Friday, December 18, 2009

On The Front Lines

This is one of the most important cases to be filed in Louisiana in decades.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Tear Drops And Closed Caskets

I received a call from the mother of a client. She informed me that her son was attempting to stop a fight and was hit in the head. Now he is in the hospital and they do not expect him to live. I extended my sympathies and ask that she keep me informed. And then I tried to put the call out my head.

My client was not a gang banger. He was picked up for having some weed in his car. He was 19 years-old and a sweet kid who was a little slow. Like millions of others, he was born to a life of chaos and destined to struggle.

I have learned to shut my emotions off when it comes to the slaughter of young black men. You see I do triage. I catch them coming into the criminal justice system like wounded soldiers on a battle field. I cannot treat their main wounds, broken family, poverty and mis-education. So I try to keep the system from throwing them away and move on to the next one.

But this call has hung over my soul like rain clouds caressing a high-rise.

I have been listening to Tupac a lot this week. Tupac more than any other figure of his generation represents the tragedy of life on the streets.

Tupac was a classically trained artist who rather than glorified the thug life, rapped of the pain of living a life that you do not choose. Tupac was a street poet, actor, voice for a generation, and a genius. But like Marvin Gaye and Donny Hathaway before him, he could not control his demons. So he died the young black man's death; by drive-by shooting.

One cannot help but wonder what he would have had to say at 40. We will never know and our culture is less today because his voice is not a part of it.

It is rumored that Outlawz peppered Tupac ashes in a joint and smoked it. I understand the need to try to absorb a loss. I feel it for my client. So Niggers pass the motherfucking joint. Rest In Peace Soldiers.

I know it's hard out there,
with teardrops and closed caskets
It's like that's all we got to look forward to these days
Murders, brothers dying, funerals.....
shit, it's like I done ran out of suits homey
I done ran out of tears
Know we gon' have to do somethin y'all
We gon' have to do something......
Cause I know all these mothers is tired of seeing the same thing
(rest in peace)
Teardrops and closed caskets

Tupac Amaru Shakur (June 16, 1971 – September 13, 1996)

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

I Ain't Saying The Brother Should Have Cussed Them Out


Fighting the Good Fight

I made a presentation to the Alexandria La. City Council. My presentation starts approximately half-way in. I am representing an African-American lawyer in a multi-million dollar fee dispute. As some of you may recall, the last time I spoke to the Council, it was quite intense.

Watch 12-1-09 Legal Committee.mpg in News  |  View More Free Videos Online at

Thursday, November 19, 2009

John Stewart is the 21st Century Walter Cronkite

It is somewhat disconcerting to realize that the most thoughtful, and intellectually honest discussion of American Policy is seen nightly on the Comedy Channel. Hosted by a comic who readily admits that his first priority is to get a laugh.

CNN, FOX, MSNBC eat your heart out.

Monday, October 19, 2009

I ain't making this up!

I write often in this space about my experiences as a criminal lawyer. And I know that you believe that I be making some of this shit up. But believe me life is stranger than art.

Today I was representing a 27 year-old African-American who was charged with DWI II and Convicted Felon With A Firearm. His bond was set at $75,000.00. I knew nothing about the facts of the case as his family hired me the day before, which is not unusual. They requested that I try to get his bond reduced at the arraignment.

In court after I entered a not guilty plea the arraignment went something like this:

English: Your honor I have filed a Motion To Reduce my clients' bond. $75,000.00 seems excessive for a DWI II and a Convicted Felon With A Firearm.

DA: Your honor we object Mr. Johnson previous felony was illegal use of a weapon and he has now been caught with another weapon while driving intoxicated.

English: (In my arrogant southern lawyer voice, trying to be cute) Your Honor, Mr. Johnson has only been charged with a crime. If we are going to leave his bond at $75,000.00 why don’t we just go ahead and take him outside and hang him. (I can hear snickers in the back of the court. I let out a sarcastic smile)

Judge: Let me see the file.

(Pause for 30 seconds)

Judge: Mr. English according to arrest warrant your client had a AK47 fully loaded on the front seat of his vehicle. I am raising the bond to $125,000.00

Client: Am I going home today?

I turn to my client and then turn to the DA and I whisper with embarrassment "a mothefucking AK47?"

We both laugh

Next case!

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Moving On

I have not written in a while. It’s not that I didn't have anything to say. In fact, watching a small, but powerful minority call President Obama a nigger on national television everyday has moved me to write almost daily. But the truth is, I had grown tired; tired of trying to keep a business afloat in this miserable economy. But even more important, being on the front lines of America’s race war the last 25 years had begun to take its toll.

What do you do when you grow tired of the bullshit?

In the early 1900s, the Reverend James Lee amassed over 400 acres of land in Cotton Valley, Louisiana and sent his first-born off to Southern University. Then one day, the sheriff drove up to the yard and delivered him the bad news: The town bank had been burglarized and all of his life savings were gone. When his oldest daughter - my maternal grandmother- told me this story, I asked her, "Did he go to town to make sure that the sheriff was not lying?" My grandmother looked at me as she sadly replied, "When the white man told you your money was gone, it was just gone."

It has been 20 years since my grandmother told me that story and I have oftened wondered what my great grandfather must have done that day. Did he walk his land wandering how he was going keep it together for his family? Did he meander down the wagon trail to Mt. Sariah Baptist Church and pray? Did he cry? Or did he just give up?

An extraordinary black woman named Eureka Demery gave me the answer two weeks ago. Eureka was born into urban poverty, to a single mother. At the age of 30 she found herself with four young girls, the oldest 14, the youngest 2. All the children had different fathers. They were all living in one room in her mother’s house. But Eureka had made a decision that she was going to change her and her children's lives.

Eureka believed that the first step was getting her children out of a decaying inner-city neighborhood into a decent house. Not just any house, but a home where the girls would have their own room. She was fixated on a house with a large den, where she and the girls could sit around a warm winter fire. A house where they could lounge together and watch television and, most importantly, feel safe.

She learned of a city program where first-time buyers would receive financial and technical assistance to find a new home. She signed up, took the class and was accepted in the program.

For a whole year Eureka and the girls went house-hunting every weekend. After a diligent search, they finally found their dream home. It had red bricks, a beautiful front yard and, yes, a big den. And to top it all off, Eureka was in the midst of a new romance. She was engaged and excited that there would be a father-figure in the new home for her three girls. The City inspected the house and approved the purchase. Eureka was off to a fresh start.This was in 1999.

But fairy tales are read to children as they drift off to sleep and happy endings only occur in the movies. Shortly after moving in, Eureka discovered that the house flooded whenever it rained. The oldest girl’s bedroom had an awful stench during the rainy season. The wooden floors began to buckle, large sinkholes appeared in the front and back yard, and she soon realized that the foundation had cracks in it.

Eureka complained to the City, but the bureaucrats told her the house was her problem. She pleaded with the City, reminding them that they had "inspected and approved the property for habitation," but the City refused to take any responsibility.

Making matters worse, Eureka’s fiancé was killed. Devastated, Eureka continued to try and make the home livable. However, in 2002, raw sewage backed up into her bathroom commodes and flooded the entire house. In 2003, the house again flooded after a rainfall.

It was around that time that Eureka began to change. The girls remember her placing black trash bags over the windows to keep her bedroom eternally dark. And she would only come home when it was time to go to sleep. Eureka was becoming deeply depressed.

By the end of 2004, after she had hired another company to fix a sinkhole in her back yard, Eureka learned the city owned a drainage line running under her house and that it had been leaking for decades, washing the soil from under the foundation. Her dream home was literally sinking. To make matters worse, the city knew that the previous owners had complained of sinkholes and foundation problems with the house before they sold the property to Eureka. It had hired an engineer to investigate a previous owner's complaint, and it had to know that the drainage pipe was causing the problems.

Life was a heavy burden. Besides problems in her personal life, Eureka was also battling racism on her job. She and 30 other employees filed a discrimination lawsuit against her employer and the weight of being a single mom with four children, making bad choices in men and a sense of failure that she had let her children down by moving into a death trap became too much.

In January of 2005, Eureka was hospitalized for suicidal behavior and severe depression. She would be hospitalized two more times before the year ended, but Eureka did not give up and she got better.

And she found love, again.

Soon after her engagement, she came to see me in 2006. And I subsequently filed a lawsuit against the city.

Three weeks before the trial, Eureka's husband was found shot to death outside of a local nightclub. I called to offer my condolences and suggested we move to get the trial continued. Her response: no way. She wanted to move forward for her daughters sake.

At the trial, I was magnificent.

I flew in an expert with a doctorate in structural engineering, who testified that the city's leaking drainage pipe had destroyed Eureka's house. A real estate expert testified that no broker would ever list a house with problems identified on Eureka's property and that a comparable house would cost $175k. I introduced documents, going back to 1987 that showed that the City knew the pipe was leaking and did not bother to tell Eureka when she purchased the house. Nor did it say anything when she complained of the flooding.

I fought with the City’s lawyer, a white southerner who asked my real-estate expert whether she had looked for houses in a black neighborhood when she was researching comparable homes for my client. When I objected, the trial judge told me that I misunderstood the question.

The city put three witnesses on the stand.

I dismantled and destroyed them all on cross-examination.

