Sunday, May 31, 2009

Hip Hop Remembrances: Digable Planets

I was a little behind the curve when it came to warming up to hip hop back in the early and middle 80s. I was much more interested the music coming out of the UK, from Duran Duran to Sade to the Smiths to Loose Ends. That music was innovative, and for me it was aspirational; hip hop seemed to me to be more of a reality based genre, so I wasn't really there.

I think it took going to a school as white as Hampden-Sydney for me to be slapped back into a black reality of sorts, and with that slap, hip hop was there to welcome me back into the fold. I took to it like a duck to water. I could write thousands of words to express how hip hop helped to shape aspects of who I am today, but I want to focus on just one group today: Digable Planets.

1993 was a year of promise for me. I'd come out of the closet to my family and friends, and I'd decided to pursue graduate school in history (which I would begin in the fall of the following year). That was the year that "Reachin' (A Refutation of Time and Space)" was released. Digable Planets' explicit combination of jazz and hip hop really appealed to me; it represented a sense of just how cool hip hop could be. I also liked the fact that Butterfly, Doodlebug, and Ladybug Mecca seemed like people with whom I could relate (like the brothers from De La Soul and A Tribe Called Quest). I wanted to feel that sense of connection, and they provided it.

"Where I'm From"

I remember that their next album "Blowout Comb" didn't do nearly as well, but I liked it just the same. I definitely love the song "9th Wonder (Blackitolism)," because I was "slicker" that year myself, and on a path that made real sense to me. Enjoy.

"9th Wonder (Blackitolism)"

Friday, May 29, 2009

Calling All Conservative White Men (and Others)

I am finding the discussion by primarily white male conservatives about the nomination of Sonia Sotomayor very interesting. I've been watching Pat Buchanan lead the charge for the oppressed white male on MSNBC (here is his latest column). I just read a blurb from John Derbyshire on "The Corner" on National Review Online. And I think I agree with Rachel Weiner's "Huffington Post" post that Sotomayor's nomination is beginning to show fissures within the conservative movement along racial lines.

This is something that only the white guys can tell me. Do white men really feel oppressed by the effort to diversify colleges/universities and workplaces (this includes white women in that diversity mix)? And, how do we practice equality under the law, when there are, I believe, many white men who perhaps share the disdain that Buchanan and Derbyshire seem to have toward racial minorities and women? How do we ensure that the likes of white men like that really would practice equality (that does not mean that all white men, and only all white men, seem to be created equal)?

And I just heard on MSNBC that Rush Limbaugh equated Sonia Sotomayor with David Duke. David Duke? Well the National Council of La Raza was compared to the Klan.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Ban Divorce in California (and Make It Retroactive to Everyone's First Spouse)

Once again, I have to come down from a high. I am excited that Sonia Sotomayor has been nominated to the SCOTUS. I am sad that the California Supreme Court has decided to uphold Proposition 8. That ruling just came down a few minutes ago.

Interestingly, the California court wimped out on us. If, as they have deemed, Proposition 8 is legal, then it would follow that the same sex marriages that they have declared safe, are in fact against the law. Should they not be nullified? Right now, there is a definite two tiered structure in California. When will those on the right, buoyed by the decision today, decide that their gay married neighbors, by just existing, should have their marriage destroyed. Remember, it violates the law of California. I am waiting for them to begin to destroy marriage, to do what they said that they are trying to prevent.

I suggest to all of my glbt (and straight allied) brothers and sisters in California to generate a petition banning divorce, the real destroyer of marriage, throughout California, and to have that law go retroactively, so that all of those married to someone other than their first spouse will be forced to have those first marriages reinstated.

If marriage is in need of protection, then go hard, and see how far you get. Destroy the marriages of the people who married last year in California, and explain why to the public.

