobe bryant, plaxico burress, wilt chamberlain, michael irvin, magic johnson, adam (pacman) jones, michael jordan, dennis rodman, deon sanders, o.j. simpson, latrell sprewell & mike tyson immediately come to mind.

b4 we paint a broad brush of racial profiling here, keep in mind the man was found guilty in court of a crime. that's why he went to prison! still, this country spends more money for folks to be behind bars than to be behind books; california doles out $49k per prisoner but you don't hear attorney general eric holder speaking out on this disparity do you? some folks believe vick got off easy like sunday morning & now he's back on the field possibly contending for the playoffs. hmmmm...

is it possible to discern vick has learned life lessons after doing time? are we to expect he, though admittedly remorseful, would've stopped what he was doing had he not been caught? how long does it take to heal an open wound? vick is scheduled to appear on 60 minutes this sunday nite. an oprah visit is sure to follow. maybe he'll lead public awareness campaigns on the evils of dog fighting at some point, which is kool until you wonder if he can make a difference in the lives of average folks, or, our youth.

years prior to all this sad stuff going down the seemingly modest vick was another handsome, successful & young brotha led to believe he was invincible in a supremacist society ripe with cultural contradictions. white male athletes neva (!) have to answer to the white, male community when their private lives are fucked up in public. real talk.

pete rose got a lifetime ban upon finally confessing (after lying repeatedly) he bet regularly on baseball games. brett favre once said he was addicted to pain medication. chris andersen violated the nba's substance abuse policy more than once. fuzzy zoeller casually joked tiger woods would celebrate one of his pga tour wins by eating some fried chicken. john mcenroe was unabashedly contemptous of tennis officials during his matches. i contend white, male skin privilege transcends the thrill of victory & the agony of defeat.

eagles all-pro starting qb donovan mcnabb told reporters he adamantly lobbied for the team to sign the embattled vick. mcnabb's love/hate relationship with philly fans & their media is no secret, but he echoes the sentiments of his coach mike reid: he feels "everyone deserves a second chance...he's spoken truth to the nation...who better to join a team who's gone through tough times...i'm looking forward to it." hall of fame qb & espn analyst steve young suggested philly might use mcnabb & vick together in certain situations. boos or cheers await them both.

vick will undoubtedly experience unwarranted attention both on & off the football field. his every move will be analyzed, blogged & commented on for months to come. he is, indeed, a marked man. while his new found mentorship with the retired (super bowl winning coach of the indianapolis colts) tony dungy is respectfully heralded publicly as an act of humility, hopefully he'll seek counseling of some sort. prison time is serious biz.

yeah, i'm a bit cynical of the need to publicly redeem one's self tho i believe vick deserves the opportunity to resolve his internal conflicts & live life abundantly. nonetheless, i wonder how the dog-fighting folks he once hung out with feel about their source of income? cruel & inhumane treatment of animals surely must haunt one's soul. but if you are a marketable black athlete with a skilled lawyer america will help you forget your pain.

are you ready for some football?

Sunday, August 09, 2009

Sonia Sotomayor Makes History As New Supreme Court Justice

with historic distinction sonia sotomayor was sworn in saturday august 8 as the us supreme court's first latina justice, third female & third person (thurgood marshall, clarence thomas) of african ancestry in the top court's 220-year history. sotomayor is president barack obama's first appointment to the prestigious court, which has shaped many polarizing issues like abortion, school desegregation & the death penalty. as a successor to the now, retired, justice david souter, sotomayor is not expected to alter the nine-member court's ideological balance.

sotomayor initially swore an oath at a private ceremony in the room where the justices hold their private conferences. minutes later she took a second oath from chief justice john roberts in an ornate conference room, beneath a portrait of the heralded chief justice john marshall. as her left hand rested on a bible held by her beloved mother, celina, sotomayor pledged to "do equal right to the poor & to the rich." sotomayor rocked a cream-colored suit & her right ankle, fractured in a fall a couple of weeks after her (somewhat contentious) nomination, was unbandaged. her 60 or so guests included justice anthony kennedy, white house counsel greg craig & other members of the obama administration who helped prepare her for the senate confirmation hearings, as well as assorted family members & friends.

roberts said that once the oaths were administered sotomayor could "begin work as associate justice without delay." obama nominated her for the lifetime appointment in may & the senate confirmed her on thursday. the 55 year-old native new yorker has been lauded by some with the most impeccable credentials in 100 years, having been a federal judge for 17 years. she is the daughter of proud puerto rican parents raised in a south bronx housing project who was educated at princeton & yale b4 experiencing success in the legal profession. sotomayor will join justice ruth bader ginsburg as the only other woman currently serving on the court.

obama, noticeably absent from the ceremony, scheduled a white house reception for sotomayor on wednesday. the new justice can now begin working, although the supreme court won't hear arguments until september 9, in a key campaign finance case. the entire court will convene a day earlier, however, for a formal ceremony to welcome sotomayor. she will learn some of the court's quirky customs, for example, as a newcomer, she must take notes & answer the door when the justices have private meetings, including one in late september at which they dispose of a couple thousand appeals.

meir feder, a former clerk to sotomayor's predecessor, souter, says the first case in september could get her thinking about the biggest change anyone faces in becoming a justice, the far-reaching impact of some supreme court decisions. feder, who is now a partner at the jones day firm in new york, said, "there are few easy questions that come the court's way...you're not applying settled law because if it's settled, it shouldn't get there in the first place." sotomayor symbolizes cultural pride & gender solidarity everywhere; in fact, several women in an east harlem restaurant watched her ceremony on television together while sporting t-shirts emblazoned with the words, wise latina.

