current events

These posts cover current events.

Wakandan Ruminations


I went to see Black Panther this past Friday with my extraordinary and insightful wife of 14 years. As we pulled up to the theater and found a parking spot, we had an interesting exchange before going in. It had to do with perception, assumption, and judgement.

In our two decades of knowing one another – which includes 3 years of dating before getting married – one constant annoyance for us has been the misperception that we are an “interracial couple”. That is, in the commonly accepted sense of the phrase. The reason this is significant is because, at first glance, know one would know – and some may not believe – that my wife is, without question, African American. She is no LESS African American than I am, even though to many I more readily… look the part.

It is common knowledge that the spectrum of African American complexions is wide-ranging, making it nearly impossible for someone to look at anyone else these days and deduce with any certainty that they are, or are not, “black”.

You don’t know, so don’t assume.

But assumption is the recurring theme of our public interactions with people who look askance at the “interracial couple” going to see the “black” movie. Never realizing the two of us are far more alike than we are different. Despite the apparent difference in our skin tones. The truth is that the evidence of who we are, who we really are, cannot be ascertained from a glance. Much like the truth of this movie’s significance can’t be defined by the opinions of professional (or unprofessional) critics.

See, within that truth lies the beauty of what it really means to be… African American. Within that truth is the careful, deliberate, often meticulous navigation through society that takes place daily for every African American, regardless of their shade. Within that truth is also the reason why, after watching Black Panther, this movie, this work of fiction, this stylized drama… why it is a watershed moment.

Let me be clear that I fully understand that this is a “super hero” movie. It is a live-action, film adaptation of a comic book, and as such, has no bearing on real-life events. That being said, my head and heart were all over the place.

Why?

There are several reasons. Far too many to fully convey here. But I will attempt to pinpoint the larger one in the context of my feelings.

The African Nation of Wakanda

Wakanda is a country unspoiled. Unsullied by the invasion – or colonization, as the characters point out – of those who would trample its rich culture, prohibit the expression of its traditions, exploit its resources, and enslave its people. Simply put, Wakanda was free to evolve into a highly developed, technologically advanced civilization, while retaining all of its history, customs and beliefs.

For those of African heritage, nothing like this exists in the real world.

Not.

One.

Thing.

To this day, many African nations are considered third world countries. This label typically refers to economically poor, non-industrialized nations who are often reliant upon foreign aid. But seeing Wakanda on the big screen was like a glimpse into an alternate reality. Even stripping away all of its supernatural elements, it stands as a future that could have been. Could have.

But… it isn’t.

For me, segments of the movie stood out as an extended expedition into an incredibly complex and engaging world established through tribal unity, ingenuity, and intellect. It was the answer to the nagging question… what if? What if there was no slavery? What if there was no colonization of Africa? What if there was no systemic racism? This is Wakanda!

But… it isn’t.

Or rather, it never was, and maybe it will never be. And that… that is heartbreaking.

Because it has nothing to do with the lack of supernatural intervention, or the existence of Vibranium. It has everything to do with systemic racism, the deterioration and intentional disruption of the black family unit… the lack of community awareness and concern as a country, not just isolated pockets of effective collaboration … and a society that seems to have lost its compassion and consideration for others.

Wakanda then becomes a sad reminder of unrealized potential, all that has been stolen, and what now feels unobtainable.

But… it isn’t.

Even without vibranium, the technological marvels of Wakanda are not completely fictional. The unique customs, arts, and social institutions exemplified in the movie are very real. We now have a space and an opportunity to discuss errors of the past and make corrections for the future.

Marvel Studios’ BLACK PANTHER..L to R: Okoye (Danai Gurira), Nakia (Lupita Nyong’o) and Ayo (Florence Kasumba)..Photo: Matt Kennedy..©Marvel Studios 2018

There may be some who think that what I’ve said and what I’ve seen… that it’s simply too late for us.

But… it isn’t.

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Death Comes To Award Shows


Music is the biggest passion in my life. So it should come as no surprise to anyone that knows me that I scrutinized the American Music Awards in a way most people probably would not. Most probably wouldn’t care in the first place. But I can’t help it… I care. 🙂

Okay, enough of the babbling. What am I talking about? I’m talking about the fact that there is a very real possibility that music awards as we’ve known them will become obsolete. They’re dying a slow death. What makes me say this? Partly because there’s been a trend in the music industry where the lines between genres are routinely blurred to the point of being nearly unrecognizable.

floridageorgialine_nelly_video_hFor instance, long ago there was a clear distinction between country music and pop music. So much so, that the country music industry felt the need to establish its own awards ceremony, the CMAs, in 1967 (there are currently 4 major awards shows specifically for country music). But let’s be honest, the crossover of modern country music into mainstream is pretty much a done deal. Aside from the occasional slide guitar or a lively fiddle, a lot of what is considered to be “country music” sounds a great deal like “pop music” (hello Carrie Underwood and Taylor Swift).

