Category Archives: Family

Real Dads Stand Up

If you haven’t heard by now, a father in Florida boarded a school bus to confront the bullies of his daughter who has cerebral palsy. During his escapade, he threatened violence against everyone on the bus including the bus driver and children on the bus. You can see the details in the videos below

The support for him is overwhelmingly positive which I though was surprising.  Here a black man went onto a school bus and threatened children with violence and he is being supported. I’m not sure if his daughters illness has to do with the support but I have a strong inkling that it does.

Does Hip Hop fuel the bulling flames with it’s culture?  It may very well be since it is full of confirmations, conflict and issues that seem bulling like.  Many rap battles start due to someone being a bully and calling out his target.  If the bully isn’t confronted or responded to, then the target faces the ridicule and possibly being ostracized from his or her peers.  Many artists have threatened to (and some succeeded in) end the career of another artist or some type of violence against someone they know.  Beanie Sigel often referred to himself and an album as the Broad Street Bully.

We know bullying won’t stop in Hip Hop and despite all the claims, we know that Hip Hop influences peoples actions so what can we do to stop it?  Just as the "expert" in the video above says, we need to put it on the audience to stop the conflict.  If Lil Random Guy says he’s going to put an end to DJ Wusisface and in response DJ Wusisface claims to know the mother of his child and has a sex tape, the audience should take the responsible route and ask "why can’t they both exist". 

But I know that won’t happen.  We’ll want to see the sex tape then we’ll want to hear their diss songs all for the sake of entertainment.  Which is the true reason for bullying.  The bully is just looking for a way to entertain himself because he was not taught how to properly do so.  So rather than getting to the point of having to get on the bus, let’s teach our children that bullying isn’t a form of entertainment, it’s an act of low self-esteem and the lack of the ability to occupy oneself without it being at the expense of another’s well being.

The Economics of Hip Hop

There’s no denying the money portion of Hip Hop culture.  So much so that there are more slang terms for money in Hip Hop than any other word; cheese, denaro, duckets, ends, stacks, bean, green, dead presidents, scratch, scrilla(h), dough, bills, cheddar, paper, Benjamin’s, loot, bacon, and a lot of others I don’t know or can’t think of.

No matter what you call it there are only two things to do with it in Hip Hop; get it any way you can and spend it frivolously. According to Fabolous, you should grab things of the shelf as if you were robbing the place and just Throw It In The Bag. But does rap teach us that saving money is for fools? 

Let’s take the case of NBA player Antoine Walker. He had  over 12 years in playing basketball and made well over $110 million (about $9 million a year) and is in debt.  He was arrested a few months ago for gambling debts totaling over $822,000 in Las Vegas.  Now I won’t pick on him too much (for helping to lead the Miami Heat to their first championship ever) but he helps to illustrate a point that just throwing your money away isn’t the smartest thing to do.

Many people have suffered from money troubles; MC Hammer, Charles Barkley, Wesley Snipes, Scott Storch, Garry Coleman and many others.  Many carry the Kanye West ? Can’t Tell Me Nothing train of thought right into financial ruin. The very first lyrics of the song goes:

I had a dream I can buy my way to heaven,
When I awoke, I spent that on a necklace.
I told God I’d be back in a second,
Man it’s so hard not to act reckless.
To whom much is given much is tested.
Get arrested, guess until they get the message.
I feel the pressure, under more scrutiny,
And what I do, act more stupidly.
Bought more jewelry, more Louis V,
My momma couldn’t get through to me.

This brings to light the thought process of many individuals that know the proper action to take yet constantly make that the wrong one.  And why not, Hip Hop is full of flashiness. We went from gold teeth and chains to platinum teeth and grillz and spinning rims.  Hip Hop as always been about show.  Once again, Kanye (he just has good examples) tells us in Diamonds from Sierra Leone Remix:

It’s in a black person’s soul to rock that gold
Spend your whole life trying to get that ice
On a polo rugby it look so nice
How could something so wrong make me feel so right, right?

So many of us know what it’s like to be without that as soon was we get it, the hood rich mentality takes over and the need to show others that you are among the haves rather than the have nots is overwhelming and dangerous.  Money management isn’t taught in all schools and rarely is it disgusted in the home.  Often, children are causes or enablers for lavish spending.  Baby clothes by designer companies thrive on Hip Hop dollars.  A sneaker for a 3 year old can fetch almost as much as a teenagers but last for a shorter time due to the growth of the child.

Music is not to blame.  After all, it’s entertainment not instruction. There is no single source that here.  Culture, peer-pressure, family history or bad luck.  You name it and it’s a contributor.  Though the music mostly says to floss, rock diamonds & ice and to drive cars with big shiny wheels, remember that unless you wrote that hit song, it isn’t paying your bills.

