Ni**a, Pleeze!! Part III

Actor Tries to Trademark ‘N’ Word

By Rogers Cadenhead
AP/Reuters

The actor Damon Wayans has been engaged in a 14-month fight to trademark the term “Nigga” for a clothing line and retail store, a search of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office’s online database reveals.

Wayans wants to dress customers in 14 kinds of attire from tops to bottoms, and use the controversial mark on “clothing, books, music and general merchandise,” as well as movies, TV and the internet, according to his applications.

But, so far, his applications have been unsuccessful. Trademark examiner Kelly Boulton rejected the registration dated Dec. 22, citing a law that prohibits marks that are “immoral or scandalous.” A previous attempt by Wayans was turned down on identical grounds six months earlier.

“While debate exists about in-group uses of the term, ‘nigga’ is almost universally understood to be derogatory,” Boulton wrote to Wayans’ attorney, William H. Cox, according to the application.

Cox and other representatives of the actor did not respond to interview requests about the registration.
Wayans can appeal the rejection, but experts in trademark law differ on his chances for success.
Lynda Zadra-Symes, a trademark lawyer in California, said Wayans may be successful. She compared “Nigga” to the successful registration of Dykes on Bikes. The San Francisco Women’s Motorcycle Contingent fought the Trademark Office for three years to overturn an initial rejection of a Dykes on Bikes trademark. The mark was published Jan. 24.

“Because the application was by a group of lesbians it was eventually allowed to publish,” Zadra-Symes said.

“This is a great victory,” the group proclaimed on its website. “It affirms our right to determine who we are and how we present ourselves to the world.”

However, Tawnya Wojciechowski, another trademark attorney practicing in California, compared Wayans’ application to the ongoing legal case where Washington Redskins trademarks have been challenged by seven Native Americans. “They’re going to have a really tough time,” Wojciechowski predicted.

The word “nigga” is ubiquitous in hip-hop music, where it provides half of a rhyming couplet radio listeners never get to hear in the Grammy-winning song “Gold Digger” by Kanye West. Ol’ Dirty Bastard used the term 76 times in the 1999 album Nigga Please, not counting repetitions in a chorus. In January, an episode of the late-night Cartoon Network series Boondocks was criticized for putting the word in the mouth of a fictionalized Martin Luther King Jr.

The effort to commercialize “nigga” drew a sharp response from a black school official who participated in a forum about the word earlier this month at Arkansas State University in Jonesboro.

“I don’t care for it in any form,” said Dr. Lonnie Williams, associate vice chancellor for student affairs. “Either way you pronounce it, spell it, anything associated with it — I find it offensive.”

If Wayans succeeds in persuading the Trademark Office to permit the mark, he may have to deal with Keon Rhodan, a 29-year-old entrepreneur in Charleston, South Carolina, who has been using “Nigga” on a line of T-shirts, hoodies and other attire for six years in a part-time, trunk-of-his-car business. Rhodan attempted to register “Nigga’Clothing” as a trademark in 2001 and was denied by the Trademark Office.

“They said it was disparaging,” he said.

Rhodan, who is Black, said that he’s sold around 2,000 of the shirts at events. When he began selling the shirts, emblazoned with the term “Nigga,” he thought he would take criticism, especially from older people.

“I was in the mall with one of the shirts on, and an old lady said, ‘Where did you get that shirt from?'” he said, expecting the worst. “She followed me to the car and bought five shirts for her grandchildren.”

Rhodan believes that affectionate use of the term within the Black community should make it an acceptable mark, but the Trademark Office has thus far has not been persuaded by that argument.

“The very fact that debate is ongoing regarding in-group usage, shows that a substantial composite of African-Americans find the term ‘nigga’ to be offensive,” Boulton wrote in rejecting Wayans.

Though attempts to commercialize “Nigga” coincide with a generational shift in how the word is perceived, the clothing is still likely to test some boundaries, as Rhodan demonstrated in a phone interview.

“You couldn’t wear it,” he said.

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Ni**a, Pleeze!! Part III

Actor Tries to Trademark ‘N’ Word

By Rogers Cadenhead
AP/Reuters

The actor Damon Wayans has been engaged in a 14-month fight to trademark the term “Nigga” for a clothing line and retail store, a search of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office’s online database reveals.

