On the wings of Atlanta: Notes jotted down during Jazz Night at Cafe Trieste

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Listening to this jazz band it’s hard to conceptualize that this music used to belong to us. Can you Imagine Charlie Parker being as big in the hood as Gucci Mane? Can you see Billy Holiday being as popular as Nicki Manaj? I honestly can’t, because we completely shifted. We gave that up and started anew. For the projects have been lionized while the ghettos are being sanitized—many of them have been completely liquidated.

 

Boy you better wash your hands before you touch that food.

 

There ain’t a clarinet to be found in a trap music beat, not an oboe neither, and there’s barely a trumpet either but it’s all good though. Just because you give a man lean to drink and pills to pop don’t mean you take away his soul. Ain’t no dope in this world that can chase Africa away. Africa is still gone be in your bloodstream. Ghana is still in the bone marrow. Nigeria is still in those hips, and you know Sierra Leone gave you those lips. So when you listen to Future you can hear my past. When you look at Two Chainz you can see Mansa Musa. The Migos could be members of the mighty Ashanti Empire. Up from poverty! Up from the bottom of the boat! Up from being down—you feel me?

We ain’t going back to Africa and we don’t have to because we brought Africa here. You may not be able to see it but you know you feel it. If you stand still for too long it will touch your spirit and make you move. All eyes cast downward—down to Atlanta. Since Outkast, since Goodie Mobb, since The Dungeon Family. Have you seen the show yet? Have you seen what Donald Glover has done? He never stops putting in work and I know that W.E.B Dubois would be proud of the beautiful wings that grew from his most beloved city. I know Dr. King would be proud. I’m not sure they ever seen this coming but the ATL is at the center of the black world, and has been for the past twenty years. The mecca ain’t Harlem, it ain’t D.C., and it ain’t Chicago neither. It is that city within a stone’s throw of master’s plantation and its glory was created by all those negroes that never left to work on the shipyards of California or in the factories of Detroit. All those faithful black folks that never gave up—that never left. And even a few that moved back down. The ones that got educated in the A.U.C. and saw that rich Georgia soil so they decided to plant seeds. This is what the ancestors down there in the black belt must have dreamed of. This is what W.E.B. wrote about when he asked “How does it feel to be a problem?” Now the brothers and sisters down there have created a solution for so many of us. Do you hear the music? Man that right there is slapping! Man turn that up. That’s the ATL.

-YB

 

 

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Chris Brown Vs Soulja Boy May be the Most Important Fight of the 21st Century

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The fight between Chris Brown and Soulja Boy which is scheduled for March 2017 is very important from a cultural, economic, and revolutionary standpoint. I’m very excited about this fight and I’m actually contemplating flying to Las Vegas to watch it all go down live in person. And no I am not a 19-year-old woman with a crush on either one of the combatants nor am I a 19-year-old aspiring rapper with a mixtape to sell. I am, however, a witness to the transformative properties of boxing. Here are three reasons why Chris Brown Vs Soulja Boy could be the most important match of the 21st century.

 

#GUNSDOWNHANDSUP

The murder rate in predominately African-American communities is disproportionately high. Chicago alone recorded 762 murders in 2016. That’s over two murders a day! It seems as though every dispute—no matter how petty—is settled behind the trigger. Sometimes innocent women and children are caught in the crossfire. This is why we need young men in the ghetto who are full of anger and testosterone to put their guns down, get their hands up and fight. Chris Brown and Soulja Boy had a beef which, according to Soulja Boy, began because Chris Brown found out Soulja Boy had gotten too close to a few of Chris Brown’s ex-girlfriends. And then thanks to Instagram and other forms of social, it got ugly. They went back and forth and Soulja even posted a picture of Chris Brown’s daughter which of course infuriated the R&B singer.

In present day Chicago, Detroit, New Orleans, and Houston this is more than enough to justify murder. At the very least Chris and Soulja have enough influence to control any young goon in America to do their bidding. But they have chosen not to engage in a proxy war which would probably bring some form of tragedy to several Hollywood and Atlanta after parties, instead they have chosen to fight one another the old-fashioned way—with their gloved fists. That is admirable. It takes tremendous heart to get inside the ring and fight for three rounds. It does not take any heart to gun a man down or disrespect him on social media.

