a thousand words

Sunday, October 18, 2015

From Huxtables To Lyons: The Families of "Cosby" and "Empire."

Media is not a reflection of life or vice versa. The truth is much more complex and unsettling.

I saw the Ebony cover about The Cosby Show and I've read many damnations of the show Empire. This got me thinking about the undoubted connections between the two.

Bill Cosby's fall does not shatter the legacy of The Cosby Show; in a way, it fulfills it and for the people who say Empire is the regressive fall of Black people, well, you're just completely off base.

But there is a connection between the two. Cosby, like most good TV was in part, a fantasy show about what a minority of Black families were, and what the majority of Black families could possibly be one day. Anyone who thought it was a true and complete reflection of the Black family at the time, is just wrong and doesn't understand television which is always 10 years behind the times. I knew families like the Huxtables but they were not the norm in our nation. And while we all knew that, we nonetheless hailed The Cosby Show as a reality that had to be accepted for us all. And while we indulged in this sweet dream, many of the gains of the Civil Rights Movement evident in the show were wiped away in reality.

Empire is the defiant child of The Cosby Show. It has strong values even though the family is clearly dysfunctional. The Lyons were forged in the struggle for a better life and in that fight, their heads are bloodied but unbowed. Like Cosby, they have achieved wealth, but unlike Cosby they got it through struggle. Remember those beautifully perfect professional grandparents on Cosby? Cliff and Claire were beneficiaries of legacy.

Also, the Lyons built their empire on a crime, something that for some of us, white families are allowed to do, but not Black ones, because, well, we're Black and anything we touch is tainted because we see it through filters of self-loathing. A white man that steals is a mogul; the black one is a criminal. The Lyons are no dirtier than the families of Dallas, Dynasty or Knott's Landing with whom they also share some TV DNA.

Empire gets a bad rap because unfortunately we never get the balance. We get the one thing that the majority wants us to be at the time because we have little control in the business. So, at any given time, we have the faux world of unblackness or Niggas in Paris making it rain.

Empire has been accepted by Black and white audiences for many reasons but the main one is something that we process subconsciously. Those who like it say it's fun, the acting is good or it's entertaining. Critics say people watch it because it reinforces stereotypes that we are comfortable with. I offer a different idea. The Huxtables were successful but devoid of the heavy racial legacy of our people. The Huxtables were what non-Blacks wanted us to be and for Blacks, they were a false memory, another dream of being white on the inside, which causes no one notice how black you are on the outside. "Don't shoot me officer, I have a Ph.D. and I like lacrosse--- BLAM!

The Lyons are the Huxtables with the legacy intact, a conscious clan who has accumulated wealth but has not forgotten where they came from. They are niggas with money and that is the goal of many Black people, to have the American Dream on your own terms, without divorcing yourself from ethnicity and devotion to your people-- to be rich without selling out. And generally, we love anyone who seems to have achieved this because it is the Black American Dream to have the power of the majority but none of their guilt and the soul of ethnicity but none of its wretchedness.

Bill Cosby and Terrance Howard have both had their real-life troubles and juxtaposed to their fictional creations, we see something profound: Heathcliff, the good father is in real life, an alleged monster and it makes sense, because the man on TV was too good to be true. Lucious, the very flawed dad, is in real life just what you thought he was, flawed. Bill Cosby lied about who he was but Terrence Howard doesn't lie about anything. What you see is what you get. I think it was Mark Twain who said "Show me a perfect man and I'll show you a motherfucker with dead bitches in his trunk." Okay, maybe Richard Pryor said that.

Claire and Cookie offer an interesting comparison as well. Both women are gangsta when you think about it. We see that clearly in Cookie but Claire Huxtable was an undercover hood, a woman who always got what she wanted by hook, crook or sex and she did it all pulling six figures and never gaining a pound while having five kids, one of whom looked about her age. But if Claire was what Black women were supposed to be, Cookie is who they really are, women doing the best they know how for their families while also trying to keep what is rightfully theirs.

