ERNEST OWENS

Ernest Media Empire, Inc.

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About

Originally from Chicago, Illinois, Ernest Owens is an award-winning multimedia journalist. A graduate from the University of Pennsylvania, he launched a career in media as a talk radio show host for WQHS Radio and as a video producer and op-ed columnist for The Daily Pennsylvanian. Ernest has interned at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, NBC Philadelphia, and Philadelphia City Council. He is currently a contributing writer for USA Today & The Huffington Post, where he covers a variety of social issues regarding society, race, and entertainment. His work has been featured on The Good Men Project, Al Jazeera English, The Root, The Oprah Winfrey Network and other media outlets. He is a member of the Radio Television Digital News Association, the Society of Professional Journalists, National Association of Black Journalists, and the Online News Association. His writing and filmmaking has even been honored with the Gold Circle Award by the Columbia Scholastic Press Association and a Finalist Award from the Tribeca Film Festival. When not blogging, he loves chatting with people on Twitter so toss a tweet to @MrErnestOwens! All images, text, and content of this website are under the sole copyright of Ernest Media Empire, Inc. and protected by law. Please feel free to view the content at this official website, but any storage or reproduction elsewhere is strictly forbidden.

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Too thrilled and excited to be apart of the EIJ News team as we provide full coverage for the biggest journalism conference in America, The 2014 Excellence In Journalism Conference!

Too thrilled and excited to be apart of the EIJ News team as we provide full coverage for the biggest journalism conference in America, The 2014 Excellence In Journalism Conference!

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Teach For America Needs To Take A Time Out On Teaching Our Nation’s Future

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It was my fifth grade year.

It was a lousy classroom. Kids throwing books across the desk. Paper on the floor, pencils broken. This became routine for the rest of the year and I hardly recall learning anything. What I did remember was a young, insecure teacher that spent most of her time either hiding under her desk or on the phone calling for an assistant principle.

Yes, she was white. Yes, she was not from this urban Southwest community in Houston. And yes, she was from Teach for America.

I don’t like Teach for America.

In fact, I think it is one of the most corrupt non-profits in the country. Not only for giving me one of the worst teachers in my entire academic life, but most likely giving other children the same.

To continue to place a great number of insecure, incompetent, and unaware young adults into some of the most struggling Title 1 schools in the country is ludicrous. Even worse, the fact that many of those “teachers” come into the profession not fully invested in what they can give the students is even more disgusting.

Let’s get real, Teach for America is trying to fill the teaching gap by bribing and manipulating college graduates. I understand that there is a decline in real teachers in this country. Many of them are not coming at the speed at which these schools are increasing and that is troublesome.

However, recruiting students from different fields of interests and disciplines to try to “test it out” or “try something different” doesn’t help solve the problem, but add to it. Adding a consistent flow of lackluster talent to the field weakens the overall performance. I rather have 50 passionate teachers than 100 under-performing.

Furthermore, many people treat Teach for America like it is a military service for nerds that will launch their further political or professional careers. I overheard someone in a career fair say “TFA is a good look for applying to Fortune 500 companies after completion.”

So in other words, these struggling youth are great puppets to help play into your get rich quick scheme?

And why should any of you care? Because for far too long this program have encroached upon our education system and have hurt many of the kids that need help the most.

I was one of those children. I sat endlessly in a classroom with a teacher who didn’t understand my socioeconomic status, who didn’t know how to connect with a classroom of 30 kids that looked for mentoring, support, teaching, inspiration, care…and every other thing that many tier one schools in this nation lack.

It wasn’t her fault that she was a lousy teacher because in all honesty she truly wasn’t one. Her passion was obviously Wall Street. Looking on her desk, I remember seeing the Wall Street Times and business magazines. I remember her being an economics major or at least very passionate about it.

A person like that shouldn’t be given access to the lives of children who need more than an economist but that of a teacher, mentor, parent, councilor and beyond. Real teachers wear all of those hats and the training that Teach for America provides cannot instill those kinds of values and traits in anyone. That comes naturally and is intrinsic.

