Dexter Rogers

Dexter Rogers

Friday, April 25, 2008

Why Bash Hip Culture?

April 5th marked a year since shock-jock Don Imus got canned for making his “nappy headed ho’s” comment in referring to African American members of the Rutgers women’s basketball team. Public pressure from the likes of Al Sharpton and Jessie Jackson ultimately led to Imus’s firing.

Big deal. Imus got another gig-business as usual.

Because of Imus’s comments antagonists of hip-hop have since sprawled out of the woodwork to condemn the harsh lyrics artists often use in their music. Meetings between the likes of hip-hop mogul Russell Simmons and music executives have taken place to talk about toning down the lyrical content.

Why bash hip-hop? If Imus didn’t make his racist statement would critics of hip-hop be calling for a lyrical overhaul?

I don’t think so.

In society when you have the ability to freely express yourself you have a certain level of power and dominion. The media is a good example. Over 90 percent of all networks, newspapers, and television shows are owned and controlled by white males. The latter entities shape what we see on television, read in the newspaper, and listen to on the radio. Little parity exists in terms of disseminating information.

Hip-hop represents one of very few mediums African Americans can utilize a platform to express themselves. It helps to combat the often racist images the mainstream media attaches to hip-hop.

The world of hip-hop shouldn’t be condemned as a result of racist statements by a white man. The name calling Imus and others have utilized didn’t begin with hip-hop. It’s been around for centuries.

The legacy of African Americans in this country begins with institutionalized bondage. Slavery was a horrific part of American history that many, especially whites, often ignore. At the height of American bondage slaves on plantations were not referred to as Mr. or Mrs. Jones; were not given respect by saying “excuse me sir,” nor greeted with, “good morning my friend, how are you today?”

No.

After imported Africans names and languages were confiscated by the white man, slaves were routinely called nigger, bitch, hoe, lazy, coon, and any other derogatory term one could imagine.


Another key is economics. For nearly five centuries slaves labored free of charge in erecting this country. There were no vacation days, 401K’s, nor timecards. Masters collected vast profits from the forced free labor provided by slaves. While they labored they were called every name imaginable.

In short, lyrical content would not be a problem if African Americans weren’t making a living from it. Besides, the white establishment didn’t have a problem when white males made billions of the free labor of slaves: why bash some bash black men for realizing their American dream for doing what whites did centuries ago?

I guess it was cool when they were stacking chips of the backs of slaves and calling them nigger everyday: now the script has been flipped a little and now it’s a problem?

Some things never change.

Lastly, it’s about freely expressing ones self. For many years Africans Americans have paid a price for trying to secure the physical and verbal freedom most whites have historically enjoyed. When Muhammad Ali spoke his mind and refused military induction 1967, he was stripped of his heavyweight boxing title. He was exiled from boxing for forty-two months at the height of his career and had passport confiscated along with his livelihood.

Martin Luther King and Malcom X paid the ultimate price in attempting to bridge social gaps through their lyrics. They envisioned a society where African Americans would be treated with dignity and respect. Though King and Malcolm differed in they would accomplish the latter both paid the price for freedom of speech with their lives.

Whites have always eliminated those whom they didn’t understand and tried to make a difference: they are trying to do the same with hip-hop.

Imus’s statement was clearly racist. His “nappy headed ho,” comment is a reflection of what many whites uttered for centuries. The hip-hop industry didn’t create the harsh language whites often criticize: the language was here long before Snoop Dogg, NWA, and P-Diddy ever existed.

To me the preeminent reason hip-hop artists make their music is simply express how they feel. It also provides them the opportunity to utilize their platform and make a living. In many instances they write about what they live and see: the lyrics are often harsh because the harshness is a part of the artist’s everyday reality in being African American men in white America.

To me it would be more productive to stop attacking what the artists say and work towards eliminating the negative conditions many of these artists have often lived.

In the wake of the Imus fiasco Associated Press writer Marcus Franklin interviewed Russell Simmons. Simmons issued the following, “We're talking about a lot of these artists who come from the most extreme cases of poverty and ignorance ... And when they write a song, and they write it from their heart, and they're not educated, and they don't believe there's opportunity, they have a right, they have a right to say what's on their mind."

