Archive for November, 2014

Benjamin Watson’s Reflection On Ferguson Goes Viral

Posted in African Americans, Black America, Black Interests, Black Men, Racism with tags , , on November 30, 2014 by Gary Johnson

Ferguson Rioters

By Gary A. Johnson

I tend to cringe whenever I hear about a professional athlete discussing current events.  In my experience, the athlete “doesn’t know, what he doesn’t know,” and usually has no idea how ignorant sounds.  New Orleans Saints, Tight End Benjamin Watson is the exception and a GREAT one I might add.

Watson came home last Monday night and turned on the television and saw the looting and rioting that was going on in Ferguson, Missouri, in the wake of the grand jury decision not to prosecute Officer Darren Wilson for the shooting death of Michael Brown, an unarmed civilian.  He stared at the TV trying to deal with his emotions.

The next day while sitting in a Target parking lot while his wife was shopping, Watson reportedly compiled an essay based on notes that he had been jotting down via his iPhone throughout the day.

If you have not heard about or read this eloquent essay, I think it is well worth your time to read.

Benjamin Watson

At some point while I was playing or preparing to play Monday Night Football, the news broke about the Ferguson Decision. After trying to figure out how I felt, I decided to write it down. Here are my thoughts:

I’M ANGRY because the stories of injustice that have been passed down for generations seem to be continuing before our very eyes.

I’M FRUSTRATED, because pop culture, music and movies glorify these types of police citizen altercations and promote an invincible attitude that continues to get young men killed in real life, away from safety movie sets and music studios.

I’M FEARFUL because in the back of my mind I know that although I’m a law abiding citizen I could still be looked upon as a “threat” to those who don’t know me. So I will continue to have to go the extra mile to earn the benefit of the doubt.

I’M EMBARRASSED because the looting, violent protests, and law breaking only confirm, and in the minds of many, validate, the stereotypes and thus the inferior treatment.

I’M SAD, because another young life was lost from his family, the racial divide has widened, a community is in shambles, accusations, insensitivity hurt and hatred are boiling over, and we may never know the truth about what happened that day.

I’M SYMPATHETIC, because I wasn’t there so I don’t know exactly what happened. Maybe Darren Wilson acted within his rights and duty as an officer of the law and killed Michael Brown in self defense like any of us would in the circumstance. Now he has to fear the backlash against himself and his loved ones when he was only doing his job. What a horrible thing to endure. OR maybe he provoked Michael and ignited the series of events that led to him eventually murdering the young man to prove a point.

I’M OFFENDED, because of the insulting comments I’ve seen that are not only insensitive but dismissive to the painful experiences of others.

I’M CONFUSED, because I don’t know why it’s so hard to obey a policeman. You will not win!!! And I don’t know why some policeman abuse their power. Power is a responsibility, not a weapon to brandish and lord over the populace.

I’M INTROSPECTIVE, because sometimes I want to take “our” side without looking at the facts in situations like these. Sometimes I feel like it’s us against them. Sometimes I’m just as prejudiced as people I point fingers at. And that’s not right. How can I look at white skin and make assumptions but not want assumptions made about me? That’s not right.

I’M HOPELESS, because I’ve lived long enough to expect things like this to continue to happen. I’m not surprised and at some point my little children are going to inherit the weight of being a minority and all that it entails.

I’M HOPEFUL, because I know that while we still have race issues in America, we enjoy a much different normal than those of our parents and grandparents. I see it in my personal relationships with teammates, friends and mentors. And it’s a beautiful thing.

I’M ENCOURAGED, because ultimately the problem is not a SKIN problem, it is a SIN problem. SIN is the reason we rebel against authority. SIN is the reason we abuse our authority. SIN is the reason we are racist, prejudiced and lie to cover for our own. SIN is the reason we riot, loot and burn. BUT I’M ENCOURAGED because God has provided a solution for sin through the his son Jesus and with it, a transformed heart and mind. One that’s capable of looking past the outward and seeing what’s truly important in every human being. The cure for the Michael Brown, Trayvon Martin, Tamir Rice and Eric Garner tragedies is not education or exposure. It’s the Gospel. So, finally, I’M ENCOURAGED because the Gospel gives mankind hope.

Thank you Benjamin Watson.

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‘Friends’ Desert Bill Cosby When He Needs Them Most

Posted in Black Men, Women's Interests with tags , , on November 28, 2014 by Gary Johnson

Check out this perspective on the Bill Cosby controversy by Raynard Jackson originally posted on 23 November 2014 on Black Press USA.com.

Bill Cosby 2014

By Raynard Jackson
NNPA Columnist

“Hey, hey, hey (in my best Fat Albert’s voice), please listen to what I have to say. My friend Bill Cosby is in trouble today.”

Even Fat Albert knows Bill Cosby is getting a raw deal. As a public relations/crisis management professional. I have worked with some of the biggest names in sports, entertainment, and business. So, let’s deconstruct this media frenzy engulfing the man who was once America’s favorite TV dad.

Many of these allegations have been around for more than 30 years. Cosby has never been charged with a crime and deserves the presumption of innocence. Simply because several people – okay, eight and counting – provide a similar salacious account doesn’t make it true.

