Bougie Heroes

Grown Folks’ Romance (with a Hat Tip to Grey's Anatomy)

For those of you who don't watch Grey's Anatomy, just skip down a few paragraphs where I actually get to the point.

I used to love Grey's Anatomy. Love, love, love. When that show first came on, I felt like I had discovered TV nirvana. African-American female as Producer and writer, diverse cast, smart storylines and brilliant time slot; it was my must-see TV. The beauty of the sow was that they used the medicine as metaphors for the life dramas. This caused you to care about the stories as well as the medical crises and stay invested for the whole show. The dialogue was fast-paced and witty. The outcomes were never predictable. It was just a really well-done show… at first.

Sometime after Season 2 though, things started to take a turn for me. Izzie's character went from mildly annoying to "why can't they sedate her", the back and forth between Meredith and Derek was just annoying, Callie was underutilized and inexplicably paired with George. Preston's character lost its way and there was no understandable reason for him to be so in love with Christina. Addison was in the way, Alex fell for a pysch patient and Mark spent more time in bed than in surgery. Miranda's marriage fell apart, Callie decided she was gay and Dr. Preston Burke just disappeared. Then came a fake suicide, George/Izzie as a couple, Dead Denny re-incarnated… the whole damn show "jumped the shark".

This season started off slow. The Chef was ousted for drunk and disorderly, Mark had a daughter, Meredith had daddy issues and Christina was with some psycho dude that we are supposed to buy as sexy. And then they came back from the winter hiatus and it was as if a magic wand had been waved over the show. Gone were both George and Izzie, Meredith and Derek made sense and Christina was more worried about surgeries than anything else. As soon as they put the Chief back in his rightful place, all will be good in Seattle Grace World.

Finally, Miranda Bailey. Holding it down for the sisterhood at Seattle Grace hospital. While others lost their minds (and drawers) over interns and attending, she stayed true to the medicine. So true that her husband bailed and she had to power on alone. Enter Dr. Ben Warren, an anesthesiologist who from Day One respected Miranda but was not about to be talked down to. He brought the sizzle but he also brought the brains and the backbone. Last Thursday, we saw Miranda accept her third date with Ben. For some fool reason, she allowed herself to get whipped up into a frenzy abdout the third date being "the sex date" and the need for women to carry multiple comdoms and be waxed all to hell and back. And then she caught hold of herself. My favorite quote was when and Callie were referring to Ben visitng "her surgical field" (yes euphemism for vijayjay). Miranda says, "If he can't deal with a little nature, a little GOD, then he doesn't need to be visiting." See, Grown Folk Romance.

Later, she is at Ben's house and he is cooking dinner. Unsettled by nervous expectations, she launches into a lecture. He stops her dead. I won't paraphrase, I've embedded the scene below. Oh, I started with Mark actually trying to have a Grown Folk Romance himself. Take a look:

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I fell off my chair. THAT is how you handle a strong woman used to having to run things her damn self. Step her back, politely as you cook her dinner and pour more wine. I would like more television like this. Please and thank you. While you're at it, can you clone Jason George (dude who plays Ben) and send him my direction?

What did you think? Like or dislike? Are there any other examples of Grown Folks Romance on the television these days?

More than just a dream: MLK behind the soundbites

Almost always, the creative dedicated minority has made the world better. ~Martin Luther King, Jr.

For many, the ascension of Barack Obama was the realization of Martin Luther King, Jr's dream. In fact, many attempted to tell us that the very act of Barack Obama being elected President proved that racism no longer existed in America. That the so-called "race card" could no longer be played. As if by his inauguration alone, all of the inequalities and injustices rooted in racial divisions were magically erased. We can quickly call bullshiggity on that and address the bigger issue. Dr. King had a vision that went beyond the superficial and plumbed the depths of the very foundation that America was built on.

I implore every American, of all colors, to understand what Martin Luther King Jr was about the substance beyond the sound bites. He truly believed that fairness and equality for all races across all nations was possible and within the grasp of the coming generations. Yet he did not believe it could be done by words alone. His message was a call to action for continuous improvement.