Obama and the Supremes III

I am glad that BHO selected Sonia Sotomayor. I guessed early on that he would do so. I like the idea that a Justice on the SCOTUS should have empathy, intellectual heft and a respect for the Constitution (check out Jeffrey Toobin's analysis of Chief Justice Roberts to learn about a person I see as far from a person BHO would consider for the SCOTUS).

And it will be interesting to see if conservatives will go down the path that someone whose race, ethnicity or gender is a problem (since BHO's pick will not be a conservative, in which case those aforementioned qualities aren't as important, as long as a conservative ideology is held) with regard to being a good judge. I also wonder if they will step into the quagmire of arguing that somehow someone like Sotomayor cannot be the "best qualified," because her demographics "automatically" render her qualifications suspect.

Finally, it will be interesting to see how the GOP and the broader Hispanic community will do this dance. Politically, it will be quite difficult to go after Sotomayor with ideological guns blazing, and being able to reach out with real success to Hispanic communities (unless there is a major revelation that is crippling to her nomination).

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Since "Preservation Nation" is Already Taken....

I am seriously considering starting another blog. If I decide to go that way, the blog will be directly related to my professional work in American history (African American and U.S. Sport among others) and historic preservation, with an emphasis on diversity in the fields. In a past life, I was Director for Diversity with a preservation organization. I am also an historian by training.

By working in the field of historic preservation, I feel like my appreciation for academic history and preservation have grown tremendously. I see the interrelationships; I see the puzzle pieces and how they fit together. Thankfully, I long understood that diversity is more than just race and ethnicity; it is reflective of all of the things that make us individually unique.

Though I know that everything cannot be saved (nor should everything be saved), I do believe that communities need to be fully engaged in determining what is of value, and what needs to be preserved for future generations. This story out of Bridgeport, CT is an excellent example of why more attention needs to be given to the preservation of historic resources in diverse communities.

Be on the lookout, and follow me if you like.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Supporting the GOP, the Christian Thing to Do (according to Liberty University)

Sometimes, one just has to shake his head. Liberty University in Lynchburg, VA (established by the late Jerry Falwell) has decided that it can no longer officially support the school's Democratic Club (which was formally recognized in October '08), because the values of the Democratic Party are not in line with the university. I have not a single problem with the school deciding not to fund the program. Private schools can do that.

My problem is with the inference that one cannot be a Democrat and a Christian. According to the article in the Lynchburg News Advance, the university's Vice President of Student Affairs, in an e-mail message, wrote "[t]he Democratic Party platform is contrary to the mission of Liberty University and to Christian doctrine...." Meanwhile, College Republicans has been at Liberty for years.

So, that's settled. It appears that the Republican Party is the party of Christ, while the Democratic Party is not. Therefore, supporting the Republican Party means that you support God. Following the Democratic Party is both immoral and anti-Christian. I could go into a nice long rant about this, but I think that the feelings expressed by the officials at Liberty speak for themselves without additional help from me.

Oh, and someone might want to tell all of those black Christians who have strayed from "the path" by voting Democratic all of these years.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Hey, Newt Gingrich! Double Standard Much?

I think the clip below will speak for itself; it's so pitiful. Man I love Rachel Maddow!

"Idol" Things That Make You Go Hmmm

I do not watch "American Idol," but I have heard about the final two contestants. Adam Lambert might be gay. And Kris Allen apparently is a Christian. Now, if I, a person who does not watch the show, heard about this, then clearly TONS more people know these things as well.

Maybe I am cynical, but in light of all of the cool gay marriage stuff that has happened of late, I would not be surprised if there was a Christian (and Christianist) tidal wave of votes to beat the "gay" guy, because Kris Allen apparently won the contest.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Hey, Liz Cheney! Double Standard Much?

While watching "Countdown with Keith Olbermann," I was quite interested in a portion of a show that dealt with former VPOTUS' daughter Liz Cheney.

What struck me was the point raised by Olbermann that no one is calling out Liz Cheney on calling the current POTUS "un-American" for keeping alive the possibility of prosecutions related to torture. I, too, remember vividly the charges from the right that not supporting Bush was tantamount to supporting "those who attacked us on 9/11."

