Friday, February 22, 2013

Two Stories About Young Black Men

hat tips-RobM


Teen 'Jeopardy!' champ wants to buy a guitar, study medicine

POSTED: Tuesday, February 19, 2013, 10:06 AM

Leonard Cooper won $75,000 for taking a title home from the teen tournament on Jeopardy!—the culmination of which aired last week. The clip of Cooper's Final Jeopardy answer, "Who is some guy in Normandy but I just won $75,000" has been played no fewer than a billion times in every corner of the Internet, by now

Cooper spoke with the Daily Beastto discuss his new fame and fortune and his plans for the future. He applied to Brown, but couldn't disclose that he had won the tournament. He says that he didn't cram for his performance.

I pretty much winged it. It’s funny, because the 15 contestants there were all talking. Apparently, there’s a website that has every single answer from every single Jeopardy! game all categorized. A lot of them had been looking at the site. I had no idea it existed. So they were all studying the questions. I wasn’t focusing on getting information. I was focusing on getting faster than everyone else.

Cooper says he wants to buy a guitar and study medicine. Oh, and Steve Harvey told him to neaten up his afro. Check out the rest of the Q&A over at the Daily Beast.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

The New Official Portrait of the First Lady

The White House unveiled a new Official Portrait of First Lady Michelle Obama.

The Powerbroker - Whitney Young's Fight For Civil Rights

See documentary (available until March 4th).

Amazing how so many in the "Black Community" can turn against their own. Young was more of my kind of leader. He had what I call... quiet fire. I have never been a fan of protesting and marching. And of course the more radical stuff is idiotic. If I could have been any of the great leaders from the civil rights era... or if I came of age during that time and my number was called... I probably would have been more like a Whitney Young... although I probably wouldn't have been as friendly with the business community. There is even some physical resemblance (he reminds me of my father).

Unfortunately this video will only be available for a few days.

Life At Chicago's Harper High School

Hear a great audio documentary about life for students and staff at Chicago's Harper High School, one of the city's most troubled. This is part 1 of a 2 part series. Staff and students are constantly dealing with violence. It has become part of the culture in the school.


Part I Mp3 Link.

Part II Mp3 Link.

I was struck by the feeling of helplessness, even among staff. This documentary sounded like something from a war torn developing country... not from one of America's largest and most important cities. I came away feeling that the city of Chicago could do more. With a police department with thousands of officers, certainly they should be able to make a school and its surrounding neighborhood safe for students and parents. There are law enforcement and security steps that could be taken...but I just didn't get the sense that there was any leadership from the city government. In suburban schools.. when there is word of potential violence, it is not unusual for law enforcement to do a complete shakedown... check students, clear lockers, check vehicles coming in or out. Why no hotspot policing around the school? (Flood area with extra patrols, send in the gang and drug task forces, establish a school police force and give them the authority they need to patrol surrounding areas, install cameras, proactive car stops, etc).

And before anyone says it's the guns... Illinois has some of the toughest anti-gun and anti-crime measures in the entire country. Yes, the availability of guns and the number of guns in the wrong hands is a problem. However, if they simply enforce laws already on the books... many of the crime issues could be suppressed. Even if you are not a felon and you are caught in possession of a weapon in Illinois without an ownership card (called a FOID card) you are in trouble. The city of Chicago has additional gun restrictions in a State where gun ownership is already a pain in the butt even for law abiding folks. So law enforcement already has tools available. The State and city could add more measures such as loitering provisions, and additional penalties for known gang members. But there is enough on the books right now to start tackling this issue. The problem seems to be a lack of will to do the job on the part of politicians and law enforcement leaders.

The school administrators seemed to be on their own. The staff members are expected to be teachers, social workers, surrogate parents, caregivers, friends, psychologists, security officers.... it's amazing. In part 1, even some of the staff members (those who had been the rock for students) crumbled to pieces...and broke down in front of the microphones. It is clear that the people on the ground who work in these schools everyday have a different sense of urgency than the politicians in Washington DC... including the President. I also found it interesting that (at least in part 1) no one talked about the negative impact that rap culture has had... how it has contributed to this problem. Maybe that issue will be touched on in part 2. The program also highlights how culture & social conditions impact learning. The teachers can't fix this problem on their own. Test scores are bound to be low in this kind of environment. But should you get rid of the teachers? Absolutely not. Teachers who stick around in these environments are heroes. Their salaries should be increased and they should be given medals for what they have to deal with everyday.

Donald Byrd

Haven't posted music in a while... Have been completely stressed to the max for a good while and lost interest in posting anything. Might as well post some Donald Byrd. Playlist (from soundcloud) courtesy of Gilles Peterson. This just scratches the surface of Byrd's early years (prolific recorder). But it's a pretty nice selection.

