Archive for November, 2014



Last night, MSNBC’s feed was on. Some official was giving a detailed description of why Mike Brown’s murderer went free, and a no bill of indictment was returned by a grand jury that was empaneled to ensure that justice was done in the case. It appears that jury members did not take their responsibility seriously enough.

I wasn’t there and I didn’t witness Mike Brown’s murder, but despite the well written and moderately well-read statement, it was obvious that justice was not served. Mike Brown was murdered in cold blood, and then left in the street to fester in the hot August sun for four and a half hours before an ambulance showed up.

When the outcome was read, I was surprised but not shocked. It felt like I was kicked in the gut, and I had to lie down. This is not new to me; we’ve been getting shot down in the streets like dogs, by cops, for years, and more often than not, an outcome that allows the muderers to go free seems to be the result. It took a day to get to the point where I could write. Then, I remembered that that was what the game is: To be too immobilized by anger or fear to act. Sorry for the delay.

So people left their homes, went into the night and raised their voices for justice. Freedom fighters in Oakland/San Francisco, Nashville, Beverly Hills, New York, Seattle and Washington DC, spontaneously protested the outrageousness of another criminal justice process gone wrong. Social Media posts from participants on the ground, concerned citizens, casual observers and critics helped to propel the fight for justice all over the globe. Those who would prefer a more passive observance of this tragedy miss the point: Without protest, the shame of Ferguson would never have come to light – the revolution is being Tweeted.

They’re out there again tonight; rebelling with a cause. Why? Because the senseless murder of unarmed black folks must end. The problem is not procedural, it’s systemic. America was built on the corrupt institution of slavery and refuses to come to terms with her blood-soaked legacy of shame. Ever since we came here in shackles and on boats, we have fought to be recognized as human, and at its core, this is our basic struggle.

Darren Wilson, the cop who did the murderous deed testified to the grand jury that Mike Brown seemed like a demon who was going to “run through” his shots. Apparently, after Mike Brown didn’t successfully run through the first couple of rounds, Wilson found it necessary to fire several more times until Brown’s life was ended.

I am not surprised that Wilson saw Brown in a subhuman way, because societally speaking, so much of the way we are taught would lead you to believe that being white automatically makes you smarter, wiser, deeper, more sophisticated and more deserving of life and gives you the right to determine the destiny of people of color. Darren Wilson is just a product of his culture – a culture of white supremacy that says that unarmed blacks can be murdered by white law enforcement officials, and that we don’t deserve the basic right of due process.

So what of Mike Brown’s family? After the results, they issued a statement that indicated their disappointment. I feel for them, and especially for his mother, Leslie McSpadden. This weekend, she should have been looking forward to her son spending Thanksgiving with her and sharing stories of his freshman year, first-semester final exams. She should have been looking forward to cooking and serving his favorite holiday dishes and discussions of whether the St. Louis Rams are going to get a win this weekend. Now, all she has is the knowledge that she will never have another holiday shared with her boy, and that his life wasn’t even worth the cost of a jury trial, and that the circumstances of his death didn’t meet the standard of a prosecutable offense in her local district – despite the fact that he was unarmed and shot in cold blood. My thoughts are with Leslie McSpadden and her family. I hope that she continues to seek justice and that she eventually gets it. That would be something to be thankful for.


For Monica and The Ab and all the rest who are looking for justice in the streets…

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The 30th of October, 2001 was memorable. It was a crisp fall evening and the opening night of the NBA basketball season. Michael Jordan had come out of retirement one last time and donned the uniform of the Washington Wizards. He’d been granted an equity stake in the team, and had gotten that itch to lace ‘me up again. Coincidentally, the old Knick killer was scheduled to make his season debut at Madison Square Garden against a Knicks team that was in decline. I was a newly installed Executive Vice President of a fresh start-up record company that was based in LA, and I was traveling back and forth between both coasts while trying to sign artists and establish a New York office. I got a pair of tickets for the game and a date.

New York was still on it’s heels after having taken a devastating combo on the chin when both World Trade Center towers were destroyed on 9/11. National Guardsmen were patrolling the streets and paranoia filled the air. Buildings that you could previously walk through in order to take a shortcut were closed. Metal detectors were everywhere, and anyone with a Middle Eastern appearance was mistrusted on sight. Racist propaganda was spouted from every possible source, and patriotism was the thing that made it okay. The Bush administration was preparing to take advantage of the patriotic fervor by invading two countries that we still haven’t fully gotten out of, and by directing then-Attorney General John Ashcroft to use the moment to empower all intelligence services to begin to monitor civilian communication by phone, and the web – they called it the Patriot Act. We were badly in need of an evening’s entertainment.

This particular night, the game was being played in the stands. Jordan brought the A-list out and seated next to me was SNL’s Darrell Hammond, and his date, Lorraine Bracco of the Sopranos. My seats were cool – right on the aisle of the first row behind the fold-ups on the Eighth Avenue baseline. We were in the corner nearest the Knicks bench. The networking thing was in full effect. My date was a leggy Italian attorney with a great smile and gorgeous eyes. I’d given her the seat on the aisle and she was being chatted up by one of the City’s great power couples, Good Morning America anchorwoman, Diane Sawyer and her husband, the great film, and theater director, Mike Nichols. Lovely people. It was an honor to spend an evening in their company.

Of course, at that point, I had already been a Nichols fan for nearly 35 years after seeing his satirical groundbreaking masterwork “The Graduate” as a child. And since then, I’ve seen it many, many times more, along with Who’s Afraid of Virginia Wolf, Working Girl, Silkwood, The Birdcage, Postcards From The Edge, Wolf, Heartburn and his unforgettable contemplation on morality, fidelity and the Internet, Closer.

Earlier today, news came to us that Nichols died of a heart attack. I do remember that the Knicks beat the Wizards that night, but I most remember meeting one of the greatest directors that America has produced. I am grateful to have lived during the era that formed him. R.I.P. Mike Nichols, you did your thing.


For Sylvia

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Mark Ronson and Bruno Mars

Mark Ronson and Bruno Mars

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