And then there was Eureka. She gave the most gut wrenching testimony I have ever heard from a witnesses. But it was also the most brave. You could have heard a feather drop when Eureka recalled that her daughter dropped out of nursing school just shy of finishing her clinicals. She thought the child left because of bad grades, and only recently learned that her daughter was in fact carrying a 3.9 GPA and had quit to come back home and get a job to take care of her mother and younger siblings.

At the end of the trial, I was confident that I had so overwhelmed the city’s lawyer with evidence and law that the judge had to rule in my client‘s favor. Well, he did.

The Judge found that the city was liable to Eureka. However, he awarded her $6,000.00. We had asked for $1.6 million.

He told Eureka that he did not find her claims of mental illness credible, despite the medical records of six physicians who had documented her condition; despite her attending psychologist’s confirmation that the problem house had worsened my client's condition.

I will take to my grave the look on the judge's face as he walked by Eureka and I as he left the court room. But Eureka did not shed one tear. She showed no emotion as she helped me gather up my folders.

We stood outside of the court house and agreed that we would appeal. Eureka hugged me and, with dignity, walked away with her daughters. She called the next morning and was even more determined to keep fighting - to show her daughters that you do not give up. She said she wanted to take her story to the media so that others would know what the city had done. And in that moment I knew what James Lee did over 100 years ago. Like Eureka, he picked himself up and he moved on.

I know he did this because I have lived an incredible life as a free, educated black man. I know he moved on because Jim Crow is just a term my children read in a history book.

I know he moved on because on Wednesday night I watched a courageous black man stand at the center of national power and told the country that on his watch he will ensure that every American citizen has access to affordable healthcare. He was not fazed when a Southern Congressman called him a nigger at the most hollowed and sacred moment a nation can have - a Presidential address to the full chamber of Congress. Nor had he become less determined as the subject of the most vicious public attack a President has ever endured. He keeps moving on.

You see, every generation has its cross to bear. Our's can be no lighter than James Lee's was a century ago. Nor can we be any less resolute to keep moving on when "life’s trials and troubles make us wish we were born in another time and space."

God just did not bless me with the ability to stand on my feet and dominate a court room. He also touched me with the impulse to write. I once read a black gay writer who said, "If I had not become a writer, I know I would be spray painting graffiti on walls." So strong is the gift of words.

So, moving on, I will write an appellate brief befitting Eureka's courage. I will write for her and all the poor women, especially those of color, that get up off the floor everyday and move on.

I will write for the Reverend James Lee, who on that hot Louisiana day over a century ago, kept moving on for a great grandchild he would never know, but who has grown to love him as if he had been raised at his knee.

And I will write for myself. Because I have to keep moving on.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Welcome Home Skip

I asked a friend his thoughts about Skip Gates' recent brush with the Cambridge Police. His response: it could not have happened to a better Negro. Amused, I asked him to explain. He expounded further, saying Skip has been in the "bubble" of the Academy and, even though he writes about the African-American experience, he does not "live among us." If he did, my friend believes Skip would have been more forthcoming and accommodating when confronted with law enforcement. He would have given the police officer his name, social security number, date of birth, blood type and whatever information he needed to put forth, in order to terminate the encounter with the police officer, as quickly as he could. He would have known that, as a black man, there was nothing good to come out of the encounter by trying to effectuate his "rights." You see, most African-American men intrinsically know that escalating a police interrogation can lead to arrest, an ass-whipping or heaven forbid, death as in "Sean Bell."

But let's be clear: what happened to Skip Gates was unacceptable.

Skip has been an influential intellectual in America and deserves every accolade he has received over his illustrious career. His work incorporating DNA technology to trace African-American ancestry has been an important step in helping blacks understand who we are and, just as important, where we come from.

However, Skip has always been a company man at Harvard. When he announced his intent to assemble the preeminent Black Intellectual Think Tank at Harvard, I thought that was the statement of a confused individual. First of all, why would you want to build the preeminent black intellectual Think Tank at a white institution that erected its endowment on slavery? Why would you construct the premier Black intellectual Think Tank at an institution that triggered student protest for its failure to tenure a black female professor at its law school? But most important, what made Skip believe Harvard and its illustrious alumni would ever allow the "preeminent" black Think Tank to engage in honest dialogue about race and power in America?

Predictably, one by one, the scholars Skip amassed left disillusioned. The last and most prominent recruit, Cornel West, was summoned to former Harvard President, Larry Summers' office and told his work was subpar and was further admonished and ordered to cease recording rap records. According to West, in his book Democracy Matters, Skip effectively threw him under the bus by remaining silent. When there was a vote of confidence on Summers’ tenure, Skip backed the former president.

Although Skip has written eloquently about the black experience in America, he has chosen to live in the King’s court. There was always an intellectual distance between Skip and the black America he wrote about. Haki Madhubuti , in a searing essay, remarked that if Skip Gates chooses to write about us, he should at least come among us.

If he had shared in the day-to-day experience of everyday African-Americans, perhaps the public humiliation he faced at handcuffs of cops would have been less of a shock. Yet the only one that seems surprised that Skip was treated like a nigger is Skip. The sad truth is: most black men in America have had a Skip Gates moment.

My second year of law school, I walked down the street in my hometown, feeling really good about myself after earning 3.8 GPA at Tulane. I had a column published in USA Today and had appeared on McNeil Lehr to comment on the governor's race in Louisiana. I was feeling the difference between me and the poor, Larry English. To my surprise, a white police officer stopped me and asked me to get up against a wall and show my identification. Still astonished, I inquired why? She casually responded that there had been a report of a black man seen breaking into a car and I fit his description. I was dressed so preppy, I Iooked as if I had just walked out of Ralph Lauren's display window on Madison Avenue.

I refused the officer’s request. She flung me against a wall. An undercover white officer driving by jumped out of his vehicle and ran to her aid. He put his elbow in my back and "said motherfucker if you move, I will kill you." Just about this time, my father, who was headed to my downtown office, walked around the corner to witness my arrest. And I began to cry.

A few minutes later, a black police officer arrived on the scene. She explained to the rabid officers that I was Larry English, a former president of the city’s National Association for the Advancement of Colored People; chairman of the Shreveport Housing Authority and a weekly columnist for the Shreveport Journal. I was let go with no apology.

In my next column, I wrote of the incident. I received a letter from a white civil rights lawyer in New Orleans. He had lots of empathy for my degradation, but warned that there was always going to be a "oh shit" moment when the police realized that I was not only a law-abiding citizen, but one with a certain "status" in town. But he also added that if I had not been "Larry English," I would still be sitting in jail for a crime I not only did not commit, but had no knowledge of, if for no other reason that I was in the wrong place at the wrong time. He was right.

On that day, when I was feeling so good about what I had accomplished, I was brought back home to reality of being black in America. However, even now Skip seems confused. He issued a joint statement with the Cambridge Police, saying it had been a misunderstanding, and then almost immediately, called for an apology from the arresting officer.

Skip, you can use your platform to bring down the wrath of God on the Cambridge Police. Or, you can use your incredible gifts as a teaching moment for America. You can teach her about how race, power and ignorance intersect when a black or Latino person is stopped by the police. You can use this podium to fight for the thousands of blacks and Latinos who don’t have an “oh shit” card to play. Welcome home Skip. We missed you.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Do As I Say And Not As I Do

The nomination of Judge Sonya Sotomayor has sent conservative white men into a tizzy. You would think that their domination of the United States Supreme Court for the past 200 hundred years would make the first appointment of a Latina go down a little more smoothly.

When President Obama announced Sotomayor's nomination, Rush Limbaugh called her a racist. Then Pat Buchannan of MSNBC followed Limbaugh's ignorance by calling Sotomayor a "quota queen," an "affirmative action baby" and whatever other incendiary language from the cultural wars of the 1980's his warped mind could muster.

This morning I listened to Jeff Sessions, the ranking Republican member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, question Sotomayor. His lips dripping with the bitterness of fake disenfranchisement, that seems to be the ideology of new Republican Party, he nevertheless failed to ask one literate question of the soon-to-be-appointed Supreme Court Justice. Instead, he attempted to repeatedly paint Sotomayor as a racist who would favor brown people over true Americans –translation white males.

Sessions consistently opined about "our great history of blind justice in America" and, he surmised that Judges do not bring their personal views to the interpretation of the law. That was about as disingenuous a statement as Dick Cheney saying we did not torture.

Judges, beginning with the United States Supreme Court, filtering down to the State Level, interpret the law based on their personal life experiences and political ideology. As a trial lawyer who has litigated hundreds of cases, I learned to shape my legal strategy based on the Judge's ideology and personal biases. Every trial lawyer does so, regardless of the Judge’s ethnicity.

Moreover, no President has ever appointed a Supreme Court Justice who did not, initially, share his view of the world, blind justice be dammed. To suggest otherwise, is to deny history and insult the intelligence of the American public.
Sessions' assertion of our great history of blind justice is the last grasp of conservatives who are slowly losing power, attempting to rewrite the history before they exit the national stage.

A review of court decisions over the first 200-year history of America demonstrates how blind justice was applied to minority citizens. Plessey v. Ferguson was not a blind application of the law. It was the white majority of Justices blindly applying their moral view that separate but equal was constitutional. That decision stood for over 60 years.

