The front page of today’s Statesville Record & Landmark.

This is the front page story from my hometown newspaper, The Statesville Record and Landmark. As you can imagine, it’s elicited quite a response in the community and on social media. This “White Unity” event is ironically set to take place in a small town called Harmony. I guess they forgot to poll the Black folks.

Growing up in that part of the country in the 1990s and 2000s, I can’t say that I ever saw any explicit Klan activity. Every now and then the old folks would talk about the Klan marching downtown or something, but it seemed like something from the history books. But as they say, history repeats itself.

Some are angry at the paper for placing the story on the front page, above the fold. They say it’s as if the paper is endorsing the rally. I can see how someone would look at this on the front page and think that, but inside the paper there is an editorial titled “Evil in our midst can’t be ignored,” which states the editorial opinion that people need to see what hate looks like in 2012. I totally agree.

For those who think with an African-American president in the White House we are in a post-racial society, this may come as a shock. For others, this is sad confirmation of the fact that we have a long way to go before all people are truly equal in this nation. For those who only now feel compelled to speak out about , it’s about damn time! But we must realize that the regressive policies currently being instituted by conservatives on the local, state and federal levels are more destructive than any gathering of backyard bigot barbeque could ever be. We progressives cannot fall asleep at the wheel like we did during the 2010 election cycle this year. Not with so much at stake. Stay vigilant and stay up. I’m out…

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Sup folks? Today was the start of a new chapter in my professional life. It was the first day of my new job. The first day of a new job is kind of like the first day of school. You pick out your best clothes and stay up all night long, wondering if you’ll fit in.

Luckily, everything was great. Everyone was really friendly and helpful, and it all seemed very genuine. I think I’m going to be very happy. But if I had to pick the highlight of my day, it was the conversation I had with the HR associate who interviewed me over the phone. She told me that what stuck out about me was how I talked about my former place of employment. She said she’d interviewed several potential candidates from the same job and all of them had plenty to say about the company. None of it good.

“But you didn’t say anything negative about it, and that really impressed me.”

This is not to elevate myself above those other interviewees, because honestly, the things they said were true. I’ve felt exactly the way that they’ve felt many times. But my mother used to always tell me, “If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all.” That was one lesson out of many that I try to help guide me on this journey called life, and like pretty much everything else she’s taught me, it turned out to be right. Mother really does know best!

Rev. Patrick Wooden of Raleigh’s Upper Room Church of God In Christ talks to reporters about North Carolina’s vote on an amendment banning gay marriage.

So a conservative group called The National Organization of Marriage is trying to capitalize on the wedge between African-Americans and gay rights groups. Any half-way conscious person could have seen this happening as a vote on an amendment to define marriage exclusively between one man and one woman. Especially in the Tarheel State. Below is an excerpt from The Atlantic.

Anchoring the push are pro-Amendment 1 black clerics from North Carolina and around the nation with strong ties to NOM, such as Maryland’s Bishop Harry R. Jackson, who’s also leading the effort to overturn his own state’s recent law granting gays the right to marry, and Philadelphia-based Rev. Herbert Lusk, who appears in one of NOM’s latest video campaigns, “Is Gay Marriage a Civil Right? African-American and Latino Leaders Speak Out.” In April, Rev. George D. McKinney of San Diego helped launched an initiative for NOM with the Coalition of African American Pastors to collect 100,000 signatures around the country on behalf of keeping marriage something restricted to opposite-sex couples in North Carolina.

No pastor, however, has advocated as strongly for Amendment 1 as Rev. Patrick Wooden of The Upper Room Church of God in Christ — a 3,000-member African-American congregation in Raleigh, N.C. Appearing everywhere from NOM-led rallies to its latest video, Wooden — who has an extensive history of homophobic outbursts — has become an eager public face for NOM’s divisive strategy. Along the way, he’s become a sound-bite ready foil for the large number of prominent black pastors campaigning against Amendment 1 — including Rev. William Barber, president of the North Carolina NAACP.

Usually I’m pretty closed mouthed on issues like this. But I have to speak on this one. As a North Carolinian. As a Democrat. And as a Christian.Coming up in church, I was taught that homosexuality was a sin. Everyone around me agreed and there was no debate about it whatsoever. Living in a small, Southern town there were very few openly gay people so my exposure to them was limited until college. Since then, I’ve interacted with many in the LGBT community at work, school and, yes, even in church.

Based off what I read in the Bible, there’s no two ways about it: homosexuality is a sin. Leviticus 18:22 states “‘Do not lie with a man as one lies with a woman; that is detestable.” However, gluttony, gossiping, lying and of course, fornication are also listed as sins. Now how many people can say they’ve never committed these sins? Kinda quiet, huh?

Using the law of the land to legislate morality is a tricky proposition with a spotty history. Especially in North Carolina, where over 7,600 people, mostly poor African-American women were sterilized against their own will. The law officially allowed sterilization for birth defects or mental illness, but more often than not, the reasons ranged from homosexuality to promiscuity. If it happened once, it can happen again. North Carolina has come a long way from being the home of Jesse Helms, but the current Republican legislature seems hell bent on bringing us back to “the good ole’ days.”