Overall, I am not saying that everyone Teach for America selects is virtually worthless, but in context the program itself is stealing from this country. It is stealing from the potential and time that many of my fellow classmates could have had.

Imagine if we would have had a real teacher in that room, how much my life would have been different. We would not have had the principle come in every day or have kids distract as much. We would have had a higher self-esteem and felt confident in our work because we would have had someone there to encourage us. I was fortunate to have the rebound of my mother to guide me through, but for many of my 5th grade peers, there just was no asylum.

Or perhaps maybe they will get a great teacher: one that truly cares for them and might decide to stay and continue. Or they may not. Or they may possibly. Either way, Teach for America has now created a gamble for what happens to the most vulnerable children in the nation and while the world continues see it rank in millions of dollars to fund this self-destructing system, perhaps we should all step back and demand for it to stop.

So I will now.

If you believe in real education, you cannot support Teach for America. If you actually believe that every child deserve access to a real teacher that is willing to care, you would not put them at risk for incompetency. And if you actually do not want to repeat the horrible experience that I had when growing up for others, you would not allow any organization to gamble with the education of any child.

Teach for America, it’s time you take your pseudo education solution back to the chalk board for a reality check.

Class dismissed.

(Source: stackstreet.com)

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Please Shut Up About Iggy Azalea

This summer, I could not help but be annoyed with entertainment journalism. If we were not talking about Beyoncé for the umpteenth time, we were talking about Iggy Azalea. And while there were a few articles that had legitimate concerns about the reigning musical superstar, most were just repetitive banter that went nowhere.

By now, we get it, old-school hip-hop connoisseurs: you think Ms. Azalea is an untalented white rapper that doesn’t fit your conventional idea of what the genre should be. And to my generation who constantly jump on the bandwagon of trashing her and acting as though race is the only thing giving her the upper advantage of knocking out other female MCs, guess again.

I place the blame on the current state of female hip-hop, the forever growing resistance for music taste to evolve and us, the consumers.

First, I am not at all saying that Iggy Azalea is a saint. She obviously has committed some grave offenses in some of her lyrics and does indeed deserve to be called out like any other rapper who does such. However, perhaps she is receiving more shade for being the Little Red Riding Hood who stepped into the hip-hop woods of pre-defined blackness. Because, you know… people now feel they have the authority to accuse others of inserting an entire subculture of race dialect into music.

People are mad that Iggy Azalea has a #1 Billboard Hot 100 record, something that Nicki Minaj has never had and only been the runner up to twice with such hits as “Super Bass” and “Starships.” It was those mainstream appeals that took Nicki Minaj away from giving us her mixtape rawness in replacement for a more popish sound.

Which brings me to my next point: if it was okay for Nicki to leave hip-hop and take a quick visit to pop… why are we so mad that Iggy Azalea has done the same? I hope her being white isn’t the only real cause for it.

The current state of female hip-hop edge has declined due to the evolution of them crossing over the pop sound bridge… and that was before Azalea stepped in the studio. We would be hypocrites if we are to badger Iggy for not coming hard enough in her lyricism and not put Nicki in check for turning her back on redefining the genre that she so now feels the audacity to make judgment calls for.

No, no, no shade, Ms. Minaj, but when we are talking about “authenticity,” I think Lil Kim is somewhere having a legitimate reason to raise an eyebrow. Which only heightens the issue when outside of Iggy, the rest of the black female MCs are beefing or taking shots at one another while she is able to focus on solidifying her presence.

While Lil Kim continues to go after Nicki Minaj and the former still feels the need to throw jabs as well, are they not recognizing that they are hurting the unity of the very genre they hold so high in regard against Ms. Azalea?

Which brings me to my next point: music is an art form that no one truly has the agency to control its evolution. What annoys me about many of the music critics out here criticizing Iggy Azalea’s success is that they have yet to talk about the other times in music when artists mixed it up.

