How the Nationals ballpark helped change Washington, D.C., from ‘Chocolate City’ Gentrification has brought change, not just to my neighborhood but to the entire city

Chocolate City,” referring to Washington, D.C.’s nearly 70 percent black population in the latter part of the 20th century, has been transformed in front of my very eyes. Fewer black folks in the city today is truly ironic, partly because this detraction is due to the sport that is known typically for lacking enough chocolate.

Southwest Washington, D.C., isn’t the same, and the city hasn’t been, either, for more than a decade.

In 2005, the former Washington Senators of Major League Baseball returned home as the Nationals after a stint as the Montreal Expos. This meant our youths finally had a different set of role models to look up to — not ballers, but ballplayers. Being an impressionable 10-year-old, singing first exposed me to professional baseball in D.C. when I sang the national anthem at a Nats exhibition game with the D.C. Boys Choir.

We were a handful of black boys from all across D.C. who came together in song for a few priceless moments in a world unknown to us. Performing at an MLB game definitely instilled in us a sense of culture shock and possibilities that afternoon at Robert F. Kennedy Stadium in Northeast D.C.

After the Nats’ first season at RFK, city officials revealed they were eyeing major changes to the baseball environment that ultimately affected much of D.C. In May 2006, they began constructing a new baseball stadium on South Capitol Street in D.C., just 250 feet from my boyhood home in Southwest.

Gleaming new buildings along M street, on September, 18, 2014 in Washington, DC.

Bill O'Leary/The Washington Post via Getty Images

One year earlier, I was enthralled by the national treasure I had missed out on as a kid from the city while feeling the contagious energy of the Nats’ home crowd. With a stadium in the works, I wasn’t necessarily prepared to feel that same thunderous applause, fireworks and ruckus. My family has experienced this intense fandom come alive each night the Nats play through the walls of our townhome on Carrollsburg Place Southwest — walls that feel way too thin on game days.

Our house is located right off South Capitol Street, which separates the southern quadrants of the city into Southeast and Southwest, and the team built its stadium at 1500 South Capitol St. S.E. It’s in a different quadrant, but it’s just one block over from my alley.

The stadium definitely has its bright spots, such as festive outings in The Bullpen and occasional live concerts, and D.C. is now officially making a name for itself as a sports town, which makes our fans proud to claim John Wall, Bryce Harper and Alexander Ovechkin. But with all the good that can come from having a stadium or two in the neighborhood, there are even greater consequences that have affected my family for over a decade. Not only are we witnesses to the removal of black people from Southwest, but the entire neighborhood feels this industrialization and the gentrification that came along with it.

Todd Grosshan bought a rowhouse near the stadium when it was being built, and both sets of his neighbors were uprooted. “We had neighbors on either side of us; they’re gone,” he said. “But they were renting or Section 8 and they didn’t own their houses, so the owners decided property values are high enough and they said, ‘OK, time for y’all to go.’ ”

The city desperately tried to get my family to give up our spot on the block. We wouldn’t go, and neither would many neighbors around the way who just wouldn’t budge.

Keya Kennedy, a Southwest resident who has lived in Syphax Gardens Public Housing since before the stadium was built, didn’t fear pushback from contractors. “This is our city, [and] if we work and pay our rent the same way like anybody else, then we deserve to be here just as well,” she said. “They tried to put fear in us, but that didn’t happen.”

The city has a history of attempting to put fear in black residents, and this cycle is deeply rooted in Southwest. Therefore, today’s gentrification is actually no coincidence. In 1952, according to There’s No Place Like Home: Anthropological Perspectives on Housing and Homelessness in the United States, the Redevelopment Authority enacted a “renewal plan” for Southwest that drove out its thriving black community at the time. The black population in the District went from 71 percent at its peak in the 1970s to losing the majority in 2011, just three years after the Nats came to Southwest.

The “ballpark in the ‘hood” has caused the tearing down of many longtime D.C. establishments, and the “new and improved” Southwest has since experienced new visitors frequenting the neighborhood.

Kennedy notices more white people, but not only during baseball games. “Every day, going to the Metro, in our stores,” she said. “Everywhere.”

Our black residents are annoyed that we don’t have access to many places that were signs of our identity. They were replaced.

A pedestrian walks past a construction site adjacent to Nationals Park, on September, 18, 2014 in Washington, DC.

Bill O'Leary/The Washington Post via Getty Images

“There are no gas stations around here, and no fast-food places or places for us to eat,” Kennedy said. Besides the lack of accessibility to basic necessities such as food and fuel, Southwest is missing its social atmosphere as well. The city razed many hallmarks of our once-black community, such as the nightclubs like Zanzibar and H20 on the old Waterfront.

“That was the spot,” said Michelle Stanton, a resident of D.C. for 30 years after moving here from Rhode Island. “That’s where black people went because they felt comfortable.”

All around the stadium there are new hotels, dry cleaners, banks and a trendier look for the newest occupants. I’ve never seen so many “coming soon” posters on street corners. To some, it may appear to make the area more accommodating for fans and tourists, but in reality it has driven out those who look like me.

“They came in, and they kind of bullied their way in,” said Stanton, who lives on Half Street Southwest. “They had no respect for black people … they didn’t care about black people.”

Grosshan broke down D.C. and the current state of gentrification in the simplest way he could: “Well, black folk are leaving and white folk are coming in,” he said.

Contrary to Henry Louis Gates Jr.’s four-hour series Black America Since MLK: And Still I Rise, this is quite the opposite of white flight; it’s yet another form of black migration and the African diaspora. Now it is, as the adage goes, out with the old (black) and in with the new (white).

“Chocolate City” might not ever reach the chocolateness of its heyday, according to Stanton. “That’ll never happen again,” she said. “It’s white chocolate.”

Some of us miss the real Southwest D.C. and the oh-so-real D.C. We could do without this white chocolate substitution.

“I’ve noticed a lessening of that ethnic flavor,” Grosshan said, referring to the music and partying he used to hear at night in his alley. “That’s just because of the changeover in people.”

The stadium didn’t clean up the community, it just cleaned many of us and our institutions out. An emblem of black neighborhoods has always been the black church. Second Baptist Church Southwest used to be located across from the Southwest DMV, but it sold its property and moved to District Heights, Maryland, in 2011. The neighborhood became too expensive because of the ballpark.

“[The stadium] had a definite impact on our ability to stay in Southwest,” said Janice Lucas, chairman of the church’s board of trustees. “We had been there since the early ’50s.”

