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Cultural Reflections

02 Aug 2018 5:01 PM | Ron Wynn (Administrator)

Cultural Reflections - August 2, 2018

This is the first in the weekly series of blog posts I'm calling Cultural Reflections. I will discuss cultural and political issues here and this is exclusive Everything Underground content.

Cultural Reflections

By Ron Wynn

I - Mike Epps' memories

Before reading Mike Epps' new memoir "Unsuccessful Thug  - One Comedian's Journey From Naptown To Tinsel Town" (Harper Collins), he was hardly my favorite comic or actor.  I'd seen him here and there, most notably in "Showtime at the Apollo," and also a couple of episodes of the forgettable network TV show "Uncle Buck."

In addition, he was in several films, but not being particularly enamored of what's presented these days as Black comedy, I passed on most of them. When I heard he was tabbed to play Richard Pryor in a forthcoming biopic, my reaction was less than exuberant.

But now, after reading "Unsuccessful Thug," I've become a Mike Epps fan. Not so much for the comic routines, but for the searing, frank and often compelling narrative he presents here, one totally at odds with my experiences.

I grew up in the Jim Crow era as the son of two educators with only one sister. Epps came up in a large family, didn't have much relationship with or knowledge of his father for years, and eventually found himself attracted to the lifestyle of a criminal.

Two things saved him from that dubious fate. The first is he wasn't very good at it. The second and more important reason was he could make people laugh. While that was problematic in school and often even in peer settings, it became the means by which he not only survived his rough early years, but became a star.

This volume initially takes you inside the turbulent world of contemporary black youth, and later into the arena of Black Hollywood. Epps details in stark fashion some of the things he did, others he considered, and describes the time he spent in jail as eye-opening. 

Once he even had to call the police to rescue him because a dog had trapped him inside a home he was trying to rob. The scenario is so absurd, yet tragic,  it helped finally show Epps he wasn't cut out to be a thief or a gangster.

Fortunately he did have show business savvy and comedic skills, and the book's second half shows him slowly but surely climbing the cinematic and television ladder. He meets and becomes friends with many of the most recognizable faces today among Black actors, while also becoming aware of the pitfalls of success, and the relentless competition even those Blacks who've achieved some degree of fame face. 

He also discusses being typecast by casting directors, how and why certain projects work and others fail, how it feels to perform in front of large audiences, and ultimately his joy at being tabbed to portray his idol Richard Pryor,. Sadly, after meeting him, Epps sees his not so great side and the impact drug abuse had on Pryor in his later years.

Mike Epps' story is an instructive one, particularly for members of my generation who don't realize how totally different the circumstances many Black youth face today are from what they were even in the '70s and '80s, let alone the 50s and '60s. 

Too many older Blacks are quick to dismiss and degrade youth, exaggerate their defects and problems, and lament their lack of respect or knowledge of Black history. But given the circumstances described in "Unsuccessful Thug," which by no means are novel or unique to Mike Epps, it's more a wonder how many young Blacks today are NOT involved in crime, nor do any of the things a lot of older folks are constantly complaining about and claiming they do.

While I'm not part of the demographic that has made Mike Epps a star, I would recommend without reservation everyone read "Unsuccessful Thug." I wish him well in all his future endeavors, and will in fact go see his portrayal of Pryor whenever the film gets released. My feeling is that will be Mike Epps' finest performance.

II - More police controversy

Nashville recently became the latest city to face the issue of controversial police behavior and a questionable shooting. When the story surfaced that 25-year-old Daniel Hambrick had been killed by police officer Andrew Delke (also 25) at a traffic stop, the reaction was immediate and intense. It became even louder once it was discovered that there was no body or dash camera footage available, just some surveillance footage. 

There was also the question of whether Hambrick had a gun, and if he did had he pointed it at police. When the autopsy report revealed that Hambrick had been shot in the back, even more questions emerged. Now the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation (TBI) is officially probing the case, and a demonstration was held last weekend by several members of not only his family, but also the overall Black Nashville community, plus some concerned Whites as well.

There are three different issues that must be addressed with this case. The first concerns exactly what happened. If it is determined that Hambrick was shot while fleeing, then there seems a clear cut case of procedure being violated. Police officers are only supposed to use deadly force to save themselves or save civilians, not to shoot anyone trying to get away. 

A second issue concerns the absence of body and dashcam footage. Stories have since shown that while thousands of dollars was allocated last year to outfit Nashville police and police cars with the proper equipment, only a handful of officers and/or cars have it. A lot of excuses have since been floated regarding why, but bottom line is the city didn't put any real effort and nor did the police department in getting this technology out there so it would be available in case something like this happened.

