The year has come to an end.
It was one filled with great racial tumult, but it has also been a year of breaking molds as far as professional sports is concerned and I have had some pretty cool experiences along the way as well. My job is mostly reaction, commentary, reaction, commentary, in a never ending two-step. The pain of watching blue murderers walking free while black victims, many still children, lay cold in the Earth. 14 officers escaped being charged in the deaths of black people in the line of duty.
That is where my heart was all year, but duties pulled me to the usual haunts: NBA, NFL, Blerd Culture and Film/Television on a weekly basis. But the cycle of hope, then hurt, when cops are charged then acquitted. At times frustration was the strongest emotion when reporting on police brutality in 2015. I remember all the negative attributes and experiences yet I can't really front on the good times. I have gathered them here for your consumption.
So join me as I bring you my words, sights and sounds from 2015.
The Carolina Connection
The North Carolina Connection dominated the sports scene throughout 2015. Way back on November 30, 2014 the Carolina Panthers lost a regular season game to the Minnesota Vikings. Fast forward to 2015 and consensus MVP favorite Cam Newton is the primary reason why they did not lose another game until a lackluster performance against division rivals the Atlanta Falcons last week darkened their record to 14-1.
In that span, Mike Krzyzewski’s Duke Blue Devils won their fifth National Championship, North Carolina native and Davidson University standout Stephen Curry won the NBA MVP and led the Golden State Warriors to their first NBA title in 40 years and the 17-13 Charlotte Bobcats are sitting on the fringe of a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.
Okay, the NBA playoffs are six months away but small victories, ladies and gentleman, small victories. Curry is looking like the odds on favorite to win another MVP; the last North Carolina native to win back-to-back MVPs was a man named MJ. If that wasn’t ill enough, the Carolina Panthers are one of the best teams, if not the best, in the NFL. A Super Bowl in the Carolinas would go a long way toward providing a brief salve for all that racism. What? Thought I was gonna let that slide, huh? All that effort and glory to entertain a fan base spotted with racists; then again, you can probably say that about every state in the Union.
Being Quoted in Popular Science Magazine
One of the coolest things to happen to me in the line of duty was a brief exchange with director Neill Blomkamp at the press conference for the Paramount offering Chappie. The question:
Thematically, the film draws upon consciousness and what it is to be alive. That's something humans have been questioning since Pinocchio, and all the way up through Real Steel and AI. Why do you feel these things keep resonating with humanity as we advance?
In my estimate it was the perfect question, and that was proven in the way it stumped the very intelligent panel of Sigourney Weaver, Hugh Jackman, Sharlito Copley and Blomkamp himself.
Those who are familiar with his cinematic work are aware of his masterful manipulation of themes centered on technology run amok, dystopian futures and alien incursions.
After some indecision as to who would answer, Neil grabbed the microphone. As he answered, I could feel Ms. Weaver’s approving eyes give me the “Great question, my dude!” look out of the corner of my eye. The fact that she was the queen of modern science fiction was not lost on me.
Later that week I saw my question was used as part of a Neil Blomkamp story on popularmechanics.com. Popular Mechanics, along with Popular Science, were two of my favorite periodicals back in high school, so to be quoted in one of them was beyond even my nerdiest expectations.
The Ageless Specter of Institutionalized Racism
I have been writing about white supremacy and activism for the better part of my career and have been fortunate enough to have written for progressive-minded publishers willing to allow it. But things certainly have changed. Long gone are those late 90s news cycles in which maybe two or three major race based stories bubbled to the mainstream each year .
These days there is a consistent and irresistible deluge of material about racial politics, the institution of American racism and police brutality in every medium of communication. For someone who has to stay abreast of it all, just being aware of these things gets kind of heavy.
The irony is this is exactly what many young, progressive-minded journalists dreamed of back in the day, a time when race talk was on the table to stay. But we have aged into the realization that much of that coverage we coveted highlights our nation’s impudence to deal with the cancer that is racism.
This year has been the most intense as we witnessed a string of grand juries fail to convict police officers who planted evidence, lied and killed innocent, unarmed Black people in the line of duty.
Recently a grand jury refused to recommend charges be filed against Officer Timothy Loehman, the Cleveland cop responsible for the death of Tamir Rice. Another failed to find fault against anyone in the Waller (TX) County police department in the death of Sandra Bland and the hung jury failed in charging BPD Officer William Porter in the death of Freddie Grey. These are all indicative of the denial, victim-blaming and abject refusal by the masses to even mentally grasp the concept of justice for Black people in America.
But racism and bigotry are a matter of fact that only fools continue speculating the existence of. In the wake of the terrorist attack by Dylann Roof upon the congregation of Emanuel A.M.E. Church in Charleston, South Carolina I ran into actor Jessie Williams (Cabin in the Woods, Lee Daniel’s The Butler, Grey’s Anatomy) at a Brooklyn screening for the Jaymes Samuel western They Die Before Dawn.
I asked him for his thoughts on what had been transpiring and his answer on a balmy day back in August kind of summed up the entire year in racism for me.
The year was full of highs and lows. Through the frustration inherent to my station in society such as it is, there was still a great deal of laughter and wonder to be had. While our concerns remain our concerns, there were certain events that took the "Wow" factory to the next level for this writer.
Check out some the more interesting experiences I encountered this year..
1. New York Comic Con
2. The movie Concussion Press Conference just feet from Will Smith
3. The Wiz Live! Press Conference
4. Backstage on set of Law & Order SVU with Ice T and a very pregnant Kellie Giddish
5. Speaking with David Banner at Urbanworld Film Festival
In 2016, I will continue bringing our readership that raw, uncut and unbowed opinion you have come to expect from my colleagues and I here at The Shadow League. Happy New Year and we'll see you on the other side!