Sunday, November 12, 2006

Let Freedom Ring

In a post about my friend's documentary on the 19th century black congressman Robert Smalls last April, I mentioned the new crop of black politicians making historic runs in the 2006 elections. Of that group, Michael Steele of Maryland and Ken Blackwell of Ohio both lost and, I'm sad to say, so did "Essence Do-Right Man" Harold Ford, Jr. of Tennessee. Deval Patrick, of Massachusetts by way of the South Side of Chicago (seen above with his wife Diane) became only the second (!) black elected to a governorship in American History. Another big winner in the wake of the election (thanks to his "rock star" like fame and the hard work he did campaigning for Democrats from sea to shining sea) is Governor-elect Patrick's pal Barack Obama. The presidential buzz surrounding him is positively deafening. As the saying goes, "you can't time timing" so keep that brother in prayer. Who knows how it will go? 2008 is a long time from now.

I also mentioned Cory Booker, who eventually did become the youngest and first new mayor in Newark, NJ in twenty years last July. A former Rhodes Scholar with degrees from Stanford, Oxford and Yale Law School, he was derided as a "faggot white boy" and worse when he ran the first time in 2002 (you know the drill - educated blacks, especially light-skinned ones, aren't "real" black people. Whatever...) The campaign - dirty tricks and all - was captured in an Oscar-nominated documentary called Street Fight which ran on PBS last year. Once elected in 2006, Cory got immediate death threats from violent street gangs that have been terrorizing Newark for years. He even chased a robbery suspect down the street (to the chagrin of his bodyguards.) Yeah, keep him in prayer too.

During a recent appearance on Oprah, he showed the audience his home for the last eight years in Newark - a notorious housing project called Brick Towers, which is now being torn down. The residents have all been moved to more suitable homes - the mayor was the last to leave. The building was deemed "unlivable" by the Housing Authority and residents - including senior citizens - hadn't had heat and hot water for years. In order to take a shower, he had to boil water in a kettle and pour it into a portable camping shower.

Another example of the pressure he's under: the deal for a new hockey stadium he had no choice but to accept with the New Jersey Devils. After criticizing the arena deal as "a betrayal of public trust" ( He got stuck with it thanks to an iron-clad agreement facilitated by the previous mayor Sharpe James) he had to hold his nose and agree to the deal which calls for Newark - one of the poorest cities in the country with a crippling crime problem - to put up $210 million. The Devils will put up $155 million. Cory was able to get some minor concessions (the team will contribute about $500,000 annually to aid minority business development and agreed to hire more minority-owned vendors among other things) but the $210 million bill for the city stays.

And interesting aside: during the announcement of the deal, the team wanted the mayor to put one of their jerseys on for a photo op, but he just said, "Oh, this is nice," and handed the jersey to an aide.

Um, Go Rangers!

And finally, I wanted to say goodbye to the legendary newsman Ed Bradley and, incredibly, 40-year-old Gerald Levert (Pop, pop, pop, pop - goes my mind...)

I am just through!

I remember seeing Ed Bradley walking down the street one day, looking oh so good with that diamond stud in his ear. It isn't everyday when a sixty-plus year old man can pull off an earring. And pull it off well.

And Gerald Levert? Well, I guess the last time I saw him would have been on MTV on Sweet Sixteen, spoiling his daughter. But I will always remember him best on BET and any number of awards shows ripping a duet or doing a duet with Patti LaBelle or some other worthy singer. I'm expecting some nice tributes to him in the upcoming award season.

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2 Comments:

Blogger Xoë Bennett said...

Ed Bradley was a phenomenal journalist, a black icon and a super-sexy older man. He will be greatly missed.

I'm from Cleveland and Gerald Levert is a local hero. There was a public celebration of life for him today. It was attended by musical greats and his children spoke about their dad quite eloquently. It's always sad to lose someone so young; but the impact he had on everyone was tremendous. The outpouring of love was incredible.

November 17, 2006 at 9:47 PM  
Blogger Nichelle said...

I saw a few clips from Gerald Levert's funeral - very touching.

I was also pretty annoyed at how the AP misidentified Keith Sweat and Sean Levert. I don't remember exactly what Sean Levert looks like - but I do know that he looks like a Levert. He's not light-skinned liked the guy they showed in the picture. And I have no idea who the (cute!) guy was the AP identified as Keith Sweat - but I know Keith Sweat when I see him and that there Negro in the picture was not him!

November 18, 2006 at 12:39 AM  

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