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Monthly Archives: June 2012

Aspire: Magic Johnson’s channel for black families

By FRAZIER MOORE AP Television Writer

photo released by Starpix shows former NBA… ((AP Photo/Starpix, Amanda Schwab))

NEW YORK—As the crowd counted down, Magic Johnson pulled a large silver lever jutting from a box labeled “ASPiRE.” With that, his new cable network went live.Then stagehands whisked the contraption off the dais at Aspire’s gala premiere party Wednesday night. The switch was just a prop, of course, connected to nothing.

But Magic Johnson’s ties to the African-American community (not to mention sports history and contemporary culture) are direct and strong.

Now, the basketball great and business tycoon is leveraging his clout and good name to launch Aspire.

“We have a big platform for African-American work,” Johnson told the gathered. “Family driven content, positive images of African-Americans—that’s

This June 27, 2012 photo released by Starpix shows the Rev. Al Sharpton during the launch of the Aspire Television Network in New York. Aspire, which signed on during the ceremony, is led by Earvin “Magic” Johnson in partnership with family-oriented channel GMC TV, and will dedicate itself to enlightening and positive programming aimed at black families. It will air movies, documentaries, music and comedy, as well as faith and inspirational programs. ((AP Photo/Starpix, Amanda Schwab))

what we want that platform for!”Big aspirations, indeed, as Aspire makes its debut. Initially it’s available in about 7 million homes and in 16 of the top 25 African-American markets (including New York, Atlanta, Chicago and Washington). It can be seen by some customers served by Time Warner Cable Inc. and by Comcast Corp., the nation’s largest cable operator, which is introducing the minority-oriented Aspire as part of an agreement struck with the Federal Communications Commission when Comcast purchased NBC Universal.

Aspire’s reach will grow to 12 million homes by year’s end, to 20 million to 30 million homes by the end of 2013, and to 40 million homes within two years, according to Johnson.

“Focus groups told us

African-Americans want more family content on TV,” he says a few hours before the party. “If they would have told me, ‘We don’t need another channel, there’s not an opportunity for you,’ we wouldn’t be sitting here.”Seated in a raised director’s chair whose exaggerated height seems made-to-order for the towering former L.A. Lakers point guard, Johnson is speaking with a reporter in an NBC green room during a busy day of meetings and media appearances.

“I wouldn’t get into this if I didn’t feel there was an opportunity,” he goes on. “That’s what I do. I look for opportunities.”

Johnson doesn’t dismiss the growing roster of other networks targeting black viewers.

“BET dominates the young people and does a great job,” he says. “TV One skews a little older. We’re gonna skew older than both of them. Blacks want options; they want variety, like everybody else. There’ll be enough viewers for all of us. So everybody wins.”

He says Aspire is aiming for black families with a slate of enlightening and positive programming—the sort of fare that everyone can gather in the living room to watch, “the way I grew up,” Johnson fondly recalls.

Aspire will air movies, documentaries, music and comedy, as well as faith and inspirational programs.

Initially, the schedule consists of acquisitions, including long-ago series like “The Bill Cosby Show,” “I Spy,” “Julia” and “The Flip Wilson Show.” The network promises documentaries chronicling real-life events, people and places that shaped black history. Movies include “Shaft,” “Bird,” “Sarafina!” and “Lilies of the Field.”

Eventually, Aspire plans to create its own programming. For that, Johnson hopes to tap black artists ranging from young up-and-comers to the likes of Spike Lee and Tyler Perry.

But what about a certain world-class star already on the payroll? Will Earvin “Magic” Johnson step in front of the Aspire cameras?

“I may do a show interviewing celebrities,” he says. “Or a business show. We haven’t planned it yet, but African-Americans want to know how to build wealth. They want to know how to start a business or grow one. Home ownership. Having good credit. I think I’m going to have to go on and teach them that sort of thing.”

The principal owner of Aspire is Magic Johnson Enterprises, with the 52-year-old Johnson as the network’s chairman and CEO.

But Aspire is teamed with Atlanta-based GMC (formerly the Gospel Music Network), which, available in about 50 million homes, focuses on uplifting music and family entertainment. GMC is providing operational infrastructure (what Johnson dubs “the back of the house”) for Aspire, also based in Atlanta.

Johnson declines to say exactly what he’s investing in Aspire as its principal owner, but acknowledges “it takes $100 (million) or $150 million just to turn the lights on and really get it going—and we’re gonna be in that neighborhood.”

Already, Johnson has landed five blue chip “charter brand partners”: Coca-Cola Co., Chrysler, Wal-Mart Stores Inc., L’Oreal and Nationwide Insurance. He says his network is on track to be “almost break-even in a year.”

Johnson sees Aspire as the logical next step in his burgeoning media empire, whose holdings include 20 radio stations, Vibe magazine and the “Soul Train” brand.