Let’s instead spend more time discussing how R&B has seriously taken a different turn with Chris Brown trying to rap more in songs than sing or how Trey Songz latest album really was more of a soft hip-hop record than a more vocal-filled sound piece. Music changes with the fads and trends of what an artist and society wants. I still stand by the belief that it wouldn’t be hot if people weren’t buying it.

That takes me to my final point: consumers, if we want better music… we have to actually buy it. I’m not making a judgment call on whether or not Iggy Azalea is “real hip-hop” or not. I personally enjoy “Fancy” and when I jam out to it, I don’t necessary place the taste in whether or not she is conventionally rapping like the great MCs of the past or not. I just find the song to be a fun tune to bop to. For those out there who disagree, how about consume more of the artist that you like instead of constantly bashing the young MC.

New Rule: for every time you see someone on social media post a link to an Iggy Azalea song, instead of commenting, just promote the artist you think is better and hopefully enlighten those who don’t know about them. Because all of this press about her is only going to cement her presence in an industry that you feel she doesn’t belong in.

And that is why all these articles about Iggy Azalea are pointless. The song is personally catchy and while others will hate me for saying this… it will also not be the downfall as to why hip-hop will decline.

It will be in the constant petty beefs and disappointing pop transformations of hip-hop heavyweights. It will be in the resistance not to embrace new sounds and recognize that it does not necessarily speak to the relevance of another. It will be in how consumers choose what is hot and what is not by spending more time bashing one artist while not supporting their personal favorite.

It will not be Iggy Azalea, for although I do personally enjoy the fun she brings to music, I know she most likely won’t last too long unless she mixes it up. But once she takes that step outside the limelight, it will still not fix the overarching problem. We will need to do more instead of finding another scapegoat as for why hip-hop is in the mess that it is now.

It’s time for a real intervention.

I’m down.

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Photography by Marcus G. Bennett

Photography by Marcus G. Bennett

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Photography by Marcus G. Bennett

Photography by Marcus G. Bennett

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Interviewing the Gospel Ambassador: How Bobby Jones Impacted the Culture of Television

Standing atop a lightning stage dressed in a jeweled suit with custom designer shoes, an electrifying roar automatically fills the studio. It feels as though a rockstar has just surprised the crowd, but this is no new face. Since 1980, Dr. Bobby Jones has captivated cable television screens every Sunday morning and in his record-breaking 34th season he proves that a legend is here to stay.

It was January 27, 1980 when the first episode of Bobby Jones Gospel aired on Black Entertainment Television (BET). “Bob Johnson gave me a chance and allowed me to experiment with a platform on television the world had never seen,” Jones said about the founder of BET. Before Bobby Jones Gospel, mainstream television had never had a show quite like it.

For the first time, international audiences were exposed to a weekly hour of gospel music and artistry that could typically only be viewed in a black church. “We had ventriloquists, miming, and even praise dancing… I was blessed to give such artists a platform where they could spread the word to the world,” Jones said about the wide range of talent that was featured on his show.

Launching one of the most successful cable programs of all time at age 39 was not as unusual as the route in which the critically acclaimed “Ambassador of Gospel” came to doing so. Growing up in the rural Henry County of Tennessee, Jones knew all too well of the hardships of poverty and seeing family and neighbors around him adversely respond to it. “My siblings and I were different,” Jones said. “We wanted to find a way to live better and do well for ourselves.”

Education would be Jones’ gateway to doing so when he graduated with a bachelor’s from Tennessee State University at the young age of 19, followed by a master’s from his alma mater, and later his doctorate in education from Vanderbilt University afterward. He would go on to teach elementary in Missouri and later lecture at Tennessee State University.

As an academic, Jones would also work to create a black expo in Nashville with the launch of several local radio and television programs before reaching a career milestone in 1982 when starring in the Maya-Angelou-written NBC television film Sister, Sister.

Working alongside the talents of acting legends Diahann Carroll and Paul Winfield, Jones solidified himself in the entertainment industry and forged a new friendship with Angelou. “She remained a dear friend of mine for the rest of my life through music and faith… she was an amazing woman, a blessed woman,” Jones said of the late icon who he sung a tribute to at her recent memorial.

