Controversial radio host Tarsha "Jonesy" Jones has been fired from her popular “Power 99” show after two separate lawsuits were filed against the morning host and Clear Channel Radio. Loraine Ballard Morrill, a Clear Channel Radio spokeswoman, confirmed Monday the network had cut its ties to the air personality with a statement that read: “Jonesy is no longer an employee of Clear Channel Philadelphia.”
The latest suit claims that Jones defamed Philadelphia businesswoman, Tracey Parson, on air on Oct. 14. According to Philly.com, Parson said that families pulled their children out of the four Kiddie Kare day-care centers she owns in the city, almost immediately after callers to the "Jonesy in the Morning" show misidentified her as a mother who had beaten up teenage girls and resulted in her getting death threats, broken windows and a tarnished reputation.
Jones first shot to fame as a singer on classic tracks like “Where I Wanna Be Boy” and AZ and Nas’ song “Sugar Hill.” She has remained in the public spotlight as a radio personality, first on Hot 97 in NewYork where she was the subject of controversy when she and her team aired a spoof song on the Tsunami tragedy in 2004. While she and several team members were suspended for airing that song, she was not fired, although a writer and a producer were let go. Emmis did not pick up her contract when it expired in 2008. Jones also previously worked at Clear Channel Philadelphia rival, Radio One-owned WPHI (then called 100.3 the Beat) in 2004. She was suspended from that station after comments she made on the air created problems for the station and she was later fired.
The hot button topic of race became a subject of hot debate this month in the region with the article “Being White in Philly” by Philadelphia magazine’s writer-at-large Robert Huber. The story, told solely from a white point of view, immediately drew a firestorm of complaints, especially when PhillyMag Editor Tom McGrath wrote: “Indeed, among our discussions was a debate about whether we—a magazine with exactly zero people of color on its full-time editorial staff—even had license to report and write on such a sensitive topic.”
“This month’s Philadelphia Magazine cover story is just another example of an ongoing attack on Black Philadelphia,” said Councilwoman Marian Tasco. “Considering the recent census, African Americans could continue to hold political power for years to come but if they remain economically disadvantaged they will never be full partners or independent.”
Tasco made her remarks during a long speech last Thursday on the floor of council chambers in which she lambasted several local media outlets for what she said appeared to be a concerted campaign against African Americans. Councilwomen Cindy Bass and Maria Quinones Sanchez echoed Tasco. Bass blasted Philadelphia Magazine, though she refused to say its name out loud charging that “there is no one on your editorial board who is African American? So, it doesn’t make a difference if you’re talking about race if you’re not talking to different people? You need to be able to dialogue with different people.”
Across the Philadelphia media landscape, the backlash was equally swift. The story drew national criticism from Richard Prince’s Journal-isms and local online news site Philebrity, who offered the “Anatomy Of An EPIC FAIL: How PhillyMag’s Race-Baiting Cover Story Went Over Like A Fart In Church This Weekend”: “To make matters still even worse, PhillyMag pulled a classic PhillyMag move with this issue: They printed two covers, one with Huber’s article on the front, and another with M.Night Shyamalan’s wife, Bhavna Vaswani, for the hospitality industry — the idea being that (probably correctly) hotel visitors in Philly would rather not be troubled with PhillyMag’s fairly consistent history of classicism and racism, writ large on the cover once and for all.”
“Huber’s article was a poor display of civic journalism on many fronts; and irresponsible in its action of race baiting,” said Philadelphia Association of Black Journalist President Johann Calhoun, in a written statement. “However, one of the most disturbing facts that has surfaced since the article hit the stands last Friday, is that Philadelphia Magazine has no minority journalists working full-time on its staff. There’s no way a majority-white newsroom covering a majority-minority landscape such as Philadelphia, can call itself providing objective coverage.”
Members of PhillyMag’s staff also fumed. “Why I Hope You Won’t Read ‘Being White in Philly’ – The story is racist,” wrote magazine staff writer Steve Volk in bitter response. Several other writers from Jason Fagone ( "Philly Mag’s 'Being White in Philly' Doesn't Make Sense as Journalism: How do you launch a frank discussion about race under a cloak of anonymity?") to Victor Fiorillo ("'Does That Make Me Racist?'I ask myself this question all the time") — to the publication's sole African American voice of rebuttal, activist lawyer Michael Coard ("Philly Mag’s 'Being White in Philly' Is Really Being Wrong in Philly-I grew up four blocks from 19th and Diamond, and I’m not dangerous") — posted visceral online responses on PhillyMag.com.
