Harry Reid: Racist Comments or Not?

Let’s cut the cookie-cutter debate crap right now. Harry Reid’s comments have been transmitted across the airwaves over the past few days like the sound bytes of gold that they are. And while many people want to get all hot and bothered by all of Reid’s words, not everything he said should have been deemed all that controversial.

For those of you who haven’t heard or seen the quote verbatim:

Ready to embrace a black presidential candidate, especially one such as Obama – a ‘light-skinned’ African American ‘with no Negro dialect, unless he wanted to have one.’ – “Game Change” (2010)

When you read that statement by Reid, you really have to break it into two parts; the realist part, and the racist part.

I’ll start with the racist part first.

I don’t agree with the GOP all that often, and I especially couldn’t care for 95% of the things that come out of CNN’s Bill Bennett’s mouth. However, when Bennett called Reid’s comments borderline racist, I really couldn’t disagree with him. Call Reid’s words a gaffe, a misstep or whatever else you want to call it, but when someone of his stature and prestige is still walking the face of the earth using the term “negro-dialect’ in reference to a Harvard grad in his 40’s, racism is only the beginning of the issue.

It’s just common sense that if it’s inappropriate to say a black man is talking in “negro-dialect,” then it’s just as inappropriate to say that a black man lacks “negro-dialect.”

By the way, what kind of antiquated, 1860’s Hicksville is Harry Reid still living in? “Negro-dialect?” I may have been born in the 1980’s, but by my estimation, that term wasn’t even in use at the time of Barack Obama’s birth, nevermind in the 21st century. Yet here Reid is, an elderly, rich, white man, still characterizing some form of black speech as “negro-dialect?”

What the heck is negro-dialect?

During the times of slavery, when black people couldn’t read and often times were encouraged not to read, negro-dialect could have been in reference to illiterate black people with little mastery of the English language. That makes sense. But in today’s society, there’s no room for the term “negro-dialect.” At best, Reid could be referring to the colloquial slang that is a part of the hip-hop culture, but even then he’s going down that treacherous path we explored as a nation with that whole “should Ebonics be taught in class” fiasco during the late 1990’s.

Then again, it doesn’t matter what Reid defines as “negro-dialect,” becausethere is no such thing, and a man in his position should know better than to go around using and promoting a term that cast nothing but a negative light on the black race.

As for Reid’s point that Obama’s light-skin helped him win the election, Reid’s absolutely right. Part of the reason Barack Obama was accepted by the nation was indeed because of his light skin. No, I can’t prove it, because there probably wasn’t a soul on Earth that would have admitted to such a bigoted stance during an exit poll interview on one of the most transcendent days in American history. But to man (or a woman), most people are well aware that the contrast of a black person’s skin plays a role in that person’s life, no matter how disgusting of a reality that is.

There are studies that back up what I’m saying. I don’t have any of them in front of me, but feel free to do a Google search of your own. And if you want real evidence, just take a look at your daughter’s dolls, 90% of black actresses, Bollywood, or even your local news reporters. When it comes to positions of prominence in which one’s face is going to be front and center, the lighter the better is the rule of the land–and that’s the case with a lot of races, not just blacks.

That racism, or colorism as Soledad O’Brien phrased it, isn’t lacking among blacks. Light-skin blacks tend to have a pass that dark-skin blacks don’t, even in their own neighborhoods. Speaking of Soledad, on her own “Black in America” documentary, she profiled Michael Eric Dyson, who sat there on national television and essentially told the world that the only real difference between his educated behind and his imprisoned brother was the fact that one was darker than the other.

So I’m not sure why Reid’s point about Obama’s light-skin is getting more of the attention than his “negro-dialect” comment. His light-skin sentiment is true, and I’m actually glad he said that. After all, in this post-Obama world where we’re allegedly “past” race, we need somebody to put this country in its place and let us know how much farther we have to go.

However, Reid’s comment about Obama’s “negro-dialect,” or lack thereof, was stupid, inappropriate, cognitive and darn-right racist. Do I think he should lose his seat because of his racist sentiments? Perhaps, but only if his constituents choose to do so. Honestly, I would have Reid removed from office for 20 different things before I got to this quote; the least of those reasons having anything to do with anything he has said or done outside of the confines of the Senate floor.

Of course, even on the Senate floor, Reid has managed to get himself in trouble for the words coming out of his mouth. If only he weren’t the leader of the Senate—then he wouldn’t have to talk so damn much. Then again, Clinton doesn’t even hold a political office anymore, and he’s still putting his foot in his mouth.

Over the Weekend (OTW): Football, Disappointment & more Football

I am seriously getting too old for this.

While over the years, I have done my best to avoid allowing the downs of supporting a major sports team affect me, it’s still something I deal with on the week to week basis.

Part of that is because I am consistently a part of sports, doing editing and writing for my own site (TheSportsWatchers.com), as well as several others. But part of my problem in dealing with losses by my favorite teams is that without the lows of sports, the highs do not mean anything at all.

