May 18, 2013 Leave a comment
May 17, 2013 Leave a comment
Some words from my professor found at the beginning of the introduction to Dr. Jared Ball’s book ”I Mix What I Like,” a work that analyzes the corporate control or colonization of the music industry by major record labels and how the “homemade hip-hop mixtape” can serve as an “emancipatory tool for community resistance.”
May 16, 2013 Leave a comment
UPDATE 05-15-13 -- 2:30 PM EST:
After this Op-Ed was published, Uni-ball reached out to me and apologized. They have pulled the ad and claim to be "working to rectify" the situation.
With pen-maker Uni-ball's release of an ad featuring what amounts to a racist white fantasy on Black manhood in America, they have displayed the level of cultural insensitivity, sheer ignorance and blatant bigotry typically reserved for Ku Klux Klan meetings and Tea Party rallies.
May 16, 2013 5 Comments
By Nick Westbrooks
I first read on the Root.com that Jay Harris, a standout Philadelphia high school wide receiver, turned down a football scholarship to Michigan State University to pursue a rap career. That led me to an article and video on deadspin.com that went into further detail about Harris’ decision and provided a glimpse of the aspiring rapper’s talent or lack thereof depending on your taste and preference.
According to the article, Harris, whose stage name is Jay DatBull was considering dropping football and pursuing music for a few years now, but he was afraid to tell his parents. At first, I was led to believe that Harris’ decision was strictly his own, but the Philadelphia Inquirer reports that the football star’s explicit music and videos impelled the school to revoke his scholarship. A Michigan State spokesman says the decision was mutual.
In fact, in Jay’s first single “DatBull 4 Life,” he raps about smoking weed, and in the video, he can be seen enjoying the herbal therapy with his crew. The writer of the DeadSpin article then comments that it’s more difficult to make a living rapping than it is playing in the NFL: “At the start of next year’s season, there will be some 1,700 on NFL rosters. There aren’t 1,700 men and women combined who are making NFL money by rapping.”
But with more than 140,000 views on YouTube within the first couple of weeks and the toxic recipe to create mainstream rap poison that would attract any major label, Jay DatBull has a chance at getting signed and making a living off of rapping. This brings me to my point of critical analysis.
The discussion—and there should be a discussion about this—concerning Jay Harris’ decision to drop college football to pursue rapping should go beyond his likelihood of making a living in either career. It should even go beyond the claim that he can get an education while playing football. And, it’s not about what his parents will think or whether it’s more important for him to chase his dreams or be realistic.
A rap career making music about smoking weed and having sex will bring him big checks to make a living and even enjoy some luxuries for himself, his friends and his family. But what’s missing is his consciousness. Being able to support yourself is necessary, and there’s nothing wrong with owning a few nice things, but in the words of the author and cultural historian Tony Browder, “money without consciousness will usually lead to self-destruction of some form or another.” Being a slave to a corporate record label that’s out to control the artist and his listeners will ultimately contribute to the continual destruction of Black people.
Many people mistakenly believe that money will bring them happiness, but money without consciousness will usually lead to self-destruction of some form or another. -Tony Browder
The sad reality with college athletes is that although they have the opportunity to get an education through an athletic scholarship, many of them either don’t receive an adequate education while they’re in school or they don’t finish and receive a degree. While living in the moment of playing football at a major Division 1 school, student-athletes can lose sight of life beyond collegiate athletics and don’t think of back-up plans just in case professional sports don’t work out. While in school at Howard University, I had a football player as a roommate one year. After telling him about my major and career plans, he told me that he never really thought of life after college football, and I encouraged him to seriously consider it.
Harris’ decision exceeds getting an education on a football scholarship, because earning a college degree doesn’t necessarily ensure that he will experience a change in consciousness when his foresight is already limited to becoming a professional athlete while attending an institution that considers him to be a mere commodity in a billion dollar industry who won’t even receive compensation for putting his body on the line. In addition, he’ll most likely be in a space where he won’t be exposed to his true history and learn that he is much more than a weed-smoker, athlete or entertainer.
Lastly, there’s the small chance that Harris could have made it to the NFL if he decided to stick with football. Playing professional football seems less harmful than rapping about weed and sex, but here again he would be making big money without having any consciousness, which will lead to his self-destruction. You can see it with the many multimillion-dollar earning Black athletes that have gone broke and the scores of others who have gotten in trouble and ruined their reputations for engaging in damaging behavior.