Until now, Cosby and his lovely wife, Camille, have not had to defend their hard-earned good name. They have given north of $50 million to educational institutions, especially HBCUs.  Cosby has opened doors to many of the top actors and comediennes in the industry.

At the ripe old age of 77 years, at what point does one’s body of work require one to be given the benefit of the doubt?  Cosby is, and in my book, will always be “America’s Dad.”

None of the females coming forward ever went to the police when the incident in question was supposed to have happened.  There have been no corroborating witnesses.  After the initial alleged incident, each of the women continued to spend private time with Cosby.  If Cosby had done what they allege, why would they continue to spend private time with him? That makes no sense. Not even to Fat Albert.

And the media’s hands are not clean in the smear campaign.

Why would respected news organizations even give these women a platform when they offer no proof or evidence to support their allegations?

Corporate America has also taken the guilty until proven innocent approach toward Cosby, a former corporate darling.

NBC officials announced last week that that they were no longer working with Cosby to produce a new series that was supposed to launch next summer.  Mind you that Cosby made NBC billions of dollars with his hit TV series “The Cosby Show” in the 80s and the successful spinoff, “A Different World.”

Evidently, Hollywood is a different world.

Even more surprising than the reaction from Hollywood and Corporate America is the paucity of people willing to defend Bill Cosby or at least insist on a greater burden of proof from his growing list of accusers. To be blunt, true friends don’t desert friends based on unsubstantiated rumors.

That means even when defending them is unpopular. I have publicly defended former Senate Leader Trent Lott of Mississippi when I knew accusations of him being a White racist were unfounded. I also backed former Majority House Leader Tom DeLay, who stepped down in 2005 after being indicted for allegedly improperly funneling campaign donations to Texas House candidates. He was eventually exonerated but by then, his political career had been unfairly destroyed.

Doesn’t Cosby deserve that same kind of loyalty?

I am not aware of one public statement of support from any former cast member of Cosby’s shows.  I am not aware of any statement of support from any comedian on the scene today whose career took off because of Cosby.  I am not aware of any statement of support from any civil rights group or college that have gladly taken millions over the years from Cosby and his wife.

Without delving into the issues about which only Cosby and his accusers know, at minimum, those who have been recipients of his largess could at least say there’s another side of the man.

I have spoken to a few of my A-list Hollywood friends about this issue and I found their explanations repulsive. They are all afraid of being “blacklisted” by White, liberal Hollywood.  As much as I love money and success, I love my integrity more.  How can you not support someone who has been instrumental in your being the very person you are today?  How do you justify leaving someone like Cosby out to hang by himself?

Even Fat Albert doesn’t think Cosby deserves this kind of treatment.

Raynard Jackson 2013 Raynard Jackson is president & CEO of Raynard Jackson & Associates, LLC., a Washington, D.C.-based public relations/government affairs firm. He can be reached through his Web site,  www.raynardjackson.com. You can also follow him on Twitter at @raynard1223.

– See more at: http://www.blackpressusa.com/2014/11/friends-desert-bill-cosby-when-he-needs-them-most/#sthash.GUVyXxWq.EXGYnms0.dpuf

Scripting America…And The New Body Politic

Posted in African Americans, Black America, Black Interests, Black Links, Black Men, Fatherhood with tags , , on November 28, 2014 by Gary Johnson

Purnell Headshotdirector_chair

By Purnell Pinkney

Children derive exquisite pleasure out of playing the game of “pretend.” All kinds of personas are suddenly possible in this game and credibility merely requires holding the attention of playmates long enough to impress and entertain. That’s what children do in their innocence. They play social make-believe games. Adults also play the “pretend game;” it’s called acting, Hollywood, the “silver screen, “Broadway” and a half dozen or so other names. As adults however, “pretending” is serious big-business…in fact it is a socio-cultural, cash-cow industry. Actors of all shapes, sizes, ages, colors and levels of ability, are paid handsomely to pretend that they are not themselves, but rather, that they are some imaginary character freshly minted from the mind of a skilled writer. The “star” actor class in America… the 5% to 10% of them, who earn approximately 85% to 90% of the total wages paid to all of these performers, are generally recognized as “celebrities.”

So powerful has the influence of Hollywood celebrities grown that their cinematic success is now wrongly assumed to indicate… 1) elevated IQ’s and 2) possession of political notions of what is best for the American people. And so the U.S. public finds itself being nudged in a certain social and political direction by a class of people who are, a) paid to “NOT” be their “REAL” selves, b) who must constantly seek the personal approval of the public, c) who as a result of that pursuit are most likely to be neurotic to various degrees, d) who at all costs must maintain their theatrical persona in order to sustain marketability and e) who spend their entire professional lives avoiding the public exposure of their private lives. No one can be reliably certain of when these people are “in” or “out” of character. But so profound is the impact of the images of these folks on the silver screen, that a normally rational viewing audience will abandon common sense and bestow upon these performers some sort of special gift of prescience. In committing this error of presumption, the public inadvertently elevates ordinary everyday people who happen to work in an exclusive occupation to the lofty status of a kind of “American Nobility.” On a wide range of socio-political issues, large numbers of enthusiastic admirers eagerly subscribe to the opinions and judgments of this movie land pseudo-aristocracy. These fans steadfastly refuse to acknowledge that everything about Hollywood, including the actors and actresses, is contrived, controlled, fictitious, fake or imaginary…everything, that is, except the cash raked in by various studios from the revenues generated from the periodic block buster film.