Wayans wants to dress customers in 14 kinds of attire from tops to bottoms, and use the controversial mark on “clothing, books, music and general merchandise,” as well as movies, TV and the internet, according to his applications.

But, so far, his applications have been unsuccessful. Trademark examiner Kelly Boulton rejected the registration dated Dec. 22, citing a law that prohibits marks that are “immoral or scandalous.” A previous attempt by Wayans was turned down on identical grounds six months earlier.

“While debate exists about in-group uses of the term, ‘nigga’ is almost universally understood to be derogatory,” Boulton wrote to Wayans’ attorney, William H. Cox, according to the application.

Cox and other representatives of the actor did not respond to interview requests about the registration.
Wayans can appeal the rejection, but experts in trademark law differ on his chances for success.
Lynda Zadra-Symes, a trademark lawyer in California, said Wayans may be successful. She compared “Nigga” to the successful registration of Dykes on Bikes. The San Francisco Women’s Motorcycle Contingent fought the Trademark Office for three years to overturn an initial rejection of a Dykes on Bikes trademark. The mark was published Jan. 24.

“Because the application was by a group of lesbians it was eventually allowed to publish,” Zadra-Symes said.

“This is a great victory,” the group proclaimed on its website. “It affirms our right to determine who we are and how we present ourselves to the world.”

However, Tawnya Wojciechowski, another trademark attorney practicing in California, compared Wayans’ application to the ongoing legal case where Washington Redskins trademarks have been challenged by seven Native Americans. “They’re going to have a really tough time,” Wojciechowski predicted.

The word “nigga” is ubiquitous in hip-hop music, where it provides half of a rhyming couplet radio listeners never get to hear in the Grammy-winning song “Gold Digger” by Kanye West. Ol’ Dirty Bastard used the term 76 times in the 1999 album Nigga Please, not counting repetitions in a chorus. In January, an episode of the late-night Cartoon Network series Boondocks was criticized for putting the word in the mouth of a fictionalized Martin Luther King Jr.

The effort to commercialize “nigga” drew a sharp response from a black school official who participated in a forum about the word earlier this month at Arkansas State University in Jonesboro.

“I don’t care for it in any form,” said Dr. Lonnie Williams, associate vice chancellor for student affairs. “Either way you pronounce it, spell it, anything associated with it — I find it offensive.”

If Wayans succeeds in persuading the Trademark Office to permit the mark, he may have to deal with Keon Rhodan, a 29-year-old entrepreneur in Charleston, South Carolina, who has been using “Nigga” on a line of T-shirts, hoodies and other attire for six years in a part-time, trunk-of-his-car business. Rhodan attempted to register “Nigga’Clothing” as a trademark in 2001 and was denied by the Trademark Office.

“They said it was disparaging,” he said.

Rhodan, who is Black, said that he’s sold around 2,000 of the shirts at events. When he began selling the shirts, emblazoned with the term “Nigga,” he thought he would take criticism, especially from older people.

“I was in the mall with one of the shirts on, and an old lady said, ‘Where did you get that shirt from?’” he said, expecting the worst. “She followed me to the car and bought five shirts for her grandchildren.”

Rhodan believes that affectionate use of the term within the Black community should make it an acceptable mark, but the Trademark Office has thus far has not been persuaded by that argument.

“The very fact that debate is ongoing regarding in-group usage, shows that a substantial composite of African-Americans find the term ‘nigga’ to be offensive,” Boulton wrote in rejecting Wayans.

Though attempts to commercialize “Nigga” coincide with a generational shift in how the word is perceived, the clothing is still likely to test some boundaries, as Rhodan demonstrated in a phone interview.

“You couldn’t wear it,” he said.

Here Comes the Good Sun…

By Bobbi Booker
Book Report II
As an artist, Rah Crawford’s combination of his love of pop imagery coupled with his keen intuitive insight has created a new form that required a new name to describe it. Using his trademarked style, Neoteric Pop-Iconic Clairvoyance, Crawford creates art for the high-speed information and multimedia culture by using inking techniques that date back to the ancients. Crawford, 33, says his work speaks the modern language of this generation in a way that great artists of the past have done for theirs.

