Michael Jackson Memorial was a homegoing ceremony familiar to many

During the BET Awards Sunday before last, there was an unexpected social networking trend that developed.  On Twitter, the BET Awards began to move up the list of trending topics.   This traffic was driven by African-Americans, which were moved by the passing of the King of Pop.   Some Twitter users began to question why Michael Jackson was such a hot topic, and why so much was being made of Michael Jackson’s death.

Then there was Tuesday.  I watched the events on T.V. and CNN Live, and socialized with friends on Tweet Deck and Facebook.  Every Black person that I have spoken with was watching the Michael Jackson Memorial, and so were most other Americans.

One of my wife’s white Facebook Friends made an interesting observation: “All of my black friends’ status updates are about Michael Jackson, and for my white friends it’s just another day.”  I saw the same thing as one friend would write “I’m holding back tears,” and another would say “I’m headed to the beach.”

For many African-Americans, Wednesday was like attending the funeral/homegoing ceremony of an uncle or cousin.  In my own family there have been times where we’ve had to put aside differences and squabbles to give someone the send off that they deserve.  Tuesday was no different for the Jacksons.

From the music, to the brothers synchronized dress, the laughing, the crying, it had a very familiar feel.  There was even a mini-sermon by Rev. Al Sharpton and a resolution read by Sheila Jackson Lee.

It looked and felt like most every funeral I’ve been to, up to the classic black look that Janet was throwing down.  Janet showed, as many sisters, daughters, and aunts do, that you can mourn and still look good.

It was a grieving family, nothing weird, strange, or odd about it.  Even when Paris spoke, and the family encouraged her (“Speak into the mic baby,” Janet said) it had that family feel.

I don’t get why people choose ridicule those who mourn Jackson.  He created music like we had never heard before, and it had a powerful effect on people across the world.  I remember when Selena died while I was in college, I had never heard of her.  People at Texas A&M were holding candlelight vigils and crying in class.  But I never thought to ridicule or make fun of Selena’s fans.

What’s the harm in one human that is moved by the passing of another?  Read comments on any social networking outlet and you’ll see people say “I was crying”  or “tears were flowing.”  I was reading Paris words on the AP while riding in on the train this morning and got choked up myself.  It’s even more sad because this was a death that most likely didn’t have to be.

Michael was different, no doubt.  He pretty much acknowledged that fact himself with the Leave Me Alone video.  But no one deserved the judgment and ridicule that dogged him until the end. I agree with Marlon Jackson and others: Maybe now Michael, they will leave you (and your children) alone?

Fair Park Fourth brings Cotton Bowl another great event

Call me a sucker, but I really enjoy fireworks. We’ve had a chance to catch 4th of July shows at Lone Star Park, in DeSoto, and even on the Trinity River in years past.  This year we decided to check out Fair Park Fourth.

It was pretty easy getting out to good old F.P. Saturday night.  We parked in an $8 lot right across the street from the Women’s Museum and walked right in.  Since we made it a little bit before eight, we didn’t have a lot of time to spare, so we headed straight for the Cotton Bowl.

There were many people gathered in lawn chairs leading up to the stadium, and even more people waiting in line at the bottom or the steps for State Fair like goodies.  Tickets were being sold for $1 in order to purchase food as well as to ride the Texas Skyway.  Though I was in the mood for a funnel cake, the line was too long so we went inside.

I asked one of the ushers where we would get the best view of the fireworks, and she told us in the end zone (opposite the Jumbotron), the newest part of the Cotton Bowl which is where we also watched the P.V./Grambling game.  This part of the stadium also has the shortest lines because most folks still don’t realize that there are concession stands over there.

Twenty-five dollars worth of tickets got us a hot dog, extra long corn dog, two bottles of water, two chills (lemon and strawberry) and a bag of chips, making it a $33 outing with parking.  I would have been willing to kick in an extra 3 bucks for a funnel cake but that’s in the past now.

After some great performances (including a dazzling Old Man River), the fireworks started promptly at 9:30 p.m.  The show was good, maybe real good, but not great.  In these tough economic times, maybe we didn’t get the best of the best in pyrotechnics (I give the nod to a show that I saw in Ft. Smith, Arkansas last year) but the overall presentation was..well…good.

