Wednesday, July 06, 2011

You Can't Call the President That!!! Or Can you?

Last week, senior political analyst and editor-at-large of Time Magazine, Mark Halperin, called President Barack Obama a d--k on MSNBC's "Morning Joe" program. Now, when I first heard this I was shocked and pretty angry. There have been some unnecessary things said about President Obama over the last couple of years, but I thought that was a brand new low. I mean, what journalist in their right mind calls the President of the United States, or any head of state of a country, a "cuss word." Who does that? And it wasn't like it just slipped out of his mouth by mistake. In the words of Jon Stewart, “And that wasn’t like a spontaneous, ‘I can’t contain myself!’ This was, ‘Do you guys have a delay because I’m going to call this guy a d--k.”

Mr. Halperin was quickly placed on indefinite suspension by MSNBC, even with Mr. Halperin quickly apologizing for his "gaffe." Of course there is always concern that there is a double standard when anything is said about the "golden child" known as Barack. A friend of mine even suggested that at some point in the past, former President George W. Bush was called a "cuss word" too by a journalist and that person was not penalized, so what's up with the double standard? This made me wonder if I had forgotten some of the names George W. Bush was called during his presidency. Maybe my personal disdain for Bush and Cheney policies numbed me to the naughty language heaved at the 43rd President of the United States.

So, I did a little research, and it seems that Bush was called a lot of nasty things - fascist, socialist, war-mongerer, liar, war criminal, incompetent. On one occassion, Keith Olbermann, in one of his notorious "Special Comment" segments, advised Bush to "Shut the hell up!" And according to conservative website, the "bias liberal media" can say anything about a Republican President and no one gets suspended or fired (

First, let me say, with all the millions upon millions UPON MILLIONS of dollars that pay Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck and Bill O'Reilly to say negative (and many times untrue and nasty) things about President Obama on a daily basis with ABSOLUTELY NO REPURCUSSIONS, conservatives really don't have much of a leg to stand on with this "double standard" idea. Furthermore, when Newt Gingrich was still working for Fox News and said that Obama was presiding over America with "Kenyan, anti-colonial" worldviews, he wasn't fired or suspended. He was cheered. Let us review the things that President Obama has been called by "journalists" and commentators shall we: socialist, terrorist, Nazi, Muslim, anti-American/un-American, alien, not born in this country, racist towards white people, "Barack, the Magic Negro" (, jack-ass (

For those of us who feel protective of the President because we may feel like we relate to him or feel invested in his success, all of these comments have an extra sting. We may well be a little sensitive about folks having the nerve to talk about "our President." That being said, Presidents from the beginning of this nation have been called nasty names, the power of freedom of speech and of the press to be sure. Presidents have been called drunkards, incompetent, skirt-chasers etc. And I'm almost positive that the Southern journalists during the Civil War had some negative things to say about President Abraham Lincoln. However, there was no thinking done by Mr. Halperin with his comment. There was no real purpose for his comment. It was crass and unprofessional. He's a journalist, and should know better. I am an artist, a poet, if I want to cuss out the President, I can do that. No one seeks my "unbiased" perspective on the day's events. And if I want to cuss out the President, I have to be a little more creative than that.

Monday, July 04, 2011

Back to Blogging!!!

I have been really off with my blogging lately. I promise to get back to it, starting now... I think... I hope :o).

Check out my Twitter Page at


Sunday, April 25, 2010

Why Did I Cut My Hair? Do I Miss My Hair? And Other Questions I Seem to Answer Every Week

In my return to this blog, I have to clarify one thing that has been a matter of much inquiry amongst my peers over the last couple of months: the reason(s) I cut off my hair. Thus, let me start from the beginning.

When I first started growing my hair in the late summer of 2001, I didn't really have any intention to grow it for a long period. It was over the next few months that I started to fall in love with my hair. And it grew like a wild flower. I graduated college and law school with my afro fully intact. Over 8 years of college, law school and work, my hair had been puffed out, pulled back, braided up and loc'd in. However, when I started to loc my hair in the fall of 2008, I knew that I wasn't going to grow it for an extented period... maybe a couple months I thought. Again, my hair worked its charm on me and a couple months became more than a year. Furthermore, my hair was so throughly loc'd, there was no going back to my glowing "afro mane."

