Tuesday, October 2, 2012


Enticed by the lure of Hollywood’s sign that is nestled neatly in a hill, lording over a town of tinsel that on a dime can turn to gold. Illuminating a block of streets embedded with star’s that bare the name of the human ones that currently or once walked among us. Their name’s sparking our imagination and our ingenuity, their footprints, handprints and autographs allowing us to see if our shoe size or hand size measures up, as if to measure up means to succeed. Hollywood: A land where the unimaginable is not only conceived but created! A land where a talking mouse, a war among stars, and the concept of reality makes the common person rich! We come from all over the world seeking our fortune in the fame that dances like sugar plums in the head of a child at Christmas. We, the creative souls, come as if pulled by a magnet to metal. "In Hollywood we trust!!!" We naively buy into the dream of making the impossible possible. We pack our hopes in boxes that guarantee success. We come in search of a promised land that recognizes true talent and ambition, only to run into a glass wall or glass ceiling, that separate US from THEY. Us, the outsiders whose skin color, hair texture, gender, weight, religion, or age doesn’t conform to what THEY, the Wizard’s in Hollywood’s own version of the Wizard of Oz, believe is ideal. Like Dorothy, we are mystified by the ugliness of a place that places a value on cruelty, Hollywood with her mask off, looks more like an old dame who has spent one too many times under the knife. Her grotesque features appearing beautiful from afar are unable to hide the ugliness of actions that mimic that of a bygone era up close. Thousands answer her call with the heart that the Tin-Man lacked, the courage that the Lion craved, and the fearlessness the Scarecrow needed, ready to navigate Hollywood’s yellow brick road not knowing that those qualities alone aren’t enough to tame the lion that roars, capture the horse with wings, or climb the mountains summit. For most, the Hollywood sign is a symbol of creativity, artistic expression, an embrace of differences the assumption of equality, Martin Luther King’s dream of the content of a person’s character or in the land of make-believe, the content of someone’s imagination, as fake and phony as the old dames enhanced façade. No longer mandated to make affirmative choices to correct non-inclusive actions, the Hollywood sign is no different than Jim Crow’s line. The bygone era of two Hollywood’s existing within one state are now two Hollywood’s that exist in two separate states. Now a city whose peach trees once bore strange fruit and red clay dirt tinged with the blood of folks with skin the color of molasses, beckon those whose dreams have been trampled by Hollywood’s ideal. What Irony? Atlanta: The town that would not allow Hattie McDaniel to attend the premiere for Gone with the Wind or even be listed in the program, is now the land of opportunity for those who bear the mark of a drop or more of blood that changes fair skin to French vanilla, caramel, café au lait, cinnamon, olive, mahogany, and ebony. Plessey vs. Ferguson, Separate but equal! A slap in the face of Martin Luther King’s dream, Hattie McDaniel’s first Oscar for an African American, Bette Davis’ performance as the only white actor in an all black ensemble for African American troops, The first African American Film Director Oscar Micheaux who dared to create and distribute his film’s independently both domestically and internationally in 1919, and Clark Gable’s refusal to attend the premiere of Gone with the Wind because Hattie couldn’t. In a scene from the movie Pretty Woman a man walking in Hollywood asks “What’s your dream?” My dream is to see Hollywood embrace differences, give opportunity to the talented no matter the hue, and truly become the beacon of creativity it was meant to be because at the end of the day, fear of the unknown keeps us apart building separate worlds will not bring us together. So I ask, Hollywood: What are you afraid of? ~d-the-VIP

