Friday, February 27, 2009

Stephen Biko (re-up from Myspace)

With Black History Month winding down, I'd figure I'd share something I wrote 2 years ago on MySpace about one of my heroes, South African activist Stephen Biko. Didn't know about until A Tribe Called Quest's "Stir It Up" and Dead Prez "I'm An African" name-dropped him but once I did a school project on him in college, he became one of my heroes. This is what I wrote about him:

"It is better to die for an idea that will live, than to live for an idea that will die" - Steve Biko.

If you look at my heroes section, Stephen Biko is one of the people I name. I did a leadership project on him my last semester of school and I found him to be one of the most compelling people I've ever met. Most people largely don't know who he is but once you hear his story, you wont forget it

Stephen Biko was born in 1946 in South Africa. He was born to well-to-do parents and grew in a society ruled by apartheid, the segregationist philosophy that plagued South Africa until 1990. Imagine the situation for Black people in America before the Civil Rights Movement. Now imagine it to be way more explicit and actually supported by the government instead of just implicitly here. But just like here, protests against apartheid were already set in motion. Nelson Mandela and others had already become enemies of the state because they were vocal in their opposition and tried to get their people to realize their full potential as human beings not just second class citizens.

This was Biko's world. He was on his way to becoming a doctor and perhaps lead a quiet, safe life that was the easier choice of resistance. But political seeds had already been planted in his life. In 1963, his brother went to jail for illegal activity and the police brought him in for questioning. As a result, he was expelled from school and in the process, began to distrust authority. He went on to continue his medical schooling in 1966 at an all-black school but he could not ignore his true calling to be an activist.

In 1967, he became involved with the National Union of South African Students (NUSAS), a multi-racial coalition against apartheid. At their annual convention, Biko became an outspoken critic of how the black delegates had segregated facilities and how only the white students were the outspoken voices of NUSAS. His passion, frankness, and eloquence attracted many black students who felt the same way and in 1969, Biko helped to create the South African Student's Organization (SASO). Its mission was to be a Black-only student group that would speak on Black issues. Biko became the first president and his combination of passion and eloquence made him attractive to Black South Africans who needed another voice to speak for them and it also made him an enemy of the state.

One of the things Biko was critical of was white liberals who tried hard to prove themselves to Blacks how liberal they were but still enjoying the benefits of their whiteness. Basically, they would talk about how "down for the cause" they were but still enjoying their status as 1st class citizens. Something Biko said that made me think was that if whites wanted to prove themselves as true friends, they would try to speak to their fellow whites about the evils of apartheid and not just do in front of Blacks. It's a philosophy that makes sense in any type of activism if you think about it…

Under the pen name Frank Talk, Biko published several essays outlining his views and proposals for a better South Africa. He believed that Blacks had to overcome the psychological problems of thinking they were 2nd class citizens and then they had to embrace their culture and all that came with it. He wanted them to have a pride in themselves (just like Marcus Garvey and Malcolm X did in America) and realize their worth as a people. But of course, this wouldn't fly with the government. He was arrested often and in 1973 was placed on the banned list which means he could not speak in public, meet with more than one person, be quoted in newspapers, and was forced to stay in his hometown. But his work already made a deep impact on the Black South African community and his movement would inspire the infamous Soweto riots of 1976. Biko himself preached and practiced non-violence as the way to achieve his success, but don't just compare to him to MLK and Gandhi. He used nonviolence as a tactic not a true philosophy.

In 1977, Biko was imprisoned for the final time. During this time, he was brutally tortured. He was chained to a steel grate at night, beaten often, slept in own his urine, and was stripped naked. After a month of this, he was transported to another cell and during the long drive, he began to suffer brain injuries from his beatings. The day after he arrived at his new cell, he died at the age of 30, a victim of brutal police brutality. In death, he became a martyr for his people and his friends (black and white) kept his message alive until the end of apartheid.

Over his life, Biko was involved in community programs and created a trust fund to help the families of political prisoners. He also created a fund to help black students achieve their education. More than anything, he wanted to help Black people determine their own destiny and use their voice to speak their mind. He was hugely influential to a new generation of South Africans who would not be kept back (similar to those here in 60's America influenced by the Civil Rights Movement to start the Black Panthers and other groups). Peter Gabriel wrote a moving, haunting song "Biko" in his memory that would inspire the Sun City protests and other apartheid protests in the 1980's.

In 1987, the movie "Cry Freedom" was made about him and his journalist friend Donald Woods. Denzel Washington gave an Oscar-nominated performance portraying him and the only reason I have not seen it yet is because from what I researched, the movie is more about his friend than Biko himself (still a great story about him escaping South Africa from what i heard).* It's a shame though, because Biko's story is deserving of a starring role because he is a compelling figure with a great story and deserves to be mentioned in the same breath as Gandhi, King, X, and Mandela.

*UPDATE: I did see half of it last year and I was impressed with it. Look forward to seeing it all the way through now.

He is one of my heroes and mentors and I thank my leadership professor for letting me do this project. I'll let him have the final words that I believe sum up the driving force behind his work

"In time, we shall be in a position to bestow on South Africa the greatest possible gift – a more human face."

****If you want to read some of his writings, I recommend "I Write What I Like" which is a great window to see his what really went on his mind****

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Satisfaction >>>> Perfection

Life is about striving for something. It’s a search for something that gives it meaning. But is life about achieving the perfect dream or settling for something close to that?

I thought about this Sunday night and I realized too often we are trying too hard to find the ideal things we want. The ideal mate, the ideal job…people live too often trying to reach that dream that they end up falling more in love with the pursuit of it. And because of this, they miss enjoying that journey to get there.

