Links for the 2020 Democratic Presidential Candidates

You all wouldn’t believe how difficult it is to find a website or blog with all of the website addresses for the 2020 Democratic candidates for President. My approach to life is this — where there’s a problem, and the solution isn’t currently present, can I provide the answer to that problem?

In this case, I can. Below are the links for each of the candidates/power players who will be on the stage for the presidential debate in South Carolina on Tuesday, February 25, 2020. Candidates are listed in alphabetical order:

Joe Biden

Joe Biden

Mike Bloomberg

Mike Bloomberg

Pete Buttigieg

Pete Buttigieg

Amy Klobuchar

Amy Klobuchar

Bernie Sanders

Bernie Sanders

Tom Steyer

Tom Steyer

Elizabeth Warren

Elizabeth Warren

Joe Biden’s Last Stand

South Carolina would provide a fitting backdrop for Biden to drop out

Joe Biden had his eyes on South Carolina from the start.
The Palmetto State would be his springboard to the Democratic nomination. It would be his “firewall.”
Months later, the frontrunner for that nomination ran to his firewall with his campaign in flames.
The picture of Biden running to South Carolina with his tail between his legs is certainly ironic. The support that he sought to cash in on was birthed more than a decade ago.
At that time, Biden hadn’t even been selected as Barack Obama’s vice president. Obama, his wife, Michelle, and entertainment mogul Oprah Winfrey wooed Black South Carolinians during a campaign stop that became one of the defining moments of Obama’s 2008 campaign and eventual victory.
Biden’s entitlement to those voters was certainly warranted, based on the polls. And yet, Biden distanced himself from the former president. 
When Biden asked Obama not to endorse him, it seemed like a noble gesture — the height of neutrality, even. As the campaign went on, Biden was so bold as to say he didn’t “need” Obama’s nomination.
Upon further review, Biden’s tender rebuke of Obama wasn’t about nobility, but being a centrist. Biden aspired to run a campaign that not only appealed to Democrats, but also the Obama-hating Trump crowd as well.
It’s in that same spirit which Biden spoke glowingly of infamous South Carolina legislator Strom Thurmond and other known segregationists. When he was challenged on those working relationships last June, Biden used the term “civility” to describe them.
Civility — a word that has been used to suggest togetherness, even as the political landscape is hyper partisan. It’s a word that often fails to promote accountability, even as it seeks to promote unity.
This is part of the centrist playbook — a methodology that Biden still employs. He does so to the detriment of the same Black voters he continues to petition in South Carolina.
At the same time, Biden’s opponents are invoking Obama’s support as a means of drawing voters. Michael Bloomberg has run a pair of ads suggesting that he has the support of the 44th President. Tom Steyer, who has seen an increase in support from Black voters in recent months, is running a more intimate ad with the presence of Obama.
Edith Childs, a Greenwood, S.C. councilwoman who Obama credited for the “Fired up! Ready to go!” campaign slogan, headlines Steyer’s latest pitch to (Black) voters. 
“We’re fired up, and Trump got to go!” she says at the end of a commercial endorsing Steyer.
Biden recently chalked it up as “billionaire spending.” But that spending has been noticeably effective, even if some view it as pandering.
Bloomberg has the support of Columbia, S.C. mayor Steve Benjamin, who has the title of “National Co-Chair” for Bloomberg’s 2020 campaign in his Twitter bio. Benjamin also spoke about Bloomberg’s “Greenwood Initiative,” a focus on economic justice for African-Americans, calling it “groundbreaking.” Bloomberg and the National Newspaper Publishers Association recently agreed to a $3.5 million ad buy, which means that Bloomberg’s Initiative will be advertised nationwide in 230 Black-owned newspapers.
The landscape for Democratic nominees is changing, particularly considering that voters of color will factor greatly in South Carolina and on Super Tuesday. Bernie Sanders, on the strength of his victory in Nevada and strong showings in Iowa and New Hampshire, is the new frontrunner for the nomination. He also has a strong coalition of young Black voters.
What does all of this mean for Biden? It may mean that the end of his campaign is coming soon. This past Sunday, Biden spoke to congregants at the Royal Ministry Baptist Church in North Charleston, S.C. Speaking in Black church pulpits are the tried-and-true method of many politicians. But again, the landscape is changing, because that particular outlet doesn’t engage young voters.
Biden is literally and figuratively counting on the old guard to keep his campaign afloat.
“Although I’ve had a lot of support from the community my whole career, I don’t expect anything. I’m here to earn your vote,” Biden said.
If Biden can’t earn that vote, he’ll likely have too much pride to drop out before Super Tuesday. Yet for all intents and purpose, though, not only will his firewall be extinguished, but so will his campaign.