I was working on campus at ESPN in Bristol when the Boston Celtics finally won their first NBA championship in two decades. When the Celtics won that final game in 2008, I did not jump out of my seat in excitement as one of my co-workers did, I just reflected on the season the Celtics had and deemed them worthy of the championship in my own head—as if they actually needed my validation. But for the Celtics fan next to me, she was overly excited, not just because of the thrill she was going through in that moment, but also because of the “pain” she has gone through in the past. With the loss of Len Bias, the injury-shortened career of Larry Bird, or having to sit through a three-peat by the rival Los Angeles Lakers, this Celtics fans, and many others, were as happy as they were because of how down they had once been.

And I understand that. When the Philadelphia Phillies finally broke through and won the World Series in 2008, I was ecstatic, because I was there for all of the missed post-seasons, painful dog days of Summer, and wretched free agent acquisitions. And a Philadelphia Eagles fan, you can only imagine how the past 10 days have gone for your boy. First, the Eagles got shutout by the Cowboys and lost the #2 seed in the conference. Then only 6 days later, this past Saturday, the Eagles got smacked up by Dallas again, finishing an 11-5 season with 2 straight losses and no playoff victories to show for it.

Oh! The pain!

So as I did two Sundays ago when the Eagles lost, I spent most of Saturday night crying in my pillow. Okay, not really crying per say, but I certainly didn’t feel like taking the dozens of phone calls coming my way, nor responding to the numerous emails, texts and Facebook messages that came my way, making fun of my very allegiance to the Eagles. But I did respond to some, taking it on the chin. You know—like a man. But seeing as how the Eagles had ruined my night with their pathetic performance that didn’t end until nearly 12 at night, I did not have the energy to pursue any of my Saturday night plans. So instead, I wound up watching Charles Barkley’s horrible stint as host of Saturday Night Live, and finished off the Dominos Pizza I had ordered.
Sidenote: Dominos’ new pizza crust—good shit! Believe me!

I woke up Sunday morning with a headache, most likely brought on by the stupor the Eagles put me in the night before. I tried my best to ignore all of the Sunday morning sports talk I usually consume, knowing that a good portion of it would be covering the Eagles apparent downfall, but I could avoid it but only so much (I can only take but so many hours of CNN’s State of the Union).

To get out of the house, I went to this fresh fish market place not more than 3 or 4 blocks from my apartment in Harlem. I used the tonsils two shove two wild King Fish fillets into a bowl with red potatoes and broccoli and had them steamed for one of the healthiest meals I have eaten in the early part of the New Year. Of course, as soon as my food came out of the steamer, the cook asked me if I wanted butter in my mix, and when I said yes, any sense of healthiness was washed away in a yellow river of fat, sodium and lard that made my steamed fish as tasty as anything I have eaten this year.

I ate my fish in front of the television, watching the two playoff games that were on, while holding back tears in memory of my team’s fallen destiny. Perhaps my sentiments were self-contrived. I knew the Eagles were going to lose. They had all kinds of injuries. And at 11-5, it’s not as if I could cry about the horrible season we had. Still, whenever your team is officially eliminated from contention, it’s a sad day.

Of course, the Eagles loss to the Cowboys is by no means the same as losing a star player, going on some record losing streak, or feeling as if your team is an underdog in every game for 10 years. However, a loss always hurts, and a playoff loss is twice as bad. And while I suppose I could get over it fast, not wallow in its sadness, or continue having those “what if” thoughts, I guess this pain serves some purpose. That purpose being that in the unlikely event of my team, your team, or any team winning a championship, the only way to really feel a part of that and have genuine excitement during that moment when your team is the last team standing, is to have genuine disappointment when they’re the first team out.

That’s how my weekend in football went. Anyone else have any interesting sports related stories from the past two days?

NYC for ≤ $7: Super Wings

Super Wings
1218 Union Street
Brooklyn, NY 11225-1512
(718) 467-8737

Okay, this edition of NYC for ≤ $7 goes out to my one-time neighbors in Brooklyn. Actually, I still kind of consider my self a Brooklynite. Not in the sense that I’ve grown up there, but I have spent the majority of my premature adult-life in Brooklyn. I still rep Brooklyn in the club whenever the DJ yells out, “Where’s Brooklyn at?!”

But I digress. Today’s place is deep into Brooklyn, but it is well worth the trip for those of you who call Manhattan home. “Super Wings,” is basically what its name makes it out to be. Their menu basically consists of wings, fried shrimp and a bunch of different flavors to choose from.

The wings really are off the chain. In fact, being the wing connoisseur that I am, I will have to put Super Wings in my top 10, maybe even my top 5 at this point. With flavors ranging from Island BBQ to Chili Cilantro, you can never get bored at Super Wings. By the time you get done trying all of their flavors you would have forgotten an original wing taste like.

