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Wednesday, January 21, 2009

The "Mixed Race" President

I am about to put a huge dent in this farce that seems to be emanating from people's mouths. If I hear one more person say that Barack is not black, I'm going to start swinging. It's quite amazing though, that this has even become a point of interjection. I wonder if this would be a dialogue if let's say; he was profiled on America's Most Wanted. Would the host of the show say, "We're looking for a Mixed race man who fled the scene?"

Now that Barack has ascended to the highest office in the free world, it's quite apparent that there are still some that cannot quite accommodate a black man in the White House. Otherwise, it would be very simple to acknowledge that not once, have you called persons born of Negroid and Caucasian descent anything, but black. Anytime something that is scandalous, criminal, depraved or unsightly occurs and it involves said persons, I can guarantee you the media and public would call them Black.

So forgive me my malaise, my utter dissent. Forgive me for the acid reflexive heaving that seems to rack my body when I hear this buffoonery. If you lived in South Africa or many of the other Southern African countries, you might get away with calling Barack "Colored." You see in those countries 'colored people' are actually generations of Africans who were initially the off-spring of a mixed union and have chosen to propagate amongst their kind. I know that all this clinical talk seems very detached, but hopefully you get my point. The term is also used to describe anyone who has White and Black biological parents.

Mariah Carey is Black. Don't tell her though, she may think otherwise. Regardless of what folks want to call her, she has been treated that way since she was young and it is how she is identified. Halle Berry is Black. Her mother may be White but I can assure you, she was never treated White in any school. These are all successful people who may have described themselves otherwise at some point, but are recognized in society as being of African descent. Quite simply, drops of Negro in your lineage, make you Black. Michael Jackson is Black. Don't tell him. No, seriously, don't tell him. We could get into semantics about how much Black really makes you Black, but we don't have that much space nor is it what this article is about.

So back to Barack, who all of a sudden, is being hijacked by all the "non wanting a Black President" folks with delusions of grandeur. All through the election, the fact that there was a possibility of a Black President created quite a stir in the American Hinterland. I'm sure Billy-Bob and John-Boy didn't use politically correct terms to describe Barack either. He wasn't being described as an African American, nor was he called Black. I leave you to fill in the blanks. At this time you can gather that any pretense on the part of this "Mixed Race" label has been revealed for the fraudulent behavior it is.

Leave Barack alone. Calling him mixed as if to meet some socially acceptable criteria doesn't fly. Using labels that we are aware don't quite describe the culture of our environment, won't fly either. Arguing the point so that it makes you feel better, isn't the ticket. Just accept the fact that a brother is in the 'Hizzou'. Uncomfortable maybe to some, but get used to it. No, it's not a 'mixed' brother in the White House, just a plain brother. Must be hard to try and call a President what you called him before, isn't it? Try the 'En' word now and see what happens. Try it with any of us. I dare you to try it on Pennsylvania Avenue and see how it pops off.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Obama's Shoes

I was going to go to the national mall today, but decided against it. It's not the cold that discouraged me. Not even the fact that trying to get down to Washington today is more like trying to get to heaven. You see half the world is watching right now as Barack and Michelle Obama make their way to become the forty-fourth President of the United States of America and first lady. This is beyond historic, it's an out of body experience. I feel like someone has been playing Jedi mind tricks with us and somehow we will wake up and realize, "He's not the President."

You see in the midst of all the pomp and circumstance of today. All the fanfare, music and regale, will sit George W. Bush Jr., watching as Barack is inaugurated. It is quite possible that there will be direct references to him in Barack's speech. The camera will pan to his face quite a few times as he listens to historic words. In the middle of all of this, I can hear a small voice saying, "Throw shoes at Bush!" As he sits there, thinking about where to put the archive of "Great moments in Presidential speeches" from David Letterman's show, in his future library; I can envision his sly smile.

It's that borderline smug smile, that I am sure has irritated many. The lack of contriteness on his part during his farewell speech resonates. He is still grasping to the illusion that somehow, he did us favors with his political decisions. He leaves the country in a recession and the middle of two wars. Yet the speech writers found it fit to have him tout that he did, what he felt was best for the country. When Ronald Reagan made his acceptance speech in nineteen eighty one, he spoke of the highest inflation in the nations history. Without saying much, it landed squarely at Jimmy Carter's feet, as the camera panned to his face he kept that famous Jimmy Carter smile. George better not be smiling.