In 1911, the City of Richmond Virginia prosecuted and convicted a black woman, Mary S. Hopkins, for violating the city’s segregation ordinance after she moved into a predominantly white neighborhood. The Supreme Court of Virginia held that the ordinance of Richmond did not violate the United States Constitution.

In 1938, Charles Hamilton Houston, the brilliant black lawyer who laid the foundation for Brown v. Board of Education, argued a landmark desegregation case before the Supreme Court. During Houston's oral argument, Supreme Court Justice James McReynolds turned his back on Houston and stared at the wall of the courtroom. Houston would subsequently train Thurgood Marshall at Howard University, a school McReynolds referred to as that "nigger university in Washington D.C. "

In a 1990 Law Review Article, Judge Leon Higginbotham noted that in the not too distant past, appellate courts have upheld convictions, despite prosecutors' references to black defendants and witnesses in such racist terms as "black rascal," "burr-headed nigger," "mean negro," "big nigger," "pickaninny," "mean nigger," "three nigger men," "niggers," and "nothing but just a common Negro", and a "black whore."

In 1943 the Supreme Court held that it was constitutional to continue to hold innocent Japanese American citizens in internment camps on the West Coast, siding with the Government that Japanese citizens imposed a security risk. Forget the morality of the ruling, it came long after Japan posed a risk to the West Coast of America. Later Justice Hugo Black, who had written the majority opinion, stated in an interview: "People were rightly fearful of the Japanese, they all look alike to a person not a Jap."

As recently as 1986 in Bowers v. Hardwick, the Supreme Court held that the state of Georgia could punish its gay citizens for sexual acts that heterosexual couples could perform without fear of arrest. Justice Byron White, writing for the majority, stated that the court was deferring "to the belief of a majority of the electorate in Georgia that homosexual sodomy is immoral and unacceptable." White based his opinion on the "ancient roots" of criminal penalties for sodomy.

Justice Henry Blackman writing for the four dissenters, who included Thurgood Marshall, accused the majority of hiding their homophobia behind the cloak of history. In his dissent, Blackman quoted former Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes: "It is revolting to have no better reason for a rule of law than that so it was laid down in the time of Henry IV. "

When the parents of the current President of the United States got married in the state of Virginia, the interracial couple would have been prosecuted for violation of the Racial Integrity Act of 1924. The Virginia Supreme Court, as late as 1966, said the law was consistent with the federal constitution because of the overriding state’s interest in the institution of marriage.

On today's Supreme Court sits seven white men; an Afro-Saxon and a woman. None of the white male justices ever felt the heavy weight of being treated different because of their race, gender or sexual preference.

Justice Thomas was appointed because he long ago abandoned any "empathy" for people born in his lot in life. Thomas' views mirrors his fellow white conservatives, both socially and politically.

President Barack Obama’s recently delivered a hour-long speech in Cairo that reflected his Afro-Centric view of the world. That does not mean the president is pro-black or for that matter, pro anything.

It simply means that he stands on the world stage, shaped by living his life as a person of color. He rightfully expects that Justice Sotomayor will bring balance to the court through her life experience as a Latina who has smelled the stench of poverty in a Bronx Housing Project, dealt with language barriers and lived 54 years as a person of color in America.

I suspect Judge Sotomayor will apply the law equally and without bias as much as humanly possible. But when those justices sit around that big round table, discussing the great issues of the day, I hope Justice Sotomayor will remind those six white men and the Afro-Saxon of a non-deniable fact: That Lady Justice may have a blindfold over her eyes, but she has peeked from under it over the decades when Native Americans, African-Americans, Asians, Gays and other minorities petitioned her for justice.

For all of America’s history, justice has been filtered through the lens of privileged white men, who, with few exceptions, shaped the law to benefit white men of privilege. The 21st Century requires that justice now be inspected through the lens of the beautiful tapestry of America’s diversity. We not only need Lady Justice to be blind, but we want her to be fair.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Thursday, July 2, 2009

The Man In The Mirror

My wife called me upset that Michael Jackson had died. My initial reaction was indifference. Who could be shocked that Jackson checked out at 50, alone in a Hollywood Mansion with strangers, doped up on prescription drugs?

Then there was his strangeness. I don't know whether Jackson was guilty of molesting young boys, but this I do know: he had an unhealthy relationship with them. We may never know the truth because the morals of the children's parents mirrored the pimps of kids on the streets of Mumbai. So it’s plausible to consider that Jackson may have been set up.

But I did not really care. Jackson had long ceased to be a value to anyone, including himself.

But somewhere over the last several days of global hysteria, I too started to mourn the loss of Jackson. I found myself playing his music and watching his innovative videos. I am not mourning the caricature of the human being who was on media display the last 10 years. I am mourning the loss of the 25-year-old who caught lighting in a bottle.

I mourned the 11-year-old who sang the blues as if he had just come home and caught his wife in the bed with another man; the kid who sang I’ll Be There as if he had fallen in love for the first time.

We forget that as Jackson grew out of his teenage years, music critics were writing him off as a just another child star who faded into pubescent obscurity. Little did they know that Jackson was about to become the seminal musical and cultural figure of the 20th Century.

I remember being at a house party in 1979, listening to the DJ spin Don't Stop Till You Get Enough. Everyone was hearing it for the first time and, as if directed by a subconscious message, the house began to dance. The DJ went straight into Rock With You and it was over. Everyone in the world knew immediately that Jackson had made the transition from cute child star to a serious artist. But none of us were ready for what was to come.

Thriller remains the greatest pop album ever. If it was released today, unchanged, it would sell 100 million copies and captivate the world as it did 25 years ago. Thriller was not just a musical milestone, it was a cultural earthquake. It was the first time white America fell unfettered, in love with a person of color. A whole generation of white children grew up idolizing Jackson and others who would follow. So for this generation, going gaga over Obama was as natural as eating your Wheaties.

Although critics, for the most part, underrate Jackson’s third solo album, Bad when compared with Off The Wall and Thriller, the singles Dirty Diana and Man in the Mirror were as good as anything Jackson had done. And for me, the Dirty Diana video captured the full range of Jackson’s talents. It is the most open display of sexuality that Jackson ever allowed the public to see. From the model exiting the limousine, with legs up to her shoulders, sauntering up and down the sidewalk to the lyrics:

She waits at backstage doors
For those who have prestige
Who promise fortune and fame
A life that's so carefree
She's saying that's ok
Hey baby do what you want
I'll be your night lovin' thing
I'll be the freak you can taunt

to the music that forever broke down barriers between Pop, R&B, and Rock; to Jackson's screeching vocals. Raw sexuality is at its peak when Jackson brings all the elements to a crescendo, ripping his white under shirt off, standing in mist, with his arm outstretched and his head pointed to the sky. Visually, it was simply stunning.

In that moment he had it all: the charisma of Elvis, the musicality of the Beatles and the unrefined sexuality of Chuck Berry, strutting across the stage.

On the day that Jackson died, the world stopped.

And the world rarely stops for any one individual. The world does not mourn Jackson because he got out of cars with no underwear; or he released a sex tape. The world is not mourning an ambiguous racial figure that was trapped in a life of turmoil.

No, the whole planet is linked in virtual grief over Jackson because of the talent he displayed 25 years ago.

Have there been better singers? Of course. Have there been better songwriters? No doubt. Have there been more important musical figures? For sure. But no one has ever been able to do it all at Jackson's level

We now know that the vessel that housed this tremendous talent was deeply flawed. But in this moment, it does not matter whether Joe Jackson is the beast Michael said he was or appears to be, even now. Nor does it matter whether Jackson was a pedophile or that he disfigured his beautiful chocolate face out of self-hatred. Over the next several centuries, all those riddles will be explored and some may never be answered.

What we do know is that those of us, who were alive over the last 40 years, witnessed something rare: A human talent who reminded us of the power of art to move a world and change a culture.

Jackson was a true Thriller, who may have also been a Smooth Criminal, but he was surely Off The Wall.

Sunday, June 21, 2009


Today Neda became became a part
Of the sorrow of our heart
She died on an Iranian Street
Life so young, her face so sweet
On her lips died a plea
Let my people be free
Her fathter whispering Neda don't be afraid
Allah has placed his hand on your head
Now Neda lies in the street dead
her blood flowing so red
her face will never leave our head

Her fathter whispering Neda don't be afraid
Allah has placed his hand on your head

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Iran, Iraq and Cairo

First America shocked the world and itself by electing an African as President. Now millions of Iranian citizens, in a 48 hour period, obliterated the stereotype of a Middle-Eastern country filled with jihadists.

This simplistic image of a country that has historically incorporated western ideals was propagated by neo-cons to justify their unilateral pursuit of the war in Iraq. And it is apparent, from the unfolding events in Iraq, that a majority of Iranians did not despise America; they just hate the Bush administration.

Over the last several days, the world has witnesses a digital mosaic of peaceful people marching silently, but demanding that their voices be heard. Iranian citizens are tweeting and texting, risking life and limb to keep the ember of Democracy lit in Iran.

The Iranians have reminded the world that most people want self-determination in some form of a Democratic system. It is amazing how often in the face of repression, these fires burn, and even more astounding, is how often the world appears caught off guard when it happens.