But an almost dizzying array of other investments includes real estate, restaurants, a prepaid debit card he soon will introduce and, of course, the Los Angeles Dodgers, purchased in May for $2 billion by a group he fronted.

“I am SO proud of the Dodgers,” he grins when that subject comes up. “I’m like a little kid! To know I own the Dodgers is even blowing ME away!”

In short, Johnson’s career as an NBA legend and Hall of Famer is rivaled by his entrepreneurial efforts, which, along with his philanthropic and motivational work, largely cater to the black community.

“I’ve been doing business almost as long as I’ve been playing basketball,” he says. “I bought a radio station when I was 19 years old, when I first got drafted by the Lakers.”

For now, despite his many business interests, he’s giving Aspire top priority.

“When you’re starting a business, you have to be more involved day-to-day,” he says. “I’m a control freak. Even though I allow people to do their jobs, I want to know everything, and I HAVE to know everything: It’s my brand, my name; everything is out there on the line.”

Looking to Aspire’s future, he points out how he always had two big dreams: to play in the NBA and be a businessman.

“I don’t know why God blessed me with this life, but I’m glad he did, and I love it,” Johnson sums up. “And I’m full steam ahead!”

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Online:

Aspire: http://www.aspire.tv

Magic Johnson: http://magicjohnson.com

GMC TV: http://www.watchGMCtv.com

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CARIBBEAN TECHNOLOGY NEWS SUMMARY for the week ending June 29th, 2012

YOUTHFUL ENTREPRENEURS GET BOOST AT DIGITAL JAM 2.0—06/23/12
Young people in Jamaica who want to become entrepreneurs in the virtual economy will show off their talents and learn lessons for big players in the industry at the Digital Jam 2.0, which will be held at the end of June 2012. Companies from Silicon Valley, Australia, and Europe will participate and determine how they can engage Jamaican youth in regard to microwork and applications development. The event is part of the Caribbean Growth Forum, which is led by the World Bank, Inter-American Development Bank, and Caribbean Development Bank.

CARICOM READY FOR TECHNOLOGY SUMMIT—06/24/12
The “Connect the Americas” summit, one of the largest conferences on information and communications technologies held in the region, will take place in July 2012. The Secretariat of CARICOM is leading a preparatory meeting in Barbados to solidify plans for participation in this summit. Jennifer Britton, deputy program manager for the ICT 4D program in the Secretariat will chair the preparatory meeting. Over 45 projects have thus far been registered for review at the summit, which is organized by the International Telecommunication Union. It is hosted by the government of Panama.

FLOW OF INFORMATION BETWEEN U.S. AND CUBA EXPANDED—06/25/12
The United States Department of State increased funding for the technology portion of Cuba democracy programs. The move is designed to obtain a greater amount of uncensored information into and out of Cuba. According to Mark Lopes, deputy assistance administrator for Latin America and the Caribbean at the U.S. Agency for Development, spending for technology to enhance the flow of information between the two countries has increased. The agency will have spent $20 million in the fiscal year ending September 30, 2012.

DIGICEL’S 4G MOBILE NETWORK READY—06/27/12
Digicel Jamaica commissioned new 4G mobile service and is currently marketing this service to customers under a plan called “Surf, Stream, and Share.” Digicel reports spending US$30 million on the new network. The network covers 80 percent of Jamaica’s population. It is based on HSPA+ technology and will cost J$1,500 to J$5,000 per month. A 50-percent discount on 4G handsets is being offered as part of the Digicel’s marketing program.

 

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Two Americans: Two Citizens Face to Face at Each End of the Immigration Debate

by Eduardo Barraza

New documentary explores local enforcement of immigration laws and the separation of families in Maricopa County, Arizona.

Originally published in Barriozona Magazine

Phoenix, Arizona – A new documentary about immigration in Maricopa County, Arizona produced in the place known as “ground zero” of the immigration debate was presented in a Phoenix theater on May 31.

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Two Americans —produced by journalist Valeria Fernandez and documentary maker Dan DeVivo— juxtaposes two defining factors of the illegal immigration issue in Arizona: the enforcement of immigration laws by local authorities and  the separation of families where some members lack legal status and others are U.S. citizens.

The story line revolves around internationally known Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio, who bills himself as “America’s  toughest sheriff”, and 9-year old Katherine Figueroa.

The girl emerges as an involuntarily character in the context of immigration enforcement by the sheriff’s office. She is  pulled into a sociopolitical and legal dilemma when her parents, Carlos and Sandra, are arrested at their workplace by deputies, accused of working with false documents.

