Tuesday, March 17, 2015

A Nigger experience

It's 2:30 a.m. and finally, I have been compelled to write about the word Nigger.

And in the spirit of the late, great way-way-way ahead of his time, comedian Richard Pryor, I say, "Nigger, Nigger, Nigger, Nigger, Nigger, Nigger."

Now what? So what?

I said it. I say it often. I grew up saying it in my St. Albans, Queens, N.Y. neighborhood. I said it at my predominantly black college, Hampton Institute, now Hampton University in Virginia.

My friends said it, my family said it, and that's right, niggers in the parks in which I played basketball, baseball and football, said it,. too.

As a black man, I never, ever, not once, you get it, freaked out or was offended by its use until it the topic of whether or not it should be used became news.

What made me write this was a CNN discussion Monday night moderated by Don Lemon. The panelists were Ben Ferguson, a white man unbeknownst to me until about 15 minutes ago; Marc Hill, a black professor at Atlanta's Morehouse College, a predominantly black institution; and Trinidad Jame, a black rapper, whom I'd never heard before 15 minutes ago.

I didn't see the CNN discussion, although I wanted to, but I was watching basketball, tending to our five dogs and searching the internet for jobs. I watched a clip on the CNN website and that four-minute segment was enough for me. I'm glad brother Hill and James were there to represent and combat the lunacy of Ferguson (the idiot, not the city).

I'm so glad I didn't see the entire piece because less than two minutes of this so-called educated idiotic Ferguson would have so disappointed me.

He had the audacity to say that James' of the word, Nigger (yeah I said it, so what?) was the reason the rapper was on the show. There are so many derogatory words I'd like to use to Ferguson (in these days and times an ironic name and geographic location), but I'll resist.

I am so tired of white people saying the word, Nigger, should be dropped. In fact, there are some African-Americans who believe the word somehow should be removed from society's lexicon, as if it doesn't exist or never existed.

First of all, in my opinion, Mr. Ferguson (boy, it almost hurt to give this sucker that much respect), and those black people who want the word's existence deleted, the word Nigger never will disappear. So forget about that concept.

It's a part of black culture, and if my thinking is correct, African-American people never will let it die. For many of us, it's often a term of endearment. It's a word whose versatility allows it to be used in many contexts.

I grew up, hearing people, including my late father, Chalmers McNeal, say, "That's my nigger." Even more times, he'd say to me, "You're always my horse, if you never win a race."

I've heard brothers say, "Nigger, if you don't quit fouling me, I'm gonna (sp) whip your ass."

I had one prominant white NBA executive say to me, "what's up, Nig?"

He surprised the hell out of me. Quickly, I said to the brother (you know, there are whites to whom we afford the love and respect calling them brothers, "What did you say? Where did you get that shit from?"

He told me and he'd heard one of our friends often say it, and clearly he felt comfortable enough with me to say it. But I told him not to say it again. And he never did in that context, which initially was one of love.

But the same brother, who grew up in a white, often racist neighborhood, but played mega-ball with blacks, recalled a conversation, as a young NBA player, he'd had with his father.

I'm sure this wasn't the entire conversation, but his pops, whom I met before he died, said, "Bleep the Niggers."

Basically his pops was saying, 'Forget all the dumb stuff, play your game and stop playing scared.'

The names in that conversation aren't important, but if I used them, some knucklehead would use them against this brother.

There are a lot of whites who never have spent any true significant time inside black society, so they have no concept of how we think, much less why we think what we think. Some, probably don't think we think. But ultimately I can't be concerned with that level of ignorance.

I know it's there, but who has the time to go there?

The fact is, as black folk, most of us probably know considerably more about whites than they do about us. Shoot, we had to climb mountains to get a damned month (Black History Month), and is it a coincidence that it's the year's shortest? Hell, if I know.

But as Arsenio Hall used to say, it's one of those things that make you say, "Hmmm."

I could write all day about race and the word Nigger (yeah, I said it.) I don't know about other black folk, but one of my first thoughts about white society and the word Nigger was, "Damn, you want to take the word away from us? What, as a race we haven't given up enough? Now you're snatching words? Kiss my ass. There are three words for you. You want those, too? They are all yours."

