Wisdom is not always indicative of age. Wisdom is forged through years of procuring knowledge and understanding how to utilize it accordingly. If you have gleaned nothing purposeful over years of living life; you are no wiser in your advanced years compared to your earlier ones.
My fellow black Americans, please stop grading blackness as if it is a badge of honor to determine whose ancestral lineage experienced the most inhumane suffering. To be sure, trust, there aren’t any trophies for whose black pain is the greatest and most traumatic.
Generally, I don’t venture out into the treacherous waters of controversial current events, but my social media outlets have exploded over the very public furor revolving around Gayle King and Snoop Dogg. If you are unaware of the situation, I will present to you the CliffsNotes version. During an interview, Gayle King delivered what many interpret as a disrespectful series of questions to Lisa Leslie regarding the legacy of the late Kobe Bryant and rape allegations from 2003. Much to the dismay of Ms. King, CBS released this salacious snippet to the public. Cue predictable fecal storm across Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc. Snoop Dogg then lashed out at King via Instagram with some choice expletives and a thinly veiled threat. Gayle King proceeded to get dragged across all of social media, death threats followed, and close friend Oprah Winfrey offered an emotional defense of King. The Internet continued to blow up as everyone from Stephen Jackson to Susan Rice offered a viewpoint. Hell, even Bill Cosby weighed in via Twitter as Pro-Snoop. Wait – didn’t he write a book and go on a tour denouncing such disrespectful behavior from our black men. I guess that follows the mantra: The enemy of my enemy is my friend. Misogyny loves Cue massive eye-roll.
First and foremost, I did not like Gayle King’s questions and follow-up questions. Now, King contends that the clip posted by CBS was aired without any context. And I believe that to be true. As a viewer, we do not possess any idea of what led to that moment during the interview. Nevertheless, Lisa Leslie was visibly uncomfortable with where the interview was going, and a stoic King continued with a soft-spoken badgering that felt cold and opportunistic. Displaying some emotional intelligence would have gone a long way. Now, if the 2003 rape allegation against Kobe Bryant required a journalistic dissection regarding his legacy, a better time would have been during or shortly after his retirement. It has not even been two weeks since his death; his family and friends are still grieving the untimely deaths of Bryant AND his daughter. Simply, it was not the time or place for the line of questioning that Leslie respectfully and adroitly handled.
Now, that brings me to Snoop Dogg. Brother, you’re too damn old for these shenanigans. Now, before I offer my view regarding his response to King, allow me to preface my statement with a short story about myself. Approximately 20 years ago, I landed a job at a laboratory in Farmington Hills, Michigan – a suburb just outside of Detroit. I did not own a car at the time, so I woke up at 5 a.m. every day for my long commute by way of two buses. During that time, a coworker that also lived in Detroit offered to pick me up on his way to the lab. He was an older gentleman, and he appeared to be a nice guy. Soon, I learned he was very much angry and bitter. I am not exactly sure why he was angry, and I did not have the stomach to question him. Every morning, I listened to various diatribes regarding gender and race. Soon, I opted to return to my 2 bus commute until I procured a car. Much like those uncomfortable morning commutes, I cringed as I listened to Snoop Dogg’s profanity-laced rebuttal. I understand the reason behind the anger, but the violent expression of that anger, teeming with racial conspiracy theories wrapped in male chauvinism and misogyny, wasn’t constructive at all.
The progression of time and age should be accompanied by the procurement of wisdom, knowledge and a definitive level of maturity. To be perfectly clear, there is a dignified way to deliver fair and nuanced criticism, and Gayle King should not be immune to said criticism. However, the level of attacks on King by some prominent celebrities has lacked that intellectual nuance. Truth be told, I am not surprised by Snoop’s reaction, as he hasn’t exactly been a paragon of righteousness and virtue. Wait – didn’t he drop a gospel album? Nevertheless, I have not been too surprised by celebrity behavior so outlandish that I have been desensitized to the point of quiet complicity. Snoop Dogg’s juvenile response was profane, reckless, hateful, and brazenly disrespectful. Listen – we bemoan the dog-whistle politics of Donald Trump, as we rightfully fear his inflammatory rhetoric could agitate an unhinged individual toward violent action. Yet, when Snoop Dog barks, “Respect the family and back off, b*tch, before we come get you“, he is hypocritically granted a pass. If Trump employs a dog-whistle, then Snoop used a bullhorn. He has since issued a clarification, contending he wasn’t threatening King. Yeah…okay Snoop.
That proverbial bullhorn symbolized a problematic attitude toward black women by some black men here in America. Malcolm X once said, “The most disrespected person in America is the black woman. The most unprotected person in America is the black woman. The most neglected person in America is the black woman.” Nothing appears to have changed since his death. Some individuals may argue that it has gotten worse. In the arenas of love, work, finances, marriage, parenthood, etc.; there has been an ongoing tension between black men and women that have been festering for decades. However, now with the omnipresent influence of social media, celebrity and common man alike have the platform to spew hate. And to be fair, the hate cuts both ways. Black women are conniving b*tches hell-bent on castrating black men emotionally, mentally, and financially. Black men are damaged beyond salvaging, forever avoiding life’s responsibilities while remaining perpetually toxic to everyone. And somewhere behind the curtain is a white man controlling it all and pitting us against one another. This madness has to end. Snoop Dogg’s response is just a symptom of a bigger problem.