The documentary places its focal point on the paradoxical fact that both Arpaio and Figueroa are U.S. born American citizens. On one side of this immigration equation is the sheriff, an inflexible enforcer of immigration laws at the local level, and on the other side is Figueroa, as much citizen as Arpaio is, but victimized because she is the daughter of unauthorized immigrants.

The film seeks to highlight that while two Americans have the same birth rights granted in the U.S. Constitution, the younger one finds herself in a devastating predicament when her undocumented parents are incarcerated, and she faces the reality that her citizenship is not enough to keep her family together.

Two Americans captures the girl’s drama and emotions and contrasts them with the sheriff’s arrogance and cynicism. Both divergent real-life characters —Arpaio and Figueroa— are shown in unscripted moments rarely captured by traditional news media. The girl’s innocence and dignity stand out before a senile, media-obsessed sheriff who shamelessly gives more importance to have done things “his way” in his life than to act as a the elected official he is.

Considering its title, Two Americans, the documentary comes a bit short of drawing a more consistent parallelism between the older “American” and the younger “American”. The producers excluded family background information on both Arpaio and Figueroa to establish and weave the fundamental element of citizenship —an almost unavoidable scene could have been seeing Figueroa reciting the Pledge of Allegiance at school and Arpaio at a public ceremony, for instance. To have included a more strong symbolism of some defining aspects of the American citizenship would have achieved a deeper analysis between the “two Americans”.

Two Americans could have also presented a broader picture through a brief introduction to establish why and how Arizona and Maricopa County became the immigration’s debate “ground zero”. A short summary beginning with the massive immigration marches of 2006 through the start of the sheriff’s immigration raids in the Fall of 2007, as well as explaining the reasons Arizona saw an influx of undocumented immigrants, could have given a little bit of context to those who are not familiar with the problem as those who have lived in the midst of it.

The documentary frequently jumps from aspects directly concerning the script of the “two Americans” to others a little unrelated —among them corruption of public officials, deaths of inmates in county jails, and a protest of a group of young Phoenix anarchists, for example. These scenes, although part of the overall situation in Maricopa County, take away the focus from the central plot and take the place of scenes more essential and relevant to the comparative analysis of Two Americans.

Nevertheless, Two Americans is a remarkably strong documentary. It represents a serious and extensive work that documents a key time in history, and will have an important place within the collectiveness of other recent works on the topic of immigration. The work done by Fernandez and DeVivo stands out for showing the collision between the enforcement of immigration laws at the local level and undocumented immigrants, as well as the separation of families that result from that collision.

Both immigration enforcement and separation of families are two of the most dramatic components of the complex and highly-polarized issue of illegal immigration in the state and other parts of the country. Two Americans achieves this through two opposing and conflicting characters that ironically are linked by their American citizenship.

Arguably, one of the major contributions of Two Americans is that it shows a more informal portrait of Sheriff Joe Arpaio, whose grandiose personality and barefaced sarcasm proves, for the record, that the octogenarian man has long forgotten the oath of office he took to serve and protect the residents of Maricopa County, to entertain himself with his shameful delusion of grandeur.

Two Americans; two children of immigrants

While the documentary does not point it out, there is an interesting underlying reality: both Arpaio and Figueroa are children of immigrants who came to the United States looking to improve their economic situation. Arpaio’s parents came to the country from Italy in the 1930s, and Figueroa’s parents arrived from Mexico, presumably within the last two decades.

Of immigrant parents, Arpaio came to be an obstinate enforcer of local immigration laws, arresting thousands of undocumented immigrants who —though illegally— came to the U.S. for similar reasons as his parents did: to work and to better their lives.

In this context, by arresting Figueroa’s parents, Arpaio comes —if figuratively— face to face with a 9 year-old girl, and by looking at her he sees himself in a mirror where U.S. citizen by birthright is the common denominator. Constitutionally, Joseph Arpaio and Katherine Figueroa are on equal terms: two children of immigrants, two Americans, each of them representing both ends of the immigration debate.

Paradoxically, Arpaio, the son of Italian immigrants, becomes during the last few years a persecutor of immigrants, but in doing so he finds himself confronted by a child just like the child he was: a member of an ethnic minority growing in the U.S., a child of foreign parents who left their country to seek the American Dream. Arpaio the enforcer, Arpaio the megalomaniac, Arpaio the “toughest sheriff of America”, is not better, is not far, is not above in any term to little Katherine Figueroa.

