The letter Grant Hill SHOULD have wrote…

In Culture, Lifestyle, Sports on March 16, 2011 at 8:58 pm

A firestorm of discussion is happening after Grant Hill’s response to the comments made by Jalen Rose in ESPN’s tremendously engaging documentary “The Fab Five”.  During the documentary which highlighted the University of Michigan’s dynamic freshman five of Chris Webber, Jimmy King, Jalen Rose, Juwan Howard and Ray Jackson, Jalen Rose stated that during that time in his college career, he viewed Grant Hill as a “bitch”. He also stated that he viewed Duke as an organization that only recruited blacks of the “uncle tom” variety. Ouch!

Much like HBO’s documentary Running Rebels of UNLV which happened to air the night before, The Fab Five addressed the issue of black identity; particularly that of young black males, in raw form. A worthy issue of conversation regardless as to the time stamp on the comments made by Rose.

People are passionately choosing sides. Some are stating that Grant Hill is confirming his “uncle tom” and “bitch” status by ignoring that the comments were made by a much less mature Rose and “bragging” about his background. Others are commending him for defending himself and turning the situation into an opportunity to address a bigger issue. Both sides of the issue have rationale for their feelings but what has thus been lost in the discussion, is the issue. The issue of jaded views of black identity and the perception of young black males in America in particular plays out in classrooms, job interviews, relationships and many other social intersections in this country daily. One is hard pressed to find a segment of this world’s population that carries such a blinding, negative social caste than young, black American males. This dynamic is compounded by class-based inner fightings within the black community so explicitly demonstrated in this documentary. Folks are taking sides. One side emphatic in their defense of Jalen’s honest transparency, the other equally at Grant Hill’s articulation and effort to rise above the fray. BOTH sides missing the bigger picture and opportunity to frame the discussion around what matters most.

So perhaps I can help divert this discussion away from who is “bitchmade”. Or who “missed the point”. Or who was willing to take the high road by writing the letter Grant Hill perhaps should have considered writing instead;

Like many people Sunday night, I highly enjoyed ESPN’s Fab Five documentary. The program highlighted a great team made up of players I am proud to say were associates, and friendly competitors of mine.  During the broadcast, some of the narrators reflected on disparaging comments and perceptions of myself; largely driven by my association with Duke University as well as my educational and family background. These reflections compelled me to address the sentiments shared by players on the Michigan team at that time, and many young, black males today.

I view myself as extremely fortunate to come from a middle class background with both parents. I know that many who share my skin color were not as fortunate. However, perhaps the most frustrating aspect of conversations on this topic is the continued association of black culture and identity, to poverty and struggle.

I commend Jalen Rose’s willingness to discuss this issue openly and candidly. I do not think topics such as racism and inclusion are addressed enough in a serious manner. These issues remain a concern for myself today. Perhaps the best thing about the comments reflected upon by Jalen Rose is that it gives us an opportunity to reflect on ignorance and false perceptions we all have towards one another oftentimes based on nothing more than a lack of understanding.

The ignorance that tells a young, black urban male that a black male from a 2-parent, middle class home is some how less black.

The ignorance that tells a middle aged white male that a young black male from the inner city would some how not fit into a particular organization.

The ignorance that tells many men to question a woman’s dedication to her career simply because of her gender.

More than anything, this wonderfully put together documentary on something as meaningless as basketball, helped spark a conversation on on something far more important.

But just in case Jalen Rose or Jimmy King may have forgot, this “bitch” still bested the great “Fab Five” in every meeting. =)


Grant Hill


The five things Obama should be thinking right now.

In Culture, Economics, Lifestyle, Politics on November 3, 2010 at 11:41 pm

“You can’t be a half way gangster Nucky, not anymore” – Jimmy to Nucky Thompson in HBO’s “Boardwalk Empire”.

This quote from one of HBO’s newest dramas amazingly describes the state of the Obama administration. “Shellacked” by the GOP in last night’s election (Obama’s words, not mine), the American people have sent a message of dissatisfaction with the current administration; or perhaps the message is that they are dissatisfied with Washington collectively and said “what the hell, let them back in”. Regardless, what is clear is that they didn’t get the message that Obama has been trying to convey to them in recent months.