“My goal as an artist is to define our modern generation through visual art. That sums up my mission as an artist on this planet. To define our modern generation you’re dealing with everything from technology, politics, pop commercials is what my goal is as an artist. We haven’t had an artist to do that since Andy Warhol. That’s the connection that I share with Warhol is that it was his goal to define the 70s and 80s period through his art. He pretty much captured many of those elements from the pop culture to the sexual tensions of the time to the politics to marketing. It’s been 20 years since we’ve had an artist to come from that angle and here I am 20 years later coming from that angle.”

Crawford is much akin Warhol’s approach in his approach to art and creativity. Like Warhol, Crawford has been an underground magazine publisher and has been involved in the multi-media aspects of music and video. He wants his unique visual approach to lead viewers deeper into the human psyche of life, love and culture. “Art isn’t limited to the gallery walls. I like to call art shows art experiences because people come to them and experience them and they leave with a little something.”

After last season’s “Deus Ex Machina” exhibition, Crawford destroyed several paintings that weren’t purchased and caused a strong reaction in both himself and the observing audience. “A couple of people were crying in the audience and I never experience anything like that in my life. As an artist I’m trying to go there, to that place, and reinvent what visual art is and as an artist, how we touch the public in general versus simply walking into a gallery and looking at paintings on the wall.”

Crawford, a Germantown native, credits his parents as the impetus to his art career. His mother exposed him o he arts at a very young age and his father was an illustrator. “I knew that (art) was my calling since I was very young. I was always drawing, had sketch books, always kept a journal, always painted, ever since I was very young.

Crawford’s fate as an artist was sealed when at age seven he saw his father do a quick sketch of his mother while she was cooking in the kitchen. “I was just blown away. I looked at her and I looked back at the paper and I couldn’t believe that he had captured her right in front of my face on paper. That’s when I knew I wanted to be an artist.”

After studying for two years at the Arts Institute, Crawford modeled for a few years before turning his attention to his craft fulltime. Over the course of a decade he would go on develop his signature style. “The one thing I knew with my artwork was that it had to be a unique look or style. So unique that when you saw it after a while I didn’t have to put my name on it.

Crawford creates powerful imagery like an ancient craftsman, primarily relying on ink and brush to develop his colorful, yet cryptic, work. Closer inspection of his work reveals coded messages and admonitions, words and phrases intertwined to form complex labyrinths of shape nestled within the figures delicate spaces. His work has inspired local fashion designer Belahshehu to create a men’s fashion collection based on his paintings. In addition to several galleries world-wide, his work also hangs on he walls on some noted celebrities, including Outkast’s Andre 3000, Jill Scott, and Ahmir “?uestlove” Thompson.

“One of Warhol’s famous quotes is that in the future everyone will be famous for 15 minutes,” says Crawford. “I’m not looking for fame. My goal is to define our modern generation through my visual art. I believe time will tell. I have a strong work ethic and I believe it’s about putting in the time and doing the work. I’m going be here for a while creating and looking to connect with people in unique and interesting ways.”


Lifestyle/Leisure/Literature

Leaving Saturn

By Bobbi Booker
(Originally published in The Philadelphia Tribune)

The ghetto: strong and determined, but sad in its struggle, has always suffered the agony of those who have viewed it as society’s wasteland. But the urban essence of Philadelphia is beaming in “Leaving Saturn” from The University of Georgia Press, a powerful piece of work by poet and Philadelphia native Major Jackson.

Through both formal and free verse, Jackson renders poetic justice to the mechanism of everyday living. Jackson cut his teeth in the gritty streets of North Philadelphia where he witnessed the underbelly of the urban society.
In “Hoops” and “Euphoria” Jackson is brutally honest in his depiction of his street buddies and family. Jackson reminisces about girlfriends and dance steps in the three-part exchange entitled “Rock The Body Body.” “Mr. Pate’s Barbershop” elicits the memory of Saturday’s spent in a barbershop waiting for a fresh do.

Jackson is now an English professor at Xavier University of Louisiana and was awarded the Cave Canem Poetry Prize for this ambitious and honest collection of verses. He has also earned degrees from Temple University and the University of Oregon.