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Faison Firehouse Theater Presents James Baldwin's Harlem: Remembering Jimmy On His 85th Birthday

sunday august 2 james arthur baldwin celebrated his 85th spiritual earth day. earth day is a term i learned from (one of my mentors) nana imhotep gary byrd. he calls birthdays earth days bcuz all of god's kids are born once on different days yet on the same planet. anyhoo. the faison firehouse theater in harlem offered a riveting tribute to the man who inspired me, as he did so many others around the universe, to write. sitting in the theater for my first time on this historical occasion i felt in awe, deeply humbled & very excited to be in the presence of such greatness.

in the house was tony award winning choreographer & host george faison, the legendary activist/playwright/poet amiri baraka, author/poet/professor sonia sanchez, author quincy troupe, historian/writer herb boyd, vogue magazine's editor-at-large andre leon talley, howard university english department chairwoman eleanor traylor, musician/singer genovis albright, along with baldwin's sister-in-law helen baldwin, nephew trevor baldwin, as well as one of his proteges, alexa birdsong.

the ominous stage was adrift with african masks, kente cloth & other loving remnants of the motherland. you could feel the spirit of james baldwin in the room. i know i did. faison encouraged folks to get drinks (like jimmy) b4 the show started. baldwin was known for his all nite cocktail parties in the south of france where miles davis, bobby short, simone signoret or nina simone would stop through. i stopped drinking over 14 years ago & chuckled with the memory of a perfect excuse to have just one drink.

each special guest offered a wondrous tribute to baldwin - devoted activist, gifted writer, incredible humanitarian, the oldest of nine kids, a man baraka referred to during his eulogy at st john's cathedral of the divine as "god's revolutionary black mouth." interspersed between guests were snippets of the poignant documentary, the price of the ticket. the theater was completely packed as late arriving folks stood proudly in the back to witness a celebration of a harlem literary genius. what a blessing!

Thursday, July 09, 2009

Roger Federer and Serena Williams Win 2009 Wimbledon Singles Titles

roger federer of switzerland defeated american andy roddick in a thrilling duel lasting over four hours, 5-7, 7-6, 7-6, 3-6, 16-14 to win his sixth wimbledon men's singles title. this was the seventh consecutive year federer reached the men's final. more importantly, the historic victory was his 15th grand slam singles title, surpassing the record formerly held by the hall-of-fame american pete sampras' 14. the stylish swiss also regains the #1 spot on the men's tour, moving past his younger & currently injured rival rafael nadal of spain.

the unlikely final pair set tournament records for most total games in a championship match, 77, as well as most games in the fifth set, 30. ironically it took the last game of the match for federer to finally be able to break roddick's serve, clocked as high as 143 mph. federer finished the day with a personal best 50 aces & 107 winners. on the last point when roddick's forehand reply went awry ino the sky, the normally placid federer leaped triumphantly in the air, knowing he'd made history witnessed by several former champions who were present - bjorn borg, rod laver, ilie nastase, pete sampras & manuel santana.

no one expected roddick to reach the final, as all the british hopes were square on the muscular shoulders of 22 year-old upstart andy murray, who, i must note, tho english fans don't seem to care, is a scotland native. everyone, except roddick, that is, wanted a murray-federer final. murray has a 6-2 record against the brilliant shot maker & was confident of his chances if they were to meet again. while federer defeated murray in the '08 us open final some folks say the supremely talented scot will be the next #1 player. however, in a wonderful display of all-court controlled aggression, roddick defeated murray in four hard-fought sets.

serena williams defeated older sistah venus williams 7-6, 6-3 to win her third wimbledon women's singles crown. all three wins have come against her hard-hitting sistah, who has five all-england trophies of her own. the well-played victory now gives serena 11 grand slam singles titles, trailing only chris evert (18), martina navratilova (18) & steffi graf (22), all of whom are in the hall-of-fame. venus, with her two us open wins, has amassed seven grand slam titles.

these two amazing african-american women were born & raised in compton, california. they are both humble humanitarians whose athleticism, determination & power on the court belie their class, dignity & selflessness off the court. usually they both struggle in the first week of a grand slam tournament to find their form, yet neither sistah dropped a set on their way to what most folks expected - their fourth wimbledon final against each other. also, this was the 21st time they've played together professionally, with serena now holding an 11-10 edge.

after the closely contested first-set tiebreak, serena settled down & venus started to make a few more unforced errors, particularly from her vulnerable forehand wing. interestingly enuf, the polite english crowd never shows favoritism when these two champions square off, tho it was clear when venus broke serena's serve in the eighth game of the second set they wanted to see more tennis. displaying maturity, poise & steadfastness, serena held serve to hoist the coveted trophy, which she last held in 2003. the williams sistahs also took home the doubles title, defeating australians samantha stosur & rennae stubbs in straight sets.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Michael Jackson: Gone Too Soon At Age 50

about 6:30 pm thursday evening i received a text from my youngest sistah, tracey, in chicago, asking me if i heard about michael jackson having suffered a heart attack. b4 i was able to rsvp, less than 60 seconds lata, a friend in nyc texted me stating michael jackson was dead. how did i feel? shocked, stunned, in disbelief. immediately i called my friend, nate, to see if he was aware & to confirm what was, in my mind, a possible rumor bcuz with michael you just neva know. to my chagrin, it was true.

despite the efforts of his personal physician in his california home michael jackson's heart stopped beating around 2:30 pm. as i sit here listening to his media-maligned, yet melodic invincible cd, i'm thinking about my own mortality. born in the same (august) month, the king of pop was two years older than me. he also shares the same birthdate (8/29) as my aunt dianne in gary, indiana. for someone whose life was clouded in complexity, genius, isolation, mystery & woundedness, the brilliant legacy of michael joe jackson will continue long after my heart stops beating.

harlem's apollo theater has been swarmed by local/national media outlets since thursday. there was a multi-cultural mix of folks buying michael buttons, caps, posters & t-shirts, chatting, dancing, singing & trying to somehow make sense of his premature death. the commercialization of michael engulfed several blocks on 125th street. amazing how we profit from one's pain & rationalize it bcuz everyone else seems to do it! nothing is sacred anymore. the coroner had yet to release a report & black folks were selling shit with a quickness - just like when obama became prez.

did i buy something? damn skippy...

i feel for his kids. children who grow up without a father's direction, guidance & love experience an emptiness you cannot underestimate. his three kids' privacy was heavily guarded & they are, no doubt, cared for, yet their sudden loss makes my heart ache. much will be written about michael's transition in the weeks to come, but i affirm he was a compassionate humanitarian. his unconditional & universal love for children is well-known, despite the long held allegations of his sexual abuse of children, none of which i eva believed for one moment.

