During my coaching years I began to notice how too many of my athletes were coming to practice intoxicated, or they were suffering the ill effects of addicted family members. This led me to write Message N/A Bottle: The 40oz Scandal (BWORLD@yahoo.com) in 1996. My latest book, Hip Hop Hypocrisy: When Lies Sound Like the Truth, exposes the seduction of an entire generation by an intoxicated, violent, misogynistic subculture that arose out of gangs and prisons. I work with young people, as well as parents, educators, ministers, social workers, and counselors around the country to help improve academic performance and classroom management. For more information on our services, visit www.ACoachPowell.com. To participate in the dialogue, visit here often and share your ideas, questions, comments, and strategies.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

From Sinatra to Imus, some things never change

Among the many emails and phone calls we've received about the Imus mess, the following note from Donna Marie's sister, Janice Miller, was definitely among the most provocative.

Years ago I attended a reception with a few other ladies from my church. The local band of middle-aged African American men were playing an old tune that I recall my parents used to listen to.

Although I didn't remember the words, I knew the melody, so I grabbed the hand of a friend who loves to dance as much as I do, and we cut a couple of steps. I noticed the lead vocalist watching us, probably because we were the only two people on the dance floor. As we connected eye to eye, it seemed like he was having fun singing to me:

She gets too hungry for dinner at eight
She likes the theater and never comes late
She never bothers with people she'd hate

... until he came to the refrain, That's why the lady is a tramp.

The singer and I shared an awkward moment. He dropped his eyes and I left the floor. We were having such lighthearted fun that the insult that repeated throughout this beloved classic as the hook unexpectedly stung us both.

Just like Imus' slur against the scholar-athletes of Rutgers University didn't make sense, this song doesn't make sense. In every stanza, Frankie seems to describe a decent woman. She doesn't gamble, she's punctual, she doesn't gossip, and despite the fact that she's broke, she's not a golddigger. Yet he still slaps us with that line, That's why the lady is a tramp.

When I first heard about Imus' slur against Rutgers' basketball team, I focused more on the word 'nappy' and was less than moved. Poor taste, yes. Ain't yo business 'bout our hair, yes. But ho?! YIKES!

With all due respect to people who sell their bodies for sex (prostitutes) and those who freely give away their bodies for sex (whores), women who behave in these ways have, throughout time, found themselves in extreme categories that carry plenty of negative connotations. These words should never be used casually, and never on women who haven't proclaimed themselves as such.

My heart felt it when Frank Sinatra and writers Rodgers and Hart forced the singer to call me a tramp. I still remember how degrading it felt, even though it was 10-15 years ago.

I value dignity highly, and name calling ruins that for everyone involved. Let's protect it in ourselves and each other.

Where there's smoke...what's easier than taking candy from a baby?

The following post is from guest author and contributor to Hip Hop Hypocrisy, Ron "Kwesi" Harris.

Over the years the tobacco industry, through slick advertising and marketing, has woven its long string of avoidable death into the fabric of America.

Even James I condemned it as a "heathen fume." The king reputedly became ill after his first attempt at smoking. He warned his subjects that smoking led to depravity and stated that it is "a custom loathsome to the eye--hateful to the nose--harmful to the brain--dangerous to the lungs--and, in the black stinking fumes therof, nearest resembling the horrid Stygian fumes of the pit that is bottomless."

By playing on the ideal of wholesome and robust lifestyles, the tobacco industry has created an image of positive, delightful indulgence in the highly detrimental consumption of tobacco products. These insidious practices are presented in highly visible eye-level ads in stores and service stations that offer various "prize rewards" for the consumer. Tobacco corporations have reaped tremendous profits. For the new smoker, these tactics appear to offer money saving benefits as well as the added special "prizes" for consumer patronage.

These multinational corporations have been and are major contributors to many social and entertainment events that attract public interest and, most importantly, media coverage. This strategy provides the greatest exposure to the consumer while impacting a broad and diverse demographic base.

