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.

In wake of the hate crimes in Maryland and Oregon, self-protection becomes a priority Highly publicized, race-motivated crimes are forcing black America to think about legal carry … or not

Should we bring a gun?

It’s not exactly the question you think would come to mind while planning a leisurely getaway. But as my husband and I packed for a long weekend of culture, Southern cuisine and a well-deserved rest, it was one we repeatedly and seriously asked ourselves.

We were headed to the Spoleto Festival USA in Charleston, South Carolina, where the heat and history can be oppressive. It’s a city that sometimes feels like a foreign country, but it’s as all-American as it gets. You can stand where men, women and children were shackled, poked, prodded, bought and sold — you can feel their ghosts. Some 40 percent of the enslaved in the 13 colonies during the trans-Atlantic slave trade came through the city. And yet, here we are, a black woman and white man, mixing and mingling and applauding with audiences and performers of all races at what’s become a major tourist draw.

In Charleston, the past is never past, as unapologetic racist Dylann Roof proved when in 2015 he chose historic Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church, known as Mother Emanuel, a spiritual and civil rights bulwark, as the site of a hate-filled killing spree, murdering nine parishioners after praying with them for the better part of an hour. In North Charleston, unarmed African-American Walter Scott was shot by a police officer in the back; it was considered imperfect justice when Scott’s killer, Michael Slager, pleaded guilty to a federal civil rights charge after a state jury could not agree on a verdict despite video evidence.

Charleston has its special history. But is it all that different from the rest of America?


In New Orleans, the decision to remove and move monuments to the Confederacy, some erected long after the Civil War’s end, is debated and resisted.

Portland, Oregon, has its own Western brand of exclusionary racism baked in the soil, exemplified by Oregon’s policy barring blacks from living there when the state entered the union in 1859 and the legacy of those actions since then. In Portland, a man has been charged in the murder of two white men and the attempted murder of a third when the three came to the aid of two African-American women, one wearing a hijab, being harangued and harassed on public transportation last month. The accused attacker was known for expressing white supremacist views at rallies and on social media.

In Maryland, my home state, an empty chair took the place of 23-year-old Richard Collins III, a recently commissioned U.S. Army second lieutenant, at his Bowie State University graduation; his life was ended as he waited for his ride at a University of Maryland bus stop. A 22-year-old white man, who was a member of a Facebook group called “Alt-Reich,” has been charged in the stabbing; authorities are investigating whether it was a hate crime.

When crowds in Charlottesville, Virginia, protesting a City Council vote to remove a park statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee marched, shouted and carried flaming torches, all that was missing was a burning cross.

There is aggression in words as well, and no one is immune. So Cleveland Cavalier great LeBron James was not that surprised when a racist slur was spray-painted on the gate of his Los Angeles home.

“Just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean they aren’t after you,” the saying goes.

America’s focus has turned to the danger from without, from foreign terrorism and the bad actors entering the country with mayhem in mind. Those are the stories making the headlines, though in truth, domestic terrorism is the threat many people of color fear the most.

The Southern Poverty Law Center tracks attacks by extremists and domestic terrorism and threats by hate groups, which saw an increase in the years of the Obama presidency and continue to rise.

So it made sense for my husband and me to investigate the South Carolina gun laws. The state’s “your home is your castle” Castle Doctrine extends to vehicles and workplaces, meaning our registered piece could indeed travel with us on a journey we hoped would be routine but feared could escalate in an instant.

Laws for self-protection and the Second Amendment’s right to bear arms are tricky and possibly dangerous for African-Americans, as those rights once applied only to whites — and some would say they still do. A registration did not stop legal gun owner Philando Castile from being killed in Minnesota in July 2016 by a panicked police officer, who was found not guilty of any crime this past week despite shooting into a car with a 4-year-old girl as a passenger.

Many, however, have decided taking that chance is worth it, and it has been reported that gun ownership among African-Americans is increasing.

In Charleston, in between programs of opera, dancing and jazz, we made the pilgrimage to Mother Emanuel, quiet and protected. It sits on Calhoun Street, which honors South Carolinian John C. Calhoun, a defender of slavery as a “positive good.”

On these streets, our marriage would have been a crime 50 years ago, before the Loving case removed the legal barriers. In 1998, when South Carolina threw out its unenforceable state ban, 38 percent of voters wanted to keep the pre-Loving status quo.

The Equal Justice Initiative (EJI) is planning a memorial to peace and justice in Montgomery, Alabama, acknowledging the lynching and legally sanctioned racial terror that traumatized citizens and left a legacy. “Our goal isn’t to be divisive,” Bryan Stevenson, the director of the EJI told The New York Times. “Our goal is just to get people to confront the truth of our past with some more courage.” The museum “From Enslavement to Mass Incarceration” would be one of many memorials.

Are these reminders needed? Last month, tourists visiting the National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington found a noose in an exhibition on segregation. In an email to staff, museum director Lonnie Bunch said, “Today’s incident is a painful reminder of the challenges that African-Americans continue to face.”

Will America face this enemy within?

As for our final decision on that gun, we decided not to carry after all. It would have been legal, but it may not have been wise. We did, however, pack a big honkin’ knife.

For the sake of black fatherhood, stop the war on drugs I get to celebrate Father’s Day with my dad after 27 years thanks to President Obama

“Your father WAS a good man, Nique. He always looked out for folks.”

“Boy, Ralph could run. You run just like him. He WAS a legend.”

“You Ralph son? He HAD a brain on him. Smart. Sorry to see that happened to him.”

Growing up in Toledo, Ohio, and playing sports made these common sayings that were spoken to me. My father, Ralph Warren, was a present memory in my life but a very distant one to friends and admirers. Hearing this, you might assume my father was deceased — maybe an accident, a bullet or maybe bad luck happening to a man many had fond memories of. That wasn’t the case at all. My father was alive and well living in Indiana, then Kentucky, then Illinois in a jail cell, sentenced to life in prison for a nonviolent drug offense. He wasn’t deceased, but his sentence would ensure that he would never see freedom. He would die in jail. DIE IN JAIL.

That had always hung over me with great pain, fear and anger. I would not be able to see my father grow old nor pass away in the comforts of his home because he would be in a federal prison cell. That is why on Jan. 17, 2017 — when President Barack Obama, mere days before his term was up, commuted my father’s sentence for drug trafficking and firearm charges after 27 years — I cried for hours knowing that I would know my father as a free man.


On Feb. 8, my father arrived back at the Greyhound bus station in Toledo, Ohio, where dozens of family members, including my mom and sibling, and a host of friends welcomed him back. I introduced him for the very first time to my daughter, Lois Marie. Since his release, he has edited and re-released his novel Target, begun working at a local auto supplier plant and, most importantly, spoken to recovering drug abusers and young men who have come into contact with the prison system. Together, my father and I are advocating for reduced sentencing and more funding for re-entry programs to local and federal legislators. Our lives have been affected by this “War on Drugs,” and we are on a mission to ensure it won’t reintensify.

