Saturday, December 20, 2014

Dear Friends Still Defending Bill Cosby At All Cost

Dear Friend:

I apologize for my long response about allegations against Bill Cosby. To help you decide whether you'll read my entire thought process, you should know that this letter is divided into three parts. The first part laments the disillusionment that comes with considering these allegations against him and shares the background of what I know about Bill Cosby having seen him on TV since the 1960s, read about him in print, and heard about him in the news over the last five decades. The second part (here) tells you what I think about the accusations and why I've drawn the conclusions I've drawn that do not favor him. The third part questions societal beliefs about women.

I've written so much on this topic because I would like to stop repeating myself to people who insist that the accusations against Cosby are ridiculous because he's never been charged with a crime, and it's unfair to think he may have done anything wrong. "There's been no trial and everyone's innocent until proven guilty," they say, "So, I wish you all would shut up about Dr. Cosby (he has a Ed.D.) until a jury hears the case and a judge makes a decision."

They continue along this vein even when others respond, "But the statute of limitations has run out for both civil and criminal charges. Bill Cosby will not face a jury or judge."

Before I go further, please let me express my sympathy for you and other Americans, including me. We are all rightfully disturbed and saddened to hear of these horrible accusations against a beloved entertainer. I know some of you have concerns about Cosby's legacy. Some of you may consider yourself to be not necessarily a fan of Cosby just a "warrior for justice" who will not "rush to judgment." You may even call yourself "neutral" but feel compelled to chime in nonetheless because you have a friend who was falsely accused of rape and all this Cosby talk reminds you of that painful period. So, I'm sympathize with any agony and discomfort you've experienced in discussing Cosby.

I see as well that many of you, some dear friends, too, feel personally wounded by this current string of accusations. His character Dr. Cliff Huxtable was America's ideal dad, after all. In many ways, so was Cosby himself between his hilarious comedy routines about fatherhood (I own some of his DVDs) and those warm commercials for Jell-O Pudding he did with adorable, giggling children. So, I understand that some of you sense yourselves becoming disillusioned thinking about the possibility of his guilt and perhaps virulently angry at "the media" and his accusers. You refuse to think the man you think you know may have done anything so horrible. It feels better, perhaps, to think that these stories are just another plot to bring down a "good Black man."

You find also that you fume especially at people like me who refuse to call the women liars. I get that. It seems to you that we are crucifying him and maligning him openly. I sort of feel that way, too, sometimes, especially when I see that Gloria Allred, the ambulance chaser, with all her theatrics has inserted herself into this scandal. 

But whatever you feel about Cosby today whatever you may think of his accusers, by now we all should know that from here on, no matter what is said or believed, proven or not proven about Bill Cosby, we're experiencing an American tragedy and journeying through the stages of grief. We are perplexed. We feel betrayed when we hear about Dr. Cosby and all these women. 

For most of my life I've been a fan of Bill Cosby, but I consider myself to be more objective about him than some fans. Cosby the man is separate from Cosby the entertainer in my mind. Cosby the man is a philanthropist and appears to want to do some good in this world, but as a man he is also an imperfect being exhibiting signs of duplicity.

So, I still admire Cosby's work as a comedian, actor, director, and producer. I still appreciate how he worked his way to a level of power in the entertainment industry that few black men ever achieve and how he's managed his money.

I also respect his hard work in earning a doctorate while also working as a comedian and actor and that he's taught in prisons, and I'm old enough to remember his accomplishments from pre-Cosby Show days. Not too shabby. However, I did not care much for his Silver Throat: Bill Cosby Sings album that was part of my family's record collection. By the time his pudding days rolled around, it seemed he could do no wrong. My grandmother and my mother, both dead now, would express how proud they were of Cosby because represented black peoplewell. Halcyon days became halcyon decades for Bill.