 
 

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Class and Race as Competing Self Interests or Whiteness as Symbolic Politics, Part 2

by Thomas Rudd

Read part 1

Research conducted by Kinder and Winter (2001) suggests that there is a huge difference in public opinion between Whites and Blacks on policy issues related to race. They maintain that the racial divide over such policy issues as school integration and affirmative action is mostly a story of political principles and social identity. Their analysis suggests that if differences of principle and identity could be eliminated, the racial divide would be drastically diminished. The republican party has capitalized on this ideological gap by openly opposing school integration and equal opportunity policies. This opposition has intensified with the election of Barack Obama. In this landscape, it would be unwise for progressives to think that the ideological differences between Whites and African Americans can be nullified by a colorblind narrative, by avoiding a dialogue on issues that have a racial context. As a powerful symbolic attitude that directs political behavior, whiteness will be reinforced and reconstituted without a dialogue on race and, if left unchallenged, this power will continue to align with the political party from which it gains the greatest energy—republicans, and especially the tea party coalitions.

If we accept the premise, as conservative politicians have, that whiteness and white privilege are powerful symbolic attitudes capable of overpowering deep-seated self-interest in economic gain, family security and other tangible rewards, then it is imperative that progressives conceive of ways to counteract this power. Two strategies seem salient: First, expose and confront the underlying notions that support the ideology of whiteness – notions like racial and cultural superiority and fear of the “racialized other.” Second, illuminate and contextualize socio-political-economic barriers to prosperity that confront not only poor and working class Americans but middle class Americans as well. This narrative must include the reality that while all populations suffer in a recession, populations of color have, historically, suffered the most and that remedies to these problems must employ a “targeted” approach that acknowledges this reality. As Lani Guinier and Gerald Torres suggest in their powerful book, The Miner’s Canary: Enlisting Race, Resisting Power, Transforming Democracy (2002), racial inequality is a warning sign that the entire society is out of balance.

In a political and economic environment that increasingly favors corporate profiteers, wealthy elites and Wall Street speculators over ordinary citizens and where conservative politicians increasingly pander to the interests of the wealthiest Americans and the corporations that empower them over the needs and interests of the “99%”, liberals and progressives have a splendid opportunity to build coalitions across racial and class lines. When American corporations send manufacturing and service jobs to competing countries to increase profit, shareholder dividends and executive bonuses, African Americans workers are especially hard hit, but everyone in the 99% is affected—poor people, people near poverty, working class people and middle class people. When republicans hold hostage unemployment benefits to protect tax breaks for the wealthy, whiteness does not insolate middle class workers; when toxic sub-prime loans saturated African American communities and greedy banks rolled this dog and pony show into middle class neighborhoods, playing on the misguided belief that white banks will not deceive White people, whiteness did not save hundreds of thousands of families from foreclosure.

The occupy movement is an angry response to the realization that widespread institutionalized greed is colorblind and class-blind, that corporations, banks, Wall Street and wealthy elites will indeed deceive and steal from White middle class Americans to maintain their own position of privilege and power and that the very politicians who have gained their power from middle class voters are riding shotgun over these crimes. This is an incredibly rude awakening for millions of White Americans who have believed that whiteness would protect them from the burdens imposed for centuries on African Americans and other populations of color in the U.S. The occupy movement is a visible expression of collective self-interest, but still without a salient recognition of race-based inequality.

As we approach the 2012 presidential election, conservative politicians are counting on White voters to violate their own collective and individual self interest as they have done in the past. By appealing to racial resentment and fear, appealing to implicit notions of white privilege and white superiority, embellishing the “American dream,” and distorting the real causes of the current economic crisis in the U.S.—blaming liberals, democrats, poor people, people of color and the President rather than greedy corporations and banks—conservatives hope to win the White House and eventually take full control of the U.S. Senate. If this happens, tea party inspired politicians will do everything in their power to “take back the country,” and turn it over to megacorporations, Wall Street, big banks, White nationalists, nativists, homophobes, misogynists, and gun-toting ideologues of every ilk. If you think it is unimaginable that conservative legislators in several states have proposed bills that would allow restaurant owners to refuse service to gay patrons, then, baby, you ain’t seen nothing yet…

Works Cited

Staats, A. W., and C. K. Staats (1958). Attitudes established by classical conditioning. Journal of Abnormal

and Social Psychology, 57, 37-40.

Lau, R. R., Brown, and T. A., Sears, D. O. (1978). Self-interest and civilians’ attitudes toward the Vietnam War. The Public Opinion Quarterly, 42, 464-481.

Sears, D. O., Lau, R. R., Tyler, T. R., and Allen, H. M., Jr. (1980). Self-interest vs. symbolic politics in policy attitudes and presidential voting. The American Political Science Review, 74, 671-684.

Frankenberg, R. (1993). White Women, Race Matters: The Social Construction of Whiteness. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.

powell, j. a. (2006). Dreaming of a self beyond whiteness and isolation. Washington University Journal of Law & Policy, 18, 13 – 45.

Kinder, D. R. and Winter, N. (2001). Exploring the racial divide: blacks, whites, and opinion on national policy. American Journal of Political Science , 45, 439-456.

