LeBron James missed an opportunity with his comments about China The NBA star used a lot of words to say nothing

LeBron James had more than nine days to study the conflict between China and the NBA and formulate an opinion. What he finally said was disappointing for a man who is “more than an athlete” and built much of his brand on social justice and awareness.

On Oct. 4, Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey tweeted support for protesters in Hong Kong who say they are seeking to hold China to its promises to protect certain freedoms. China characterizes the protests as rebellion against its sovereignty. Hong Kong has seen increased violence between demonstrators and police during four months of protests sparked by China’s attempt to legalize extradition from the semiautonomous territory to mainland China.

The context for all this is China’s treatment of its own citizens, which according to Human Rights Watch includes “arbitrary detention, imprisonment, and enforced disappearance”; persecution of religious communities; censorship of the media and public speech; and the mass detention and torture of Turkic Muslims.

These are all topics that the LeBron James we’ve come to know would care about.

When Morey sent his tweet, James and his Los Angeles Lakers were headed to play two exhibitions in China, which is a $500 million market for the NBA. China also is an essential partner for Nike, which employs James under a $1 billion lifetime contract, and a key market for James’ growing TV and film empire. (The Undefeated is an ESPN platform; ESPN and its parent company Disney have various business relationships in China.)

China responded to Morey’s tweet with the cancellation of both Lakers-Brooklyn Nets broadcasts and several NBA community events, and the suspension of a smartphone company’s NBA sponsorship. Also suspended were the Rockets’ TV broadcasts, its relationship with the Chinese Basketball Association, and its online news and game streaming deals. NBA commissioner Adam Silver tried to mollify China while standing up for the principle of free speech. The response from Chinese state broadcaster CCTV: “We’re strongly dissatisfied and oppose Adam Silver’s claim to support Morey’s right to freedom of expression. We believe that any remarks that challenge national sovereignty and social stability are not within the scope of freedom of speech.”

On Monday, this is what James told reporters before the Lakers game:

“When I speak about something, I speak about something I’m very knowledgeable about, something I’m very passionate about. I feel like with this particular situation, it was something not only I was not informed enough about, I just felt like it was something that not only myself or my teammates or my organization had enough information to even talk about it at that point in time and we still feel the same way.”

That’s implausible. As if James couldn’t get any historian, diplomat or other China expert on the phone in the nine days since Morey’s tweet. As if there is no Google.

What makes this sadder is that Chinese citizens have no Google. It’s blocked.

James doesn’t need to denounce or boycott China, no more than Walmart, Coca-Cola or the NBA should. We all use Chinese products every day, and that relationship creates more opportunities for change. If James had simply said, “No comment because I do big business in China,” at least that would have been honest. Or he could have courageously affirmed the principle of human rights while expressing respect for China’s people and sovereignty.

Instead, James said Morey was “misinformed or not really educated on the situation,” which would be hard for James to judge after just claiming he was not informed himself. (Later Monday night, James tweeted that he was referring to the consequences of Morey’s tweet, not the substance.)

James also said that “social media is not always the proper way to go about things,” which is hypocritical for a man whose primary means of engaging with fans, building his brand and calling out injustice are Instagram and Twitter.

“We all talk about freedom of speech,” James told reporters, “Yes, we do have freedom of speech, but at times there are ramifications for the negative that can happen when you are not thinking about others and only thinking about yourself.”

Morey has been silent since deleting his tweet, but he was likely thinking about millions of Hong Kong residents. Morey had nothing to personally gain. James, on the other hand, had his business empire to think about when he implausibly claimed ignorance on all things China. Besides basketball games and shoes, James will be selling his upcoming Space Jam reboot, which could earn nine figures in the nation that James has chosen not to be informed about.

I respect and appreciate James’ activism for social and racial justice, which began in 2012 when he and his Miami Heat teammates tweeted a photo supporting slain teenager Trayvon Martin. In many ways, that photo launched the current resurgence of black athlete activism. Back when Trayvon’s shameful killing gave rise to Black Lives Matter, few top athletes engaged in racial advocacy, fearful that fans would stop watching or buying. James had something to lose when he and his team were photographed in hoodies, but he did what was right. That’s part of what makes his China comments more hypocritical and disappointing.

I’m not one of the critics who want to silence James on racial justice, who want him to “shut up and dribble.” I believe in James’ proclamation that he’s “more than an athlete.” This is his time to be that, to fully inhabit the activist legacy of a Muhammad Ali or an Arthur Ashe. James once had the gumption to call out Donald Trump in a tweet, and the president stayed silent — Trump “did not want it with the King.” Now James is cowed by Xi Jinping? Or maybe he should be leery of the Chinese president ruthless enough to disappear Winnie the Pooh.

James’ voice is so influential, he could help crack the great wall of silence that China has erected against dissent. If James chose to speak on China, how many athletes would follow, as they did after Trayvon? Or do we expect that human rights will never come to China?

On Tuesday, James followed up on his previous comments by basically saying that China is not his problem: “I also don’t think every issue should be everybody’s problem as well. When things come up, there’s multiple things that we haven’t talked about that have happened in our own country that we don’t bring up. There’s things that happen in my own community in trying to help my kids graduate high school and go off to college; that’s been my main concern the last couple of years with my school [in Akron, Ohio]. Trying to make sure the inner-city kids that grow up in my hometown can have a brighter future and look at me as an inspiration to get out of the hellhole of the inner city.

“We don’t talk about those stories enough. We want to talk about so many other things as well. There’s issues all over the world.”

James’ admirable efforts to educate his hometown’s children have received massive media coverage, including from me. And helping Akron should not prevent him from talking about Chinese issues. Nor should China’s distance from Akron. Based on one of James’ own tweets, he should understand why.

