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Saturday, December 16, 2006

Can Tyrone get some Brotherly Love?


Philly, Dec. 8. Another city, another "Crash" moment. This one came courtesy of Ed, the manager of Haru, a chi-chi-fu-fu sushi-fusion spot in Philly where our girl Katrina made reservations for us to kick it after a DT reading. Clearly not realizing Katrina was black, Ed called her earlier in the day to warn her that a group had booked an event at the restaurant , so it wouldn't be the "usual Haru experience." Pressed to elaborate, Ed said it was going to be a "rappish, thuggish" vibe and mumbled something about somebody named Lloyd Banks. To be honest, we were ourselves scratching our heads wondering what the "bitty" was described on the event flier (as in, "Who is Sexiest Bitty in the City?") But the deejay was on point and the crowd didn't look any more thuggish than we did--The Natalies, a nonprofit exec, a physician, a political journalist and a white-collar government worker. We did get a kick out of seeing Ed squirm when Katrina introduced herself. OOOOOPS! Then we made Ed pose for this picture. To quote Maven: Please! Somebody! Help me!

Earlier that night, we read at the legendary Robin's Book in Philly. From jump, we had to work overtime to soften the furrowed eyebrows, crossed arms and foregone conclusions from the brothers on the front row. Other than one customer's lengthy soliliquy which started from Shaft, wandered over to Earth Wind and Fire, then concluded ten minutes later with an analysis of Ahhnold in Terminator, the discussion stayed on message: No, this is NOT a male-bashing book. But no, it's also not Angie Stone's song either. We are proud to say that the black men in the audience seemed to get that this was truly A New Look at our peers, coming from a place of love. We think it worked. We sold out all of the books in the store.

Imagine our surprise, then, that our toughest Philly critic turned out to be a black woman columnist who came to Robin's halfway into the reading and published a column about us the next week. Usually, we are just thrilled to have "Natalie" spelled without an 'h'. We shrugged when a couple academic types basically called us pseudo intellectuals. When a Detroit writer said we suffer from ADD, we took it in stride. But for this Inky columnist to accuse us of "Maligning Black Men," bringing to mind several notable contemporary novelists, their imitators and the crappy movie adaptations that followed---them is fighting words! Deep sigh. We promptly whipped up a letter to the editor, which the Philadelphia Inquirer told us is being considering for publication. We could not stand for such dribble to be floating around about DT based on half a book talk and apparently not reading past page 1 of the introduction, where we explain who Tyrone is. The Media! Huff.
Tyrone, we definitely feel your pain.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Beyond Beats and Poppin' Bottles with Tyrone...



For weeks now, folks have been urging us to check out "Beyond Beats and Rhymes,"a new documentary by Byron Hurt (pictured to the right) which looks at hip-hop and masculinity. The thinking was that given the timing of the film and DT, our projects have the potential to have great synergy. So far that's been the case quite unintentionally: In November we appeared with Byron on Blackademics, a radio show on D.C.-based WPFW Pacifica radio station at the urging of host Shani. Our friend Lisa is trying to put together a panel discussion with Byron and us at a law school in the Spring. Well, On Dec. 2 while we were in Chicago for an event, The Natalies finally were able to check out a screening of the film at the Cultural Center. Long story short: Byron's documentary is terrific! Beyond Beats is a passionate multimedia essay in the vein of a muckraking Michael Moore which probes masculinity gone wrong in hip-hop. There have been others maybe most notably the performance artist Sarah Jones who have covered similar themes in the past, but we are hopeful that this particular sermon will reach beyond the choir. The most obvious reason is that the man behind the camera/microphone is a brother, a "real" brother, former college football player and Que dog, who is stepping to his peers, man to man, asking uncomfortable questions about the directions that hip-hop is going--coming from a place of love for the culture and concern for its future. Hip-hop afficionados will nod heads and enjoy the classic video clips and interviews with folks like Chuck D, Talib Kweli, Jadakiss, The Clipse, Russell Simmons, Busta Rhymes, Kevin Powell, Mos Def, De La Soul, William Jelani Cobb, Nelly, Mark Anthony Neal. Then we hear from countless anonymous hip-hop fans like revelers at Daytona Beach Spring Bling, trannies and white hip-hop fans on safari. We won't spoil the film but several high-profile hip-hoppers straight-up play themselves--especially when the subject of hypermasculinity, homosexuality and misogyny come up. Judging from all the awkward silences, eye-shifting, and stuttering that followed Byron's questions, many men of hip-hop are plain old scared to say they scared. Byron, thanks for a terrific film and showing how comfortably masculinity and awareness of gender issues can coexist in one body. We're sure The Natalies aren't the only ladies who have noticed how great it looks on you(: We look forward to crossing paths again in the future. The film airs in February on PBS; check out a clip HERE)

Earlier that day before we saw the screening on Dec. 2, we attended a brunch sponsored by the Windy City Chapter Links chapter, "Champagne Breakfast with Tyrone" at Pearl's Place on 39th Street. At least 75 people showed up and we got all teary -eyed up there, speaking in front of all of Nat. M's parents and old childhood friends, neighbors and even an English teacher!! We met Ginger, one of the B.A.P. girls who made a splash with their book and were generous with marketing advice early in our process with DT. After the bottles were popped we moved 100 units in one morning and could have done more. Thanks so much to Yvonne Moore, Nat M.'s mom who organized, and Alma Dodd who hosted us at her restaurant in Bronzeville and Aunt Joyce for a great, personal introduction. Thanks to Charese for taking us out afterward and Tom and Suzanne for coming out to kick it afterwards in the West Loop.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Motown madness


The picture to to the right is of a writer and photographer who came to one of our Detroit events. More on that in a second.
We had a lot of anxiety going into this trip to Motown. All along, Nat M. was reluctant to read about Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick in his hometown because the subject is too raw and too close to Detroiters, being that he is the current mayor. The Natalies heard rumors on the grapevine that there was some official concern about the chapter. Nat H. --whose only authority on Detroit was a week we spent finishing up the manuscript there last year--naively said, eff that! We stand by our work! Bring it on!
Well, we did. We spoke at Wayne County Community College - East Side campus. As Nat. M read the chapter detailing the strengths and foibles of their mayor and his rocky relationship with the media, the tension was so, so thick...Let's just say that Nat. H has a brand new level of respect for the judgement of her book partner. No one walked out, and many bought books, but it was quite a ride for everyone on both sides of the podium. Thank-you, students administrators at WCCC for being open-minded enough to hear our our crazy ideas on Detroit politics and sexuality. When the smoke cleared, it lead to one of the most engaging discussions and rewarding experiences we've had so far on this tour.

