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Wednesday, Jan 6, 2010
The January 6th edition of the Aachener Zeitung predictably found that one Black child to shoot! Epiphany in German speaking lands is what it is: Three Wise Men or not, each little German town will prance an anonymous Black him or her around to announce the coming of the Prince of Peace.

Today, January 6th, is the day when folks here in Germany are likely to see the harmony and cooperation across races that we still seek in other areas of our lives. Today is the day that Blackface is not a minstrel show, and jokes about The Little Rascals representing American multiculturalism, and Buckwheat being Obama won’t hold any weight, like on other days here in Germany.


Today is the day when a Black child approaching a ‘normal’ German house will be greeted with open arms, and not suspicious glances, followed by the hushed gossip. Three kinder dressed as the Three Wise Men (Heilige Drei Könige) who ‘predicted’ the birth of Jesus parade around to each home to sing, collect candy and cash, and mark “C+B+M” along with the year, in chalk above each household’s door. The chalking stands for the latin phrase Christus mansionem benedicat, which means: “God protect this house.” No, there is no official punishment for not participating, but you know how life is in the village even in a so-called secular state (wink wink).


Not all of the groupings of kids in Biblical drag around Germany will be in Blackface, and the practice is apparently not considered offensive, partially due to the (comparatively) tiny nation’s lack of minstrel, race-baiting history with blacks, though the story of Santa Claus and his evil, dark-skinned companion is a whole ‘nother can of worms. It is interesting to note, however, that the Nativity scenes here in Germany almost always depict the historically correct racial construct, whereas in America one cannot help but notice that the three kings are usually all white (is that whiteface?).


Today is the day in Teutophone lands where the fellowship of humanity is observed above all that could separate us. Today is the day when we lay down our arms for armistice and at least pray for peace, for He is coming.


Predictably, the local newspaper here in Aachen found a picture of a happy and content Black child to print. No bondage of poverty from which readers can send in pfennigs to save, nor images of civilians in war-torn nations for by-standers to pity. No images of decaying AIDS patients to pander to this most widely circulated image of Africans in this decisively non-multi-kulti land. No, this is the day when Christians in German-speaking lands will sit back and face one of the earliest projects of globalization known to Man, in spite of the marginal inclusion of women.


Today, especially, is the day for all the non-Christians (like me) to express a deep appreciation for the life of Jesus. Today is the day that we realize His birth, over and beyond His death. Today is the day we remind ourselves of His birth and al that followed, not focusing on Today is the day for all the non-Christians (like me) to express a deep appreciation for the life of Jesus. Today is the day that we realize His birth, over and beyond His death. Today is the day we remind ourselves of His birth and all that followed, not focusing on His death, sacrifice and the folly of humanity, but on humanity’s potential.


Today, let’s extend a hand to one another, to all of us who believe in the Prince of Peace, regardless of religion, and that humanity must realize this dream, and that humanity can realize peace on Earth. Today is the day when pop culture meets spirituality in a most meaningful way—no gifts, no spending, no credit, no savings, and certainly no Bling! Happy ‘Epiphany’ to all my German Christian friends and family. Moreover, may there be peace on Earth regardless of what potentially divides us. To paraphrase the Dalai Lama: Everything is interdependent, interconnected. If you harm others, you get suffering. If you help others, you get benefits. Early Civil Rights activist Bayard Rustin reiterates the same: “We are all one, and if we don’t know it, we will learn it the hard way.”


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Monday, Nov 16, 2009
“He’s the most influential rapper in the world. If anyone can change young black men’s attitudes about marriage, all fingers point to Hov,” charges Jozen Cummings on The Root.com, a candy store for the politicized hip-hop junkie.

Irreplaceable. That’s pretty much the length of commitment our music and lifestyle promotes. The mindset that people and relationships are disposable is the anti-thesis of marriage and commitment. Beyonce and Jay know that their public personae don’t match their private one, yet I, like Jozen Cummings at The Root.com, cannot forgive them for not being more conscious about their lyrics. They know the state of black America—they grew up with us—yet they still promote men as soldiers and providers, and the sexes as in complete competition, and opposition, with one another.


Of course, that Venus vs. Mars narrative cannot sustain a marriage, or any genuine relationship, including a solid friendship. Yet, friends and lovers, like a Louis or Fendi, are replaceable. It probably has not occurred to the hottest couple in music at all that they are empowered enough to not only shape their respective genres of music, but to move Black America—and therefore America—forward.