“The economy is getting better” (Several months of job growth excluding seasonal Census workers and GDP growth)

The stimulus worked” (TARP repaid, stimulus, many economists believe Obama avoided a Depression)

“Healthcare Reform is good” (Verdict is still out overall but lifetime caps and additional coverage for children/young adults can’t be bad right?)

Obama had a wonderful toolbox full of great, rational “features” of his administration to run with. Tangible things that most reasonable people would conclude has helped the overall masses. The Obama brand has indeed began to deliver on the change it promised in 2008. However, he continues to forget that the general public doesn’t see features, only explicitly, painfully oversimplified benefits. The wonderful, rational features the Obama Administration has championed have been so effectively drowned out by the emotional rhetoric of his detractors. Despite having a perfect platform to counter with, Obama has thus far had no answer.

For the first two years of Obama’s administration, the Republican party has pretty much made no qualms about the fact that they had little to no intention of playing ball with any of his signature initiatives. Bipartisanship is a pipe dream in that environment. The benefits of balance of power are only realized if both sides are aiming towards the same goal. That clearly was not the case. The stage was set for the Democrats to effectively “position” the GOP as the party of “No” but it just didn’t stick. Instead, the GOP managed to position Obama as a brazen, overspending socialist born who knows where, who worships who knows what, hell-bent on bringing about changes that most would benefit from but don’t want because it attacks their aspirations and ideological values. Long sentence I know, but you get the point. Just months after the disaster a lack of regulation and intervention amongst the markets brought, the GOP has managed to convince the general public that the market forces should be left alone and that they will some how magically solve all of our problems without articulating exactly how. You have to give them credit and at the same time ask, “how did this happen?”.

Well, we can’t blame it all on American’s general lack of understanding basic economic principles and receptivity to propaganda. Some blame must be placed upon Mr. Obama himself; a “let’s meet in the middle” type of guy almost to a fault. Us progressives are lusting to get a glimpse of the youthful Obama displayed in the headline image of this blog that conveys a subtle but pronounced tone of rebellion and hint of  “I don’t give a fuck, I’m a do me” bravado. That time has come. The game IS indeed the game and it’s time for Obama to put his school of Chicago Politics to use. Here are five things I hope he’s thinking right now.

The GOP will be held accountable both privately and publicly.

If Obama is to be reelected in 2012, he will have to spend the last half of this term governing through the eyes of the American people.  Every attempt of the other side to block progress must be publicly called out and displayed. He must successfully drive home the message that the other side is a lot more interested in playing politics than working on behalf of the people. The message should be consistent, clear and relentless.

I have to make the things that I have done “real” to the American people.

Let’s face it, we walk among the dumb, deaf and blind. Things must be simple, clear and concise. Messages must be explicit and to the point. This is a challenge for someone as smart as Obama but he must learn the art of simplicity if he wants his messages to stick. He must explicitly show how the things that he is doing, will have positive effects on people.

I have to make the things that the GOP has done “real” to the American people.

It’s obvious we have short memories. We need to be reminded of the things that occurred as little as two years ago that put us where we are today. Obama must consistently remind the public of the pain of two years ago as well as the cause to draw contrast of the progress made (as well as it’s cause). “I inherited…”should be stricken from his language. It must be brought to life in a more tangible way than words and driven home repeatedly.

I must re-embrace ideology and emotional arguments just as much as rational ones.

I hope Obama has realized that he is as much of a salesman as the guy who sold you your last appliance at Best Buy. And unfortunately, people buy from the right side of their brain as opposed to the left side at a substantial rate. Obama has to find ways to ladder up what he is trying to accomplish via his initiatives into an ideological concept that connects with the American people on an emotional level. The GOP/Tea Party are masters of this but if Obama is looking for a case study or inspiration as to how it should be done, he should grab David Axelrod and review their 2008 campaign strategies and briefs.

I have to create a crisis or rallying cry to energize my base.