The next day were at a Detroit bookstore, Shrine of Black Madonna, we were expecting an empty house being that so many of our friends bailed to watch the Michigan v. Ohio State football game. One friend said the game was "a once in a lifetime opportunity." Sorry 'bout your luck...The death of Michigan football coach legend Bo ...(what IS his name?) affected bookstore attendence and bumped us off of more than one media interview. Our Detroit friend Nichole was one of the few to skip the game. Said something about how she couldn't get into college football because it was too much like $40 million dollar slavery...Some how, life went on. We sold out the books at the Shine and we had a terrific discussion. We also sat down for an interview with a writer from Wayne State's student newspaper, who later concluded that DT suffers from ADD. Thanks for the review, Meghana! We enjoyed talking journalism shop with you. And thanks Thomas Richardson, a Detroit attorney who is also an avid photographer, for the lovely pictures.
Special shout outs to Carrie, our hosts Kenny and Rachel, Chastity, also Chris, Don, Peter, Renee, and Nichole and Naomi for dinner.

Chi-town


Here is the JoeMoore, Nat. M's dad, holding a Tyrone placard at Chicago's Women & Children First Bookstore after a reading on Thursday 11/16. We counted many victories in the Chi. For one, it's the first time no one has asked us "is this male bashing?" or "why are two women writing this book?" Progress! The turnout was great; it was Nat. M's hometown but a lot of strangers came, which is needed to get Tyrone out in the world. JoeMoore sat in the front row and could be heard clearing his throat, shifting in his chair and otherwise wincing each time his daughter used a curseword. Afterwards Joe&NatMoore playfully argued about who embarassed who more...(thanks to all who came out to kick it afterward, J-Roc, L.B. and )

The next week JoeMoore invited Nat M. do a reading before the legendary Boule group. He warned her beforehand to curb the cussing because this was a group of older black men. Um, yeah, right. Talk about highbrow/lowbrow. These men were off the hook and wanted to know about strippers and their dads, a la Chris Rock, and had plenty of questions about the so-called "DL." Nat couldn't get through the introduction without a barrage of questions. One man commented, after hearing the "Tyrone at Work" chapter that he was envious people in the hip-hop generation because we're rebellious and will walk out of a job, if necessary, to do our own thang....All we can say is "wow!" The Natalies may not solve world hunger. We haven't discovered the cure for cancer or AIDS. We may not even tell you who Tyrone really is. But if reading our work leads accomplished members of the much famed Civil Rights/Greatest Generations to be envious of us, the so-called slackers of droopy drawers and potty mouth, we think we just may be on to something.

Monday, November 13, 2006

So-called Poster Girls


"I tried to come to see you at Busboys & Poets last night," said the voicemail from our friend Yolanda Saturday morning. "But I got turned away. What I'd like to know is: was that a concert or a book reading?"
It was easy to see how one might be confused. We took the stage at the artsy/intellectual D.C. hotspot (see some of the crowd that did get in at the picture to the right) with a spotlight on us at the table covered in white linens. Outside the restaurant/cafe/bookstore's Langston Room, a no-nonsense bouncer blocked dozens of people at the door, providing increasingly testy explanations of fire code regulations to an increasingly irate crowd, including one cameraman who was to film the event, Nat. H's husband Rudy, separating him from the kids, and one salty customer who came all the way from New York to see us. Inside, we had no idea about the commotion outside, and had a blast. The audience laughed at all our jokes, clapped after we finished reading the 2 excerpts, and followed up with a lively Q&A session afterward. A long line of people spread across the room for autographed books, which the store ran out of before we even finished reading.
It was a lot to take in for two little colored girls from the Midwest. We thought of all the rejections from publishers, agents, newsroom tyrants and other kinds of haters. We cued Mike Jones as we recalled writer Amy Sohn's description of her own rise from "pathetic nobody to poster girl for the urban literati."
Tyrone hasn't been out a month yet but all of our hard work and hustling has begun to pay off! The dams hath broken! First Busboys, next, world domination! We called up the owners of Karibu Books, where we were to appear the next day, and blew up their phone with text messages and voicemails urging them to make sure they were well-stocked at the Pentagon City store where we would be appearing, stat!!!
We arrived at Karibu around 2 p.m. the next day and posted up at the front of the store at a table. A slow trickle of folks come into the store, mostly our friends who got locked out of Busboys. After about 2 hours, at the gentle, but firm urging of the store clerk who needed to make way for the next author, we called it quits. All told, we made a fistful of DT sales that we weren't expecting. If we were still wondering about our place in the literary galaxy on Saturday afternoon, we got it on our way out, when Nat. M went to the Karibu cash register to buy 2 gifts. Nat M. handed her credit card to the clerk, who stood in front of a stack of unsold copies of DT. The clerk eyed the credit card, looked up at Nat M and said: "Can I see some ID?"

Monday, November 06, 2006

Tavis, Oxy and On the Phone With Ti-rone


Our interview with Tavis Smiley finally aired on Sunday 11/5.
We made another quickie trip to L.A. for a gig at Occidental College 11/6 to kick off their "Exploration of Blackness" conference. We got in late Sunday night and had arranged to meet with Brian Price, Nat. H's old friend from high school, and his wife, also an HU grad Nikel.
At Monday's talk at Occidental, students filled the auditorium of every hue. Introduced by theme music, we read the "Tyroninity" chapter which breaks down the Tyrone code, then afterward, we continued the discusssion with a roomful of select students. Thanks Alexandria for feeding us off your meal card, and the countless other Oxy students and administrators who ferried us around, paid our hotel and otherwise gave us the star treatment at the urging of Kenjus and Ryan, the two organizers extraordinaire of Oxy's Blackness exploration. We would have paid good money to see their conference earlier this year, the highly controversial "Exploration of Whiteness" conference. The study of Whiteness and privilege is one of the most exciting fields of academic research going. Strangely enough, there was no such backlash to the Blackness conference. Apparently to some people, it is still only OK to look at "black" problems, and "white" problems are strictly off limits.
After lunch we borrowed an Oxy administrator's office to conduct a 30 minute phone interview with "On the phone with Ti-rone" star Brad Sanders, who Brian agreed to hook us up with. (Good looks, Brian!) Both The Natalies grew up in the Midwest listening to Sander's On the Phone with Ti-Rone radio advice column Cla'ence Updates recapping the soaps. And of course, Brad tapped into the Tyrone code before Erykah. During an interview for his radio show, We had a giggle-filled repartee with Brad about our Tyroninity theory. We explained our thesis that Dave Chappelle aptly diagnosed the formula for deciding whether a media figure is good or bad for The Race. It is a blurry, ambiguous and fine line to straddle, but there is nothing in between: you are either dancing or shuffling, playing or getting played, a pimp or pimped. We gave Brad/Ti-Rone/Cla'ence a few examples.
Flava Flav--shuffling
Been shuffling for a minute. Was dancing with Public Enemy in the 1980s, but something went awry on cable.
Kanye West--dancing
KW is in full control of his trickster powers. Just listen to Kanye explain to MTV why he recently stormed the stage to protest losing at the MTV Europe awards: "It was not a publicity stunt, but I wouldn't be against doing something like that as a publicity stunt," Kanye told MTV. "How can you pull a publicity stunt at an awards show? Why are you there for? You at the award shows for publicity and to stunt...I think more people should drink when they at award shows...If you was in a dream world right now, what would you do? That's what I be doing...If anything, people should have an inspiration from it."SOURCE.
Later on that evening we sat on a "Blackness" panel with black Oxy faculty and the Natalies found ourselves in the bizarre position of defending Tiger Woods and Condi Rice from the black authenticity police. We don't understand Condi and The Cablinasian's choices but we don't blame them for the racism that drove them there. Let's keep it moving, people! Nothing to see there. To us, "Blackness" is about focusing on the real solutions to real problems facing black people. And sometimes it takes a trickster remind us about the crucial details.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

