Farewell Michael Jackson

Michael Jackson is dead. My heart is heavy because he was the most iconic musical figure of my generation. I remember my first 45 was of “I’ll Be There.” My sister and I played it over and over arguing about which Jackson was the cutest. My sister’s first LP was Off the Wall and we played it over and over. I remember begging for my Michael Jackson leather jacket and smiling brightly when I finally got it. My mom commissioned two Michael Jackson paintings for my sister and me by a local artist, which we had for years. It is still our all time favorite gift.

Perhaps, my greatest memory of Michael Jackson is his performance on Motown 25. I will never forget the energy, precision, excitement and sheer perfection. He and his brothers shut it down. I remember standing in front of the television, mouth agape, in utter awe of this man’s performance.

Honestly, I had not thought about Michael Jackson much recently although I had planned a jaunt to Europe to catch one of his shows. It’s funny that his death is all that I can think about now.

In the words of Michael Jackson, all that I can say is goodbye.

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Eight is Enough – Reality Shows about Kids Must Go

Actually any more reality series about Octuplets is enough. The Octomom is getting one, and TLC has upped the ante with Table for Twelve, a couple raising 10 kids. All of this is enough to make me want to throw up for numerous reasons, most of which is people’s obsession with watching people attempt to raise kids while not doing a good job of raising their own. Why anyone would want to have that number of children in this day and age, let alone subject themselves to public scrutiny is beyond me? Masochism is alive and well in the 21st Century.

I know, they’re doing it for the money, but at what cost? One only needs to look at the train wreck called the Gosselins. Why would anyone want to replicate that experience?

Read more from Nsenga at Creative Loafing, where she serves as cultural critic.

Kate the Great – Gosselin Should Be Angry

Kate the Great
I think I’m the only person in the free world that likes Kate Gosselin. People hate on her because of how she treats her husband. I’m sure that she treated him like that before she married him, so they both knew what they were getting. However, neither were expecting 8 children which is why their world is collapsing in front of our eyes. Kate is a bitch. Yeah, you might be bitchy if you had to raise 8 children with someone that obviously wants his freedom while you will be enslaved for the rest of your life. How dare she get plastic surgery or go to the spa? Yeah, you might need a tummy tuck after 8 kids and you might want a new haircut or manicure once in a while. I didn’t know that having children meant that you had to forgo doing anything nice for yourself. She has a nanny. If you could afford it, you’d have a nanny for your one child let alone 8. She’s so mean lately. If I were looking at raising 8 children alone, while my husband was having a public affair with a 23-year-old, while everyone was judging me, I’d probably be a little pissed. How could she do one more season? Since, she will clearly be the sole breadwinner (remember, he was unemployed at the start of the show which is why they agreed to do the show) and alone (when your husband spends time with his girlfriend instead of attending your birthday party or his children’s events, it’s a pretty safe bet that you won’t be seeing much of him), you probably need to make as much money as possible, since he’ll clearly be giving it to someone else.

Read more from Nsenga at Creative Loafing where she serves as cultural critic.

NCAA and NBA Rules Lead to Pimping of Athletes

OK. The hypocrisy must stop.

The NCAA and the NBA are in violation. The University of Southern California’s head basketball coach Tim Floyd recently resigned amid allegations that he gave $1,000 to basketball player O.J. Mayo’s handler, Rodney Guillory. When I heard the news, I thought to myself, “Just one grand?” If it is true, Mayo settled for much less than he’s worth to go to Trojan territory.

The NCAA must cease with these archaic rules and stop pretending that they are not in on the dirty little secret that is high stakes recruiting in college basketball. This is a practice that has gone on for many years; the NCAA knows it and turns a blind eye, unless someone has the misfortune of pissing someone off.

Read more of Nsenga’s articles at Creative Loafing, where she serves as cultural critic.