Products designed for consumption must appeal to the consumer in very significant ways. The product must look good, smell good or taste good. These are the three basic areas by which the “uneducated consumer” is inclined to select a product. The psychology of sales recognizes this consumer as a great prospect and loyal customer. Consumer bases come as a result of targeting by corporate marketing. Advertising strategies are determined by geography, age and lifestyle.

Some tobacco products are designed to appeal to the sense of taste; they use flavor additives, including chocolate, mints, fruits, and crème flavors. Contrary to corporate claims, they are designed with the youthful consumer in mind. In the world of retail sales, the young customer is like a baby. Taste greatly determines and influences consumption. There are flavored medicines, cereals, etc. designed to appeal to the young.

So what's easier than taking candy from a baby? Answer: giving candy to a baby!

Oh really? Snoop vs. Imus

According to Snoop Dogg, he and other rappers have taken the high road in their use of negative labels for black women. Here's what he had to say about the Imus' mess (source: MTV.com):

"It's a completely different scenario. [Rappers] are not talking about no collegiate basketball girls who have made it to the next level in education and sports. We're talking about ho's that's in the 'hood that ain't doing sh--, that's trying to get a n---a for his money. These are two separate things. First of all, we ain't no old-ass white men that sit up on MSNBC going hard on black girls. We are rappers that have these songs coming from our minds and our souls that are relevant to what we feel. I will not let them mutha-----as say we in the same league as him."

Can you say "confusion in the hood?"

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Call CSI!

I recently read a report by Phillip Jackson in which he stated, “There is no longer a need for dire predictions, hand-wringing, or apprehension about losing a generation of Black boys. It is too late. In education, employment, economics, incarceration, health, housing, and parenting, we have lost a generation of young Black men. The question that remains is will we lose the next two or three generations, or possibly every generation of Black boys hereafter to the streets, negative media, gangs, drugs, poor education, unemployment, father absence, crime, violence and death?”

After reading the latest dismal stats relating to the educational and social conditions bearing down on young African American men, it’s clear to me that a crime has been committed. A crime so terrible and inhumane the term holocaust wouldn’t be accurate enough to describe its totality. After sharing this information with my twin brother he asked me, "Where's the yellow tape that police use to put around a crime scene?"

There are many TV shows that feature the antics of crime scene investigators (CSIs). Seemingly, they’re able to solve every crime ever committed, from the most minute to the most heinous, based on the slightest scraps of evidence.

Despite the preponderance of evidence gathered by educational and social services CSIs from coast to coast -- low test scores, high drop out rates, high incarceration rates, high illiteracy rates, poor housing, poverty, broken families, high STD rates, teen pregnancy rates, drug abuse and alcoholism rates -- the mystery of why our children are not succeeding in life has yet to be solved.

My brother said, "There should be yellow police tape around every school in the hood, every prison, and I dare say, many churches. There should be chalk outlines drawn around those good brothers who do the right things but are victims of stereotypes just because they are African American men."

Do we need even more evidence to tell us why our children are not performing academically and socially? Then here's what we need CSIs to investigate:
1. Why in the hell African Americans continue to call each other niggas/niggaz/niggers.
2. Why young black males sag their pants -- despite the fact that saggin' spelled backwards is niggas.
3. Why young black male students have the worst grades, the lowest test scores, and the highest dropout rates of all students in the country. When these young black men don’t succeed in school, they are much more likely to succeed in the nation’s criminal justice and penitentiary system. There are more black men in prisons and jails in the United States (about 1.1 million) than there are black men incarcerated in the rest of the world combined.
4. Why don’t we as black men unite to overcome the many systems of oppression, suppression, and racism.
5. Why far too many black men are cowards when it comes to marriage, fatherhood, and parenthood.
6. Why we allow hip hop gangsters to pollute the minds of our children under the guise of entertainment.

We need to take that yellow tape and tape shut the mouths of profane artists, lazy parents, conniving preachers, loud-mouthed racists, corrupt and lying politicians, and brainwashed educators, all of whom continually contribute to this on going crime against humanity.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

The Don Imus mess

Donna Marie here. Just had to put in my 2 cents on this Imus (or I-missed, as Coach Powell says) issue.