Without our churches, urban flavor and ethnic atmosphere, the chocolate west has been depleted, and the District has gone from a chocolate city to a much lighter and fluffier treat that I call s’mores.

The baseball stadium’s displacement of black bodies, institutions and culture in Southwest, much like D.C.’s state of gentrification, signifies how some corporations and the many new white folks view us.

“We’re just a color to them,” Stanton said. “I guess we don’t matter.”

In another world, Rachel and Kenny would have been perfect for each other After four black guys are eliminated on ‘The Bachelorette,’ we’re left with just Eric

Rachel, I doubted you, but you pulled through and made the right choice: Lee is gone, y’all! Bachelor Nation can now enjoy The Bachelorette (sorry, Chicago!) without feeling guilty about watching a racist dude pine after a black woman. But even with Lee out of the picture, Kenny wasn’t safe. He just couldn’t walk away from the two-on-one without some choice final words for Lee, none of which are appropriate for me to repeat here. His decision to go back irked Rachel, but Kenny eventually got the rose.

Here’s where things got really good. We all know Kenny is a devoted father, so much so he’s apparently the only cast member who is allowed to have contact with the outside world. If you’re not ugly-crying during his emotional Skype sessions with his 10-year-old daughter, McKenzie, well, you’re just not here for the right reasons. On Monday night, Clinton (who so graciously allows me to take over every now and again) wondered why Kenny stayed at all, given how he had to put up with such nonsense from Lee. Tuesday night, Kenny answered that question: “The potential impact that Rachel could have in our lives is the reason I’m still here.” He’s so devoted to his daughter.

Unfortunately it wasn’t enough, as after a heart-to-heart with Rachel she let him go because she knew how much of a toll being away from McKenzie was for him. And he left graciously, acknowledging how smart and insightful Rachel is. Kenny was willing to give up Rachel for his daughter, which is all we can hope and ask for. I’m not crying, you are! I hope it works out with Rachel and whoever she does pick, because if it doesn’t work out with that guy, I think she’ll regret that Kenny slipped through her grasp.

There were other, not so gracious exits. Oh, Josiah. You were never as cool as you thought you were.

Also leaving the show were Anthony and Will. Neither man had anything wrong with him per se, but they didn’t have what Rachel’s looking for. Let’s talk about Will. I won’t even get into his dating history (white girls). The more pertinent thing is the way he behaved around Rachel. He was extremely respectful, to the point of emotional and physical distance. As we’ve seen time and time again with some of the more assertive guys, Rachel isn’t looking for a guy who takes his time, and a lot of the men on the show hover somewhere between shy and respectful, depending on how you look at who you’re rooting for.

But here’s the thing: Rachel is a power bottom. She’s looking for that guy who will take charge and scoop her in for a kiss without asking first. Will wasn’t willing to step up to the plate, so Rachel sent him packing after their one-on-one. She was insulted when he told her about how passionate he was in past relationships (with white women), and she had every right to be because he wasn’t showing her any of that passion. Will doesn’t have to try so hard to elucidate passion with white women, I guarantee you. Just his big, black presence is enough for them. Rachel clearly didn’t appreciate being Will’s black girl experiment. This is, perhaps, the learning moment we’ve been waiting for.

At this point there are two clear front-runners: Bryan and Eric. From day one, Rachel has been extremely attracted to both men, but they offer very different things. Bryan is the alpha of the pack and exudes sex appeal. He’s suave, but we don’t really know that much about him, which is unusual at this point in the game. It’s looking more and more like he’s a loser in cool clothing. Eric is the sweeter of the two, and his eagerness at the prospect of a relationship makes up for the fact that he doesn’t move as fast as Bryan. Plus, he’s an open book.

There are also two dark horses:

Seriously, who are these guys and how did they get a rose when Alex didn’t?! I can’t believe they’re still here when four (4!) black guys were eliminated in one episode. I can’t wait for next week.

Clinton Yates contributed to this report.

New firm wants to enhance early childhood education plus help mothers re-enter the workforce Wonderschool’s program addresses shortage of top-quality programming and training for stay-at-home education market

There is one education-based tech company that has found a way for mothers to become teachers at home, which offers them the opportunity to become hands-on with the early learning process of their children and, for some, even increase their household income.

San Francisco-based tech company Wonderschool is offering some relief. This digital marketplace of early child care programs recently announced it received a $2 million round of financing, led by First Round Capital and including Cross Culture Ventures, SoftTech VC, Lerer Ventures, FundersClub and Edelweiss. The funds will be used to build the initial product and team network of boutique early childhood programs that combine the quality standards of the best child care facilities in the world with the personal touch of an in-home program.

The money raised will also help the company attain its goal of democratizing high-quality preschools and teachers and helping them double their salaries by becoming small-business owners, which in turn can benefit mothers who opt to become teacher moms.

According to Wonderschool, the child care marketplace is in a crisis. There aren’t enough preschools to meet demand, and high-quality preschools are scarce: One study found that only 8 percent of preschools it surveyed across eight states are of high quality.

According to the press release, Wonderschool partners with experienced educators and child care providers, assisting them with licensing, program setup, marketing and more. Its software allows program directors to manage their students, parents and their program from one dashboard. All programs set up nurturing, developmentally appropriate in-home environments and must define program philosophy and curriculum for parents. Mentors provide Wonderschool directors with coaching, support, professional development and training.

Wonderschool’s program quality and oversight is guided by Mia Pritts, a childhood education expert who was in the team of preschool pioneers who started the groundbreaking campus preschool system at Google, Stanford and Pixar. The organization has more than 50 early childhood programs in its network in California and plans to expand to 15 cities.

“There is a true crisis around ‘child care deserts,’ where for every one slot at a child care center there are three or more kids vying for the spot,” Pritts said. “Wonderschool provides one solution to this issue by giving parents more options while combining the quality of a commercial program with the soul of a neighborhood one.”

Approximately 60 percent of Wonderschool’s current partners are women of color, and 20 percent of the directors are black women. In a study conducted this year, Wonderschool found that some teachers have gone from unemployed or taking jobs paying about $38,000 to earning $60,000 annually. The study revealed that the bulk of their partners are in the San Francisco Bay area and Los Angeles, two areas with high costs of living.

More than a third of the program directors were stay-at-home parents when they decided to work with Wonderschool to start their own in-home program.

How does Wonderschool work?

  • A digital child dashboard: Parents browse Wonderschool programs nearby, schedule visits, enroll their children, review program philosophy and curriculum, and make payments.
  • Preschool mentors: Team mentors are education professionals and provide teachers with coaching, support, professional development and training.
  • Helps teachers become business owners: Educators are helped with licensing, program setup, marketing and more so that they can focus on what they are good at: creating a high-quality sanctuary for kids.