I can see the Williams Family working Fair Park Fourth into the rotation.  It’s another great use for the Cotton Bowl and another date to bring folks down to Fair Park.  Next year we’ll take DART’s Green Line in and avoid the traffic involved in leaving South Dallas after the show.

As the stadium goes, I figure booking 6-8 solid dates would give the Cotton Bowl the same type of traffic as college football stadiums around the country.  With OU/Texas, Grambling/PV, and Fair Park Fourth, you’ve got three locked down.  The other football games scheduled -Harvey Martin Classic and Lone Star Classic- will need to draw at least 15,000 (hopefully many more at some point) before I consider those dates “locked down”, but it sure is good to have them booked.

Texas Tech and Baylor will play in Fair Park on October 9, 2010, rotating the game between Cowboys stadium each year, and that’s a lock. Get a bowl game booked to replace the “Cotton Bowl” and we’re in business.  I’m not mad at the State Fair folks for getting their hustle on, and Dallas taxpayers can feel good about the money that has been spent on the renovated Cotton Bowl.  I can attest to the fact that it made for a nice place to catch a fireworks show this past weekend.

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Shawn Williams: A Beale Street model for Deep Ellum

After I wrote this article I thought, wouldn’t a Johnny Taylor themed restaurant look good in Deep Ellum (or South Dallas)? Some of ya’ll entrepreneur types should be able to take that one and run.

Anyway, here’s the article I wrote for the Dallas Morning News almost in its entirety. To see the few parts I didn’t paste, click here. Thanks to Sharon Grigsby for the space.

From DallasNews.com

To borrow a phrase from legendary musician Robert Johnson, Deep Ellum has the crossroad blues. The path toward the future may mean taking a look back.

With the possible exception of the city’s preaching tradition, the blues scene in the early part of the last century represents the biggest mark left on this city by African-Americans. But the community is letting that rich history die by allowing the place where it all went down to lose its soul.

It’s part of a trend nationwide where the African-American community neglects history that is not intimately tied to the civil rights movement. This is even more pronounced in our city, where not only is the history ignored, it’s all but forgotten.

Deep Ellum should be the same type of cultural destination as the 18th and Vine area of Kansas City, which houses the American Jazz Museum and Negro League Baseball Museum. First, that means residents would have to acknowledge – and in many cases, learn – the district’s rich history before embracing it and rallying for its revival.

Consider this: In 2003, the South Dallas/Fair Park Entertainment District Study was presented to the Dallas City Council. The document (now in the hands of a local nonprofit) proposed creating a mixed-use retail-commercial development that would market particularly toward African-American conventioneers, tourists and local residents. This concept was modeled after Beale Street, a thriving three-block section of downtown Memphis, which consists of a number of nightclubs and restaurants. Beale Street was home to a thriving blues scene at the turn of the 20th century before becoming a collection of closed shops and rundown buildings in the 1960’s.

Sound familiar? The infrastructure for this model already exists – in Deep Ellum.

The Dallas City Plan Commission recently recommended the issuance of a specific-use permit for a live music bar and lounge to open in the old Blue Cat Blues in Deep Ellum. A soul food restaurant also moved into the neighborhood in recent weeks. While every business in the area doesn’t have to be blues-themed, a nod to the heritage would go a long way toward reviving the entertainment district that seems to always teeter between “struggling” and “on the verge.”

Any plans to revisit the history of Deep Ellum should include the redevelopment of The Grand Temple of the Black Knights of Pythias Building. The Pythian Temple sits on the edge of Deep Ellum and was the first commercial building in town built by and for Dallas’ black residents. It’s also one of the few Dallas structures other than churches designed by a black architect. The building that housed the city’s first black dentist and surgeon would make a great business incubator for a new generation of professionals and entrepreneurs.

Second Avenue and a little blues music could bind two historic parts of our city.

Again, click here to see the entire article.

