Monday, June 29, 2009

Debra Lee's Circus, The BET Awards


Watching movies and barbecuing is how my family spends most Sunday afternoons. This past Sunday, I broke a cardinal rule and watched the BET Awards for the first time. My kids convinced me that it would be great since it was billed as a tribute to Michael Jackson and his humanitarian endeavors. However, the show that was promoted was not the show I watched. The BET Awards was a chaotic three hour black-a-thon fiasco.

How things begin is an indication of where things will end. Watching CNN’s anchorman Don Lemon giving shouts out on the red carpet was the start of the calamity that went downhill fast. To add to the circus atmosphere that was forming outside, Joe Jackson, MJ’s father and belt wielding former manager, was on the red carpet promoting his new record label. Huh? I know grief is expressed in different ways but this was a drastic departure from tears and sadness that is normally shown. He sounded more like an old school promoter for Denise LaSalle than a father who had lost a son two days prior. But what do I know. I never watched the show and I did not know if this was the norm. Arsenio Hall was raised from the dead and Chaka Khan said something. As for the rest of the folks, I had no idea if they were artists or clowns that were paid to keep us distracted.

Once the “show” started, I cursed myself for partaking in foolishness. I was tweeting throughout the night because my kids could not stand me shouting at them and the TV. New Edition was cute and Jamie Fox was comic relief. The O'Jays, in their yesteryear prom suits, had me dancing. Sugary Ne-yo and Jamie's collaboration was touching. The duet with Monica and Keisha Cole was sassy and had vocal harmony. I loved Keke Palmer throw down. And Maxwell could have sung all night.

But what was up with Queen B’s ballerina-wedding night-wingless angel outfit? Did she sing a song that is the theme for dog rescuers? It was not proper for a MJ tribute. But the pandemonium kept coming; Ray J and the Atlanta vixens, Lil Wayne gold dipped teeth (ew), Ving Rhames, and various characters that had no talent only added to the bizarre profanity laced evening. Don Cornelius rambling intro, which made time stand still, had me praying for the torturous show to end. And let’s not forget the commercials for upcoming BET reality shows that I confused with promos for a support group for incarcerated women.

After the rappers destroyed the English language as we know it and perplexity that would have been right at home at the Hoodie Awards, Mary Mary blessed the show with a gospel song straight from a juke joint. Don't hate, I blog like I see it.

Recognizing Alicia Keys and Wyclef was nice, but, seriously, where was the tribute to MJ? I felt Janet's pain who sounded broken as she reminded the audience that MJ was her brother.

Why the ring mistress of BET, Debra Lee, could not have waited and worked on a show that would have been truly entertaining and befitting to MJ's memory and his work is beyond me. MJ gave $300 million to charities which is rarely mentioned. Focusing on his charitable contributions during his lifetime and how his musical brilliance created an entire genre of music/videos would have rocked the house and lifted spirits. Instead, we were reminded why he lived in a place called “Neverland”. You would have to live in a world of make believe to call the show a tribute. The responses on Twitter and in the blogosphere have been horrific. The poorly orchestrated show did not reflect MJ’s musical influence and minimized the gifts of many talented individuals. I am wondering if the folks at the Stellar Awards would have done a better job. On second thought, never mind, that spaceship will never land.
Photos credit: www.bet.com

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Uncle Bud's Fried Peanuts


I have traveled the world. I have met kings and queens, the wannabees and the real ones. Presidents of this and that, Governors who cheat and who don't, Mayors, CEOs, executives, businesses owners, socialites and other fancy type folks and then just plain Bills, Janes, and Sues. No other Genma. But something I have learn that will always know is true, I left the country but the country will never leave me. On with my story...

In my area of Tennessee, there is a little corner market that reminds me of my home town in Mississippi. Everyone greets each other with a hug and yells across the isle to see how the other is doing. None of this nodding crap like they do in Green Hills. There are no strangers at Benson's Foodland, real people with real conversations. It is owned by Mr.Benson and family and has been around for ages. Mr. Benson never smiles and seems aloof. But underneath the hard shell is a heart of gold. He delivers food to the elderly and even allow for store credit. A grocery store that gives folks 30 days to pay their bills? No kidding. Mr. Benson is as grumpy as a bear but I know he is a cub wanting to be hugged.