When we’re helping our Black youth plan their futures, we can’t strictly think in dollars and cents. While it’s important to argue which career Harris has a better chance in succeeding at, it’s also imperative to ask how he can use his potential career to improve the condition of his people by first liberating himself from the chains of psychological slavery. Harris can rap; he doesn’t have to play football if he doesn’t want to, but he needs a proper education to shift his paradigm, reach his highest level of excellence as Black man and to advance his people. We must begin to understand that the destructive path of the individual contributes to the destruction of the collective.
May 14, 2013 Leave a comment
By Nick Westbrooks
The teachings of King Lemuel’s mother found in the last chapter in the book of Proverbs is a testament to the wisdom of our mothers, and it serves as a timely Mother’s Day message this year, and being a young man, it’s especially meaningful to me. The woman in the text gives her son a few words of advice that sons and even daughters can apply now.
First, it’s important to understand the premise under which this queen is advising her son. The king’s name tells a lot about not only his mother’s high expectations for her son, but it reveals his divine identity and the Creator’s expectations for him. The name Lemuel means, “belonging to God.”
When you’re consciously classified as property of the Most High, you have to live a particular way and not do certain things. As a man of God, Lemuel couldn’t hang out all night stumbling around town in a drunken stupor and lustfully chasing after women.
More important than the things you can’t do are the things you must do. This is an important lesson for us who identify ourselves as children of God. We have to live righteously as we represent our families, our ancestors, our God and ourselves.
What wisdom did King Lemuel’s mother impart in him? She taught him not to spend his strength on women and his “vigor on those who ruin kings” (Prov. 31:3). Commentary in the New Quest Study Bible explains that kings were susceptible to investing their time, money and energy on courting and marrying multiple women. Engaging in this type of behavior will lead to self-destruction and ruin.
In verses 8 and 9, Lemuel’s mother instructs him to practice social justice by being a voice for the voiceless and being a reasonable advocate for the less fortunate: “Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the right of all who are destitute. Speak up and judge; defend the rights of the poor and needy” (NIV).
Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the right of all who are destitute. Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy (NIV).
Sounds familiar right? In our society, poor people are marginalized and forgotten, because they don’t have the authority and resources to influence the dominant power structure. It appears that individuals who are in positions of privilege aren’t interested in working with anyone who can’t add to their power. The lessons taught by the king’s mother in these two verses are those that everyone should apply as it’s our responsibility as human beings and as God’s people.
To conclude the mother-to-son wisdom, Lemuel learns how to choose a wife of noble character. She tells him to choose a woman that is wise, works hard and exemplifies strength and dignity. But, one of the strongest pieces of advice from this epilogue in Proverbs is to choose a woman that transcends good looks and reveres her Heavenly Father: “Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised.”
Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised.
At the moment, we don’t know anything about who King Lemuel was or his kingship. But we do know that he felt it was imperative to share the wisdom that came from his mother. He probably recognized the influence and role his mother had in shaping who he was and had become. On this Mother’s Day, this scriptural passage reminds us of the role mothers can have in building character in their children, and it now may serve as a model for all parents and guardians everywhere aspiring to rear their youth in ways that are pleasing to the Creator.
May 13, 2013 Leave a comment
Op-ed submission by Project 21
Problems infecting and affecting the black community must be addressed in a serious and sincere manner. Many of these problems center around moral values that were once readily available and in abundance among black Americans. Now they are increasingly becoming rare.
To deal with this crisis, there should be a focused and concentrated effort, originating within black churches, that renews hearts and minds.
April 1, 2013 Leave a comment
If a new poll commissioned by BET founder and business magnate Robert Johnson is any indication, the myth of a monolithic Black America has been shattered and one-size-fits-all Black leadership has gone the way of the cowboy -- just replace rodeos with rallies.
The Zogby Analytics poll, aptly titled, "Black Opinions in the Age of Obama," compiled responses on a wide-range of issues -- from education to unemployment -- that illuminated either a startling level of cognitive dissonance or a stirring level of faith, depending on whether one prefers their glasses half empty or half full.