 
 

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Class and Race as Competing Self Interests or Whiteness as Symbolic Politics, Part. 1

In the heart, where empathy and compassion reside, who cares more profoundly about the welfare of the poor, the working class and the middle class in America—Barack Obama or Mitt Romney? Which of these men is more connected, emotionally and intellectually, to the struggles that millions of Americans face every day as they reach for some small measure of comfort and optimism about their future and the future of their children? Which of these men is more likely to subordinate the needs of the 99% to the wants of the 1%? Why aren’t voters asking these questions?

 

In the ever increasing discourse over the “red-state, blue-state” phenomenon, popular culture pundits, social scientists, political analysts, scholars, journalists and just plain folk are trying to make sense of the behavior of millions of White working class and middle class Americans whose voting behavior in presidential elections often appears to betray their own deeply vested self-interest. Popular author Thomas Frank dissects this phenomenon in his 2004 book, What’s The Matter With Kansas? How Conservatives Won the Heart of America. In a 2004 interview Frank explained that Kansas is a metaphor for the rest of the country. What’s wrong with Kansas is that it is becoming increasingly conservative and this pronounced slide to the right has caused the people of the state to vote against their own economic interests. Much of the state, Frank said, is“in deep economic crisis – in many cases a crisis either brought on or worsened by the free-market policies of the Republican party – and yet the state’s voters insist on reelecting the very people who are screwing them…”.

 

Frank and other political observers have puzzled over the behavior of millions of White voters in the states that won the White House for George Bush in 2004. This perplexity stems from the prevailing hypothesis that voting behavior is driven by political attitudes and that political attitudes are formed, maintained and energized in direct relationship to an individual’s assessment of material gain and wellbeing—variables like financial status, health, domicile, and family security. Inherent in this hypothesis is the notion that “people develop or change attitudes which maximally satisfy their needs or serve their interests when incentive-contingencies change…” (Sears, 1978; Sears, 1979 ).

 

One salient explanation for this paradox is found in research on the formation of symbolic attitudes and the process of cognitive consistency. Researchers in this area suggest that:

  • Attitude development may take place without regard to whether or not the individual’s needs are satisfied, such as by a process of simple conditioning. That is, attitudes may often be acquired simply by being paired with positive or negative unconditioned stimuli (Staats, 1958).
  • A child will hate communism if that concept is paired with contemptuous or derogatory expression each time he or she hears it. The individual’s needs or interests are irrelevant to attitude formation (Lau, 1978).
  • By this line of thinking, people acquire stable affective preference through conditioning in their pre-adult years, with little calculation of the future costs and benefits of these attitudes. The most important of these are presumably some rather general predispositions, such as party identification, liberal or conservative ideology, nationalism, or racial prejudice. When confronted with new policy issues later in life, people respond to these new attitudes on the basis of cognitive consistency. The critical variable would be the similarity of symbols posed by the policy issue to those of long-standing predispositions. Political attitudes, therefore, are formed mainly in congruence with long-standing values about society and the policy, rather than short-term instrumentalities for satisfaction of one’s private needs (Sears, 1980).

Sears, et al. (1980) tested the impact of self-interest vs. symbolic attitudes on responses to four policy issues: unemployment, national health insurance, busing, and “law and order.” The independent variables in this study are self-interest, symbolic attitudes and relevant demographic variables. Three significant symbolic attitudes were used: party identification, liberal or conservative ideology and racial prejudice. These researchers found that, generally, self-interest had little or no effect on voters’ policy preferences, while symbolic attitudes had major impact. For example, findings indicate that no self-interest index significantly explained whites’ opposition to busing. In contrast, all symbolic attitude variables had significant impact. “In all cases, liberalism-conservatism far outstripped any of the self-interest variables, and racial prejudice did so in two areas (busing and law and order) where it was relevant.” Even when the order of entry of these three variables is varied in the regression analysis, “symbolic attitudes are consistently much more important than self-interest in determining policy preferences.”

 

If we accept the proposition that symbolic attitudes like party-affiliation and racial prejudice are more powerful drivers of political preferences and voting behavior than self-interest, how can we use this information to frame the dialogue for a progressive political agenda, to build support for liberal ideology and liberal political candidates? Within this context, will an appeal to class interests, absent a salient discussion of race and American racial politics further this goal? These questions cannot be answered without an understanding of “whiteness,” the implicit need to maintain boundaries around idealized and tangible white space.