Sometimes the resolution to a big problem boils down to a simple remedy – communication. Even when we vehemently disagree with one another, as black men, we cannot be reduced to visceral, debased conduct. We have to be accountable. And it starts in our homes. We have to identify and recognize our own toxic behavior and move with a purpose toward self-improvement. We have to do a better job of raising our children. We have to educate our daughters regarding how they should be treated as women. And we should definitely educate our sons regarding how they should treat women. That education should not come from media and entertainment. We need to correct and speak out against misogynistic and sexist behavior from our fellow men. Twenty years ago, I did not have the voice, nor the platform. But I do now. Black men – we have to do better. It starts with a meaningful and substantive conversation amongst us all.
The challenging life of being married with children – and yes, the challenges exist in abundance – does not afford the luxury of uninterrupted adult activities often. Nevertheless, when those precious opportunities reveal themselves to be seized, those precious opportunities cannot be wasted. And when that precious opportunity entails covering dual award-winning artists from your prime adult years, one would be insane to decline offer and not embrace the moment. Partnering with Lincoln Motor Company for the 6th installment of their Lincoln First Listen series, NE-YO- along with the incomparable Brandy, performed at the Chene Park Amphitheater – Detroit, Michigan July 20th for some sizzling summer tunes, both old and new material. And bonus: My beautiful wife Stephanie was also extended an invitation to join me for the event. Therfore, a gracious thank you to Randy L. Jones, APR, Director, Media Communications and Event Operations with UWG. And so, without any further delay, allow me to dive into the intimate details from the evening’s activities.
The aforementioned, critically acclaimed music series, featuring the all-new 2018 Lincoln Navigator with brand partner NE-YO, is an amalgam of both quiet sophistication and impeccable style, representing the contemporary gentleman that appreciates understated elegance and inimitable grace. The event itself was a perfectly classy affair, commencing early evening with a VIP reception in the Lincoln Lounge. I was pleasantly surprised to see an old college classmate – Rajoielle Register – who is currently Head of Brand Strategy and Growth Audience Marketing for Ford Motor Company. And better still, I was also pleasantly surprised to see yet another former college classmate – Eniso Ngwenya – who is currently Body Interior Appearance Leader with Ford Motor Company. I am proud to see both of these dynamic women exemplifying success in their respective fields.
Enjoying a picturesque setting directly on the Detroit River; Stephanie and I were treated to some delicious hors d’oeuvres and cocktails which included roast beef sliders, lettuce chicken wraps, shrimp cocktail, stuffed mushrooms, chicken & waffles on a skewer, and Moët & Chandon for spirits. I had a simple glass of Sprite. It is very rare that I partake in an adult beverage; perhaps only on wedding anniversaries. But I digress, the location (adjacent to the main stage) was simply gorgeous with a small assembly of boats dropping anchor nearby to capture some tunes emanating from the main stage. And as good fortune would have it, under the ominous specter of thunderstorms, the final outcome was a beautiful evening with a soft breeze rolling off the river, resulting in a cool summer night that rivaled the hot performances to come.
Keeping crowd engaged until Brandy was set to hit the stage, the DJ spun some classic R & B jams to elicit a slow build to the first musical act. After a reverent and passionate introduction from Local 4 News team reporter/anchor Evrod Cassimy, Brandy launched onto the stage with an energy that transported me back to late 1994. Performing her classic up-tempo tracks that had the crowd jumping to beloved slow jams that had bodies gently swaying, Brandy poured her all into her performance even though her voice was not 100%. Spoiler alert: Her vocals were not at full strength because she has been in the studio recording a new album! From engaging the audience with a funny story about winning her first Grammy to a heartening tribute to the late, great Whitney Houston (Brandy’s last album – Two Eleven – is a reference to her birthday, which is also the same day Houston passed away), the whole performance was steeped in nostalgia and emotion. She even unleashed her alter ego B Rocka and spit a few verses. Favorite moment of the night: Brandy singing and improvising her part from The Boy is Mine while the crowd recited the part for Monica. Classic. Simply classic. I am looking forward to her new material, as I have always loved her raspy, sweet vocals.
After a brief intermission and trip back to the VIP Lincoln Lounge to replenish some fluids, it was time for the second performance to commence. Now, in my humble opinion, NE-YO is probably one of the more underrated live performers on the music scene. I had never watched a NE-YO performance live before, but it is apparent the influence Michael Jackson is prominent. Maybe I can chalk it up to the vegan diet he referenced, but wow, this man did not appear to fatigue at all. Promising to take us back to a period in time “when music was good”, he surely did not disappoint the crowd. All of the hits were on display. So Sick. Sexy Love. Miss Independent. Champagne Life. He also surprised the crowds with renditions of hits that some people probably did not realize he penned, such as hits Let Me Love You (Mario) and Irreplaceable (Beyoncé).
When he wasn’t treating the crowd to classic material, we were introduced to offerings from his seventh and new album – Good Man (released June 2018). Representing aspirations that every gentleman strives to achieve, the album embraces the many of facets of being a loving husband, devoted father, and selfless servant to society. It is about growth and maturity. It is about self-reflection and honesty; being the model gentleman that one’s family and community deserves. It was truly an honor and blessing to be invited to cover this event, as I feel The Gentlemen’s Standard upholds those ideals. The entire evening was nothing short of spectacular, as a night out as an adult was a welcome change from potty watch, breaking up toddler fights, and cleaning up toys. However, true story, the very next day my daughter caught a nasty bug, so I was back to cleaning up the contents of her nauseated stomach and sleeping on the floor next to her bed to monitor her fever. Such is life. And note to self: I to step up my hat game come autumn because NE-YO has that on lock.