As we know, I and my family are not anomalies. Not only have many black people loved this man, but people of all ethnic groups. By 1981 advertising executives were saying Cosby was so marketable that he  "transcended" being black. And he donated so much money to good causes. What was there not to like?

When his son Ennis died, I was as mournful and angry as if Bill Cosby were a personal friend. I was even annoyed when news broke that Autumn Jackson had tried to blackmail him, saying he was her biological father. Married and more naive in my thirties than I am now, I did not want to believe Bill could be unfaithful to his beautiful, loving wife Camille. Still, I did not ignore the revelation that although Cosby denied being Jackson's father, he had admitted to having an affair with her mother and to "providing regular financial support" for both of them.

I was naive but not that naive.

Either Cosby was the nicest man in the world, kinder than some husbands are to ex-wives and the acknowledged mothers of their children, or he was Jackson's father. But if he were her father, then he also had a stern side, was a man with titanium will and the cool temperament to send his flesh and blood to jail.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Bruno Mars Performs Uptown Funk on The Voice (Video)

If you saw The Voice finale, then you know that Damien came in fourth, Chris Jamison came in third, Matthew McAndrew second, and Craig Wayne Boyd won. Now, on to the performance I enjoyed most: Bruno Mars, of course. Although I definitely enjoyed seeing Jennifer Hudson performing with Damien and Fall Out Boy with Matthew as well.

Bruno Mars and his band cut up with his latest hit "Uptown Funk." He wore gold curlers in his hair taking us back to the days of black men wearing their hair "processed" (conks) and later Gheri curled.

Actually "Uptown Funk" is a Mark Ronson release featuring Mars. So, I guess both of them channel an old school mix of funk and soul into new jams. Obvious influences that I see and hear are James Brown, Michael Jackson and the Jackson 5 (mostly in the dance), KC and the Sunshine Band, Kool and the Gang, Earth, Wind & Fire, etc., basically any older group with a great horn section. The look of the band is also reminiscent of Morris Day and The Time, but The Time also referenced back to Motown groups and James Brown when they performed in the 1980s.

For those of you who have not seen the official video for that neo-soul jam, I'm posting it after The Voice performance video.



Official Uptown Funk musical video.
If you were around in the 60s and 70s loving the soul and funk of that era, you'll fall in love with this song and video. It doesn't make me wish I were "young again." It makes me smile a lot and wish I were out dancing right now at a retro club.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

The Voice: Usually I Can Call the Winner, But Not This Time

I have no clue who will win tonight on NBC's The Voice, and that says how talented this group is. I can usually call it, but not this time.

I bought Damien Lawson's original "Solider" and his rendition of Donny Hathaway's "A Song For You," but honestly, I enjoyed every performance. Craig Wayne Boyd (Blake's country singer) is not just talented but also damned sexy when he's performing. Chris "Adam Levine Jr." Jamison is hot and gifted. Damien's got this sweet spot in his voice that can bring a woman to tears, and Matt McAndrew is special, definitely an artist. Anyone of these young men could win and deserves to win.

So, I'm just going to post their original song videos, the ones that were produced separately from their live performances tonight.

Damien, "Solider"



Matt McAndrew, "Wasted Love," which he wrote.



Chris Jamison, "Velvet" (the young ladies on Twitter seem to have lost their minds over him.)



Craig Wayne Boyd, "My Baby's Got A Smile On Her Face," my least favorite of the original songs, but I really enjoyed his other solo last night about being a father away from home.



And of course, you can watch last night's episode at NBC if you missed it.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

When a movement grows organically: Why #CrimingWhileWhite complaints waste time

A friend of mine on Facebook asked me what I thought of this article by Kara Brown at Jezebel, "The Problem With #CrimingWhileWhite." And here is what I said with some additional information added to the post today:

I saw arguments like Brown's the same night I posted on this #CrimingWhileWhite after I saw it on Twitter. I think she's wrong.