A Great Day in Harlem

We are happy to add to our growing string of DT endorsements, this one to the right from one of Harlem's finest comedians, Sleepy Floyd! We met Sleepy Floyd at a cafe after a lively reading at Hue-Man books in Uptown on 10/30. The afternoon began with a fine Jamaican feast courtesy of Nat H.'s in-laws living in a beautiful brownstone nearby Hue-Man books(Thanks Aunt Mae & Aunt Birdie!) Then we walked over to the store near Magic Theaters. As in every city we've toured so far, HU, once, again, represented. Hard. Not only did the store run out of books, but our HU folk saved us from the spectacle of the Two Natalies coming to blows with one customer over our analysis of the "babydaddy" phenomenon. We won't go into details, but we still blame Russell for instigating.
Afterward we and a group of HU folk (and one from the other HU) went out to eat at the Harlem Cafe. (Thanks to Steve, Chana, Bernard, Kamilah, Alexis, Rashida, Jazimine, Jadasa, Ben, Russell, Aida for all coming out.)

As the night wore on, the cafe turned into an open-mic comedy and we found ourselves in the front row, VIP section. The emcee, Sleepy Floyd quickly introduced us to the fine art of the dozens, Harlem style. He said Nat. M looked like "tinkerbell" in her fly Anthropologie skirt, and that Nat.H's metallic-colored bubble vest looked like she was about to be microwaved like a potato. After we told him about DT and our signing at Hue-Man earlier that day, Sleepy made the requisite, but still dreaded "male-bashing" accusation. We spent a long time on this issue in the Introduction of DT but in each city we go to, our answer to this question has gotten shorter and shorter. (No....Next?) But we love you, Sleepy and we won't hold it against you--especially since you sprung for Appletinis and we got this nifty picture out of it.

Hip-Hop Evolves at Vertigo


"Can I get the Tyrone discount?"
This was the question from this brother at a DT event at Vertigo Books in College Park, Md. on Saturday 10/28. It is the least we could do, being that he single-handedly inspired our book and all. But seriously, thank you, Tyrone Stewart, PhD student at Maryland, for coming out and supporting us Saturday 10/28. Meeting Tyrone was just one of many pleasant surprises that came out of the panel discussion "Mic Check: Hip-Hop Evolves." The Natalies were on a panel featuring Spelman history professor William Jelani Cobb who has caught fire in the past several months over his Essence story telling the open-secret about Black men and the sex trade in Brazil and has a new book on hip-hop coming out early next year. We were also looking forward to seeing our old BFF and Hilltop alum Ta-Nehisi Coates, who now writes for Time magazine. Unfortunately Ta-Nehisi had a last minute family emergency and was not able to make it but the incomparable DC poet,DJ Renegade took his place instead and as always, represented. It is always a treat to hear Renegade's perspectives on being a hip-hop deejay in the 1980s, among his other vast pools of knowledge. Moderator Esther Iverem of seeingblack.com did a great job of not only neutralizing Renegade's love affair with his own voice (love ya renegade!), but also steering the discussion beyond the woes of contemporary hip-hop which we are frankly tired of preaching before the choir about.

Instead we had a provocative discussion about the evolution of one of the most important cultural movements of our time. We all shared our Brown Sugar moments. Nat M. read from the "hip-hop" chapter in DT about her adventures hanging out with video vixen Melyssa Ford in Chicago. We heard Renegade's theory of hip-hop as the "Age of the Gilded Ghetto Pass." Hip-hop has taken a similar trajectory of other art forms, such as blues and jazz, Renegade explained, but the inversion of class values may be one legacy that rap can call its own. Esther allowed the last word to go to the Natalies who urged the audience not to accept external definitions of hip-hop (usually ones ignorant and sensationalist), and also, remember that hip-hop at its best is an art form not a business. By that measure, artists such as Jean Grae, are the most successful hip-hop artists working today. Also, in the rapidly changing media landscape, a shakeout is going on which is allowing more consumer choices, so that means that despite the challenges to the integrity of the art form, there is only one direction to go...Up, of course.

Other evidence that hip-hop has evolved was sitting in the audience. First there was of course Nat H's two children, Maverick and Maven, but also the Parker kids, the Brown-Andrews kids, and Crooms-Porter child, and Marcia's son Dave. Afterwards, at Nat H.'s husband Rudy and Renegade's insistance, we took everyone out to eat at Famous Dave's restaurant with Nat M.'s sister Megan, and Kyle, who comped us a copy of the new Callaloo journal's amazing Hip-Hop issue which he edited. Thanks Bushead Ed for filming the event for us and thanks to everyone else who came out: Steve from the PG Arts Council, Jared, Lezli, Shani, Allison, Lonnae, Ralph, Natasha, Yolanda,Cousin Kim with Robert and Derek & Tracey. Thanks also to Delece & Ben, two Maryland journalism students who came out to cover the event for the Black Eclipse and the Diamonback student newspapers. Thanks Bridget for organizing!

