Monday, June 29, 2009

Good Hair/Bad Hair

Black hairstyles are as diverse as the Black community itself. There are naturals, weaves, chemically relaxed styles, braids and dreadlocks, to name just a few. Black hair and its care go well beyond the multibillion-dollar industry it has become and is deeply rooted in Black identity and culture. For many Black parents, having a child walk around with unkempt hair is an almost unpardonable sin. That desire to be well groomed extends into adulthood. In the U.S., barbershops and beauty salons are perhaps second only to Black churches as the oldest institutions in the community. Black people want to look good from the cradle to the grave.

Notice how a Black man with dreadlocks perceived as opposed to say a Black man with short cropped or even with a shaved head. He is not as approachable with the locks. There is the perception and misconceptions of the “angry Black man.” There is no other racial or ethnic group in which hair comes to bear on someone's politics. For Black people, our hair has been infused with these racial politics. Not about hair per se, it's about what hair means, particularly for Black women in terms of racial identity. On one level, hair matters because some outdated ideal still linger, for instance if a Black woman straightens her hair she is "selling out the race" and/or "embracing the white standard of beauty" while women who wear their hair in natural styles are "blacker than thou. No one is saying that about White women, Yellow women or Brown women. If you don’t think so let’s take First Lady Michelle Obama. She has been criticized in certain areas as being radical or too outspoken about race. And this uneases some people. She is a tall dark-skinned woman and that intimidates some people. If now you add an Afro or twistees then she becomes really scary. Remember the cover that The New Yorker magazine ran with a drawing portraying Michelle Obama wearing an Angela Davis-style Afro while “fist bumping” (dapping) a turban wearing Barack Obama. I took it to poke fun at what people really fear. But we are not at the point where we can laugh at Black images, because we, as do others, feel that every Black image reflects on Black people as a whole.

When a child has straight hair, they are told they have “good hair” and while people aren't telling children with curly hair that they have “bad hair,” in reality that is what we are saying. But in reality good hair is not straight hair, but healthy hair is good hair. Chris Rock saw these same attitudes in his young daughters and it helped motivate his new documentary "Good Hair." The film is narrated by Rock and explores Black hair from a variety of angles, including the booming $9 billion Black hair industry and the science behind chemical relaxers used to straighten hair. The comedian spent nearly two years exploring the world of black hair for his documentary. He managed to sit down with a variety of Black celebrities, including actress Nia Long, Maya Angelou and Al Sharpton, and question them about their hair. In the movie, Chris Rock visits barbershops in Harlem, salons in Beverly Hills as well as the extravagant Bronner Brothers Hair Show in Atlanta, where stylists wield their shears in intense hair battles. In the documentary Rock even goes as far as India, which is a major place where the hair from many weaves worn by Black women actually comes from.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

The First Ever Juneteenth Celebration Hosted by the Leader of the Free World on the South Lawn of the White House

President Barack Obama hosted a BBQ for young men on the South Lawn of the White House June 19, 2009. Officially they said the bar-b-que was to mentor young men about the importance of family and community activism. But a ‘que on June 19th? The day Black folks in the U.S. commemorate freeing the slaves in Texas!? Coincidence?! Maybe it was to celebrate Father’s Day Weekend…

You gotta love this President! Especially since y’all know some folks are going to be heated about BBQ’s going down on the White House lawn. He invited several celebrity fathers, influential men, and local teen boys over for some chit chat about the responsibility of men and fathers…and some BBQ! Dwyane Wade, Alonzo Mourning, Etan Thomas, the President of Motorola, the President of Morehouse College, and many other men were in attendance. Chef Bobby Flay was there to get steaks and burgers poppin’ for everybody while the Prez served them up. I'm luvin it!

Friday, June 26, 2009

Words to Live By

I was not going to blog about Michael Jackson, but decided to at least post my favorite song by him. The lyrics to Man in the Mirror are great. I wish we all could live by them. Michael certainly lived by the make that change part.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

From Homeless to Harvard

Seventeen year-old high school student Kenneth Chancey is an honors student and star football player. He is student body president and one of the most popular people at school. He is also homeless.

Kenneth has just finished his junior year at Hollywood's Helen Bernstein High School, where he was named best overall academic student. He's the starting running back on the football team, cutting and dashing his way past his opponents. But when classes and practices end, he begins the difficult journey home with his 14-year-old sister, Stephanie. The journey takes over an hour. He lives at Skid Row with his father and sister, at the Union Rescue Mission, a homeless shelter. He walks down the littered streets of one of the roughest areas of Los Angeles. Drug deals are made around him. The stench of the place is overwhelming.

But Kenneth Chancey is on another journey too. He hopes to go from being homeless to becoming a Harvard grad. "I would love to be able to say that I graduated from Harvard University with a PhD in medicine and be able to share my story," he says. "I have to dream because obviously my reality is horrible."

Bad as it is, life for Kenneth is much better than when he was in sixth grade. Then he lived in a van with his mother and stepfather. His mom did drugs in front of him and, he says, his stepfather would hit him.

His father, Gordon Costello, says he's proud of his son for emerging as a leader, despite everything that's been thrown at him. It took a lot of getting used to a shelter. He and his sister hated it, but they somehow managed to adjust and decided to make the best of it.

Teachers say Kenneth has a dynamic personality that attracts students to him. They also say he's good in athletics, good in academics and he's good at getting people to get involved. He doesn't hold back. He showed students a PowerPoint presentation of his life and told them they should strive to do great things. He told them that if he can do it in his situation, then you can do it.

He's in the process of applying to Harvard. He hopes to eventually become a doctor. He knows he can't afford its $50,000-plus-a-year tuition, but he's not going to let that keep him from dreaming. "I know that I'm better than Skid Row. I know that I can accomplish something," he says.
If he has children one day, he says, he hopes it's a lesson to pass on to them. He says he would love to tell my children that he graduated from a top school and that if he can do it, they can do it.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Role Models or Silly Dads

Listening to my pastor’s Father’s Day sermon yesterday concerning characteristics of a good and godly dad made me take a look back at what we have been groomed to think what a father is supposed to be. When Black folks begin to appear on TV in family settings, usually in the form of a sitcom, we really didn’t care what they were doing - just the fact that they were there was “good enough”. But now that I look back, and even today there were no really good father figures on TV. Even on one of the most successful sitcoms of all times, the Cosby Show, Heathcliff Huxtable was made to look like an idiot at home, even though he was a successful doctor. The children had little respect for him and anytime a real problem came up they went to wife Clair to solve it. And the ridicule of the male image was passed down to the son Theo, who was just as bad or worse.

