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Archive for August, 2009|Monthly archive page

Memphis on my Mind

In Uncategorized on August 28, 2009 at 8:10 am

Growing up very close to Memphis, I became more of a Memphis State aka University of Memphis fan than either Ole Miss, Mississippi State, or Southern Mississippi. I was more attuned to the Memphis news because all of our local news originated from Memphis. As a Mississippian, I’m almost ashamed to say that I know a bit more about Memphis or Tennessee politics than my home state’s.

I must admit, my blood is a mixture of maroon, white, and blue (and purple for Millsaps, too). As for Memphis, the city is trying to weather the negative publicity train–with the University of Memphis basketball team being stripped of its most wins in a season ever, another Final Four banner (1985 Final Four was stripped too for violations under former coach Dana Kirk), for a 2007 academic scandal under former coach John Calipari; to the overall administration of the city. It looks like former mayor Willie Herenton will not run for the seat that was open because of his resignation. Nonetheless, it has become chaotic, with a who’s who list of candidates running for the vacant position, most notably among them including the “King” himself, not Elvis, but former professional wrestler Jerry Lawler. The August 27 mayoral debate panel reminded me of Jackson, Mississippi’s panel from earlier this year. In both cities there were/are many vying for one position, to become leader of a city with so much potential that’s riddle with high crime rates and a poor image.

With Mayor Harvey Johnson back on board in Jackson, who will take the lead in Memphis? Who will right the ship? The road to the special election in October will be an eventful one, but I hope one that will engage minds, bring a unique perspective on the future of governing in Memphis, and perhaps above all, bring forth a visionary.

To read more on the August 27 debate, click here.

August 27 Debate Participants

Charles Carpenter
Carol Chumney
Wanda Halbert
Johnny Hatcher, Jr.
Robert Hodges
Jerry Lawler
Myron Lowery
Sharon Webb
Kenneth Whalum, Jr.
A C Wharton

Brothers for Life

In Uncategorized on August 27, 2009 at 8:31 am

An endearing relationship. Trying times. And the joys of living life one day at a time without pity. For friends Leroy Sutton and Dartanyon Crockett, life hasn’t been easy, and perhaps never will, but through obstacles and significant challenges, these two have learned to make the most out of opportunities, as small as they may be.

Leroy and Dartanyon (click here to watch ESPN’s Tom Rinaldi’s video and read his article of the two) both have disabilities, but both learned to look life through different lens. In 2001 Leroy was walking near some train tracks, a train comes by, Leroy slips on the gravel, his backpack was caught by a passing car, and he was subsequently pinned underneath. Eventually, Leroy winds up at Lincoln-West High School in 2008. There he meets Dartanyon.

Dartanyon seemingly has everything that Leroy doesn’t. Namely, he has both his legs. Leroy was left as an amputee after his accident. But his charisma, personality, physical strength, will, and determination outshadowed his disability. So much so, that Leroy was a member of the school’s wrestling team, and there was only one who could match Leroy’s ability, Dartanyon. Through practices and a commitment to help the other, Dartanyon and Leroy shared a bond that few share. They were not bound by blood, but by something far deeper. Dartanyon himself has a disability, he is legally blind. He was born with a condition, Leber’s disease that has left him extremely nearsighted.

But for each wrestling match, event, frankly, for each day, Dartanyon took it upon himself to lift and carry Leroy on his back. Leroy, without legs, weighs over 170 pounds–Dartanyon, is 5’10”, 190 pounds, but his physical strength more than matched his inner strength. Dartanyon has endured more by the age of 18 than many have over the course of a long life. In the video, he recalls how often he has moved because of no money. He recalls how he had to scavenge for food. Yet, he remains optimistic.

In the face of adversity, Leroy and Dartanyon looked to their opportunities to make life worthwhile. Two brothers who share a bond. Two brothers who have a disability, yet requests that you do not have sympathy or pity for them. Two brothers who have conquered their weaknesses and made them strengths, yet somehow still remain teenagers. And on graduation night 2009, Lincoln-West High School in Cleveland, Ohio shared in their resilience–Leroy made a promise to himself and many others that he was going to walk across the stage to receive his diploma. And with his brother Dartanyon by his side, Leroy did exactly that.