Perfection is overrated. It takes a beautiful thing like a dream and corrupts it because the pursuit becomes greater than the steps.

That’s why I say we need to pursue satisfaction. Satisfaction allows you to be content and happy at whatever stage you’re in. When you pursue your goals, satisfaction allows you to enjoy each step and even when you fall short, you can still find peace.

Satisfaction lasts longer than perfection because it’s a feeling that tough times can’t shake. It’s not as strong a drive as perfection, but it goes deeper within. It takes the pursuit of a dream and reminds you that although there is something greater down the road, there is something great on the way there to keep you going.

Too often people aren’t satisfied with their lives because they want something more. They want things to be just right. But how many times do we get things exactly the way we want. How often do we have to take what we’re given and make the most of it? It’s not really a matter of settling for less, but accepting what you get and being pleased with it.

So often, I've wanted to write the perfect poem that describes my feelings at that time. Each line had to be right, each rhyme scheme or theme had to be perfect...but then I remembered that my best earlier poems came when I just started writing without a care. Let my heart craft those thoughts. Then I realized that I was satisfied with what I just did instead of feeling like I had fallen short of my lofty goal.

When you strive for perfection, you won’t be happy until everything falls in line exactly how you want it. When you strive for satisfaction, you’ll be happy even if things don’t go according to plan. I don’t want the perfect life, I want to be satisfied with what I got and hope for more to come.

It’s not about settling for less than your best, it’s about doing your best so you’ll be fine with the outcome.

Monday, February 23, 2009

VSR: The Real Lamar Odom has stood up

A bit sick and tired (but not woozy like Blake Griffin) so I'm still gonna spit off my sports talk from here at the paper now that I'm done.

I'm starting to wonder if the Lakers (46-10, 1st in the West) are just messing around on teams to make the 2nd half more interesting. How else can you explain being up by 15 on the Hornets only to win in OT? (Phil's stupid rotations) How do you figure letting the T-Wolves, the 2nd-worst shooting team in the league, shoot 50% despite having nobody tall enough to battle Lamar Odom and Pau Gasol? (ummm, poor defense for a start)? It beats me to be honest and every morning I feel like ho-hum as I read the LA Times' playoff standings and see the conference lead grow every day (8 over San Antonio as of today).

But on the real, the best player since Andrew Bynum's injury has been Lamar Odom, Laker fans' favorite whipping boy. I've hated him most of his career because he could so much better if only had more heart. A 6-10 forward with handles like a point guard and you can't assert your will every game? I was ready to kick his skinny butt out of here and on to free agency

Now? This guy is playing like the savior that he needs to be. Since the 2nd victory against Boston, he's scoring close to 17-18 points a game while averaging a Dennis Rodman-esque 16 boards a game! He's showing his aggression on the boards and if he can do that consistently, it'll fill the void of Bynum until (if) he gets back. Tip of the hat to you, LO.

(Dummies of the NBA Year: Shawn Marion (now known for getting run off two playoff-contending teams and exiled to Canada) and the New Orleans front office (tried to trade Tyson Chandler in the middle of a playoff push). *plays Dumb by Nirvana*)

Meanwhile....UCLA is freefalling worse than Tom Petty. You let Washington State come into Pauley and just make it rain on you? The No. 22 Bruins looked like they had a mental breakdown - Josh Shipp missing point blank lay-ups, Darren Collison attempting a fast-break 3 when you're down 4 with a little over a minute left - and they better wake up because they can't afford those problems going to Stanford and Cal this weekend.

The bad news keeps coming for UCLA as they lost out on getting Cali's best (eligible) HS player, Renardo Sidney, who announced Sunday that he will go to USC. The 6-10 center from Fairfax HS joins teammate Solomon Hill as key cogs in Tim Floyd's recruiting class. I guess that's payback for UCLA football stealing Randall Carroll (the fastest kid in Cali) from USC but really I knew Sidney wasn't going to Westwood. You'll have to message me to ask me why.

(Don't sleep on Arizona making a run in the conference tournament. They gave AZ State a scare last week.)

No.7 Duke got back on track by getting revenge on Wake Forest (just found out we almost blew a 22-point lead??). I like this freshman Elliot Williams kid they moved to starting line-up two weeks ago (11 pts and 4 steals against Wake) and having Jon Scheyer at the PG is never a bad thing (30 points).

Besides the lack of rebounding, I had a problem with the team only having 11 assists against Wake. What happened to the great Duke PG's who could set guys up (Hurley, WoJo, Jay Will and Chris Duhon) and get their numbers? I'm pretty confident they'll be fine against Maryland Wednesday as long as they shut down Vasquez (who burned UNC for a triple-double in that upset Saturday) but since its in the road, i'll still cross my fingers.

All-American Picks: Blake Griffin, Stephen Curry, Tyler Hansborough (legacy pick), James Harden and DeJuan me back in a few weeks to make sure I'm right.

Tiger Woods is BACK! The bionic man is coming back for his throne this week and now everybody is free to watch golf again.

So the Dodgers got Orlando Hudson. My boy Sam is pretty high on him and three Gold Gloves says I should give him some love and welcome him to the Dodgers with open arms. He's a pretty solid run-producer with some speed to boot so I see him possibly as a No. 2 or No. 7 in the lineup. But Dodgers fans won't be happy unless a certain dread-locked LF is signed which is probably this signing went under the radar. Case in point, I was more happy that my favorite player, Ken Griffey Jr., was going back to Seattle and I actually thought about going up there for the home opener.

