Observations of life by author and poet Charles L. Chatmon. (Matthew 16:18)
This is my first try in years of starting a consistent podcast for your peeps out there. Just like my blog on another site, I hope to provide you with my perspective on issues on various subjects. I do hope you enjoy what you're about to listen to. For this first entry, I explain that those of us who write, speak and watch this medium every day, are engaging in an opinion-based medium unless our subject or point is supported by indisputable, reliable sources. Please take a listen. Thank you.
A number of celebrities produced an anti-racism video. Social media is clowning them for this attempt right now. Not to say their intentions weren't good but I have to ask: haven't we seen this before? No one is saying they shouldn't have done this, but the optics may not look right. A group of privileged White people pledging, pleading they will do something about systemic racism in their lives. Excuse me for being the skeptic here, but this is a call I've heard before that sounds loud in the beginning, diminishes in the end.
Following the 1992 Unrest, our local news captured images of movie stars pledging to end the fight against racism. That pledge didn't last. As we know by now, sports icons didn't want to lose customers buying a shoe and these same movie and music stars didn't want to lose fans so there you go. Their voices weren't as loud as the ones you see in the video. All this author can say is this: just don't tell me, show me! Show me this fight is worth the commitment it will take to end America's Original Sin by how you treat people, how you stand up for the people you claim to fight for, how you will use your stature to convince The Powers That Be to make changes within the industry to create opportunities for Black themed projects and producers to be shown? That's not even much, but it's a start.
This generation much like the ones in the past faced with a 'crisis' has individuals who feel they have a responsibility to 'step up to the plate', use their voices and their platform to create lasting change in our society. Celebrities as far back as the Civil Rights Era were inspired to help their fellow men and women, yet once the marches, chants and television appearances all end, it's back to business as usual, which is quite the norm in this circumstance.
The celebrities appearing in the video will not be 'hurt' by this effort. They will be taken care of by producers and studio heads who count on these movie and television stars to bring in audiences. An actor like John Boyega has a lot to lose. Once he steps out and marches, takes a stand on the side of history, chances are his phone will remain silent, opportunities become fewer for roles. This is the reality. (According to this, maybe he won't, but we'll see)
What I am looking for whenever I see a video like this is shown is whether or not these celebrities will as mentioned before, be committed to the cause of ending racism in our lifetime. Will they put in the work? Will they look at others who look like the author of this piece as equal? Not as a homy from the hood who knows all of the cool slang to share with their White friends but actually as a fellow human being with two eyes, ears, arms, legs, active pumping heart, functioning brain? Will they pledge to see me as one a person or will I be always regarded as 'the other'? Just someone on the far side of the city.
I would wager it's not up to these celebrities alone who volunteered to inform us this is the next stage of their racial evolution. That pledge belongs to everyone in this 'woke' generation who doesn't wear a darker shade of skin to put in the commitment to stay true to that pledge.
In my library I had a book on my shelf from Time Magazine reflecting on important events of the Millennium before the year 2000. Based on current events surrounding the murder of George Floyd by one Minneapolis police officer and the subsequent worldwide protests, it can be said that this might be a turning point not only for this year or century, but possibly this millennium. This is not some wild excitable exclamination, never before have there have been protests of this magnitude, this vast over the murder of one Black man which was widely seen by all. Perhaps the savage, vindictive manner in which Mr. Floyd met his end persuades this generation and others following it to end the institutional, systematic, mental practice of America's Original Sin; racism.
I have been telling folks who will listen that the conditions are eerily similar to 1991/1992 when the Rodney King beating/Latasha Harlins murder occurred. We witnessed these acts of violence, were outraged, protested and somehow waited for 'justice' to take its course. Predictably, both Harlins and King were denied true justice when a court of law in one trial, a judge on the other ruled in favor of the wrongdoers. There are a myriad of examples where the murders of young men who share this author's ethnicity never made it to court and once they did, justice was not applied. This is the prime reason why folks in my neighborhood shouted, 'No Justice, No Peace'. As the past month proves in the court of public opinion, that may change. The Confederate flag, a symbol of a hostile takeover by one region over this country has been banned by the Navy, NASCAR, statues honoring defeated generals are slowly removed in those parts in the United States of America where that flag should have no meaning. In years past, our country's laissez-faire attitude would be indifference about where that flag was flown, who wore it and so forth. This political advertisement captures the accurate term for this flag which is fast losing its shaky stature here in America:
With these surprising changes in our country and world, one might think '"perhaps this time! Yes! This time justice will be served!" To that I say, what if it's not? What if the peaceful protesting, slogan chanting and emotional calls for 'defunding the police' fail in convicting those officers responsible for Mr. Floyd's murder? I say this from experience: in 1992 we were so, so sure the videotape would put those four policemen in jail! Maybe Latasha didn't get justice, but King would! The videotape proves it! Unfortunately on a late April 1992 afternoon in Simi Valley, the fantasy of a conviction ended. You know the rest by now.