He sells fresh collards and makes sure I get my bunches every week or so. I have even cooked a pot to share with him a time or two. My daughter buys her sweet potatoes for her pies from him and he in turn makes donations to Oasis Center in her name. Not bad for an old bear.

About four months ago, I noticed a display barrel full of peanuts at check out. As I inspected the new product, I asked Mr. Benson what was the display all about. He said in his driest voice, "You're from Mississippi, don't you eat everything fried." No he diiddn't, I thought to myself. Insulted and intrigued at the same time, I grabbed a bag of Uncle Bud's Fried Peanuts. That was the day I finally understood the slogan, 'You can't eat just one'. They are addictive! I have tried every flavor and they are my new habit. Call Dr. Drew, I am in of an intervention. I was up at 2:00am trying to knockout a few overdue reports and there I was eating my Cajun flavored peanuts and sipping on coke. Life is good.

You must try these peanuts. Cooked, bagged and shipped right here in Tennessee, in a town called Sodd Daisy. Now if that is not country I do not what is. I got the folks on the phone after I had bought my fiftieth bag and told them I run a pest control company and I am coming for a visit. God knows, I cannot eat products by the tonnage and do not know about their pest management program.

They thought I was kidding, until I drove up in my truck with contract in hand. We talked pest control and peanuts for hours. Fascinating company that will be around for quite sometime. Now for all the city slickers wanting to get back to the God's country and get in touch with people food, I have just what you need...go to www.unclebudspeanuts.com. Tell them I sent you. So good you can eat them 'shell-n-all'

My Party at the Oasis Center




I really enjoyed my day. I am always amazed at what our community can do when we come together. Thanks for everyone who dropped by to wish me a happy birthday and who visited the center. The cake was sinful!

Friday, June 19, 2009

It's My Birthday!



It's my birthday and you are my gift.

I am honored to have family and friends like you.

Please help me celebrate by visiting the Oasis Center
@1704 Charlotte Pike, Nashville Tennessee 37204.

Or visit them on the web @www.oasiscenter.org.

I want everyone to see the new building and all of the activities that take place inside with a dedicated staff, volunteers that put service above self, and teens that are future being leaders today.

My life would be totally different if it was not for the wonderful people that have given so much to so many; selfishly, tirelessly, and always with a smile and a hug. Heart ache and disappoint have become joy and delight, for that I will always count my blessing.

If you are in Nashville today, stop in and let give you on a tour. Cake, ice cream and punch are on me. I will be there all day. I couldn't think of a better way to celebrate my birthday.

Happy Birthday to me, Happy Birthday to me!

Sunday, June 14, 2009

If Tavis Smiley was White, Wells Fargo and "Ghetto Loans" would be Front Page News


This is the third in a series of posts about Tavis Smiley and Wells Fargo, sponsor of the State of the Black Union (SOTBU). Everyone is in uproar about Wells Fargo employees calling loans to black mortgage holders “ghetto loans” and the disdain they showed for the customers they made the most profit from. But the media, especially black media, has been very silent about the role Tavis Smiley played in helping stack this ill fated deck of cards that has plagued the black community in several major cities.

When Mr. Smiley first partnered with Wells Fargo in 2005, he was a TEACHER of economic empowerment and assembled seminars around the country as the keynote speaker for wealth building. Press releases filled every major news outlet inbox and black newspapers were infected with faxes stating Mr. Smiley’s desire to teach the principles of home ownership as the key for breaking the cycle of poverty in the African American community. All this knowledge was given at no charge to trusting black folks. This was the golden ticket to obtaining the elusive piece of the pie via Mr. Smiley’s recommendations. Surely the intentions of all involved were pure and Mr. Smiley had vetted Wells Fargo thoroughly. Or so we thought. My granddaddy would say often, “Be wise when someone wants to give you something for free, there will be a price to pay later.”