Unfortunately, most in the MSM (mainstream media) fell right in line, and offered nothing close to the journalistic questions being fired at BHO. The MSM failed the American public by not questioning what was going on in the last administration. I am comfortable that, because of the cawing of the right, nothing even close to the run up to the invasion of Iraq will be allowed to come to pass in the current administration. And nothing like that should happen. If BHO is out of line (or his mind), then we deserve to know that. More than anything, the last administration should have taught us that.

So, I want to hear folks call out Liz Cheney for not being supportive of the current POTUS. Her words were transmitted to our enemies, and they can be used in a way to help bolster terrorists. She should be ashamed of herself.

See how easy that was? See how stupid it is now, and how stupid it was back then?

Friday, May 15, 2009

Logan Circle (DC) Love

I thought I would take a little time to show some love to my little corner of Washington, DC, Logan Circle.

I've been here for about three years now. I have a cousin who moved to the neighborhood (he lives on Logan Circle) back in 1997. And I fully admit that I am completely spoiled. Whole Foods is one block from my spot. The bars Halo (now Number Nine) and Stoney's, and the restaurants Logan Tavern and 1409 Playbill are places I tend to haunt (great folks work at these places too).

Having worked in historic preservation for the last six years, I have had many conversations and given a number of presentations on the issue of gentrification and its relationship to preservation and community revitalization. Most people would look at Logan Circle and immediately see it as a "gentrified" neighborhood. And, it is. I also liked the fact that my building is wildly multi-cultural and convenient. Yet, it remains a predominantly black and middle/upper middle class community, which would surprise many.

There are tensions, and certainly things that I would want to change in the neighborhood. For example, one of the more popular stores in the neighborhood (and a relatively recent addition), Universal Gear, suffered a brazen robbery during the day just recently (I think the store itself posted the surveillance vid on YouTube). We also had two of the local banks vandalized during the World Bank/IMF meetings last month. Sadly, that is a part of city living, a part that I would love to see eliminated.

I raised the issue of gentrification to show that the term really means change. It is not automatically negative. Neighborhoods can drive change, if they have the right support (which I hope I can provide to diverse neighborhoods around the country). Logan Circle will continue to work through its issues, but the neighborhood is strong, and residents have a great deal of pride here.

I hope that folks who come to visit DC will get beyond the monumental core and check out Logan Circle, as well as the other great neighborhoods around the city (U Street, NW Corridor, Adams Morgan, Capitol Hill, H Street, NE Corridor). It's well worth it.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Notre Dame Shame

To all of those angered by the invitation extended to BHO to give the commencement address at the University of Notre Dame, I have this question. Why is this commencement speaker's pro-choice position a problem, when other Notre Dame commencement speakers who are pro-choice seemed not to get this level of enmity?

According to a 2001 article posted on the school's website dedicated to commencement speakers, the following pro-choice supporters have spoken: Vernon Jordan, Condoleezza Rice and Bill Cosby. I don't recall calls for protests based on their appearances.

What is so special about BHO's pro-choice position that requires a true firestorm of protests? Why now?

Faith? I wonder how many of these "faithful" folks support "enhanced interrogation techniques." I wonder how many of these "faithful" folks were protesting the war in Iraq, because our entry into that war was based on an intricate web of lies and deceit. I wonder how many of these "faithful" folks believe in the death penalty.

What is the point people?

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Can We Talk About Torture Now?

Two blog posts that I've read today really got to me. The first was posted by Matt Taibbi on True/Slant. The other was posted by Andrew Sullivan at The Daily Dish. I enjoy reading both men. Yet, their posts today reminded me of the damage that I believe the Bush years in particular have wrought on this country.

Taibbi reminds people that being against torture is not the same as being for the terrorists. Sullivan realizes that the current administration seems to be moving into an awkward neo-conservative pose (complete with cheers from the sycophants who led the way to the mess we find ourselves in right now).