Sometimes black people sound like they live in bubbles as much as some white people do. I'm not saying Brown's in a bubble, but she does seem to assume a lot, such as everybody sees what she sees when she says people in general don't need it "spelled out" that black people are treated differently from white people by the police. She says this is so because we're "literally watching it happen in real time."

Oh, yeah? Tell that to the Grand Jury in Staten Island. It's not like there weren't examples of disparity in treatment before the Eric Garner decision. Unfortunately, I don't have time to list in this post all other incidents that have been caught on tape and reported that did not result in death but remains evidence of different treatment. I'm including these three, though: one from 2009, "Choked for Challenging," another from last year, "NOPD officers shoot man to death in bed," and another, "CHP officer beats black homeless woman on side of road."

Following these incidents police and their apologists used everything from declaring the person "was a threat" over to "the particular officer involved is a bad apple" in order to get people to look the other way.

A pivotal talking points for people who agree with the decision of the Grand Jury in Eric Garner's case is, "This wasn't about race." The family of Eric Garner is also saying his treatment and killing had nothing to do with race. People declare it's not about race because they either don't want to see race as an issue ever or because they do not understand what people mean when they say "systemic racism." They look at individual cases. No forest because eyes on trees.

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Blacksplain vs. Mansplain vs. Whitesplain vs. Poem

I wrote the poem "Song of the Fatigued Blacksplaining Folk" during National Poetry Month of this year, and recently turned it into a digital poster that's embedded farther down in this blog post. As the title indicates, and to borrow the words of Fannie Lou Hamer, "I am tired of being sick and tired" of explaining racism in America and how racist policies hurt not only people of color but the entire country.

Of course, living under Jim Crow laws, Ms. Hamer had a much tougher life than I did. Still, I get frustrated sometimes because some of the words that come out of the mouths of some white people sound like they'd be fine with returning to Jim Crow. Yes, there are many "white allies," who want America to live up to its credo, but there area also many who refuse to even attempt to understand systemic racism and how it contributes to many of the problems found in black communities, especially poor black communities.

Also, the last two years have been more difficult than usual because of the increase in the number of unarmed black people killed by either police officers or by white citizens. Both the officers and the vigilantes tend to claim they felt threatened even when the black person, often a young black male, is unarmed. Essentially they assert black people's bodies are weapons.

I had the pleasure of reading my poem at the Poetry Buffet at Latter Library on St. Charles Avenue earlier this fall. The multi-ethnic audience appeared to enjoy it.



© 2014 Nordette N. Adams

Click picture to enlarge.

You may have heard the invented words mansplain, which is a combination of man and explain, and whitesplain, as in white people explaining. The word blacksplain is a combination of black, meaning black people, and explain. However, unlike mansplain, which is the word given to a condescending explanation a male gives to a female, the word blacksplain is usually not associated with condescension, unless, of course, a white person is defining it who's shown him or herself to be a racist jackass. If that's you, then a black person may have blacksplained something to you in a condescending manner before.

Usually to blacksplain is to explain some aspect of black culture, history, heritage, or experience to a person who is not black. That person may be a sincere person who is asking a potentially offensive question but does not mean to offend. Or that person may be a racist jackass who still doesn't understand that America works this way: A black person has to be able to shift between white culture and black culture/white world and black world easily in order to be successful. But often white people don't have to know anything significant and factual about black people in order to be successful.

Frequently black people end up blacksplaining on some racism-related topic. For example, at UrbanDictionary.com, the first definition of blacksplain is actually an example of racist hate speech that's allowed to remain there probably because their editors are hipsters (see hipster racism) who think it's okay to have the offensive defintion since a more accurate definition follows it. In reality, the definition of blacksplain on that website is very similar to how n*gg*r used to be defined in the Webster's dictionary as "a Negro person." Only the worst stereotypes are included in the definition, but they let it ride because I guess they consider themselves "urban."