Change does not roll in on the wheels of inevitability, but comes through continuous struggle. And so we must straighten our backs and work for our freedom. A man can't ride you unless your back is bent. ~MLK

Changing your twitter pic to a black fist rising or announcing to the world that a change is coming does nothing to actually effect change. For an interesting take on what MLK would say in the age of Twitter, check out this article by Baratunde Thurston.

I recall briefly dating a fellow we'll call Nathan right around the time of the presidential primaries. Nathan was a self-proclaimed Black Conservative Republican. What initially attracted me to him was his ability to speak on any topic eloquently. We agreed on nothing politically yet I found his intelligence compelling. Right until it became apparent to me (quickly) that he was full of hot air and little else. He talked a good game but when time came to back up his so-called beliefs with meaningful action, he fell quite short. King was flawed because of his indiscretions, he said. Obama was suspect because he smoked but he was backing him because he felt betrayed by Bush. I listened in disbelief and said, "Well what are you going to do?" After much cajoling, he finally signed up to be a precinct caption for Obama's campaign. He worked two events and nothing after. To my knowledge, he's done nary a thing since to promote the agenda he eloquently professed to believe in.

Nathan believed he was successful because of his own hard work only. He did not believe that all the footsteps tread by generations past had anything to his current success. He believed he personally owed no debt to Malcolm X or MLK because he would have risen to the top anyway. I began to give up on him short thereafter. I absolutely cannot abide successful black folks who truly believe that there is no more need to protest, speak out, take action. Folks who have "arrived" and don't recognize that there are others you left behind who need a hand up. That whole "I got mine, you gotta get your own" mentality falls extremely flat with me.

So on this day of remembrance and service, I ask that you really take a moment to figure out what you can do to improve the community. Mentor someone at work, mop of floor, feed a child, give some clothes away… Do something more than just dream. In the meantime, here was President Obama's speech (in two parts) at Vermont Avenue Baptist Church in D.C. Sunday morning:

Thoughts, comments?

Raise your tumbler of scotch up for Ted Kennedy (1932-2009)

Teddy Kennedy was one of those rare individuals where you can say: they don't make 'em like that anymore. Love him or hate him, he was a polarizing figure for the Democratic Party and made no apologies for it. Flawed, human and living in the shadows of his slain older brothers; Teddy forged a legacy of public works and legislature that will impact generations to come.

The last in his generation of a dynastic family, public servant to the end, imbued with larger than life charisma and committed to the liberal ideologies of democracy until the very end. Teddy Kennedy has passed away from brain cancer at the age of 77. From ABC News (<-click link for more on his life and legacy):

Sen. Ted Kennedy died shortly before midnight Tuesday at his home in Hyannis Port, Mass., at age 77.

The man known as the "liberal lion of the Senate" had fought a more than year-long battle with brain cancer, and according to his son had lived longer with the disease than his doctors expected him to.

"We've lost the irreplaceable center of our family and joyous light in our lives, but the inspiration of his faith, optimism, and perseverance will live on in our hearts forever," the Kennedy family said in a statement. "He loved this country and devoted his life to serving it."

Sen. Edward Moore Kennedy, the youngest Kennedy brother who was left to head the family's political dynasty after his brothers President John F. Kennedy and Sen. Robert F. Kennedy were assassinated.

Kennedy championed health care reform, working wages and equal rights in his storied career. In August, he was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom -- the nation's highest civilian honor -- by President Obama. His daughter, Kara Kennedy, accepted the award on his behalf.

I'll close with one of Ted's signature quotes: "The work goes on, the cause endures, the hope still lives and the dream shall never die." Rest in peace, Mr. Kennedy.

I miss the Jello Commercials, Bill

It pains me to write this post and yet I'm compelled to do so. Bill Cosby and his portrayal of Cliff Huxtable had an indelible effect on American culture broadly and my life specifically. I grew up listening to his records and watched I Spy re-runs as well as Fat Albert and The Cosby Show. I danced to his J-E-L-L-O commercials and wept when his son was killed; I even went to see that disastrous Leonard Part 6 movie out of loyalty to Bill (like he really needed my $5.50).