Eddie Griffin’s thoughts on Shawn Williams’ thoughts on Juneteenth

BY EDDIE GRIFFIN of Eddie Griffin BASG Blog

Black Bourgeoisie?

I found it interesting that Shawn P. Williams writes in
“Why” Part Two: Why I celebrate Juneteenth:

In my adult years as I began to rub elbows with the black bourgeoisies, many of them scoffed at the June 19th holiday. “Why would you celebrate slaves in Texas spending an extra 2 ½ years in bondage?” they would ask. I have to admit, it’s a pretty good question… As we’ve gotten more and more educated, we get further and further away from the wisdom born out of the struggle of our people.

Eddie Griffin Commentary-

I don’t know what “black bourgeoisie” means anymore. Back in the day, it meant something negative like that of a black person whose thinking was whitewashed, or someone going through an identity crisis, or someone who thought themselves to be more educated and elite than the common everyday Negro. We used to think that they acted and thought themselves to be better than the rest of us… maybe so.

Ignoring the French historiography and Marxist class categorizations that give meaning to the name of this group of people, I want to go straight to the psycho-sociological aspect of the issue… that self-contradictory, mismatch phenomenon of being sociologically black and psychologically alienated from an appreciation of black heritage.
“Why would you celebrate slaves in Texas spending an extra 2 ½ years in bondage?” they asked blogger Shawn Williams. Notwithstanding the writer’s thoughts, note how the question was formulated in their minds. True to its characteristic, the so-called black bourgeoisie sees the cup half empty, instead of half full.

To them, Juneteenth is not a celebration of Freedom, but rather a “black thing” to be disdained, because the very thought of slavery turns them off. After all, there are many whites who would rather not think about it, along with the guilt and shame of it. And also, how many non-Jewish Germans memorialize the holocaust? The so-called black bourgeoisie are escapists who would rather inculcate more pleasant thoughts.

It may not have ever dawned on them that Juneteenth is a celebration of Freedom, like the Fourth of July. What say, in celebrating the Passover, are Jewish people celebrating 400 years of Egyptian bondage, or the blessing of Emancipation?
The so-called black bourgeoisie sees only what it wishes to see, thinks only what it wishes to think, and choses to see no more and know no more than they already see and know. Therefore, black is an inappropriate descriptive for this bourgeoisie- thinking people. Being bourgeois is what it is… a colorless attitude of people who thinks of themselves as more highly favored than their peers and contemporaries, and thereby different, even better than they, and a little more holier than thou.
Juneteenth, with them, will probably never find merit, because they will remember only what they have been taught about it in integrated schools by teachers who were uneducated and unappreciative of black history. Hence, they will never seek to know otherwise. They even avoid contact with any knowledge that would burst the bubble of their brainwashing.

They are alienated from their common identity and estranged from their heritage… like a cow with the head of a goat. (eddiegriffin)

“We, the colored soldiers, have fairly won our rights by loyalty and bravery — shall we obtain them? If we are refused now, we shall demand them.” Sgt. Maj. William McCeslin, 29th U.S.C.T. (Source: Appomattox Court House National Historical Park)

REPOST: “Why” Part Two: Why I celebrate Juneteenth

Bringing back a post from last year discussing Juneteenth.  Don’t forget your red soda water.

I remember growing up in good old Paris, Texas and one day realizing that there was an extra holiday on the calendar. I recall having a good understanding of Christmas, Thanksgiving, July 4th and Halloween, but all of a sudden around the age of seven or eight it was like Juneteenth came out of nowhere.

red-pop.jpgWhat was Juneteenth? Initially I knew it as a day that black folks were supposed to take off work, eat barbecue, and drink red soda water. And that’s pretty much what we did.

I eventually learned that Juneteenth was a uniquely Texas holiday and meant more than just cutting out on the job. A Juneteenth newsletter I received from Cora Marshall Gallery does a good job summing up this unique tradition.


The Emancipation Proclamation was issued on January 1, 1863. The proclamation declared “that all persons held as slaves within the rebellious states are, and henceforward shall be, free.” It took until June 19th, 1865, two and a half years later, for the news that slavery had been abolished to reach Galveston, Texas. Even so, this news inspired a time of celebration and joy at started in Texas and spread across the nation.