Here’s what Mr. Smiley and Wells Fargo said in 2005 according to a widely circulated press release:

Wells Fargo Home Mortgage Joins With Tavis Smiley to Offer Free Wealth Building Strategies Seminar in Washington, DC

Tavis Smiley and a Host of Financial Experts Share Information
About Building Generational Wealth and Family Financial Security

WASHINGTON, Aug. 25 /PRNewswire/ -- Wells Fargo Home Mortgage, the nation's leading originator of home loans to ethnic minority customers, has joined forces with talk show host and author, Tavis Smiley; and several financial affairs experts to provide free Wealth Building Strategies Seminars in eight cities across the country, including Washington, D.C. Additional seminars featuring other popular panelists also will be offered in 12 more cities, nationwide.
The Washington, D.C. event will take place Sat., Sept. 10 at the Hilton Washington, 1919 Connecticut Ave., NW, from 9:00 a.m. - 4:00 p.m. For more information, or to register for the event contact 866-275-8584 or visit http://www.wellsfargo.com/wealth.
"African-American households had $656 billion in earned income in 2003, an increase of 3.9 percent over the previous year*," said Jackson Cosey, senior vice president of emerging markets, Wells Fargo Home Mortgage. "The Wells Fargo Wealth Building Seminars will teach attendees the best route to make their income work for them over time through homeownership, investments and credit improvement while simultaneously helping them plan for their financial futures."
The free day-long events will feature interactive sessions and one-on-one meetings with financial experts, real estate professionals and Wells Fargo home mortgage consultants who will share information on building generational wealth and family financial security. In addition,the Wealth Building Strategies Seminars will include a keynote address by Tavis Smiley, the first person to ever simultaneously host signature talk shows on both the Public Broadcasting System (PBS) and Public Radio International(PRI).
Other cities on the Wells Fargo Wealth Building Strategies Tour include Los Angeles,Richmond,Va.,Dallas,San Francisco,Philadelphia,Chicago and Baltimore.
"All families dream about home ownership,college education, world travel and more but may not know the best steps to becoming financially independent,” said Smiley. "I am thrilled to be a part of the Wells Fargo Wealth Building Strategies Seminars tour because I truly believe this event offers attendees the fundamental tools they need to make their dreams a reality."
In addition to Smiley, acclaimed financial authority Kelvin Boston, host of PBS's financial affairs series "MoneyWise with Kelvin Boston" will be among the event speakers. The Wells Fargo Wealth Building Strategies Seminar also will feature interactive breakout sessions focused on topics including real estate, investing, and credit. Each seminar will feature a panel of experts who will provide a range of information related to their topic followed by a question and answer session. Following the breakout sessions, panelists will be on hand to meet privately with attendees to get advice related to their specific issues.
The Wells Fargo Wealth Building Strategies tour is just one of many initiatives that showcase Wells Fargo's commitment to its customers and the African-American community. Other programs include the African-American Business Services program which supports economic development in the African-American community and their Afro-centric branch designs which reflect the local African-American community and celebrate its heritage.
Wells Fargo Home Mortgage is the nation's No.1 retail mortgage lender**, the No 1,lender to low-to moderate-income and ethnic minority customers, and one of the country's leading servicers of home mortgages. It operates the country's largest mortgage network from more than 2,300 mortgage and Wells Fargo banking stores and on the Internet. Based in Des Moines, Iowa, it services loans for over 5 million customers nationwide.


