Monday, December 31, 2007

Top 10 News Stories of 2007

Each year there are things that catch my attention. During this year I waxed and waned over the stories that make up my Top Ten Black News Stories. Some choices are obvious, others bubble underneath surface. Take a look and make up you own list. If I missed something charge it to my head and not my heart.

10. The Evolution of the American Gangster: There is a strong likelihood that Denzel’s Washington’s performance in the movie American Gangster will likely win an Academy Award. I had chance to preview this flick over the summer during the NABJ Convention but, took a pass. Wondering, "Do I really need to see another gangster movie?" (My wife would convince me later to see the movie). The Frank Lucas story is one of many being played out across the country. Drug dealers seen as Machiavellian heroes aren’t the answer. In my home town (Baltimore) there’s "Little Melvin." Famed heroin dealer now a consultant to the HBO series, "The Wire." Washington, DC had Raphael Edmonds and Los Angeles had Tookie Smith. Look for a former "Drug King Pin" getting the remake in your community.

9. The Global Village – Dafur, AIDS in Sub-Saharan Africa, Leadership Transition in South Africa, and Robert Mugabe’s continued rule in Zimbabwe are a few stories I kept my eye on this year. The promise of Africa still exists. As I watch these tragedies unfold it seems to harken back to a time of post colonial rule where crises are sucked in by vacuums of powerlessness. There is hope even in the midst of despair.

8. The Pew Study – For some time I’ve known that there were several strata of the African-American community. This years Pew Study on Race paints a unique picture of how it’s dividing. Some of it is played out in the conversations that Bill Cosby has been having across the country on responsibility. Racism still exists as a collective rallying cry but moral rightness supposedly "isn’t keepin it real." I personally think this sucks.

7. The War: This continues to be one of the top stories. For African-Americans it’s a double edged sword. If you happen to have a personal connection to the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan my hearts go out to you and/or your love one. I hope they come home safe. If you’re removed from these events you may be ambivalent and wondering how much longer? In 2008 don’t expect to get an answer on this from either political party. There are no simple answers.

6(tie). Schools – Let’s be candid some urban and suburban school systems are failing to educate. There are myriad reasons for this but, Urban League President Marc Morials words still ring my ears, "We have a school systems that were based on a farm economy. Who gets off work at 3 o’clock? That was based upon the idea to bring in the harvest before the sun went down." The experimentation is beginning across the county. It includes ideas like smaller class sizes, charter schools, magnet schools, year long schools, academy’s, single sex education and many others. I am not a fan of No Child Left Behind. The federal program’s emphasis on testing means learning and discovery aren’t a priority. FYI, tear down every school built prior to 1965 it’s not worth the time to retrofit.

6(tie). BET being BET – "Read a Book…Read a Book…read a M-F Book." DAH!!! What were they thinking? Guest what I know exactly what they were thinking at BET. As a disclaimer I worked for BET in the late 90’s. The video programming department was always populated by the under 27 crowd who’s sense of history was primarily tied to what they saw in video’s. The managers who were older put the brakes on some things. I’m guessing at their New York offices little has changed and they thought this was funny. Fast forward to the unveiling of "Hot Ghetto Mess." DAH !!! Debra Lee, Reginald Hudlin and Stephen Hill, the corporate brass at BET, succumbed to the pressure and changed the name of this show to "We Got to Better." It didn’t make a difference. They’re trying to find audience. And Lee, President of BET, wonders why the protesters keep showing up at her door. DAH!!!!

5. Obama Haters – When Rob Redding broke the story about Ambassador Andrew Young suggesting Obama needed to wait until 2016 it solidified for me what Mary J. Blige calls, "hateration." Former national Civil Rights activist are less incline to believe in his candidacy because the era of "race politics" is slowly coming to an end or is in its final throws. Not having followed the traditional path to politics he isn’t "your grandfathers Cadillac." What the hell was this BS about "Is he Black enough?" Give me a break, stop ‘hatin.’

4. Technology – There use to be something called the digital divide when it came to Black people and technology. "It ain’t there no more." Here’s a question I like to give to students. What was the first electronic device you used for communication? And now what types of devices are you using to communicate? The second part of this answer usually sounds like the produce section at a grocery store (blackberry, strawberry, chocolate) or ordering drinks a bar (sidecar, sidekick). The under 25 generation will never know a world where there was no Google, YouTube, MySpace, and Facebook. Here’s what’s exciting the application of these domains and other devices will no longer be govern by someone with a higher authority. Instead end-users will determine their role and functionality. The genie has been let out of the bottle and we can’t put her back.

3. Death of a Chocolate City – Hurricane Katrina dealt New Orleans a deadly blow and continues to do so in her backwash. New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin in one of his tirades about the lack of help suggested bring back the Crescent City as Chocolate City. Two years removed from this catastrophe few have moved back, parts of the city still remain uncleared, and now there are majority of whites on the city council. This last week the city agreed to tear down public housing units where large contingents of African Americans reside (done so while police pepper sprayed those who want to halt the proceedings). Who will be left to populate New Orleans, and will those who’ve lived there be able to afford to move back?

2. Black Homicide Rates – There is an epidemic in America and few of us can do little about it, homicide rates for African-Americans From Philadelphia, Newark, Baltimore Washington, Richmond, Chicago, Atlanta, Miami, Dallas and many places in-between the death of a young Black men has become casual. The incredible number of children’s deaths in Chicago, the killings of college students in Newark, and Philly’s soaring death rate (some call the city Killadelphia) were outrages that sparked action. I applaud Philadelphia for creating 10,000 Men Campaign. I believe part of this is pathological. There are segments of our society that do not have ability to decipher the cause and effect of their actions and believe there is a short inevitability to their lives. I have a friend who works in the mental health field and we had this discussion about the cause for these homicides. He concurred with this assessment. "We’ve always had a small percentage of the society with mental illness, now that percentage is larger and living among us." Add to this growing perception and urban myth of "Stop Snitchin." The culture and segment of society which embraces death by violence has its own screenplay (FYI [I mean this sarcastically], I can’t wait to see Stop Snitchin II, pre-order the DVD $9.99 January 2008).

1. What Hath Jena Wrought – Each generation has had its water mark events. For the early Civil Rights backers it was the March on Washington, in the 90’s it was Million Man March, and for this generation it is Jena Six. The early reports on this story had its roots on the net. It grew and took on a life of its own. To date only one of six defendants has had its case settled (not necessarily to liking of the crowd). The remaining young Black men who are charged with attempted murder will now get their chance at justice. The legal system is like a marathon, "the swift don’t always finish the race, the slow and steady have a better than average chance of crossing the finish line." A reminder to those who began this campaign on the net, there are thousands of Jena Six’s in communities across the country.

Person of Year – This year it doesn’t go to an individual but to a group of individuals, Black Bloggers and Black Net Portals. There names are varied and subject matter could create street novella’s for years to come. They got their act together last year sewing together the movement that became Jena Six. They will be a force to reckon with in the future. They tore down the sign which use to say, for white males only, and "flipped the script." As my kids would say "they were poppin."


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