Despite all of his own personal success in music and film, including winning a Grammy in 1984 for the gospel hit “I’m So Glad I’m Standing Here Today,” Jones is determined to give many other talents the opportunity to get their chance to shine.

One of the most significant portions of Bobby Jones Gospel is the introduction of new talent that takes the stage each episode. It was in 1992 that one international gospel superstar almost did not make it on the show due to an overbooking of talent. He was 22 from Dallas, Texas and was about to introduce a new sound that the genre had never experienced.

"My label and I begged for them to try to squeeze me into the show and it wasn’t until Bobby Jones saw me and gave me a shot that the rest was history," says Grammy winner Kirk Franklin. Franklin recalls his appearance on Bobby Jones Gospel as his first-ever televised performance and the “breakthrough” to his mainstream discovery.

Twenty-two years later, the host of BET’s Sunday Best is now going to co-host a special episode with Jones this upcoming season. “That’s grace,” Franklin says. “To one day have my first television performance there and then years later be able to co-host with the man responsible for giving me that chance… absolute grace.”

Over the decades, Bobby Jones Gospel has been responsible for the first prime exposure of several others such as Mary Mary, Yolanda Adams, and Smokie Norful. “Who am I to be so high and mighty not to give someone else a chance,” says Jones about the impact of exposing new artists on his show. “Throughout my life, I have been highly favored with others blessing me with opportunities… I feel as though God has gifted me with the ability to only do the same with all that I have been afforded.”

This upcoming 34th season will introduce an unlikely new talent that is getting his start at age 53. Stephen B. Steward, who just landed a number 10 debut album on the Billboard Gospel charts this summer, will be making his first appearance on Bobby Jones Gospel this fall.

"I’ve watched his show for many years and never would have imagined that I would one day be on it," said Steward who will be performing his hit single "Purify My Soul." "It’s truly a miracle how Bobby Jones has been able to touch hearts with the spirit and increase of God."

When the new season of Bobby Jones Gospel airs on October 5th, Dr. Bobby Jones will then be 75 and looking back at a career as the host of the longest-running original cable program of all time. And yet, despite a career that many would be ready to retire, Jones does not plan on leaving the business anytime soon. “I don’t just want to go off… I have an exit strategy when I’m ready,” says Jones on his unstoppable commitment to staying on television.

And with all of the surprises in store this upcoming season, The Hollywood Walk of Fame committee might finally put this legendary icon of television up for consideration. For he has proven that it is now his time.

(Source: The Huffington Post)

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New site aims to combat ‘campus rape culture’ on a national level

Reporting rape and sexual assault on college campuses might soon be more efficient and secure, thanks to a new program led by a Drexel University professor.

SAVES (Sexual Assault & Victim Empowerment Suite) is an automated technology suite that collects crime incident information reported anonymously via the Internet from any digital communication device. SAVES permits individuals to remain anonymous while filing information about an incident.

“The thing that is different about SAVES is that we are not collecting data on other people’s data — we are hoping to get the real numbers from the victims themselves,” says Candace Wannamaker, an adjunct professor at Drexel University who manages the website’s Pro-Net program and is developing victim information-gathering protocols. The Pro-Net program uses online tools combined with doctor/patient confidentiality to create professionally verified reports.

For the past ten years, SAVES has been under development by several scholars and innovators.

One of them is Steve Webb, a system designer and programmer of the project’s pattern-associated crime technology suite. The ‘Title IX Wise Segment’ is a portal that will allow departments that handle cases of sexual assault to communicate and interact with each other.  Each department at a university will be able to see where the other departments are in the process so they can act accordingly.  The portal is designed for record keeping in cases that are reported to the university by the victim.

Gail Lloyd, documentary producer for the Institute on Domestic Violence in the African American Community at the University of Minnesota, helps with the pattern-associated crime technology that uses an algorithm to detect patterns in the reports. The developers believe this technology will enable them to link the same perpetrator to different sexual assaults.

The group has been working on the framework of SAVES and how to implement it across the USA.