Between 1970 and 2005, America’s prison and jail population ballooned from 300,000 to more than 2 million. America’s “War on Drugs” began under former President Richard Nixon in 1971 as a response to the increase in recreational drug use and abuse in the 1960s. Initial appropriations were geared to clinical and drug abuse prevention efforts, increased funding for prisons, directives for harsher sentences and aggressive law enforcement geared at drug cartels. It escalated under President Reagan, with the creation of mandatory minimum prison sentences in 1986 after an influx of crack cocaine in American cities targeted black and brown communities.

The American presidency from 1970 to 2005 focused on “Law and Order” to combat drug trafficking and violence, resulting in 1 in 9 black children currently having an incarcerated parent. Ninety-two percent of parents in prison are fathers, and an overwhelming proportion of these fathers are black.

Children of incarcerated parents are faced with trauma, higher chance of being in poverty, and increased rates of incarceration that create a cycle of destruction in the black community. Mass incarceration of black fathers limits the financial stability of families. Coupled with other racially prejudiced systems, mass incarceration plagues the stability of the black community.

Attorney General Eric Holder established the Smart on Crime initiative in 2014 to reduce mandatory minimum sentencing and push more funding to programs that decrease prison recidivism. Researchers from the Pew Charitable Trust agree that federal mandatory minimums don’t deter crime or reduce the number of people who return to jail. Directing prosecutors not to seek mandatory minimums for low-level and nonviolent offenses, the Obama administration’s commutation and pardon policies allowed thousands to be freed and reunited with families and society. Unfortunately, these policies came to an end with the presidential election of Donald Trump and appointment of Jeff Sessions as attorney general.

In May, Sessions directed federal prosecutors to seek the harshest indictments for drug offenses and reinstated mandated federal minimums for all charges, which includes the “three strikes” provision when disclosing to judges all facts pertaining to sentencing. This reversal of policy is not just a setback for best practices in federal prosecutions and has widespread opposition by both political parties, but it is also a setback for black fathers and their children.

Current policies for the Justice Department directed by Sessions empower prosecutors to use the full power of the federal government to enact harsh sentences for low-level and nonviolent crimes and keep the current prison population, the world’s largest, growing. We know that federal sentencing grossly prosecutes a high proportion of black males, leaving their children fatherless, without dual incomes and suffering from extreme trauma. There are no winners in this scenario, only losers. The appearance of being tough on crime from the DOJ will not reduce crime, but it will ensure millions of fatherless children who will be at risk of committing crimes themselves.

If 21st-century federal sentencing policies mirror the past 30 years of “Law and Order” mandates, we will continue to see our prison population rise and spend much-needed funding on housing prisoners instead of investing in communities, families and children. The annual cost of housing a prisoner outstrips the cost of tuition in states such as California, costing more than $75,000. Frederick Douglass in the 19th century said, “It’s easier to build strong children than broken men.” As prison and education costs rise, we as a nation have to make a choice of where our priorities lie. If we believe that families matter and children need fathers, mandatory minimums that target black men must be a policy of the past. We need to reinstate the commutation policy of the last administration so that imprisoned citizens are reinstated back to their communities.

This is the first Father’s Day I will spend with my dad in 27 years. I won’t take it for granted, because I know that many children won’t be able to celebrate it with their fathers.

They were, like me, waiting and waiting for that dream of seeing their fathers on this side of freedom. I am also vigilant for black fathers who will be targeted by the Trump administration’s arcane policies that invoke echoes of the past and have destroyed communities and families of color in the name of “Law and Order.”

On this Father’s Day, celebrate black fatherhood and work to protect it at all costs. I plan to strap my daughter into her stroller, put on my best running shoes and run just like my father, next to my father.

Warriors win the NBA Finals The Week That Was June 12-June 16

Monday 06.12.17

Ivanka Trump, who is the daughter of President Donald Trump and has presumably known him for 35 years, said that “there’s a level of viciousness that I was not expecting” in response to her father’s presidency. Former potential NBC buyer Bill Cosby declined to testify in his sexual assault trial, and his defense team rested after only three minutes and without calling an original witness. Hip-hop entrepreneur Sean “Diddy” Combs topped Forbes magazine’s list of highest-paid entertainers, notably beating out last year’s top earner, Taylor Swift, by nearly $100 million. McDonald’s announced it will use social media app Snapchat to hire future employees this summer; the app, known for its animated filters and porn, is expected to “lure in younger applicants” for the fast-food giant. Meanwhile, a close friend of the president told PBS that Trump was considering firing special counsel Robert Mueller, who is in charge of the ongoing Russia investigation. Professional wrestler Congressman-elect Greg Gianforte was sentenced to community service and a $385 fine for his assault of a Guardian reporter during last month’s special election in Montana; Gianforte said it was not his “intention to hurt” the reporter whom he punched and slammed to the ground. During a meandering rant about abortion on his official Facebook page, Missouri state Rep. Mike Moon beheaded a live chicken, cut its feet off, and removed its heart. Twitter argued over the effectiveness of Crock-Pots; in the words of one straightforward dissenter, “why on earth u wanna cook slow.” Seattle Seahawks running back Eddie Lacy received another $55,000 for not being fat. Former NBA referee Tim Donaghy, who spent more than a year in prison for illegally gambling on games, claimed the league will try to force a Game 6 in the NBA Finals. The Golden State Warriors ended the Finals against the Cleveland Cavaliers in Game 5.

Tuesday 06.13.17

After the Warriors’ victory, Denver Broncos cornerback Aqib Talib took a shot at Golden State forward Kevin Durant, calling the Finals MVP a “suburban kid” who had to “Link up with the best” to win a championship, and that the Hall of Fame is “laughing at you right now”; Talib, who shot himself in the leg last year, joined the Broncos in 2014, a season after Denver eliminated his former team, the New England Patriots, from the playoffs. A Canadian man who is blind in one eye installed a video camera over his eyeball; faced with privacy concerns, the man posited, “Am I not allowed to put an eye camera in my own body?” Hours after NBA Hall of Famer Dennis Rodman arrived in North Korea, an American college student who had been detained in the country since 2016 for allegedly attempting to steal a political banner was released to U.S. authorities; Rodman, who is in North Korea for a reported fifth time, had his trip sponsored by a company specializing in weed-industry cryptocurrency. Deputy attorney general Rod Rosenstein said there was no evidence to fire Robert Mueller, the special counsel. Hours later, it was reported that the president is being talked down by his staff from firing Mueller. R&B singer Tinashe, who is mixed-race, acknowledged the presence of colorism in the black community but explained that she is usually the victim of it, telling a reporter that “sometimes I feel like I don’t fully fit into the black community; they don’t fully accept me.” Uber CEO Travis Kalanick, who has been rocked by the recent death of his mother and his own workplace behavior, including meditating in the company lactation room and instructing his employees to “not have sex with another employee” at a company party, has taken a leave of absence from the ride-sharing company. During a companywide meeting to discuss Uber’s alleged “bro culture,” a 74-year-old board member interrupted a female board member by making a sexist joke; the board member stepped down shortly afterward. President Trump reportedly told Republican senators that the House-adopted health care bill, which the president in May called a “great plan,” is too “mean” and called it a “son of a b—-.”

