Daily Dose: 6/22/17 Milwaukee is the latest city to protest the verdict in a police shooting

I’m back from New York, and it was a whirlwind week. I did my best to create a complete radio show for the podcast, so I hope you like it. The whole thing has been a work in progress, but I think we’re getting closer to what we want.

It feels like every day of summer is going to deliver another terrible verdict. This time it comes from Milwaukee, where an officer killed a man after a chase. The victim in this case appeared to have gotten rid of a firearm during the pursuit, which was a critical point for the verdict in the end. It might be worth noting that the officer was black, but that doesn’t change the fact that another man lost his life at the hands of law enforcement, which is such a troubling trend that it’s hard to keep up. There will be protests in Wisconsin today, for sure.

We now have a new proposed health care bill. Nobody’s seen it, few lawmakers have any idea what it actually is, but Senate Republicans drafted it behind closed doors and refused to reveal any details about it until it was time to vote. As far as legislative shenanigans go, this definitely qualifies as doing the most. Democrats have been going all over the country asking constituents what they think of repealing the Affordable Care Act, but no one knows what’s in it. Now, we have what they’re calling a “discussion draft,” which is rather underwhelming.

The doctor’s office is stressful. There’s just no way around that. Whether it’s the wait time, the paperwork, the cost or the obvious situation of learning about one’s health, in general it causes major anxiety. So if you walk into a medical facility with a strong bent of racism on your mind, things are not going to go well. That’s exactly what happened in Canada recently when a woman decided she was going to start yelling at people in order for her kid to see a white physician. Then, she claimed she was being discriminated against. Can’t make this up.

Yasiel Puig is my favorite L.A. Dodgers player. He has been so ever since he joined the team and brought his Cuban flavor to the diamond, hotdogging and bat flipping his way all over the big leagues. Of course, because MLB is full of curmudgeons who don’t like fun, this was not well-received. This time, he upset the New York Mets because he took too long to get around the bags after a home run. Now, everyone’s saying he doesn’t have respect for the game, which is absurd. This charade from big leaguers only gets more annoying with each passing pitch. Get over it.

Free Food

Coffee Break: Speaking of baseball, some people go to incredible lengths to be able to play. For example, if you have only one hand, it’s not easy to do. But in the mold of Jim Abbott, the legendary one-handed pitcher who once threw a no-hitter, there’s a catcher doing the same thing. Check this kid out, he’s awesome.

Snack Time: George Clooney’s won the life lottery in so many ways. Aside from being exactly the type of guy whom Hollywood casts for everything, he apparently also just falls into money when he isn’t even trying. What a life.

Dessert: DeMario Jackson is back on Bachelor In Paradise. This franchise is totally out of control.

 

‘Queen Sugar’: What Oprah and Ava DuVernay say to expect from season two OWN is dialing up the intrigue in its show about rural Louisiana

Queen Sugar, OWN’s marquee family drama created by Ava DuVernay, returns Tuesday night with its second-season premiere, with the second episode airing Wednesday.

The network only released the first episode in advance, so this isn’t a review. However, I did speak with executive producers Oprah Winfrey and Ava DuVernay at recent press events in Los Angeles about the upcoming season.

Season one closed with Charley (Dawn-Lyen Gardner) deciding to leave her rapey pro basketball player husband and start the Queen Sugar mill, the first black-owned mill in her family’s Louisiana home parish of St. Josephine’s. She rounded up commitments from many of the community’s black farmers to use the Bordelon mill to grind their cane, assuming it’s up and running in time. And Charley’s raising the hackles of competing white male farmers, especially Samuel Landry (David Jensen), who owns the biggest farm in the parish.

Here’s what’s in store:

Dialing up the drama

Winfrey’s been quite vocal in her support of Queen Sugar and announced a second-season pickup last year before a single episode had even aired. She’s been similarly effusive in advance of the second season. Winfrey joked about keeping the Bordelons in a state of some dysfunction because it makes for more entertaining storytelling that can be spooled out for multiple seasons.

“I pray Ralph Angel and his sisters get it together,” Kofi Siriboe said of his character, Ralph Angel, during a roundtable with Winfrey and Gardner.

Winfrey pursed her lips a bit and said, “Not soon.”

Ralph Angel (Kofie Siriboe), Blue (Ethan Hutchison) and Darla (Bianca Lawson) in a scene from Queen Sugar.

Alfonso Bresciani /Courtesy of OWN

While all that soapy, melodramatic goodness is great for fans, it spells trouble ahead for Nova (Rutina Wesley), who’s still fighting for justice in her job as a newspaper journalist, and Ralph Angel as he struggles to get Charley to respect his skill as a farmer. Meanwhile Aunt Vi, played by the utterly vivacious Tina Lifford, is still showing us just how great retirement age can be, opening the season clad in a crop top on a trip to a nightclub with her nieces.

Apparently Winfrey had toyed with the idea of playing Aunt Violet herself but was booked on OWN’s other drama Greenleaf, which led to a long search before she and DuVernay cast Lifford.

A continued spotlight on Louisiana’s criminal justice system

One of the most compelling B-stories of the first season was Too Sweet’s (Isaac White) trials after being swept into Louisiana’s overextended criminal justice system. Unable to afford an attorney, Too Sweet became another juvenile warehoused in jail as he awaited face time with a public defender barely acquainted with the facts of his case. Without Nova highlighting the injustices of his case, he could have simply been lost in the system.

Rutina Wesley and Dawn-Lyen Gardner as sisters Nova and Charley Bordelon.

Alfonso Bresciani / Courtesy of OWN

This season, Queen Sugar takes a sharper look at the influence and limitations of class when it comes to how black people are treated, with Micah (Nicholas L. Ashe) undergoing his own harrowing experience with law enforcement.

A continued look at the lives of rural black people

The Washington Post recently released the results of a survey that shows a broadening divide between the worldviews of rural and urban Americans. It also found completely different outlooks between rural blacks and whites.

According to the Post:

Black rural Americans — most of whom live in the South — are far less likely than their white neighbors to feel positively about their communities, the poll finds. Sixty percent of blacks say their area is an excellent or good place to raise children, compared with 80 percent of whites. Rural blacks are 25 percentage points less likely than rural whites to give their community positive marks on safety and are 29 points less likely to say their area is a place where people look out for one another. Rural Hispanics tend to fall in between whites and blacks in rating their communities.

There are few shows on television that bother grappling with the experiences of rural Americans in a way that steers clear of obvious and insulting stereotypes, and fewer still that focus almost exclusively on black rural Americans. But Queen Sugar does. And it illustrates the racial divide that the Post discusses. While St. Josephine’s parish may be small enough for everyone to know each other, it’s still deeply segregated, and the economic disparities between the parish’s black farmers and its white ones are huge.

“[The Bordelons] know exactly which white people in their community owned their family,” DuVernay said. “We’re trying to be really explicit in our intentions in playing with and unpacking race and culture, but do it in a way that’s wrapped in contemporary romance and beautiful people and personal relationships while we have this cultural/historical context over it.”

Visions from new directors

Regardless of Julie Dash’s talent as a filmmaker, no one was beating down her door to do more work after Daughters of the Dust, which debuted to rapturous reviews in 1991. We can credit the aesthetic references to Dash’s work in Beyoncé’s Lemonade film to the resurgence in interest in the director, who is now a film professor at Howard University. She, along with five other women — DeMane Davis, Cheryl Dunye, Aurora Guerrero, Amanda Marsalis and producing director Kat Candler — were responsible for continuing DuVernay’s vision in season two.

Dash’s experience with being unable to convert obvious skill into steady and challenging work is hardly anomalous among female directors, and DuVernay spoke at length about the difficulty for them to get hired. It’s what influenced her decision to have both seasons of Queen Sugar be directed entirely by women.

http://www.espn.com/video/clip?id=19687535

See what the cast of Queen Sugar has to say about working with Julie Dash.

“I wanted to say, ‘Look over here. Look at how it can be and how wonderful it can be,’ ” DuVernay said. “I’m proud that other shows have followed suit. I’m proud of Melissa [Rosenberg] at Jessica Jones following suit and some other shows starting to really step into the gap and say, ‘We will have balance.’ …

“I’ve tried to, with Oprah’s blessing and Warner Horizon’s blessing, over-index and go the other direction. I always say if Game of Thrones can have three seasons of all male directors, why can’t we have three seasons of all women directors? If they can do it, why can’t we do it? And you only do that because you can and you want to. You only say, ‘We will not have women’s voices, we will only center the man’s perspective,’ in terms of the perspective of the show, because you want to. On the other side of the things, we’re going to center women as much as we can because we want to. And we’re at a network owned by a woman, so it makes it easier.”

DuVernay is a bit busy, shooting and now editing the much-anticipated Wrinkle in Time, juggling duties at Array, her independent film distribution company, and prepping for other projects, such as her upcoming adaptation of the Robin Givhan book The Battle of Versailles for HBO Films. So this season, Nashville alumnus Monica Macer served as showrunner, supervising the writers room in Los Angeles, while Candler ran the set in Louisiana. The show also promoted two writers, Anthony Sparks and Jason Wilborn, to producer. This season she wasn’t on set, but DuVernay maintained final approval of scripts, casting and editing.

“It’s hard to hand your baby off, but it’s easy when it’s family,” she said.

Thanks to DuVernay’s insistence on using only female directors for the first season of Queen Sugar, her contemporaries are busy too. Besides bringing a new set of stories to the small screen, DuVernay’s created a professional pipeline for other female directors.