“Our short-term goal is to be included on the notalone.gov website,” says Wannamaker. “Our long-term goals include implementing a SAVES portal on every college campus that would include a ‘TITLE IX Wise Suite’ to help administrators communicate with each other when handling cases of sexual assault and rape on campus.”

Reports from the Center of Public Integrity suggest that many college victims’ rape and sexual assault reports fall through the cracks because of  fragmented communication among campus departments. Once data is entered into the portal,  it is encrypted and is not visible in anyway to the public.  In the Title IX section universities can only see the data they enter.

Gaining a foothold

In January, the SAVES reporting portal and the Title IX Wise portal were offered to Drexel University and they turned it down due to their assurance in their own technology. Webb, who negotiated with members of Drexel’s executive level administrators for two years about the project, questioned the reasoning after offering the university the service for free.

“When it was time to discuss actually initiating the program — for free, this time — they backed out of it…Drexel claimed they would  have their own student intern build them a similar system,” Webb said. “However, using the patent pending technology SAVES have in place, we don’t see that happening to the level of professionalism we currently have in place,” he added.

“Many companies have contacted us over the years about various products and services they offer to supplement our public safety and support systems related to sexual assaults,” says Lori Doyle, Senior Vice President of Communications for Drexel. “Mr. Webb approached several people at Drexel last year about his project and was told that we were satisfied with the systems we currently have in place and were not interested.”

The developers launched the product in May (to this point entirely self-funded) and have data coming in from 15  states (including Texas, California, Montana, New York and Ohio) and several from college campuses (including the University of Miami, Princeton and George Mason University). The site is available to all students on all campuses.

The 280 students who have seen the site thus far have had generally positive reviews.

“To be honest, it was really hard to look over the website, and I know that’s because I’m still dealing with the effects of my own assault,” said Carissa Lundquist, a recent graduate of the University of Pennsylvania.

Lundquist, who recently shared her story of reporting her assault to Penn’s Office of Student Conduct, is hopeful the SAVES site will be widely adapted.

“I think platforms such as this one are steps in the right direction toward creating safer spaces for reporting,” she said.

However, some male students raised questions about the legitimacy of the data that might come from those who may file false reports.

“I understand the site is attempting to provide a victim-sensitive approach to getting information, but can we really trust this system with such a major flaw of anonymity? I don’t believe so,” says Justin Lopez of Villanova University.

But Webb asserts that SAVES “have an algorithm and various levels of verification in place to validate claims” and that their team is “just as serious about collecting accurate data as any other researcher.”

The SAVES team has recently offered the service to the military and professional therapists and are working on portals for high schools, religious institutions and the foster care system.

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Why My Selfie With Amy Adams Will Be My All-Time Favorite

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It was a normal Friday morning.

I was leaving Philadelphia for trip to Los Angeles to cover the BET Awards. A little cranky that I would have to have a layaway in between, I was happy nonetheless to get an early flight. My mother found something on Hotwire that worked for my budget and that meant making a short detour in Detroit before making it to the West Coast.

I was seat 14B that morning when I would go from one normal passenger to sitting in coach to sitting in the luckiest seat on the flight.

Delta Airlines had not always been my favorite venue and when I saw how many passengers were on the plane, I was not in the best mood. Furthermore, when I found out that the flight would be roughly four hours and I would not be near a window… I was even more annoyed.

Then entered a soldier in uniform who sat next to me. I quickly greeted him with a good morning and as I began to start conversation with him, a stewardess approached him. She seemed very friendly, and I assumed she was going to give him a free pillow or something. He quickly grinned as she whispered in his ear and got his luggage and headed to the front.

I quickly reflected on how nice it was for the airlines to give him a free first class seat. Then I began to plot what I was going to do with this extra seat. Without a second thought, my carry-on was off the floor and had a seat of its own. Even though it was an Aldo messenger bag, I still valued it enough not to just have it lying out in the open for people to step on it.

But it was only a few minutes until that bag would be on the floor again, because that 14A seat on the flight to Los Angeles, California had an even greater purpose.

