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Boston continues to scare young black people away

Photo by zapdragon via Flickr


Look. I don't listen to the radio much. I have an iPod, lotsa podcasts and books on top of that. But from time to time, I like to find out what's poppin in the mainstream media world, so I'll turn on the radio. I learned back in 1995, when I moved here, that "Jammin" 94.5FM wasn't. There was an AM station called WILD, but me and my friends joked that it was "solar powered" because the signal died at night.

Then, something strange happened. I believe it was in 1999 or 2000. I was rollin down the street with some of my boys, headin to a club. We found a new station. It was 97.7FM, and it played Tone Loc's "Funky Cold Medina" "Wild Thing" ON A LOOP WITH NO DJs, NO COMMERCIALS, NO NOTHIN.

It was the strangest thing. A while later, we found out that there was a new black radio station in town, and they were pretty damn good. At least they gave JAM'N 94.5 some kind of competition.

After my summer in Chicago (a city with multiple Spanish language and multiple black radio stations), I turned on 97.7 and heard classic rock. Yes, CLASSIC ROCK. I thought it was a mistake, but today I read Adrian Walker's September 4th column (registration required). WILD (the solar powered AM station also owned 97.7FM) had sold the station. What's being broadcast now is a simulcast of WAAF which also holds 107.3FM.

This is some bullshit! From Adrian's column:

The sale was another reminder that a so-called minority-majority city seldom feels like one when money and power come into play.


As far as WILD is concerned, the Jimmy Myers show was a casualty of the sale, as well as syndicated shows hosted by the Rev. Al Sharpton and Michael Eric Dyson, a popular academic. At least the Radio One people had the judgment to shift the Tom Joyner Show, which has millions of listeners nationwide, to the AM dial. Boston shouldn't be the only major city where you can't find Joyner on the dial.

What's done is done. But there is a large community in this city clamoring for ownership and a larger voice that it can call its own.

Without those kinds of changes, the ``New Boston" will never be anything more than an empty slogan.

Right on.

Here's the deal. Boston has Negro Retention issues.

When I left DC to come to college here, black people at home told me, "Boston is the most racist city in America." When I got here, black people told me they couldn't wait to leave. Now that they have left, when I tell them I live in Boston, they say, simply, "Why?" It's as if I'm friggin crazy to be here.

One of my closest friends was just the sort of guy the Boston area wants to keep. A graduate of Harvard College and Harvard Law School, he worked for a firm downtown and clerked for a judge. He did volunteer and advocacy work. He partied. He left, for several reasons:

  • Almost all of his friends had left
  • He and his wife couldn't come close to affording a home anywhere within reasonable distance
  • He had family in Philadelphia

The third reason is out of control, but the exodus of black people drives further exodus. The high rent and housing costs drive anyone out of the city, and unless you want to live in Worcester, that means out of Massachusetts altogether. My boy got a three story home with five bedrooms for about $400K. That's how much a three bedroom CONDO goes for up here.

Meanwhile, in Boston, the black folk are all stashed away down in Roxbury and Dorchester. Out of sight and out of mind. There's no black nightclubs in the main areas of Boston. No substantial black political power. Never even had a black mayor.

And now we lost a radio station. Tell me this. How do you lose an "urban" format station in America 2006??? Hip Hop is the hottest selling thing since guillotines during the French Revolution, yet it lost to Classic Rock??

This is weak, yall. A city that can't keep it's young people is destined to fail. A city that can't keep its young black people is just sad.