The third issue involves oversight. Nashville lacks a civilian oversight board, something that the police chief and union are dead set against happening, but which should have come to pass decades ago. In too many cities the police investigate themselves whenever a questionable shooting occurs. In too many cases District Attorneys are also so closely linked to police departments they hesitate to bring charges against cops, even those obviously corrupt or who have grossly violated procedure.

The Nashville and state branches of the NAACP have also called for an independent and objective investigation. Communities need police protection. There are predators out there with no compunction about robbing or killing people, and sadly there far too many of them in Black communities. 

But it does no one any good to have police emulating the behavior of criminals while claiming to be enforcing the law. All that does is breed distrust and make people resistant to aiding police when they do need help. For all the rhetoric about so-called "Black on Black" crime, the vast majority of African-Americans are law abiding folks. They just have seen way too much police brutality and injustice in their time to blindly fall in line behind any "law and order" rhetoric. 

The only way for police departments to overcome that hostility is to to be far more transparent, and also willing to let the people they are sworn to protect be involved in assessing whether they have violated procedure in certain situations.

Nashville now has its mayor chosen for the remainder of what would have been Megan Barry's term (2 more years). So the voters will soon see whether David Briley also lets the police chief and union dictate how he responds to the call for a citizen's advisory board, or whether he actually does something that should have been done years ago and oversees the creation of such an organization.

on Wynn


I - Mike Epps' memories


Before reading Mike Epps' new memoir "Unsuccessful Thug  One Comedian's Journey From Naptown To Tinsel Town" (Harper Collins), he was hardly my favorite comic or actor. I'd seen him here and there, most notably in "Showtime at the Apollo," and also a couple of episodes of the forgettable network TV  show "Uncle Buck." In addition, he was in several films, but not being particularly enamored of what's presented these days as Black comedy, I passed on most of them. When I heard he was tabbed to play Richard Pryor in a forthcoming biopic, my reaction was less than exuberant.


But now, after reading "Unsuccessful Thug," I've become a Mike Epps fan. Not so much for the comic routines, but for the searing, frank and often compelling narrative he presents here, one totally at odds with my experiences growing up in the Jim Crow era, being the son of two educators, and only having one sister. Epps by comparison grew up in a large family, didn't have much relationship with or knowledge of his father for years, and eventually found himself attracted to the lifestyle of a criminal. Two things saved him from that dubious fate. The first is he wasn't very good at it. The second and more important reason was he could make people laugh. While that was problematic in school and often even in peer settings, it became the means by which he not only survived his rough early years, but became a star.


This volume initially takes you inside the turbulent world of contemporary black youth, and later into the arena of Black Hollywood. Epps details in stark fashion some of the things he did, others he considered, and describes the time he spent in jail as eye-opening. Once he even had to call the police to rescue him because a dog had trapped him inside a home he was trying to rob. The scenario is so absurd yet tragic it helped finally show Epps he wasn't cut out to be a thief or a gangster.


Fortunately he did have show business savvy and comedic skills, and the book's second half shows him slowly but surely climbing the cinematic and television ladder. He meets and becomes friends with many of the most recognizable faces today among Black actors, while also becoming aware of the pitfalls of success, and the relentless competition even those Blacks who've achieved some degree of fame face. He also talks about being typecast by casting directors, how and why certain projects work and others fail, how it feels to perform in front of large audiences, and ultimately his joy at being tabbed to portray his idol Richard Pryor, even after meeting and seeing his not so great side and the impact drug abuse had on Pryor in his later years.


Mike Epps' story is an instructive one, particularly for members of my generation who don't realize how totally different the circumstances many Black youth face today are from what they were even in the '70s and '80s, let alone the 50s and '60s. Too many older Blacks are quick to dismiss and degrade youth, exaggerate their defects and problems, and lament their lack of respect or knowledge of Black history. But given the circumstances described in "Unsuccessful Thug," which by no means are novel or unique to Mike Epps, it's more a wonder how many young Blacks today are NOT involved in crime, nor do any of the things a lot of older folks are constantly complaining about and claiming they do.


While I'm not part of the demographic that has made Mike Epps a star, I would recommend without reservation everyone read "Unsuccessful Thug." I wish him well in all his future endeavors, and will in fact go see his portrayal of Pryor whenever the film gets released. My feeling is that will be Mike Epps' finest performance.