In Iran, a bearded, unsophisticated, political troglodyte, military and radical clerics, are trying desperately to hold onto the 1979 revolution. They are facing a determined citizenry, driven by young Iranians fighting, not with weapons but with online social networks. This revolution is not being televised, it is being tweeted.

In many ways what’s happening in Iran is an affirmation of George Bush’s belief that Democracy can flourish in the Middle-East, if given a chance. It would be naive not to acknowledge that Iranians watching millions of Iraqis lining up to vote did not have an impact on how they view the transfer of political power. It does not matter whether the elections were flawed and rife with corruption; there is something about the birth of Democracy –even in a primitive form- that is compelling.

Unfortunately for Iraq and the United States, Bush did not understand that Democracy cannot be imposed from the outside by a superpower. Freedom does not start with shock and awe. It starts with one man or woman looking in a mirror and saying: "Today I am going to be free." When a critical mass of these individuals coalesce around an event or personality, you have revolution. Freedom is born inside the individual and not in a war room in the basement of the White House.

It is also naïve to not believe that Barack Obama's speech in Cairo altered the political debate in the Middle East. When Obama spoke in Cairo, he was not seen as the leader of the United States or even the West. He was, and is the most influential political figure in the Muslim world.

Barack Obama is an African. He walks like an African, talk likes an African and, most important for the rest of the world, he thinks like an African. To Muslims, he is one of them. I am not talking about the conspiratorial right-wing fantasy that he is a Muslim parading as a Christian. Nor am I saying Obama is pro-Palestinian or, for that matter, pro anything. Obama has this mythical quality of being a human slate that different groups can project their stories.

Consequently, Muslims see Obama as an honest broker, because he has lived his life as an African who has immersed himself in its history and culture. When he speaks of Palestinian pain, it is authentic because he carries that same hurt inside. We Africans, whether we are oppressed in the suburbs of Paris, the slums of Brazil, the white beaches of the Caribbean or the ghettos of California, all carry within us the damage of displacement. For all of us living in the Diaspora, history has carved a hole in our hearts that can never be filled. Meshell Ndegocello described it as "crying like a baby that has been snatched away."

Many Muslims see Obama's rise, from humble beginnings, to leader of the greatest power in the world, as a vision of hope. I am not talking about a corny political slogan. True hope is often born out of suffering. It is optimism in the face of overwhelming despair.

David Brooks and others criticized Obama because, in directing the Palestinians away from violence, he invoked the struggle of black Americans. Brooks implied that the Palestinian problem did not have the moral equivalency of the civil rights struggle. First of all, how the hell does he know, having never walked in either shoes? But what Obama was saying is that the world will stand with you in a peaceful non-violent struggle. The opposition leaders in Iran have been Ghandi-like in ensuring that the mass marches across the country be peaceful and silent.

In Iran, it does not matter whether the ruling clerics and military snuff out the demonstrations and force Democracy underground; their downfall has already been sealed. What America restated to the world in 2008 is that Democracy, at its darkest hour, has the ability to transform itself. It just may be that Democracy is the first great pandemic of the 21st century. You see Democracy, like twitter is viral.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Excellent Pick For The Court But

For all the reasons that have been stated by the Obama Administration, Judge Sonia Sotomayor is an excellent choice for the Supreme Court. However, when the President has another choice to the Supreme Court, as I have stated before, he should look outside of Washington and New York. And he should look at a lawyer with State Court experience as a trial lawyer or Judge.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Wanda Land At The White House

Keith Olberman and others believe Wanda Sykes crossed the line with several of her jokes at the White House Correspondence Dinner. Now ain't that the pot calling the kettle black? Olberman cited Sykes' jokes about Rush Limbaugh and 9/11 and even Sykes' reference to the president as a mulatto as being in poor taste.

First of all, Wanda absolutely killed and I have no doubt her routine will be viewed in the future as classic political satire. Second, Sykes did not joke about 9/11, she made fun of Rush Limbaugh. The American public has shown, again and again, that it really is populated by a lot of grown-ups and it can tell the difference. There is not a person I talked with Monday morning who was not still cracking up as they recanted the best lines of the night.

The problem is: white elites are the ones who still have the power to tell us what is acceptable or not. If they don’t get the punch line, then it is not "proper."

Black comedy, by nature, is edgy. It replaced Jewish comedy in that department about 35 years ago, when a young comic savant named Richard Pryor burst onto the scene.

Even President Obama's performance Saturday night brought some of that edge from the street. His ragging on Michael Steele was a classic example. When America elected a black president, it also brought a new cultural sensibility front and center. The one thing that is quite evident about the Obamas is that culturally, they are unabashedly and unapologetically black.

Olberman should have been more outraged that Ms Sykes appearance marked the first time a black female gay comedian had headlined the event. Do you think her appearance had anything to do with new guy in the White House?

The point that Olberman and others missed is that Wanda Sykes was damn funny and that is the true test of a joke. You could hear the tension in the room as the guests tried their best not to laugh. As Wanda said “you laughing inside.”

Monday, May 11, 2009

I knew Hollywood Could Do It

I knew that Hollywood could produce a black movie about criminals that was not stereotypical, insulting and made you shudder at the 21st century minstrel show images on the screen.

Next Day Air is funny, smart, and not one second of its frame is insulting, even though the main characters rob drug dealers for a living. They actually steal from their cousin. Yet, these are not one dimensional jigaboos, but multi-faceted human beings. One of the most hilarious moments in the movie is when one of the characters sits on a commode, prasing God for an unexpected delivery of 10 kilos of cocaine.

Now that Hollywood has shown it can handle the drug culture, how about it take a shot at a romantic comedy or a serious drama, with substantive themes. And the movie cannot have one preacher, pimp, barber shot chatter or feature Tyler Perry in a starring role. Just some beautiful brown people portraying love and pain in-the-black.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

An American Hero

"The Master of Life has appointed this place for us
to light our fires, and here we shall remain"
-Tecumseh (Shawnee)

PBS has been airing over the last several weeks on American Experience an extraordinary story of Native Americans systematic decimation by European migration into the heartland of North America. Rather than being a depressing story of the total destruction of a people and its culture, it is just the opposite. The defining moment of our humanity is how we respond to the overwhelming threat to our existence, even when fate has cast an end to that very existence.

The story of Tecumseh and his creation of a Pan-Native American Movement to stem European aggression is one of the most heroic and moving stories in American history. I urge you to watch the entire series at PBS.Org, however, the story of Tecumseh is required television at

Monday, April 27, 2009

What Of The Other Pandemic?

While we fear a pandemic of a deadly virus coming out of Mexico. There is a pandemic within our nation that continues to take the lives of young African-American men. A pandemic of violence. I sat with two young men today, both accused of killing another black man.

One is a sixteen year-old –who is in the 6th grade- and accused of killing a 15 year-old neighbor. Police allege that he stood in a breezeway along with his cousin and gunned down the young man to settle a beef. Police further allege that the young man’s cousin was shooting a “chopper” or AK-47. My client is accused of shooting an automatic weapon. Bullets struck the victim in the buttocks and hand. He died on the scene.

The other young man shot two teenagers wearing ski masks, who had come to his front door to kill him. Again over some beef. One of the victims was seriously wounded and is not expected to live.

I feel numb. "Makes you wanna holler and throw up both your hands. This ain’t living, nah, this ain’t living."

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

What Is Good For The Goose, Is Good For The Gander

District Attorney: Your Honor, I would like to call the matter of State vs. Pookie Johnson that is on for a Motion To Reconsider his sentence. He is present with his Counsel Larry English.

The Court: Good Morning Mr. English, according to the record I sentenced Mr. Johnson to fifteen years for distributing Schedule II, Cocaine. Please tell me why I should reconsider his sentence:

Mr. English: Well your honor it appears that our beloved President has passed a new law that we are not looking back and that for the good of the country. We don’t prosecute crimes anymore.

The Court: Mr. English that is ridiculous and I am thinking about holding you in contempt for wasting the court time.

Mr. English: With all due respect your Honor, all my client did was sell a little cocaine:

District Attorney: Excuse me your Honor, Pookie Johnson was a major drug dealer in the city, and he distributed hundreds of kilos of cocaine.

Mr. English: None of that was ever proven, and before I was so rudely interrupted, the President has said that even if you violate International law and the Constitution by torturing people, that it is best for the country if we just move on. Your Honor, Mr. Johnson may have done some bad thing, but he has been taking bible classes and leading his fellow inmates in prayer service. And we believe the court should reduce his sentence. It is time to move on your honor.

The Court: That’s it Mr. English I am fining you $100.00

Mr. English: Your Honor, please hear me out. Mr. Johnson was just following orders. He started selling drugs when he was 14 years old. Ray-Ray, who he worked for told him that selling cocaine was legal. And he is only 18 years old and he never knew that selling drugs was illegal, he was just following orders. The President of the United States has taken the position that ever though CIA operatives were grown men, and they had to know that water boarding was torture. They just followed orders and they should not be prosecuted. I agree with the President and Pookie Johnson does also.

The Court: That is the most ridiculous argument I have ever heard a lawyer make in my court room.

Mr. English: But your Honor you would agree with me that no one should be above the law. And if the law is willing to look away, when the CIA breaks the law, should it not afford Pookie Johnson the same treatment and look away when he sells a little cocaine.