So popular has the trade in fantasy become that Hollywood in recent times has slowly ratcheted up its influence on a dumbed-down public and openly entered partisan politics. Hollywood is now an unapologetically leftist operation. It is using its influence and financial clout to advance the agenda of the leftist elements in American politics by appealing to the naïve sensibilities of America’s millennials and at the same time, troll for the support of independents and minorities. This industry was instrumental in President Obama’s 2008 election and 2012 re- election. Nonetheless, it is now becoming evident that dealing in fantasy while positioning to dispense political and social dogma is a recipe for national chaos.

Regrettably black men in America are innocent casualties of this political “passion play.” The Hollywood version of America’s black men call for violent, misanthropic, unrefined, immature, predatory images and no amount of appealing to the studios to stop the damaging trend has produced results. There are no disclaimers on crazy-violent films that warn that the contents are make-believe…not true-to-life. Where there is viewer confusion, fantasy becomes dangerous; especially for black men in America at the hands of Hollywood studio executives. It can generate false images, untrue characterizations and more importantly, the attribution of beliefs, values and behaviors to black men that are misleading and derogatory. Notice that the unpredictable brute stereotype attached to black men who are actors continues to persist and just as importantly, these characterizations continue to fill the seats in movie theaters.

Having succeeded in casting black men and black communities as hopelessly pathological, Hollywood set its sights on imposing its version of social, economic and political reality on the American public via mass media scripting of certain elements of the secular- progressive agenda. To accomplish this objective, Hollywood relied upon the method it knows best; scripting. Without a script, Hollywood implodes…just as it did during the turbulent Civil Rights, Anti-War, “Academic Freedom” era of the 1960’s.

At that time theaters and movie houses simply became irrelevant as the “real” world of reconciling America’s espoused values with its actual values was publicly debated. During these epic struggles, fantasy was put in its proper place; the bottom of the list of national priorities. Hollywood struggled mightily through that slump and was unable to extricate itself from the decline until it stumbled upon the novel idea of “Blaxploitaion Movies.” The first and most successful of these movies was the block buster film, “Super Fly.” It is the opinion of many that this film, with its all-black cast, single-handedly ended the Black Power movement and the Civil Rights movement in America while simultaneously ushering in a self-indulgent era that glorified and encouraged sex, drugs and criminality in black communities across America. The effects of this movie and others of that genre are still reverberating throughout black communities across the nation.

But the film industry was just beginning to flex its muscles…for it had rediscovered the vulnerability of the American viewing audience to the power of suggestion and cinematic imagery. The transition from influencing pop-culture to orchestrating political thought proved to be an easy task; the apparatus was already in place. The studios had money, politicians, an ideology and an impressionable new audience to engage. This alliance was so powerful and new on the American political landscape that it was difficult to counter; for it had no clearly defined leader or identity to refute or discredit. Consequently, this union of Hollywood and political dogma appeared vague and innocuous. Even more important was that this scripting alliance was so positioned that its objectives appeared to represent the enlightened will of the American people.

The strategic weak link in this coalition however, was the absence of a means of stifling popular opposition to the scheme. To remedy that problem, “political correctness” which had been steadily injected into the public psyche over a period of about 20 years, was the perfect solution…shame and the prospect of public vilification throttled dissent. No one and nothing dared to openly oppose the Hollywood/progressive/leftist agenda; neither churches, not conservatives nor the activist “Tea Party” groups ventured to risk the wrath of this new alliance.

For a while the agenda of this new force was virtually unstoppable … and then something happened. It became increasingly clear that nothing that the liberal-progressive Congress and President succeeded in passing into law, produced the desired results. Consequently, anything they wanted that failed to obtain legislative success was forced on the American public by activist judges and a passive U.S. Attorney General. Though the crown jewel of the Left’s agenda, “amnesty for 10 million illegal aliens” still eludes Congressional passage…it is almost a foregone conclusion that president Obama is “evolving” on the issue and will grant the amnesty before he leaves office in 2016.

Is it possible that the present state of affairs in America is the result of a series of scripted socio-political legislation introduced by the Left and aimed at creating a new version of America by totally dismantling the value system, religious ideals and social mores that have made the United States the most powerful and influential nation in modern history? The answer to this question seems to be a resounding “yes.” If there is sufficient evidence to conclude that Hollywood is complicit in this scheme, then it can be established once and for all that the use of scripting as a political tactic is indeed being used as a device to lull the masses into a sense of false security all the while subjecting the same masses to manipulation by an unprincipled cabal of zealots whose intent is to force their views upon the electorate.