The Yin and the Yang of Comedy

Tonight was the best of times, and it was the worst of times. Of my five shows this week, these were numbers three and four. At 8:30, I performed over at Club Passim as part of their Cutting Edge at the Campfire weekend of back-to-back music. "Music" is the operative word here. I've done the Campfire once before, and it went pretty darn good, but tonight was tragic. The crowd was painfully polite, having gotten used to the musicians doing all the work in the previous shows. A comedian requires a bit more. When a comic says to you, "Sir, how are you doing this evening?" it is not acceptable to simply blink. Blinking is part of basic bodily function which communicates nothing (the same goes for breathing). This Passim crowd was older and more passive than I've ever dealt with. I had a little game going early on of talking about the different cars people drive. Two people played along, and I needed a third. I asked, "Can I get another automobile?" Nothing. I mean death silence. Then I asked, "Great. Who wants to sit back, not participate and just judge the comedian?" I got a few to clap for that one. It's a real honor to be able to perform at the Campfire, but this show was pure pain. I made a point not to get angry with the audience and, more importantly, not to show it, and I disappeared right after my set. I actually ran into a high school friend on my way to the T, and she asked enthusiastically, "How was your show!?" I answered, with even more giddy enthusiasm and a gigantic smile, "It was horrible!!!" That was the yin. Now for the yang. I had a double header tonight, and 10pm was comedy time at Jimmy Tingle's, with a regular show put together by Tim McIntire (a favorite). Now, I expected crap from this show. Based on reports from earlier weeks, it was proving really hard to get enough audience into the seats. Going into today, I had thought Passim would rock with a guaranteed crowd of at least 50, while Jimmy Tingle's would be a chance to just mess around. JImmy Tingle's was great. We had about 20 - 30 people in a 200 seat theatre, but they were a mighty crowd. Performing for (and really with) them was an absolute pleasure. My pacing was golden, and I played around a lot more with improv style in the set, often just saying the first thing that came to mind and worrying about justifying it later. That provided some really fun callbacks that were a one-show-only feature for this audience alone. They had a great time, and so did I. Tomorrow, I'm off to Philly for a friend's massive house party, where I'll be the featured act. It'll be me versus Ernesto. Let's do it.

black men in boston. make $50

yo all, please pass along.

A good friend of mine is doing some pioneering psychological research and needs black men aged 18-30 in Boston to participate.

details below.

please tell them BARATUNDE THURSTON sent you, and pass this along!!

>We are currently running a study that involves one ~90 minute
>scanning session at the Biomedical Imaging Center at the MGH/
>Charlestown. We can pay for your transport there and back (or
>parking at the MGH) and we also pay 50 dollars for your
>participation (and give you a picture of your brain)! The
>experimental task requires participants to look at brief video
>clips- we are interested in getting a better understanding of how we
>process such simple clips. Participants view about 15 minutes worth
>of clips and have to make some simple decision on the basis of what
>they've seen- mainly to make sure that they pay attention to what is
>shown. We typically spend another 25 minutes taking high resolution
>anatomical scans.
>The current study is almost completed and we are looking in
>particular for African-American young men. If you think you are
>interested in taking part in our study, I would also like to ask you
>some general demographic questions and a number of very specific
>health related questions to ensure your safety in the scanner and
>the interpretability of our data.
>You must be between 18-30, Black, and male.
>Because we are working with a big magnet, we also require that you
>Have no history of head trauma
>Not have any metal or electronic devices in their bodies
>Not be claustrophobic
>Not be on psychoactive medication (e.g. antidepressants, anxiolytics)
>Not have a history of substance abuse (any psychoactive substance)
>I apolgize for this long list and look forward to hearing from you!
>To sign up, or if you have any other questions feel free to contact
>Anette Schmid (617-627-4557) or Negin Toosi (773-793-1808).

Uh, Boston? WTF!*@!@#**

I just found out that one of the Big Dig tunnels collapsed and KILLED SOMEONE!! Jesus. I was only gone for four days. Somebody want to explain what's going on please?

bye bye Boston!

photo by -toKi- via flickr

I'm off to Chicago for my summer of improv. Back on the east coast in late August. I'll miss you folks. Anyone in Chitown give a holla so's we can kick it.

No Boston Comedy Festival for me!

I love the sadness of it all. I've been doing standup for four years, here in Boston, but I won't be doing the 2006 Boston Comedy Festival. I blew the deadline!

I missed the event last year due to I-don't-even-know-what. They had changed the event to much later in the year. This year, it wasn't even on me radar. Then, last Thursday night, as I'm preparing for the big Laughing Liberally show at Jimmy Tingle's Theatre, I caught a screenfull of Sean McCarthy's blog (and bigup to the Herald for running Wordpress!) saying that day was the deadline.