Out of all of the teams that recruited players last year, why are they targeting Tim Floyd? Maybe it is because they have been after USC’s football and basketball programs for years? Maybe it is because each year they must have a sacrificial lamb to give validity to the outdated rules and practices of the NCAA and to remind people that they operate with a moral compass? Yeah right.

So what if Floyd gave O.J. Mayo $1,000 to “sign” with USC? The millions that the NCAA and USC made off of him more than make up for it. Mayo was only on the squad for one year. Why? Because of another ridiculous rule: NBA-caliber high school players have to play college ball for one year before heading to the NBA. Why? So, the players can get the college experience, mature a bit and be protected in case of injury. If you threw up in your mouth a little bit when you read that last sentence, then you know the real deal.

Neither the NCAA nor the NBA give a hoot about these kids. You see how they so readily dismiss them if they get injured or make “youthful” mistakes during their time on the team. A guaranteed NBA contract and financial management course is what one needs to be “protected” in case of an injury, especially coming out of high school, particularly if he has lived in poverty his entire life.

The NBA and the NCAA are in bed together. While the NBA wants to control long-term labor costs, the NCAA wants to avoid billions in local and federal taxes, along with having marquee players to keep fans engaged and busy purchasing memorabilia. Oh, but the players can’t get paid while they’re driving billions of dollars to the NCAA and the Division I schools, respectively.

The NCAA gets to use the likeness of the players on video games and all sorts of advertising and collateral, but the players cannot get paid to “sign” with a specific team, hold a job while on the team (most can’t because of crazy practice and travel schedules), or be paid while their “work” is making money for major businesses through advertising and promotions. Slavery 2.0?

When that doesn’t work, they cast aspersions on whichever player or coach they need to hold up as a sacrificial lamb. Derrick Rose, anyone? Although he could have gone pro, he had to play one freakin’ year at Memphis. He won two high school state titles, went to the NCAA finals with the 2008 Memphis team and was named rookie of the year in the NBA. The NCAA had the bad manners to release his SAT scores while investigating a claim that someone else took the SAT for him. This allegation was met with great fanfare in the media, although Rose behaved much more maturely than the NCAA by not responding to the allegations — which were later dropped because of lack of evidence.

Sports writer Dan Wetzel said it best: “… young players have to play pretend before they can play ball. They have to pretend that amateurism rules can stop the wheels of capitalism. They have to pretend that an arbitrary thing like a minimum SAT score — which is never how the test was designed to be used — is a fair hurdle they need to clear to pursue their professional aspirations.”

These young basketball players, many of whom come from impoverished backgrounds, are used up until they can get to the NBA, if they’re lucky. Less than 3 percent of Division I college players will ever make it to the pros. If they aren’t going to allow high school players of Kobe Bryant’s, Dwight Howard’s, Kevin Garnett’s and O.J. Mayo’s caliber to go pro, then they should pay them something.

Perhaps if the NCAA was not so greedy, they could use payment as an incentive to stay in school for more than a year — then maybe the players would not be so pressed for money. I’m not saying that the players should make NBA money, but they should get a stipend or something, especially when the coaches and others are making millions of dollars. Is it really fair to be a part of a billion-dollar industry and to be paid nothing for it? Again, Slavery 2.0?

It is so interesting that the one-year rule that the NBA implemented does not apply to European players, just players from the United States. Racism 2.0? But that’s another column.

A little education never hurt anybody — I get that. And I would respect it if the NCAA truly thought highly of academics. They don’t, as evidenced by the grueling practices, schedules and travel that players must endure. Time in the classroom is secondary to athletic performance at Division I schools. Working “around” the system has always been a part of athletics, whether it be matters of eligibility; the exchange of money or services; or actual time spent in the classroom.

Love Turns Deadly: Domestic Violence Hits Home Again

Nikki McPhatter is dead.