You  know, we talk a lot about these two shows but say precious little about the one which most accurately reflected Black life: The Jeffersons. They were a family who got their money by legal, hard work, capitalism, innovation and tireless devotion to upward mobility. George Jefferson would call Heathcliff Huxtable an Oreo, Lucious Lyon a punk and keep on steppin'. See, I think we don't revere The Jeffersons because it's too close to reality, a show that pushed neither the button that devoids blackness nor the one that perverts it.

What we see in the media has not been made by our actions or anything resembling reality. Entertainment is diversion but it is also propaganda and persuasion. We don't call it programming for nothing. Cosby begat Empire but not because of any real life evolution. They each were chosen for us by a business and sometimes I wonder if our reactions to them were chosen for us as well.

Copyright 2015

No use of this work is permitted without the express consent of the author. 
Any unauthorized use will result in severe consequences and repercussions.

Saturday, June 13, 2015


TRUE STORY OF UNFRIENDING. This happened earlier this year and I just never thought to share but what the hell, not like they're gonna see it. I took the names off and corrected the typos for your reading pleasure.
EX FB FRIEND: Hey, did you unfriend me? I just noticed.
ME: Yes, I did.
EX FB FRIEND: Can I ask why?
ME: Well, of course you can because you just did. I delete friends from time to time who never comment on my page or write anything I feel is funny or interesting.
EX FB FRIEND: I post all the time. Everyday. So, you don't like my posts, okay fine. I think that's kinda silly. I enjoy your page sometimes.
ME: Mostly you post selfies in tight dresses. And before you say it, I don't have any kind of problem with that. However, there was one post that I confess just got on my nerves and made me consider that I didn't need it on my little news scroll each day.
EX FB FRIEND: And what was that? Not that I care.
ME: Well, you posted that your 12 year old daughter asked you not to wear those tight dresses when her friends came over, that it took away attention from her at that awkward age (my words not hers) but you wore the dress anyway and acted shocked that the little boys who came to the party flocked around you. The butt grazing dress was not what bothered me, it was the look on your daughter's face that broke my heart. The look on the little boys faces made me wish you lived on my street when I was a kid.
EX FB FRIEND: You know, all that is really none of your business.
ME: It is when you publicize it. I worry about the state of our world, the deterioration of society and the death of music and I am frustrated that I can't do anything about it. But what I can do is not bear witness to some innocent kid getting twerked into a psychological complex by her mother. So, I changed the thing I have power over.
EX FB FRIEND: Whatever. You are a real smartass. I'm glad you unfriended me. No loss.
ME: At least we agree on that.

Friday, June 12, 2015

The Unbearable Lightness Of Blackness

Rachel Dolezal’s masquerade as a black woman is important but not for any of the reasons you are reading about. It’s important for the ones no one will say. That she can even pretend to be black is of course because “Black people” come in a variety of colors in this country. And that’s because of the widely held belief that we have “dominant” genes. This Dominant Gene Theory is really the Contaminant Gene Theory, in that Black genes contaminate another race's purity.

We all know that blackness in this nation is more than color. It’s culture, family, experience, knowledge and a host of other things which link any given black person with hundreds of years of history filled with triumph, pain, brilliance, oppression, and the unique situation as the descendants of American slaves.

You don’t get to be part of that with a wink and a hairstyle.

But we, the Black people, often devalue our culture and history for many reasons, none the least of which, is there is a tireless propaganda machine at work which exalts the majority race and denigrates and marginalizes all others.

Thus, we accept anyone who wants to be a part of our tribe, to bathe in the waters of negritude and enjoy our zest for life, our position as the soul and conscious of America, our food, music, style, swagger and language.

But should we? When you think of it, American Blackness is a pretty exclusive club, forty-two million out of eight billion people. And the price of admission is not money but the very essence of the human spirit. Why should we let these wannabes just walk in and be welcome?