Huber, however, remained unfazed. “There is no friction. I'm okay with my colleagues and what they have to say, and how they feel is utterly legitimate. You know, my piece is about conversation and dialogue and let's hear what people really think. So with that spirit, let's all talk. As you read, that was a decided frame and very open about that up. We decided to do a piece that looked at, from the view of white people, what's their engagement with Black folk and how's it going for them and what is it? So, obviously it was a conscious decision on to do that.”
When asked if this article’s use of race was designed to influence sales, Huber says: “I don't think it's race baiting and I certainly do not think it's pandering. That's certainly not the goal for the attempt; and I don't think that's what the piece is. What I was trying to do is to hear legitimate thoughts and feelings from white people. I mean I do think that Philadelphia in many ways was — largely is a segregated city — I think whites talk to white; and Blacks talk to Blacks. Now, of course that's not utterly true but it's generally true, and that those conversations are different from the conversations that whites and Blacks have with each other. So, I was hoping to unearth some real thoughts and feelings from White folks by hanging out in Fairmount and talking to people and seeing where that and seeing what I could learn. That was the goal, and that's what I did and that's what the piece is about. Now, did people say some things that are controversial, edge or even possibly racist? Yeah, but that's what they said, and so to be true to that there it is. The goal there is to bait anybody or to pander, but to present this cross-section of people and this is what came out when I asked them.”
University of Pennsylvania professor Walter Palmer has taught the foundation courses of American Racism and Institutional Racism and Social Change since 1990 and wholeheartedly agreed with Huber. “I think he nailed it,” said Palmer. “All he simply did was record people he had interviewed. The reality is Philadelphia is racially divided, and it always has been, and it's never faced the fact that it is racially divided. The fact that Philadelphia is largely African American or Black now is irrelevant; it's still many people in the seat of power who are not Black (even though you get a lot of Black faces in a lot of places), and that most people, particularly white people, are in denial, and many Black people need white affirmation. Many Black people, particularly middle-class Black people for the most part, don't want to offend white people—and so the lies are perpetuated by both cultures under the guise of political correctness.”
Founded in 1908 as a quarterly illustrated magazine published by the Trades League of Philadelphia, Philadelphia Magazine has been in continuous publication. Bought in 1946 by S. Arthur Lipson, the magazine has remained in continual operation by the Lipson family. Current Chairman D. Herbert Lipson took the helm as Publisher in 1961, and in 1986, the torch was passed to S. Arthur Lipson's grandson, David H. Lipson, Jr. In April 2003, Marian Conicella was named Publisher while David Lipson remains as President. On its centennial, the publication declared itself “the pulse of Philly for over 100 years.”
In early 2004, Philly Mag sent a press release about the launch of a series entitled "Tale of Two Cities" featuring special editions “about the city's complex race relations - telling stories about race as it is lived in Philadelphia and introducing one side of the racial divide to the other, with a view toward becoming a conduit to bridge the gaps of understanding.” The yearlong series featured then-University of Pennsylvania professor Michael Eric Dyson who was named “writer-at-large.” Since Dyson's departure in 2006, there has been no minority voice represented on staff.
In response to the furor, McGrath spoke at length about resolving the magazine’s lack of diversity. “We actually spent a long time talking about whether we had license to write about race with a staff that is all white,” explained McGrath. “Are we even allowed to, sort of, talk about the subject? And there is a point that can be made that we don't, that without any people of color on our staff and that without that perspective we really cannot write intelligently about this, and, I understand that point of view; I disagree with it alternately and it was one of the reasons we decided to run this: I think that regardless of the makeup of our staff I think that white people have thoughts and feelings about race. Whether they're deeply offensive thoughts and views, like a couple of the people in Bob's story have, or whether they are very empathetic views, as a couple of the other people in the story have, I think that we don't do any favors by pretending that things don't exist. So, I think part of our point in this is to talk about what's actually out there and then maybe we can go forward in terms of having a better conversation about this. In terms of our own editorial staff, you're right, we should have more perspectives of color in our pages and on our website. It's an issue that honestly affects a lot of magazines, probably more so than newspapers, but journalism in particular seems to have far fewer minority voices in it, so it is something as an industry we need to work on, and more specifically it's something that we as a publication meets were going. I'm aware of that and hopefully we can start to address it in some way.”
Known for her pioneering human rights and civil rights work, author/journalist Wynne Alexander challenged both the report’s credibility and the publication's continued relevancy: “This article signifies nothing. It proves nothing and it adds to the world's troubles. We all need to communicate more and in better ways. This kind of irresponsible journalism and world citizenship makes things worse. And, frankly I'm surprised that Philadelphia Magazine would want to go back down these roads which have been so bumpy for their legacy in the past. This is all on the record and in one year from now or 200 years from now, it will be more and more clear what role they've played in keeping people fighting, rather than coming together. Their legacy will be sealed and their lack of intellect and enlightenment will be sealed along with it. It will be right there for all to see. And, quite frankly, a huge apology is owed to an entire city of Philadelphians who know better, do better and live better than the benighted caricature in that ill-advised magazine article. I'm just surprised that Philadelphia Magazine would want to return to the scene of their past socio-political gaffes.”
