Feeling Hot Hot Hot

July 10, 2013 Leave a comment

Guess who?

It’s another scorcher. Though rain may be on the way, the heat is on. (Click here for today’s New York City forecast.)

What’s your favorite hot weather song? Ours is 1982’s Hot Hot Hot by Arrow. He was from the island of Montserrat, so he knew hot. Other songs that turn up the heat:

Hot in Here by Nelly

Too Darn Hot by Ella Fitzgerald

Summertime by DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince

(Love Is Like a) Heatwave by Martha and the Vandellas

Gonna Make You Sweat by CC + Music Factory

What’s yours?



Today in Black History–Daniel Hale Williams Performs Heart Surgery

July 9, 2013 Leave a comment

On this day in 1893, Daniel Hale Williams became the first physician to successfully perform heart surgery. The pioneering Williams also opened Provident Hospital in Chicago, the first medical facility with an interracial staff.

williamsWilliams was born on January 18, 1856 in Hollidaysburg, After his father died, 10-year-old Daniel was sent to live in Baltimore, Maryland, with family friends. He became a shoemaker’s apprentice but disliked the work and decided to return to his family, who had moved to Illinois. Like his father, he took up barbering, but ultimately decided to pursue his education. He worked as an apprentice with Dr. Henry Palmer, a highly accomplished surgeon, and then completed further training at Chicago Medical College.

Williams, AKA Dr. Dan to his patients, set up his own practice in Chicago’s South Side and taught anatomy at his alma mater. Because of primitive social and medical circumstances existing in that era, Williams treated patients in their homes, including conducting occasional surgeries on kitchen tables. In doing so, he learned many of the emerging antiseptic, sterilization procedures of the day and gained a reputation for professionalism.

Provident Hospital, back in the day.

Provident Hospital, back in the day.

Because of discrimination, African-Americans were still barred from being admitted to hospitals and black doctors were refused staff positions. Knowing change was needed, Williams opened Provident Hospital and Training School for Nurses in 1891, the nation’s first hospital with a racial integrated nursing and intern program.

On July 9, 1893, a young black man named James Cornish was injured in a bar fight, stabbed in the chest with a knife. By the time he made it to Provident he was close to death, having lost a great deal of blood and in shock.

Williams was faced with the choice of opening the man’s chest and possibly operating internally though this was almost unheard of in that era because of the risk of infection. With little time to spare, Williams made the decision to operate and opened the man’s chest. He sutured the sac surrounding the chest, then applied antiseptic procedures before closing him up. About six weeks later, Cornish left Provident completely recovered and would go on to live for another 50 years. And Dr. Dan’s procedures were used as standards for future internal surgeries.

The patient.

The patient.

In February 1894, Williams was appointed as chief surgeon at the Freedmen’s Hospital in Washington, D.C. Doctors from all over the country traveled to Washington to view the hospital and to sit in on surgery performed there.
During this time, Williams married Alice Johnson and the couple soon moved to Chicago where he resumed his position as chief surgeon at Provident Hospital, and also conducted surgeries at nearby Mercy Hospital and St. Luke’s Hospital, an exclusive hospital for wealthy white patients. He was also asked to travel across the country to attend to important patients or to oversee certain procedures.

When the American Medical Association refused to accept black members, Williams helped create the National Medical Association and served as vice-president. Williams died in 1931, having set standards and inspired medical and nursing students, both black and white, to push harder and achieve more .


Should Eliot Spitzer Be the City’s CFO?

July 8, 2013 Leave a comment
Spitzer resignation

Spitzer resignation

The Bible is clear about forgiveness. Ephesians 4:32 states, “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.” And there are many, many other passages that discuss forgiveness, redemption and absolution.

But how far does it go? The luv guv for NYC CFO?

Yesterday, Eliot Spitzer announced his plans to run for New York City comptroller–five years after resigning with his pants down as governor of New York amid a prostitution scandal. (Click here to watch his resignation.) In making his bid, Spitzer, 54, said, “I am hoping there will be forgiveness. I am asking for it.”

Should we forgive Spitzer?

Cover boy, Spitzer

Cover boy, Spitzer

Americans are generally quick to overlook the sins of politicians. If you have any doubt, take a look at this brief “hall of shame” of politicos who have bounced back:

tumblr_lwb0t2Skrw1qdh92xBill Clinton: Several years ago, a Siena College poll ranked Clinton the 13th most admired president of all time–ahead of Ronald Reagan, Lyndon Johnson, both Bushes and even Barack Obama. This despite his 1998 impeachment for perjury and obstruction of justice and the bald-faced lie about Monica Lewinsky, “I did not have sexual relations with that woman.”

A teary Mark Sanford

A teary Mark Sanford

Mark Sanford: In 2009, Republican governor Sanford of South Carolina “disappeared” while directing his staff to say he was hiking the Appalachian Trail. Instead he was using state travel funds to visit his mistress in Argentina. After a tearful admission and apology, he was censured and left office in disgrace–only to make a comeback this year. In May, he was re-elected to Congress. “I am one imperfect man saved by God’s grace,” he told supporters.

