2012 and Walking While Black can still get you dead

Let me send a heated glare to all who feverishly claim that President Obeezy being large and in charge at 1600 Penn somehow cured racism or excused centuries of mistreatment and hate. If anything, his campaign and presidency have exposed so much ugliness that many of us hoped was receding or at least buried under good manners. 'Fraid not. I don't even argue with folks when they try to tell me that the fervent hatespeak coming from the right is not racially motivated. I just double blink and mutter "You lie!" under my breath. 

Does anyone really think the reason they don't let Obama expel a freakin' breath without testing the chemical compound of said oxygen is because of political differences? Really? But as if the FoxNewsDouchebaggery of it all weren't enough to convince you that racial hatred is alive and well in the great of US of A; I present to you the infuriatingly tragic tale of Trayvon Martin.

Trayvon, known as Trey, was a 17-year old high school student in Miami who loved horses and wanted to be a pilot. A few weeks ago, he went to visit relatives in Sanford, Florida. His relatives lived in a quiet gated community with a neighborhood watch and well-kept lawns. In the midst of enjoying some basketball on TV, Trey decided to head to 7-11 for a snack. On his way back, he clutched a bag of Skittles and an Arizona Iced Tea bottle.

He had the unfortunate luck of running into George Zimmerman, a 26-year old (Caucasian) captain of the neighborhood watch. George decided that something (could it be skin color?) looked suspicious about Trayvon and started following him in his car. See the scene unfold in your mind with me.

George calls 911 and reports a suspicious man inside the gated community. The dispatcher tells George to fall back, they are on the way and will handle it. George ignores this and got out of his car to confront Trayvon. In the next five minutes some sort of scuffle broke out. Next thing you know, Trayvon Martin is dead 70 yards away from his father's house from a 9-mm shot to the chest.

Now it's bad enough that Trayvon is dead. It's worse that a grown ass man with a permit to carry shot a child who was holding Skittles and tea. But it's dead ass wrong that the shooter claimed self-defense and is waltzing around free at this very minute. Self-defense? Was Trayvon (at 140 lbs) threatening to pelt him with Tropical Skittles? Did he wave the tea bottle around aggressively? 

How in the entire hell is it 2012 with Obama in the White House and a black kid can be gunned down for being in a good neighborhood at the wrong time? Is this the modern day equivalent of "Reckless Eyeballing"? George even confessed to the shooting and I'm still waiting to see the Perp Walk. Where the hell is Nancy Grace on this miscarriage of justice? You can bet your last dollar that if Trayvon was the shooter and George was the victim, cameras would be rolling as "the perpetrator" was hauled off to jail.

I strongly rebuke people who claim that Trayvon should have been more careful walking in "that kind of neighborhood" - really? He wasn't playing loud music, he wasn't smoking a joint, he wasn't posseed up with five friends, he was walking back from 7-11 with snacks! 

BougieMom and I are in a gated community. Last week, we were held up at the gate because the person in front of us didn't believe we lived here. He pulled his car to a stop and tried to bar us from entering the gates. When I held up the clicker to show I had access, he moved forward and then waited to see which garage we were pulling into. Now this was me and my 79-year old mother in a BMW - what the hell kind of nefarious criminality did he think we were getting into? We've lived here for five years, ya'll.

What's worse - not the first time it's happened. A few years ago, we pulled out of the garage and realized that we'd left something behind. I pulled over in front of the house and a car pulled up beside us. A middle aged white man rolled the window down, 
"Can I help you?" He asked. 
Mom and I exchanged looks. "I don't think so," I smiled and waved, climbing out of the car. 
He climbed out of his car, "Are you here to see somebody? These are private residences." He probed. 
My smile faded, "I live here." 
His face went ashen, "Oh. Um. Oh. Have a good day." He got in his car and pulled off. 

Mom just rolled her eyes and shook her head but I was hot. Like angry to the point where I went inside and had to do the deep breathing exercises "Woo-sah..." before I could get back in the car and drive. And don't get me started on the Obama 2008 sign we had in the yard. I kept putting it up and replacing it when it got kicked over... and over... and over again. When someone had their dog defecate on it, we took the hint. 