-- Philadelphia Tribune Reporter Eric Mayes contributed to this report.
A lyrical debut with an infusion of noir, “A Cupboard Full of Coats” (Amistad, $14.99) is a page-turning novel that tells the story of Jinx, a woman who is haunted by her mother’s murder and the role she played in it.
Plagued by guilt, paralyzed by shame, Jinx has spent the years since her mother’s death alone, estranged from her husband, withdrawn from her son, and entrenched in a childhood home filled with fierce and violent memories. When Lemon, an old family friend, appears unbidden at the door, he seduces Jinx with a heady mix of powerful storytelling and tender care. What follows is a tense and passionate weekend, as the two join forces to unravel the tragedy that binds them. Jinx has long carried the burden of the past; now, she must relive her mother’s last days, confront her grief head-on and speak the truth as only she knows it.
Expertly woven and perfectly paced, “A Cupboard Full of Coats” is a debut novel that has garnered rave reviews when it was released in the UK in 2011 and is long-listed for the Man Booker Literary Prize.
“(The book) does not concern itself with the politics of power, or racism, or Black British history,” explained author Yvvette Edwards. “It is a novel that transcends race and culture, a story about the ‘human’ experience, one that any human being can identify with. My aim was to tell a riveting tale, to write the kind of book I love to read, one that maybe teaches the reader something they never knew before, that would be thought-provoking and impossible to put down. The color of my characters was never an issue. On auto-pilot, I crafted characters from an established community of Londoners who are generally under-represented in English literature, a community I am part of and know well.
“My mother was born in the Caribbean. As did many of my aunts and uncles, she came to England over 40 years ago. My generation has grown up in London eating Caribbean food and listening to Black music, yet I am, they are, Londoners. ‘A Cupboard Full of Coats’ is set in the London I’ve been fortunate to have spent my whole life in, one of the most diverse and truly multicultural cities in the world. My reduced cast of characters was drawn from my life and cultural experience. Lemon, in particular, has a number of my late grandfather’s attributes; he is articulate and has the ability to coolly tell a tale with the capacity to blow the socks off anyone listening. These characters are like members of my family. They speak in ways I recognize, like people whose roots were forged in the Caribbean who have made their permanent homes here in the UK. And, it is not color, but that difference, and their beautiful, dynamic eloquence, which singularly distinguishes this book.”
Nation of Islam leader speaks here at 16th anniversary event honoring the Million Man March
On October 16, 1995, more than 200,000 men from the Greater Philadelphia region formed the largest contingent in the country that attended the historic Million Man March in Washington, D.C.
To honor this show of solidarity, Philadelphia was chosen as the site for a weekend-long series of events for the Nation of Islam’s Holy Day of Atonement.
The anniversary celebration began on Friday evening during a private reception for Nation of Islam (NOI) Minister Louis Farrakhan at First District Council Plaza, with many of the Delaware Valley’s most notable civic, religious, fraternal and social organizations.
“I didn’t come to preach tonight,” said a relaxed Farrakhan to the intimate audience of 150 guests. “I came to say thanks to all in this marvelous city, to all that made Philadelphia the strongest supporter of men who came to the Million Man March.”
In describing Philadelphia as an Islamic city, Farrakhan, who met individually with each guest in attendance, provided a preview to his upcoming address.
“There is much happening in our world of Islam,” he said. “And even though as Muslims, we have different views of things. The thing that has hurt me most in our travels, we were in Iraq when Saddam Hussein was leading, and there were Sunni Muslims, Shite Muslims, Jews and Christians — and there never was the conflict that we see raging, the killing that you see of Muslims, and the bombing of each others houses of worship. This never happened under Saddam Hussein. No matter what people may think of him, under sanctions he kept order. When I left that city, three days before the first bombs fell, tears came down my eyes, and I thought that I would never see Baghdad, that great, great and once capital of Islam again. But even after they bombed, we were blessed to go back and the bridges were built back and everything.