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Bird in a Gilded Cage

I’ve often written stories that talk about the price of fame,
Elvis Presley, Michael Jackson, and now Whitney Houston, too many to name.
They have all suffered the consequence of a gift greater than most,
A gift that made people treat them like Kings and Queens on every Coast.
Sing song bird from your gilded cage,
Closed off from humanity,
You are who I say.
The King of this, the Queen of that, are the titles we’ve bestowed,
We, the fans who’ve watched you sang, dance, and hit every note.
WE love you we say,
as we watch the songbird inside its gilded cage.
You look out with eyes, that long to be free,
But we can’t let you go, for you are a rare species.
We love you so much that we want to know more,
Putting you in a gilded cage and closing the door.
A gilded cage has bars, much like a prison, despite being pretty.
A Prison serves to kill the spirit of men, who have done wrong,
Are we, the fans, unwitting players in the demise of these beautiful songbirds who no longer sing their songs?
Is there a lesson to be learned so we can protect the next rare species to come along?
Let’s throw away their gilded cages and our need to know more,
Let’s allow them the unfettered freedom to soar.
Because when you love something truly
You have to set it free,
Or wake up one morning to find that your songbird ceases to be.
It’s too late for Elvis, Michael, Whitney and the others,
But it’s not too late for those songbirds that are among us.
Let’s give them room to be a son, father, brother, daughter, sister or mother
Without the constant pry,
of our watchful eye,
that critiques every motive.
Soar high to the Songbirds who are now free from their cage.
I only wish we had known earlier the price of fame.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

9/11: A Strange and Bitter Crop!

“Shan, you better hurry up in there you’re already late for work!” My mother shouted.

“I’ll be leaving soon” I yelled back from my throne, otherwise known as, the toilet! I always did my best thinking there.

“What are you doing? Hurry up. You’re as slow as Christmas” she said again.

I had been out until the wee hours of the morning working on my baby, a celebrity driven show that I was independently producing. Now, on this sunny morning, I sat on my "throne" replaying in my head the interview and how it should be edited.

“Shan, come here!”

“Oh, lord” I groaned. As long as I was home my mother wasn’t gonna give me any peace, although I wasn't doing anything but sitting in the bathroom staring into space. I wasn't even using the toilet I was sitting on.

“An airplane…” she yelled, but this time her voice sounded different.

“What?” I said as I unlocked the bathroom door and walked toward her bedroom.

“Hurry up you gotta see this!”

“See what?” I said again, as I rounded the corner to the bedroom.

I stopped in my tracks as soon as I saw her standing in front of the TV staring at the screen like, Carrie Ann, the little blond girl from the movie Poltergeist.

“Look” she said pointing to the TV.

Following her finger I looked at the screen. There I saw a hole in the side of a building with black smoke and papers billowing out.

“Oh my God, what happened?”

“A plane just hit one of the Twin Towers” she said as I watched the instant replay of the airplane slamming into the tower. I knew immediately she was talking about the Towers in New York City. They were a huge part of the Manhattan skyline and had unfortunately been attacked before.

“Oh man, the pilot must’ve gotten disoriented or sick, maybe he had a heart attack and the Co-pilot didn’t have time to react” I said in disbelief.

“This is a live shot of the towers. If you’re just tuning in, an airplane has hit one of the Twin Towers. We will keep you updated on…What is that airplane doing? Oh my god it’s gonna hit the other tower!”

While the news camera was focused on the tower that was burning, another airplane came into view and slammed into the second tower right before our eyes, black smoke, fire, and debris, roaring out. We both sat on the bed, I remember the silence we shared as the magnitude of what we were seeing finally started to take shape.

“Oh my God we’re being attacked! I gotta call Yagi!” I screamed and jumped up to get my cell phone.

I had known Yagi since 5th grade. Two people couldn’t be more opposite and still get along. We were Ying and Yang! She was as meek and mild as I was boisterous and blunt. She rocked afro-puffs like a true New Yorker, while I rocked straight hair like the quintessential Detroiter. I am the creative TV person who would rather wear the crazy patterns of Cavalli. She’s the strait-laced lawyer who would rather wear a navy, two-piece, Brooks Brothers suit. I’m tardy for the party, while you can set your clock by her, which meant that she was in her office located somewhere near the Twin Towers this fateful morning! How close? I did not know. I dialed her number quickly.

“All circuits are busy,” the recorded message said.