One thing I hate is when people use the economy as an example but for this I must.  Many people are losing their homes and cars because they can’t afford them any more.  The difference between them and Hip Hop culture is that they once were in the position to have and afford these things.  Often times, those of the Hip Hop culture have these things before they can afford them.  Affording something isn’t the ability to pay for it, it’s the ability to maintain it while taking care of your other responsibilities as well.

 

Worse than the N word? African American

For the next installment of this series, I present to you a curve ball.  You may be wondering why this word is on the list.  Of course this article is here to explain it but first let's educate ourselves a little:

Af·ri·can?Amer·i·can Pronunciation: ?a-fri-k?-n?-?mer-?-k?n, -?me-r?- also ?ä- Function: noun Date: 1855 : an American of African and especially of black African descent ? African?American adjective

eth·nic·i·ty Pronunciation: eth-?ni-s?-t? Function: noun Inflected Form(s): plural eth·nic·i·ties Date: 1950 1 : ethnic quality or affiliation <aspects of ethnicity> 2 : a particular ethnic affiliation or group <students of diverse ethnicities>

race Function: noun Etymology: Middle French, generation, from Old Italian razza Date: 1580 1 : a breeding stock of animals 2 a : a family, tribe, people, or nation belonging to the same stock b : a class or kind of people unified by shared interests, habits, or characteristics 3 a : an actually or potentially interbreeding group within a species; also : a taxonomic category (as a subspecies) representing such a group b : breed c : a category of humankind that shares certain distinctive physical traits?

col·or Pronunciation: ?k?-l?r Function: noun Usage: often attributive Etymology: Middle English colour, from Anglo-French, from Latin color; akin to Latin celare to conceal ? more at hell Date: 13th century? 3 : complexion tint: a : the tint characteristic of good health b : blush 4 a : vividness or variety of effects of language b : local color ?12 : skin pigmentation especially other than white characteristic of race <a person of color>?

na·tion·al·i·ty Pronunciation: ?na-sh?-?na-l?-t?, ?nash-?na- Function: noun Inflected Form(s): plural na·tion·al·i·ties Date: 1691 1 : national character 2 : nationalism 1 3 a : national status; specifically : a legal relationship involving allegiance on the part of an individual and usually protection on the part of the state b : membership in a particular nation
4 : political independence or existence as a separate nation 5 a : a people having a common origin, tradition, and language and capable of forming or actually constituting a nation-state b : an ethnic group constituting one element of a larger unit (as a nation)

So what's so wrong with this word? First and foremost, we are Americans.  If we want to shake the social stigma that we don't belong here we need to stop referring to ourselves using a hyphenated adjective. This adds a qualitative form on our citizenship which says to others that either we're not from here or we don't want to be here.  The term Hyphenated American was once used as slur much like the N-word for people whose roots were from other countries.  Times have changed and this is no longer the case but it is important to know the history and meanings of the words we use.

Second, let's play an game that you probably played as a child.  One of these things is not like the other; Japanese-American, Italian-American, Canadian-American, African-American, Irish-American, German-American.  Give up?  These people (sans Africans) are from countries and Africa is a continent. Africa itself has many nationalities within it.  People from the continent of Africa don't refer to themselves as Africans, they use the country they are from, much like we do.  Using the term only denotes that you don't know where you are from.

This leads use to the third reason, We'll use some logistics on the definition.  Anyone from Africa who immigrates to this country is an African-American. This of course mean people with white skin.  This might confuse and anger some people but by definition, it is what it is.

Fourth there's the obvious fact that not every dark-skinned person is from Africa. There are people from the Caribbean with the same skin color who are just as proud of where they are from and don't appreciate the African suffix attached to their nationality. In examining this phenomenon around the world, we are the only country which uses such prefixes to denote ethnicity and nationality.  There aren't any African-English or Vietnamese-French. People are comfortable with who there are and where they are from.

Which is what is missing from many people here.  Too few of us, myself included, know exactly where our ancestors are from.  For as long as we have been free, not too many of us have traced our roots back to where our families are from.  Information is in abundance today and so are scams.  Do your research before committing to such a service if that it how you wish to find your heritage. Be sure to do some research on your own prior to handling over any money.  This will afford you some important family time getting to know those who share your genes.

Common Sense, Manners and Home Training

You’ve heard it several times in your life about someone’s kids;  "They have no home-training." Do something stupid and someone may say; "You have no common sense!" Say or do something rude and very quickly; "You have no manners!"  All are usually followed by "Didn’t your parents teach you?" Hopefully they did or will if they haven’t.

After dwelling on it for a bit I started to wonder who created these rules and when? Who decided that I should hold the door for someone behind me to be courteous rather than shut the door quickly for fear that they may be out to get me? That I should help an old lady across the street rather than continue to my destination and face being late thus inconveniencing another person?  Well it seems that society does as a whole.