“This man, Saddam had scientists and students of higher learning,” Farrakhan added. “He was to the Arab world what Germany was to Europe: Germany had great scientists, and Iraq had that. And now, to see Afghanistan and Iraq and to see drones flying in Yemen, Somalia and Pakistan; to see what NATO has done, and is doing to Libya; to see what they call an Arab Spring, which is really an Arab awakening of the masses. As I mentioned in a press conference in New York in support of Brother Gadhafi, soon these things will be visiting these shores. And I wonder if our president will be as quick to say how they’re killing their own people, to say how right here in Philly, in New York, Chicago, Boston and San Francisco — and this thing is not going to get better. In fact, it’s going to get much worse.”
Farrakhan, the former national spokesman for the late Nation of Islam (NOI) founder Elijah Muhammad, saved his more fervent statements for the keynote address on Sunday afternoon at the Pennsylvania Convention Center before a capacity audience of 15,000.
The focus of the anniversary gathering was hunger, youth violence reduction and political accountability – topics that former Washington D.C. Mayor Marion Barry, activist Rev. Ben Chavis and talk radio host Bev Smith all tackled prior to the Muslim orator taking the stage.
Additional comments came from a wide range of people, including 13-year-old Noah Mathis who challenged “the racial profiling of young men who look just like me” to Philadelphia International Records co-founder Kenny Gamble, who implored the audience to action by simple repetition of the word “Enough.”
When Farrakhan took the podium, a thunderous ovation rose from the audience, who sat in rapt attention for more than two hours.
The minister, who praised the region for it’s continued influence, said the time for future marches has passed.
“From this city who had strong differences of opinion from every walk of life, from every domination of religion, from every fraternity group, from every political persuasion — even different sexual orientations — but something was bigger than our differences — it was the hurt and the pain of Black men, women, boys and girls,” Farrakhan said. “We men wanted to come together to atone for our failure as men. God did not make us man that we should not be responsible for our women and our children, and yet want to be respected as a man and treated as an equal — when we have not done anything to deserve equal treatment. That’s why we are here in Philadelphia, not to march. We’re here to unite for the purpose of building a future for our people, and for those whom this society has not prepared a future for. What will we leave for our children if we don’t leave them a nation and land upon which to build a future for ourselves and our people?”
It was nearly 30 minutes into his address before he referenced President Barack Obama, whose name he never uttered.
Instead, Obama was called “brother President” as Farrakhan opined on various subjects, including the upcoming dedication of the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial, which has ironically been rescheduled on the actual date of the 16th anniversary of the historic march.
“If the government of the United States forgets about the poor of this nation, and concentrates on benefits for the rich and trying to make it better for the middle class — who are fast becoming the new poor — then the heart of the American Congress is as cold as the granite that bears the image of a man whose heart was warm for the principles of justice, freedom, equity and peace. So, don’t forget, my dear brother President, that you were there 16 years ago on the Mall with nearly 2,000,000 of your brothers. And now you go to the Mall to unveil a statue of a man who laid down and paid a price and laid a foundation for you to step up on. So, invoke his name, dedicate that statue, and go back to the White House and fight like hell — even if you’re only a one-term president — fight like hell for the people that put you in that office, and may God bless you to find the voice to do it.”
In addition to lecturing on Obama, the minister charged that national and international corporations are attempting to sabotage African-American empowerment efforts.
“You have to break the control of the corporate media, of the big multi-national corporations and the international robber barons and bankers,” Farrakhan said. “You have to break the control of the Zionists who use America, and the sweat and blood of American children and send 3 billion every year to Israel.”
President Obama’s recent comments at a Congressional Black Caucus event, where he urged listeners to “take off your bedroom slippers, put on your marching shoes” and “stop complaining, stop grumbling” provided sustained fodder for Farrakhan.
“So my dear brother President, I know you spoke recently to the (Congressional) Black Caucus, and you were very fiery, and I can dig it,” he said. “But how did you talk to (Israel Prime Minister Benjamin) Netanyahu? Did you scold him? Did you tell him to take off his bedroom slippers? How did you address the gay group? Did you scold them? Oh, it was just us. See, you got strength, brother, I know you do. And that’s what the people are pushing in you, and I know you got it.”
The minister continued to needle the president until his closing statement, where he echoed the president’s earlier words to the gathered: “Take off your bedroom slippers; you’ve been sleeping too long. Put on your working shoes. Shake off dependency. Stop crying. Stop whining. Go to work and build our future.”
Normally, the Philadelphia Museum of Art's steps has dozens of tourists and fitness buffs huffing up and down the stairs or taking pictures. On Monday morning, hundreds of music fans lined the famous steps for a glimpse of hip-hop music mogul Shawn "Jay-Z " Carter as he announced the upcoming "Budweiser Made in America" music festival.