Good reads: Jemele Hill and Kurt Streeter (a real cool dude, btw) taking the Williams sisters to task for choosing to love their sponsors more than standing up against discrimination in their tournament in Dubai. If you've faced it before, there's no reason why you should stand by and let it happen in the name of $$$$

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Hip Hop 101: Worth the Extra Credit

The Hip Hop 101 Festival yesterday at the L.A. Sports Arena was a great display of true hip-hop culture. First off, as a growing fan of the culture, I love any hip-hop show that focuses on more than just the MC (hence why I hit up Rock The Bells every year) and this was no different. The various dance crews for the pre-show entertainment were pretty dope, from popping to krumping to b-boying/girling, everything was represented. It was a trip because I saw one of my friend's krump crews up there.

There was also some graffiti in the area and you really have to stop and appreciate the work people put into their art. All from an aerosol can on a blank canvas. I'll never forgot going to New York in 2005 and seeing all the great murals on this one bball court near 106th and Park across from Spanish Harlem.

Back to the show, MixMaster Mike was supposed to come through but something was wrong with his equipment or something. But the house music was pretty tight (except for when they played "Crank That" and "Walk It Out"...I guess it really represented all facets of hip-hop). Finally after two and a half hours of pre-show and music and corny hosting from Stomp the Yard's Columbus Short, we finally got to see some action with Janelle Monae

She performed about 3 songs but somebody must have forgotten to do sound check because I could barely make out anything she said in the first joint. Outside of that, she def. showed her Outkast/Erykah Badu influence. Watching her prance around the stage reminded of Howlin Pelle from the Hives but she has serious chops. It wasn't bad to see her walk through the crowd either during her last song. Def. set the concert portion of the evening off right.

I guess Keri Hilson wasn't gonna be there after all because up next was the pride of Chi-town himself, Common. And even though Universal Mind Control was a step back in his career, he made the album came alive during his set, which jumped off with "Go"

"Sex 4 Suga" meshed well from "I Want You," "Punch-Drunk Love" sounded fly with the band behind him and he also found time to break out joints from Finding Forever (Driving Me Wild, The People). He also broke out the classics ("I Still Love H.E.R.", "The Light", "Come Close", his verse from "Get Em High) but in keeping with the theme, he paid tribute to the artform.

He did verses from classic hip-hop songs (Nuthin But A G Thang, Juicy, CREAM, Bonita Applebaum, Passin Me By), let the DJ get some shine and finally closed out with "Universal Mind Control" with some b-boys and girls. Watching that definitely let you know where he got inspiration from for that song - as he performed, the breakers did their thing and he even got in on the fun just like he did when I saw him in 2006. That was easily the highlight of the show and felt like an old-school flair.

Before that dude named Luda came out, we saw hip-hop's influence around the globe with a breakdancing crew from around the world...United Skillz with b-boys and b-girls from around the country (Cali, NY) and the world (France, Japan and Canada). During their show, me and my peeps moved down from the gen. admission seats to the floor and got all the way up to the front to see LUDACRIS do his thing. I had seen him at the San Diego Street Scene in 2004 and even though me and my friend were pretty far back, the energy was electric. This time was so much better.

It jumped off with "Everybody Hates Chris" and he ran through the classics (Southern Hospitality, What's Your Fantasy, Area Codes, Stand Up) and new joints (1 More Drink, his verse from "Dey Know"). I was surprised at what he didn't do though (Get Back, almost nothing from "Release Therapy," "What Them Girls Like") but I guess when you have an extensive catalog like his, there's a lot of cuts you can skip and still keep the party hot.

It was also a DTP affair as Lil' Fate was his hypeman and Shawnna came thru to do her remix of "Whats Your Fantasy" and of course, "Gettin Some..." He ended with a DJ set (kinda eh) and "Move" featuring I-20 coming out for his verse.

Overall, I say Hip Hop 101 is def. a class I'll take again next year (minus the corny host except for the 1st dude who asked the crowd some good hip-hop ?'s) because it's not just about having dope MC's, it's about the essence of the culture. DJ'ing, b-boying, graph writing and of course, the MC (c) Slick Rick.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Spitting Off The Top (on Chris Brown and Rihanna)

So apparently seen the real photos of Rihanna's face (I'm not going to post them here, but im sure TMZ has them). All I have to say is that it's a sad sight. Now that we know the play-by-play of what happened, I seriously wonder what made Chris Brown snap like that.

I know that I've been in arguments with ladies before. I've been in loud/frustrating arguments with some of the closest women in my life. But never have I thought about laying my hands on them. Yes, I have thought about throwing something. Yes, I have admitted to saying words I deeply regret. But violence against them has never been an option.

I feel that if you are that mad at someone you are dating, you need to break up with them. I don't care how much you love them or how much they love you...leave them be. Is it really worth it the stress? I've heard of people you marry being the ones who can tolerate arguments with, but seriously, I'm not gonna spend the rest of my life with someone who I know can set me off in a snap.

Chris Brown needs to learn from this situation. He needs to know that abuse is something that tends to be passed down without you realizing it. I believe his apology and I'm hoping that he does indeed undergo counseling, prayer and anger management. I know he's ashamed/embarrassed about letting it go that far but if it's true that there has been some abuse before - and I'm not letting Rihanna off the hook as only a victim in the past - he has to look in the mirror and do the right thing for himself as a person.

I fully believe in that you don't just scold a (wo)man when (s)he's down, but you give them ample room to learn from their mistakes. You watch how they get back on their feet and you see how they respond in light of their poor judgement. Watch Charles Barkley's apology earlier tonight after being suspended for a DUI and tell me that he's not accountable. Chris Brown's rep does not have to be that of a gf-beater and I look forward to him working against that in the foreseeable future.