Though society makes the overall judgment on how we behave, parents individually determine what to teach their children.  If you think "Please" and "Thank you" are a waste of breath because people are typically ungrateful, fine don’t teach these rules to your kids. "What’s mine is mine and what’s yours is mine" so I don’t need to tell my kids that they need to ask before taking something from someone else. There is no difference between inside voices and outside voices because I can’t hear when people whisper.

Some of these rules exist to keep you in compliance with the law while others are opinions on how others want you to behave around them. Whether you agree or not can save you from glaring looks, whispers and unwanted comments.  I can also go as far as save your job, relationship or get you out of trouble with the law with a lesser or no penalty at all.

So what makes sense so common? Why does everyone know that green means go and red means stop or that you’ll get burned if you touch a hot stove?  One word, experience. No matter how many times you tell a child that a stove is hot, they don’t believe you until they actually touch it and feel the heat.  Sure they’ll point to it and say the word hot but it doesn’t really hit home unless they have experienced hot versus cold. 

We assume that everyone knows the difference between hot & cold and shouldn’t be surprised that the stove is hot to the touch.  Too many times we make assumptions about how people should conduct themselves.  Even worse, we impose our own judgments on others and then shun them when they don’t live up to our unknown expected standards.

Until we are born with an instruction manual or all parents are give the same copy of the Guide to Life there will be no common sense. Home training will always exist but it will always be different ways to going about it and will results will not always yield the same behavior in children. Manners will always differ per family structure thus conflicts are inevitable. Until we all agree on what is acceptable without compromise, home training, manors and common sense will be a paradox.

Good-bye Summer, Hello School

Labor Day marks the beginning and end of many things; it’s the unofficial end of summer, it’s the end of Reggae Season; here in the northeast the weather changes; and of course it means that school is starting (or in some cases has started) and not a moment too soon.  I’ve never been a big advocate of promoting school but after the things I witnessed this summer from our youth and some adults, I am now because we are in serious trouble!

Let’s start with the most reason incident which will sound like it came right out of a school book. Note: These are actual accounts. The names will be changed to protect the innocent even though they should be singled out and publically humiliated for their ignorance.

Xavier (a 16-17 year old in New Jersey) is selling a bag of oranges for $6.20.  Paul gives him $20.25 (that’s a $20 bill and a quarter). How much change should Paul expect back from Xavier?

Before I give you the glaring answer, let me explain exactly what happened. Xavier took the money and entered $6.25 in the register which told him to issue $0.05 back in changed. Confused by his error, Xavier closed the register drawer. Not able to open it himself, he called for his manager.  With the drawer problem now solved we are back to the math. Still perplexed, Xavier quickly wiped out his cell phone, opened the calculator then returned the proper change?I don’t think this one needs to be explained.

I saw a documentary called Superhuman: Genius which featured a child prodigy artist. Her artwork was absolutely amazing for someone of her age. During the program her parents mentioned that sometimes she would paint for 14 hours a day and produce a master piece. The alarming thing she mentioned was not that she was home-schooled but that she was only taught subjects that interested her.  This excluded math.

 

When I was in school, I also wished I could only study the subjects I wanted and that others were useless because they had nothing to do with my primary focus.  I now realize that those other subjects are what made me into a well rounded person.

A co-worker of mine whose is from another country and speaks English as a second language has a son, who only speaks English, in a local day care program. He came to me one day and started counting in Spanish. I found this strange because his parents are not from a Spanish speaking country.

I will quickly say that I have nothing against people who speak Spanish. My beef here is with the education system itself. Who decided that Spanish is the second (or third) language for this child? In this case, the child doesn’t speak the native language of his parents but knows some Spanish. My question is "Why not Italian, Danish or Portuguese?" I say these languages specifically because the US has never faced these countries other than in the Olympics or soccer (I’m no history buff so I may be wrong). Is this because Dora and Diego are so popular? Since when did commercialism determine what we taught our students?  It just went by another name, propaganda.

This leads to our last topic:

President Obama plans to address our nation’s students in an address at the beginning of the school year.

Of course this is not without controversy. Some parents don’t want their kids to hear him speak. Some say it’s a political campaign in disguise targeted at children (as if most will be able to vote in the next election). And others don’t want the black President to speak to their children, but they don’t want to admit that is the case. I’ll let the news organizations handle this one as you’ll hear plenty about this in the next couple days.

Back to School

It seems every month has some sort of theme in this country that involves spending money.  This month is the annual Back to School push.  Stores put supplies, clothes and other items on sale and in advertisements in hopes of cashing in on this yearly affair. But that in itself is not the issue at hand.

The issue is preparation at this time of year.  All too often, people give themselves a month or less than 30 days to get ready for a typical school year lasting at least 180 school days or 8 months. You don’t have to look hard to find ways of saving money for back to school items. Don’t get me wrong, saving money is a good thing.  No one wants to pay as much as they can for things if they can get them for less.  Even the rich know that paying a lot for things is foolish if it’s not necessary.