As for prices, Super Wings isn’t located in the heart of Brooklyn for no reason. For just $5.99 you can get a ½ pound of wings, 2 sides and a glass of lemonade. It cost just $3 more dollars to get the value meal with a full pound of wings. And a pound of wings by themselves is $7.99.

I don’t recall the prices for the shrimp or the boneless wings, and they aren’t on their online menu, but they are both in the same neighborhood as the wings themselves. So Brooklynites, make sure you swing by Super Wings the next time you get a chance. As for you Manhattanies, if you get a chance, even the slightest of one, take the opportunity to go Super Wings—it’s well worth the trip, and I don’t even get paid to say that!

Looking for Black Representation? MTV’s Not Your Destination

Real World DC: Thoughts and a Response
Today, I went looking for a fight. Not in real life, because I’m way too old for that shit, but in my virtual existence here on the web. I was reading one of my favorite blogs, the FreshXpress, which every black person and their mamma should be reading for pure, unadulterated, black commentary. In reading a particular FreshXpress post, much like in real life, I have now opted for black on black crime.

In a piece written this past Monday, a couple of FreshXpress bloggers went to town on the new series of Real World set in one of my old stomping grounds, Washington D.C. They were quite upset with the notion that Real World would film a “real life documentary” in “Chocolate city without any “chocolate” brothas or sisters on the show. They really spoke to a bigger point, accusing the Real World producers of following an overdone script, typecasting black people and putting them in situations where they could on fail as people or be limited beyond belief.

My response?

What the heck are these guys talking about?

Any brotha that watches The Real World expecting to see some real life, down to earth, black people has to be too far gone from reality themselves. That’s not to say that The Real World can’t do a better job of getting black people that I or other successful black people can relate to, but then again, what the heck does that mean? I’m a black man that has lived in the ghetto, the city, the suburbs, Ivy League campuses, the Upper West Side, Bedstuy, Harlem and the former “Murder Capital of the World,” so MTV would be hard-pressed to come up with a guy I can relate to specifically. And they’d be hard-pressed to find a black brotha or sista that relates to any single black person that would watch that show, because let’s face it, if you’re in your 20’s (or even your 30’s) and you’re watching The Real World, chances are you aren’t the type of guy slanging on the streets or pimping hoes. Thus, you’re probably a somewhat educated, well-to-do (if you can afford cable these days), liberal person with a plethora of experiences. So don’t expect The Real World to “do you” on the show! Heck, that’s why your little audition for the show didn’t get you past the first round in the first place.

Besides, the very notion that the FreshXpress bloggers think that putting a “representative” black person on the cast would result in behavior representative of your “typical” black person is ridiculous.

”Oh, really! You want to see real black people and real black behavior!?”

There is no such thing as real black behavior when you’re in a house with 7 other white people on one of the MTV’s most well-branded shows in the nation. I know the guys from FreshXpress referenced the one black guy, “David,” from season 2 who was so real that MTV cut out the real brothas from that point on, but that was back when nobody was watching the show and race relations in the U.S. were entirely different. If you want to be real, the early 90’s was when the modern-day version of the “militant black guy” was born. Nowadays, you try being the militant black guy in an office setting in corporate America and you’ll find yourself out of corporate America real fast. That’s not to say that black people are tip-toeing around corner offices the same way they tip-toed down the Underground Railroad, but with progression comes conformity. You want to work in corporate America? Well, you have to dress like a corporate American. You want to be on The Real World? Well, you best save the Dave Chappelle stereotype for another day. Besides, there hasn’t been a day in my life when I was surrounded by white people and didn’t recognize that very scenario. Call it a dual consciousness or whatever you want to label it, but that’s just the truth.

Full disclosure here, as I disagree with the guys from FreshXpress, I have to admit that I have been a fan of The Real World for years. But trust me! That wouldn’t stop me from bashing the show if I thought it needed to be bashed. But for the sake of fairness, I will address one issue with The Real World. I’m upset when they only have one brotha on a series, or one sista on a series, which subjects them to the sexual whims and advances of people outside their culture. Not that I’m against interracial dating or anything, I just think when creating a setting that is intent on or subject to creating sexual interaction, you should give a brotha or sista a fighting chance at getting it on with somebody on the show. Correct me if I’m wrong, but I don’t think a single sista on The Real World has ever done the nasty with another cast member that wasn’t black. And the only sistas to get it on in the history of show were in Sin City. So can we get more love for the sistas on the show?

Problems with the show aside, I don’t tune into MTV looking for a real glimpse into black culture. I’m black. I don’t need MTV to put someone like me or someone I know on the television screen to learn something or black people or feel as if I’m appreciated by MTV. The bloggers on FreshXpress repeatedly mentioned how MTV doesn’t care about black people. Perhaps they don’t, but that hasn’t changed, and it certainly isn’t indicative of MTV alone. By their standards, there are a plethora of television shows, reality TV series, and whole broadcast networks that don’t care about black people, because they too fail to put “representative” blacks on the air.

