Reconstruction: 2010.

I sat at my friend’s graduation thinking, this is reconstruction:

John just got his certification, congratulations. I am 15 units away from my degree, and graduating. His is from Mandela Cypress Center for Construction Training . My degree is from Howard University’s School of Communications. His school was started in the early 1990’s, after the Loma Prieta Earthquake shook the Bay Area and caused the Cypress Freeway to fall; the need for construction workers in the East Bay skyrocketed. My school was created in 1867 after the United States Federal Government created the Freedman’s Bureau and the need to educate the “freed slaves” skyrocketed.

He is a certified carpenter, which allows him to go out and build some of those lovely condos that are gentrifying American’s urban sprawl. In due time, I will be a professional media producer, which will allow me to produce those lovely news stories about victims of violence, and how their bodies are sprawled out across urban America.

Certified Construction worker: Congrats John!

He’s a construction worker. I’m a constructive writer. We represent Reconstruction, 2010.

He chose vocational training, I chose liberal arts; both of us are looking to attain what DuBois and Washington called, “first-class citizenship”. We’re living proof that the ideological debate between Booker T. Washington and W.E.B. DuBois is alive within us,in the first decade of a new century.

At the start of the 20th century, the once enslaved Africans in America debated the quickest root to achieving “first-class citizenship”, which was defined as full economic, political, and social engagement as Americans. This is otherwise known as achieving “the American Dream”.

Washington stood firmly behind the philosophy of mastering a trade, showing your value to America through contributions and earning political, economic, and social inclusion. While DuBois challenged the status quo and stated that we should not sacrifice civil rights in order to attain first class citizenship, instead we should study liberal arts and engage in America’s social, economic, and political arenas.

My friend John chose the path that Washington spoke of, mastering a trade and contributing to America’s blue-collar labor force. I chose Dubois’ method, studying liberal arts and contributing to America’s white-collar labor force.

But the question is, who is on the right path to achieving the American dream?

An interesting article was published by News Week in early June; the article addressed the growing division between American classes and how factors such as location, race, education, and the current state of the economy are aiding that division. The author concluded that, people trying to enter the job market, such as John and myself, will have to “…cobble together part-time jobs to pay the rent or accept positions with lower salaries or fewer opportunities for growth. Long-term, as the economy rebounds, this nagging unemployment rate means the economic disparities in this country will keep growing.”

I’m currently applying for internships but to no avail as of yet, so this summer I am freelancing for 3 different outlets; I knew all three of my supervisors before going to college. John is a part of a Union, but since gaining his certification he has only done work with his grandfather; who he obviously knew before his certification program.

In essence, we are both working part-time. As the economy is rebounding, we are both “cobbling” together jobs in order to make ends meet. And as we both live check to check, we are both slowly starting to realize: this isn’t exactly the American Dream we dreamt about.

Although we’ve taken different paths, we’ve ended up on the same cobble-stone paved path; A slow-moving path made of place holding part-time jobs, that we’ve only landed due to old bridges we didn’t burn.

First Class citizenship isn’t going to come from working for someone else, cobbling those jobs together is merely throwing stones at a much bigger issue: Ownership is the key to the American Dream.

As the author mentioned in the News Week article, there is a growing divide in-between the classes in America, which side of the divide do you want to be on?

America’s division isn’t between the wrench workers and the writers, but between the owners and the hourly workers. If it’s first class citizenship we are seeking, then question is not which is a better path: vocational training versus traditional education; but the question is, which method better prepares us to leave the beaten path of part time jobs and make the trail blazing move toward ownership?

Auntie Gaila’s Pictures.

As my “bruh” Malcolm and I both grow older, both of us grow more appreciative for his mom’s art. A beautiful spirit I simply call “Auntie Gaila”; she is an artistic Detroit girl, now living in East Oakland where she makes it her personal movement to paint a picture of what’s going on with the Black men in her community…and to think: me, her son, and two other “knuckle-head- Nigrahs” (as she would call us), stole her car when were 16, just so we could paint the town…

very big wall painting..."women don't usually do BIG ART PIECES..."- Auntie Gaila

Long-story- short : we never found the sideshow that night. we got pulled over by OPD. We car got towed. we walked home in the rain. and we somehow lived to tell about it.

Maybe she saw the potential in us as young men, and the error in our juvenile judgment of a tempting situation… maybe she just didn’t want to add to Oakland’s Black male murder rate…or maybe she wanted to keep us around and use us as her muse for her art…The answer is D: All of thee above.