II - More police controversy


Nashville recently became the latest city to face the issue of controversial police behavior and a questionable shooting. When the story surfaced that 25-year-old Daniel Hambrick had been killed by police officer Andrew Delke (also 25) at a traffic stop, the reaction was immediate and intense. It became even louder once it was discovered that there was no body or dash camera footage available, just some surveillance footage. There was also the question of whether Hambrick had a gun, and if he did had he pointed it at police. When the autopsy report revealed that Hambrick had been shot in the back, even more questions emerged. Now the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation (TBI) is officially probing the case, and a demonstration was held last weekend by several members of not only his family, but also the overall Black Nashville community, plus some concerned Whites as well.


There are three different issues that must be addressed with this case. The first concerns exactly what  happened. If it is determined that Hambrick was shot while fleeing, then there seems a clear cut case of procedure being violated. Police officers are only supposed to use deadly force to save themselves or save civilians, not to shoot anyone trying to get away. A second issue concerns the absence of body and dashcam footage. Stories have since shown that while thousands of dollars was allocated last year to outfit Nashville police and police cars with the proper equipment, only a handful of officers and/or cars have it. A lot of excuses have since been floated out regarding why, but bottom line is the city didn't put any real effort and nor did the police department in getting this technology out there so it would be available in case something like this happened.


The third issue involves oversight. Nashville lacks a civilian oversight board, something that the police chief and union are dead set against happening, but which should have come to pass decades ago. In too many cities the police investigate themselves whenever a questionable shooting occurs. In too many cases District Attorneys are also so closely linked to police departments they hesitate to bring charges against cops, even those obviously corrupt or who have grossly violated procedure.


The Nashville and state branches of the NAACP have also called for an independent and objective investigation.


Communities need police protection. There are predators out there with no compunction about robbing or killing people, and sadly there far too many of them in Black communities. But it does no one any good to have police emulating the behavior of criminals while claiming to be enforcing the law. All that does is breed distrust and make people resistant to aiding police when they do need help. For all the rhetoric about so-called "Black on Black" crime, the vast majority of African-Americans are law abiding folks. They just have seen way too much police brutality and injustice in their time to blindly fall in line behind any "law and order" rhetoric. The only way for police departments to overcome that hostility is to to be far more transparent, and also willing to let the people they are sworn to protect be involved in assessing whether they have violated procedure in certain situations.


Nashville now has its mayor chosen for the remainder of what would have been Megan Barry's term (2 more years). So the voters will soon see whether David Briley also lets the police chief and union dictate how he responds to the call for a citizen's advisory board, or whether he actually does something that should have been done years ago and oversees the creation of such an organization.



Cultural Reflections

By Ro

Cultural Reflections

By Ron Wynn


I - Mike Epps' memories


Before reading Mike Epps' new memoir "Unsuccessful Thug  One Comedian's Journey From Naptown To Tinsel Town" (Harper Collins), he was hardly my favorite comic or actor. I'd seen him here and there, most notably in "Showtime at the Apollo," and also a couple of episodes of the forgettable network TV  show "Uncle Buck." In addition, he was in several films, but not being particularly enamored of what's presented these days as Black comedy, I passed on most of them. When I heard he was tabbed to play Richard Pryor in a forthcoming biopic, my reaction was less than exuberant.


But now, after reading "Unsuccessful Thug," I've become a Mike Epps fan. Not so much for the comic routines, but for the searing, frank and often compelling narrative he presents here, one totally at odds with my experiences growing up in the Jim Crow era, being the son of two educators, and only having one sister. Epps by comparison grew up in a large family, didn't have much relationship with or knowledge of his father for years, and eventually found himself attracted to the lifestyle of a criminal. Two things saved him from that dubious fate. The first is he wasn't very good at it. The second and more important reason was he could make people laugh. While that was problematic in school and often even in peer settings, it became the means by which he not only survived his rough early years, but became a star.


This volume initially takes you inside the turbulent world of contemporary black youth, and later into the arena of Black Hollywood. Epps details in stark fashion some of the things he did, others he considered, and describes the time he spent in jail as eye-opening. Once he even had to call the police to rescue him because a dog had trapped him inside a home he was trying to rob. The scenario is so absurd yet tragic it helped finally show Epps he wasn't cut out to be a thief or a gangster.


Fortunately he did have show business savvy and comedic skills, and the book's second half shows him slowly but surely climbing the cinematic and television ladder. He meets and becomes friends with many of the most recognizable faces today among Black actors, while also becoming aware of the pitfalls of success, and the relentless competition even those Blacks who've achieved some degree of fame face. He also talks about being typecast by casting directors, how and why certain projects work and others fail, how it feels to perform in front of large audiences, and ultimately his joy at being tabbed to portray his idol Richard Pryor, even after meeting and seeing his not so great side and the impact drug abuse had on Pryor in his later years.