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

double dog dare


Scene I
So The Natalies are chillin' in the back of Reg and Max's Prius, driving through the streets of San Francisco. The trunk is filled with copies of DT, which we joke about hawking a la Master P. We just left the UC-Berkeley campus where we'd given back-to-back DT talks at the graduate journalism school and the graduate black studies department. We have a few minutes to kill before we have dinner with the staff at Cleis. Since Nat M. volunteers in the Chicago office of the writer Dave Eggers' nonprofit, 826 Valencia she had emailed him with an invitation to check out our reading at Modern Times books in San Fran. Eggers emailed his regrets he couldn't make the reading. But he left her a message that said good to hear from you and why don't you stop by? Sitting in the Prius, The Natalies look at each other and shrug. Despite his familiar tone, Nat M. has never met The Dave Eggers, literary it-boy. His offices were within walking distance of both our dinner spot and the bookstore. So why not?
"I dare you to make Dave Eggers come outside and buy a copy of DT out-the-trunk," Natalie H. says. "You know, so he can get the "authentic" hip-hop experience."
"You aren't daring me are you?" Nat M. says. "You aren't daring me are you?"
"I double dog dare you," Natalie H. replies. Maxine and Reggie laugh.
Scene II: Eggers greets us warmly at the offices of McSweeneys. Nat M. immediately points out that, they have, in fact, never met. Oops! Meets so many people...happens all the time....wife is always getting on him 'bout that.
He politely asks to see the book. He flips through the pages of DT with what looks like genuine interest. DT rests on his desk and we talk for about 20 minutes. We're thinking, this he's mad cool and down to earth! Eggers is humble, friendly and generous with advice about book marketing strategy, industry politics, the benefits of being with a small press versus a big press. Then Natalie M. makes an observation.
"One of the reasons that our publisher likes us is that we know how to hustle books," Nat M. begins. "So...we won't make you go outside to our trunk. But we can offer you that copy in your hands for the deep, deep discount of 10 dollas." A tickled Nat. H can't believe the dare worked. She giggles and takes a picture. Notice Nat. M's loud bracelets. Hey...we're just trying to move units!

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Oaktown, USA


Think we need to work on our game faces?
The pic you see here is of The Natalies pondering one customer's 5-minute question at a DT reading at Marcus Books in Oakland this past Saturday night. A 75ish woman wanted advice on A) how to beat a recent arrest B) how to get judges to open up criminal records, and C) advice on the best way to restructure a racist/sexist police department. That, unfortunately, does not fall under the purview of DT. We are flattered by the customer's faith in us and all the love Oakland gave us as a whole. The turnout was great and at the end of signing for customers, we tackled a large stack of preorders. We were honored to sign copies for Terry McMillan and Iyanla Vanzant. Both had preordered copies at the suggestion of Marcus Books owner Blanche Richardson. I hope you ladies enjoy it! Good looks, Blanche for helping to promote the book and for that wonderful blurb you wrote. Shout out to Jayi for dinner and drinks and Bobbie and Shauna for coming out to kick it afterwards. And a special, special, special dedication to our friends Reggie and Maxine, hosts, friends and hustlers extraordinaire. Thanks for everything you've done for us and Tyrone and also for giving the world such an inspiring picture of black love. You guys are too cute for words!

Saturday, October 21, 2006

The Notorious D.I.C. in Los Angeles


This pic is of the last sale of the night at our very first DT reading at ESO WON Books in L.A. This customer, who we'll call the Notorious D.I.C., had been screaming broke, mumbling something about having to fill a prescription. With our characteristic subtetly, we gently suggested that DT might be a better way to spend his last 20 bucks. Thanks to d.i.c. and all who came out to our inaugural DT reading Thursday. We'd been battling nerves all week and it didn't help that we got caught in the traffic on Crenshaw BLVD so we arrived slightly late. Luckily most folks were running on CP time. By the time we got cooking, the room had filled to standing room-only. A radio producer was there recording the session for a local affiliate. Terrific question-and-answer session. We signed books for all kinds of folks, a wonderful mom with three boys from Compton, a sweet couple who were HU class of '48. When they learned we graduated 50 years later than them, they said we were babies, "wet behind the ears" and proceeded to rub them. Gotta love that Howard love (: Shout out to Lauryl's mom, Jennifer, Karlief, Kelly, Hassani and his wife, t.t. and c.c. and of course, the d.i.c. and his fabulous sister Lysa.
We had two minor "Crash Moments" after going out with friends to celebrate. We arrived at the chic Viceroy hotel in Santa Monica, where a friend of a friend was having a birthday party. First there was the long, humiliating wait in the line outside. The bouncers were unconvinced that we belonged and apparently cell phone confirmation was not enough. The host had to personally come outside to vouch for the lone colored folk at the party. When we got inside we attempted to get one of the tables to order food. No sooner than we sat down, an older black gentleman we'll call Ruckie walked over to us, and told us we could not sit down. We said we wanted to order some food. The kitchen was closed, Ruckie said. In other words: get your things and go. We shrugged, got up and availed ourselves of the open bar. Soon we watched streams of white folks repopulating the tables and being handed menus. 20 minutes later, unaware of our encounter with Ruckie, one of the less colored friends in our group secured a table and waved us over. We sat down and ordered our food. Our bellies full, we mean-mugged Ruckie for the rest of the night.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Chat with the Natalies 10/18 @ washingtonpost.com


In conjunction with the Washington Post's "Being a Black Man" series, we will be discussing "Deconstructing Tyrone" during a live chat. The live part of the chat won't begin until noon Oct. 18 but you can log in now to submit questions. As you can see from the Book Tour calendar to the left of this page, we also kick off our national book tour next week. First stop: Los Angeles. If you know people in any of these cities, please send these links on so they can also join the conversation. If you have other suggestions for places for us to talk about Tyrone, send those, too. We can't wait to get things started!

Friday, October 06, 2006

Trial by Media


It’s an old game, kinda nasty, but it gets the job done. A cop is dispatched to investigate a crime, but struggles to gather enough evidence to convince a prosecutor that a case should be presented in court. The cop grinds away at this task for months, but ultimately, he's not sure if he's got what he needs. Fortunately for him, there is always another route well known to many black men: Trial By Media.

The cop calls up a reporter at the local paper. He tells the drooling scribe that he’s got a hot scoop about a black man convicted in one of the most notorious crimes in state history. He drips out a few salacious details about a new allegation. The writer dutifully publishes the factually inaccurate "scoop" that charges will be filed in the case the next day. By the time the prosecutor receives this evidence, the train of media spin has gone into overdrive. A columnist adds his two cents to the mix, further inflaming public sentiment against the suspect. The Associated Press picks up the story. Local television jumps into the mix, by then the public is hungry for blood. Won't this prosecutor, who is elected by the public, oblige them?