 

In America, “whiteness” is a dominant symbolic attitude. It is the collective unconscious belief that certain people are entitled to a position at the top of an imagined social/political/economic hierarchy, that this is the natural order of things. Author Ruth Frankenberg (1993) defines whiteness as a structural location that confers exclusive privilege, “a standpoint from which to view and assess Self and Other, and a set of cultural practices that is usually unmarked, unnamed, and normatively given.” Even among white ethnic immigrants, whiteness is profoundly important in America. Frankenberg maintains that conflicts over the meaning of whiteness and Americanness precipitated by European immigrants have been resolved through processes of assimilation, not exclusion. Euro-ethnic mobility into whiteness, she suggests, was facilitated by shifts in social climate that the 1940s war effort engendered by state policies and subsidies. Scholar john powell (2005), currently Director of UC Berkeley’s Haas Diversity Research Center, has suggested that the development of racialized identity in America coincided with the historic development of the American psyche and that, therefore, White Americans are heavily invested in maintaining the boundaries around whiteness that regulate the distribution of benefits. This view suggests a dynamic synergy between whiteness and patriotism.

 

So, if whiteness is a dominant symbolic attitude in America and symbolic attitudes can be more powerful than individual self-interest in shaping responses to political ideology and policies, can a unified class-based appeal energize a progressive political agenda without illuminating and challenging the structural dynamics that account for significant differences in opportunity between White Americans and Americans of color? Popular definitions of whiteness suggest that Whites go about the business of maintaining white space, energizing race-based power differentials, managing racialized arrangements, and reinforcing racialized disparities in the distribution of opportunity and burdens without an explicit reference to race or racism. By implication then, a political agenda that does not speak openly about race, implicit racial bias and racial disparity in America will, by default, reinforce prevailing attitudes of whiteness. Left unchallenged, prevailing attitudes about whiteness will continue to fuel racial resentment and fear and impede the development of a shared notion of collective self-interest among poor, working class and middle class Americans of all races and ethnicities.

 
 

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‘Mike Tyson: Undisputed Truth’ on Broadway Directed by Spike Lee

tyson broadway2

James Nederlander, Mike Tyson, Spike Lee on stage at The Longacre Theatre for press conference (Photo credit: Getty Images)

*Tickets went on sale on Monday, June 18, 2012 for* the upcoming Broadway blackbusterMike Tyson: Undisputed Truth starring the former boxing champ Mike Tyson and directed by Academy Award nomineeSpike Lee at Broadway’s oldest theater, The Longacre Theatre, in Times Square, NYC.

Tyson, the youngest undisputed heavyweight champion in boxing history, will bring his story to The Great White Way in a candid autobiographical one-man show for a limited run.  Performances will begin on Tuesday, July 31, 2012 and will run for an exclusive six-night limited engagement through Sunday, August 5, 2012.  Ironically, both Tyson and Lee will be making their Broadway debuts.

The celebrated boxer recently enjoyed a successful show at the MGM Grand Hotel in Las Vegas where he performed an unhampered look at his struggles with drug abuse, professional triumphs and a series of personal setbacks.  Ticketholders learned about his life experiences after he became the heavyweight champion of the world; time spent in prison for a rape conviction; and battling drug addiction.

At a special press conference conducted by acclaimed public relations guru Ken Sunshine of Sunshine Sachs, Tyson — looking like he had just come from a GQ magazine shooting wearing white shirt and white trousers topped off with a lilac jacket with a white pocket hankie — accompanied by mega Broadway producer James L. Nederlander and Lee, sat in director’s chairs on stage as they each talked about their role in the upcoming production.  Tyson and Lee were in good form and even playfully sparred for photographers.  Then the trio participated in a Q&A session.

Mike Tyson: Undisputed Truth is a rare, personal look inside the life and mind of one of the most feared men ever to wear the heavyweight crown.  Directed by Lee, this riveting one-man show goes beyond the headlines, behind the scenes and between the lines to deliver a must-see theatrical knockout.

“It is an honor to work with Spike Lee,” said Tyson.  “I have always admired his work. Sharing the highlights and lowlights of my life with New York is especially important to me as I was born and raised in Brooklyn.  I am thrilled to bring the story of Undisputed Truth to Broadway.”

“It’s my honor to be making our Broadway debut together,” added “Brooklyn-in-the-house” native Lee all spruced up in a retro pin-striped suit.  He called his collaboration with Tyson, “Brooklyn to Broadway.”

tyson broadway2Mike Tyson carries his sleeping daughter Milan into The Longacre Theatre followed by wife Kiki to participate in press conference (Photo credit: Getty Images)

Though Tyson and Lee promise the show will be honest and Tyson will be vulnerable.  “I have to be careful because I can’t stay on some subjects for a long time.  I can’t stay … for a long time because I might cry, something might happen,” said Tyson.  “It will be raw but not raw in a vulgar sense… I’m just naked and very vulnerable, and telling you who I am, and where I’m from,” he explained.  “How this happened, and how I lost all this damn money, and how I had all these children and I go to prison and… you know. You know what happened, guys.”

