Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Dear Tiger

Dear Tiger,

Like many kids in this country, when I was a boy I was always reminded not to waste food because “There are starving children in Africa who would love to have that good food.” And that brings me to you, your accident and your philanderin’ ways.

What were you thinking, man?! You made it. You didn’t just go out and get yourself a White woman. You went out and got a blonde White woman. You went out and got a beautiful, blonde White woman. I would think you could appreciate that. What else does a Black man want out of life?

I know. I know. You’re not Black. You’re Cablinasian: Caucasian, Black, Indian and Asian. But given your apparent affinity for women of the “Ca” persuasion – I ain’t seein’ no “Bl,” “In,” nor “Asian” in yo’ mix. – I think we can all agree that you’re definitely exhibiting characteristics of a Black man.

I mean, look, anybody can fall in love with anybody else, regardless of race. I respect that. No judgements.

But until a Cathy shows up (Somebody recently pointed out that a lot of Asian women are named Cathy. Thought about it. It’s true.), until a Vernita shows up (Vernita could potentially cover Black AND Indian as we know that if there’s anything Black women enjoy as much as Black men enjoy White women, it’s claimin’ they got some Indian in ‘em.), until somebody with some melanin – or, at the very least, a history of oppression - shows up in this story, I’m gonna run with the “Tiger likee da White girls” angle.

That’s okay (with me, at least), Tiger. If Jerry Springer has taught us nothing else, it is that Black men LOVE themselves some White women. And brothers ain’t all pullin’ Elin-level White women. Brothers are out here makin’ do with fat White women. Brothers are out here makin’ do with ugly White women. Brothers are latchin’ on to any kind of White woman they can get.

I think we all remember the disgrace that was Flava Flav chasing Brigitte Nielsen around on VH1. He let a White woman slap his face on the off chance that he might get to fuck her. And we ain’t talkin’ about Elin. We are talkin’ about Brigitte Nielsen. Man, I wouldn’t fuck Brigitte Nielsen with Brigitte Nielsen’s dick!

Don’t you see, Tiger?! This is what brothers are going through out here to get themselves a White woman, any White woman.

Tiger... Don’t you know there are starvin’ niggas out here who would love to have that good White woman?!

How dare you take that White woman for granted. Seriously. You just want to hog up all the White women: your wife, the one who’s covering for you, the one who sold you out on the sexting. (Aside: I was glad you went with “I will wear you out…” No sense adding the humiliation of some Prince Charles-style “I want to be your tampon”-type shit. But I digress.)

Don’t you know there are starvin’ niggas out here who would love to have that good White woman?!

I don’t think Elin and that 9-iron caused you to crash. I believe that the ghost of Emmitt Till stepped in and said, “Muthafucka, I died so you could have that good White woman!” SLAM! BAM! (Tree then hydrant…? Lynchings then hosings…? Can’t slip that shit past me.)

Don’t you know there are starvin’ niggas out here who would love to have that good White woman?!

That stupid fine they gave you was bullshit. Points on your license? A fucking joke. If I had my way, I would throw you in a cell with OJ and let you unappreciative bastards think about what you’ve done! Y’all get your hands on perfectly good White women and don’t know how to act.

So, as you dial the number for Kobe’s jeweler, I want you to remember the brothers out here who don’t have it nearly as good as you do. Before you take Elin for granted again, remember the brothers who ignore loose screws and plastic shoes. Before you show off what you can do with your driver, remember the brothers who endure overbites and cellulite. Before you whip out another wood, Mr. Woods, remember Brigitte Nielsen's dick!

Tiger, before you drain your ball in another hole, remember there are starving brothers in America who would love to have that good White woman.


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Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Dear Michael

Dear Michael,

I write to you directly because no one else is making any sense. Folk are hysterical in the wake of your death. People who have experienced the same media coverage are equally upset: on one side that you have been unduly exalted, on the other that you have been unfairly maligned. You spent your adult years building and enjoying a zoo and a carnival. Now, appropriately, they’ve turned your memorial service into a circus.

I think that’s too bad, Mike. I think that if we could really talk about you, your life, your death… I think we’d be a better nation, a better world for it.

Mike… how do I say this…? I’ll just say it.