It's important to realize, I grew up in the '60's and '70's. One of the first albums (for you young folk, DJ's use them to scratch and the discs were precursors to today's CD's)I bought in my life (1970) was by The Last Poets.

It featured cuts such as, "When the revolution comes"; "New York, New York, the big apple"; "Wake up, Niggers"; "Run, Nigger"; "Niggers are scared of revolution"; "Black Thighs"; and On the Subway."

The Last Poets were rappers before the legendary Sugar Hill Gang. I was a music major, a vocal major who sang in Borough-Wide and All-City Chorus back in the day. At the same time I was listening to the spoken word, I was singing, listening and trying to play songs with music by Bach and Beethoven.

At the same time, I was reading newspapers distributed by the Black Panther Party and Muhammad Speaks, which was written by members of a group often called the 'Black Muslims.'

My high school, Andrew Jackson (now Campus Magnet) was undergoing a radical racial population shift. There were race riots and days off because of bomb threats supposedly made by a group called 'the Weathermen.' They were an offshoot of what was described as a radical group called Students for a Democratic America.

My exposures were diverse and unique. I had black friends like Bernard Kellam, Lennie Carlisle, the late Ronald Heyward, one of the best athletes and alto sax players I've ever seen and heard). Then were my friends friends like Seth Figman and David (Bobo) Berlinsky. There were days when I'd sport yarmulkes in solidarity with their Jewish heritage.

I had friends like Cardlin Martin and Michael Kornegay, who got caught up and used heroin, and Leon and Gregory Guthrie, whose pops moved the family from our block on 193rd Street in St. Albans to North Carolina, so they didn't caught up.

Cardlin Martin's father was a black man from St. Louis, who was another father figure for me, even though my pops was right there. Martin's mother was white, born in France, I believe and a sweet, sweet woman. I spent the night over their house on weekends almost as much as I lived at home.

Cardlin was confused as hell, but brighter than bright and was my Dr. Doolittle. The guy had a talent and love of animals and should have become a veterinarian. However, he has spent much of his life in prison. I don't know if he's dead or alive.

All of this to say, there are many experiences and exposures that shape us and make us who we are.

And if I want to call my friends, my Niggers, or my Niggas, that's what I'm gonna do. And nobody, certainly not this Ben Ferguson fraud or Ben Carson or Bennie and the Jets is going to change that. And whether it has 'ers' or 'as' or 'az' at the end doesn't mean a damned thing to me.

It's not the word, it is the feeling and the sentiment behind the word. Just like all the rest of the words.

And if I have one word of advice for white folk, don't ever call an African-American, Nigger.

That's our word, whether some people like it or not. Nigger, Nigger, Nigger, Nigger. Nigger.

Yeah I said it again. RIP Mr. Pryor.

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Dean Smith: A great amongst greatness