jackson's larger than life persona has fueled intense media scrutiny, internet chat room gossip & international tabloid rumors. whether the subject was his neverland ranch, peter pan muse, relationships with mccauley caulkin, gary coleman & ryan white, everyday folks (this writer included) always seemed to have a strong (!) opinion about his various idiosyncracies. what part did michael play in all this drama? he claimed innocence from the onset, asserting kids would neva hurt him as adults do, but, still, he was a grown ass man.

we adored him as a child. his infectious smile warmed the hearts of millions. he danced liked james brown, sang like frankie lymon & talked like, well, a happy little colored boy. omg. did i say colored? anyhoo, how many of us were glued to the idiot box when the j5 saturday morning cartoons came on? his solo work with legendary producer quincy jones changed the cultural landscape of music videos as we know it today - billie jean was the first video by an african-american artist to appear on mtv. but don't sleep, ralph mcdaniel's (hip hop infused, nyc based) video music box had mad love for mike b4 mtv, vh1 or bet.

michael's bright red leather jacket (from the beat it video), jheri curled hair, neon socks, penny loafer shoes, sequined glove & tuxedo pants shortened at the legs were unique fashion trademarks copied across the globe regardless of age, culture, gender, religion or sexual orientation. b4 his short-lived marriages to lisa marie presley & debbie rowe, he dated teen stars tatum o'neal & brooke shields. when did we last see him hooked up with a sistah? he wrote the song 'muscles,' for diana ross, giving rise to our morbid fascination with them as a potential (?) couple, but, at that point, his manhood was being questioned, too. did his androgynous look, introverted personality & squeaky voice confuse us?

no doubt, some folks have held michael was asexual, gay or phucked up...

author/meta-physician/professor deepak chopra was recently interviewed by cnn's anderson cooper about his 21 year friendship with michael. he characterized the gloved one as a caring, devoted & loving father who did not exhibit any type of inappropriate behavior in his presence. in fact, michael's kids spent considerable time playing with chopra's kids. chopra confirmed jackson's addiction to prescription drugs & admitted michael suffered from lupus, as well as a rare skin disease which some have long touted as anti-black bleaching cream. chopra vilified the plethora of celebrity hollywood doctors who feed the addiction of their patients, vowing to come forth with names at a lata date.

most media reports jackson's doctor gave him demerol. chopra said he also was given oxycontin & other narcotics to deal with his physical pain induced by lupus & the skin disease. toxicologists will offer their medical perspectives at some point. an autopsy can provide further insight into the exact nature of his untimely demise. of course, we may neva know the truth about how and/or why michael left the universe after half a century. his music can be heard in the streets, on the radio/tv & via the internet. he is, alas, gone too soon.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Roger Federer Wins French Open Singles Title In Historic Fashion

world #2 roger federer of switzerland defeated roger soderling of sweden, 6-1, 7-6, 6-4 to win his 1st french open singles crown. the historic win tied pete sampras for 14 grand slam singles titles, a record he hopes to break at this summer's wimbledon. despite losing the last three years in the french open final to world #1 rafael nadal of spain, federer persevered in perhaps his most difficult championship win. his most coveted trophy brought an onslaught of tears at match point, when soderling was unable to return his lethal forehand.

most pundits expected & predicted nadal would win a record fifth consecutive title. yet in the fourth round, the #23 seed soderling shocked the tennis world dominating nadal in four sets. hall of famer & tv analyst john mcenroe called soderling's win, "the greatest upset in the last 20 years of the game." in fact, this was soderling's first grand slam final yet he was thoroughly outplayed by federer, who entered the match with a 9-0 record against the much improved swede, who now ranks #12.

federer becomes the sixth man to capture all four grand slam singles titles. he joins andre agassi, don budge, roy emerson, rod laver & fred perry in the record books. also, federer has now played in 20 consecutive grand slam semifinals, a feat some are calling the joe dimaggio of tennis records. his durability, integrity & respect as an international athlete continues to marvel both the average fan & the top players on tour. soderling would later concede during the trophy ceremony, "he is the greatest tennis player of all time."

the first set lasted about 22 minutes as federer opened the match with a service break. federer served brilliantly throughout, not facing a break point until late in the second set. during the tension-filled tiebreaker federer aced soderling on four straight serves, drawing awes from the adoring crowd at philippe chartier stadium. soderling eventually picked up his game, hitting winners from both angles, yet he lacked the mobility to track down the assortment of drop shots adeptly utilized by federer.

federer's road to the final was not without struggle as he faced adversity time & time again. in the second round against unseeded jose acasuso of spain, federer was down 1-5 in the third set, the match tied at a set apiece, before he found his range & prevailed in four sets. in the third round against paul-henri mathieu of france, he lost the first set convincingly, yet he would play well enough to get a tough four set win in front of a partisan crowd, despite the fat his opponent was playing on home turf.

in the fourth round against 31 year-old veteran tommy haas of germany, federer lost the first two sets. as the match unfolded he found himself in an unenviable position, serving at 3-4, break point in the third set, before unleashing his trademark inside out forehand. federer won the thrilling match in five sets. in the semi-finals against world #5 juan martin del porto of argentina he was down two sets to one. the 20 year-old had never won a set off federer in their five previous contests yet he was dominating on serve & hitting winners from the back of the court with ease. federer slowly turned the tide & fought his way to the final where he felt the pressure of expecting to win because nadal was no longer in the draw.

winning the french open singles championship is a difficult task for any player. each year a number of european-born clay-court specialists upset top-ranked players with discipline, patience & steadfast games. the red clay at roland garros is unlike any other surface on the atp tour. when you add the inevitable rain, swirling winds & topspin forehands you have a dusty road few are able to climb successfully. federer had long been hailed the second best clay court player in the game. but on this historic occasion, the now married & soon-to-be father was, in the words of tina turner, simply the best.