Your face is an American tragedy. There, I said it. At first, it seemed like a matter of racial pride. You wouldn’t be the first American to get at the ol’ schnoz in an attempt to get closer to America’s idea of beauty. Nappy hair, wide nose, full lips… these were not the ideal when you were born in 1958. A lot of people over the years have been hurt by society’s collective verdict of, “You’re ugly.” But you, Michael Jackson, could do something about it. You could afford the surgeries. You could afford to lighten your skin. (Shit, man, you could afford the Elephant Man’s bones. What the fuck would some hospital bill mean to you?) But the sad part about that is that you were never forced to the next step: acceptance. Because you never ran into a limit, you never learned that making yourself beautiful is fleeting whereas seeing your own beauty is real. Some people grin from ear to ear. Dude, my nose is so wide I breathe from ear to ear. But, that’s cool. That’s MY nose. I had to learn to live with it. You never did.

And that leads me to what I find saddest about your life and the inevitable tragedy of your death. You never had any real limits. You could sing any song. You could dance any dance. And so you could do ANYthing. It seems no one could regulate you. In short, you never had any boys.

See, your boys can be critically important, Mike. They can help you not to color so far outside the lines that the portrait of your life becomes a chaotic mess.

Your boys might have been able to save your life. “Dip—Dipr-- Nigga, you don’t need no doctor. Hit this blunt and go the fuck to sleep.” (Now, you don’t want to be dependent on any substance to go to sleep. But nobody ever died from smoking weed… unless they choked on a Dorito.)

Your boys might have clowned you for lightening your skin. “Dude, if you tryin’a be white, just use full sentences.” You could have all laughed together as you got the message. And, maybe then, I wouldn’t have paused on a picture of you as a young man and thought for a split-second, “Who the fuck is that?” Then, “Oh shit. That’s Michael Jackson.” The brown of then was so far from the cement gray of your dying day.

Your boys might have said, “What you mean (pre-pubescent boy) is spending the night?!?! Send that boy down to the guest house with his parents and get dressed. We goin’ to the club tonight.” “Fine, you can bring Bubbles. We’ll teach him how to make it rain.”

Or, who knows? Maybe they would’ve told you to get rid of the chimp after it bit a hole in Rashida Jones’ (Quincy Jones’ daughter) hand. (That’s what I mean. Who gets to keep their pet monkey after it attacks a child?!?!?!?! Only you, Mike. Only you.)

What a mind-fuck it must have been… Even your brothers were in no position to be your boys. You were their meal ticket. All that groupie ass they was gettin’ - with you pretending to be asleep - that was your groupie ass, Michael. And they knew it. Even as men, how could they really regulate you one moment then beg you to do a reunion tour in the next? Without you, Michael, The Jacksons would have been the stuff of Indiana talent show legend. They had to know that. And so, your brothers couldn’t be your boys.

Your boys are the people who know the real you. But, perhaps more importantly, they remind you of who you really are in the moments when you forget. But even as a child, those around you robbed you OF YOU. If there’s a basic way kids identify themselves it is by their age. Early on, you were taught to lie, to say you were younger, to construct a self for public consumption. And consume we did.

We exalted you for transcending race. And so, in a nation where a Black man could once be lynched for looking at a White woman, you showed them. You became a White woman. You transformed yourself right before our eyes. Then you seemed to go past even that extreme point. You widdled your nose down until it was no more, bleached your skin until it no longer resembled a human shade, made yourself a blank slate onto which the world could project its own hopes and dreams, its own neuroses and pathologies. Pictures in tabloids suggested that your nose actually fell off at one point. I wonder if that wasn’t an apt metaphor for the inevitable end when we seek to transcend race, to erase our differences. Perhaps it would be more constructive to embrace that which makes us different, to love each other not despite our differences but, in part, because of them.

We pretended that it might be possible for you to live out childhood as an adult. The tragedy of childhood lost is that it is lost. It cannot simply be purchased. To be sure, we can be child-like in our presence in the moment. We can live life with open hearts and open arms. But we must accept that we are doing those things as adults. Your boys could have helped you understand that. They could have explained that many of us missed out on pieces of childhood, that our prisons are filled with people who were abused in one way or another. Then, they could have explained that, generally speaking, nobody gives a shit. But for you, Mike, that lost childhood became blanket absolution for everything from dangling your own child off a balcony to inviting boys into your bedroom, potentially an equally perilous situation.

Your boys could have stopped you when you started to run from the hospital with your newborn child and said, “What the fuck are you doing?” This may come as a shock, but most of us aren’t allowed to do crazy shit like that. There are rules. But not for you, Mike. Never for you.