In the middle of 2009, I knew that I would cut off my hair, but I didn't know when. I also didn't tell anyone that I was going to cut off my hair because it was really no one else's business. So, several dates came across my mind - the first day of autumn, my birthday, New Years Day. However, none of those days seemed right because they were slightly over done. So a week into 2010, I figured out the date I would cut off my hair - it would be May 19th (Malcolm X's birthday). I chose that date because it was random enough that no one would make any weird conclusions about me cutting my hair because of my age or the New Year or my new firm etc. Instead, it would be about a new beginning... a new day... a new chapter. Most importantly, Malcolm's life and his autobiography have had such an influence on the adult I have become, and my "natural" was a part of the first chapter of my adulthood. So, it made some sense that the beginning of my next chapter would have something to do with him. Additionally, Malcolm X was very willing to accept change in his life. I want to be that brave.

When I decided that I would cut my hair, I knew I wanted to have a personal celebration. I had carried my hair proudly. It was never a burden and it was never heavy. I wanted to celebrate that. I wanted to celebrate that I had been uniquely myself and beautiful in my own way and on my own terms, despite those who may have wanted me to look a particular way that they could accept -friend, foe, and stranger alike. But I didn't get to that celebration because a "detour" took place in my life. That detour created some energy that I knew I had to get rid of or I would not be a happy person. Keeping my hair was not completely out of the question, but the way I felt just a few days before I cut off my hair in February, I knew I would just be a very angry person to a lot of people if I kept my hair, and I didn't want to feel that way. I knew I couldn't wait three months - waiting would just be for spite and stubbornness, not for happiness. Even with deciding to cut off my hair, I didn't know what I was going to do, meaning I didn't know if I was just going to go about living my life the way it was, or give everything up, pull a Lauryn Hill and go on the road with my guitar doing Hip Hop folk music.

I have not discussed too much of what happened during this "detour" and I don't plan on doing so until a later time in my life... when I write my own autobiography perhaps. Too many of my friends do not have enough degrees of separation from the situation for me to go telling everyone. It wouldn't heal anything. The one person I did tell everything to is my friend Renee in Toronto. Renee is one of those special people who have the ability to make you feel like she is hugging you through the phone. Maybe that's why she was the first person I thought about contacting... I just felt like she would understand. When she called me after I ranted to her on my Facebook e-mail about everything that happened and how I was feeling, her voice and her kind ear put me at ease. I knew I would be okay. She was what I refer to as "my safe person." Sometimes we all need a safe place to go to when we feel like the outside world is a little more dangerous than we want it to be. And then there are people we need at the right time to catch us when we think we're falling. I think I have a few "safe people" in my life, Renee was the right choice at that moment. A few days later, I cut it all off, but I stayed put and stood my ground.

Before the deed was done, my hair was feeling heavy. I knew I was ready to start anew. It wasn't very difficult because I had already thought out my hair cutting strategy before I even bought the clippers. I had my television volume up kind of loud because I didn't want to think about what I was doing too much; the quietness would have had me going through too many memories, good and bad. As I figured out my cut, I thought about the many beautiful women who had cut off their hair for whatever reason - India.Arie, Erykah Badu, Melissa Ethridge, Robin Roberts and the few women I personally knew who did the "big chop." I felt a kinship with them, cutting all of your hair off still isn't considered womanly by some, and having long hair isn't considered manly (particularly in the professional world) by others. After I was done, I was comfortable with what I saw in the mirror; this was always a big idea for me. If I could look at myself in the mirror and be happy and proud with what I saw, then I knew I made a good decision. And it was done and I put all of the pictures on Facebook.

There was no celebration, but there was a lot of reflection on everything in my life - my passions, my goals, and the people who are in my closest circles. I was forever changed that night. I'm still not sure how to articulate that, but I can feel it. I can feel it in just the way I'm dealing with people. I don't know if it's for the better. It is what it is.

