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Daily Dose: 5/8/17

Chris Rock’s business is officially in the streets

12:00 PMThis weekend, we called on my buddy Field Yates to debut America’s favorite new game show, Yates vs. Yates. As always is the case, Yates wins. Anyways, here’s the podcast. Or all three hours, too.

Speaking of people named Yates, there’s an important one on Capitol Hill today. Former acting Attorney General Sally Yates is going to testify about the potential involvement of Russia in the 2016 election. This situation seems to be making President Donald Trump nervous, as he’s up and tweeting about it already. Mind you, he fired her, so her coming back to reveal who knew what and when they knew it is clearly a potential problem. Mind you, she was fired for her stance on Trump’s travel ban, which will be argued today as well. Who’s got time to govern, anyway?

Remember back when Trump took photos in the Oval Office with all those black college presidents and others connected with historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs)? Pulled that okeydoke on all those leaders with Kellyanne Conway sitting on the couch like she was at a sleepover. Yeah, so, turns out he was actually questioning why historically black colleges get the funding they do from the government. Or something like that, because last night he released another statement claiming his unwavering support for the HBCU community. It’s confusing to say the least.

How many jobs do you have? These days, if you’re not operating with at least two, you’re lucky. Everyone has a side hustle these days, because it’s not like job security is something we can all rely on. If you’re not driving Uber on weekends, you’re probably selling your wares on Instagram or just working another gig like the rest of us. But now that the economy is being reshaped by a workforce that isn’t particularly keen on just clocking in and out from 9 to 5 like yesteryear, you have to wonder: Is this what the future will be?

Chris Rock is a superstar. His work in the comedy world is the stuff of legend. If you were to create a modern-day Mount Rushmore of black comedians, you’d be hard-pressed to keep his name off the list. He’s also found quite an intriguing way to monetize his life story in a way that only the best storytellers can. There’s a TV show loosely based on his childhood, and he made two movies presumably based on his relationship in marriage. He also made a movie about black hair based on his experiences. Now he’s talking pretty openly about said relationships in life.

Climbing mountains is an excellent feat. If you believe in the physical conquests, the act of getting up to a high summit, if for no other reason than to say you did it, is impressive. But some are harder than others. Take, for instance, Mount Everest, the highest peak in the world. There’s an entire cottage industry around people trying to get to the top, and sometimes folks pay the ultimate price. And such a thing happened again recently, when an 85-year-old man died at a base camp. Officials are now thinking about putting an age limit on the task.

Free Food

Coffee Break: If you don’t know why people don’t trust body cameras, here’s a perfect example. Just because they are cameras doesn’t mean that everything you see on them is real. Check out this story about an officer who staged an entire stop in Colorado. The case was eventually thrown out.

Snack Time: The coded language of race, when it comes to discussing who we are as a nation, is always tricky to navigate. But think about what someone means when they say that the system has failed them.

Dessert: Martha Stewart is still the gawd.

Daily Dose: 5/5/17

LeBron James is on a whole other level

2:49 PMToday is Cinco de Mayo, which means that if you can help it, please, please, please do not pull some racist nonsense and act like you didn’t know because you thought it was a Mexican holiday. That ain’t cool at all, good friend.

The House Republicans did the unfortunately not unthinkable yesterday. They decided that repealing Obamacare was a smart move and then decided to celebrate the entire matter in public. To further twist the knife, Rep. Jason Chaffetz showed up on a knee scooter to vote for this bill that would add to the cost of health care for folks with pre-existing conditions, like his own, that he’s ostensibly recovering from. Pretty unbelievable gall for a guy who’s leaving under a weird cloud, no less. Next up: the Senate’s version of this whole deal.

Speaking of politics, the president is still top of mind. The real estate mogul turned commander in chief is, if nothing else, a New Yorker through and through. His history in that city is well-documented, from his buildings to his antics in politics and the local papers. But now he lives between Washington, D.C., and Florida with his wife, Melania, who is staying in the Big Apple with their son. He came back to the city this week for the first time in a while, though — and, oh, guess what, people there still don’t like him.

When it comes to high school yearbooks, I know a thing or two. I was lucky enough to design the cover of mine in my senior year, and I was a regular contributor in other years. People get really serious about the things they write in said keepsakes. My last year of high school, a bunch of people wrote a bunch of randomly out-of-line things in their shoutouts section and the school decided to hold the yearbooks and cut out those pages, literally and physically. It was a mess. So props to this girl for getting one of the greatest quotes of all time through to print.