Wednesday 06.14.17

A gunman shot three people, including Rep. Steve Scalise, at a congressional baseball team practice in Alexandria, Virginia. Rep. Barry Loudermilk, who was at the practice field, proposed that lawmakers should be able to carry weapons, including, presumably, while playing baseball. In response to the shooting, Vox editor-in-chief and U.S. history buff Ezra Klein tweeted: “It’s easy to forget what a blessing it is to live in a country where politics rarely leads to violence.” Hours later, three UPS employees were killed by a gunman at a sorting facility in San Francisco. Former NBA commissioner David Stern, who was called a “modern plantation overseer” by journalist Bryant Gumbel in 2011, called Gumbel “an idiot” and said he, the implementer of the league’s controversial dress code, has “done more for people of color” than Gumbel, a black man. Days after reports came out that UNLV basketball players Dakota and Dylan Gonzalez were quitting the team to pursue music and Central Florida football player Donald De La Haye may have to give up his YouTube channel in the face of NCAA violations, University of Michigan athletic director Warde Manuel said the football team’s recent $800,000 trip to Rome was paid for by an undisclosed school donor. A fire at a London apartment complex left at least 12 people dead. Five Michigan officials were charged with involuntary manslaughter for their roles in the ongoing contaminated-water crisis in Flint, Michigan. Right-leaning cable network Fox News has plans to drop its “Fair & Balanced” slogan, not because the tagline wasn’t true but to further distance the company from Roger Ailes, the late former network president. The Houston Astros, who called up outfield prospect Derek Fisher from Class AAA Fresno, will face the Boston Red Sox this weekend, with right-handed closer Matt Barnes expected to play. For the sequel to 1996’s Great White Hype, retired undefeated boxer Floyd Mayweather Jr. and UFC fighter Conor McGregor agreed to a boxing match on Aug. 26. A Texas couple was arrested and charged after authorities found 600 pounds of meth-laced candy, some of which were shaped like Star Wars characters R2-D2 and Yoda, in the couple’s home. A 21-year-old Maine woman, who is a vegetarian, drowned a rabies-infected raccoon in a puddle of mud on a walking trail she had been jogging along.

Thursday 06.15.17

How now, brown cow: 7 percent of American adults believe chocolate milk comes from brown cows. A day after saying that “everyone who serves in our nation’s capital is here because, above all, they love our country,” President Trump tweeted that “some very bad and conflicted people,” presumably members of the FBI, were carrying out “the single greatest WITCH HUNT in American political history.” The Uber driver who shuttled Buffalo Bills cornerback Shareece Wright 540 miles from Chicago to Buffalo, New York, last week is an Iranian refugee who was tortured by Iranian intelligence agents on multiple occasions and hopes to one day become an astronaut; Wright, who was rushing to get to voluntary team workouts, injured his calf during minicamp. In more disturbing Uber news, the company is being sued by a woman who was sexually assaulted by one of the company’s drivers. Dennis Rodman, while still in North Korea, gave two books to country leader Kim Jong Un: Where’s Waldo? and President Trump’s The Art of the Deal. Louisville basketball coach Rick Pitino was issued a five-game suspension by the NCAA for his role in the hiring of exotic dancers for players and recruits; the panel that issued the punishment said in its findings that “NCAA rules do not allow institutional staff members to arrange for stripteases and sex acts.” During the Warriors’ championship parade in Oakland, California, forward Draymond Green wore a shirt with “Quickie” written on the front, with the “Q” in the same font as the Quicken Loans logo; the Cleveland Cavaliers play in Quicken Loans Arena. Cleveland forward LeBron James responded to the T-shirt on Instagram with a caption reading “That’s what she said, HUH?!?!?”; fellow NBA superstars Russell Westbrook and James Harden “liked” the photo. Hours later, Green responded with a photo of James with the caption “Them dubs finally made him go bald!!! Congrats bro @kingjames.” A 71-year-old Kansas City man who robbed a bank because he’d “rather be in jail than be at home” with his wife was sentenced to six months of home confinement.

FRIDAY 06.16.17

E-commerce juggernaut Amazon, like most of America, spent a lot of money at Whole Foods, purchasing the supermarket chain for $13.7 billion. President Trump admitted that he is “being investigated for firing the FBI Director by the man who told me to fire the FBI Director! Witch Hunt.” Rod Rosenstein, the purported “man” who told Trump to fire FBI director James Comey, has, like his boss, Attorney General Jeff Sessions, reportedly considered recusing himself from the Russia investigation. To add to the president’s exceptional week, his approval rating dropped to 35 percent in a new poll. Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps, apparently bored with life and ready to die at the age of 31, will race a great white shark. After his bodyguards savagely beat protesters last month at the Turkish Embassy, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan criticized American authorities’ response, asking, “What kind of law is this? If my bodyguards cannot protect me, then why am I bringing them to America with me?” NBA Hall of Famer Shaquille O’Neal, who is black, said he is the “black Steph Curry,” who is also black. The Boston Police Department’s Twitter account sent out a photo of an officer with three black girls along with the caption: “The #BPD Ice Cream Truck gives kids a reason to run towards our officers and not away from them”; the tweet was later deleted. President Trump’s lawyer hired his own lawyer. LeBron James, ironically nicknamed “King James,” said the only two people who can score on him in the post are “Shaquille O’Neal in his prime … and Jesus Christ.” Minnesota Vikings receiver Michael Floyd violated the terms of his house arrest by drinking alcohol; Floyd blamed the failed tests on Kombucha tea.

Rihanna looks to help, educate and inspire children in Malawi The entertainer spent time in the southeast African nation in efforts to gain a better understanding of the country’s problems

Of all Rihanna has achieved throughout her career, nothing seems to be more important to the pop star than helping others in need.

In the most recent string of philanthropic efforts that has the internet buzzing, a mini-doc released this week shows Rihanna, a global ambassador for the Global Partnership for Education (GPE) and founder of the Clara Lionel Foundation, visiting with schoolchildren at the Muzu primary school during a trip to the southeast African country of Malawi in January.