And you can go down the list of Black sitcom and basically interchange the dads despite their varied social economic status was. There was the longest running Black sitcom, the Jeffersons, where George Jefferson, a successful entrepreneur who worked and “moved on up” from a working class section of Queens into a luxury apartment in Manhattan, by owning seven dry-cleaner stores. And still he was the wacko dad with the goofball son, Lionel and they both needed wife Louise to make sure they behaved. How about Michael Kyle of My Wife and Kids with the stupid son, Junior, kept in line by wife Jay.

Family Matters originally focused on the character of Carl Winslow who was always bailed out by wife Harriette. The producers changed it a hare and gave them a rebellious son Eddie. That didn’t seem to be working so they brought in a nerdy next-door neighbor, Steve Urkel, midway through the first season and he quickly became the focus of the show. Sanford and Son only had dad Fred G. Sanford, a 65-year-old junk dealer living in Watts, and Lamont, his 30-year-old son in the household. Fred was stubborn and argumentative with frequent money-making schemes which backfired and created more troubles. Fred was constantly insulting his son, usually calling him a “big dummy”. Lamont insulted his father also, sometimes referring to him as an "old fool".

There was the Evans family in Good Times. James Evans was father of the buffoon son J.J. and wife Florida worked around the clock “keeping their heads above water”. They lived in the infamous Cabrini-Green projects of Chicago. They killed off James in the fourth season because he was fed up with J.J. character. Then there was Amen where Deacon Ernest Frye, of the First Community Church of Philadelphia was often dishonest and frequently got into trouble with his many harebrained schemes. His 37-year-old daughter, Thelma was in charge of keeping him in line.

The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air with a man intelligent enough to be Judge Philip “Uncle Phil” Banks but made to look foolish by all the children, especially nephew Will Smith. Two foolish men are not enough for the Fresh Prince producers. Son Carlton is ignorant and Will’s friend Jazz is just plain stupid. And do we even to go to Martin Payne and Gina Waters, Martin's more level-headed, long suffering better half, and later his wife. How about The Bernie Mac Show, The Hughleys, House of Payne, and Meet the Browns.

Cartoons even got into it with Oscar Proud with rational and level-headed Trudy Proud with daughter Penny Proud, a 14-year-old who is usually embarrassed by the way her father acts.

As with other sitcoms with a common target audience, TV networks have often scheduled Black sitcoms in blocks on a given night of the week. While this has helped to foster an audience for many of these shows, it has been criticized as creating a "ghetto" for them, where they are less likely to be watched by non-Black viewers who might tune in early for a "White" show they are already interested in, or stay tuned in after another show has finished. In the 2000s, UPN emerged as the most prolific broadcaster of Black sitcoms, scheduling one or two nights of programming each week featuring them.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

U.S. Senate Apologizes for Slavery...blah, blah

Today the U.S. Senate passed a resolution apologizing to Black Americans for the wrongs of slavery and segregation. The resolution is similar to the U.S. House of Representatives nonbinding resolution, (does not obligate them to do anything – they patted themselves on the back and said that’s that), adopted last year. Besides only a handful of senators was present for the voice vote, so they can say to the people who sent them to Congress, I didn’t have anything to do with it. And because the resolution is nonbinding, it does not have to be forwarded to the president for his signature.

Several states have passed similar resolutions, but last year’s House resolution was the first time a branch of the U.S. federal government did so. The resolution “acknowledges the fundamental injustice, cruelty, brutality and inhumanity of slavery, and Jim Crow laws," and "apologizes to Black Americans on behalf of the people of the United States, for the wrongs committed against them and their ancestors who suffered under slavery and Jim Crow laws." Jim Crow laws were state and local laws enacted mostly in U.S. Southern and border states between the 1870s and 1965 that acted to deny the right to vote and other civil liberties to Blacks, and to legally segregate them from Whites (you know, the same crap that the U.S. said that South Africa was wrong for doing).

It doesn't fix anything, but it does at least put it on paper that the country admits to injustice. Many members of the Black community have called on lawmakers to give cash payments (reparations) or other financial benefits to descendants of slaves as compensation for the suffering caused by slavery (like they did for descendants of Japanese citizens that were held in camps during World War II or the grants given to Native-American tribes for hijacking their land). But the nonbinding resolution made it quite clear the only thing we are getting is a “we’re sorry, now shut up and get on with your Juneteenth celebrations” (June 19, the day in 1865 when word of the Emancipation Proclamation reached Texas – two years after it actually was issued.)

At lease now we can show our children that the U.S. government has admitted they were wrong. And we must not depend on anyone to take care of us but God and ourselves.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Ninja President

Maybe he should slap some of his opponents like that.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Otis Smith Leads Orlando Magic as General Manager

Otis Smith was a journeyman (the dictionary describes the term as a competent and reliable but unexceptional performer) whose NBA career was cut short by injury as a player, but the Jacksonville native is front and center in his role as general manager of the Orlando Magic. He was bounced between three teams in six NBA seasons as a forward from Jacksonville University before being forced to retire in 1993 with a knee injury. Smith is in charge of all basketball operations - capped an impressive rise up the executive ladder with a trip to the year’s NBA final – where the Magic was defeated by the Los Angeles Lakers.

Smith was born and raised in Jacksonville, Florida and played basketball at Jacksonville University where he became the only player in school history to tally more than 1,700 points and 900 rebounds in his collegiate career. His jersey was retired at Jacksonville University in 2002. He earned a degree in marketing and management. He was then taken with the 17th pick in the second round of the 1986 NBA Draft by the Denver Nuggets. He also played for the Golden State Warriors before becoming a member of the Orlando Magic on June 15. Sadly, Otis Smith retired with a knee injury after his sixth season.

Otis Smith has held several positions for the Orlando Magic including: Director of Community Relations, Director of Player Development, Co-General Manager, and he has been the General Manager of the Orlando Magic since May 3, 2006.

Denver’s Mark Warkentien won the 2009 NBA Executive of the Year Award, but along with Danny Ferry who brought Mo Williams to Cleveland to help lead the team to a 66-win season, LA’s Mitch Kupchak for the theft of Pau Gasol along with getting Trevor Ariza and Shannon Brown off other team’s benches, Otis Smith has to be in the conversation. Of course, Warkentien pulled arguably the best in-season move by sending Allen Iverson to Detroit for Chauncey Billups, which gave the Nuggets the toughness and defensive intensity to go from a Western Conference also-ran to a legitimate contender.

Take a look at the job Otis Smith has done:
June 7 2007
Released head coach Billy Donovan and named Stan Van Gundy head coach.
July 11 2007
Traded a conditional second-round pick and cash to the Seattle SuperSonics for forward Rashard Lewis.
July 12 2007
Signed center Dwight Howard to a contract extension.
August 27 2007
Signed center Marcin Gortat.
October 31 2007
Signed guard Jameer Nelson to a contract extension.
Draft 2008
Selected guard Courtney Lee (22nd overall pick).
July 10 2008
Signed guard Mickael Pietrus.
July 15 2008
Signed guard Anthony Johnson.
February 19 2009
Traded forward Brian Cook to the Houston Rockets for guard Rafer Alston.