On Jan. 15, 2018, James quoted Martin Luther King Jr.’s immortal Letter from Birmingham Jail in a tweet, adding the hashtag #ThankYouMLK50. King wrote that letter in 1963, after being arrested for protesting segregation laws in Birmingham, Alabama. While King was behind bars, a group of Christian and Jewish clergy released a statement calling him an “outsider” engaged in “unwise and untimely” demonstrations.

“I am cognizant of the interrelatedness of all communities and states,” King wrote. “I cannot sit idly by in Atlanta and not be concerned about what happens in Birmingham. Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly affects all indirectly.”

Yes, LeBron James is an American, and he admirably addresses American problems. But China makes and buys his shoes, watches his games and movies, puts untold millions in his pockets. China is James’ country too.

The world has become much smaller in the five decades since King wrote his magnificent letter.

The economies of China and America would suffer without each other. A game perfected by black Americans enraptures millions of Chinese. King wrote, “I too am compelled to carry the gospel of freedom beyond my particular hometown.” James can do the same. He still has time to realize that claiming ignorance of repression in a country where he makes millions of dollars contradicts the calls for justice he has championed at more convenient times.

A$AP Rocky case shows the discomfort of fighting for freedom Wanting black folks free means freeing even those we disagree with

Grammy-nominated Harlem rapper A$AP Rocky (real name Rakim Athelaston Mayers) has spent the past three weeks in a Swedish jail. He was arrested on July 3 after a now-viral video allegedly showed the MC and his entourage beating up two men. In the multiple videos of the incident to hit the internet — Rocky himself released two to tell his side of the story — the two alleged victims are seen following Rocky and his crew, refusing to leave them alone, before the attack transpired. But cooler heads did not prevail, and Rocky’s crew is seen punching and kicking the two men. Rocky himself tosses one man, sending him flying before he crashes down on the street.

Rapper A$AP Rocky speaks at the 2019 SXSW Festival Featured Session: Using Design “Differently” to Make a Difference on March 11 in Austin, Texas.

Photo by Diego Donamaria/Getty Images for SXSW

While Rocky’s video did garner him some sympathy — he is, after all, seen trying to defuse the situation before any blows land — it hasn’t gotten him out of jail. Now, Rocky’s arrest and impending July 30 trial have become the focal point of an international debate over prison reform, race and politics, a debate that has involved everyone from Rocky’s rap peers to fans bombarding trending Twitter hashtags with demands for his release to Kim Kardashian and even President Donald Trump. All of this is intersecting with Rocky’s past comments and the realization that freedom for all also means freedom for people we don’t always agree with or even like.

One reason so many rallied behind Rocky was that he was held in jail for weeks before even being charged with a crime. One of the touchstones of prison reform, in America especially, is that in America alone there are more than half a million people in jail, mostly minorities, who have yet to be charged. They’re in jail simply because they don’t have enough money to pay for bail. The most infamous example is Kalief Browder, the New York teenager who was jailed in Rikers Island for three years in a minor theft case because he couldn’t make bail. He was the victim of brutal violence and spent two years in solitary confinement. After being released, he committed suicide in 2015 and is the focus of a Jay-Z documentary.

Additionally, sources told TMZ that Rocky was being held in abhorrent conditions in Sweden — unclean rooms with feces on the walls, he was eating only an apple a day and sleeping on a yoga mat — and we have the makings of a human rights story that shows how incarcerated people are treated across the world. The widespread support for Rocky, however, has waned in the past few days, as an old interview of his surfaced in which he disparaged the Black Lives Matter movement and said he’d rather talk about fashion than liberating black folks:

Demonstrators hold aloft a symbolic coffin bearing Kalief Browder’s name as they rally near the gate of City Hall in New York on Feb. 23, 2016. About a dozen prison reform activists demanded the closing of the long-controversial Rikers Island Corrections facility, where Browder was held.

Photo by Albin Lohr-Jones/Pacific Press/LightRocket via Getty Images

“So every time something happens because I’m black I gotta stand up? What the f— am I? Al Sharpton? I’m A$AP Rocky. I did not sign up to be no political activist. I wanna talk about my … lean, my best friend dying, the girls that come in and out of my life, the jiggy fashion that I wear, my new inspirations in drugs! I don’t wanna talk about … Ferguson … because I don’t live over there! I live in f—ing SoHo and Beverly Hills. I can’t relate.”

For many, this was quite the karmic treat. A man who didn’t believe in the most prominent black liberation movement of his lifetime is suddenly in need of help from the activists he would have continued to ignore had he not been incarcerated. And while the schadenfreude is quite delicious to some, that shouldn’t mean that anyone should feel less obligated to find justice for the rapper if they believe he is truly being mistreated. Wanting black folks free means freeing even those black folks we disagree with — even black folks who don’t care about extending that freedom to the rest of us. A$AP Rocky deserves the same revolutionary acts of liberation and kindness we extend to any other incarcerated people, regardless of his stupid comments on activism.

Despite A$AP Rocky’s dispiriting comments and his strange bedfellows, he should be treated fairly and justice should be served.

Rocky’s situation has been further complicated in recent days by newly converted social justice activist Kardashian lobbying for Trump to get involved. Trump responded by tweeting out support for Rocky, directing aggressive tweets toward the Swedish prime minister and stating that “Sweden has let our African American Community down in the United States.”

So to recap, we have a man in jail who has expressed ambivalence about black liberation movements being supported by a woman who has made a career mining black culture for her own gain and who asked for help from a president who went on a racist outburst just last week demanding that four Democratic congresswomen go back to the countries they “came from.” The rest of us have been handed a cocktail of race, entertainment and politics in which we’re left wondering whether the enemies of our enemies are really our friends and which side is right here.