“We love good stories and great storytelling,” Lee explained.  “When Mike Tyson is on this stage, you’re going to hear a great American story.”  “But crying’s alright, though,” Lee added.

When asked what ticketholders can expect he said, “Well, they’ll find out that my mother is a prostitute, my father’s a pimp and I come from a real, um, this — I don’t know what — the sex worker world and stuff, you know.  That’s why I look at the world from a different perspective than most people when I was a young kid,” Tyson said.

The former boxer said the show is part of his effort to move his life in a positive direction.  “This is just what me and my wife wanted to do.  This is what we decided to do after I gave up using drugs and being a pig and stuff, right, so this is what we decided we were going to live on this kind of level.  Just keep it moving and doing positive things,” he said.

Lee discussed how brave he thinks Tyson is for doing the show.  “It takes courage to get into the ring, but it takes courage to get onto the stage,” Lee said.  “Denzel’s not playing Mike, it’s not Sam Jackson.  It’s Mike Tyson, in person, on stage.  That takes a lot of courage.”

Tickets are on sale now with pricing from $75 – $199.  A limited number of VIP tickets, which include a meet and greet and photo with Tyson after the show, are available for $300.  Tickets can be purchased online atwww.telecharge.com or over the phone 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.  Tickets are available for the following performances: July 31 and August 1 at 8pm; August 2 at 6:30pm (opening night); August 3 and August 4 at 8pm; and August 5 at 7pm.

Created by Adam Steck, CEO of SPI Entertainment, Mike Tyson: Undisputed Truth is presented by James L. Nederlanderdirected by Spike Lee, written by Lakiha “Kiki” Tyson and Randy Johnson, executive produced by Mike Tyson, Kiki Tyson, and Steck and originally directed by Johnson.

When asked whether he’s ever tempted to return to the ring.  “That will never happen, he exclaimed!  My fighting days are over.  I think fighting’s for saps now.”   Spoken like a true champ!

 

About Mike Tyson
Mike Tyson is a larger-than-life legend both in and out of the ring. Tenacious, talented, and thrilling to watch, Tyson embodies the grit and electrifying excitement of the sport. With nicknames such as “Iron” Mike, Kid Dynamite, and The Baddest Man on the Planet, it’s no surprise that Tyson’s legacy is the stuff of a legend. Tyson was one of the most feared boxers in the ring– and one look at his resume proves he is one of boxing’s greats: Aside from having been the undisputed heavyweight champion, Tyson holds the record as the youngest boxer to win the WBC, WBA and IBF world heavyweight titles. He was the first heavyweight boxer to hold the WBA, WBC and IBF titles simultaneously. In 2011 Tyson was inducted into the Boxing Hall of Fame, and earlier this year was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame.  Tyson’s enduring mass appeal owes not only to his incomparable athleticism, but to his huge personality and unrivaled showmanship.  His ability to work a crowd extends far beyond the ring Tyson’s career in entertainment spans blockbuster movies (The Hangover and The Hangover 2), television (the Animal Planet’s “Taking on Tyson”), his own clothing company, and iPhone ap called “Mike Tyson: Main Event.”  He is the CEO of his production company, Tyrannic Productions.

 

About Spike Lee
Spike Lee is a writer, director, actor, producer, author and educator who has helped revolutionize modern Independent cinema.  Lee is a forerunner in the ‘do it yourself’ school of independent film.  Spike’s latest endeavor is the Peabody Award winning documentary If God is Willing and Da Creek Don’t Rise, which revisits the recently Storm ravaged Gulf Coast region as residents attempt to rebuild in their cities while also demanding assistance and accountability from their political leaders.  Recent critical and box office successes have included such films as Inside Man, 25th Hour, The Original Kings of Comedy, Bamboozled and Summer of Sam.  Lee’s films Girl 6, Get on the Bus, Do the Right Thing and Clockers display his ability to showcase a series of outspoken and provocative socio-political critiques that challenge cultural assumptions on race, class and gender identity.  Spike’s commercial work began in 1988 with his Nike Air Jordan campaign.  Collaborating with basketball great Michael Jordan on several commercials, Lee resurrected his popular character, Mars Blackmon from She’s Gotta Have It.  His other commercial ventures include TV spots for Philips, ESPN, American Express, Snapple, Taco Bell and the Lean Forward campaign for MSNBC.  Lee began teaching a course about filmmaking and Black cinema at Harvard in 1991 and since 2002, Lee has been Artistic Director of the Graduate Film Program at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts where he received his Master of Fine Arts in Film Production.  Spike Lee has combined his extensive creative experience into yet another venture: partnering with DDB Needham he created SpikeDDB, a full-service advertising agency.  SpikeDDB clients include Chevy, Pepsi and Comcast.

