Entries from March 2005 ↓

Just Because

The lazy blogger’s way of updating a site, do a meme. I will try to post more serious stuff soon.

I got this from him.

10 YEARS AGO I
1. Was a full-time starving actor in upstate New York
2. Co-hosted a monthly tv show airing in Syracuse
3. Performed in what would become my last stage work
4. Was in what would be the only significant relationship of my life
5. Was often broke, but generally enjoying life

5 YEARS AGO I
1. Was a full-time starving actor in New York City
2. Was broke like a mutha@#$%&+ and stressed out
3. Was single and dateless
4. Spent most days looking for a regular 9-5 with benefits
5. Didn’t have a clue where my life was going.

2 YEARS AGO I
1. Was gainfully employed in a responsible job with good benefits.
2. Learned that I needed to lose some weight and get in shape.
3. Grew tired of all the community work I was doing and began to pull back.
4. Started this blog
5. Was still single

1 YEAR AGO I
1. Learned that my job was being phased out
2. Applied for and got another position within the company
3. Realized I needed to accelerate plans to get out of my job and this city
4. Enrolled in culinary school
5. Stopped worrying about being single and committed to doing things I enjoy doing

YESTERDAY I
1. Had an annual physical
2. Learned I still need to lose weight
3. Got a referral to a cardiologist regarding an irregular heartbeat
4. Threw together a fish and pasta dinner with asparagus and hollandaise sauce that was basically just about practicing techniques
5. Bought a lottery ticket, hoping I don’t have to go back to work next week

TODAY I
1. Will sleep late
2. Will update my resumes
3. Will try to schedule some meetings with restaurants regarding my externship
4. Will finish my project for school this weekend as well as study for finals
5. Will try to clean my apartment

TOMORROW I WILL
1. Sleep late, again
2. Finish whatever I don’t get done today
3. Consider getting new headshots taken
4. Try to get to the gym.

5 THINGS I HAVE LOYALTY TO
1. My family
2. My friends (those who are loyal to me)
3. Whomever is paying my salary
4. Anyone espousing progressive ideology and opposition to a regressive right-wing agenda
5. Myself

5 SNACKS I ENJOY
1. Edy’s Whole Fruit Sorbet and Whole Fruit Juice Bars
2. Girl Scout Do-Si-Do cookies
3. York Peppermint Patties
4. Pumpkin seeds
5. Bit O’Honey

5 THINGS I CAN’T LIVE WITHOUT (in no particular order)
1. My family
2. My computer
3. Live theater
4. Good food
5. Peace and quiet

WITH $1,000 I WOULD BUY
1. A cruise somewhere
2. Take care of my bills
3. New kitchen gadgets
4. Some kind of electronic gizmo
5. 1000 lottery tickets

5 BAD HABITS I HAVE
1. Procrastination
2. A pessimistic view about relationships
3. Contempt for activities I deem not worth my time
4. I don’t return phone calls
5. Reclusiveness

3 THINGS I WOULD NEVER WEAR
1. Platform shoes (been there, done that, hated it)
2. Leather (does nothing for me)
3. A thong

5 SHOWS I LIKE
1. The Wire
2. The Sopranos
3. Law & Order (all of them)
4. Any old movies on Turner Classic Movies
5. The National, the nightly news from the Canadian Broadcasting Company

4 PLACES I’VE LIVED
1. Poughkeepsie, NY
2. Syracuse, NY
3. Albany, NY
4. New York, NY

3 NAMES YOU GO BY
1. Bernie
2. Bern
3. b

3 THINGS YOU LIKE ABOUT YOURSELF
1. I work hard.
2. I’m creative
3. I generate at least ten good ideas a day

3 THINGS YOU DISLIKE ABOUT YOURSELF
1. My looks
2. My weight
3. My height

3 PARTS OF YOUR HERITAGE (Beyond the obvious African and American)
1. Cherokee Indian
2. Antiguan
3. Irish

3 THINGS THAT SCARE YOU
1. Dying alone and unloved
2. Rats
3. Living without health insurance

3 OF YOUR EVERYDAY ESSENTIALS
1. The Internet
2. A shower
3. Orange juice

3 THINGS YOU ARE WEARING RIGHT NOW
1. A t-shirt
2. Jeans
3. My glasses

3 OF YOUR FAVORITE PERFORMERS/ARTISTS (But certainly not all of them)
1. Phylicia Rashad
2. Viola Davis
3. Billy Porter

Remembering Johnnie Cochran

From the Los Angeles Times

Johnnie L. Cochran, Jr., the masterful attorney who gained prominence as an early advocate for victims of police abuse, then achieved worldwide fame for successfully defending football star O.J. Simpson on murder charges, died this afternoon. He was 67.

Cochran died at his home in the Los Feliz section of Los Angeles of an inoperable brain tumor, according to his brother-in-law Bill Baker. His wife and his two sisters were with him at the time of his death.

Cochran, his family and colleagues were secretive about his illness to protect the attorney’s privacy as well as the network of Cochran law offices that largely draw their cache from his presence. But Cochran confirmed in a Sept. 2004 interview with The Times that he was being treated by the eminent neurosurgeon Keith Black at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles.