In the end, there should be only one winner: justice. Despite A$AP Rocky’s dispiriting comments and his strange bedfellows, he should be treated fairly and justice should be served. Because so often, our black and brown brothers and sisters are denied their rights. Of course, if we can extend the resources of Kardashian and the president to get one black man free, then it should be no problem to find the same justice for the Kalief Browders of the world. Then we can really talk about what liberation looks like.

In ‘See You Yesterday,’ time travelers can’t escape the ugly present New Spike Lee production brings Black Lives Matter to the science fair

Not even scientific genius has the power to outrun unscrupulous police.

That’s the macabre but justifiable takeaway from See You Yesterday, the debut feature film from director Stefon Bristol, streaming Friday on Netflix.

Two science-loving best friends, Claudette “CJ” Walker (Eden Duncan-Smith) and Sebastian J. Thomas (Danté Crichlow), are on a mission to turn back time. The two built a nifty set of personalized time machines that fit in their backpacks and will suck them through a wormhole, where they’ve got roughly 10 minutes to course-correct their lives before heading back to the present.

Danté Crichlow (left) and Eden Duncan-Smith (right) play Claudette “CJ” Walker and Sebastian J. Thomas, who are on a mission to turn back time in hopes of saving a life.

Courtesy of Netlfix

Co-written by Bristol and Fredrica Bailey and produced by Spike Lee, See You Yesterday at first appears to be a fun science fiction ride that happens to be about two West Indian kids obsessed with physics. Michael J. Fox makes a cameo as their science teacher. When she’s not tinkering with her time-traveling jetpack, CJ plunges into books such as Stephen Hawking’s A Brief History of Time. CJ and Sebastian live in East Flatbush, the heart of West Indian Brooklyn, New York, and they face questions about their relationship status from nosy grandparents who admonish them in accented English to please stop making things go boom in the garage.

But everything explodes when CJ sees her older brother Calvin (Astro) shot and killed by police for a bodega robbery he didn’t commit. Just like that, the stakes of time travel immediately ratchet from something that could win Sebastian and CJ the Westinghouse Award to a way to save a life — if only they can figure out how to properly wield their newfound power.

And so See You Yesterday takes a hard, grief-stricken turn, one that feels especially odd given the overall lighthearted tone Bristol chooses to tell the story. But thematically, it aligns with the “Replay” episode of Jordan Peele’s reimagining of The Twilight Zone, in which a mother played by Sanaa Lathan keeps trying to prevent her son from being killed by a bloodthirsty Virginia state trooper with the aid of a magic camcorder that rewinds life with the touch of button.

When black men and boys are targeted by police, it is their mothers, sisters, daughters, aunts and cousins who are left to pick up their broken bits of their grief and make something of it. Or, in these two cases, try to prevent their deaths from happening in the first place.

In The Hate U Give, Starr Carter (Amandla Stenberg) shows signs of post-traumatic stress disorder after she witnesses her friend get fatally shot by a police officer. In See You Yesterday and “Replay,” that trauma takes on an even more tortuous edge. Not only do the women see their loved ones killed, they’re convinced that they can prevent it from happening, and so they try, over and over and over.

As CJ, Duncan-Smith gives a note-perfect performance, as do Thomas and Astro. But no matter the inspired cinematography or considered, authentic performances, these stories carry a weight of inevitability as they suck every particle of hope out of the air.

An unshakable fatalism blows through both “Replay” and See You Yesterday. The male characters eventually surrender to fate, leaving the anguished women who love them tilting at windmills to revive what is gone.

I don’t fault Bristol or Peele for refusing to make work that would make them seem like Pollyannas. Rather, it’s a shame that black innocence has been decimated so completely that even a film about earnest, time-traveling teens cannot outrun the weight of impending death and injustice at the hands of the state.

‘Evidence of Innocence’ on TV One tells the stories of the wrongfully convicted Almost half of exonerated prisoners are African-American

Lisa Roberts was always high-energy and athletic. Growing up in Boston and Palatka, Florida, she played basketball and volleyball and ran track. She then joined the Army, where she trained as a mechanic, hooped and played flag football and softball. She weighed just 123 pounds, but she later got into powerlifting.

“I was an itty-bitty thing,” she says now, “but I was strong.”

That was long ago, before Roberts left the service, fell into what authorities called a volatile love triangle and ended up pleading guilty to a murder she did not commit. She was locked up for 12 years before new analysis of DNA evidence raised doubts about whether she had actually strangled her girlfriend, and a federal judge found that her lawyer had offered ineffective counsel. She was released from an Oregon prison in 2014.

The story of Roberts’ imprisonment and the work she has done to rebuild her life is featured in a new documentary series, Evidence of Innocence, premiering June 4 on TV One. The show, hosted by civil rights attorney Benjamin Crump, casts a revealing light on one of the grossest injustices regularly produced by the nation’s flawed criminal justice system: the incarceration of the innocent.

“I call it ‘killing softly’ when you have these prosecutors who knowingly, spitefully, illegally, immorally send poor, majority black and brown people to prison for crimes they know, or should have known, they did not commit,” Crump said.

The innocent are sent to jail in alarming numbers. In the past three decades, 2,215 prisoners have been exonerated after going to prison, according to the National Registry of Exonerations, a collaboration between the University of Michigan and Michigan State University law schools and the University of California, Irvine. Crump suspects that figure captures only a fraction of the problem.

On average, those proved to have been wrongfully convicted served nearly nine years before being freed. Forty-six percent of prisoners who were later exonerated were black, the registry said, although African-Americans make up just 12 percent of the nation’s population and 37 percent of the prison population.