“I started out looking at women who had at least directed one film, so the great majority of women from the first season have at least one film under their belt. Can you believe that these women had directed a film — a film that played at film festivals around the world, many of them had won at festivals around the world — and couldn’t get hired in Hollywood for one episode of television? On any network, they would not be allowed in the door,” DuVernay said, clearly peeved. “So all of the women in our season one, all of the women have gone on to be heavily, heavily booked.

“I got a call from a really well-known television show just last week asking, We had someone drop out as a director. Can you refer us to one of your season one directors?’ I got on the phone and tried. None of the season one directors are available. Not one of them. They’re completely booked. I called Victoria Mahoney and I was like, ‘This is a pretty good show.’ She’s like, ‘The show’s good. I’m booked till February of 2018.’ I’m like, ‘Word!’ ”

NBA standout Serge Ibaka is a standout single father too ‘To me, to be a father, it’s a dream,’ says the forward as he celebrates his first Father’s Day with his 11-year-old daughter Ranie

The bond between a father and a daughter is unbreakable — even when it’s not one forged at birth. It’s seems like only a minute since NBA forward Serge Ibaka learned he had a daughter. Now, he and 11-year-old Ranie are living in Orlando, Florida, and celebrating their first Father’s Day.

But, Ibaka says, it’s a celebration with a learning curve here in the United States.

On a hot, rainy summer afternoon in his stucco home tucked away in a gated community in Orlando, Ibaka, Ranie and her nanny, Gail Goss, coordinate a day that includes swimming, homework and dinner, where they will discuss their Father’s Day plans.

“I’ve never done Father’s Day before,” Ibaka said. “You know, the funny thing is I never had to spend time on Father’s Day with my daughter, so this is going to be the first time. So, I don’t know what a father does on Father’s Day. When I was young, for me Father’s Day was like one of those days where you wake up in the morning and you say, ‘Hey, Happy Father’s Day!’ to your dad. And then, that’s it. And then he goes to work, and that’s it.

“But here it’s kind of different. You have to be with your kids and then do something. I don’t know what actually I have to do, but I’m just going to learn it. But I’m sure she knows already. She’s going to tell me.”

But Ranie admits to just as much confusion.

“I didn’t know that it was Father’s Day,” Ranie whispered to her dad.

“It’s OK,” Ibaka said. “She didn’t know it was for Father’s Day.”

“I can’t keep on schedule,” Ranie admitted.

NBA free agent Serge Ibabka is going to spend his first Father’s Day with his 11-year-old daughter Ranie.

Preston Mack for The Undefeated

Ibaka said raising Ranie has been the best experience and expression of love for which any person can ask.

“It’s a dream to me, to be a father,” he said. “Since I was young I always dreamed of myself traveling, envisioned at least three, four kids, five. And then, I’m living my dream right now and something I always love to do, and it’s fun. It’s really changed my life. It’s changed everything about me. The way I think and the way I live my life. It changed everything.”

Ranie, a 5-foot-5 fourth-grader, has known of her father since she was 5 years old, but she didn’t get fully acquainted with him until recently. Born in Congo, Ibaka left his family and his home to pursue a basketball career in Europe at the age of 17. But before he left, unbeknownst to him, he’d fathered a child. Ranie’s mother informed Ibaka’s father, Desire, of the news, and he decided to keep it a secret. It was Desire’s thought that Ibaka would not have pursued his basketball career if he knew he had a child back home. So Desire took on a paternal role and helped raise Ranie until it was decided that he come clean.

“I was young when I found out,” Ibaka said. “And I was shocked a little bit because it’s something new. And then I didn’t know what to do, what to say or how to react. And I was like, OK, I’m a dad now. But a couple of days I start feeling better, and like I said, it was something I used to dream about always. I want to have kids, and now I want to have more. So, it’s fun.”

Ibaka said what he looks forward to most in raising Ranie is her education and continuing to be there for her.

“I didn’t really have that opportunity when I was young,” he said. “I put her in a better school. I didn’t have the opportunity, so to me I want to make sure everything I didn’t have, I want her to have that. And it’s just like kind of my challenge. I’m trying myself to be there for her. Make sure even if I’m busy, because my dad was so busy when I was young. I really didn’t have a lot of opportunity to spend with my dad. But it is kind of normal for me now, but I don’t want that to happen with my daughter. And I try to be my best I can to be with her and spend time.”

Ibaka said his decision to move Ranie to the U.S. was difficult for her mother.

“You know, the funny thing is I never had to spend time on Father’s Day with my daughter, so this is going to be the first time. So, I don’t know what a father does on Father’s Day.”

“I had to explain to her, it’s best for our daughter to come here to the United States, where she can have a better education,” Ibaka explained. “The school system is a little better. And she’s going to be close with me and, like I said before, for a daughter, they need a dad. So it was a little harder, and she did not understand, but now everything’s going smoothly.”

French is Ranie’s first language, but it didn’t take her long to learn English, Ibaka said.

“I put her in American school since she was in Congo because I knew that at some point she had to come here. So, I wanted her to be ready when she’d come here.”

Raising a young daughter at a young age as a man does, however, presents a lot of challenges.

“But it’s kind of a good challenge, especially for a man like me,” Ibaka said. “I’m still young and having a little girl, and they just make you see a lot of things differently. The way you do things because you’ve got a daughter, and they really make you a better man. I love that.”

What he would tell his daughter about guys when it’s time to date?

“Hey, hey, hey, hey, hey. Take it easy,” he said with a shy smile. “It’s too early. When the time comes, I’m sure we’re going to sit down. We’re going to talk. But it’s too early. It makes me nervous now. But I know the time is going to come. Everything has a time. And when the time comes, we’re going to sit down. We’re going to talk.”

Ibaka’s journey includes leaving Brazzaville in the Republic of the Congo to become an integral part of the Oklahoma City Thunder after being drafted in the first round by the then-Seattle SuperSonics with the 24th overall pick of the 2008 NBA draft. He went from dazzling with his defensive and offensive skills on the court with the Thunder to a brief stint with the Orlando Magic, and now his most recent stint is with the Toronto Raptors.

Ibaka founded the Serge Ibaka Foundation just after meeting his daughter, with the goal of furthering his humanitarian efforts in Africa. Ibaka desires to inspire children around the world to believe in themselves and in their chances no matter how hard their circumstances are.

With the help of NBA Cares and UNICEF, Ibaka has provided resources and hope for Congo natives in the past few years by bringing basketball, pro athletes, celebrities and charities together through his various philanthropic efforts, to provide support, spread awareness and open a dialogue about the issues and attributes of his homeland. In April, Ibaka was elected to the board of directors of the National Basketball Players Association Foundation.

Ibaka opened up about first setting sight on Ranie in the 2016 documentary Son of the Congo: This is Africa. He said he’s now getting used to being a single father, but it’s not that easy.

Ranie was born in Congo and was raised by his family unbeknownst to him until a few years ago.

Preston Mack for The Undefeated

“I have to spend time with her and make sure because she needs me. I want to be here for her and make sure we spend time together.”

While Ranie is quickly becoming acclimated to her new life, it wasn’t an easy transition.

“It was a little hard in the beginning for myself,” Ibaka said. “And with basketball at the same time, and then with her, she didn’t understand in the beginning because in the NBA we travel a lot. We’re always on the road. So she really didn’t understand, and she had to get used to and understand my daddy’s busy, and that’s how the things go. So, she’s getting better. She understands, and she’s getting used to now.”

Ibaka is the third youngest in a family of 18.

“The oldest, my sister, is 35,” Ibaka said. “It’s good to have a lot of brothers and sisters, you know? You got family. It’s always good to know you got family. That’s enough, because it’s kind of normal where I come from. It’s kind of normal. I always grow up in a family place, a house. That’s why I love kids.”

Ibaka is known for his fashion-forward style, and Ranie is following his lead. Described as equally stylish and one who takes pride in her wardrobe, the two often debate about who is the best dresser in the household.

“Well, she thinks she’s better than me,” Ibaka explained of Ranie’s wardrobe. “She thinks she’s better than me. So we always try to challenge each other, because she knows. But I’m sure she’s watching me all the time, how I dress, and then she kind of picks it up a little bit. So, she loves to dress too.”

Many teen fathers who are also the primary custodian sometimes have fears. But Ibaka said he’s not afraid.

“Well, yeah, I’m a very strict father,” he said. “But I don’t try to do too much. But I make sure I’m strict.”

“I don’t know why, but I’m not really afraid to be a father,” he said. “I try a lot to be a father. And, like I say again, I’m going to try to give her the best education I can. Sometimes we try, we do everything, but it ends up the way we don’t want. But that’s life, you know.

“But at least I know I’m going to try. I’m know I’m going to give my best. I’m going to make sure I’m here for her. Put her in the better position for her to grow up like a sweet little girl. And then everything is not really in my power too. But I just want to make sure, at least I want to tell myself in the next couple of years, you do the best you can.

“Well, yeah, I’m a very strict father,” he said. “But I don’t try to do too much. But I make sure I’m strict. I’m trying to raise my daughter the best way I can, you know? Maybe I didn’t have the opportunity. I didn’t have that chance. But I’m going to give my daughter that.”

Ibaka said he wouldn’t change anything about being a single father.

“So far I think I don’t want to change anything because everything’s going smoothly right now. And then, she’s smart. She’s doing great in school. She’s listening. She respects me. I always tell her, respect people. Thank God everything’s going smoothly.”

Ibaka enlisted the help of Goss, who has experience as a nanny to other Orlando-based NBA players. Goss, a mother of two and minister from Mississippi, has been Ranie’s caregiver for more than one year. She’s known around the league as “Miss Gail.”

Ibaka met Miss Gail when he first moved to Orlando, and she’s been like family ever since.