You may have been following the story about a young, African-American woman (30 years old) who had been missing since May 6, 2009. Unfortunately, her body was recently discovered in Richland County, S.C. in her car. Police believe that she was shot in the head and then burned beyond recognition. The police are attempting to locate her dentist in order to identify the body by her dental records. If not, identification could take weeks, even months because of the condition of the body.

Allegedly, she met her former boyfriend Theodore Roosevelt Manning IV online and began a relationship. McPhatter had gone to South Carolina to break things off with him because of his reportedly controlling ways when she disappeared. Manning was arrested in connection with her murder. Where was he found? In the safety of his home.

My heart is heavy as I write this, thinking of yet another young woman, senselessly murdered. If Manning is responsible, one has to wonder: “When did breaking up have to end in death? What happened to going our separate ways? What’s up with men and women who would rather kill their spouses, than leave or be left?”

Domestic violence is an epidemic that must be eliminated. More measures need to be taken to protect people from batterers. While there has been a lot of awareness about domestic violence, especially in recent months with the high-profile cases of celebrities like Jennifer Hudson, Chris Brown, Rihanna and Phil Spector, the laws have not changed to better protect victims or survivors.

Case in point — Heather Thompson, whose husband held her hostage for 15 hours and beat her within an inch of her life. Thomas Price Jr. was sentenced to 10 years in prison, but spent an additional five years in federal prison for making threats to his wife and children while in prison. What were the threats? He wrote in a letter, “… I can’t wait to see the fear in your eyes … Before I kill you!!! All three of you will die by my hands!” as reported by The Charlotte Observer.

Price was scheduled for release from prison on Friday, May 29, 2009 — but was not ordered to stay away from Thompson and her children. How do you release a man from prison who was sent there for trying to kill his wife, continued to threaten to kill her and their children from jail, and not make staying away from her a condition of his release? That is a major oversight, which will undoubtedly have real consequences.

Thompson had to take out a restraining order against Price and go to the media for protection, which of course makes her look like the agitator/aggressor to someone clearly off-center like Price is alleged to be. Thompson is being victimized yet again and must fear for her life. How ironic is it that the man who attempted to kill Thompson is free, while she is imprisoned by the real threat of violence against she and her family?

Domestic violence has really become a normalized part of our society, and it is unacceptable. We have to decide as a community to rebel against it. There are some in the community fighting against domestic violence. United Family Services Domestic Violence programs and the Mecklenburg County Women’s Commission Domestic Violence services have joined forces in a collaborative effort to reach a wider audience by forming the Domestic Violence Speakers Bureau. Their goal is to reach more of the community by sharing resources and eliminating duplicate efforts in addressing domestic violence issues. The idea is that with more awareness, people will be more inclined to get involved in helping to stop domestic violence matters.

How many of us know someone who is mentally or physically battered? How many of us have lived next door to someone he or she heard being abused and done and said nothing? A friend of mine was actually considering moving from an apartment complex because she couldn’t stand to hear the violence that was happening next door. She had not reported the incidents to the management at the apartment complex, nor had she contacted the police, which is the least that someone can do. If you can’t stand to listen to it, imagine how the other person must feel who is actually living it?

What if it was you? If someone saw or heard you getting beat down by your partner/lover/spouse, would you want him or her to ignore it or turn away? You would undoubtedly want some help. A lot of times, victims of domestic abuse suffer in silence because they do not think that they can get help. Sometimes they don’t know what’s in store, as was the case with McPhatter. Domestic incidents sometimes start as mental abuse, controlling behavior or small incidents of anger and violence that can escalate to someone killing or maiming you or both.

Nikki McPhatter is dead. Heather Thompson is praying that she won’t be next. We need to pray for McPhatter, Thompson, victims and survivors of domestic violence. Most of all, we need to pray for ourselves if this is the best that we can do as a community in the fight against domestic violence — because if this is it, we’re all in trouble.

This article originally appeared in Creative Loafing, where Nsenga serves as Cultural Critic.