In the 10-minute video, Rihanna sits alongside Malawi’s minister of education, science and technology, Emmanuel Fabiano, former Australian prime minister and GPE board chairwoman Julia Gillard and Global Citizen co-founder Hugh Evans to discuss education, poverty, health, safety and other looming issues that are hindering progress in the country.

“I’m really here to see it,” Rihanna said. “It’s one thing to read statistics, but I want to see it firsthand and find out all that can be done and where to start first.”

According to 2014 statistics provided by the Education Policy Data Center, 57 percent of youths ages 15-24 had not completed primary education, and only 7 percent completed secondary education. In the video, a teacher explains that some classrooms may have a student-teacher ratio of 100-1, which makes it harder for students to learn and concentrate and often leads to them dropping out. Outside of crowded classrooms, poverty is an even bigger factor.

“It’s such a pity that they have to drop out because they are so smart, and everybody is learning together and learning at the same pace it seems,” Rihanna said. “It’s sad that that has to end for some of them, because they could probably do so much if they had the resources to continue and complete.”

Rihanna spent time with educators, students, parents and officials at Muzu who are diligently working to better conditions and build a brighter future for its children.

But all wasn’t sad. Many of the children remained upbeat and hopeful. Besides learning about the struggles of the Malawian people, Rihanna witnessed the children being educated through song and dance. She even joined the fun by helping them solve math problems, playing rugby and even empowering a group of female students as they proudly proclaimed that “girls rule” in the schoolyard.

“It’s amazing, the way they learn, though,” Rihanna said. “I love that they learn in melody. That’s my favorite thing, because kids, they adopt melody really, really quickly. And so if you can use that as a learning tool, I think that’s the most brilliant, brilliant thing.”

Chicago Sky center Imani Boyette is helping break taboo on mental illness African-Americans are 20% more likely to experience serious mental health problems than the general population

Once there was a 10-year-old girl who found herself in an unexplained and vulnerable position. Filled with hurt and pain, in her mind she thought her presence on this earth was doing more harm than good. In her mind, she was the black sheep of the family. In her mind, she was crying out for help with a voice that no one could hear. But one day, her mind told her it was time to stop crying out. She decided it was time to end the pain she felt, or at least to try.

Before she was the center of the Chicago Sky, she was a child named Imani Stafford-McGee who tried to overdose on headache medication. It was her first attempt at suicide, but it was not her last. She was in a battle for her life. It’s a battle that many in the African-American community face but believe they are not free to discuss.

They are like Amanda Chambers, the founder and CEO of Divine Legacy Publishing, who once didn’t leave her house for three months because of anxiety attacks.

Today, the 22-year old WNBA standout and the publisher are sharing their truth in an effort to dispel the myth that mental health should remain a taboo subject.

Stafford-McGee married her college sweetheart, University of Texas football player Paul Boyette Jr., in 2015. The 6-foot-7 Los Angeles native was drafted 10th overall out of Texas by the Sky in the 2016 WNBA. Last season, she ranked seventh in the league in blocks per game and was named to the WNBA All-Rookie Team.

The troubles for Boyette, the daughter of former WNBA star Pamela McGee, began when she was caught in a custody battle between her mother and father, Kevin Stafford, at the age of 3. The court granted custody of Boyette to Stafford, implying that McGee’s playing career was interfering with her parenting ability. Her older brother, Golden State Warriors center Javale McGee, remained in the care of their mother.

She developed a rocky relationship with her mother and was sexually molested by a family member while in the care of her father. After revealing as a WNBA prospect that she had been sexually abused from the ages of 8 to 12, Boyette began to speak more openly about her battles with depression. It is one of the leading mental illnesses in the black community, followed by attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder (commonly known as PTSD).

Using poetry and her WNBA platform, Boyette has become an advocate for mental health, most recently serving as a spokeswoman and summer camp counselor for Sparks of Hope, a nonprofit in Portland, Oregon, that helps children who are survivors of abuse. Through her time speaking out for mental health awareness, she’s observed firsthand the difficulty African-Americans face when approaching this subject. “It is one of the biggest reasons that our community is so heavily afflicted,” said Boyette.

“Poetry helped me find my voice and the confidence to tell my story,” she said. “The more I dove into poetry and shared it with others, I realized my problems weren’t unique. I would go to open mic and poetry slams and watch poetry videos on YouTube and hear all these people speaking openly and authentically about issues that were similar, if not the same, as mine.”

Among the many obstacles that burden the black community, for some the list begins with systemic racism and runs through poverty, police brutality, poor access to quality education, unequal employment opportunities and incarceration. What often won’t be found on that list is acknowledging mental illness.

There is often a “don’t ask, don’t tell” attitude when it comes to this matter, so mental health remains a secretive subject that many African-Americans who struggle with it refuse to discuss or report. While sometimes keeping things under wraps may not have an adverse effect, in other cases it can mean the difference between life and death. For Boyette, it could have been the latter.

According to the Health and Human Services Office of Minority Health, African-Americans are 20 percent more likely to experience serious mental health problems than the general population. They are also more likely to experience factors that increase the risk for developing a mental health condition, such as homelessness and exposure to violence. The National Alliance on Mental Health states that African-American children are more likely to be exposed to violence than any other race.

There are several components that make publicly discussing mental illness a challenge. One of them is the notion that it’s not real.

Chambers often found herself separating from the outside world for fear of having to explain her anxiety attacks. People often lack empathy when talking about certain disorders, she said.

“It used to be very hard because people’s stock response regarding anxiety is typically, ‘You just need to relax.’ Well, if it was that easy, don’t you think I would do it? I mean, who wants to feel anxious?

“For a long time, I just kept it to myself. I didn’t even try to explain it to my husband, let alone other people. I stayed to myself, didn’t leave the house much, which was easy because I work from home, and I stopped attending events. At the time, it was just easier for me to retreat than to have to explain myself to people who refused to acknowledge that anxiety is a real thing. At one point I didn’t leave the house for about three months.”

Another obstacle is the idea of keeping in-house business in-house. “I was always taught what happens in the Stafford household stays in the Stafford household,” Boyette recalled. And while this tactic helps keep family business private, it can make it difficult to decipher when professional help is needed.

Dr. Janet Taylor, a psychiatrist who has appeared on several television networks, told Essence magazine that there is a general distrust of medical professionals because of their cultural bias.

“There are some health care providers who assume that … strife in black people or having a difficult time are what’s to be expected. In some cases they may normalize what may be a traumatic reaction,” Taylor told the magazine. Compound this with the fact that fewer than 2 percent of American Psychological Association members are African-American and it becomes clearer why black people might not seek help: They don’t believe providers are culturally competent enough to understand their issues.

Chambers found the strength to deal with her anxiety in her company. “It’s one of the reasons I started my publishing company,” she said. “When it comes to my business, I map everything out and set realistic deadlines that my clients and I agree on. Being able to see the deadlines puts me in control, and I don’t feel anxious at all. My clients love it because I’m extremely organized and detailed with everything, which is important in my line of work.”