Auntie Gaila's : you know a Detroit girl is inspired by music...

Her art is inspired by everything from the shape of Malcolm’s head, to the way society shapes Black men’s faces when they walk down the street. However consumed she gets in analyzing the world of Black men, she doesn’t pigeon hold on to the title of “Black Artist”; she makes it known that she has abstract pieces as well.

Auntie Gailia and my bruh Big Mal

But it is the art that is attempt to depict the Black male that dwells in urban America that speaks to me. She paints these depictions with such vibrant colors and uncanny emotion. I feel as tho I know some of the character, and sometimes I actually do…

“you see yo bighead brother in that one?” , she asks me while pointing to the tallest silhouette in the crowd.

Auntie Gaila's art: beauty in the foreground. East Oakland in the background.

Malcolm and I have been road dawgs since 6th grade. We had the same class after lunch, and we’d both used to drool over our gorgeous Reading Class teacher… thats how we became friends: mutual appreciation for the art of a woman. Ha, the things we did to try to get her attention… yeah, that was the start of the rambunctious- boy-hood-drama that me, Malcolm and all our bruhs experienced… And auntie was there for all of it: the prank calls, the fist fights, the homicides, the girlfriends, the run-ins with the police, and she was even there the day both Malcolm and I  got our own cars…yea, auntie has a ride when ever she needs one.

Auntie Gailia's art: the Black male cycle

I know this doesn’t replace the car we got towed, or the cost of the towing expense; but this is a token of my appreciation, for not killing us after stealing your car… and for letting stay on under your roof later that same year when times got hard… and for the artistic expressions of Black men like Malcolm and myself…this is just a train of thought to show you that I think Malcolm and I are starting to get the picture…

Ghana Represented.

On Saturday June 26th Ghana’s National team played against team USA, a Second Round World Cup match-up, and the world was watching… even the USA.  As I walked through the streets of Oakland, Ca, I overheard a man say something about how America will only appreciate the USA’s soccer team while the spotlight is on the World Cup, while Ghana’s National team will forever be legends in Ghana. And that was before Ghana won.

Ghana scored early. They dominated the USA team throughout. And in the end, the team sporting one Black star on their jersey’s punched an extra-time goal in the net to send the team from the USA, and all of its 50 stars packing. It was a complete game on Ghana’s part. It was a valiant effort on team USA’s part. It was a game that I’m sure the entire continent of Africa can appreciate on some level, and a game I could sincerely appreciate on all levels.

As Ghana advanced to the Semi- Final round, they represented more than just the last team from an African Nation remaining in the tournament: they represented the 1st free African Nation. They represented Ghana’s first President, Kwame Nkrumah. They represented the ancestors of African-American that had went through the door of no return in the Elmina slave dungeon. They represented… hey, they just straight –up got out there and represented.

I went to Ghana when I was 17, it was my first trip outside of the United States. And back then, for all I knew, certain streets in the capitol city of Accra could have been avenues in Atlanta, Georgia. Alright, so I’m being facetious; but the connection between the way of life I saw in Accra, and my life America ran deeper than our common skin tone.

The deep faith in Christianity, the superficial obsession with image, and evidence of rap music’s influence were all embedded in the culture! Oh, and of course the obvious cultural connection: sports!

The entire time I was in Ghana, I can recall people listening to soccer on the radio, and that wasn’t even during the World Cup. And my random eavesdropping is evidence that people in American are watching and talking about soccer.

Well, they were, before team USA lost. Now, I wonder how many World Cup related conversations will be overheard on the streets of the United States? One thing is for sure, those streets in Accra that I thought looked like Atlanta- for years to come, those streets will resonate with conversations of how Ghana’s legendary 2010 World Cup team went down to South Africa and represented.

SoChalant.

So Chalant is an artist that takes a page out of your favorite authors book,

“I’m a lyricist”, said SoChalant about his approach to his craft. His music takes the listener from their own reality and into the word of a lyrical perfectionist. Although the young artist is still working on his first major project, his music has been downloaded thousands of times, which is very respectable in this day and age of downloadable  mix-tapes dominating the rap industry.

one thing i can say i appreciate about SoChalant’s artistry is with his commitment to his craft as a lyricist, is an understanding of how these lyrics depicting vivid images can affect the minds of his listeners, as he agknowled that younger listeners need not see certain things in ther music.

He not exactly what you would call a “social concisous rapper”, in fact, his tone of voice is often compared to that of legendary decesaed gangster rapper Eric “Easy-E” Wright of the group straight of Compton, known as NWA.