As far as I’m concerned, LeBron James is the greatest basketball player of all time. Sorry, it is what it is. It’s not really worth a long argument, because as long as Michael Jordan is a name that people remember, this conversation will never be able to be had in any real way, as it’s just too hard to topple that legacy. But, come on, James is SUCH a player. He’s toying with people in these streets and making it look like the easiest thing on earth. Fam, it’s the NBA. It’s not easy. He says he wasn’t trying to disrespect anyone with this move.

Free Food

Coffee Break: People talk a whole lot of trash when it comes to lauding their skills at video games. It’s a basic rite of passage for a lot of people. If you suck at playing sports games, it’s just below a hit to the ego as not being as good at the sport itself. Well, actual sports games are now coming to esports, which is a very interesting combination.

Snack Time: If I’m being honest with myself, my relationship with my phone is a damaged one. I’m way too connected to it, in so many ways. But it could be hurting you in more ways than one.

Dessert: This is one of the best playlists ever. Great for the weekend.

All Day

Lonzo Ball shows us his new BBB kicks

And they aren’t the wackest thing I’ve ever seen

4:43 PMWhen news first broke that Lonzo Ball would not be signing with any of the major sneaker companies in the U.S. to begin his NBA career, quite a few people thought that his father, LaVar, had officially started to eat into his son’s potential earnings. It’s one thing to be a loudmouth father who annoys people and perhaps interferes with high school basketball games, but it’s another to turn down what is effectively free money to build your own brand.

I was one of those people who thought LaVar Ball had overplayed his hand.

Now, the potential No. 1 overall NBA draft pick has released a video showing the actual sneakers, and um, they’re not wack. They look quite a bit like many of the other popular shoes of the day, which obviously makes sense. In more plain terms, they look like the Kobes. But the content of this video, beyond the shoe reveal, is really worth examining.

For one, LaVar isn’t in it. Secondarily, it’s shot partly at his house, with that backyard court that has now become borderline iconic. Also, it begins with a fantastic establishing shot of the great metropolis of Chino Hills, which makes me laugh as much as it does impress me.

“At the end of the day, it’s up to us, the athletes,” Lonzo Ball says. “We push the culture forward. Don’t let the culture push us. It’s up to us to put forward a movement that not only is ourselves, but our families and our communities as well. A movement that allows us to claim what’s ours.”

OK, we get it, we got it. The Balls are trying to reimagine the entire business model framework for what endorsement deals are all about. But what about the shoes, though? Now, let’s be clear about something: If these things really are MSRP (manufacturer’s suggested retail price) at $495, they are wack. Like, insultingly so. But if that’s just a pipe dream number that’s out there to make people pay attention, and they’re actually closer to the $125-$150 range? OK.

Python microfiber texture? Sure. Wacky “Zo” logo? Why not? Patent leather heel logo? Fine. But that overall Big Baller Brand logo is still hella corny. Also, shout-out to the local state park, where he apparently trains. Ultimately, these are not a disaster, when many thought they would be. But people are gonna get these jokes off, regardless.

The side bonus of the vid is that you get to see some childhood footage and photos of Lonzo, just playing basketball. You don’t even hear LaVar’s voice, never mind see him.

Daily Dose: 5/4/17

Tony Parker’s season is done, but is his career?

1:27 PMHappy Star Wars Day, kiddos. Different people celebrate this in different ways, but for this airline they’re doing things right. TBS will air all the films in the series Thursday night, and remember The Last Jedi comes out Dec. 15.

Speaking of Star Wars, Obama’s new presidential complex looks like a Rebel base. He’s taking things a step beyond the usual library framework, which makes sense, considering how important he is to American history. It’s going to be near Jackson Park on the South Side of Chicago, which hopefully will help “revitalize” that area. All that aside, working here is going to be one hot ticket, and if you don’t understand the amount of pride that will go into working there — from the director to the janitor — then you don’t know much about black folks in the U.S.