I thought I could rush it in and beg. I found a really good set of mine on DVD (from my April 7 Comedy Central audition -- they haven't called BTW), and found that the disc was bad! I finally got a good version last night, and whipped open iMovie to do a quick edit, but iMovie was mad at me or something -- lots of audio glitches. So, I manned up and faced my fear: Final Cut Pro.

I added a little title, upped the gamma (since the club lighting SUCKED on the DVD) and let it process overnight. This morning, I pumped that bad boy into iDVD and burned. Then it was off to work, where I skipped out early, RAN to the subway station, just making the train. I got off in Harvard Square where I RAN to the bus, barely making it. Over to Allston I rolled to hand-deliver the submission and beg for forgiveness. I didn't even know if the building would be open after 5pm, but it was!

Up the stairs I ran, down the all, and another hall, and another damn hall, knocked on the door. "Come in!" Yes, people were there!

In I went, looking sad and sweaty, "Hey it's probably too late, but I've been out of town so much recently and just found out about the deadline."

"Sorry. It's too late."


You'd think they would notify past participants of the submission dates coming up, send out a MySpace bulletin or something, but in the end, it was my own damned fault. Unlike the President, I take responsibility for my failures.

Hopefully, I'll get into the New York Underground Comedy Festival, which happens at the same time. In fact, I'm probably gonna submit to every comedy festival in the damn country over the next year.


Why I like Deval Patrick for governor of Massachusetts

I just got this email. For those who don't know, Deval Patrick is running for governor of Mass. I'm a big fan, and here's why. I've bolded some of the key sentences but otherwise, am printing in full:
Dear Friends, I am writing today to let you know about my decision to resign from the Board of Ameriquest's parent company. I want you to hear from me directly before you read about this in the newspaper tomorrow. As you know, I believe that leadership is more than grand announcements. It's more than press conferences and photo ops. Sometimes leadership is the slow, steady, unglamorous work of making reform real. That is the kind of leadership that I brought to Texaco, where I helped transform their employment practices in the wake of devastating allegations of workplace discrimination. That is the kind of leadership I brought to Coca-Cola, where I was involved in steering the company through a crisis of public confidence in its internal control and accounting processes. And that is the kind of leadership I brought to Ameriquest, when I was asked to join the board of its parent company in 2004. Ameriquest was facing very serious charges about its lending practices at the time. I became a part of the solution. I have spent a lifetime fighting against discriminatory lending practices. Here in Massachusetts, I led the charge over a decade ago against predatory lending that targeted elderly and African-American borrowers, achieving the first statewide settlement and also mediating subsequent cases by appointment of Scott Harshbarger. As the head of the Civil Rights Division in the U.S. Justice Department under President Clinton, I implemented the most far-reaching fair lending enforcement program in American history. Millions of people got a fair chance to own a home because of the work we did. So when officials of Ameriquest asked me to help them learn from their mistakes and institute internal changes to ensure that unfair lending does not occur again, I was glad to join the company's board. I served as the board's point person for the company's management in their negotiations with attorneys general from 49 states and helped the company reach an agreement that both holds Ameriquest accountable for past behavior and sets new industry standards for all lenders. I have also been involved in review and development of the company's efforts to improve its internal oversight and controls. There is more to do. But these changes will place Ameriquest at the forefront of transparency and accountability in the sub-prime lending market. Since that's the fastest growing segment of the lending industry, that's good news for working families. I am very proud of that. No company is immune from general economic trends and Ameriquest was hit hard by the recent slowdown in home sales and refinancings. Just two weeks ago, the company announced it was closing all its branches across the country and consolidating operations in its four servicing centers. Layoffs resulted, including some employees here in Massachusetts. But instead of leaving our folks to fend for themselves, I went to work. I am pleased that every one of those employees has an opportunity to join a rival lender. Employees who are losing their jobs through no fault of their own now have a means to cushion the blow. The sad reality is that the same economic realities that are squeezing Ameriquest's business are also squeezing Massachusetts families. At times like these, mortgage foreclosures tend to increase. That's why I am pleased that Ameriquest will bring credit counseling and foreclosure avoidance programs to Massachusetts that the company has developed elsewhere, and has offered to partner with Mayor Thomas Menino's task force on foreclosure avoidance in Boston. These are tangible ways that, by rolling up my sleeves, I have tried to help keep hard-pressed families from losing their homes. I understood from the outset that my work with Ameriquest would make some people uncomfortable. Progressives are sometimes uncomfortable in principle with people who work for large companies. Political rivals try to make it an issue. But leadership to effect real change sometimes requires more than a critique from the outside. Sometimes it requires that you bring your judgment and your conscience inside. Unfortunately, that spirit is largely missing from our current political culture. Many of our political leaders prefer to concentrate on getting and keeping office rather than performing the hard work of devising real solutions to our most difficult challenges. That's why we need a change. Ameriquest is on a path to be a better company now. The changes I helped develop will make a real and positive difference in the lives of borrowers and in the behavior of the company. Confident that this progress will continue, I will be stepping down from the board. Besides, I have a campaign to win. But my lifelong commitment to fighting discrimination and unfairness is unchanged. I still believe that lasting reform requires good people both outside and inside. Whether at Texaco, Coca-Cola or Ameriquest, I have never left my conscience at the door. And you can count on that when I'm governor, too. Sincerely, Deval