So, in the last two years, Smith has 1) locked up his two cornerstones (Howard and Nelson) to long term contracts, 2) traded for the versatile Lewis, who wreaked havoc in the Cleveland series, 3) found two starter-quality perimeter players in the draft (Lee) and free agency (Pietrus), 4) found a couple of hard-nosed rotation guys in the draft (Gortat) and free agency (Johnson), 5) pulled off a deal for Rafer Alston when Nelson went down, and 6) found a guy to coach them all.

Seasons 4
Playoffs 3
Division Titles 2
Conference Titles 1
Not bad.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Jonathan Butler: Falling In Love with Jesus

Jonathan Butler is a born and brewed South African Grammy award nominee and an internationally acclaimed artist whose music has weaved hope and faith, inspiring fans all over the world.

Time dedicated to his music is time dedicated to a life changing experience, for this is a gifted man with a phenomenal voice and extraordinary musical skills. The message in his songs overflows with a depth and profoundness, whether he is talking about love, or love-changing topics.

With many years as a jazz singer, song writer and guitarist, Jonathan Butler, like a fine wine, has surely gotten better with time. Jazz affectionists in around the world have loved him for years. However, most have no idea that he has dominated the African gospel music industry for years. Now sharing stages with Grammy award winners like Cece Winans and Kirk Whalum at the Stellar Awards, he is quickly becoming one of the biggest gospel forces in the world music industry.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Container Homes: Build Your Home One Box at a Time

People drive by Magoline Hazelton’s house just to take a look in North Charleston, South Carolina. From the outside, her home doesn't seem much different from the rest of the neighborhood. But the big difference is that her house is made from cargo shipping containers. Using containers to build homes has increasingly become a trend in the past several years because it can be cheaper and faster than using traditional construction methods. About 18 million containers are used worldwide to transport a variety of everyday products, such as cars, toys and food. And because the United States imports more than it exports, many containers end up stacked at ports. SG Blocks, whose name stands for safe and green blocks, has made a business from the container overflow.

The containers are designed for hostile dynamic life at sea. With minor modification, they can easily become a multi-family living system. Modifying containers into homes uses significantly less energy than melting them down. These containers weigh about 9,000 pounds, and it takes about 9,000 kilowatt hours of energy to melt down 9,000 pounds of steel. You can modify that existing piece of steel with approximately 400 kilowatt hours of energy input. That's a 95 percent energy reduction. The energy saved by transforming a single container into a home, rather than melting it down, can power a standard 70-watt light bulb for up to 15 years.

Ms. Hazelton's home took 10 weeks to build. Generally, SG Blocks has found that recycled homes cut construction time in half. Typical homes can take four to eight months to build. For container homes, it usually takes two to four months. The cost of building a single family container home is comparable to a traditional home, but you get steel home instead of a wood home, which is more durable and has a lower carbon footprint. It's also water resistant and termite resistant.

Companies around the world are using shipping containers as building materials to create offices, army barracks, dorms and even designer homes. They can make them look like anything you want. If you want it minimalistic, so you can see the container walls, they can do that. If you want stucco or brick or siding, they can do that as well.

While each container has its own roof, when multiple containers are put together side by side, there are gaps between the boxes. Therefore, a traditional roof is put on top of the entire home, providing additional safety in inclement weather. When the boxes are joined together, the gaps are sealed, so even if you lose your roof above, you'd have protection. The second roof also provides another benefit. Ms. Hazelton finds she can't even hear the rain hitting her home when it's pouring outside.

Her house has been almost maintenance free since she moved in. The only thing she has to do in the last five years is exchanged the hot water heater.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Young Man on a Solid Foundation

Ten year-old Jonathan McCoy’s speech to end the use of the “N” word has become a YouTube sensation. But as they say, behind every great man is a great woman, and vice-versa. Much of the credit for the positive path that this young man is on can be credited to his mother, Linda Mims McCoy. She is raising a focused, intelligent young Black man. She has been married for 21 years, has 18 brothers and sisters, all but one by the same parents. Yet she had difficulty conceiving, miscarrying two children before having Jonathan. She calls him her “miracle” child. She wanted her son to have the best – not of material things, but of her time and commitment.
The fifth grader has an A-average and plans to spend his summer doing what boys do: Playing, hanging out with friends and - well, maybe not so much like the other boys - building a kid-friendly Web site. Her advice to other mothers raising Black sons or daughters include the following:

Make time for your child: The best gift that you can give them is time. Even if you work full time give your child time. There are a lot of things that a child may not have materially, but make sure they have a wealth of resources spiritually, mentally and emotionally. You don’t have to them everything they want, but give them everything that they need to succeed.

Seek alternate educational options: Males learn differently from females. Jonathan is very strong-willed and extremely opinionated. Sometimes in the predominantly White schools, it became a challenge. They would say he was so smart but they would say he was a bad seed, because he would challenge them on everything. It wasn’t a defiant challenge; he just wanted to know. They pulled him out of regular school and put him into virtual school online. There are home school programs online that are absolutely free. They are public schools and they give you all the materials - a printer and a computer loaded with everything that you need. They give you everything that will enhance your child’s education. Give them the flexibility to learn at their own pace. The virtual schools are a year ahead of public school. As long as you pass the assessment for the grade level you can start wherever you are academically. Our best friends have homeschooled four sons – two have graduated from college, one is just about to graduate from high school and the last one will finish high school in a couple of years. You may be the only chip in the cookie, but whatever is best... But to be successful with it, you have to make the time. If you don’t it’s really a waste. You also have online teachers. Not only are you teaching them, but they have to take Language Arts and Math with a webcam and a teacher with other children in the same state, just like signing up for an online college class.

Be willing to adapt when necessary: Jonathan’s going to middle school in the fall. He is signed up for virtual school and for public school as well. As far as the social aspect, as far as getting involved in clubs and things like that, they may want to be a part of a club. Shelter their innocence, but you don’t want them to be ignorant of what’s going on in the world.

Join a parenting group: Parent networking groups are great. It doesn’t matter where you are socially or economically. You can find parenting networks everywhere. Linda McCoy said, “When I gave birth to him, there was a young girl that came around. She was asking moms to sign up for this program for low-income families, and I signed up anyway. I started going to some of their meetings where they taught parents how to take care of their children and gave them an opportunity to have an outlet.” Look online or go to your local community center, there are parenting resources. Some churches (it doesn’t have to be the one you attend) are part of a network of sources for parents.