If your beliefs about this issue are shaped by Biblical views, than you cannot ignore Ephesians 6:12.

“For our struggle is not against human opponents, but against rulers, authorities, cosmic powers in the darkness around us, and evil spiritual forces in the heavenly realm.”

Sounds to me that the energy being used to fight against the individuals who live this lifestyle would better be used in prayer and showing love to all people. If you feel that the souls of the LGBT community are in danger and are truly concerned about their souls, you must treat them with open arms and allow God to work on them with regard to the changes that they need to make. Politically, I’m far more concerned with how the Republican-led legislature has cut funding in North Carolina’s schools while cutting taxes and gerrymandering voting districts to gain political power. The same people who are in support of this act are the same people who support the politicians that would hurt the majority of the African-American community and tear down the progress that we’ve already made. I’ll leave the soul judging to God.

Gerald Walker's new mixtape, "Believers Never Die," gives us a glimpse of what hip-hop's future could be.

Some time during college, I realized that I had pretty much given up on hip-hop. The new-school stuff anyway. Save for pretty much Kanye West’s entire discography, the majority of my iTunes was filled with 80s and 90s R&B and Hip-Hop.It was cool for awhile, you like what you like, right?I mean it’s not like I grew up on rap.

My parents didn’t believe in allowing my brothers and I to listen to music with explicit lyrics as a kid, so most of the hip-hop of the day was off limits. They kinda relaxed the rules once we got to high school. Pretty much as long as they didn’t hear it, we were cool. That’s when I discovered classics like Illmatic, Doggystyle, The Chronic, etc. This was also the time of The Blueprint, College Dropout and Get Rich or Die Trying, Stankonia etc. so at this point I had high expectations for hip-hop. Needless to say watching it devolve into Snap Music and Trendy Dances was a big downer.

Every now and then, though, I find a rapper who resonates with me. In 2009-2010, it was J. Cole. Last year, I came across this kid from Milwaukee named Gerald Walker. His mixtape The Other Half Of Letting Go was engagingly mellow, his flow somewhere between Krazy Bone and a young J. Cole. A few weeks ago I saw he had a new mixtape, Believer’s Never Die. I downloaded it, put a few tracks on my iPod, and let it sit for a few days.

Lot of good joints on this one. I really dig his athletic references (My personal favorites: It’s me hoe/Rap Tim Tebow/In this game full of sheep, I’m a shepard like Lito” and “Trying to ball like Kobe/But you niggas Rodney Stuckey) My favorites include the title track, Zero to Sixty87 Corvette Wishes (featuring a sick guest spot by Phil Ade) and Um, Excuse Me Miss. But Walker really shines on the Some Things Never Wash Out, where he references Boo Radley, Eminem and Michael Jordan in the same song and makes it sound coherent. Here’s a sample:

“Not every nigga smoke weed/Not all niggas are in jail/Not every man has a gun/Not every mother does her job/Not every father is a bum/Not every old man is wise/ Not every foolish nigga’s dude is young/Not every priest is a saint/Not every blonde chick is dumb/ It’s like I’m fighting battles that I’ve already one.”

If a guy as talented as Gerald Walker doesn’t blow up in the next year or so, hip-hop is in more trouble than I thought it was a few years ago. Seriously.

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If you’ve turned on the TV at all today, or the last week, chances are you’ve heard plenty about the Trayvon Martin case. On Tuesday, we were introduced to Joe Oliver, a black man who claims to be a friend of Martin’s killer, George Zimmerman. Oliver has been on all the major news shows defending Zimmerman, who he claims is not a racist and feels horrible about Martin’s death.

Among the most controversial claims Oliver has made have been regarding Zimmerman’s reported usage of the phrase “Fucking coon.” Oliver claims that Zimmerman called Martin a “fucking goon,” which he claims his 17 year-old daughter told him is a term of endearment. Most commentators, including Michael Baisden have balked at the suggestion that friends would refer to each other as such a derogatory term.

The dictionary defines a goon as a stupid, foolish or awkward. Not exactly the friendliest of terms, right? So to your average 40 something, this is what goon means. Go to urbandictionary.com and you’ll get a much different definitions, including a low-level gang member. This is what Oliver is alluding to and trying to use to combat the racial element of this story.

If you’re under the age of 30 and listen to rap, you’ve probably heard of Plies, a rapper who coincidentally hails from Florida. Since his debut album dropped in 2007 he has repeatedly referred to his friends and even himself as “goons.” He even named his fourth album Goon Affiliated and turned out tracks like “Me And My Goons.” Like the word “nigga,” this term has been commercialized and transformed into an acceptable phrase by young African- Americans.

As sad as this is, it’s even sadder that any parent, much less a Black man, would go on national television and defend a man who hunted and gunned down a child. And then to play our intelligence into thinking that Zimmerman didn’t use a racial slur and was simply using some generic term for Martin.