The word urban is often used as a euphemism for people of color, primarily black people, Latinos, and Mexicans, but as is the often the case, on one hand its used to marginalize people of color and on the other a white person uses it to make money. An even better example of that phenomena would be the success of Thug Kitchen. At CNN, healthy food activists Bryant Terry does an excellent job of blacksplaining why Thug Kitchen is problematic.

Now for the term whitesplain, it usually means that a white person is speaking condescendingly to a black person or other person of color when giving a white person's definition of racism (often wholly inadequate and stuck on overt racism) or is explaining why everything in America is fair and just: black people just need to work harder, and what about that "black on black crime" and those fatherless households. Another example of whitesplaining involves a white person telling a black person that in their eyes skin color is irrelevant. "I see everyone as the same. I'm color blind," they say, even as they speak to the black person in ways that make skin color very relevant.

It's possible also for a black person to whitesplain the world because frequently you may come across black people who have internalized the white supremacist propaganda against black people and don't think much of their own black skin and culture. For instance, it's possible that a black person wrote the first blacksplain definition at UrbanDictionary.com. Ironically that definition reads like whitesplaining.

But I'm not going to write here again all the reasons I am tried and worn out from blacksplaining. If you're interested in why that may be, though, please read my post on Toni Morrison's 1975 lecture. I'll just say here that I was a lot less tired before Trayvon Martin's death and the violent deaths of black people who have followed him since then and who were pre-judged and killed because they are black. And I'm really disappointed in myself that I've written this blog post that has some blacksplaining in it again.

Friday, December 5, 2014

#Ferguson to #ICantBreathe

I really should take up fine art again because I need a more physical art for the sake of mental therapy. But I haven't seriously drawn or attempted to paint in decades. I'm a writer. Still, lately I have found myself making little digital graphic cards to capture moments during this stressful period of seeing justice fail. We have received less than two weeks apart the decisions of two Grand Juries not to indict white police officers who have killed unarmed black men, namely Mike Brown and Eric Garner.

While making these documentation cards and digital protest signs have given me a measure of relief, they're not the what a trained graphic designer would produce. And that's okay with me because sometimes the most effective signs at protests are amateurish, ones written crookedly on piece of a box cardboard.

All of these have been posted on Twitter or Facebook or both, but I thought it made sense to put them in one post on my blog. They have been presented it here in order of most recent to earliest.

The list includes the side eye for Pat Lynch's insensitive statement, "If you're speaking, then you can breathe!"; a picture of Missouri's attorney general's statement that the law that allowed Darren Wilson to escape indictment needs to be eliminated and that it's unconstitutional; a recap of part of a CNN discussion with Sunny Hostin and men who support the Staten Island Grand Jury's decision; a Van Jones quote; a snarky commentary on McCulloch's failure to prosecute Wilson; a poem, and a video. For a look at the cards in their actual size, click here.












© 2014, Nordette N. Adams

Sunday, November 30, 2014

#NOLA #Ferguson March and Rally, Sunday Nov. 30 (Pics & Videos)


I attended the Circle for Michael Brown rally and march in New Orleans this Sunday. Organized by the Black Youth Project of NOLA, #BYP100NOLA, the rally began at Lee Circle on the city's famous St. Charles Avenue. The circle is named for confederate general Robert E. Lee, and the organizers noted that in New Orleans, black people are surrounded by memorials to confederate heroes, people who wanted to keep black people enslaved. One organizer and activist, poet A Scribe Called Quess, declared that the Lee monument and others need to come down.

The BYP100 organization is run by and focuses on black people between the ages of 18-35, folks considerably younger than I am, but I went with my daughter. She and I went to the first Ferguson-related rally--National Moment of Silence--in August.

Today's group marched from Lee Circle to Congo Square, Louis Armstrong park, stopping at the midway point on Canal Street to perform a #DieIn. A die-in is a variation of the old fashioned 1960s sit-in. During a die-in, however, protesters lie down and mimic being dead to represent all the black people who have been killed by police. The BYP organization has organized DieIns around the country to protest police brutality in the wake of Mike Brown's killing and Darren Wilson's non-indictment.

