Michael Jackson 1958-2009

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michael-jackson-las-vegas

The King of Pop is dead. What an incredibly tragic ending to an epic life.

When TMZ announced Michael’s death I just sat there slack jawed.  I knew it was true because they’re always right, but I didn’t want to believe it.   I had been surfing the web madly for several minutes when I saw it.  From the initial reports I could tell that the end was near.  Now that it is over I am just numb.

The world’s most legendary living entertainer has died at the young age of 50. We admired the showman, the incredible dancer, writer, singer, and composer, but we never really knew him. Behind the entourage, security, screaming fans, and the outlandish and palatial estates, was a tragic and reclusive figure that never seemed to thrive despite his fame and success.  That Michael, the fragile tentative soul that millions never got to know, is gone forever. I mourn for him. Many judged him by the farcical dysfunction and the over-the-top-lifestyle.  Some judged him by the salacious allegations of abuse. Others took his measure by looking at his entire life.  What I saw was a tremendous amount of pain and a hole in his spirit that could never be filled. We never got to see what caused his pain, but we could all see that it was there.   The sweet, shy little boy whose music defined my generation is gone and I will miss him deeply.

While Oprah Winfrey got credit early and often for the more than $300 million she has donated to various charities, Michael Jackson, who was a celebrity before Oprah was in High School, equaled her in his donations to charity making the pair the biggest black philanthropists in U.S. History.   The chief patron of the Heal the World Foundation, which he started, also made the 2000 Guinness Book of Records for being the pop star with the most charitable commitments.  All told, Jackson was a patron to more than 39 organizations:

AIDS Project L.A.
American Cancer Society
Angel Food
Big Brothers of Greater Los Angeles
BMI Foundation, Inc.
Brotherhood Crusade
Brothman Burn Center
Camp Ronald McDonald
Childhelp U.S.A.
Children’s Institute International
Cities and Schools Scholarship Fund
Community Youth Sports & Arts Foundation
Congressional Black Caucus (CBC)
Dakar Foundation
Dreamstreet Kids
Dreams Come True Charity
Elizabeth Taylor Aids Foundation
Juvenile Diabetes Foundation
Love Match
Make-A-Wish Foundation
Minority Aids Project
Motown Museum
NAACP
National Rainbow Coalition
Rotary Club of Australia
Society of Singers
Starlight Foundation
The Carter Center’s Atlanta Project
The Sickle Cell Research Foundation
Transafrica
United Negro College Fund (UNCF)
United Negro College Fund Ladder’s of Hope
Volunteers of America
Watts Summer Festival
Wish Granting
YMCA – 28th Street/Crenshaw

Katie McKoy of Examiner.com has compiled an impressive list of Michael’s philanthropic accomplishments. Go on over to her page and show that young lady some love.  Try and keep your mouth closed while you read the list.  I bet you can’t, I couldn’t.  It is amazing how one of the most lonely celebrities in the world was able to give back to the less fortunate some of the love and adulation of his fans gave him.  His compassion seemed boundless.  It is all the more amazing to realize that had Michael not given away this massive fortune, he would have been financially secure.  Rather than focus solely on himself, he lavished attention and love on others.

The tragedy of Michael’s life is that his career, family and philanthropy weren’t able to help him heal the deep emotional scars of a lost childhood.   Michael is free now, free from the burdens of celebrity and free from the pain of scandal and loss of innocence.  Mourn his passing but remember the richness of his legacy.   Lift up Rebbie, Jackie, Tito, Jermaine, La Toya, Marlon, Randy, Janet,  Mr. Joe, Miss Katherine, and little Michael Joseph, Paris Michael and Prince Michael in your prayers.

Yes, Oprah, I screwed a Negro

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Hat Tip: Frazier Moore, Associated Press

After three decades of keeping mum, Barbara Walters is disclosing a past affair with married U.S. Senator Edward Brooke, whom she remembers as “exciting” and “brilliant.”

Appearing on “The Oprah Winfrey Show” scheduled to air Tuesday, Walters shares details of her relationship with Brooke that lasted several years in the 1970s, according to a transcript of the show provided to The Associated Press.