The Court: Mr. English not only am I not going to look away, I am going to send you away with a $500.00 fine for contempt of court. Motion To Reconsider denied. And Mr. English.

Mr. English: Yes your honor

The Court: Take it up with the President. Next Case.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Arizona State And Archie Bunker

I know that white folks believe that black people are paranoid when it comes to race. I admit that we are. All too often we will take a normal human interaction and internalize it into a racial slight. Sometimes - okay most of the time - it is not about race, the person is just a jerk. You cannot be subjected to 400 years of constant mental and physical abuse in a society and heal in a few decades. And it does not matter if the President of the United States is black. To be black in America is to be emotionally fractured.

However, call me paranoid, but there is some racist shit that has been going on with our President. First, Arizona State University snubbed President Obama, announcing that it would not be granting him a Honorary Degree. Their reasoning: his body of work has not warranted such an award. There are some things that are so ignorant that you don’t even try to defend or analyze. It speaks for itself. The University has since recanted and I have no doubt that someone will be forced to fall on his or her sword behind this.

Then, there is the furor over the President speaking at Notre Dame because his views on abortion and stem cell research are condemned by the Catholic Church. The biggest screamer is my favorite right-winger, Pat Buchannan. For some reason, I just like the guy. Maybe it’s because he insults me and then lets out that big Irish laugh. Anyway, when President George Bush came to speak at Notre Dame, he had a record of putting so many inmates to death in Texas Penitentiaries, that they should be renamed Slaughterhouse Number 5. The Catholic Church has historically condemned capital punishment. However, not a voice in dissent was raised by Buchannan or Catholic Bishops.

But ASU's comments that the President's "body of work did not warrant a Honorary Degree" was a stab in the heart of every African-American in the country. We have all been there before. No matter how many fancy degrees we get, no matter how hard we work on the assembly line, when it comes time to be rewarded for our work, all too often we are told we are not quite good enough.

I have a law school classmate that worked at a Fortune 500 as a tax lawyer. He is a fellow graduate of Tulane Law, except he graduated in the top ten percent. He went on to get his LLM in Tax Law at NYU, the best program in the country. When it came time for his promotion, his boss told him that they wanted to give him the pay raise, but not the title. Seems he was moving up too fast and some of his co-workers who had been there longer would resent it. Stunned, he told his boss "if the title does not come with money, I will not be happy." They immediately gave him the title and the money. He is no longer working for that company and they are no longer in business.

It's like running the hundred yard dash and breaking the world record and the judges say you had on improper shoes. So you run it again and break the record again, and the judge says, the wind was at your back.

Some white people feel they need to put us in our place. They need to always remind us that they are better than us, even if you are the President of the United States.

One of my favorite episodes of All in the Family occurred when Sammy Davis Jr. was a surprise guest at the Bunkers. Archie pleaded with Sammy to explain to his meathead son-in-law that he was not a racist. Sammy said "Archie for you be a racist, that would have to mean that you believe you are better than me. And, after spending the last 30 minutes with you, I am here to tell you, you ain’t better than nobody." Archie turned to Meathead with this big smile on his face. Some white folks will never get it.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Finally, Some Good News Coming Out Of New York

Rush Limbaugh announced yesterday that he is leaving New York because the State is raising taxes on the rich. Don't let the door hit you on your fat ass on the way out

The Daily Show With Jon StewartM - Th 11p / 10c
Rush Limbaugh Leaves New York
Daily Show Full EpisodesEconomic CrisisPolitical Humor

Monday, March 30, 2009

Back To Reality

I am watching a video of a young couple in Dallas who were stopped, just yards away -IN A HOSPITAL PARKING LOT- from their dying mother by another "racist police officer." Once again we are forced to confront the reality that, despite having an African-American head-of-state, our status remains tenuous. People of color are just a police stop away from being brutalized.

Several years ago I represented a beautiful black woman, who happened to be a Pharmacist. She was a courageous spirit. She was speeding on the way to pick up her daughter from ballet class when two Louisiana State Troopers pulled her over. She got out of the car, apologizing profusely for traveling over the speed limit, and politely asked the officers if they'd allow her to phone her mother so she could pick her daughter up from ballet. She explained that because of the traffic stop, she would be unable to make it to her daughter’s ballet class before it closed. The Troopers told her to get off the phone. When she refused, they beat her and kicked her into the front seat of her car. The entire incident was recorded on the Troopers video.

At trial, the judge forbade me to argue race as a motive, which of course I did any way. On the second day of the trial, the 12-member jury sat stone-faced while they watched the video of the troopers brutalizing my client. The jury, eleven whites and an African-American man, came back with a verdict in favor of the Troopers. I asked the court to poll the jury – a practice where each juror confirms his or her vote on the verdict. Three of the jury members, the lone African-American and two white jurors - stated that they refused to be apart of the jury deliberations. They explained to the court that the other jurors had made up their minds up to vote against my client before they had heard all of the evidence.

The rogue police in this country operates with impunity. They know that the justice system will ultimately side with them. So do we continue to be shocked at incidents like the one that happened in Dallas?

I have grown so tired of this shit.

By Gil-Scott Heron (

I had said I wasn't going to write no more poems like this
I had confessed to myself all along, tracer of life poetry trends
That awareness, consciousness poems that screamed of pain and the origins of pain and death had blanketed my tablets, and therefore my friends, brothers, sisters, in-laws, out-laws. And besides, they already knew that Brother Torres, common ancient bloodline Brother Torres is dead.

I had said I wasn't going to write no more poems like this
I had said I wasn't going to write no more words down
About people kicking us when we're down, about racist dogs
That attack us and drive us down, drag us down and beat us down
But the dogs are in the street
The dogs are alive and the terror in our hearts has scarcely diminished
It has hardly brought us the comfort we suspected
The recognition of our terror and the screaming release of that recognition has not removed the certainty of that knowledge
How could it'
The dogs, rabid and foaming with the energy of their brutish ignorance
Stride the city streets like robot gunslingers and spread death as night-lamps flash crude reflections from gun butts and police shields

I had said I wasn't going to write no more poems like this
But the battlefield has moved away from the stilted debates of semantics
Beyond the questionable flexibility of primal screaming.
The reality of our city, jungle streets and their gestapos has become an attack on the home, life, family, philosophy total.
It is beyond the question of didactic niggerisms
The motherfucking dogs are in the street
In Houston, maybe someone said Mexicans were the new niggers
In LA, maybe someone said Chicanos were the new niggers
In Frisco, maybe someone said Orientals were the new niggers
Maybe in Philadelphia and North Carolina, they decided they didn't need no new niggers

I had said I wasn?t going to write no more poems like this
But the dogs are in the street
It's a turn around world where things are all too quickly turned around.
It was turned around so that right looked wrong
It was turned around so that up looked down
It was turned around so that those who marched in the streets with bibles and signs of peace
Became enemies of the state, and a risk to national security.
So that those who questioned the operation of those in authority on the principles of justice, liberty and equality, became the vanguard of a communist attack
It became so that you couldn't call a spade a motherfucking spade.
Brother Torres is dead
The Wilmington ten are still incarcerated
Ed Davies, Ronald Regan, James Hunt and Frank Rizzo are still alive
And the dogs are in the motherfuckinging street

I had said I wasn't going to write no more poems like this
I made a mistake

Thursday, March 26, 2009

The Drug Cartels Have The Drug Laws On The Run

Hilary Clinton told the truth when she said that America is to blame for the drug wars on the Mexican border. However, the wanton violence is just a nose drip to a larger reality; we are a country that consumes illegal drugs. The Drug War was never really a war but a P.R. campaign that gutless politicians have hid behind for a generation.

I represented a petty drug dealer, who was not really a drug dealer. He was a crack head who was involved in selling drugs to get high. He was way down on the food chain. However, he drove trucks to Houston each week, picked up several kilos of cocaine, and delivered them to a small rural town that was two hours from nowhere.

His bosses were some unsophisticated, uneducated country thugs. However, the Drug Enforcement Aency estimated that they were moving $600,000.00 worth of cocaine every week. They were selling drugs, not in the cities, but in small rural towns.

For $600,000.00 a week, you can pay a sheriff to look away. For $600,000.00 dollars a week, you can buy a judge. Two judges in Shreveport, La., were recently convicted for taking payments from a drug dealer to reduce bonds.

If these dumb country boys are doing $600,000.00 a week, imagine what monies the drug impresario in West Harlem, or West Philadelphia, or West Omaha, must be generating. The Columbian Cartel is so sophisticated that their logo is stamped on every brick of cocaine they send into the country. We are so concerned about the Mexican Drug Cartel that we are not even talking about the Columbians.

President Obama stated that he was not for legalizing marijuana. I certainly can understand why, given everything Barack Obama is dealing with, he would not go anywhere near offering the sane solution of legalizing drugs. However, we are headed that way. Any rational person knows we are headed that way, even if we don’t want to admit it politically.

The question is: how many more innocent victims will die in drug violence? How many more impoverished inner-city youth are we going to send to jail for selling a $10.00 rock of crack cocaine , before we accept the reality that America is mom, apple pie, and a hit on a Bong?