Black men were always suspicious of the sudden and ubiquitous changes being forced upon them and their communities across the nation. Political correctness suppressed the concerns of these men however, and the Left ran roughshod over their sensibilities as the scripting expanded and intensified to encompass freedom of speech on certain subjects and personal behavior with respect to other situations. Nonetheless black men generally acquiesced to the script as it was given to them…if not they risked being accused of violating “political correctness” protocol and faced certain exposure to public ridicule by the media. This situation amounted to a form of psycho-social, high-stakes, behavioral blackmail. So how does this scripting operate in its ordinary and practical application?

Consider these examples:

1. One of Hollywood’s most masculine, macho, tough-looking actors suddenly announces his support for homosexual marriage. A few months later he produces a flop of a movie about a 1960s singing group. His movie was heavily promoted and released. Looked like the studios rewarded him for his favorable public stance on homosexuality. Scripted?? Looks possible.

2. Bill and Hillary Clinton were vehemently against homosexual marriage when President Clinton signed the DOMA Bill in 1996. By 2008 they were vigorously for it and in 2012 they encouraged the U.S. Justice Department not to enforce it laws against it. Sudden conversion…or scripting?

3. Anyone who disagrees with the liberal party-line is a bully, bigot or a Neanderthal. These labels enter the public discourse through the media and gain general acceptance. The use of the labels however, is a misapplication of the terms. Scripting??

4. A mediocre NBA player announced that he is a homosexual and the President of the United States invited him to the White House. Sales of his jersey supposedly skyrocket. At present this player is apparently not on the court but is being used as a “Poster Child” for diversity of any kind. Scripting gone sour??

5. Mr.Obama condones gay marriage and a slew of Hollywood types; male and female “come out” to the applause and admiration of their peers. Some of them were in career slumps and used the “disclosure” to try to re-charge flagging careers. Others had no career and try to use the gay card to jump-start a career in cinema. Actors vie for the opportunity to disclose their sexuality. Scripting??

6. President Obama laments the inaction of Congress on immigration and signals his sympathy for illegals and waves women and children besiege the US southern border overwhelming resources and personnel. It is the largest mass migration of unescorted children across international borders since the Europe’s “Children’s Crusade” to free the Christian Holy Land in the year 1212 AD. Latinos sending their children on a 1200 mile trip alone, through dangerous territory, on the top of freight trains?? No one saw them as they debarked? No one saw them coming toward the U.S. border?? Nonsense…this was a clear case of Scripting.

7. Global warming did not seem to find traction so now the liberal mantra is switched to “climate change.” No explanation for the change is offered.

8. A homosexual football player awaiting his selection to an NFL team announced his gay orientation to the fanfare of national press coverage. After a tearful acknowledgement that he had been drafted in the last round of the NFL draft he kissed his boyfriend in the mouth on national TV and it was replayed over and over ad nauseum by liberal media groups. Weeks later he had a book deal with Oprah and an exclusive interview on her show. A few months later the gay player was released by the Dallas Cowboys, the last team to give him a shot. For whatever reasons, he is no longer in the NFL. There was very little media coverage of his being cut from the squad in Dallas. Scripting gone sour??

9. The media encourages American children to play soccer. Soon a ho-hum American soccer team drafts one of the world’s premier players to bolster sagging attendance at games. US sports media have a field day covering the occasion and the player receives immediate commercial endorsement contracts. The player, Mr. David Beckham leaves at the end of his contract not to return. Americans consistently reject soccer as a mainstream major sport to the dismay of the scripting machine!!

10. A horrific shooting takes place and the script calls for the media to attack the 2nd amendment and gun ownership in America. A solemn President Obama appears on TV to call for much stricter gun control. No mention of the mental condition of the perpetrator is made. The people who have done most of the mass killings in America are proven to be mentally imbalanced. The Script calls for silence if confronted with that sort of evidence. It calls for silence on the murder and mayhem in the streets of President Obama’s hometown, Chicago. In 2011 the city recorded nearly 500 murders annually by criminals with guns acquired by extra-legal means. Scripting perhaps??

11. Common Core was considered the “Holy Grail” of the liberal educational agenda. It has been revealed to be a “Common Crime” against the children on America. The script called for complete adherence to the dictates of the program. The American people are rejecting the plan completely in state after state. Script gone sour??

12. The script calls for the rejection of organized religion and in particular Christianity. Religious organizations have taken to the courts to protect their First Amendment rights and they are prevailing in most cases. Script reversal??

13. The script calls for the Holder Justice department to selectively enforce the laws of the nation.  Suits filed against the U.S. Justice Department are piling up and aimed at forcing that agency to enforce the laws of the land.

14. Using the IRS to blunt the efforts of conservative groups to legally organize was another key element of the script. That plan has been exposed and discredited. Civil and criminal suites have been filed against the IRS and key administrators therein. Script gone awry??

15. Americans want jobs. The script call for a welfare state. President Obama extends unemployment benefits as long as he can to stave off an inevitable crisis resulting from the lack of jobs. Script out of control??