We shouldn’t. In fact, we should be pissed about what Rachael Dolezal is doing. Just as pissed as we are when a Black person claims to be New Black, trying to run away from association with their race. But you see, dark skin don’t rub off and if the white gene were “dominant,” how many people who are now mixed race do you think would still claim blackness?

If it were up to me, people could be anything they wanted. I like to dream of a world where you could just say “I’m a woman” or “I’m Black” and society would respect that. But it’s not up to me and that dream is a long way off. So, for now, as funny as this woman is, her situation and the resulting internet phenomenon is yet another painful reminder of the heaviness of race in our damaged society, the privilege of the majority and the arrogance of those who continuously seek to appropriate the benefits of blackness but pay none of its toll.


Tuesday, June 9, 2015


  1. Tamron Hall did a segment today on beauty and a woman's nails were referred to as being "on fleek." As soon as I heard the term, I knew it was a new slang word or phrase created by black folk that had crept into the mainstream.

    Why does this bother me? Because  I know that these terms are intellectual property

    Intellectual property (IP) is a legal term that refers to creations of the mind. Examples of intellectual property include music, literature, and other artistic works; discoveries and inventions; and words, phrases, symbols, and designs.

    But because they arise from a general culture that does not seem to know how clever it is, we (the black people) never seem to profit as we enrich American culture with our endless creativity. This is what I call Niggallectual Property© intellectual property created by black culture but it only has value when appropriated by white people.

    Like, diss, playa, twerk, hater and ratchet, I knew this on fleek was yet another cultural term that has been appropriated and will soon be used by corny politicians, pandering to the youth vote. 

    The comedian Bill Bellamy coined the term Booty Call, then someone made a movie using the title and then everyone in the world started saying it and doing it and he doesn’t get a royalty.

    Black folks created jazz, blues, rock and roll, soul disco and rap and we watched as each of these genres were taken, mainstreamed, blanded out and killed. And now we have a generation of kids who think glorified backup singers are actually good.

    Black folk, my people, are the kings of intellectual property but while IP in the digital age has value, much of our cultural IP is worthless-- until it is appropriated by others who see its value.

    We can stop this. All we have to do is be smart. Before you tweet or vine something clever, copyright it first and then when they steal it, you get paid. Or better yet, if we can stop discounting ourselves just because we live in a country that seems to place a small value on our lives, we can all get paid. By the way, this whole blog is totally on fleek.

    Copyright 2015

Monday, May 4, 2015


What do you do when a black boy dies in the hands of black power?


We all remember Laurence Fishburne yelling this famous line from the Spike Lee movie, School Daze. I can remember the discussions about what it meant in terms of social order and cinema.

Now, I hear that yell every time I read about Baltimore.

Another black boy has been killed by police, only this time, he died in the hands of black cops and black political power. Finally, the issue of race has not hidden the bigger picture and problems of our people (the Black people) and the nation.

Three of the six officers were black, the second degree murder charge is on a black man. The mayor, police chief, council chief and prosecuting attorney are all black. And no one in our media is talking about this in a meaningful way. They mention it as if it's some kind of ironic twist or a piece of lint on a lapel that can be brushed off.

Well, it's not. It is the most important fact in this tragedy. And to treat it as such, focuses attention on things that could actually lead individuals to change.

Victims like Freddie Gray and killer cops are not born, they are made by our system of government. When you have an economic system that must always have a mass at the bottom of life, they must be kept there against their will and eliminated if they get out of hand. We know this, yet we are in some kind of denial about it.

Black elected officials are no different than white elected officials. They all serve the same master and do what they are told. The presence of black faces in government does not ease poverty, unfair world trade or corporate greed and avarice. Baltimore saw that and now all of us do as well.

But will we wake up? Will we move beyond the silly and circular arguments about race and see that it is but one link in the chain that binds us? Will we arise from our slumber and face our citizenship in this nation which makes war in the name of a freedom which is not granted to its own citizens?