My point is, please don't tell me that Obama was the magic cure for racism. The ish is embedded and passed down generationally like eye color and grandma's biscuit recipe. My question is - what are we going to do about it? For starters, we can slap George Zimmerman in some cuffs and carry his ass directly to jail on a murder rap... Just in case you have some free time, here's the info to holla at the Sanford, FL po-po.

BougieLand, what say you? What can be done to eradicate these kinds of things from happening? Anything? Will racism ever die? Isn't enough, enough already?

Thanks for the Soundtrack, Whitney

When a celebrity passes away, you hate to make it about you. It's their family, their legacy, their life. But then again, all you really have left is their work and how it affected you. So I found myself both reflective and saddened at the sudden passing of Whitney Houston Saturday.

Because along with the sorrow for a life lost too young, a light extinguished too soon, I also felt inconsolably nostalgic. Major artists from the soundtrack of my "younger years" are gone. But instead of waxing poetic and morbid about the loss, I thought I'd share some of my life moments that were literally soundtracked by a few artists no longer with us.

1980something - On the highway between Dallas and Atlanta. Heading to my older brother's graduation from Emory. BougieDad insisted on heading out on road trips at the crack of dawn so we'd been in the car since two freakin' a.m. It was midday and we were over the wonder of the car trip. If we could have whined "Are we there yet?" without punishment, we would have. We were pretty much on punishment for everything having worked our parents' nerves to the nub. We had long since given up on finding music we could all agree on until the last bathroom stop before Atlanta. As the first one back to the car, I dug into my bag and pulled out the "Off The Wall" cassette (yes, cassette) and popped it in. When we got back on the road, "Rock with You" soared from the speakers. One by one, we each started singing along. Peace was restored. Thanks Michael!

1992 - Austin, Texas. It was $.25 drink night for the ladies at Club X. (I know, I know) For some diggity damn reason, your girl decided that tequila shots on nothing but a Jack in the Box taco and two tortilla chips was a good idea. I was rocking a forest green suede mini-skirt with a matching silk blouse and sky high pumps that were purple and green snakeskin. I was so fly. (Yes I said fly) Any damn way, "Now That We Found Love" by Heavy D came on and some dude that I only knew by the name of Mac asked me to dance. Keep in mind, I've always been a serial two-step shuffle-shuffle hip shake shimmy-shimmy snap it up with a head bop kind of dancer. But oh no, not this evening. This evening I decided to get my New Jack on. I was hopping and skipping and high kicking like I was auditioning to be a House Party extra. Boobs defying gravity, hair frizzing up a la Chaka and ruining my "no water needed" outfit. And of course I fell out. Le Splat in the middle of the dance floor. Combination of pumps too high, moves too complicated, and girl too drunk. Just so happened the guy I had just broken up with was there and he carted my brokedown behinds out of there. Every time I hear that song, I get tempted to try that routine again. Then I hold myself back and bop my head. Thanks Heavy.

2000 - Alameda, CA. Me and the on-again off-again beau were off. Bitterly off. He was coming by so I could speak my peace (again). Being a bit dramatical, I decide to set a mood. Lights were off, candles were lit and I was dressed in all black. I put Whitney's "I Learned From The Best" on repeat and moved one of the speakers upstairs so that no corner of the house would miss a single word of her message. By the time dude got there, I was in rare form. I went on a quite, well-worded rant that lasted ten straight minutes without a pause for breath.  Then he went in. We fell silent as the song played over and over. Finally, he shot me a look and said, "If you don't want me here, I'm gone." I slammed the door behind him and sang that song about five times in a row at the top of my lungs. When I was done, I was done. Thanks Whitney.

I keep imaging a jam session with Whitney, Michael, Marvin and Tupac. Donny and Ray on the piano and Sam Cooke doing the arrangement? Billie and Nat tapping a foot from a seat on the side? That's platinum.