But I still watch television. And no, that doesn’t make me a guppy for the man, nor does it mean that I’m settling for the status quo. I just have a keen understanding of what’s on television and what I should expect. As for trying to change things, complaining about it won’t do it, which is why it is my personal mission to do something about the present state of all forms of media, something I’ll talk about in the future. But even if I, or you, were just somebody that sat back and took TV for what it is, there would be nothing wrong with that. If there were no black television shows on TV that would be one thing, but there are some. And let’s be honest, we don’t represent 50% of this country, so 50% of the shows, networks or even cast members aren’t going to be black, no matter how much we’d all love to see that.

As for The Real World DC specifically, I’ve caught the first two episodes, and the guys from FreshXpress are right, the show is following the same old script from years past. You have a person with a sexuality complex, you have a conservative who’s never been to the big city, and among other things, you have a black guy who comes across as somewhat standoffish. Is it repetitive? Yes. Is it mind-numbingly redundant? Probably. But is it objectionably racist? Of course not. The black guy on this edition of The Real World may come across as pompous, kind of douchebaggy and close-minded, but it’s not like I haven’t met a brotha like that before. In fact, I’ve met several, and I even call one of them friend…go figure!

So to be done with The Real World on the account of this edition’s, or any prior edition’s, lack of diverse diversity would be absurd and is quite frankly, a waste of breath. You want to see black personality? Black appeal? Black humor? Black dram? Go to Broadway and watch RACE, The Color Purple, Fela or Sarafina and get some culture in your life. But if you’re tuning into The Real World for anything other than foolishness, immaturity and the exact opposite of racial awareness, then you’re only fooling yourself.

Question: What do you think? Does the lack of black people or “real” black personalities on MTV’s The Real World concern you? Or even bother you? If so, do you still watch the show and why? If not, what about the show makes you still want to watch it?

Gilbert, Stop Smelling Yourself…Our Fool of the Week

I’m actually talking sports on my personal blog today. So for all of you non-sports fans, who haven’t kept up with this latest “sports” development, let me first clue you in on the whole Gilbert Arenas situation.

I could get all technical with a bunch of legalese that I as a non-lawyer would just be regurgitating from the very lips of ESPN’s legal analyst Roger Cossack. However, the basic idea is that Gilbert Arenas, the Washington Wizards’ point guard, brought a gun into the team’s locker-room in what he claims was some sort of practical joke. Well, the Washington D.C. police and the NBA didn’t find it so funny. Right now, Arenas is under criminal investigation and just yesterday, David Stern suspended Arenas indefinitely. If Arenas were to remain suspended for the remainder of the NBA season, he would be subject to lose approximately $9.9 million of the $16 million he is scheduled to make during the current 2009-2010 NBA season.

So why do I bring this issue up on my personal blog instead of TheSportsWatchers.com? For two reasons. One, Gilbert Arenas has kind of transcended the sports world. Not in a way where is known and adored by people not familiar with the NBA, but more in the way that people who follow the NBA can keep up with him outside of the occasional post-game interview and ESPN feature. With all of his social media exploits via blogs, Twitter accounts and the like, Arenas has become one of the most accessible, entertaining and charismatic figures in the NBA over the past 2 or 3 years.

Of course, his social media prowess aside, this Arenas issue is important to discuss here for a much more viable reason: he’s a black man entangled with the law. Here at UzoNYC.com, I don’t try to make the conversation all about race, but in the face of U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder’s comments about race, I do my best not to avoid the topic, especially when it’s the giant elephant in the room.

Don’t get me wrong though. I certainly don’t think Gilbert Arenas is a victim of the law. Just as I do not think that Plaxico Burress was treated unfairly, nor do I believe that Michael Vick was a victim of his race.

But that doesn’t make the fact that Arenas’s punishment and future with the legal system doesn’t warrant a conversation—a conversation centered around why on earth did this man bring a gun into the workplace?

When it comes to professional athletes, sometimes you have to throw common sense into the wind. You see, many of these athletes have never been told no. They had their choices women since they were 15. They had their choice of some of best public and private colleges when all of their classmates were sitting idly by the mailbox. And most of them haven’t had to worry about money or their future since the age of 18 when boosters started giving them $100 handshakes and the sports agents were clinging on like lint on clothes out of a dryer.

While Arenas wasn’t the most celebrated athlete coming out of college, he still hasn’t had to worry about money for quite some time. Especially not since the summer before last, when the Wizards signed him to a staggering $110 million deal; thereby, taking care of the rest of his life, his children’s’ lives and his children’s’ children’s’ lives. But with security, sometimes comes arrogance.

