Archive for March, 2008

Friday, March 21, 2008

We Have Enough Clubs.

oot clubsleep We Have Enough Clubs.

Ok, I’ll get straight to it. I am so sick of living in a big city, in an urban community and not having anything to patronize that’s black-owned but a damn club. I live in Washington DC, home of the richest and most educated black population in the country and I look around and find that we don’t own jack shit here, except a bunch of depreciating McMansions in the suburbs. And when an African-American wants to start a business on a large scale, more often than not its some damn club or a faux-bourgeois restaurant. I mean, WTF?

Once in a while I may want to go have dinner somewhere cool, go out for drinks, go to a lounge, take a dance class, do yoga or go do some kareaoke somewhere—so why cant I find anyplace cool that’s black-owned ? I really wish more of our brothers and sisters who want to go into “entertainment establishments” business would take a look around and actually evaluate the needs of the community. What do we not have? Then do that! I’m not mad at the clubs, but can we at least act like there are some of us who want to do something else? Who is catering to that? Because I’m not gonna lie, the hottest spots in my city are all owned and operated by white folks. They can take an abandoned liquor store that has been run down for 10 years that we’ve all walked by every day, and the turn it into a cute little bar with character and charm.

And its so sad that even on those rare occasions when there is a cool black spot, or a cool regular black event—why I gotta pay $20 just to walk in the door???? Why is there, in Chocolate City and most urban areas, a surcharge to be around black people? The spot can be free every other night of the week, but on Black night, you gonna pay! Why do promoters feel like just because they’re playing hip hop/R & B, we should be required to pay more than if they were playing rock and alternative?

I feel so victimized by Black entertainment venues. I actually get jealous of white people in that regard. They can go to, generally, any bar/lounge and walk in and listen to music or drink or do karaoke or play darts or pool or whatever the fuck they do, and have a blast for free. Their spots are creative, interesting, warm, no dress codes, and most importantly no sour-faced chic at the door with a little silver cash box. We’re more worried about VIP rooms and making people take off their hats than we are with providing cool entertainment venues for our communities.

For example, we have a place in DC called Ozio’s, where the only nights they charge are on Black nights. Hello??????? And we pay it. (well, not me) We still continue to go! When will we get it??? If I want to be around black folk, im always gonna pay a grip, the drinks are gonna be high as giraffe snatch, they’ll be some dumb ass dress code, and in 2 months it will be taken over by thugs thereby creating the need to find a new spot and the cycle begins again.

I’ve never understood why it is more expensive on Black night than it is on International Night? And hell, on White night its free! And you know why? Because it can be! Our dumb asses stand in a line and pay it each and every time.

Let me give another example in my beloved city. We have a little entertainment district called the U street corridor, that was a center of Black culture in the city up until the King riots. However in the forty years since the riots, the buildings lay vacant and the strip fell into disrepair with a few little business and a couple of clubs thriving but generally a bunch of eye sores. So now, Mr. Charlie has come in and revitalized the area into a thriving area for nightlife with music, bars etc… They even created two restaurants, one dedicated to Langston Hughes and one dedicated to Marvin Gaye. And black folks got the nerve to be talking smack about gentrification. (I’ll save my thoughts on gentrification for another day)

So let me get this straight, we let it sit there for 40 years and nobody seemed too mad about that, we weren’t building businesses and nobody seemed too care about that. But let some white people come in and fix it up and all of a sudden we are angry. Talking about the white folks are taking over! Let’s see… crack houses/skid row versus thriving nightlife…hmmmmmm. Lawdy bee. Meanwhile, the one black spot left in that area, Jin, makes you wait outside in a dumb line with asshole doormen, when all the while it’s like 7 people inside. And whats worse, people actually wait.

Anyhoo… i digress.

Do you know how much money someone would make if they just created a spot? Not a mega-club where you economically rape all yr customers, but just a neighborhood spot that isnt obsessed with luxury. Because I aint luxurious 90% of the time. I want a place where I can throw on some Uggs and a t-shirt with profanity on the front, put some Jill on the juke box, and go meet that guy I met on Match.com. I don’t want to yell over the music, I don’t want to pay for the privilege of spending my money at your bar, and I sho don’t care about your tired ass VIP.

We need more vision from our entrepreneurs. If you build it, and its quality, they will come. For all those they may go into this industry, please realize that people are getting married and having kids later so that gives them several more years to go out recreationally and they have a lot of disposable income to do so. But the 30 something’s don’t want to go to your club, I don’t care if you do call it Grown & Sexy Night, we all know it’s the same bullshit. So create something that we can go to that actually serves the community, that will have the same name in 5 years, that fills a void. That’s how you make money—seeing a niche and filling it. Much like our music and movies, we just keep doing the same thing over and over. Sure, the young folks will always go to clubs and that’s cool, but what about those of us who have no idea who Flo-Rida is?

Come on guys, you young, talented next generation of entrepreneurs—PLEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEASE!!! Enough with the club. Believe it or not, Black folks like to do other things too. Start a piano bar, a lounge, a coffee shop, a rock climbing facility, a sportsplex, anything but another tired ass club. I know you cant tell from listening to the radio, but there are other social interests in the African-American community.

Lets try to do a better job at assessing the needs of our communities. Lets bring our soul and creativity and vibrance to our entrepreneurial spirit as well. Perhaps we just may not need another “urban” clothing store with shirts hung on hangers in the window and the “s” replaced with a “z” in the sign. But we may need a laundromat or a bike repair shop or a comedy club or a picture framing place or a pharmacy or a 24 hour gym or one of those places where u paint on the pottery.