Jozen Cummings’s post on The Root.com was prompted by a recent study published by the Yale Center for Research on Inequalities and the Life Course, claiming that there were few marriageable men for black women, partially because black women were less likely than their racialized male counterparts to wed outside racial bounds. Still, anyone visiting a college canteen can see the ratio of black men to women. Luckily, patriarchal masculinity is not disrupted by this ratio, and in facts rewards men for “conquering all that pussy”, according to much commercial rap music, as well as big and small screens.


Moreover, “Women are penalized for waiting to get married, while men are rewarded for their patience,” exclaims Niambi Carter, PhD on NPR’s Tell Me More, who carried a conversation about the Yale study under the rubric “Black Women: Successful and Still Unmarried”. The study has caused waves.


Despite their riches, B. and Jay-Z are no more liberated, and therefore powerful, than they were as basic negroes on the grind. Jay-Z might feel that he has nothing genuine to offer; the dominant images of hip-hop—the materialism, violence, misogyny, and self-hatred—demonstrate that most have yet to decolonize their minds.


Jay-Z knows that he’s not irreplaceable. B. went from “Nasty, put some clothes on,” with her girls Kelly and Michelle, to a Sugar Mama swinging on a ho-pole, willing to pay a man for his services; “Damn, I wanna buy you a short set,” Beyonce says in her video and stage reproduction, sucking on a caner stick, laid out, out of breath. Neither seems to have comprehended their own potential impact. If their wealth were not so ephemeral, ethereal even, they wouldn’t need to brag about it. The same goes for stardom.


“It’s a lie,” says Madonna to fans during her Confessions concert tour, after singing a smashing, high-powered rendition of her hit “Jump”. “I can’t make it alone,” she repeats, sitting on stage, taking gulps from a bottle of water, contradicting the song’s refrain. Even above 50, the “Material Girl” is still the crowned queen of reinvention . Her album Ray of Light marks one of her most remarkable shifts. From then on, Madonna has remained fiercely critical of materialism, racism, homophobia, the perils of stardom, and especially hypocrisy in politics and morality.


Reincarnating her image has gained Madonna’s stardom the staying power of a Trojan—wood or rubber. If fame were not so short-lived and insubstantial, if fans and stars were not so caught up into reproducing stardom as an end in itself, then perhaps our popular culture would have more genuine artists—we would have more self-aware professional entertainers. Otherwise, pop stars just titillate—ass and tits, or pecs and six-packs—it’s all just diamonds and pearls to please the crowd.


The disconnect is that fans like us would like to believe that they actually are irreplaceable. And why should stars believe otherwise—we’re the same fans that turned our backs on Michael Jackson until it was too late. We treated him like he was replaceable until he was dead, and that’s far too late. Were rappers to value themselves rightly, fans would surely have a richer pool of positive, life-affirming images from which to chose and gain pleasure. Now, if we want a good beat, we simply settle for scraps and scrubs.


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Monday, Oct 26, 2009
Forced retirement is a lot better off than the dishonorable discharge many face under DADT, and the gap in pay and benefits is huge.

We should all just be plain ole Americans, right? And we could all just get along because we all have the same fair chances, right? Just consider how many men and women in service suffer in silence. In his interview given to YouthRadio.org, young veteran Joseph Christopher Rocha comes out about how during his Middle East war tour, he suffered everything from “being duct-taped and locked in a dog kennel to being forced to simulate oral sex with other men”. Reporting this targeted hazing—which then becomes a hate crime—means loosing one’s career. Ain’t that America.  Y’all love that shit, doncha!


Think of it this way: These are the stories gay kids get to read about at their breakfast table while they’re figuring out how not to tell mom, how not to piss off dad, and how to stay outta trouble in school with other kids—because the first thing kids will say (even in the presence of adults whose silence betrays them), should anything go wrong, is “fucking faggot” (or, my personal favorite: “Sugar in his pants”). Girls might have some latitude, but by kindergarten, kids have plenty of hateful words used specifically to hurt and abuse them, too!


The Navy and the pettiness of DADT in the all-American school


The terror queer kids face at school is still left comfortably inside the closet, and on this account, both mainstream gay advocacy groups as well as death worshipping zealots converge. Rather than extending Christian fellowship to these kids, many modern fundamentalists anchor their cause around rejecting gay marriage and hate crimes initiatives. They fall silent when asked where kids learn to hate so much. So, former president Clinton’s “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” policy was already alive and well in the all-American school.  It was already a learned behavior from childhood. All Americans know exactly what I am talking about, but nothing brings this closer to the heartland than hearing an adolescent say something like: “That’s so gay!”


What about the gay lobbying group the Human Rights Campaign? HRC is advocating for gay and lesbian military conscription. The HRC “is the battered wife of the Democratic Party establishment, and its time to walk out,” according to longtime outspoken activist Andrew Sullivan.