Marty Mac’s World When former University of North Carolina coach Dean Smith passed away Saturday night at the age of 83, the world lost a true legend. Unquestionably, Smith was an innovative coach. His use of the four-corners offense was a stroke of genius made famous when Phil Ford handled the ball and used his quickness, speed and dribbling ability to terrorize defenses and create shots for teammates. Smith’s teams were incredibly disciplined and just as classy. I can not remember the North Carolina team under Smith ever getting into a scrap with another team. However, in the 60’s, blacks were ignored, overlooked, disrespected and refused opportunities to play in the Atlantic Coast Conference. The ACC was a pillar of racism, but Smith would have none of it. It came honestly. The New York Times reported Smith’s father, Alfred, put Paul Terry, a black player on the 1933-34 state championship winning high school team, even though Kansas state officials refused to allow Terry to play in the tournament. Perhaps my first knowledge of Smith was his decision to make Charlie Scott, a kid from Harlem, who attended the prestigious New York City Stuyvesant High School before going to Laurinberg Prep in North Carolina, the first black scholarship player at North Carolina. As a kid approaching his teenage years, it was impactful for me to see Scott, the lone African-American player dominating amongst a sea of whites. Scott was a star and helped lead the Tar Heels to a couple of Final Four appearances, but never truly received the accolades his play deserved. There was one season when Scott likely should have been the ACC player of the year, but lost out to John Roche, an excellent white player at South Carolina. It wasn’t so much that Roche got the nod, but five writers refused to vote for Scott, clearly one of the country’s best players. It has been reported Smith, upon learning of the approach taken by the writers, went directly to them and chastised them for the bigotry that led to the decision and said such mentality had to change. Now, that was approximately 50 years ago, so clearly Smith was ahead of his time. Smith, a couple years later recruited another star from New York, forward Bill Chamberlain, from Long Island Lutheran. There weren’t many black students at his high school, so he was somewhat prepared to be one of the few African-Americans in yet another situation. Smith was fearless in his quest to lead North Carolina to NCAA prominence, so bringing Chamberlain into the fold helped made it comfortable for other coaches to recruit black players. Smith never proclaimed superiority of humanity. He only lived a level of sensitivity that few of us can approach. I was fortunate enough to cover a few North Carolina games and Smith always was beyond respectful and accepting. The man was all class. While entering the predominantly white sports journalism field, it always became apparent to me, which coaches seemed to go out of their way to make a then neophyte reporter feel comfortable. The coaching names that came to mind early in my career were Georgetown’s John Thompson (who maybe not so coincidentally enjoyed a tremendous relationship with Smith), then Tulsa coach Nolan Richardson, former St. John’s coach Lou Carnesecca, TV commentator and former Seton Hall coach Bill Raftery and Smith. Perhaps the most impressive testimonials were ones that weren’t intentionally provided. Conversations with former Smith players such as Michael Jordan, Sam Perkins, Kenny Smith and Adrian Dantley, who played on the Dean Smith-coached 1976 gold-medal winning U.S. Olympic team, revealed a warm, honest respectful reverence for a man who seemed to live life as only a champion would.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Kings take back seat to Ferguson

Aug. 19, 2014 I’m a firm believer that things happen the way they should when they should and really we have little to no control over how. Monday, I spent much of the day working on a few things but mostly it seems as if at least an equal time was spent listening to folks explain how I needed to blog and why it was important for me to do so. Different folks of different genders and backgrounds and careers and jobs with seemingly no common agendas as it pertained to me other than harassing me about blogging or communicating as the case may be. So it was a day when Pierce Welch explained that he was going to an Oak Park outing under the name “Indivizible,” billed as an African-American assembly”. My man Brian Bedford had opened my eyes to the concept a couple of months ago, but I’d slept on attending until Monday. When I decided to go, I was unaware the speaker would be author and entrepreneur John Hope Bryant, who grabbed the terms powerful, poignant and relevant and made them his when he touched the crowd at The Guild in Oak Park. Nor did I know Mayor Johnson would bring in Dr. Claybon Lea, Jr., a pastor from Mount Calvary Baptist Church in Faifield. And I didn’t know Dr. Lea was Pierce Welch’s cousin. Welch and I were supposed to go to the gathering together but a communication gaffe prevented that from happening. And Welch didn’t know Dr. Lea would be there until Mayor Johnson introduced him. When I approached the theatre, immediately I saw Mayor Johnson walking inside and then brother Larry Lee from the Sacramento Observer. Quickly, there was a feeling this would be a different night. I’d already planned to blog about the Kings and how they’d made more than a few moves this summer I viewed as questionable. Omri Casspi’s name came to mind immediately. Yet, the Kings quickly took a back seat on this night when topics such as Michael Brown and Ferguson, Mo., and the images of impact brought to mind by the words of Bryant and the pictures of CNN. The situation in Ferguson is so overwhelming it is almost beyond belief. We have an unarmed 18-year-old with no previous record walking down the street during the late Saturday morning hours suddenly murdered by a policeman. We come to find out the policeman is white, the 18-year-old is black and the town of Ferguson (which I’d never heard of before last week) is predominantly black, while the police force is predominantly white. What roles any or all of those factors played in the situation’s outcome no one truly knows. We all can speculate. I just know the Ferguson deal became even more real when I was told that one of my son’s better friends currently is working on a house in the same neighborhood of the killing and the subsequent turmoil. The fact that I was an 18-year-old African-American male and that my now 23-year-old African-American male son walks around the neighborhood going from point A to point B adds relevance to the story. The fact my son’s friend who is working in Ferguson is white also clouds the situation because who knows how all of this is affecting him. It makes me wonder if whites ever wonder or imagine what it is like to be black and vice versa. Hands up – Don’t shoot. I'd never heard the phrase before the past couple of weeks. However, I’ll never forget its significance.