There’s no mistaking Gilbert’s arrogance. This is a guy who since being “immortalized” by his good play and many accolades has turned into a social fool. He says whatever he wants on his blog and twitter accounts, which I have no problem with, but your average millionaire certainly would refrain from some of the comments he has made over the internet airwaves. But I wouldn’t critique Gilbert if it stopped there; however, he has let his arrogance affect him on the court.

After being injured for most of last year, Arenas forced himself back in the lineup before his banged up knee was ready. When he was subsequently injured, Arenas blamed the team for allowing him to force himself back on the court, saying that the team should have saved him from himself. Mind you, that was coming from a guy who is known to control how many minutes and which minutes he plays during a basketball game, a job usually reserved for coaches.

Given all of this, I’m not surprised by Arenas’s decision to bring a gun into the locker-room. I’m not saying that I would have predicted the occurrence, but if you presented it to me as a possible episode in Arenas’s life, there’s no way I would have ruled it out.

Why would I?

This man has led an adult life of privilege of accolades, and has not done well with his success in the least. For a long period of time, he didn’t work hard enough to come back from injury. He runs his mouth off no matter how much trouble it may get him into. And his most indicting behavior as an athlete is that he talks a ton of trash, but hasn’t so much as won an NBA playoff series, never mind a conference or league championship.

So yeah, when you tell me that this guy may be stupid enough to bring a gun into the workplace, at the very risk of his career and possibly his civil freedom, I can’t rule it out. There’s nothing about his life that would suggest that he wasn’t capable of doing something so stupid, despite the last three years in sports proving that the slightest of illegal wrongdoing could bring down the biggest names in sports, ala Roger Clemens, Plaxico Burress and Michael Vick.

Some people want to blame Gilbert’s “mishap” on the account of the culture of violence throughout the black/latino community or even the culture of violence that exists in the NBA. I can only laugh at such a suggestion. Once you’re guaranteed a $110 million, no longer is your past, your surroundings, or even your own beliefs excuse for actions detrimental to your success. Gilbert has all of the money in the world, so he has every means there is to stand up against whatever pressure he may be feeling to break the law. If he’s scared for his life because of his success, given some of the things that have happened to athletes over the past few years, I can understand that. However, there are ways to go about protecting yourself that don’t involve breaking the law. If anyone on this Earth needs a gat on his hip to protect himself it’s Barack Obama, but he doesn’t get his hands dirty, he pays (or we pay) someone else to do it for him. So in that regard, Arenas should take a hint from the President.

Of course, Arenas can a lot more from the President, much of it having to do with how to handle success. Arenas has failed in every aspect of his life since becoming successful. Since getting that mega-contract, he hasn’t won on the basketball court—heck, he’s barely been on the basketball court. His own team is reportedly trying to trade him. He’s now in trouble with the law. He is suspended from the NBA. And his sense of humor has been come devastatingly dry.

In light of all that, perhaps the best piece of advice Obama could give Arenas is for him to stop smelling himself! Because for every admirer, devotee, fan and lover you have, there is an equally inspired hater, heckler, cynic, critic or detractor on the other side of the isle waiting to bring him down. Perhaps had Arenas spent more of his time in D.C. observing Capitol Hill than brandishing guns in the locker-room, he might have learned this lesson in the knick of time.

Going Local: Harlem is “Lightening” Up

An article in the New York Times (which you can tell is about the only newspaper I read) caught my eye today. The article detailed the shifting population in Harlem, where blacks are making up a smaller percentage of the population, while whites and other races begin to move into Upper Manhattan’s most historic enclave.

Most notably, the article touched on Central Harlem, where I live, ultimately making this entire issue about me! Central Harlem, a place where in the 1950’s, roughly everyone in the area was black, is now about 60% black with whites hovering around the 10-15% mark.

Central Harlem is the most active part of the Greater Harlem area. Sitting at the top end of Central Park, Central Harlem offers access to all of Central Park North’s amenities and sites, is the location of the most burgeoning part of the famed 125th Street, and it is home to many of the schools, office buildings and other signs of Harlem’s commerce and community.

But what Central Harlem isn’t anymore, and hasn’t been for a long time, is all about black people. I came to New York City in 2002, living just West of Central Harlem at nearby Columbia University. I always frequented Central Harlem when I was in school. It was a way to get away from the uptight normalcy of an Ivy League institution and reap the benefits that a black community has to offer black people and really, all of its visitors.

I definitely frequented Central Harlem to get my bi-weekly, if not weekly, haircuts on 125th Street.

Of course, that was the same street where I did the majority of my shopping so that I could experience the styles of my people at prices my people could afford.

Food was another big reason to come to Central Harlem while I was in school. While Columbia offered traditional dining options, as well as a few high-brow events, they didn’t exactly provide the smothered pork chops and homemade macaroni & cheese that Amy Ruth’s or Sylvia’s had to offer. Not to mention all of the fast food spots of my ghetto youth that weren’t typical of the Morningside Heights area in which Columbia University resides.