In one phone call, this cop has accomplished what the Algerian philosopher Althusser might describe as media being used as an "ideological state apparatus." We would describe it more plainly: The media has been chumped. The prosecutor has been chumped. And sadly, so has the integrity of the justice system.

What is so surprising about this latest round of drama swirling around Kofi "Debo" Ajabu, who is also the subject of the “Boy Born Friday” chapter in DT, is not that this game is being played. (As readers of our book will learn, Indiana officials played it relentlessly throughout the original 1995 Ajabu trial.) What’s surprising is how clumsy this particular cop, Indiana State Police detective Bob May, has played it. A T-shirt was covering the face of the attacker? He has not found the weapon, but he is certain it was a sock-covered lock? Kofi Ajabu attacked a guard because...the guard treats everyone fairly? After four months you still have not found a witness who saw Ajabu commit this crime?
We first heard about these allegations this summer and we blogged about it here when things appeared to come to a head. Since then, we’ve been writing letter after letter to Indiana officials asking for basic information about the allegations but were never given the requested documentation. We will be watching closely to see how this whole thing plays out. If any of these "objective" journalists bothered to call the Ajabu family, as we did, they would learn that they are certain the evidence will eventually prove their son's innocence and that they only want the legal process be allowed to run its course without prejudice. Is that too much to ask?

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Crybabies


It's no secret that we loathe 50 cent. Here he goes again on his anti-Oprah crusade. So what if she won't have you on her show! That's the power of O. His salty ass is hating on Oprah for having Kanye West on. Guess he doesn't keep it real enough. (Although we are pretty sure that's KW's real name, and not one pilfered from a long-dead gangster.) If she's so insignificant to him, one wonders why he's sweating her so tough. Our pal Jelani Cobb wrote an excellent piece about the Oprah flap with rappers and how their hatred is nothing more than ongoing misogyny toward black women.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Chocolate City Loses Flavor


What my old political science professors, a wide selection of conspiracy theorists, and brothers on the street have been predicting for years has finally come to pass: The Chocolate City has officially given way to Vanilla. The latest demographic figures came out in today's Washington Post: "Some of the most dramatic shifts are taking place in the District, where African Americans are no longer a majority among homeowners. In 2000, 54 percent of D.C. homeowners were black, and 41 percent were white. But a decline of 6,000 black homeowners since then, and a surge of 7,000 additional white homeowners, brought the two groups to virtual parity in the 2005 survey. The decline in black homeowners in the District was offset by growth in the suburbs." (SOURCE)
A threshold has been crossed in a city full of racial and political symbolism. Those who heeded my call to invest in black D.C. neighborhoods back in 2001 are now sitting on hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of equity in a much paler city. So what does this mean for the future? Just this past Sunday, I was sitting in my teeny backyard overlooking the alley, enjoying the gorgeous fall weather, flipping through the Sunday New York Times when a young black couple came to the open house on the block and wandered outside. Neither of them looked particularly impressed. For a minute it looked as though the husband looked kinda hopeful, then he sighed and then gave a helpless shrug. The pricetag for the Victorian row house was 9 times what the former owners had paid for it in 1999 as a shell. Part of me wanted to befriend the couple, chat them up, tell them how great the block is, invite them to join the Big Daddy Running Club, tell them how our block has evolved into a diverse and friendly village, but one that will soon be running low on Chocolate...But the other part of me had an attack of moral conscience. These are my peeps. How could I advocate spending that kind of money on a block where you can still catch a bullet? I smiled, said hello, then went back to reading the newspaper.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Image v. Justice on trial at Spelman/Morehouse


This recent piece by Duke professor Mark Anthony Neal about the recent controversy over rape allegations at Spelman/Morehouse shows why he is one of the most insightful cultural critics writing today. The piece explains the deeper meaning behind the virulent reaction from Morehouse men to the recent demonstrations by Spelman women attempting to break the official silence about rape allegations at two of our most distinguished black universities. We have been extremely impressed with Spelman women lately. As the nation's most elite black women's college, they have rightfully taken their place at the symbolic center of the cutting edge of black gender relations in the hip-hop generation. (We of course talk about the Spelman ladies in DT chapter on hip-hop recounting how they famously took on Nelly. We're glad to see more Spelman women joining the chorus on this rape issue. When the Nelly flap took place, the media painted it as a campus-wide undertaking. In acutality, it was the same feminist alliance members leading the charge, but they had the support of only about a dozen or so Spelmanites.) We agree with Dr. Neal that image is not everything; Some things need to be aired in order to move past them.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Where's Huey and Co.?


He hasn't officially said it, but it appears as if the Boondock's is not coming back as a comic strip. Universal Syndicate made an announcement that told newspapers not to expect the biting strip back on its pages.
We love Aaron McGruder even though his TV show on the Cartoon Network can be a bit sexist toward women with episodes like "Guess Ho's Coming to Dinner" or intent on going over the top just because. Still, we've read the strip since it debuted in 1999. Here's hoping that he can maintain his satirical wit on television and that he changes his mind about the strip, which had shaken up the sometimes stale funnies.
Some folks are wondering if he's pulling a Dave Chappelle and you can't escape the parallels. We have The Man, leeching money, but yet smilingly insisting, "we love this black man and he can take as long as he needs before coming back to work." Also, Chappelle's dancing v. shuffling existential query has plagued the Boondocks since it debuted on cable. We discussed the premiere episode at the college campus where I teach. One of my favorite students, a white male, commented to me after class that he didn't care for the show. "He uses the word 'nigger' too much," he told me. Ordinarily, I would have responded to that statement by taking off my earrings and breaking out the vaseline, tenure be damned. But my student was just recounting what he had no doubt heard on countless hip-hop recordings, now on national TV. Clearly some of these youngins have not received the memo about non-black use of the word...So what could I say? Hey A-dub, thanksssssssssss

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Negrophobia in 2006?



NPR did a really interesting Q&A with the historian Clarissa Myrick Harris, co-curator of an exhibit chronicling the 1906 race riots in Atlanta, which happened a century ago Friday. In the interview she talks about the many reasons why the riots happened, even though the city was considered riot-proof because it boasted the largest black middle class in the country. She also talked about the role of the media in inflaming racial tensions. Here's what she had to say about the "negrophobia" that prevailed in the city that is now "too busy to hate."

There is paternalism that looked at the black race as inferior but capable of being improved by guidance and the example of white people -- "We will civilize them." And there is negrophobia -- which looks upon black men, in particular, as essentially degenerate, fundamentally vicious, prone to vice, prone to lust, as not quite responsible because they haven't developed morals, [which] sees the black man as a dangerous animal. Negrophobes think the black man can't be improved, but he can be controlled. That's where you get ideas like the chain gang, a system to get itinerant black men off the streets by putting them in jail, putting them to work for the state, building roads, doing work but remaining incarcerated. The idea is that, "At least we're teaching them to do a good day's work, giving them food." This is the lens that negrophobes had.