I hung up and dialed five more times only to keep hearing the same message.

“All airplanes are grounded!”

I had forgotten the TV was still on as I paced back and forth, phone in hand.

“People are jumping!” The announcer screamed.

This time I turned to see what looked like dolls falling from the gaping holes. I called Yagi for the sixth time.

“All circuits are busy.”

Where exactly did she say her damn office was? I stood up and started pacing, turning away from the TV once again.

“The tower is falling!”

At that moment I whipped around just in time to see the tower collapse like a deck of cards piled too high, making a perfect descent as if imploded on purpose, except, this was not on purpose! We watched helplessly as men and women who were once standing on the street, “safe from harm”, watching the towers in horror, now ran for their lives as metal, concrete and glass came crashing down.

I called Yagi again, this time praying I would get through. By the time the last tower crashed I’d received the same message about the “circuits” enough times to know I would not be able to talk to her that day, the circuits most assuredly on overload with people calling to inquire about loved ones. I only prayed that no news was good news, as I left my mother’s room to start getting dressed for work.

Like most folks on 9/1/1, I went to work in a daze, as every radio and television station replayed the events of that morning. There I learned the full scope of the attack. Not only had the Twin Towers been attacked but so had the Pentagon, and another airplane had crashed in a field, not too far away.

The Pentagon attack had raised concerns at work since Georgie, the guy who sat behind me, had left the day before to move his girlfriend to DC, just a block away from the Pentagon.

If we were a family at work, Georgie and I were brother and sister! I probably teased, and got on his nerves more than all his siblings combined! Now not only was I calling Yagi, but my supervisor and I took turns calling Georgie.

Late the following evening I finally got through to Yagi, luckily she hadn’t been directly in the fray. But for a long walk home, (from Manhattan to Brooklyn), she was ok. Earlier that day we’d gotten through to Georgie who was fine, his girlfriend, deciding to return to Detroit.

That night I listened to Billie Holiday’s song, strange fruit, the song juxtaposed the beauty of the south with the ugliness of lynching. In an unlikely twist of fate, the same ignorance, and hatred that fueled the deaths of so many in her time now fueled the deaths of so many in mine.

9/11 had proved that the world still had not learned that nothing ever comes from ignorance and hatred but a “strange and bitter crop.” ~d-the-VIP

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Where's Waldo?: The Search for a Job!

Looking for a job these days is more like looking for “Waldo” the outlandish, red and white hat wearing cartoon character from the cover of a 1980’s children’s book and cartoon called Where’s Waldo?. In both, your job was to find the main character Waldo amidst a page crammed pack with action. In some instances you’d get excited, believing that you’d found the proverbial “needle in the haystack” or shall I say “Waldo in the haystack”, only to lose that excitement when you discovered upon closer inspection that what you’d actually found wasn't Waldo but someone or something that mirrored his signature look.

For this generation maybe Waldo books and cartoon came out as an unlikely precursor for today’s job market. Searching for Waldo has been replaced with searching for a job and the odds of hearing the words “You’re hired” are just as elusive. The job market, unlike looking for Waldo does not guarantee success to the persistent. Instead they too find themselves in the same social services lines, food banks, and homeless shelters as those who were far less diligent. Unlike Waldo, the economy, is not a neatly packaged book or cartoon that guarantees success, no matter how persistent, educated, or diligent you are.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

When A Lie Becomes the Truth!

Happy Father's Day to all the men who bless their children with beautiful memories. My grandfather was one of my favorite people ever! He let me hang with him despite my inability to keep my mouth shut! lol! Here's one of the stories I wrote about just such an occasion. Enjoy!