(Source: Wells Fargo/PR Newswire)

Mr. Smiley stated he was “thrilled” to help black folks achieve their dreams but now that many of them have found themselves in a nightmare, where is he? Has he spoken out against the “ghetto loans” statement by Wells Fargo employees? Has he demanded accountability that he touts must be part of helping President Obama be the best President he can be? Has he applied that same scrutiny to Wells Fargo now that their sins of omission and commission have been exposed by their employees? Mr. Smiley’s messages are often woven with biblical terms to give his messages of empowerment a spiritual halo; so I will take a page from his book, has he washed himself in hyssop to amend for his leadership initiatives with Wells Fargo that has caused financial harm to people of color? Was he aware of their ‘good intentions’ from the start? Has he and the Smiley Group sent out press releases to denounce the actions of Wells Fargo that have been highlighted in the media over the last few weeks? There are hundreds of releases on the web announcing his decision to help black folks dreams become a reality from 2005-2008. Shouldn’t he address their present nightmarish economic plights as vigorously?

We should not be shy about asking these questions of Mr. Smiley. But why is black media afraid to question one of their favorite sons about the role he played promoting Wells Fargo to the African American community? Could it be they are part of the problem as well? I am keenly aware of the balance between the news and advocacy and recruiting advertisers and sponsors but we should not be ostriches when it comes to a story of this magnitude. For those who used Mr. Smiley’s conferences/events as promos to keep themselves in the mainstream media eye as “leaders” of the African-American community, they are eerily quiet on this subject. Many are giving the vibe that this is not their problem. Not only is this their problem but a problem that was sold to the community by many of them lending creditably to Wells Fargo by their participation at the SOTBU organized by Mr. Smiley. Mr. Smiley's events were promoted heavily on black radio stations and pushed to the African American community by the very media that has become silent. Many books, DVDs, and future speaking engagements as well as branding of black folk friendly products, like Wells Fargo loans, were marketed to attendees of these conferences.

Many of SOTBU featured speakers are protest initiators and apology demanding enthusiasts. Where are their statements on this subject? Wells Fargo is still a sponsor of Mr. Smiley’s events and he maintains a link on SOTBU website to their mortgage department? My PR training of yesteryear is still valid today; separate when your brand is being tarnished by another. Mr. Smiley’s continues with his Accountability Tour and black folks are still flocking to them without asking him to be accountable. We seem to love the oki-doke. Why do we play dumb and ignore the obvious? Mr. Smiley has done media interviews since the revelations of Wells Fargo employees’ statements and not one media personality has asked him about his ties to the Wells Fargo. Shouldn’t the public demand answers from a so-called leader about his financial partnership to a company that practiced such grievous actions? If Mr. Smiley was white, this would be front page news and a black radio tour would be ongoing for months by his cohorts that pranced on SOTBU's stage. Baltimore, MD was one of the first cities on his wealth empowerment tour. Will anyone cross reference his list of past attendees with those who have foreclosed properties now? Inquiring minds would like to know.

This is a larger symptom of an age old problem with black folks. We justify the actions of ego-driven-self-appointed helpers of the downtrodden with this verbiage “let’s not touch God’s anointed”. It is reminds me of the gospel shows on BET, the hypocrisy smacks you right in the face. Again, for the record, this is not a personal attack of Mr. Smiley, but stating facts which are not being addressed. When the NAACP filed the lawsuit against Wells Fargo, I questioned the SOTBU sponsorship in several posts in March and April. It is June and Mr. Smiley still has not issued a public statement. The community of color that he has taught to “enlighten, encourage and empower” is waiting. If he was white, the cries would be shouted from the roof tops? For too long, black folks have allowed our very own to pimp and sell us on the auction blocks to the lowest bidders without consequences. Wells Fargo used one of our own to profit from our trust of that individual. Mr. Smiley was not the only avenue Wells Fargo used to get their acid laden loans in the black community hands. As Wells Fargo’s employees stated last week, part of their marketing strategy included preachers of mega churches. Surprised? Why? What better way to get to the sheep than through those who claim to be shepherds. As for Mr. Smiley, he allowed his influence to be used to peddle nonsense to the very people he claims to love so dearly, yet he continues to promote his Accountability Tour. That is the definition of absurdity.

What’s that sound I hear from the media? Being a pest control operator, I know it all too well...crickets.