Amazing how much and how little has changed.

To hear the NPR broadcast, click HERE

See the New York Times article about the anniversary click HERE

Thursday, September 21, 2006

hip-hop love project update


I just got this latest update from "Hip-Hop Love Project" coordinator Lynda Greene. This is the latest project from the Prince George's County Women's Collective. One thing the innovative "hip-hope" minister Rev. Tony Lee has said is that when a ball is rolling in the wrong direction, it takes someone to stop it, then turn it around. Truer words have never been said about popular rap music today. I'm happy to see these women trying to reclaim the love in our culture in a constructive, uplifting way that does not attack or condemn but harnesses feminine power toward positive change. See the previous post HERE to read about their strategy.

The event will take place Saturday, Sept. 23. They will meet at the Sports and Learning Complex in Prince George's County, Maryland at 9:30 am, and continue to the following locations:
9:30- 11:30 Sports & Learning Complex
12:00-1:00 Lunch (fast food) Largo Town Center
1:30-3:30 - Watkins Park
4:00 - 5:00 - Starbuck's Break (Bowie Town Center)
5:30 - 6:30 - X-treme teen b-ballÂ
7:00 Dinner at Cap.Centre at the Blvd (Carolina Kitchen)

They also plan to have a new Web site (www.pgcwc.org) and a new email address (pgcwc@pgcwc.org) will be up and running by Friday evening. Check it out when you get a chance, especially after Saturday when pictures of the Hip-Hop Love Project will be posted for all to see!

Monday, September 18, 2006

Athletes and manhood


A recent column "Can Our Athletes Ever Be Men Again? Don’t Count On It" by Boyce Watkins, adapted from his speech he will give this week to the NAACP, reminded me once again why it's time for A New Look. (Thanks to my BFF Allison R. Brown for suggesting this subtitle for our book!) A cousin of Muhammad Ali, Boyce rails against the lack of "Real Men", activists in professional athletics in the hip-hop generation in a column posted on the online Black Athlete Sports Network website.
Deep sigh....We show evidence to the contrary in our chapter "Thomas, 36" which profiles Washington Wizards player Etan Thomas, who is not only a team co-captain, has made a name for himself as a published poet and anti-war activist. I had the honor of hanging out with Etan and his family briefly last year to talk to him about his struggle to heed Ali's challenge to "take this fame the white man gave to...use our fame for freedom," in highly ambiguous times. Although I personally think he could use some help from his NBA peers, Etan Thomas disagreed.
“I don’t feel alone," he said. "We’ll have discussions. Guys couldn’t stop talking about what happened with [executed former gang leader] Tookie Williams. They are aware; they are just not trying to speak out. That’s my thing. People think [all basketball players] do one thing and that’s it, they don’t have a mind and opinions about anything. Guys are definitely aware, a lot more than people think. That’s the whole thing with perceptions.”
And that's also the whole thing with forcing older measures and definitions on a new generation, which we also talk about throughout DT. We don't pull any punches about the triflinity that also pervades our generation, but this is a new world and we need to keep up. That means not making lazy assumptions based on what we read in Sports Illustrated or see on TV. Really sad in this case, since Etan was a standout player and activist since his days at Syracuse, the university where Dr. Watkins happens to be a professor of finance.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

silencing the hater


One of the unfortunate byproducts of being a culture critic is that you by definition are a hater. Radio sucks. The new movies? Formulaic and trite. Contemporary literature--bleh! And the kids these days call that a concert! Look up and before you've even reached 30 you've become this angry, bitter, unsatisfied person starved for culture that speaks to you--stuck in some wretched old-school loop in the meantime. Some of the smartest people I know are afflicted with this condition. But as the writer Jedediah Purdy pointed out, Gen X-ers' negative and downright nasty cynical pose is a cop-out, a ruse to avoid taking a chance on something and believe in anything. A nothing ventured, nothing lost, attitude ultimately will get us nowhere.

Good news on this front: I loved Idlewild. Little Miss Sunshine is the funniest movie since "Something About Mary." I was on a roll! So in my ongoing quest for personal betterment, I trekked out to Best Buy to pick up (yes, purchase!) a few of the current recent "popular" music releases. I put a smile on my face and quietly laid them on the counter. The brother behind the counter took one look at my selections, then shot me a long, sideways, now-you-know-better-than-that glance. I tried to explain my quest for positive reinvention, to adopt a sunnier outlook. Not to hate just because.
He grunted.
"Beyonce, I can understand," he said. "But Justin Timberlake?"
Well I really like his new single with Timbaland, I stammered. Timbo produced the whole album....
"I just can't get with that whole 'sexyback' thing," he said. "When did sexy go out of style?"
Good point, I thought as i popped JT's album into my car CD player, launching one of the most exciting R&B albums I've heard in quite some time. When I got home I heard the rest. Beyonce's new album sucks.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Piano Man


Jason Moran has a new jazz CD -- his seventh -- out on Blue Note . It's entitled Artist in Residence. I saw Jason (we met a few years ago) earlier this month at the Chicago Jazz Festival and he blew the audience away. Jason samples sounds and DJs in his work, giving it a tinge of hip-hop flavor. He has several CDs out. Also check out Modernistic where he does an innovative interpretation of Planet Rock.

Saturday, September 09, 2006

more election tomfoolery



I just love election years. And a recent captured-on-video spectacle of two distinguished, accomplished black men vying for the top elected position in Prince George's County, MD., beefing like biggie & tupac through the streets of suburban D.C. makes having to wade through all that election spam worthwhile. Let's see, we've got: A Jesse Jackson news conference being crashed. Plenty of trash talk ("You can run but you can't hide!"). We even have one candidate being ejected from the Gladys Knight chicken and waffle joint. And that's all in one day.
In all seriousness, this a local election with national resonance for black people--and a new chapter in the way black masculinity is constructed in the news media.
After the '68 riots following the MLK assassination charred DC to a crisp, blacks of means fled DC like embittered Cuban exiles, eventually transforming a sleepy white rural county into the wealthiest majority-black jurisdiction in the country. Now as gentrification invades all of d.c., there has been an influx of working class blacks and immigrants seeking refuge in Prince George's County. The black-run government is audibly groaning under the strain on police and schools. Thus we have the spectacle of two candidates desperate to telepath some sort of bourgie code to assure their wealthy constituents that the tide is indeed being stemmed. At the same time, neither one can afford to lose their black cards. The result is not pretty. But it is pretty dern funny