When I was little my grandfather, affectionately known as Trap, either for his pool playing skills or his skill with the ladies, I forgot which one, and I were two peas in a pod! Wherever he went I’d go whether it was a worksite, (he was a master plasterer), or one of he and granny’s rental properties, or the record store they owned on busy Mack Avenue. Heck I even hung out with him and the fella’s at the bar next door to the record store while they drank brandy and talked about the fine ladies whose houses they’d worked on. “Man Mrs. Washington sure is some wasted vanilla” that meant she was light skin but she wasn’t cute. If she were a prime piece of chocolate that meant she was brown skin and good looking or “Fine” as they would call it. There I’d sit on the bar’s counter with my ruffled socks and shorts, t-shirt and pigtails munching from the bag of chips and drinking pop (We call it pop in Detroit but I think you guys may call it Soda), eating the bribe I’d received after promising my grandfather that I wouldn’t tell grandma where we’d been. Only to break that vow as soon as we walked in the door and she’d ask, “Where y’all been?” “Hanging with Mr. Jack”, I’d say, still munching on my chips and the argument between granny and granddad would begin. But not before granddad would bend down and say, “I thought you said you wouldn’t tell on granddad. That’s ok you’re still granddaddy’s baby”. Off I’d go upstairs to where my mom and I lived. That was our summer routine until one Saturday.
On this Saturday my mom and I were at the Laundromat. While playing near the door I saw granddad’s green caprice headed down the alley with a lady who wasn’t granny in the car. “Momma, look its granddad riding down the alley with some lady in the car” I’d said just in time for my mother to raise her head and get a glimpse of him. “That’s not granddad”, she’d said, “Yes it is!” I’d said. I’d been in that car enough to know it when I saw it. “That was granddad. I don’t know that lady but that was granddad”, at that point mother knew that she couldn’t convince me otherwise so she changed her tactic. “Ok that was granddad. You better not tell granny you saw him or you’re gonna get a spanking”, Wow! This was serious! I was gonna get a spanking for saying I saw granddad? “Ok, I said”, granddad’s bribes sure were better than mommas I remember thinking! Maybe next time I won’t tell on him. I continued to play as my mother finished laundry. Later that afternoon I’m riding my bike when my grandma stops me, “Have you seen granddad” she asked me. “Huh?” I say as I feverishly try to think of an answer. Shoot my mom always said not to lie because that was bad but then she also told me not to tell grandma that I’d seen granddad when I had, but she never said what to tell her if she asked.
So what do I say? If I say no, I’m lying and that’s bad but if I say yes I’m disobeying my mother and she’s already told me what my punishment would be. All the time that I’m thinking about what to say I’m squirming on my bike and scratching my head, “Shan, Look at me!” Shan is my nickname, “Have you seen granddad?” I couldn’t lie looking in my grandma’s face, “Yes I saw him riding through the alley with some lady in the car”. “What?” Maybe I should’ve left out the lady part but it all came out so fast I couldn’t stop it. “I saw him riding down the alley”, I repeated, this time I left out the part about the lady but grandma remembered because she ended by saying “With some lady in the car? I’m gonna kill him”. “Don’t kill him I said because my momma will know I told you what I saw and will spank me.” “Your momma’s not gonna spank you and I’m not gonna kill him but he’d better have a good explanation” she said as she walked away. I put my bike up. Riding it just didn’t seem like fun anymore especially with my stomach in knots now that I’d told grandma what I had been told not to. That night every time I heard the door open and close, I jumped wondering if my secret would be told. I wondered did granddad feel like this before we entered the house every time he told me not to tell. My stomach hurt, I was sweating, and my hands were clammy, “What’s wrong my mother had asked?” “Nothing” I said. Then the door opened and all we could hear was grandma yelling out the question, “What the hell were you doing in the alley with some woman”, I swallowed and looked over at my mother who looked at me with narrowed eyes and gritted teeth as she curled her fingers and snarled, “Come here”. “Didn’t I tell you not to tell grandma you saw granddad?” “Yeah you did but you also told me not to lie” I thought to myself. While granny and granddad were yelling downstairs I was yelling upstairs, I got that spanking momma promised, It turns out that granddad had taking a side job as a jitney, (a quasi transportation service provided at grocery stores), hence why he was driving down the alley with some unknown lady in the car. He didn’t tell grandma because he didn’t want her taking his earnings as she did his other paycheck. Granny was worse than the IRS when it came to money. I don’t think what I did that day was bad but I regret it because it marked the end of my innocence, so to speak. I knew from that point on that the truth was relative. People only wanted you to tell the truth if it was what they wanted to hear, not if it was in fact the truth. That day a lie ceased being the big bad no-no that it had once been. It had become just as viable as the truth and I began to use it at will!