Friday, June 05, 2009

14 Years Of Freedom!

on may 20 god blessed me with 14 years of freedom from active addiction. thru his grace & mercy i feel spiritually refreshed & glad to be alive. most days. some days i'd rather hide under a bridge. with cable tv. some buffalo wings & french fries. a sexy chocolate man by my side to caress my body, stimulate my mind & feed my spirit. u know the deal...

anyhoo. i'm grateful to be clean. no alcohol, no caffeine, no drugs, no nicotine, no pork, no white bread, no white eggs, no white flour, no white meat, no white milk, no white popcorn, no white salt, no white sugar, etc. yeah: u know the deal. god has helped me clean my temple. so amazed am i not to be using any mind or mood-altering substances. my life was a mess b4 he rescued me from insanity, depravity & death. the day i got clean is 1 of the most important days in my life. may 20, 1995 is/was the beginning of my spiritual journey.

regular prayer & meditation cultivated a serenity i never knew existed. friends with brothas & sistahs all over the globe has given me the diversity i lacked. learning how to live one day at a time was the perspective eluding me for decades. what a joy it is to be clean! do i feel happy, joyous & free every day? no. but i do feel a peace of mind in experiencing a deeper level of self-acceptance accompanied by an awareness & empathy 4 others. in fact, helping others is 1 of the highest aspirations of the hue-man heart. god continues to use me as an instrument of his will. as such, we play beautiful music together.

no longer am i under the illusion of being his conductor.

recovery has fueled my creative passions in ways i long felt hopeless about. some of the dreams, goals & aspirations from my childhood & young adult years have awakened my spirit. collaborating with other artists has given me the opportunity to learn from my ongoing mistakes. even when i feel alone, depressed, sad and/or uninspired, i can connect with someone - online or on the phone or via a text - who understands my dilemma. its a relief to accept my shortcomings as an integral part of my humanity. after all, if i'm not perfect why would i expect others to be?

everywhere i travel people respect me today. some of the drug dealers in my hood call me by my 1st name only. when i was a kid growing up on the south side of chicago folks called me faggot, punk & sissy so often i cringed walking down the street in public. the fear of public humiliation battered my spirit. emotional abuse & sexual abuse were constant companions. my manhood was attacked. i lived in a dark abyss of hatred, shame & terror. haunted by guilt & riddled with anxiety i secretly believed my life had no meaning, purpose or value. i'm wounded & i need to heal.

i can admit today i'm not frightened of the darkness but i'm afraid of the light. why? bcuz the truth will piss u off b4 it sets u free. sorting thru the confusion & contradiction of my life has been a painful process. i'm still learning to simply say, to myself, i hurt. my 97 year-old great- great grandmother used to tell me as a kid, "no one leaves this world unscathed." she also said, "let your conscience be your guide." her words of wisdom are with me with each breath i take. eugenia jefferson was my sojourner truth. she transitioned feb 16, 1976. her loving spirit shines a window thru my soul.

thank god i'm clean - just for today!

Thursday, May 07, 2009

NBA Playoffs 2009: I Love This Game!

as the sportsworld awaits with delicious anticipation the showdown between kobe & lebron in the nba finals, the first round of the nba playoffs ended with a bang. the most exciting series took place between the defending champion boston celtics & the chicago bulls. the celtics emerged victorious on their homecourt 109-99 in game seven, after enduring critical injuries, overtime losses & near defeat by the young, upstart bulls led by rookie of the year point guard derrick rose. despite his brilliant though sometimes erratic play, rose was overshadowed by boston guard rajan rondo who averaged a triple double for the entire series! rondo has quickly become the catalyst for a team playing without superstar, team leader & 2008 defensive player of the year kevin garnett on the floor.

garnett suffered a season-ending injury in a game against utah earlier this spring. no one thought the celtics could/would defend their title without him. ray allen's 51 points was not enuf to avert a triple-overtime game six loss at chicago. last year's finals mvp paul pierce was consistently
inconsistent. glen davis' much improved mid-range jumper has proved fruitful. center kendrick perkins had 16 points, 19 rebounds & seven blocks in the celtics' game five win. their bench - last year's strength - has been noticeably weak, despite the efforts of eddie house, tony allen, brian scallabrini & the new kids on the block, stephon marbury & mikey moore. forward leon powe was also on the bench with a season-ending injury.

the bulls stole game one in boston. rose tied kareem abdul-jabbar's 1970 nba record with 36 points in his rookie playoff debut, while also dishing out 11 assists. their first-time coach vinnie del negro says the kid will soon be a star. newly acquired forward john salmons scored a career high 38 points in the upset win. after losing the next two games, ben gordon was electric, scoring 42 points in the bulls' game four overtime thrilling victory in the windy city. the series set an nba playoff record with seven overtime periods, as both teams won two overtime games. five games were decided by three points or less. second-year player joakim noah played sensational defense, rebounding & & blocking shots. tyris thomas can only get better if he keeps his emotions in check. kirk hinrich & brad miller outplayed the celtics' bench throughout most of the series.

the cleveland cavaliers had the best record in the nba at 66-16 & are expected to reach the nba finals for the second time in three years. coach of the year mike brown employs team defense to the delight of sold-out crowds. the acquisition of all-star guard mo williams solidifies their solid backcourt with delonte west, beset by injuries for a considerable portion of the season. 2009 mvp lebron james averaged 32 points, 11 assists & seven rebounds in a dominating 4-0 sweep of the #8 seed detroit pistons, who played without all-star guard allen iverson, out for the season with back injuries. after six consecutive eastern conference finals appearances, culminating with their '04 title, the end of an era & the dawn of a new day is upon us. cleveland is real talk.