As for Rihanna, my heart goes out to her as she recovers. It's not easy for a victim of abuse to recover from this but it's a journey that she can do. I just pray that she listens to wise council and that she gets support. A man needs to defend a woman's honor, never degrade it with his fists.

So for either men or women, take my advice. Break-up with a significant other that drives you crazy and not in a good way. Break-up with a significant other that makes you want to even think of assualting them. Leave with your peace of mind intact. There's nothing wrong with being selfish if it means you can live with yourself

"I wanna say a little something that's long overdue. The disrespecting women has gotten to be through." - Beastie Boys "Sure Shot"

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Things that make you go hmmm....or WTF????

Let's forget that in Oakland last month, an African-American was gunned down by a police officer who is currently awaiting trial for murder. Let's forget that there has been a long distrust of police officers abusing their power with their guns toward minorities. Heck, let's even forget that monkeys have been associated with African-Americans and that our current President is Black.

The big issue is, why the New York Post used this piece of "satire" knowing good and well they are implicity inciting violence against a sitting President. That alone should get the Secret Service's attention considering they went after Eminem for saying "I don't rap for dead presidents, I'd rather see the president dead" in 2004.

Just crazy and another sign that I can trust man, but I can't trust the devil inside man.

Word to Patrick Swavy for sharing this.

Poetry Corner (Black History Month Edition)

I figured I'd post up some of my favorite poems by Black poets. I used to write pretty often and thanks to my job, I don't do it as often as I like to. But pretty much, this is where I'll drop some of my old poems that I posted on MySpace as well as feature some of my favorites. With that said, here's three to ponder.

Langston Hughes "The Negro Speaks of Rivers"

I've known rivers:
I've known rivers ancient as the world and older than the
flow of human blood in human veins.

My soul has grown deep like the rivers.

I bathed in the Euphrates when dawns were young.
I built my hut near the Congo and it lulled me to sleep.
I looked upon the Nile and raised the pyramids above it.
I heard the singing of the Mississippi when Abe Lincoln
went down to New Orleans, and I've seen its muddy
bosom turn all golden in the sunset.

I've known rivers:
Ancient, dusky rivers.

My soul has grown deep like the rivers.

Countee Cullen "The Incident"

Once riding in old Baltimore
Heart-filled, head-filled with glee,
I saw a Baltimorean
Keep looking straight at me.

Now I was eight and very small,
And he was no whit bigger,
And so I smiled, but he poked out
His tongue, and called me, "Nigger."

I saw the whole of Baltimore
From May until December
Of all the things that happened there
That's all that I remember.

Paul Laurence Dunbar "We Wear The Mask"

WE wear the mask that grins and lies
It hides our cheeks and shades our eyes,—
This debt we pay to human guile;
With torn and bleeding hearts we smile,
And mouth with myriad subtleties.

Why should the world be over-wise,
In counting all our tears and sighs?
Nay, let them only see us, while
We wear the mask.
We smile, but, O great Christ, our cries
To thee from tortured souls arise.
We sing, but oh the clay is vile
Beneath our feet, and long the mile;
But let the world dream otherwise,

We wear the mask!

Monday, February 16, 2009

VSR: Random Hits on a Prez Day

I guess President's Day means something to people who wanna make the comment that we finally have a President worth celebrating. Perhaps, although I can still celebrate Bill Clinton during my lifetime (and I can celebrate this stimulus bill passing, Hallelujah!!). I remember when we got Lincoln's and Washington's B-Day off in elementary school so today is really just a holiday that I never enjoyed in HS/college (the drawback of private schools). I'm trying to stay warm and dry as we're into another week of cold weather, wind and rain in L.A. Here goes the Virgosis Sports Report...

So kids, what did we learn this week in college baseketball? 1) UCLA and Duke are talented but won't go far without a true big man, 2) Blake Griffin can find new ways to rip your heart out, 3) UConn will be alright (for now) with Dyson, 4) Arizona State will be a Sweet 16 contender, 5) North Carolina is my favorite to win it all

UCLA just laid a goose egg - or is it turtles in the desert - against Arizona State and Arizona. It's two steps forward, three steps back with these guys. The AZ State game was close because of UCLA's defense but all I saw on offense was 3-point shots and transition baskets...which was far better than what I saw against AZ (a 25 pt. deficit at one point). If not for Darren Collison catching heat and their defense, they would've been blown out by the team formerly known as Arizona (quietly their new coach has put together a solid season though).

As for Duke, they hung tough with UNC but what's up with their interior defense? There's no way a 5-11 guard (even one as good as Ty Lawson) should go 7-10 from the field and hit at least 5 lay-ups in the half-court offense. Tyler Hansborough and Danny Green go 4-0 at Cameron (ugh, I remember when they won that first game in 06 -pissed me off). And don't get me started on losing to Boston College for the first time in my lifetime...this right here says it all

Your reward for underachieving, fellas. A trip to the Sweet 16 if you're lucky. Consider it the Steve Lavin Award.

The Wooden Award Race looks like this: 1) Blake Griffin, 2) Everybody else. 40 and 23 isn't just dominant, you have to watch how he does it. Dude can throw down windmills, dunk with authority thanks to good footwork and just KNOWS how to rebound with his body. BTW, hope that ankle doesn't hurt Curry too much...I love how he's become a better PG and still putting up high numbers.

There's nothing better than the NBA All-Star Weekend (although the Skills Comp and 3-pt Shootout were considerably terrible - I could hear that wackness thru the radio). And while the media tripped out about Shaq and Kobe playing together for the 1st time in 5 years, I was impressed with Chris Paul going 14 and 14 for the 2nd straight AS game. One more sign this guy is the best PG to come into the game since Jason Kidd.