“I got here, I was looking for a nanny,” he explained. “Someone to take care of my daughter. So, my assistant, he was working on it. And then that’s how we found Miss Gail. And then because I kind of know her story a little bit. She used to work with all those players before, so I was, like, maybe she understands NBA life, how NBA life goes.”

Since Ranie is new to Father’s Day and the culture surrounding the celebration, she’s still figuring out her plans for her famous father.

“I really don’t know,” she said when asked what they were going to do.

On a normal day, they spend time doing various activities.

“We go to the movies. Go to Universal [Studios], swim, play Uno.”

She wants a cellphone, but Ibaka is against it.

“I want to raise her the way I’ve been raised,” he explained. “Like my mom, father, because the new generation is kind of different right now. Everything is going fast. Because I’m kinda person where I never forget where I come from. Even everything I want out of my life, I never want to change the way I think, the way I am. I want to stay the same person. You know, that’s why, and I have the kind of same mentality of raising my daughter too. Because now, everybody having iPhone, everybody having this, everything like that, I have to change the way I think. I would have to change the way I do my thing. You know? I don’t want to that, so that’s how I am.”

Ranie wants to be a doctor and a tennis player but her father said she keeps changing her mind, at first desiring to become a lawyer.

“No, I never wanted to be a lawyer,” Ranie said. “You told me you wanted me to be a lawyer.”

“It’s true love,” Ibaka admitted about fatherhood. “You never go wrong with true love. It’s easy and natural.”

Preston Mack for The Undefeated

Daily Dose: 6/15/17 There will be no slander of ‘The Color Purple’

I’ll be filling in Thursday afternoon on #TheRightTime with Bomani Jones on ESPN Radio from 4-7 p.m. EST. Tune in to that if you want to hear me yelling about random things.

The game will go on Thursday night at Nationals Park. Despite the fact that a gunman tried to kill elected officials while they were practicing for the Congressional Baseball Game. If you don’t know, that’s a game played by lawmakers from both sides of the aisle every year that raises money for charity. And although the world of many members of Congress was turned upside down, I imagine Thursday night will be a very celebratory scene. On the real, however, Rep. Steve Scalise is still in the hospital. By the way, here are the two officers who prevented a massacre.

Elizabeth Banks, we need to have a talk. If you’re going to be calling people out, please get your facts straight. She said to a crowd that Steven Spielberg has never cast a movie with a female lead. Even though she was corrected, at the time, and told that The Color Purple is actually a thing that exists, she basically ignored that. Because it’s real easy to ignore black people when our stories don’t center on white people. Meanwhile, people are trying to say that movie was a flop. Which is, of course, completely insane considering how much of a cultural marker that film is.

It’s been quite the offseason for Richard Sherman. There were rumors that he wanted out of Seattle, and there were stories about how the locker room might be at odds because of an overall lack of respect for Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson. Now, he’s opening up about his relationship with Wilson, which at this point feels like it’s basically the entire fulcrum of this team’s emotional balance. I gotta say, I’m fascinated by what this team is going to be in the upcoming season. They’ve easily got the most interesting locker room in the NFL.

Welp, it looks like things just got worse for Rick Pitino. The NCAA has ruled that the sex scandal that rocked the Louisville men’s basketball program will not only cost Pitino, the team’s head coach, a five-game suspension, but they’ll also have to vacate wins from 2010-14. You might recall that they won a little something called the 2013 national championship. Of course, who knows what vacating wins really means, because it’s not like you can unplay the games and undo the actual moments of victory.

Free Food

Coffee Break: There are certain goals in soccer that, no matter what, I will remember for the rest of my life. There are also certain guys who will be forever remembered for said strikes. Roberto Carlos is precisely that guy, and 20 years ago is when he made that mark. Check out this look back at one of the best goals, ever.

Snack Time: With Twitter getting a redesign and all this other nonsense going on, don’t let any of this distract you from the fact that DuckTales released its new title sequence.

Dessert: If you watch reality TV, this is worth your time.

Why Ice Cube should be a future Songwriters Hall of Fame inductee The film mogul is one of rap’s all-time great wordsmiths — and cultural forecasters

This week, Berry Gordy, Jay Z, and James “Jimmy Jam” Harris and Terry Lewis will be inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame. They will join immortals such as Little Richard, Valerie Simpson and Nickolas Ashford, Dolly Parton, Nile Rodgers, Jerry Garcia, Marvin Gaye, Cyndi Lauper and more. This week The Undefeated celebrates future Songwriting Hall of Famers — the ones who make the whole world sing and bop, and even milly rock.


For 400 years — I got 400 tears, for 400 peers/ Died last year from gang-related crimes/ That’s why I got gang-related rhymes

— Ice Cube, from 1991’s “Us

Ice Cube pulls up on a group of friends. It’s the summer of 1989 in Los Angeles. All young black men, all from the South Central area, his friends are slanging crack. Cube, by then, is already famous, the most vicious wordsmith of America’s worst nightmare: the rap supergroup N.W.A. He rolls the window down on his Jeep.

“Yo, y’all don’t need to be out here,” he said. “All you’re gonna do is get arrested.”

His boys looked at him, puzzled. In 1980s South Central Los Angeles, the streets were a war zone. Born O’Shea Jackson in 1969, four years after the Watts riots and during the rise of the black liberation movement, Cube’s life was a courtside seat to gang and police violence. He saw black boys’ and girls’ lives cut short by violence that turned neighborhoods into prisons, and to graveyards.

Does a résumé as decorated and diverse as Cube’s obscure who he is as a songwriter?

As in many major U.S. metropolitan areas, crack was the crème de la crème narcotic. For users, crack was an escape. “It is also a drug of desperation, linked to the urban poor’s struggle to be part of the greater society,” said Joyce Hartwell, founder and director of New York’s Recovery Hotline and Addiction Anonymous Education Project. Fast money, cheap product, economically deprived ‘hoods: an elixir for violence.

Ice Cube in 1992

Waring Abbott/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

In Los Angeles alone, the murder rate had risen every year since 1985. In 1988, the year N.W.A. released Straight Outta Compton, there were 452 gang homicides — 29.7 percent of all area murders. In 1989, 554 gang homicides accounted for 32.7 percent of all homicides. The numbers would only increase, rising to 803 gang murders (39.4 percent of all) by the time the Los Angeles riots popped off, for a long list of reasons, in the spring of 1992.

So it makes sense that Cube’s friends were dumbfounded. The songs he wrote, for example, for Eazy-E’s 1988 Eazy Duz It, weren’t soundtracks of their lives. Nor were the songs quite entertainment. Cube’s lyrics, motion picture moments on records like Straight Outta’s “8 Ball (Remix),” were their lives. Cube’s friends were trapped in a hell of crack, guns, gangs, liquor stores and funeral homes. “Everybody can’t rap,” one of his friends said. “You’re living good, so you can say s— like that. If you wasn’t making money, you’d be right out here with us.”

Cube recognized quickly his platform, and the responsibility that came with being one of the most recognizable rappers in the country. For Cube, his art was chemotherapy for a cancer the country had long ignored in neighborhoods portrayed as ground zero on nightly news broadcasts. He thanked his friend and bought him a beer.

“[I said] thanks for setting me straight. Peace,” Cube told Spin in 1989. “No, I didn’t say ‘peace,’ cause peace is a fictional word. Peace is a dream.”


Thirty years after the Straight Outta Compton album, Ice Cube is a Rock & Roll Hall of Famer. He’s sold over 15 million albums through his solo work and compilations and as a leader of N.W.A. and Westside Connection. Cube has long since established himself as a force in Hollywood as a producer, screenwriter and actor, starting with 1991’s timeless ode to life in South Central, Boyz N The Hood. From there, cult classics such as 1998’s The Players Club, acclaimed smashes such as 1999’s Three Kings, as well as his Friday, Barbershop and Ride Along series strengthen his portfolio as he heads into thriller territory. Come later this month, he’ll have successfully placed Allen Iverson back on a basketball court with the creation of his BIG3 basketball league. And just last weekend, Cube gave Bill Maher a lesson in the use of the N-word. But is one of rap’s finest lyrical storytellers the victim of society’s selective amnesia? Does a résumé as decorated and diverse as Cube’s obscure who he is as a songwriter?

“It’s Ice Cube’s lyrics that forced people to take the West Coast seriously.” — Todd Boyd

“Ice Cube is the first guy outside of New York to get recognition and visibility for his lyricism,” said Todd Boyd, professor of cinema and media studies at the University of Southern California’s School of Cinematic Arts. He’s the Katherine and Frank Price Endowed Chair for the Study of Race and Popular Culture. “It’s Ice Cube’s lyrics that forced people to take the West Coast seriously.”

Cube’s relentless output during the late ’80s and early ’90s writes its own chapter of American history. He’s one of gangsta rap’s main creators, along with Ice T, Eazy-E, Dr. Dre and Snoop Dogg. His music shed light on the despair, anger, yet resiliency of life in the ’hood. Cube’s 360-degree view of the black experience in America was a persuasive counterpoint to politicians and critics who painted black individuals and groups with broad strokes.

It was Cube’s call of duty to tell South Central Los Angeles’ story — which, in turn, spoke for the millions nationwide dealing with similar situations. By doing so, he warned America of a simmering resentment. His graphic street scriptures, however bold and outright disrespectful of women, law enforcement and whatever else, function as the Old Testament for what exploded on television screens across the world in the wake of the Rodney King verdict.

The first three songs on the album Straight Outta Compton, which sold 3.5 million copies (and led eventually to the acclaimed and successful 2015 biopic of the same title), became part of a 1988 hip-hop trifecta, along with Public Enemy’s It Takes A Nation of Millions To Hold Us Back and the launch of Yo! MTV Raps, which changed the culture, and music as whole. Straight Outta Compton represented art by fire. And Cube was its lead arsonist.