What's different is that we live in the twenty-first century right now full of COVID-19 and a less perfect union. Social media influencers and talking heads on YouTube won't save us from any political candidate or any imagined nefarious plans by the powerful. Yet, there are plenty of young people, Black young people who have seen the murders of young Black men in Florida and Missouri with their killings roaming free on road trips may be the last straw. They appear to be energized, focused and determined to end this Original Sin once and for all. Perhaps with all their hashtags, social media engagement, more vocal leaders, this will finally be the change all of us need to live in a peaceful, more rational society and earth. Past history shows us that the causes we read about including in a magazine highlighting great events were won by a great outcry from the people to declare 'enough, no more!'. This time the whole world is looking at the United States of America for its response to racism. The big question is, what will our answer be?
The rest I leave to you.
Ladies and gentlemen, we are living in perilous times. Racism, the economy, our health are of major concern right now but I propose to keep the eyes on a more serious if not immediate threat to watch out for; the purging of creativity. We live in a new generation that wants to change the wheel metaphorically. They have their Agents of Chaos in our creative world setting boundaries on what we can or cannot envision. They insist we writers add characters for the sake of 'inclusivity' and if those unwritten social demands aren't met, there are a slew of social media platforms where you will be cancelled. Speaking as a man who graduated from college with an English degree, I will say this.
If I as a writer have to sacrifice my art for the sake of your politics, then I will walk away from every social media outlet my face is posted on. That includes Twitter and Facebook. I'm keeping my website though (smile) Without using a dictionary for reference, I can tell you that the word create means simply to imagine. Imagination leads to new ideas, concepts that belong in the individual writer's mind until it is shared in the form of a book or another medium. This is my personal view of this topic. In a broader sense, this new generation has already significantly altered television franchises that have been established for decades. They may have had a moral component in a story or two, but morals are a way for everyone to grasp the message of the written or spoken piece. Aesop didn't present his fables for one political faction or gender even for a single ethnicity, he shared his fables in the hope those who heard it would understand and learn from them. Ever since then, the general goal of telling or writing a story, poem or song is for the audience as small or broad as they are to think about what they just read or heard. Regrettably, in this new era of society, this isn't quite the case.
We live in a societal era where a 'fanbase' can turn on an author for the tweets she posts regarding a certain gender issue rather than a critique of her work. We live in a time where an op-ed can be quickly written about that author and how she has 'failed' a certain fanbase. It appears past authors may face this insane scrutiny over comments they've made in the past, hunting down every disagreeable quote or statement. Maybe it's because we were all quarantined for months due to the pandemic, or maybe because the death of a young man who shares the same skin color as the author of this post has finally âwokeâ folks up, but this insanity among the new generation has to stop.
As an English major, I read past authors from a different culture who supported regimes, kingdoms and the emperors we deem as villains today. My intention was not to cancel them but to learn from them. Perhaps I'm about to reveal too much into my own thinking, but doing your research of past history will help bring an understanding to the mindset of a populace and decisions made in those times. For example, on social media there may be a question of why there were political compromises made, why there was a rush to build so many nuclear weapons, what measures were taken to stop an earlier pandemic in this country? As written in the last entry, we are now living in the Super Information Highway era. We have all of this information at our fingertips. Yet, we treat history as subjective, twisted and turned into any point of view we wish. Creativity should not suffer the same fate. Let artists create! You decide whether what's imagined appeals to your tastes or not. I would ask that you don't waste time in canceling an artist you don't agree with. Simply do your own exit from them. It's not that hard. Instead of broadcasting it on social media, just step away. That's all you have to do.
The goal of a writer is to create a story, poem or play (for starters) in the hope you as a listener or reader can gain a moral message out of the piece. When that piece is compromised, there is a loss of creativity. That project is now developed under your terms, not the writer's vision. If a writer is sharing their works for a broad audience, it doesn't make sense they should pander to a small base of fans who instantly denounce said writer when they don't create under the pressure of their demands. I will say this again and I do mean this; the day, the hour, the second I feel as a literary artist I feel pressured by the larger society to write in terms unrelated from a creative standpoint, I will leave social media. Let literary artists create because of a story they want to tell, not because you as a fanbase forced them to do so. It should never be this way. Sadly in our 'advanced' world of 2020, it is.
Note: the following is the original article written by me, Charles L. Chatmon for the California Crusader Newspaper, August 16 -22, 2018. Thanks for reading.
A Renewed Quality of Life in Inglewood
By Charles L. Chatmon
When Councilman Ralph Franklin started his tenure, he inherited a district along with the city of Inglewood to be "lethargic, not moving around at all." At that time it proved to be a challenge to present the city in a good light to developers who did not feel it was marketable. Reaching out to his constituents, the Councilman assessed how to improve the quality of life in where they lived. Four terms in, Inglewood has achieved an impressive turnaround due to the efforts of the Councilman.