A moderate Republican from Massachusetts who took office in 1967, Brooke was the first African-American to be popularly elected to the Senate. Both he and Walters knew that public knowledge of their affair could have ruined his career as well as hers, Walters says.

At the time, the twice-divorced Walters was a rising star in TV news and co-host of NBC’s “Today” show, but would soon jump to ABC News, where she has enjoyed unrivaled success. Her affair with Brooke, which never before came to light, had ended before he lost his bid for a third term in 1978.

Brooke later divorced, and has since remarried. Calls to a listing for Brooke in Miami by The Associated Press were not immediately returned Thursday.

Walters is the guest of Oprah Winfrey to discuss her new memoir, “Audition,” which covers her long career in television, as well as her off-camera life. On “Oprah,” Walters recounts a phone call from a friend who urged her to stop seeing Brooke.

“He said, ‘This is going to come out. This is going to ruin your career,'” then reminded her that Brooke was up for re-election a year later. “‘This is going to ruin him. You’ve got to break this off.'”

Winfrey asks Walters if she was in love.

“I was certainly — I don’t know — I was certainly infatuated.”

“Infatuated.”

“I was certainly involved,” Walters says. “He was exciting. He was brilliant. It was exciting times in Washington.”

Barack Obama, a proxy for racial equality

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Barack Obama is a proxy for some people for the conversation about race that they have no courage or inclination to have.  At best, he is a denatured Negro and political centrist acceptably black and mainstream to the white power structure chiefly because of his moderate Senate record and because he refused to discuss the incendiary, racial polarization games of Bill Clinton. After sweeping 13 states from coast to coast and running up 7,369,798 votes, 41% of white voters, and 48% of white males, some pundits, like Juan Williams, are still calling Obama, “the black candidate,” a charge I find both ludicrous and offensive.  

What’s the matter Juan, Fox News looking to replace you with a more rabid right wing Uncle Tom?  Wasn’t your recent softball interview with Dubya enough to prove your fealty to the dark side? Somebody else got their eyes on your prized perch of televised Negro servitude?   

All last year, I mined the depths of my ambivalence for Barack Obama, and exposed and explored his politically expedient positioning for this White House bid.  I was brutally honest and as fair as I knew how to be.  The crux of my criticisms, in a nutshell, was his departures from the consensus of black opinion regarding slave reparations, voting to confirm Condoleezza Rice, and voting for tort reform and free trade-which seems like slavery to those ensnared by it.   He is most certainly not “the Black Candidate” and Black voters, not known for reading the fine print, know little about that record.

Instead, Black voters support Barack Obama because of the extraordinary marketing campaign being run by his team and the compelling power of surrogates like his wife Michelle and Oprah Winfrey.   It also didn’t hurt that Clinton surrogates tried to smear Obama with a criminal label and the epithet of “Black Candidate” like Bill Clinton and so many others have tried to do. The brotha makes us proud and lets us hold our heads up high for a change.  

Truthfully, this is as good as it gets.  We won’t have a chance like this again for some time-if ever, we know that, and we’ve fallen in line.  The power structure has allowed this brotha to compete as long as he is clear on a few ground rules:  no material changes will be made to the racist global economic order, Africa will not be liberated from its economic dependence on the World Bank and the IMF, and incremental changes in domestic economic institutions like the health care system will be permitted within certain limits.  

Race and the deleterious effects of institutionalized racism are not on the white power structure’s agenda of sanctioned items for the next President because his very election will be misinterpreted to mean that this nation has moved past race.  It will be up to us to put it on the agenda where it belongs until it is properly dealt with.  We’ve got to be realistic as a community.  A candidate who risks political suicide by having a truthful discussion about race will never be the progressive champion we envision without pressure.

While not hostile to black interests per se, Obama will probably be less than helpful in implementing a “black agenda,” as defined by the esteemed Black Agenda Report.  A President Obama will need to be treated like any other president and held to a high standard by the black community.  

