Its been a while
The last few posts on here were articles that I wrote for The Utica Phoenix. The reason I am not writing for the Phoenix now is simple...no money and very little appreciation.
Life has a trajectory for the goal oriented, you just outgrow certain things. For years I felt taken for granted, fulfilling the needs for grant funds and working as a multi-talented gopher. I did everything from leadership training , writing articles (for free), selling advertising and chaperoning high-school students to Hamilton College. I did all this under the belittling eye of CEO who took every opportunity to remind me I did not possess a Bachelor Degree and was lucky to have 'any' job.
After all - "you are a Black Man".
When the time came and I desperately needed a reference...guess what?
But That is Ancient History
Just about every demographic is undergoing a cultural revolution. An awakening . The Black community has regained partial custody of it's image. We have been able to rise above the phony promise of 'street careers' in rap and basketball and managed to produce a new generation of technically savvy Millenials that will surely add to the collective in ways I can only imagine.
But you can't tell if you listen to our leadership. I am sick of the narrative we need our hands held every step of the way. The reality of our self determination and ability to overcome seems to have been lost on many people committed to elevating the poorer members of society. Looking outside the community for monies and help by maligning and diminishing the value of our most valuable resources that are all around us- youth.
They represent an untamed mysterious mindset completely foreign to anyone in leadership. The cultural/generation gap is so wide, many sacred non-profits are struggling or happen to be in serious danger. Flailing around the community unable to even reach a target group. No doubt the Children are paying a bigger price than any adult involved. It is sad because these programs were historically supposed to help kids and anyone else. Lately it appears the most well intentioned non-profits only help the people earning a check.
At the heart of these failures is an unwillingness or inability to go within the community. Apprehension and impatience with generational pathologies that are congruent to the affluent experience. A disposition that can nurture an imaginary fear or very real disdain for those less educated. A quiet disgust with any accent or mannerism that exposes a cultural origin separate from Europe or middle America. The idea of gyrating teen girls dancing to the current 'pop' favorites is somehow 'nasty' or abnormal. A point of view that conveniently fits with the misogynistic , exploitive cauldron of deception that hip-hop culture has evolved into. No one can admit (red faced) that fertility dances have been appropriated into the mainstream.
At the heart of all this dysfunction is an inner self loathing, a need to distance one's self from what is considered uniquely black. The very existence of Black pride, or challenging the status quo, creates a wave of unease; "don't make waves" the elders say. I have even overheard more than one black woman within the community seeking out genetic evidence to eliminate Africa as a genetic origin-'you know I have The ****** genetic marker; which means we are black Europeans' or 'I'm not black I'm Panamanian'- to mask the low esteem and distance themselves from all the negative baggage heaped upon the black community . These types of confessions always floored me but you would not be able to tell from my 'poker face'. Despite their feelings they are still Sisters whether they admit or not; we can feel the kinship.
Its Ok To Be Proud
This is the result of swallowing an all encompassing white supremacist ideal of inferiority. You know , the ideal that turns Jesus and all his Disciples white and says Columbus 'discovered' The Americas. An ideal , by way of the typical socially distorted American education, I had swallowed, couldn't digest and threw up. I had no idea how many people share the same unconscious bias that prevents many people of color from getting their 'propers' .
I was able to overcome a lot of negativity to get to where I am right now. Delusional Narcissism- a blissful place reserved for hustlers that have achieved a modicum of success. Its like believing rap lyrics apply to only you, that's where I am at.
Untouchable...Tenacious...Driven...Blessed and Very Lucky
This blog will be used to expose those grey areas that we all operate within...the nuance laden existence that we take for granted. Its about elevation, positivity and this brand spankin new paradigm of information we live in.
Its ok...we will adapt...shit like this temporary.
Life will happen...so stay tuned I have a lot to share with you. I also know that in the near future I will put together words in such divine order that they will be read by half the world.
there it is: Delusional- Narcissism and a Nugget of truth to whet yer appetite.