Boyette found her strength to handle depression in poetry: “I always credit poetry with saving my life, and the many beautiful and supporting people I met through the art.”

Both Boyette and Chambers understand the lack of mental health resources in the black community, and that is why they speak out. Boyette uses her life as a warning to others to seek help. “My biggest word of advice is to keep fighting,” she said. “It sounds so cliché, but I couldn’t fathom my life today at 15-16 because I didn’t want to live. But I’m so overjoyed that someone bigger than me calls the shots.

“I encourage people dealing with these issues to, one, give yourself a break; some days you may only be able to brush your teeth — and that’s OK. But you have to try again tomorrow. And, two, you have to stay hopeful. Hope is the strongest weapon you have against darkness, against sorrow. I encourage people to seek help, be it professional or a loved one.”

Chambers is trying to provide a voice for the voiceless. Through programs with her sorority, Sigma Gamma Rho, Chambers talks about mental health with college students and is more open about it now than ever before. “In the beginning, it was [difficult to talk about having a mental illness]. Now I’m very outspoken about it. I have to be, because somewhere there’s a person who’s been sitting in his or her house for three months because they are scared of what people will say. I have to give that person a voice. I know how it feels to have no voice.”

Daily Dose: 5/25/17 Ben Carson is still wilin

Another reminder: I’ll be hosting The Right Time with Bomani Jones on Friday, so be sure to tune in to ESPN Radio from 4-7 p.m. EST. Really looking forward to it, kiddos!

I don’t know what Ben Carson’s problem is. He is one of the worst types of people when it comes to being in power. He blames poor people for their own problems, as if systemic income inequality isn’t a real thing, and it’s infuriating. Not everyone can just make it out of bad situations because they want to. There are very real obstacles to upward mobility in this nation, so his arbitrary declaration that poverty is a state of mind is ignorant and harmful. Ugh.

At this point, every time Barack Obama speaks, it’s a blessing. The 44th U.S. president is such a far cry from who we have in the Oval Office now, and it’s almost weird to see a politician talking with a measured calm. Everything from Capitol Hill and the White House seems so hectic and harried that you have to wonder who’s in control at all. Earlier Thursday, during an appearance in Germany, Obama said a wall on the Mexico border is straight up not the answer.

The NFL is shortening overtime. Why? They say that 15 minutes is just too long and increases risk of injury. Sure. But presumably this situation will lead to more ties, which are always supremely weird in the league. Totally unsatisfying. It’s the second semi-major overtime modification that the shield has put in place in the past five seasons, but if you do the math, will it really lead to more ties? The answer is likely yes. Awesome.

The Lonzo Ball situation is not improving. He’s decided that he’s only working out for the Los Angeles Lakers, which is something that could eventually crush his draft stock. Sure, he’s a good player, but these kinds of shenanigans are starting to look bad. He clearly wants to play in Los Angeles. Yet, by basically boxing out every other team in the league, he might be screwed if the Lakers don’t actually decide to pick him. You live, you learn.

Free Food

Coffee Break: One of the best things about California is the driving. But one of the scarier things about the state is the weather and climate situation. So when you read that a mudslide took out a large part of the Pacific Coast Highway, that is not a good omen.

Snack Time: Podcasts are all the rage right now, in all forms. It’s basically the premier form of personal entertainment. But could they possibly lead to the mainstreaming of audiobooks?

Dessert: Need some new music? Here you go.

This success strategist offers lifelong advice for new graduates Carlota Zimmerman has a four-pronged strategy that will help grads make success the focal point

“Youth must be the worst time in anybody’s life. Everything’s happening for the first time, which means that sorrow, then, lasts forever. Later, you can see that there was something very beautiful in it. That’s because you ain’t got to go through it no more.” – James Baldwin

’Tis that time of year again: Across our fruited, Photoshopped plains, the young people are graduating. Clutching, in both hands, their diplomas and ravenous ambition, the next generation is ready to seize the day, because in these United States of America, the true measure of a person is their success … or lack thereof.

For the millions of young people trying to make sense of the whirlwind of emotions within them, not to mention their rapidly maturing debt load, ’tis the season when an avalanche of advice descends upon them.

We want to believe that success brings clarity to our world … or, at least, to the worlds within us. We want to believe that success is what rewrites the melodramatic scripts of our confusing psychodramas, giving us the standard happy ending of American exceptionalism. Success puts a strut in our step, clears the complexion, makes us popular, gets us laid. Success, baby — it’s the American way!

But read the biographies, blogs and Instagram feeds of famous men and women, and for all those moments in the sun, there are still plenty of dark days. There’s still a surfeit of day-to-day pain and regret, even as actions influence generations. There’s still reality. Our bruised, lonely world puts such a premium on success while refusing to admit that true success is knowing yourself, knowing what makes you happy and knowing your values so as to construct a life that makes sense to you.

Therefore, young people, as you march through your commencement ceremonies and people ask you what you’re going to do next and what you want to do with your life, realize that their questions are more redolent of their fears and concerns than anything to do with you.

I so clearly remember being 21, about to graduate from Wellesley College, with no plan whatsoever. I had been a child actor (#redundant) on Sesame Street, a produced playwright at age 18, and was graduating with academic honors. But how any of those “advantages” — as if spending your childhood chatting up Oscar the Grouch about favorite letters and numbers was technically an achievement, per se — added up to gainful employment …? I couldn’t quite figure out how any of my eclectic experience was supposed to come together and earn me a regular paycheck. And yes, I had internships. Yes, I worked on campus. As a child actor, I had been earning a paycheck since I was about 4, so I knew all about hard work. But wasn’t college supposed to explain everything in my so-called life?

Perhaps I was naive; I was, after all, majoring in history, with a concentration in Russian area studies. But I studied history because I loved history. (Still do.) Even at 21, when people “helpfully” suggested I make a living out of history, I thought that was hilarious. I studied history because I found it fascinating. What could my obsession with Russia’s experience in World War II have to do with paying rent, and making a career?

And yet, it was exactly my love of history — and the fact that I studied something I cared about, without expecting it to bring me any immediate financial gains — that allowed me, over time and effort, to build a successful life on my own terms. I attribute a large part of that attitude to being a voracious reader as well as child actor and learning, at a very young age, to not put much faith in the man behind the curtain. You’re 4 years old, and you see Snuffleupagus hanging from the ceiling — it’s all downhill from there, Sunshine. You gotta make your own way.

Is it the young people who need advice … or the rest of us? We who are watching the next generation graduate and hoping, worrying, that they’ll do all the things we weren’t able to do? Are we worried for them … or for ourselves? Do we want to give advice … or receive it? Are we perhaps hoping this time around we’ll know the secret: the secret to finding a job, to making a career, to successful networking, the secret to success? The secret to bouncy hair, to true friendship, to getting a boy to ask for a second date, to democracy, to parallel parking, to good pie crusts, to better credit scores. The secret to making our parents proud. The secret to life.