Wonderschool was developed by veteran entrepreneurs Chris Bennett and Arrel Gray because of the problem Gray faced finding good child care for his family.

The program will help with child care affordability and scarcity.

“The first five years of a child’s life are a critical period of learning and development, when a child needs opportunities to explore and socialize,” said Bennett, co-founder and CEO of Wonderschool. “By providing online tools and a community of support for educators, we simplify the process of starting and growing an in-home child care or preschool program so our partners can focus on what they do best: the quality of their curriculum and teaching. Parents benefit from having their child at a program with the quality standards of some of the best centers in the world.”

The words ‘I thought my life was in danger’ allow police to kill black people without fear of reprisal When the police officer assumes the power of the slave master

A slave master, four centuries ago, could avoid legal sanction for using lethal force against his enslaved property by simply saying the latter opposed correction. “I was disciplining my slave, who then resisted.” Utter those magic words and the state would level no punishment if the master committed homicide. A police officer, now, can avoid legal sanction for using lethal force against a person by simply saying the latter made the officer fear for his or her life. “I stopped someone on the street, and I then thought my life was in danger.” Utter those magic words and the state will level no punishment if the officer commits homicide.

Black folk, always the victim in the first context, also bear the brunt of these legal realities in the second. Thus, because of these magic words, black people living today, during police encounters, have the same right to life as did a stolen African in the 17th century.

My mind conceived this historical analogy while stewing in the misery produced by the acquittal of St. Anthony, Minnesota, police officer Jeronimo Yanez, who snatched away the life of Philando Castile, a black man. During a traffic stop for a busted taillight, Castile, after informing Yanez he had a firearm, reached for his identification per Yanez’s request. Yanez told him not to pull out his firearm. Castile replied, “I’m not pulling it out.” Yanez next fired his gun seven times into the white 1997 Oldsmobile, killing Castile, as his girlfriend and her 4-year-old daughter sat inches away as a man they loved breathed his final breaths while bathing in his own blood.

Yanez, on the witness stand during his trial, uttered those magic words: “I was scared to death. I thought I was going to die. … I had no other choice.” He, therefore, walked out of Ramsey County courthouse a free man, a jury acquitting him of second-degree manslaughter and other lesser offenses. Castile’s family, though, left shedding tears, a melancholic scene that recent events have forced to replay on an endless loop, most recently when former Milwaukee officer Dominique Heaggan-Brown was acquitted for killing Sylville Smith, despite the incident being filmed.

Much of the outcry about these verdicts has focused on how they reveal that racial oppression molests every aspect of our criminal justice apparatus, how the system operates as intended when it never punishes cops who kill black folk. Although this conversation must hurtle onward, we must also situate these fatal occurrences in historical context, dramatizing how harrowing the black plight continues to be. We achieve this by reckoning with a brutal truth — during police encounters, black folk have as much agency over whether they will ever lay eyes on their loved ones again as their enslaved ancestors did when being punished by their masters.

The Virginia Colony, in 1669, enacted a statute permitting the killing of an enslaved person who resisted an owner’s corrective punishment. The reasoning behind the statute appalls current sensibilities: “[I]t cannot be presumed that propensed malice,” the statute stated, “should induce any man to destroy his own estate.” Since an owner, in other words, would not lay waste to his own property because of evil intentions, the state should presume the owner acted properly when such killings occurred. Other colonies, because Virginia was the first and most influential colony, followed suit, passing similar laws. This meant something horrifying for the enslaved throughout colonial America — the law allowed an owner to kill them if the owner’s story fit a specified narrative.

So, too, can police officers kill when their stories fit a specified narrative, the I-feared-for-my-life narrative. Officers can use deadly force when reasonably believing their lives are in peril. The Supreme Court wrote, in Graham v. Connor, the situation “must be judged from the perspective of a reasonable officer on the scene, rather than with the 20/20 vision of hindsight.” Because prosecutors and jurors presume officers behave properly, a presumption that slave owners enjoyed too, whether they get charged or convicted turns more on their ability to recount a convincing tale than on the surrounding facts.

American society transmits explicit and implicit messages about black people’s inherent dangerousness, making us susceptible to believing a black person posed a threat in most any scenario. Cops understand that should an ordeal with a black person turn deadly, their ability to utter the magic words inoculates them from punishment, a scary fact that black folk understand all too well.

The police officer, like the slave master before him, has been allowed by the state to dispense summary justice. If white people feared, like black people do, that their lives were subject to the decision-making of an easily frightened or malicious officer, changes would surely be instituted. To prevent the next Philando Castile or Sylville Smith, black folk need allies willing to wield arms in the battle to strip the magic from words.

Harlem’s 125th Street is getting its very own 20-story Hip Hop Hall of Fame and Museum Museum founder JT Thompson’s vision is coming to life after 25 years of planning

Harlem, New York, known for its African-American contributions to cultural, social and artistic creativity, is adding even more flavor to the neighborhood with the addition of a Hip Hop Hall of Fame and Museum slated to open next winter.

The museum, chartered by the nonprofit Museum and Educational Institution, won a bid earlier this month for building space on Harlem’s famed 125th Street, home of the world-famous Apollo Theater, with a mission to “preserve, archive, exhibit, educate and showcase hip-hop music and culture from around the world.” Special exhibits will include the history of hip-hop, its development and impact on social trends, while also featuring wax figures of enshrined hip-hop pioneers and legends, memorabilia and collectibles.

Under the direction of development project manager Thompson International Professionals, Hip Hop Hall of Fame founder James “JT” Thompson and Zubatkin Owner Representation’s Andrew Bast, the museum will be constructed in two phases.

A rendering of the Hip Hop Hall of Fame Museum on 125th Street.

Courtesy of the Hip Hop Hall of Fame

Phase I, set to open in February 2018, heavily concentrates on a floor-by-floor plan that will include a cafe, gallery, visitors bureau and retail gift store on the first level. The museum itself, along with event space, offices and a multimedia studio for film and television content production, will be housed on the second floor. Phase II, more intricate in complexity and design, will encompass a 20-story Hip Hop Hall of Fame and Museum Hotel Entertainment complex that features the hall of fame museum, five-star hotel, retail mall and gift shop, arcade, TV studios, sports bar, restaurant and concert lounge with a goal of serving up to 1 million local, national and international visitors annually, according to a press release.