Engage them: Recognize him as a male because males learn differently from females. If we take the time to engage our boys, find out and cultivate their interests and not give them flowery stories and things that girls like, they can learn. But we have to capture their interest. If we try to treat them like girls, we lose them. One of the problems in school today is the lack of Black male teachers. We have all these women in the school system and their way of dealing with boys is they are going to send them to the principal’s office, when in fact they are not engaging them. This is true not only for Black boys, but the same thing is happening with little White boys too. Boost their self-esteem. Constantly tell him that he’s going to be somebody, that he’s somebody great, and that he’s great right now. Constantly feed him with positive information. Feed his expectations; tell him he’s going to be rich and famous. Whatever he sets his mind to, encourage it.

Give them a spiritual foundation: A lot of children’s confidence comes from his faith in God. Don’t let them hold grudges. Instill in them to not pay attention to what people say about you. Constantly give them encouragement at every turn.

Encourage communication and honest dialogue: If it's like that and that’s the way it is, that’s how you present it to them. Mrs. McCoy said, “I told Jonathan that Mom smoked weed; only three times, but I did it. I told him that Mom had premarital sex. I don’t hide anything from my child.” (Don’t forget to tell them that it’s wrong when it’s wrong.) “My husband is much more private, but he’s learning to open up because he sees that that’s cultivating the man he’ll become. Because I’m open with him, he’s not afraid or ashamed to tell me everything that’s going on in his life."

Treat him like a boy: Treat him like a boy. Play around with him. You can be tough with them, but you have to see their heart.

Every child can succeed if they’re given the right tools: Children change every six months. If there’s a growth spurt physically, there’s a growth spurt mentally. They constantly change, and we have to be ready for what they have to go through. Every child starts off with the same make-up in terms of learning. It’s what you put in them. And you have to do it at the start. People say that Jonathan is smart and that is true. But I know that that’s available to everyone his age if they work at it. Some get it faster than others. You just have to find their interest.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

KBLX Celebrates Black Music Month

June is Black Music Month. For the past 30 years, KBLX has been bringing the San Francisco Bay Area the best Smooth R&B from the classics of the 70s, 80s to the new artists you hear on 102.9FM today. As the Bay Area authority on "Smooth Quiet Storm" music, KBLX prepared a "Bay Area History Report" and "History of KBLX" music report.

The history of Black Music in America actually has its roots in the Mother Land – Africa – with the sound of drums. Drums were a form of communication. One of the foremost instrumentalists to come out of Africa is Nigerian drummer Babatunde Olatunji. The Grammy Award winning masterful drummer composed music for Raisin in the Sun and Spike Lee’s She’s Gotta Have It. Black music is as multifaceted as the people who create it.

Work Songs - Spirituals – Gospel: When slaves were captured and brought to the United States, drums were banned for fear slaves would use them for communication during rebellions. Slaves then relied on their vocal chords to make music. These resourceful people started singing Spirituals, also known as work songs, while breaking their backs in southern cotton fields. The first Spiritual recording was by the Fisk Jubilee Singers in 1909. The slaves of the deep south wanted to find their way to the freedom land up north and were thinking about escaping which is the origin of many songs like Steal Away to Jesus, meaning stealing away on the Underground Railroad. One of the best known spiritualists ever is the Queen of Gospel, Mahalia Jackson. Work songs were the foundation of what would eventually become the Blues.

Blues: Black Americans left hot southern fields and found they did not have much money or anyone to love. So they would sing. That was the birth of the Blues. Robert Johnson was a delta blues guitarist considered by some to the Grandfather of Rock and Roll. But if you listen to his songs, they were definitely the blues. Other great Blues singers include Howling Wolf and Muddy Waters. Life was hard but somehow a person could make it as long as they could sing about it. Billie Holiday’s largest selling record, “Strange Fruit,” was about Black men who were hung from trees. Blues became so popular that White folks would go to the Black parts of town and listen to music by someone like Big Mama Thornton and make the same song a hit on the pop side of the charts.

Ragtime: Ragtime was very popular between 1897 and 1918 and is known to be the first truly original American music. Ragtime influenced some classical artists like Scott Joplin. Jelly Roll Morton, a pianist, bandleader and composer and was known as an essential transitional figure between ragtime and jazz. After 1917 jazz stepped in and stole the listening audience’s attention.

Jazz: Jazz, an American musical art form, started as a slang term from the West Coast and used to tell about the music from Chicago. There were jazzy big bands led by Count Basie and as well as the mellow tones of his royal highness Duke Ellington. Sass the lass with all the class, Sarah Vaughn, was known for her scatting style of jazz. And then there was “First Lady of Song,” Ella Fitzgerald, who had a three octave vocal range. Jazz had a variety of subgenres, one of which originated in New Orleans known as Dixieland. The Modern Jazz Quartet performed in several jazz styles including cool jazz and bebop.

Bebop: The younger generation of jazz musicians produced a new form of Jazz. Known as Bebop, it had fast tempos and improvisation. Collaborations between Jazz and Bebop were made with folks like Dizzy Gillespie and Louie Armstrong. Armstrong had a distinctive voice and Dizzy’s signature was his bent horn and pouched cheeks. Another one of the individuals that led the Bebop craze was Cab Calloway. Louis Jordan was one of the most successful band leaders and was known as the “King of the Jukebox.” He took Jazz to another level by blurring jazz musical lines with a Doo-wop beat.

Rock & Roll: Tour the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and you will see the faces of countless Black artists, who were the originators of this new style of music. Born out of the blues being played in smoke-filled joints in the South, Rock & Roll was originally a Black art form. The recordings were originally called “race records,” as they were only sold to Blacks and played on Black radio stations. But young Whites, electrified by Chuck Berry’s powerful guitar playing and energetic dancing, soon created a market for White rock. The original “Shake, Rattle and Roll” was by Big Joe Turner was #1 on Billboard Charts in 1954, because Whites were listening to it in the privacy of their homes. Little Richard, known for his wild shouting style, and playing the piano with his feet at times, is often pointed to as one of the greatest inspirations to later rockers. With his aggressive guitar strumming, Bo Diddley set the standard for future Rock & Roll guitarists.

Doo-wop: Doo-wop emerged as street corner harmonies in northern states. White America called it Rock and Roll but it was actually vocal group harmony and the beginnings of Rhythm and Blues. There was the smooth Doo-wop harmony of The Five Satins and The Penguins. One of the first teen Doo-wop groups to hit the big time with television and soared high on recording charts was Frankie Lymon and the Teenagers. Then there were The Platters, The Jive Five, Speedo & the Cadillacs, The MoonGlows, The Coasters and The Flamingos.

Crossover: In the 1950’s, in the midst of segregation, there were artists who were able to cross over to Top 40 charts in radio. With their broad appeal, they were on different charts at the same time – blues, pop, easy listening, country or R&B. At the top of the list was pianist, songwriter and singer Ray Charles, who shaped the sound of rhythm and blues with his soulful renditions of pop and country music. There was singer Nat King Cole who was said to be the first Black American to host a television variety show. Another extraordinary all around entertainer, singer, actor, multi-instrumentalist, impressionist, comedian and dancer was Sammy Davis Jr. Johnny Mathis found his niche in the evolution of pop Black music as a romantic smooth jazz performer. Sam Cooke had 29 top 40 hits and was one of the first Black performers to guide his own career by owning a record and publishing company.