Having Shaq and Kobe win MVP was pretty sweet and I consider it the final chapter of one of the greatest duos in NBA History. They started the decade as champions, crashed and burned in the middle, and came back as partners in crime at the end. Yea, you wonder about what could've been - that 04 title was lost because of Malone's injury and Kobe's selfishness - but instead I'm glad about where they are and I look forward to Shaq's last (?) game in L.A.*

And I'm sorry but Nate Rob shouldn't have won the Dunk Contest for jumping over a leaning Dwight Howard. For the record, Vince Carter leaped over 7-2 Fred Weis while he was standing straight up. Nate practically leap-frogged Dwight using his hand which for someone who has hops it's not that hard. Josh Smith over Kenyon Martin in 05 >>>Gerald Green over Nate Rob in 07>>>>Nate Rob over Dwight Howard.

So spring training starts this week but is anybody talking about baseball on the field? Between A-Rod, Joe Torre's book, steroids and the World Baseball Classic (better than you think), who is even talking about this upcoming season? Not me - at least not yet because I'm focused on the SoCal HS bball playoffs this week.

I'm out for presidents to represent me (c) Nas. So far, so good Mr. Obama.

*It really felt like Shaq's last ASG this week. If this is how it all ends, take the time to appreciate one of the game's greatest characters and one of its last true dominant low-post big men*

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Is Black History Month Still Relevant?

This is inspired from a conversation I had with a friend when I went to Big Bear in December. Among other things related to this, she asked that well-heard question about why there isn’t a White History Month and I responded back to her with what I thought. But it made me think about if Black History Month is even relevant in the 21st century where color is almost an afterthought for most?

Carter G. Woodson came up with Negro History Week in 1926 because he wanted to celebrate the accomplishments of Black people. He came up with the idea for the 2nd week in February because of the birthdays of Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass. It’s no surprise this happened during the Harlem Renaissance when plenty of prominent Black thinkers/poets/activists came alive with creativity (the "New Negro" phenomenon).

If you consider that the only way most Black people heard about their history was through oral tellings, writing it down was absolutely essential. And consider when you have movies during this era such as “Birth of A Nation,” there was a need to tell the full story instead of it being dictated through the media at a time when racism thoughts were alive and well and lynchings/race riots occurred often (I’ll touch back on that storytelling part in a bit).

Pretty much if not for historians such as Woodson and W.E.B. DuBois (one of my personal heroes), it would’ve remained oral history. These folks recorded Black History and told stories that were well known and not well-known at the time. DuBois’ “Black Reconstruction” deconstructed some of the myths many had about the role of Blacks during that era after the Civil War (myths reinforced by “Birth of a Nation”).

Let’s throw in the fact that most White school children (and predominately White-run schools) from 1876 to 1954 were probably not told anything about Black history that was noble. After Brown v. Board in 1954, I’m sure that White kids were still not taught much for the next decade, especially in the South. So having a Black History Week that later became a month was a way for them to be exposed to another part of American history. Throw in another fact that the Civil Rights/Black Power Movements made people aware of more history and you only have this as a recent phenomenon in America.

Now people wanted to learn more about Black History, it was being added to curriculums across the spectrum. It became a great thing….but now what has Black History Month turned into. A tired retread of same old names and the same old stories. It stopped being fresh the minute I realized it was turning into old folks and others re-hashing the past without adding some vibrancy and newness to it. So now I have to wonder is Black History Month still relevant? Do we still need to celebrate it?

First of all, we need to make it more than just a re-tread of people who’ve already been made famous over the years (MLK, Rosa Parks, Fred Douglass). There’s needs to be a highlight of not-so-well known people so we can tell their stories and have them inspire folks. That’s why every year I’m at the paper I will do stories that highlight not-so-familiar people because their story needs to be told (the last two years, I’ve done the New York Rens – the first Black professional team that was paid – and Don Barksdale (below), the first Black to win a basketball gold medal and play in an NBA All-Star Game before becoming the Black radio DJ in the Bay Area).

Second of all, with people that we’ve heard so much about, we need to make their stories more dimensional. Don’t tell the same facts about that person, tell us something we haven’t heard or don’t hear enough about. For example, talk more about Martin Luther King, Jr.’s commitment to the Poor People’s Campaign and his anti-war stances. You need to make familiar legends relate to a new generation so they don’t see them as a 1-D caricature but a living human being. And we also need to search for this as well and not just settle for what we are told.

Edit: I was in the barbershop and my barber was telling me all this stuff about George Washington Carver I didn’t know about (he did as much with soybeans as he did with peanuts, he was an accomplished painter). I love learning about new people who were just as important whether they were Black Americans or Black people from other parts of the world (like one of my heroes Steve Biko)These are the kind of stories that need to be told this month.

Third, here’s why we need BHM most of all. Remember what I said about it gave Black people a chance to dictate their own history back in the 1920’s? Well in 2009, people still need to dictate their own history and not be told who or what is important. I don’t want people to have a one-sided view of Marcus Garvey and Malcolm X or Martin Luther King and Booker T. Washington. If a group of people or organization can’t dictate their own history and it has to be told to them, it can be manipulated by the storyteller or there is potential for something to be left out.

That is ultimately why BHM is still relevant and why we need to seriously revamp it and give it a makeover to continue making it relevant. It is part of the American fabric and a history buff, I think that quilt needs to be remodeled every once in a while because old stitching can fade and tear. It really needs to be told every day not just one month, but if one month is where people learn a lot of new things, so be it. Let it be the start, not the end-all be all.