SoChalant’s music, like him, originates in Oakland, Ca and then takes the listeners on a trip through colleges, strip clubs, and right back to Cali where music and cars go together like a kick-drum and a snare…

Speaking of kick-drum and snare, SoChalant sat down with Youth Outlook’s Pendarvis Harshaw and discussed his addiction to perfection in all things, including his music; he also discusses the visual impact of true lyrics…and the visual impact of this one experience in a strip club in Atlanta.

Here is a link to video interview, first published by Youthoutlook.org...CLICK HERE

After his suggestion, i took a listen to the song about the strip club fantasy, here is a link…CLICK HERE

Jumping Off The Porch.

Each summer, juveniles in America’s inner cities made the decision to take a step outside of the boundaries made by their caretakers; this phenomenon is called “jumping off the porch”, and this summer many will take that leap.

I’ve seen it before…

The older neighborhood boys are paying, and  all you have to do is ride your bike around the corner, and see if there are any police lurking…only problem: your granny told you to stay where she can see you.

You want the money. You need the money. But above all- you would want to obey your granny. After-all, she bought you that bike. And she can take it away.

But its summertime. And you know you could ride around the block, wave at the girls playing double-dutch, check for Five-0,  receive your payment from the older boys, and return to your porch, before granny looks up from her daytime stories.

This is where you make the decision to “jump off the porch”, and into grimy city streets that move faster than any one of those gears on your pretty little 21-speed can handle.

It happens all the time, not just summer time. It happens for many reasons, not just money. And it leads to something one cannot find sitting on the porch: adventure.

But it leads me to question: is jumping off the porch a good thing,  a bad thing, or a natural thing?

This train of thought was inspired by Youth Outlook reporter, Amanze Emenike, as he explored the topic and how it has influenced his community of Hunter’s Point San Francisco.

Here is a link to Emenike’s video story : Jumpin’ Off The Porch In Hunter’s Point

In the end, the classic teaching reins supreme: respect your elders. which means, if granny says stay on the porch, then do so. But then again, each experience where a wealth of wisdom is gained can be considered “a rights of passage”. And,  if it weren’t for jumping off the porch, who knows how much first hand knowledge and experience I would have missed out on…

That leaves me asking: is there anyway I can jump off that porch, make that money, wave at those girls, gain that life experience, and not disrespect granny?

NBA 2K and MJ Collaborate.

The game of basketball can be summed up in two names: Michael. And Jordan. To his name: 6 NBA Championships, an immaculate career, The title of Charlotte Bobcats franchise owner… but it wasn’t complete until MJ landed his name on the cover of a video game…Again.

Multiple sources, including ESPN , report that NBA legend Michael Jordan will be on the cover of NBA2K11.

The NBA 2K brand has produced the highest selling NBA video game for the past two years, and it shows, as the brand has a tremendous following. But the game’s following is nothing compared to Jordan’s. The name “Jordan” has sold everything from hot dogs to shoes, and from underwear to movies about cartoon characters from outer-space. The combination of the two will sell like hot cakes!

I’ve never actually had the urge to buy a hot cake before. I think that saying is a little outdated. And speaking of outdated: isn’t it a little late for Jordan to land on the cover of a video game?

Well removed from his playing days, and now serving as the owner of the Charlotte Bobcats, Michael Jordan is reported to not only be on the cover of NBA2K11, he is also supposed to assist in the making of the game, and be an optional player to compete as!

Jordan has rarely appeared in video games, instead games would put a nameless characters as shooting guard for the Chicago Bulls. A short list of some of the video games Jordan has appeared in: Jordan vs. Bird: One on One, Michael Jordan: Chaos in the Windy City, and the video game Live 2001 was the first game I ever played with MJ available as an active character. That game was made by EA Sports.

Electronic Arts Sports, the longtime reigning top NBA video game designer, has been upended in recent years by the 2K line. The EA Sports company has decided to go with a name change this upcoming video game season, changing its “NBA Live” series to the title of “NBA Elite 11”.

Even with the competition upping the ante, 2K ‘s VP of marketing Jason Argent maintains confidence about the upcoming 2K/ MJ collaboration. Argent was quoted in an article in USA Today, “We’re very confident that this year … will not only be the best basketball game we’ve ever put out, but the best basketball game that’s ever been put out.” Argent continued, “When you start thinking about people that can accurately represent that in the game of basketball, the list is short. And, frankly, the greatest basketball player of all time seemed to be the greatest fit.”