Carter, who is married to fellow music superstar Beyoncé Knowles, will curate and headline the blockbuster roster of talent, which will include nearly 30 artists that embody the American spirit performing across three stages on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway in Philadelphia's Fairmount Park on Saturday, Sept. 1 and Sunday, Sept. 2.
A primary goal of this music festival is to have a positive impact on the communities involved. This concert will benefit United Ways in Greater Philadelphia and Southern New Jersey, Lancaster County, Pa. and New York City, enabling them to invest more dollars into their regions, strengthening local communities and improving lives. As a result of this concert, the money invested into these communities will positively impact the education, income and health of the most vulnerable and most needy citizens in these regions.
After making history with back-to-back performances at Carnegie Hall, Carter is teaming up with Budweiser and United Way for the Labor Day weekend Live Nation-produced extravaganza to benefit United Way. "Whenever I enter into a project I hit on some touch points, the first being is it great," Jay-Z said. "You can't hit great every time, but sometimes once you start there you'll end up in a great place. The second one is, is it going to push the culture forward. I think this concert would do that. Budweiser did that in the past with the Superfest where they gave a platform for artists to perform mainly hip-hop and R&B arts, and you know when the opportunities wasn't as plentiful as they are today. Third, is there a philanthropic opportunity, and that's where the united Way comes in. We just did some brilliant work at my Carnegie hall concert, and raised a lot of money to help those less fortunate and that's a great thing for us. And they are also going to work with some local charities in New Jersey and the greater Philadelphia area."
As Carter was speaking, a man yelled, "HOV, you're the best!" The audience burst out in laughter when Carter responded, "I agree."
Other fans screamed in the background (and even at times booed anyone other than Jay-Z on the mic).
Local music notables such as rapper Freeway and activist Charlie Mack where among those gathered at the museum.
"Everyone knows my love affair with Philly from the amazing talented artists I've signed from here to the film work I'm about to do with Will Smith and James Lassiter at Overbrook," explained Carter. "And, the last one: I've got to make my momma proud so I can’t do half-baked, so I'm really putting my all into this and can announce that we have over 70 percent of the artists already confirmed. It's going to be a great day in Philly."
The eclectic roster of talent cultivated by Carter will be announced on May 21 and will include acts ranging from rock, hip-hop, R&B, Latin and dance.
Disco legend Donna Summer died Thursday morning May 17 in Naples, Fla., at age 63 after a battle with cancer, said her publicist Brian Edwards. Her family released a statement saying they “are at peace celebrating her extraordinary life and her continued legacy.” The five-time Grammy-winning singer had numerous hits in both the 1970s and 1980s, including “Last Dance,” “She Works Hard for the Money” and “Bad Girls.”
“The City of Philadelphia and the music world are deeply saddened by the passing of an incredibly talented musical artist, Donna Summer,” said Mayor Michael Nutter, who was once known as club DJ “Mix Master Mike.” “For people in my generation and many others, she was one of the greatest vocalists of the second half of the 20th century. An innovator of note, she had a wide range of musical capabilities. She was one of the leaders of the disco wave in America and Europe, and she broke new musical ground with songs like ‘Love to Love You Baby,’ ‘Bad Girls,’ ‘MacArthur Park Suite’ and ‘Hot Stuff.’”
Summer was the first artist to have three double albums reach No. 1 on Billboard’s album chart: “Live and More,” “Bad Girls,” “On the Radio: Greatest Hits Volumes I & II.” She became a cultural icon, not only as one of the defining voices of the era, but also as an influence on future pop divas from Madonna to Beyoncé.
Nutter recalled playing “the Queen of Disco” during her heyday while deejaying at the Impulse Disco at Broad Street and Germantown Avenue. “For a young guy working in a night club at the high point of disco, and for everyone who came together in those days of joyful music and dance, she represented a singular musical style and a towering artistry. We all carry fond memories of Donna Summer. Whether performing alone or in duets with talents like Barbara Streisand, Donna Summer was one of the very best. I loved her music, her beautiful voice, and her grand musical talent.”
Summer reportedly did not embrace the “Disco Queen” title and later became a born-again Christian, but many remembered her best for her early years, starting with the sinful “Love to Love You Baby.” Released in 1975, a breakthrough hit for Summer and for disco, it was a legend of studio ecstasy and the genre’s ultimate sexual anthem. She simulated climax so many times that the BBC kept count: 23, in 17 minutes.
“All other erotic tunes, like ‘Jungle Fever’ and Pillow Talk,’ were mere foreplay to ‘Love To Love You, Baby.’ In the first place, it took up the whole album side and it set the scene for the 12-inch single,” noted author and cultural critic Richard Torres.