I will also be starting Utica's Native Tongue Times
There is a lot more to Come
Thursday, November 19, 2015
Its been a while
Wednesday, December 31, 2014
During the holiday season in Central New York people in every community rally together to help bring Christmas to those less fortunate. In Utica/New Hartford there are multiple toy drives and annual charities like 'Stuff The Bus' and 'Operation Sunshine' that have helped hundreds of people. But every year people get lost, families slip through the cracks and spend their Christmas morning without adequate food, presents and sometimes, even a warm place.
The reasons don't matter; when there are children involved fault or bad parenting isn't the issue. In a world where 'Santa' awards those that are 'Good' and gives nothing to the 'Bad' kids; an empty Christmas can be damning to an innocent childs self esteem.
Imagine the simple thoughts that go through a poor childs mind in the county building waiting with Grandma or Mom in one of the long lines watching other kids playing, with gadgets and poking at tablets that Santa brought them for Christmas. Imagine what they are thinking when they get back to school and the inevitable 'what did Santa bring you'? conversation comes up. In the back of their minds a self loathing develops, they might even lie to feel better, to temporarily fit in. The seeds of discontent and misunderstanding firmly planted, growing into frustration at a world they have just been born into.
What happens to those people? We ask. "They often end up here" shared Dale Lintz, Food Service Director at Utica's Rescue Mission.
The Rescue Mission is one of the only places in Utica people in need of a warm meal can get one with no questions asked. A place where the needy gather in larger numbers during Thanksgiving and Christmas.
"We have families come in cold and wet....Children" Lintz explained. He paused in thought "I mean, you can tell sometimes things may be pretty bad for some people"he added.
A single Grandmother and four of her Grandchildren were recently going through that type of 'pretty bad'. The Grandmother (name unimportant) had just had four of her Grandchildren from Syracuse (N.Y.) abandoned to her. She herself had no power in her small one bedroom apartment. The kids were left with no food or change of clothes. The mother, overwhelmed with her own personal demons, inexplicably went back to Syracuse
"The kids were dropped off a couple of days before Christmas". Dale explained. "At first I didn't really pay them any special attention, I mean we feed a lot of people". Dale was refering to the kitchen at The Rescue Mission. The Grandmother brought the kids because she had no food to feed them; even if she did, there was no power to cook it.
The Rescue Mission is primarily run by volunteers and one of them , Zonia Lucas, knew the Grandmother. Seeing her in the dining room she greeted her with surprise and joy, a joy that was quickly extinguished when she realized the dire situation she and the kids were in. "I was like, 'Oh Lord, we got to do something' I couldn't believe what I was hearing" . Lucas was immediately touched by her friends plight and her first thought, after a solemn prayer, was to tell Dale.
"Well the night of the 23rd Zonia explained how bad things were for her and the kids....all I could think about was helping them"
Dale didn't waste any time, before he even left work he went to Social Media and shared the story on his FaceBook home page. What happened next is nothing short of amazing, outstanding, incredible and Angelic.
"I'm kinda involved in my Church" Dale humbly admitted. "To be honest, I just give all Glory to God for everything in my life" he added.
The response to Dale's post was immediate. His friends on FaceBook took to the streets. Gift Cards toys and money started arriving at The Rescue Mission. Keep in mind, he posted the day before Christmas Eve.
By Christmas Eve there were so many toys, he needed the Rescue Mission Van to get them delivered. But there was still a problem. The kids had no power. Honestly, what good is a bunch of toys when the kids don't have a mother,clothes, food, or a warm place to stay?
"This was an emergency; I honestly didn't know at first how bad it actually was". Dale just posted about a lack of toys for some needy kids. Zonia left out the gritty details of their abandonment.
When he tried to make delivery Dale discovered they had no power and The Grandmother had sought help at The County Building; all four, wet, cold snotty nosed kids in tow. "Here we are Christmas Eve, we got all these toys, but no power" Lintz's faith has put him in a mental place where he doesn't dwell on problems but lives in solutions. He let his fingers do the walking and got on his phone.
