So yesterday I went to the #GlobalCitizensFestival on the Great Lawn in Central Park. It’s a socio-political event mainly designed to bring attention to a variety of issues. This year was about ending poverty; addressing the plight of women and girls relative to economic equality, reproductive rights and family planning, political voice and education; as well as something called Ekocycle which is basically about recycling and wearing sustainably made clothes.
I have to say, I was aware of the festival peripehrally but didn’t really know what all it entailed outside of the music. The event needs some work. First off, from a messaging standpoint they’re all over the place - Women, poor people, Africa, Water, Recycling, political empowerment, family planning. I mean all important issues but not necessarily the easiest to connect together. And that made it feel disjointed and the messages go lost.
Also, there were way too many speeches. The star power of people like Soledad O’Brien, a few super models, Hugh Jackman’s wife, Gerard Butler, Bono and Will I. Am were not enough to overcome the dry nature of what they were talking about and all of the CEOs of obscure charities and companies no one had ever heard of who came up to speak and pat themselves on the back.
The one award they gave out to a young guy from Africa who is doing some amazing things with education in Uganda they buried towards the end of a dozen other speakers and it felt like an after thought - it should have been a feature. Then there’s the issue of the viability of the mission and some rather contradictory concepts they spouted. For example, when introducing the president of Liberia, they remarked that after years of men running the country into war and shambles it took a woman president to come in and make progress.
To me, that is antithetical to the argument that gender is a neutral and women should be on equal standing to men. That the previous regime was a mess is a reflection of their in ability to lead, corruption, greed and lack of character. Not lack of an additional X chromosome. If women are equal, then things aren’t bad because men are in power things are bad because the wrong PEOPLE are in power - regardless of their gender. The way they presented her makes the logical conclusion that their is a “better” gender for leadership. Also, as soon as a women fails, then it’s “women” failed not that particular leader failed. Equality is about removing evaluations based on incidental attributes like race, or gender - just like hair color or eye color or height. I think they missed the mark there.
Now for the real point of the event:
The festival - and the reason I attended - featured performances by Kings Of Leon, Elvis Costello - who was a special unannounced guess who I could have seriously done without (he was not in good voice and felt way out of place), Janell Monet - also a surprise (this one pleasant. She KILLED a rendition of Smile!), Alicia Keys, John Mayer, Bono, Maxwell and Stevie Wonder.
I’ll start with the Kings since they opened. First, I was not thrilled that they opened because the opening act usually plays the shortest set and since I was on line finding my way in I missed the first song. Second, the ROCKED! They did the obvious Use Somebody and Sex on Fire but the highlight for me was Family Tree and my personal favorite Beautiful War which was one of the first times they’ve ever played it live. Love them, love the album, loved the set other than its length.
Then came Elvis. I am not particularly familiar with his music but I know he’s a popular act and who he is. What I didn’t know as how bad he’d sound and how boring he’d be. In fact, Bridget Moyniham introducing him was far more interesting than his performance.
Janell Monet - introduced by supermodel Karoulina Karkovia (sp?) - absolutely slayed in the one song she did. At first I was like “eh” because it’s hard to hear the classics done by newbies. But she sang it in a completely different arrangement and her voice hit octaves I didn’t know she had and I didn’t think would resonate in an outdoor amphitheater setting but really did. Great. Later in the show she came on stage and sang along side Stevie Wonder. Literally, along side him as something was wrong with her mic and she had to share his. She was absolutely amazing singing classic Stevie with Stevie! And she is a really pretty girl!
