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.

And so I originally wrote this from the solitude of a hospital room. Yes. After years and years of basically perfect health, I experienced a severe pulmonary embolism upon my return from South Africa. I did not move about the cabin enough during the 18 hour trans-Atlantic flight and as we returned to the states, blood clots formed in the legs, travelled to and lodged in my lungs rendering me unconscious, short of breath and near death at a point. A life threatening health issue.

I am ok now, anxious to get back to full and complete health. As I sit here in the loneliness of my hospital room, my experience has ignited a firestorm of thoughts, introspection and contemplations. Here are some of my thoughts:

Thank God for Health Insurance – Even as the politicians quibble about ObamaCare, it’s easy to lose sight of the fact that serious health issues can occur at anytime to anyone. I am a living witness have never experienced life threatening illness or health trauma, that things can go downhill fast. I shudder to imagine what this treatment and recovery would be like without insurance. I am blessed and I know it.

Pragmatic quality of care – I have to mention that the doctors and hospital staff have been excellent. Sure there have been one or two staffers who are seemingly detached from the personal connection between patient/caregiver – a quality that surely must be a prerequisite for this line of work; however, nearly all have been patient, kind, and most importantly it appears that they were genuinely concerned for my well-being and complete recovery.

Spiritual Care – My hospital is run by the Catholic Church. On my first day, the priest came by and seemed surprised that I had my Bible open and ready to read. He took a couple of steps BACK and muttered something about if I pray for him, he’ll pray for me. And then he hurried out of the room. The next day, he came to the ward, but did not attempt to approach my room. I was a little perplexed. So I hurried up and call my COGIC family. Spiritual Care for this non-Catholic was severely lacking. Glad I had backup!!!

Personal Introspect – I am keenly aware that I am one of God’s elect. This is not an emotional or shallow impulse. This is a declaration of unabashed truth. As I follow God’s calling on my life I see that the devil tried to kill me. But God Blocked it. He preserved me. He protected me. He reminded me that He has so much more for me to do.. He has charted a course of meaningful ministry opportunity… a course of career opportunities that will impact the world and underscore His glory in the earth.

I am thankful to God for preservation!!!! And the road I walk is much more illuminated and life is more precious in my sight….

The NBA All Star weekend is a storied weekend of music fun and basketball. And the fact that it was held in New Orleans means the party and live music was on a whole nutha level!! I only tuned in to watch the Game and got a chance to see the lengthy pre-game festivities. I was impressed with the pre-game concert as it featured Performances by Nelly, Diddy, Busta Rhymes and more..  It’s funny for me to watch twitter and see the comments about Busta’s weight. He seemingly has packed on some poundage… one tweet said “Busta Rhymes looks like my dad”…. yeah he looked like he was struggling with his heaviness…. But I digress..

One of the anthems of the moment on radio is the song “I’m the Man”…. And until this weekend, a lot of listeners had not seen Aloe Blacc…. in fact it appears that a lot had not even HEARD of Aloe Blacc. That means that this appearance on the NBA All Star Pre-game Concert was a BIG deal for Aloe…. an injection into the mainstream consciousness of music lovers everywhere. A global audience. It was a big deal.

One would think that the artist would be super prepared for the world stage. You would think the band would be tight…. but to the contrary, Aloe Blacc came out and sang I’m the Man” in a key that was completely off from where the band was playing. It was an ear sore.

Now I have been searching for an out for this music nightmare. I read that since Aloe Blacc’s song had become the theme of Beats Headphones that it was the headphones which caused this musical miscue… I heard that his in ear monitors were not working…. But I saw several large front monitors and he stood over one for sometime…. frankly there is no excuse for this debacle.

I’m not sure how this will affect Aloe Blacc over time… One thing is sure that he will need to come with outstanding songs to sustain his career. His ability to sell live performance tickets will surely be affected. It’s a shame because this vocalist certainly had some promise prior to the show….

Aloe Blacc, you are NOT the man!!!

At the Grammy Awards 2014

Posted: January 28, 2014 in music, radio
Tags: , ,

And so I write this from backstage at the 56th Annual Grammy Awards. I arrived a little after 2pm because even as there is the international broadcast of the awards, there is a 3-4 hour pre-show presenting the coveted award to musicians from all sorts of genres. American Roots Music… Bluegrass, Zydeco, Hawaiian, Country, Opera, Music Video, Music Film, Music in a video game, spoken word and so many more…

I was impressed with the Mariachi Divas especially when someone asked the leader who appears to be a non Mexican(I am not sure) how she got into this type of music. She let him know that she is from Los Angeles and mariachi is everywhere. And most def it is!!!! I got a good laugh from that….