We older people know how good life is at devouring our joys and slurping, hungrily, at our courage, leaving us frightened and alone. We’re all wounded now. We know that the rules of life are, in large part, a formulaic construct meant to soothe the babies and cue the politicians as to when they should be shocked and outraged. We know that the majority of our lives seem to be shoddily constructed Potemkin villages: taxes, parking tickets, bad sex and worse wine. We love to mock millennials, but perhaps we should admit that we’re somewhat jealous. They are, after all, only on the cusp of this destructive knowledge. They still believe in their power, if not their responsibility, to have a meaningful impact upon life. They are very lucky.

And when the young people come to me seeking advice, of course, for many of them, their greatest fear is failure. Many of them, understandably, have no idea what it is they want to do … but they know they can’t afford to not be successful. Because success is the point … right?

In America, we use the talisman of constant, unrelenting success to wash ourselves clean of the confusing years of childhood, middle-school proms, our subconscious, dead pets, news you can use, eating disorders, failed friendships, divorced parents, loveless families, sexual abuse, weight gain, recorder lessons, touch football, date rape, the loneliness of life. All of that will be, must be solved by SUCCESS. SUCCESS must make us whole again.

Add to this toxic witches’ brew the real-time psychopathology that is social media, and think about what it is to graduate from college nowadays. Consider the impact of being constantly barraged by friends’ and enemies’ (#samedifference) Photoshopped amazing, unicorn-filtered lives. And now perhaps you may begin to grasp that our young people are under constant emotional attack. On the cusp of making their own lives — a journey that necessarily entails small successes and huge mistakes, taking risks, breaking your heart, challenging yourself — our young people are indoctrinated to the cult of success: i.e., the cult of fear, the cult of your permanent record.

When I graduated from Wellesley, I decided to return to Russia; I had spent my junior year of college there, and I was curious as to whether or not I could make a life. I told my parents and a few dear friends … and I hit the road. I had no audience watching, waiting, to see if I’d fail. I had no audience to make me feel that I owed them an entertaining journey, sprinkled with inspirational quotes. I had some savings, my boyfriend and a vague notion that somehow life would find me.

Life — as it is wont to do, as it’s been doing for millennia — did its thing. I was fired from my first job, got drunk, indulged in masturbatory self-pity and eventually found a much better job that launched me on a much more exciting career. Don’t worry, it wasn’t all days of wine and roses.

Here’s what I know:

Believe in yourself and your dreams.

The pressure on new graduates to achieve and be worthy of their debt load is suffocating. Take a deep breath and relax. You owe nothing to anyone but yourself. Be respectful to your elders … and then go ahead and do whatever makes sense to you. (It’s what the rest of us did.) Have empathy for yourself and resolve, here and now, to fight for your dreams. Fight for them … even as you’re still not 100 percent sure what they are. By “fight,” of course, I mean allow your dreams to happen.

I experienced so much success by simply going to Russia because I was interested in the experience. To this day, when things get difficult, I think, “Well, I survived Russia … I’m sure I’ll figure things out.”

If I hadn’t gone, I would have learned the lessons of fear and self-doubt, and those are very damaging lessons. Those are very potent lessons. They don’t just destroy your professional dreams, they attack all aspects of your life, from the love you want to the very life you allow yourself to lead. You have to believe in yourself, and your worth, to fight for what you want, and that’s very difficult to do if you keep letting fear be your guide. Fear has only one lesson to teach you: more fear. Fear is greedy. Fear wants everything you have. Fear is insatiable.

Fake it till you make it.

When I began this business in 2008, I was coaching myself as much as clients. Coaching myself that I still had something important to contribute. I had to talk big and present myself to outsiders as the success story that, trust me, I did not feel like inside. Inside I felt like a fraud, a hack, a disgusting failure. And yet, I still had to pay the rent, keep the lights on and feed the damn cats. I had to pick up my dry cleaning. I smiled for the world, cried in the shower and coached everyone, anyone I could. And s-l-o-w-l-y, things started turning around. Like the client who called me screaming to brag that she had been offered the job we had fought for, saying, “Carlota, I never doubted you!” Well, thank God, since I had doubted myself plenty.

I doubted myself, but I also knew that giving in to that doubt was a luxury that I simply couldn’t afford. I knew that doubt, if allowed to mature and fester, would lead to more doubt. In the midst of despair, I gave myself ruthless permission to hope. And I was ruthless: I surrounded myself with people who supported me and cut off friends who even implicitly encouraged me to give up. I was fighting for my life. So are you.

You can’t give up.

In the early years, people would say to me, seeing my poverty, exhaustion and other fun stuff, “When are you going to give up?” And I would glare at them. Give up? People say “give up” like it’s a one-size-fits-all remedy. Unhappy in life? Oh, hell, just give up! But giving up is a process: When you give up on one part of your life, you end up giving up on everything. And then what? You still have to live within the remains of whatever you’ve allowed yourself.

On the other hand, when you refuse to give up, you’ll have your own heartaches and regrets, lost loves, bad days and all the rest. I didn’t take a vacation for seven years. *shrugs* On the other hand, over those seven years I created a life that doesn’t require time off; I get to wake up in the morning and love what I do. (Do you believe that you deserve a job you love? You damn well better if you want any hope of creating that job.)

Be extremely wary of those people who encourage you to give up. Somewhere along the line, they gave up on their own dreams; therefore they absolutely hate to see other people doing what they didn’t have the strength to do themselves. Your dreams are as unique as you are, so don’t ask others for permission or approval! Do your dreams make you feel alive? Great. That sound you heard was you giving yourself permission to create a life you love. Ding!

Use what you have to create what you need.

How hungry are you? The men and women who shaped, for better or worse, our world, the people who inspire you … trust that they endured countless, brutal rejection. They lived and died alone. They affected humanity within the prison of their own suffocating loneliness. They created joy within a vale of private tears. But they had the courage, or desperation, to believe in something bigger than themselves. It’s hard, yes … but the alternative is far worse. The alternative is giving up on yourself. But spoiler alert: You still have to live with yourself.

Carlota Zimmerman

Do what you believe in.

Do what makes you feel alive.

Do what makes your heart beat faster.

Do you.

Stop using basketball as a Band-Aid for racial progress The Grizzlies, or any NBA team, can’t fix what systemic racism created

Every time the Memphis Grizzlies make the playoffs, which they have for seven years running, the same storyline emerges: Look at how basketball brings this city together. The most recent example showed up in the city’s daily newspaper before Game 5 of the first-round series against the San Antonio Spurs.

The headline: “Grizzlies help break down barriers.”