The museum will also focus on community involvement and education by providing a program that will give 25,000 New York City public school children an opportunity to visit the facility on field trips with museum tours, live assembly programs, academic awards and gift bags. The facility is set to bring an estimated $350 million of socioeconomic impact to New York and surrounding areas by providing permanent and part-time jobs, job training, internships and community volunteer opportunities, live events, shows, concerts and educational programs.

Thompson, an Army veteran who served until 1988, used the discipline, focus and attention to detail he acquired in the military to focus on breaking into the business as a concert promoter and television producer. Thompson created and executive-produced the first Hip Hop Hall of Fame Awards show on the BET cable network in 1996, shortly before the shooting deaths of hip-hop icons Tupac Shakur and The Notorious B.I.G.

Although the journey to open the museum spanned over two decades, Thompson remained steadfast in his mission to deliver the most complete experience in hip-hop’s influence on culture and history in America.

“This has been a labor of love,” Thompson said. “It’s had its valleys, mountains, peaks and falloffs. In the Army, I had leaders, mentors and brothers like teammates working to achieve something special. In life and in business, be disciplined and finish strong without quitting.”

Serena Williams bringing attention to financial abuse of domestic violence victims The 39-time Grand Slam winner is teaming up with the Allstate Foundation as the new ‘Purple Purse’ Ambassador

Tennis dominator, entrepreneur and mommy-to-be Serena Williams is taking philanthropy to the next level. Allstate Foundation Purple Purse announced that she has signed on as the program’s new ambassador.

Williams’ role with the organization includes shining a much-needed light on the role that financial abuse plays in domestic violence. Control over the money allows abusers to more easily keep their partners trapped in abusive relationships. Taking the role formerly occupied by actress and Scandal star Kerry Washington, Williams is thrilled at the platform she will have to speak to the public about how to help break the cycle of domestic violence.

“Standing up for women’s rights has long been a passion of mine,” Williams said. “I am honored to join Allstate Foundation Purple Purse to bring financial abuse and domestic violence out of the shadows and into the public conversation. I hope people will join the Purple Purse movement and work with us to end abuse against women.”

According to Purple Purse, 1 in 4 American women will experience domestic violence in her lifetime and 99 percent of all domestic violence cases involve financial abuse. Financial abuse can include abusers preventing victims from accessing or earning money. Nearly 8 in 10 Americans (78 percent) are unaware that financial abuse is a form of domestic violence.

To give the public a first view of how financial abuse affects women, the Allstate Foundation recently launched a video, Lost Purse.

“Our purpose at Allstate is to help people live their best lives, and that means continuing to raise awareness of domestic violence and empowering survivors to regain their financial independence,” said Vicky Dinges, Allstate’s senior vice president of corporate responsibility. “We are thrilled to welcome Serena, a longtime advocate and role model for so many, to the Purple Purse family. Her voice will bring new audiences into this critical conversation. Domestic violence won’t go away on its own. We need everyone’s voices — men’s and women’s — to stand up to abusers and speak on behalf of victims, because no woman deserves to live in fear.”

Allstate Foundation Purple Purse has helped more than 1 million survivors through its educational resources since 2005. The Allstate Foundation has invested more than $55 million to educate the public about financial abuse and to provide critical survivor services, including financial education, asset-building, job training and readiness programs.

Prodigy dies at 42 and other news of the week The week that was June 19-June 23

Monday 06.19.17

The state of North Carolina, that bastion of civil rights, had a law barring sex offenders from using social media sites, such as Facebook, invalidated by the U.S. Supreme Court. The court also ruled that rejecting trademarks that “disparage” others violates the First Amendment; the Washington Redskins, locked in their own legal battle with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, wasn’t a party in the current case but supported the decision, which ruled in favor of Asian-American band The Slants. New York sports radio host Mike Francesa, when learning of the decision, referred to The Slants’ members as “Oriental Americans,” and when told that phrase was offensive, he asked, “You’re telling me that using the word ‘Oriental American’ is a slight?” The 47-year-old husband of Beyoncé announced a new, stream-only album available exclusively to the hundreds of Tidal and Sprint customers. In honor of Juneteenth, a commemoration of the end of slavery, President Donald Trump released a statement praising two white men (President Abraham Lincoln and Maj. Gen. Gordon Granger), and a sportswriter questioned the history of American police and slave patrols. A heady reporter tried Lyft Shuttle, the ride-sharing company’s beta-stage commuter option, which allows riders to “walk to a nearby pickup spot, get in a shared car that follows a predesignated route, and drops you (and everyone else) off at the same stop” — or, in other words, a bus. A data firm hired by the Republican National Committee left sensitive information — including names, dates of birth and home addresses — of nearly 200 million registered voters exposed to the internet; the company responsible, Deep Root Analytics, calls itself “the most experienced group of targeters in Republican politics.”

The Philadelphia 76ers officially acquired the No. 1 overall pick in the NBA draft, paving the way for the team to draft yet another player with past leg issues. Markelle Fultz, the first pick in Thursday’s draft, not only was traded from 53-win team to one that won just 28 games last season but also briefly considered signing with LaVar Ball’s Big Baller Brand over Nike. A Green Bay Packers fan and Wisconsin resident who, for some reason, has Chicago Bears season tickets, sued the Chicago franchise for not allowing him to wear Packers gear on the sideline at Soldier Field; the Wisconsin man told the court that the Bears “deprived me of my ability to fully enjoy this specific on-field experience.” In other bear news, three New Hampshire teenagers are being investigated for potential hate crimes for assaulting and yelling a racial slur at costumed Boston street musician Keytar Bear, who is black.

