Archive for June, 2014

To my daughter: It would seem that an open letter is the only way that we can communicate. This is very very personal, but I don;t care. You have falsely led yourself to believe that we are not to have any relationship at all. And so I take to social media to talk to you. I don’t know if you will ever read this. But hopefully someone will see it, share it with you, and you will have the opportunity to read the pain that I feel. Perhaps you will even recognize that  tremendous pain. I am aware of the snide and sometimes hurtful posts about me that you have made on past Father’s Days. You have created this less than truthful truth in your mind. Nonetheless, you are hurt and you feel that I have not been there for you. I want to address that with this letter.

No. I was not there in your childhood. Being the honorable man that I am, I am very sorry for this.  I divorced your mother when you were very young. There is no way in this earth that she and I could have stayed together. I’m sorry that you had to deal with life without your father because of it. However, you and I both know that you can never truthfully claim that you did not know your dad.

You are a grown woman now. twice married, with four beautiful children. Yet, you have completely abandoned your kids. And I am left to raise two of them while your brother raises the other two. This comes at great sacrifice. Our own families have suffered. Our lives have been paused, re-arranged and altered just so we can take care of your children. And not even once, have you reached out to them., tried to participate in raising them, nor even uttered a thank you to us for stepping in and taking care of your kids.

While you hide behind claims that I wasn’t there for you, please note I was there to counsel you when you met Robert who told you he was going to join the Army and take care of you and your first-born. Of course you did not listen and married him anyway. But you quickly found out why I counseled against it. You’d just had the twins when he left you with no food in the house and no way to buy some while he went on a military exercise. You had to approach the Red Cross to get assistance. Then he assaulted a superior officer, got locked up and subsequently kicked out of the Army. You had no place to go. But I was there for you- opening my home to you and three children. A complete and sudden about face in my life.

We could not take your irresponsibility. I labored to find assistance for you.. support.. guidance. But you lied about going to appointments. Refused to do anything around the house…Not only did you turn our household upside down, you gave me a very hard time with disobedience, irresponsibility and general trifling behavior. You and your kids – a two newborns and a toddler. And so I took you back to your husband where you promptly had another child although your life was topsy turvy.

I was there for you when he got arrested the first time. And this is when you again refused my advice and counsel and even stopped returning my calls. Robert is now doing a life term for murder. I said it then and I’ll say it now. That could have been you. I don’t believe he did not abuse you. Not one bit.

The next time we would see each other is when I had to track you down in the city to tell you that your grandfather was gravely ill. That’s when i learned that you had gotten married a second time. To Akeem. Now, I don’t know what kind of young man this is. I do know that you and he led a very unholy lifestyle. One that deeply harmed your children in thier formative years. And as I came to observe your life at this time, I tried to counsel you again.. I was there for you.

Yes. I was there for you. As you and he lead a sordid lifestyle that I will never ever understand, I began to observe how neglected you left the children. Colicky, filthy… wild. I stepped in gradually. When you started relying heavily on your mom’s parents to raise them (they were in thier 80’s!!!) I was there for you – participating in the school activities because you and your mom refused to do so. Keeping up with thier progress. and while doing so I began to learn about the mental effects from that which you had been exposing them to. I was there for you when the authorities removed them from your care.

Yes. I was there for you. I went to the hearing to get them out of the childrens shelter. I was there. Your mother was there. and you elderly grandparents were there. The authorities asked your mother if she would continue to care for the boys. She said no. They would not allow your grandparents to continue and rightfully so. But then they asked you about your caring for the children. You sat there and said absolutely nothing. Not one word. Not a groan, an utterance… NOTHING! But I was there. and so i signed to take custody of the boys. And that was the ONLY reason they were not permanently removed, I was there for you.

I did not take the boys because I wanted to work with you to create a situation where the authorities would see you were trying to be a responsbile mother and therefor would allow the boys back into your care. We went to the mandatory guardianship orientation. You were late. I observed you in the parking lot sitting in your car. And then, to my bewilderment, you just drove off. Not only did you drive off you lied to me about being there. wow. I was there for you.