In recent years, Crump has become one of the nation’s best-known civil rights attorneys, as he has worked on cases that helped ignite the Black Lives Matter movement and brought new scrutiny of the criminal justice system. His clients have included the families of Trayvon Martin, the 17-year-old killed by a neighborhood watchman in Sanford, Florida; Michael Brown, the 18-year-old killed in a confrontation with a police officer in Ferguson, Missouri; Tamir Rice, the 12-year-old killed by police in Cleveland while holding a toy gun; and Corey Jones, the cousin of former NFL star Anquan Boldin who was killed by a plainclothes officer while he was waiting for a tow truck to pick up his disabled car in South Florida.

“When you get arrested, they say you are innocent until proven guilty. Well, I was guilty trying to prove myself innocent.”

“I always knew that the criminal justice system was terribly unfair and discriminatory, but until you get into the trenches and see how inherently racist and discriminatory the system is, you can’t even fathom it,” Crump said.

When it comes to incarcerating the innocent, the bias is not always obvious. It often lurks in law enforcement’s assumptions about the lifestyles of their targets or the neighborhoods they live in, the shortcuts authorities take to jail those they believe are guilty, or the inadequacy of legal representation for the poor.

Lisa Roberts spent 12 years in prison before being released in 2014 after new DNA evidence raised doubts about her guilt.

Courtesy of William Teesdale and Tricia Leishman

In Roberts’ case, police gathered what from some angles appeared to be compelling evidence against her. She was arrested on Aug. 16, 2002, nearly three months after the naked body of her lover, 25-year-old Jerri Williams, was found dumped in a Portland park.

Prosecutors said Williams, who had a history of drug use and prostitution, was the victim of a love triangle involving Roberts and another woman with whom Roberts had lived for years. They also pointed to witnesses who said that Roberts had a history of violence and had seen her punch, choke and threaten people.

As the case approached trial in 2004, prosecutors told the defense that an analysis of cellphone tower records placed Roberts near the park where Williams’ body was found on the morning of the murder. Her lawyer had hired an expert to do a separate cellphone tower analysis, but it was never completed.

While Roberts had maintained her innocence and said she had never been arrested before, the prosecution’s cell tower analysis was enough to make her accept a plea bargain. If she had gone to trial, she could have received a life sentence. Instead, she pleaded guilty to manslaughter and was sentenced to a 15-year term.

“When you get arrested, they say you are innocent until proven guilty,” Roberts said. “Well, I was guilty trying to prove myself innocent. And there was no daggone way. So I took the plea bargain because I couldn’t see myself doing life.”

Two years after her guilty plea, she began a series of appeals. By 2008, her new lawyers had received DNA laboratory reports that cast doubt on Roberts’ guilt but weren’t conclusive. Later DNA testing on semen found in Williams’ body turned up two male profiles, including one of a man who was known to have badgered Williams to work for him as a prostitute. Then, crucially, a re-examination of the cellphone records concluded that the tower data was incapable of pinpointing Roberts’ location.

It wasn’t until 2014, after Roberts had served the lion’s share of her sentence, that a federal judge vacated her guilty plea. She was released from prison on May 28, 2014, and prosecutors dropped charges against her five days later.

“It didn’t feel like victory, but at least I have my freedom and my life,” said Roberts, who is now 53 and works at a commercial laundry in Portland. She relaxes by hiking, running and bike riding. “At least I don’t have any metal doors slamming behind me.”

Roberts let out a deep belly laugh when asked whether she received compensation from the state for her wrongful incarceration. “Excuse my language, but hell, no,” she said.

Childish Gambino’s ‘This is America’ video is a beautiful nightmare Waking up from staying woke: Genius or not, Gambino’s frightening dreamlike opus is right on time

The night I watched Childish Gambino’s video for “This Is America,” I was scared. Having skipped the song’s premiere on Saturday Night Live, I’d seen the images and their deconstructions on the internet all weekend. And when I finally sat down to watch the full product, as opposed to just a collection of GIFs and clips, I didn’t even have it in me to turn on the sound.

When it comes to “what people on the internet say about black [insert word here],” I am instantly leery. And, as a matter of course, I’m instantly fearful of any form of black public expression that white people either identify as something they can’t live without or pull away from. With zero sound, the images from Donald Glover’s latest musical project felt like monsters under the bed.

I had a nightmare that night.

The next morning, the headlines were predictable, analytical and, in a basic way, accurate. Yes, Glover’s new work combines (insert description for juxtaposition of serious and jovial that represents how black people either stay sane, or don’t). And the new work certainly was designed to provoke (insert group of people here who don’t want to believe that the symbolism of black people killing other black people is ever effective). It is all of these things, certainly.

The specific mimicry of deplorable stereotypes that call back to an era we try to forget.

It wasn’t that I needed someone else to show me in video form exactly what’s torn our nation apart. It’s that with no real major tricks or magic, he could scare me enough into remembering that I won’t see this disaster alleviated in my lifetime. Which, in itself, compounds the original fear, which is why this video is keeping me up at night. As the kids say, I’ve never felt more seen in my life.


Sometimes I don’t automatically wake up from a nightmare, even when I know I’m having one. There’s a weird part of me that knows I’m sleeping and wants to explore whether or not I can tackle the specific fear. In this video, there’s an eerily similar pace: Things come and go, and images from the recesses from your brain pop up in ways you never imagined.

You’ve already read about the guns. The choir. The white horse. The cars. The African dance influences. And, of course, SZA. But those are specifics in a deliberate and detailed oeuvre already witnessed by likely more than hundreds of millions of people.

But to be clear, this isn’t about anointing Glover/Gambino as some saint. We’ve all seen how problematic that turns out in many cases, and it’s also unfair to the artists themselves. The “genius” category puts everything in a spotlight that is skewed and often pointless — and this is not to discredit Glover’s work by any means.