 

Boxing ain’t easy

 

The general public needs to know that just because you won a fight during lunch recess in the 6th grade, or you used to routinely beat the hell out of your little brother, or you knocked out some loud-mouthed drunkard at the club last week does NOT mean that you can actually fight. The craft of boxing demands skill and not rage. At the novice level an amateur boxing match is three, two minute rounds. Now I want everyone who is reading this to think about every fight that you have ever had. Then think about how long it actually lasted. If you have never participated in boxing, then your longest fight was probably no longer than 30 seconds. My point is that it takes tremendous mental fortitude to go toe to toe with another trained fighter who is trying to put you to sleep for two minutes straight. It will be interesting to see how Chris and Soulja respond when they throw their hardest punch and their opponent is still there and still fighting. The truth is that when we fantasize about fighting our bosses, or the dude that cut us off on the freeway, or the racist snobby lady that makes the snarky passive aggressive comment while in line at the grocery store, it always ends in a knock out. As the fantasy goes; you ball up your fist really tight, reach back as far as you can and punch the shit out of that person. Then they fly in the air and when they finally come back down to earth they are completely unconscious. Then you slowly walk away but not before screaming something like; “What bitch!” “You got knocked the fuck out!” “I quit this job mutha fucka!”

 

Of course, when you’re in a boxing ring fighting another trained fighter it doesn’t work that way. If you load up on your punches (that is to rear back before you throw) then your opponent simply slips the shot and counters you. Or if you land the shot then your opponent will more than likely step to you and try to land a hard shot of his own. In our violent fantasies, we all possess brutal one punch knock out power but in real life this is a very rare gift. That’s why boxers are trained to throw combinations and then get out of the way. There’s also the crazy amount of stamina that it takes to fight an amateur bout. You have to do some facet of training every single day of the week. You need to spar, run 6-10 miles a day, shadow box excessively, and give up junk food. It will be interesting to see if two young men who drink alcohol, do drugs, and are adored by millions of women around the globe are willing to do what it takes to be victorious in the ring. They won’t be able to take their crews into the ring with them, they won’t be able to call timeout when they’re tired, and they won’t be able to get their trainers (Floyd Mayweather for Soulja Boy and Mike Tyson for Chris Brown) to fight for them. They’ll have to dig deep within themselves in a way that they probably have never had to do before.

 

Boxing picks up where the negro leagues left off

With all the contributions that African-Americans have made to football, basketball, and baseball the fact remains that of those three major American sport that embody about 100 franchises there is only one team that is owned by a black person. We see African-Americans running, dribbling, dunking, and posturing on television. And we also see them in suits that costs thousands of dollars while fielding questions at press conferences. We know how many millions of dollars they make and we think they are rich, however, one should point out that they make nothing compared to the rich white guy who writes their checks. For all of their fame and endorsement deals they don’t own anything and African-Americans haven’t owned the franchises that they play in since Major League Baseball forced the Negro Leagues to disband.

 

Boxing, however, is different. As notorious as Don King is he ushered in a wave of black ownership that is needed not only in sports but in black communities as a whole. Most African-Americans live in neighborhoods that are economically underserved and the few businesses that we do have are owned by Arabs, Koreans, or Pakistanis. One could debate the reasons for this but one cannot debate the fact that it is true. What Don King was able to do was to put on completely black events from top to bottom: from the back of the house to the front of the house. That is to say from the athletes to the executive, which in Don King’s case was always him. By accomplishing this task King cut a hole in the ceiling, a hole which Al Haymon was able to walk right through.

Al Haymon is the manager (but more like a business partner) to Floyd Mayweather and a host of other very talented fighters in the sport of boxing. Like Don King he is from the Cleveland, Ohio but unlike Don King he does not exploit his fighters. He gives his fighters a larger cut of the profits than any other manager/promoter ever has. So much so that Floyd Mayweather once said; “If I would have had Al Haymon from the beginning [of my career] I probably would be a billionaire by now.” Al Haymon promoted the richest fight in boxing history: Mayweather Vs. Pacquiao. And Al Haymon is a black man. It would be impossible for one to imagine a black person or company producing the World Series, the Super Bowl, or even the NBA All Star game. Not only that, Al Haymond refused to allow Pacquiao’s promoter Bob Arum, who is white, to get any percentage of the revenue from the fight. That would never happen in any other sport.