Thursday, Republicans are hoping to pass a new health care bill. What that bill does, no one really knows. How much it will cost, nobody else knows either! Swell. Also, from what we understand, the bill eliminates a lot of money for pre-existing conditions, which basically means that if you weren’t lucky in the life lottery, it’s going to be a lot harder to live if this passes. How they define said conditions is a whole other matter. Shockingly, they mainly affect women. And it’s worth noting what Congress members are planning on doing for themselves.

Old school met new school on the internet this week in a major way. In hip-hop, the whole discussion of mumble rap versus boom bap is a daily battle in these Twitter streets. So when the latest episode of Everyday Struggle dropped, with Joe Budden going completely ham on Lil Yachty because he couldn’t explain every last detail of his record deal to him, things went viral, quickly. Then, there became a real question about whether Lil Boat was actually messing up his money. Turns out he’s not, according to him. But the interview is wild.

I don’t think I’ll ever see Tony Parker play in the NBA again. Which is a sad thing to consider. The longtime San Antonio Spurs point guard was carried off the court by teammates Wednesday night after suffering a leg injury on a play that wasn’t even contact-heavy. Mind you, Parker is 34 years old, which isn’t ancient, but also is the kind of thing that makes you wonder whether all that rehab to come back at such a late stage is really worth it. We love TP and hope he can recover fully.

Free Food

Coffee Break: There was a lot of hubbub at the Royal Palace Wednesday night when it appeared that an emergency meeting was called for all of Queen Elizabeth II’s staff. There was a lot of speculation that her husband, Prince Philip, had died. That didn’t happen, but this story about what will occur when it does is fascinating.

Snack Time: Let me be clear about something: Haiti, should never, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever voluntarily relinquish its own sovereignty. Ever. The very basic major premise of this column in beyond insulting.

Dessert: Mask Off has a video coming out. But, in the interim, here’s Future performing it on Jimmy Kimmel.

Daily Dose: 5/3/17

Alton Sterling’s killers will not be charged

2:34 PMI wrote about Rachel Dolezal. Her whole approach to life really makes me nervous as a black person.

Facebook is many things, but at this point it’s also a lifeblood for many. The social network has grown into the type of behemoth that legitimately controls people’s lives. It can sway elections, it’s a marketplace, and it can make you a star if you know what you’re doing. It’s been used in courtrooms and by police forces to find criminals, but what happens when the crime exists effectively inside the grid? If someone commits suicide or kills or hurts someone else while streaming live, is Facebook responsible? Now, the company’s hiring more people to monitor this issue.

The Met Gala was bananas. La La was killing them with the black dress, Rihanna shut down the whole set with her incredible dress, and of course, Diddy showed up and laid it all out there for everyone to see. My personal favorites were both Migos (who classed it up in a way that made it clear that these dudes are ready for the next level of stardom) and Jaden Smith (who brought his cutoff dreads as a date to the event). But that’s just me. You should check out Desus & Mero’s recap of the red carpet.

Another day, another officer gets off for killing an unarmed black person. You might remember the case of Alton Sterling in Louisiana, where police officers shot and killed him at point-blank range while onlookers watched him die in a convenience store parking lot. They won’t be charged by the Department of Justice. Then there’s the case of Michael Slager, who shot a man running away from him in South Carolina and it was, again, all caught on video. Somehow he managed to plead guilty to being responsible for that murder without actually admitting that he committed murder. Shameful.

Marshawn Lynch’s return to the NFL is extremely exciting. The Oakland Raiders running back is coming out of retirement to play for his hometown squad, and this slight football fan can’t wait to see it. But, from a gridiron standpoint, there are some serious questions about exactly why he’s doing this. Nobody becomes a better player when they don’t play, but at that position, there’s an argument that the time off has actually helped him heal. Either way, his head coach sees authentic interest in him being back in the league. Which is good for all involved.

Free Food

Coffee Break: If you know me, you know how much I love Zaytoven. The superproducer has been all over the place in the past five years, and his work on the keyboard is basically the music of God, as I see it. He recently sat down with Slay In The Morning and claimed that it takes him only 10 minutes to make a beat.

Snack Time: It’s the NHL playoffs, which means we’ve been fortunate enough to get a lot of good hockey in recent weeks. But this story about a Sikh Canadian broadcaster is really tremendous.

Dessert: You want to know cruelty? Just head to Flint, Michigan.