Most of us are hopeful that the example of a black man as President will change things and change people in positive ways.    I am sure that it will but I am less sure that the positive change will be lasting or that he will be able to implement a transformative agenda.   Tom Bradley was Mayor of Los Angeles for twenty years, a mentor to good brothas like Tavis Smiley, and still gangs and drugs are prevalent in our community.  

Ten years ago, Gary Orfield, a professor of Education at UCLA, speaking on a panel with Michael Eric Dyson in Dyson’s Book “Debating Race,” said, “There are tremendous inequities in our society today, [measured] by race and by poverty.  They’re growing. We have the most unequal distribution of income and opportunity of any major democracy.  In the mid 1960’s and 70’s we developed a set of policies to try to make that work better.  We’re now dismantling them on a very large scale under the leadership of a Supreme Court that was constructed by Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush.”   

“We do not have an alternate plan.  We think it will just work out automatically, and it won’t.  And we have to face up to that.   We have not cured the problems of our history.  We have not achieved equality for even one day, in terms of outcomes in this society.  We can’t deny that, and we have to try to resolve it.  And we have to resolve it, those of us who are white, before we become the minority, and minority rights become not just a theory but something we have to worry about also.”   

Nothing has changed under this President Bush.  His malevolent agenda has made things even worse than those that came before. This week, speaking to my Grandma, I reminded her to caucus this weekend for Barack Obama.  During the course of the conversation, Mama told me that she went to a mall in my Midwestern hometown to have her blood pressure checked.  An older white man from the Carolinas checked her pressure and then broke down crying asking Mama for her forgiveness for all whites had done to our people.  

I was speechless.   

While confession is good for the soul, I don’t know how good that confession really was for Mama.  She had the conversation about race that I wish we all could have but it lacked any discussion of remuneration. I would have preferred that she’d been paid what she was worth as a nurse for 37 years at a Veterans Administration hospital.  

Mama never did make the top pay grade after all that time, a fact I found out when I worked as a nursing assistant at her hospital during college. She would be getting more in retirement now if she had and could rest a little easier. Rhetoric about hope aside, which we desperately need, we still need to get down to brass tacks about the inequity in this society.    

Progressives are being drowned out by opportunistic handkerchief heads like Juan Williams who know damn better. They undermine the consensus of opinion in the black community and make it difficult for savvy and pragmatic politicians like Barack Obama to advance by pushing a progressive agenda.  I have been clear that I don’t like the accommodations Obama made to get to this point, but I realize that his candidacy would be impossible without them.   

The tragedy of our system is that corporate accommodation is mandatory for political advancement and I remain hopeful that the inspiration Obama provides to young brothas and sistahs will mitigate the damage our plutocracy inflicts on their dreams and aspirations for the future.

Women for Obama tour a roaring success

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Caroline started off, Oprah broke it down, Michelle kept it real, and Maria Shriver surprised everybody and spoke from the heart. The Kennedyesque themes of hope and opportunity are reaching people all over the nation and Obama is rapidly closing the gap. Nayayers like Juan Williams believe that Hillary still has a huge advantage, others see that this race is far from over and will not be decided on Super Tuesday.

Senator Obama himself spoke to a crowd of over 20,000 in Delaware while Bill Clinton was banished to the chitlin circuit of Los Angeles black churches to hawk his snake oil for Hillary. CNN described his foray as a “mea culpa tour.” I think its too little and too late for most blackfolk. Clinton is reduced to having Negro surrogates vouch for him and introduce him to African American audiences now. Before he sought to racially polarize people, that would have been unnecessary. He could have gone anywhere to talk to blackfolks and been received warmly. Now, folks have to remember that they are in the House of the Lord and remain polite. Sad.

The one thing that mystifies me is the stasis field a lot of African Americans seem to be stuck in torn between Hillary and Obama. I never thought it would be a tough choice for somebody like Snoop Dog. The Clintons would like nothing better than to diss somebody like him for a 21st century Sistah Souljah moment. I thought the brotha could see that.

The Clintons are so desperate for Negro support now that they will go anywhere and do anything for it. Hopefully folk won’t fall for the okeydoke.