Mike Epps' story is an instructive one, particularly for members of my generation who don't realize how totally different the circumstances many Black youth face today are from what they were even in the '70s and '80s, let alone the 50s and '60s. Too many older Blacks are quick to dismiss and degrade youth, exaggerate their defects and problems, and lament their lack of respect or knowledge of Black history. But given the circumstances described in "Unsuccessful Thug," which by no means are novel or unique to Mike Epps, it's more a wonder how many young Blacks today are NOT involved in crime, nor do any of the things a lot of older folks are constantly complaining about and claiming they do.


While I'm not part of the demographic that has made Mike Epps a star, I would recommend without reservation everyone read "Unsuccessful Thug." I wish him well in all his future endeavors, and will in fact go see his portrayal of Pryor whenever the film gets released. My feeling is that will be Mike Epps' finest performance.


II - More police controversy


Nashville recently became the latest city to face the issue of controversial police behavior and a questionable shooting. When the story surfaced that 25-year-old Daniel Hambrick had been killed by police officer Andrew Delke (also 25) at a traffic stop, the reaction was immediate and intense. It became even louder once it was discovered that there was no body or dash camera footage available, just some surveillance footage. There was also the question of whether Hambrick had a gun, and if he did had he pointed it at police. When the autopsy report revealed that Hambrick had been shot in the back, even more questions emerged. Now the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation (TBI) is officially probing the case, and a demonstration was held last weekend by several members of not only his family, but also the overall Black Nashville community, plus some concerned Whites as well.


There are three different issues that must be addressed with this case. The first concerns exactly what  happened. If it is determined that Hambrick was shot while fleeing, then there seems a clear cut case of procedure being violated. Police officers are only supposed to use deadly force to save themselves or save civilians, not to shoot anyone trying to get away. A second issue concerns the absence of body and dashcam footage. Stories have since shown that while thousands of dollars was allocated last year to outfit Nashville police and police cars with the proper equipment, only a handful of officers and/or cars have it. A lot of excuses have since been floated out regarding why, but bottom line is the city didn't put any real effort and nor did the police department in getting this technology out there so it would be available in case something like this happened.


The third issue involves oversight. Nashville lacks a civilian oversight board, something that the police chief and union are dead set against happening, but which should have come to pass decades ago. In too many cities the police investigate themselves whenever a questionable shooting occurs. In too many cases District Attorneys are also so closely linked to police departments they hesitate to bring charges against cops, even those obviously corrupt or who have grossly violated procedure.


The Nashville and state branches of the NAACP have also called for an independent and objective investigation.


Communities need police protection. There are predators out there with no compunction about robbing or killing people, and sadly there far too many of them in Black communities. But it does no one any good to have police emulating the behavior of criminals while claiming to be enforcing the law. All that does is breed distrust and make people resistant to aiding police when they do need help. For all the rhetoric about so-called "Black on Black" crime, the vast majority of African-Americans are law abiding folks. They just have seen way too much police brutality and injustice in their time to blindly fall in line behind any "law and order" rhetoric. The only way for police departments to overcome that hostility is to to be far more transparent, and also willing to let the people they are sworn to protect be involved in assessing whether they have violated procedure in certain situations.


Nashville now has its mayor chosen for the remainder of what would have been Megan Barry's term (2 more years). So the voters will soon see whether David Briley also lets the police chief and union dictate how he responds to the call for a citizen's advisory board, or whether he actually does something that should have been done years ago and oversees the creation of such an organization

n Wynn


I - Mike Epps' memories


Before reading Mike Epps' new memoir "Unsuccessful Thug  One Comedian's Journey From Naptown To Tinsel Town" (Harper Collins), he was hardly my favorite comic or actor. I'd seen him here and there, most notably in "Showtime at the Apollo," and also a couple of episodes of the forgettable network TV  show "Uncle Buck." In addition, he was in several films, but not being particularly enamored of what's presented these days as Black comedy, I passed on most of them. When I heard he was tabbed to play Richard Pryor in a forthcoming biopic, my reaction was less than exuberant.


But now, after reading "Unsuccessful Thug," I've become a Mike Epps fan. Not so much for the comic routines, but for the searing, frank and often compelling narrative he presents here, one totally at odds with my experiences growing up in the Jim Crow era, being the son of two educators, and only having one sister. Epps by comparison grew up in a large family, didn't have much relationship with or knowledge of his father for years, and eventually found himself attracted to the lifestyle of a criminal. Two things saved him from that dubious fate. The first is he wasn't very good at it. The second and more important reason was he could make people laugh. While that was problematic in school and often even in peer settings, it became the means by which he not only survived his rough early years, but became a star.