Alicia Keys, where do I begin? Well, I’ll start with the good stuff. She looked drop dead gorgeous! She has a pompadour style hair cut that really looks good on her and she’s been in the gym because her midriff bearing side cut out dress was sexy but not slutty and she worked it out. She also managed to belt out two songs in good voice, on key and without straining - Like you’ll never see me again and If I Ain’t Got You. Other than that, she performed really well from a stage presence stand point and charm stand point and her messages about empowerment were well stated. However, she was not in good voice as has been her MO Lately. The majority of the time she was underneath the notes, off key or straining. She ruined Fallen. Also, I don’t know what this obsession she has with west Indian influences in her music but it does not work with her voice or style - over it. I don’t know what happened but something changed after she made the switch to life with Swizz Beats. Maybe she has a vocal issue she’s not made public or maybe she’s feeling herself and her life and motherhood and being a wife and her new sexiness so she’s not working on her vocal instrument now that she’s made it. I don’t know but it’s disappointing. She is one of the best musicians and song writers of our generation and she was one of the best vocal talents as well. It’s hard to stay on top from a hit song stand point over the course of a long career and it can be hard to deal with vocal changes as you get older but this is not right. Really too bad.
Of the acts I was aware of, John Mayer was who I was least interested in. In fact, I could really name any but two of his songs. I figured his claim to fame was one good hit song and banning lots of actresses and pop stars. Boy was I wrong! That dude is talented. His first few songs were light on vocals but he picked it up and his voice is actually quite good and he has a surprising range. I did not know he had a falsetto. He did some Marvin Gaye, some Greatful Dead everything. He got things turned up! I have a new found respect for him to be sure.
Then came Bono. He wasn’t a scheduled performer and he didn’t do a set. All he did was deliver one of the best introductions I’ve ever seen. He intro’d Stevie Wonder in sort of a singing/storytelling voice that talked about his career, achievements, history everything! He took the audience to CHURCH! It was very entertaining and definitely was the right amount of hype, pomp and circumstance for such a big act.
Then of course there was the true headliner and originator of the festival - Stevie Wonder! He did two songs, brought the president of the UN on stage for a couple mins, went back to his set, stopped and delivered a short (like 1.5 mins) speech on his views on gun control/Trayvon Martin, went back to his set and brought in not one but two special guests, sent them on their way and extended his set beyond the end of the show!
This man did everything. We were singing, dancing shouting grooving. I mean 16000 people all just having a great time in the dark in central park was amazing. He sounded terrific, did all the standards and his rendition of John Lennon’s Imagine (which he used to highlight his point on gun control) had everyone near tears it was so beautiful. He also did an audience participation bit where he had us sing “We are global cit-i-zens, and we’re gonna change the world!” Took a while for people to get it right but he demanded we do it and of course we did! He then brought Maxwell (the second of his two guests) on stage to show us how to sing it! He looked and sounded good too (a lot better than the slightly drunken mess Sansarae Dean and I saw at the Versace show earlier this year)
I know they streamed live and it was on TV but I can’t imagine it captured what it was like to be there. He was doing things on that stage musically and vocally that most acts in his generation let alone this one can only dream about. I have never seen him live before and I was so happy I did. It was a real moment. And it was one of those “music unites people” moments. I talked to strangers I would never look at in real life, everyone was smiling and even the police officers were clapping their hands and singing!
You know, I’ve been working for most of my life. I started with a job in tenth grade and didn’t look back. I used to think I was the kind of person who had to have a demanding career. After working in litigation consulting for a decade I was worried about what was next. Then I made the best decision ever, I exercised an option in my employment contract to leave. That was five years ago.
In that time, I’ve battled a serious illness and recovered just fine. Done a lot of soul-searching about what’s important to me. Repaired some familial relationships and strengthened others (most notably my parents by living with them for the better part of this time). Relaxed and done things my former career didn’t allow me the time or energy to do like volunteer, get back in to writing, earn my four-year degree, read books about neuroscience, present shock and other random-a$$ subjects that are really of no use other than satisfying my inner nerd.
I was very leery about going back to work. In fact, I finished school sooner than I planned (last August) but didn’t start to look for a job until a couple of months ago. I had a lot of anxiety about the process but mostly about deciding what exactly I wanted the next phase of my career to look like. I didn’t want my next job to ignore my past successes or to be unrelated to the degree I worked hard to earn.