How did we get to this point? When did torture, which is against the law, and supported by the conservative deity himself Ronald Reagan, move to legally questionable ground? When did we start making arguments based on fictional scenarios from a popular television program? Why are we watching an administration not really take up the mantle of openness and justice, when it is painfully clear that laws were broken by the last administration?

I was asked if it mattered to me that there is a possibility that Democrats might be implicated. It does not in the least. I've watched my country become afraid of its own shadow. I've watched my country become a mean-spirited place that has abandoned reason for madness, like Saruman.

From 2001 through 2009, we were a nation governed from a position of fear, not strength. That is the legacy of the Bush administration as I see it, and it is a shame. His could have been a transformational presidency, but George W. Bush, and many of those who worked for him, were not up to the task. So here we are listening to Americans question the patriotism of other Americans, simply because some disagree with Bush and Cheney. We also are treated to weekly complaints and fear mongering by the former VPOTUS (and his daughter). All of this continues as we watch the current administration waffle on what to do to move forward, even though the paths are fairly clear.

I am trying to maintain hope that all of these things will be investigated and brought to light, regardless of where it will lead. Or are we now too afraid of a thorough self examination even to save our own reputation?

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

What is it About the Gays (including the black ones)?

I read Leonard Pitts' column "Blacks must confront their homophobia" this morning, and it was nice to read his perspective on this issue. It was especially nice to see his reference to DC Councilman Marion Barry's new found stance on gay marriage.

This is an open question for anyone who wants to tackle and discuss it: Why is the black community particularly uncomfortable with all things gay (even the black gays)?

Monday, May 11, 2009

On Obama and Gay Rights

I do not like what I am seeing develop in the Obama administration, and I am sad to know that there are some supporters of Hillary Clinton and John McCain who will be on the ready with the "I told you so" line.

BHO is waffling on gay rights issues, and I do not understand why. I am confident that he, more than any other POTUS before him, has had real normal contact with gay folks. Even the dreaded Rev. Wright seemed to be more favorable to the GLBT community that BHO is seeming to be currently.

It's the most like Bill Clinton that I have seen him be. I haven't given up on him yet, and we are still in the first year of BHO's administration. But it does seem that while we are in the midst of two wars, the dismissal of active duty military personnel over "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" is counterintuitive to a mission of success. And I need someone to tell me (I am thinking of my friends who are active duty) why an openly (and since we are talking the military, I doubt those folks would be that open) gay person in the military is worse than an actual criminal. I find it offensive that people with actual criminal records are given breaks, incentives if you will, to sign up, while law abiding gay personnel are "threats to unit cohesion."

I also want to know why the likes of someone like Meghan McCain can get it rather right on gay issues, while people within the current administration seem only to hedge and punt. And this is even in the face of public opinion polls that show that the majority of Americans support the repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," as well as the growing support for either same sex marriage or civil unions for gay couples.

History is on the side of the GLBT community, and people from my generation (Generation X) and those younger generations understand that (well, most of us). My guess is that there are folks within the BHO administration offering cowardly advice, and that is a real shame. The gay rights movement is indeed the latest iteration of the broader civil rights movement within American history. Civil rights does not belong to just the black community. It never has, and it never will. I hope that BHO will not fall into the trap of ignoring this particular civil rights movement. It would be his loss.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Maine On My Mind

I knew I sensed something special when I showed up in Brooksville, ME that cool evening in July 2005, and that was "cool" and "July" in the same sentence (heaven in my mind). I was happy to return later that year for the wedding of one of my closest friends (a sister really). I think there were a total of 12 black folks up in Brooklin, ME at one of the most cozy and friendly inns, The Lookout (please go if you can; the food is excellent and the proprietors are phenomenal) that weekend, and all of us intend to go back.