Friday, September 08, 2006

the new black politics



In the article "Bigger Than Hip-Hop: A Look at the State of Black Leadership" writer Glen Ford (also editor of blackcommentator.com) takes yet another stab at revealing how (and if) the torch is being passed to a new generation of black leadership. In the article, Ford quotes 27-year-old activist Adrienne Marie Brown who describes a situation in which the old-school Civil Rights lions are guarding the door, cutting their eyes at young would-be newcomers. Then Brown rightly turns the finger back at us. “Most black middle-class young people—a huge arena—don’t identify as hip hop or as civil rights. They just want to boogie. They don’t want to mess anything up.” Sad but true. Read the rest of the article in In These Times, which mostly looks at the fledgling hip-hop activism movement HERE.
The young Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick, whom we profile in DT, escaped this fate the old fashion way: being born into politics. (Mom a Congresswoman, dad an old Detroit pol). Still, he's smart, he has brass, he's flashy, fresh and committed to leading maybe the blackest big city in America. Kilpatrick is a great case study for the future of not only black leadership, but also the nitty gritty urban issues that most affect black people today and tomorrow, too. That, and watching him joust with the local news media is entertaining as hell to watch.
Although he is totally lacking in that unmistakably Detroit flair, we are also keeping our eye on the front runner of the D.C. mayor's race, Adrian Fenty. He is also in his mid-30s, has been endorsed by Marion Barry and has produced a lot of teeth-gnashing from the old guard.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

So Smooth...


It's the ironies of ironies.

I've recently written a lot about video girls and their construction in society and land of hip hop. Our Hip-Hop chapter in the book interviews women in the industry, from label execs to video babes. We actually hear from them, for a change, on how they manage in a hypermasculine culture. For research, we read a lot of Smooth and King magazines, the marketing arm for 'video vixens.' Most lay women don't know of Smooth's existence.
Several months ago I was partying with my BFFs Brian and Shayne. We ended up at some random club in the VIP section. It was a Smooth party in Chicago for one of the magazine's cover girls. I thought nothing of it. We didn't stay long.

A few months later, Brian called me to come by his job for a 'surprise.' He whipped out Smooth and showed our photo. There we are, mugging for the camera. I had forgotten that we took a picture. What were the odds that I'd be in the video girl bible?

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Godfrey on Kelis


Loved this smart review of Kelis's album by Washington City paper writer Sarah Godfrey. Not only did Sarah have excellent taste in undergraduate institutions, she was one of the young black women writers we recruited to write for the first incarnation of the DT project, when it was an anthology.
I've always been a Kelis fan and "Bossy" is my (and my 2 year-old daughter's) personal theme song this summer. I guess I've got to go cop the whole album now.

Monday, September 04, 2006

Race Wasn't an Issue to Him, Which Was an Issue for me


This Sunday article in the New York Times is a first-person essay about a Black woman who realizes that dating White men who are so-called 'colored blind' is detrimental. A well-written piece. She was married to a White man.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

R.I.P. Billy



Chuck & Billy's was one of our favorite hangout spots when we were Howard undergraduates in the mid to late 1990s. It was a down home, old school, totally unpretentious jukebox-type bar and grill located right across the street from the school of B. It was an always-entertaining mix of folk, everyone from the retirees of Chuck's Cussin Club, to federal judges and prosecutors, to students, professors, bootleggers and anyone else the wind might blow in from gritty Georgia Avenue. We had musician friends who used to sit in on the live jazz band on Wednesdays nights. The fried chicken was slammin'. The rum and cokes were the strongest in town. Best of all a cute but broke coed could have their pick of willing drink sponsors(:
Naturally, it inspired the Natalies very first writing collaboration, an article about the past and present of the bar and its two owners, Chuck & Billy, which we published in the Hilltop, Howard's student paper where we were both editors. We gathered there to celebrate when Nat M.'s sister Megan decided to come to Howard. When we got ready to graduate in 1998, Chuck & Billy sponsored a special Happy Hour for us and our friends.
This picture of us below the marquee they made especially for us "Congradulations Natalie-Chana-Natalie-Erin & the HU Class 98" is one of our prized possessions. This morning, we learned that Billy Banks passed away at age 85 after a long struggle with lung cancer. Thanks so much for the memories, Billy! May you rest in peace.
As for you Chuck, we are sorry for your loss and you know we'll be back to see you and the rest of the regulars when the book tour stops in D.C.

Friday, September 01, 2006

Parenting a la Hip-Hop


So I had just dropped off my 1st grade son at his D.C. public elementary school this morning, and who did I see doing the same but Asheru himself. His ears musta been burning because his name was just on my lips no more than 2 weeks ago when I finally realized that it was him rhyming the theme song to Aaron McGruder's Boondock animated show on cable. I first met Asheru in 99' or 2000 when I published an article in the Post about D.C.'s innovative Hip-Hop scene and he was with Unspoken Heard. We (and hip-hop!) are truly growing up when we run into each other in school parking lots dropping off our youngins! This is one of the many paradoxes that we explore in the book in the chapter "Raising Tyrone" which looks at the challenges of being HIp-Hop Generation parents trying to raise our black boys with some sense while still keeping it real and true to the culture we grew up in. I think we're on our way. Asheru gave me the CD of the official mixtape related to the Boondocks. I listened to it on the way back to campus and it is hot to death! Can't wait to meet Mrs. Asheru at the first PTA meeting next week!

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Hip-Hop Love Project

We ran into our friend Lonnae at NABJ and she told us about this Hip-Hop Love Project in Prince George's County, Maryland. It seems like its right on time. If you will be in the D.C. area please support! Below is the text of the letter being circulated via email:

Dear Friends:

We're off to a wonderful start with the Prince George's County Women's Collective.Our purpose, to begin to change the most corrosive aspects of the popular culture by empowering local girls and young women to promote anti-violence messages, encourage educational achievement,encourage respect for women and girls
is well underway with the planning of our inaugural event, the Hip-Hop Love
Project"

To recap, we intend to let young women know that they have a voice and the power to counter some of the negative messages and degrading images in commercial hip-hop music. We believe that by speaking out and using that power, young women can be most effective in influencing the behavior of young men because much of the misogyny, posturing and violence in the culture wouldn't happen if our young women were not silently complicit.