A member of the Dark Room Collective, his poems have appeared in the American Poetry Review, Boulevard, Callaloo, and The New Yorker, among other journals. He is the recipient of many awards, including a Pew Fellowship in the Arts and commissions from the Chamber orchestra of Philadelphia.

The title of this collection is in honor of the deceased Sun Ra, an esoteric jazz performer who settled in Philadelphia to share his intergalactic view of the world. Music lovers are transported back in time to the pivotal performances of Sun Ra & Arkestra at Grendel’s Lair or Don Pullen jamming at Zanzibar Blue.
Jackson demonstrates that he has the literary sensibilities to make the images of his life dance in your head. His poems hauntingly reflect urban decay and violence, yet at the same time they rejoice in the sustaining power of music and the potency of community. “Leaving Saturn” is a return to the poetry form made famous by the likes of Nikki Giovanni and Sonia Sanchez. As only a poet has the ability to do with just a few words, the resiliency and determination of a community clearly seeps through in this must-read collection.

Dig it.

Live 8

By Bobbi I. Booker
The Birmingham Times

PHILADELPHIA–With over one million people jamming a one mile stretch of land that led to the site of the American Live 8 concert at the Museum of Art in Philadelphia, PA, questions where abound as to whether the event’s message would ring clear to the attendees. The mission of the Live 8 concerts was to raise awareness of the on-going poverty in Africa and to pressure the G8 leaders to take action by doubling aid, canceling debt, and delivering trade justice for Africa.
Backstage at Live 8 in Philadelphia, performers and presenters where on message, praising the concert’s global efforts to increase awareness of AIDS and hunger in Africa, the world’s largest continent. “I think its important for Africans and African American people to step up to the plate and support this effort.,” said Rev Ben Chavis, co-founder of the Hip-Hop Summit Action Network, a coalition of hip-hop artists and community leaders dedicated fighting the war on poverty and injustice. “Africa is long overdue to get world wide attention. Africa is long over due to get world wide support and we’re hoping that today is just not a one day event but it marks a renewal of those efforts.”
While rock & roll lead the day other Live 8 cities, including London, Tokyo, Berlin, Germany and Johannesburg, South Africa, hip hop and rap were king in America. The original Live Aid, held 20 years ago in both Philadelphia and London, featured no hip hop performances.
“Twenty years later, hip hop is no longer just an American phenomena; hip hop is a global culture,“ noted Chavis. “Geography transcends geo-political situations. [Live 8] today reflects the growth and expansion of hip hop all over the world.”
Calling hip hop “the best brand building in America,” media mogul and hip hop impresario Russell Simmons explained that Live 8 needed the hip hop community to support its message. “No idea carries in America without hip hop. You don’t sell no expensive cars ; you don’t sell no Coca Cola or Pepsi cola. None of that happens unless hip hop says so.”
In addition to requesting artists such as vocalist Alicia Keys and actor/comedian Chris Tucker to participate in Live 8, Simmons says his real support was in getting urban media to cover the event. “BET was not involved. Radio 1 was not involved. Clear Channel hip hop stations were not involved. They are all carrying this now.”
Stating that she felt “honored and proud” to participate in Live 8, Keys practically glowed after her performance. “I really feel extremely inspired when I walked on that stage and saw a million plus people–my reflection, our reflection–saying that we all wanted to stand and say to the global governments that we want to reduce the debt and we ant to end poverty ultimately.”
Tucker recalled that he was moved to activism after visiting nearly a dozen African countries recently. “6,000 people die a day in Africa and a lot of the disease can be prevented,” said Tucker. “I went to villages that didn’t have clean water. You couldn’t imagine in America not having clean water; that’s a necessity. I went to hospital full of babies, and there were only two nurses. That really affected me and just motivated me to do something.”
American-based performers with African roots, like actor Djimon Hounsou, hailed the efforts of Live 8 to bring awareness to their country‘s plight. “No matter how independent we are in Africa, we still depend on the West for our well-being,” said Hounsou of Benin. “The one thing we do need is to be able to trade with the rest of the world, and certainly with the developed world. Certainly the G8 leaders will need to find a solution for the corruption in Africa. The world is advancing so fast in order to survive, we need to keep up.”
Many of the fans gathered along the Benjamin Franklin Parkway where just happy to see some of their favorite performers, but some questioned the event’s potential political effectiveness.
“I think it’s much more of a commercial event than we’re making it out to be,“ said college student Ryan Neal, 21, of Oakland, CA as he left the day-long event. “I don’t understand where the dollars are going or how the money is going back to Africa. Who’s to say this is going to change anything?”