Motown: Moving into the 1960’s there was nothing hotter than Detroit with the Motown sound. Motown Records, which celebrated its 50 anniversary on January 12, 2009, was created and owned by Berry Gordy. Motown is the first record label owned by a Black American to primarily feature Black artists who achieved crossover success on pop charts. Arguably the most successful act to walk the halls of Motown was the talented, tantalizing, titillating, timeless, triumphant, thrilling, toe tapping, tempting Temptations. The Motown sound was a distinct style of soul music with a touch of pop. Some of the other acts which graced the studios of Motown included Smokey Robinson & the Miracles, the Supremes, Marvin Gaye, Tami Terrell, Stevie Wonder, the Four Tops, Gladys Knight & the Pips, Mary Wells, Martha Reeves and the Vandellas, Jr. Walker & the All Stars, the Commodores, the Jackson 5 and a host of other well known acts. A majority of the early Motown acts were backed by an exceptional group of session musicians called the Funk Brothers.

Soul: Memphis soul music started with the creation of a White owned company called Stax Records. Out of that stable came one of the first racially integrated bands Booker T & the MGs. Other parts of Memphis soul included performers like Otis Redding and Sam & Dave. Al Green shot to the top of the charts with his second album after he signed onto Hi Records. The Queen of Soul, Aretha Franklin, was the first female artist inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame and named the #1 Greatest Singer of all time by Rolling Stone magazine in 2008. Some of the best known soul groups were a part of the Sounds of Philadelphia family; they included the Stylistics, Blue Magic, Harold Melvin & the Blue Notes, as well as the mighty O’Jays. Other great soul singers were Joe Tex, the Chi-lites, The Moments (later known as Ray, Goodman and Brown) and The Whispers. Then there was song writer, band leader and singer James Brown. He was known as Soul Brother Number One, the Hardest Working Man in Show Business, and foremost the Godfather of Soul.

Black Rock: One standout group was the Band of Gypsys, the collaboration of Jimi Hendrix, drummer Buddy Miles and guitarist Billy Cox. Band of Gypsys was formed to play Woodstock—where Jimi Hendrix was the only artist of the entire concert paid to perform. The single “Band of Gypsys” album contained several break out hits, from “Machine Gun” to “We Gotta Live Together,” songs that energized the anti-Vietnam War movement and ushered in racial togetherness. Long after Jimi Hendrix, purer Black Rock band Living Color, an ‘80s stand-out modernized the art and paved the way for new groups and artists like Dakota Moon and Darius Rucker, lead singer of Hootie and the Blowfish.

Funk: Funk bands usually have a horn driven sound with rhythmic beats that blend soul, jazz and R&B into high energy danceable music. It also has a strong groove with an electric bass and drums in the foreground. Sly & the Family Stone, with bassist Larry Graham, were forerunners in the birth of funk. Then there was George Clinton, who has been called one of the most important innovators of funk music; there was the Ohio Players, the Gap Band, Cameo and of course Rick James.

Disco: Disco is dance music containing loads of funk and a lot of soul mixed with a driving syncopated bass line. Believe it or not, we go back to Africa to find the beginnings of disco. A musician from Cameroon is said to have been the first to play disco music. Manu Dibango took the Cameroonian word meaning dance and made it into a new dance craze with the song Soul Makossa. Behind him Donna Summers became the first well-known female disco artist and played a part in pioneering the electronic sound that later became disco. Disco helped to pay many bills for Gloria Gaynor, Chic, Shalamar, and B T Express.

Rap: Rap is a rhythmic vocal style accompanied with backing beats. Joe & Sylvia Robinson started Sugarhill Records in the 1970s. Their first record, Rapper’s Delight performed by the Sugar Hill Gang, was considered the song that brought hip hop and rap music from a largely underground genre in the Bronx into the mainstream. Grand Master Flash & the Furious 5, another act signed to Sugarhill, were the first hip hop/rap artists inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. Curtis Blow, a break dancer and DJ from Harlem, was the first commercially successful rapper signed to a major label. Cool Moe Dee was one of the first rappers to earn a Grammy award and he was the first to perform on the Grammys. Salt n Pepa sold over 15 million albums and singles worldwide and is one of the top selling rap acts, either male or female.

The 80's Sound: The 1980’s was dominated by an entertainer, recording artist and businessman by the name of Michael Jackson, the undisputed King of Rock and Pop. His Thriller album has been cited as the best-selling album of all time, with between 47 and 109 million copies sold worldwide. Another powerful force in the 80’s were the elements of Earth Wind and Fire who won 6 Grammys, earned over 50 gold and platinum albums, and has sold over 90 million albums worldwide. Other great acts include Kool & the Gang, a highly successful band who has the makings of jazz, funk, disco, soul and R&B has sold over 70 million albums worldwide and Frankie Beverly & Maze.

New Jack Swing: New Jack Swing was popular from the late 1980s into the 1990s. This genre of music took the elements of older styles with the harmonization and newer trends of Hip Hop, fused them together with street beats, then added samples from the sounds of R&B and – New Jack Swing was born. Some of the forerunners of New Jack Swing include Teddy Riley, Guy, Bobby Brown, Heavy D, and BBD.

Neo Soul: The term Neo Soul was originated by Kedar Massenburg of Motown Records in the late 1990s. Neo Soul, also known as Nu soul, is a marketing term for the sub-genre of contemporary R&B. Individuals in this category of music tend to be well educated and use their poetic and artistic skills to teach the world about the Black experience. When you say Neo Soul you must include Erykah Badu whose work encompasses elements of R&B, hip hop and jazz. She is best known for her role in the rise of the neo soul, and for her eccentric, cerebral musical styling and sense of fashion. She is known as the "First Lady of Neo-Soul." Other notables who fall under this genre are Sade, Maxwell and Jill Scott.

Today's R&B & Classic Soul: KBLX plays the best of today's R&B and classic soul. The format is officially known as urban adult contemporary aimed at a listening audience of grown folks. At any time during the day you can hear Alicia Keys, a singer, songwriter, pianist, cellist and actress, who has sold over 24 million albums. Then there is Mary J Blige, who started her career at Uptown Records as their first and youngest female artist. She went on to acquire 8 Grammy Awards and is known as the Queen of Hip Hop. She is a singer, songwriter, rapper, record producer, and actress who has sold more than 48 million albums worldwide and has been awarded the World Music Legends Award for successfully combining hip hop and soul music together. Another artist heard widely on KBLX is Beyonce, who has sold more than 75 million albums throughout her singing career. You can also hear Ne-Yo, Kenny Lattimore, Jennifer Hudson, Usher, Jazmine Sullivan, John Legend, and Marvin Sapp.

