How the NBA Could Miss | Not the Way to Magic Happen

Posted in Commentary with tags , , , , on April 28, 2014 by substanceandstyledc

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On so many levels Earvin ‘Magic’ Johnson is a hero to me. Although I have never met the man my observations of him through media have played a role in shaping my identity. It is for that reason that I sincerely hope that Mr. Johnson, someone that I look up to and admire for his significant contributions to athletics, business, media and philanthropy does not take an active role in buying the Los Angeles Clippers basketball franchise.

Several days ago a recording was leaked of an alleged conversation between Donald Sterling, current owner of the Clippers and V. Stiviano his former girlfriend, in which the man on the tape makes racially discriminatory remarks. The voice on the tape goes on to say that he would prefer that Magic Johnson wouldn’t come to any Clippers games. Since the tape became public and accusations of current and past racist remarks and behavior by Sterling surfaced there has been an outcry from fans for a response from the league and others.

Media outlets are reporting that a group of investors led by Johnson has expressed interest in purchasing the franchise. Unless Johnson was already in the market to buy into another professional sports team and this unfortunate incident has been laid at his feet as the perfect opportunity to do so, I think this is a bad idea and the wrong way to address racial discrimination and pursue structural change in professional sports leagues.

Magic Johnson and his partners buying the team would not address the root issue and in some ways would reward Mr. Sterling. Isn’t it Sterling that would be making an immediate profit and living off the residual income of the well invested money for years to come while Johnson and his team were still working to recoup their investment?

If people are really angry about the comments allegedly made by Donald Sterling then those comments and the sentiments behind them should be confronted. Selling the team to Johnson & Co. doesn’t achieve the goals of demanding the National Basketball Association (NBA) and the other professional leagues to have a more serious dialogue around franchise ownerships or creating higher benchmarks and timelines for teams to have more people of color as owners, major investors, stakeholders and front office staff.

I would much rather see Sterling fined or penalized in a way in which, maybe he would continue to make money, but a percentage of the team profits from tickets, licensing and other agreements, would go directly to funding proven organizations that tackle racial justice and wealth inequality in the United States. That would be a slam dunk. Mr. Johnson just buying the team would be more like taking two free throws – there is an opportunity for a miss. The NBA doesn’t need to miss this one.

In the Tower

Posted in Culture with tags , , on August 1, 2013 by substanceandstyledc

Kerry-James-MarshallKerry James Marshall is known for his work that explores the experiences of African Americans and the narratives of American history that have often excluded black people. The National Gallery of Art presents In the Tower: Kerry James Marshall, the sixth in a series of Tower installations focusing on developments in art since midcentury through December 7, 2013.

The dominant theme of the exhibit is described by the National Gallery as a look at ‘the transport of African slaves to America in the Middle Passage—the second or “middle” leg of the triangular trade of manufactured goods, slaves, and crops that transpired between Europe, Africa, and the American colonies from the colonial period until the middle of the 19th century. Marshall’s works explore the economic, sociological, and psychological aftermath of this foundational episode of US history. In his art, the past is never truly past: history exerts a constant, often unconscious pressure on the living.’

Family Values

Posted in Commentary, Politics with tags , , , on July 14, 2013 by substanceandstyledc

martin familyThey are not the Huxtables. They are divorced. Yet, Tracy Martin and Sybrina Fulton are a beautiful expression of love, parenting and perseverance.

In the face of a tragedy, untold personal stress and worldwide media attention, they have stood together to fight for justice for their son and millions of young boys that look just like him. So many could have and would have cracked under the pressure of losing their child, let alone an ugly national debate on race, guns and politics but Mr. Martin and Ms. Fulton have not.

Mr. Martin and Ms. Fulton allowed us all to be students of the American judiciary system, walking with them step by step in a drawn out investigation and trial for the murder of their 17 year old son that often felt like he – the victim – was on trial. Beyond lessons the public have learned, or relearned about race, politics and courtroom drama from the State vs Zimmerman case, we have also been dutifully instructed on other valuable lessons from Mr. Martin and Ms. Fulton.

1. After a divorce, both parents can play an active role in the care and upbringing of their child(ren). Even in his death, the solidarity shown by Mr. Martin and Ms. Fulton in pursuing peaceful justice for the life of their child that was taken from them provides a blueprint for parents to work together for what is best for their child, always.

2. Black women are not angry. Ms. Fulton has suffered the greatest loss that a woman can have, she has buried a child whose life came from her womb. Under intense media scrutiny in numerous interviews and on the witness stand during the murder the trial for her son, she has not raised her voice nor her fist. Throughout this journey she has maintained dignity and grace.