2009 defensive player of the year orlando magic center dwight howard led his team to a 4-2 series triumph over the athletic philadelphia 76ers. orlando thrashed philly by 25 points on the road in game six, despite howard being suspended for the game, after he elbowed 76ers center samuel dalembert in the magic's close game five win. the #4 seed atlanta hawks survived a seven-game series with the miami heat, who won just 15 games last year. dwayne wade finished third in mvp voting behind kobe & lebron, played like a superstar, yet his young supporting cast could not hold him down. none of the seven games were close, in fact there were very few lead changes at all.

over in the western conference the los angeles lakers faced an unlikely #8 seed in the utah jazz. i thought utah would fare better, given their playoff experience, home court strength & overall versatility. but the lakers prevailed 4-1 because los angeles' depth is unparalleled, they're the #1 scoring team in the league, kobe's the best 4th quarter finisher on the planet & coach phil jackson has nine championship rings, tied with boston's red auerbach for most in nba history. the #2 seed denver nuggets easily dispatched a disappointing new orleans team in five games. hornets' all-star guard chris paul finished the year first in assists & steals, a rare accomplishment in today's high-profile game, yet was clearly outplayed by nuggets point guard chauncey billups. all-star forward carmelo anthony will play in the second round for the first time in his young career. in fact, denver coach george karl denver believing they can beat anybody.

more will be revealed.

the dallas mavericks surprised pundits with how easily they dismantled the #3 seed san antionio spurs 4-1. dirk nowitzki, jason kidd, josh howard & jason terry were exceptional, as were their role players off the bench. all-star forward tim duncan was not 100% physically. guard manu ginobli's season-ending injuries lef them with a disadvantage. tony parker was spectacular & tried to carry the team but he was virtually a one-man show on a team who prides itself on unity, not heroism. the houston rockets showcased their superior defensive prowess in defeating the #4 seed portland trailblazers 4-2. despite the absence of all-star forward tracy mcgrady, the rockets kept portland's all-star guard brandon roy out of the paint for most of the series. yao ming, ron artest, shane battier & aaron brooks led a balanced attack for houston, their first series win in 10 years.

Thursday, April 09, 2009

North Carolina & UConn Win NCAA Titles

the north carolina tar heels gave head coach roy williams his second ncaa title by soundly defeating the spartans of michigan state 89-72. senior forward wayne ellington scored 19 points & was named the final four's most oustanding player. first team all-american junior guard ty lawson set an ncaa title record with eight steals, adding 21 points & six assists to his brilliant game. senior center tyler hansborough, another first team all-american, had 19 points & 11 rebounds to lead a balanced offensive attack against a team no one expected to be in the championship game.

the title game took place in detroit, 30 years after hall of fame guard magic johnson led michigan state to a 79-64 win over hall of famer larry bird's indiana state sycamores. johnson gave the team a pep talk before the game & was seen on tv several times in the stands trying to cheer on his alma mater. but from the opening tip off north carolina had too much efficiency, energy & experience, racing to a 21-7 lead. in fact, their 55 first half points set an ncaa record for most points in the first half. also their 21 point half time margin set a record for largest lead in a title game.

there were moments in the second half when michigan state, sparked by the shooting of forward goran suton, showed signs of a comeback. however, they never got closer than 13 points as the tar heels' depth, maturity & poise were unmatched. in a game billed as david versus goliath most experts expected north carolina to win. michigan state defeated two number one seeds, louisville & connecticut, to reach the finals, yet when all was said & done, another historic victory was had by north carolina.

39-0. perfection. the women's team at uconn went undefeated this year, topped off by a dominant 74-57 win against the university of louisville - like michigan state, another unexpected title contender. uconn senior forward tina charles was named the final four's most outstanding player, as her 23 points & 19 rebounds led the huskies to their sixth title in team history. coach gene auremima was emotional afterwards, happy to share their success with senior guard & first team all-american renee montgomery, who scored 19 points.

uconn sophomore forward & first team all-american maya moore scored 24 points & played solid defense against louisville's first team all-american forward angel mccoughtry. early in the first half montgomery set the tempo by running & gunning at will. with both her parents proudly watching from the stands the spunky spark plug put on a show, her killer crossover a pain in the ass for the cinderella team in black & red. comparisons with other championship teams are inevitable, yet this group of women showed determination, focus & heart all year round. blowouts are usually boring but you couldn't help feel the joy watching them play.

Friday, February 20, 2009

New York Post Cartoonist Depicts President Obama As Dead Chimpanzee Shot By White Male Cops

the new york post ran a cartoon depicting the author of the stimulus bill as a dead chimpanzee, shot & killed in cold blood by two befuddled looking white male cops. the caption comes from the cop standing behind the cop with the smoking gun in his hand and reads: "they'll have to find someone else to write the next stimulus bill." this racist cartoon, drawn by sean delonas, was strategically run on wednesday february 18, the day after president barack hussein obama signed into law the $800+ billion bill, his first major piece of legislation.

i contend ownership breeds oppression. new york post owner rupert murdoch, whom also owns the fox news channel, has historically attacked the beauty, dignity & hue-manity of black folk in one genre or anotha. to expect anything different from him or his employees would be insane. malcolm x once said, "if you're black & in america & don't know you're crazy, then you're really crazy." still, the timing of this cartoon is eerily similar to cnn producing black male comedian (instead of a black male activist, historian, journalist or professor) dl hugley's show, "dl hughley: breaking the news," a few short weeks b4 the election. any wonder why folks say the more things change the more they stay the same?

perhaps delonas did not intend to be controversial. nonetheless his cartoon has created a media frenzy. i peeped the news & witnessed various perspectives from cnn's anderson cooper, david gergen & roland martin, msnbc's keith olberman & the women on abc's daytime talkfest the view. i tuned on the radio (wbai-fm) & heard from bklyn councilman charles barron, whom, along with councilmembers eric adams & letitia james, as well as rev al sharpton, has organized a series of rallies in front of the post's mid-town nyc headquarters, in addition to otha pro-active initiatives. finally, i went online & got instructions from colorofchange.org & yourblackworld.com, two progressive organizations dedicated to social change, to boycott the paper & write the post's editors & corporate sponsors demanding a public apology & the immediate firing of delonas.

i just love it when folks talk about racism :-)

the cartoon, run on pg 12 of the paper & can also be seen on their web, was not funny, insightful or meaningful in any way. the post says the cartoon was meant to mock the contents of the stimulus bill by comparing the legislation to the now infamous pet chimpanzee who attacked a woman in connecticut. furthermore, the post's editor, col allan, defends the concerns of black & otha progressive folk stating, "the cartoon is a clear parody of a current news event, to with the shooting of a violent chimpanzee in connecticut. it broadly mocks washington's efforts to revive the economy. again, al sharpton reveals himself as nothing more than a political opportunist."