Recently, I wrote to an online forum and asked this question:

From Chris Brown getting probation to R. Kelly getting barely inconvenienced to Michael Jackson being deified... Is there any wrong that can't be made right by a hit record?

Let me tell you, Mike… Those niggas attacked me like I had invented slavery or somethin’. And so the special treatment you received in life extends into death. Any adult approach to your life and legacy is met with emotional defense based on theories ranging from racial conspiracy to childhood lost. People wax poetic about their love for you as they gaze upon a brown-faced boy and ignore the desaturated man, a man drained of far more than the color of his skin.

They will pretend you hadn’t alternated between punchline and freak show in the decades since “Thriller.” They will pop in their ear buds and allow “You Are Not Alone” to drown out the reality of the situation; You were all alone. Even as hundreds of thousands filled arenas to see you, you were - in a fundamental way – alone.

And so, in this final hour, I will be your boy. I will tell you that all pedophile punchlines aside, that every time you had some intergenerational, one-on-one slumber party, you were fucking up.

I will tell you that you probably should have lost your kids behind that balcony shit. And, if not then, certainly you should have lost them as you descended into what seems to have been an absurd level of drug addiction. I have no doubt you loved your kids. But you were fucking up.

When you came to court in what one CNN reporter called your “Cap’n Crunch” outfit, you were fucking up.

Mike, over the years, you did a lot of fucking up. And I just wish you had some boys – some real boys – who could have told you so and stemmed the tide. It didn’t have to go this way. Your life didn’t have to go this way. Your face didn’t have to go this way.

I’m reminded of one of my favorite “street jokes”:

A bird was late flying South for the winter. So, his wings froze up and he fell through the roof of a barn. A cow took a shit on him and the warmth of the shit melted the ice from his wings. But then a cat came along, licked the shit away and ate the bird.

Lesson: Not everybody who shits on you is your enemy. And not everybody who takes shit off you is your friend.

We took so much shit off you, Michael. We looked the other way as you played a major role in normalizing plastic surgery, telling the world with your own face that there was a solution to be found at the end of a scalpel. We looked the other way as you abused drugs and maybe boys, too. We looked the other way, Michael, because you were SO talented and your music made us feel SO good.

But today, I can’t look the other way. I find myself mourning that brown-skinned boy, a boy I started mourning long before your final breath. I mourn the man you could have become. I mourn the loss of pure enjoyment I could have experienced – remembering days of wearing a single white glove, perfecting my moonwalk, singing “Lady In My Life” in a talent show - because the sound of your music invariably leads me to thoughts of the man behind the music.

Many continue to look away, to cherry-pick amongst the events of your life. But I can’t look away. I find myself facing some harsh realities. I find myself staring at some hilarious absurdities. I’ve set my DVR to record your memorial because I simply can’t look away.

And as I watch, I mourn for a world that allowed you to happen, a world where fame “trumps” all. (Pun unintended, but allowed to remain.) I mourn for a world that will refuse to learn the lessons we could salvage from a tragic death and the life which led to it. I mourn for a world where you could never have boys, Michael. I mourn for a world that did that to your face.


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Thursday, March 26, 2009

NMN On Rhianna

I was just on MySpace and saw that a comic I know is "friends" with Rhianna. I chuckled. I decided I would "friend" her too. A notice popped up that said "Rhianna does not accept friend requests from comedians."

For those keeping score at home, that's woman beaters: yes, comedians: no.

I don't make the news. I just report it.

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Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Smiles, everyone. Smiles.

If you can make it to the Valley on Wednesday night, I hear this is the hot new room for comedy. Check it out.


SUPPORT BLACK BUSINESS! Come see my shows.

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Black History Month

It is hereby declared that Black History Month is cancelled indefinitely on account of there being a Black President.

"Did you know (some Black person) invented the soap dish?" just doesn't pack the same punch it used to.

As you were.



Tuesday, January 20, 2009


"Just waking up in the mornin'/gotta thank God/I don't know/but today seems kind'a odd..."

My Dearest Niglets,

"Today was a good day" as Ice Cube once said. Strange that we started today with "Tomorrow." You probably won't remember by the time you're reading this. So, let me explain. You see Mrs. NMN (aka Mommy) bought us all tickets to go see "Annie" this past weekend. And since we walked out of that theater all you've wanted is for us to sing "Tomorrow" to you. This morning, Mommy burned a CD and we listened to it on repeat all the way to school.