I knew Teddy first

In Uncategorized on August 26, 2009 at 8:11 am

I knew him before Bobby; I knew him before JFK–for as long as I can remember, Massachusetts Senator Edward “Ted” Kennedy has been an American institution. Senator Edward Moore Kennedy achieved a feat that his brothers Robert, JFK, Joseph Jr., and sister Kathleen couldn’t: he lived a relatively long life. And now, the “Lion of the Senate,” the youngest of 9 children, Edward M. Kennedy succumbed to cancer overnight in Hyannis Port, Massachusetts. He was 77.

In a 1968 speech at Holy Cross College, Kennedy saw his life and political career as a mission; one in which he believed there to be “no safety in hiding. Like my brothers before me, I pick up a fallen standard. Sustained by the memory of our priceless years together, I shall try to carry forward that special commitment to justice, excellence and courage that distinguished their lives.” Over the past 46 years, we all have been recipients and witnesses to Kennedy’s special commitment. Regardless of your political ideology, one could only admire Kennedy’s passion, dedication, and ability to negotiate with his colleagues across the aisle. John Broder of the NYTIMES summarized that “although he was a leading spokesman for liberal issues and a favorite target of conservative fund-raising appeals, the hallmark of his legislative success was his ability to find Republican allies to get bills passed. Perhaps the last notable example was his work with President George W. Bush to pass No Child Left Behind, the education law pushed by Mr. Bush in 2001. He also co-sponsored immigration legislation with Senator John McCain, the 2008 Republican presidential nominee. One of his greatest friends and collaborators in the Senate was Orrin Hatch, the Utah Republican.”

Senator Kennedy represented a legacy, an American dynasty. He was neither perfect nor claimed to be; yet he had something that we all could relate to compassion, devotion, commitment to a greater cause. Through his mistakes and triumphs, seemingly, we lived them with him. He was iconic, he was near us, he left us an enduring legacy–one that will be hard-pressed to be duplicated.

Welcome to New “Hub” Orleans

In Uncategorized on August 24, 2009 at 2:14 am

I can barely believe that four years have passed since the devastation of Hurricane Katrina. When I travel to the Coast or New Orleans, I see revitalization, I see new memories. But, I also see that we have a long road to travel still. Don’t forget to add to this mix, a lagging economy; consequently, the rebuilding efforts have taken on quite inventive measures. For example, what is being referred to as entrepreneurial hubs are popping up in various locations in New Orleans.

According to Allison Good’s article in the Times-Picayune these hubs or “entrepreneurial ventures in New Orleans are increasingly clustering together under the same roof in a bid to share ideas, support each other and spur economic development.” With these hubs come more people, thus a burgeoning community, perhaps unlike before. Time will tell how these hubs will impact the culture, the distinctive flavor that makes New Orleans what we all come to know and appreciate.

Our Dear Madea

In Uncategorized on August 21, 2009 at 11:55 am

Tyler Perry (no relation) has turned an endearing figure–Madea–into a mainstream success. When Perry turned his plays into movies, there were some who doubted that this would result in crossover or mainstream success. In large part, Perry faced criticism over the very character that has garnered him so much success, Madea. In an interview with Entertainment Weekly, author Donald Bogle believes Madea to be “mammy-like. If a white director put out this product, the Black audience would be appalled.” In that same EW article, actress Viola Davis responds to such criticism by saying that “people feel the images are very stereotypical, and black people are frustrated because they feel we should be more evolved. But there are very few black images in Hollywood, so black people are going to his movies. That’s the dichotomy. Tyler Perry is making money.” Yet Perry suggests that Madea is a tribute to several women in his life; and furthermore, is bringing life to a central figure within the African American community, but with a comedic side. Is Perry’s Madea supposed to be taken seriously? Should and where should we draw the line with racial stereotypes and comedy? As for Perry, he views himself as bringing the rest of the world to a side of African American film and culture that has been ignored, and many continue to believe and buy his product.

