Tuesday, September 26, 2006

"We Got You"

(l-r: Myra Allen, Regina Jean-Paul, Dion Robinson, Shaday Festus)

Can a celebrity's message inspire teens? That's the question I put to a group of students from Benjamin Franklin High School in Philadelphia. Last week, their school made headlines when rap impresario Diddy came to talk to them about personal responsibility.

In this week's column the kids answer the question, and also talk about what it's like to live in a city where the murder rate is 287 and counting.

They circle the wagons. "We help each other," Myra says. "If you're hungry, I got you. If you're scared to go someplace by yourself, call me up. That's just how we are."

I have another question for the students -- and I know they'll chime in because they're intelligent, articulate and extremely opinionated. If peace starts with you, what can you do to stop the violence?

Non-students, feel free. We need all the answers we can get.

Monday, September 25, 2006

The Power of Sports

The New Orleans Saints resumed play against the Atlanta Falcons in their newly renovated $200 million Superdome Monday night -- Extreme makeover, Dome edition.

Watching the joyful fans on Monday Night Football made you realize that sports really does have restorative, even healing, powers.

But you couldn't help but feel for the locals. Four hours of escapism then "they go back to their FEMA trailers," said filmmaker Spike Lee, who refused to get baited into a criticism of the Bush administration on national television, especially with the president's daddy in the house. Trust me, Lee's searing HBO documentary, When the Levees Broke: A Requiem in Four Acts, is indictment enough.

Spike did say that New Orleans is far, far from done. A year after Katrina, many neighborhoods in the city still haven't been rebuilt. You have to wonder if the Dome was made a priority because its fits with the playground theme that developers reportedly are pushing for New Orleans to become -- the Las Vegas of the South.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Weekend Pick

Jamie Foxx's Oscar-winning turn as Ray Charles in the 2004 biopic Ray may have renewed interest in the man himself, but fact is, Charles' music had established him as an American icon long before Jamie even thought about putting on a pair of prosthetics.

It is Charles' music -- and only the music -- that will be celebrated in I Can't Stop Loving You , the jukebox musical that makes its United States tour premiere Tuesday at the Academy of Music in Philly.

It's in town for only a week, but it promises to be a high-energy show that will be well worth taking in -- if only to hear former Raelette Regi Brown growl "Ba-bay!" on the classic, "Night Time is the Right Time."

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Playing the Race Card From a Stacked Deck

Did you watch last week's premiere of Survivor? They've segregated the tribes according to race, which was bound to create controversy before the show even aired. In this week's column, I refer to it as Survivor Segregation.

Pundits described it as playing the "race card."

Like so many other people of color, I despise that term. It's just one more code phrase that blocks the import of what we have to say and prevents us from having an honest conversation about race.

Did Johnnie Cochran play the race card when he cross examined Mark Fuhrman in the O.J. Simpson trial? Or did he just expose him for the racist cop he was?

When we have bar room arguments over the merits of Barry Bonds' home run record and point out that white icons like Babe Ruth and Ty Cobb should have asterisks by their names too, because black and Latino ballplayers were not allowed to play against them, is that playing the race card? Or is it just pointing out that historically, the deck has been stacked against us?

You tell me.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Weekend Pick

The world's greatest jazz singer performs at the Kimmel Center tonight in Philadelphia. That's where I'll be.

See ya Monday.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Press 1 Or Die

This week's column is about the petty issue some folks have with having to press 1 for English.

You wouldn't think one more key stroke on a telephone pad would create such a uproar.

But it's not about having to press 1. It's about ignorance -- and fear.

The sad part is that we have allowed a spirit of meanness to monopolize a civil and honest discussion about immigration reform.

What do you think?

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Birthday Reflections

Can I re-claim my 9/11 birthday five years later? That's part of what my column addresses this week. Since 2001, birthday greetings have rung hollow. And after last year's disaster in New Orleans, I can't let this season pass without some serious reflection to chase down my birthday cake, because I'm accidentally linked to both events.

Friday, September 01, 2006

Weekend Pick

Sheer wondering doesn't come close to touching the themes of love, abandonment and the burden of motherhood that Kim McLarin explores in Jump at the Sun. The novel takes a stark look at what it's like to be a mother and to be mothered, the payoff and the cost.

Full disclosure: I know Kim. She used to be a reporter at the Inquirer, which made me want to crack open her newest offering even more. So glad I did. A perfect read for a long weekend.

Ta-ta til Tuesday.