I do miss my hair... a lot. I miss flinging it around when I got out of the shower or just finished washing it. I miss running my fingers through it and I miss it resting on the back of my neck. When I see other folks walking around with natural hair, I feel a little left out. I kind of feel like I'm no longer a member of the club - our little special club of "nappturally" beautiful people. I don't how long that feeling will be present, but it's still here. Also, I still feel a little awkward when people compliment me on my hair cut. It's like, you want to compliment me? NOW??? Of course, compliments are nice, but it feels weird to receive compliments after cutting my hair, like cutting off was a prerequisite for the good attention.

Finally, I wanted to write this blog to get some frustration off my chest. This year, I started a law firm with two other attorneys around the same time that I cut off my hair. Recently, a friend of mine, maybe in a joking manner, implied that I cut off my hair because I was starting a firm - this apparently would make me more appealing to potential clients or judges, I guess. I would have rather given up EVERYTHING than too cut my hair for THAT. When I graduated from law school, there were plenty of Black men who cut off their naturals. Some did it because they were just ready to. Others explicitly did it exclaiming, "I gotta get a job." I didn't do that. In fact, I carried my natural for four years and met with many more clients, other attorneys and judges than many of my "bald head" bredren did during the same period, and had no trouble with anyone. Let's be real, I'm a Black man in America, I'm not what many people want to see as a lawyer, doctor or business person - hair be damned. If someone had a problem, that's fine, but that's not my worry... My goal has always been to assert that even if you don't like me or the way I look, you are going to have to take notice of me, because I want to be that darn good. If I don't get there with someone and I've done my best, then it wasn't meant to be and I won't change who I am for approval of the closed-minded.

I have discovered that I really want to create some sort of support system or a movement for natural-haired Black professionals. I think it's needed. Back to the idea of a safe place, I didn't feel like I had a safe place among my fellow Black professionals all these years. Everyone is so geared into making Black professionals look like "the acceptable Negro," that there are few around to protect those who don't want to fit that mold. Hopefully, my journey will make it easier for someone to feel safe to break the mold and let their kinks glow.

Where Have all the Brown People Gone?

This past week saw the series finale of the award winning television show, "Ugly Betty." With the end of this series, there are currently no live action programs on broadcast TV with a majority non-white cast. I say "live action" because the Fox animated program, "The Cleveland Show" is now the only television show on a broadcast network with more brown faces than white ones. However, the show's creators, main writers, as well as the voice of the main character, are all white people.

[Photo: "Ugly Betty" Star, America Ferrera and series Executive producer, Salma Hayek.]

As a child of the 80's and 90's, I feel like I was spoiled by all the television shows that had majority Black cast members. From the legendary "The Cosby Show" to "A Different World," if you were young and Black in the 80's and 90's, you saw plenty of images of yourself (positive ones!) on tv without ever having to touch BET (Black Entertainment Television). Back in those days, there were actually Black people on NBC. I already mentioned "Cosby" and "A Different World," but there were also long-running series like "227," "Amen," and "The Fresh Prince of Bel Air" bringing in plenty of ratings for "the peacock network." And though there has been a little more "color" on NBC shows lately, as the 21st century was starting, much of the casts on NBC shows had very few non-white faces.

A few days ago, I was reminiscing about one of my favorite tv dramas during the 90's, "New York Undercover." This show was one-third of one of my favorite primetime lineups - every Thursday night on Fox, "Martin," "Living Single" and "New York Undercover." After I mentioned this on Facebook, I received several comments from my fellow FB'ers with the same fond memories. As I said then, Thursday night was my favorite night of the week because of these shows, particularly "New York Undercover." I have such great memories of those shows because they were so much a part of my teenage years. The characters were memorable and relatable, the writing was quality and the acting was good too.

Many shows with majority African American and/or Latino cast members have been very successful for many broadcast networks. In fact, networks like Fox, UPN, WB/CW, started their networks maximizing majority non-white tv shows, only to eliminate them once the network got its footing. We saw this recently with the CW cancelling shows like "Girlfriends," "Everybody Hates Chris" and "The Game" all within a year. Simultaneously, there has been so much energy dedicated by fans of "The Game" to bring the show back in some sort of format, even if on BET. I think this is because there are so few shows where non-white people can identify with the characters. "The Game" was a good show... I watched it. However, I have not seen this much fervor to bring a show back that, honestly, was fairly average. Granted, the plot lines were juicy and scandolous, but if there were other shows with comparable casting, I do not think folks would be as distraught of its cancellation.