The turnaround occurred when the "Sixteen acres that houses Chili and Red Lobster was the key to investors Inglewood residents will patronize and spend their dollars if they have the product and service that you make available for them." The Councilman says. The sixteen acres Franklin refers to is the Village at Century shopping center on Century Boulevard between Yukon and Crenshaw which was built as a result of an another outreach via surveys to the community. "I want to know where you shop and where you shop if it's not in Inglewood, my job is to get those stores in Inglewood for you to patronize. We can recycle the dollar to help improve the infrastructure, more job opportunities and improving the quality of life particularly with the high demand of public safety and public services particularly Parks and Recs as well as the streets and the opportunity on which we can improve the park area." In January 2018, Franklin oversaw the installment of a rubber exercise track, eight exercise stations and new playground apparatuses in the only park located in his district.
Inglewood is a long way from Franklin's native state of Kansas where he started in the food industry as a part time box boy for the International Grocers Association moving up to cashier, stock clerk, the meat department and assistant manager. After moving to California, he worked for L.A. County in the Tax Collector's office in the Hall of Administration. Later, Franklin was employed by Ralph's supermarket in Personnel and Labor Relations. As a business agent for Local 770 the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union, Franklin worked as a Laymen Advocate where he would pitch cases before an arbitrator which led him to run for Councilman for the Fourth District back in 2003. He speaks with pride of being the key vote in turning away Walmart when they sought to build a superstore on the Hollywood Park property by putting it on the ballot. The voters wound up rejecting the proposed superstore as Franklin asserts, "We want a better quality of life and weâre tired of discounts."
Inglewood's future has the Councilman looking with a forward eye of what is in store. He mentions the Hollywood Park development which involves the new stadium and other venues will be the economic hub for the city and that it is privately owned between L.A. Rams owner Stan Kroenke and the Stockbridge Capital Group. Franklin insists it will come at no cost to the taxpayer. Along with Hollywood Park, Franklin is anticipating a new NBA arena for the L.A.Clippers courtesy of Murphy's Bowl LLC, a company owned by the team in 2024. The stadium is expected to open in 2020. Remembering the history of traffic congestion caused by the former racetrack, the Councilman acknowledges, "we need to reduce the carbon footprint in the city." He states the coming of the new Crenshaw-LAX rail line from Florence to Imperial and Aviation Boulevard will be an assist in achieving that goal. As a chairperson of the Metro South Bay Service Council in which he works with sixteen cities, Franklin confirms plans to build a "first mile, last mile rail system", a monorail is in the works. It would operate in the middle of Florence Avenue, then Prarie to Manchester where it drops down to the Hollywood Park project moving forward to the new Clippers arena. Should all go well Franklin envisions, the monorail could extend to the 120th Street and Crenshaw Green Line station.
As much as he is optimistic of the developments in Inglewood, Franklin anticipates the outcome of ten billion dollars in construction projects over the next seven years. 50,000 construction jobs will be added along with 12,000 permanent jobs which will go to local residents. Franklin believes these hires promote prevailing earnings on a union scale. He also wants to "keep Inglewood residents gainfully employed with prominent wages."
On the subject of prostitution in the city, an issue Franklin inherited since his first term in office; it is the gaming industry via the local casino which "lures that kind of attention." according to documents he has read. This ongoing activity has also increased the use of a task force specializing in prostitutes and the pimps. In recent times Franklin states, the federal government alerted Inglewood P.D. of two websites used for the advertisement of prostitution on Century, Prairie and Imperial Highway. Despite the removal of the websites, carloads of prostitutes are present on the streets because of their failure to advertise online. A recent sting by police revealed a case of human trafficking which led to the arrest of several pimps. A deterrent to this illegal activity is to apprehend a prostitute with a customer or "John Doe" who will be published in the local newspaper as Franklin says, "to exploit them, to discourage this type of participation."
As a public servant, Franklin sees himself as a person who does not run from a problem but runs towards it, he is willing to respond to a phone call or message to anyone who reaches out to him whether they are a developer, contractor or resident. "That call to them was valuable and I cherish my position as a public servant. I'm submissive to the voter to what they see is an issue, and I believe with knowledge, thereâs power." For the last decade, Franklin has been the only Councilman who has faithfully met with residents for at least three town hall meetings a year to discuss the issues that matter most; street closures, road repair, utility work that will affect the city, gang violence and prostitution. The Councilman believes these town halls will empower residents to learn more about these issues and take control when needed. "Here's things you can do so instead of you always having to call my office, I'm going to give you the knowledge, the wherewithal, the power in the event I'm not available." On September 12, Franklin will hold another town hall which he stresses can be seen on Time-Warner and through the city's website, https://www.cityofinglewood.org. Inglewood residents in the fourth district and throughout the city can be assured of one thing; there is a councilman who works tirelessly to improve the quality of life wherever they may live.
Charles L. Chatmon can be reached at email@example.com. His website is charleslchatmon.com.