What started as a scandal became a classic. The song was later sampled by LL Cool J, Timbaland, and Beyoncé, who interpolated the hit for her jam “Naughty Girl.” It was also Summer’s U.S. chart debut and the first of her 19 No. 1 dance hits between 1975 and 2008 — second only to Madonna.
“The funny thing about that track is that it really does warrant that length,” explained Torres. “There is no filler on that track. It’s hypnotic. ‘Love To Love You, Baby’ is the American ‘Ravel’s Bolero’ — it’s the beginning and middle, and,” Torres reflects with a chuckle, “it gave a man something to shoot for.”
Musically, Summer began to change in 1979 with “Hot Stuff,” which had a tough, rock ‘n’ roll beat. Her diverse sound helped her earn Grammy Awards in the dance, rock, R&B and inspirational categories.
“She’s the most underrated great singer of the last 35 years,” noted Torres. “People would have thought of her as a — and this is pun intended — one-trick-pony based on the orgasmic ‘Love to Love You, Baby.’ But even in that song she showed tremendous range. What people forget is that she also received a lot of scorn, because there was this racist movement to anti-disco, and because she was the ‘Queen of Disco,’ her vocal and artistic contributions were diminished in the mainstream press. This is a woman, who by the way, more than held her own in a duet with Barbara Streisand on ‘Enough Is Enough/No More Tears.’ What she had was this unfailing rhythmic ability — and disco was all about could you ride the rhythm — she wasn’t a shouter, a la Lolita Holloway, but she was a chanteuse. She created a mood with every song.”
Summer released her last album, “Crayons,” in 2008. It was her first full studio album in 17 years. She also performed on “American Idol” that year with its top female contestants. Summer is survived by her husband, Bruce Sudano, and three daughters, Brooklyn, Mimi and Amanda.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
In 1991, 24-year-old Rodney King was savagely beaten with metal batons by four officers from the Los Angeles police department. The events of that night would change this country forever when video of the assault became public. The incident became infamous as this instance of citizen surveillance revealed shocking police brutality.
And while a stunned nation was riveted to news accounts of the event, smoldering racial tensions exploded 13 months later when a jury acquitted the LAPD officers accused of the assault on April 29, 1992. Thousands of people in the Los Angeles area rioted over the six days following the verdict. Widespread looting, assault, arson and murder occurred, and property damages topped roughly $1 billion. In all, 53 people died during the riots and thousands more were injured.
“The Riot Within: My Journey from Rebellion to Redemption” (HarperCollins, $24.99) marks the 20th anniversary of the L.A. Riots by providing King a platform to finally tell his life story. King’s story was one that grabbed media attention and forced America to face its racial chasm years before the killing of Trayvon Martin.
“With Trayvon Martin, there wasn’t a lot of looting and rioting, which is what happened to me,” noted King. “Here we are 20 years later, and they’re organizing things a lot better. You know, it all boils back down to racism. That’s the bottom line — there’s no other way to look at it. You can cover it up and say it was by the law, but it’s been pure racism for a long time. And, when the police can’t do their job, when they can’t kick butts the way they want to, they’ll leave it to the citizen’s hands. They’re tired of killing by the law, and you’ve got all these ‘wannabe’ law enforcement people who take care of business in their own manner. Time has caught up with us, and there’s no time for racism anymore. Like I say, the only difference you can make is with the young people.”
King says that he has long forgiven the police who beat him, but still marvels at the chain of events that changed his beloved city and nation. In turn, King dedicated the book (co-authored by Lawrence J. Spagnola) to L.A. “I dedicate it to the city of Los Angeles because of the hurt, the pain, that went through on the day of the verdicts,” recalled King. “So, I just thought I would give something back to the people. Especially for the 54 people that died in this area of California.”
While King has been lauded by some as a cultural icon, he described himself simply as a man who is happy to have celebrated another birthday. “I get chills up and down my body at age 47 that I survived all these years as a Black man. Now, you know, I haven’t been an angel over the years, but I haven’t been the worst person either. I’m always trying to move toward positive things. Once you get to a certain age, you look at life so differently. Things have to happen for a reason sometimes, but I really appreciate being Black and being alive.”
According to the 2010 Census, interracial partnering in the United States has increased as people of different races are committing to marriage or co-habitation. Among opposite sex married couples, one in 10 (5.4 million couples) are interracial, a 28 percent jump since 2000. However, when it comes to Black women, the statistics have been grim when it comes to the prospects of dating and finding a husband, so much so that the term “Black girl curse” is now part of the vernacular. Stanford law professor and author Ralph Richard Banks made headlines last year when he revealed that 70 percent of professional Black women are unmarried compared to 45 percent of comparable white women — largely due to the fact that the majority of Black women choose not to date and marry outside their race, while waiting on that “good Black man.” It’s an ongoing debate which has many Black women wrestling with their long-held fantasies of whether to hold out, give up on or move towards the idea of dating men who are not African-American.
