Saturday, January 31, 2009

Things to Watch Out for in 2009

The key phrase for today is “watch out!” While 2009 marks incredible change, there are still a few old school issues we need to keep a look out for:

1. A challenge to the 1965 Voting Rights Act. Watch out! Watch out! Watch out! The Supreme Court is going to hear the challenge, put forth by a Texas district (Northwest Austin Municipal Utility District Number One v. Mukasey). Texas wants Section 5 of the Act, which permits the U.S. government to oversee electoral-law changes, to be ruled unconstitutional. Section 5 protects us from voter racial bias. Even with Section 5, all sorts of funny business has taken place (red lining, the barring of former convicts, denial of bilingual aid, etc.). Without it, things could be worse. Section 5 has prevented (White) majorities from diluting minorities’ voting power. Texas believes now that we have a Black president, we don’t need such racial protections! According to Richard Hasen, an election-law expert at Loyola Law School in Los Angeles, this challenge "has the potential to be the most important election case since Bush v. Gore." That 2000 decision cut off Florida ballot recounts and ensured Bush the White House. Read more in this USA Today article.
2. The “suicide” of Billey Joe Johnson. Watch out for this case, as well as that of Oscar Grants’. Johnson was a star high school football player in George County, Mississippi. He had offers from a host of Division I colleges. On the day of his death, he was to attend an awards banquet. However, according to a Mississippi sheriff’s office, one of their deputies pulled Johnson over for a “traffic stop.” For no apparent reason, during the stop, Johnson shot himself with a 12-guage shotgun in the head. Police called the incident a “suicide.” However, when Johnson’s remains were taken to the Cowan Funeral Home, the handlers thought the wounds didn’t match the suicide story. The funeral home operator took photos, and contacted the local NAACP. Oh, and there is speculation/rumor that Johnson was dating a White classmate, and that her father was strongly opposed to the relationship. Purportedly, the deputy and the girl’s father are friends.
3. The Martin Luther King, Jr. kids. Watch out for the siblings to implode this year. With the potential for profit mounting, as folks try to link King with Obama, the squabbling over selling their father’s image is going to come to an ugly head.

(Image: Billey Joe Johnson)

Monday, January 26, 2009

Virgina Tech and Other Campus Problems

Sisterdoc is a university professor, so campus violence really hits home. Virginia Tech is witness to another horrific crime. Xin Yang arrived on the campus on January 8th to begin a master’s program in accounting. By January 21st, she was dead—decapitated (!?!) by another student, Haiyang Zhu. Haiyang was serving as a mentor to the new student, helping Xin to learn her way around the University.

The challenges and threats faculty, staff, and students face on campuses aren’t publicized much, but they are very real and hardly isolated incidents. I have encountered college students carrying weapons. I have found myself working to mediate roommate fights. The incidents of domestic violence…wow! And, employees misbehave, too. Faculty have dropped their pants to moon one another in meetings. Faculty throw things—chairs, pens, papers, and they love to slam doors. Staff and faculty love to send harassing emails to each other. And, you won’t believe the sex’capades that go on between faculty-faculty, between faculty-students, and between faculty-staff-students. Yep, I’ve seen it all. Campuses replicate the dysfunctions we see in our communities. Book smarts clearly don’t always translate into good citizenship or common sense.

Peace y’all…really…Peace, please.
(Image: Ms. Yang)

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Obama News...And So It Begins

After all the Inauguration festivities, Sisterdoc had much work to catch up on. But, there is still a good bit to say about our first week with Obamas.

1. How they’re living. Did you know that the Obama’s moved into what Pres. Ford said was “the best public housing I’ve ever seen!” The White House has 132 rooms and 35 bathrooms. The Obamas will be living on the second and third floors, with 20,000 square feet to roam in. The second floor has six bathrooms, 20 rooms, and a kitchenette. The third floor has a solarium overlooking the National Mall. It also has 9 bathrooms.

2. This isn’t welfare. Did you know that their food and other personal items aren’t free. The Obamas will be billed for their food, toiletries, dry cleaning, etc. Given how much the government has paid for things like toilet seats and screwdrivers in the past, the Obamas might be better off getting their dine on at Georgia Browns, or running down to the nearest CVS for their unmentionables.