Each week thereafter I learned more and more about the neglect you were imposing on your children. I observed them at their school with shoes in serious disrepair. Dirty and oversized clothing, unwashed faces, hungry, just general neglect. On my way to my daily commute I would stop by the school and groom them. I was there for you.

And then the school meeting….. I drove down to San Diego for this meeting with the authorities. You mother was there. You were there. There were some deep seated and serious emotional issues. Issues of abuse. Your new boyfriend had taken the abuse to a whole other level. In attendance at that meeting was also the Child authorities. Again, you mother refused to care for the children but because i had already promised to take the boys in, I had to take them back with me to Los Angeles. And so I have them now. I was there for you.

Since they have been here we have learned of the tremendous abuse you have imposed on your children. Since they have been here, my family life has been strained, changed. My career path has been altered. The children exhibit very serious and sometimes dangerous mental health issues. All stemming from the lifestyle you led around them. There is unspeakable trauma while under your care. There is crazy CRAZY behavior that is beyond my comprehension. There is violent, emotional distress. There is long term mental health evaluation because of overtly violent behavior. This all stems from what you did to them – what you exposed them to. And yet. I am here for you.

I am here for you, daughter. In a way that is so much deeper than you could imagine. I am sacrificing all for the life of your children. My family life is damaged and strained. My stress level is increased. I have to be vigilant because something could happen at anytime. That phone could ring. We have had to deal with multiple hospitalizations(mental hospitals), encounters with law enforcement, therapists, social workers and so many more intense and uncomfortable situations. Yeah. I am there for you.

Meanwhile you go about your days, enjoying your life. It’s as if you haven’t a care in the world. Your great job, so you say. Your happy hours, going out with your friends… yeah. you are living it up. You have NEVER reached out to your kids. You have never thanked us for raising your children. You have never expressed any emotion, opinion, input about the situation with your children… crickets. But yet, you will post some sort of cryptic message about your father and how he was never there for you.

There is so much more I could write in this blog – but In the end, we are doing the best that we can for your children. We are all that they have. When you formally gave up your rights, you effectually ended your relationship with them. And so, we raise them and we love them.

Yes Daughter. I am there for you.

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I am still outraged that George Zimmerman was acquitted of murdering Trayvon Martin. I am suspect of Florida’s Stand Your Ground Laws. I am convinced that mandatory sentencing guidelines are overly harsh in most cases and affect black folk and other minorities disproportionately. And while I reeled from the news of Zimmerman’s acquittal, I was hit in the gut again by the news that Marissa Alexander faced decades in jail as she defended herself from an abusive mate. Her defense rested on the controversial Stand Your Ground Law after she fired a warning shot near or at her abusive husband. Marissa claims she was protecting herself from another attack at the hands of her man. She “stood her ground”. Instead of Justice, Marissa was sentenced to 20 years in prison, igniting a firestorm of objection and protest across the country, particularly from black Americans still reeling from the Zimmerman verdict.

The anger I felt as this woman’s picture was showing up time and again in my social media timelines, usually accompanied by the headline or status update that all she was doing was defending herself against an abusive male. I saw images of an innocent mother. That’s somebody’s sister…. another innocent sista trapped in an abusive relationship… There are so many stories like this in our community, I was thinking…. I was like dag.. yet another brotha beating down his woman…. I had sympathy for Marissa…. Compassion. I joined in the voices that said “INJUSTICE!! DISCRIMINATION!!! UNFAIR!!! Yes. On the surface, it appears that Marissa would be yet another black person unjustly consumed by the court system in America. A fact made worse because the case is in Florida.

Then I began to seek the facts. Facts that reveal why Marissa’s Stand Your Ground defense was turned away at pre-trial hearings. Facts that also demonstrate why Marissa was convicted on multiple charges and sentenced to a mandatory 20 years. After only 12 minutes of deliberation, the jury convicted Marissa of three counts of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon. (Click here to read the actual court documents) So then what happened?? How did we get to this point???

