The Lexus 0 to 60 Event Set ‘Squad Goals’ For Speedy Fun

What do you get when you connect two teams – six drivers in total – with two professional coaches in three high performance vehicles? It’s Lexus 0 to 60. Road Atlanta was the site for the event’s second season. The course’s unusual twists, turns, uphill and downhill elements make it a favorite place for fans to see both professional and amateur events.  One sunny afternoon north of Atlanta, a competitive sextet of talents suited up for trash talk and high speed fun, while host Big Tigger brought an energy all his own.

The racers competed in both team and individual events.

Meet the Teams

Team Pruett is led by former NASCAR driver Scott Pruett, with members Tia Norfleet, known as the first black woman to be licensed by both NASCAR and ARCA, (the Automobile Racing Club of America), actor Redaric Williams of BET’s The Quad, and Lamman Rucker, star of the OWN series, Greenleaf.

Team Hawksworth is led by British racing driver Jack Hawksworth, with actor J.D. Williams of the Bounce TV series Saints and Sinners, though he’s best known for his role as Bodie on The Wire. Wiliams is joined by his Saints and Sinners costar, Keith Robinson, and the fastest woman alive, 2012 Olympic medalist, Carmelita Jeter.

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Scott Pruett and Jack Hawksworth talk a little smack before rubber meets the road

In Their Own Words

Fortunately a few members of each team slowed down to chat.

Tia Norfleet from Team Pruett shared her inspiration. “I’m a second generation racer. My dad, [Bobby Norfleet] raced in everything from drag racing, to NASCAR, to motorcycles. He influenced me to be a part of it.” To girls who look up to her she says, “They’re inspired by my story, being a part of something that’s unusual for our culture. I encourage them to fight for it with everything they have and to give out before you give up.”

Who better to get behind the wheel than the fastest woman alive, Team Hawksworth’s Carmelita Jeter, who led individual competition with, “Not just my speed, but my determination and willingness to want to win.” About her team, she added, “I’m having an amazing time because our chemistry is great.”

Finally Redaric Williams of who wants everyone to check out season two of The Quad said,  “I’m from the Motor City, I’ve been driving cars since before I had a license. I like to drive really fast. It’s a gift and a curse. It’s the need for speed, I guess. It’s fun it’s a good time.” His favorite things about Atlanta are “The food, the culture and the people. I love the people in Atlanta.”

You can check out the full episodes of Lexus 0 to 60 here.

Can’t Knock the Hustle: Cardi B Edition

On social media and live discussions, I see the ways that the commentary on Cardi B’s rise to fame is clouded in sexism. It’s one thing if you don’t like her music, it’s another thing if you just hate her for who she is. If you hate the sound of her NY, Latin-accent over trap beats, cool. If you just think her whole shit is wack, cool.

But, don’t let her nontraditional path as a stripper-turned-social media magnate-turned-reality star-turned-rapper trip you up. She used what she got to get what she wants in the post-record label music industry. I even saw her pitted against Lauryn Hill and even SZA, as a ridiculously contrarian argument against her “undeserved” prominence. They, to some, represent “respectable” ways that women artists can get on. Sure, they never hit the pole or did reality TV (hell, for Lauryn, that would have meant The Real World or Road Rules), but they pushed through lots of behind-the-scenes turmoil to carve out their careers.

While I’ve changed, I get what some of those people mean, sort of. I was once someone that you could call a “purist” and that shit was cool for about a month. Yes, it helped identify me among men as the “rare” woman who knew about “real” hip-hop. It was super limiting. Not just as a writer, but as an individual living in Atlanta since the latter half of 1999. The A had emerged as not only hip-hop’s epicenter, but a place where even famous and established artists made themselves accessible to fans and media.

If you were a regular in the clubs, or simply lived in Atlanta long enough, ultimately you would have a close encounter with a rap star, or know somebody, that knows somebody, that knows somebody who went to middle school with one of your favorite artists.  The degrees of separation were quickly made small from social media. My personal social and professional experiences changed everything. When I lived in Pittsburgh, I didn’t write about hip-hop culture. I was content to keep about four hip-hop albums in steady rotation. It wasn’t until I came to Atlanta and the allure of the culture was not only irresistible, but connected to legitimate professional opportunity. My brother gave me the Aquemini album as a going away present. Little did he know that was the start of something much bigger.