Johnnie Cochran01.jpgLong before his defense of Simpson, Cochran was challenging the Los Angeles Police Department’s misconduct.

From the 1960s on, when he represented the widow of Leonard Deadwyler, a black motorist killed during a police stop in Los Angeles, Cochran took police abuse to court. He won historic financial settlements and helped bring about lasting changes in police procedure.

His clients weren’t always black — he unsuccessfully represented Reginald Denny, the white trucker beaten by a mob during the 1991 riots that followed the verdicts of not guilty in the trial of police officers charged with assaulting Rodney King. Instead of arguing, as he often did, that police had been brutal on the job, Cochran contended that the trucker’s civil rights had been violated because police didn’t do their jobs when they withdrew from a South Los Angeles intersection of Florence and Normandie, where rioting was fierce and Denny was beaten.

By the time Simpson was accused of murder in 1994, Cochran was “larger than life” in the city’s black community, said Kerman Maddox, a political consultant and longtime Los Angeles resident. After Simpson, that profile would expand, earning him new admirers as well as new detractors who considered him a racially polarizing force.

His successful defense of Simpson against charges of murdering his ex-wife, Nicole Brown Simpson, and Ronald Lyle Goldman, a waiter and friend of Nicole’s, vaulted him to the rank of celebrity, beseeched by autograph-seekers and parodied on “Saturday Night Live” and “Seinfeld.”

His name was invoked by movie characters, one of whom boasted in the 1997 film “Jackie Brown” that his lawyer was so good, “he’s my own personal Johnnie Cochran.” Ever aware of his public image, he delighted in the attention and even played along, showing up in the occasional movie or TV show in a cameo role as himself.

Resplendently tailored and silky-voiced, clever and genteel, Cochran came to epitomize the formidable litigator, sought after by the famous and wealthy, the obscure and struggling, all believing they were victims of the system in one way or another.

He could figure out how to connect with any jury, and in his most famous case, the Simpson trial, he delivered to the jurors an eloquent, even lilting closing argument. He famously cast doubt on the prosecution’s theory of the case saying, “If it doesn’t fit, you must acquit.” The line referred to Cochran’s overall assessment of the prosecution’s evidence, but it most evoked the moment during the trial when Simpson appeared to struggle to put on what were presumed to be the murderer’s bloody gloves — one of which was found at the murder scene, the other outside Simpson’s house.

As a result, the line is often quoted as “If the glove doesn’t fit, you must acquit”-an adaptation that even Cochran made in his 2002 book, “A Lawyer’s Life.”

“He has a real gift for communicating with people,” Erwin Chemerinsky, a Duke University law professor who offered analysis of the Simpson trial, said in late 2004. “Obviously you saw that in the O.J. case.… I think you could have given that case to a lot of talented lawyers and O.J. would have been convicted.”

Cochran inspired law students and attained a level of stardom rare for a lawyer and even rarer for a black lawyer. One of his most important legacies was the transforming effect of a black man attaining that level of success.

“Clients of all races are now no longer hesitant to retain black lawyers to represent them in significant cases,” said Winston Kevin McKesson, a black criminal defense attorney in Los Angeles. “That was not the case 25 or 30 years ago. We couldn’t even get African Americans in our community to trust us. He’s a historic figure.”

However, the Simpson criminal trial defined Cochran’s career for better and for worse. While it made him a household name and offered him access to virtually every high-profile criminal case, it also changed his life “drastically and forever,” he wrote in “A Lawyer’s Life.” “It obscured everything I had done previously.”

More galling and perplexing to him was the criticism that rained down after the Simpson verdicts. Though many legal experts marveled at Cochran’s skill, a parade of critics — TV pundits and newspaper columnists, California’s then governor, the Republican Pete Wilson, and even his own co-counsel, Robert Shapiro — decried a legal strategy that put the competence and character of the Los Angeles Police Department on trial.

“Not only did we play the race card, we dealt it from the bottom of the deck,” Shapiro said in a national TV interview after Simpson was acquitted by a jury of nine African Americans, two whites and one Latino. (All but two were women.)

During the trial, Cochran and the rest of the defense team excoriated criminalists for sloppy work that compromised blood evidence and claimed that police officers prejudged Simpson. Cochran and his “Dream Team”, as the defense attorneys were known, revealed that police Detective Mark Fuhrman, who collected key evidence in the case, had a history of making racist remarks.

Everything about the Simpson case came to personify the excess of Los Angeles. A combustible combination of murder, sex and race, the extravagantly lengthy trial was carried live on television, making it arguably the first high-profile reality TV show.

When it was finally over, the jury acquitted Simpson, but many in the public did not. A Times poll indicated that half the American public disagreed with the verdict. And the majority believed the defense used the issue of race inappropriately to help free a defendant whose controversial saga began unfolding when he fled police in a nationally televised slow-speed freeway chase.

Chemerinsky said Cochran did nothing more than discharge his duty as a zealous advocate in defending Simpson. “I think Johnnie Cochran did a superb job,” Chemerinsky said. “He ultimately put the LAPD and the racism of the LAPD on trial, and that worked with that jury.”