The Black History Guidebook, Vol. 1

First African American Senator and Representatives: Sen. Hiram Revels (R-MS), Rep. Benjamin S. Turner (R-AL), Robert DeLarge (R-SC), Josiah Walls (R-FL), Jefferson Long (R-GA), Joseph Rainey and Robert B. Elliott (R-SC)

Volume One — Reconstruction

Nearly a year ago, I went to The King Center in Atlanta during a weekend trip with my beautiful wife. We drove down Auburn Avenue and I was honestly heartbroken by the poverty of the neighborhood. It paled in comparison to downtown and midtown Atlanta.
When we got to the King Center, I thought back to the last time I’d been to Dr. King’s tomb — during my teenage years. Sadly, not much had changed from my memory. In fact, the guard railing and caution tape took away from the somber regality of the tomb and waterfall.
The King Center wasn’t fit for a King.
I feel very similarly about Black history and how we celebrate our achievements. Next month, of course, is Black History Month (BHM), the time of year where we inadequately and predictably highlight the accomplishments of the likes of Dr. King, Rosa Parks and the usual folks we recognize.
Last year, we could barely recognize those folks for all of the companies using blackface to market their products in a troll-like fashion — hey, whether it’s positive or negative feedback, it’s all media, right?
Like The King Center, BHM and our interpretation of it needs some serious reconstruction.
Reconstruction is a fitting place to start. Most of our discussions about BHM involve the Civil Rights Movement, and that’s certainly understandable. However, Black folks’ contributions and triumphs do not all fall between the 1960s and emancipation from slavery.
Some of our most profound victories fall in between the period of slavery and Jim Crow. That period, from 1865-1877, is Reconstruction. If you’ve never heard of it, it’s perfectly fine, because very few people talk about it — we only talk about the residual and repressive effects of it.
In this column, I want to briefly talk about what Reconstruction means to the Aiken-Augusta area. We don’t have to look far; as we speak, city officials in North Augusta are weighing a “counter” to the white supremacist Meriwether Monument.
You read that correctly. At the time of this column, there is a monument which memorializes the life of Thomas Meriwether, the lone white victim of the 1876 Hamburg Massacre, which reads the following:
“In life, he exemplified the highest ideal of Anglo-Saxon civilization. By his death, he assured to the children of his beloved land the supremacy of that ideal.”
The Meriwether Monument, and post-Civil War monuments of their ilk are literal and living memorials to white supremacy. It is hard to look past these eyesores, except for one reason: they are in the way of our beautiful Black history.
Take the story of Hamburg, South Carolina. Have you ever seen the stone remnants in the Savannah River next to the Fifth Street Bridge? If you look at them directly across from the Fifth Street Marina, you’re looking right into the former town of Hamburg.
After the Civil War, freedmen — both free Blacks and freedmen (emancipated slaves) settled into Hamburg. It was a hub of Black achievement and progress. The South Carolina elections of 1868 produced the first majority black state legislature in U.S. history. A new state constitution was drafted and Aiken County, of which Hamburg was a par, was formed from parts of Edgefield, Lexington, Barnwell and Orangeburg Counties. It was the only South Carolina county formed during Reconstruction.
I wish I had the space to tell you more. I’ll simply say this — read up on the 1868 South Carolina Constitution. It abolished debtors’ prison, provided for public education and overturned the oppressive Black Codes from the 1865 constitution. Also, read Tiffany Mitchell Patterson’s article, “What Everyone Should Know About Reconstruction…”.
That progressive period in Black history — and yes, American history — was thwarted by white violence. In the next volume, we’ll talk about retribution.