Old habits die hard. It even took me a long time to become an actual Jay Z fan. Like, Black Album late. I rejected the whole drug dealer turned rapper narrative. In my once limited view, the rappers I listened to like The Roots, still my favorite band to this day, A Tribe Called Quest, The Fugees, and The Pharcyde maybe smoked a little weed, but they’d never advocate selling it. Prior to his very public relationship with Beyoncé, I thought Jay Z hated women. I’d even laughed about rumors that he was “the gay rapper,” a label for hip-hop’s disdain of the possibility that a prominent member of the culture could have same sex attraction; long before LGBTQ became an undeniable force, long before acceptance of queer artists like Frank Ocean, Tyler the Creator and Syd.

By my first visit home to Pittsburgh after moving to Atlanta, one of my best friends laughed at how much I’d grown to love Trick Daddy’s “Shut Up.” And in no way was I immune to back-bending reflexes caused by Cash Money takin’ over for the 99 and 2000 as I happily “Backed that Azz Up” with Juvenile.

I couldn’t help but open up and embrace change. And even after all my logic and my theory, I added muthafucka so you ignant niggas hear me. I’m aware of my own contradictions. I’m still very critical of hip-hop culture. I definitely think there are too many toxic elements that foster violence, racism, sexism and flat out anti-intellectualism, but I won’t discredit artists just because they didn’t follow what some outmoded thinking, so-called purists deem as an ideal career trajectory.  People are quick to dismiss Cardi B despite her unprecedented accomplishments and attribute all her lyrics to  ghostwriters without proof. Nothing makes you sound like a tired old curmudgeon more quickly than finger wagging at what younger artists and hip-hop fans are doing. So if you don’t fuck with Cardi B, cool, but don’t get mad ‘cause she made it the best way possible.

Thank you, Ida Harris, for sharing yet another example of a difficult truth

I wasn’t ready for what I read this morning. The Root.com writer Ida Harris did everything right. When her date became physical without her permission, she gave non-verbal cues, when that didn’t work she said explicitly said “no,” when that didn’t work, she physically fled. None of that kept her safe. Discussions of consent are too often reduced to a woman’s ability to say no. That if she experiences unwanted sexual attention or touching, that it’s her fault.  This means by default that a man is entitled to her body. Even if and when she says no, it means that there is still another chance.  And if he doesn’t take no for an answer, well, it’s her fault for putting herself in that situation.

I had a family friend who said no to a man’s advances in a crowded bar where her boyfriend worked. She wasn’t “coy” or ambiguous about her no.  She clearly wasn’t interested. She walked away. She was shot dead in the street. Saying no does not keep you safe. There is never a guarantee that a man will honor your resistance. There is no cultural expectation for them to do so.

There were still people in comments sections who asked why she was out at that time. It is never a woman’s fault for going out, spending time with friends, or on a date that by all indications appears safe.  After immeasurable accounts of stories like this, too many people still blame women. Among the many truths and ultimately disturbing information Ms. Harris shares is this:

“We must also ask why we continue to court a tradition where boys will be boys and men will be men, no matter their indiscretions; while women are held to a five-star standard of awareness, action and responsibility. We are centuries invested in men’s entitlement and audacity, and their retarded understanding and disrespect for women’s bodily rights. We live in a society where patriarchy is well-established and chronically practiced.”

Think about the way we talk about sexuality. Men are taught to “score,” have “game” with the ultimate goal of “getting some pussy.” Her body parts are labeled as if they exist outside of her. She has to play defense. And if she loses, it’s her problem. A woman’s failure to scream and flee, even at her own peril, does not excuse what happens to her.

There are no new rules to consent. No has always meant no. The only difference now is that people are listening to our stories and violators are facing real consequences. We have to place the onus of ending sexual and violent assault squarely on the people who perpetrate these crimes.

Read Ida Harris’ essay here.

 

The only Kwanza(a) I acknowledge is Hall

Atlanta seal

I’m know I’m gonna catch hell for this. First of all, if you celebrate Kwanzaa, I’m not judging you. The Nzugo Saba are real and valuable. For me, it simply it never felt natural. Sure, I’ll go to a Kwanzaa social engagement, but I have no desire to purchase a kinara and do the whole lighting biz.