Moving over to Classic Soul...we’ll begin with Phyllis Hyman then move to Grammy award winner Billie Paul, followed by 8 time Grammy award winner Luther Vandross, who has sold over 25 million albums. Then there are the Isley Brothers who are one of the few groups to have placed a charted Billboard single in every decade between 1959 and 2006. If you are looking for entertainment with high energy stage performances, Patti LaBelle, is who you think of with her passionate distinctive high octave belting voice and wide vocal range. What about Chaka Khan, known as the Queen of Funk Soul, who has performed numerous musical genres including disco, jazz, ballads, hip hop, adult contemporary, pop, funk, and blues standards. Another high energy overpowering lady is Tina Turner was listed by Rolling Stone as one of The Greatest Artists of All Time. We will end Classic Soul with none other than songwriter, musician and producer Donny Hathaway. All of these artists and a whole lot more can be heard on KBLX 102.9 FM “The Quiet Storm”.

Monday, June 8, 2009

President Obama's Pastor-in-Chief

At only 26 years-old, Joshua DuBois is Executive Director of the White House Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships. The young Pentecostal minister (and Boston University and Princeton graduate), has worked with President Barack Obama on faith outreach since his days in the Senate and throughout the campaign.

Since being selected in February for the new office, Pastor DuBois has focused on connecting with faith-based and community groups around four main objectives: economic recovery, responsible fatherhood, reducing the need for abortion, and inter-religious cooperation. The walls of his office are bare, with the exception of a photograph of Reverend Joseph Lowery giving the benediction at President Obama’s inauguration.

It is his job of finding common ground with groups like the Catholic bishops who boycotted the president’s commencement speech at Notre Dame because of his positions on abortion and embryonic stem cell research. Joshua DuBois states that with regard to tough issues like abortion, the president believes in a woman’s right to choose. He believes that in a area such as abortion where there are very strongly held beliefs on both sides, there are areas in the middle that everyone can come around to support (i.e., reduce the need for abortion, reduce unintended pregnancies and teenage pregnancies). This can be done through things like more education, supporting adoption through adoption tax credits, and making sure that pregnant women have the health care they need. The outreach entails, "I don't care if you're a conservative, evangelical Catholic who's never voted for a Democrat before; we're going to call you, we're going to sit down with you and try to find areas to work together. And even if you don't vote for us, we still want to work with you so that there's not some ‘us vs. them' mentality."

Reverend DuBois says that on a personal level, President Obama is a committed Christian. He would be the first to say it's a very important force in his life, and in the life of the First Family. It's an inspiration for him, and it helps him set his moral path. In terms of the Obama White House, we recognize that faith-based groups, which are serving people day in and day out, are central to any prospects we have to serving people in need. In communities across the country where there may not be an office of state, local or federal government, there's probably going to be a church or a synagogue or a mosque or a community-based organization. It just makes sense that, if we're going to serve the American people and get things done, we have to connect with people where they are.

Some think he is too young. Don't be fooled by the boyish face. Supporters say the young pastor has an uncanny ability for building relationships with religious leaders of various stripes. Spirituality has no age limit. God is no respector of person and He uses anyone who is willing to be used. Young people put Barack Obama in the White House, and the President hasn't been shy about bringing them with him. So it wasn't a surprise that President Obama — who entrusted 27-year-old speechwriter with crafting the soaring oratory that became his campaign's hallmark — would tap a relative novice to lead the new White House Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships. Pastor DuBois leads a council of 25 influential religious and nonprofit leaders in helping both faith-based and secular groups galvanize their communities by providing everything from social services to job training.

Born in Bar Harbor, Maine and raised in Nashville, Tennessee and Xenia, Ohio. Reverend DuBois' stepfather is a minister in the African Methodist Episcopal Church; his grandmother took part in the 1960 Nashville sit-ins. As a 17-year-old freshman at Boston University, DuBois — armed with a placard inscribed with the words "NO MORE" — stood before a Martin Luther King, Jr. memorial in Boston for 41 hours as a way to commemorate the 41 bullets New York City policemen used to kill unarmed Guinean immigrant Amadou Diallo. He became an associate pastor at a Massachusetts church while still an undergraduate. When he received a form letter rejecting his application to join Obama's U.S. Senate campaign he drove to Obama's office to pursue and interview, and was hired as a Senatorial aide working on faith-based outreach.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Emerging Leaders in the Black Community

Whether it is the local network news or your favorite cable news network, almost every time you see news relating to the Black community it is in some sort of negative report. However, in reality change was being effected in the Black communities throughout the United States long before the word took center stage in the last presidential election. Across the country, countless people have worked tirelessly in their neighborhoods, churches, schools and communities to improve the lives of those around them. The election of President Obama has not only galvanized those already in the trenches but it energized many to get involved. Grassroots workers all around the U.S. have been validated.

In Chicago, nonprofit organizations like Graffiti and Grub, a grocery store supplying healthy, unprocessed foods by growing it themselves. They converted vacant lots into urban farmland, distributed food at farmer’s markets and co-founded the Chicago Food Systems Collaboration, which examines food access in the city.

Leadership is a vital concept in the Black community and has shaped its history. Taking a leadership role is a personal responsibility. Leadership is being developed by groups like the Colorado Black Chamber of Commerce Foundation's Chamber Connect program, which began two years ago, "to identify, harvest and grow future leadership." Black businesspeople in Denver can plug in so they can not only help each other, but also give back. Leadership comes about when desire meets hard work and a determination to succeed. People can not wait to be anointed or wait for someone to empower them. If you see a problem and feel impassioned and believe you can contribute an answer, then you need to step up.

Yes, Black political leaders have a responsibility, but they are not messianic and can not deliver and solve all of the community's problems. It is too large a mantle to try and thrust upon the shoulders of any one person. They are elected officials sent to work the process on our behalf, but not in our absence. We need to support them and be involved. Become involved in something you believe in. Leaders can not be painted with a broad brush. When we look at everyone’s thumb print you will see that everyone is different. Leaders are made, not born.

Walter Earl Fluker, Ph.D, executive director of The Leadership Center at Morehouse College in Atlanta recently traveled to South Africa with a group of Morehouse students who have been studying ethical leadership within the context of developing democracies with a special emphasis on HIV/AIDS and poverty.
The author of "Ethical Leadership: The Quest for Character, Civility and Community," Fluker said he believes the president has set a "sterling example of what's possible" for the youth.

Morehouse alumnus Calvin Mackie, Ph.D. can relate. After entering the historically Black college as a remedial reading student with a thick Louisiana accent, Mackie is today a successful businessman, author and lecturer. He also chairs the Louisiana Council on the Social Status of Black Men and Boys, a statewide commission formed to aid the development of policy to better the lives of Black males and families. They believe you have to dream, you have to study, you have to be a doer, and you have to want to become more.