Antagonists, especially the white ones, of hip-hop should stop and realize when they bash the industry they are bashing themselves. What many of these artists spit in their music is a reflection of what whites have done for centuries.

So for all you haters I say stop bashing hip-hop!

Friday, April 18, 2008

Jackie Robinson’s legacy continues to fade

On April 15, 1947 as a member of the Brooklyn Dodgers Jackie Robinson galloped on the field wearing his Dodger blue uniform thereby smashing baseballs white’s only club in Major League baseball.

April 13th center fielder Torrii Hunter made the following statement regarding the celebration of Jackie Robinson’s accomplishment:

"This is supposed to be an honor, and just a handful of guys wearing the number. Now you've got entire teams doing it. I think we're killing the meaning. It should be special wearing Jackie's number, not just because it looks cool. "

In my opinion baseball has long lost its luster and hue. The game Robinson courageously integrated 61 years ago and help build has nearly become the way it was before he broke the color barrier and that’s lily-white.

Jackie’s legacy has been reduced to players wearing his famous number 42 in his honor. Many who dawn the jersey know little about the man or his legend.

How would Jackie Robinson feel about the Houston Astros players not having one African American on its roster last year yet have the team wear his number in tribute?

Major league baseball is a reflection of the racism and lack of inclusion many African Americans face today. Just 8 percent of the players in the league are African American. You call two African American general managers and just three field managers progress?

Jackie Robinson was the Civil Rights Movement during the 1940’s. He was before Martin Luther King, Malcolm X, and Rosa Parks. During his nine-year career as a player and in retirement Robinson was at the forefront of a movement that demanded equality from those who tried to deny it. He was a champion, a true pioneer and credit to the human race.

Robinson went through a lot of bitter cruelties in order to create opportunities for future generation of African Americans. Robinson was routinely called a nigger, spit at, and verbally assaulted by opposing players. Despite the blatant opposition Robinson persevered in beginning one of Americans true pioneers.

How has Americas Pastime paid Robinson back for his Herculean efforts?

Just like in society, the white hierarchy in sports has turned its back on the African American baseball player thereby negating Robinson’s work. The game Robinson played so well and broke down barriers for has done little to reach out to the African American community.

Why?

First off, African American youngsters don’t see anyone who looks like them excelling in the game. They see very few athletes on the field they can identify with as players and field managers. The front office and ownership opportunities reflect those African Americans often see in mainstream America.

Back in the day baseball was the sport of choice in many African American neighborhoods-now it’s not. As a youngster I gravitated towards baseball because the game was fun. I played Little League at Weisser Park because I identified with many of the players who looked like me.

Now everybody wants to be like Lebron James, LaDanian Tomlinson, or 50 Cent. The capacities the latter superstars occupy African Americans have achieved a measure of acclaim, acceptance, and affluence in their respected arenas. Hence the NBA and NFL respectively are approximately 78 and 65 percent African American and many youngsters love hip-hop. Such isn’t the case in baseball.

Like Christmas, celebrating Jackie Robinson has become somewhat of a mockery as the true meanings of his achievements have become lost. What Jackie Robinson did as an athlete and activist was terribly important.

This is an occasion that deserves worthy acknowledgment from the league Robinson help build: players’ wearing his famous number 42 jersey isn’t enough.

Friday, April 11, 2008

New baseball stadium is a waste of resources

After recently reading to a group of third graders at Weisser Park Elementary I was driving along Jefferson Boulevard looking at the hole in the ground that will be the new home of the Wizards baseball team.

As I drove by that hole I thought to myself, “Does this baseball stadium make economic sense?”

I have a saying I often mutter to myself and that’s, “concentrate your energy where the problems the greatest.”

Take on the most pressing matters first-the rest can wait.

I love the idea of revitalization but it should make sense, especially from an economic standpoint. To me the baseball stadium doesn’t make sense. It’s a waste of resources particularly when there’s nothing wrong with the Wizards current home.

It will take more than a change of venue to induce fans to commit to the Wizards-they couldn’t even sell out the stadium they are in now.