Argent’s marketing philosophy sounds like the opening line to this piece… the game of basketball in two names: Michael. And Jordan.

Game designers are set to debut the cover at the  E3 video game convention June 15-17, 2010 in Los Angeles California, and the game is set to hit stores October 5, 2010. I just want to see if 2K11 sells like hot cakes…or better yet, see if sells like Jordan’s line of shoes.

Book Review: “Always Outnumbered, Always Outgunned”.

I lugged the hot heap-o-junk down past the dormitory laundry room, past the workout room, and past the boiler room; I tossed that hot heap-o-junk into a random basement room, and dusted my hands-off…

That “hot heap-o-junk” was a stack of text books; those books were worth over $250 dollars collectively at the start of the school year, and now they were worthless. literally, worth less; I could sell the books back to the bookstore and probably get a little over ten dollars. It made more sense to just pass them down to underclassman, after all: “one man’s trash is the next man’s treasure.”…And in the midst of dumping my tower of text book trash- I found  my treasure!

I left $250 worth of books in that basement for a book that had a suggested retail price of 14 US dollars (16 Canadian). But it was worth so much more (Even in Canada). “Always Outnumbered, Always Outgunned” by Walter Mosley has enriched my life.

The book is set in Los Angeles during a period between the late 80’s and early 90’s. The book tells the story of Socrates Fortlow, an man who moved from Indianapolis,IN after serving a 26 year sentence for a double-homicide.

The self-righteous Fortlow is well on the path to spiritual cleanliness, but the path is laden with tests. His test is on trying to make a future out of being a Black man, and a convicted felon… But his biggest test is overcoming the flashbacks to the times where he wasn’t as self-righteous. And as the reader, you feel it.

You can feel the frustration that runs through the river-sized veins in the large hands of the massive man, as he struggles to matriculate through society. And with each situation, you, as the reader learn something about society. Its like being a fly on the wall in the world of menacing guy with a moral side.

Author, Walter Mosley, created Socrates Fortlow in the fashion of many big homies past. He feels like someone I know. That’s the power of Mosley’s voice; it comes through the interactions and the decisions of the characters, and he uses them as vessels to communicate a message much deeper than the drugs, guns, and sex the interactions are seemingly centered around.

Socrates Fortlow is a person I’ve seen before. I don’t know if I saw him at a soup kitchen I volunteered at when I was a teen. Maybe he is some sort of incarnation of the older kats I looked up to as a kid. Or maybe, it was the fact that a number of people reacted to the sight of me carrying the book like they had seen an old friend: “Oh, you reading about Socratese??? Do you know Easy Rawlins?”

This book has sent me on a quest to find out about this Easy Rawlins character, another one of Walter Mosley’s literary creations. This book has also sent me on a quest to find my own voice as a writer, and as a man. Talk about “one man’s trash, is the next man’s treasure.”, how many of those text books caused this reaction? Then again- how many of those text books taught about morality through the trails an ex-felon?

White Linen and Pimp Hats at The Player’s Ball.

Charlie Wison's Hat collection

KBLX Stone Soul Concert-

My button-up and loafers showed that I was aware, but all the same,
the fit showed that I had no idea of exactly how player of a situation
I was getting into…

We were headed to the KBLX Stone Soul Concert; on the bill:
Mint Condition, New Edition, Uncle Charlie Wilson, and the return of
Ronald Isley.

My girlfriend’s mother’s husband was out of the
window of the car, tipping his cap as a sign of his appreciation to
all of the gentlemen in attire that matched the level of playerism
that comes along with the aforementioned list of artists. Every last one of the men
had one of those shnazzy Steve Harvey hats wicker 1930’s Fidora-ish
hats. I didn’t know what to call them, I just thought they were called
a “pimp hat”. Actually, my girlfriend was rocking a similar style
hat… So were lots of other women. Actually, a solid 40% of the crowd
was rocking a “pimp hat”.
Even Ralph Tresvant of New Edition had 1 on! Ralph’s hat was supported
by a linen suit; as well as Bobby Brown and Johnny Gill. By the end of
their set, they each had solid sized sweat stains on their threads.
Their set came to a close, and the small intermission allowed my mind
to wonder and my eyes to people watch: linen suits, or just a linen
shirt or pants separate, was the dress code for about 40% of the male
population.

Now remember who I was at the event to see:
Mint Condition, New Edition, Uncle Charlie Wilson, and the return of
Ronald Isley.