In came Amy Adams. At first, I was thinking that she was making a celebrity “I am here paparazzi and fans, get excited before I head back to first class” appearance. And then I can tell she was actually looking for a seat. I thought to myself this must be a joke. I know they said that serious Hollywood actress payouts were declining, but I thought to myself this actually would be funny if she was paying for coach to stay on budget.

And then she was looking for seat 14A and then I internally lost my mind. There is no she was sitting next to me. Then I had one of those devious thought that this must be an Ashton Kutcher Punk’d type of televised prank. But I physically played along, but mentally was freaking out.

Truth be told, I am an avid movie fan. I watch the Oscars obsessively (yes, even on YouTube) and all the films that get nominated. I have even done film critiques in the past, so to have Amy Adams sit next to me is almost like a 13-year-old girl sitting next to N*Sync in their prime.

So in my most ridiculous and nerdy introduction I said, “Hey, I’m a huge fan, you sooo deserve an Oscar… I can’t wait till it happen.”

*Film fact: Ms. Adams has been nominated for an Academy Award 5 times over the last 9 years without a single win.*

Anyway, she was very modest and humble about that assertion and replied back “it’s just great to be able to go there as often as I’ve had and be able to have had so many great roles.” And then we took the selfie that the media would share all over the world.

And for the next four hours we talked, laughed, joked, and I will never forget a single second of it.

What I learned through those discussions about family, life, film, race, and dreaming is that we were more alike than different. Celebrity for her is not so much of a recreation but a vessel that helps her to continue to do what she loves.

But furthermore, what many don’t know about her reason for giving up her seat for that soldier who sat next to me is that she didn’t even want the attention that came with it.

To be quite frank, anyone sitting in first class that morning could have given their seat up to that soldier. I never sat in first class before, but what a cool idea is it that something like that happen more often. For it’s the soldiers that get far less deserved screen time and attention that Ms. Adams get for doing something that is self-less and courageous.

And in two-fold, Amy Adams not only gave up her seat but she actually sat in coach as opposed to finding another first class seat to sit in. Sitting next to her she told me that she always wanted to do it and this time she had the opportunity. According to her she wanted to put her “money where [her] mouth” was.

When I got off the plane, I gave Ms. Adams a hug as we headed to the terminal. Cameras flashed and there was stream of commotion outside. Someone had apparently tweeted that Ms. Adams was on the flight and reporters were out ready to get the first response.

Inside Edition found me and quickly asked me about my experience. And shortly after, CNN, ABC News, E! News, and the rest followed. Within hours, I became a mini-celebrity. Famous for being around the famous. Sounds familiar? (Cough, cough, Ms. Kardashian)

But a week later, and now fully recovered from what was the most epic plane ride ever, I can now say that I will remember one thing that Amy Adams taught me: no one is too big or too busy to step out and so something genuinely kind for another.

Although that weekend at the BET Awards led to selfies as crazy as this, or as cool as this… nothing would ever compare to the one I took on that flight with her. Because for the first time in my life, I experienced a celebrity do something grand for someone more deserving than them that got all of the newsworthy attention granted.

To the rest of Hollywood, please take notes. Ms. Adams may not have an Oscar yet, but she surely winning the heart of America!

(Source: The Huffington Post)

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No, Gay Isn’t the New Black

As society “progress,” we have become a bunch of cultural sycophants obsessed with creating false affirmations and pseudo-solidarities.

I quite frankly cannot decide when all this began, but perhaps the election of our 44th president made many began to assume that a post-racial society may not be here but could be coming very soon. Well I am here to tell you all that we are not as close as we imagine because we have yet to even recognize the problem.

I am that “double-minority” that such media commentators have decided to call me. Being an openly black gay man I have always had my fair share of insults, transgressions, and remorse. Many come from both communities that I am told I have an affinity with, but never fully within.

As an openly black gay man you are often told “you are too gay” for ideal conventional black social circles or “too black” for the predominately white CIS-gender (gender identity where individuals’ experiences of their own gender match the sex they were assigned at birth) gay circles that you occupy.