Update: Link on Mr. Smiley's website regarding Wells Fargo:
http://www.tavistalks.com/sites/www.tavistalks.com/files/TavisSmileyonWellsFargo.pdf

Previous posts about Tavis Smiley and Wells Fargo:
http://blacksnob.com/snob_blog/2009/3/17/strange-bedfellows-the-case-of-tavis-wells-fargo-and-the-naa.html
http://blackbloggers.wordpress.com/2009/03/16/tavis-smiley-holds-barack-accountable-but-who-holds-tavis-accountable/
http://genmaspeaks.blogspot.com/2009/03/roland-martin-of-cnn-interviews-ben.html
http://www.prnewswire.com/cgi-bin/stories.pl?ACCT=109&STORY=/www/story/08-25-2005/0004094109&EDATE=)
http://www.wellsfargo.com/wealth

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Blogging While Brown 2009 Scholarship


I was looking forward to attending the Blogging While Brown 2009 Conference in Chicago next week. But due to circumstances beyond my control, I will not able to attend. I have spoken with Gina over at www.WhatAboutOurDaughters.com and told her I would be happy to help send someone in my place. If you are seasoned blogger and want to save a few dollars, or a newbie that wants to meet others or anyone in between, let me know. I want you to go!
www.bloggingwhilebrown.com

Monday, June 1, 2009

National Destitute Father of the Year, Desmond Hatchett


Update: He now has 30 kids...read here as of May 19, 2012.

National Destitute Father of the Year recipient, Desmond Hatchett of Knoxville is a self- professed sperm donor, I mean “father”, to 21 children by 11 baby mamas. The 29 year old started procreating at the ripe old age of 17. His children ages range from 11 months to 11 years old. Hatchett’s court appearance for child support made national headlines last week.

Before you start searching the NFL or NBA rosters looking for this dead beat dad, don’t. This morally and financially bankrupt man makes $6.55 an hour. He will never be able to support 1 child let alone 21 at his pay grade. Hatchet was summoned before Knoxville’s Municipal Court last week where his name appeared 11 times in one day on the court’s docket, representing 15 of his children for back child support.
Hatchett says he was not out to set a record. He says he never intended to have this many children, “It just happened” and he claims all of the mothers knew about his large family. How does having 21 kids “just happen”? I do believe that the women probably knew he had a large clan. I am curious about the ages of the mamas. I have a sneaking suspicion that they are probably a month shy of their junior year of high school, if not by age, for sure by mentality. Men like Hatchett look for the young and stupid to hook up with.

My questions are for the mamas. Who? Why? What is he saying to so many baby mamas that make them go gaga for him? Why so many did not use protection if not for birth control but to keep safe from a STD? He must have lines that only Devil himself could make up to get these women to fall for him. It has been reported, he was seeing more than one at a time. This is where we have to be mothers to motherless and ask direct questions and hold the moms accountable as well as the dead beat sperm donor. If my grandmother was having one of these overdue talks, I can hear her being snarky, “If you sleep with someone with that many children and he can barely support himself, you get what you get…nothing.” Or one could get a dreaded disease from him to add to this sad saga.

The question Knox County officials now face is how to support all these children. Hatchett works a minimum wage job and Tennessee law states only 50% of his paycheck can be taken for child support. By the time the money is split 21 ways, some of the mothers get less than $2 per month. That leaves the taxpayers footing a large portion of the bill for these children, which means you and I are paying for his babies and the drama of his babies' mamas.

This is where black folks have to address black folks' foolishness. The women allowing this mayhem into their lives is bad, but for him to have the gall to give media interviews to explain himself is beyond comprehension. For the mothers to complain about the amount they are getting from him, makes this story comic book ready. Where is the shame? There are several photos of him checking his cell phone. He can pay for a cell phone but cannot pay for child support! He should be put on a chain gang breaking rocks for TDOT to pay the state to take care of his kids. Listen up mamas, a man making minimum wage with 21 children cannot afford to take a woman to Krystal to buy a Krystal Chik combo. A basic record search did not indicate he had a criminal record, although fathering 21 children by 11 different women should be considered a crime.