Tuesday 06.20.17

White House chief strategist Steve Bannon said White House press secretary Sean Spicer wouldn’t appear on camera as much because “Sean got fatter.” Former five-weight boxing champion Sugar Ray Leonard offered UFC fighter Conor McGregor one piece of advice for his boxing match against Floyd Mayweather Jr. in August: “Duck.” FBI director nominee Christopher Wray once represented an American energy executive who was being criminally investigated by the Russian government, but Wray deleted that information from his official online biography sometime in 2017. Mattel diversified its Barbie and Ken doll lines, offering different sizes, skin tones and hairstyles, including man buns, cornrows and Afros. For the new heavyset Ken dolls, Mattel originally wanted to market them as “husky,” but, “A lot [of guys] were really traumatized by that — as a child, shopping in a husky section.” Twitter was in an uproar after it was reported that Wonder Woman star Gal Gadot was paid just $300,000 for her role in the critically acclaimed, $500 million movie, compared with $14 million for Man of Steel’s leading man, Henry Cavill; the latter figure was not true. Imprisoned former football player O.J. Simpson, who is up for parole for burglary and assault next month, spends his time in prison watching his daughter’s show Keeping Up With the Kardashians; “He likes to keep up with all the gossip with them,” a former prison guard said. NFL Hall of Famer Warren Sapp, last heard fighting prostitutes in Arizona, has decided to donate his brain to scientists when he dies; Sapp said his memory “ain’t what it used to be.” New York rapper Prodigy, real name Albert Johnson, died at the age of 42; Prodigy, one half of acclaimed duo Mobb Deep, had recently been hospitalized because of sickle cell anemia. U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions, the nation’s top lawyer, hired his own lawyer. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, catching up to the 20th century, signed a bill that raised the age of consent for marriage from 14 to 18. An Algerian man was sentenced to two years in prison for dangling a baby out a 15th-floor window on Facebook, instructing his followers “1,000 likes or I will drop him.” A Canadian man stole a mummified toe that had been used as an ingredient in a hotel bar drink for more than 40 years; an employee said the hotel was “furious” because “toes are very hard to come by.” To test the performative advantages of the microbiome Prevotella, a Connecticut scientist performed a fecal transplant on herself, telling a news outlet: “It’s not fun, but it’s pretty basic.” Atlanta Hawks center Dwight Howard, at 8:55 p.m. ET, tweeted, “Ok Twitter Fans ,, give me your thoughts , trades or otherwise & Remember 2B-Nice”; five minutes later, Howard was traded to the Charlotte Hornets.

Wednesday 06.21.17

The Pentagon paid $28 million for “forest”-colored uniforms for the Afghan Army, yet “forests cover only 2.1% of Afghanistan’s total land area.” White House aide and former reality TV star Omarosa Manigault signs her name as “the Honorable Omarosa Manigault” despite not being a high-ranking federal official or judge. Despite President Trump once valuing his Westchester, New York, golf course at $50 million, the Trump Organization valued the property at $7.5 million on tax forms, half of the town assessor’s valuation of $15.1 million, to pay less in property taxes. The Russian government, accused by U.S. authorities of spreading fake news to influence the 2016 presidential election, said it will “raise the issue of fake news” at the United Nations and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, calling it “a problem that should be defined and addressed collectively.” Although terrorism is defined as using violence for political reasons, the FBI said the shooting at a baseball practice for the Congressional Baseball Game by a white man had “no terrorism involved.” Meanwhile in Flint, Michigan, the stabbing of a police officer at an airport by a man who reportedly yelled, “Allahu Akbar” is being investigated by the FBI as an act of terrorism. A group of CIA contractors were fired from the agency for hacking a vending machine and stealing over $3,000 worth of snacks. Rep. Greg Gianforte (R-Montana), best known for body-slamming a Guardian reporter last month, was sworn in to the House; the Democratic Party of Montana sent Gianforte an orange jumpsuit for his first day in office. The daughter of two dentists who had enough education to teach their children about stocks and investments, and who, herself, owns a multimillion-dollar company, was taught to save and now plans to retire at 40. In shocking news, a new study found that films with diverse casts outperform films that are overwhelmingly white. A police officer was acquitted of fatally shooting a black man. An auto insurance industry-funded study found that states with legalized recreational marijuana laws had a higher frequency of auto collision claims than states without such laws. Murray Energy Corp. CEO Robert E. Murray sued comedian John Oliver for defamation after the HBO host used his weekly TV program to mock the energy executive, at one point calling Murray a “geriatric Dr. Evil”; Oliver predicted on his show June 18 that Murray would sue him. Hall of Fame professional wrestler Jerry “The King” Lawler, known for calling women’s breasts “puppies” and other sexist remarks, said even he hated the finish of a historic all-women’s match that ended with a man winning. In response to the new American craze fidget spinners, Chinese companies have started selling the Toothpick Crossbow, a small, $1 handheld crossbow that can fire toothpicks 65 feet; parents worry the crossbows could blind young children, and Chinese state media fear iron nails could be swapped in for the toothpicks. New York Knicks president Phil Jackson said he is willing to trade 21-year-old center Kristaps Porizingis, who is 21, with the “future” of the team in mind.

Thursday 06.22.17

ESPN commentator Stephen A. Smith, still visibly upset over the recent actions of Phil Jackson, pointed out that the Knicks president’s first front office deal back in 2014 was signing forward Lamar Odom, “who was on crack”; Odom was released from the team three months later. Meanwhile, an NBA prospect said Jackson was “falling in and out of sleep” during the prospect’s workout. Knicks owner James Dolan skipped out on the NBA draft to perform with his band, JD & The Straight Shot, at a local winery-music venue. Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, who last week said U.S. presidents “cannot obstruct justice,” said President Trump alleged he had tapes of former FBI director James Comey to “rattle” him. The president, who in May insinuated that he had “tapes” of conversations with Comey, tweeted that he, in fact, does not have any such tapes. The lack of diversity at the Rupert Murdoch-owned Wall Street Journal is so dire that some reporters have taken to calling the newspaper “White Castle.” In another example of “life comes at you fast,” Chicago Cubs outfielder and World Series hero Kyle Schwarber was demoted to Triple-A Iowa after batting just .171 through the first 71 games of the season. The trainer for former Chicago Bulls forward Jimmy Butler, in response to his client being traded to the Minnesota Timberwolves, said he’s met “drug dealers with better morals” than Bulls general manager Gar Forman. Hip-hop artist Shock G, best known for his seminal 1990s hit “Humpty Dance,” was arrested in Wisconsin on suspicion of drug paraphernalia possession; there was no mention of whether or not the arrest took place at a Burger King restaurant. Just days after Uber CEO Travis Kalanick resigned from the company amid hostile work environment allegations, some company employees began circulating a petition to have Kalanick reinstated, stating “[Travis Kalanick], no matter his flaws (everyone has them) was one of the best leaders I have seen.” Montgomery County, Maryland, police are using DNA evidence to help create composite sketches of those suspected of sexual assault; the DNA, described as “bodily fluids,” is assumed to be male semen. A New York woman who traveled to the Dominican Republic to get reduced breast implants and liposuction developed an infection and now has a hole in one of her breasts; the woman, who traveled to the Caribbean island for a cheaper $5,000 procedure, will now pay over $10,000 in recovery costs. Famed comedian Bill Cosby is planning a series of town halls aimed at young people, specifically athletes, on how to avoid sexual assault allegations. After nearly three months of secrecy, Republican senators publicly released their version of a replacement for the Affordable Care Act (ACA). In unrelated news, only 38 percent of Americans want the president and Congress to repeal and replace the ACA.