And as I begin to see a new wave of “progress” come within both communities, I also begin to become frustrated with what is now becoming the “gay-washing” of my ethnic heritage and ancestral condition.

So I say this with the utmost sincerity: please Gay America, stop comparing the current fight for LGBT rights to that of the civil rights movement. It is not only historically and culturally inaccurate, but personally offensive to the very gays of color you strive to also advocate for.

Put this in context. Before I open my mouth or cross the street, I am not approached because I am gay but because I am black. Yes, when walking down the Gayborhood in my current residence of Philadelphia, I might often be called a slur every now and then. However, the day-to-day oppression I endure as a man of color does not compare to the homophobia that I receive.

This is not to say that racism and homophobia are both not horrific offenses that should be corrected. But I am saying that to not recognize the historical context that the former have is like comparing the Holocaust to a campus shooting. It’s just not accurate in scope and quite frankly unnecessary.

When I hear things like “the fight for gay rights is the new civil rights,” I then reply “do you really think that people of color are done fighting?” With all of the social injustices an entire section of our population continue to face, it would be foolish to equate such a movement to the one gays are currently fighting for now.

As a gay man, I can personally acknowledge my privilege and luxury in wanting specific laws to be knocked down and called out. But as a black man, I can’t even begin to start on how to re-shape laws that are already constitutionally sound, but are not being allocated properly in my community.

It’s an uphill battle, one that does not help when those from the gay community have made it seem like a dichotomy to support liberties for both parties. I can honestly say as groups that have come from oppressive backgrounds, we have become so internally divisive that we’ve made it hard to see what we could help each other in rather than compare.

Currently with both movements there is a strong lead of men that fit the narrative of being socially respectable. Such elitist, male-centrist vibes are not exclusive to either group, and that is what concerns me.

When I look at the current make-up of LGBT groups around my alma mater and many other college campuses, many are filled with white men with a few spots of color or female representation in-between. What is even worse is the lack of acknowledging the intersection of the community which crosses various racial, gender, and sexual-identity lines. In other words, when it comes to “gay rights,” those who are mainly speaking on the behalf of the majority is not adhering to the needs of many who add to the diversity of it.

Although there was such a dilemma over authoritative direction during the civil rights movement, all could agree upon what universal rights and privileges blacks deserved in a country that ensured it for whites.

In 2014, heterosexuals are and have been our brothers, sisters, cousins, parents, and more. In 1964, whites were not so familiar with my ancestors. To not fully delve into the nuance such a dynamic provides only infuriates the legacy those who have died behind ensuring such rights for their community.

To put this more in context, picture this: if a white CIS-gendered gay male crosses the street and I pass him late at night and a police stops us… who will he most likely profile? No question it would be me and such laws such as NYPD’s Stop and Frisk supports that. At birth, I was identified as black before I was later recognized as gay.

That is why it is easier now for such progressive and direct action to be given for gay rights than it has been civil rights. Sexual preference/orientation and race are two different things and combating the war on the former still has not been won.

If America today decided to give equal marriage protection for all couples regardless of sexual orientation in every state and uplifted discrimination laws on employment and other departments, the “Gay Civil Rights Movement” would have less to fight for.

This year marks the 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act of 1964… and we are still fighting.

Long story short, gay rights are important and should be mandated at the utmost degree. However, recognize that they are not, nor ever will have, the same level of struggle or oppression that have plagued this country for hundreds of years.

As a black man, I say please check yourself. As a gay man, I say we ought to know better. As a black gay man, I say it’s time we properly respect our struggle.

(Source: The Huffington Post)

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Robin Thicke, Please Check Your White Privilege

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Mr. Thicke,

I write this as a black man who knows what it means to be treated as a criminal the moment I cross the street. I know what it feels like to hear the words “threatening,” “suspicious,” and “potentially harmful,” every day.

Your new album “Paula” and all the promotion you are getting for it in the name of exploiting the marriage you once had is repulsive. And what is worse you have taken to appropriating black soul and R&B to harass her.