On June 19th – later to be known as Juneteenth – in Galveston, Texas, African Americans also gathered to celebrate. The festivities centered around family, friends, and community and was a time for thanksgiving, reflection, remembering, and prayer.

In counter-point to their experiences as “Property of the Massa”, the freed men and woman dressing up and served up a bounty of food which included a main course featuring – of course – barbecue and red soda water.

Still, through my teen years I enjoyed Juneteenth celebrations because it gave us another excuse to go to the park, shoot off fireworks, and hangout. Besides, celebrating the end of slavery seemed like a good thing even if the news was a little late.

In my adult years as I began to rub elbows with the black bourgeoisies, many of them scoffed at the June 19th holiday. “Why would you celebrate slaves in Texas spending an extra 2 ½ years in bondage?” they would ask. I have to admit, it’s a pretty good question.

This caused me to really examine my feelings about Juneteenth and whether the occasion really was worth celebrating. I eventually came to a decision that will have me firing up the grill on Thursday.

I will continue to observe Juneteenth because our ancestors deemed the occasion worth of celebration. As we’ve gotten more and more educated, we get further and further away from the wisdom born out of the struggle of our people.

It’s like black folks I hear lamenting the gospel writer for the lyrics “Lord you don’t have to move the mountain, but give me the strength.” Now that we have been to seminary, we know that we can ask God to move the mountain. But give me that old time religion, its good enough for me.

Juneteenth was born from the mind and hearts of black folks, which already makes it tough for some of my middle class brothers and sisters to swallow. It’s now celebrated in many states other than Texas.

I remember a summer I spent in Muskegon, Michigan where black folks there had a Juneteenth program. It was odd seeing them observe Juneteenth as an African holiday rather than African-American one, but from my point of view it’s good to see black people celebrating anything positive.

bbq2.jpgEven though I’ll be working on Juneteenth for only the third time in my career, I’ll still take time to commemorate the end of our people’s forced servitude in this country. We rejoice not because they let us go, but because they couldn’t hold us down. We rejoice not because of Abraham Lincoln’s supposed conviction and generosity, but because of the strength and resilience of our people.

So we will honor those who came before us and reflect on their struggle for freedom. I remember my dad talking about “red soda water” in conjunction with Juneteenth like it was yesterday. I will say that if I barbecue, I’m going to pass on the cutoff jean shorts he used to wear that are also part of that memory.


Preservation Link’s “Through the Eyes of Our Children:Something Beautiful” opens at Dallas Museum of Art

On Monday June 1st, Preservation Link’s Point of View photojournalism program held an awards program at the Dallas Museum of Art’s Horchow Auditorium. Preservatino Link is a nonprofit organization that looks to encourage an appreciation and an acknowledgment of community and culture through literacy, art, and technology education.

On the same night, the museum unveiled the exhibit Through the Eyes of Our Children: Something Beautiful, a collection of photos and videos from 5th graders who participate in the Preservation Link Program. Representatives of Preservation Link go to DISD schools throughout the year and help students to shoot photos and videos of their neighborhood. The result is Something Beautiful.

Yours truly served as M.C. for the evening, and awards were presented by David Herman, Destinee Lews, and teachers from schools who participated in the program. The exhibit will run until August 23rd. Below are pictures from the event as well as poems from some of the participants.


“Why Communities Don’t Succeed”
by Isaiah Smith – Dunbar Elementary School

I don’t like the way my community looks because we don’t recycle.

We spend more time fighting than trying to build our community.

When people fight- someone can get hurt or sometimes killed.

Let’s help our community by working together, instead of against
each other.

”The Life of a House”
by Antwone Womack – Dunbar Elementary School

Houses are places that provide shelter, safety, and storage. But when people abuse them they start to look:

Distressed, Dilapidated, Damaged, Dangerous, Decomposed, Dirty.

“My mom and dad influence me the most.” Donisha Waters – J.J. Rhoads Elementary

By Myajia English – Dunbar Elementary School

When I look around my neighborhood
I see lots of ice cream, cemeteries,
churches, and dreams.