*And as for the tired argument about why can’t there be a White History Month, let me counter with this. If you had a White History Month, what would be its purpose? What reason would you need for it besides just to “have it” in the name of fairness? If you wish to promote great White people or White history, consider that many of them have already been promoted for years and are well-known parts of the American fabric.

Promoting Black/Latino/Asian/Women’s/GLBT History is because not everyone knows that side of American History, so it must be told.

Why celebrate "White History Month" if it’s something that is recognized on a consistent basis? I don't have a problem celebrating great people for what they do or celebrating one's culture but if you want a White History Month for the simple reason of having one (or promote people we ALL know or read about in history), you grossly misunderstand why BHM or other history months were created. It's like if I was mad at an Islam Awareness Week when I know good and well that Christianity is the dominant religion here....a worthless argument in the grander scope of things.*

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

VSR: On A-Rod and Baseball

The great clean hope for baseball is dirty. A-Rod admitted that he took performance-enhancing drugs from 2001-2003 with the Texas Rangers. Funny how the Rangers gave us two of the biggest stories of the decade – they gave us George Bush (their former owner in the 90’s) and now they give us BALCO south, the chemistry lab of Jose Canseco, Rafael Palmeiro and now Rodriguez.

*Speaking of Presidents, whoever that reporter was that asked President Obama about A-Rod should have him Press-Corps badge revoked. Here comes the Commander-in-Chief talking about the economy and his stimulus plan and some reporter dares ask him about something frivolous like this??? SMH at the cult of his personality infiltrating the White House Press Corps, I wish Helen Thomas would put that dude in his place.*

Starting with A-Rod, he manned up and apologized for what he called stupid behavior. He blamed it on the pressure to live up to his contract and the climate of the day. Only problems I have are that he said the timetable was “pretty accurate”, didn’t know where he got them from or what he took, and took Sports Illustrated’s Selena Roberts to task for her reporting methods. Other than that, I give him props for coming out with the truth.

Here’s my problem with this whole thing. Folks wanna get mad and say A-Rod is a fraud, blah blah blah. Don’t forget that dude came into the league on fire. That 1996 MVP should have gone to him for killing it in his first full season (.358, 36 HRS, 123 RBI’s, 215 hits). From 1996-2000, he was consistently one of the best young players in the game (going 40-40 in 1998, top-3 in MVP vote in 2000, going 40+ HR, 110+ RBI’s from 1998-2000). My only problem, A-Rod, why do it?

His Texas numbers just look astronomical and you can’t ignore the irony is that his worst year there (2003 – 47 HR’s, 118 RBIs, .298 BA) won him the MVP. His numbers got incredibly great (although Torii Hunter reminded folks in the LA Times today that Arlington is a band-box and hitting bombs there is easy) but it wasn’t like dude was a scrub with the Yankees.

2 MVP’s (including his greatest season in 2007 – 54 HR’s, 156 RBI’s, .314 BA, lowest strikeout total in 8 years – where he carried the Yanks to the postseason), still hitting 35+ HR’s and 100+ RBI’s, average hovering around .300. If dude was clean like he said he was, that’s still quality numbers people would kill for.

My major beef in all this is how that confidential test report was unveiled. Whoever leaked it needs to be arrested for breaking that trust. And WHY aren’t the other 103 names being revealed? It appears that in all this, somebody had a vendetta against A-Rod and squealed on him to dash everyone’s hopes. All of the names need to be released because otherwise this looks like a case of “Calling Out Names” (no Kurupt).

The player’s union deserves blame for not destroying those records. How are you supposed to rep the player’s best interests if you can’t keep sealed records SEALED! They should catch hate for not allowing drug testing in the past and they darn sure better catch hell for this. It’s gross negligence and with this witch hunt to find the cheaters going on, who knows who else is going to see their career come undone.

Maybe it’s because I’m a young cat who grew up on basketball in 1994-95 when baseball was losing fans, but the whole steroids era doesn’t bother me that greatly. It frustrates me how many great accomplishments are tainted but how long were the fans misled by not just the players, but baseball itself. This culture of juicing was allowed to parade so people could either gain an edge or compete with cheaters. I had a roommate in college who told me that guys on his baseball team took stuff because they had to compete with other teams and other pitchers.

More than anything, the whole idea of purity in sports has taken another hit. Baseball is our national pastime because it’s the sport that many grew up with, the sport that was made a myth by radio and a few TV images and the sport that tells a lot about our racial history in this country. It was the sport that famously barred Blacks and Latinos from playing til’ Jackie came along to remind folks of Moses Walker’s journey, then limited how many could be on a team, then got mad when Black athletes dared show their style (believe it or not, Willie Mays caught hell early on for – gasp – diving after balls, playing with ease). It’s a sport of tradition so the gatekeepers are pissed when the rule of order is threatened.

Course, these are the same gatekeepers that refused to vote Mays, Stan Musial, Tony Gwynn, Cal Ripken Jr. and Rickey Henderson in the HOF unanimously and kept Jim Rice and Goose Gossage out for years. *rolls eyes and SMH at the same time*

So pretty much, A-Rod’s revelations have tarnished his career although I would still call him a Hall of Famer and watch what he does. But Monday’s admission of guilt isn’t the only that should be made (PLAYERS UNION, MLB….i’m looking at you and throwing you LA Times’ columnist Bill Dwyre’s Modest Proposal from today’s paper).