“Straight Outta Compton”: Straight outta Compton, crazy m—–f—– named Ice Cube/ From the gang called N—–s With Attitude/ When I’m called off, I got a sawed-off/ Squeeze the trigger and bodies are hauled off/ You, too, boy, if you f— with me/ The police are gonna have to come and get me/ Off you a–, that’s how I’m going out

“F— Tha Police”: F— the police, coming straight from the underground/ A young n—- got it bad ’cause I’m brown/ And not the other color so police think/ They have the authority to kill a minority/ F— that s— cause I ain’t the one/ For a punk m—–f—– with a badge and a gun/ To be beaten on, and thrown in jail/ We can go toe-to-toe in the middle of a cell

“Gangsta, Gangsta”: Here’s a little something about a n—- like me/ Never should’ve been let out the penitentiary/ Ice Cube, would like to say/ That I’m a crazy m—–f—– from around the way/ Since I was youth, I smoked weed out/ Now I’m the m—-f—— that you read about/ Takin’ a life or two, that’s what the hell I do/ You don’t like how I’m living?/ Well, f— you!

“Not all of what we say on records describe us,” MC Ren said in 1989. “We also describe the exploits of people around us. So this is telling it again, like it is and how people really behave.” As N.W.A.’s acclaim and infamy spread, so did its influence. Fishbone’s 1991 The Reality of My Surroundings, the Geto Boys’ 1990 “City Under Siege” and Public Enemy’s 1990 “Fight The Power” further enunciated a desperation. For Cube, it wasn’t about taking — or making — rap music literally, lyric for lyric. It was a reclamation of identity.

“[Black people] lost 400 years of teaching, of schooling of any kind of knowledge of our culture,” Cube said in a 1991 interview. “Right now, we’re in the process of getting that back through rap music.” Cube’s music was the crystal ball. On 1990’s “The N—- Ya Love To Hate,” Cube advises: The day is coming that you all hate / Just think if n—-s decide to retaliate … then Kicking s— called street knowledge / Why more n—-s in the pen than in college.

But it’s his second solo album, 1991’s Death Certificate, where final warnings were spelled out. This was Cube masterfully executing a concept album in the early ’90s, a new task for the still-infant genre, yet Death is comparable to Marvin Gaye’s 1971 What’s Going On, or Stevie Wonder’s 1973 Innervisions. Aside from Cube’s spectacular songwriting was his attention to sequencing detail. While the first half of the project revolves around life in the ghetto (“The Wrong N—- To F— Wit,” “My Summer Vacation” and “A Bird In The Hand”), the second half is Cube offering cultural and societal critiques (“Us,” “True To The Game” and “Color Blind”).

Certificate’s complex commentary provided validation that Cube was far more — if more was required — than a “gangsta rapper.” And importantly, gangsta rap itself was far more than violent imagery. “Cube was of that moment,” Dr. Boyd says. Racial and political tensions were high in the early ’90s. “And if you were tapped into that moment, you understood something was about to pop off. You didn’t know what it was. You didn’t know what form it was going to take. But you felt it. Cube personified that.”

His music shed light on the despair, anger, yet resiliency of life in the ’hood.

On Death’s “I Wanna Kill Sam,” Cube skillfully lacerates the federal government: Tied me up, took me outside/ And I was thrown in a big truck/ And it was packed like sardines/ Full of n—-s who fell for the same scheme/ Took us to a place and made us work/ All day and we couldn’t have s— to say/ Broke up the families forever/ And to this day black folks can’t stick together/ And it’s odd/ Broke us down, made us pray — to his God.”

Cube’s cutthroat examination of the medical discrimination black people receive in South Central also goes under the microscope “Alive on Arrival:” Woke up in the back of a trey / On my way to MLK/ That’s the county hospital, jack, ha/ Where n—-s die over a little scratch/ Sittin’ in the trauma center/ In my back is where the bullet entered/ “Yo, nurse, I’m gettin’ kinda warm!”/ B—–s still made me fill out the f—— form.

For “Black Korea,” Cube experienced backlash for his attack on Korean-Americans: So pay respect to the black fist/ Or we’ll burn your store right down to a crisp/ And then we’ll see ya/ Cause you can’t turn the ghetto into black Korea. “Korea” was largely viewed as a lyrical retaliation for the March 1991 killing of Latasha Harlins by a Korean-American store owner — a death that, along with the Rodney King verdict, is canonized as the two biggest sparks for the riots. Cube apologized for the song in February 1992, saying the record was not an indictment of all Korean-Americans but a rebuke of a select few stores “where my friends and I have had actual problems.”

Two months after the apology, the four Los Angeles Police Department officers who assaulted Rodney King were acquitted. To Ice Cube and residents of South Central, the verdict wasn’t surprising. This was no isolated incident. And soon, the Los Angeles skyline was painted with smoke rising from the flames that enveloped Los Angeles streets. The deplorable conditions that Cube had lamented for years, attempted to explain in interviews and broadcast to an entire country had finally come to fruition.

“That’s the only way you can get white people to hear what black people have to say. If you tear s— up,” Cube said of the riots. “This country uses violence for its justice. But then the country gets mad when we use violence for our justice.”

Ice Cube didn’t necessarily predict the L.A. riots as much as he diagnosed urban illnesses. Communities were ravaged by drugs. Resources provided to other parts of the vast city were omitted from South Central. Desperation led to violence. Although rap music had its faults, and didn’t please a lot of people, Cube’s music wasn’t created with the intention of making people feel good.

It was created with the intention of the listener feeling the pain and hopelessness of so many of the people Cube grew up around. He peeled back American hypocrisies and, in his own way, changed the course of American pop history. Cube did it for his people. He did it for those same friends he pulled up on in his Jeep, some of whom may not even be alive anymore.

“When it comes to records,” he recently told Apple’s Beats 1 radio station, “I just think you gotta be a voice for the voiceless.”

Top Dawg Entertainment’s studio rules are giving us life Also, ScHoolboy Q is a fool with it

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Top Dawg Entertainment, record-label home of Kendrick Lamar and ScHoolboy Q among others, is doing it big these days. King Kenny is obviously a major superstar right now, and Q is still holding it down. In an interview with Montreality, an extremely stoned ScHoolboy explains various things, from how he lost his virginity to the fact that a full Black Hippy group album will likely not happen. Overall, the video is funny.

But more importantly, the regulations posted for their studio are hilarious. Over the years, hip-hop and the music industry in general have legendary stories about over-the-top sessions, but these rules are fantastic. I’m here for random clips of the guidelines and quirks that rappers are dealing with while they handle their creative process. It’s far more interesting to me than, say, what they have on their concert riders.

It reminds me of my high school, where in the senior lounge, in the corner with the couch and the video games, we had to establish some order after the first week. There were two TVs and three game systems, so when you had a bunch of dumb kids in there trying to assert their gaming dominance, arguments of fairness frequently came up. So one day, I wrote the Unacceptable Excuses for the nearest wall. I can remember them to this day.

  1. My controller’s messed up. There’s always going to be something kinda glitchy with a couple of the sticks in a shared space that’s not your house, so deal with it, pleighboi.
  2. These aren’t my settings. Dudes would love to think they were slick when they lost and sneaked this stupid reasoning in. It applied in maybe 5 percent of all cases in terms of all the games being played overall.
  3. I didn’t get my team/character. Basically, it was all fighting and sports games, so the characters and teams you got were clearly of major importance. But again, if you’re good, you’re good.
  4. This isn’t my system. These days, at the highest level, this is a valid concern. For example, in the FIFA Interactive World Cup, the championship game is actually played in two halves split between Xbox and PlayStation. In the ’90s? Nah, fam.
  5. You play like a punk. I specifically recall writing this rule so I didn’t tell on myself. Because it would infuriate me when some dolt found a glitch to exploit and ran it into the ground. It annoyed me, but I had to respect it.

Anyways, rap twitter: more studio rules snaps, less pictures of drugs and guns. Stay ugly, y’all.

This Johns Hopkins grad is the modern-day Katherine Johnson 25-year-old engineer Ariel Bowers is forging her own path just like the NASA ‘hidden figure’

John Hopkins graduate Ariel Bowers spends her days testing software for the James Webb Space Telescope, a state-of-the-art NASA telescope that will be launched into space next year.

The Baltimore native has been peering into the night sky in search of stars and constellations since she was a little girl. At 25, she’s a modern-day Katherine Johnson, the NASA scientist portrayed in the award-winning movie Hidden Figures.

With summer on the horizon, Bowers has some great advice for students and their parents: Spend the summer engaged in learning, find a mentor or enroll in a summer camp in a field you’re interested in exploring.

Bowers is an integration and test engineer at the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore. She is the lead engineer in testing the telescope’s data management subsystem.

“It is definitely the most powerful telescope, and it will be able to see the furthest back,” said Bowers. “We should be able to look back to the very first and early galaxies that were created after the Big Bang.”

Space exploration is “a dream come true,” said Bowers. “It’s literally what I wanted to do as a young girl. And to have worked on two of NASA’s flagship missions: I worked on the Hubble telescope for three years, and now to be on the team that is helping to test the software for James Webb.”

In her spare time, Bowers serves as a mentor to young students, particularly girls, encouraging them to consider careers in physics, astronomy and computer science. Exposure to such fields is critical if young women want to break the glass ceiling.

Bowers comes from a family of educators. She credits her grandfather with introducing her to the wonder of stars. “My grandfather worked with the city schools and was also a principal. We’d go out and look at the stars together. Astronomy was his No. 1 love.”