FRIDAY 06.23.17

A Trump administration official once filed for bankruptcy because of his wife’s medical bills for treating her chronic Lyme disease. President Trump all but confirmed his former tweets about alleged “tapes” of former FBI director James Comey were an attempt to influence the director’s Senate testimony. Comey, who announced the reopening of an investigation into Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton just 11 days before the Nov. 8 election, refused three weeks earlier to attach his name to a statement on Russia’s involvement in that election because “it was too close to the election for the bureau to be involved.” A North Korea spokesman said the death of American college student Otto Warmbier just days after he was released from imprisonment in the country is a “mystery to us as well.” NBA Hall of Famer Dennis Rodman, who was in North Korea around the same time Warmbier was released last week, said dictator Kim Jong-Un is a “friendly guy,” and the two sing karaoke and ride horses together. Zola, a gorilla at the Dallas Zoo, danced to (a dubbed-over version of) Michael Sembello’s 1996 hit “Maniac.” The St. Louis Cardinals announced their first Pride Night celebration at Busch Stadium; a disgruntled fan demanded that the team “stop forcing this down my throat.” Great Britain, loser of the Revolutionary War, is now putting chocolate in its chili. In response to Pirates of the Caribbean actor Johnny Depp asking an English crowd “When was the last time an actor assassinated a president?” a White House spokesperson condemned the remarks: “President Trump has condemned violence in all forms, and it’s sad that others like Johnny Depp have not followed his lead.” Hours later, New Hampshire state Rep. Al Baldasaro, a Trump campaign adviser, visited the White House; last year, Baldasaro said Hillary Clinton “should be shot in a firing squad for treason.” Five-foot-9 Boston Celtics guard Isaiah Thomas said if he were taller he’d be “the best player in the world.” Nearly 500 Syrian civilians have been killed in U.S.-led airstrikes against two provinces in the Middle Eastern country. Former MTV Jersey Shore star Ronnie Magro-Ortiz, describing his breakup with fellow reality TV star Malika Haqq, said he and Haqq were like “oil and water.” He added: “It tastes good with bread, but it’s just not mixing.” A jury deadlocked for the second time in the case of a police officer killing a black man. After less-than-stellar reviews from critics and Jada Pinkett Smith, and a 22 percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes, the Tupac Shakur biopic All Eyez on Me is being sued for copyright infringement by veteran journalist Kevin Powell.

Explaining Beyoncé’s public performance of pregnancy and motherhood Reclaiming a positive image for black women amid a history of degradation and slander

They’re here!

Finally, really and truly here — according to news reports.

By “they,” of course, we mean Beyoncé and Jay Z’s twins.

For months, we’ve been lapping up whatever dribbles of details we could find about Queen Bey and her pregnancy, dining on a steady diet of Instagram posts and public appearances as her belly kept growing with two more heirs to the Knowles-Carter empire. And true to form, Beyoncé took the opportunity to give us a spectacle laden with meaning.

Perhaps the most significant thing about Beyoncé’s decisions about how her pregnant body would be publicly displayed was her understanding that no one can define themselves by a series of negatives. Black womanhood and black motherhood are always performed in minute-by-minute assertions, and that doesn’t become any less true if you are married, or wealthy, or well-educated. Just ask Michelle Obama.

It’s not enough to say “We’re not welfare queens or breeding wenches or “subfeminine,’ ” to use Eldridge Cleaver’s word. Telling society what you are not is not the same as defining what you are, as evidenced by the efforts of black clubwomen in the early 20th century. Thanks to, as Mary Church Terrell wrote, “false accusations and malicious slanders circulated against them constantly, both by the press and by the direct descendants of those who in years past were responsible for the moral degradation of their female slaves,” black women learned to present themselves as largely asexual to counter prevailing images of themselves as wanton Jezebels. It’s a legacy that’s continued to affect how we see black women, into the 21st century, as we’ve learned that sexual respectability politicking is just as confining as stereotypes that defined black women as irredeemably lustful.

Rather than be pigeonholed, Beyoncé used her second pregnancy to position herself, and by extension black womanhood at large, as the center of life.


Of course it was all connected.

It turned out that the Feb. 1 Instagram announcement of twins and the library of maternity photos released on her website were a harbinger of what was to come at the Grammys less than two weeks later. A club flyer, if you will.

With her last two albums, it’s clear Beyoncé has become wedded to the idea of letting her work communicate in the aggregate. The whole speaks louder, more concretely, and more decisively than any one individual element. That doesn’t apply just to her music, or the music videos (Beyoncé) or cinematic offerings (Lemonade) paired with it. Beyoncé boasts an unparalleled skill in stretching her artistic statements into multipronged events, taking full advantage of the internet, her performances and even step-and-repeat photo ops to present a consistent narrative.

“I think she was giving us a different vision of what black children’s futures could be.”

Her Grammys performance was a continuation of what Beyoncé was already aiming to communicate with her pregnancy announcement, through a series of photographs that had been art-directed and contemplated quite deeply. Looking back, it now seems like the most visible chapter in a highly curated story: how Beyoncé was not only embracing pregnancy and motherhood, but providing new fodder for what it means.

While some rightfully detected traces of Peter Paul Rubens’ many works depicting the Madonna and child in Beyoncé’s explosion of florals, the kitschy, Sears portrait gallery nature of the photographs referenced something else: the provocative, radical appropriating element of a Kehinde Wiley portrait.

Wiley is known for painting black people in a style that references the old masters, elevating ordinary modern black people to the status of nobility by immortalizing them in the same mythmaking environs as lionized white historical figures. With her maternity photos, and at the Grammys, Beyoncé elected to do the same.

At first glance, Beyoncé’s decision to channel Wiley seemed incongruous. She’s not ordinary at all. This is a woman who is known not just as a mononym but as Queen Bey, and for a time King Bey.

Why install yourself like the subjects Wiley recruits off the street when you’re a woman with the power to turn a man into a “black Bill Gates”? Quite simply, Beyoncé was tapping into a pop cultural black populism. She took the subtext of Lemonade and made it plain with the speech she gave upon accepting the Grammy for best urban contemporary album. In it, she aligned herself with and understood herself to be a stand-in for all black women, especially American black women.

“We all experience pain and loss, and often we become inaudible,” she said. “My intention for the film and album was to create a body of work that would give a voice to our pain, our struggles, our darkness and our history. To confront issues that make us uncomfortable. … This is something I want for every child of every race, and I feel it’s vital that we learn from the past and recognize our tendencies to repeat our mistakes.”