No, my issue is with the people who can’t afford to buy school supplies for their kids.  Not because they can’t buy the supplies themselves, but because they waited until the last minute for something they knew was coming. The school year typically ends sometime in June and starts again at the end of August.  In that time between, many families go on vacation, plan repairs, send their kids to camp, have BBQ’s and spend money in other ways. Freeze pops and trips to the beach may be fun but when these items leave you in a situation where you must decide whether to buy your child a pencil and paper or pay a bill is a terrible position to be in.  And more importantly it is a bad lesson for your children.  Waiting until the last moment rather than properly planning of a major purchase (and yes this counts as one) is a lesson that man learn too late in life (think foreclosure).

As a society, we start Spring Break planning in January (typically 7 days),summer vacation planning in March (typically 7 days) and Christmas shopping in October (only 1 day) but we only give ourselves only 30 days to prepare our children to learn.  Something sound funny here? Or is this a major misplacement of priorities?  I’ll let you be the judge of that because I’ve already made up my mind.

Everyone needs a little (and sometimes a lot) of help sometimes which many organizations are willing to provide it, especially when it comes to children:

A local radio station here in Philly 100.3 The Beat is giving away free hair cuts and I’m sure others will follow suit with their own promotions to aid in the back to school push.  After hearing about this I started to wonder to myself why don’t we start this type of charity and thinking in June rather than in August. If you started the week after school started and bought one type of supply each week through the summer, by the time school started you would have all of the supplies needed for the whole year.  What’s better is you’ve now spread out the purchases to more than one lump sum and more than likely able to better budget you summer and school purchases.

As a matter of fact, I’m going to start this planning right now for next school year.  I want to have our students in a better position next school year than they are for this coming school year.  We only have these types of promotions on radio stations whose markets are mostly black but this should end.  If we want to make a change in our lives we need to get better at planning for the future.  Teaching this lesson early in life is a great way to get there.  If you are not of school year age and are either in the education profession, or know someone with school age children now is the time to get on the ball.  Start a new program at your, call it what you want and take all the credit for the idea if you want but lets make a change.  Not because Obama is president, because it is necessary!

Is Hip Hop appropriate for advertising?

I’m not sure if it’s maturity or others influence on myself but there’s something seriously wrong with this:

There’s even a longer version:

And of course the original:

On the surface we have a Burger King ad campaign for a SpongeBob Squarepants toy series using a parody of Sir Mix-a-Lot – Baby Got Back.  But for some reason I can’t help but notice the exploitation of the girls dancing around in the background with what appears to be phonebooks in their pants, as lyrically described in the song.  Granted SpongeBob’s last name is Squarepants and not Squareback or Squarebutt, the song is a close in its attempt at a parody. 

Is this an attempt to sell sex to children? I don’t think so. Though this was/is a popular song (more on that in a later post), this isn’t a a song in heavy rotation today.  It’s mainly played in clubs, bars, sports areas and on Top 40 stations, usually away from SpongeBob’s target audience.  The commercial targets more the adult than the child with with a nostalgic song that most parents with children of this age would recognize. I’m sure they all gave the usual silent disapproving head shake when they saw it as I did and I don’t have children.

Is this in poor taste?  Certainly so!  I don’t think anyone would agree with the idea that children 2-11 need sexual images to be enticed to want toys.  The toy itself is enough.  SpongeBob alone is one of the most popular images for children today.  A silent commercial with just the Burger King logo and flashes of the toys would be enough for kids to want them. I’ve heard some people argue that children seem far worse images on TV but that’s no excuse for continuation of that issue.

In recent years, Hip Hop songs have started to appear along side products more often.  A few years back, Ludacris had a failed campaign with Pepsi when Bill O’Reilly mentioned that Ludacris was a bad influence on impressionable children and citing as an example his lyrical boast that he has ”hoes in different area codes.” 

Boost Mobile used commercials featuring names like Jermaine Dupree, Young Jeezy, Ludacris, Kanye West, The Game and Fat JoeNaz and AZ did a Sprite commercial. 

50 cent has appeared in many commercials for his Vitamin Water and and one for Reebok along side Jay-Z

Speaking of Hova, he and Pharrell both appeared in commercials for HP laptops. 

And on rare occasions, a beef arises in the case if Apple vs. Lugz.

The list goes on and on so it looks like Hip Hop is ready for advertising despite some stumbling along the way.  When done tastefully, any commercial can be paired with any genre of music.  It’s not the artists reputation that is issue but the advertisers themselves that are responsible for the commercials just as much it is the artists and record companies who are responsible for the musical content.  As Sir Mix-a-Lot humbly puts it, "Booty is booty", it just how you present it.