Dale called a local Hotel inquired on rates and availability and booked these total strangers a room. "I discovered the Grandmother received a grant but the power would not be on till 12/31 so I used my Credit Card.
The next person he called was Cecil Morris Pastor of Bethel Baptist Church in Prospect. "When I heard the passion in Dale's voice I couldn't let it go, God moved in his heart to help so I pledged the Church to reimburse him for the room rental".
So at the last minute, these four kids and an overwhelmed Grandmother with nothing to look forward to were swept up in a wave of love and compassion. They received over a thousand dollars worth of gifts, gift cards clothes and food. But one thing that they got you can't put a dollar sign on for value; its a priceless commodity and sometimes it seems to be in short supply. If we all shared it the world would be a much better place.
It's called Love.
Friday, December 19, 2014
Law enforcement has been a controversial topic lately. The enforcement of laws, methods applied and outcomes from those methods has been the subject of lively public debate.
People in and around Utica have not ignored the subject. The entire community in Utica is well aware of the two most publicized cases where it appears members of law enforcement were given free reign over the well-being (lives) of Black American citizens. Even Students at Hamilton College in Clinton demonstrated, taking part in an international 'hands up don't shoot' movement.
Along with the demonstrations a large number of hand held phone and police dashcam videos have been posted on social media, exposing a pattern of abuse and indifference among many different officers and departments nationwide. Things seemed bad enough for the President to weigh in, suggesting officers wear body cameras to accurately catalog their behavior toward the people they are sworn to serve and protect.
It does not take an expert to note the cultural consistency in the most deadly encounters. Often times the officers are White and the victims are Black. The contact is usually initiated by some petty offense like seatbelt, innadequate license plate light or walking in the street.
Many Black Uticans have historically avoided contact with law enforcement for obvious reasons, a healthy distrust, and in some cases, fear, of what could happen if they let the police into their homes and or personal lives. Fears that have been validated by past actions of law enforcement. Imagine calling for help and getting a hard time instead. For some officers it is difficult to see some people as innocent victims.
We don't have to look to far back for examples that helped feed the distrust and fear. April 12, 2007 City Of Utica Police Officer Thomas Lindsey was gunned down. The search for evidence and a suspect was frantic; the Chief at the time (Pylman) conveniently and incorrectly blamed the crime on a black male in a hoodie. Law Enforcement swooped in on Cornhill like an occupying army. A big complaint was the treatment of the people within the neighborhood (99.9% innocent of said crime). Unfortunately many were treated like criminals.
People remember these interactions and those memories play a part in everyday decisions. Familiar faces and people with an understanding of our cultural nuances can help alleviate those, very real fears and help solve crimes. That’s exactly why many people feel Utica needs, more Black and Hispanic police officers.
This obviously is not just a Utica problem, nationwide minorities are less likely to work in law enforcement even when they are the majority of the (urban) population. A 2007 survey by Bureau of Justice reveals some telling statistics. One out of four officers nationwide is a member of a racial or ethnic group. For larger cities it jumps to about 30%; but for small cities like Utica the disparity is larger. There are many theories that could explain this phenomenon. On a micro-level: a change in the unique 'culture' of individual departments with challenges recruiting would be a start.
It should be understood that Black folks do not ridicule each other for seeking jobs like police officer, that is a myth. The people that have those goals are not on the corner talking about it, they are usually active in pursuit of their goals. They usually participate in sports, do their schoolwork and prepare themselves the best way they can to achieve their goals. Quietly looking for ways to increase their chances; they start by staying out of trouble.
The City of Utica Police Department put posters up at all the corner stores in Utica's 'inner city', announcing the upcoming Civil Service exam necessary for entry to the academy. Recently a Black American recruit from Utica, Wesley Jackson, took the test and passed.
Before anyone could celebrate, he was forced (coerced) to resign one week before his graduation from the Academy.
The story was leaked to The OD and the subject of the article, written by Rocco LaDuca, was how difficult it is to find qualified minority candidates within the City of Utica.