She attended Wellwood International Elementary School, a French immersion school in Baltimore County, and continued her education at Sudbrook Magnet Middle School in Pikesville, Maryland. Bowers transferred from Baltimore County Public Schools to attend Baltimore Polytechnic Institute to take part in the Ingenuity Project, which provides highly accelerated math and science courses to high-achieving students. As part of that program, Bowers did a Research Practicum, which pairs students with mentors who are scientists and engineers to complete a research project.

Rita Bowers said her daughter has always been an excellent, highly motivated student. But a social slight at an early age made her work even harder. Her best friend, a white child, had a birthday party and invited everyone in the class except for her. The experience, while heartbreaking, was a wake-up call.

“My mother said to [Ariel], ‘You can always beat those who think less of you. They will always respect you if you’re smart enough.’ That idea stuck with Ariel,” said Rita Bowers. “Her whole school career she knew she had to go in there and be the best that she could be.

Bowers loves working with younger students. She believes it’s never too early to teach kids about science and astronomy.

“Being able to make something tangible for younger students was really interesting,” she said of teaching her aunt’s pre-K pupils. “I always go back to career day at least yearly at my old middle school. I share what it’s like to work in the field of astronomy. When kids think science, they think lab coat and beakers. But a lot of scientists don’t do that kind of work. It’s kind of cool to show them another facet of what astronomy and engineering is.”

She urges students to seek out opportunities to attend camps and shadow professionals. Guidance counselors say this is a great way for students to figure out whether they will really enjoy a career they have their eye on.

She and her mentor, Max Mutchler, are now colleagues at the Space Telescope Science Institute. When he first met Bowers, Mutchler said, she was a poised and very mature 15-year-old. “She was working on projects with Nobel Prize winners, and she was unfazed by all of that. I was so impressed.”

At Johns Hopkins, Bowers majored in computer science and minored in French and space systems engineering. She was first exposed to the story of Katherine Johnson when she read the book Hidden Figures.

Bowers identifies with Johnson’s character in the movie of the same name. Every time she starts a new project, she has to prove herself to colleagues who wonder whether she’s up to the task. It’s a common problem for women working in male-dominated fields such as science and engineering. But Bowers quickly quells any doubts they have about her abilities.

Lisa Frattare, an astronomical image processor at the Chandra Observatory in Boston, worked with Bowers on the Hubble telescope and can relate to her experiences.

“That whole male stereotype, ‘Let the girls play with Barbies and let the boys play with Legos,’ well, Lego has found that they have a market with girls,” said Frattare. “We’ve had to take a couple of generations for us to learn that girls are very good at this. The possibilities are endless.”

Bowers is back at Johns Hopkins working on a master’s degree in space systems engineering that she expects to finish in December. The sky is truly the limit.

Tiger Woods says he’s ‘Cablinasian,’ but the police only saw black The golfer’s DUI arrest highlights the country’s ‘one-drop’ rule and his complex relationship with black America

Tiger Woods, once the fresh-faced future of golf, stared into the police camera with a forlorn look and hooded eyes. A 41-year-old man who has famously insisted on his mixed racial heritage was identified in the arrest report with one word: black.

The former No. 1 golfer in the world was sleeping at the wheel of his Mercedes-Benz early Monday when Jupiter, Florida, police said they spotted his car stopped in the road, its blinker flashing and engine running. He was charged with driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol and is scheduled for a court appearance July 5. Woods, who is recovering from back surgery, apologized for the incident, saying in a statement that it resulted from “an unexpected reaction to prescribed medications.”

Golfer Tiger Woods after his arrest on suspicion of driving under the influence (DUI) May 29, 2017 in Jupiter, Florida.

The Palm Beach County Sheriff's Office via Getty Images

The arrest marked another twist in Woods’ quest to return to the PGA Tour after a nearly two-year layoff. His attempted comeback has stoked widespread fascination with the drama of an iconic athlete battling age and injury in an attempt to regain his championship form. But as big a part of the attraction is Woods’ standing as a racial trailblazer. He is a person of color who conquered golf. He is the record holder for most consecutive weeks — 281 — atop the world golf rankings. He won 79 PGA titles, and 14 majors, putting him second all-time on each list.

All of this looms large because of the sport’s racist history. Not only did professional golf’s most prestigious tournament, the Masters, bar black players until 1975, but its hallowed course in Augusta, Georgia, had no black members until 1990. Woods won the Masters for the first time in 1997 at age 21, making him the youngest player to win there. He has gone on to win the tournament three more times.

In the minds of many African-Americans, those achievements made Woods the Jackie Robinson of golf. The analogy would fit nicely if only Woods saw himself as black. Or only black. But Woods, 41, has long chosen to embrace his full multiracial identity. Rather than black, he sees himself as “Cablinasian” — a mix of Caucasian, black, (American) Indian and Asian.

Nobody can argue with his precision. His mother, Kultida, is of Thai, Chinese and Dutch descent. His late father, Earl, said he was African-American, Chinese and Native American. If that is accurate (and some say his father’s Chinese heritage is subject to dispute), Woods is more Asian than he is black. In any event, he has explained that to call himself African-American would have the effect of writing his own mother out of his racial identity.

Woods’ decision to embrace his full multiracial identity was respected by many African-Americans as his right. But others who celebrated his many breakthroughs and saw his success as their own, treated it as a rejection — not to mention a sign of naiveté, cowardice or even betrayal.

There were jokes that Woods would know he was black if he tried to catch a cab at night. Even Colin Powell, the first black chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, when asked about Woods, was quoted as saying, “In America, which I love from the depths of my heart and soul, when you look like me, you are still considered black.”

The criticism only intensified when Woods got caught up in the sex scandal that presaged his golfing decline and ended his marriage. Each of Woods’ many mistresses, like his ex-wife, was white. The fallout weakened Woods’ already shaky standing among many African-Americans.

Years later, the debate about racial identity ignited by Woods continues to resonate. Angela Yee, co-host of the Breakfast Club, a nationally syndicated radio show, relates to Woods’ situation. Her mother is black and from Montserrat, a small island in the eastern Caribbean. Her father is Chinese.

Growing up in black neighborhoods in Brooklyn, New York, and South Orange, New Jersey, she had nearly all black friends and schoolmates. She listened to black music, and considered herself culturally black. Yet, she also celebrated Chinese New Year and embraced both her Asian and black heritage. So she understands Woods’ choice, although she is disappointed by it.

“As a person who is mixed-race myself, I do identify as both black and Asian,” Yee said. “But to be as good as he has been in the world of golf, and with black people so proud of his success, it would have been great to have Tiger say, ‘I’m black and I’m proud.’ ”

Yee explains that when she is asked to check a racial box, she chooses African-American. At the same time, she acknowledges that racial identity can be a tricky thing. Often, when people see or hear her last name, she said, “they assume I am straight-up Asian.” At times, that has led to unfair assumptions. Earlier in her career, a blogger who had only heard her on the radio complained, “Asians are taking over our culture.”

Racial identity has long been both subjective and mutable. Barack Obama is biracial, and was raised by his white mother and white grandparents. But he will go down in history as the first black president in no small part because he identifies as black, married a black woman and raised two black daughters.

Paris Jackson, the blond, blue-eyed daughter of the late Michael Jackson, recently told Rolling Stone that she thinks of herself as black, even if a casual passerby might not.

New York Yankees legend Derek Jeter is the son of an African-American father and Irish-American mother. As a child growing up in Kalamazoo, Michigan, he “sometimes felt the stares” of people in town when he was out with just one of his parents, he told his biographer Ian O’Connor. Coming up, he claimed both sides of his heritage. He would tell people he was black and white, or black and Irish. Once he became a baseball superstar, he was romantically linked to a series of beautiful women, many of whom were white.

But Jeter’s mixed-race background did not prevent him from receiving a threatening letter in the clubhouse from someone who promised to shoot him or set him on fire if he continued dating white women. The missive was investigated by the FBI and the New York City Police Department’s hate crimes unit. Jeter publicly shrugged the threat off as “just a stupid letter,” and last year married Hannah Davis, who happens to be white.

In America, the idea of black identity being linked to even “one drop” of black blood is inextricably tied to the nation’s racist history. Beginning in 1850, mulatto was the name the government assigned to mixed-race African-Americans. By 1890, the census became more exacting, defining mulattoes as people with “three-eighths to five-eighths” black blood. A quadroon was someone who had one-quarter black blood, and an octoroon had one-eighth or less black blood.

But even people with just a drop of black blood might as well have been all black as far as the law was concerned. In its 1896 decision Plessy v. Ferguson, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the French-speaking and white-looking Homer Plessy could not ride in a whites-only rail car in Louisiana because he was an octoroon. The ruling cemented separate-but-equal as the law of the land for more than half a century.

The one-drop rule stood as the nation’s racial standard until the middle of the 20th century, meaning that if someone was a mixture of white and any other race he could not be counted as white. In 1930, for instance, census takers were told that a person who was both black and white should be categorized as black, “no matter how small the percentage of Negro blood.”

Those strictures have slowly given way, and in recent years an increasing number of Americans are embracing their full identities. The 2010 census had 63 possible race categories: six for single races and 57 for combined races. In 2010, 2.9 percent of Americans, a total of 9 million people, chose more than one racial category to describe their racial identity, according to the Pew Research Center.

Even as Woods has refused to embrace his blackness without simultaneously acknowledging the rest of his racial identity, he has always been aware of golf’s shameful past and saw himself as someone who would help usher the game into a new era.

Woods was a 14-year-old prodigy when an interviewer asked him about his goals as a golfer. Woods answered that he wanted to be a superstar. “Since I’m black, I might even be bigger than Jack Nicklaus,” he said. “I might be even bigger than him, to the blacks. I might be sort of like a Michael Jordan in basketball.”