He also defended Zimmerman by saying that no one he knows under the age of 40 uses the term “coon.” I’m 26 years old. I can plainly remember being in high school and hearing that term mumbled under the breath of some of my classmates in racially contentious moments. Nice try, but we’re not buying it.

Luckily, Oliver’s time as a credible source on George Zimmerman is coming to an end, if it hasn’t already. MSNBC’s Lawrence O’Donnell well prepped interview revealed that other than working with Zimmerman previously, Oliver doesn’t know much more about him than most of America. It was also revealed that Oliver has quit his job to defend Zimmerman to the public. Now we all have friends that we care dearly for and would do anything to help them in a time of need, but how many folks would actually quit their job to defend someone they barely know for free? It’s obvious that Oliver is being paid to do public relations for Zimmerman. It’s a damn shame that some folks will do any thing for money. As I said last week in a column for whatblackmenwant.com, any Black man who doesn’t hear the blood cry from Martin’s body is out of touch with reality. Oliver is a shining example of that.

The Miami Heat show support for Treyvon Martin in a rare political statement for professional athletes.

Over the past week, no story in the country has been discussed, dissected and analyzed like the Trayvon Martin case. Dozens of rallies and vigils where held over the past week in memory of the 17 year-old who was gunned down by neighborhood watchman-turned-vigilante George Zimmerman. Other than a few crass comments from right-wingers like Geraldo Rivera and Sean Hannity, most folks have expressed their outrage over his death and support for the young man’s family.

Thousands gathered in New York on Wednesday for a Million Hoodie March in honor of the Florida teen who was wearing a hoodie at the time of his death. The past few days millions have donned hooded sweatshirts in their Facebook Profile Photos and Twitter Avatars as a sign of support.

Despite the national outcry over the case, the sports world and the athletes that inhabit it, went on with business as usual. Games were played. Interviews were conducted. Checks were cashed. And no one was surprised. Why? Because that’s just what athletes, especially African-Americans, are expected to do. Play the game, smile for the camera and keep your opinion to yourself. That’s been the status quo ever since Michael Jordan’s “Republicans buy sneakers too,” comment.

But Friday we were all surprised when two-time NBA MVP LeBron James Twitpic’d a photo of he and his Miami teammates wearing black hoodies. During their game against the Pistons that night, James scribbled “RIP Trayvon” on his sneakers. After Teammate DeWayne Wade told reporters “I think the only thing we want is we just want to make sure that we shed some light on the situation and let (people) know this is not just something happening in the community where it happened. “This is worldwide. We want to be a part of it until justice is served.”

In a world where silence is expected and speaking out is risky, those small statements said a lot. The fame and money of superstar athletes like James and Wade sometimes insulate them from the outside world. Most things that affect the average person like high gas prices or unemployment just don’t factor very much into their daily consciousness. Earlier this week, in column for What Black Men Want, I said that any Black man who looks at Martin’s face and ignores the cries of his blood is out of touch with reality.

It’s good to know that, at least this time, the athletes are with us.

The Finger of The Right

Posted: January 26, 2012 in Money, Sports, Uncategorized

Arizona Governor Jan Brewer confronts President Obama moments after he lands in a Phenoix airport.

In a world where we are exposed to media on a near constant basis, the old saying “A picture is worth a thousand words” seems outdated and cliche. Between 24 hour news channels and the internet we are inundated with images so quickly that we rarely take the time to do more than glance at them and briefly attempt to digest them before the next one comes along. The image above, however, warrants some level of deeper observation and reflection about the true state of our union.

Less than 24 hours after delivering his annual State of The Union Address, President Barack Obama landed in an Arizona airport where he was met by Governor Jan Brewer. The bad blood between the two got its’ start after the Governor called Obama’s demeanor during a meeting last year “condescending.” The President took issue with her opinion assessment which evidently compelled Brewer to confront the President.

It is both alarming and appalling to think that the political climate of this country has deteriorated to the point where anyone, let alone another elected official, has the audacity to approach the President of the United States in this manner. This is the type of behavior one would expect from a cast member of Bad Girls Club or Mob Wives, not someone elected to political office.

This is just another example of the unparalleled level of disrespect this President has had to deal with in the last three years. There was South Carolina Congressman Joe Wilson shouting “you lie” as President Obama addressed Congress. More recently Congressman Sensenbrenner attempted to make fun of Mrs. Obama’s behind. And don’t expect this to change anytime soon as we have already seen Republican Presidential Candidate Newt Gingrich refer to Obama as “The Foodstamp President.”

The sad thing about the whole ordeal is that this will likely up Gov. Brewer’s national profile among many conservatives. There will be those who see her hand hand inches from the President’s face and cheer her on for “taking the fight to Obama.” That’s what this election is about for them. Not taking the country in a positive direction, which the President is already accomplishing. Not settling the inequalities that allow Warren Buffet to pay a lower percentage of taxes than his secretary. That is the sole reason Gingrich’s prospects for becoming the Republican Nominee are looking better and better every day. The good thing is, the Republican’s hate for Obama is pushing the party further to the Right and making a second Obama term increasingly likely.