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Virgosis Sports Report (61*)

I watched the halftime numbers (34 pts), I saw that Kobe was in the 40's by the 3rd quarter. Next thing you know, dude has 61 points and Madison Square Garden is chanting "MVP." Let's be honest, when you think you've seen it all, Black Mamba takes it a step further. Greatest scoring performance in MSG history (and I remember him scoring 50 a while back and thinking that was nuts...this was more than Bernard King's 60 and MJ's double-nickel in 95)

Now the asterisk comes in for two reasons. 1) We got punched in the gut (or maybe the knee) when Andrew Bynum hit the deck Saturday and tore his MCL in the right knee. It's deja vu all over again because he's gone for at worst 3 months and we all know how sorely the Lakers missed him in the Finals (I can see Kendrick Perkins screaming "Hallelujah" right now for Thursday's game). You feel bad because he was finally playing like he did last year before his previous knee injury.

2) Kobe scoring a lot of points is not always a great thing (only had 3 assists and zero rebounds on 31 shots). I was more happy that Lamar Odom grabbed 14 rebounds and blocked 3 shots. I was satisfied that Pau Gasol had a phenomenal night that would've been a headliner any other day. (31 pts, 14 rebs, 5 assts, 2 blks). But I'm gonna need more games like that from Pau, Lamar and the bench (Ariza did have 13) so Kobe can rack up his assists/rebound total not his point total. It's a known fact that the team does better when Mamba facilitates so I take yesterday's win as hopefully an aberration.

Right now, our title hopes have gotten a lot shakier without Bynum. It's up to the bench to get tough and take the weight and if Gasol and Odom can be this consistent, we can be fine. But it's gonna be tough because we got Boston Thursday and Cleveland Sunday who have revenge on their minds.

Did I say UCLA was boring and not fun to watch last week? I guess the Bay Area is where the fun lies because the Bruins had plenty of it kicking the crap outta Cal and Stanford while doing the Thizzle Dance (*throws up the T while rockin stunna shades). That Stanford game was a straight butt-whupping and sorry Johnny Dawkins, you got your work cut out for you.

The No. 15 Bruins (17-4) are tied for the Pac-10 conference lead (7-2) but all that matters this week is Round II with USC at Pauley Pavilion. Did I mention that SC is a game behind in conference? As if the Bruin/Trojan faithful needed any more reason to get hyped this week. I'll be there sitting high in Magpie Alley (c) Jim Murray. Of course I can't cheer but I'll be looking to see how good these teams are in person and maybe I'll do a blog that night about it.

Finally got some time to talk baseball and with the Dodgers playing Russian Roulette with Manny Ramirez, I'm not surprised he rejected their one-year offer of $25 mil. If he rejected a 2-yr deal, why would he take a 1-yr deal??

I come out in the middle with these negotations. On the one hand, the Dodgers need to at least attempt to sign Manny for 2 or 3 years because he'll be a big boost in the clubhouse, the lineup and with the fans (don't underestimate the large Latino Dodger following being key). On the other, Scott Boras and Manny need to realize that they won't get what they are looking for and should take a favorable offer should the Dodgers give it.

Take it from me, the Dodgers' young guns are ready to show they can be on point after last year. The transition will be a lot easier if they had a proven veteran in the lineup who is willing to teach them and provide a great atmosphere along with it (unlike Jeff Kent, who will not be missed by this Dodgers fan). At least it'll be easy since Joe Torre will have a lot going on come spring training thanks to his new book.

By the way, I know the clubhouse has a code of keeping dirty laundry in but anybody judging based on a few quotes with no regard for Torre's character is an idiot. Why do you think talking heads are more upset than most of the players who are waiting to read it? Use that brain, people...snap judgments may be in vogue but let's think it all the way through, shall we?

Quick hits
- Duke found out why being No. 1 leaves you open for a bullet in the heart. A lil' back-door layup by Wake Forest wins the game?? At least they'll get a chance to expose Clemson on Wednesday (no bigger fraud in the ACC than Clemson, start out hot and ranked, finish cold and fighting for their tournament lives).
- San Diego got blasted by Gonzaga on ESPN. Note to self, maybe we aren't ready for prime time just yet without Brandon Johnson running the show.
- Is it ironic that UConn and Oklahoma are 1-2 in both men's and women's polls. Easily the biggest shock is the Oklahoma men's team but Blake Griffin is the truth. Keep on freshman PG Willie Warren

HS Scene
National Signing Day is tomorrow and I'm happy for all the kids I covered who are heading somewhere (mostly going to USC). USA Today All-Americans James Boyd and Marquis Simmons and Army All-Americans Chris Metcalf and Shaquelle Evans (headed to Notre Dame) are great kids that I wish well. The big story has been USC losing commits like Carson TE Morrell Presley to UCLA and Narbonne DB Byron Moore (I laugh at the irony of seeing Moore wearing a sweatshirt with USC-bound on it at a Serra game and now thinking he's headed to Notre Dame).

I think USC will be fine because of who they are but I think that the 2010 class will have a lot of thinking to do before they commit. USC's philosophy of biding your time and learning from All-Americans for 3 years is highly effective (just check the No. of draft picks Pete Carroll's had) but in the wake of 3 transfers and 2 major de-commits, don't be surprised if a big name recruit signs with UCLA or somebody else because they have a better chance to play (esp. if UCLA improves like I think they will this year).

I'll be chilling at the Nike Extravganaza at Mater Dei High School Saturday for some high quality basketball featuring the No. 1 team in the country (Mater Dei minus Stanford-brown Andy Brown who tore his ACL) versus No. 2 St. Benedict's, No. 8 Westchester (fantastic guard play), No. 10 De La Salle vs. No. 12 Dominguez (doing it big without Jordan Hamilton), and No. 19 Fairfax (you might know this as Renardo Sidney's team). Did I mention Westchester and Fairfax get it on Friday night?? It's all gravy.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Virgosis Sports Report (Super Bowl Edition)

Was that the greatest Super Bowl ever? Was that TD catch by Santonio Holmes the greatest play in SB History (was it even better than James Harrison's 100-yd Pick-6)?