A narrative was developed that would supposedly provide a temporary excuse for the small number of Black officers. It is a narrative that insinuates the integrity required for anyone who desires a career in law enforcement is in short supply within the minority community of Utica.
During a sit-down interview last week Jackson explained his experience. "Basically, he (Chief Williams) called me in the office and asked me to sit down." Gathering his thoughts, Jackson continued. "He told me I was the subject of two Internal Affairs investigations over the last five months and my activities off the clock had come into question."
Jackson explained he was in the final week of a 26 week training course. He was in good standing and had everything worked out he would be on the streets right now.
When contacted, Chief Williams was open and candid regarding Wesley's termination. But he also explained that he was unable to talk about the specifics of the Internal Affairs investigation (the reason for his dismissal).
"He can say all he wants about it...I can't," Williams said.
Dancyscorner asked Chief Williams if it was routine for a candidate to be investigated by Internal Affairs before hitting the streets, after all, he had passed all the necessary physicals and civil service examinations.
"No, it’s not," he said.
But Wesley’s case is different. His father, Ray Jackson, Sr., has an active lawsuit against The City of Utica Police Department and,we all know this should not matter but, he is also Black.
"It might have been the lawsuit. I honestly thought they hired me thinking my dad would drop it," Wesley thought aloud searching for reasons. "My sister, who passed away two years ago, has an old boyfriend who they thought I talked to."
When asked, "what is so important about him?" Jackson replied, "They were looking for him and since he is still at large they thought I was passing on information."
So the story gets stranger. A shadowy figure that law enforcement is looking for was tied to Jackson due to his relationship with his deceased sister. Wesley emphasized his innocence and steadfastly denies any relations with 'undesirables.'
But for him to even think they hired him because he was anything but qualified speaks to the dire reality. The collective self-esteem and trust of the Black community is at an all-time low. The establishment, right wing, 'Obama Backlash' (knee-jerk negativity for all things Black) has hurt Black communities all over the nation.
"They also said a lot of the guys (current cops) don't want me (on the force) and don't think I deserve to be there" Jackson added.
Jackson would have been the seventh officer among the 163 active. That’s a whopping 4% of the force. It would be foolish to assume every member of the department would welcome him with open arms but to look for reasons to get rid of him before he even starts is hard to overcome for anyone regardless of race.
The active Black officers have not been quoted for this article on purpose. They have Sworn to work within and for a system that has historically made life difficult for men just like them. They have successfully straddled the line of decency and have enforced the law with fairness and equity, like the majority of their White brethren and sisters.
Dancyscorner would like to Highlight and celebrate the valuable trust within the professional ranks that they have earned.
The leadership within law enforcement is concerned with crime. It is their first priority, however they are not proud of the lack of diversity. They would like to think everyone is welcome to join 'The Boys in Blue'.
Friday, November 28, 2014
With the closing(death) of The Electric Company on Varick St in 2012, Utica lost one of the few bars in Utica solely dedicated to music.
Its obvious that all over Utica we have multiple choices if you just want to catch a game and have a few wings and beers. But if you want microbrews, 'down to earth' bartenders and a local band that is not playing Huey Lewis and The News covers you need a place like The DEV.
If you want a place where they will 'never' have a game on television you need a place like The DEV. A place where the lunch special is Chili one day and a Rueben the next. An eclectic atmosphere enhanced with the lively visual art of local legend Tony Thompson.
Located at 41 Devereaux St in Downtown Utica The DEV is able to double as a luncheon spot for the stable crowd at the county and state buildings during the day and then, within a few hours, transform into a nightclub for the growing number of 'hipsters' that call Utica home at night.
The sound system is always playing, either its a live band or a selection from the vast library of co-owner Tim Schram. It is possible to hear Portishead and The Grateful Dead in sequence, Smokey Robinson and The RZA within one visit.
They also feature the work of local artists on their walls. "They (the artists) actually sell most of the work they hang..." boasted server Rosie Swett.