Of course, the same can be said about R&B/Soul music. If Justin Timberlake can win the AMA for BOTH Favorite Pop/Rock Male Artist and Favorite Soul/R&B Male Artist, it really makes you wonder how those genres are actually defined. If one person is simultaneously a Pop/Soul/R&B/Rock artist, then what really is the point of having a category at all? 2013_11_25_AcsfrXBMWMjevnp1ocVtd1

As it is, the whole thing seems rather farcical to me when you’ve created genres and award categories, like “Gospel” and “Contemporary Christian”, that are based solely on subject matter. If that were to hold true across the board, we would have to add categories like “Favorite Misogynistic Single of the Year” or “Best Sexual Exploitation by a Band, Duo or Group”.

Personally, I think the days of Awards ceremonies are numbered. I give it another 10 years before it gets to the inevitable point of being discontinued. Besides, when it’s all said and done, good music is good music, regardless of any box society may want to place it in. 😉

Categories: commentary, current events, music, opinion, personal | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Before I Die…


Has anyone ever heard of a global art project called “Before I Die…“? What started off as an experiment in New Orleans, has now grown global! Apparently, over 200 Before I Die walls have now been created in over 15 languages and in over 40 countries, including Kazakhstan, Portugal, Japan, Denmark, Australia, Argentina, and South Africa.

I admit that I didn’t know anything about the project until I happened to drive past a wall on my way home from church on Sunday. My wife actually spotted it and said, “Hey! That’s one of the Before I Die walls!” I said, “What?” and looked to see where she was pointing. And that’s when I saw it… I was so moved by it that I turned the car around and parked so that I could get some photos of it.

 

If you are interested on the back story, check out the website HERE.

What do you want to do before you die?

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A Convenient Poverty


Let me start off by saying that this is NOT what I was planning on posting about today. I have plenty of photos of my darling children and beautiful wife that are just waiting to be included in a new Photoblog! But that will come later. Instead, I want to process my thoughts… just a little bit.

What about?

Well, have you seen the news stories about Ben Affleck taking a poverty vow? Apparently, he’s teamed up with Live Below The Line in order to bring awareness to the plight of those who live in extreme poverty. This is all fine and dandy. I think bringing awareness to poverty and raising money toward the cause is fantastic.

My question is this…

While it’s great to have celebrities on board to help spread the word, how realistic is it for a celebrity (or any wealthy person) to truly understand those who suffer through extreme poverty when, after the 5 days are over, they know that they can and will return to a life of affluence? I truly believe that there is a different mentality involved when you don’t know where your next meal will come from today, tomorrow or next month. I think it’s easier to commit to eating very little (or even not at all) for 5 days when I know that when those days are over I’ll be able to have a hearty (and dare I say borderline gluttonous) meal.

This is no knock to Ben. I think it’s admirable. I just don’t see how the poverty vow can have any lasting impact on wealthy participants. It’s the mental and emotional exhaustion that I think is understandably absent from this 5-day challenge. I think your mind goes to a different place when you’re thinking, “I don’t know IF I’ll eat today”, as opposed to, “I don’t know WHAT I’ll eat today”. At the beginning of day one, I’d simply be thinking about how to get through the next 5 days, not the rest of my life.

 

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For Your Protection


I’m a relatively transparent kind of guy. Meaning, I don’t mind sharing some information about my history, my family and where I work. I certainly wouldn’t post my home address or social security number online. But for the most part, I will answer just about any question asked of me within reason. But there are many people who are none too keen about sharing anything remotely personal online. Everything is locked down… real name, city and state, cell number, school they went/go to, names of relatives, etc.

Why do I bring this up? Because I was listening to the news on my way to work this morning and I heard about the Colorado DOC Chief who was killed in his home after answering the front door.  I immediately began to wonder what the assailant’s motivation may have been and how they found out where the Chief lived. I wondered if they were a disgruntled subordinate… maybe a recently parolee seeking revenge… maybe just a deranged person who gets kicks out of wounding or killing authority figures. Or maybe it was none of that and it was a random act of violence, a case of mistaken identity, or a jilted lover.

Maybe we’ll never know.

But that line of thought also reminded me of a conversation I had a couple years ago with someone who was concerned about the fact that people knew my real name. It went something like this:

THEM: Aren’t you afraid of what people might do?

(said with genuine concern for my safety)

ME: Do? Like what?

(not really understanding what they were getting at)

THEM: Well, that someone might use your name to find out where you live or work and like, come kill you or take you hostage or something.

ME: (laughing) Nah, I’m nobody important. No one cares where I work or live. If I were more in the public eye, I’d certainly err on the side of caution. But for now, I’m so far off the radar that I have first cousins who couldn’t even tell you the city I live in to save their lives.

(true story)

THEM: Yeah, maybe. But still… I NEVER post my real name online. Not even on Facebook.

(as if Facebook is a breeding ground for stalkers)

ME: I can appreciate that. I just don’t think my first and last name is an issue of privacy. Names are easily acquired. I can go to the grocery store and see the cashier’s first and last name printed on the badge they wear. Or I can go to a city website and find out the name and office location for the director of Parks and Recreation.

THEM: I guess so. Still, I’d just rather be safe than sorry.

ME: To each their own I suppose.

It makes me wonder how concerned other people are about their privacy online. I know it’s not just an issue of paranoia. Some of the concern is definitely justified. But I think that everyone draws the line at a different point of comfort.

What’s yours?

Categories: commentary, current events, personal, stories | Tags: , , , , , , | 4 Comments

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