the post wants us to believe the cartoon is not about obama. but on the page preceding the cartoon there's a big picture of obama signing the bill. some pundits - not limited to republicans but also including well-meaning blacks & so-called liberal whites - who defend the post say the cartoon could easily be mocking nancy pelosi, speaker of the house or otha congresspeople who supported the bill. yet the historical legacy of apes, chimps & monkeys as racist symbols of black folk in america, used many times during the election attacking obama's character, are part of our ancestral cellular memory.

yesterday myself & otha journalists received an e-mail from the post's associate editor sandra guzman which reads, "thank you for your feedback. please know that i had nothing to do with the sean delonas cartoon. i neither commissioned or approved it. i saw it in the newspaper yesterday with the rest of the world. and, i have raised my objections to management." white house press secretary robert gibbs was asked about the image on air force one wednesday. he replied, "i have not seen the cartoon, but i don't think its altogether newsworthy that i don't spend a lot of time reading the new york post."

what is particularly troubling about the cartoon image is the increase in race-based violence in america. hate crimes are on the rise, ranging from arson on black churches to homosexual assalts to vandalism. in fact, obama survived an unprecedented number of death threats, reported or otherwise, during his historic journey to 1600 pennsylvania avenue. just a week ago, a man drove from louisiana to the capitol with a rifle b4 he was stopped by the police, whom he told he had a "delivery" for the president. in venezuela, hugo chavez had to pass a law against the right wing calling for his assassination over television. would a bigoted group be punished for doing the same thing in america?

a cartoon calling for the murder of a us president gets you prison time...

hopefully the black press and/or global journalists of color will seek to do more than write about how pissed off we are. its not enuf to be outraged when the life of a hue-man being is publicly attacked. the cartoon should serve as a lesson in white supremacy 101. rev dr king jr said, "a threat to justice anywhere is a threat to injustice everywhere." the new york post should be held accountable financially, legally & socially for their crimes aganst hue-manity. if folks (americans, democrats, obama supporters, i.e.) allow the new york post to get away with the usual default apology for this blatant offense then the blame is on us not them.

in the late-80's i joined forces with cemotap - commitee to eliminate media offensive to african people - a queens-based non-profit, to boycott the new york post. among otha pro-active initiatives we disseminated fact sheets, marched in the streets of harlem, urged consumers to stop buying the paper & wrote editorials to raise folks' awareness & cultivate social change. the noted african-american historian benjamin mays once said, "a man's job may be finished, but his work is never done." in the spirit of mumia abu-jamal, anthony baez, sean bell, tawana brawley, eleanor bumphurs, larry davis, amadou diallo, michael griffith, fred hampton, rodney king, abner louima, anthony rosario & assata shakur i'm reminded of an ole skool cultural saying, "praise the lord & pass the ammunition."

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Father Farewell

my 80 yr-old father died of lung cancer saturday night january 17. i've been avoiding writing this blog & i'm not sure why. i neva thought i'd write about my father's death. when god called him home i was neither shocked nor stunned receiving the news from my youngest sistah, tracey, whom, i sensed, in making small talk, which i hate, was struggling with how to tell me. is there a right way to inform your brotha of the death of your father? to be honest, i anticipated a short struggle with cancer based on his age, failing health & my evolving spirituality.

the last time i saw him was in frigid chicago, mid-december, in his messy bedroom, sleeping quietly. i felt god's calming presence. god told me he would welcome my father home sooner than lata although he was unwilling to give me the exact date & time. real talk. the whole week i was home my father was in & out of the hospital troubled with dementia, loss of appetite & what seemed to be a restless spirit. for the first time in my life this proud man appeared defeated, shaky & vulnerable. i was frightened.

when tracey told me he died i was with a few friends & shared the news with them. each offered their condolences & vowed to check in on me from time to time. thank god for caring friends. i was relieved he was no longer suffering the hue-man condition yet i felt deeply ashamed bcuz, at age 48, i had no money in my savings account to go home for the funeral. instead of grieving his loss i was worried i'd be unable to participate with my family in his farewell. my youngest brotha, james, was generous enuf to pay for my round-trip ticket & i headed home for five days.

b4 leaving nyc i humbly asked my mother how i could be of service. she mentioned the obituary. instinctively i felt writing his obituary would be an honor & a privilege - nothing i eva expected in life yet something god prepared me for on my spiritual journey. my cousin lorraine's sensitive & selfless editing proved fruitful. unexpectedly, to my delight, another cousin, rod, officiated the quietly respectful morning service. when one of my father's gambling buddies shared a few words about their relationship my heart warmed with love.

the otha family members who were present for my father's funeral, despite their personal feelings & unresolved conflicts, made the difficult trip worthwhile. some folks we grew up with as kids showed up with hugs & smiles. cousin juanita, arriving fashionably late as usual, sang a couple of songs in her unique style: i like her voice. aunt maxine, whether you wanted to or not, could be heard quibbling about the integrity of my obituary. wateva. as lorraine e-mailed me earlier, this was my tribute to my father. she also warned me of a potential backlash; her mother didn't think my obituary was fair.

i had the police on speed dial.

almost a month has passed since he made transition & i've yet to shed tears. am i in denial? no. i've been missing my father more & more the last few days. i can feel it in my gut. those annoying phone calls at 8am have left a void which no one can replace. 80 years on earth for a black man in america is nothing to sneeze at. i'm at peace with our relationship because he was finally honest with me about issues i thought we'd take to the grave. for example, he felt unappreciated by his family & also told me he wished he'd been a better father - i told him he was the best father a son could ask for. he cried. he cried some more. he then hung up the phone perhaps embarrassed or overcome with emotion or unwilling to remain vulnerable with his son.

amazing what you remember when somebody you love dies. i was grateful he shed those tears bcuz black men are conditioned to be invulnerable. as paul laurence dunbar once wrote, "we wear the mask of silent unity." speaking of silence, the ride to the burial was creepy. we're talking dark shadows creepy ok? i shared a car with my mother, older brotha larry, older sistah marla & tracey. the silence was omnious. omg. was i the only one in the car who couldn't breathe? nobody mentioned my father's death. his casket, of course, was in one of the cars in front of us, yet we didn't talk about - him. we were all gathered together bcuz of, him. if it weren't for, him, we wouldn't be together, on this day, for, him. crazy, scary & tuggle to the bone.