The fundamental change that president Obama promised the nation and by extension, black men, in 2008 is a far cry from the transformation that black men had expected. And besides, the details of the planned transformation were never fully explained. As a result, different demographics had different notions of how the transformation would occur and how they would be affected. African American men naively thought that change meant a new day in employment opportunities, safe communities, health care, education, business opportunities and access to the Oval Office to present the case for black America’s inclusion in the impending prosperity of the nation. Instead they got smoke and mirrors and chastening, condescending lectures on what they needed to do to measure up to the expectations of their nation’s president. The script prepared for black men did not call for their economic advancement or the alleviation of their array of continuing problems. These men were simply written out of the “Hope and Change” agenda, restrained at a safe distance from real political power and given a numbing dose of “benign neglect.” There was to be no happy ending in the script prepared for brothers. Instead they were publicly scolded whenever the opportunity presented itself and made to feel that they themselves were the source of all of their problems…that they would continue to languish in poverty, crime and unemployment unless they accepted the script. Black men seem to have rejected that offer and now they are beginning to reject their critic: the President of the United States. The separation appears to be overdue and perhaps even…permanent.

 

 

10 Rules of Survival If Stopped By The Police

Posted in African Americans, Black America, Black Interests, Black Links, Black Men, Black Men In America with tags , , on November 27, 2014 by Gary Johnson

Several months ago, The Dare To Be King Project founder David Miller created a flyer with 10 Rules of Survival If Stopped By Police that has gone viral.  The Dare To Be King Project inspires, supports and strengthens organizations that provide services to boys of color.

Given the recent developments with police officers and black males in America, this is a timely reminder of the reality for many citizens in America.

10 Rules of Survival If Stopped By The PoliceDavid Miller 2 David Miller is the author of several books, which include Growing Up In a Notorious World (2002), Lessons I Learned from My Father: A Collection of Quotes from Men of African Descent (2004), Dare To Be Queen: Wholistic Curriculum for Working with Girls (2005) and Rhyme & Reason  a Hip Hop Curriculum for professionals who work with teens (2005), Daddy’s Girl: Remembering Advice From My Father  (2006) Where’s Mommy & Daddy?: A Workbook for Facilitating Groups with Youth Who Have a Parent in Prison (2014).  He’s also a graduate of the University of Baltimore with a B.S. Political Science and Goucher College with a Master’s Degree in Education.

 

 

MARION BARRY: THE MAN WHO COULD HAVE BEEN KING!

Posted in Black Men, Black Men In America, Politics with tags , , on November 24, 2014 by Gary Johnson

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By Harold Bell

I remember when Marion Barry blew into Washington, DC like one of those Midwestern hurricanes in 1965. He came in as the first Chairman of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC). He came with the credentials of being involved with the Black Civil Rights Movement in Tennessee, first as an organizer in the Nashville Student Sit-ins.

When he arrived in Washington in 1965 I had just returned to my hometown after spending two years chasing my dreams of playing in the NFL without success. I was home looking for a job when my friend Petey Green alerted me that the United Planning Organization (UPO), a self-help community oriented organization was hiring. Petey knew the Director, Jim Banks and told me to meet him at the 11th & U Street NW office the next morning.

UPO hired three Neighborhood Workers for the Shaw/Cardozo community. Petey Greene, H. Rap Brown and me. The rest is community and media history. That same year the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee decided to make Washington, DC its home base—enter Marion Barry.

The late Petey Greene would make his mark as a legendary community and radio/television personality and H. Rap Brown would follow in the footsteps of Marion Barry as Chairman of SNCC. Brown is now serving a life sentence in Georgia for the shooting death of a State Trooper and Marion died on Sunday November 23, 2014.

I am “The Last Man Standing!”

Marion would parlay his civil rights and community involvement activities into a political power base base that will never be seen again in the Nation’s Capital. He was the first civil rights activist to become mayor of a major American city. In 1967, his path to political power was enhanced when he and his future wife, Mary Treadwell, co-founded Pride, Inc., a Department of Labor-funded program to provide job training to unemployed black men. Marion used Pride, Inc., as a springboard to a seat on the DC School Board, City Council and Mayor for Life!

Pride was the brainchild of a NE street dude by the name of Rufus “Catfish” Mayfield. Mayfield’s childhood friend Clarence Booker was shot and killed by a white police officer. His crime, he had stolen a pack of cookies on the wrong side of the tracks. In a brief chase and confrontation with the police officer, his life ended.

Booker was unarmed (Ferguson/Michael Brown). Mayfield and Booker were both from my old neighborhood, a NE housing project called Parkside. Thanks to a grant given to the DC Recreation Department by UPO to hire additional Roving Leaders, I was hired by the department to work on the staff of the Youth Gang Task Force.

I was assigned to the scene of the crime to help quell the violence that might result from this senseless shooting of a black teenager. There was an outcry of racism because of the recent brutality directed by the DC Police Department against the black community. The federal government intervened and made a deal with Rufus “Catfish” Mayfield to provide job training for unemployed black youth. Pride, Inc. was born and the organization hired hundreds of teenagers to clean littered streets in DC. Mayfield was not a learned individual and brought Marion to the table for some direction—before he knew it he was on the outside looking in and Marion Barry never looked back.

Petey Greene and I were very territorial when it came to our hometown. H. Rap Brown won us over with his down to earth personality but when we encountered Marion it was like ships passing in the night.