###

As seen on Black America Web…

Pundit Payola Scandal Costs Williams His Column, Show and More

Date: Monday, January 10, 2005
By: Bobbi Booker//BlackAmericaWeb.com


Black media and political veterans alike are still reeling from last week’s revelations that Black pundit Armstrong Williams was paid nearly a quarter of a million dollars by the Bush administration to push its controversial educational initiative, No Child Left Behind – a conflict of interest scandal that has cost the conservative commentator in more ways than one. When USA Today disclosed on Friday that the Education Department, through the Ketchum Inc. public relations company, paid Williams $241,000 to help promote President Bush’s “No Child Left Behind” policy on his radio show, TV program and newspaper column, sparks began flying immediately in both media and political institutions. Congressional Democrats and Republicans have joined in calling for inquiries into the matter.Williams has since publicly apologized for his “bad judgment” and has called the criticism “legitimate.” “I made a business decision and did not consider the implication for me as a media pundit and commentator, so it’s come back to bite me,” Williams told BlackAmericaWeb.com. Although Tribune Media Services (TMS) has accepted his explanation that the monies were for his radio and television shows, they immediately cancelled Williams’ weekly syndicated column.“Accepting compensation in any form from an entity that serves as a subject of his weekly newspaper columns creates, at the very least, the appearance of a conflict of interest,” read a statement released by the TMS Friday. “Under these circumstances, readers may well ask themselves if the views expressed in his columns are his own, or whether they have been purchased by a third party.” Williams also made regular appearances on CNN, and the network has now launched an investigation into the commentator’s statements. “We will consider very seriously this issue before booking him as a guest again,” CNN spokeswoman Megan Mahoney told Associated Press.The Education Department defended its decision in an AP report as a “permissible use of taxpayer funds under legal government contracting procedures.” The point was to help parents, particularly in poor and minority communities, understand the benefits of the law, the department said.According to AP, a contract required Williams’ company, the Graham Williams Group, to produce radio and TV spots featuring one-minute “reads” by then-Education Secretary Rod Paige, and to allow Paige and other department officials to appear as studio guests with Williams. Paige and Williams appeared twice on “The Steve Harvey Morning Show,” which originates in Los Angeles and is syndicated in Dallas.“I was under so much pressure in the last two days, I haven’t spoken on that issue,” Williams told BlackAmericaWeb in response to questions about Harvey’s involvement. “The reason why the secretary ended up going on ‘The Steve Harvey Show [was to promote TV One]. In January 2004, TV One debuted, and because I had a show that debuted, they wanted me to set up interviews. “In the course of talking to Steve Harvey, he got into the fact that I was a Republican. And he said, ‘You know, right here in California, they don’t even have books in the classrooms.’ I said, ‘Well, I have a relationship with the Secretary of Education; maybe I can have him come on your show and talk about it.’” “Now that’s my fault,” Williams continued, “because it seems as though I used my influence to get this done, but that’s not what happened. It was in the course of an appearance for TV One that that came about.” TV One has dropped Williams’ show, “On Point,” pending an investigation. Williams said The Steve Harvey Morning Show and 100.3 The Beat in Los Angeles, the station carrying Harvey’s show, received no advertising revenue as a result of Paige’s appearances. Williams also was to use his influence with other Black journalists to get them to discuss No Child Left Behind, a centerpiece of President Bush’s domestic agenda, which aims to raise achievement among poor and minority children and penalizes schools that don’t make progress.The National Association of Black Journalists blasted Williams’ credibility on its website and urged all media outlets that carry his shows to cut their ties with him immediately. “I thought we in the media were supposed to be watchdogs, not lapdogs,” NABJ Vice President-Print Bryan Monroe, assistant vice president-news at Knight Ridder, is quoted as saying on the group’s homepage. “I thought we had an administration headed by a president who took an oath to uphold the First Amendment, not try to rent it.” Williams is not a NABJ member. In fact, prior to USA Today’s report, Williams said, he viewed himself as a solely as commentator and not a journalist. “Nobody listens to Black conservatives. They say we have no audience,” said Williams, “then all of a sudden they treat me as a major journalist in America. I was never invited to be a part of the clubs, to be a part of the membership because they don’t consider us journalists. But now they’ve changed that.”Nationally syndicated columnist Deborah Mathis, a BlackAmericaWeb contributor and regular on “America’s Black Forum” alongside Williams, disputed her colleague’s claim, calling him disingenuous. “I understand that he may not have been trained or practiced in journalism, but there are some things in this sophisticated game that you pick up, and someone should not have to tell anybody about conflicts of interests; they have that in every field,” said Mathis. “One thing this episode does is ratchet up the cynicism about any kind of pundit in the media, and it sure doesn’t help if you’re trying to break from the pack — as Black conservatives are. People already suspect that they’re already speaking for Mr. Charley. When Mr. Charley is paying them, people say, ‘I knew it.’ It hurts not only his credibility; it hurts the credibility of those who are trying to follow in his footsteps and those who are already in the business now.”Mathis feels that this episode has not necessarily marginalized Black journalists or pundits, but it will make Black news viewers even more skeptical of the media messages they receive. “What I despise ultimately is the cynicism of the administration,” Mathis said. “It’s bribery money, it’s walk-around money, it’s whatever else you want to call it, and — as usual — a complete misunderstanding in the reading of the Black community to think that you can go and throw money at one person, and not even understand Williams’ esteem in the Black community. They think he’s all that; we don’t. He doesn’t have the following in the Black community, but he’s been able to present himself as someone who does, and because they do not know us, they can fall for someone coming up to them saying, ‘I’m the spokesperson; I can deliver them,’ because they don’t bother to know us.” The sense is, experts attest, that there is a growing public distrust of the media, where the line of news and opinion have become so blurred, it is practically impossible to decipher the legitimate journalist from the talking head. On Sunday’s “Meet The Press,” host Tim Russert asked, “How do people know the difference between journalists, commentators, pundits, who’s on the take from the government and who is not? This is very confusing.” Even Renee Amoore, the first Black female to co-chair the Pennsylvania Republican Committee, was under the impression that Williams was a journalist. “I’ll be honest. Because I read his newsletter and some other things, I made the assumption that he was a journalist, too. I know Armstrong is on television and [has appeared on] several panels, and he has strong opinions on several things as a Black conservative.” But Amoore feels Williams has been unfairly targeted because of his political views. “The bottom line is that the press tends to hype things up around African-Americans in particular, and now it’s African-American Republicans,” she told BlackAmericaWeb. “I know that it’s happened to me as a Black woman who happens to be a Republican. I think people tend to sensationalize things when it’s a Black conservative, especially with President Bush in office right now.”Williams, 45, a former aide to U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, first came to the public’s attention as a spokesperson during the 1991 Senate confirmation hearings when Professor Anita Hill charged Thomas with sexual harassment. Williams has since gone on to become one of the top Black conservative voices in the nation. In addition to his op-ed columns, he hosts “The Right Side” on TV and radio, while running his public relations firm.“No one can ever pay me for what I believe in,” Williams said. “In fact, when we cut the commercial reels for these ads, Ketchum called us back to tell us there were problems with the contract. It appeared as though it would not go forward, but we already had the ads running. I said, ‘It doesn’t matter; I believe in it.’ I was already advocating it before [Ketchum] ever approached us, and so we’ll do it for free. A little over a month later, Ketchum came back to us and said the glitches had been worked out.” Initially, the ads — which started running in December 2003 and continue through to the end of this month — were only scheduled to run for six months. Williams says a special website set up for his show’s viewers logged over 15 million visits, and the amount of traffic convinced the company to extend its contract with Graham Williams for another six months. “That’s why when people say to me, ‘Are you going to pay the money back?’ I say, ‘Are you crazy?’ We delivered. We did what was expected of us. Even the Department of Education issued a statement saying we did a terrific job, and we did. This is business! No one has ever said that [Graham Williams] did not honor its contractual obligation. They’re just saying I crossed the line being a media pundit and a corporate executive. “I’m glad that the market place has said to me, ‘You’ve done something wrong, and these are the consequences.’ I take responsibility; I’m not passing the buck. When you build something from your hand, from the ground up, you know how to build it better again. I am wiser. I understand what is expected of me. I understand that I’m not some shrill media person out here on the air. I am a part of the media elite. And you haven’t seen nothing yet.”But the questions have only just begun. Mathis speculates that Williams is just one of many journalists-as-pundits receiving some form of government payola. “A lot of us,” she said, “have suspected for a long time that Williams and a lot of other people have been taken care of for carrying the message.”