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Back Bay curbs clearly need replacing

"Why should anyone be homeless in a place like Boston?" That's the question my boy Derrick posted on his blog recently. The answer: because the curbs on Beacon Hill need replacing! It's cause our priorities are all jacked up. I was walking through the Beacon Hill area midday today, right around Charles Street, and there was mad construction going on. What were they building? NOTHING. They were digging up the curbs on the street corner and replacing them. I could understand if the old curbs weren't there at all, nothing but a gaping hole in the sidewalk tripping up old blue blooded ladies. I could get it if the curbs had somehow crumbled into minute, shards of super-sharp gravel, shredding the paws of massaged and groomed brahman poodles. But none of this was the case. The only problem with the curbs I could see is that they were dirty, BUT THAT'S WHAT HAPPENS TO THE GROUND. IN FACT, THAT'S WHAT "GROUND" IS. DIRT! For some reason, though, the city had spent mad loot on workers, equipment, street blocking permits, just to replace dirty curbs with clean ones. That's one reason why people are homeless in a place like Boston.

This is why I take the FungWah

"the driver of the Travel Pack bus, based in Chinatown -- pulled over before the toll booths in Allston-Brighton and ordered all passengers off. Seconds later, the vehicle burst into flames..." according to this article. That's why you gotta go with Fung Wah baby!! I love the Chinatown bus service. If you're not living in the Northeast corridor of the U.S., you may have no idea what I'm talking about. Basically, there's a very cheap bus service between New York and Boston operated by Chinese people. I can remember first hearing about the service back in college, circa 1998. It was more of a whisper-y rumour. According to so-and-so, you could get to New York in three hours if you took the dun-dun-DUNNNNN: CHINATOWN BUS. It was mad cheap but seemed mad shady. No one could ever tell me where to get the bus in Boston or where it dropped you off in New York. For some reason, my friends and I envisioned chickens on a run down van careening to and fro on I-84. Around 2001, I started heading down to NYC regularly to perform comedy. I would take Greyhound/Peter Pan, but one day someone handed me a flyer: "Boston - NYC $10." Yeah, ten dollars. I was like Black Rob: woah. When I told friends I was taking the Chinatown bus, invariably the question would come up: "Are there chickens?" Why, oh why, do we associate chickens with Chinese transportation? I really don't know, but that was my first thought back in the day. Since my first trip in 2001/2002, competition has really picked up. I rode the original "Fung Wah Bus" which took you from Boston's Chinatown to Manhattan Chinatown and back. But soon, Greyhound and Peter Pan lowered their prices. If you bought online, you could travel for $30 round trip and (here's the big one), no chickens. Then other Chinese people started bumrushing the market. You had Travel Pack and Lucky Star jump in too. I remember hearing about a shooting between rival Chinatown bus drivers. I wish all businesses competed so vigorously for my money! Fung Wah and Travel Pack have both moved up in the world. They have nice buses, and they dock at the Boston S. Station terminal, rather than on the street in Chinatown. The prices have come up a bit. Now $15 each way instead of $10, probably due to the dock fee at S. Station and higher gas prices. I still don't know how they do it for so little money. If they're not transporting chickens, what else are they moving? Leave your comments below.