Marion went on to become a three term City Councilman. While serving in March 1977 he was shot as a group of Hanifi Muslims took over the District Building. He lived to tell about it. Against all odds, Barry went on to become a two term mayor in the Nation’s Capital. In 1984 Barry gave the presidential nomination speech for civil rights leader Jesse Jackson at the Democratic National Convention.

There are people in the media who are often heard saying, “You either loved Marion or you hated him, there was no middle ground.” I beg to differ, I didn’t love Marion but I did not hate him either. He was a bright individual with a hard head that would not listen to sound advice. The media people who thought they knew Marion didn’t have a clue. He used them and beat them like a drum. He had them thinking that they had the inside story or scoop over one of their colleagues by remembering their first names.

Marion knew that local DC reporters such as Karen Gray Houston, Tom Sherwood, Pat Collins, Joe Madison, Maureen Bunyan, Courtland Milloy and Bruce Johnson had no clue about the black community. He knew these media types only became experts on the black community after they became columnist and television/radio personalities. Marion had the upper hand because all of them followed him into DC.

In 1990, Barry was videotaped smoking crack cocaine in a hotel room in NW DC. This later became known as “The Bitch Set Me Up” heard around the world. The media “know-it-alls” had no clue of the upcoming sting.

The irony is that he was forewarned by yours truly. In the summer of 1989 I ran into the only guy in his entourage that I think knew the definition of integrity and loyalty. Officer William Stays was his Driver/Security Guard and a class act. He had the Mayor’s back.

Officer Stays was sitting in the car in the Faces Restaurant parking lot on that summer evening when I approached him. Faces was where the so-called “in-crowd” hung out during the week and weekends to escape the rigors of the business world and politics. You could always find Marion there with members of his inner-circle. I asked Officer Stays to go and tell Marion I needed to see him in the parking lot right away. Stays never asked, “What was so important” He just when in and brought Marion back out with him.

I told Marion that there was a FBI sting being organized to catch him in a compromising position and I thought it was best for him to step back for a moment.

The next words out of his mouth, 25 years later still have me shaking my head.

He said, “Harold I appreciate your concern but I got my bases covered.” As he walked back into the restaurant I went over to Officer Stays who was standing outside of the car. It was then I told him about my concerns and Marion’s response, he just shook his head and said, ‘Harold what else can you do?’ We shook hands and said “Good night” and six months later “The Bitch Set Him Up.”

My “Deep Throat” source was an undercover FBI agent out of Newark, New Jersey. We met on the U Street corridor during the riots and we became close friends. He would later leave the city and become an FBI Director in one of our urban cities (retired).

Marion Barry avoided coming on my radio show “Inside Sports.” I knew his hangouts and the dubious characters he hung out with. Even though we were like passing ships Marion and I shared a lot of moments away from the media spotlight.

He loved sports but he could not play dead. I could beat him with my left hand and the other hand tied behind my back. His tennis instructor was my college roommate and teammate at Winston-Salem State University, the late Dr. Arnold McKnight. He would let me know where he and Marion would be hitting balls and I would show up and beat them both. Marion and I would run into each other at the Hillcrest Heights tennis courts located near his home on Suitland, Road, SE.

Dr. McKnight was also the DC Boxing Commissioner and as you know Marion was a part of the Riddick Bowe championship years. One day Marion and I were at the Hillcrest Tennis Courts hitting some balls just before the second Riddick Bowe vs. Evander Holyfield fight. He started talking about how Bowe was going to take out Holyfield in their rematch. I took the bait because everyone knew he was talking at me.

Riddick Bowe could have easily gone down in boxing history as one of the all time great champions. But he had too many distractions around him (Rock Newman, Marion and Cora Masters, Dick Gregory, Willie Wilson, etc). He had one of the all time great boxing trainers in his corner in Eddie Futch. Riddick Bowe would not train and would not listen. He was overweight. Marion was not aware that I knew all the confusion surrounding Bowe. There was one thing you could count on with Evander Holyfield–he was going to be in boxing shape.

I finally said to Marion, “What do you want to bet man?” His response, “Make it easy on yourself.” I knew Marion loved to gamble, so my response, “Lets bet $1,000.” He said, “Oh no.” I then countered with $500 and again he said “No.” He finally said, “$100” and I said, “Bet.” We shook hands on the deal. To make a long story short, Holyfield beat Bowe and it took me two months to collect my $100 from Marion. But one day I walked into Faces for lunch and there he was. Before I could get over to him he had reached in his pocket and torn off a money order for $100. His parting words to me were “How did you know?” I said, “Inside Sports.” Marion was not a bad guy and I really liked him but his head was always between his legs.

The Washington, DC drug culture is a very small community and Marion’s substance abuse was well known along with members of his inner-circle.

Kids In Trouble, Inc. had Santa’s Helpers with names like, Slippery Jackson, Bob Wayne, Philadelphia Jake, Dog Turner, Zack, Happy, Nook, Cornell. These guys had a laundry list of entertainers, politicians and media personalities with drug abuse problems.