My reasons are many. Like most American holidays, Kwanzaa is rooted in myth. I’ll get to that in just a moment.

The Kwanza I actually do celebrate is Atlanta District 2 Councilman, Kwanza Hall. He never gave me a politician vibe, as he seems totally at ease at events throughout the city. I chatted with him as I sipped a beer at a 2015 A3C Festival gathering to promote use of the streetcar. I rooted for him when he first announced his later unsuccessful bid for mayor. I was also pleased when he introduced and later helped pass legislation to reduce penalties for the possession of marijuana under one ounce – the closest Atlanta has come to decriminalization. Most recently, I was happy to see his wife Natalie sworn in as Fulton County Commission, District 4.  All these things make me feel hopeful, but this is not a political endorsement.

If anything, it is a way to honor a Facebook status I posted last spring where I said, “Cheer for the guys you know.” It’s a way to acknowledge that the people closest to us are most worthy of our support and attention. In an attempt to look for some grand, shining leader, you miss the leader next door, or even the one in the mirror. As the expression goes, “heroes don’t always wear capes” and they most certainly don’t lead violent sexual assaults or remain silently complicit in the murder of others.

This is the legacy of Ron Everett, better known as Dr. Maulana Karenga. In 1965, Karenga founded a group called Us, a black nationalist group, who engaged in confrontation with the Black Panther Party. In 1969, at a UCLA Black Student Union meeting, after reports that BPP members spoke negatively of Karenga, tensions rose between the two groups, ending in a hail of gunfire, killing Bunchy Carter and John Huggins.

Lesser known, is Karenga’s torture of two women, Deborah Jones and Gail Davis, former members of his own group. There are multiple accounts of sexual assault and violent terror including soldering irons placed in the mouths of the women and one having her big toe squeezed in a vice grip. In 1971, Karenga spent four years in prison for the assaults. The myths created for him led me and many others to believe he was imprisoned only as part of an FBI takedown of black nationalist groups. We know now that the truth is just as ugly and has greater implications for the holiday and its leader as more people become aware.

Karenga’s long legacy of leadership (he is still the Chair of Africana Studies at California State University, Long Beach) also reveals another sad truth. Too many black leaders’ conflicts, both violent and verbal, have devolved into a pissing contest to have one man emerge as the HNIC. In the search of a political messiah, the abuse of women was never a barrier to leadership, respect, money or historical honor. Women are treated at best as sacrificial lambs and at worst, collateral damage on a convoluted premise of black liberation. Black solidarity cannot come at the expense of women and if a movement excludes or devalues women, it is simply white patriarchy in blackface.

I also resent the notion that questioning the history of black leaders is somehow a rejection of black nationalism itself, an acceptance of white oppression, or the idea that anything other than monolithic, emphatic yesses are just “divisive” reasons why “we can’t have anything.”

The principles of Kwanzaa are worth celebrating daily and annually, but who among us is truly lacking, especially in Atlanta? The thriving black-owned businesses, black-led media, black cultural institutions, HBCUs and more are indicative of unity, self-determination, collective work and responsibility, cooperative economics, purpose, creativity and faith. Yes, we have a long way to go, but we can uphold these principles and more while rejecting a “leader” with a history of violence and misogyny.  I know several people who celebrate, Kwanzaa, though most of my friends, family and colleagues don’t, which I don’t think is likely to change as more people learn about the founder’s past.

So if you’re celebrating Kwanzaa, Habari Gani, but as for me and my house, the only thing being lit will be my social media after this post.

Why Afropunk Atlanta was everything and yes, Solange killed it

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Yes, Solange killed it, but Afropunk is so much more than a show.

In front of the entrance and on both sides of the main stage, there are signs in bold black and white that read: “No sexism. No racism. No ableism. No ageism. No homophobia. No fatphobia. No transphobia. No hatefulness.” Looks like a lot of rules for a celebration of freedom.

On the surface, this may not sound revolutionary until you consider how even the Civil Rights movement in the U.S. was long mired in the respectability politics of clean, heteronormative appearance and as recently as last spring, black girls at a charter school were punished simply for wearing their hair in braids.