Please let us not use Baltimore to prove that the evil white man is behind it all or that the incompetent black people caused it. Baltimore's black faces prove that race is not the issue here. The consistent lack of humanity in our atiquated system of government and economics is the real evil.

Or is it the fact that we are still asleep?

copyright 2015

Saturday, April 25, 2015


America has many notions of freedom but one basic economy.

Our Founding Fathers were smart men but they created a nation that, like an aphid, was born pregnant. America carried the germ of it's own disease at birth. The desire for complete freedom was belied by the utility of violence, greed and ignorance of their fellow man's humanity.

America thus gave birth to the children of genocide, the business of slavery, the culture of violence and more wars than we all care to remember. It cradles itself in denial and a religious hypocrisy whose foundation was formed by notions of racial supremacy. As a result, this nation is now home to an economy which always seems committed to some part of its people being defacto slaves.

Throughout history, the American business paradigm boasts how it's based on free markets but it was really based on subjugation, murder, thievery, cheating and the oppression of workers. Our banking system, Wall Street and even union labor have created markets wherein a few control the many and keep people from truly being united by promoting disunity in the name of solidarity.

After we ended chattel slavery, we continued other forms of it because America knew no other way and economic models based on merit would have surely combined with the skill set in the Negro community or the flow of skilled immigrants to create an economy rooted in freedom and fairness and who the fuck wants that? 

So Blacks were enslaved again by Jim Crow. Then again by legal discrimination in housing, education and employment. Immigrants were similarly held back and only allowed acceptance into the dominant culture if they adopted the prevailing prejudices of the time and dilute their swarthy skin by intermarriage.

We had another revolution in the 1960's, which pushed back against these earlier practices, only to be re-enslaved 20 short years later by the mass incarceration of black men and prisons for profit. And at the same time, all Americans were duped into allowing the elite to suck up most of America's fiat wealth and then squeeze us all into states of poverty, fear and despair such that when it is released, we will all gladly accept whatever new form of slavery is offered here in the millennium.

This time, it will be technological and informational slavery, a world where from cradle to grave, your government will limit and control everything you do and in return, you will get to live, eat and divert your mind with whatever distractions our culture programs.

Countries don't change much over time. Most nations are still at heart what they always were. England is still an empire, fading and pathetic but trying to hold on. Germany is still a nation of proficiency, Japan a spiritual based tech machine and America is still a slavery nation, evolving new ways to own the fruits of humanity without compensation.

Copyright 2015

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Bill Cosby and the Mysteries of Jell-O

"When a product is perfectly matched to its seller, you cannot tell which thing you are being sold." - Anonymous.

Jell-O was always a mystery to me growing up. What held it together? Why did it wiggle and how come other foods were not nearly as shiny and fun.

Well, Bill Cosby's recent scandal forced me to not only deal with the nightmarish revelations of over 50 women, it also caused me to finally find out what the hell Jell-O is.

Jell-O is gelatin and gelatin is: animal bones and skin ground up, treated with acid, then boiled. The top layer of gelatin is skimmed off the surface. Flavored and colored water fills in the spaces between the polymer chains and in that state, making it jiggly, shiny, fun and desirable.

But if you heat the Jell-O, you break the bonds that hold the proteins together and it becomes what it once was, an animal's carcass.

Bill Cosby's trial is over. The heat was applied and now he is a convicted felon. The bonds holding together his image are broken and have turned his legacy back into skin and bone because no matter how we celebrate Cosby's life and career, there will inevitably be a discussion of this rape conviction, which makes his whole life's work look like dead meat.

The conviction casts a spell on the life and work of Bill Cosby and forces the imagination to recast him in our memories: 

Chet Kincaid, the impossibly positive and helpful physical education teacher of the first Bill Cosby Show, can now be seen lusting after young school girls and cute teachers in that Los Angeles high school, spiking their milk cartons in the lunch room and their coffees in the teacher's lounge and doing unspeakable things in the janitor's closet.