Commercialized gangsta hip hop was the worst thing that could have ever happened to race relations in this country. Why? Because commercialized gangsta hip hop has given racist whites a new language to express ugly, old beliefs about African American people. As we all know, words have power.

This morning I drove my teen daughter and her friend to school. With all the social chaos that Coach and I report, it's easy to forget that kids are still kids, and that they're beautiful. Wearing jeans and gym shoes, hair up in ponytails, backpacks stuffed with books and notebooks, the girls got out of the car, said bye to me, waved to friends, and went to their first class of the day.

I can also imagine the young ladies on Rutgers' basketball team in similar scenes -- rushing to class, studying for tests, hanging out with friends -- in addition to their demanding training and play schedule. You've got to be pretty disciplined to play ball and keep up with classes.

These are the 'nappy headed hos' Imus referred to. These athletes, my girls, all of our girls.

No one deserves to be called ugly names, especially the women of Rutgers. I assume these young athletes are NOT turning tricks or smoking crack. They didn't deserve to be called that. For God's sake, they're in college, getting an education, playing a sport they love. Why condemn them for that? Even when they're doing right, in America's eyes, they're wrong.

The banter between Imus and his executive producer wasn't funny. It was cruel, and it was part of a pattern of racist attacks against black people on this show.

Thank you, Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton, and Coach Powell. As a woman, I appreciate your strong, uncompromising stand against Imus and MSNBC (which has no diversity in its programming). I appreciated it so much when Rev. Jackson said, "Sure, we'll accept Imus' apology -- and his resignation." MEN need to speak out on behalf of these young women -- all of our girls.

Coach Powell told me this morning that a rapper came out in support of Imus last night. Figures. He said Imus was only making a joke. 2 fools thinking alike.

I talk to my daughter and her friends (to the point of their fatigue) about commercialized gangsta rappers and their women-hating messages. Unfortunately, our children have been so inundated and desensitized by 'bitch this' and 'ho that' in rap music, they often don't realize that they've just been verbally slapped and abused. There may be no physical scars, but time will tell about the emotional damage inflicted on our children and young people by artists who look just like them.

Indeed, Hip Hop Hypocrisy reports many studies that have uncovered the mental, social, emotional, academic, sexual, and spiritual/moral damage done to our youth, girls and boys, in large measure by the culture of commercialized gangsta hip hop.

I appreciate that popular radio host Tom Joyner at least asked the question: "Is there a difference between the degrading remarks made by radio host Don Imus and those of popular rap artists with misogynist lyrics?" Most of the respondents believe there is a difference. I guess I'm in the minority. I don't want our girls called bitches or hos by anybody -- their next door neighbor, their favorite gangsta rapper, or Don Imus.

It's easy to cry out against Imus and his ilk, but let's not stop there. Any gangsta rapper who calls women names is just as bad as Imus. Let's stop giving these guys a pass because they're black. Wrong is wrong, no matter what color.

I challenge young African American women, and all others of goodwill, to radically revolt against this hostile music that gives racists even more ammunition. You don't have to carry signs and march (although feel free if you're so moved). Don't support music that lyrically abuses you in any way. Your self-esteem is at stake.

Don't buy the lyrical abusers' CDs, don't buy their gear, don't go to these guys' concerts, don't watch their videos, don't memorize the lyrics to their songs, and don't dance to their tunes.

The Imus mess has revealed a disturbing connection between white male psychology and commercialized gangsta hip hop. Black gangstas and white men in bed. Strange bedfellows. We may have thought the tv commercials with the white guy jerking his head to a gangsta rap tune amusing, but Imus showed us that there's something sinister lurking behind that image. It's not funny at all.

Monday, April 9, 2007

Dads and their little girls

They say it’s a man world, but where would we be without our little girls? That was the question running rampant in my brain after attending a luncheon for fathers and daughters (K-3) at my granddaughter's all-girls school.