His long marriage to Camille (not perfect, but still 45 years ya'll!), innate dignity and ambition along with his emphasis on education made him a Bougie Hero to me. Yet over the course of the past ten years, I have found myself shaking my head in increasing disbelief. "Bill said what?!" I get it, okay. I understand he hates to see the rapping, $125-shoe-wearing, bling-blinging, baby making, no-child-support-paying, loud talking, no-GED-having, "swagger" section of the African American population. He's mad at the disengaged parents, the single parents, the incarcerated parents. We all are but, er –um… when do you go from being an enlightened voice piece for the masses to being a raving older man bashing folks who can't fight back?

This is actually part of a larger issue in the African American community right now. When did comedians become our social spokespersons? Did I miss this vote? I surely would've exercised the write-in portion of the ballot. Are we the only race that allows this? You don't see Jerry Seinfeld speaking on behalf of all Jewish Americans or Margaret Cho campaigning on behalf of Asians.

As I watched the "pre-game" show for Black in America 2 last night, I noticed that two of Soledad O'Brien's panel members were Steve Harvey and D.L. Hughley. At no point would I ask either of them for advice on plotting my path (no, not even you Steve). I was especially surprised to see D.L. posted up there, didn't CNN give him the kick a few months ago for not being credible? What qualified them? They have made people laugh? That makes you a social psychologist? If so, my cousin Oliver needs the 9:00pm slot on CNN, he's funny as hell.

Allow me to digress and ask an even larger question. Who decides who gets to speak on our (Black Americans) behalf? Would anyone of us have picked Spike Lee, P. Diddy or Wyclef Jean to sit on our panels? Why does every "eruption" of race relations prompt someone to say,"Jesse and Al are on the way?" Or are the good reverends being replaced by the intellectual set? Michael Eric Dyson and the like. For that matter, what qualifies one to speak on behalf of the people? Is being black in America enough justification? Or do you have to be a celebrity and black in America?

Back to my point, I literally held my breath through the video (<-click link) of Bill Cosby discussing the Gates arrest. Prayerfully, he said nothing incendiary and kept his opinions fairly generic.

But I miss the time with the name Bill Cosby conjured up a warm and fuzzy feeling, everybody's favorite father figure. For that matter, I miss the days when the news wasn't entertainment (R.I.P. Walter Cronkite); before everyone had an opinion and a microphone. Then again, I guess that was before everybody had a blog too J!

What are your thoughts on Bill Cosby and the various African American spokespersons out there?

The President Gets His Preach on... Amen!

In an address to the NAACP Thursday evening, President Obama broke it on down so it will be "forever broke." He started by saying how good it was to be "among friends." Sounding more like a preacher than a president, he touched on the 100 years of NAACP's history and his administration platforms before getting to the heart of the matter. Obama was met with cheers and rousing agreement as he said, "We want everyone to participate in the American Dream."

He acknowledged that "painful" discrimination still exists and that African-Americans still face hurdles; however, he challenged the audience (and the entire Black community) to take a greater responsibility for the shaping of our destiny. "No excuses," he repeated in a rhythmic cadence, "No excuses."

For your viewing pleasure, I've embedded a highlight video (7 minutes) with some commentary from MSNBC: <-click here for full 35 minute video
So what do you think? Are we out of excuses?

A Sister gets Some Love (That’s Dr. Sister to You)

In the midst of the soap opera that is the Sotomayor confirmation hearings, Prez 44 has announced his new pick for Surgeon General. Dr. Regina Benjamin, a southern African American female was introduced at a press conference earlier today. From the Huffington Post:

WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama turned to the Deep South for the next surgeon general, choosing a rural Alabama family physician who made headlines with fierce determination to rebuild her nonprofit medical clinic in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.

Dr. Regina Benjamin is known along Alabama's impoverished Gulf Coast as a country doctor who makes house calls and doesn't turn away patients who can't pay _ even as she's had to find the money to rebuild a clinic repeatedly destroyed by hurricanes and once even fire.