my father was a veteran, having served in the korean war many years b4 i was an embryo. proud of his anti-church, anti-prayer, anti-religious perspective, he once told me when the enemy was upon him he had no time to pray. said it didn't matter who or what anyone believed in bcuz self-preservation is the first law of nature. don't ask why but i wanted to argue with him. after all, even the pointer sisters knew "you got to believe in something." but i digress. i'm good at that. digressing. yeah, that's me. i digress. if i don't do anything else i...ok. i need to compose myself, or something resembling sanity.

now i know why i avoided writing this blog...

something in me says writing about my father's transition represents closure - as if his casket wasn't already closed. there i go again, tryna make light out of a dark situation. tryna ease my pain with sarcasm to mask the grief, loss & sadness. it's surreal knowing he's not physically present. i used to wonder how i'd respond if he went b4 i did. life with a compromised immune system has been emotionally challenging; so many friends with aids-related complications have come & gone. i grew weary of asking god why am i still here? my father, interestingly enuf, helped me to accept what i knew intellectually: everything in life is purposeful.

still, there is something to be said for the written word. this is my second draft & i'm feeling better already. i have my father's obituary on my computer desk. i'm not ready to put him on the wall with the obituaries of otha family members & friends. not just yet. am i in denial? no. i know he's gone. but i want him now where i needed him then: by my side. close to me. like a father should be for his son. in the spirit of unity.

Thursday, February 05, 2009

Pittsburgh Steelers Win Record 6th Super Bowl

the pittsburgh steelers defeated the upstart arizona cardinals 27-23 to win their record sixth super bowl. with less than three minutes to go in the fourth quarter, steeler quarterback ben rothlesberger led a montana-like drive, culminating with a touchdown pass to wide receiver santonio holmes with 35 seconds left in the game to seal the deal. holmes caught nine passes for 124 yards, including six in the fourth quarter & was awarded the most valuable player.

prior to super bowl 43 the dallas cowboys & san francisco 49ers tied the steelers with five vince lombardi trophies. the storied franchise, led by the bright, confident & handsome young african-american head cocah mike tomlin moved them into the history books for more than one reason. the two other steeler coaches to win super bowl trophies - chuck noll with four & bill cowher with the win in 2006 - share a commonality with tomlin: they were hired by the rooney family at a young age; all coaches were well under 40, a risk that paid off.

most experts picked the experienced steelers to run away with the game, as this was the first super bowl trip for the cardinals, whom, at 9-7, won their division yet lost the last four games heading into the playoffs. arizona's high-powered offense was spearheaded by all-pro quarterback kurt warner. the popular 37 yr-old is the third oldest qb to play in the super bowl & only the second qb in history (craig morton) to lead two teams to the super bowl. warner's two big, strong wide receivers antoine bolden & larry fitzgerald are always a threat to gain big yards after a catch and/or score.

the all-world fitzgerald broke several of hall of famer jerry rice's records in the cardinals' three wins preceding super bowl 43. though relativley quiet in the first half, he caught seven passes for 215 yards & two touchdowns in the game, yet it was not enough to stop pittsburgh from prevailing in the end. the steelers' number one ranked defense, led by defensive player of the year, linebacker james harrison made the plays when it counted. in fact, just before the end of the first half, harrison intercepted warner's goal-line pass & ran a record 100 yards to give his team a 17-7 lead.

pittsburgh took a 20-7 lead into the fourth quarter & looked like they were poised for a rout until warner caught fire. the young cardinals, fueled by fitzgerald's stunning 64 yard touchdown reception, led 23-20 with a little over three minutes in the game. their players were jumping for joy on the sidelines. but this year the steelers have manufactured six fourth quarter or overtime victories. their confidence in rothlesberger was evident as he led them down the field, with one big play after the other, at times escaping what looked like surefire sacks from the tenacious arizona defense. holmes later confessed he told rothlesberger in the huddle to give him the opportunity to make a play for his team. like a mailman, he delivered.

Monday, February 02, 2009

Rafael Nadal & Serena Williams Win 2009 Australian Open Singles Titles

Rafael Nadal of Spain continued his dominance over former world #1 Roger Federer of Switzerland in a thrilling five-set win, 7-5, 3-6, 7-6, 3-6, 6-2, to win the 2009 Australian Open Men's Singles Title. The victory - his first on a hard court in a grand slam, lasted almost four & a half hours. Nadal destroyed Federer's opportunity to win his 14th major, which will tie Pete Sampras for the most in men's grand slam singles history. Ironically, Nadal is the only player to defeat Federer in a major; he's beaten him 13 out of 19 times in their incredible rivalry. In fact, their ongoing play against one anotha parallels the legendary competition between Martina Navratilova & Chris Evert, Bjorn Borg & John McEnroe, Andre Agassi & Pete Sampras.

This was the most anticipated match of the season. After seeming to be invincible, Federer lost his top spot last summer to Nadal when he succumbed to him at Wimbledon. The 22 year-old powerful lefty has shown no signs of stepping down from his throne. His five-set, semi-final win over countryman Fernando Verdasco took five hours & 14 minutes, the longest in Australian Open history. Some experts felt despite Nadal's superior level of fitness he'd be too weary to beat Federer in Rod Laver Arena, in front of Rod Laver, who was there to witness the match. But Nadal is resilient with a heart of gold. He saved a bushel of break points, particularly in the third-set where Federer had six chances in game 10 & game 12.

When Federer won the fourth set it looked like he'd be victorious. Yet he played unusually flat in set number five. Federer's five-set record is 13-11, amazingly mediocre for someone considered to be the best of all time. At the podium, upon receiving his runner-up trophy, he began to cry uncontrollably: he showed us his humanness. Nadal, like Federer, has three of the four majors in his repertoire. He has six majors & will probably break Sampras' record as well. But he gets better because he has Federer to play against on the world's biggest stages. Like Laver, who did it twice, unlike Federer whose yet to do it once, Nadal might win all four grand slams in a single calendar year. The international tennis community awaits with delicious anticipation.