And on the rare occasion that I went to church during school, which was more often than I would have predicted, naturally, Central Harlem was the place to be for a good, down to earth, service and prayer.

Even as the population continues to shift, none of that is going any anytime soon. Sure, there are fewer KFC’s and Chicken shacks on 125th Street, but for the most part, churches, barber shops and southern-style restaurants are here to stay for a long, long time. Heck, I was just walking by Amy Ruth’s the other day when I saw about 30 people deep in 30-degree weather—proof positive of the restaurant’s, and the neighborhoods, resistance to gentrification.

Still, gentrification persists, and the numbers suggest that it’s on the rise. According to the NYTimes article, in 1990, just 672 whites occupied Central Harlem. As of 2008, there are over 13,800 whites. Many might say that the rise in white people, and other races, in Central Harlem has accounted for the significant drop of black people in the neighborhood. In 2008, just 77,000 black people were documented in Central Harlem, making up just 62% of the population, whereas in 1990, blacks made up nearly 90% of Central Harlem’s population.

However, displacement is an unlikely cause of the decline in the area’s black population. According to the article, there are several other reasons that could explain the decline. One of which is the fact that black people migrating to New York City don’t have to live in Harlem anymore. Take me for example; I came to New York living on the trendy campus of an Ivy League institution. Other black students are probably in similar situations, while middle-class, black college-grads moving to the city don’t feel the pressures of segregation that once caused Harlem to become the capital of Black America.

Nevertheless, it’s hard to argue that gentrification hasn’t played a role in the declining black population in Harlem. White people of wealth wouldn’t move to Harlem if the area wasn’t able to offer similar amenities and services that the rest of Manhattan has. Within a 3-block radius of my apartment alone are at least 5 newly constructed condominium buildings, most of which are ownership units with white residents who can afford condos at prices $300,000 and up. There’s a pet grooming service on Fredrick Douglass and 115th, a business that I’m just assuming doesn’t have a predominantly black clientele. And just around the corner from me, a brand new, high-end, grocery store is being built, one that will far exceed the prices of my two favorite area-grocers, Fine Fare and Pathmark.

But with gentrification, with the influx of whites, and with the influx of money, the question always arises, “Is this a good thing?”

I could easily say I’m on the fence on this one, but instead, I will go ahead and take a stand. While the quality of life in Central Harlem, and Harlem as a whole, is sure to rise as the people with more money and more influence enter the neighborhood, it does black people no good if they aren’t around to see it. Certainly, blacks aren’t going anywhere for a long time, but it’s bound to happen. With all of these historic buildings, beautiful brownstones, and burgeoning centers of capitalism, blacks don’t own a sliver of them. And without black ownership, black interest is the least of the area’s concerns, and eventually, that’s going to mean black residents will realize that, if the rental prices don’t bring it to their attention first, and will choose to or have to go elsewhere.

That’s a long ways away though. It takes time to get rid of us. We’re not going to let the history, community and livelihood go away as quickly as some outside forces would like to see it all dissipate. I would say we won’t let it all go without a fight, but I have yet to see a contender take the ring. I’ll try not to stand idly by, but I’ll need a little bit of help.

If you or anyone else has any ideas on how to bring ownership back to Harlem, so that we can welcome gentrification and the good it brings, while keeping the pillars that have been in this area for 100 years now, please comment below, and reach out to me at holla@ometu.com.

Overdue Respect: Awwwwwe Damn! It’s Cold Outside!

I haven’t seen it this cold outside on a consistent basis since the winter of 2002-2003. Correct me if I’m wrong (and I very well could be), but that was one of the worst winters on record.

Of course, the temperatures we’re experiencing now have only been around for a few days—a week tops. Still, when I’m afraid to walk the 10 minutes it takes me to get to they gym, because I’m afraid of what it will feel like when one of those winds hits me in the face with noting by abused sweatshirt and t-shirt on, then you know that the level of cold is completely unacceptable.

It’s times like these where I always think back to days before electricity. Nowadays, especially if you work from home like I do, you only have to brave the cold once or twice a day for a few minutes to get food or go to the gym. Heck, you don’t even have to leave the house if your order-in and pop in a Denise Austin DVD for 20 minutes. But back in the day, maybe not even that long ago, if you wanted something on a cold day, chances are that you had to go get it.

Want a cheeseburger? First of all, you probably couldn’t afford to have cheese sitting around in your house like that. And secondly, you probably had to leave your house, to go out back to some misshaped shack that stored all of your meats and perishables in refrigerator like conditions, because let’s remember, there were no refrigerators.

And what if you wanted to be entertained? Well, there was no television. Your best bet was playing checkers, chess or knucklebones with whomever was in your house, which was typically just your immediate family, because no one was coming to visit you in the cold.

And God forbid you had to travel a long distance in the cold. If you had to go to the marketplace, and I’m not sure the “marketplace” was open in frigid conditions, but pretending as if it was, how the heck would you get there. On a horse-and-buggy? In the cold? You’d be better off fighting starvation than trying to make an hour round trip on a carriage ride.