Back to the significance of this moment. Yesterday, before my daughter went to bed , I read to her, Martin Luther King Jr's, "I have a dream" speech. As I begun, I tried to imitate his voice and resonance. My daughter looked at me in the eyes and said, "Daddy, use your own voice, I like it better!" I thought about that and realized, I like Barack's voice. It is Barack's voice that we will be holding our breath to hear today, His words, that will hang in suspension in the cold morning air of Washington DC. As he talks, his every word will be recorded for history, his gestures, inflections and mannerisms analyzed. This moment will be reminiscent of the March for Freedom. The word's "Let freedom ring," seem to be the most appropriate at this time. So no, I am quite sad I did not get to go to the National Mall.

So back to why I did not go to watch the inauguration live. You see it's too cold to go shoeless. Yes in the midst of all the festivities, I might get tempted to throw my shoes just like the Iraqi journalist. It would be a futile effort because there are so many people there, that they have closed off the national mall. So I would be way in the back, throwing my shoes at innocent people and things might get ugly. So there will be no clips of W. ducking again. No need for a delayed response by the security agents as I reached for the second shoe. Okay, okay, so I'm just bashing them, for allowing someone to actually have the time to throw two shoes at the President. They should have been on that Iraqi as he initially reached down.

So as Barack Obama reaches the conclusion of his speech today. As he looks around and sees Dick Cheney sitting in a wheelchair with a strained back muscle (signifying the infirmity of this administration). As Barack looks back and sees George W. smiling that quirky smile of his; I think he should slip his shoes off on the sly, reach down quickly, and throw one at Dick 'Haliburton' Cheney and the other at George 'Recession' Bush. I don't think the agents will even move.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Death of A Country


Imagine loosing all the Red Sox players. No more Rocket, Pena,Vaughn, Fletcher, Greenwell, nothing. All gone. All at once. The budding Charlotte Hornets, pride of North Carolina. Larry Johnson, Alonzo Mourning primed, ready for the playoffs. Beating Boston, then gone. All in the blinkof an eye.

On April 27th, 1993, a military plane carrying 30 passengers crashed into the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Gabon. John Starks head-butting of Reggie Miller during the Knick-Pacer series received more media attention. The crash killed 18 of Zambia's top football (soccer)players as well as the hopes and dreams of 8 million people. The tragedy can be likened to the Peruvian plane crash that eventually became a movie. The difference is, no one survived. In Africa, death is viewed with reverence, so you can be sure there will be no movies.

This was the team Zambians felt would; for the first time in its 29 year old history; take itself and the rest of the country to the world cup. The blend of international and local players was perfect. Kalusha Bwalya, Charles Musonda, Johnstone Bwalya, Kenneth Malitoli and Gibby Mbasela are the internationals that make-up the fulcrum of the team. I speak of them in the present tense because they, unlike their comrades, will play again. Local players like Derby Mankinka, Timothy Mwitwa, Samuel Chomba, Efford Chabala (once voted Africa's best goalkeeper) and Eston Mulenga all perished.

Most of the players came from humble beginnings. As kids they walked the streets seeking papers to wrap up and make into balls. They played football barefoot late into the night. Their play was a means of ignoring the growling in their empty bellies. This scenario epitomizes the beginnings of many "third world" players. From dust fields to plush greens, reaching the World Cup is the dream of every ompetitive soccer player. Our dust field, barefooted players were taking us to the World Cup, we had little doubt. In a country where the average man spends his time figuring out how to get his next meal, there is little that can equal the loss. To fully comprehend this,one must understand that football is the main form of recreation in Zambia.

It is the avenue with which the daily rigors of basic survival are forgotten. All political, social and economic differences are put on hold. The country unites. Brothers and sisters with one goal, "cheer the boys".Yes Africa has problems. People are starving in Ethiopia and Somalia,brothers and sisters constantly dodge bullets in South Africa, dictators,uneducated leaders, corrupt governments, large scale poverty, disease and other grave problems too numerous to mention. Africa also has many questions. Is the West perpetuating our plight? Are we being taught table manners and not how to grow and cook food? Has there been a systematic plan to target us for destruction? How much more of this forked tongue, double standard super power alliance garbage is necessary before Africa can get real help? We recognized all the questions but, like a cult, were oblivious to them as we watched our team progress along the ladder towards the World Cup.