Gotta favorite #WhitneySoundtrackMoment? Favorite Whitney song? Do share...

I Love Black Men and we lost one yesterday… RIP Chris Henry

Let me preface this post by saying, I didn't know Chris Henry or his fiancée Tonga personally. And I don't make generalizations that start with "all black athletes" I've known too many to disrespect them like that. I don't know (nor care to know) the details that led to his tragic death nor do I need to recount the struggles Mr. Henry went through in his life.

So what I will do is mourn the loss of a 26-year old man who was not allowed to reach his full potential. A young black man, who like so many others, is gone far too early. Cincinnati Bengals owner said, "He had worked through the troubles in his life and had finally seemingly reached the point where everything was going to blossom. And he was going to have the future we all wanted for him. It's painful to us. We feel it in our hearts, and we will miss him."

From the National Sports Review:

"I kind of felt like I dug myself out of the hole and started doing the right things," Henry said in an interview with The Associated Press as training camp opened. "People say, 'How you feeling now Chris? You doing all right?' I just tell them I'm blessed. That's why I got it."

He did get it. He did understand the consequences of his poor decisions. He dug himself out of a deep hole, a hole deeper than anyone could imagine. And then, just like that, he's gone. Just like that, a comeback was ended. Just like that, another athlete died far too young.

When the Bengals brought him back, he was determined to live up to his potential. He spent more time working out. He spent more time with his fiancee and with his kids. He was a changed man. The Bengals noticed.

"He's a great kid with a great heart," (Bengals QB Carson)Palmer said as training camp started. "He's changed his life around. He ran into some trouble, made some bad decisions, and realized that. He's sorry for them, apologized for them, and has done everything he can to make himself a better person. I'm just proud of him."

Chris is survived by three children, a mother and father, a fiancée and countless friends and fans who will miss him. I personally hate when it appears that someone has a chance at redemption and never gets the opportunity. One of the haunting things about those that die young is the hovering specter of "What if…" that lingers. I especially hate to see young Black men leave us too soon. What's left to say? Death sucks. RIP Chris.

Raise up a Budweiser Longneck for Patrick Swayze: Rest in Peace

If 2008 was about celebrity babies, 2009 is about celebrity deaths. And seemingly premature celebrity deaths at that. Jeez. After a well-publicized bout with pancreatic cancer, Patrick Swayze has died at the age of 57. Patrick was a Texas boy and had the privilege of saying one of my favorite movie quotes of all time: "Don't put Baby in a corner!"

His starring roles in Ghost and Dirty Dancing made him king of the chick flick for a while in the eighties. He was working on a comeback with a starring turn on The Beast an FBI thriller on A&E. Patrick was a longneck beer kind of guy so raise one up or pour a little out for him tonight. Thanks Patrick for the great performances. Rest in peace.

Remembering 9/11: When waking up from a bad dream becomes the nightmare

Reflecting on some of the more pivotal tragic memories in my life, it occurred to me that quite a number of them happened while I was in bed. (Mind out of the gutter, people – we're being solemn and respectful here). I recall waking up to hear about the space shuttle explosion. I was in a hotel room reading a book/dozing on the bed when Aaliyah's death was announced. I had flown in from an overseas trip and was getting over jetlag when the news broke in to say that JFK Jr.'s plane was missing. I was in bed battling the flu in a Nyquil haze when BougieOlderBro called to tell me my father had passed away. And I vividly recall waking up from a restless sleep early one Los Angeles morning wondering 1) why I'd left the TV on all night and 2) why was Independence Day playing at 7:00 am?

On each of these occasions, I remember wondering for a few brief moments if I was still asleep and trapped in a very bad dream. I remember thinking if I could just wake up, none of this would be real. I remember thinking these are things that affect other people… not me. But the more awake I became, the more I realized that living nightmares are far worse. Your nightmare has become the reality. You can't re-script the outcome, drink warm beverages or flip to the cool side of the pillow to make it all go away. You get no do-overs.