Instagram Photo

Instagram Photo

This might have been surprising if you only paid glancing attention to Lemonade, and took it as Beyoncé giving a public middle finger to her husband for cheating on her with Becky with the good hair. But the gossip was a lure for a deeper message.

Remember, the Lemonade film included the Mothers of the Movement: Sybrina Fulton, Gwen Carr and Lezley McSpadden, better known as the mothers of Trayvon Martin, Eric Garner, and Michael Brown, respectively. And so, on the night when Beyoncé was recognized for her work, her decision to depict herself as the madonna, as a multitudinous, many-armed deity, and as the orisha Oshun, was a decision to offer herself as a vessel for black women’s self-love. It was Beyoncé’s way of marrying the messages within Chaka Khan’s “I’m Every Woman” and Boris Gardiner’s “Every N—- is a Star.”

Three years ago, Beyoncé opened the Grammys with a steamy performance of “Drunk in Love.” Seated on a French cafe chair, she writhed and vamped in fishnets and a black sheer leotard, exulting in the bliss of hot marital sexytimes, eventually joined by her husband. A British newspaper, Metro UK, responded with a headline spitting fire and judgment: “ ‘Whore’ Beyoncé angers parents with raunchy act.”

For Beyoncé to then align herself, and by proxy, black women as a whole, with the iconography of the madonna was significant. When you consider that she did so after releasing a self-titled visual album that was a frank celebration of sex, it’s explosive. Even on Beyoncé, released in 2013, the singer was toying with imagery of the Pietà, casting herself as Mary and a black man as the fallen Christ in the video for “Mine.”

Beyonce portraying “Mary” in the “Mine” video


As with just about everything she does publicly, Beyoncé takes basic ideas and remixes them to great effect to suit her own needs. So of course she did it with a public pregnancy, too. Beyoncé’s pregnancy was political because black women’s bodies are laden with politics, whether we want them to be or not. Such is the burden of history.

Government has long sought to define and characterize black motherhood for its own ends. There are the “greatest hits” we all know and detest, such as legally defining black women as unrapeable in service of a “capitalized womb,” or determining that babies born to enslaved women inherited the status of free or enslaved from their mothers. There’s the Moynihan report’s prescription that black women’s achievement needed to be impeded in service to black men, presidential candidate Ronald Reagan’s use of the mythical welfare queen as a scapegoat, and even former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee’s attempt to characterize the Affordable Care Act, with its provisions for free birth control and well woman exams, as a governmental “Uncle Sugar” enabling the actions of wanton, morally bankrupt women.

But attacks on black motherhood have also manifested in the form of attacks on their children, something that was visceral in Beyoncé’s inclusion of the Mothers of the Movement in Lemonade. Beyoncé communicated that there was no space between herself and these women. She is the mother of a black child, subject to the same dangers resulting from white fear and white supremacy. There’s no daylight between Beyoncé and, more recently, Diamond Reynolds, the woman whose partner, Philando Castile, was shot to death by a police officer during a traffic stop, in front of her young daughter, who was seated in the back of the car.

It was Beyoncé’s way of marrying the messages within Chaka Khan’s “I’m Every Woman” and Boris Gardiner’s “Every N—– is a Star.

But while Lemonade, with its opening salvo of “Formation,” references modern attacks on black children and black motherhood, the fear black mothers harbor runs deeper than the past few years. It spans generations. Perhaps no such attack drives that point home like the gruesome 1918 lynching of Mary Turner and her unborn child in Brooks County, Georgia.

After a black man shot and killed a white plantation owner, a lynch mob murdered Turner’s husband as part of a rampage of terrorism and revenge. Turner, 21 years old and eight months pregnant, had the temerity to protest. Upon learning that Turner intended to seek legal recourse for her husband’s murder, the mob came for her.

According to The Mary Turner Project, a Georgia educational collective dedicated to preserving her memory, “ … at Folsom’s Bridge the mob tied Mary Turner by her ankles, hung her upside down from a tree, poured gasoline on her and burned off her clothes. One member of the mob then cut her stomach open and her unborn child dropped to the ground where it was reportedly stomped on and crushed by a member of the mob. Her body was then riddled with gunfire from the mob. Later that night she and her baby were buried ten feet away from where they were murdered. The makeshift grave was marked with only a ‘whiskey bottle’ with a ‘cigar’ stuffed in its neck.”

Simply terrorizing Turner was not enough. It wasn’t just that her husband was considered a threat — so was she, and the black child she surely would have imbued with a sense of justice and liberty had they lived.

Lemonade is partly about defiance and resilience. And arguably, there’s no greater show of defiance than making the decision to bring a black child into this world and shower it with love and pride and joy, knowing the hostility that awaits her or him.

The legacy of our society’s anxiety toward black female bodies are evident in the work of Beyoncé’s artistic predecessors. After Beyoncé’s Grammy performance, Vanessa Williams tweeted, “They never showed my pregnant belly when I sang my nominated “Save the Best for Last” — Oh how times have changed! Kudos Beyoncé!” The vision of a conservatively clothed, pregnant Williams was apparently too controversial for the Grammys in 1993, two years after Demi Moore appeared nude and pregnant on the cover of Vanity Fair.

In her 2003 memoir Chaka! Through the Fire, Khan revealed the angst of male record company executives who worried that her sex appeal would vanish because of a C-section scar cutting its way across her belly.

So what is there to do? How do you find a way to be celebratory instead of huddling in fear? Khan responded by continuing to perform in her trademark itty-bitty stagewear, exposed scar and all. If you’re Beyoncé, you bring the house down at the Grammys. If you’re Erykah Badu, you start ushering in black life.

While there are few public images of Badu pregnant with her children, Seven, Mars or Puma, she appeared in the September 2011 issue of People in a photograph that accompanied a story detailing her work as a doula — a service she provides for free to pregnant mothers, subsidized by her financial success as singer.

Badu appeared with her hair parted in the center. It flows in waves down her shoulders and over her breasts. She’s dressed in a loose-fitting white caftan, accessorized with a long, gold beaded necklace and rings of various sizes on both hands. In her arms, she’s cradling a nude black baby, Marley Jae Taylor, then 2 weeks old, whom she delivered. She’s standing in the middle of a Dallas field, surrounded by tall grass that appears to have parted for her. She called herself the “welcoming committee.”