Anthony Weiner for Mayor PSA [NSFW]Anthony Weiner: In 2011 the N.Y. Congressman sent a photo of himself–in boxers with an obvious erection–to a 21-year-old woman via Twitter. After days of lies and denials, he finally confessed that this wasn’t the first time and resigned from office.  Now two years later Weiner has apparently overcome the scandal, and his surname, and climbed to the top of this year’s campaign for New York City mayor.

Weiner is very popular with African Americans–just like Clinton. A Marist survey shows that 66 percent of African-Americans think Weiner deserves a second chance, compared with 45 percent of whites. In another poll, Weiner leads the only African American candidate, Bill Thompson.

What about Spitzer? He told the New York Times that he would bring his aggressive, hard-driving energy to the role of New York’s chief financial officer and monitor the effectiveness of government agencies, like the department of education. Screen Shot 2013-07-08 at 11.03.20 AM

The question is, can we afford to trust Client 9 when we have a perfectly good candidate, Manhattan borough president Scott Stringer? (Ironically, the Post reports that Spitzer and Stringer are also running against Kristin Davis, the madam who says she arranged Spitzer trysts!) Screen Shot 2013-07-08 at 10.45.42 AM

Bill Clinton rehabilitated his legacy by way of the good, international work of his Clinton Foundation, and his wife hasn’t hurt his image. And Weiner came out strong on his “apology tour,” and his beautiful, brainy wife hasn’t hurt him either.

So far Spitzer hasn’t shown much remorse or humility, and it’s unclear if his wife is standing by his side. One thing is to forgive, another is to forget.

Why Are Black Girls So Mean?

July 5, 2013 Leave a comment

209579-thumbWhat happens when you Google “why are young black girls….?”

The writer asha bandela shared the experience yesterday with her followers on Facebook. When her daughter typed those words into a search for a project on young black girls and HIV/AIDS, before she could finish Google suggested “so rude,” “hair so short,” “so ghetto,” “so mean,” “so jealous,” and “so unattractive.”

By the way, try searching black women; here’s what Google fills in: “so mean,” “so loud,” single.”

bandele responded: “language and presumptions can kill. Change the conversation.”

Start talking the talk right now. Watch the new documentary “Imagine a Future,” directed and produced by Lisa Cortes, producer of the 2009 movie “Precious.” “Imagine a future” airs tonight at 9 PM on BET and is sponsored by the My Black Is Beautiful campaign–Procter and Gamble’s African-American answer to Dove’s much-discussed beauty campaign.

Screen Shot 2013-07-05 at 10.54.41 AM

Tonight’s film focuses on Janet Goldsboro, an African-American teen from Delaware who travels to South Africa on a journey of self-acceptance and self-discovery. As she digs deeper into her roots, she also explores historical and contemporary beauty and the self-esteem challenges faced by many Black women. Clck here to watch the trailer.

The documentary also features the voices of Gabourey Sidibe, Michaela Angela Davis, Gabrielle Douglas, Tatyana Ali and Melissa Harris-Perry. It challenges viewers to re-think standards of beauty.

Following the premiere, BET will air Girl Talk, a summit-style discussion.

Watch with the young women–and men–in your life. And as bandele says, change the conversation.

Independence Day Hero–Crispus Attucks

July 3, 2013 Leave a comment

01f/27/arve/g1833/085As you enjoy a July 4th picnic and watch fireworks, don’t forget about Crispus Attucks, and often forgotten African-American hero of the Revolutionary War.

In 1770, he became the first casualty of the American Revolution, shot and killed during the Boston Massacre. Over the centuries Attucks has been called “the first to defy, the first to die,” a true martyr.

Not much is known about Attucks, who was mixed race, black and Native American. Despite some debate, he was believed to be an escaped slave. His owner, William Brown, placed an ad in the Boston Gazette and Weekly Journal in 1750 offering a reward for his return. He described Attucks as a “Mulatto fellow, about 27 Years of Age, named Crispus, 6 feet 2 inches high, short cur’l hair, his knees nearer together than common.”

Attucks managed to avoid capture and became a sailor, working on a whaling crew that sailed out of Boston harbor. At other times he was employed as a rope maker.

Attucks’ occupation as a seaman made him particularly vulnerable to the presence of the British. He got pulled into the fray during a squirmish on March 5, 1770. Attucks and four other Americans were killed and six were wounded in what came to be called the Boston Massacre. He was the first one shot, taking two bullets in the chest.

Martin Luther King, Jr., referred to Crispus Attucks in the introduction of Why We Can’t Wait (1964) as an example of a man whose contribution to history, though much-overlooked by standard histories, provided a potent message of moral courage.

Learn more about Attucks here.

Voting Rights, Trayvon Martin and Paula Deen in Post-Race America

July 1, 2013 Leave a comment

paula deen today show crying 660 videograb1America is not post-race. Having a black president signals progress, but doesn’t mean the country has moved beyond race and the tortured conversations that follow it. If you have any doubt, take a look at last week’s headlines. Two Supreme Court decisions, a high-profile murder trial and a foul-mouthed, clueless celebrity chef and brought conversations about race in this country front and center.