See my full reflections on Afropunk Atlanta at Creative Loafing Atlanta here.

Note I took all photos except for the one of Solange.

 

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(Photo: Shannon Barbour, Green Stage)
Solange
(Solange @saintrecords, Instagram)

20171015_230449(Photo of V. Her hair was in my peripheral vision as I watched Solange perform “Don’t Touch My Hair” I loved her Afro and freckles and she allowd me to take her photo: Shannon Barbour)

 

Jay, Bey, Trappin’ and Me

Several people have asked for my opinions on the most recent developments in hip hop culture, largely Jay Z, Beyoncé and the omnipresent ghetto vortex we call the trap. Here is what I see.

Jay and Bey

  • I like them. I like their music. They’re interesting.
  • I consume their music as art, not life instruction or even a real a report on the state of their union.
  • Lemonade, while culturally acclaimed, was largely seen among lots of black people as venting for “women,” while 4:44, though equally dope, has some people acting like it’s a new directive for all of black humanity.

Atlanta’s Pink Trap House and Trappin’ in General

  • I don’t have a problem with 2Chainz. He was nice when I met him.
  • I have some problems with the messages that he and his peers send through trap culture. Like the Pink Trap House in Atlanta.
  • If you’re happy to be trappin’ and getting white and exotic bitches, you hate yourself. You’re a cannibal. Nothing makes you more complicit with white supremacy than hating your origin in the form of the women who raised you while poisoning your community with cheap drugs. It’s the mass incarceration express and you’re the conductor.

Me

  • If you are a woman who is vocal about gender inequality as you legally try to better yourself through career and education, you’re a “crazy feminist.” If you dare date or marry interracially or even post too many pics admiring Tommy from Power or President Grant from Scandal, you’re a bed wench. If you’re even a big fan of Scandal, you’re a bed wench.
  • I digress.
  • Women speaking up and speaking out is bitching.
  • Men speaking up and speaking out is revelation.

I have always been vocal about problems in hip hop culture because I understand hip hop culture. Since I was a child in the 80s watching boys breakdance in the playground rec center, to being a writer, music conference panelist and weekly hip hop trivia winner, I’ve been an active participant. Through hip hop I’ve found love of the people and the music while gaining professional opportunities.

Still, I must proceed with caution.  Don’t let the conversation become too unflattering. If you do, you are not a cultural critic, you’re a bitch.

Somehow, you cannot, like I do, simultaneously celebrate your colleagues and influences – who are overwhelmingly male – yet criticize the looming presence of misogyny, sexual assault and violence. If so, you have to consciously and subconsciously hate men on some level. For too many members of the hip hop loving public, support means blind allegiance, ego-stroking uplift and ass-kissing deference. You can speak out but carefully contextualize your conversation so as to not appear finger pointing and frequently pepper it with “I know not all men, but…”

The thin line between love and hate shows up in loving the people who make the music while genuinely hating the hell out of the negative shit they either directly or inadvertently perpetuate.

Please. If you’re a male who believes in fidelity, good parenting, self-respect, dignity and generational wealth, speak up. No one wants to listen to bitches like us.

Bitchfest

 

 

Dear Dilla: Hip-hop will always love you

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I can hardly believe it has been eight years since hip-hop lost James “J.Dilla” Yancey. February 7 would have been his 40th birthday.

Since his untimely passing from a rare blood disease, thrombotic thrombocytopenic purpura, and complications related to lupus, the posthumous tributes have been ongoing. They were never simply a trend, or a rallying cry to gather performers and fans.

It is literally impossible to pay homage to the late Golden Era to the mid 2000s hip-hop without honoring J.Dilla. I dare you to try. Not only did he largely construct the sounds of the A Tribe Called Quest, The Roots, Erykah Badu and Common, there are some pop songs – Janet Jackson’s “Got Til It’s Gone” and others, some of which he did not receive credit.

So while Dilla is gone from physical form, he will never be forgotten. To do so would be to forget who we are as MCs, writers, producers, DJs and individuals that keep powerful beats and rhymes in their everyday lives.

Photo: Dilla Day in the A, Friday November 22, 2013, with Maureen “Ma Dukes” Yancey