I thought about the play - all the talk of tough times and the need for hope - as we drove by all the "For Sale" signs that punctuate this landscape, this moment in our country's history. I thought about the play and considered that it is "The Hard Knock Life" for us as a nation today, with people getting laid-off, companies closing and retirement being snatched from beneath so many as men and women die in wars that were ill-conceived and poorly executed.

But as I glanced into the rearview mirror and looked at your serene faces, as you enjoyed the music, I mostly thought of sitting in that theater together. I thought of you, my dear Niglette, sucking your fingers on my lap nodding your head to the music. I thought of Mommy shushing you, Niglet, as you declared, "I don't like Mrs. Hannigan." And I thought of the warm feeling in my chest when I considered that we were sharing one of those memory moments, the kind your grandmother gave me many yesterdays ago. Saturday was good day.

"Look at this beautiful Black family." On Monday, we went down to Martin Luther King Blvd. to watch the parade. The calendar may have said King Holiday, but Barack Obama got at least equal billing. The smiles were as bright as the California sun. And the faces were every shade of the human rainbow. And as we walked up Crenshaw Blvd., rushing to claim our spot, a woman smiled at us from the bus stop and said, "Look at this beautiful Black family." The Obamas have made beautiful Black families chic. And as we hoisted you onto our shoulders to watch the marching bands, Korean drummers and stepping fraternities, I realized I've never been so excited to be in style. Monday was a good day.

Today, in the midst of brushing teeth and getting dressed and eating breakfast and getting out the door on time, I pulled the two of you into our room to watch CNN. Your usual Sprout shows would have to be missed today. I needed to point to the TV and ask, "Who's that?" I needed to hear you say, "Obama!" I needed to include you today in an event I never thought would come in a million tomorrows. I doubt you'll remember what inauguration means, but I hope some piece of you always remembers that anything is possible for you in this country. That has never been clearer to me than it is today.

Today is a "tomorrow" that we all had to "hang on" eight years to see, a tomorrow for which so many hung on much longer than that, a tomorrow for which, tragically, some had to hang.

Today, a message of hope was vindicated, vanquishing a message of fear.

Today, I raced back home to hear the first words of President Barack Hussein Obama.

Today, I was inspired.

Today, I listened to "Tomorrow" on a loop just to make you happy, glancing into a rearview mirror and seeing the future.

Today was a good day.

NMN (aka Papa)

Wednesday, November 05, 2008


“There won’t never be no Black President!” I’ve said it and I know I wasn’t the only one. No, I’ve heard many speak of Jesse Jackson or Shirley Chisolm and the importance of their campaigns. But the significance was always symbolic. Never did anyone really believe that they would become President of the United States. There won’t never be no Black President! That was my belief.

I woke up this morning. The sun seemed to be shining just a little bit brighter. I thought it was me, but then one of my boys called. When I told him about my observation, he told me he was driving to a meeting and had noticed that the sky was a most beautiful blue. I’m sure you can guess what was going on; a new day has dawned.

There won’t never be no Black President! This ain’t South Africa. Black people ain’t the majority. Shit, I was surprised that with White people voting, they let a Black woman walk off with a million dollars at the end of the second season of “Survivor.” A Black President?! Of the United States?! Come on, man. Ridiculous.

There won’t never be no Black President! Yet there I sat last night, my children up after their bedtime because I didn’t want them to miss this. The impossible was becoming possible before my eyes. Pennsylvania… one nail in the coffin. Ohio… another. For weeks I’d been saying that I didn’t just think Barack Obama would win, but that he would crush, leave absolutely no doubt. But as Tuesday progressed and I waited for the numbers to come in, I started remembering all the reasons why this was impossible.

There won’t never be no Black President! I thought of a friend who relayed a staggering “Facebook” story. He’s Black. He’d gone to school with White kids. One girl, in particular, had harassed him on the school bus. She’d called him a nigger… repeatedly. And though others – including the bus driver – didn’t join in her chorus, they did nothing to stop her from spewing her hate. This wasn’t Selma in the 60’s. This was New York in the ‘80’s. Oddly, that girl – now a woman – sent him a friend request on Facebook recently. I couldn’t help but laugh the laugh born of agony when I read his email about the whole thing. “This is a metaphor for America,” I thought. “He’s supposed to forget she called him a nigger and be friends. After all, she’s forgotten.”