3. Give me a break. Beanie Babies is issuing two new dolls—Sweet Sasha and Marvelous Malia. But, the company SWEARS that the dolls aren’t named after the First Children. I think we should swear not to buy the dolls if this company can’t be honest…and proud…about the inspiration of the product.

4. Shut up and go sit down somewhere. Remember when Harvey Gantt, an African American and purported friend of Michael Jordan, ran for the U.S. Senate against arch-conservative/race baiter Jess Helms? When Helms was running racist ads, the Gantt campaign turned to Jordan, then at the height of his popularity, for an endorsement. Jordan dissed his friend by saying “Republicans buy sneakers, too.” Years later, Jordan added, Republicans buy sneakers…and usually full retail.” Jordan has finally decided to get political, but not without putting his brand and his profits first. Jordan said he was so moved to see Obama on inauguration day that….he is going to issue a new athletic shoe. Who knew Magic Johnson would turn out to be the smart one.

5. Don’t get it twisted. Though the media has focused on the First Lady’s clothing, her ‘model-like looks,’ and her mommy identity, don’t forget…Michelle was Barack’s boss first. That’s right, he worked for her. She isn’t just some pretty face….she is Princeton and Harvard smart, Mayor Daley’s office and Sidley & Austin law firm tough, and Americorps/Public Allies community centered. She could easily be our POTUS. Oh…and not one more mention of her booty…it’s disrespectful.

6. Pulling myself together. Sisterdoc watched Barack gaze into Michelle’s eyes during their first dance…and, whew!, I lost it. Check out the picture above. Oh, and with this kind of Black love on display, entertainment media better stop depicting Black men as brutal bucks and Black women as Jezebels. They better offer me something else besides Training Day and Monster’s Ball.

Peace y’all.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

The Pantless Judge- Roy L. Pearson

Sisterdoc hasn’t forgotten about you Roy L. Pearson. You were the D.C. judge who sued the owners of Custom Cleaners, a mom and pop dry cleaning business, for $54 million over some misplaced suit pants. The cleaners’ owners, the Chungs, insist they found your pants, and have tried repeatedly to give them back. But you pressed on (no pun intended), and became the poster-child for frivolous litigation and the need for legal reform. You refused to accept the pants, claiming they are not yours. You refused $1000 to replace your suit. You refused a $12,000 settlement. Instead, you sued the Chungs for damages and for them to pay for a car service to drive you to a cleaners in another neighborhood. The legal wrangling cost them everything, to include their business.

You finally had your lawsuit thrown out, and the judge noted that you’d engaged in “unnecessary litigation” in the past. But the damage was done…the Chungs’ are an emotional wreak. A fundraiser held for the Chung’s helped them to cover their legal expenses, and wanting to be free of you, they decided not to try to recover the $80K in attorney/court costs that you owed them….if you would just leave them be. You didn’t. You appealed, dragging them in to court again. For this bit of poor judgment, you lost your job as judge…and you lost your appeal.

But you still won’t quit. This week you went to the D.C. Court of Appeals, and you are also hoping to ask the U.S. Supreme Court to hear your case. Oh, and now you are suing D.C. for $1 million for wrongful termination because they said you lack “judicial temperament.”

Your wife divorced you long ago. You’ve lost your job. You’ve become a global laughing-stock as you’ve become known as the “pantless judge” in the media. All you have to show for all of this is an unemployment check, and that is running out. At this point, you might want to start looking for a new job, and leave this pant suit (pun very much intended) alone.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

The Calm Before the Storm-Oscar Grant

The word for today is… “quiet.” It’s been an eerily quiet day. The calm before the storm, perhaps?

Dethroned Detroit mayor Kwame Kilpatrick was joined in jail by his girlfriend Christine Beatty for her 4 month bid. Beatty, like Kilpatrick, has been known to be particularly mouthy (sorry, no pun intended given the nature of those text messages!). But Christine went off to jail in dead silence; a far cry from her yelling “don’t you know who I am!” at law enforcement.