Death To ‘The Debate’?

GOAT comparisons should be about appreciation, not depreciation

The conversation is all too familiar on sports talk shows, comment sections and blogs — who’s the NBA’s GOAT?
The debate — rather, heated dialogue — was always flawed because it compared different players in different eras. With the recent passing of Kobe Bryant, that debate feels especially trite.
It is sad that it took Kobe’s death to turn a triangle of zealotry between his fans, Michael Jordan fans and LeBron James fans into a ring of respect. The dialogues that have followed should be the start of a new approach to such a complex conversation.
Honestly, I grew up a Michael Jordan fan. I have two picture-perfect clear memories of my Jordan fandom, and they’re not of the iconic shot he hit in Utah. The first is the day my youngest brother, Denzel, was born. He was born on February 13, 1998, the same day that Michael Jordan hit a buzzer-beater to beat the Atlanta Hawks. I remember being in the hospital and watching the game, and MJ hit that shot close to the time my kid brother was born.
The second memory is another buzzer beater that happened in Game 1 of the 1997 NBA Finals. You know the shot. Bryon Russell reached, MJ hit him with a hesitation move, pulled up and called game. I was in the den of my childhood home when he hit that shot. I ran and screamed into the kitchen like a roaring missile. I’ll never forget the incredulous (and clearly irked) look on my dad’s face, like, “Hell wrong with you, son?”
Those memories fueled my zealotry. As Kobe was poised to win his fourth and fifth rings, I harbored resentment for him because he inched ever so close to MJ’s championship total.
That number, six, represents a flawed standard — a moving goalpost. Jordan’s six championships aren’t the most in NBA history, but in combination with the mystique and marketing of Michael Jordan, we made it the ultimate standard.
And sure, MJ never lost in the Finals, but the media and the public has spent so much time trivializing the achievements of Kobe and LeBron because of that flawed standard. It wasn’t always like that, because we hold the accomplishments of players who didn’t win championships — players like Charles Barkley, Karl Malone, John Stockton and Patrick Ewing — in high regard.
Media and sports talk shows are complicit in this as well. How many times has the “GOAT debate” been incessantly rehashed during a slow news cycle, or on the cusp of a record-breaking achievement?
The intent is understood, but it unnecessarily diminishes the greatness of the game’s predecessors. The GOATs have acknowledged that such comparisons really are like comparing apples and oranges.
“We play in different eras,” Jordan said recently when asked if either him or LeBron was “the GOAT.”
“I know it’s a natural tendency to compare eras to eras and it’s going to continue to happen.”
When LeBron passed Kobe on the NBA’s all-time scoring list in Philadelphia last Saturday, the city truly lived up to its nickname of Brotherly Love. The mutual respect and admiration was apparent. Less than a week later, that display is sad and soul-wrenching, with only a single solace — LeBron was able to give Kobe his flowers while he lived.
In the days after Kobe’s passing, the “GOAT debate” was put on hiatus with a phrase — “don’t debate, appreciate.” There was a caricature of Jordan with his arms around Kobe and LeBron.
We don’t have to entirely do away with the debate. We just need to approach it in a way that edifies the greats and doesn’t tear them down.
I never thought the debate would end; but then, I never imagined a world without Kobe Bryant. His life is a lesson to us all on so many levels. In this case, it’s a challenge for us to appreciate greatness without bias.

The Color of Coaching

Rivera’s firing reinforces NFL’s woeful standard regarding coaches of color

When we think about injustice within the National Football League, a singular name comes up — Colin Kaepernick.

That is certainly understandable, with all of the media attention on Kap and the inexplicable reason why he’s not on a NFL roster. 