Celebrate Black Music Month

June is Black Music Month.  People often say that Black culture is American culture; I think that Black music is American music, which has helped to develop the cultural landscape of America.

Black music encompasses a variety of genres including but not limited to jazz, blues, gospel, country, rock-n-roll, R&B, Soul and Hip-Hop to name a few. Categories that were once rigid are now fluid allowing for collaborations across genres. Black music is far reaching and bridges the gap between generations, races, genders and the like.

It is with this in mind that RushmoreDrive.com, for which I serve as Editorial Director, celebrates Black Music Month. We could not think of a better way to celebrate than with Grammy-award winning singer Anthony Hamilton.

Anthony Hamilton is a rare performer, particularly in this day and age, because of his soulful sound that harkens to the past, but anchors him in the present, giving those of us that long for “real” singing what we need, while giving those that desire contemporary stylings, what we want.

He is an artist that is able to successfully collaborate with many artists of different genres including 2Pac, Nappy Roots, Angie Stone, Jadakiss, Twista, Sunshine Anderson, Buddy Guy, Jay-Z, Keyshia Cole, Boney James and Al Green. Not only is he a gifted singer, but he is also a talented songwriter.

Who can forget Anthony’s seminal album “Coming Where I’m From,” which was soulful, folksy, edgy, endearing, inspiring and infectious all at the same time?

Hamilton reminds us of where we’ve been and where we’re going, which is why we thought it made perfect sense to invite him to be our Special Guest Editor for Black Music Month.

We have enjoyed working with him on pulling together a celebration of Black Music that informs, inspires and elevates Black Music Month in our online and off-line communities.

Over the course of the month of June, make sure that you visit RushmoreDrive.com to hear more and discover more about Black music.

Eminem on Jimmy Kimmel: Will the Real Slim-Shady Please Stand Up

Did anyone other than my sister and me watch Eminem’s performance on the Jimmy Kimmel Show a couple of weeks ago? Probably not because you have lives.  Em seemed like a shell of his former self, clearly returning from what must have been a hellish period in his life. He looked like he had been “shook” as we say in the community. Kimmel was actually quite cool and relaxed during this show — possibly because Mike Tyson was his other guest that night and both guests are known to “stand up for themselves” when wronged.

While Tyson seemed focused, confident and get this — sane, Em seemed distant, cold and extremely nervous. His precarious demeanor was capped off by a less than stellar performance of his single 3 a.m. He appeared to be lip-synching and clearly forgot the words on multiple occasions. There were so many long shots that if it were not for the soundtrack, then you would not have been able to tell that it was Slim Shady himself.

It’s a good thing that he’s not a pop star or sibling of a much more famous and talented sibling, because he might have been ridiculed in the press for a terrible performance. What’s worse than an average pop star lip-synching on Saturday Night Live and forgetting the words? A rapper lip-synching and forgetting the words. One of the core tenets of rap is delivery. Em better thank God that he’s not blond and a woman (Ashlee Simpson-Wentz or Britney Spears anyone), because he would have gotten reamed by the press.

At any rate, this new Eminem is definitely different from the past — that includes his face which looks remarkable different. He also looks as if he has gone under the knife. He must be using Lil’ Kim and Mickey Rourke’s plastic surgeon, because it is not a good job. His face looks plastic, just like his performance — a shell of his former self. I miss the frowns, the excitement and the passion of Eminem. His “former self” was a bit over-the-top, but he appeared to be authentic. Maybe this new guy is Marshall Mathers.  I just want the real Slim Shady to please stand up.

I’m not so sure about this new Eminem that seems to be paper and plastic, especially based on this lame album.  I know that it’s not cool to kick someone why he or she is down, so I’ll stop here. I want the old Eminem back — the prolific, energetic beast that was.

While I’m pining away for the past, I want to know why no one is holding his feet to the fire like female artists that give lousy performances?

What are your thoughts? Let me know.

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