What adds fuel to this raging forest fire, most of the women have more than one child by him. I understand being duped by a fool once but to allow him to sire two kids by you means common sense is seriously missing.

One media outlet reported, “Even though Hatchett can't support the children he has, there is nothing the state can do to prevent him from having more. Hatchett reports that he had 4 children in one year, twice. He says he's done having children now, but only time will tell. He does say that he's a good father and knows the names, ages, and birth dates of all of his children.”

God help us. He brags to the media that he had four children in one year. TWICE! He knows his children’s names and birthdays but cannot take care of them. My granddaddy left this earth barely able to pronounce my name but he took care of me and every grandchild that landed on his door step. Knowing your kids names means zero, when you cannot buy diaper wipes let alone a package of diapers.

This should be a case study for chapters of 52 Color Men. Put the galas on hold this year and go find men like Hatchett and take them under your wings. After you beat the hell out of them, teach them work ethics, get them employed, SHOW them how (or in this case not to be) fathers and daddies to their children. Teach the women in the community to stay away from predatory lovers who revel in having children because they think this makes them men.

For the social clubs that show community love by having cotillions, start going to middle schools with Hatchett’s picture and tell his story to every girl at the school. Help young girls to form girl clubs equivalent to a neighbor watch program to teach them to report men like Hatchett when they drive through (or walk) their neighborhoods. Teach them to scream “baby maker!” and run in the house and lock the doors until the police arrive. We must protect the young while they are still teachable. As much as I hate putting labels on individuals, in this case we should label this situation so we can dissect it for teaching purposes. Since this is a G-rated post, I cannot use the label here.

For those of us who were insulted by the suggestion in the June ’09 issue of Essence that a strip club was a place to meet men, I suggest lobbying Essence to put Desmond Hatchett on the cover and tell his compelling life story to other women who might think Hatchett is a great find. Since Hatchett wants to be a media darling, there is nothing like getting his sordid history out there as a warning to other women who may not know the rest of the story. By putting Hatchett on the cover, it will help make him the poster child for what women should not want in a man no matter how lonely one may get. Single and sane is far better than being saddled with this sperm pimp and all of his baggage.

Please do not tell me the "he was raised without a father" storyline. We cannot continue to blame the decay of our culture on everything and everyone else. We have to take back what we have freely given away; our pride, our decency, our sense of family and the ability to be self-sufficient no matter how tough times are. Our values are leaving, going, fading fast. I can take being marginalized by other races in our society but when I see us devouring our young by turning a blind eye to the Hatchetts and his women of the world, I have to fight to keep hope alive in my heart that we can do better. Someone had to know that Mr. Impregnator was running around town loose and out of control. Did anyone sound alarms to the mothers? Would they have heeded the warnings if told to stay away? This is not a soap box but the truth and sometimes we have to speak/write the truth even if it is hard to hear/read.

Lastly and most importantly, the children, none whom asked for this chaos. They are innocent. Can you imagine the lives they are living if their moms are coming to court asking for $2 dollars in BACK child support payments? This is not a third world country we are talking about, this is Tennessee. Who wants to go to school with the whole world knowing you got twenty other siblings within a five block radius? Hatchett's offspring will fight an uphill battle for the rest of their lives. To see children starting life off emotionally, physically, and psychologically struggling because of irresponsible parents equals depraved indifference in my book. Not to mention the cruelty the kids will suffer at the hands of other children. Kids can be mean to one another; I can only imagine the fights on the playground when the children are laughed at by other kids. Can you imagine the jokes? Desmond Hatchett and his mamas bore children into the world that are now etched into our social programs for the next two decades. Many non-profits that would be willing to help families in need are already stretched beyond their limits and their financial wells are running dry. This is an additional burden to social ills that many of us have no idea how to solve.

I am headed to my closet to pray. Many years ago, I did not understand the totality when I first read, “I know not; am I my brother’s keeper?” Now, I understand...fully. At this moment, I am out of words (that can be printed).