Not soliciting whores alongside his fellow seamen was enough to out Rocha, and the teasing, taunting, and humiliation ballooned from there. “It made me feel that I was an animal, and the fact that this was done to me by my highest leadership in the United States military and the American military—a representative of the US government—was daunting to me.” It was not hazing, intended to bring a new trooper into the fold. This was a plain hate crime, and we ought to call a spade a nasty bastard and not retire him and his flock, but, think of more critical ways to… naw, just discharge him on the exact same terms as they discharged Rocha!


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Monday, Aug 24, 2009
Listening to ‘A Spirited Debate on Gay Marriage’ from the Michael Eric Dyson Show

Chocolate City Washington D.C. recently moved to recognize same-sex unions and marriages from any American state. “Heather has two mommies,” sounds ridiculous when chided from a Black Christian fundamentalist’s mouth. All the Black Heathers any of us know have two, maybe three mommies and several surrogate daddies. Collectivism is our way of life, distinct from clanism in Asian joint families, or even the guilds throughout Europe. Each culture is distinct and with unique merits. So, where have African-American Christians gone wrong? Why is it that Blacks have so often been co-opted into serving as the mouthpiece on the ‘rong side of modern day civil liberties and human rights?


“To be sanctified by a clergy person,” probes Dr. Dyson (who doubles as a clergyman), is the central issue around all civil unions. Moreover, no relationship can sustain itself by itself. Rather, relationships are sustained by concerted efforts; those that are communal are stronger.


Same-same but different, scream the proponents regarding the justice of legal and socio-religious consecration of same-gender unions. And evoking the extremities as Americans always do, we might ask, what of bestiality, pedophilia and polygamy? Or, why even collapse these few and add stigma?


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Thursday, Aug 13, 2009
A small-market newspaper is forced to make the ultimate cut

I currently work at the night desk of a small-town newspaper. Various arguments regarding journalism these days center around the notion that small-town newspapers aren’t as affected by the many budget cuts, firings and all-around sea-change most bigger-marketed newspapers seemingly have to take on each day.


Many argue that, because of the small-town flare that can showcase in depth local coverage better than a bigger paper that is based far away from these particular small towns, the smaller-market newspapers have a better chance of surviving, or, at the very least, not having to shoulder the burden of job loss that most major dailys have been forced to deal with for what has turned into a long time.


Part of that snuggly, warm feeling small-town newspapers can give a reader has always been the comfort of one Pauline Phillips, or, these days, her daughter, Jeanne Phillips. Those two women have been responsible for writing the daily “Dear Abby” columns that have become an absolute staple in most every newspaper across the nation, and, in fact, nearly 1,500 papers worldwide.


That said, as part of cutbacks at the particular newspaper I work at, we have been told that in order to save money, we will publish our final “Dear Abby” column Friday, making way for a less-expensive, dumbed-down version of an advice column from a different outlet, set to be published in Saturday’s edition.


Wow.


“Do you know what this is going to do?” I asked my publisher when she broke the news a couple weeks ago. “People are going to go mad. This is the one thing almost everyone turns to when they pick up a newspaper. It’s been that way forever. You might not read the sports. You might not even read the council stories. But you always read Abby.”


“I know,” she said. “But I’d rather have to cut columns than people. And really, we have no choice.”


She’s right. I certainly can’t complain about having the ability to live another day in the world of newspapers while many other, much more talented journalists ponder what it is they are now going to try and do with their lives. But that doesn’t mean this news comes easy. Aside from the crossword puzzle, I can’t imagine anything else that has been as much of a staple in newspapers for such a long amount of time.


I mean, come on. Where else can you get tales about a 15-year-old girl who is afraid to ask her crush to the upcoming dance? Or about how awkward it was at dinner when a mother-in-law burped so loud, it awoke a sleeping cat? Or how about the times when those bastardly cheating husbands slip up and get caught by their wives, forcing the women to make that awful decision of weather or not to stick around for the kids?


It’s going to be sad to see Abby go. In fact, I, myself, may even turn to other newspapers simply to check in on whose life Ms. Phillips is saving now. As for the rest of our readers? Here’s hoping this move doesn’t drive too many of them away. Many of our customers tend to be older, so now that the comfort of that long-lasting advice column won’t be there, one has to think our phones will be flooded. And here’s hoping most other newspapers don’t have to resort to this. It’s a move that is bold, yet understandably necessary, and, with that said, a little bit unsettling as well.


Yes, it is better to cut columns than people, but now that changes such as this have worked their way into smaller markets, one has to wonder how much longer it will be before the columns run out.


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