First off, I was rooting for the Cardinals and they came out flatter than 3-day old soda. Pittsburgh just had their way from the jump and whether it was Big Ben scrambling or some short play gaining major yards after catch, it was just way too easy. Arizona's offense couldn't get going and just when you thought they'd go into the halftime with momentum, Steelers D-coordinator Dick Lebeau said, "Eff yo plans, neeguh" (c) Col. Stinkmeaner/Rick James and planned the scheme that had NFL Defensive POY James Harrison run 100 yards to history and paydirt. 17-7 instead of 14-10 just like that.

Just when AZ hit their lowest point (trailing 20-7, racking up stupid personal fouls - roughing the holder??), they stormed back when Kurt Warner finally looked at Larry Fitzgerald's direction and remembered how they got there. Two TD's and a safety later, it looked like Super Bowl 34 again for Kaptain Kurt. Except they were still two minutes left and this became a repeat of SB 36 for Kurt.

We all saw that drive where Big Ben became Joe Montana, Tom Brady and John Elway and led that team down the field. Santonio Holmes made two amazing plays - the last being that tippity-toe TD that showed why he deserved the MVP. For once, Ohio State football stepped up in a big game (ironically the last time I saw them do well in a bowl, it was Holmes and Troy Smith going bonkers on Notre Dame in the Fiesta Bowl)

The review booth should have looked at that Warner fumble a lot closer. It looked like a fumble but on a play that close, you gotta check it esp. considering Pitt had a 15-yard penalty and if it wasnt a fumble, AZ has the ball on the 31-yard line. But it doesnt take away from a fantastic finish. AZ's defense looked suspect most of the game and Pitt was in control til the 4th, but the Cardinals deserved to be there and played like it when it mattered. Now about that defense fellas.....I guess somebody had to get more SB's than the Cowboys.

Oh yeah, Larry Fitzgerald is the best WR in football hands down. But we've known he's been one of the best since he balled at Pitt (2nd in the Heisman to who???) and put up numbers. I knew what I was doing when I took him in my fantasy draft this year.

And as far as the best SB ever talk goes? Let's look at this decade's best

SB 34 (2000) - Rams go up by 16, Tennesee ties it up in greatest rally ever, Warner to Bruce for 73 yards in the 4th, Titans 1 yard short. (Unlike most of these games, they had a great 2nd half).
SB 36 (2002) - Pats are big underdogs, take a shocking lead thanks to Ty Law's pick 6 (sound familiar Kurt), Rams comeback to tie the game before Brady drives the field for Vinateri's game winning FG.
SB 38 (2004) - Pats and Panthers play like crap in the 1st and 3rd quarters, play like men in the 2nd and 4th. 11-point comeback by Panthers in the 4th, NE TD to Mike Vrabel, Delhomme TD to Ricky Proehl to tie it with 1:08 left, kick-off goes out of bounds, Brady drives the field for Vinateri's game-winning FG. 37 combined points in the final quarter.
SB 42 (2008) - A slow game (Pats 7-3 after 3 quarters), Giants score a TD, Pats score a TD with 2:42 left to Randy Moss, Manning to Tyree for 32 yards of history (never saw that boy scramble like that, never saw a catch like that), Plaxico Burress go-ahead TD and perfection is ruined.
SB 43 (2009) - Pitt dominates out the gate, Harrison's 100 yard Pick-6 kills the Cards spirit at halftime, Cards look dead until the 4th quarter, Fitzgerald catches 2 amazing TD's and Cards get safety to take the lead, Big Ben leads Pitt on 78-yd scoring drive with Holmes tippy-toe catch to win it, Warner fumbles the ball on AZ 44-yd line to end it.

I'm gonna be honest, Super Bowl 34 was better for a longer period of time. Super Bowl 36 and 42 were drama builders because they were huge upsets and the game didn't go as we expected. Super Bowl 38 and 43 had the best final quarters I have ever seen in a SB. I usually hate when critics are quick to anoint something as the best ever but Super Bowl wise, this is fair. Here we go.

Best of the Decade

1. Super Bowl 43 - the game just went in a complete 180 so fast before that last TD. Plus we had two of the 10 greatest SB plays ever (Harrison's Pick-6, Holmes TD).
2. Super Bowl 38 - Will be the most underrated SB ever thanks to the Panthers and Delhomme's inconsistency since then.
3. Super Bowl 42 - The stakes will never be higher unless somebody else comes in 18-0 and Eli Manning led a fantastic last minute drive. If not for the pre-game drama, this game was boring til the 4th.
4. Super Bowl 34 - Best pure second-half of SB football you will ever see from start to finish, including the 3rd Q

It's been a great decade of Super Bowls, let's hope for it to continue in the Teens. Big ups to Mike Tomlin for being the 2nd African-American coach to win the Super Bowl and doing it where he started as a coach, Steelers owner Dan Rooney because he's a man of integrity and the Cardinals for showing they belonged in the end. Great game and we'll wait til the end of summer

*By the way, best commericals. Doritos and Budweiser hands down (snowglobe had me laughing). The worst was Coke reliving the Mean Joe Greene ad and the Castor Oil monkeys...just didn't get it*

And yes, I got a regular report coming as by now you've heard that Kobe went off for 61 in MSG!!! But that's scary and exciting at the same time.