Serena Williams defeated Dinara Safina of Russia in straight sets to win her fourth Australian Open women's singles crown. The resounding victory moved her into the number one spot, a familiar place for the confident African-American. Williams now has 10 grand slam singles titles, a record shared only by Margaret Court, Billie Jean King, Martina Navratilova, Chris Evert, Steffi Graf & Monica Seles. In fact, both Martina & Steffi are on record stating Serena could be the greatest of all-time among women, yet nagging injuries & outside interests have impacted her ability to play at a consistent level.

The match, their second straight grand slam appearance against one anotha, seemed over before it started as Williams broke early & often in the first set. She ripped winners from both sides & attacked Safina's vulnerable second serve without mercy. The third-seeded Safina has made tremendous strides in the last 18 months, getting physically fit & working on her mental toughness, an overwhelming liability in her career. Despite her outstanding play to reach the final, she was no match for Serena, who was in control from the very first point.

Williams joins Court, Evonne Goolagong, Graf & Seles as the only women to win four singles titles down under. Record temperatures plagued players throughout the tournament. In fact, the heatwave was, at one point during Williams' semi-final match against eighth-seeded Russian Svetlana Kuznetsova, over 140 degrees on the court. Australian Open policy dictates the roof to be opened after the first set, a welcome relief to both champions. Williams also won the doubles with older sistah Venus, their eighth major title.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

President Barack Hussein Obama: Will His Inauguration Inspire Our Transformation?

on a brisk tuesday january 20, 2009 in the nation's capitol, just shortly after noon, the exact time our con-stitution officially embraces a new president, chief justice john roberts administered the oath of office to america's 44th commander-in-chief, barack hussein obama. roberts' awkward fumbling of a simple procedure was evident, yet obama remained calm. this historical event was witnessed by millions across the globe. for many people of african descent obama's reclamation of power symbolizes a new day in a new year. his audacity to hope was fully realized but where will we go from here?

home alone watching various television coverages of the inauguration i began to slowly regret my decision to not (do whatever it takes to) participate, at least physically, in obama's improbable victory. i didn't think it was practical to be amongst what i assumed would be a few million people outside in the bitter cold, even though i was born & raised in hyde park, on the south side of chicago, former home to both chicago's first black mayor harold washington & the nation's new leader. ironically, my best friend called me monday morning with a bus ticket from his church, yet i remained steadfast in my unwillingness to go to washington dc.

truly an inter-generational affair i reveled in the large number of young people who were present to witness this day. obama inspired people diverse in age, culture, faith, gender, region & sexuality. the energy & spirit were impacted unlike any other president, including john f kennedy, whom many see parallels in the tall, skinny man with the funny last name. an impartial observer might conclude the states of america were united, if only for one day. folks were in tears, again, as he put his hand on the bible (the same bible used by abe lincoln when our african ancestors were enslaved), wife & first lady michelle beaming next to him with pride, pledging allegiance to an oppressive system of laws & lies & loathing.

early in the campaign i quietly volunteered for obama, yet ultimately chose to vote for georgia representative cynthia mckinney & her vp running mate, rosa clemente of the green party primarily because their progressive platform resonated with my revolutionary spirit. as gil scott-heron once wrote, "i believe in my convictions & have been convicted for my beliefs." who else during the recent presidential campaign engaged us to think critically about complex issues - pertinent issues ignored by 'the best political team on tv' - such as anti-homosexual bias, darfur, hip hop community, hiv/aids prevention, impeaching bush, mental illness, misogyny, prison industrial complex, reparations, substance use & white supremacy? speaking truth to power can lead to assassination: medgar evers, malcolm x, rev dr king jr, john f & robert kennedy, i.e.

no doubt, obama is a powerful man with a sad job. america's arrogance is hated by many both here & abroad. his predecessor, george w. bush, leaves two terms in office with the worst popular rating in american history, in addition to a plethora of problems. the obama administration inherits two wars, a three trillion dollar debt, wall street recession, auto industry depression, home foreclosures, ongoing rise in unemployment, gender pay inequity, global warming challenges, political cynicism, faith-based discord, etc. his cup runneth over. in fact, bi-racial top ten pro tennis player james blake, a former harvard student & fervent obama supporter, told a reporter a couple of days ago during the australian open tennis tournament, "i'm excited to be a part of this but i don't envy his new job."

no shit.

the ethnic expectations are enormous for obama. the energy & excitement of his inauguration was evident on the faces of folk, many of whom, including this writer, never believed this one fine day would manifest. obama is bright, compassionate, handsome, intelligent & resilient. people feel connected to him because he's shared honestly about his personal challenges growing up without his kenyan father, feeling alienated culturally & substance use, which he stopped while in college. black folk, in particular, i believe, see obama as an example of the best we can produce in this country from a political standpoint. though vehemently cynical black folk want obama to embody the words of rev dr king jr when he said, "i've seen the promised land...i may not get there with you but i want you to know tonight that we as a people will get to the promised land."

america promised us 40 acres & a mule quite some time ago. she has yet to deliver on her promise. any wonder black folk have a sense of entitlement? i don't want my mtv i want to be financially compensated for the unpaid labor of my ancestors. just tell me where to sign the check, ok? though we know he's one man who's hue-manly fallible, there exists a sense of ownership in his presidency: a black family in the white house is a small down payment on america's unkempt promise. when he talked about every person in the nation experiencing happiness, fulfillment & success, folks feel he's talking to them, not at them, because he cares. he is, after all, one of us. he generally identifies himself as an american, yet in a interview with tavis smiley last fall he talked about the challenges of being a black man in american politics; the first black family symbolizes what is possible - even when many folk don't trust the 'man', 'the system,' or the world in which we live.

my 80 year-old father predicted obama would become president, shortly after he announced his candidacy in february of 2007. god called him home three days before the inauguration of emancipation. my father's transition is a sobering reminder of how fragile life is. my father once told me america is a lie. he told me in 25 or 50 years americans will no longer refer to themselves as black or white, particularly with a racialized black man as president. barack hussein obama cannot change racism, but his triumph can transform the global perception of black people emotionally, psychologically & spiritually in a way unprecedented in this century. my father taught me everything in life is mathematical. hopefully, obama's next four years will add up to something good for us all.