Our youth need to see leaders who look like them – someone they can touch and know that they can do whatever they want to do in life.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Out of Bushwick

On July 31, 2008 CNN's Soledad O'Brien traveled with 30 Brooklyn schoolchildren on a volunteer mission to serve the impoverished and orphans in South Africa. These teenagers are mostly from Bushwick, Brooklyn -- a community of about 109,000 people located five miles from Manhattan. For most, it’s their first time away from home. The children on this trip to South Africa are what educators and social workers call "at-risk" -- at risk of having babies as teenagers; at risk of never finishing high school or achieving their dreams; at risk of never knowing the world beyond their neighborhood.

Bushwick is mostly a working class neighborhood where families have often struggled. For years it was a community with a thriving drug trade, severely under-achieving schools, extreme poverty and a staggering rate of teenage pregnancy. It was ravaged by fires and looting during the summer of 1977 and hit hard by the crack epidemic in the 1980s. The community is recovering now, but half of the children under age 18 still live below the poverty line. A quarter of the adults never make it past the ninth grade and more than half never graduate from high school.

The South Africa trip is Malaak Compton-Rock's brainchild -- to broaden the horizons of young teens and give them perspective on their own lives. These 30 children, between the ages of 12 to 16, have been paired up with college-aged mentors and brought to South Africa by Malaak Compton-Rock, the wife of comedian Chris Rock. She brought them to volunteer -- to serve the impoverished and the AIDS orphans South Africa, a country with the highest HIV-infected population in the world; a country with 1.4 million AIDS orphans. Compton-Rock has carved her own niche in community service. She often quotes her mentor Marian Wright Edelman, founder of the Children's Defense Fund: "Service is the rent we pay for living."

I believe by traveling you open up your life and your mind. You no longer think locally, you start to think globally and internationally, outside the confinements of your neighborhood and it gives you a sense of confidence. In the United States, even in Bushwick, we have certain services that we need to understand and need to take advantage of. I am talking about things that we take for granted like access to free public education, food, knowledge and the ability to move up the ladder in life – things reserved for only the rich in most developing countries.

When the Bushwick travelers returned to the U.S. their journey did not end. Malaak Compton-Rock has required all of the children selected for the trip to sign one-year contracts to become "global ambassadors."
As ambassadors they are required to tell their friends and neighbors about their experiences -- through writing, blogging, photographs and speeches. What did they learn and discover about themselves, and the world? All the kids have been asked to blog about the joys and the challenges, the things they learned and the disappointments. The Bushwick teens came to make a difference in the lives of these vulnerable kids in South Africa. It will be equally interesting to see how South Africa's children make a difference in the lives of these children from Bushwick.

Cut and paste to get more information:

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Raise Your Expectations

Regardless of what we say in public, we all, regardless of color, carry the same unconscious assumptions. One of which is that a certain level of achievement is Black and another level is other races. Notice the first thing they noticed about Barack Obama – he is amazingly articulate. This is what you are hearing when a Black child speaks standard English and another Black child harasses he or she for "talking White." This is what George W. Bush was referring to when he mentioned "the soft bigotry of low expectations." We need to address this straightforward if we ever hope to close the so-called achievement gap that looms between Black children and other ones.

I recently blogged about our assumptions when we see a Black man running down the street and automatically wonder what he did or what is he running from. In the same frame of mind we are blinded by real potential in our children (I despise the word kid), because of unconscious expectations we place or do not place on them. When we here of a scholar, we tend to think of Asian or White. When we think of athletes we think of Blacks. When in fact all Asians are not smart (just ask any military person who has been to anywhere in Asia – they have their dumb and dumber too).

In 2007 and 2008, Leonard Pitts, Jr., author of “Becoming Dad: Black Men and Journey to Fatherhood”, traveled around the U.S. for a series of columns called "What Works," aimed at profiling programs that address that gap. He visited the Harlem Children's Zone, which encompasses 90 square blocks of holistic education, family counseling, medical care and tutoring in New York City, the Freedom Project in Sunflower County, Mississippi, which offers field trips, martial arts and academic enrichment in a rural county where the median income is $25,000 a year and the teen pregnancy rate is 25 percent (that’s a whole other topic in and of itself). He toured Self Enhancement Inc. in Portland, Oregon, a KIPP (Knowledge is Power Program) School in Gaston, North Carolina, the East Lake Foundation in Atlanta, Georgia, and many others.

In all these places, he observed Black children -- well-spoken and clean-cut -- making a lie out of other peoples' expectations.

All these programs had common themes – when asked why children were doing such wondrous work in these places and substandard work elsewhere. He received the same type answers -- we have more power to fire bad teachers and reward good ones, they said. We require parental involvement. We have a longer school day and a longer school year. We mentor children that need it. We counsel children and families that need it. We are invested in them and make sure they know it.

But most of all, they spoke of the simple power of expectation: making it a conscious point to look for greatness in Black children in whom people had not thought to look for it before. And so the plain and simple secret to improving academic performance for Black, like any other children, expectations. Where Black children are concerned, we have other expectations.

Geoffrey Canada, founder of the Harlem Children's Zone, when asked how he justifies asking for money to uplift poor children in Harlem. His response: "Someone's yelling at me because I'm spending $3,500 a year on `Alfred.' 'Alfred' is 8. OK, Alfred turns 18. No one thinks anything about locking him up for 10 years at $60,000 a year."

But then, we expect Alfred to be locked up, don't we? We, U.S. citizens, expect it so casually that we will not challenge the expectation even when it works against our own economic self-interest. The choice should be very simple: invest a smaller amount early and produce a citizen who pays taxes and contributes to the system or pay a much larger amount later for the upkeep of a citizen who consumes tax monies and contributes nothing. That we consistently choose the latter says something about how we assess the education of Black and Brown children in the U.S.

We live in a culture that writes off Black children because the expectation is not as it should be. Imagine the potential of the U.S. if we would only invest in education at the rate that we invest in the prison system.
It’s time to raise our expectations.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Another “Black Man Did It” Lie

It's an old lie, claiming that The Black Man Did It; but it was trotted out again last week when a White mother from suburban Philadelphia said two Black men snatched her and her 9-year-old daughter from their SUV and abducted them in the trunk of a Cadillac. Black people across the U.S. were skeptical from the very beginning as this same lie has been told on Black men in the U.S. for 500 years or since White women learned that White men had a complex about Black men taking “their” women. That is the track record: White women chase after Black men and when their White husband or boy friend finds out, it turns into the "Black Man Raped Me" lie.
Blacks across the country were outraged after Bonnie Sweeten was found in a luxury hotel at Disney World. Authorities quickly unraveled the hoax, but not before an Amber Alert, frantic searches and national news coverage that played into images of marauding Black men.