Our social outlets should be as diverse as we are. They should expose us to new things and provide the comfort of old things. They should foster community and laughter. They should broaden our minds or allow us to stop using them for a while. Is that too much too ask? Onward!

So, as usual that’s my two cents and its generally worth about as much as you’re paying for it. Meanwhile I gotta hurry up and run…its only free before 8p.

Peace people.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

My Failure

F My Failure

We’ve all had our share of failures in life. Lord knows I’ve had mine. The porno letter-writing business, my Tax class in law school, the cashless ATM scheme, dating that married guy. But there’s one particular failure that I can’t seem to get out of my mind. This is a failure of a different kind. I failed my cousin.
I have a cousin. He’s bright, handsome, and sweet but unfortunately he is on his way to becoming depressingly average.
Let me explain. My cousin grew up in a working class suburb. He was surrounded by a family who loved him, he was an average student, he was part of a local band and an all-around good kid. He got into college on a band scholarship and I could not have been prouder. His mom, dad and grandmother never went to college so it was a great achievement for him to be attending a local university on scholarship.
Growing up in an area where very few black men go on to pursue higher education, I was thrilled that he seemed to be on the right path to better himself and most importantly act as an example to his two younger brothers.
But, as you probably guessed by the title of this post, things didn’t quite go as planned. In the summer before his junior year, I got the news from my mom that my cousin wasn’t going back to college. I immediately called him to ask what the deal was. He told me that he had lost his band scholarship (his story changed several times as to exactly why this happened) and he could no longer afford to attend the school. He was going to work for the next semester and save money and go back to school in the spring or the following year. Well, we all know what that means, most folks who leave college never go back and I was determined that he get his college degree. SO, I offered to pay his tuition. I didn’t care what I had to do—whether it was taking out loans or selling ass on 12th Street, I was making sure that boy graduated from college.
See, I am blessed to have come from a family where education was stressed, C’s were not acceptable and college was not optional. So I tried to convince him of the importance of him staying in school and getting his college degree. And even with my offer to pay his entire tuition… he refused. He wanted to work, and by working he could save for school and also get a car. After trying and trying to persuade him, it became clear that the desire for a car was far stronger than his desire to get his college degree.
So long story short (I know I know, too late) he ends up working at some dead end random job, he never goes back to college and now has two kids by two different women. He’s not even 24. I feel like somehow I failed him, the family failed him. I know there is nothing we could have physically done, but I cant shake the feeling that our family and community let a vibrant life full of potential slowly descend into mediocrity, and did nothing.
See, for too long we have defined failure by its extreme manifestations: ending up in jail, becoming a drug addict, being a teenage mother. But, in my opinion, when we don’t see a young person all the way through to realizing his or her potential, its just as big a failure. In our community, mediocrity, doing enough to get by, is becoming an epidemic. And that realization hit me really close to home. I wonder what will become of these young people? In a world and an economy where there is little use for the ordinary, what happens to this generation? Where are the dreamers? Who are the innovators? Where are the parents who don’t allow failure, who read to their children, who tell them in the dark of night as they put them to bed: “you can be anything you want to in this world and the possibilities for your life are endless”?
Its like our bar of standards has dropped so low that as long as someone graduates from high school, we say they’re doing fine. As long as they aren’t in the system, we say they’re doing fine. Excellence is scarce. Vision is non-existent. You have a 62 inch flat screen and your kid doesn’t have a computer in the home. We aren’t taking foreign languages, we aren’t going into technology fields.
I want to go back to the mentality of our predecessors and embrace a philosophy of goals and success and striving to be the best and reaching the highest of heights. In this global economy, we cannot afford average. This is no longer a world where you can graduate from high school, join a union and work in a factory for thirty years and still be able to raise a family. By not challenging each other to be the best in whatever we do, we are doing ourselves a disservice and more importantly we are setting our young people up to be members of a self-imposed underclass.
With access to more opportunities than ever, our young people seem perfectly content settling for less. And I cant help but think that its our fault. Have we told them that there’s more, have we shown them what more looks like? Have we reinforced in them every waking moment that they can dream big and achieve their goals through education and hard work?
I don’t know. I just felt so impotent. Me and my smart mouth were no match against “easy”, against “quick” against “right now.” I love my cousin but it hurts my soul whenever I see potential squandered. Especially when someone is handing you an opportunity on a platter. I mean, if you’re not willing to accept and opportunity when someone is GIVING it to you, what happens if you actually one day have to work for it?
I keep looking back at what I could have done, what I could have said to change his path. But how do you convince a young man to finish college when he’s been raised in a world that tells him he should be happy just getting out of high school. My voice was lost among his friends and teachers and media who told him that good enough was enough. Those who told him that passing is passing, even its with a “D.”
Now don’t get me wrong, in no way am I saying that if you aren’t wildly successful, then you have failed– the failure is in not even trying.
I love my cousin and it’s the people we love that we should be hardest on. Why do you think Im so hard on black folk? I just want us to get there and it just frustrates me when it seems the only thing standing in our way is ourselves. Sure, my cousin will be fine. But Im so sick of “fine,” I want amazing.
Meanwhile, Im gonna figure out a game plan for his little brothers right now. Wish me luck. Maybe there’s someone in your life you can start working on. Before its too late.
Peace people.