The Owners, father and son team, Bill (Dad) and Tim Schram have discussed the reality of owning a bar for over ten years."Over the occasional six pack, my dad and I used to actually talk about 'a bar' when he retired, that was years ago" Tim reminisced.
Fast forward a few years, Bill is now retired and Tim has nurtured a successful career in graphic design (freelancing contracts for creative agencies in NYC). Tim and Bill found themselves in a unique position to pursue their dream.
"We opened in 2013 , there wasn't a lot of fanfare" Tim explained. "The first few months we operated without a liquor license just doing lunch" he said.
They got their liquor license almost year to the day of Electric Company closing. It would mark the end of a long drought in Utica nightlife. A place dedicated to local arts and music, with all fairness to the Tram, that serves beer.
"We don't just do the microbrews, we carry domestic brands to" explained 'down to earth' bartender Kayla Mcmahon during break in the afternoon shift.
The General Manager, old friend and local Chef Daniel Walter, has been with The DEV from day one. He and Tim have tinkered with the menu and format settling in on a regular weekly schedule featuring different DJ's and themes throughout the week. One of them : Video Game Night is a nineties gamer's paradise. "we have a sign-up sheet where you can play Mariocart or some other old school game" Walter explained. 'White Noise Wednesday' and Soul Saturday with DJ Thomas D round out the regular schedule. Kayla herself is featured in a regularly performing act aptly named, 'Kayla and The Tellers'.
The musical line-up varies. "We like all music, everyone is welcome...I mean, there is stuff we havn't booked yet" Tim explained perhaps noting the lack of country and western acts on his line-up.
The line-up features original acts from as far away as Dublin Ireland. " We like original music, bands that write their own tunes " Tim specified. The 'Original Act' philosophy attracts a lot of bands that would have a hard time getting on stage if it wasn't for The DEV.
The Varick St. venues seem to attract more cover bands than anything else. The Electric Company left a creative crater in the local music scene when it closed.
A lot of emerging styles and ideas in music and life are played out on stage and Utica is not always the place for original expression. There has never been a shortage of cover bands willing to play it safe by strumming rock standards everyone can sing along to.
But maybe thats all about to change. Maybe The DEV is the launch pad; the start of something big. Bands that regularly grace the stage like Comfy, or Kayla and The Tellers could easily break out.
Check out the weekly line-up thedevutica.com
Utica (The DEV).
Wednesday, October 29, 2014
Some people feel 'right at home' on stage, performing. It does not matter what type; singing, dancing, drama or comedy. There are people who are soo good its hard to imagine they have to do anything else to make a living.
Utica has a Comedian like that. The type of performer you can't imagine doing anything else. A young man from The Bronx New York that first called Utica home (2006) as a student at SUNY IT.
"When I first moved here it wasn't like I came to do comedy" he revealed during a telephone conversation. "I actually got into some campus events such as contests and competitions" he added.
He was chosen for MTV's Yo Mamma and ended up in The Semi-Finals. "We taped over the summer so I didn't get to see myself until November". It was AJ's first ever performance unless you count the sixth grade play.
"My classmates (at SUNY) were like you should just jump right in" when giving comedy career advice. But AJ stayed the course. "I always wanted to do this" he explained. "But getting my degree was my number one priority" he soberly admitted.
AJ did just that, he earned a Bachelor's degree in Computer Information Systems from SUNY IT and immediately went to work; both on his comedy and his chosen trade.
AJ takes failure personal, to heart, one can be sure his professional accomplishments rival his artistic success. One of the things that seperate AJ from his contemporaries is his preparation. He is meticulous about his act and has racked up multiple competition victories in a short amount of time.
"Its weird, I mean, when AJ's on stage its like your laughing before he even says anything" offered Phil Farda, local producer from up and coming Comedy Central New York.