The Black Man Did It lie last made news as recently as October, when a John McCain volunteer claimed a 6-foot-4 Black man carved a B into her cheek (For Barack, evidently). Even White men tell the lie; Charles Stuart told it in 1989 after he killed his wife in Boston. Susan Smith told it when she drowned her sons in 1994 in South Carolina. Unknown numbers of Black men were hanged for it back when lynching was a common practice. Law professor Katheryn Russell-Brown documents 67 racial hoaxes in the period between 1987 and 1996 in her book "The Color of Crime."
Not only do people use us as the stereotypical crime problem of America, but the problem is people believe it so easily. The first thing people think of when it comes to crime is a Black man did it. It is rooted in a mixture of psychology, statistics and sociology, amplified by the media's tendency to focus on crimes against White women.

Even Black people lock their car doors when a Black man walks by, no matter how impeccably dressed a brother may be. And look at the parallel of the Black cop who was running after a suspect and was killed by a White cop last week. How many times have you seen a Black man running down the street and thought of something negative? And when you see a White guy running down the street and you think he's running late. A lot of us are guilty of this negative thinking because that's the way the media and society has programmed us.

Black men are convicted of crimes at much higher rates than any other group. So was falling for Sweeten's lie racism, or the normal thing? And does her blond hair have anything to do with the amount of media coverage her story received? Notice the difference in coverage between the killing of a White female college student in Connecticut and the approximately three dozen Chicago public school students, mostly Black, who have been killed this school year.

This latest lie began when she called police, allegedly from a trunk, and said Black men had rear-ended her Yukon Denali at a busy suburban intersection, then abducted her and her daughter in broad daylight. No one at this busy intersection had seen it happen, and Sweeten somehow still had her cell phone. And Black men are scarce in this county which is 92 percent White and 4 percent Black.

Authorities discovered that Sweeten had made the call from miles away, in downtown Philadelphia. Their attention turned to the airport, and Sweeten was soon found. She is free on $1 million bail, facing misdemeanor charges of identity theft and false reporting.

During a news conference after the hoax was exposed, Bucks County District Attorney Michelle Henry explained, "It's a terrifying thing for a community to hear that two Black men in a black Cadillac grabbed a [White] woman and her daughter."

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Skin Cancer is Colorblind

It may come as a shock, but Black folks get skin cancer too. We have just assumed that people of color are OK in the sun and many people of color often mistakenly believe skin cancer is not something they should be worried about. But dermatologists are concerned because skin cancer rates are increasing in minority groups in the United States. .

Darker-skinned people do benefit from the protective effects of skin pigmentation. Some studies suggest that for the darkest skin tones, pigmentation cells provide a natural sun protection factor, or SPF, of about 13. The problem is many dark-skinned people believe that means they are born with a natural immunity to skin cancer. Pigmentation doesn't give you a free pass. It doesn't matter what color your skin is, everyone can get skin cancer. Bob Marley, for example, died of malignant melanoma, the most lethal type of skin cancer, that spread to his lungs and brain.

All types of skin cancer are increasing among Blacks and Hispanics, and our melanomas are more often fatal because they are usually caught later. Pigmentation may have sun-protective qualities but even for the darkest skin it falls short of the recommendation of a daily SPF of at least 15 for everyone. Many ethnic groups are missing that key part of the message because messages regarding skin cancer prevention have traditionally targeted fair-skinned people. Now, dermatologists say, more needs to be done to encourage all groups to take precautions against sun damage.

Only 27 percent of people with darker skin applied sunscreen when they were in the sun for four hours or more, compared with 64 percent of people with light skin. The American Cancer Society estimates that in 2009 there will be more than 1 million unreported cases of basal cell, the most common skin cancer, and squamous cell skin cancer but most of them are curable when detected early. For melanoma, the key to a cure is early detection. That's why dermatologists caution everyone to be vigilant and learn the risks for their skin type.

Not all skin is the same. People with darker skin often get diagnosed at later stages because the cancers often appear in abnormal locations. Melanomas in Blacks and darker-skinned Hispanics and Asians develop more commonly on the palms, soles of the feet, toenails, fingernails and in mucus membranes like around the mouth and genitals. In Whites and lighter-skinned Hispanics, melanomas more frequently appear on the back in men and on the legs in women.

Skin color can affect the way lesions look. Historically, research and teaching was done on fairer-skinned people, making it more challenging for physicians to recognize suspicious moles on darker skin. Keep it simple. If you have any lesion or mole change at all, or if you have a spot that bleeds and doesn't heal in three weeks, see a physician or a dermatologist. Another piece of simple advice: All racial groups need to use sunscreens. The American Academy of Dermatology recommends using a broad-spectrum sunscreen that protects against both deep-penetrating UVA rays and burn-causing UVB rays. Not all sunscreens protect against both. Use extreme caution in the sun and make certain that you use a sunscreen, even on a cloudy day. DO NOT underestimate the rays of the sun. The worst thing you can possibly do is nothing.

For more information check out the following:
How to pick the right sunscreen.

How to avoid the most common of cancers: Skin cancer Skin cancer Moles

Visit the American Academy of Dermatology Web site to find free screening locations in your state

Visit the Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep cosmetic safety database

Monday, June 1, 2009

Student Finds $5,000 in Costume for School Play

What would you do if you found $5000 in cash? India Williams, who just completed seventh grade at Lakehill Preparatory School in Dallas, found exactly that in an old donated jacket while preparing for the middle school's play. India found the money during a May 11 dress rehearsal while looking through some old suits to find a costume for her role as a craps player. She said she thought about keeping some of it, but then promptly turned it over to her music teacher.

The 12-year-old has considered what it could have been used for – paying tuition and helping her mother with bills. She's being praised by her mother, teachers, school administrators and others, including Robin Silvas of Dallas, whose late father, Ishmael Silvas, had stashed the money in the coat.

"I saw this white envelope. I looked at it and saw writing on it. I opened it and I saw it was a bunch of hundred-dollar bills," she said. "I looked over at my friend Sydney and said I found some money. She came over and said 'Is it real?' It was real money, and right then and there I knew it wasn't anything that had to do with the school." Kenya Lacy said she's proud of her daughter. "People have said, 'I wouldn't have done that.' All she knew is that the money didn't belong to her."

Silvas said her father, a retired insurance systems analyst, grew up poor and often stashed money. He was the oldest of eight children raised by their grandparents in a little house in West Dallas. After he moved from his home, his daughter found money in the floors, in pockets, in books and in envelopes.

It turned into an ethics lesson for everyone involved. Parents struggle with how to raise honest children in a dishonest world. Stories like this allow us to see that all our children are not what we see on the news. India, kudos for doing the right thing. Yes, it is sometimes hard to do the right thing but your conscious won't bother you when you do. Way to go! Both India and her mother should be praised, but isn't it a sad commentary on our society that honesty rates a special news story. What would you do in this situation?