The Grammys may have been the high point for audience numbers — it was more accessible on network television than Lemonade was on HBO — but Beyoncé’s pregnancy messaging apparatus continued to churn with her public appearances with daughter Blue Ivy and Jay Z at NBA games, when she and Blue Ivy showed up to the premiere of Beauty and the Beast or celebrated Mother’s Day dressed in the high-fashion equivalent of Mommy-and-Me togs.

Instagram Photo

All those images of black fertility and black motherhood rippled across the internet to reinforce the ideas first introduced with Lemonade — and then were reintroduced at the Grammys when Beyoncé deliberately lingered on a line from poet Warsan Shire about the “hips” that “crack” from giving birth.

Even the pink tuxedo Blue Ivy wore communicated a vision of black girl power. When her mother wants to convey messages about female power, she tends to revisit variations on menswear. She did it in the stagewear for her performance of “Love on Top” announcing her first pregnancy. It’s an element in the music videos for “Suga Mama,” “Upgrade You,” and “Haunted,” all of which feature Beyoncé playing with the idea of gender roles.

Blue Ivy Carter and Jay Z during The 59th GRAMMY Awards at STAPLES Center on February 12, 2017 in Los Angeles, California.

Kevin Mazur/WireImage

At the Grammys, Beyoncé, who endorsed former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton for president with a performance in which she and all of her backup dancers wore pantsuits, seemed to echo the most memorable notes of Clinton’s postelection concession speech: “Never doubt that you are valuable and powerful and deserving of every chance and opportunity in the world,” Clinton told the little girls of America on Nov. 9.

As she delivered an acceptance and concession speech of her own (if you choose to believe, as I do, that Beyoncé knew before the Grammys that she wouldn’t win Album of the Year), the singer had a similar message.

“It’s important to me to show images to my children that reflect their beauty so they can grow up in a world where they look in the mirror — first through their own families, as well as the news, the Super Bowl, the Olympics, the White House and the Grammys — and see themselves and have no doubt that they’re beautiful, intelligent and capable,” she said, again becoming a megaphone for the desires of all black mothers.

Naomi Bradley writes books to encourage early reading She’s the author of ‘Reading At One’

Former classroom educator and mom Naomi Bradley left the classroom to home-school her children and is now promoting an early-reading process for children.

Bradley, who lives in Atlanta with her husband, Walter, and children Love, Charles, Faith and Hope, began teaching techniques on how to read with her firstborn daughter, Love, when she was 22 months old. Bradley has written a parenting book called Reading At One and also started her own private learning center called Love Bradley Academy in Atlanta.

After the release of Reading at One in 2015, Bradley released The Big Book of Beginner Reading Stories. She designed the book because she noticed there was a lack of reading and literacy-promoting instructional material with black characters. According to Bradley, who has a master’s degree in education, the self-esteem of a child is developed by the age of 3, so it is imperative that students see themselves in their reading materials early in life.

Bradley is also the author of the rhyming bedtime story Goodnight Princess, which has an English and a Spanish version. Her latest book, Aaron Knows About Africa, details historical facts about seven African countries.

All of her titles can be found on WeBuyBlack.com, Amazon and Kindle.

The NBA draft prospects step into the style spotlight Lonzo Ball, De’Aaron Fox, Malik Monk and other ballers make a play for best in class

I’m milling about the lobby of the Grand Hyatt New York, where many members of the 2017 NBA draft class are counting down the hours until D-day at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn. Tall brown men are everywhere, many of whom are a little more than 24 hours away from being very famous and very rich.

I’m here to find out what the kids will be wearing on draft night. It becomes quickly apparent that ain’t happening. No one will spill the beans on details about suits, shoes, jewelry; they know that the big reveal gets the more screen time. Having that Hollywood mind frame starts early, yo. What we see pre-draft — formal-ish suits in low-key colors, flashy designer sneakers and jewelry — is an appetizer portion of what’ll be dished up later. The fashion menu is safe and tasty — but Thursday’s will be fire.

First up: Lonzo Ball. The 6-foot-6 UCLA point guard has had a rapid ascension in the pop culture hierarchy over the past several months, partially due to his serious skills as a ball player, but mainly because of his outspoken father and manager, LaVar Ball. The Ball family launched a sneaker and apparel line, Big Baller Brand, to much fanfare earlier this year. Not surprisingly, Lonzo Ball came dressed in gray pants and a black polo shirt stamped with the “BBB” logo on the left breast; a diamond crucifix hung from a diamond chain around his neck.

“I don’t feel pressure” to rep the Big Baller Brand, Lonzo Ball said when asked what he planned to wear to draft night. “I’ll wear a black suit.” We’ll see. The marketing machine that is LaVar Ball has enough chutzpah to drop a ready-to-wear men’s suit line in time for Lonzo Ball’s handshake with NBA commissioner Adam Silver.

On to De’Aaron Fox, the charming point guard for the University of Kentucky. Fox has been making the media rounds leading up to the draft, and the Houston-bred player was not playing around, sartorially speaking. His gray two-toned suit and black collarless shirt was tailored (by his personal stylist, no less) to perfection. The famous crown of hair was peaked high and looked magnificent. Fox joked that his Gucci slip-on sneakers, which were color stamped with a picture of a snarling tiger, were coveted by his fashion-obsessed Kentucky teammate, Malik Monk. “We wear the same shoe size, and he almost took these!” Fox said. “He had a different pair of Gucci shoes, so we’re good.

“I just like to look good — I feel like I can look good in anything, but my [draft day] suit is gonna look great,” said Fox, who took off the right GG Supreme Angry Cat sneaker and offered it for inspection. “The only question is how I’m gonna fit the hat over my head.”

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At a nearby table, Monk wore a blue-and-white bomber jacket with leather trim instead of a typical suit jacket. “I always have something different on, whether you see it or not. You’ve gotta be different in the NBA, gotta stand out,” Monk said as he lifted his own colorful Gucci Ace GG Wallpaper sneaker-clad foot onto the table.

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I’d been waiting to talk to Markelle Fultz, this year’s projected No. 1 overall pick and famous son of Prince George’s County, Maryland. Being a P.G. County girl my own self, I was pleasantly surprised when Fultz ended up earning the award for Most Low-Key Fashion Rookie of the day. Dressed in a black button-down shirt and black jeans, the University of Washington point guard let out a loud cry as he approached the interview table, packed seven deep with reporters. “Dang!” Fultz said before taking his seat.

What do you like most about what you’re going to wear Thursday, I asked.

“The lining of my draft suit is gray, but there’ll be some special stuff about it, too. I hope people will be surprised and like it,” Fultz said. “I always try to rep for a little bit of everywhere I’ve been, P.G. County, DeMatha [High School], [University of] Washington.”