Posted January 26, 2008 12:40 am (about 4384 days ago)This past weekend found me in L.A., catching up with good friends and handling some business while I was at it.
The catalyst for this entire trip was that some friends of mine from Detroit were in town for a series of dance events. However, my social justice mindset kicked in and I skipped out on pretty much any party that was in “honor of Dr. King’s dream.” This wasn’t just in L.A. I was getting e-mails from all over about celebrating “his dream of people of all backgrounds coming together”….for a small cover charge. Well, in some cases this cover charge was $40 and up! OK, if it was for a scholarship fund or other charity, I’d be down. However, I just felt that too many events were pimping his image to line someone’s pockets. Yeah, I’m sounding self-righteous, but I honestly didn’t look down on my friends who went because I know they had a good time. I would’ve too; I just wasn’t feeling it this past weekend. Besides, I have to watch my expenses! I am a high school teacher after all...
Having said that, we did make it out to a fun party at Vanessa's Positive Energy Entertainment Center. This was a down-to-earth gig with good-hearted folks dancing, singing karaoke, and plenty of good eats. There was no dress code and people were very friendly. My crew from Detroit; Kevin, April, Adrienne, and Kellee all put on a demo, showing off their Detroit Ballroom, Bop, Chop, and hustle/line-dancing skills. Kellee and I even got a dance in and I was feeling smooth! I would’ve been content to stay all night. Alas, there were other parties to attend. Like a true square, I just went back to the hotel and crashed for the night. Some things that stood out from this night: 1)The event was all African American, yet I noticed all kinds of Latinos outside, Spanish billboards, and Latino gang graffiti on the walls. As someone who has a foot in both worlds, I can attest that there are good, friendly people all around, yet we just can’t seem to come together, collectively speaking. I felt like I was a kid again, having to bounce between different groups, who would actually get along if they got to know each other a bit, but I digress. 2)I’ve never seen people so into karaoke. I’m hardly a connoisseur, but people in the crowd were playing maracas, tambourines, and singing backup. Maybe I just haven’t been to enough, but they were jammin’! 3)If you’re in L.A., check out this spot. Our hosts Vanessa and Victor are both doing good things for the dance scene and the community in general.
The next day, I met up with my boy Mohammad, who I’ve known since my undergrad days at the University of Michigan. We used to put on hip-hop shows back then, which included the likes of Eminem and Royce The Five Nine. This go around he had organized a roundtable discussion on hip-hop related issues for a USC hip-hop television show called RMX at the Robert Zemeckis Center. Mohammad hosted and the other two guests were Sirius Radio personality Rude Jude and USC MBA student Curtis Jewel. Of course, they’re more complex than those little descriptions. In a former lifetime Jude was a regular on the Jenny Jones show and Curtis has done hip-hop related organizing around the globe and runs a website that connects underground hip hop groups and MCs from around the globe. Some artists were invited to attend, but true to the stereotype, they failed to show up. We tried to get my girl Toni Blackman to phone in but her schedule didn’t work in our favor so we ended up with a bunch of dudes. Still, I think we had a fruitful discussion. We talked about everything under the sun, from the role of hip hop in education, to should young people pursue a career in the industry, to politics, to the state of Black males, which Jude, the lone White guy at the table, had plenty to comment on. Yeah, I’m busting him out a bit, but I just thought it was funny. Jude isn’t one to bite his tongue, but he’s an intelligent guy and added flavor to the discussion. He can be blunt, but you know exactly where he stands and he’s not rigid in his beliefs. Everyone had a lot to say and we could’ve talked all night. Still, they got plenty of footage and I’ll post more info once I know when the shows will be aired. In terms of full circle, everyone on the panel ended up being from the Midwest and we all ended up having mutual friends. In fact, a guy I worked with when I was an intern at Polgram Records back in 1997 kept trying to connect me with Jude way back then. Here it was, eleven years later, and we finally did it. At any rate, I look forward to building with all the fellas in the future. Shout out to Matt and the rest of the crew for this opportunity!
Before leaving L.A. I made it down to Santa Monica beach with my girls Kellee and
April. If you would’ve asked me five years ago if I’d be on a California beach with these two I would’ve thought you were crazy. Go back a couple of more years and I was on this same beach right before September 11th happened, visiting an aunt from Taiwan who was in town. All kinds of memories came back…
So, back in the Bay I’m working on this project that involves brining some students from Oakland down to the Gulf Coast. Well, one of our partners is a filmmaker, Miguel Solari, who made a documentary on the plight of Latino immigrants. I actually used to DJ with this guy back in Ann Arbor in the late ‘90s. I’ve seen him once since then, yet this project brought us back together. We talked by phone tonight for the first time in at least seven years. More on this project later. For now, in my last post I talked about wishing that I could blend my Michigan and California lives together. I felt like I did this past weekend. Then again, I probably can appreciate them more since they are distinct. Guess I could have worse problems in life!
P.S. I finally made it down to the Getty Museum after many suggestions. Glad I did, and it was the right price…free. Definitely check it out if you’ve never been.