Friday, May 30, 2014

The night of Brandon Gonzales' life

May 30, 2014 Super middleweight Brandon Gonzales can't envision losing Saturday night against James DeGale. The fighters will meet in front of an expected crowd of 80,000 at London's Wembley Stadium on the undercard of an title fight between Carl Froch and George Groves. Why would Gonzales (18-0-1, 11 KO's) consider losing? As his professional record attests, Gonzales never has experienced defeat. The winner of Gonzales-DeGale in the IBF World Super Middleweight title eliminator bout is expected to face the winner of Froch-Groves. Gonzales, who lives in Sacramento and operates the Flawless Boxing and Fitness gym on T street in downtown Sacramento, has the opportunity against DeGale to put himself in line for a long-awaited title shot. Boxing is one of the world's toughest professions. When boxers train and/or practice to improve in their craft, they can take punishment sparring on a daily basis. Few people go to work and put their bodies and faces on their line every day. Gonzales spars with former Olympic gold medalist Andre Ward, now viewed as one of the sport's best boxers. Gonzales is trained by Virgil Hunter, considered to be one of the world's best. "I've been working with Virgil for the past three years and I've known him for almost a decade," Gonzales said. "I've always wanted to work with him but we couldn't work it out schedule-wise." Gonzales said he and many others believed he defeated Thomas Oosthuizen in the one draw on his record. However, we all know boxing is a crazy sport where questionable scoring is prevalent. Gonzales is considered the underdog when fighting in London against the hometown DeGale (18-1, 12 KO's). Gonzales switched promoters recently from Terry and Tommy Lane, the sons of longtime referee Mills Lane. Gonzales changed promoters to Gary Shaw and Antonio Leonard because he believed Shaw and Leonard could put him in position for a title shot. And Saturday night in London, it will be on Gonzales' fists to take the next step toward a title with a victory over DeGale. The Froch-Groves bout can be seen on HBO Saturday.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Predicting the future is one of the most difficult things to do in sports. And that’s doing so with all types of information at hand. So you look at the 2013-14 Sacramento Kings and recognize the team is undergoing a mini-makeover on the fly. Owner Vivek Ranadive, advisor Chris Mullin and general manager Pete D’Alessandro are attempting to remake the squad with quickness. Mullin and D’Alessandro couldn’t bring in Rudy Gay, Quincy Acy, Aaron Gray and Derrick Williams without Ranadive’s resources and desire. Just Monday night we saw the best Williams has to offer. He scored a career-high 31 points on 12 of 16 field-goal shooting (three of five from three-point range). Moreover, Williams had a career-high five steals in a 35-minute performance during a victory over the Dallas Mavericks. Dallas, by the way, had won 15 of its previous 16 games against Sacramento. Now it would be foolish for us to expect Williams to consistently perform at such a high level. However, the concept of combining the athleticism with that of Gay’s exceptional ability to run and jump looms as the mark of an entirely new type of Kings. Yes, as Ranadive says, a new-era Kings. We’re talking about a first-year coach in Michael Malone with a relatively remade squad, including a key piece in Gay, who we’ve yet to see and it’s clear none of us, not even those running the joint, know what we’re about to see. The easiest change to make was the insertion of Isaiah Thomas into the starting lineup. The five-foot-nine point guard clearly has the talent, will and skill to be a player of impact. Before the recent acquisitions, the Kings were in the position of needing Thomas to perform at an extremely high level merely for a chance at victory. Thomas, as well as DeMarcus Cousins, appear in position to not feel they have to carry the weight of the world every game. The previously offense-challenged squad now has the potential to present threats at every starting position. It’ll be interesting to see how well Gay ad Williams perform together. The new NBA doesn’t command the need for a prototypical power forward. Neither of them fit that mold, but both can qualify as “stretch fours (power forwards). Look around the NBA. Virtually everything is wacky. The Kings (6-13) should not believe they are incapable of defeating any team. Yet, team-wide consistency, particularly at the defensive end, is what the Kings must establish. One Western Conference coach said he believes Cousins in the league’s best center. And that’s in a league where few centers perform as centers as we once knew them. The Kings will have to establish themselves the hard way. They are 4-8 at home. Following tonight’s home game against Utah, the Kings play seven of their next 10 games on the road. They’ll play those 10 games before the New Year. The Kings front-office likely has not made its final personnel move, but the immediate future should be interesting. It’s nice to see the Kings making moves that aren’t designed just to save a few bucks.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Kings need to share the ball - NOW!