Asked whether there was a tournament that he wanted to win once he turned professional, Woods did not hesitate. “The Masters,” he said.

Why?

“The way blacks have been treated there. [Like] they shouldn’t be there,” he said. “If I win that tournament, it will be really big for us.”

Seven years later, Woods won the Masters by a record 12-stroke margin. His victory rocked the golfing world, and not everyone knew how to handle it.

As Woods was cruising to victory, tour veteran Fuzzy Zoeller was asked about the young pro’s performance.

“He’s doing quite well, pretty impressive. That little boy is driving well and he’s putting well. He’s doing everything it takes to win,” Zoeller said of Woods. “So, you know what you guys do when he gets in here? You pat him on the back and say congratulations and enjoy it and tell him not to serve fried chicken next year. Got it. Or collard greens or whatever the hell they serve.”

Zoeller called the remark “a joke gone awry,” and Woods was forgiving. He was similarly forgiving in 2008 when broadcaster Kelly Tilghman said golfers challenging the dominant Woods in the Mercedes-Benz Championship should “lynch him in a back alley” to win. Through his agent, Tiger said, “We know unequivocally that there was no ill intent in her comments.”

Woods has said he also faced racial hostility back when he started school in Orange County, Calif. On his first day of kindergarten, he said, a group of sixth-graders tied him to a tree, spray painted the N-word on him, and then threw rocks at him. He said his teacher “didn’t do much of anything,” about the assault. The former teacher has dismissed the story, which Woods has recounted in several interviews, saying it never happened.

Through the years, Woods has paid tribute to the black pros who paved the way before him: Lee Elder, Teddy Rhodes, Bill Spiller, Calvin Peete, and most of all, the late Charlie Sifford, the first African-American to play on the PGA Tour. Woods would refer to Sifford as his grandfather, and went on to name his son, Charlie Axel, after the golfing pioneer.

Meanwhile, the 20-year-old Tiger Woods Foundation has spent tens of millions of dollars — more than $7 million in 2015 alone — on after-school centers and scholarships for low-income students.

Woods’ substantial philanthropy and respect for golf’s racial history has not been enough to draw other young black golfers onto the professional circuit. Is it because of his refusal to identify only as African-American?

The National Golf Foundation estimated that 1.4 million African-Americans were recreational golfers in 2009, the latest year for which statistics are available. Yet, there is only one African-American on the PGA Tour: Harold Varner III. And there is also only one Cablinasian: Tiger Woods.

A power ranking of Odell Beckham Jr.’s custom cleats from the 2016 NFL season The New York Giants wideout was determined to break out the heat on any given Sunday

Every NFL Sunday is a footwear fashion show for Odell Beckham Jr. Over the past few seasons, the New York Giants wide receiver has shown up and showed out on the field with the freshest cleats in all of football. His secret? Well, it’s not really a secret at all, because OBJ takes much pride in his custom-made creations, for which he entrusts the skill and creativity of Los Angeles-based sneaker artist Troy “Kickasso” Cole, who cranks out masterpieces inspired by every concept fathomable. From album covers to video games and movies to personal tributes, whatever Beckham Jr. dreams up in his imaginative mind, Kickasso can translate onto cleats.

Yet, as a result of the NFL’s enforcement of its strict in-game uniform and equipment policy, most of the kicks in OBJ’s one-of-a-kind collection are worn exclusively during pregame warm-ups before he changes to a more traditional pair for games. But every now and then, Beckham Jr. will risk a fine to ensure that his flashiest shoes find their way onto the field when the game clock starts rolling.

During the 2016 NFL season, the anthology of custom cleats that OBJ unveiled was second to no other player in the league. Throughout the regular season, playoffs and Pro Bowl, he truly became a titan in the sneaker world, which certainly contributed to Nike recently inking the 24-year-old to the biggest shoe deal in NFL history, estimated to be worth more than $29 million over five years.

Hopefully the huge new contract with Nike doesn’t prohibit Beckham Jr. from continuing his tradition come next season. As we anticipate what else OBJ and Kickasso have in store, let’s take a look at their creativity through this definitive, descending-order power ranking of 20 custom cleats they made pop last season.


20. WEEK 10 VS. CINCINNATI BENGALS — LSU

New York Giants wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr.’s cleats before the NFL game between the New York Giants and Cincinnati Bengals on Nov. 14, 2016, at Met Life Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey. (Photo by Rich Graessle/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Rich Graessle/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Every NFL player deserves to rep his alma mater however he sees fit, but, man, these cleats in the signature purple and gold of Louisiana State University — the school the Giants drafted Beckham Jr. out of in 2014 with the 12th overall pick — are quite hideous. A more appropriate salute to LSU would’ve been cleats featuring detailed illustrations of tigers, the mascot of OBJ’s former school. As for these plaid concoctions — in the words of the illustrious 21st century musical talent scout Randy Darius Jackson, “yeah … that’s gonna be a no for me, dog.”

19. Week 5 vs. green bay packers — Breast cancer awareness

Since 2009, the NFL has been committed to spreading breast cancer awareness. Every season in October, players take pride in wearing the color pink as a display of their dedication to finding a cure. Beckham Jr. didn’t disappoint last October. His breast cancer cleats were a simple but very classy tribute to every woman and family affected by the disease.

18 and 17. week 7 vs. Los angeles rams — Burberry and Rolling Stone

Instagram Photo

When the Giants traveled to London to face the Los Angeles Rams in October 2016, OBJ channeled his inner European designer by breaking out pregame cleats embossed with the beautiful pattern of British fashion house Burberry (the iconic brand of clothing that Jay Z rapped about swimming in on his 2002 track with his then-future wife Beyoncé, ” ’03 Bonnie & Clyde”). These cleats are uber-swaggy, but don’t hold a candle to when Beckham Jr. went full-on designer and commissioned a pair of Supreme x Louis Vuitton customs to be made after the season.

Instagram Photo

OBJ changed his kicks before kickoff, but remained authentic to the game being played across the pond by switching to red, white and blue cleats, and matching gloves, featuring the legendary logo of the English rock band the Rolling Stones.

16. week 12 vs. cleveland browns — Paint splatter

New York Giants wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. stands on the field during practice before a game against the Cleveland Browns on Nov. 27, 2016, in Cleveland. (AP Photo/Ron Schwane)

AP Photo/Ron Schwane

These are just really fun. Camouflage is always a good look, and the extra splash of color with the rainbow flecks and green and yellow shoestrings set them over the top. Stay tuned for more camo cleats from OBJ.

15. week 1 vs. Dallas Cowboys — sept. 11 tribute

Odell Beckham Jr. of the New York Giants wears cleats as a tribute to the 15th anniversary of 9/11 before a game against the Dallas Cowboys at AT&T Stadium on Sept. 11, 2016, in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

The Giants’ 2016 season opener against the Dallas Cowboys happened to fall on the 15th anniversary of Sept. 11, 2001 — one of the most infamous days in the history of the United States. Beckham Jr. illustrated his patriotism in the form of U.S. flag-themed cleats with bald eagles on the outer soles of each shoe. OBJ was certainly proud to be an American on the first night of football last season.

14. Week 6 vs. baltimore ravens — “Kirby”

New York Giants wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr.’s Nike cleats during warm-ups before the game between the New York Giants and the Baltimore Ravens played at Met Life Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey. (Photo by Rich Graessle/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Rich Graessle/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

HUGE shout-out to OBJ for throwing it back to our childhoods by paying homage to the one and only Nintendo character Kirby. He unveiled these in the middle of October 2016, taking the NFL’s tradition of wearing pink to advocate for breast cancer awareness and running with it. Beckham Jr. chose a pink character and crafted an entire cleat design around it with the utmost detail, from the warp stars to the Whispy Woods (Kirby’s recurring foe in the video game series). On this NFL Sunday, OBJ represented the video game nerd that resides in every one of us.

13 and 12. week 13 vs. pittsburgh steelers — Make-a-wisH (Dora The EXplorer and The Simpsons)

New York Giants wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. wears cleats supporting the Make-A-Wish Foundation during warm-ups before a game against the Pittsburgh Steelers on Dec. 4, 2016. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)

AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar

Instagram Photo

For one week during the season, the NFL, aka the “No Fun League,” allowed players to wear their in-game cleats however they wanted, outrageous customization and all, without receiving fines in violation of the league’s uniform policy. The #MyCauseMyCleats initiative, which required players to commit to supporting a charitable cause, saw approximately a third of the league (around 500 players) participate. Beckham Jr. chose to represent the Make-A-Wish Foundation, which, according to its website, has a “vision to grant the wish of every child diagnosed with a life-threatening medical condition.” And true to his cause, OBJ depicted the child within himself on two pairs of cleats he had designed. One pair was inspired by Homer and Bart Simpson, two of the main characters of the popular animated sitcom, The Simpsons. The other pair, which he wore during the Week 13 matchup with the Pittsburgh Steelers, featured characters from the educational children’s series Dora the Explorer. Not the league, nor Swiper, could steal these cleats from Beckham Jr.’s feet on #MyCauseMyCleats Sunday. OBJ did it for the kids.

11. WEEK 2 VS. NEW ORLEANS SAINTS — “NOLA BOY”

New Orleans Native New York Giants wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. wears Nike cleats with Nola Boy on them before the game between the New York Giants and the New Orleans Saints played at Met Life Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey.

Rich Graessle/Icon Sportswire

“Know from whence you came. If you know whence you came, there are absolutely no limitations to where you can go.” Beckham Jr. has surely come across this legendary James Baldwin quote at least once in his life — or heard a variation of it from his grandma, aunties and uncles, or parents — while on his journey from growing up in Louisiana to becoming an NFL wide receiver in New York. Baton Rouge, Louisiana, is OBJ’s hometown, but he also claims New Orleans. So when the Giants faced the Saints early in the 2016 season, Beckham Jr. made his allegiance to the city known with “NOLA BOY” custom cleats in Mardi Gras colors. These are pretty special.