Most of the R&B, Urban, Rap and Gospel categories are awarded in this pre-show….

Now, I don’t know about you but I am feeling some kind of way about this. Don’t get me wrong, I applaud the Academy and how they embrace the entirety of music genres in America. And I know that there is limited time to present awards from all genres during the international telecast. I get it. However, when I watch this pre-show and most of the artists are not even present to accept this award. Knowing this, the Academy has Jimmy Jam rush through all of the categories. This, because they know that most of the artists are not even there.

We have to do something to get stronger representation at the Academy.

Capetown, South Africa

Join us as we visit the beautiful country of South Africa.. Our eclectic mix of music, history and fun is unmatched by most tours in the nation. Let’s go!!!

Image  —  Posted: January 24, 2014 in 1

ok.. I finally went to see 12 Years a Slave. Like many black folk, this film about slavery had not made it to my must see list. In fact, I had no intention of watching the film until all the hoopla and protests against the film began to surface. Then I was compelled to see it just so I could form my own opinion. It is a powerfully violent piece that left me feeling some kind of way.

Now certainly it has been a banner year for black film. But the films that received the highest regard from critics and industry are those that depict black folk in a position of servitude. Lee Daniels’ The Butler is a true story about a butler in the White House and his journey through several presidential administrations. A poignant examination of a generation of black servitude that reminded me so much of my father and his occupation in the United States Navy. While he enjoyed rank and privilege among enlisted personnel, his job was primarily to serve the senior officers aboard the mighty vessels of war he was stationed on. Much like The Butler, he heard and saw a lot as he served tea and meals in those wardrooms. There are many stories like this in the annals of black US History. Our parents and grandparents lived a life of humble servitude so that they could pay for and pave the way for our college educations and ultimately our cultural, academic and spiritual advancement in this country. It is a generation that swore to advance the race through their service.

In 12 years a slave, Steve McQueen brings to life the story of Solomon Northrup, a free black man who is kidnapped in slavery days and finds himself picking cotton with the rest of them. It is a sobering, powerful, Imageemotional and insightful expose’ of slavery in America. It is a true story. Gleaned from a book written by Solomon as a literary account of what actually happened to him. It screams the old adage that no matter what station in life one climbs to, to them your are still just a n*^&r….

Most of my friends have a almost violent aversion to seeing 12 Years a Slave. The notion in the hood is that we don’t need to be reminded what we went through as blacks in America. Folk want to know why, in this day and age – an age where we have overcome to the point of electing a black President – do we have these films depicting the black man in servitude. We say that surely, there must be more redeeming stories out there that would find success on the silver screen. To underscore the pain of the community, these films receive tremendous acceptance and acclaim from the general market cinematic observers. These films are among the first mentioned when prognosticators mention the front running prospects for the annual awards.

I was one who avoided 12 Years a Slave at its release. I only viewed it after hearing so much hoopla and critical acclaim. I listened to the water cooler talk… and indeed all over the community, in the coffeeshops, the bookstores and restaurants and even at church brothas and sistas ain’t havin’ no part of a film about slavery. My experience left me with a variety of emotions. I found the story to be intriguing. Yet, I was moved to intense anger as the film’s characters spewed hatred, violence and brutality on a level that we knew existed, but as it played out on the screen, it shocked to our very core.

At the end of the film, the entire theater was stone cold silent. There were no white folk in the theater when I viewed this film so I do not have the luxury of observing how they felt after the film. But as I read the reviews and analyses of the film I see that they think it is a redeeming piece of cinema. A fascinating examination of a very dark chapter in the history of these United States. wow.

And so we are left asking why these films in this day and time. We are at a point where we are seeing equality on a level that was only dreamed of in recent and past generations. We are at a point in history where a black face can be found in almost every walk of American life. And then the film industry puts out a film reminding us about our brutal experience as slaves. Films about our humble, shuffling circumstance serving the white, rich and powerful. Why in this time?? Why in this day?

There are those who would say that the younger generations need to be reminded and educated on what our ancestors went through in order to get what we have today. I agree. We must never forget. Yet, there are those who say we just don’t need to be reminded of our violent past. We already know how we got to this point. I agree. We must keep our eye on the prize and keep forging ahead and making strides.

Like I said, 12 Years a Slave left me feeling some kind of way…….