I congratulate the state of Maine on deciding to support gay marriage. It is even more impressive because Governor Baldacci was not originally a supporter of gay marriage. He realized that based on the state constitution's call of equality under the law that civil unions were not the legal equivalent of civil marriages. California should take heed. New Hampshire should look to its neighbors.

"The world is changed. I feel it in the water. I feel it in the earth. I smell it in the air." (Cate Blanchett speaking lines originally spoken by "Treebeard" from The Lord of the Rings.)

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Obama and the Supremes II

Pure snark ahead. You have been warned.

As I listen to the blustering from the GOP and the right about the SCOTUS nominee who has not been named, and after reading this post on Ta-Nehisi Coates blog over at, as well as John Judis' entry at, I had an idea.

Since it is clear that unless you are a minority with conservative views, you are incapable of being impartial, why don't we just restrict the SCOTUS nominations to straight white men. Obviously, that is the only demographic group in this country where intelligence and impartiality are givens. By introducing these "others" with different perspectives, and perhaps even different life experiences, the country may be subjected to people utterly unable to interpret the law without those experiences "influencing" their decisions.

Perhaps that will help calm the apoplexy the right is building over this potential fight for the SCOTUS nomination. Justice served.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Jack Kemp: The Man Who Led Me to Consider the GOP

I was sad when I learned that Jack Kemp passed away. He was the only Republican who intrigued me enough to look at the party (six weeks as a paid member of College Republicans my freshman year). I liked his approach toward housing projects, when he was the Secretary of HUD. He'd articulated the possibility of using HUD funds to renovate housing projects, and then work with residents essentially to rent to own those spaces. Though that idea did not go very far, I thought that it was an innovative possibility to give the poorest in our nation an opportunity to be homeowners (a far better alternative than targeting the working poor, working class and lower middle class with predatory sub-prime loans).

Kemp chastised the GOP for not competing for support from black folks. If I recall correctly, he argued that the GOP seemed afraid of the black community. It was Kemp's experience as a football player that helped to remove the "mystery" about black folks for him (something the GOP needs to do with every other group that isn't straight, white and male).

Sadly, it was his run with Bob Dole that made me lose my faith in Jack Kemp politically. He had to change significantly his political positions in order to be selected, and it was not, in my mind, change for the good. I felt that he sold out his principles, that he let go of the qualities that would have made him attractive to more than the usual GOP suspects.

Regardless, I wanted to pay my respects to the man who led me to consider the GOP all those years ago.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Obama and the Supremes

Like many in the country, I was surprised to hear that Justice Souter decided to retire. I'm sure most folks had their money on Justice Ginsburg. Personally, a Scalia retirement would be a most welcome development, but I digress. Now the games begin.

I think that BHO will be looking really closely at Judge Sonia Sotomayor, who sits on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. It was interesting listening to Pat Buchanan yesterday ask essentially, if BHO will go for merit (read straight white guy) or identity (read everybody else). It was quite tiresome to watch him present his point as though the two are mutually exclusive, as though there really is no way for a woman or a minority of any sort to ever qualify based on merit. Justice Thomas, of course, receives a pass, because his point of view is painfully similar to Buchanan's.

Buchanan on Hardball

I am perfectly comfortable saying that it is definitely time for an Hispanic to be named to the SCOTUS (this could be his moment, like Johnson's with his naming Thurgood Marshall). Someone like Judge Sotomayor will have a perspective from which the SCOTUS will benefit, and she will fall squarely into BHO's call for someone who has a brilliant legal mind, but who will also have the ability to look beyond just legal theories in his/her understanding of the Constitution. Though many conservatives seem unwilling to admit it, one's personal perspective does indeed inform one's approach to judicial decision making (read any dissent regarding gay rights issues from Scalia).

I think that BHO will have another shot at shaping the Court before his time is done. It is wonderful that we will have the benefit of a POTUS who understands intimately the benefit of diversity. Our country, in the end, will be better for it.