In the case of my father's passing, I did not have the luxury of wallowing in sorrow; there was simply too much to be done. For those of you who have had a close relative pass, you know that in most cases your time is spent comforting others around you. The funeral, the reception, the endless phone calls… it becomes about their grief and reassuring them that you are okay (even if you're not). One of my father's best friends was so distraught that his raw pain threatened to unleash mine. Needing to keep it together, I passed him on for my older brother to handle. I was actually doing okay (façade in place) until my niece asked me if Grandpa was an angel now. I took to the bed for the rest of the night and a lot of the next day.

In the case of 9/11 there was a sort of numbness in the face of so much senseless tragedy and a suspended state of disbelief. I was working for a large media company at the time; we had offices in New York City. Since our Director of Human Resources just completely shut down emotionally (hid in her office with the door locked), it fell to me to organize a phone bank, check on employees' whereabouts, draft a letter for our CEO to send out and at noon send everyone at all of our offices across the country home. Because I lived near LAX, the road to get to my home was blocked and you had to show proof of residency to get down the street. I had a Texas driver's license, San Francisco address on my checks and my car was still registered in Texas as well. For some reason, I was absolutely frantic and started crying while digging in the back seat before coming up with a phone bill showing my name and LA address. The police officer was so concerned that he got in my car and drove me the half block home before walking back to his post. My S/O was supposed to be flying that day, one of my best friends worked in D.C. and my sister was supposed to be on a plane. I did not draw an easy breath until all my loved ones were accounted for and safe.

Unfortunately, we have become such a media-centric society; there is nowhere to hide from the memories. You almost become desensitized to the immense scale of horror and tragedy. So instead of re-capping the event whose anniversary is being recognized today, I'll simply take this moment to reflect on lives lost. I'll say a prayer or two for all the souls and wish nothing but hope and happiness for those left behind. Rest in peace, be at peace.

Saturday Short - Memories at a Glance

Someone sent me this picture from Life Magazine, not sure where it was taken. The "Lion of the Senate" no longer roars and the "King of Pop" is silent but their imprints on American culture will endure forever. (I couldn't crop out Shirley MacLaine - but isn't this a conversation we would love to have on YouTube).

Rest in Peace, Teddy. Happy Birthday, Michael.

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.

MJ’s Memorial Service Takes us to Church

I don't know how many of you grew up in the Church. Not church. But Church. Like a Praise Tabernacle or New Zion AME type of Church. A Black Church with roots in a great Southern tradition of prayer, call and response, song and preaching. If you did not go or have not been, you were treated to some of that during today's memorial service for Michael Joseph Jackson. This is what we call a true Homegoing Ceremony. In the words of T.I. (he's a rapper, bougie folks), "What chu know about that?"

Moments that literally brought tears to my eyes…

  • Letters from Diana Ross and Nelson Mandela read aloud by Smokey Robinson- who still looks 45
  • We are Going to see the King sung by Church Choir
  • Queen Latifah reading a stunningly brilliant poem "We Had Him" by Maya Angelou
  • Stevie Wonder singing I never thought you'd leave in Summer (They won't go when I go), I remain in awe of his talent
  • Jennifer Hudson singing the Free Willy song – She went straight to Church on this one, did not know she was pregnant
  • John Mayer with the Human Nature "cool jazz" remix
  • Jermaine singing Smile… I had forgotten he can really sing
  • Congresswoman Sheila Lee (from Texas ya'll!) went OLD SCHOOL Church on ya'll comparing Michael to the Good Samaritan
  • Usher singing Gone Too Soon
  • Paris Jackson breaking down did me in
Moments that threw me off a little bit…
  • Was that Trey Lorenz with Mariah Carey (who needed to warm up, her entire first verse was off)
  • Berry Gordy – I wasn't feeling him
  • Kobe and Magic – as a friend of mine would say, "that's a For Who For What moment right there" – why was he talking about chicken? So not bouge-worthy
  • Reverend Al dropping the mic like "Sexual Chocolate" from Coming to America – WTF?
  • Um… Brooke Shields, for real though? She started off boo-hooing and never really pulled herself together. I don't think I realized that they were that close. She looks good though.
A few final thoughts. Music is genius when you can hear it thirty years later and it is still as fresh as ever. "Who's Loving You?" still sounds soulful. I will hear "Thriller" in twenty years (God willing) and still feel the need to get up and try to dance my aging behind along with it. Almost bruised a hip last week trying to do the "Billie Jean" kick, show off the sparkle sock, hip twist move. But that's the beauty in Michael's music, you want to sing along and dance along whether you have the talent to do so or not.