I was not surprised when Marion called WRC TV 4 News Anchor Jim Vance for assistance and advice. Jim had been a main stay when it came to my community endeavors and my tennis partner, but it all came crashing down in 1978. One of my street contacts brought a check to me written by Vance for the drugs. Again, I was not surprised because the word had already filtered down to me. It was not a problem, because none of my guys had ever tried to involve me in their substance abuse activities so I became like the 3 Little Monkeys, “I saw no evil, I spoke no evil and I heard no evil.” My street contact really liked Vance but he said to me and I understood exactly where he was coming from, “Man I cannot tell this brother to step back because I am in business, but I think it would be better coming from you.”

That night I took the check up to TV 4 and waited for my friend to finish the 11:00 news. When he came out of the station I called him over to my car and gave him the check explaining he needed to re-group. He took the check and stopped speaking to me. He didn’t speak to me again until 3 years ago (1978-2010) during a tribute to sportscaster Glenn Harris at Howard University.

It was while he was paying tribute to Glenn that I discovered where his head really was. He thanked Glenn for sticking by him during his trial and tribulations with drugs and had not left him blowing in the wind as some other friend! I could not believe my ears; it finally hit me he was talking about me. His words reminded me of vocalist Nancy Wilson’s classic “Guess Who I Saw Today—I Saw You!” That was the way it hit me!

My thinking at the time was to take the check for the drugs up to the station; I thought I was trying to save the life and career of a dear friend. The death of Marion Barry and his reaching out to Jim Vance has allowed me to get this heavy load off of my shoulders and off of my chest.

As I continue to reflect back, I recall Marion, on the Saturday before he was to start serving his 6 month jail sentence made “Inside Sports” his last media stop. I owe the thanks to my roommate, Dr. Arnold McKnight. McKnight had called me on Friday evening and said, “Marion wants to be on your show tomorrow.” My response, “Bring him on!” I never thought he would show up, but he did.

I started the show the way I did every Saturday. I gave the sports quiz and then turned around to see McKnight and Marion coming into the station. Marion had this big smile on his face and said as he entered the studio “You thought I was not coming didn’t you?” I took a commercial break and thanked him for coming.

When I came out of commercial break and introduced him, the first thing out of his mouth was “There is one thing you can count on when it comes to Harold Bell and that is you are going to get the truth.” When he said that I decided I was not going to chastise him.

When the show ended I wished him and reminded to stay strong and I would keep him in prayer. His last words were, “I wish now that I had listened to you!”

Marion could have been the greatest black politician in the history of Black America, but he would not listen. But in the end—he did it his way.

Harold Bell is the Godfather of Sports Talk radio and television in Washington, DC.  Throughout the mid-sixties, seventies and eighties, Harold embarked upon a relatively new medium–sports talk radio with classic interviews with athletes and sports celebrities.  The show and format became wildly popular. Harold has been an active force fighting for the rights of children for over 40 years with the help of his wife through their charity Kids In Trouble, Inc.   To learn more about Harold Bell visit his official web site The Original Inside Sports.com.

Remembering Marion Barry

Posted in African Americans, Black America, Black Interests, Black Men, Black Men In America, Politics with tags , , on November 23, 2014 by Gary Johnson

Marion Barry Headshot

By Gary A. Johnson

Over the next few days, weeks, months and years, a lot will be written about the life and times of Marion Barry, Jr., who passed away this morning in Washington, DC at the age of 78.  As a native Washingtonian who grew up in the city and lived in the city as an adult, I am familiar with the politics in this town.

Many people will write and tell stories about Marion Barry.  I met Marion Barry a couple of times at public functions.  I did not know him, but I feel comfortable saying that Marion Barry was arguably the most powerful local politician of his generation.  He arrived in this town in 1965 and made an immediate connection with the community.  He was a community activist, he served on the School Board and later in life, he became a household name as the mayor of the most powerful city in the world.  Barry had a high-profile personal life and his drug arrest which was captured on video showing him smoking crack cocaine gave him international notoriety.

marion-barry-book.w490.h645.

I am fortunate to get invited to a variety of functions in this town.  I was present at one of Marion Barry’s last public appearances two months ago at Ben’s Chili Bowl restaurant in downtown DC.  Ben’s was hosting a booking signing for Barry’s recently published book, “Mayor for Life.”  I videotaped the former mayor addressing the crowd outside of Ben’s.  Barry was frail but his voice was strong.  In recent years he suffered from a variety of health problems including diabetes, prostate cancer and kidney ailments.  In the video below Marion Barry talked about his recovery from his health challenges, his love for the city of Washington and how you should live your life while here on earth.

What are your memories of Marion Barry, Jr?

GJohnson Gary A. Johnson is the Founder & Publisher of Black Men In America.com a popular online magazine on the Internet and the Black Men In America.com Blog. Gary is also the author of the book “25 Things That Really Matter In Life.To learn more about Gary click here.