However, Glover is not without his wild statements that some may find problematic. He’s said a few things about women of color, specifically Asian women, that are gross on every level. There are a slew of other things — about rape, about the Black Lives Matter movement — that would make some immediately write him off. He believes, specifically with regard to comedy, that “nothing is off-limits.”

The difference between Glover and, say, Kanye West (who is completely outta control; these theories of performance art, while perhaps buyable, are stupid on his part) or Kendrick Lamar or any other number of black male artists who’ve been elevated as creative stalwarts is that Glover’s done it almost completely from the inside. He was a writer for the beloved 30 Rock, and then Tina Fey turned around and embarrassed everyone. He starred on Community, a show that, while not a ratings monster, was beloved by an interesting sect of America. You might recall that comedy legend Chevy Chase, whose character was noted for his “curmudgeonly racism,” was booted off that program.

FX’s Atlanta speaks for itself in terms of impact, scope and influence, but the fact that he got such a plum gig at all is an indication of exactly how much Hollywood loves him. And that’s before we even get to the Grammy nominations, his movies and his historic role as Lando Calrissian in the upcoming Solo: A Star Wars Story. Glover is an insider who’s been allowed to influence within the real framework of the Hollywood system, as opposed to crash-landing as an outsider.

Which is important to take into consideration when we view “This Is America.” Glover’s been making content in many forms for years, and what the new song and video represent is a magnum opus-like culmination of all of that. The sequencing of the video alone is incredible. What the artist presents as chaos is less about being happenstance and random and more about being inevitable and ever-present. That’s a reality that’s hard to portray in such a short space of time. It’s also scary.

The inevitability of destruction. The specific mimicry of deplorable stereotypes that call back to an era we try to forget. Watching him dance the Jim Crow dance is jarring and familiar, which is both equally bizarre and, again, frightening — the real scope of the black experience in this country. It replays over and over again on television, movies, the internet and, yes, music videos. Glover/Gambino is not exploiting as much as he’s reminding us how well-woven all of it is into our consciousness. And, just like in a dream, where you’re never really sure what’s real and what’s a perverse version of your brain creating a reality you don’t know you can trust, this video makes you ask questions. How am I supposed to know what everything means if it’s all free-flowing, dangerous and unstoppable? That’s the reality of being black in this country in 2018.

We live in a nation where we have to create apps in order not to waste food. School administrators get violent with kids who are just looking to celebrate their educations. The Ku Klux Klan is legit making a comeback. Police officers are outfitting their cars with the words popo, so we can apparently feel better about fearing for our lives because the tormentors appear with a familiar name. Even with that being well-known, our generational trauma somehow allows us to make fun of the very specific way that we choose to kill each other. It’s insane on every level.

Instagram Photo

We’ve got 4-year-olds who are adept at handling guns.

They do so in front of women appropriating cultures they don’t respect. Yet, all the while, these presentations of Gambino’s are somehow inspirational because it’s all we’ve ever had.

The final part of this video is the most harrowing because it’s an indication of what I believe to be Glover’s real message: that the capitulation to actual fear results in a flight response that only descendants of slaves can understand. While running for his life from what appears to be a mob of people, the look on his face says it all. Trying to escape in a dark hallway to nothing, the people are gaining on him. He appears to be losing steam but is determined not to stop. The examination of that inner feeling of helplessness that is so often the black experience is what’s most important here. Glover taps into that sentiment in a way that’s hard to grasp if you’ve never lived it.

I’m instantly fearful of any form of black public expression that white people either identify as something they can’t live without or pull away from.

Sure, we all know this is a barbaric and screwed-up place on many levels. But it’s also a place where we’ve found a way to thrive in the worst of conditions: shirtless, deliberate and composed. He can sing about staying woke and its importance of that until he’s blue in the face, but “This Is America” reminds us that the reality is actually scarier than the nightmare we’ve been trapped in since we got here. Waking up might not get you anything but more pain, more despair and, thus, fewer years to enjoy the rights and privileges of life.

That is America. And that’s exactly what it was created to be.

Kendrick Lamar’s win proves black lives matter to the Pulitzer board Or at the very least, the concept of black lives

Kendrick Lamar, on Monday, was awarded a Pulitzer Prize for his 2017 DAMN. It is but rather the first nonclassical or jazz work to win the award. The Pulitzer board’s reasoning? DAMN., they said, “captured the complexity of African-American life.” History, made.

Since 2012, with the release of his good kid, m.A.A.d city — and even before then, with a series of acclaimed mixtapes — Lamar has cemented himself as rap’s foremost cultural critic. His music is a palette of relevant topics such as gang violence, police brutality, systemic inequality, mental health and depression, women’s rights and survivor’s remorse. DAMN.’s running theme is Kendrick lamenting upon the idea that no one prayed for him, and that he, a young black man from Compton, California, was left to fend for himself in a world that yielded no other result but early death. We can’t know which songs in particular pushed the Pulitzer judges, but “FEAR.” likely played a part.

If I could smoke fear away I’d roll that m—–f—– up / And then I’d take two puffs, he says on the record (co-written by The Alchemist). Focusing on the specific ages of 7, 17 and 27, Lamar deeply explores the concept of fear and how it dictates decision-making processes. The terror of upsetting his strict mother is the first verse. The second verse takes on the terror of possibly losing his life via gang violence, or at the hands of police. And the third verse delves into self-doubt — the fear of losing the reputation he’s built for himself. The song’s calling card is hopelessness.

I’m talkin’ fear, fear that humbleness is gone/ I’m talkin’ fear, fear that love ain’t livin’ here no more, he opines with a tidal wave of anguish pouring out. I’m talkin’ fear, fear that it’s wickedness or weakness/ Fear, whatever it is, both is distinctive. “FEAR.” is Kendrick’s finest song, according to the Pulitzer winner and 2018 Summer Jam headliner himself:These verses are completely honest.”