I'm not going to comment on Michael's lifestyle or how or why he died. I prefer to celebrate the man, the music and the legacy of genius.

Did you see the memorial service? What did you think?

Raise your Appletini up for Steve McNair

Another pause for the cause with the death of former NFL Quarterback, Steve "Air" McNair.

From ESPN...

In the wake of the Tennessee Titans' painful loss to the St. Louis Rams in Super Bowl XXXIV, Steve McNair sat in front of his locker in a quiet room of the Georgia Dome, and he cried.

"So close," McNair said of the championship game's final play, when Titans wide receiver Kevin Dyson was stopped by Rams linebacker Mike Jones 1 yard shy of the end zone and a tying score. "It was so very close."

And what I recall foremost about that game and the minutes immediately after it, more than Dyson's almost-touchdown or the dynamic 73-yard reception by Isaac Bruce for the contest's winning score, is the glint of tears in Steve McNair's eyes that day.

Noted for his toughness and his uncanny ability to play through pain (a trait he credited to his old coach at Mt. Olive High School in Mississippi), it was rare to witness McNair so much as wince during his 13 NFL seasons, let alone weep openly. And that's why those tears -- not the kind that roll down a person's face, but the sort that shone unmistakably in his baleful eyes -- were so stunningly incongruous that they couldn't help but stick with any person witnessing them.

Today, it's the rest of us who are left saddened by the untimely loss of a terrific player and, more than that, a good man. Few NFL players have performed with the kind of innate competitiveness that McNair possessed. Not many men played the game with such passion and determination. And those qualities arguably should be the first things people remember about Steve McNair.

I met Steve back in my high-rolling days. He was in Hawaii for the 2003 Pro Bowl and sat down with me and my XSO (Ex-Significant Other) as we watched a stunning sunset and shared a sip or two. It was one of those cool, comfortable vibes, when you met Steve, you felt like you had known him a long time.

He talked a bit about football and chasing the ring, family and blessings. I remember thinking he was a nice guy who could've dominated the league and collected that ring had he played for a real team at the right time. He was a monster on the field, an Ironman, man among men. Soft-spoken and polite off the field. I saw him once after that and he remembered me and called me by name. I teased him and asked him if he could come play for the Cowboys. He laughed and he talked about some of the charity and foundation work he had going. Sigh... He will be missed.

I'm tired of the sad news and this one stings more than a little bit. I'll raise a glass for Steve this weekend and send up a prayer for his family. Rest in Peace, Steve.

Share your thoughts on this tragedy or memories of great Steve McNair moments.

A last tribute to MJJ

Michael Jackson - Stranger In Moscow (Official Music Video) - Funny home videos are a click away

One of Michael's more haunting yet beautiful tunes. Enjoy and join with me in celebrating his legacy of musical genius. When was the last time you rushed home to watch a video premiere on MTV? When was the last time you were blown away by a Grammy performance?

I mistakenly attempted to dance along to the moves from the Remember the Time video, let's just my hip swivel is a little rusty. I did a little better with Rock with You but by the time we got to Smooth Criminal, I gave up... respectfully. I'm not 20 (or 30) anymore. Back to MJJ...

The only entertainer in history with a number one song in each of the last four decades. The first African American musician to be played on MTV. I listened a marathon of his music on a local radio station today... when was the last time you could sing along to an artist for four hours and knew every word? Including the words he made up "shome on" and "mama-say, mama-saw, mama-coo-saw"?

May God rest his soul and hopefully he can find a measure of peace in death that was never afforded to him in life.