I wonder if we have gotten so in love with the idea of "multicuturalism," that we think that diversity in Hollywood is acheived when we see a couple of non-white people in a show or movie. Yes, shows like "Grey's Anatomy," the CSI programs, "Heroes," "24" and "The Office," have very diverse casts. However, for every one of those shows, there are several shows with NO non-white characters. And for some reason we are supposed to be comfortable with that; having a majority Black cast or Latino cast in a couple of shows is apparently too much to ask for. In a country where there is a Black man as president with a Black family in the White House, where the majority of new births in America are Latino, we are supposed to be comfortable with numerous all-white casts on every broadcast network, with a few shows having a token brown face to "add some culture."

Well, here's to "The Cleveland Show"... I guess.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

My return to Blogger... at least for this post.

I haven't been on Blogger in over two years. A lot has happened, but I don't even have the time to update all that. However, I do want to put down some thoughts on my upcoming birthday. I feel like I really need to get this out.

In the next coming days, I will be embarking on my 28th birthday. This marks a very interesting point in my lifespan. It will officially be ten years since I entered “adulthood.” And really, the last ten years have been quite a ride. However, I think my expectation after I turned 18 was that by the time I reached 28, things would be much easier to figure out. It isn’t that I thought everything would just be easy, but I did think that with age and a little wisdom and maturity, figuring it all out – this life thing – wouldn’t be as much of a struggle. However, as I write this I am confronted with the reality that even with the lessons you learn with age and wisdom, life just isn’t that simple.

As I reminisce, I can very confidently say that my childhood was not very easy at all. There were plenty of struggles to deal with, but I was fortunate that it was never as bad as it could have been, or bad as it was for many of my peers in my neighborhood. It all turned out okay, so I felt like it would just keep getting better with every passing experience and lesson. And frankly, each year has brought some new excitement or achievement that has made me very grateful. At the same time, not everything has been berries and roses.

Life is usually filled with ups and downs, obstacles and triumphs. But sometimes I feel like I’m behind the cuff on trying to keep the balance. It’s all like a cruel situation-comedy with me as the confused butt of the joke. It seems more than a rough patch; it’s a whole rough forest. Weird as it feels, I’m sure there will be better days and clearer answers. But right now, a brother is struggling.

Additionally, it seems that every friendship I have is going through some sort of test; whether it is about lack of free time, not being able to return phone calls or just a matter of growing apart. It’s kind of painful to witness friendships that I value slowly weakening, at a time where I could use good friendships the most. I realize that sometimes these things happen and it is a part of getting older, but I think that part of my concern is that I didn’t take enough time to try to preserve these friendships before they reached their declines. I’m not sure of how I would or could do it, but I may have to figure out ways to make amends to save the friendships that can be saved, and strengthen the friendships that are barely stable.

As for love, who knows! The word “complicated” is overused, but it is so perfect for my love life. I don’t really worry about it too much; being a bachelor can be a good thing at my age, but it has been a rollercoaster lately and now the ride is over… the amusement park is closed for the season, and I’m out here hoping for a carnival to just pop out of nowhere. (Sigh)

Even with all of the issues that are clearly clouding my skies, I’m hopeful that this next year will be better than this past year. I know I have work to do, but there is still a lot of living that I am looking forward to, even through the "rough forests."

Saturday, August 26, 2006

My new MySpace Page

So, I haven't been on blogger in a minute... okay more like five months.

But part of that is because I have a new place to blog -

That's where I'll be for most of the time. My two or maybe three readers can find me there.