 

Chris Brown Vs. Soulja Boy will be brought to you entirely by Floyd Mayweather’s The Money Team/Mayweather Promotions so in essence to support this fight is to support black business. Black people spend an estimated 1.2 trillion a year on cars, jewelry, hotels, restaurants, and tickets to support sports franchises that do not belong to us. This fight is a rare exception.

 

As a fan of boxing and as a progressive African-American man that is tired of my culture clinging to the very bottom of American-Society. I’m tired of homicide and black male behavior being synonymous, I’m tired of the high rate of obesity among our children, and I’m tired of other people of color setting up shop in the black community selling us alcohol and inferior goods. Perhaps what I am most bothered by is how so many African-Americans take a natural attitude towards our own self-hatred and oppression. If Chris Brown and Soulja Boy have an intense exciting fight and then hug and show respect to one another after their fight is over, then maybe they will start a trend that will bring together the eight trays and rolling sixties of South Central Los Angeles and the black disciples and gangster disciples of the Southside of Chicago. Maybe young men will learn how to lose with honor instead of coming back to the block with a pistol and shooting at everything moving. If the winner of the fight can have pride and the loser remain dignified, then maybe young black men will choose life instead of death and seek freedom instead of incarceration. Maybe.

At any rate whether on pay per view or at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas I will definitely be watching.

 

 

Turn down for what? Here are 30 reasons why you should

Turn down for what

1.)  Because you’re 43.

2.)  Because you can’t afford to buy another drink.

3.)  Because no matter how many drinks you buy her she still won’t invite you to her place.

4.)  Because you can’t afford another baby’s mama.

5.)  Because you don’t want herpes.

6.)  Because someone in this club has a gun and you don’t know who it is.

7.)  Because you don’t want to get shot in the face for doing something that you won’t even be able to remember.

8.)  Because you have work in the morning.

9.)  Because whenever you drink too much alcohol it makes you poop a lot the next day.

10.) Because no matter how old you get you still can’t handle your alcohol.

11.) Because when you dance too much it makes your forehead sweat thus

drawing attention to your receding hairline.

12.) Because you have asthma.

13.) Because the last time your son got suspended from school you told him that

he “be doing too much.” Now look at you.

14.) Because “Molly” is just another white girl that’s bound to get you caught up (see Rosewood, Emmett Till, The Scottsboro Boys, and The Central Park 5).

15.) Because you don’t want to violate your probation.

16.) Because if you come home high again your girlfriend is going to leave you.

17.) Because if your girlfriend leaves you then you won’t be able to afford your own place.

18.) Because the woman who you’re dancing with will never call you back once she finds out how much money you really make.

19.) Because when the club ends she’s going to go home to her man and you’re going to be so drunk that you’re girlfriend won’t let you in the house.

20.) Because when you get drunk you think you can fight but you really can’t.

21.) Because the bouncers haven’t been drinking at all and they’re much bigger than you and they know the exact location on your chin to punch you in to put you to sleep.

22.) Because when you get knocked out the girl who you were trying to impress will scream “Daaaaaaaaaamn!” And cover her mouth and laugh at you. Then she’ll slip the bouncer who knocked you out her cell number and friend him on Facebook while she tweets “This drunk dude just got KTFO! Trying not to laugh #ILUVD-BO”

23.) Because it’s not cool to be out of control.

24.) Because you only get high because you’re insecure.

25.) Because your roommates will vote you and your girlfriend out of the house if you throw up on the bathroom floor again.

26.) Because when you get too drunk you start crying for no reason and you blow everyone else’s high.

27.) Because you have to drive home.

28.) Because you don’t ever want to go back to jail.

29.) Because DUI is a felony.