And yet, there’s an ugly hiring and firing practice in the NFL that doesn’t get as much attention — the league’s treatment of head coaches of color.

That dynamic was reinforced Tuesday when the Carolina Panthers fired head coach Ron Rivera. Rivera, who is Puerto Rican, had been with the team since 2011.

Panthers owner David Tepper said he “thought it was time” to fire Rivera, which is an interesting commentary considering the facts behind Carolina’s season.

For starters (no pun intended), the Panthers have been without franchise quarterback Cam Newton since Week 3, and haven’t had him at full strength since the middle of last season. Despite Newton’s absence, Rivera led the Panthers to a 5-3 mark with backup Kyle Allen before its current four-game losing streak.

Sure, there have been some bad losses to Atlanta and Washington. But what changed in a month’s time that warranted this firing? What would have changed a month from now at the end of the year, which would have at least allowed Rivera to finish the season?

There have been rumors around the franchise which suggest that Rivera and Tepper didn’t see eye-to-eye in terms of philosophy. Rivera’s more of an “old-school” coach, while Tepper is more of an “analytics” guy.

The rhetoric surrounding “analytics” sounds more like code than actual insight. It’s the kind of racial rhetoric that allows for whippersnapper white guys to not only get head coaching jobs, but fail up if and when they fall on their faces.

Steve Wilks, Carolina’s former defensive coordinator, was the head coach of the Arizona Cardinals for a calendar year. You read that right. Wilks was hired January 22, 2018 and fired on New Year’s Eve. He was replaced by a coach in Kliff Kingsbury who did not have a winning record in the college ranks and had no NFL coaching experience.

Todd Bowles, for his struggles with the New York Jets, was replaced by Adam Gase, who finished with a 23-25 coaching record during his tenure in Miami. Not only did he “fail up,” he was named interim general manager for almost a month after Mike Maccagnan was fired on May 15.

It’s a shameful trend that makes no sense. Marvin Lewis’ tenure in Cincinnati is an outlier that speaks more about owner Mike Brown than Lewis. The Pittsburgh Steelers, who are a standard of stability when it comes to head coaches, are showing their savvy by retaining Mike Tomlin. It’s paying dividends at the moment, despite a slew of injuries for Pittsburgh.

Moves such as Tepper’s are representative of a culture change, which sounds good in the short term and likely spells doom for Cam Newton’s tenure in Carolina. Those changes rarely work out as planned, and for middling franchises such as the Panthers, take several years to pan out, if at all.

It also denies Rivera a chance to finish out the season in strong fashion, something that is his (and granted, Newton’s) calling card. Save for last year’s 1-4 finish, Rivera compiled a 23-8 mark between 2011 and 2017 in the month of December.

The interim tag on defensive backs coach Perry Fewell would mean more for the Carolina-born Fewell if he had a chance to be retained in that capacity. He had the same opportunity in Buffalo in 2009 and was shipped out then as well.

Fewell’s tenure will be a stopgap — just like the “Rooney Rule” itself. It’s toothless — just like the Panthers as they separate themselves from the franchise’s most successful head coach and quarterback.

Madea Gets Into Politics

Last Wednesday, there was a Democratic presidential candidate debate in a predominately Black city with a noted Black political stronghold on the grounds of a Black-owned production studio. All that Blackness — and little to no talk about the concerns facing Black people.

As disappointing and discouraging as that sounds, it is predictable and ironic that such a spectacle would take place at Tyler Perry Studios (TPS).

Debates are mostly political theater that build and gauge interest, as well as invite prognostication. What better and “Blacker” stage to have it play out than the house Madea built?

That isn’t a knock on Perry’s work. The idea of a movie such as “Madea Goes Into Politics” sounds intriguing. A real-life version might inspire Black folks even more with the knowledge that TPS sits on a former Confederate army base.

Is it picturesque? Yes, especially with the backdrop of Atlanta’s civil rights history?