3. Black men love their sons. Although Mr. Martin and Ms. Fulton were divorced, Trayvon Martin had a relationship with both of his parents. A small detail that can’t be overlooked about the night that Trayvon Martin was killed that has nothing to do with the trial or verdict but helps create a backdrop for his story is that he was walking to his father’s house. Trayvon’s father hadn’t divorced his mother and left him forever. Trayvon’s father was still present in his life.

Regardless of the stereotypes and media portrayals of Black fathers, Mr. Martin was a Black man who may not have had his son living with him full time, but was still actively involved in raising his Black son. In the months leading up to the trial against George Zimmerman for killing his son Mr. Martin expressed on numerous occasions his fond sentiments about his baby boy. Moments after Zimmerman was found not guilty he took Twitter to say: ‘Even though I am broken hearted my faith is unshattered I WILL ALWAYS LOVE MY BABY TRAY.’ Black men do love and express that love in a multitude of ways. Mr. Martin proved that fact again.

For years to come the Zimmerman case will be debated, the legacy of Trayvon Martin and what he represents will not be forgotten and hopefully, the lessons of Mr. Martin and Ms. Fulton will also not be lost.

Strange Fruit

Posted in Culture with tags , , , on July 10, 2013 by substanceandstyledc

fruitvale-station-posterWhen the film premiered at the Sundance Film Festival it captured both the Grand Jury Prize for dramatic feature and the Audience Award for US dramatic film. More than that, it captured the hearts of everyone who saw it. And as the saying goes, ‘what’s on the heart is always on the tongue.’ In this case, the movers in shakers in cinema can’t stop talking about the brave and honest artistry of director Ryan Coogler’s tracing of the last few hours of the life of Oscar Grant in his film Fruitvale Station.

Fruitvale Station, opening in Washington area theaters July 19, follows the true story of a 22-year-old Bay Area resident who wakes up on the morning of December 31, 2008 and feels something in the air. Not sure what it is, he takes it as a sign to get a head start on his resolutions: being better son to his mother, partner to his girlfriend Sophina, and being a better father to Tatiana, their beautiful four year-old daughter. Crossing paths with friends, family and strangers, Oscar starts out well, as the day goes on, he realizes that changes are not going to come easily. His resolve takes a tragic turn, however, when BART officers shoot him in cold blood at the Fruitvale subway stop on New Year’s Day. Oscar’s life and tragic death would shake the Bay Area – and the entire nation – to its very core.

Bold, Beautiful, Black Light

Posted in Culture on July 3, 2013 by substanceandstyledc

faith2American People, Black Light: Faith Ringgold’s Paintings of the 1960s on now on view at the National Museum of Women in the Arts though November 10, 2013. Faith Ringgold is well known for originating the African American story quilt revival in the late 1970s. In the previous decade, she created bold, provocative paintings in direct response to the Civil Rights and feminist movements. Ringgold’s unprecedented exploration of race and gender in America is examined in this comprehensive survey of 49 rarely-exhibited paintings. Read a feature about the artist and exhibit here.

Simply Beautiful Film

Posted in Culture with tags , , on June 26, 2013 by substanceandstyledc

tnance_filmWest End Cinema brings the much talked about debut film An Oversimplification of Her Beauty to Washington audiences June 28 – July 4. Following the June 28 7:20pm and June 30 5:00pm screenings, the director Terence Nance will pop in the theater via Skype for a Q&A session.

The film documents the relationship between Terence and a lovely young woman as it teeters on the divide between platonic and romantic. An Oversimplification of Her Beauty blurs the line between narrative, documentary, and experimental film as it explores the fantasies, emotions, and memories. See the trailer below.

The Hampton Years

Posted in Commentary with tags , , , , on June 1, 2013 by substanceandstyledc

the-hampton-years-imageAs part of its inaugural Locally Grown Festival Theater J is presenting the world premiere of The Hampton Years. Written by Jacqueline E. Lawton and directed by Shirley Serotsky, The Hampton Years explores the development of African-American artists, John Biggers and Samella Lewis while under the tutelage of Austrian Jewish refugee painter and educator, Viktor Lowenfeld during their time at Hampton Institute – now Hampton University - during WWII. As the play unfolds it reveals the dreams and travails of young artists in a still segregated society while examining the impact of World War II on a Jewish immigrant and his wife finding shelter in the US and his controversial influence in shaping the careers of African American students. The Hampton Years runs through June 30.

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