10. week 9 vs. philadelphia eagles — “Salute to service”

New York Giants wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. wears cleats with a camouflage pattern while warming up before a game against the Philadelphia Eagles on Nov. 6, 2016, in East Rutherford, New Jersey. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)

AP Photo/Frank Franklin II

On the Sunday before Veteran’s Day, Beckham Jr. honored the nation’s armed forces with camouflage cleats reminiscent of the Japanese clothing brand A Bathing Ape’s fresh camo print. These are pretty sweet.

9. Week 14 vs. dallas cowboys — 300

Division matchups in the NFL are always battles. And no one went to war like the Spartans, whose combat skills were epically portrayed in the 2006 film 300. So when the Giants went up against their NFC East rival Dallas Cowboys in Week 14, OBJ imagined he was taking the battlefield for Leonidas I, unleashing these SUPER dope 300-inspired red, black and gold cleats.

8. wild-card playoff vs. green bay packers — “grab the cheese”

Instagram Photo

In January, the Giants journeyed to the land of cheese for a wild-card matchup with the Green Bay Packers. Before the playoff game, Beckham Jr. countered Green Bay’s cheesehead fans with cheese feet. He donned a pair of yellow cleats that resembled blocks of cheese, with carefully drawn holes and images of Disney’s Mickey Mouse and Itchy the Mouse from The Simpsons. Like these two mice, OBJ was after the cheese. Too bad the Giants took that smooth L.

7. week 15 vs. detroit lions — craig sager tribute

New York Giants wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr.’s Craig Sager tribute cleats during the third quarter of the National Football League game between the New York Giants and the Detroit Lions on Dec. 18, 2016, at Met Life Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey. (Photo by Rich Graessle/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Rich Graessle/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Beckham Jr. was fined only once last season for violating the NFL’s uniform and equipment policy with his flashy cleats. The penalty was issued following Week 15, when OBJ played against the Detroit Lions in a pair of multicolored, and multipatterned, cleats honoring longtime NBA broadcaster Craig Sager, who died at age 65 three days before the game. Known for his bright and brazen sideline outfits, Sager would’ve loved OBJ’s cleats, which he auctioned off following the game to benefit the Sager Strong Foundation for cancer research. Yet despite Beckham Jr.’s heartfelt gesture, the NFL still slapped him with an $18,000 fine, which didn’t sit too well with the superstar wide receiver.

Yet if you asked Beckham Jr., he’d probably tell you that, for Sager, the fine was worth every single penny.

6. WEEK 17 VS. WASHINGTON REDSKINS — KANYE WEST “GRADUATION”

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Kanye West dropped out of college and became a 21-time Grammy Award-winning musician. Beckham Jr. never graduated from college, either, deciding to forgo his senior year at LSU and enter the NFL, where he is now an All-Pro wide receiver. So the only commencement the two have in common is OBJ’s cleats he had designed after the cover of West’s 2007 album Graduation. On these kicks, the colors morph from an orangish-pink to a drank purple, and illustrations of Kanye’s signature bears are beautifully done. Hot take: Graduation is one of the best, if not the best album of West’s career. Obviously, it’s up there in the ranks for OBJ, too.

5. week 4 vs. Minnesota vikings — OVO

New York Giants wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr.’s OVO custom-made cleats are seen on the field during the first half of a game against the Minnesota Vikings on Oct. 3, 2016, in Minneapolis.

AP Photo/Andy Clayton-King

If you didn’t know that Beckham Jr. and Drake are BFFs, you must have been living under a rock like Patrick from SpongeBob SquarePants for the past year. Last NFL offseason, Beckham Jr. house-sat the hit-making musical artist’s Calabasas, California, mansion, known as the “YOLO (You Only Live Once) estate,” while he was on tour. Drake later shouted out his bro OBJ on his October 2016 track “Fake Love” with the seminal line, Just when s— look out of reach / I reach back like one, three / Like one, three, yeah — a reference to the most revered play of the NFL wide receiver’s young career, which also happens to be arguably the best catch in league history. And even this year, Drake stopped one of his shows to get Beckham Jr., who was in the audience, to sign a fan’s jersey. Yet, before all of these epic chapters of their friendship, OBJ paid tribute to his big homie during the 2016 NFL season with these simply gorgeous October’s Very Own (OVO)-themed cleats. The sky blue base of the shoes, with softly drawn white clouds, is a subtle nod to the cover of Drake’s 2013 album Nothing Was the Same, and the perfect complement to the metallic gold illustrations of Drake’s trademark owl on the outer soles of each shoe. Man, these cleats are a truly a work of art.

4. 2017 Pro Bowl — Toy Story

OBJ definitely “gotta friend” in Troy Cole, because the artist appropriately known as Kickasso absolutely did his thing with these Toy Story-themed cleats that the wide receiver sported in January’s Pro Bowl. What a beautiful touch to dedicate one shoe solely to Sheriff Woody Pride, and the other to space ranger Buzz Lightyear. Beckham Jr. is surely ready for 2019’s Toy Story 4, and so are we.

3. WEEK 16 VS. PHILADELPHIA EAGLES — GRINCH

Odell Beckham Jr. of the New York Giants warms up wearing Christmas cleats featuring the Grinch before a game against the Philadelphia Eagles at Lincoln Financial Field on Dec. 22, 2016, in Philadelphia. (Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images)

Rich Schultz/Getty Images

There’s only one way to celebrate Christmas on your feet, and that’s with the Grinch. Basketball great Kobe Bryant did it with his signature Nikes in 2010, and Beckham Jr. continued the tradition in custom fashion last holiday season. The vibrant colors and details on these cleats are amazing. We wouldn’t be mad if Beckham Jr. rocked them all season long — they’re that nice to look at. Yo, OBJ, if you’re reading this, next Christmas you gotta go full Home Alone with your kicks. It’d be the perfect way to tell every D-back in the league, “Merry Christmas, ya filthy animal! … and a Happy New Year.”

2. WEEK 11 VS. CHICAGO BEARS — “BACK TO THE FUTURE”

New York Giants wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr.’s Nike Cleats with “Mattel Hover Board” and “Back to the Future” on them before a game between the New York Giants and Chicago Bears on Nov. 20, 2016, at Met Life Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey. (Photo by Rich Graessle/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Rich Graessle/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

All three films of the Back to the Future trilogy were released before Beckham Jr. was born in 1992. But as we saw last season, OBJ is a young Marty McFly at heart. He and Kickasso put their creative minds together to give the people not one, but two pairs of Back to the Future-inspired cleats, incorporating multiple elements and moments from Back to the Future Part II, in which Marty and Doc Brown travel 30 years into the future from 1985 to 2015. Beckham Jr. wore the first pair during warm-ups before a Week 11 matchup with the Chicago Bears, which included illustrations of the Mattel hoverboard, Marty’s metallic hat and the DeLorean time machine, all featured in the film. These cleats are glorious, but Kickasso saved his best work for what OBJ wore during the game. The wide receiver took the field in a pair of remarkable silver-and-electric blue creations, designed after the self-lacing Nike Mags that debuted in the 1989 film. Nike released the shoes for the first time nearly three decades later, and again in 2016, making OBJ’s Back to the Future cleat idea timely and relevant in the world of sneakers.

1. WEEK 3 VS. WASHINGTON REDSKINS — THE Joker

OBJ has a unique obsession with The Joker, which we’ve seen translated through his on-field apparel in the past few seasons. The wide receiver first made his infatuation known during a December 2015 Monday Night Football game, when he wore cleats and gloves illustrating the comic book supervillain’s chilling face. Last season, however, he took the obsession a huge step further. Everyone knows OBJ and Washington Redskins cornerback Josh Norman aren’t too fond of each other. And, coincidentally, Norman’s favorite superhero is Batman, The Joker’s archnemesis. So, in all his pettiness, Beckham Jr. had two more pairs of Joker cleats made for a 2016 Week 3 matchup with Norman and the Redskins. The pregame pair featured graphic details in bold colors, from The Joker’s eyes on the tongue of each shoe and his stained teeth on each toe, to his tattoos and catchphrases such as Why So Serious?, on the inner and outer soles. The pair he wore during the game were more subtle — mostly white with speckles of lime green around the laces, and red ink circling each shoe to represent The Joker’s blood-stained smile. With 11 catches for 121 yards against Norman and the Redskins, Beckham Jr. became the fastest wide receiver in NFL history to reach 200 career receptions and 3,000 receiving yards. So, now, his in-game Joker cleats are displayed at the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio. You know what that means, right? OBJ has a Hall of Fame cleat game.

‘Get Out’ star Marcus Henderson is making big strides in his two new films He now has added the Urban Movie Channel’s ‘Halfway’ to his list of credits that includes ‘Django’

Marcus Henderson has an acting portfolio that goes back as far as 2007. His most memorable roles are as Big Sid in the Quentin Tarantino film Django Unchained (starring with Jamie Foxx and Kerry Washington) and Walter in Jordan Peele’s new race-provoking horror/comedy Get Out.

He just recently was a co-star in the Urban Movie Channel’s feature film Halfway, alongside Quinton Aaron of The Blind Side, which premiered on April 12. Now Henderson has joined the cast of Juanita, starring Alfre Woodard, a film involving The Wire director Clark Johnson.

No one can forget Henderson’s role as Walter, the groundskeeper, in Get Out. When the main character, photographer Chris Washington (Daniel Kaluuya), tries to maintain a sense of familiarity in Walter, he finds that his strange behavior is more than what it appears. In the end, Walter plays an integral role in Washington’s escape.