Is it profound? Not so much. And therein lies the tragedy.

In the party’s efforts to unseat Donald Trump, there is talk of restoring the “Obama coalition,” which is a kumbaya way of summoning the Black vote.

That methodology is certainly more graceful than allegations of homophobia being employed as reasons why Pete Buttigieg is unable to entice Black voters. It is no less shameful, though.

Dems have no problem making distinctions with Hispanics, the LGBTQ vote or women. It’s only when the issue of the “Black vote” comes up are African-Americans corralled into “people of color” or the “Obama coalition.”

Lack of distinction isn’t the only problem. The Dems also lack decisiveness.

At the same time that Dems are invoking the former President, Barack Obama himself is revoking the spirit of activism and socialism within the party:

“Even as we push the envelope and we are bold in our vision we also have to be rooted in reality,” Mr. Obama said recently to liberal donors. “The average American doesn’t think we have to completely tear down the system and remake it.”

These comments, in and out of context, are unfortunate. They are the words of a former president who went from “hope” and “change” to “whoa, not THAT much change” in less than a decade. They are also reflections into a party that doesn’t know whether it wants to ride a revolutionary youth movement and the focus on basic needs, or cozy up to corporations.

Say what you want about Trump, with his incompetence and corruption — his base is secure. The minority who voted for him are as rabid as ever. Meanwhile, the GOP establishment is scared to go against him — for now.

There is an important, yet rarely mentioned similarity between Obama and Trump, and by extension, Perry and the likes of Oprah Winfrey — theirs is the politics of celebrity.

Those politics are potent in any season, but especially in a season of hyper partisanship. Both zealots and fierce haters both leave with the wrong perspective. It’s hard enough to separate pageantry and policy as a sober critic. It’s near-impossible to do so as a victim of emotional bias.

One of the more radical civil rights icons — Malcolm X — decried celebrity culture in an 1963 interview at Cal Berkeley:

“Comedians, comics, trumpet players, baseball players. Show me in the white community where a comedian is a white leader,” Malcolm X said. “Show me in the white community where a singer is a white leader or a dancer or a trumpet player is a white leader. These aren’t leaders. These are puppets and clowns that have been set up over the Black community by the white community and have been made celebrities and, usually, they say exactly what they know the white man wants to hear.”

It may seem harsh, and X may have been wrong to name certain individuals. Despite the tone, it is still relevant and applicable.

There are issues which affect ALL of us — income inequality and access to healthcare — which still profoundly plague Black people. And still, there are issues that target Black folks specifically, such as police brutality.

Perry may have only been a host for the Dem debate, but Black people need more than hosts. In the biological sense, hosts adapt to the ways of parasites. In a more cordial, down-home sense, hosts make people feel important. And certainly, if you are hosting, you should have some input on what is on the menu. If not, then it may not be a matter of what is on the menu, but who is on the menu.

Deontay Wilder’s Punch-Out

Pugilist’s power only matched by his personality

The look on Luis Ortiz’s face said it all Saturday night in Las Vegas.

It was an expression bereft of sweat and soul, wiped clean by Deontay Wilder’s right hand of God. It was the face of a man who had outboxed his opponent for six rounds.

It was a face that looked like the face of a fallen video game character.

I know how Ortiz feels. I could never beat Mike Tyson on “Mike Tyson’s Punch-Out,” either. I mean, the pattern was simple enough. If he winks, a jab is coming. If he blinks or flashes, it’s an uppercut. It didn’t matter. At some point, Little Mac would end up on the canvas. 

“King Kong” Ortiz, with eyes bulged out, looked more like King Hippo or Bald Bull once he pulled his head up from the canvas.

Folks who say Wilder is a one-dimensional boxer, or worse, has no talent, either down’t know the sport or trivialize greatness. Wilder has turned the phrase “a puncher’s chance” into a franchise — an art form, really. He’s the surest thing from Tuscaloosa, Alabama these days — with a “sorry, not sorry” to the Crimson Tide football team. I mean, Wilder is the defending champion — 10 times over.