Again, and Again, and Again…

In Uncategorized on August 19, 2009 at 8:21 am

A 2 year, $25 million deal. This is Brett Favre’s contract with the Minnesota Vikings. Three times, Favre said he was done with the game that he loves; three times he has returned. Many NFL analysts I have listened to are rather split on the Favre situation: some analysts believe that he has the right to do this; that a player, particularly, of his caliber can change his mind as often as there are buyers. Conversely, others agree that Favre needs to call it a day; come back to his Mississippi home to ride in the sunset with his Wranglers and tractor. But what if a public official, let’s say, a mayor of a major city, did what Favre is doing or has done? Would political analysts be split as the sports analysts?

Well, if one would look to Memphis, Tennessee, what you would find is a similar scenario with one Willie Herenton. Herenton was the first elected African American mayor of Memphis in 1991. Growing up very close to Memphis, I remember the campaign and the celebration following his election. For the first time, many Memphians, specifically, within the African American community felt as though they belonged to ONE Memphis. Herenton has an impressive resume, if you will, a Hall of Fame type, as Favre. Herenton was subsequently elected to mayorship some five times. But along the way, Herenton has threatened to retire on a few occasions. Perhaps the most recent time, before he actually retired on July 30, 2009, was in March 2008. Then mayor Herenton announced that he would retire on July 28 to be considered for a position he once held: Superintendent of Memphis city schools. After controversy with his application, Herenton never left the mayor’s office. A year later, mayor Herenton announced in June 2009 that he would leave the mayor’s office on July 10, only to later announce that he would resign effective July 30. All of this to say, that mayor Herenton indeed retired, to the dismay of many, only to pick up petition papers from the Shelby County Election Commission seeking to include his name on the October 2009 special election ballot. If reelected, Herenton would fill the mayor’s seat that was vacated by Herenton himself. Yet, from watching local news outlets, many Memphians are split–some support the former mayor, others, not so much.

Unlike NFL analysts who say that Favre is not harming or costing money, Herenton’s vacancy is leading up to a $1 million special election. Many in Memphis have questioned Herenton’s sanity. Many suggest he has a mental health disorder. Why run for a seat you’ve retired from just weeks earlier? Herenton stated in an interview with local newscaster Joe Birch that he (Herenton) could not allow the Mayor Pro Tem, Myron Lowery, to continue to disregard what is best for Memphians. Though Herenton has not filed the petition papers, the door is open for him to return to office–but there is one other thing one must consider while discussing the Herenton to-retire-not-to-retire debate–he’s also running for Congress. So, he could reclaim the seat he retired from only to leave it some 18 months later.

I wonder how would NFL analysts respond to Herenton. I wonder how would political analysts respond to the Favre situation. Would NFL analysts draw the line and describe the differences between public and private officials and that Herenton is doing the city a great disservice? Would political analysts look at Favre and say that he has the right to change his mind? Frankly, we will not know, but we will know sooner than later if either will be accepted again. For Favre, his acceptance is based on wins. For Herenton, his acceptance will be based on votes. Love or hate either situation, both have commanded theater, presence, chaos, and yes, hope for the future, all over again, and again, and again.

The Other Health Debate/Discussion

In Uncategorized on August 18, 2009 at 8:15 am

I recently watched the Soloist starring Jamie Foxx and Robert Downey, Jr. When it was released in early spring, the movie was not a huge success as many projected. The film is based on the real life events as recorded in a book written by Downey’s character, Steve Lopez, a columnist for the Los Angeles Times. The film follows the unique and winding path of an endearing friendship between Lopez and Nathaniel Anthony Ayers (Foxx’s character). Ayers, who was homeless, turned out had attended Juilliard years earlier as a cellist. By the time Lopez encounters Ayers, Ayers learned to play the violin, but not only was he homeless, but also suffering from schizophrenia. I thought the film to be a thought provoking one; one in which had me questioning the availability of mental health services for the homeless; one in which I questioned the availability of mental health services for African Americans; one in which I questioned whether there’s a stigma associated with African Americans seeking mental health services.