For those considering the idea of an interracial relationship, journalists Christelyn D. Karazin and Janice Rhoshalle Littlejohn have come to the rescue with their guidebook, “Swirling: How to Date, Mate, and Relate Mixing Race, Culture and Creed” (Atria Books; $15). Karazin, who is known for her popular blog “BeyondBlackWhite.com” (and is married to a non-Black man), and Littlejohn, a journalist for more than 20 years, write candidly about the personal journeys of interracial dating and marriage.
The duo also discuss why it is increasing important for more Black women who are interested in having a male partner to look outside the limited pool of Black men for mates. “The lamentable truth is that at least two million of us are in jeopordy of never experiencing that kind of love, especially within our own race. The shortage of Black men is real—and Black women are fighting like alley cats for the half a handful of eligible and marriageable brothers,” writes Karazin.
So, where does it begin for Black women when it comes to interracial dating and finding what the authors call a “rainbeau”? First, the authors suggest getting rid of the mythical “Strong Black Woman” mentality because it jeopardizes Black women’s dating prospects. Next, Black women can love a non-Black man and still uplift and represent her race. Third, she should know that just because she wants a man who is equally successful or exceeds her income does not make her a gold-digger. And finally, it’s okay for her to have a preference, whatever that preference is.
“Swirling” is filled with honest, straightforward and practical tips and personal stories from the authors and hundreds of Black women interviewed. Karazin and Littlejohn explain that Black women should not wait for the “Black community to give them the green light to swirl” because it’s never going to happen.
“So, as the world swirls, Black women are stuck in lives filled with made-for-soap-opera drama and settling for less than they deserve,” notes Littlejohn. “It is telling when a woman with her masters degree and making a decent amount of money decides to steal a car with her man just to prove she loves him, or a Christian woman and mother of four opts to marry a man serving a three-strikes sentence in prison because she doesn’t want to be alone anymore — and all because Black women fear cultural isolation from their own community when the mix date and marry.”
In addition, the book is chock-full of resources that offer the names of blogs and books, tips to finding a partner and the best U.S. cities to swirl, which further explore the concept of interracial dating.
Beverly Bond is the model-turned-DJ whose vision for a foundation — Black Girls Rock! — has spawned into the inspiring awards show of the same title that celebrates the brilliance of Black women. The second Annual Black Girls Rock! program that will air Sunday on BET is a pure evolution of the Black Girls Rock (BGR) mission that began with a T-shirt.
“First I started the T-shirt and was thinking of all the incredible women to list on it,” Bond told BlackEnterprise.com. “I was writing down all of these names and just couldn’t fit them all. In my attempt to try, I said, ‘This is bigger than just a shirt.’ So I decided to start a mentoring program.” The message shirt has since expanded into a full range of tees and hoodies that are currently available for purchase through the organization’s website store.”
Though she sought out to honor and inspire other Black women, Bond’s vision for Black Girls Rock! resulted in her own honors and distinctions. She was named one of New York’s Fifty Fabulous Females by Love Heals, a leading foundation for AIDS education, in 2006; received the 2009 “Gold Rush Award” by Russell Simmons’ Rush Philanthropic Arts Foundation for her community work and for promoting youth programs; listed on The Source magazine’s 2009 Power Circle group of leaders in hip hop and got the 2009 “Agent of Change Award” the “Obama: THAT ONE!” Pre-Inaugural Awards gala in Washington, D.C., — just to name a few of her honors. This year Black Girls Rock! returns to BET for the second year with “Reed Between the Lines” star Tracee Ellis Ross and actress Regina King on board as the hosts.
“Last year was the first year we partnered with Black Girls Rock! and Beverly Bonds,” said Debra Lee, Black Entertainment Television’s chairman and CEO. “It’s such a great cause, and it was so successful last year. It’s such a simple premise to do an all-female show, but once you do it you realize how powerful it is, and what it means to young girls to see women being honored. It’s an all-female band and all-female performers, and it really was much bigger than we expected. It is personally gratifying to be a part of this, and for us to be able to help Beverly spread her message.
Since 2006, Black Girls Rock! has been dedicated to the healthy development of young women and girls and seeks to build the self-esteem and self-worth of young women of color by changing their outlook on life, broadening their horizons, and helping them to empower themselves through mentorship, arts eduction, cultural exploration and public service. In addition to promoting the arts for young women of color, BGR encourage dialogue and analysis of the ways women of color are portrayed in the media.