“In a region where income inequality rules, neighborhood segregation is rife and there are precious few places where people from different income groups and races regularly mix, the Grizzlies have been a unifying force,” read an editorial in The Commercial Appeal.

“When the Grizzlies tip off at FedExForum, folks from Frayser to Fisherville will be rooting for the team whose players and organization has helped bridge divides across race, geography and income. … Even after this season ends, we should remember how effortlessly we connected over the shared joy of watching our NBA team.”

Ugh.

I say this as a Grizzlies fan with a box full of yellow growl towels to prove it: Don’t use basketball as a Band-Aid for the racial inequality that Memphis can’t shake.

This city has a sore spot when it comes to race. Being the place where Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated will do that to you.

Sometimes we act like we’ve forgotten why King interrupted planning for the Poor People’s Campaign to come to Tennessee in 1968. He came on behalf of striking black Memphis sanitation workers who were underpaid, mistreated and trying to unionize. Back then, the poverty rate for black Memphians was 60 percent. Today the poverty rate for black children is nearly 50 percent.

Memphis is not unique. The racial disparities in this city are the same as in cities across the nation.

But we dishonor King’s dream to suggest that anything other than “a radical redistribution of economic power,” as King said, can bridge the racial and economic divide created and maintained by systemic racism and flawed public policy.

I intend no shade toward any NBA team. The Grizzlies are good, generous members of our community; Memphis is the only team with two nominees (Zach Randolph and Mike Conley) for this year’s NBA Cares Community Assist Award.

What the team does, and does exceptionally well, is bring under one roof a racially diverse group of people with a shared interest for about three hours, 40-plus times a season.

Those hours can be electric.

Even yelling, “Whoop that trick!” — which I’d otherwise be far too bourgie to chant — is exhilarating. When we win and those blue-and-yellow streamers drop from the rafters, it does feel magical.

But if you look closely, the magic starts to fade.

At one of this season’s last home games, a group photo of the forum’s ushers appeared on the big screen. All but a few of the faces were black. Walk around the concourse and see who is selling barbecue nachos and overpriced beers. Virtually no white faces.

“If a city has a 30 percent Negro population, then it is logical to assume that Negroes should have at least 30 percent of the jobs in any particular company, and jobs in all categories rather than only in menial areas,” King said.

During timeouts at the last few games I’ve attended, I took an unscientific poll of sideline seats. The fans aren’t representative of Memphis or even the region.

Take the courtside seats for the April 22 playoff game vs. the Spurs. Of the 50 seats I could see from where I sat, about 16 percent were occupied by people of color. In the section next to me, 21 percent of the fans were black. In my section, 24 percent of the fans were black, including me and my dad.

If the Grizzlies games looked like the city of Memphis, two-thirds of the fans would be black. If you expand that to the nine-county metro area, you’d still have more black people than white people.

But the city’s racial diversity isn’t reflected in the high-dollar seats — or in any other space occupied by power brokers. Memphis isn’t unique; all urban areas are the same.

According to the National Urban League’s 2017 State of Black America report, black families in Memphis earn an average of $32,000 less per year than white families. The income gap — $34,562 to $66,225 — means that black families have less disposable income to spend on extras like sporting events.

“Integration without economic equality was not enough,” wrote Joan Turner Beifuss in At The River I Stand, the definitive biography of the sanitation strike. “Economic equality was what Memphis was all about.”

Yes, the crowds at Grizzlies games are more racially mixed than probably any other setting in town. But proximity is not proof of progress, no matter what civic boosters want to believe. In virtually all measures that matter — rates of homeownership, poverty, income, graduation and wealth — black Americans lag behind white Americans. And in some measures, like wealth, the black-white gap is growing.

Had the NBA been creating a racial nirvana, racial attitude polls would reflect that, but they don’t. It’s almost as if blacks and whites live in different worlds. A 2016 national poll showed that while nearly 40 percent of white respondents believe America has done enough to make blacks equal to whites, only 8 percent of blacks said the same.

Black and brown students fill the city’s public schools, and private schools, for the most part, are filled with white students. Memphis East High School, whose boys’ team won this year’s state basketball championship and is coached by NBA great Penny Hardaway, has no white faces. East beat another local team, which also has no white players.

Last summer, more than 1,000 young people, all but a few black, blocked the Interstate 40 bridge over the Mississippi River, stopping traffic for hours. In the crowd were “I Am A Man” signs like those carried by sanitation workers nearly 50 years ago. Others had signs with the 21st-century equivalent: “Black Lives Matter.”

Among the demands presented to the mayor days after the protest: an end to police brutality, restoring voting rights to ex-offenders and erasing black-white economic disparities.

Just this week, the Memphis City Council heard from the Rev. Jesse Jackson, who was with King when he was killed. If the city doesn’t give black businesses their fair share of city contracts, Jackson said, he’ll be back to march.

The issues that brought King to Memphis in 1968 and propelled young people onto the bridge in 2016 are problems that neither the Grizzlies nor yellow growl towels can solve. And we shouldn’t expect them to.

Rodney Walker went from foster care to Yale Author reveals his inspirational journey of trauma and grace

The hard-knock life for author, entrepreneur and inspirational speaker Rodney Walker started when he was 5 years old. He spent the next 12 years in Chicago’s foster care system, until he ran away and ended up homeless for several months.

For much of that time, he was failing in school. But he says education saved his life. He attributes the turnaround to two teachers he met along the way.

Walker, now 27, holds degrees from Morehouse College and Yale University and speaks at schools, corporations and conferences about the importance of education, entrepreneurship, mentoring and philanthropy for nonprofit organizations supporting at-risk youth. His 2016 book, A New Day One, is his story on trauma, grace and his journey from foster care to Yale. Walker told his story to The Undefeated’s Kelley Evans.


Education saved my life

I graduated from Morehouse in 2012. I graduated from Yale Divinity School in 2014 with a master’s degree in ethics.

As a result of leaving the foster care system, I lost benefits of independent living. I lost benefits to get college scholarships through the foster care system. I lost all those privileges because of my actions.

When I moved back in with my parents, thinking it was going to be kind of a fairy-tale situation, I realized that my parents were deeply struggling with drug abuse, substance abuse, to the point where they would steal money from me and they would wake me up out my sleep and ask me all these things, and I couldn’t concentrate or focus on school. So I literally had to leave my parents’ house and just basically couch surf at friends’ places, and ended up at a homeless shelter for about three months of my life.

The turning point that transformed my life was when I was in detention. I was in detention like probably once or twice every week. We had a new dean in our high school [ACE Technical Charter High School in Chicago], Michael McGrone Sr., and he was the person that literally focused on the social-emotional aspect of my life experience.