 The New Orleans organizers also mentioned victims of neighborhood crime, such as young activist George Carter, 15, who was shot to death near his home in October. His body has been described as being "riddled with bullets."



Along with photos, I also captured Vine video at the event.

A little Bob Marley kept the crowd focused while awaiting the beginning of the rally.




Shortly after DieIn, march continues down Canal Street chanting "Black Lives Matter."



End of march rally, Congo Square



Another facet of the protests:

White Allies in the Ferguson Movement 



Black organizers of the rally asked white allies to guard the perimeter to create a buffer between police officers in case an officer became aggressive. According to the speakers (and I have heard of this as a non-violent direct action tactic), white allies played a similar role in some organized protests during the Civil Rights movement. For instance, young white people went down to Mississippi where they had to learn how to take directions from the black people who were being oppressed. Also, they weren't used to being attacked by police officers or white racists themselves either, so there was much to learn.

As the PBS documentary Freedom Summer explains, black activists in the South were tired, and they needed the help of young white activists from the north.



That said, the NOPD, which was not out in high numbers, kept its distance, blocking off streets so the protesters could walk and watching on the sidelines. Nontheless, according to organizers, the police have been highly visible at night when protesters meet at Congo Square/Armstrong Park.

Nearing the End of One Struggle in the Unending Struggle


Promoting inclusion of all members of the African-American community, a number of representatives from various groups spoke to the protesters at Congo Square, such as the director of Women with A Vision, and a young activists representing the LGBTQ community within the black community (young person pictured below). Poets recited their works as well, all part of the drum circle.




Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Darren Wilson says he chased Mike Brown in order to protect the back-up he called to protect him

By the end of Darren Wilson's testimony, he volunteered an explanation for why he chased unarmed teen Michael Brown, who he describes as "like a demon." Earlier in his testimony, he tells in detail why he was terrified of the youth, who he claims beat him nearly to death in the police car.

In the screen shot below, you'll read that Wilson made sure the jury heard that he chased Mike Brown in order to protect his fellow officers who were on their way to back him up. So, he was terrified but not too terrified to chase the teen. He knew he couldn't physically subdue Brown, and he chased him in order to protect his back-up, which had not yet arrived, officers who had guns of their own and would have arrived as a pack.

I remain convinced that Wilson wanted to shoot Mike Brown. I won't explain that again in this post, my reasons are posted here.

Pharrell's subtle Ferguson message on The Voice Results (Video)

Last night during live results on NBC's The Voice, singer songwriter Pharrell Williams, best known for the hit "Happy" these days, gave a quiet wish for justice in Ferguson, for Mike Brown's family. Performing Louis Armstrong's "What a Wonderful World" with his team, DaNica Shirey and Luke Wade, he changed the last line of his performance from "And I think to myself what a wonderful world" to "And I think we need justice to unfurl."

His team was safe tonight, btw.

You can watch the whole video performance of "What a Wonderful World" on the YouTube video at the end of this post, but I took a Vine of it once I realized what had happened. Within minutes the Vine loop count was up to more than 1000. So, I guess other people noticed the entertainer's quiet activism as well or did not notice it and that's why so many people looped it.



On Monday night, after Ferguson prosecutor McCulloch took forever to tell us why the Ferguson Grand Jury had decided not to indict Officer Darren Wilson for the killing of unarmed teen Mike Brown, Pharrell posted this tweet expressing disappointment in the decision.


His #Ferguson tweet has been retweeted more than 10,000 times and received replies of both support and a little anger. Some of the anger was about the tweet itself and some came from people who just don't like Pharrell.

Then tonight, about two hours before The Voice went on the air, he tweeted a post that echoes the thought of his lyric change for "What a Wonderful World." Perhaps that was a hint to fans about what he planned to do.