30.) BECAUSE YOU HAVE A FUCKING PROBLEM!!!!!!!!!

 

-YB

HerStory

EPIC! That’s the first term that comes to mind when I think about the long journey of bringing “Herstory” to fruition. It was March 30, 2012 when I sat down to conduct my first interview with Niema Jordan in my shabby East Oakland living room. When we finished recording our conversation I thought the project, in its entirety, would be complete within two months. I was hella wrong.

So many bad things happened that my selective memory won’t even allow me to recall most of them. I do remember amicably parting ways with my original editor halfway through the project. I do remember at least two other people committing to the project only to back out once they were able to truly internalize the fact that I could not pay them. And well, everything else is a blank until I reconnected with a fellow Skyline High School graduate who possessed the skill set and the passion to bring Herstory back to life. It was February 11 when she committed to the project. Now seven weeks later it’s done.

I’m high right now. I mean I’m super elated. I’m glad that Herstory survived all of the abandonment that it was exposed to in its infantile stages. I’m glad that beauty still exists in this world and I am so grateful that I have crossed paths with three super dynamic black women that opened up to me and told me their stories. With no further ado this is Herstory:

Trying To Keep My Little Girl Off The Pole

I expose my 7-year-old daughter to as many things as I possibly can. We go to the Museum of African Diaspora together, and she has already been to several readings and open-mics. The girl paints, creates music, plays soccer, and loves math. Like all good fathers I try to be as supportive as possible. Even though her mother and I split several years ago I have always been a consistent presence in my little girl’s life. This is mostly because of my love for her and my strong desire for her to one day be a successful woman but it is also driven by an uncontrollable fear. I want my daughter to be talented and I want my daughter to be artistic but I do not want my daughter to become a stripper.

Over the past decade no institution –besides the penitentiary—has come to symbolize the failure of African-American father’s more than the strip club. Stripping is big business in every American city but it is even more lucrative in the Southern United States where a disproportionate amount of blacks either reside or send their children to Historically Black Colleges and Universities to be educated. There is a whole subgenre of hip-hop music made specifically for strippers to dance to; Pop Lock and Drop It, Rock her Hips, Shake it Like a Salt Shaker, Back That Thang Up, and a dozen other booty worshipping songs that cause me to quickly change the dial every time my daughter is in the back seat. “But I like that song Daddy,” she often says. “Well I don’t,” I tell her. At least not with her in the car I don’t.

The role of the stripper in society has been reinvented in the modern-era which adds a whole different dimension to my worst parenting nightmare. No longer is the stripper’s pole reserved for the neglected, tragically beautiful, young lady who grew up in foster care. Instead there is a huge cross-section of sisters who find themselves flinging their bodies from the stainless steel sphere and landing in a perfect split. There are graduate students, daughters of the bourgeoisie, former high-school athletes, and aspiring entrepreneurs all collectively making it clap for crisp new bills. Alas stripping has become a completely socially acceptable profession.

Not that I have anything against these women. I honestly believe that it takes a tremendous amount of swagger for these ladies to dance naked in front of total strangers as if they were dancing alone in front of a mirror. So many women have extreme insecurities about their bodies that it is somewhat refreshing to see females shake it with pride. My only issue is that I am scared that the incessant stream of black women dancing half-naked in music videos, and on billboards, in magazines, and in low-budget hip-hop movies, will force a whole generation of girls to think that is their only option in life.

No longer will young African-American females want to win gold medals like Dominique Dawes and Gail Devers. They won’t know that they can go to outer-space like Dr. Mae Jamison or make millions of dollars by starting their own business like Madam C.J. Walker. Instead they will think the only way they can get rich is by catching a hand full of bills thrown to them by some drunken rapper who was gracious enough to “make it rain” all over their once sacred bodies.

Needless to say I do not want that for my little girl. I want her to defy societal expectations and choose her own path. I want her to be socially outgoing yet ferociously independent. I want her to be proud of her culture while at the same time being aware that her people need her help. The last thing I want to do is fail like so many other black men.

Sometimes I close my eyes and I am haunted by the fact that every stripper had a daddy once. It is oh so troubling.

YB