“I’m sure that there are a lot of Black girls that rock,” said legendary model-agent Bethann Hardison. “I think that the ones that I’m more impressed with are the ones who have passed. I’m still looking for the ones that be rocking in the present, and God knows maybe there will be some rocking in the future — because they surely have the potential. It’s a great organization, to take it to a further point where girls can have a bit a real life education.”
The recent BGR taping at New York’s historic Paradise Theater included performances by Philly’s own Jill Scott and state Sen. Vincent Hughes’ wife, actress Sheryl Lee Ralph, along with a guest sighting of Philadelphia Councilwoman Blondell Reynolds Brown. “Mommies know that Black Girls Rock!, and we want to help our young daughters be wherever they need to be to be reaffirmed about that,” said Reynolds Brown. “Tonight is an affirmation that Black girls do rock everywhere — not just in New York, but also in Philly.”
The second Annual Black Girls Rock! special will air on BET Nov. 6 at 8 p.m. Councilwoman Blondell Reynolds Brown and the “Uniquely You Summit for Girls” are co-hosting the Philadelphia Watch Party for the 2011 Black Girls Rock Awards on BET on Nov. 6 at 7 p.m. at Ms. Tootsie’s Restaurant Bar & Lounge, 1314 South St. Tickets are $20 and can be purchased at the door, or via www.urbantix.com. Ten percent of ticket sales will be donated to Black Girls Rock, Inc.
Smooth grooves, powerful vocals, heartfelt lyrics and just plain feel-good music best describe KEM’s instantly recognizable sound. His new album, “What Christmas Means” is a 10-track album compilation of original Christmas compositions as well as traditional holiday classics.
“This is definitely not a throw-away Christmas record,” said KEM during his recent Philadelphia visit. “It is well thought out, and everybody that worked on this record, they paid attention to details. We wanted to make something that you all would be listening to help celebrate your holidays for years to come.”
In 2002, the self-taught musician wrote and produced his critically acclaimed debut solo album, “Kemistry,” which spawned the hit single “Love Calls.” The classic track went on to break records for longevity on the Urban A/C chart while the disc achieved gold-plus status and solidified KEM’s position as a leading man in the world of jazz-influenced R&B music.
The success of his gold certified follow-up CD, 2005’s “KEM Album II” — which debuted at an impressive No. 5 on Billboard’s all-important Top 200 Chart — proved KEM’s staying power in the very competitive world of R&B. The once homeless singer has turned his talent into an illustrious career, and earned three certified RIAA, two Grammy nominations, a role in the film, “Sparkle,” and a global touring presence as well.
Music saw singer/songwriter/producer, KEM, through the darkest moments in his life as a child, which is where his love of music began. After high school, his life took a downward turn, and he eventually found himself in and out of drug rehabilitation centers and homeless shelters. Music was his solace during those times, and he played the shelter’s piano every night. He hit rock bottom when after breaking shelter rules, he was relegated to sleeping outside. It was there that he became determined to change his life.
“My faith is my foundation,” explains the R&B balladeer. “When you hear it, it is purposefully placed through all of the music, and I look at what I do as a ministry. I’ve been allowed to overcome, not only overcome, but thrive. So, I think that when we’re in a position to do this, when we have this experience that most people do on some level, that we have a responsibility and privilege to carry the message, if you will, so it’s in the music. And, I don’t make any bones about that on the record, or from the stage. My hope is that you all are not just entertained, but that it helps me with what I’m doing and it edifies your life. That’s really what it is: I’m on a mission that’s bigger than myself.”
The singer wanted to cover several aspects of the season, and even highlights his Detroit hometown music roots on the collection’s last tune. “ ‘Doo Wop Christmas’ is homage to that era,” notes KEM. “It puts you in the mindset of standing up under a street light on 8 Mile Road, five guys harmonizing with themselves in the dark. I have a good friend of mine, Fred Mitchell of The Floaters; he’s on the record, as well as some really good singers that I know in Detroit. So, Doo Wop Christmas is definitely one of my favorite records on the album, and also speaks to the fundamental reason for the season: the birth of Christ.”
On this holiday collection, KEM pays homage to his faith with the release of his first outright gospel tune. “‘Glorify The King’ is really a gospel song,” said Kem. “It is a revision of the song where I took the one time Christmas appears out, and changed that line so that the gospel radio stations could play that record all year round. So, it is definitely a bonafide gospel song; it’s the first time on the secular side of what I do, this is the first time that I worked with a choir on one of my records, the Hallelujah Singers of Detroit.”
KEM’s Christmas album, "What Christmas Means" ’ is currently in stores and can be purchased on iTunes or Amazon.com.