What Had Happened Was Trending stories on the intersections of race, sports & culture

‘Ebony’ magazine goes big for February cover

Artist Kadir Nelson channels ‘American Gothic’

10:42 AM

The February issue of Ebony magazine’s cover is enough to make it a collector’s item. It comes courtesy of the hands of Kadir Nelson, the California artist whose given us multiple iconic paintings recently, namely for The New Yorker. It’s an adaptation of Grant Wood’s American Gothic, painted in 1930, one of the most popular works of art in this country’s history. It’s part and parcel of what many consider to be traditional Americana.

By subverting the original image to include a black family, Nelson turns the concept of what we consider traditional values. By harkening back to the farming motif of the 1930 painting, with the big-city skyscrapers deep in the background, it upends the oft-stated assertion that black people are just huddled masses wasting away in the dangerous, chaotic, so-called inner cities of America. Coupled with the headline “Yes, We Still Can,” an obvious nod to President Barack Obama’s original 2008 campaign slogan, it presents an image of unity that isn’t associated with pain.

[‘The New Yorker’: Kadir Nelson’s ‘A Day at the Beach’]

When it comes to visual themes and black families, establishing new standards for normalcy is important. The nod to the non-nuclear construct of this unit, in addition to a very dark-skinned man (with waves, no less!) is also an important touch. This is old hat for Nelson, but during a month in which someone who has openly antagonized quite a few black people in his time will be getting sworn in as president of the United States, it holds particular weight to be publicly displayed in retail locations.

The issue will feature thoughts from nine authors on what the new administration will bring. In an excerpt that Ebony posted online, Kirsten West Savali of The Root expressed concern about how state-sponsored violence, both physical and economic, will affect black communities.

“After eight years of President Barack Obama, the anesthesia of liberalism has worn off, and many Black Americans are experiencing sharp pains in anticipation of what lies ahead,” Savali wrote in a piece titled Revolutionary Black Love Will Keep Us Alive. “Our very existence in this clarifying political moment is evidence that the White settler colonial project known as the United States of America is still functioning exactly as intended. Black people have always been forced to navigate bayous of bigotry with a dexterity that defies belief. We have always been placed in the position of saving a country that hates us in order to negotiate our own survival.”

Jelani Cobb of The New Yorker explained via a brief history lesson regarding how a certain portion of this country’s population has reacted following a series of events that challenge the basic underpinnings of white supremacy that uphold most institutional discrimination and systemic prejudice.

“This is a climate in which a particular kind of reactionary mindset will be empowered,” Cobb wrote. “We’ve already seen the increase in hate crimes. Then there’s the prospect of what will happen to vulnerable poor people when Trump produces an economy that’s even more favorable to a small percentage at the top, which is the group he has represented his entire life.”

The issue is on newsstands now.

Daily Dose: 1/17/17

Serena Williams is back in the land down under

10:00 AMYour boy made an appearance on the True Hoop podcast with Amin Elhassan, and it was a great time. We talked All-Star Game cities, Rip Hamilton vs. Derrick Rose and Barack Obama’s best.

Martin Luther King III is not a character without controversy. You might recall his role at the center of various things involving his father’s legacy, including their whole family fighting over various dollars, but that’s another story. On Monday, he met with Donald Trump (at Trump Tower no less), a decision that I’m sure had his dad spinning in his proverbial grave, if you believe in things like that. Apparently, it was a “constructive” meeting. Sure.

The circus is leaving town. After more than a century on the American landscape, the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus is shutting down. The company claims it wasn’t due to PETA’s incessant protests, which led to a phase out of elephants altogether, but due to the nature of the entertainment industry. Basically, the company is losing too much cash to stay afloat. This isn’t a huge surprise. Circuses are archaic.

When you watch sports, do you yell at the screen? It’s a natural reflex sometimes: A player does something wild, or a ref blows a call, and you start going nuts. Then, someone invariably will turn to you and say, “Why are you screaming? They can’t hear you, you know.” Well, as it turns out, in the actual NFL, all that yelling actually does have an effect. Coaches get vocal with referees in games, because it straight up works.

The Australian Open is tremendous. Matches are played in the middle of the night if you’re stateside, and it’s hot as Hades at all times. Plus, because it’s the land down under, the fashion is typically on a fun level of neon that we can all appreciate. Plus, the Australian Open has the best side court setup of all the majors. Some feel like black box theaters with tennis happening inside. Most importantly, though, Serena Williams is back to busting heads.

Free Food

Coffee Break: If you got shot, and were in a wheelchair, how do you think you’d live out the rest of your life? I don’t know what I’d do, but we do know what Tyrone Shoemake is doing with his. The Upper Body Boy is now a thing, so when you need inspiration in your life, check for him.

Snack Time: For MLK Day, the cast of TNT’s Inside the NBA went to the Center for Civil and Human Rights to participate in a simulated sit-in. The results were powerful.

Dessert: Here’s what happens when Young Thug doesn’t show up for a video shoot. It’s great.