We focused on homework, we focused on studying, we focused on just getting our life together, our academics together, so we can figure it out. But in that detention, he focused on none of that. His main objective was to focus on the social aspect, the post-traumatic stress disorder. He believed that by taking the time and energy to do that we would perform at our greatest. He wanted to hear nothing about excuses and about how I came from homelessness and foster care and things like that. He wanted to focus on how this affected me on an emotional level and on a social level.

He believed that by getting me to that breaking point to forgive and let that stuff go, then I would actually focus on myself and my lifelong learning so it would transform my life. The sacrifice that he made to really put that time and attention into me and these other kids in detention, it came at an incredible price. And most people don’t understand that, and that’s why I hate using the word ‘mentorship’ because it’s so watered down, because mentorship sounds like profession. He sacrificed in his marriage; I mean, he got divorced about a year after the program was over. … He had a wife and two children at the time at home that he, literally, not neglected intentionally but neglected by default because he was so passionate about his work.

The second person before that was a math teacher, Melanie Vaughn. And she took on the mother role that my mother couldn’t be for me because my mother was a struggling drug addict. … My math teacher was the first teacher that ever really gave me the time and attention and the energy and the support that I needed outside of school. So she was my math teacher from 9 to 10:30, whenever my class period was, but after school we would sit in our classroom, we would just talk about things I really wish I would have talked about with my own mother. She was my advisory teacher as well as my math teacher, so I had her at 14 until I graduated high school.

I think what’s overlooked so much is that when people succeed, they always look at the work that they’ve put in without looking on the back end, about the people who put in that honest investment to them, who gave them that love and that time and that energy and that support to get to where they are. I never really emphasize the hard work because hard work is just … I could be working towards anything, but somebody somewhere, and I always remind myself of this, somebody somewhere changed my mind to do what I do today. And when I look back and think back, I think about those people.

The struggle was real

I was struggling all through grade school. I was diagnosed with mild autism in the first grade. And thankfully my mother didn’t allow me to take psychotropic drugs because she didn’t believe in that, so I didn’t. But all throughout my grade school I struggled with reading. … When I was a freshman I had made a 1.3 GPA, then in my sophomore year I had made a 1.6. And that was half the result of just not being able to master the high school material, but the other half of it was because of social-emotional trauma. It was really because I was distracted, because I was coming to school every day, I was walking like a mile and a half to school because I didn’t have bus fare to get to the school from home, despite the fact that I had a foster parent making money from foster care who didn’t invest in transportation for me to get to school.

But the fact also that I went some 10, 11 years without my parents, without my eight brothers and sisters, and I was really sort of devastated by that. And every day when I went to school I was so distracted I didn’t care about the work. So my fail grades were the result of both of those things, not being prepared and not actually caring enough to do the work because I had so many other distractions. My junior year I had a 2.4, so it was the first time in a long time I actually had made over a 2.0 GPA. … And then in my senior year when I met my dean, who did a lot of that social-emotional counseling and trauma recovery kind of work with me, that’s when I was able to literally steel myself, let all that stuff go, let the baggage go, really focus on my learning.

Getting into Morehouse

I earned a couple of scholarships to college, but Morehouse at that time was about a $40,000-a-year institution. I got about $10,000 in scholarship money, and the rest of it I had to get a loan. So I took out a huge loan in my first year. Also, the problem was that I came into Morehouse on academic probation because my grades were so low that I wasn’t eligible for regular admission.

That first year I would say was my hardest year of any academic semester I’ve ever had in school because I came in on a huge learning curve. At that time I don’t know what reading level I was reading at, but I couldn’t master the college material, so I had to take all remedial classes that first semester. And every week I would get calls from my teacher and my dean. They would call me every week, see how I was doing. One time my dean took a trip down to Atlanta to check on me and things like that, and whenever I needed help and support they would call me and make sure I was in the library, or make sure I was with a tutor, and kind of getting myself back together.

Road to Yale

I wasn’t even sure if I would get into Yale. … I kind of put myself out there to take the risk and to just believe that I can do something I wasn’t sure I can do. So that really came as a result of that mentorship piece. Just that breakthrough moment and instilling in me that I can be my best self and I don’t have to live as a byproduct of my post-traumatic stress. I can actually live and triumph in spite of that, and I think that’s really what his biggest goal was in trying to help me through my circumstances.

Chicago then and now

I have a love-hate relationship with Chicago. Actually, I did return back to Chicago to partner with the former Secretary of Education Arne Duncan on a jobs program for at-risk youth in the city. I’ve been here in Chicago for several months now.

… I love the city for what it can do. Like, what it has the potential to do for young people. But the problems that we have, there is literally a deep sense of hopelessness. … The social and the political climate of this city has taken a toll on the black community in a way that I think most people can’t articulate.

I work in public schools every single day, and I see the toll that it takes when teachers don’t have the materials that they need and when the infrastructure and buildings are being broken down, when kids are not coming to school because of truancy and they’re getting locked up for being truant to class. And child abuse cases are happening at our schools everywhere as a result of single parents who are going through that post-traumatic stress disorder that is unmet, unneeded, because they don’t have the money or the resources to do it, and the kids are literally walking from school back to home, where they’re dealing with all these social systemic elements, for poverty, gang element, drugs, that literally the city refuses to address. But instead they reinvest in our neighborhoods in a way that is counterproductive to hopes and the restoration that young people in these communities need.

Instead, they’ll build facilities that literally can entertain an international market when there’s a huge deficit at home in these neighborhoods that is going unmet and unaddressed. So really I love Chicago with a passion, but I understand that those who are less fortunate are not having their needs met in a very severe way.

Family life

I have eight siblings. I am the fourth youngest; I have a younger brother and two younger sisters.

… My parents were together, and literally their life was kind of just all over the place. I think the main thing that made their life so dysfunctional was obviously their substance abuse and addiction. When we were born, my parents were just making the shift from public housing and they got a place on the West Side of Chicago, which is where I was born. And then they moved from the West Side to the South Side, and they were still dealing with this drug addiction, drug abuse and addiction. And at 5 years old, my father was incarcerated for selling drugs in Chicago, and then that really spiraled into me and my siblings going into foster care at that age. My parents fought in court, but my mother was so emotionally torn that she couldn’t get to the court proceedings, she couldn’t get through the parental classes and the substance abuse classes.

That early half of my experience in foster care was actually with siblings, with relatives of my parents. A combination of their social-emotional trauma, my father’s a byproduct of the Vietnam war, so he was never able to get over his heroin addiction and his post-traumatic stress disorder.

My book – A New Day One

I really wanted to write the book for a couple of reasons. The first reason is because I have been telling my story to young people in schools as early as my sophomore year at Morehouse College. And every time I told my story, people would come up to me and say, “My God, that was really great what you said, I wonder if you have a book.” So that’s really what encouraged me to write the book, because I had been journaling before that, but I’d never had a book. And then I met a publisher a few years later after that, worked with me to write the book.