Friday, March 20, 2009

Video of AIG protest on Wall Street

I went to Wall Street yesterday to do an interview on the legality of AIG contracts. I took these videos of a protest in front of AIG offices. There is revolution in the streets.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Just Don't Embarass Us

The Rev. Henry J. Lyons, former president of National Black Baptist Convention USA was forced to resign after his wife burned down Lyons' and his girlfriend's million dollar condo. I asked my cousin, who was a prominent pastor, what he thought about it. His response: "We gave our president of the convention unlimited power to steal and fornicate, all we asked was that he did not embarrass us."

As Congress feigns its outrage – Congress lately leads the world in outrage - over the AIG bailouts, I can't help but be reminded of my cousin's comments. For decades Congress has been the equivalent of street whores – no offense to the street whores- for Wall Street's excess. Every attempt to regulate the financial markets was seen as an assault on capitalism and the American way. They bullied regulators on behalf of their wealthy Wall Street Pimps and when that did not work, they simply gutted the regulations. Details are now coming out that regulations that would have banned bonuses were mysteriously stripped out of the TARP legislation in Committee.

I have been watching these hypocrites in congressional hearings today shift the blame over AIG bonuses to the Obama Administration and present AIG CEO Edward M. Liddy. Secretary of Treasury Timothy Geithner, along with Liddy, have the most thankless jobs in America. They have been asked to clean up a sewer that Congress has been dumping feces in for decades. Liddy, who is being paid $1 a year, should have stood up and told Congress to kiss his ass.

As outrageous as it is to pay AIG Executives bonuses – it like being raped and then having to take the rapist on a shopping trip- the real outrage are the trillions of dollars that were looted from the financial system over the last decade, with the help of Congress. These elected hypocrites are not mad over the bonuses and the Wall Street bailouts. They are mad because the thugs they are in bed with embarrassed them.

The President said today that he does not want to quell the anger of the American public. Nor should we let him. I hope that we stay angry. I hope that we insist that when we get this mess cleaned up, some people on Wall Street go to jail. I hope that some members of Congress are sharing that cell with them.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Time For A New Cuba Policy

President Obama should repeal the economic boycott of Cuba. In the midst of a Cold War, one could argue that boycotting Cuba's economy was strategic. After all, they were aligned with the Soviet Union, our mortal enemy. However, after the collapse of the Soviet Union, we learned that the Soviets were just a shell of an empire, with its only true power being its nuclear technology. Once America realigned with the Soviets as business partners, it should have immediately lifted the boycott of Cuba.

This policy has stayed in place to placate a couple hundred thousand Cubans living in exile, many of whom, have never forgiven Fidel Castro for running them and the corrupt Batista regime out of the country. The economic boycott has also served our conservative politicians needs to keep a cold war boogie man, long after the Cold War died. Castro too has benefited from the boycott. He has used it to help hold sway on his own people, by peddling paranoia that the United States was plotting another Bay of Pigs invasion.

Castro was never the legendary proletariat that rose to overthrow the corrupt Oligarchy that he proclaimed when the tanks rolled into Havana. Nor was he the devil that Republicans and Democrats have painted him to be the last 40 years. Castro has done some good and he has done some bad.

Now, as he lays dying, he is clearly just a petty dictator waiting to swept away by the tides of the 21st century global economy. If America would have unleashed its corporate thugs on Cuba 20 years ago, its citizens would probably now be free, Democratic and reminiscing about the good ole days - when the Island was not dominated by mega hotels, - a McDonalds on every corner, and everyone had healthcare.

Obama, in his first 50 days, relieved travel restrictions. He should go further and announce at the upcoming G-20 summit that he is repealing the boycott. By doing so he would help Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva help repair US Latin America relations. Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez has let it be known that Brazilian President speaks for him when he says, "Latin America is ready to have the US as a full partner."

Finally, by repealing this 20th century Cold War policy, Obama will align himself with an emerging group of pragmatic Latin America leaders, many who were educated in the United States. It would also go a long way toward repairing America’s image in Latin America, after eight years of Bush's cowboy diplomacy. Most of all, it’s the right diplomatic move for the first "child of the world" who rose to be President of the United States.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Thank You John Stewart For Expressing Our Outrage

Somebody in society has to call a motherfucker a motherfucker
Nikki Giovanni

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Who Your Daddy Michael Steele

I held off writing about the whole Michael Steele fiasco because i don't like beating a brother down after he been beat down. But the truth don't need no amens, it just need a witness. So witness:

What's Wrong With Class Warfare?

What is wrong with class-warfare? If just ten years ago, the working class would have declared war on Executives who were taking multi-million dollar bonuses that had no basis in reality, other than to loot the financial systems, we would not be in this mess today. John Stewart in a -brilliant- Howard Beal rant on CNBC ‘s hypocrisy of criticizing the stimulus plan, when they served as street barkers, guiding passive investors into gambling casinos masquerading as financial institutions. It is absolutely amazing to me that a million people have not showed up on Wall Street in a day of protest, to demand that these motherfuckers go to jail.

I don’t understand a mentality that people who have been abused don’t have the moral standing to demand their abusers be punished. I walked around Midtown Manhattan 18 months ago, unbalanced by the displays of wealth. We are talking about Masareti Limousines 10 deep waiting to carry an executive 10 blocks; fifty million dollar apartments in the Time Warner Building along with a fifty million dollar summer home in the Hamptons. The American public was pimped, whored, bamboozled and ponzi-schemed by these thugs with a MBA, with Congress –democrats and republicans- holding their hands.

Newt Gingrich –Back To The Future- is on Meet The Press today criticizing Vice-President Joe Biden for rightfully calling that some of these CEO's be put "in the brig." This is the same Gingrich that as Speaker led a Republican dominated Congress to deregulate the markets. The Wall Street Journal recently wrote an editorial blaming the sinking markets on Obama's policies, which are two weeks old. This is the same Wall Street Journal that defended executive excess the last eight years, as "innovation". So now a young President who inherited a global meltdown is having to call up the New York Times to defend himself from a socialist label, because he is attempting to bring some kind of coherence to this madness.

Frank Rich –The Edward R. Murrow of the 21st Century- writes in the New York Times with unmatched eloquence at how these Upper East-Side thugs were paying $80,000.00 for teddy bears. Unless the working class, middle class, and working poor declares war on this foolishness, the next generation will have to deal with this same mess.

And how do you declare war. Just get mad, get mad as hell and say i am not going to take it anymore.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Bobby versus Jindal

To understand why Bobby Jindal did so poorly in the Republican response to President Obama’s first address to the nation, you have to understand the South. You have to understand its anti-intellectualism and unrelenting social pressures on the individual to conform to fundamentalist cultural norms.

After Jindal spoke, I received a text message from a friend who lives in South Louisiana. His tongue-in-cheek message: "I did not know that Bobby Jindal was the son of poor Indian immigrants." Jindal had never spoken of his immigrant roots or Indian culture in any of his previous campaigns. In fact his father is a engineer and mother a nucelar physicist. Jindal "went there" because he knows, in his heart, that the only reason the party of white southern men were touting him as their savior was because they are desperate for an antidote to Obama.

Like Obama, Jindal grew up as an outsider. However, Obama was raised in multi-cultural Hawaii, while Jindal had to find his way in white, conservative Baton Rouge. At some point Obama had to make a choice, and he embraced, with exuberance, black culture. As he told Steve Croft of 60 Minutes "I am firmly entrenched in the African-American community."

As a person of color growing up in Baton Rouge, Jindal, also had to make choice. Only his options were not as easy as Obama’s. I have no doubt that Jindal faced discrimination, even racial taunts, growing up in Baton Rouge. The Indian community in Louisiana is small, and little Bobby had to look outward. Intellectually, an alliance with Baton Rouge’s large African-American community would not make sense to the son of an immigrant. Choosing to live an economically marginalized life in Scotlandville - the neighborhood surrounding historically black Southern University would not have seen viable to young Bobby. So, he chose to cast his fate with white Baton Rouge. But in order to do so, he had to de-emphasize the Jindal and focus on the Bobby. It was a Faustian deal.

White southerners believe that they are under siege. The passing of the 1964 Voting Rights Act created the ascendancy of the black political class. The four largest cities in Louisiana are run by black mayors. White children still ride in pick-up trucks with rebel flags on back windows, but Lil Wayne is blasting on the radio. Well-paying, blue-collar jobs have been lost to globalization and white southerners have turned to the churches - the last bastion of unfiltered and untouched white protestant culture – for safety. It is in this environment that Jindal came of age.

And the times are still changing in the South. The black quarterback that brings the mythical black championship at LSU is worshipped. Blacks are now allowed to join the all-white club, but no pretenders are allowed in. Only anti-abortionists, those against gun control and anti-intellectuals are admitted.

And finally, members must be anti-government.

"Government forced me to go school with blacks. I got passed over for supervisor in the plant because the government forced the company to promote blacks. Government has failed to protect our borders and now we find ourselves minorities in our own country."

Needless to say, some white folks are angry. You need only to have seen Rush Limbaugh, throwing red meat to the mob on Saturday at CPAC, to be reminded of "white" rage.

So little Bobby dranked the Kool Aid and became a white Southerner. As Jeremiah Wright preached in a sermon about Clarence Thomas, "he got Rome on his mind" and for "acceptance," Bobby had to publicly deny his immigrant past and embrace the cultural and religious dogma of the white south.