The day was cloudy and gray, but as our little girls were ushered into the gymnasium, the sunshine magically appeared, at least in the eyes of all the men present, myself included. Smiles, cheers, applause, and pride joyfully came from every father, grandfather, uncle, big brother, mentor, and minister in the house. It was a Kodak moment.

As each girl ushered her beloved male figure to his seat, I couldn't help but think of all the girls who couldn't bring their fathers to the event for reasons ranging from work schedule conflicts to the bitter state of many black families. Countless studies have uncovered a litany of issues girls encounter early on and later in life as a result of being fatherless. Hypersexual behavior, poor school performance, and aggression are only a few.

Hip hop coined the terrible phrases "my baby's mama" and "my baby's daddy." Our daughters (and sons) are suffering the negative effects of a culture that values the hook up over marriage. The young black men out there who are trying to do the right thing have been overshadowed by their hip hop peers -- the ones with the baby-daddy image who show severe symptoms of Prolonged Adolescent Syndrome (see Hip Hop Hypocrisy, p. 27).

Nonetheless, parents today love their children.

At the luncheon, we men broke away from all the negative stereotypes that follow black men into fatherhood. Not only did we support our own girls that day, we 'adopted' those girls who had no father present. My granddaughter escorted 2 classmates to our table and introduced me as Papa. She told her friends that I was a great Papa and that I could be their Papa for the day.

Soon their frowns turned into smiles, and we all enjoyed our lunch of grill cheese, French fries, and apple sauce together. A meal fit for kings and their little princesses.

Monday, March 19, 2007

The March sadness of public schools

It's March Madness, America's unofficial sports holiday! All work comes to a halt as we sports fanatics watch university and high school teams from coast to coast chase their dream to be Number 1. We love the blood, sweat, and tears as they pursue various championships. Parents scream, coaches yell at referees, and athletes push it to the limit. Everyone knows what's on the line.

Or do we?

After the basketball teams of Ohio State and my own Dunbar High School pushed me to within seconds of a heart attack, I had to step back and put it all in perspective.

There's another March Madness, one we sinfully, and conveniently, forget about. This is the time in which students across the country begin preparations for the big one: the state proficiency test, the SAT, ACT, or exit exam.

Where are the crowds cheering our children on?

Where are the parents screaming, you can do it!

Where are the cameras as students prepare and take their tests--their eyes wide, palms sweating, and hearts pounding?

For too many students, this time of year has become March Sadness. Networks pump millions into covering athletes running with balls, kicking balls, hitting balls, and putting balls into baskets, yet those same folks refuse to support a tax level that would give a child a shot at life via education.

March Sadness 2007 sees more of the same; schools both private and public are falling short and the shot clock for students is running out. We are more concerned with high flying dunks than low flying flunks, starting fives instead of jumpstarting minds, PPAs (points per average) instead of GPAs and who's making 3s instead of who's earning 3.0.

The Nation's Report Card compiled by the National Assessment of Educational Progress reports the following dismal statistics:

"In 2005, the average reading score for high school seniors was 286 on a 0–500 scale. This score was lower than in 1992, although it was not significantly different from the score in 2002. With the exception of the score for students performing at the 90th percentile, declines were seen across most of the performance distribution in 2005 as compared to 1992."

"In 2005, female twelfth-grade students scored 13 points higher on average in reading than male students."

"The average reading score for female students was lower in 2005 than in either 1992 or 2002."

In mathematics, "Gaps between white and minority students [are] unchanged. Scores for both White and Black students have declined since 1992. Apparent declines since 1992 for other racial/ethnic groups were not statistically significant. The percentages of students performing at or above proficient have decreased since 1992 for White students, but showed no significant change for other racial/ethnic student groups."

In mathematics, "Asian/Pacific Islander students scored higher on average in 2005 than the other four racial/ethnic groups. The average score for White students was higher than the scores for Black, Hispanic, and American Indian/Alaska Native students. Hispanic students scored higher on average than Black students."

These declines have occurred since the implementation of No Child Left Behind! We should be hit with a technical foul. We're mad for basketball but not for the academic glory of our children.

It's time for all of us to put public education in a time out and reconsider our game plan.