Dreams of children having
a safe place to live, play and
go to school.

Dreams of nice homes
for families
to thrive and live in harmony.

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Stage Right Raises the Curtain for Education and Spotlights Appreciation of the Arts through Experience and Positive Quality Lifestyles

Dallas Police Chief David Kunkle and Michael Jenkins, President and Managing Director of Dallas Summer Musicals will hold a press conference Friday, June 5th at 10 a.m. in the lobby of the Music Hall at Fair Park, to discuss the objectives and success of the Stage Right program that introduces at-risk youth ages 10-15 to arts and culture events as well as introducing them to the “Positive Action / Anti Gang” self improvement and self esteem building summer curriculum..

Michael A. Jenkins, President and Managing Director of Dallas Summer Musicals (DSM), who helped create the Stage Right initiative to reach out to at-risk students, and DPD Narcotics Detective Monty Moncibais, who heads up the program for DPD, will also speak.

Stage Right Steering Committee members who will attend include Chris Hawkins, Federal Bureau of Investigation; Darrell Fant and Jean Dean of the North Texas Crime Commission; Jody Dean, KLUV Radio, Ginger Allen, Channel 11 News, Gail Gray, Phoenix House; Lori Sirmen and Tiffani Oltmanns, Dallas Summer Musicals; Carolyn Jordan, Boys and Girls Club; Herbert Moncibais, Hispanic Business Alliance; Gloria Moncibais, Hispanic Business Alliance; and Susan Moncibais, community activist.

Also present at the conference will be Monty Mueller of Phoenix House, Anita N. Martinez of the Anita N. Martinez Ballet Folklorico Company, Charles English of the Dallas Boys & Girls Club, Reginald Hurd of Dallas Parks and Recreation, Adam Mehl of the Dallas Mavericks, Billy Walker of Coca Cola Bottling of North Texas, and Eddie Campbell and Ed Campbell, of Campbell Concessions.

Stage Right’s mission statement is “Raising the curtain for education and spotlighting the appreciation of the arts through experience and positive quality lifestyles.”

The students are recommended by DISD teachers and counselors, Apartment and Church summer and youth programs including Boys & Girls Clubs, Girls Inc., and Dallas Recreation Centers as part of their ongoing efforts to keep students from joining gangs or engaging in other activities that prevent their enjoying success in school. “Stage Right” seeks to raise awareness of the arts, increase appreciation for different lifestyles and also increase self esteem.

Last year 400 students participated in Stage Right’s summer program, and this year’s attendance goal is to reach 800. For more information about Stage Right, please contact DPD Detective Moncibais at 214-537-8954. For more information about Dallas Summer Musicals, please call Lori Sirmen at 214-413-3961.

About Dallas Summer Musicals

Winner of 4 Tony Awards®, 2 Drama Desk Awards® and 2 Dallas Fort Worth Theatre Critics Forum Awards, Dallas Summer Musicals has been the premier presenter of Broadway shows in Dallas for nearly 70 years. DSM is the largest producer of live theatrical entertainment in the Southwest and the 4th largest touring Broadway presenter in the nation following Kennedy Center in Washington, Lincoln Center in New York and Center Theater Group in L.A.

In addition to presenting national Broadway tours, DSM also produces shows on Broadway, presents and tours local productions and is involved in developing new works. Dallas Summer Musicals’ affiliates include DSM Management Group, Inc. (DSMMGI), which manages the Music Hall at Fair Park, the historical Majestic Theatre in downtown Dallas and the remodeled historical Texas Theater, scheduled to open in 2009.

As a non-profit organization, DSM relies on a variety of funding sources to bring the Best of Broadway to Dallas at affordable ticket prices, as well as to preserve the beautiful historic theatres, educate young audiences and create important community programs. In addition, the DSM Academy of Performing Arts offers professional theatre arts training and scholarships to talented students in need.