Allstate’s Cheryl Harris and Her Passion for HBCU’s

Posted in African Americans, Black America, Black Interests with tags , , , , , on November 20, 2014 by Gary Johnson

Allstate-Quotes-for-Education-2014

By Gary A. Johnson, Black Men In America.com

I was in the middle of writing an article on how the Obama administration is not a friend of Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs). Under this administration the number of PLUS loans granted was cut in half. This policy changed forced 28,000 HBCU students to drop out, and cost schools $150 million. And then I was presented the opportunity to interview Cheryl A. Harris, Allstate Insurance Senior Vice President of Sourcing and Procurement Solutions.

Ms. Harris is a graduate of Florida A&M University (FAMU). She wanted to discuss Allstate’s Quotes For Education Program, an initiative established in 2009 to raise scholarship funds for financially struggling students attending HBCUs.

Currently there is a growing rate of HBCU students who are forced to withdraw from their academic programs due to financial hardships. In an effort to create additional scholarship opportunities Allstate has partnered with the Tom Joyner Foundation for the Allstate Quotes for Education program.

Under this program Allstate Insurance will donate $10, up to a total of $200,000, for every person who gets a quote from an Allstate Insurance Agent and mentions Quotes for Education from now through Nov. 30. In addition, for the third year in a row, everyone will also have a chance to cast their vote for the HBCU of their choice to receive an additional $50,000 in scholarship funding. In 2013, Grambling State University received the most votes and distributed scholarship funds to students in need.

People can click here or on this link www.allstate.com/hbcu and vote and check the “Leaderboard.” You have 10 days left!

As of Thursday, November 19th, the top 5 colleges on the Leaderboard are:

• #1 Grambling State University
• #2 Southern University A&M College
• #3 Tennessee State University
• #4 Florida A&M University
• #5 Alabama A&M University

Cheryl-Harris2

Cheryl Harris also talked about role modeling, the advantages of attending HBCUs and more. Here are some highlights from our interview:

BMIA.com: Is Allstate’s involvement with HBCUs a result of the Obama administration’s funding cuts for Historically Black Colleges and Universities?

Cheryl Harris: “Yes, it’s the administration’s cut in funding; the state’s cut in funding, its parents who don’t have the financial wherewithal or ability to keep their children in school. We had about 28,000 students who dropped out of school in 2012. That’s a big number when you think about it. The purpose of this program is to raise money to keep kids in school. We have a really strong partnership with the Tom Joyner Foundation to maximize the number of dollars that we can make available to the foundation and ultimately to the students.”

BMIA.com: We understand that Allstate Insurance will donate $10, up to a total of $200,000, for every person who gets a quote from an Allstate Insurance Agent and mentions “Quotes for Education.” Is this true?

Cheryl Harris: “That is correct. As of today, we’re at $190,000. I hope that you are familiar with an additional component of the program, where Allstate will award an additional $50,000 in scholarship funding when you vote for the HBCU of their choice. The promotion ends at the end of the month. We want people to visit www.allstate.com/hbcu and vote for the HBCU of their choice. We want people to get online and have family, friends, colleagues and business partners vote for the HBCU of their choice. When you think about the roles of HBCUs, FAMU and all of our HBCUs have played an important part in our nation’s history. Participating in this program is a very easy set of things to do to make a difference in the lives of students who deserve to go to school and graduate from HBCUs. I’m very authentic and passionate about my involvement in this program. I’m happy to be working for a company that cares about giving back to the community.”

BMIA.com: What’s the best part of being Cheryl A. Harris?

Cheryl Harris: “To understand my response to this question you have to understand me. I’m from Chicago born to an unwed mother at 16. Statistically I’m not supposed to be in this spot. History was supposed to repeat itself and I was supposed to be an unwed mother with about 10 kids right now. The goodness about being me is that I believe I’m in a position to give others hope that have lost hope and let people see that there is possibility if they want to achieve. I feel good about that every day to know that I beat the system and I’m in a spot where I can motivate and encourage others to do the same. We talk about the lack of role models in our community, in particular for African American men. I think when you see how HBCU alums come together to be those role models, it excites me to wake up and think about all the possibilities for the next generation of leaders, the next generation of African Americans. I get to wake up and do this every day because I’m appreciated at Allstate. People thank me for doing this. It feels good to be able to give back. That’s what it’s like to be me. I’m married and have 5 kids at home. We’re taking our first one away for a college visit in January and the first place we’re going is FAMU. I’m all about living and I want to make sure that my actions back up my beliefs every single day.”

BMIA.com: What else do we need to know about this Allstate program and HBCUs?

Cheryl Harris: “If people can spend 1 minute to vote online, you can help us; help a deserving school win $50,000 to keep our students in school. That’s one. I still encourage people to support Allstate by getting a quote. My goal every year is to max out what we can give so I can ask for more. I feel good about what Allstate does. We’re not doing it for marketing; we’re doing it because it’s the right thing to do. Having consumers support Allstate is important because we are walking the talk. We live it, we breath it, we do it. We know that there are students out there who will be able to complete their education because of this program and that’s a very important thing that we all need to take to heart. Go to www.allstate.com/hbcu and vote for the HBCU of their choice. It makes a difference.”

BMIA.com: Thank you Cheryl Harris.

Cheryl Harris: Thank you Gary.

Thank you to Samantha Falchook from TAYLOR (Public Relations & Strategy) for arranging this interview.

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