Daily Dose: 1/16/17

Bishop Eddie Long dies at 63

4:00 PMWe had some more fun on the radio this weekend, so if you didn’t get a chance to listen to The Morning Roast, here’s the podcast. Yes, we talked politics and The Bachelor, back to back.

We could have had a really awkward situation on our hands today. Over the weekend, it was reported that President-elect Donald Trump was going to visit the National Museum of African American History and Culture. But since he had already started beef with civil rights movement icon, Rep. John Lewis, Trump had to cancel, because he might not have realized that Lewis is actually honored in said museum. Now, he says he’s going to visit with Martin Luther King III, which promises to be a mess.

Speaking of Washington, D.C., the last week has been odd. Since the inauguration is just a few days away, all sorts of things have been locked down, fenced off or otherwise blocked. The event, weekend and parade are a security nightmare on a local level and with all sorts of folks coming to town, it creates a real problem, logistically. Anyways, various groups have things planned for the festivities, if you will. Plenty people plan on protesting and one such collective will be theater groups.

Bishop Eddie Long has died. If you don’t recall, he was the Atlanta megachurch pastor who was accused of coercing young boys into relationships. As a result of his flair, his look and his open denial of the claims, he became famous on Black Twitter and eventually ended up being sort of an unfortunate symbol of what a lot of people consider to be the rampant hypocrisy within many black churches. He then started showing off a dramatic weight loss, which scared as many people as it impressed. He was 63.

I can’t imagine that Mike Tomlin is happy with Antonio Brown. After the Pittsburgh Steelers beat the Kansas City Chiefs to advance to the AFC Championship, the Pittsburgh head coach gave a pretty rousing postgame speech. For whatever reason, his star wideout decided to live-stream said words. Seriously, a grown man actually decided to clandestinely document his boss after an excellent victory. Unsurprisingly, people are ripping him. And he specifically went against Tomlin’s words.

Free Food

Coffee Break: Portlandia is a favorite of ours in this household. Seriously, I love the show, because it’s the most ridiculous thing I’ve probably ever seen on television that actually makes sense. Alas, it’s ending after the eight season, and that makes me very sad.

Snack Time: I’ve told you about Song Exploder before, and this episode with Solange talking about Cranes In The Sky is extremely fun to listen to.

Dessert: We don’t love pitch invaders, but we do love these two.

Daily Dose: 1/13/17

The presidential bromance ends perfectly

1:50 PMWe got the gang back together in the studio this week for the first All Day Podcast of this year, which was exciting. This week, we talked President Barack Obama’s farewell speech and the Golden Globes, among other things. Tune in!

Things got very real at the White House on Thursday. President Obama pulled an all-time great on Vice President Joe Biden, surprising him with a Medal of Freedom, which doesn’t happen every day. Men aren’t necessarily allowed to show love to each other, like actual love, in public or professional spaces, but it happened in a glorious way Thursday. Biden was legit caught off guard, but because he’s such a boss, he apparently just had a half-hour speech ready to go, which is basically what being a grandfather is all about. It was a pretty incredible moment, all around.

Did you know that the sky is blue? That water is wet? Those things seem obvious, no? Well, a new report from the Department of Justice shows that in Chicago, police officers have been engaging in patterns of violence that put both themselves and other civilians at more risk than necessary. I’m not trying to be flippant, but ask any person who’s lived in Chi-Town for any amount of time and he or she will tell you that these are all known facts. It is quite something to hear actual government officials admit that law enforcement officers are doing way too much.

Here’s the thing about diplomacy: If you suck at it, people notice. Meaning, if the people whom your country elects to lead them are wandering around the globe acting like jerks, it presents a problem for the regular citizens of said nation. Fast-forward to here in the United States of America, and Donald Trump being the president-elect. Is this actually going to be a problem for us, beyond our shores? It’s been said for a long time that the U.S. needs to improve its image, but the question remains: Is that still true?

You know Bo Jackson. The man who played for the Los Angeles Raiders and the Kansas City Royals and was a generational star from a marketing standpoint who is now driving cars on television? He’s cool. His impact as a two-sport athlete was unlike anything we’d seen to that point, and the way his career ended was a bummer to everyone. Now, he says that had he known about the effects of chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), he would have never played football at all. Of course, that makes sense, but to hear former players be so candid about the game that gave them so much is really telling.

Free Food

Coffee Break: Hip-hop can be so incredibly dumb sometimes. Artists are artists and live in worlds that are different from anything you and I will ever know, but some things are just ridiculous. If you want to instantly understand why people hate the rap game these days, check out this interview with Kodak Black on The Breakfast Club.

Snack Time: Police officers and donuts go together like peas and carrots, to quote Forrest Gump. So someone in Georgia decided to take advantage of that. I’ve gotta say, writing “Black Lives Matter” on a box of donuts is strong.

Dessert: I hate coins. But this is a coin I’d gladly spend anywhere I could.