The Hip-Hop Love Project is an initiative to wear and distribute free (cute) tee-shirts at the Shops at the Capital Centre in Largo in late September. The shirts have already been designed and trademarked and will include the following slogans:

***You look better without the bullet holes. Put the guns down
***I auditioned for the video, but my MIND was too big
***You want this? Graduate!
***Record Label Gangsters are wack-so are real ones
***Smarts-show me yours and I'll show you mine


The back of each tee will say "Bring Back the Love. The Hip-Hop Love
Project." If you are interested in participating in this project, please consider donating to the effort to purchase the tee-shirts and/or volunteering to wear the shirts and show your support at the Boulevard at the Capital Centre on the designated date.

For our friends in distant places, please feel free to use this model to begin your own women's collective and possibly your own free tee shirt distributions. We are asking for a minimum donation of $75, but more is welcomed. The more support, the more tee-shirts, the more love. To be a part of this effort, please make checks payable to: Masai Design and send to the attention of Lynda Green at PO Box 6795 Largo, MD 20792. Because of the time constraints involved the printing process, checks must be received no later than Friday, Sept. 1 to be part of this initiative.

We hope you heed this call to activism--this chance for black women to step into our light and begin to reclaim our culture, and our children. In the names of black women who have always struggled to better their communities, their nation and this world, please help us Bring Back the Love! Please feel free to forward to your friends and family.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Natalie Moore speech in Chicago


Below is the text of the memorial speech that Natalie Moore gave yesterday at South Shore Cultural Center in honor of her late uncle, Dr. Clinton Bristow Jr. who was president of Alcorn State University and passed away unexpectedly at age 57:

Uncle Clinton is the first person whom I realized had a Ph.D. As a child, I wasn’t sure what that meant, but it sounded important and really cool. But it didn’t take long to learn that he was an advocate of education in his personal and professional life. We were all able to absorb that energy.

Uncle Clinton was very supportive of his nieces and nephews. My brother Joey was able to call Alcorn home, even though he never attended the university. He worked there some summers and to this day everyone from the cooks to the police knows who he is. When we were kids, Joey was obsessed with channeling Popeye’s persona, muscles and all, so Uncle Clinton would buy him cans of spinach. Joey actually ate them. My sister Megan just received her master’s in public administration last month, and per usual, Uncle Clinton sent her a congratulatory note – and a few transitional dollars, of course.

He wrote me an undergrad recommendation letter to attend Northwestern University, his alma mater. He used the word unequivocally in the letter. I had no idea what the word meant and had to look it up. It was an awesome letter, but I decided to attend Howard University instead. When I was applying to Northwestern for grad school, I was too embarrassed to ask him for another recommendation, but he quickly allayed my worries. And I got in.

You could count on him to take you to dinner if he happened to be in town in the city you lived in. After turning 21, you could order a martini, too. He had a sincere interest in your endeavors. It left you feeling good that he thought you were someone important. He also had a knack for remembering the most minute details about people.

I last saw Uncle Clinton at the N’Digo gala in June. He asked me if I had ever heard of an erotic writer named Zane. I laughed, and said, oh, Uncle Clinton, I don’t know if you want to read her. He said many Alcorn students were fans and the bookstore sold copies, and naturally, as an avid reader, he wanted to investigate the hype. We jokingly concluded that he better not buy erotic titles on the university’s dime.

I know that everyone in this room can agree that Uncle Clinton had a way of making each of you feel special. And I’m hard pressed to think of anyone more committed to higher education.

In Mississippi, Maya implored the Alcorn student body to continue her father’s legacy. In Chicago, we can do the same by mentoring a youth, writing a recommendation letter or merely giving a child encouraging words. I can’t think of a better way to remember Uncle Clinton.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Bristow Funeral


More coverage of the funeral. The Clarion-Ledger published this photo of Maya Bristow, the 25-year-old PhD student (and Nat Moore's cousin) pictured here in black next to her mother Joyce in white, and his life partner Lezli Baskerville in yellow. The funeral was a loving tribute to the scholar, leader, and visionary black man that lived vigorously, but died suddenly of heart failure at age 57 while jogging on campus. During the funeral Maya told the crowd that her dad gave of himself freely."I shared my daddy with you all," she said, "and in return I insist you all live out his legacy."

A scholarship fund honoring Dr. Bristow has been created by radio personality Tom Joyner for Alcorn students in need during the 2006-07 academic year.
Donations must be made payable to the Tom Joyner Foundation and can be sent to the Dr. Clinton Bristow Jr. Memorial Scholarship Fund c/o Tom Joyner Foundation, 13760 Noel Road, Ste. 750, Dallas TX 75240. Online donations can be made through blackamerica web.com.
Natalie Moore has returned to Chicago, where more memorial services will be held.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

The Ajabu saga continues


We had some interesting DT-related events happen to us last week at the National Association of Black Journalists Convention in Indianapolis. We tried to visit one of the subjects of one of the chapters, Kofi "Debo" Ajabu, who is currently serving an 180-year prison sentence in Indiana. But it was not to be. In July we had a piece of mail addressed to Debo at Pendleton Correctional Facility returned to us by prison censors. Then, our request for media access to Debo while we were in town for the NABJ was denied because of what prison officials called a "rule violation" on Debo's part, but they refused to give us details.
The Ajabu family have told me that the electronic monitoring system will show that Debo was playing chess in another part of the prison when the alleged "rule violation" took place, so the charge was some "trumped up crap."
I (Natalie H.) drove to Pendleton Correctional facility to try to get access as a regular visitor on Wednesday (8/16) and a prison guard looked him up on the computer then told me Debo had been transported to Westville Correctional facility on Monday, 8/14. When I asked if it was permanent, he said. "Nothing is permanent in the Department of Corrections. They do what they want, when they want."
The next day I received a second letter from prison officials saying Debo was at Wabash Valley prison. So which is it Wabash or Westville? And why the discrepency in their records? I am concerned about the lack of transparency about what decisions are being made. I plan to continue to try to get answers through the Freedom of Information Act.

Monday, August 21, 2006

R.I.P. Dr. Clinton Bristow Jr.



Alcorn State University President Clinton Bristow Jr. passed away over the weekend and is being remembered across Mississippi and Chicago as a brilliant lawyer, a passionate leader and a "role model for African American men" by many.
He was also Natalie Y. Moore's dear uncle who died unexpectedly of a heart attack at the age of 57 while jogging on campus. He was an early DT supporter and he will be missed dearly.

We got word from Natalie's brother Joey while we were in Indianapolis attending the National Association of Black Journalists Convention.

We'd love to hear comments from those of you who knew him. Watch this space for more information about the funeral from Natalie M. who is travelling to Mississippi this week.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Authors Natalie Y. Moore and Natalie Hopkinson.
Illustration by Nicole Rose