(Note: As of June 10, a retrial was postponed to December, while the state learns if the New Warning Shot bill will be passed or not)

On July 31, 2010, Marissa left her newborn child in the hospital days after giving birth to visit the home of Rico Gray, her husband. The couple had gotten married in May, but Marissa had not lived with Rico for two months prior to the shooting incident. When she got there, Rico wasn’t home so she parked her car in the garage and waited. She spent the night but Rico did not come home until the morning along with his two sons. Sounds like everything is cool, because they all sat down and had breakfast. Everything is great. But then Marissa gave her phone to Rico so he could see pics of their newborn who was still in the hospital. She gave him the phone and then got up to go to the restroom. Rico found text message conversations between Marissa and her Ex. Rico got mad and confronted her as to whether the baby was even his. You know that set it off, right? And so it was on…. Rico prevented Marissa from leaving the bathroom at first, but she managed to get around him and exited. According to experts, this is where the Stand Your Ground laws went awry.

Marissa’s actions at this point made the difference. Marissa exited the restroom and went to the master bedroom. Rico left the bedroom and headed to the living room. His sons were there. Marissa then leaves the bedroom, walks past Rico and the kids, straight to her car where she got a gun from her glovebox. She came back into the kitchen and pointed it at all three(Rico and his two sons). Rico put his hands in the air but Marissa fired anyway narrowly missing Rico’s head and sending a bullet through the kitchen and into the ceiling of the living room….. dayum!!!! Rico got the heck outta there with his sons and called 911. Marissa stayed at the house but never did call 911. It should be noted here that Rico did have a history of abuse against Marissa and other chicks. One such incident sent Marissa to the hospital with head injuries after he shoved her into a bathtub.    Court Record of Gray's 2009 Domestic Battery ArrestIn the following legal actions, they decide to depose Rico. And wouldn’t you know it.. the couple is now conspiring to keep the laws out of their business. Rico said he had all but threatened to kill Marissa. He said she couldn’t leave the house through the garage because it was broken and that she never pointed a gun at him or his kids. But that was a completely different account than what he gave to the cops. Then, after swearing in court that she would have no contact with Rico, she continued to see him. In fact, when the court dismissed Marissa’s Stand Your Ground defense, the judge noted that not only did Marissa continue to see Rico even after swearing not to, Rico and her discussed what Rico should say during the deposition!!!! Shady…

Rico says he lied in his deposition to protect Marissa. Further, after Marissa was convicted and sentenced to 20 years, she requested a retrial. At that hearing, Rico said he never threatened to kill her and said he begged and pleaded for his life when she had the gun. To make things worse, while she was out on bail and awaiting trial from the shooting charges, Marissa was arrested for domestic battery against Rico. Apparently she came to drop off their child at the house and they started arguing because he would not allow her to stay overnight. Police were called but Marissa had fled the scene. But not before she left Rico with a swollen eye and bloodied.  Po- Po caught up with Marissa about an hour later and of course Marissa claimed to not know what “this was all about” – she had an alibi. But as he police kept questioning her, the story changed with Marissa claiming that in fact she had gone to Rico’s house but he attacked her with his fists because she wouldn’t stay overnight. But Marissa had no visible injuries….Marissa Alexander's December 2010 Arrest Report Marissa was arrested and her bail revoked.

Needless to say, Marissa’s case has a lot of issues. She had choices when she felt she was in “life threatening danger” – leave through the front door, back door or garage. She stayed in the house and although she and Rico said the garage was broken, police were not able to confirm.

Marissa says it was only a warning shot, but she shot at Rico, narrowly missing him. The fact that she shot at him and did not hit him in the body presents the argument that she wasn’t trying to kill him so why fire at all. She was never in life threatening danger. She never called the police. If she was in fear for her life, she should have dialed 911.

She kept returning to the house even after the court ordered her not to. She did not fear Rico as she had previously claimed.

The last arrest for Domestic violence while she was out on bail coupled with the fact that she lied to police about even being there demonstrates that she was not in fear of her life…..