Ashley Todd, the liar from Texas who claimed a Black man carved a “B” for “Barack” on her cheek, quietly began her probation program. All those conservative bloggers who initially believed Todd's lie, and bordered on racism in their support of her, are now oddly quiet.

Stephon Marbury still sits quietly on the Knicks bench, standing firm on his claim that his $20.9 million contract be honored as part of his buyout.

And, there should a hell of a lot more noise being made to get to the bottom of the MURDER of Oscar Grant, a 22-year-old. Grant was yanked off of a train by BART (Bay Area) police who were investigating some kids fighting in another compartment of the train (we know now there was no fighting). Grant, who was riding with family members, pleaded his innocence. Officers first threatened to taser Grant. Witnesses report Grant begged not to be stunned, first because he was not involved in any wrong doing, and then because he has a toddler daughter. Officers then pressed Grant’s face and belly down flat on the concrete. One officer stood on Grant’s neck. Another officer—Johannes Mehserle-- stood over Grant, unholstered his gun, and fired a shot into Grant’s back. In the words of the Grant family attorney, “without so much as flinching the Officer Mehserle stood over Grand and mercilessly fired his weapon, mortally wounding Mr. Grant with a single gunshot wound to the back.” Grant never saw it coming. See KTVU footage of the murder of Oscar Grant here. And a different view from Alameda County News here.

(Image: Oscar Grant)

Thursday, January 01, 2009

2008 Year In Review

With the new year comes a host of “The Best of 2008” reviews. Sisterdoc thought she’d get in on the action by reflecting on the year's memorable (or crazy). In no particular order:

1. The Olympics. China put on an unmatched Olympics event. I visited China the year before the event, and I got to see first-hand some of the preparations. The Opening and Closing ceremonies were stunningly beautiful—two words that take on glorious new meaning…Bird's Nest. Jamaica showed up and showed out in Track and Field—we’ll never forget Usain Bolt and Shelley Ann-Fraser in the 100. Cullen Jones (Swimming) was overshadowed by Michael Phelps hype. But Phelps can thank Jones for that 4x100 gold medal. The Olympics weren’t all good, however. NBC’s Matt Lauer came off as racist as he made fun of Chinese citizens’ English (Matt, how many languages do you speak?) and when he said that the sound of bass drums during the opening ceremony were “intimidating.” Then there was Angel Matos (Taekwondo) of Cuba. He violently attacked the referees, kicking one of them in the face. For his breach of good sportsmanship, Matos got a lifetime ban from sports.

2. Nathaniel Abraham stepped out of prison in 2007 dressed like a “big baller, shot caller” in a hot pink and white pimp suit after serving 10 years in juvie jail for murdering Ronnie Greene, Jr. back in 1997 when Abraham was a mere 11 years old. Sisterdoc expressed profound confusion at the great outpouring of support for Abraham—free rent, free furniture, college scholarships, a music recording contract, job offers. More, the very day Abraham was released, the Detroit News reported that there are hundreds of sweet, beautiful, loving children in the foster care system, none of whom have even been seen by a dentist or a doctor. Where is all the love for these law abiding children? Surprise, surprise. In 2008, Abraham disappointed us all, throwing away his second chance at the good life by selling ecstasy. After just over a year of freedom, today Abraham is back in jail. Maybe he and O.J. Simpson can exchange letters, lamenting their blown opportunities.

3. The Wire, which ended this year, kept me thoroughly entertained for 5 thrilling seasons. It will go down as the greatest television series of all time…just mark my words. It was smart, realistic, insightful, and explained our sociopolitical world better than Time and Newsweek combined. It had few slips (I’ll let that "Spiderman Omar" mess pass). It also worked to help me understand Kwame Kilpatrick’s and “The Ministers’” hold over The D.

4. Kwame Kilpatrick. When The Wire went off the air, Kilpatrick filled the drama-in-a-chocolate-city void with his “Texts and Sex” scandal. He was cocky ‘til the end, and is planning his political come back as we speak. But there are still some lingering questions: who is Carmen Slowsky? Why did councilperson Barbara Collins come to work wearing a tiara? And, did Carlita Kilpatrick really give exotic dancer Strawberry a beatdown for grinding on Kwame at the Monoogian Mansion just before Strawberry was mysteriously murdered?