As for the polls, they’re all headed in one direction-toward Obama. The only question is whether there is enough time between now and Tuesday to overcome Hillary completely.

OBAMA GOT GAME: Junior Senator crushes Hillary and Edwards in historic win

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I’m sorry I took too long, but as Gene Robinson of the Washington Post has said, this is a “Goosebumps moment.” As I write and listen once more to the victory speech, the tears are coming and I feel as emotional as a pregnant woman does. I will be in church on Sunday morning and nobody will be able to hold me down because I will be a shouting fool.

I needed this as my grandparents needed Martin and Malcolm. I needed this because I need to believe in something again. I needed this because my spirit has been shattered, my joy has been stolen, and my hope in my country destroyed. God has moved and his hand is clearly on Barack Obama. Iowa, 95% white, has sent the nation and the world a message that in the words of one of Sam Cooke’s signature tunes,”A Change gon’ Come.” And come it has.

Last night, Barack Obama, finally gave us, his people, “a word from the Lord.”

“They said this day would never come. They said our sights were set too high. They said this country was too divided, too disillusioned to ever come together around a common purpose. But on this January night, at this defining moment in history, you have done what the cynics said we couldn’t do.”

“You have done what the state of New Hampshire can do in five days. You have done what America can do in this New Year 2008. In lines that stretched around schools and churches, in small towns and big cities, you came together as Democrats, Republicans and Independents to stand up and say that we are one nation, one people, and our time for a change has come.”

I still have Goosebumps. I could shout right here in this internet cafe. I don’t know about you, but after the almost divine intervention of Oprah, I could feel this tectonic shift in American politics coming.

Basking in the glow of this historical moment, one I’ve dreamed of for 25 years, I’ve overcome my bitter and sarcastic cynicism, and I have decided to endorse Barack Obama for President of the United States.

I am not taking back the substance of my criticisms because they represent my unvarnished feelings. Today, however, I feel like Patti Labelle and have “a new attitude.” Looking back over last year, I skillfully erected a wall of opposition to Barack Obama as strong as anything in the biblical Jericho because of his various missteps and obvious pandering to the corporate power structure. It got to the point where I could not even hear the brotha speak without picking out how he was telegraphing his mainstream intentions to the establishment and I just tuned him out. He didn’t move me until last night but Michelle and Oprah did, I must admit.

Michelle Obama cracked the walls of my ideological Jericho with her forthright manner in general and her South Carolina speech in particular. I cannot say enough about how attractive, articulate and persuasive a spokesperson she is on behalf of her husband. In February, after hearing him in person for the first time, I made it clear how necessary it was for Barack to give blackfolks, “A Word From The Lord.” He did and I guarantee that Black America will respond by abandoning Hillary Clinton en masse.

For me, however, Michelle Obama had already beat him to the punch with her address to a Orangeburg, South Carolina gathering. Sistah girl nailed it.

Michelle is able to communicate from the heart in a way that is both uplifting and empowering to me. Her spiel serves the dual purpose of communicating to whitefolks her safe middle class bonifides and her commitment to black empowerment. The frank recounting of the reservations she expressed about a presidential bid tells us that the sistah is grounded by the love of her upbringing, and will use those values as a guidepost for the road ahead. For Michelle, the personal is political which is demonstrated by her faith in a loving God and her wholesome commitment to strengthening families, especially the black family. I can think of no other woman I’d rather see become First Lady.

Michelle’s statuesque beauty, effortless style, bottomless grace, quiet intellect and amazing humility are exactly the qualities that America’s trailblazing black First Lady must exhibit and that her husband ought to have at his side.

Oprah, on the other hand, is another matter entirely. Being in South Carolina with that massive crowd was almost a religious experience. The walls of my ideological Jericho came down with a mighty shout. I’ve been wrestling with how to tell y’all because I knew when I left the stadium that I would support Obama.

I traveled to South Carolina alone and adopted the lady in line next to me as my play mom for the day. I asked Ms. Johnson how many of her girlfriends supported Hillary. Ms. Johnson told me, “I don’t know nobody supporting Hillary.” I shoulda known then that Obama had ended Hillary’s chances of the nomination. Taking nothing away from the formidable imperial guard surrounding Hillary, I am quite comfortable predicting that Hillary will lose New Hampshire and the nomination to Obama.