I was also not convinced I even wanted a job. I actually contemplated getting a job at Starbucks and continuing school and living like a pauper just so I could continue to indulge my more bohemian endeavors. But alas, I like to wear Jordan’s, eat out a lot and buy my jeans at Bergdorf’s (none of which I’ve done much of lately). So, not being independently wealthy, I set about looking for a job. I figure free time isn’t much fun if you can’t afford to enjoy it - especially in Manhattan!
I ended up interviewing at one company and after two more rounds decided it was where I wanted to be. Thankfully, they agreed. I just finished my first week at JWT - which is a global marketing and advertising agency - as part of the project management team. I’m assigned to a very large and demanding account but that’s what I like! It is worlds away from my former career and while challenging significantly less arduous. Especially from the perspective of having a life.
I am well on my way to completing my list of new year’s resolutions and this next phase of life, while not challenge-free, is going in the right direction.
So Rick Ross issued an apology for his rape lyrics (he basically claimed to use ruthies to bed chics which, frankly, is a questionable thing to brag about if you’re supposed to be a player. You shouldn’t need to drug a girl.)
The apology was really well written (obviously by his crisis management team and not him personally). It sounds sincere and makes really good points. Unfortunately, it’s hard to imagine it’s how he really feels or that he even cares one way or the other about how it makes him look.
In the first place, he is an excellent example of the lack of authenticity that permeates so-called hip-hop today. He claims the lyrics don’t reflect his actual beliefs. In other words, “I made up that lyric because I thought it sounded cool and would make me look like a bad-ass but I’ve never actually done that.” I believe that’s probably true. Problem is a rapper is supposed to be rapping about their life and experiences. Hip-hop has long been a musical reality show. This just shows that Ricky Rosay and others of his ilk aren’t really about that life (however questionable). They’re merely faking the funk for dollars (and exaggerated amounts of those to boot - does anyone really think Rick is a billionare?)
Rick Ross’ album - which I purchased when it came out - was garbage from the perspective of hip-hop realness and MC ability. It was good from a watered-down, in the club with a drink and a shorty perspective. It’s good hood music for the times when a little ratchetness is in order (like on your way to the club - not that I do a whole lot of that anymore). But the reality is, he has very little if anything to say, the beats are not of his making and his songs are repetitive in rhythm, subject matter and even individual lyrics. There is no imagination - except when he’s making up activities he later denies engaging in.
The real funny part of the whole story is that Reebok dropped him. Which he, admirably, is taking in stride and seems to understand and not be bitter about. The fact that at 300+ lbs he was the celebrity face of any sneaker brand - let alone Reebok which hasn’t been hot in quite some time - is laughable on its face. I mean, this is a dude that clearly is not using athletic shoes for anything other than walking up to the buffet. The fact that his ads were about “creating a classic” - which is a nice play on words - is even funnier because there is nothing classic or enduring about Rick Ross’ music or style. He will be forgotten shortly after his brand of music falls out of favor.
Still, he needed to apologize. He did, and it was well done - even if a bit disingenuous - and hopefully we can all stop talking about this dude.
Everyone has memories of the place they were born. For me, while I wasn’t born there, my home town has a lot of significance. Some of the worst things I’ve ever suffered through happened there. It’s the place I made the most enduring of all my friendships. It’s a place that many people have knocked or looked down on - especially after they made a mess of their lives and moved away. But for me, it’s a good place. It’s the place that shaped me and gave me the foundation I needed to venture out in the world. I was born in Harlem and NYC has always been where I wanted to live, it’s in my blood. But Middletown, NY is where I was raised and it’s a part of me to this day.