Ticket sales alone do not sustain these endeavors. Only support from committed businesses, foundations and individuals make these programs possible. For more information about Dallas Summer Musicals, presented by Comerica, visit their website at www.dallassummermusicals.org or call (214) 421-5678

Teco Theatrical Productions Summer Theater Camp slots filling up fast

Submitted by Buster Miller, originally posted at Examiner.com

Still haven’t figured out a productive activity for your children or teen to do this summer, one that is cost effective during the current recession and may lead into a future career for your youth?

Beginning June 8 – July 31, 2009, TeCo Theatrical Productions, Inc. will offer an eight week summer theater camp at their newly renovated, ecologically friendly facility, the Bishop Arts Theater Center.

Jobs in theater requires all sorts of multitasking entrepreneurial skills and talents.  TeCo’s summer enrichment program provides an array of fun-filled activities that help prepare youngsters for a sustaining career in the arts.

Students will not only learn how to perform on stage but will also learn the business side of the industry:

  • how to prepare a headshot and resume,
  • how to submit headshots & resumes to agencies, and
  • how to audition

Other camp activities include visual and literary arts, African drumming, dance, and music appreciation.

The camp is open to children ages 6 to 17 years old. Only 50 applications will be accepted on a first-come, first serve basis. Camp hours are from 7 am to 5 pm, Mon. thru Thu. which is perfect for working moms and dads. The program culminates with a production by camp participants so parents can witness the transforming power of theater and the arts!

Tuition is only $65 per week and includes breakfast and a lunch! A $50 non-refundable deposit is required to reserve a place in this fun-packed, high energy, enrichment program. Full tuition is due no later than June 1, 2009.

For more info: Contact TeCo Theatrical Productions, Inc. at 214-948-0716 or by email at info@tecotheater.org. TeCo Theatrical Productions is located at the Bishop Arts Theatre Center, 215 S. Tyler St., Dallas, Texas. Founded in September of 1993, TeCo Theatrical Productions is an award-winning multicultural theatre company with IRS 501 (c)(3) tax exempt status whose mission is simple: we are committed to the success of developing artists by performing and educating…always entertaining on purpose.

The Dallas Zoo: Dallas’ Hidden Jewel

During Spring Break, I posted on my Facebook page that I was taking my son to the zoo. “That’s great, I love the Ft. Worth Zoo,” one of my friends replied.” Another commented “we just went to the Ft. Worth Zoo on Monday, he’ll love it.”

I’ve been to the Ft. Worth Zoo and it’s really nice. But believe it or not, there’s a zoo in Dallas….and it’s great.

The best thing about the Dallas Zoo -other that it’s impressive collection of animals- is that it is accessible via DART rail. During Spring Break parking was at a premium, but we just hopped off the train and walked right in.

There was plenty to keep my son’s attention: The Children’s Zoo had petting areas as well as “The Underzone” where kids can crawl through holes to observe the mongoose. A miniature farm where children can pet animals and get up close and personal.

And Texas’ largest zoological experience is set to get even bigger in 2010. Earlier this year, the Dallas City Council approved construction of the “Giants of the Savannah” exhibit, a 10-acre, a safari-like experience that will be the new habitat for giraffes, elephants, lions, wild dogs, and many other African species. Yes Jenny the Elephant will have a bigger and better home.

See Dallas Morning News story on the upcoming African Savannah.

This week we learned that the city of Dallas is woefully in the hole budget wise (go figure), and the Dallas Zoo faces some cuts. But zoo officials say most of the exhibit space lost will be compensated for in the new attractions.

Anyone looking for a great day with the kids that’s easily accessible and surprisingly affordable should check out the Dallas Zoo. No need for us who know about its greatness to keep it to ourselves.

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“STAND” A Tavis Smiley movie airs this Sunday, Dallas South interview with Dr. Cornell West on the way

I just finished up an interview with Dr. Cornell West, which I’m working to have up on the site by this afternoon. We were talking about his role in the movie Stand, which will air this Sunday May 24th on TV One (9 PM Eastern, 8 PM Central).

I will review stand at Dallas South on Friday, but until then watch the above trailer, check out standthemovie.com, and wait for our interview with Dr. Cornell West this afternoon.