Pulitzer cited “vernacular authenticity” as a determining factor in awarding a Pulitzer to DAMN. That’s simply another way of saying, “Damn, I didn’t know it was like that?” Lamar’s music — much like James Baldwin’s words, Marvin Gaye’s harmonies, Angela Davis’ valor, Maya Angelou’s poems, or Muhammad Ali’s swagger — is representative of the generation in which he is a leader. Speaking of Baldwin, he of course said, “To be a Negro in this country and to be relatively conscious is to be in a rage almost all the time.” That rage in Lamar was certainly too much for the Pulitzer board to overlook.

Even now, King can still be heard saying, ‘The time is always right to do what’s right’ MLK’s spirit still lives in Obama, Black Lives Matter and all of us who have overcome

In the hours before an assassin’s bullet claimed his life in Memphis, Tennessee, Martin Luther King Jr. appeared to embrace the specter of his own death as he talked to those gathered at the Mason Temple church:

“Like anybody, I would like to live — a long life; longevity has its place. But I’m not concerned about that now. I just want to do God’s will. And he’s allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I’ve looked over. And I’ve seen the Promised Land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the Promised Land.”

On Wednesday, the nation will mark the 50th anniversary of Martin’s death in 1968. Since then, scores of streets and schools have been named for the 1964 Nobel Peace Prize winner, reminding us of the path to racial and economic equality he sought to show us, the lessons of national unity and generosity, international cooperation and peace, he sought to teach us through his opposition to the war in Vietnam.

Consequently, Martin, like countless leaders and followers before him, stands with African-Americans and their country, in spirit. The elders and ancestors — some celebrated, as Martin has been, others unsung — stand as bold explorers and pioneers. They surveyed the land promised to them in the Declaration of Independence: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”

Martin’s spirit stood with President-elect Barack Obama in Chicago’s Grant Park in 2008, and Obama paid homage: “… and a preacher from Atlanta who told a people that ‘We Shall Overcome.’ Yes, we can.”

In 2015, Obama led a re-enactment of the 1965 civil rights march across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama. Martin led the original march. He was bulwarked by his wife, Coretta, and young activists like John Lewis.

Fifty years later, Obama and his throng crossed that Alabama bridge, locking arms with civil rights heroes such as Rep. John Lewis from Georgia and the spirits of Martin, Coretta Scott King and activist Daisy Bates.

And last month, Martin’s spirit was present in the March for Our Lives in Washington, D.C., to end gun violence, a march in which King’s granddaughter Yolanda was one of the speakers. In brief remarks, she made reference to her grandfather’s 1963 “I Have a Dream” speech and then talked about a dream of her own: “A gun-free world. Period.”

During his 39 years, Martin went from Morehouse College to leading a bus boycott in Montgomery, Alabama, to a March on Washington. In his public life, he melded the poetic cadences of the black preacher with the intellectual reach and exploration of the black intellectual and jazz musician.

As we approach the anniversary of his death, we’re reminded anew that Martin’s spirit lives, his influence endures. His timeless wisdom thunders, as if he were responding to today’s headlines and tweets: “Our scientific power has outrun our spiritual power. We have guided missiles and misguided men.”

At 26, Martin accepted the call to lead the Montgomery bus boycott, which had begun with Rosa Parks refusing to surrender her bus seat or her dignity to racial segregation and humiliation.

Today, Martin’s spirit, memory and example stand with everyone who responds to his call to action: “The time is always right to do what’s right.”

Who stands ready to heed the call?

Hours after Matt Barnes hosts peaceful rally for Stephon Clark in Sacramento, Sheriff’s Department car hits protester Wanda Cleveland: ‘He never even stopped. It was a hit-and-run. If I did that I’d be charged.’

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Former Sacramento Kings forward and Sacramento native Matt Barnes closed the rally he hosted at Cesar Chavez Plaza on Saturday by thanking the crowd of 400 people for coming out in support of Stephon Clark’s memory and for peacefully protesting Clark’s death at the hands of police.

And just hours later, a Sacramento County Sheriff’s Department vehicle hit a protester during a vigil being held in honor of Clark in south Sacramento near 65th Street and Florin Road.

Witnesses took to social media to describe the SUV taking off after striking the woman. Video taken by Guy Danilowitz of the National Lawyers Guild showed Wanda Cleveland, who consistently attends Sacramento City Council meetings, being hit by the car.

Per the video, the sheriff’s deputy said, “Back away from my vehicle” four times as he incrementally began to move the car. Approximately 30 people were around the first vehicle when it started to pull off. Cleveland, hearing the command and dealing with arthritis in her knees that was causing her pain, started making her way to the curb in accordance with the deputy’s demands.

As she was attempting to reach the sidewalk, a second sheriff’s vehicle sped up unexpectedly, Cleveland said, and hit her in the knee, which sent her airborne and into the curb.

A Periscope following the incident showed Cleveland unable to move as protesters attempted to help her. A Fire Department crew came in to assist her onto a stretcher.

Cleveland was transported to Kaiser Permanente South Sacramento Medical Center and released after midnight. She suffered bruises to the back of her head and on her arm.

“He never even stopped. It was a hit-and-run. If I did that I’d be charged,” Cleveland told The Sacramento Bee. “It’s disregard for human life.”

Said legal observer Tifanei Ressl-Moyer to the Bee: “I heard wheels spin. And then I saw her body flung to the curb. The vehicle sped off and some protesters went after them.”

Sheriff’s spokesman Sgt. Shaun Hampton confirmed in a news release on Sunday morning that a protester was struck by one of their deputies but did not explain why the car didn’t stop. The release said at around 8:40 p.m. the vehicle was surrounded and individuals were yelling and kicking the vehicles.