Forty-three fights. Forty-two wins with a single draw. Forty-one knockouts. His current run of title defense ties him with “The Greatest,” Muhammad Ali, for the most in the history of the heavyweight division. He went from a bronze medalist in the 2008 Olympics to the “Bronze Bomber.” And with all of those accolades, his punching power makes him “one of one.” The boxing community expressed those sentiments in the hours after the fight:

And even as we marvel at Wilder’s sheer power, we shortchange him. We don’t acknowledge his strategy, his guile. He made it a point to highlight Ortiz’s intellect after Saturday’s fight.

“With Ortiz, you can see why no other heavyweight wants to fight him,” Wilder said to ESPN’s Dan Rafael. “He’s very crafty. He moves strategically, and his intellect is very high. I had to measure him in certain places. I had to go in and out, and finally, I found my measurement.”

In that quote, there is a sweet science — setting up the counterpunch, much as Wilder did when he feinted left, then dropped the hammer on Ortiz.

“I saw the shot, and I took it,” Wilder later said. “My intellect is very high in the ring, and no one gives me credit for it. I think I buzzed him with a left hook earlier in the round, and I took it from there.”

Wilder is deliberate. His inspired conversation about Black struggle last November should have clinched that. Instead, we limited his impassioned speech to three words — “till this day!”

The next day of consequence for Wilder will be February 22, 2020. That is the scheduled date for a second “dream match” with a name made for a video game — Tyson Fury.

Fury has been the only one to stand toe-to-toe with Wilder — well, for the most part. Wilder dropped him twice in their previous bout last December.

In the meantime, we would do well to appreciate — and not underestimate — maybe the most charismatic heavyweight champion since Mike Tyson. And maybe someone can design a Deontay Wilder’s Punch-Out game before the big fight.

King Kunta

Kaepernick asserts freedom with defiance, dexterity

“Clothes make the man.” 

It’s a shallow saying that suggests that what a person wears is more important than who the person is.

Colin Kaepernick is a professional quarterback — and so much more. He didn’t need to prove the former, yet did so in Atlanta on Saturday to prove that his NFL exile is less about talent and more about principles, specifically his stance on social injustice.

Who Kaepernick is got a supplemental boost from two words on a shirt that he wore during Saturday’s workout: 

Kunta Kinte.

Kunta Kinte, like Kap, is a figure made up of both fact and fiction. While Kinte is a fictional character in the 1976 novel Roots: The Saga of an American Family, he is based on one of the ancestors of Roots author Alex Haley. Both figures have entered the realm of mythology, largely because of how they’ve been written.

As a fan of hip-hop, I imagined Kap throwing deft darts through haters’ hearts backed by a Kendrick Lamar soundtrack, specifically a single off of his “To Pimp A Butterfly” project entitled “King Kunta”:

I got a bone to pick
I don’t want you monkey-mouth MFs sittin’ in my throne again
Ayy, ayy, n—a, what’s happenin’? K-dot back in the hood, n—a!
I’m mad (he mad!), But I ain’t stressin’
True friends
One question

One question seemed to be on the mind of Kap’s supporters and critics alike: why submit yourself to the tryout process in the first place?

Those are the questions that come from mythology — where the lines between fact and fiction are blurred. A question along the same lines asks why and what Kap took a knee for. It wasn’t an anti-American stance, it was a stance regarding police brutality and the treatment of veterans.

As for football, Kaepernick has always expressed that he loved the game. It’s just that over the last three years, he has not compromised his principles to do so.

It has been the NFL who has rebuked those principles. First, it colluded to keep him out of the league. Then, there was the half-hearted tryout offer, with its petty refusal to allow certain permissions and a controversial waiver to potentially handcuff Kap.

No, Kap’s got his freedom papers now. It doesn’t matter if he never plays another NFL down — which, despite his comrade Eric Reid’s return to the pro gridiron, never seemed like a possibility for the face of a movement.