But today, we’ve got it easy. Even in New York City, where we do more walking than anywhere else in the country, we can’t really complain. If I want to get from Harlem to Times Square, I spend maybe 4-5 minutes exposed to the cold, the rest of the time I’m in a heated subway car. And if I want to eat, there’s usually a place within 2 or 3 minutes of me where I can walk to and pick up something to eat. Not to mention, I can get groceries delivered to my door for a fairly low delivery price.

Even though there are ways to avoid the outdoors and be devoid of the cold weather, that’s really no way to live life. I can’t go more than a day without going to the gym. Obviously, I need at least one of my weekend nights to be out on the town. And every now and then, I like to visit people, go places and see people. Which is why when walking back from the gym last night, my shirt dripping with sweat as 20mph winds blew against my sweatshirt sending chills down my spine that are typically reserved bedroom activities, I then realized how damn cold it was. And try as I might to avoid it, it just can’t be done, even though literally, it can be done.

So props to my people from the early 20th century and beyond, because they deserve some much overdue respect. I don’t know how they did it, and perhaps doing it was why they only lived to age of 45. But braving these extreme conditions, devoid of automobiles, fast food delivery, and thermal blankets, has to be given its due, because it has hell to do it now, and we’ve got all those things.

Around the Blogosphere: January 4, 2010

So much to get caught up on. Of course, it’s not just me. Plenty of other bloggers are returning to their laptops after two weeks of a hiatus or semi-vacation in which they wrote nothing at all or very little.

So who’s writing what and recapping their New Year’s Eve celebration? Check it out on this edition of Around the Blogossphere:

Blog It Out, Bitch: This slowly becoming one of my favorite personal blogs on the web. Nina is Generation X’er with plenty on her mind and unique knack for telling a story. Besides, being a black woman with kids and a husband in this country is story-worthy enough to begin with. Check out her latest post, “Nigger Sticker,” exploring a story that so many black people have endured in their lives. http://blogitoutb.com/2010/01/nigger-sticker/

VSB.com: Very Smart Brothas has returned this new year with a brand new top 5. This time they’re unveiling their top 5 reasons why black men don’t get married—at least young black men anyway. Being a young black man myself, I do agree with one of their suggested reasons: “The Career Scare.” While, I wouldn’t use it in my case in the same manner they would, the overall premise that I, and many other black men, are so worried about where they will be in their careers 5, 10 and 20 years from now that marriage often gets put on the backburner has some validity to it. http://www.verysmartbrothas.com/five-reasons-why-successful-brothas-dont-want-to-put-a-ring-on-it/#utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=five-reasons-why-successful-brothas-dont-want-to-put-a-ring-on-it

Postbourgie: It’s probably no coincidence that some of MY favorite blogs have been addressing race. Postbourgie tackled race and its involvement in interracial dating. I personally have never had an issue with interracial dating, and I don’t think any other self-respecting man would. Even the most racist of figures has fantasized about an exotic beauty from a tropical island or another country, so I don’t see how race is an even issue for males. It must take some deep, deep, deep, deep racial hatred for a male to allow race to trump his libido. Obviously, that does happen though. http://www.postbourgie.com/2009/12/31/apropos-of-allison-samuels-and-interracial-dating-2/

Midtown Lunch: As someone who has worked in Midtown New York City, I understand the near impossibility of living up to New Year’s Resolutions while going to work in one of the most food inspiring locales in the world. But the Midtown Lunch blog is trying to help you out with a couple of mealtime suggestions to help you keep your healthy eating resolution past breakfast. I like the idea of going with sushi, I’m just not a big fan of kimbap. While spicy tuna and shrimp tempura aren’t great substitutes, the California roll should do you well. http://midtownlunch.com/2010/01/04/new-years-resolution-the-healthiest-midtown-lunches-i-can-stand-to-swallow/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed:+midtownlunch+(Midtown+Lunch)&utm_content=Google+Reader

Over the Weekend (OTW): A New Year’s to Remember…

Well, this edition of the OTW isn’t really about the weekend. I could tell you about an outing to Carmine’s, cruising around the city in a limo, a the staggering emotional blow I took when the Eagles got destroyed by the Cowboys yesterday, but I’ll take it back to Thursday Night and New Year’s Eve, a night to remember, if only I could remember it in its entirety.

Not to say I don’t remember the whole night, because I have never been one of those guys. You know, the one that doesn’t remember making out with the hot blonde at the bar on Friday night, or the one who wakes up in some strange girl’s apartment with no recollection of how he got there or who the girl is. Well, that wasn’t me on New Year’s Eve. In fact, I remember the night quite well.