Cochran spent two post-trial memoirs trying to dispel the criticism.

“The charge that I could convince black jurors to vote to acquit a man they believed to be guilty of two murders because he is black is an insult to all African Americans,” he wrote in “A Lawyer’s Life.”

It wasn’t, Cochran contended, that he believed the police had conspired to frame Simpson. It was more that their racism led them to a “rush to judgment” and a willingness to “adjust the physical evidence slightly,” he wrote.

“He got an awful rap in the white community after the Simpson trial,” said Stuart Hanlon, a white attorney who was a longtime criminal defense collaborator with Cochran. “All he did was do a great job as a lawyer — which is what we’re supposed to do — and beat some inept prosecutor. For him to get vilified for it just shows the racism in our community. I really think if OJ’s lawyer had been white, that wouldn’t have happened.… If I had done that trial and won, no one would hate me.”

Ironically, up to that time, Cochran had spent most of his life not as a racial polarizing force but as the integrator, the black man gliding easily through white conference rooms, dinner parties, and neighborhoods.

In a September 2004 phone interview with the Times, Cochran said, he still would have taken the case knowing it would change his life. “I thought it was the right thing to do,” he said.

Cochran continued to support Simpson’s version of his activities the night his former wife and Goldman were found knifed to death outside her Brentwood townhouse.

“I still believe he’s innocent of those charges,” Cochran said in the September 2004 interview. “Even after all this time.”

It must be spring…

Because other people are writing exactly what I have been feeling for some time now.

A LIFE CUT SHORT BY HATE

by Mark J. Tuggle
Guest Contributor

Another Black life ends in tragedy.

Mark Tuggle.jpgOn Sunday, March 13, around 10:00 pm, Marvin Page, a 52 year-old same gender-loving Black male, was found brutally murdered in his Bronx, New York apartment. He was stabbed in the back, his throat was slashed, and half of his body was doused in gasoline. The assailant fled with Marvinís car. Marvin lived directly across the street from the New York Police Departmentís 46th Precinct, yet no leads, suspects or witnesses are apparent.

Marvin was a long time associate of mine. He worked tirelessly at a substance use outpatient facility. He generally spoke highly of others. Marvin possessed a big heart, complimenting his large frame – he was never one to turn down a good meal. Mostly full of laughter, I was particularly grateful he reached out to me at difficult times in his life: it is a privilege to respond to a cry for help.

Early media accounts of Marvinís premature death trivialize his humanity. A New York Post snippet asserts, ďPage was gay and in the past, men had been seen going in and out of his apartment.Ē A Newsday briefing states, ďPolice are looking to speak to the manís gay lovers.Ē The ďauthoritiesĒ saw men ďgoing in and out of his apartment,Ē yet have no clues about the killer; a portrait of a slain homosexual with multiple sex partners remains.

Such reporting serves only to justify homo hatred, flaming the fears of religious zealots and political opportunists who are intolerant of same gender-loving Black people. Marvinís family members are, like myself, confused, distraught, outraged and wounded. Why did this happen? Where are our community leaders? What can we do to feel safe?

Marvin was born Black, male and homosexual, a three strikes offense in most states. Pending further investigation, his case may become a hate crime. Some people will conclude he got what he deserved. Others probably donít care. I do, and we should, as a society, care about a life cut short by hate.

Noted author and womanist Alice Walker lamented, ďAmerica needs to redress her history.Ē Poet and feminist Audre Lorde said, ďIn the service of my people, it becomes less and less important that I am afraid.Ē I feel a personal responsibility to use my pen to challenge bigotry, injustice and silence whenever it occurs. Marvin had an incredible spirit. He was a good-natured soul. I will miss him, and remember he made me smile.

Mark J. Tuggle is a freelance writer in Harlem whose recent credits include The CITIZEN, POZ, and PULSE. He can be reached at mjt579@msn.com.

One More Idea

I donít know why I didnít think of this earlier. It speaks less to the specifics of the Rashawn Brazell or Sakia Gunn cases, and more to what we as adults can do for our Black Lesbian and Gay Youth.

Eleven years ago, one of my older brothers passed away while pursuing his Ph.D in African Art History at Yale. To honor his memory, our family established a scholarship in his name, given to a graduate student studying African culture.

This is much easier to set up than you might imagine. You donít have to be rich nor responsible for managing the process yourself. There is plenty of help out there.

First, we found a community foundation, to act as fiscal and fund administrators. There are hundreds across the country with expertise in helping ordinary people set up charitable giving programs. They helped us create the parametersóhow much would be awarded, how people apply, who decides on grant awardees, a timeline, etc.

The community foundation we worked with set up the account to manage the funds, and then we spent the first several years just raising money to put in it. Family members made our own contributions but we also held fundraisers and hit up everyone we knew. We are now entering our fifth year of awarding scholarship money, and the assets in the fund continue to grow thanks to the foundations careful management.

I say all this to say, the same thing can be done either in memory of Rashawn and Sakia or just in general, anywhere in the country, to show our young people we care not just when tragedy befalls them, but while they are still capable of enjoying a bright future.