B—, where you when I was walkin’?
Now I run the game, got the whole world talkin’
King Kunta, everybody wanna cut the legs off him
Kunta, black man taking no losses, oh yeah
B—, where you when I was walkin’?
Now I run the game, got the whole world talkin’
King Kunta, everybody wanna cut the legs off him
When you got the yams (what’s the yams?)

The allusion of yams draws from Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man — the book’s protagonist declares, “I yam who I am.” It is a statement of authenticity and purpose.

Kaepernick has endured most of his journey alone. He was let down by not only a significant number of NFL players, but the NFL Players’ Association itself. He was let down by fans who might have agreed with him in principle, but not enough to take a hiatus from the NFL. 

Yet when the NFL and detractors tried to take Kaepernick’s feet away — cut the legs off him — he found his footing. It’s beautifully ironic, really. The stereotype against Black quarterbacks is that they are “runners,” lacking intellect and leadership.

This year, above many others, proves that stereotype to be wrong. Lamar Jackson, who some suggested move to receiver instead of playing quarterback, is among the league’s best. The short list of standout signal callers includes Black faces such as Russell Wilson’s and Patrick Mahomes’.

There is one exiled name who rises above them all — not for what he’s doing on the field, but for what he continues to stands for off of it. Wearing a T-shirt to supplement that, in the moment of truth, is a sweet coup de grace.

Freeland Is Not Free

Superhero series touches on familiar topic — how society views and values Black life

Early in the first episode of CW’s Black Lightning TV series, Black Lightning’s alter ego, Jefferson Pierce, is the victim of police brutality. His daughters watch helplessly as Pierce subdues his powers —to preserve his secret identity.

In the first episode of the series’ third and current season, we see those same young ladies, who are also gifted with superpowers, fearlessly take down a plot to detain other “metahumans.” They accomplish this task while their father willfully chooses to remain in the custody of a clandestine government agency.

Juxtaposing the two moments between seasons shows how the series comes full circle, yet at the same time, continues to tackle the challenges that Black people face in America.

The fictional city of Freeland, Ga., comes under occupation of the American Security Agency, or A.S.A., in Black Lightning’s third season. It puts a strain on the Pierce family and throws a predominately Black community into martial law. There’s a lot going on to follow in the series — almost too much — but one of the most recent story arcs hits too close to home.

“Requiem For Tavon” follows the doomed path of Tavon Singley, a Black male student at Garfield High School, where Pierce is a mentor and former principal. Tavon was initially detained by the ASA for showing signs of “metahuman” abilities — a claim that was later found to be false.

Tavon was ultimately rescued by one of Pierce’s superpowered daughters, Blackbird, but that didn’t keep the young man out of harm’s way. He was later killed in a battle that involved three of Pierce’s former students — his daughter, Anissa, Tavon and Painkiller, a formerly paralyzed (and thought to be deceased) young man with cybernetic enhancements.

Again, it’s a lot to follow, but the painful and powerful scene leading up to the fated battle weaves it together. Pierce meets with Tavon’s parents and promises them that he will protect Tavon. Their concerns, quite naturally, are that their son is in A.S.A. custody.

Pierce, acting as both a mentor and as his alter ego, Black Lightning, heartbreakingly fails to keep his promise.

When Tavon’s parents see his lifeless body, they are stunned and devastated. The viewer can’t help but hear the name “Tavon” and phonetically hear “Trayvon,” the latter of whom became national news after he was murdered by the vigilante George Zimmerman in 2012.

Tavon’s death promises to spark a revolution — an important refrain in the struggle for Black equity and civil rights. In one moment, the hero with powers seems powerless; and then, in the next moment, those “regular beings” without supernatural abilities feel a sense of empowerment.

“This is the spark we needed,” exclaims Black police chief Bill Henderson, himself torn between the events during the occupation. 

That spark — both in the fictional and real world — is what powers the pursuit of freedom.