I remember all the things we used to do
Like cutting math class, dissecting frogs and shooting hoops – just to name a few
We used to be wild things back then
Full of dreams but still trying to fit in
Obsessed with waiting for the moment when
Our lives would start and we’d leave the block and both those parks
Behind, but not our roots and the place that made us after dark
We used to be so Happy, sipping Remy when we Whispered
With Mary and the Class when the moon would Eclipse
Roll the windows down in your ride when you pass by the circle and dip
To the side cause that was fly, one handed in your new whip
On line early for that fade on a Friday, or the day before the first one of school
Have to be edged up tight if you wanna be cool
We used to rock overalls, polka dots and Docs and even Reeboks
I used to rock a flat top, a triple fat, an Africa medallion and what not
Times were simpler but they felt complicated
Back when your sex life consisted of the times you masturbated
Until those first summers on the court - and them daisy duke shorts
Nine months after that a lot of lives were lost
We didn’t grow up fast, most of us could wait
Some of our cousins and brothers lost to slinging that weight
And a few of our mothers lost to that one dude
Our town may be small but we got our psychos too
But it’s all good and the strong still survive
The town didn’t birth all of us but it sure helped us thrive
It taught us how to dance and how to be fly
Gave us romance and the courage to try
New things, now and then, and the wings to move on
Nodding our heads to the beat of some song
And though we move away and make other lives now that we’re grown
So much happens over the course of a lifetime. Each person’s story is different but there are always similarities of existence. For me, the journey of life is a difficult one. I see it as dismal, dark and painful. I fault religiosity for much of that. Still, I’m not an atheist. In any event, there was a John Huston film staring Bette Davis (among others) of the same name. I suppose that was the inspiration for this poem although I didn’t realize it until after I finished. I’m a huge Bette Davis fan and while not in my top five, the movie (which was based on a Pulitzer Prize winning book of the same name) deals with a destructive sibling rivalry. There is wealth, loss, love, betrayal and all things human. It’s also a film that dealt rather truthfully with the realities of racial discrimination in the USA and for that reason it was denied an international release at the time. But I digress…
You only get so many chances and there are but so few amends People don’t get second chances, oh so rare those second winds Bodies do not get much better, only older and then decay Minds do not get any sharper only dull to much dismay Therefore, you must choose wisely - within this, our life Because the time is finite and the future not so bright
Falter now with mayhem bring the violence in with teeth Gouge the eyes of sorrow turn them outward, underneath A vision never clearer than the one, in this, our life We build such sacred places yet our tool remains the knife Of braver souls and foolish hearts you’ll not quite ever know For in the minds’ recesses live regrets and burdens grow
But do please hold, these little children as they breathe with iron lungs Be they symbols of damnation as with us they walk among You shed false tears and pretend to bleed, from an artificial heart These idols make decisions by which this, our life, is torn apart A pain too great for normal things like vicodin and whiskey The sacrifice of first-born sons is one I carry with me
And so it is, just as it was and like it always would be Trees still grow and rain still falls and new born babies “could be” You and I we aren’t so different of defect we’re bred the same For while the sword we wield is mighty it comes down in but one name But betrayal still has left undone the image in the mirror And doth reflect a second man the third be merely shimmer These ancient claws rip flesh from bone the false ones feel the strife All such things the record holds, be true - in this, our life
Join us at the Schomburg at 4 p.m. on Sat, March 23, as we highlight the contributions and achievements of women in hip-hop. FREE! If you can’t attend in person, stream this event live on NYPL’s YouTube channel.
Not sure what I can say about this one other than some times emotions build up in response to something you can’t process or deal with. For me, I’ve never been able to talk but it seems I can always write. Now that I’m an adult, I am much more communicative but as a teenager - when this particular piece takes place - not so much.
I want you to destroy me, I want you to learn,
I want you to consume me, I want you to burn
And when you reach inside me, take the time to look,
Rest your gaze upon me and take my soul just like a crook
Never disregard me, respect for what you decimate
The scar you opened on me, a wound has never been so great
If what you’ve done is what you think I fear your new world order
For what you’ve done and what you’ve left remains beyond my border
There’s a crime built into passion and a strength built into fear
In a place this wouldn’t happen, at a time that isn’t clear
The things that do remain, they are things of yesterday
The bones they are left broken and their dust is swept away
I like knives, the way they hurt, and open up a vein
Memorialize me, at that age, and I will stay the same
There is no angst like after 12, and shortly before 20
In fits and spurts it opens up a path that may be many
When I’m bored I feast on scraps and clever antidotes
I’ll die three times and lie once more just to see you choke
And even as the sky is black, these words are held in violet
Fear him most, a man destroyed, who never tries to hide it