National Urban League hosts real talk about the State of Black America in 2017

TV special tries to addresses questions about an uncertain political future and protecting progress

1:03 PMWhen National Urban League president and CEO Marc H. Morial walked on stage Tuesday at the Howard Theatre, the message he was there to spread applied as much to the building as it did to the black community. The iconic venue in Washington, D.C.’s, Shaw neighborhood, down the block from Howard University, reopened with much fanfare in 2012 after decades in disrepair. But it’s now facing financial trouble and may have to close again.

And with President Donald Trump rolling back nearly every important policy that America’s first president of color (and the first lady) put in place, it feels like we may be going back to a darker era. Hence the theme of the proceedings: “Protect Our Progress.”

The nonpartisan civil rights organization and TV One taped a two-hour town hall special on the State of Black America with the release of its annual report of the same name. It highlights issues facing the community, complete with tangible data to better understand how to tackle these issues.

“Backward never, forward ever. We are bold. We are mighty. We are empowered. We are Urban Leaguers. Protect our progress. Resist the rollback!” was the call-and-response chant that Morial led with those gathered at the 2017 Legislative Policy Conference, before moderator and TV One host Roland Martin took over the proceedings.

While the taping schedule made it a slightly different vibe from a live town hall meeting — the show airs May 31 at 8 p.m. on TVOne — Martin kept the crowd loose while also directing the show from the stage. The first panel featured culture critic Toure; Angela Sailor, former director of the Republican National Committee’s Coalitions department; CNN’s Symone Sanders; and activist/TV host Jeff Johnson, who has covered income inequality, education and mentorship in the black community.

Things moved from polite sharing of ideas to actual disagreement when Martin asked Sailor whether black people should trust the Department of Education’s budget when it comes to opportunities for children. She implied that the larger solution would involve more than that anyway.

“We know that they’re not because the budget is not reflective of it,” Sanders retorted. “It is incumbent on us to demand. I think we are doing something. Organizations like us … are definitely showing up in their communities, showing up to the elected officials or coming to the funding table with private and public partnerships to make things work. But we cannot let the Department of Education and other folks off the hook when they don’t include us in their budget. That’s absolutely ridiculous.”

Shortly afterward, Johnson described how black folks too often get caught up in the dream of college — the “bougie wonderland” — and get themselves into debt instead of learning skills that make them marketable in a global environment. I could have listened to him talk about that subject for the rest of the event, but alas, they moved on.

According to the latest State of Black America report, the 2017 National Equality Index compared with white America is 72.3 percent. The Hispanic Index is 78.4 percent. The index looks at five areas: economics, education, health, social justice and civic engagement.

When trying to cover so many topics with so many voices in a limited amount of time, it’s impossible to delve into any one in a truly meaningful way. But the crowd was given Q&A sessions with each panel. “No sermonettes; ask a question,” Martin sternly advised the crowd with a wink.

Before most segments, a vignette was shown about a specific initiative that the Urban League had helped with. In a similar vein before the taping, corporate sponsor Toyota, through its Freedom To Move program, highlighted “Hiplet,” a Chicago dance center that is loosely described as “rap ballet.”

The second panel featured Sailor and author/professor Michael Eric Dyson, along with CNN commentators Parris Dennard and Angela Rye. My favorite moment came from Dyson, who mentioned Cleveland Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert while discussing the plight of Detroit, which is undergoing one of the harder-core gentrification processes in the country.

“I grew up in Detroit. It’s not just crime, it was white flight that exacerbated the tensions in the city,” Dyson said. “The [areas] around Detroit began to absorb those resources, then they marginalized poor people. Gentrification is predicated upon the access to capital and the ability to own a home, while upwardly mobile, largely white people — and then, in some cases, black and brown people — who then push out those people who are there.

“Once into the exurbs and suburbs, where they were banned, now, as Roland said, there’s no transportation network out there. They’re stuck out there, while Dan Gilbert, who owns the Cleveland Cavaliers and is one of the greatest landowners in Detroit, is creating the tension because he owns so much of the property and now along the lakefront and the waterfront, where blacks are banned. White brothers and sisters are establishing their bona fides while black people are left behind. That’s a problem of not crime. The real crime is white neglect and white flight from a city, then reappropriating black resources.”

Whether any problems were solved Tuesday wasn’t really the point. Some smart minds got together to discuss the problems facing our community. When it airs later this month, I hope discussions will spread outside of that as well.