Class Distinction

Garrett-Rudolph incident is far from cut-and-dry

Before Cleveland Browns defensive end Myles Garrett clubbed Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Mason Rudolph with a helmet, the NFL was already a league devoid of class.

The brutality of the sport aside, we see how the league treats its former and current players, as well as the important topic of social (in)justice. 

And still, when we slow the moment down, watch it over and over again, there’s a lot that can be said about “class” — and not just from the perspective of what we deem to be “decent.” There’s also the function of class in how we treat (white) quarterbacks versus how we treat other players. There’s the function of class in how forgivable certain political views are versus others. And of course, there’s the function of class in how we allow the flawed NFL to conduct itself as judge, jury and executioner in its dealings.

First, we must deal with the reality of Thursday night’s events. Regardless of whom started the conflict, it was decisively and brutally finished by Garrett, who has been suspended indefinitely by the NFL. That’s the right move by a league that doesn’t always get it right regarding player safety.

The first and most important responsibility of the league is to protect its players. The picture of a quarterback absorbing a hit to the head via helmet flies in the face of those protections. The incident is a case of extreme brutality in a brutal sport — and we must never forget that football is a brutal sport. The collective outrage expressed on behalf of Rudolph should also be expressed when NFL owners propose a 17-game (or more) season. The physical toll that it takes on players may not be as sudden or startling as the attack on Rudolph, but it’s no less devastating.

Or, as ESPN’s Pablo S. Torre put it on Twitter: “Myles Garrett totally failed to respect the difference between consensual and nonconsensual brain damage.” A bar.

Also, we can’t trivialize the fact that the quarterback in question is white. The picture of a Black man “savagely” attacking a white quarterback will certainly conjure race-based reactions. Add the politics of the white quarterback in question, and it’s a recipe for divisive hot takes.

Rudolph’s assessment of Garrett’s helmet swinging as “bush league” and “coward move” hits differently after reports about Rudolph’s politics. The Steelers’ quarterback and his activity on Twitter have led to reports that he supports the ideologies of President Donald Trump and commentator Tomi Lahren, both unrepentantly conservative.

In short, the views of classiness from someone who upholds such classless figures is comical, if not flat-out hypocritical.

Rudolph’s politics aren’t the only thing on trial here, but his privilege. Only a quarterback would have the privilege to confront (and later attempt to kick in the privates) a defensive end without the fear of repercussion. 

That privilege isn’t just a function of race. t’s a function of how we feel about offensive players versus defensive players. We treat injuries and big hits on defensive players as “part of the business.” We treat the same in regards to offensive players (with exception to linemen) as tragedies. The most brutal hit or attack this year wasn’t the helmet hit. The response was understandably visceral, but the hit Marcus Peters endured on an interception and pick-six when he was still a Ram was the most brutal hit of the year. There was little to no outrage over that hit.

That’s not a new phenomenon. We celebrated the likes of former Pittsburgh receiver Hines Ward when he made blindside blocks on defenders. The NFL even implemented the “Hines Ward” rule, but that didn’t stop the Hall of Fame wideout.

That privilege also doesn’t apply to all quarterbacks. Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton seems to be a shell of himself as we speak because of the hits he sustained — some of which went unpunished, such as the hits against the Denver Broncos in the post-Super Bowl rematch to kick off the 2016 season.

All of these concerns fall under the umbrella of a league where “selective outrage” isn’t even its greatest sin. The willful attack against civil rights — which of course, extends to the labor of current and past players — is the league’s greatest failure.

It is a failure that continues to blackball former quarterback Colin Kaepernick, even in the face of a half-hearted offer for a tryout. This is the league that takes a tougher stance on players standing up for civil rights than players who commit domestic abuse. This is the league that pretends to care about player safety, but not only does that ideal not apply to all of its players, but it does little to nothing in terms of benefits for its retirees.

The moral fiber of the league is so frayed that, even in the case of an extreme act such as Garrett’s, it’s just another black eye on a disgraceful league. And it doesn’t take someone with a college degree to understand that.

Class dismissed.