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

EVERYBODY! Cross out the Word Negro on Your Census!

In filling out my 2010 Census form I noticed that listed in the category of race is the word NEGRO. I'm appalled that any member of the Census Bureau would think that having NEGRO on the form was appropriate. To say it's necessary for older members of our society to know in which category they fit because 56,000 people, out of millions, actually wrote the word in during the 2000 census is RIDICULOUS!!!! That's like taking a census of everyone in Washington DC and because 5,600 people wrote Washington, Dumb Crap instead of Washington, District of Columbia, you mandate that all new maps list Washington as Washington, District of Columbia/Dumb Crap!!! Sounds ludicrous doesn't it? Just about as ludicrous as the census including the term Negro for members of society who are already asked to racially identify themselves when they get government issued ID or Driver's License. They do so without the ASSistance or "simplification" of the word NEGRO and "miraculously," they've been able to identify themselves correctly within the parameters given.

To include the term Negro was an egregious step backwards for the Census Bureau and the country and for that I say shame on Census Director Robert Groves and Nicholas Jones, Chief of the Census racial statistics branch and anyone else who believed that including the term NEGRO was necessary!!! It is truly a sign that although this country has come a long way in the 40-plus years since the Civil Rights Movement there is still a long way to go before the respect due is an automatic and not a question! In this time, I am reminded of an interview that I did with Professor Griff a member of Politically and Socially conscious rap group Public Enemy,(see video below). After asking him a question about the derogatory names and terms used in music, he said "It's not what you're called it's what you respond to!" I thought he had a point then and I think he has a point now.

Filling out the Census is important, so I will do so, but I'm crossing out the term Negro. I won't respond to that!!! I am urging EVERYONE, no matter the race or nationality to draw a line through the word Negro on the census form as well. Lets stand together as we did over 40 years ago and say together to the Census Bureau and anybody else in Washington, "This is Not appropriate or acceptable!" They do not have a "Consensus" when it comes to using the term NEGRO. Maybe if they get more entries with the word crossed out than written in we can finally bury this word once and for all!


Friday, February 19, 2010

I don't condone what Tiger did, but guess what???

I'm not a fan of Tiger Wood's as a person nor have I ever been! I've had the "pleasure" of being up close with Tiger and seeing first hand the arrogance that made him think he was invincible. I watched that same arrogance propel him to victory in competition. He is undoubtedly the greatest golfer to ever pick up clubs, even if he is not the squeaky clean "moral compass" most thought he was.

Tiger screwed up BIG TIME! He's embarrassed his wife, jeopardized his family, both physically and emotionally, and has most certainly disappointed his mother. To them he owes his apologies. They're the ones that he promised fidelity and respectability, not the the companies who have made millions from his endorsement, not the fans who have watched him play with passion and integrity each and every time he's stepped on the green, and certainly not the media, who "ASSUMED" he would be, "Mr. Clean",crowned him as such, and sat him on a pedestal reserved for our celebrated deity's, otherwise known as celebrities.

I don't condone what Tiger did, but guess what??? He's human! And as such he will make GREAT decisions and POOR decisions. But who are we to judge???? Who are we to say his public apology wasn't "good enough"? Who are we to constantly rehash his mistake and comment about whether his wife should stay or leave? Tiger's wife and mother are the only ones with the right to chastise him. God is the only one who has the right to judge him. The rest of us need to be thankful that our lives aren't subjected to the white, hot, spotlight of fame, because the scandal that could be dug up in some of our backyards, might make Tiger's situation look tame. We should all think about that before giving our commentary.