But the Gods have a wicked sense of humor. Barack Obama became President of the United States. Along with his unlimited political skills, he used his blackness and his "child of the world" biography as a calling-card to lead the new multi-racial America in the 21st century.

The Republicans now find themselves reduced to a 20-state party. But, they too, have been blessed with a young, talented, person-of-color. Jindal could take on what the Republican leadership could not understand, the diversifying of America. But Jindal does not understand this new phenonomenon either. The Louisiana governor, long ago, gave up the cultural sensibilities needed to guide the Republican Party back out of the wilderness.

So on Tuesday night, at a seminal moment in his life and Republican politics, Jindal responded to Obama like a white southerner. His praising of Obama's campaign and victory to the White House was condescending. He, of all people, should have known that America moved beyond that right after Inauguration night. His telling of his immigrant past sounded fake because he had never told it before and, thus he was unable to put it in context of who he is. He argued that government was evil – white anger, rearing its head, again- at a time when the whole world is looking to the American government to pull it from the abyss of a global depression.

I don t buy that Jindal's national aspirations are over. He can still lead the Republican Party out of the wilderness. However, to do so, he needs to take a trip into the wilderness and find himself. He needs to see if it is not too late for him to reconnect to his immigrant past. He needs to be honest with himself and the Republican Party about what is means to be a person of color in 21st century America. The Republicans desperately need a Indian Jindal and America needs a modern Republican Party.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

I'll Be Sweeter The Next Time

At a time when the nation is facing the greatest financial crisis since the Great Depression, and the Republicans are up against the most naturally talented politician in the last 100 years, they send up a 37 year-old neophyte.

Jindal was an embarrassment. Maybe the Republicans should send Michael Steele the next time. Steele would regurgitate the same old republican dogma, but at least he would lay it to rap.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

The New York Post Does Not Care

Yes, the cartoon is racist. And believe me the New York Post does not give a damn that Al Sharpton or anyone else is mad. They knew the cartoon was racist. And, they knew it would create a lot of publicity. And, other than that, for "The Post," it was a good day.

I am a New Yorker. To be a New Yorker you simply have to move there, rent or buy a closet for a lot of money, and learn how to ride the subway. Part of the trip of living in New York is reading the New York Post. Even the most sophisticated, cosmopolitan, intellectual New Yorker reads "The Post."

The only way to deal with the hassle of riding a train everyday is to read "The Post." "The Post" plays to its readers worst instincts. It is racist, voyeristic, sometimes funny, and devoid of any journalistic integrity. And most importantly, it is written at a fifth-grade level. New Yorkers read it to avoid making eye contact with the homeless panhandler who is dancing, singing, or reciting poetry on the train for his next high.

"The Post's" sole mission is to collect 50 cents from as many readers as possible, every day. And they will peddle any shit and call it news. So go on, have deep conversations about the historical linkage of people-of-color and their relation to monkeys, or is it chimpanzees?. Rupert Murdoch don't care. He just got a few hundred thousand more people to "read" "The Post." Mission accomplished.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Appoint A 21st Century Earl Warren

Today, the New York Times reported that Chief Justice John Roberts recently stated, in a speech, that every member of the Supreme Court was a former United States Appellate Court Judge and that was a good development. Roberts surmised that judges are more likely to put aside their policy concerns and focus on the law. The fact that the Chief Justice could make such a statement makes you wonder how he became the Chief Justice in the first place. Does it have anything to do with the fact that George Bush appointed him?

Obviously, Roberts has squared away Bush v. Gore, a ruling that any respected legal scholar, of any ideology, has concluded came down to a 5-4 political vote. Roberts has overlooked that his fellow Justices, Scalia and Thomas, set aside decades of conservative ideology, which their whole careers where based on. Scalia and Thomas held the view that the Federal Courts have no right to intervene into pure state issues, yet they suddenly found an equal protection claim in Florida voting precincts, and overruled the Florida Supreme Court which halted vote counting and gave Bush the Presidency. Scalia’s response "Get over it."

As the Times pointed out, even former Chief Justice Rehnquist wrote that a Supreme Court, made up of all judges, was not good for the country. A University of Pennsylvania Law Review study found that there is no supporting data that former judges are more likely to put aside their policy preferences when ruling on a case.

Part of the problem in Washington is that it is run by technocrats who have lived very insular lives. They all went to a few elite institutions. They have, for the most part, worked in Washington (government) or New York (business) – usually moving between both - for most of their careers. This trend cuts across political party and ideology.

Frank Rich, in The New York Times, pointed this out in a recent column,on Barack Obama Team Of Rivals. Rich wrote how LBJ came to, then Speaker Sam Rayburn, bragging on the intellect and talent of JFK’s new cabinet and Rayburn responded "I wish one of them had run for Sheriff." Rich was rightly cautious of Obama's new Team Of Rivals because they all came out of the Washington-New York group think.

Ironically, Obama, other than having graduated from Harvard, is the opposite of most Washington elites. He spent most of his career on the Southside of Chicago and most of his political life as a State Senator. We can all agree he is doing okay.

It is highly likely that Obama will make an appointment to the court sooner, than later. He has indicated that he is looking for the next Earl Warren. It can be argued that Earl Warren is the most important figure of the 20th Century. The Warren Court reshaped race in the country in Brown v. Board of Education; he gave every citizen protection from police misconduct with the Miranda v. Arizona ruling; and he established the principle of one person, one vote in Reynolds vs. Sims.

Earl Warren, for the most part, was a politician. He was a former District Attorney from Sacramento and Governor of California. Warren’s common life with common experiences helped shape his leadership on the court. Warren always considered how the law would impact upon ordinary citizens. To conservatives, he was the anti-Christ. They argue, with some merit, that Warren shaped the law to fit an outcome. However, I don’t think anyone believes that the country would go back to pre- Warren, if it could.

Obama’s first appointment should have a background as a trial lawyer or state court judge. He or she should be someone who, has either represented regular people or had to make rulings that affect their lives, and had to see the look on their faces and families after they ruled. Obama should not appoint some cloistered intellectual who has argued theory his or her whole life. And they ought not to have lived in Washington or New York.

The country has gone over 40 some years without a great liberal voice on the court. It is time to bring some balance back.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Ruth, Bonds, Rodgriguez: It's Just A Game

This whole idea that steroids have tainted the game of baseball is ridiculous. First of all, baseball ain't no sacred undertaking - delivered to us by the Gods, as a symbol of the precision of the universe, that epitomizes the ideals of America to the rest of the world - as George Will and Bob Costas would have us believe.

IT IS A GAME. And, a boring game at that.

World peace or the cure for AIDS, or solving the 21st century financial crisis does not rest on whether some juiced-up hitter, knocked a grand slam off another juiced-up pitcher, in front of some drunken fans, who snuck away from work.

Alex Rodriguez’s emotional confession, after he was outed by Sports Illustrated, only fed into the hypocrisy. I find it hard to believe that Costas and other sports personalities did not know that Mark McGuire and Sammy Sosa were juiced when they were sailing baseballs into the center field bleachers like bullets out of a shotgun at a turkey shoot. They were too busy celebrating that baseball and their livelihood was being saved after the 1994 strike.

Costas and others made Barry Bonds the poster boy for the evil steroid era and Bonds came right out of Hollywood casting for the part. He was surly, rich, spoiled, petulant and even a bit bi-polar. The fact that he was black and told sports writers and fans, who are mostly white, to kiss his ass on a regular basis, made dirtying him up in the Heartland even easier.

The Owners hoped Rodriguez, a baseball savant, would, only in a matter of time, take the home run crown from Bonds and restore the integrity of the game. Now that A-Fraud has been caught, we are now left with Bud Selig's hypocrisy. Selig has announced that he is considering fining Rodriguez.

I must admit that I took far more satisfaction watching Roger Clemens' rise to junkie status than A-Fraud. Clemens had carefully crafted the image of the hardworking, All-American Roy Hobbs, who became a Hall-Of-Famer because of his work ethic. Have you ever noticed that white athletes have work ethic and black athletes have natural talent? Well, Clemens like the rest of baseball, including the owners and sports writers, were dirty.

The game has never been pure. Babe Ruth, who held the home run record for decades, never played against the best athletes of his era. How possibly could his name not have been removed from the record books or attached with the dreaded asterisk "*" that so many sports writers and fans claim should be next to Bond's record. Imagine Larry Bird making a claim to greatness and never having competed against Magic or Jordan.

Most of the major league pitching records were accomplished in the dead-ball era. Does that make CY Young any less of a pitcher?

What is most disturbing about Rodriguez' situation is that he was tested under an agreement between the Union and the Owners to determine the extent of steroids in the game. Those tests were never supposed to be public and no player was ever supposed to be subjected to retribution for testing positive. Well, that did not happen.

Rather than tearing up on ESPN, A-Fraud should have sued the Union and Owners for a clear breach of players’ privacy. Maybe, like Curt Flood a generation before him, he should have put the rights of his fellow players before his own selfish P.R. needs. But then, if he had that kind of integrity, his fellow players would not be calling him A-Fraud in the first place.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

State vs. Pookie Johnson AKA "Lil Stuff"

Judge: The Court now call the matter of State vs. Pookie Johnson

District Attorney: Your Honor this is Assistant District Attorney Jason Bourne representing the state and Attorney Larry English representing the defendant. Mr. Johnson is on for sentencing after having been found guilty of intent to distribute two kilos of cocaine.