Trailblazers like Oprah were way ahead of people like me. Never a true skeptic although she remained aloof from politics, Oprah, a billionaire as a result of her finger on the pulse of this country, knew a winner when she saw one.

Pondering the import of Oprah Winfrey’s whirlwind tour on behalf of Barack Obama has left me seeing the world in a new way and has me viewing Obama’s groundbreaking candidacy through the prism of Oprah Winfrey’s experience. Oprah’s humble yet passionate articulation of Obama’s cause brought the right touch of star power and street cred. Skeptical pundits have been forever silenced by Oprah’s power to help Obama draw weekend crowds of 66,000 in three states.

Both Michelle Obama and Oprah Winfrey, as Maya Angelou would agree, are phenomenal women, phenomenally. Just like Michelle Obama, I’ve had trouble reconciling Barack Obama the man and Barack Obama the phenomenon. Together, Michelle and Oprah helped put it into the proper perspective for me. Let me break it down, it’s all about the O, and I don’t mean Overstock.com.

Examining the arc of her remarkable life from Mississippi, Tennessee and Illinois, I am struck by how similar it tracks the same path as another daughter of Mississippi: Ida B. Wells-Barnett. I’ve always believed that although a prominent heroine of black history, Mrs. Wells-Barnett never fully received her due as a result of the bitter Victorian sexism of her time. Mrs. Wells-Barnett more than earned her place in the pantheon of black historical legends like Frederick Douglass and W.E.B. DuBois.

Born into slavery in 1862, orphaned at 14 by a yellow fever epidemic and left to raise five younger siblings, Ida B. Wells rose from the grinding poverty of Holly Springs, Mississippi to the highest echelon of black society. A teacher, journalist, anti-lynching activist, feminist, suffragist and Republican politician (we were republicans then), her significant contributions to our struggle against white supremacy and Jim Crow segregation cannot be exaggerated.

Crusader in Defense of the Black Body

Well educated for a child of slaves, she was educated at Mississippi’s Rust College and Tennessee’s Fisk University, both HBCU’s. By twenty, she moved with her siblings to Tennessee and settled in Memphis. By twenty-two, Wells-Barnett was leading campaigns against segregation in public accommodations. By twenty-four, she was writing editorials and investigative pieces to fight against lynching and white supremacy. She became a crusader in defense of the Black Body and a defender of our lives against the relentlessly racist oppression imposed by Jim Crow.


Crusader in Defense of the Black Spirit


Kosciusko, Mississippi born Oprah Winfrey, a trailblazing journalist, businesswoman, media personality, philanthropist, and child advocate, picked up Ida’s torch and has become a crusader in defense of the black spirit. Nashville’s first Black news anchor, she has used her life to fight a crusade against child sexual abuse, racism, poverty, and neglect. Single-handedly, the victim of rape and sexual molestation at the hands of cousin, uncle and her mother’s boyfriend, she is responsible for federal legislation that she authored to create a national registry of sex offenders to track predators against our children.

A philanthropist of legendary scale, she has given millions to black colleges and universities, is spending more money on rebuilding housing for hurricane Katrina victims than the damn federal government-over $17,000,000 million, despite billions appropriated and not spent by Washington, and is channeling millions of dollars for educational programs and HIV/AIDS programs in this country and worldwide.

An actress of legendary prowess, she came to national attention in her portrayal of Sophia in Alice Walker’s “The Color Purple.” The character Sophia is asked by the wife of the town’s Mayor if she would like to be her maid. Sophia’s reply, “Hell No” is so robust, vehement, and unexpected that it ends up causing a dust-up in which she has to defend herself from a racist physical assault for “sassing” Miss Millie and her white male defenders. Sophia ends up rotting in Jail for years before being re-united with her family and the “kind-hearted” bitch for which she initially refused to work-as her maid.