Author tackles why Black kids aren’t learning

Author and journalist Debra Dickerson investigated the racial disparities in Lower Marion High School as part of her latest article, ‘What if Bill Cosby is Right?’

By Bobbi Booker

Tribune Staff Writer

African-American students located in the Lower Marion school district are failing in one of the country’s richest, highest achieving school systems. Most of the district’s 500 Black students (out of a total 6,684) are failing, with an estimated one-in-four Black students enrolled in special education programs. Author and journalist Debra Dickerson investigated the racial disparities in Lower Marion High School when she spent a week there last May researching for her latest article, “What if Bill Cosby is Right?” which appeared in Philadelphia magazine as part of the “Tales of Two Cites” series. The series is an ongoing examination of race as it is lived in and around Philadelphia.

Even though NBA All Star Kobe Bryant is regaled as a shining example of what Lower Marion High School can produce, the results for other Black students looked grim and Dickerson was curious as to why.

Dickerson charged that instead of consulting with education specialists, the Black parent student advocacy organization brought in protest specialists whose biggest concern was race, not education. “So what is it that they’re really trying to do? Are they trying to educate their kids or are they just trying to beat white people up?”

Dickerson admitted that she had not witnessed a racial living situation as strained as the conditions of the Main Linewhere many of the Black residents are not as wealthy as their white neighbors, and in fact, were historically situated in the area for the convenience of serving the white households they worked for. Yet, Dickerson felt that many of the parents were misguided in the educational demands they made for their children.

“If you think this situation is so bad, why would you subject your own kids to it?” asked Dickerson. “There seems to be a wonderful vindication that’s going on. You get no argument from me that racism is a continuing problem. You can’t fix racism, but you can ensure that your child learns.

“This is a district where they spend $19,000 per student,” said Larry Platt, Editor, Philadelphia magazine. “What’s interesting about doing a piece about Lower Marion is it takes the issue of economic outlay – what the district is spending – off the table. A lot of times when you talk about the racial achievement gap in academics, the typical response is these kids are not getting their fair share of investment from the school district. Well, that’s not the case here.”

In May, comedian Bill Cosby upbraided some Blacks for their grammar and accused them of squandering opportunities the Civil Rights Movement gave them. Cosby also chastised certain members of the African-American community for their lack of commitment to education. His comments have drawn both praise and criticism, and Cosby has since taken on his detractors and their attempts, as he labeled them, to hide the Black community’s “dirty laundry.”

“Other people get it,” Cosby said earlier during a July radio interview. “Some of our people are sitting there in a trough blaming the white man and not getting up out of the trough. There are Black people coming from other countries, and they get it. They know that this is the land where you can get education for your children.”

Dickerson concurs, saying that being a non-resident has no bearings on her observations. “I don’t have a horse in this race, except for the education of all kids, and especially Black kids. I came (to Lower Marion High School) to report on why Black kids aren’t learning. I think that’s the point here and what’s going on in white people’s hearts and minds, that’s too hard. But what’s going on in the classroom, we can do something about. I wrote about what I saw.”

Author Debra Dickerson and editor Larry Platt will discuss the racial achievement gap in Philadelphia area schools as an ongoing part of the “Tale of Two Cities” series today at 6 p.m. at The African Episcopal Church of St. Thomas, 6361 Lancaster Ave., Philadelphia, Pa. Dickerson will also sign copies of her new book, “The End of Blackness” after the forum.