I’ll give you this math equation: Bay Area + ole skool funk concert =
“The Players Ball”.

And now I’ll pose this question:

How old do you have to be before you can rock one of those smoove all
white linen suits?

I was in awe of all the family men that had dreams of being pimps, and
all the pimps- that ended up living that dream family life.

Concord,California isn’t South Beach in Miami, but the heat made the linen suit applicable; I mean it was so hot that I saw a plus sized woman wipe the sweaty back of her legs in between acts. I wish I hadn’t.

But the old heads in linen suits looked cool. So cool. They looked a
lot cooler then the old heads in throw back jerseys. Although, I did
see a James Worthy Lakers jersey and a Ray Lewis jersey from his
Miami U days…both made me halt in a brief moment of honor.
But my crowd scouting lead me to believe linen was the move. There
were alternative colors; the brown linen suits were smooth, the blues
were cool- but the all white linen suit and the brim was both cool and
smooth. Plus a classic.

The white linen suit is a staple at warm weather events in the Black
community. But because of its classic staple- will the white linen
suit ever be played out? Is it played out now? is the white linen suit
what eventually becomes of the white-T wearing brothers of my
generation?
So many questions! All I know is, it doesn’t matter how “player” it
is, I wouldn’t want to rock a linen suit if everyone around me was
wearing one…unless I was a member of New Edition, cause they can do
that.
The intermission between sets was over, and following Bobby and the
boys was Uncle Charlie Wilson.

I want to thank Uncle Charlie, he clarified more of my internal
immature male fashion inquires than he will ever know. Uncle Charlie
hit the stage in a number of different outfits, I do believed he
managed to touch every color of the rainbow through his ensembles, and
the color coordinated fits of his band and background dancers,
“Charlie’s Angels”. No comment on the suits and live colors. My
attention was diverted from Uncle Charlie’s blinging orange and purple
rhinestone blazer and shirt combo, when the elder gentleman began
discussing what he has overcome: Colon cancer, drug addiction, and
alcoholism all played a part in making the man that was adoring that
outfit on that stage. And that man wasn’t made by clothes, instead, he
made em. Literally.
Wilson has created a line of fly “pimp hats”, and a portion of the
proceeds from hat sales are dedicated to cancer research, here is a video where he discusses the hats.

Uncle Charlie Wilson’s hat was a little more “player” than any of the
other hats.

And his performance taught me two things about these “players ball”
events…incorporate what everyone else is doing so as to show
knowledge of the classics, while all the while maintaining a strong
personal twist on it so as to remain original. And while at these
“players ball” events, bottom line: have a ball…and I did.

DJ Fresh and the Legend of the “Tonite Show”.

DJ Fresh is a DJ and producer who makes more rounds than his turntables.

His original home of Baltimore, Maryland is just one of the many places DJ Fresh has called Home. He moved from B-More when he was nine years old, landing him in the South Bay city of San Jose. It was at this time in his life, the nine year-old “fresh” kid decided to add the DJ to his name, and committed himself to his music.

DJ Fresh is now a veteran producer and DJ, who’s name rings bells- just as his beats rattle trunks. His resume boasts projects and performances with Hip-Hop heavy weights such as Nas, Common, and Raekwon. And his travels have lead him to the East coast, the West coast, and now, he is poised to go on an international tour with Lil Kim.

But before he made that move to embark on his next journey, I caught up with DJ Fresh, as the workaholic was poised to record yet another track for the upcoming Tonite Show project. He and rapper San Quinn couldn’t spare a minute to pause the track as they were grinding away on the next track for the upcoming DJ Fresh album.

In this brief video interview, Fresh gives us insight into the formula behind the Tonite Show series…The Tonite Show with DJ FRESH from New America Media on Vimeo.

DJ Fresh’s “Tonite Show” album series can been seen via advertisements floating in the bay area streets, and can be heard rattling trunks in the Bay Area and beyond.  He has teamed up with a number of talented producers, and formed the group, “The Whole Shabang”. The Whole Shabang production team works with the top Bay Area artists, such as J- Stalin, D-Lo. , and Messy Marv; amongst others. To get a taste of what the combination of talented producers and top artists sounds like, here is a three piece special:

A new track titled “I Am” by an up and coming artist, Young Gully

Secondly, a track titled “Hardest in the Bay” by D-Lo.

And lastly, an older track, but still one of my favorites, “We go dumb in the Bay” by Mistah Fab.

This article was originally posted on youthoutlook.org