It’s early in the NBA season, but not too early to be embarrassed. The Kings need to recognize right now they will not become winners playing like they are. The Kings are 30th in assists with 15.6 per game. That’s last in the league. That’s embarrassing. That statistic indicates a couple of factors. The most glaring indicator is that the Kings stink at moving the ball and hitting the open man. Some, if not all of their coaches believe the players are playing selfishly. Ranking last in assists suggests they don’t understand that sharing the ball is the gateway to offensive success, easier shot attempts, more pressure on opposing defenses. Moreover, if the Kings want to have individual success, acclaim and respect, it will come by playing as a team. Head coach Keith Smart points to the number of open shots his players are missing. There is a modicum of truth there. However, too many of those shots are off balance or forced. These often are attempts that can be improved by exhibiting more patience and faith that the next man will make the shot. Sacramento is tied with Detroit at 24th in scoring at 92.8. The Kings are 5th in field-goal attempts at 87.6 per game, but rank 25th in field-goal percentage at .411. Hitting the open man is a selfless concept the Kings soon need to make part of their repertoire. It’s more contagious than the flu. And it has to start with their primary scorers. DeMarcus Cousins, Marcus Thornton and Tyreke Evans are most prominent when it comes to forcing shots. Each consistently draws a lot of defensive attention and can make plays for others. They have shown the ability and desire to do so. Now they do it more often. And to say players are performing selfishly does not mean they are selfish. Yes, there is some of that, but to me it’s more of a sign, that they don’t see the big picture. They don’t truly trust their brothers. Until they do, offensive mediocrity will be their calling card.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Kings defend as team, play offense as individuals

Four games into the 2012-13 NBA season, we can at least say, the Kings are defending with unity, intent and focus. It has been years – perhaps back to the 2002-03 team led by Chris Webber, Vlade Divac, Doug Christie, Bobby Jackson, Jimmy Jackson, Keon Clark and Scot Pollard – since we could look at Kings team and say they gave a freak about truly defending as a team. However, head coach Keith Smart made defending the main priority for his squad. With the help of assistant coaches Alex English, Clifford Ray, Bobby Jackson and Jim Eyen, the Kings have begun to defend as a team. That is the only way for an NBA team to have defensive success. Rarely does an individual slow a top scorer. NBA scorers are too good for that to happen on a nightly basis. It’s always easy to pick out weaknesses. However, the Kings, at this early juncture, have shown the desire and dedication to limit penetration, the disease of all defenses... The Kings have challenged a higher percentage of field-goal attempts. Their increased athleticism has led to the NBA’s lowest percentage of made three-pointers by their opponents. Sacramento’s .defensive field-goal percentage against is second in the league. Before you say it’s just four games into the season, consider their percentage could be second to worst. Only Indiana has scored more than 93 points and its 106 came during a double-overtime victory. The Kings are playing hard and that’s nothing at which to sneeze. Now, all teams have strengths and weaknesses and struggles (see: Lakers and the Thunder. The Kings offense is ugly. Sacramento has yet to score 100 points. Sacramento often has little ball movement, patience or creativity. Certainly, the ability to make shots would make things look better. But Sacramento’s poor shot selection leads to poor shooting. Smart said the team has not yet worked consistently on its offense. Well, it would be even worse had this product been the effects of offensive focus. Ultimately, teams, particularly those without a star to lead them, usually need to have five or six players scoring at a consistently high level. The Kings are no exception if they want nightly success.