Donald Byrd Tribute Mix // Part 1 - The Acoustic Years by gillespeterson
Click link above for tracklist.

NPR Remembrance

The Education of Michelle Rhee

This is an excellent documentary on the well intentioned (but misguided) approach of "reformers" like Rhee.

I have always been of the opinion that teaching to the test was not necessarily the way to go. Targeting teachers... and treating them like they are the problem is also the wrong approach.

In my view, the problem of poor educational outcomes in urban schools starts at home. If students have an unstable home life, lack support, are from families that don't value education, have parents who are not involved, are from single parent families, live in violent communities, have behavioral problems, and take their cues from entertainers and rap culture (that teaches them that school is a joke or something that isn't "cool"), then learning isn't going to be a high priority. That isn't the fault of the teacher. There are too many variables (mostly outside of the classroom) impacting low test scores that the teacher has little or no control over. Yet the current trend is to punish teachers because students are not ready to learn when they come to school, if you can get them to school in the first place.

Even Dr Steve Perry, principal of Capital Preparatory Magnet School in Hartford CT, admitted on CNN's 'Black In America' series that in his school (and others) Black parents are not very involved in supporting the education of their children. This was a profound and important admission. It knocked down a wall of denial that has been there for years. The problem was always there... but I never saw anyone from within so-called "Black America" actually admit it. Other research backs up the fact that the problems with education have more to do with culture than with teachers. Although I think it is important to have good teachers with vision, with new ideas and who believe in students. Some of the teachers who have been around are set in their ways. It's true that some of those folks have to go... but overall, there are a lot of great teachers in public schools across the country. Many could easily take other jobs earning more money...but those who are dedicated stick around. They are the ones who go above and beyond for students. If you have not seen the documentary "American Teacher", narrated by Matt Damon, I highly recommend it. It shows the experiences that good people face within the profession. It left me disgusted.

The Michelle Rhee approach makes a thankless, stressful job even worse. Good teachers don't want to stick around organizations that see them as the problem, don't give them the support they need, etc. It chases good people away. The really good young teachers end up going to the suburbs...where they are appreciated, better paid, and where there are fewer behavioral problems. It's either that or they end up leaving the profession altogether. It tells talented college graduates that teaching is not the way to go... because you will be targeted as the enemy right away and you won't be supported. That, in the long run, makes the problem worse. It means the the best possible people won't be in the classroom in urban public schools in the years and decades to come.

The suicide of L.A. teacher Rigoberto Ruelas Jr. highlights the stupidity & recklessness of rating teachers primarily based on student test scores. These ratings don't take into account certain factors that may be unique to particular schools, school districts, particular communities or States. Teachers should be rated on a combination of factors, one of which could perhaps be test scores. But test scores shouldn't be the primary factor in retaining teachers. Teachers should be reviewed on the job by a panel of experienced educators (from other schools). They should also be rated by their peers, students and parents. A more comprehensive approach to rating is more work... is harder to do, but it would give administrators a better idea of who should or shouldn't be retained.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Mississippi Goddamn - State Finally Ratifies 13th Amendment

The State of Mississippi has finally gotten around to formally ratifying the 13th Amendment. All formalities were completed on February 7th. State officials made an effort to ratify the 13th Amendment abolishing slavery back in 1995, but for some reason they did not formally complete the process. They see it as just an oversight. But even if everything would have been completed in 1995.... Did it have to wait until 1995? There is not much of a distinction for me historically between 1995 and 2013. The amendment should have been ratified decades ago.

This is symbolic of the kind of racial and cultural indifference that is still common in the South (why I don't want to be caught dead there). This is part of a pattern in Mississippi. Just a few years ago, a Mississippi school board was caught segregating students and discriminating based on race. And what about all of the shady prom stories?

When will this end?

I couldn't help but think of the Nina Simone classic.

MSNBC's Hubris - About the LIES that got us into Iraq

Monday, February 18, 2013

President Obama Speaks in Chicago

hat tips-The Obama Diary, 3CHICS:

I get tired of educated fools who have taken to lying about what the President said.

WHAT THE HELL did the President say that was ' controversial'?

I have to know.

The Black community is in trouble. WHO could argue otherwise?

I don't minimize the economics of the situation of our community. But, here's the thing, Black folks have always been on the lower rung of the economic ladder. What we have not been, traditionally, is lacking morals and values.

The President of the United States grew up without his father. Yes, he had a loving set of grandparents, but, from his own mouth - HE MISSED HAVING HIS FATHER IN HIS LIFE.

How are you going to dispute what came out of his own mouth. How are you going to minimize his life's experience? He lived it. He owns that he lived it.

here's what the President said:

"As the son of a single mom who gave everything she had to raise me, with the help of my grandparents, I turned out OK," he said, calling single moms "heroic" and worthy of praise.