"For all the tremendous obstacles that she has overcome, Regina Benjamin also represents what's best about health care in America, doctors and nurses who give and care and sacrifice for the sake of their patients," Obama said Monday in introducing his choice for a job known as America's doctor.

He said Benjamin will bring insight as his administration struggles to revamp the health care system:

Saying she "has seen in a very personal way what is broken about our health care system," Obama said Benjamin will bring important insight as his administration tries to revamp that system.

Her resume swerves off the path of the traditional Ivy-Leaguer Obama has gathered around him but the highlights are no less impressive:

A graduate of Xavier University, Morehouse School of Medicine, and the University of Alabama School of Medicine, Dr. Regina Benjamin chose to return to the region that she grew up in, starting a family practice in Bayou la Batre, Alabama (a small shrimping village along the gulf coast). After several years moonlighting in emergency rooms and nursing homes to keep her practice open, and with an MBA from Tulane under her belt, Dr. Benjamin converted her medical office into a small rural health clinic dedicated to serving the large indigent population in her community.

Her extraordinary dedication and self-sacrifice have already won Dr. Benjamin national recognition. In 1995, she became the first African-American woman, and the first person under 40, to be elected to the American Medical Association (AMA) Board of Trustees. Dr. Benjamin also serves on the Board of Physicians for Human Rights.

Dr. Benjamin is a 1998 Mandela Award Winner, a former Kellogg National Fellow, has been featured as ABC Television's Person of the Week, and in 1996 was chosen by CBS This Morning as Woman of the Year.

I think Obama recognizes the crazy uphill climb ahead to fix the healthcare system and decided he needed some who has been down at the ground-level to bring a human touch to the effort. Dr. Benjamin's father died of diabetes, her only brother died of AIDS and her mother died of lung cancer. No one has to tell her how far we still have to go to eradicate disease in this country.

You can count on the right wingers to go completely around the bend with this one, the Administration is already a little too "flavorful" for the wing-nuts. They don't have to love it but they will have to live it, I guarantee Obama has had all the due diligence in the world done before making this decision.

As the daughter and sister of African-American physicians, I am giddy to see the positive representation on a national level. Good luck, Dr. Benjamin, you're gonna need it!

So what do you think of Dr. Benjamin as Surgeon General Nominee? Are we truly entering a new era of diversity in the highest level of government?

Bougie Movie Review – The Taking of Pelham 123

In celebration of our love for all things Denzel, I scooped up Bougie Mom and we headed for the theater. We were torn between The Proposal and Pelham. No doubt this says something about us that we chose to go action over romantic comedy. So beyond the fact that the theater had the sound up way too high (the opening music sequence literally caused the seats to shake), we settled in for the ride. And it was a ride, the movie starts off and you immediately understand that there are a few subplots brewing. I'm not going to give away any plot points except to say that Denzel (Walter Garber) is able to make himself a likeable and sympathetic character no matter how flawed a person he plays. Similarly, John Travolta (Ryder) can play a crazy, out of his head bad guy like few others. James Gandolfini plays a Bloomsberg-esque mayor extremely well and I love everything John Turturro does.

The action is fast-paced, enough things get blown up and people blown away to keep the adrenaline pumping. It is a quintessentially New York movie, with classic racing through the streets scenes, an all New York native cast and a plotline that could only happen in the NYC. There are a few laugh-out-loud funny moments and a touching scene between Walter Garber and his wife (played by Aunjanue Ellis) that brought a little tear to the bougie eye. Bougie Mom, at 77, didn't appreciate the language (which seemed gratuitously foul in some cases) but she figured out the hidden plot twist before I did and before it was fully revealed in the movie. (sigh, she's still better at finance than I am)

Bougie Movie Grade: 4 purple pumps out of 5, it's Denzel ya'll… nuff said

Genre: Drama
Running Time: 121 min.
MPAA Rating: R
Director: Tony Scott
Writer: Brian Helgeland, John Godey
Cast: Denzel Washington, John Travolta, John Turturro, Luis Guzman, Michael Rispoli, James Gandolfini

Catch the movie trailer here. Let me know if you've seen the movie, what did you think?