In the famous baseball movie Field of Dreams actor Kevin Costner heard from the distinguished voice of James Earl Jones, “if you build it they will surely come” if he (Costner) were to build a field on his property.

Will the people come to the new Harrison Square stadium?

Initially I believe people will flock to the ballpark because it’s something new and exciting. People will come because of the weather, intrigue, and have something to do. But what happens after the euphoria diminishes? I think the initial allure of the stadium will be strong but over time it will diminish.

Why not build a multi-use facility that’s conducive to fielding more than one sport? That way you generate more revenue and take maximum advantage of the land. To me that makes economic sense.

After the baseball season ends the stadium will probably serve as a visual novelty until the next season. Maybe it can be decorated during the holidays with Santa and his reindeer.

I also believe if the Harrison Square project is truly a community-based project then it should reflect those whom reside there. If the residents are encouraged to spend their dollars supporting the project then a certain amount of the construction business should be allocated for minority businesses. African American and Latinos businesses should have opportunities to thrive economically from this project and have the chance to build where a fair number of minorities live.

The overall intentions of the masterminds behind the Harrison Square project are noble but flawed with regards to the stadium. Condos, shops, a new hotel and restaurants make sense because that will stimulate the economy, create jobs and give the community a face-lift. To me a stadium for baseball doesn’t cut it.

Once the Harrison Square project is finished we’ll see if the stadium will generate enough dollars for the venture to make sense.

Friday, April 4, 2008

It’s up to us to make King’s dream real

Forty years ago on April 4, 1968 Martin Luther King was slain by an assassin’s bullet in Memphis, Tennessee. The universal frustration African Americans felt led into riots across the country. Perhaps the biggest was in Washington D.C. African Americans were fed up with having their leaders slain. Death fueled by racism visited the doorstep of Medgar (spelling) Evers in 1963, Malcolm X in 1965 and unfortunately King’s fate followed.

I was five days old when King met his maker. As I quietly celebrated my fortieth birthday last Saturday I wondered what the climate was like in Fort Wayne and around the country the day King was slain. I asked my parents what they remembered. They both suggested it was a dark day the African American community.

Are we any closer today in realizing King’s Dream of universal harmony irrespective of color?

I don’t think so.

I think the time has come to finally create a comprehensive plan rather than to rely on King’s dream of forty years ago.

Let’s examine.

The apex of King’s activism was in the 1960’s when racism was rampant and overt. African Americans were subject to separate but unequal accommodations: there was no universal inclusion. African American churches were being fire-bombed, and African Americans were being lynched. Marchers and protesters were attacked by dogs for non-violently demonstrating while seeking to secure their rights.

Today strides have been made on social, economical, and political fronts but it’s not where it should be. Racism is still pervasive. Though African Americans are no longer lynched or expected to use separate restrooms racism still looms in a more subtle fashion: that makes it more dangerous and difficult to detect when compared to King’s era.

Leadership is extremely vital: if it wasn’t the great ones like King and Malcolm wouldn’t have been slain. King was killed because he was trying to unite people. Malcolm was gunned down because he was preparing to take the United States to the world court for it’s mistreatment of African Americans.

African Americans, have problems we need to address before we fully assemble and garner the universal respect we are due. When leadership falters or is absent there’s no universal focus-our collective ambition wanes and people stop dreaming.

Since King was slain no one has stepped up and taken the torch. Someone needs to ascend to provide African Americans with some direction that can be utilized for future generations to heed.

King is arguably the best leader we’ve had. He died for what he believed in to create a better situation for us all. But I think it’s time to convert King’s dream into a comprehensive plan of action that makes sense.

Using the same restrooms as whites, begging whites to take our money for their services, paying twice as much for homes to live in the same neighborhood as whites wasn’t intelligent in my view. Too much emphasis was placed on integration rather than taking care of ourselves economically.

Over time we’ve been methodically lulled to sleep by the idea of social harmony when we as African Americans need harmony amongst ourselves.

To make King’s dream a reality we must march to a different beat. King wanted harmony without providing us a concrete way to achieve it. I think we need to take the seeds King planted and cultivate them into a blueprint for success.

King gave us a dream but it’s up to us to make it real by creating a logical path to make his vision truly come to light.