This volume initially takes you inside the turbulent world of contemporary black youth, and later into the arena of Black Hollywood. Epps details in stark fashion some of the things he did, others he considered, and describes the time he spent in jail as eye-opening. Once he even had to call the police to rescue him because a dog had trapped him inside a home he was trying to rob. The scenario is so absurd yet tragic it helped finally show Epps he wasn't cut out to be a thief or a gangster.


Fortunately he did have show business savvy and comedic skills, and the book's second half shows him slowly but surely climbing the cinematic and television ladder. He meets and becomes friends with many of the most recognizable faces today among Black actors, while also becoming aware of the pitfalls of success, and the relentless competition even those Blacks who've achieved some degree of fame face. He also talks about being typecast by casting directors, how and why certain projects work and others fail, how it feels to perform in front of large audiences, and ultimately his joy at being tabbed to portray his idol Richard Pryor, even after meeting and seeing his not so great side and the impact drug abuse had on Pryor in his later years.


Mike Epps' story is an instructive one, particularly for members of my generation who don't realize how totally different the circumstances many Black youth face today are from what they were even in the '70s and '80s, let alone the 50s and '60s. Too many older Blacks are quick to dismiss and degrade youth, exaggerate their defects and problems, and lament their lack of respect or knowledge of Black history. But given the circumstances described in "Unsuccessful Thug," which by no means are novel or unique to Mike Epps, it's more a wonder how many young Blacks today are NOT involved in crime, nor do any of the things a lot of older folks are constantly complaining about and claiming they do.


While I'm not part of the demographic that has made Mike Epps a star, I would recommend without reservation everyone read "Unsuccessful Thug." I wish him well in all his future endeavors, and will in fact go see his portrayal of Pryor whenever the film gets released. My feeling is that will be Mike Epps' finest performance.


II - More police controversy


Nashville recently became the latest city to face the issue of controversial police behavior and a questionable shooting. When the story surfaced that 25-year-old Daniel Hambrick had been killed by police officer Andrew Delke (also 25) at a traffic stop, the reaction was immediate and intense. It became even louder once it was discovered that there was no body or dash camera footage available, just some surveillance footage. There was also the question of whether Hambrick had a gun, and if he did had he pointed it at police. When the autopsy report revealed that Hambrick had been shot in the back, even more questions emerged. Now the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation (TBI) is officially probing the case, and a demonstration was held last weekend by several members of not only his family, but also the overall Black Nashville community, plus some concerned Whites as well.


There are three different issues that must be addressed with this case. The first concerns exactly what  happened. If it is determined that Hambrick was shot while fleeing, then there seems a clear cut case of procedure being violated. Police officers are only supposed to use deadly force to save themselves or save civilians, not to shoot anyone trying to get away. A second issue concerns the absence of body and dashcam footage. Stories have since shown that while thousands of dollars was allocated last year to outfit Nashville police and police cars with the proper equipment, only a handful of officers and/or cars have it. A lot of excuses have since been floated out regarding why, but bottom line is the city didn't put any real effort and nor did the police department in getting this technology out there so it would be available in case something like this happened.


The third issue involves oversight. Nashville lacks a civilian oversight board, something that the police chief and union are dead set against happening, but which should have come to pass decades ago. In too many cities the police investigate themselves whenever a questionable shooting occurs. In too many cases District Attorneys are also so closely linked to police departments they hesitate to bring charges against cops, even those obviously corrupt or who have grossly violated procedure.


The Nashville and state branches of the NAACP have also called for an independent and objective investigation.


Communities need police protection. There are predators out there with no compunction about robbing or killing people, and sadly there far too many of them in Black communities. But it does no one any good to have police emulating the behavior of criminals while claiming to be enforcing the law. All that does is breed distrust and make people resistant to aiding police when they do need help. For all the rhetoric about so-called "Black on Black" crime, the vast majority of African-Americans are law abiding folks. They just have seen way too much police brutality and injustice in their time to blindly fall in line behind any "law and order" rhetoric. The only way for police departments to overcome that hostility is to to be far more transparent, and also willing to let the people they are sworn to protect be involved in assessing whether they have violated procedure in certain situations.


Nashville now has its mayor chosen for the remainder of what would have been Megan Barry's term (2 more years). So the voters will soon see whether David Briley also lets the police chief and union dictate how he responds to the call for a citizen's advisory board, or whether he actually does something that should have been done years ago and oversees the creation of such an organization




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