There won’t never be no Black President! Shit, a Black man can’t even pick up his wallet without the NYPD blasting him with forty-one reminders of where he stands in this country. A Black man can’t have a bachelor party without being reminded of the same. President?! Amadou Diallo and Sean Bell would find it laughable… except they’re dead.

There won’t never be no Black President! Yet, there I sat watching Wolf Blitzer count down to the closing of the polls in the West Coast. I’m a numbers guy. The numbers were adding up, but… It couldn’t be. And then… they called it. Barack Hussein Obama would be the 44th President of the United States. A friend who’d stopped by shed a few tears. I cheered… I think. I don’t totally remember. Another friend refused to celebrate, sure it was too soon, sure that something could still go wrong. But there it was on the screen before us, for all to see… President-Elect Barack Obama. Then it hit me.

There won’t never be no Black President! There will only be a President who is Black. That may seem like an irrelevant distinction. But it makes all the difference in the world.

Barack Obama’s story is not simply the story of Black America. It is the story of America. It is a story of immigration and integration that captures the imagination. It is a story of the heartland meeting the motherland and making love.

Barack Obama’s story was penned by Horatio Alger AND Maya Angelou. Barack Obama’s story captures the dream that is America and places it within a slim frame, behind a charming smile and gives it an eloquence that would make Dr. King say, “You better preach.”

There won’t never be no Black president! As I watched celebrations - planned and spontaneous - around the country, I didn’t see Black America. I saw America. I saw the bright-eyed hope of fights to be fought in the future and the wrinkled faces of battles lost and won in the past. I saw the children of Asia and Europe and South America and, yes, Africa. I saw men and women. I saw gay and straight. (You can’t tell people are gay by looking at them, but that was a lot of people. There had to be some gay people in there somewhere.)

There won’t never be no Black President! But not for the reasons I imagined. There won’t never be no Black President because the country doesn’t need one. We need a President who speaks to and calls on what unites us, not what divides us. We need a President who inspires many of my friends, none of whom were Black, to text me with messages like “HNIC, baby!”

We need a President who will inspire my friend who is a blonde White woman to call me last night in a state of absolute euphoria to report that “your borough is rockin’.” Spontaneously, Brooklyn had taken to the streets and DeKalb Avenue was alive with the joy of the NEW “real America.” (Bye bye now, Sarah!) In that America a White woman from Boston finds herself literally “dancing in the streets,” as the old Motown hit once said, as a drumming circle provides the beat. She reported that the celebration was so wild that the buses couldn’t run. So, to clear the street. They got on the bus and celebrated with the passengers. No one had to sit in the back of that bus. No one sat at all. America had stood up to the politics of hate and division and on that bus, on that night, they all jumped to their feet to celebrate.

There won’t never be no Black President?! A friend sent me this email on election day:

My dad…

Just turned 79.

He voted for Eisenhower. Twice.

He voted for Nixon. Twice. Yikes! (He admits he regrets it)

He voted for Goldwater.

He voted for Ford.

He voted for Reagan. Twice.

He voted for Bush Sr. Twice.

He voted for Bob Dole.

He voted for W. Twice. Yeesh. (He was dissapointed with W)

But this morning he voted for Obama.

Who says you can't teach an old dog new tricks? Hope really is alive and well in America today!

There won’t never be no Black President?! We don’t need one. We need a president who will inspire “an old dog” to learn some new tricks. We need a President who will inspire a Black grandmother in North Carolina to weep as she stands in line to exercise her right to the ballot, crying because she “knows now why God kept me around so long.”

We need a President who makes a point of including gay Americans in his victory speech. We need a President who goes out of his way to pronounce the names of leaders and nations correctly. We need a President who so obviously adores his family that I find myself wondering whether Theo and Vanessa will be moving to The White House with them.

We don’t need a Black President. We need a President who is of the people, who was elected by the people, and who will be for the people. Only time will tell if Barrack Obama can be all of that once he resides at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. But I believe. And I rejoice that I’m not the only one. My apologies, America. I got this one wrong.

There won’t never be no Black President?! We don’t need a Black President. We need a President who calls on the best of who we are and the greatest of what we can be. And if that person should happen to have two X chromosomes or almond shaped eyes or a turban or a life-partner of the same sex or a name we have some difficulty pronouncing, we now know that we are capable, as a nation, of “learning new tricks,” of placing the best person in the highest office in the land. This time around many of us feel we found that person. His name happens to be Barack Hussein Obama. He happens to be Black. And he happens to be the next President of the United States of America.

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