 

About James L. Nederlander
James L. Nederlander, president of The Nederlander Organization, leads a family business that began in 1912 and now encompasses every aspect of the live entertainment industry from venue ownership and management, theatrical producing and concert presentation, concessions and patron services.  With venues in New York, Chicago, Durham, Los Angeles, San Diego, San Jose and London, Jimmy is a prolific producer who is currently represented on Broadway by Evita starring Ricky Martin, Priscilla Queen of the Desert and Spider-Man: Turn off The Dark.  With a keen eye for popular entertainment for audiences of all ages, he has also produced dozens of distinguished, award-winning musicals and plays including Movin’ Out; Fiddler on the Roof; Grease; La Cage aux Folles; Million Dollar Quartet; Next To Normal; The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee; West Side Story, and Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? Jimmy is also one of the country’s most astute presenters of headline talent such as Adele, Billy Joel, Harry Connick Jr., Neil Diamond, U2, Paul McCartney, Florence and the Machine, Pink Floyd, Sting, U2, and the Rolling Stones to mention a few.  In addition to being a business innovator, Jimmy is also a committed leader and philanthropist who sits on the Board of Trustees of many leading organizations.

 
 

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House Votes to Hold Eric Holder in Contempt; CBC Stages Walkout

*The House has voted to hold Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt of Congress over his failure to turn over documents related to the Fast and Furious scandal, the first time Congress has taken such a dramatic move against a sitting Cabinet official.


Politico reports: The vote was 255-67, with 17 Democrats voting in support of a criminal contempt resolution, which authorizes Republican leaders to seek criminal charges against Holder. This Democratic support came despite a round of behind-the-scenes lobbying by senior White House and Justice officials – as well as pressure from party leaders – to support Holder.

Dozens of Democrats marched off the floor in protest during the vote, adding even more drama to a tumultuous moment in the House chamber. The walkout was led by the Congressional Black Caucus, many of whom gathered outside the Capitol while their GOP colleagues moved against Holder.

Rep. Elijah Cummings (Md.), the top Democrat on the Oversight and Government Reform, charged that Republicans, led by Rep. Darrell Issa (Ca.), had been unfairly targeting Holder for months.

“They are finally about to get the prize they have been seeking for more than a year – holding the attorney general of the United States in contempt,” Cummings said. “In reality, it is a sad failure. A failure of leadership, a failure of our constitutional obligations and failure of our responsibilities to the American people.”

During the floor debate, a group of nine black lawmakers, led by Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Texas), raised a question of the privileges of the House, accusing Issa of interfering with the investigation and withholding critical information from Democrats. The motion disapproved of Issa for “interfering with ongoing criminal investigations, insisting on a personal attack against the attorney general of the United States and for calling the attorney general of the United States a liar on national television,” which “discredit[ed] … the integrity of the House.” The motion was not allowed to proceed.

For his part, Issa insisted that the House must act in order to get to the bottom of what happened in the botched Fast and Furious program.

During this under cover operation, federal agents tracked the sale of roughly 2,000 weapons to straw buyers working for Mexican drug cartels. The sting operation failed, and weapons related to the Fast and Furious program were found at the shooting scene when a Border Patrol agent was killed in Dec. 2010.

Relying on what they said was inaccurate information supplied by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives – which comes under DOJ – senior Justice officials told lawmakers in Feb. 2011 that no guns were allowed to “walk” to Mexico. That letter was later withdrawn by the Justice Department as inaccurate.

Issa has been investigating what happened during Fast and Furious for 16 months, and he subpoenaed the Justice Department last October. Since that time, his panel has been squabbling over what documents will be turned over. Justice officials note that 7,600 pages of Fast and Furious material has already been given to Issa, but the California Republican has demanded more.

Obama asserted executive privilege on some of the documents Issa is seeking shortly before the Oversight and Government voted on party lines to approve a contempt resolution against Holder.

Despite a face-to-face session between Issa and Holder recently, the two men never reached a compromise to end the standoff.

Since the Justice Department would have to seek an indictment of Holder – a department he oversees as attorney general – no criminal charges will be brought against him. Previous administrations, including the Bush administration in 2008, refused to seek criminal charges against White House officials when a Democratic-run House passed a criminal contempt resolution over the firing of U.S. attorneys.

Speaker of the House John Boehner, though, is expected to submit a criminal referral to the U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia, Ronald Machen, in the next few days, according to a Republican official.

Issa’s aides have already begun discussions with the House General Counsel’s office over the anticipated lawsuit against DOJ, but it is not clear when that the legal challenge will be filed.

The heated House floor vote on Holder capped a historic day in Washington, coming just hours after the Supreme Court, just across the street from the Capitol, issued its landmark ruling upholding most of Barack Obama’s health care law.

 
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Posted by on June 29, 2012 in Law

 

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