Friday, March 24, 2006


They just mad 'cause she gifted!
Seven-year-old poet defended, praised

Amsterdam News Staff
Originally posted 3/16/2006

"It's just a poem," Autumn Ashante, 7, explained of her "proud andpowerful" lyrical offering that has set off a firestorm of controversyand a media feeding frenzy.Out of the mouth of babes, the seven-year-old prolific reader andperformance poet has been "unofficially" banned from Westchesterschools because of a dynamic poem she recited, according to herfather, Batin Ashante."My daughter was invited to perform at Peekskill High and MiddleSchools on the last day of Black History Month and responding to anear riot that was avoided on the previous day, and to what sheconsidered to be a racist mural in the middle school, she recited the Black Panther Party's `Black Child's Pledge' and her poem `WhiteNationalism Put U In Bondage.'"

Autumn recited the entire pledge before a bank of journalists at CityHall on Tuesday."I pledge allegiance to my Black People," she said. "I will keepmyself physically fit, building a strong body free from drugs andother substances which weaken me and make me less capable ofprotecting myself, my family and my Black brothers and sisters."Some in the media were less than thrilled by her "White nationalism iswhat put you in bondage: pirates and vampires like Columbus, Morgan, and Darwin drank the blood of the sheep, trampled all over them withsteel, tricks and deceit."

Ashante said that his daughter was offended by a four-wall schoolmural with depictions of Black folks kneeling at the feet of AbeLincoln with his hands outstretched "like Jesus;" and then Black folkbuilding the pyramids for a white pharaoh and his wife."She said, `Have you guys seen that racist mural?' and then she toldthem about white nationalism," her father told the Amsterdam News."Autumn announced that she was speaking to the Black and Spanishstudents, and did her poem, and those students started screaming.

The officials didn't like that."The upstate school district "has a problem with her view of whiteNationalism," he added, "I guess they think that a seven-year-oldcan't understand because she has not seen what happened duringHurricane Katrina, right?"The Amsterdam News asked her what she thought about the subsequentofficial school response after her presentation.While saying that the "Black and Spanish" students cheered, a handfulof white students did walk out, Ashante replied, "I think it was sad and I am confused because they are making a big fuss about a poem."She understands however that the official response means that, "It was effective to them."Ashante, a group home counselor, said that his girl "loves to read. She drinks in books and remembers everything. Right now she's reading another encyclopedia, Zora Neale Hurston, James Baldwin, and FrederickDouglass.

He explained that they worked on the poem together after reading "TheDisasters Darwinism Brought to Humanity."Ashante said that his daughter was invited to the school by PeekskillMiddle School music teacher Councilmember Melvin Bolden."He was suspended, they took him out of the classroom," said Ashante. Bolden did not return an Amsterdam News phone call by press time.Judith Johnson, the superintendent of Peekskill City School District,did not return an Amsterdam News inquiry, but her assistant Alma Jimenez said that all she could do was read a statement. She denied that Ashante has been banned from performing in the schooldistrict, but said, "The controversy surrounding this situation is unfortunate. Autumn … appeared before a culturally diverse [audience]and in her poem and actions she attempted to bring a wedge betweenAfrican-American and white students. The students rejected herefforts. We do not have a racially isolated community, people live andwork and go to school together."The teacher who brought her to the school [Mel Bolden] … said thather performance was inappropriate for a young audience and hasapologized for the incident viewed by many as racist."Parents and "the entire community" were told that Ashante's "views andactions" did not reflect the views of the Peekskill school district."The Amsterdam News responded that the person in question is asever-year-old, but Jimenez said abruptly that "I can only read thestatement."

At Tuesday press conferences Councilman Charles Barron said, "Eliot Spitzer needs to investigate this case. She's a seven-year-old who hasthe right to free speech."Later that same afternoon Rev. Al Sharpton harangued Westchesterschool officials who called in a recorded apology to parents ofstudents at Peekskill High School and Peekskill Middle School.Ashante said that his daughter has been traumatized by what Sharptoncalled "an entire overreaction.""The proper thing to do would have been to call the schools togetherand have an analytical discussion, not apologize as if she didsomething wrong," Sharpton blasted.