Alexander Scott the intrepid tennis pro of I Spy is fighting the cold war, but also date-raping women across Europe, leaving dazed and confused heiresses and the occasional countess in hotel rooms, groggy and unable to remember what happened to them.

And of course, Dr. Heathcliff Huxtable is not just a dad and physician, but a skillful predator who uses that cover to assault women throughout New York in his OBGYN office, while raising his kids with jokes.

And in reality, we had Bill Cosby the man, the lovable, intelligent icon, a man who stood tall from the oppression of Jim Crow and rode the new racial enlightenment as an example of hard work, talent and perseverance. And now we are told that all during that glorious journey, he was drugging and raping women in a constant pattern and in numbers that were consistent with his famous work ethic. If Bill Cosby was a brilliant entertainer, athlete and scholar, why would he be any less talented a predator?

And so the time for speculation is over. Now those who support him have to go from "just allegations" to "the fix was in," "the white man," "illuminati" etc.,. 

None of this should surprise us because Cosby and Jell-O were a perfect match and wasn't there always something creepy about Jell-O? I mean, it moved like it was alive and then you ate it while it was still shaking on your spoon. Not cool, man, as Chet Kincaid might say.

And now as we look back on the Cosby family, we see a tragedy as deep and immense as that of the Kennedys or the Rockefellers. Bill Cosby has buried two of his five children, and has been embroiled in fraud, extortion and other legal troubles, assault allegations and now, a rape conviction. There is a blight on him and like Joe Kennedy who died at 81 and John D. Rockefeller who died at 97, Bill Cosby has built a fortune and lived into old age, to only to watch his family and good name burned to ash.

I do not know how Bill Cosby will go out. He's 80 years old and the clock is ticking hard on him. He may not live long enough to do any time or file and appeal to clear his name. But one thing is sure.  

Jell-O is no longer a mystery to me.

And neither is Bill Cosby. 

copyright 2018.

Friday, February 13, 2015


God called Michael and Gabriel to him for they had been arguing about Man and Love again.

“Humans do not deserve Love,” said Gabriel. “They are weak and will squander it on carnal waste and sin.”

“Love cannot be quantified,” said Michael. “It is spirit and so is its own reward to cherish or to lose.”

And so God made them both mortal and endowed them with pure loving hearts and sent them to earth to live for a year to prove their arguments.

And God said: “Bring back your hearts to me in a year's time and I shall decide which is the more worthy.”

And so Michael and Gabriel went to earth. Gabriel lived as a pious soul, shunned sin and pleasure and used his heart only to worship God and caution men to be good. Michael engaged people and life, found and lost love, was taken advantage of and cast asunder by the vagaries of man but he endured.

In a year, they returned to God who bid them to remove their hearts to see.

Gabriel took out his heart and the light was blinding. Bright as a hundred suns, it was so good and pure that it floated on currents of air.

Michael removed his heart and it filled his hands in dim pieces, each one telling a tale of use, love loss or triumph. It was broken you see and could not be whole again.

“Who is right?” asked Gabriel. “Surely, my heart is the more beautiful.”

“But mine has been useful,” said Michael. “And isn’t that what a heart is made for?”

And God said: “You Gabriel held grace but your heart remains unworthy because you feared using it. Michael's heart though damaged, was sacrificed for the cause of life so freely given but always in My Service.”

“But how can this be?” asked Gabriel with shock. "How does a man attain Your Grace when he must fall to achieve it?”

And God said: “Man's heart is a seed which grows the Tree Of Life which in turn produces the fruit of his eternal soul. If the tree does not struggle to grow, then it bears no fruit and the seed, the miracle, is wasted. So thus, The Worthy Heart is given in Grace but earned by Love.”

Copyright Gary Hardwick 2015