We were oblivious to discussions of reparations for descendants of slaves, social and economic impacts of the slave trade, western influence in African politics, the prosecution of those that assassinated Patrice Lumumba and conditional aid. All we could see was the inevitable berth in one of the World Cup groups. We didn't have illusions of grandeur. We would not win but at least we would be there. As the dust from our drought ridden land rose around us, we ignored the little fingers of our children prodding us,innocent eyes begging for sustenance. Like avid baseball fans during the penchant race we were glued to the television, beer in hand. We answered all questions without once taking our eyes off the screen. After all we didn't want
to miss the "Bwalya pass" that set-up the goal. Similar to basketball fans not wanting to miss a second of Micheal Jordan's 54 point performance, we ignored our wives. Our love-lives suffered. We put aside our hunger. We had our football and we could taste the World Cup.

The Zambian team following became a cult. Born of a need to vent frustration, our cult believed that the team could conquer all. We could see the promised land. The team, young and vivacious, led us on. The cult gained fervor after an exemplary performance in the Seoul, Korea Olympics. The highlight of which was, beating Italy 4-0. Yes, this was our triumph. "Our boys" had beaten the hunger, colonialism, apartheid, illiteracy,violence, disease and neo-colonialism, if but for a moment. We cheered them on. They were representing us. Each deft move, each goal was a personal
victory for each Zambian. In their triumphs each of us won a personal battle.Our cult leaders led us in the pursuit of a little gold cup that would bring with it an unimaginable national achievement. But alas, the ugly hand of fate reached out.

Two generations of players were lost. Godfrey "Ucar" Chitalu, coach,once the most feared and revered striker on the African continent died in the crash. He in the 70's, was what Abedi Pele', Nii Lamptey, Charles Musonda and Kalusha Bwalya aspire to be. Usually double marked by opposing teams, he was difficult to contain. As a player, he had led the national team to the finals of the 1974 Africa Cup of Nations competition. It was the countries hope that his leadership and that of Alex Chola (the first Zambian professional player) would lead us all the way. We lost these men and more, all in the span of seconds.

Our dreams were lost in those few seconds that it took to extinguish 30 lives. Never in our history had there been a tragedy of this magnitude. It also could not have come at a more inopportune time. A state funeral, a week of national mourning with the burial of the players, officials and crew at Lusaka's Independence stadium closed the chapter on Zambia's greatest tragedy. But our dilemma is just beginning. We can't pull out of the cup.This would not be fair on the nation, our fallen heroes or the players that are still competing.The rebuilding process has begun with the new team playing a few local matches. We have also received great support from Denmark and England. Denmark offered an all expenses paid training session England, a
professional trainer. Even with all this help, many of us do not feel as deeply about the new team. We find it hard to have similar expectations of them. So excuse us if our attention; to our qualifying for the World Cup; is wavering.

We are now more cognizant of our children prodding us. Their faces are coming into focus. The grumble in our bellies is becoming prominent. We can hear the voices of our wives as they shout " you never listen to me". We have no excuse to buy beer instead of food. Our televisions are off and we must now pay attention to what the kids are doing in school.We want to blame someone for the crash? Who do we blame? God? What restitution will we find as we now turn to face our daily nemesis survival?
Will the two month grace period requested by President Chiluba of Zambia for the rebuilding of the team bring with it a respite from our daily torment? Will this rebuilding translate into a more focused national agenda? Does the West plan on standing by as Africa is ravaged by all imaginable forms of problems? We do not expect handouts but just like there was an inherently strong show of force in the Gulf (protecting oil); we expect similar muscle flexing to the cascade of problems that plague Africa. We shall continue to point fingers until those responsible for creating and perpetuating our problems make a concerted effort to help or, the grumbling in our bellies becomes less noticeable.

As if adding insult to injury, FIFA denied our request to postpone the first games until September. We would not get a chance to breath. Stories have begun flying around our country about the condition of the aircraft. We hear it was faulty, was not pressurized and had numerous mechanical failures in it's history. If this is the case then "our boys" should not have been on that plane. The government has set-up a trust fund for the families of the players and yet what they really should be doing is paying out of their coffers.

After all, it was a government plane and with the capitalist ideas that have become inherent in our system, families may just up and sue for all it's worth. "Hey, that's what I would do". But then again, this is unheard of. We grieve because our dreams have died and all that is left to us is anger, hunger, despair and the rantings and erratic behavior of uneducated politicians.