Clark was killed in his grandparents’ backyard after Sacramento Police Department officers said he had a gun on him. He was only holding a cellphone. Members of Clark’s family, as well as the family of Joseph Mann, a black man killed by Sacramento police in 2016, took to the stage during Barnes’ two-hour rally along with reverends, community leaders and the Kings’ Garrett Temple.

Temple came to the rally because he wasn’t playing against the Golden State Warriors on Saturday night because of an injury. He attended the Kings’ forum co-sponsored by Black Lives Matter Sacramento and Build. Black. Coalition on Friday night.

The Kings are creating an education fund for Clark’s two young sons, Aiden and Cairo. Barnes on Saturday announced his college scholarship for the little boys.

“I’ve got two 9-year-old boys that look just like this and I fear for them, I fear for them, and now I got a fear for the cops,” Barnes said. “How do we explain to our kids that because of the color of your skin that people aren’t going to like you? That’s not fair, but that’s something you have to explain to your kids every day.

“We didn’t want to lose sight of why we’re here. Thank you to everyone who came out and kept it peaceful. We’re going to get some accountability for the stuff that continues to go on. I’m in the process of starting a Clark boys college scholarship. Like we mentioned earlier, this is not a Sacramento problem, this is a nationwide problem, so this is something that once we get it up, we’re going to carry nationwide to provide kids who have lost their fathers to unfortunate stuff like this a chance to still come up and be productive men.”

The most emotionally charged point of the rally was when Jamilia Land, a friend of Stephon Clark’s mother, came to the stage. She started off with what she wanted to say most before her speech, which was thank you to all of those who came to lend their support.

Stephon Clark’s grandmother, Sequita Thompson, center, on Saturday, March 31, 2018, after the police shooting death of the 22-year-old.

Carl Costas for The Undefeated

She proceeded to discuss mental health and the lack of resources allocated to the black community. She defended Stevante Clark, Stephon’s older brother, who has been in the news after incidents with Sacramento’s mayor and his interview with CNN’s Don Lemon.

“Stevante is suffering from post-tramautic stress disorder,” Land said. “Stevante has lost two of his brothers. I was over at Stephon’s gravesite yesterday where he is buried on top of his 19-year-old brother. Stevante has lost his older brother, he has lost his baby brother and he is losing some of his mind.

“And while everyone has something to say, while everyone wants to talk negative, this is why this baby says we need a resource center. Where are the mental health professionals in our community? He needs help. What you see is not rare. It just had to happen this way because every single day there is a child that looks just like Stevante who is running around here, who looks half crazy to the world, but you don’t know the damage that’s done inside. We are living in communities that are like war zones.”

After Land’s speech, Barnes said this is the time to go from talking about changing the issues in the city that led to Clark’s and Mann’s deaths to actions that would eventually bring change. First, he told the crowd they needed to vote. Second, he said it is the responsibility of the community to hold politicians, whether it be the people they voted in or not, accountable for their actions and not following through with promises they made during the election.

Barnes spoke of the need for police officers to know their communities, to actually get out of their cruisers and speak to the people in the neighborhoods they patrol. He also advocated for community picnics, sporting competitions and meet-and-greets to help change the perception on both sides.

“You have my word being from here that I’m a do-everything,” Barnes said. “I’m sitting down with the mayor, I’m sitting down with the gang leaders. I’m going to be in your communities, and I’m going to be the driving force behind Sacramento making a change.”

Jamier Sale of the ANSWER Coalition organized the vigil during which Cleveland was hit so people in south Sacramento would have an opportunity to show their support and to also hold the Sacramento County Sheriff’s Department accountable for its role in Clark’s death.

“The dominant narrative has really focused on the two officers who pulled the trigger,” Sale told the Bee. “We have to realize they didn’t just find themselves there. They were directed to this position by this other officer in a helicopter.”

Sale wants to see the people manning the helicopter fired and questioned why one was needed for a “petty crime” of breaking car windows in the first place. After folks in the central part of the city started holding the Sacramento Police Department’s feet to the fire, Sale helped bring 150 people together at 7 p.m. on Saturday to start applying pressure to the Sheriff’s Department.

Stephon Clark’s autopsy results released a day ahead of rally created by former King Matt Barnes The Sacramento native also provided financial assistance for Clark’s funeral

The day before retired NBA veteran and Sacramento, California, native Matt Barnes was set to hold a rally in the wake of the death of Stephon Clark, the results of an independent autopsy on Clark’s body were released during a news conference on Friday morning.

The Sacramento Bee broke the news at approximately 9 a.m. PST, after Ben Crump, the attorney retained by the Clark family, spoke to the local paper. Dr. Bennet Omalu, the doctor famous for his discovery and research on chronic traumatic encephalopathy and portrayed by Will Smith in the 2015 movie Concussion, announced his findings outside of the Southside Christian Center.

Clark was shot eight times, with six bullets hitting him in the back, while another one hit him in his side.

On March 18, the 22-year-old father of two was gunned down by Sacramento police officers Terrence Mercadal and Jared Robinet, who each fired 10 shots at Clark in his grandmother’s backyard.

Autopsy results by the Sacramento County Coroner’s Office have not been made public, and as a result of not trusting the coroner’s office, Clark’s family decided it wanted a private autopsy. CBS has reported that a federal civil lawsuit could be coming from the family as soon as Friday.

A funeral service was held for Clark on Thursday at Bayside Boss Church. Barnes attended the event, as did the Rev. Al Sharpton, who provided the eulogy. Barnes, a former Sacramento King and Del Campo High basketball player, provided financial assistance for the funeral. He spoke to USA Today Sports‘ Sam Amick about his efforts to persuade current Golden State Warriors and Kings players to participate in the rally, being held at noon, before their game Saturday night.