The only thing I don’t remember fully is how I got home, but that probably has more to do with how tired I was than how much I had to drink that night. The only thing I remember about my ride home is that I had to keep reminding myself not to fall asleep while I was standing on the subway, otherwise I would have fell out the door when it opened up at each subway stop. Aside, from that, I don’t even remember what trains I took home or how I managed to go up 5 flights of stair. Of course the important thing is that I did get home safely, so I suppose the exact account of my nomadic travails is rather unnecessary—or at least I hope so anyway.

As for everything preceding my exodus home, it was quite clear. I bought my ticket to the party I went to only hours before it began. I was real dicey on whether or not I was going to go out that night. For whatever reason, my body was telling me to stay home that night. If it weren’t for all of the stories I was sure to hear on New Year’s Day, I might have skipped all of the New Year’s Eve celebrations, but I caved in, and showed up at the venue around 10:45 or so, just in time to get after hors d’oeuvres before they stopped shelling them out at midnight.

The venue, by the way, was the Tribeca Rooftop Bar. It was definitely a nice setting, with a beautiful view of downtown and midtown Manhattan, large windows, and plenty of breathing room. The location could have hosted as much as a thousand people, but there approximately 200 people there on this particular night, so there was plenty of room to maneuver, have conversations and break away from the action if need be.

Of course, the best location at any New Year’s Eve party in New York City is by the bar. Quite frankly, I don’t think there is a city in the United States that does New Year’s Eve like NYC. We drop cold hard cash on these events, spending hundreds of dollars on dinner buffets, VIP access, continental breakfasts and 5-hour open bars, all in the name of ringing in the New Year. A lot of fuddy-duddies call this inane behavior, saying that there is no real reason to party hard on one night of the year for no other reason than the need to buy a new wall calendar. But I disagree with that notion.

New Year’s Eve celebrations are essential, especially in this city. In a town where everybody works incredibly hard, many of them working for far less than need and far more than they want to, people need this night. For New Yorkers, New Year’s Eve isn’t just about the turn of a new year, it’s about having the type of night you wanted to have all year, but didn’t get to because of timing or monetary issues. Honestly, how many nights do New Yorkers get to celebrate like this? Yes, there’s the weekends for some, but it’s hard to get all of your friends on the same page, doing the same thing, on any given weekend, especially when that’s the only time some individuals have time to themselves. New Year’s Eve is the one night where you can plan months in advance and everyone knows they are doing one of two things that night: either they’re going out, or they’re not. You don’t make plans to wash your hair or get caught up on your taxes on December 31st—it just doesn’t happen.

So anyway, back to me! I certainly got in the a year’s worth of missed opportunities on December 31st. Granted, I spend a grand total of 4 hours and 15 minutes out that day/night, but it was worthwhile. Add up every party I missed because of work, every dinner I missed because of time constraints, or every friend I didn’t see because of proximity and what you had was a lot stuff I missed out on in 2009. But New Year’s Eve made up for a lot of that.

I certainly got in a ton of dancing. It’s hard for me to remember getting it in on the dance floor all that much in 2009, but on New Year’s Eve, that was no problem. I don’t even think I danced with more than 1 or two people. I was mainly cutting it up by myself, working the floor and the crowd (in my mind that is) to the fullest extent, right up until they kicked us out of the building. It’s probably better off that I spent the majority of my time dancing alone, because I would have felt sorry for the poor, beautiful, young lady that would have had to compete with (or put up with, depending on who’s perspective we’re talking about here) the audacious moves I was breaking out on the general public that evening.

Of course, I wouldn’t have dared to have broached any audacious dance moves had it not been for that liquid courage. Needless to say, I was at the bar early and often on New Year’s Eve, taking full advantage of all the coin I spent on my ticket. They say you aren’t supposed to mix light and dark liquors, and I suppose that’s true, but I certainly wasn’t afraid to find out. I started off with my usual, Captain & Coke, and ran the gambit of alcoholic drinks, having whatever friends were having, as well as taking a few recommendations from the bar tenders. So from rum to tequila, from vodka to whiskey, I had it all, ignoring every rule there was in the pro-drinking manual.

Now I would love to tell you that I slowed down at some point as the night went on, but that did not happen. I was drinking right up until they closed the joint down, and aside from my 30 minute trip home, I went straight from drinking to sleeping, with little time in between. I know one might think that I woke up praying to the porcelain God or with a massive headache, but neither was the case. I felt mildly dehydrated, drank some water, and watched football all day, sans headaches, sans puking. I’m not trying to toot my own horn, but my body rebounded quite well given the amount of spirits I took in the night before. Maybe that’s just the magic of New Year’s Eve. Maybe my body really was making up for everything I missed out in 2009, and thus all of the effects I should have suffered were cancelled out. If that’s the case, maybe I’ll purposefully have a slow 2010 and get it all out of the way on December 31st, in which case I’ll elect to ease up on my attainment of these paper stacks and settle for one big check on New Year’s Eve.

Question: So how you feel about New Year’s Eve, and what’s your NYE story?