Judge: Good Morning Mr. English

Mr. English: Good Morning Your Honor

Judge: Mr. English before I pass sentence is there anything you would like to say on behalf of your client

Mr. English: Yes, your Honor. Your Honor the United States Mayor, former Presidential candidate, and former United States Attorney, the Honorable Rudy Giuliani came out in defense of the 20 billion dollar in bonuses that Wall Street bankers paid themselves after taking 350 billion dollars of government money as good for economy of New York

Judge: Mr. English what the hell that got to do with Pookie Johnson’s case

Mr. English: Well your Honor, Mr. Johnson selling hundreds of kilos of cocaine in the depressed inner city has also been good for the economy. Mr. Giuliani rightfully pointed out that Wall Street bankers bonuses fuel the real-estate industry in New York. I mean who else can afford 30 million dollar apartments. Those bonuses are the bedrock of Bergdorf Goodman and other stores along 5th Avenue. The rest of America may be angry, but New Yorker understand, that so goes the bonuses, so goes New York.

And your Honor Mr. Johnson expresses that same entrepreneurial spirit as Citi and Bank Of America. Mr. Johnson proceeds may be illegal like Wall Street, but your honor, he gainfully employs young black males who have been left behind in this global economy, his taste in jewelry and fast cars have been a savior to those industries in these tough economic times. Mr. Johnson has purchased rent houses all over the city, so he is putting affordable houses on the market.

District Attorney: Your Honor, this is unbelievable Mr. Johnson purchased rent houses to hide money

Mr. English: Your Honor our good DA's criticism of Pookie, like our well meaning President criticism of Wall Street bonuses is misguided. As Mr. Giuliani so rightfully pointed out somebody got to help the real-estate market in these tough times. That is exactly what Pookie Johnson has been doing.

Judge: Mr. English have you lost your mind?

Mr. English: No your honor I just think that Mr. Johnson should be given the same consideration as the CEO’s that have raped the public and private coffers and As Mayor Giuliani said..

Court: Mr. English you are an idiot and so is Rudi Giuliani

Mr. English: Yes your honor

Court: Pookie Johnson, I hereby sentence you to 15 years and I suggest that when you get out, you apply your considerable business skills on Wall Street. There stealing is legal. Court dismissed.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

The Republicans You Can Believe In

The election of Michael Steele to lead the Republican Party was another milestone for African-Americans. Steele has a tough line to walk to reach out to minorities and moderates and not tell Rush Limbuagh to fuck himself. However, it was a statement by the Republican Party that the world has changed. But it also represents a window for African-Americans and other people of color to consider the Republican Party.

The election of Barack Obama has not erased the bad taste of decades of pimping of black people by the Democratic Party. We need competition for our votes.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

This Revolution Was Televised

This was a motherfucking revolution. Not a Che walking through the jungles of Bolivar revolution. No Huey Newton and Eldridge Cleaver standing in black leather jackets and a shotgun "fuck the pigs revolution". This was the revolution that CLR James wrote about in The Black Jacobians or Paulo Friere wrote about in Pedagogy Of The Opressed.

This was a revolution about seizing power. Power to reshape urban school systems; power to cool a planet; power to harness runaway markets; power to reassert an ideal founded in Philadelphia and recast at the reflecting pool by a southern preacher, and power nurtured in a small cell on Robben Island -that there can be no compromise for individual freedom.

Tuesday at noon, revolution beamed down on the face of an illiterate Kenyan woman sitting behind an ex-President. She could not understand the words that were being spoken, but witnessed their meaning on the faces of hundreds of thousands, who came to hear her grandson accept the leavers of power.

Last night I walked down U Street in the nation’s capital and, booming from speakers in a parked car were the speeches of Barack Obama, laid down over hip hop and jazz tracks. Like Bob Marley, Obama’s words of eloquence, poetry and intellect are now seeping into the global consciousness. These words of revolution carried on the digital waves of the Internet will be played in Bodegas in Harlem, at Youth night in Cotton Valley Louisiana, in back alleys in Lagos, on side-walks in Ho-Chi- Minh-City, and on IPods in Amsterdam.

Hope is the material out of which dreams are formed, and then transformed into imagination which fuels revolution. The revolution that began on January 20 is so powerful that a child in Zimbabwe watching a black and white television screen, powered by a generator, imagined himself differently after a black hand reached for a bible on the steps of the Capitol. A young college girl in China looked at the podium on the Capitol and imagined, "I can change my village, my town, my city, my country for the next generation." Revolution comes when regular people imagine themselves to be great.

This was a revolution that will affect every capital and village in the world. We may not see the results in our lifetime, but then we just might. We cannot know because none of us has ever been here before.

Yesterday, Moses did not just ask to "Let my people go," but was appointed to the motherfucking throne.

Gil Scott-Heron was wrong. The revolution was televised on a 42-inch flat screen in HDTV. I know because, like the rest of the world, I saw it with my own eyes.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Just Come To DC

I have no words for what is happening in Washington DC. I am not objective. A writer should never write without being objective

So Just Come To DC

Friday, January 9, 2009

Morning With Joe

I spent yesterday morning with an old mentor. Joe and I had not spent time together in years. He is now 67 years old and working on his Masters. He plans to go on and pursue a PHD. Joe has been a lawyer for well over 30 years. He is legally blind from the ravages of glaucoma, a disease that disproportionately affects African-Americans. The disease was genetically passed to me also.

We had a spirited conversation about global politics, race and of course Obama's election. Joe always had a conservative view of feminism. However, he just finished a class on feminist theory which led us to an engaging conversation on Bell Hooks – I am a fan, he is not.

I have always looked at individuals a generation out from me and used them as a bench mark of where I would like to be when I reach that age. I left my morning with Joe with the aspiration that when I reach the age of 67, I hope I am as intellectually curious, and as passionate about pursuing the life of an intellectual as Joe is. It was a good morning.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

What Of The Palestinian People?

There are certain realities in the hundred-year-OLD war THAT IS CURRENTLY being aired on the 24-hour news cycle between Israel and Hamas. First, American politics have, and for the foreseeable future, aligned itself with Israel. Hamas has refused to retract on its founding principles that Israel must be destroyed, and thus have been declared by America and the European Union, to be a terrorist organization. Hamas is the duly-elected representative of the Palestinian people as a result of fair and open elections. Israel and America responded to Hamas' election by imposing a smothering economic boycott of Gaza, that has had a devastating toll on the Palestinian people.

Finally, there have been atrocities committed by both sides that blur the meanings of words such as "terrorist."

President-elect Barack Obama said in Israel this summer, "If someone was raining rockets down on the house that my daughters slept in, I would do everything I could to stop it." Who could not agree with the President-elect on that statement? However, even the Israelis knew that Obama's words were an act of political pandering to the Jewish vote, in a hotly contested Democratic Primary election. It was also a simplistic response to a nuanced set of political realities. Clearly, someone who gave a complex speech on race just a few months earlier, knew that.

The MORE POIGNANT questions for the President-elect are "what if someone built a fence around the south side of Chicago and then imposed an airtight economic boycott of those caged inside?" "What if the people were not allowed to travel outside of that wall, and WERE subjected to what former President Jimmy Carter described as apartheid conditions?" "What if the sole purpose of this economic boycott was to force the elected representatives from power?" "Would the President-Elect simply sit in his living room and watch his daughters world slowly strangled?"

And it must be remembered that the Palestinian people did not turn to Hamas because of its political ideology. The Palestinians had lost faith in the corrupt Palestinian Authority and what they saw as the West's unwillingness to reign in Israel's expansion policies into Palestinian lands through illegal settlements and the building of a security wall –on Palestinian land.

There is no debate that Hamas' adherence to radical Islam is a major impediment to peace. Only despots carry on a war in the name of God. It is unrealistic to expect that the person sitting across the table from you would trust any agreement as long as you openly called for his destruction. Even the Arab governments in the region despise Hamas.

However, the Israelis raining high-tech weaponry down on one of the most densely populated centers on the planet, simply cannot go unchallenged by the moral world. This war was launched as much for internal politics as it was for attacking Hamas.

It has become too exhaustive to assign blame to this mess. What is clear is that the Israelis and the Palestinians cannot resolve this conflict on their own. The United States needs to be honest brokers. No other President has come to power with the goodwill of the world AND THE ABILITY TO force the TWO parties into a meaningful and lasting peace AGREEMENT MORE than Obama. Obama needs to speak to the world with the same moral complexities that he did on race. To the shock of the media, America appreciated HAVING A MATURE DIALOGUE on its original sin. I suspect the world is ready for the same nuanced analysis on the middle-east, too.

To speak of Israeli pain and not mention the pain that Palestinian people have lived with since the formation of Israel, can no longer be this country's policy. The fact is - the people who have suffered the most in THIS mess - are the Palestinians families, who want no more than anyone else –a future for their children. In poll after poll, residents of Gaza support a two state solution with Israel as a peaceful neighbor.

When Barack Obama speaks of this crisis as President, he must speak not only of Israel's security, but also, "what of the Palestinian people?"