Good leaders know that nothing inspires self-directed motivation amongst a group of people more than a crisis. A rallying cry. A reason to be energized. A simple, singular short-term goal to fight tooth and nail for. Obama should create this rallying cry as a way to mobilize his base to get back in his corner.

I think Obama has done a terrific job of getting things done. Whenever people say things like “he is doing too much” that is a good thing in terms of productivity. Health care reform, student loan reform, banking requirements for loans, fair pay legislation, his accomplishments are substantial. But again, people see and vote on big ticket, front page, large font issues. Ultimately, they are the audience.

“The game is the game” – Marlo Stanfield in HBO’s “The Wire”

Barry, it’s time to play.

My Top 5 Moments in “Authentic Response”

In Business, Culture, Lifestyle, Politics on September 25, 2010 at 8:31 pm

Unfiltered honesty in today’s society is revolutionary. It stands out. When you hear it in a public form, it captivates you. It might even make you uncomfortable. It incites these reactions because it is surrounding by pontificating, lip service, spin, double speak and virtually every other brand of bullshit one can think of. Corporate leaders, politicians, celebrities and other public speakers go through painstaking lengths to learn to massage, modify, mitigate, manipulate or flat-out mask the truth. They are trained by professionals to manage images and appearances through the most ingenuine of ways. However, every so often, someone decides to say “fuck it” and actually speak or act without constraint or concern for the resulted perception. A truly authentic response. As expected, some are rubbed the wrong way while others are intrigued and admirable towards the authentic gesture. The interesting thing about it, is that the latter feeling tends to last a lot longer. America’s relentless distrust and suspicion of virtually any and everything is a direct result of being flooded with bullshit for so many years.

As a major proponent and subscriber to the “No Bullshit” policy, I would like to celebrate five of my favorite Moments in Authentic Response.

#5 Slain Former NFL Star Pat Tillman’s Brother Rips Maria Shriver and John McCain for their Religious Gesture

Richard Tillman is so raw and unfiltered, we had to include his entire segment on Real Time with Bill Maher’s where he talked about the unfortunate circumstances surrounding his brother’s death in Afghanistan.

#4 Kanye West Gives his Take on George Bush

Kanye West has stated on several occasions that he has denied media training and coaching. The result is perhaps the king of Authentic Response. Visibly angry towards the delayed response for help during Hurricane Katrina, Kanye went into a now famous several minute rant that has come to be perhaps the most memorable moment in his stellar career.

#3 Kanye West Politely Disagrees with an Award Recipient

Remember when I said Kanye West’s rant about George Bush was perhaps the most memorable moment in his career? Well, I lied. This one was.

#2 Steve Jobs Tells Student to Take a Hike

Journalism student Chelsea Kate Isaacs was looking for a response from someone at the technology giant Apple. When the media relations department didn’t respond, she figured she’d give Apple’s quirky Steve Jobs a shot. She was successful in getting a response. In fact, she was lucky enough to receive one of the most authentic responses in recent memory. “Our goals do not include helping you get a good grade. Sorry”. When that wasn’t enough of a hint that Apple would likely not be of much help to her and Isaacs responding, Jobs concluded the discussion with a simple “Please leave us alone”. Ouch! Steve Jobs willingness to berate a customer makes Whole Foods CEO John Mackey’s open criticism of Obama’s healthcare plan look like a conservative move. Both are far left of the traditional expected behavior of a Fortune 500 company CEO which made them both pretty extraordinary and refreshing.

#1 John Legend’s Critique of his Humble Midwestern Upbringing

The first four moments were authentic responses delivered in the most brazen of ways. However, sometimes people are able to deliver truly authentic responses that cut incredibly deep with the delicacy of butter. John Legend’s UPENN commencement speech which included a remarkable segment where he speaks candidly about questioning the validity and truth of certain aspects of his humble, religious midwestern upbringing. Legend does it with such intricacy and poise but make no mistake about it, this was a speech full of subtle criticisms of much of the “truth” that he was taught while growing up in Springfield, Ohio. This was both one of my favorite moments in authentic response and speeches of all time.

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