With eight games to go and the Warriors 6½ games out of first place behind the Houston Rockets and 8½ ahead of No. 3 Portland in the Western Conference, their position in the No. 2 spot is nearly set. The Kings, on the other hand, are about to miss their 12th straight postseason with their 24-51 record.

“I know the Warriors and the Kings both play that night, so I’m going to try to talk to both sides and, you know, the game at this point kind of doesn’t really matter,” Barnes, who played 74 games with the Warriors and Kings last season, told Amick after the funeral. “The [playoff] positions are already set, so I’m hoping [the Warriors] can come out and support.

“Being a father of two boys, it’s something that’s near and dear to my heart, so it’s something I had to get involved in,” Barnes said. “I think we need [change], and I’m going to make sure I show my face more and more in Sacramento to make sure it happens. [The Police Department is] so worried about the gang violence, but at the same time we’ve got to hold these people who are paid to protect and serve accountable. … The black-on-black crime is also something that’s very prevalent in these neighborhoods, and I’m here to try to help make a change.”

On Thursday, the Kings announced they were holding an event with Black Lives Matter Sacramento and the Build. Black. Coalition to uplift the black youths in their community and setting up a fund for Clark’s two young sons. Forward Vince Carter and guard Garrett Temple were announced as attending the event.

“We have a rally Saturday at noon at [Cesar] Chavez Park … to hold these people accountable, to bring the community together, and address the black-on-black crime issue in not only this neighborhood but in neighborhoods across the country,” Barnes said. “Tons of former and current players called me to ask what I was doing, so myself and my team, we jumped in the line of action, providing whatever the family needed and putting together the rally for Saturday.”

At March for Our Lives, recognizing racial inequality didn’t dilute organizers’ message — it made it more effective Speeches by 11-year-old Naomi Wadler and others had a simple message: Gun violence anywhere is a threat to peace everywhere

There were plenty of invocations of the words and teachings of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. at the March for Our Lives in Washington, D.C., on Saturday. His own 9-year-old granddaughter, Yolanda Renee King, was among the speakers at the rally organized by survivors of the Feb. 14 Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting in Parkland, Florida, that left 17 people dead.

King highlighted her grandfather’s wish for people to be judged by the content of their character rather than the color of their skin. Another speaker, 18-year-old Alex King of Chicago, channeled King’s talent for using spirituality and scripture to enhance his message.

But it was the speech of 11-year-old Naomi Wadler that revealed another lesson from King. While it wasn’t quoted explicitly, it was clearly beating within the heart of the march and seamlessly interwoven into the program: “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere,” King wrote in his Letter from Birmingham Jail. “We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.”

In her speech, Wadler told the crowd that she helped organize a walkout at her school to protest gun violence. And she added one extra minute to the 17 minutes dedicated to the victims of the Stoneman Douglas shooting to remember Courtlin Arrington, a high school junior who was shot and killed at her school in Birmingham, Alabama, three weeks after the massacre in Parkland.

“I am here today to represent Courtlin Arrington,” Wadler said. “I am here today to represent Hadiya Pendleton. I am here to represent Taiyania Thompson, who at 16 was shot dead in her home here in Washington, D.C. I am here today to represent and acknowledge the African-American girls whose stories don’t make the front page of every national newspaper. These stories don’t lead on the evening news. I represent the African-American women who are victims of gun violence, who are simply statistics instead of vibrant, beautiful girls who are full of potential. … I am here to acknowledge their stories, to say they matter, to say their names because I can and I was asked to be. For far too long, these names, these black girls and women, have been just numbers. I am here to say never again for those girls too.”

Part of what’s made the Parkland kids so effective in the weeks since the tragedy at their school — aside from their undeniable authenticity, righteous fury and acumen with Twitter — is their constant appeal to the better angels of the nation’s nature. Do your job, they tell adults: Protect us. They have pleaded with the government to help them, and that in itself revealed something powerful: the ability to take for granted that the government exists to help you, that it’s on your side, that if it’s not working properly, its servants can be voted out and replaced with better ones who will do their duty.

“I represent the African-American women who are victims of gun violence, who are simply statistics instead of vibrant, beautiful girls who are full of potential.”

But those demands have been coupled with the recognition that not all Americans enjoy the same expectations of their government.

“We recognize that Parkland received more attention because of its affluence, but we share this stage today and forever with those communities who have always stared down the barrel of a gun,” Parkland survivor Jaclyn Corin said in her speech Saturday.

The decision to include the voices of Wadler, Alex King and Zion Kelly — whose twin brother, Zaire, was shot to death in a robbery — on the same program with Parkland survivors David Hogg and Emma González showed that the march organizers understood this disparity. Rather than run from those differences or worry that messages about racial inequality would somehow dilute calls for gun policy reform, the March for Our Lives embraced them and used them to strengthen their calls for change. March organizers demonstrated an understanding that you can’t be full of moral outrage at lawmakers’ dithering on making automatic and semiautomatic weapons less easily attainable while refusing to acknowledge their dithering on the gun violence that affects predominantly black and brown communities. Instead of ignoring the reasons why one type of gun violence draws attention and calls for immediate reform while another elicits shrugs or pathologizes people of color as inherently violent, March For Our Lives speakers called out that discrepancy, and then they called BS on legislative dithering as a whole. They refused to give in to sectarianism.

“They will try to separate us in demographics. They will try to separate us by religion, race, congressional district and class,” Hogg warned in his speech of those opposed to changing the nation’s gun laws. But, he said, “they will fail.”

The result was a gathering united in the goal of ending gun violence and the grip of the National Rifle Association on gun policy. But it was also an acknowledgment that, too often, black lives matter even less than others in this country. Ultimately, that didn’t weaken the #NeverAgain movement. Instead, it powerfully illustrated a simple, underappreciated dictum: that together, we’re all stronger.