Domestic servitude in the kitchens of white women is part and parcel of the history of black women in this country and touches upon a raw nerve that exists for black women of multiple generations-even now. Black women’s unjustified allegiance to Hillary Clinton tap dances on that nerve. My maternal grandmother, now in her 8th decade, is a woman of remarkable intestinal fortitude, humor, wisdom, and unassailable dignity. She is the rock upon which our family has relied for nearly 60 years. As a young mother of three and wife of an abusive husband, she found herself having to abandon the marriage and flee to the safety of family a good distance away. Work as a domestic in the homes of white women was what was available to her and she took it and used it to put herself through nursing school.

Mama told me how she was asked by the south Florida matron she worked for if she knew what “elbow grease” was. The woman wanted Mama to get down on her hands and knees and scrub the floor with a toothbrush like a house slave on the plantation. That vignette has always stayed with me and is like a festering boil that never heals. My grandmama’s story reveals the texture, depth, and authenticity of black women’s struggle in this country. It is something that Hillary Clinton, blinded by her sense of royal entitlement, will never understand and something that the grandson of a British colonial servant does.

Reminding us of the “Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman” on the tour with the Obama’s, Oprah echoed Jane Pittman when she famously asked each of the children, “Are you the one, Are you the one that will save us.” He won’t single-handedly save us, but I sincerely believe that he is the one for this moment.

His election as president, should it occur, will not overnight result in a diminution of the world’s oppressive racial order, but it will be a step in the right direction for change. I could never get the image out of my head that Michelle conjured up of her husband taking the oath of office. I don’t think he can single-handedly end white supremacy and the grip of capitalist patriarchy, but I think that he may serve as an inspiration to the child or children who can.

Obama truly got game. He can unite this racially divided country in the spirit of brotherhood as nobody can, and for this reason, he will have my unswerving support.

Bill Shaheen’s Obama flap

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Former New Hampshire Governor Jeanne Shaheen’s husband Bill, a prominent attorney and former Judge, put his foot in his mouth by his questioning of Barack Obama’s “background.”

According to the Associated Press, “Shaheen, an attorney and veteran organizer, had said much of Obama’s background is unknown and could be a problem in November 2008 if he is the Democratic nominee. He said Republicans would work hard to discover new aspects of Obama’s admittedly spotty youth.”

“It’ll be, ‘When was the last time? Did you ever give drugs to anyone? Did you sell them to anyone?'” said Shaheen, whose wife, Jeanne, is a former New Hampshire governor and is running for the U.S. Senate next year.”

“There are so many openings for Republican dirty tricks. It’s hard to overcome,” Shaheen said.”

Senator Clinton apologized for Shaheen’s racially insensitive remarks Thursday and Shaheen stepped down from his role as Co-Chair of Senator Clinton’s New Hampshire campaign.   I find it interesting that he would reveal his racial tone deafness in this fashion when his former law partner, New Hampshire Congressman Paul Hodes, is supporting Obama.  This week, Hodes’ other New Hampshire colleague in the house,  Carol Shea-Porter, endorsed Obama as well, reversing her stated intention to remain neutral.

Everywhere Obama stumped with Oprah,  his poll numbers improved and the race has tightened considerably.  For those who are buying the media line that Oprah doesn’t matter, the proof of the pudding is in the polls, especially among African American voters in South Carolina.   The Clintonistas are running scared and her so-called inevitability has been dramatically deflated. 

With anymore help like Bill Shaheen’s, he’ll help Hillary right out of the nomination.

The Oprah and Obama show in South Carolina

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The last leg of the Oprah and Obama show will be held today in South Carolina and I am going to gauge the reaction of black folk to this huge celebrity spectacle.  Pray for me, my car is need of service but I just can’t stay away.   I watched animatedly the reaction in Iowa and was amazed by the response.  18,000+ thousand in Des Moines alone.  The horrible weather today in Iowa ain’t nothin to sneeze at.  The event in South Carolina will surely rival that as the biggest crowd of the campaign.    Oprah is a tremendous draw and sistahs hold her in higher esteem than they do Hillary.    We shall see if it does the trick.

Addendum:  I am still writing a post about this experience and trying to fully account for everything that happened.  Stay tuned.