5. OBAMA!!!! Actually, as excited as I am about our new POTUS, I am also pretty darn interested in Michelle’s potential. She and ‘Rack have very similar training and credentials, I’d like too see what she is going to contribute to our national and global dialogue. I’d like folks to put to rest now any more talk of her booty, her red dresses, and whether she wears pantyhose or not. Michelle is an intellectual and talented professional…treat her as such. Oh, and don’t dream of throwing a shoe at my new POTUS. Trust...his secret service won’t play that!

6. R. Kelly. I am not sure what I am more shocked about, that R. Kelly beat the pedophile charges even though there is video tape evidence (to include tapes from the botched raid of his home in Florida) or that women were writing in to Essence magazine vehemently defending him. But what beat all was his post-acquittal BET interview with Toure. Toure asked Kelly if he still liked teenage girls. And 41!!! year old Kelly didn’t say “hell NO.” Stupid a$% Kelly said, “When you say teenage, how old are we talking?

7. Michigan. The whole darn state fell apart. The car companies went to the feds hat in hand, and weren’t even smart enough to drive their own vehicles—the photo-op would have been great marketing, but I guess if the companies were forward thinking, they wouldn’t be bankrupt. Then, the University of Michigan’s football team was lead to its first losing season by salty-mouthed coach Rich Rodriguez who doesn’t get the concept of “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” But, at least Rich Rod isn’t Rod Marinelli who will forever be known as the losingest football coach when he didn’t lead the Detriot Lions anywhere, to include out of a 0-16 losing season.

8. Lots of folk passed on this year. I didn’t see Bernie Mac’s passing coming at all. But Rachelle Farrell sent him off beautifully. As for other celebs, I miss Ivan Dixon a handsome, talented actor who had the stature of a Sidney Poitier. A trailblazer, Dixon should be remembered for far more than Hogan’s Heroes or Car Wash. Remember him for Nothing But a Man or The Spook Who Sat by the Door. I miss Rudy Ray Moore…I mean, he didn’t take himself too, too seriously and his “raps” and dozens playing still stand the test of time (though we’ll pretend that Petey Wheatstraw, Devil’s Son-in-Law didn’t happen). Levi Stubbs’ passing hurt, particularly in a year when Chris Brown and Lil’ Wayne are entertainers of the year. Stubbs had a pure, soulful, resonating voice. There will never be another. I miss Eartha Kitt. She was more than Cat Woman (Prrrr) or Lady Eloise (“Marrr-cus Darr-ling”). Kitt was on the right side of politics, ecological matters, and racial pride.

9. Ashley Todd. She claimed a Black man in “shiny shoes” in the Bloomfield neighborhood of my Pittsburgh assaulted her at an ATM, carving a “B” on her face…presumably for Barack Obama. Todd lied, and she made several mistakes in the process… #1 A Black man doing dirt on well-traveled Friendship Ave., in the predominately Italian-American neighborhood of Bloomfield. Only Todd, who is from Texas, would fail to realize that Pittsburgh is not just a city of neighborhoods, but it is a city of segregated neighborhoods, and that nobody is going to miss a seemingly prolonged assault on Friendship Ave. #2 “Shiny shoes”…tee hee. She’s been watching too many blaxploitation movies. #3 the ‘ole BBM/”Gus” claim. Todd said a “big Black man” threw her to the ground, tried to sexually assault her, tried to rob her…all with a dull knife. Then, he took the time to carve a “B” on her face. #4 The backward “B” carved on her face indicating self-mutilation. #5 Asst. Chief Maurita Bryant don’t play!

10. Wal-Mart. Poor wages, virtually non-existent health care benefits, forced overtime, and being “on call” on days off. Hostile company take-overs, union busting, sexist and racist hiring practices. Dirty stores, low-quality meats and produce, made-in-America is really made in China, Swaziland, and Bangladesh under horrific conditions. Sisterdoc has heard all the Wal-Mart tales, but somehow the trampling death of Jdimytai Damour on Black Friday after a poorly planned, aggressive Black Friday marketing campaign was just too much.

(Images: Barbara Rose Collins; Angel Matos; Ivan Dixon)