Wrong on Voting Rights

Last week, a divided Supreme Court ripped apart the landmark Voting Rights Act, striking down the way Congress has monitored states with a history of discrimination.

Declaring that “our country has changed in the past 50 years,” John Roberts and the court’s four other conservative justices said the 1965 law cannot be enforced unless Congress updates it to account for a half-century of civil rights advances.

Really? Has America advanced that much. Of course not. To prevent African Americans from voting in the past, racists used poll taxes, literacy tests, and sometimes harassment, intimidation and violence. These days it’s increased demands for I.D.

President Obama agrees, calling the decision a setback. The ruling “upsets decades of well-established practices that help make sure voting is fair, especially in places where voting discrimination has been historically prevalent,” Obama noted in a written statement. An angry, dissenting Justice Ruth Ginsburg went further, responding that “Hubris is a fit word for today’s demolition of the [voting rights act].”

The End of Affirmative Action (Almost)

Does affirmative action to provide increased college opportunities for students of color discriminate against white people? The Supreme Court isn’t sure, but thinks so.

Last week, the justices sent a case involving affirmative action back to the lower courts, effectively making it harder for universities to use race as a factor in admission. The case was brought by Abigail Fisher, a white student who was denied admission to the University of Texas, which uses race as an admission factor.

“The attainment of a diverse student body serves values beyond race alone, including enhanced classroom dialogue and the lessening of racial isolation and stereotypes,” U.S. Associate Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote in the majority opinion.

Sure, makes sense. But it’s also a question of race and numbers, especially for black men. African-American males make up 5 percent of the U.S. college population–but 40 percent of the prison population. The unemployment rate of black males with only a high school diploma stands at 15.5 percent; having a B.A. cuts that number in half.

It doesn’t take a college degree to put 2 + 2 + 2 together. College leads to employment which leads away from prison–and affirmative action helps deserving students of color get into college. Period.

Who’s the Biggest Racist of All?

Is it Trayvon Martin, who referred to George Zimmerman as a “cracker?” Or Zimmerman, who shot him, presumably because he was a young black man in a hoodie?


That question was highlighted last week at Zimmerman’s murder trial.  Thursday 19-year-old Rachel Jeantel, a friend of Martin’s, testified that she was talking to Martin by cellphone shortly before he was shot. He told her a “creepy-ass cracker” was watching him. Did that comment  make 17-year-old Martin a racist, too?

Not even close. And who cares if he was. Martin isn’t on trial; he’s dead. Cracker, a perjorative term for whites, much more common in the South and in the past, doesn’t carry nearly the baggage of, say, the N-word. (See below) Click here to read more in the Washington Post.

Who You Calling N***,  Paula Deen

The fallout from Paula Deen’s use the N-word has been swift, despite her bizarre, apologetic Today Show appearance. At this writing she’s lost 12 business deals so far, including with Wal-Mart, not known for its political sensitivity. Does she deserve it?

Her fans don’t think so. Here’s a typical comment from her Facebook page, sandwiched between praise for a recipe for Never Fail Pound Cake: “We love you Paula! I say start your own food channel!!!! Your [sic] the Oprah of Food! You can make anything happen!”

Many question why it’s okay for black people, especially rappers, to use the N-word, while Paula Deen gets her guts ripped out when she says it. Like this person:

“All you complaining to Paula for what she says behind close doors GET A LIFE!!!! My children did not learn the N WORD from Paula but from 2 African American kids referring to themselves to it in the park! Clean up you’re own house before pitching on others!#!”

Anyone who doesn’t know the difference between rappers and kids saying “nigga” and Deen calling blacks the N-word needs some schooling. Sign up for a history class–ASAP.

Clearly, we have more work to do.

Policing Stop and Frisk–Thank You Jumaane Williams

June 28, 2013 Leave a comment
Williams, left, at protest

Williams, left, at protest

Stop and frisk hasn’t been stopped, but at least slowed, thanks to two bills passed by the City Council yesterday.

One, would create an inspector general to oversee the NYPD, and the other would allow people to file claims of racial profiling against the police in state court. Both measures curb the NYPD’s use of the insulting, racist stop-and-frisk and Muslim surveillance tactics. Though Mayor Bloomberg is already busy scheming to un-do the measures–and a hysterical Ray Kelly insists that the legislation will increase terrorism–both bills passed by wide enough margins to skirt Bloomberg tampering.

Yesterday’s vote marked a big win for Brooklyn City Councilman Jumaane Williams, a vocal and consistent critic of stop and frisk. The 37-year-old politician was famously arrested in 2011 at the West Indian Day parade after a disagreement police.  Williams, along with a member of mayoral candidate Bill de Blasio’s staff (also black), was detained and handcuffed for walking…while black.

In a speech, Williams urged lawmakers who have never experienced being black, Latino, gay, Muslim or in another profiled group to “please listen to us.”

On passage of the legislation, Williams explained that legitimate police stops wouldn’t be curtailed, “it just stops profiling.”

Read more about Williams in this New York Magazine profile.