According to the US Department of Health and Human Services, approximately 1 and 4 African Americans do not have health insurance. Additionally, about one third of African Americans who suffer from mental illnesses or disorders receive treatment. Also, African Americans comprise some 12 percent of the general population, but disproportionately represent populations that are most likely to be affected by mental health illness such as the homeless or the incarcerated. African Americans comprise an estimated 40 percent of the homeless population. African Americans approximately comprise 50 percent of those incarcerated in state or federal correctional facilities.

In a panel interview with NPR in March 2008, Annelle Primm, Director of Minority and National Affairs of the American Psychiatric Association, believes “…from a cultural standpoint, the fact that religion and spirituality are so central in the African-American community, people may believe that their mental health issues may represent a failure of faith. They may turn to their clergyperson for help and may not realize that they need to get professional help from a mental health professional.” In that same interview, panelist Dr. William Lawson of Howard University, summed it up by saying that many within the African American community simply do not talk about mental health issues and often “mask feelings of depression…” Often times the mental health component in the health debate and discussion gets overlooked; yet community organizations and other nonprofits as well as clergy members are central in educating and providing much needed services to those who are just outside of the mainstream.

Changes on the Frontlines

In Uncategorized on August 17, 2009 at 7:45 am

In departing from my traditional blogs, I came across an article in August 15 NYTIMES that is deserving of a post. Since the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan, more and more women have entered a once forbidden territory: the front lines. As the article points out, “women are barred from joining combat branches like the infrantry, armor, Special Forces…Yet, over and over, in Iraq and Afghanistan, Army commanders have resorted to bureaucratic trickery when they needed more soldiers for crucial jobs…” The change has come relatively quietly–there was no big social movement, but crisis, as history has proven with WWII, allowed women to move into jobs and roles that were once closed to them. War tactics are ever-changing, you never know where the front line is, and because of that a change in not only military, but social policy.

Mississippi Mourning

In Uncategorized on August 14, 2009 at 5:00 am

Mississippi is a state that is at times the first in the worst of categories. The last five years have seen Mississippi retain its unprecedented crown as the “Fattest State” according to the F as in Fat 2009 report. In January this year, Mississippi ranked first in teen pregnancy rates. Needless to say, Mississippi has significant challenges to address as we continue to move forward in the 21st century. But as we continue to move forward, we must also reflect back on the many who forged a new day in Mississippi. Many of these activists defended racial equality with their lives. Countless remain nameless, but because of their dedication to a better Mississippi, I am able to reap the benefits of their struggles.

In seeing that all Mississippians share in life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, one cannot overlook or overstate retired FBI agent Jim Ingram’s sacrifice to his fellow man (universal), as he pushed for a fairer Mississippi. Ingram passed away on Sunday, August 2, but he did leave this world in a lot better condition than he entered. Ingram came to Mississippi during some of the most turbulent times, the summer of ’64, to investigate the murders of James Chaney, Michael Schwerner, and Andrew Goodman. Not only did Ingram investigate these murders, but he headed the civil rights desk, which investigated all race related incidents. Ingram pursued justice, we are the beneficiaries, and now we mourn, while walking the trail that he blazed. Because of Ingram, we are no longer the worst of the worst, but in his relatively short lifetime, Mississippi was first in the best of categories.

The Beginning Again

In Uncategorized on August 10, 2009 at 6:00 am

There are many significant challenges for America’s first African American President. And many are heavily examining his first 200 days in office–progress made on stemming the credit/financial crisis, getting people back to work. But on yesterday, as I attended a friend’s wedding, I realized something–there are fewer and fewer African Americans marrying. According to a December 2008 Washington Post article, since 1965 “the black family has unraveled in ways that have little parallel in human cultures.” A 2007 article in the Middletown Journal reported that 70 percent of African American women don’t live with a spouse and approximately 52 percent of African American women will marry by the age of 30 (Click here to read more). And to look on the Obamas becomes ever-so refreshing. Today, there are roughly some 70 percent of African American children born out of wedlock, and half of those are born into poverty. There are significant political and social ramifications, one in which more children are born into worse socioeconomic conditions than their parents.

Perhaps the greatest civil rights issue facing my generation is getting many African Americans to marry, better yet how to sustain a healthy, prosperous relationship afterwards. Yesterday was a momentous occasion for my friends, one that defies the odds, but one that has begun a new trend.