Barron presented Ashante with a special proclamation from the CityCouncil. "We don't care what anybody else says, we are proud of youbecause you spoke out for us. She said nothing that was not true orinspiring," he said of the child who, according to her father, speaks three languages."The pubic school system needs to hire her father as "a paidconsultant. Maybe we need to write a letter to [Schools Chancellor]Joel Klein.""I'd love to share my formula," said Ashante. "It is one classroom perchild."Late on Tuesday evening, Ashante called the Amsterdam News to say thatsomeone was littering the Peekskill neighborhood with Nazi fliers.Upstate resident Don DeBar, the Hudson Valley reporter for WBAI's WakeUp Call, told the Amsterdam News that the fliers look "identical tothe expensively laminated inappropriate garbage sent out last year.

It has swastikas and a racist and anti-Semitic blurb."DeBar said that he thinks that it is the work of a "guy in his garagewith a laminating machine, who goes out at the weekend and throws thefliers in his station wagon. I don't think they were made in responseto the poem issue, the flier looks like the generic garbage. Maybe heread about the issue this week and decided to put Peekskill on his route.""I'm not shocked, I understand the times in which we live, and I'm trying to make Autumn aware," said Ashante. "This is near BearMountain, the Klan run this area."He told the paper that he has raised Autumn by himself since she was11 months old. A media veteran already, Ashante has performed at showsand cultural events from the African Burial Ground to Katrina. She isa voracious reader who began reading books at two years old."I've seen how much power we have when our children are exposed toknowledge of our history. The best thing they ever did was to give hera library card," he smiled.Asked what she would tell fellow second-graders (if she wasn'thome-schooled by father), Ashante told the Amsterdam News, "I'd encourage them to read more because knowledge is power."


I know for the possibly two people who might read this blog every once in a while I must be a complete disappointment. I have been very busy over the last two months and have completely neglected my blog, so here is an update.

Two months ago, I started working at a law office in Northern Virginia. It's an okay job. I don't get paid that much (even though I am a lawyer), but I am getting a lot of experience.

I have been trying to plan my future beyond working in this law office. If I stay there till 2007, it will be a small miracle. I hope to get a job at a non-profit, since I want to start my own non-profit down the road. Right now, I'm just trying to get by; pay some bills; learn some new stuff; meet some new people.

On another note, I really haven't been able to be very social lately. What was funny when I was unemployed was that I wouldn't go out because I didn't have any money and was slightly depressed because I didn't have a job. Now I have a job, but I still don't have a lot of money and now I don't have a lot of time. When I do have time, my friends don't have time - I need some new friends... friends who aren't lawyers!

I have also been bothered by the fact that I seem to not be able to contact some of my closest friends. Either we are all too busy or there are things going on in their lives which have limited there ability to answer the phone or return a damn phone call. Either way, it's annoying. I suspect that one of my closest female friends doesn't answer the phone when I call because she doesn't want her fiancee to see her talking to another man. I could be wrong, but I have a bad feeling that I am absolutely right.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Looks of 2005

Portraits of the JAGuar - in Black & White and color.

Say Word

Word Life
By J. Grant

It’s only a word
Words can’t hurt you
Words have no power
Words are just that, words.

If words have no power, no one would care about Shakespeare or Giovanni
No one would care about Angelou or Baraka,
Frost or Fitzgerald
Who would need a Richard Wright or James Baldwin…?
Sonia Sanchez or Langston Hughes…
Zora Neale or Gwendolyn Brooks
Because poets would be unnecessary
And poems couldn’t be used as weapons to the armless
And songs would not be used as soundtracks to rebellion
No one would sit down and listen to a song and say,
“I can feel that”
I can feel Billie Holiday and Bessie Smith
I can feel Marvin and Stevie and Smokey
And Aretha and Ella…
Sing about the highs and lows of love and life
But no one would feel that because words are just that, words.

But words have life, and love doesn’t come from your words

How you gonna say that? You know I got love for you, nigga…
I love you so much, I call you my nigga.

Love, Black man? Love?
Then love me, Black man
Love me like your brother
Your blood
Your twin
Your son
Your cousin
Your nephew
Your heart
Your friend

Show me that love you speak of
That love, that great love my brother has for his brother

Love, Black man, love!
Understand it and breathe life into it.

2006 J.A.G. Productions (c)