Henderson, a husband and father of two girls, ages 4 years and 7 months old, recently spoke with The Undefeated about Get Out, Django, Halfway, working with legends, brotherly love and his busy year.


Who inspired you growing up?

My mom. She said that she wasn’t proud of movies I’ve been in or what successes commercially in that sense. She was just proud to see that I was independent and I had my own family and I was taking care of things, being the man of the house and things like that. Whatever that’s supposed to mean, but I get what she means. It’s just that’s her definition of what being proud of me was. She’s been proud, so it’s like, ‘All right. Cool. Cool. I did something in this life. I made my mom proud.’

How was it like playing Paulie in Halfway and working alongside Quinton Aaron?

It definitely gave me an opportunity to showcase embodying a character fully. I’m not saying that none of my other characters aren’t embodied fully, but in Django, I got a little bit, just a little bit of, ‘Oh, I got your gun.’

He’s one of the characters who allow me to really grasp the concept of what it is to be in front of the camera and for the camera to capture everything, to make choices fully. Then it’s actually to represent a lot of people that I feel like I know. I know a lot of people in that situation who want to do better, but they’re just caught in the system that won’t allow it, that won’t allow them to play by their rules. It’s a humbling experience. It allows me to remember that there are people who are like Paulie.

Are you shocked by the success of Get Out?

Yes and no. No because from the very first day of shooting, Jordan said the word iconic. Iconic was just the word he used. No other word, and I believed him. So when Get Out came out, I felt like it was surreal because I’m thinking, all my other movies, ‘Come on. I was in a Quentin Tarantino movie,’ and I don’t even feel like it got that much attention. It was more controversy around it than it was actual, ‘Oh, man. This film is so good.’ It was more like, ‘Oh, why does Quentin Tarantino get to direct a movie about a black slave? Why does he get to do that? Why does he get to say the N-word so many times?’

How is it to work with Woodard and Foxx?

From going from watching people when you’re growing up to actually working side by side with them, it’s kind of surreal because you … I don’t like to set myself up with an expectation of who they should be or anything like that, but I always look to connect a little bit with that nostalgia of who this person was to me and what they meant to me. It’s such a great experience to learn from these veterans. You get to learn your own path through watching them.

There were certain things I didn’t even know, I got to do, until all of a sudden it was like, ‘Oh, OK.’ Jamie Foxx asked for X, Y and Z from the sound department and the camera crew, and then they’re all able to work together to make this scene happen. It’s not just about me standing here and saying my lines, it’s about really interacting with the crew, really understanding that everyone has their specific job and role to make this thing jump and highlight. Yeah, it was something that I find very useful to work with veteran actors that are still exploring and learning the art for themselves. It’s really nice, yeah. It’s really nice.

Alfre, she’s a person, she explores roles and she constantly evolves. She’s queen mother. She’s queen mother.

How was it working with Tarantino?

I’ve got to tell you, one of the things that surprised me, and especially after working with so many directors, is how caring Quentin is about his actors. He’s so full of character. In particular, I can give you an example. There was a scene at the beginning where we’re walking through the terrain, the woods or whatever, and he really wants to get a shot of our feet, but to protect us, they had these little prosthetic booties, they call them booties, feet made for us. We would walk on those as we did wide shots or shots of our faces, but he really wanted a shot of our feet. It was so cold outside, and it was freezing, absolutely freezing.

Then he ended up going and coming into the tent and talking to us. He’s talking to me and the other guys who were in the beginning, and he’s like, ‘Excuse me. Guys, I hate to do this to you, but I want to ask you. Do you mind if we do this shot without your booties on? Because we’re seeing that it’s prosthetic and this and that, and it would be a really great shot if we could get one without the booties.’ Me and my friends, we were kind of looking at each other, me and my castmates were looking at each other and, all of a sudden we’re thinking, ‘Why is he asking us?’ He could have just said, ‘Take these booties off. We’re going to do this shot.’

None of us were going to be like, ‘Oh, no. We ain’t doing that.’ It was many of our first movies, or our first go, or my first go-around, really, so I wasn’t going to be like, ‘No, man. I ain’t going to do that. It’s cold outside. My feet, it’d hurt.’ In the big scheme of things, this is Quentin Tarantino. I felt like I wasn’t going to mess up because whatever. We ended up taking them off and doing the job or whatever, and it was great. It was awesome. Like I said, I was working with directors who could care less, and they would be like, ‘Booties off.’

They wouldn’t care to ask us if we minded, but he did that, and that shows so much respect and care that it impressed me for the rest of my life, just because he was at that stature that we all buy into and he would come and say, ‘Hey. Do you mind?’ That, to me, is everything. Yeah, I would go to battle for Quentin. I would go to battle for him. That’s what it feels like.

What’s up next for you?

July 5, FX is dropping John Singleton’s new Snowfall, where I’ll be playing the neighbor of the main character played by Damson Idris. It’s a show about the rise of cocaine in the early ’80s in Los Angeles. I think it’s a great script, a really good story. These Belgian directors directed the first episodes that I was in, and then I did a few other ones with other directors. Yeah, they’re really good, top-notch guys that did a movie called Black. It was a Belgian movie called Black that’s really great.

Yeah, and then I’ll be doing Insidious 4. That’ll be out in August sometime, I believe. Yeah, 4. I’m a big fan of the first few movies that they’ve done, and then that’ll be my third Blumhouse movie. Getting into the Blumhouse family is really cool. Yeah, yeah. That’s what’s up next.

Me and my brother, we’re working on this pilot right now that I think really has some traction. I think it’s going to be going really well. I think some really great things. Maybe there’ll be a Get Out 2. Hopefully. The origins of Georgina and Walter.

What’s been the hardest part of your entire journey?

The hardest part of my entire journey is being a parent. As you know, there are books about it, but there is no specific book for one person to figure it out. We all have to figure out this journey on our own and in our own way. Having to do business on one side and really being in show business at least, it’s a lot of bringing yourself to the thing. Especially being an actor, you bring yourself to it all the time. That’s where you start.

It’s very different when you have a family and you are not necessarily jumping back and forth, but it’s a very interesting weaving of life. When I have to go away for weeks at a time or something I don’t get to see my family, and that’s hard. I think that’s one of the hardest things. I have such a humble beginning that everything is just an extra cherry on top of the ice cream for me. When it comes to life, I’m not set out to believe that this life was meant for struggle. I believe we’re all meant to live our best life and do what we can while we can. That allows me to just look at the bright side of things.

Are there any roles that you would love to do that you haven’t so far?

I love doing content that creates discussion, that creates conversation. As you look a lot of the movies that I’ve done and TV, you will see that there is conversation to be had about, in pretty much a lot of the things that I’ve been in, there’s always something to talk about, someone to reach out to, a different audience that it goes to. I like doing things that matter to me, pretty much. It’s funny because I don’t get sent out for a lot of comedy. It’s not like I’m going out and I’m on like TBS shows or ABC shows doing comedy or anything, but everything that you see me in, there’s something that is a little funny.

When I go to the movies and we go see a movie now and then or something, there’s laughter every time my scene comes up. I think that I would probably like to do a little comedy. I’m a really big fan of the Naked Gun and Airplane, those movies that the Zucker brothers did, and Police Squad and such. I’m a big fan. Me and my brother are big fans of those types of shows that, what’s the word? Absurdist. Absurdist kind of a comedy. I love that. Maybe I’ll be able to dip my hands in an absurdist show or two. I just got done doing a play, which is a pretty deep play, but I love doing theater. Theater’s my first love.

How close are you and your brother?

His name is Leon Henderson Jr. He’s a stand-up comedian. We’re both from St. Louis. Let me tell you something. My brother is four years older than me, and growing up, he was my hero. He still is in a lot of ways. My brother has always stood tall to me, even though I’m bigger than my brother. What had ended up happening was when I was 14 or so, he left to go to Thailand on a foreign exchange kind of thing. Whenever you leave home, I think, after high school, that’s when people really discover who they are and really get into tune with this life, how they operate within this life.

He learned life in Thailand, I feel like. He learned who he was in Thailand. When he came back, he had a really hard time adjusting to the things that Americans felt were important. He was just always dead set on traveling after that. He always wanted to travel, so he went to China. He went to all these places. I didn’t have my brother anymore, so then we spent a lot of years apart. We were close, but we weren’t close like that. We just didn’t really talk a lot, but one day, when I was at Yale and he had moved back to St. Louis after a trip to China, and he was working at FedEx, I think, and things weren’t going so well for that, he just couldn’t see the light at the end of the tunnel, should I say. I said, ‘Man, come to Connecticut and live with me. Live with me. I’ve got another year of school. We’ll figure this thing out together.’

He came. He took me up on my invitation and we stayed together in Connecticut. That bond started to grow stronger again. He’s my inspiration in a lot of the times. That’s hard to come by, especially for siblings. When they move away from each other, they’re not that close to each other. Me and my brother are very close. We live right down the street from each other.

He’s very close to my children. They call him Tio. Not Tio Leon. It’s just Tio. That’s another thing that makes my mother very proud. Both of her sons, her only two children, they’re in their 30s and they’re still tight. Anything my brother needs, I’m there for him.

What advice do you give to aspiring actors?

Don’t ever give up on something that you truly believe in. Just bring positivity, because there are people, there is a spectrum, and it’s a never-ending line on each side of the spectrum. You can go down far one end of it, and you can go far down the other end of it, but at the end of the day, you’re always going to be on the spectrum. You’ve got to understand where you are on that spectrum, but you can never give up on the dream in which the spectrum is based on.