With all due respect, Mr. Thicke, please check your white privilege.

I have no qualms with interracial dating. I think it is a beautiful thing in an age where we all should be more accepting and understanding about race, love, and matrimony. But here is where you have taken advantage of such a relationship and have now become destructive.

We will just forget what past signs of disregard you have had for black entertainers and their work, and focus on your recent charges. As a white artist in a genre that was created, perfected, and initially curated by black musicians, you have benefited from a more diverse fan base. Your hit single “Blurred Lines” was played on every radio station from Harlem to the Hamptons and being married to actress Paula Patton solidified your positive embrace within black entertainment.

But after a publicly messy divorce, and no obvious sign of it returning, you did the unthinkable. You decided that your next stunt would be to create a record that would win back the heart of the very women you decided to stomp on. But not only would you write songs that would be about her, you would actually choose to visually and musically taunt her for the whole world to see. And as a result, exploit your most intimate times with her for the profit and notoriety that she doesn’t want.

Robin Thicke, that is called harassment. And what is even worse is that you are incorporating the very music that you appropriated from her community to violate her privacy and space. How disgusting.

And where is the white privilege in that? For many years, black musicians and artists have created music that suggests previous infidelity and romantic hardship. We all know who Usher was talking about in “Confessions” or who Eric Benet was writing his comeback songs for. But none of them had the boldness and audacity to exploit the very women they did wrong, nor did they attempt to play the victim.

Because you are white and have the privilege and entitlement to not automatically accept “no” or any other form of rejection, the public can cheer you on as you fight for what you feel you deserve. Regardless of what reasons Paula has for leaving you, your possessive nature has given you the mindset that she has no say. Even when you admit you have done wrong. 
And that is your white privilege.

Because a black man like myself would never be able to publicly harass a white woman in my music and think that I could still collect a check. Because I will never be able to perform at any predominately white awards show like you did at the BET Awards and flaunt my obsession. And if I even dared attempt to exploit the innocence of children to fuel my creepy infatuation, my career would be over.

Sure, social media isn’t giving you that much of a break as of recently, but your record label is and that is problematic. Because once again we are reminded that black women in this country, no matter how innocent or rational they are, will never get the proper respect they deserve.

And that is why I will never purchase a record from you again. I will not let your profit off of the imperialistic mindset that has made you a celebrity. You are putting a black woman through public pressure due to your own selfish wants and desires.

If you knew what was best, you would hang it up. Check your privilege and acknowledge that the example you are setting for a new generation of musicians and men is toxic. Instead of trying to show the world how bad you feel you deserve back the heart of a woman who has rightfully left you… try going to therapy or taking a break.

And I say all of this because men of color would be persecuted publicly for such outlandish behavior and would not get a second chance. Do you honestly think that an album like this is really going to make her change her mind?

You messed up, she left you, and it is over. I’m sorry, Mr. Thicke, but “no” in a divorce means “no.”

There aren’t any blurred lines there.

Sincerely,

Ernest Owens

A black man who wants white musicians like Mr. Thicke to stop having “blurred lines” when it comes to acknowledging their privilege.

(Source: The Huffington Post)

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Proud to now be an official member of the Online News Association (ONA)! Deeply humbled to be apart of the largest organization of online news directors, producers, executives and educators! I look forward to continuing the on-going maintenance of journalism ethics, and preserving the free speech rights of online journalists!

Proud to now be an official member of the Online News Association (ONA)! Deeply humbled to be apart of the largest organization of online news directors, producers, executives and educators! I look forward to continuing the on-going maintenance of journalism ethics, and preserving the free speech rights of online journalists!

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Very happy to have been apart of the BET Awards! It was very fun experience meeting all of the great celebrities and producers in the industry put on such a well received event!

Very happy to have been apart of the BET Awards! It was very fun experience meeting all of the great celebrities and producers in the industry put on such a well received event!

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Great time meeting all the fabulous celebrities at the BET Awards this weekend in LA! 

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Great time meeting all the fabulous celebrities at the BET Awards this weekend in LA! 

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