"I watch the greats in this business" AJ said sounding more like a student than seasoned pro."I'm always working on my craft, I always try to see what is 'behind' the laugh, why people react the way they do" he added. "But I credit my parents for my work ethic, they are both hardworking people and thats what I know"
There is a balance between proper preparation, a meticulous act and the ability enjoy the process. "There was time I was rather hard on myself, it took away from the experience" he admitted "But I gave myself a break"
Most recently AJ opened for legendary David Alan Grier from "In Living Color" at Foxwoods Casino where he also came in Second For The Last Comic Standing Competition.
"That was great he paid attention to my act. He said : 'when Im in the old folks home and yer on teevee, I'll tell everybody I knew that kid' that was pretty cool".
Many people feel the same way. AJ's rapid ascent is exciting to watch and everyone involved in the Comedy Business in The Northeast knows his name. He is one of the busiest people I know...Period
If you have not had the chance to see him yet-get with it- he will be at Hotel Utica on Dec 16th and at The Syracuse Funny Bone with Jesse Mae Peluso from MTV's girl code on Thanksgiving Weekend. In The Meantime Check out AJ Foster on his website ajfostercomedy.com for any updates.
Tuesday, October 7, 2014
Wednesday, September 24, 2014
How does a long struggling, underserved, marginalized group of people without financial or political clout get anything done in a city made up of 'haves' and 'have-nots'? People who have been maligned and unfairly targeted since they started appearing in sizable numbers sixty years ago. The former enjoying a privileged wealth of opportunity since they bought Manhattan with bright-beads and glass.
The type of People who came in search of work and a new life. But even then, back in the forties, newspaper articles were written depicting the shiftless negroes as nothing more than a parasitic group of people. Who drink all night and sleep all day. Wholesale descriptions that could not have been further from the truth. Descriptions that made life harder for those trying to carve a path.
You could insert any number of ethnic groups into the question but the answers for each seem to have varying degrees. With the long struggling African American community any type of significant collective power seems to be perpetually out grasp.
Negative Articles like the one I read have dominated the landscape ever since, and to look back in the archive through Books like Ethnic Utica (edited by James S. Pula) it does nothing but highlight the importance of A Black Voice in media, whether its print, radio or television, male or female, old or young does not matter. We need and deserve a voice in Mohawk Valley's mainstream media.
Its of no consequence that I am perfectly qualified to do the job and have already tested my skills on WHCL, I had a loyal following of ten or so die hard fans and the students thought I was Denzel Washington so yeah, I'm ready to fill that role.
There are also a few eager white males ready to add a progressive voice to crowded conservative atmosphere. I guarantee any show that offers an alternative will be like a breath of fresh air for advertisers and businesses alike.
What is needed is good ol' opportunity. I have been on Talk Of The Town twice, each time raising the standard with passion and eloquence; but why go on for free five times a week when they get paid?
That's kinda insulting, invite me down to make your show better and encourage me to come down as much as possible...good idea if I could make some dough...you know?
Maybe its not me but it should be somebody. Keeler (middle-aged, center right, white dude) has enjoyed market share with Talk of The Town for a couple years now. Fact, both shows are interchangeable and Piersma's history with Keeler make it even more nepotistic and kinda weird. Its like a spin-off radio show.With Frank Elias to ad maturity and brevity
You know they know all the same people in advertising and the tight circle of media becomes a noose for anyone trying to break-in that doesn't fit in at a Tea Party rally.
This is important to me; I sense a glaring hole of perception that blinds these guys from common sense when it comes to The Black Community. They fly off about Al Sharpton just short of appointing him our official spokesperson for the Black Community (insulting). Shaking their heads in a whiny tone asking 'What is wrong'?...why can't they just get it together'?
Because right after your show some guy in HR, who also wonders why 'they can't get it together' just put Trayvon's resume at The bottom of the pile. The fact is we need to have a say, let us tell the story ever once in a while. We will stick to the truth and do our due diligence, but we will avoid adding a menacing tone were none should exist or fear when it isn't scary.
I would have been all over Bucky Philips when that broke, but hey, hes a folk hero right?