But he added, "At the same time, I wish I'd had a father who was around and involved."

The president said there are neighborhoods all over the country where young people don't see adults succeeding and where they come to think the future "only extends to the end of the street corner or the outskirts of town."

Young boys and young men, in particular, "don't see an example of fathers or grandfathers, uncles, who are in a position to support families and be held up and respected," Obama continued. Yet the biggest factor in determining a child's success -- and preventing a child from sliding into a life of crime -- is having a "loving, supportive family," he said.

"And by the way, that's all kinds of parents. That includes foster parents, that includes grandparents, extended families. That includes gay or straight parents," Obama added to applause. "Those parents supporting kids, that's the single most important thing. Unconditional love for your child, that makes a difference."

WHAT was controversial or negative in that?

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

RIP Dr. Donald Byrd

Dr. Donald Byrd
Born Donaldson Toussaint L'Ouverture Byrd II

One of the last great jazz men. Trumpet great, composer, producer, mentor, educator and National Endowment of the Arts Jazz Master. Dr. Byrd's career spanned 60 years and covered a range of styles. He made a mark in traditional jazz, fusion/contemporary, Soul/R&B, funk & Hip Hop. He left behind an impressive catalog of music. His greatest gift may be that he basically gave us Herbie Hancock.

Excerpt from MSN:
He teamed up with the Mizell brothers to release "Black Byrd" in 1973, a blend of jazz, R&B and funk that became Blue Note's highest-selling album at the time. Jazz critics panned Byrd for deviating from the jazz mainstream, but he was unperturbed. "I'm creative; I'm not re-creative," Byrd told the Detroit Free Press in a 1999 interview. "I don't follow what everybody else does."
For the past week I have been looking for a quote that encapsulates the style and musical approach of Dr. Byrd. The comment above captures Byrd perfectly.

See partial bio from NEA.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

The State of the Union 2013

hat tip-The Obama Diary

Desiline Victor (102) awaits the president’s State of the Union Speech

When she set out to her local library in North Miami, Fla., to cast her vote in the presidential election last year, Desiline Victor had no way of knowing the journey would lead all the way to the White House.

On Tuesday night, Victor, a 102-year-old Haitian immigrant, will sit in the ornate House chamber as a guest of first lady Michelle Obama to listen to President Obama’s State of the Union address

Victor voted for the president, but it was not easy. On her first visit to the polls on the morning of Oct. 28, the first day of early voting, she waited in line for three hours. Poll workers eventually advised her to come back later, and she did.

She finally cast her vote that evening.

Her story spread around the polling place and inspired some would-be voters to stay in line, too, instead of being deterred by the delays.

On Monday night, Victor sat in a suite at the Hamilton Crowne Plaza hotel in Washington, a flight from Miami behind her. Ahead was a night in which she hopes meet the man she waited to vote for.

“I’m very happy, very proud,” she said, communicating through a translator because she speaks only Haitian Creole. The translator is her godson, Mathieu Pierre Louis, whom she raised as her son. She moved to the United States in 1989 and became a naturalized citizen in 2005.

She never expected to become a symbol, she said — she just wanted to vote.

Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) with Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD)

For all the Non-White men in New York City, this App's for you

From Balloon Juice:

Stop-and-Frisk? There’s an App for That …

By Elon James White February 7th, 2013

The New York Civil Liberties Union released the iPhone version of their Stop & Frisk app that allows users to film and immediately send footage directly to the NYCLU. They released the Android app last June and one of their earliest videos is now the center piece of their ad.

From The NYACLU page:

Stop and Frisk Watch App

“Stop and Frisk Watch” is a free and innovative smart phone application that empowers New Yorkers to monitor police activity and hold the NYPD accountable for unlawful stop-and-frisk encounters and other police misconduct.

The app is available in English on both Android and iPhone devices and Spanish in the Android version, thanks to a translation by Make the Road New York. Stop and Frisk Watch allows bystanders to fully document stop-and-frisk encounters and alert community members when a street stop is in progress.

It has three primary functions:

•RECORD: This allows the user to film an incident with audio by simply pushing a trigger on the phone’s frame. Shaking the phone stops the filming. When filming stops, the user immediately receives a brief survey allowing them to provide details about the incident. The video and survey will go to the NYCLU, which will use the information to shed light on the NYPD’s stop-and-frisk practices and hold the Department accountable for its actions.

•LISTEN: This function alerts the user when people in their vicinity are being stopped by the police. When other app users in the area trigger Stop and Frisk Watch, the user receives a message reporting where the police stop is happening. This feature is especially useful for community groups who monitor police activity.

•REPORT: This prompts the survey, allowing users to report a police interaction they saw or experienced, even if they didn’t film it.