In the end, this case is sad. It is the story of a tragic and, in my opinion trifling couple with severe anger issues. Marissa clearly has issues within this relationship. Rico clearly has violence issues. But they keep seeing each other… They keep trying to protect one another… Thier relationship is a messy mess and now Marissa will have to do major time for her actions. The pictures we see with the status sentences and twitter updates present an entirely different picture of this woman. We are led to say poor Marissa…. but in fact, this relationship was a mess. Clearly Marissa is not some helpless victim of domestic violence. They maintained a messy, violent relationship. Abusers of one another. They clearly need anger management and mental health counseling.

Now I am not saying the sentence isn’t too harsh. I am all for seeking justice where injustice has been applied. I am saying that I need to sit this one out and see how it shakes out. I am saying that besides whatever the courts are going to do with Marissa, this couple needs mental health and anger management treatment. This dysfunctional relationship has caused a world of pain.

Marissa Alexander. A symbol of American injustice? not so fast is what I say…. I wish her luck…. It’s all unfortunate. But this one? Not so fast…..

Last month, I attended the Urban Network Digital Summit in San Diego. I was sooooo glad to experience the return of this all important black music conference. We had not had a conference in some 5-7 years…  Back in the day, there were so many conferences that allowed us to shine… Black Music’s best executives, artists and pop culture together in one location sharing knowledge, networking, the record company parties and even the sometimes secret, invitation only music soirees… it was something to behold… But then the times have changed – and the conferences went away one by one.

The Urban Network Digital Summit was organized by a committee that graduated from the previous versions of Urban Network. Led by Arthur Mitchell – a guy who came along at the end of the era that I am descurbannetworksummitlogoribing Nonetheless, he gets props for pulling together some of the Urban Network alumni and putting on a pretty nice conference.  David Mitchell, Tosha Thomas, Harold Whaley.. most of the crew from the old Urban Network was in the house and had a hand in putting together the conference… Job well done guys!!!

I was impressed with the turnout as the conference attracted a bevy of young, independent artists who were starving for knowledge and perspective on this crazy industry we all know and love. Next year, I believe the Summit will have double the attendance. And probably more support from the industry at large could resort in better artist showcases, and performance infrastructure. or even targeting music equipment and technology manufacturers and providers for sponsorship dollars and added information and educational benefit.

It was obvious that there is a generational gap in the industry. The game has changed. But there is a lot of room for convergence. The old heads need to be willing to share the history and experiences in the music game while being open and flexible to the changes the digital world has brought to music artistry.

As I observe the music industry, I see opportunity for the creatives. The road to fame no longer runs strictly through massive radio station airplay and major record labels. Websites and social media are the exposure tools of today. The young guns coming up are so much more savvy to the tools for making music and even more savvy with the power digital platforms possess in building audience… that BUZZ….

There was a time when you went to these conventions and came away with a bag full of CD’s and cassettes…. This time I received a good number of cassettes but I was even the more impressed with the number of cards with the QR codes embedded. I could download the music right to my phone…. Or those that had multiple songs to share, I received a flash drive… some imprinted with the band’s name on it just in case I would forget(lol!!) Technology has taken over the entire music promotion game…..

The panel discussions were inviting. If I were to offer a critique it would be to limit the number of panelists on the dais. And also to ensure the ALL panels have a question and answer period. It becomes a session of self-congratulatory pontificating if the audience is not allowed to engage.

I always look forward to the music showcases. For better or worse, it is good to hear first hand the latest music coming along. For this Summit, I must say that I saw some great acts. And of course I saw some that need to keep practicing. They were not ready for primetime. I enjoyed mostly the complete bands… The bands that came and brought it. And there were some acts that had it going on….

Tony Toni Tone made a reunion appearance and while they were marred with sound system difficulties, I was soon reassured that this band remained tight and ready to rock their fans everywhere.

In the end, there is still a bright future for the black music industry. Yet, innovation and imagination is needed to fully live up to our potential. Are we ready? Are we willing to continue to get together in a business academic environment? Time will tell.

Good Job Urban Network.