Monday, May 09, 2005

Bill Cosby

Austin Bay is one of those bloggers I just don't read enough, maybe because I'm often pressed for time and can't devote the energy necessary to benefit fully from Bay's tightly-woven pieces. This post reviews a column by James Campbell in The Houston Chronicle about Bill Cosby's current round of speeches on African-American issue, which Cosby refers to as "call-outs."

I have admired Bill Cosby since I watched him on "I Spy" and started to listen to his comedy records as a 12 year-old white kid who knew exactly one black person, a kid in my elementary school. "I Started Out As Child," Why Is There Air?" "To Russell, My Brother, Who I Slept With," are all part of my childhood and early adolescence, and even now my family listens to those albums during car trips. So I am very glad Cosby is speaking out in a politically incorrect manner about many issues other respected African-Americans dare not touch.

And yet, and yet . . . something about the reaction of many conservative to the Cosby speeches makes me uncomfortable. Like me, many are shouting "hurrah!" to everything Cosby says, but it seems to me that many of those doing the shouting are not people who have cared much about the plight of children growing up in an underclass, other than to complain loudly and often about the admittedly misguided interventions undertaken by government at various levels.

In other words, where liberals have told the black community, "You have a problem; here's the wrong answer," too many conservatives have simply said either, "You don't have a problem" or "You may have a problem but I am not going to help you with it." To me, when that latter group starts singing Bill Cosby's praises all of a sudden, the tune's a little off-key.

Here's what Cosby has to say about all that, as quoted by Campbell:

Suffice to say, most did not know what to make of Cosby’s headlong drive
into a social debate that long had been driven by what Cosby calls “poverty

While some blacks welcomed Cosby’s message, others, white liberals included, thought it fanciful and simplistic.

Conversely, conservatives co-opted Cosby’s message and used it to further incriminate those in the underclass for not pulling themselves up by the strings on their $500 Nike sneakers. They’ve all missed the point, according to Cosby.

“These people are the first ones to start screaming because they knew when they heard what I was saying that there was a chance they would lose their gig,” Cosby said. “People in the neighborhood have to teach people where they’re self-inflicting, and you do this through word of mouth and through example.

Austin Bay concludes:

Bill Cosby is trying to address the dimension of individual initiative and responsibility, which is always necessary but always tricky. Invoking "responsibility” inevitably ticks someone off because it entails finger-wagging. The most effective finger-waggers are funny and can laugh at themselves– and that’s why Cosby is so dangerous to the jerks who’ll “lose their gig” when citizens respond to his call for renewal and revival.

He's right. Read the whole thing.


Blogger Eric L. Wesson said...

Cosby Brings
A Dose Of
Reality To K.C.

By Eric L. Wesson
CALL Staff Writer
Mandy and Sammy Brown’s, whose daughter Critty was raped, murdered and left in a high school football field in 1991, nine months of persistence paid off on Tuesday afternoon as they were escorted into a room to meet privately with Dr. William H. Cosby Jr., PhD. Ed.
The Browns called Dr. Cosby at least twice a month last year from February to November trying to get him to come to town to speak to the community about the senseless killings. He finally agreed.
“We knew if anyone could talk people into changing the way they act, it has to be Dr. Bill Cosby,” said Mrs. Brown.
“We are just happy that he is here and we just hope it does some good,” said Brown.
Dr. Cosby brought his message of personal responsibility to Kansas City on Tuesday in two sessions. The first session featured, Dr. Bernard Franklin, president of Penn Valley Community college; Michael Patterson, counselor Southeast High school; Ms. Lori Ross, Mid-West Foster care; Dr. Susan Wilson, Swope Health services; Richard Morris, LISC; Shalonda Triblett, Alvin Brooks, councilman; Dr. Ed Underwood, UMKC, and Dr. Cosby as panelists.
The group offered valuable insight on parenting to the hundreds of grandparents, foster parents and relatives who were taking care of other relative’s children.
The discussions centered around discipline, listening to your child and eating properly.
“That is why so many young people are so hyper. They don’t eat properly. Burger, fries, a slice of tomato and a caffeinatedenergy drink. In the morning they have a donut, a bag of chips and a 16 sugar spoon drink. No protein just carbs, which turns to sugar and leads to diabetes,” said Dr. Cosby.
THE CALL spoke to Dr. Cosby after the session about whether the session achieved his desired goal and what the next steps will be.
“I think overall this was one of the best sessions that we have had for the caretakers, because generally we don’t get the information out to the people so that they can help themselves,” said Dr. Cosby.
“In the past we have the professionals out there and they are just talk, talk and more talk. In this particularly case we had people asking questions and we could direct our professionals to them,” Dr. Cosby said.
“This afternoon was one of the better sessions, because things were answered. When the person asked, ‘How do I get my teenage daughter to listen to me’? Then have a psychologist say, ‘This is what I think you need to do,’ is powerful,” he said.
“I think what we covered and what people heard today were issues on the front burner and the people need to have more of these type of discussions,” Dr. Cosby said.
David Muhammad of Newark, New Jersey agrees with Dr. Cosby.
“Newark was the the first place that Dr. Huxtable stopped and talked to people as Cliff and they were not use to him speaking out in such a manner. It raised the discussion level and allowed people to address issues personally,” said Muhammad.
“When he came back, the second time, people were able to separate him from his television character and view him as an elder trying to make a difference,” Muhammad said.
Dr. Cosby is scheduled to go back to Newark in late June to be a part of the violent crime commission hearings according to Muhammad.
Dr. Cosby said that the next step is for the black media outlets to keep the issues in the forefront.
“Yes, I will come back and do this again. What would be wonderful is THE CALL galvanizing the community and staying on the case. If you show people that you care and you show politicians that they are not going to have a job unless they do right, you would be surprised how money shows up to do things and get things done that they claim couldn’t be done,” said Dr. Cosby.
“I just want people to look within themselves. The first question a person should ask is, ‘what am I doing?’” he said.
The second session featured featured personal testimonies from panelists, Tyrone Flowers, M-Pact; Ms. Delores Jones, radio talk show host; Dr. Gregg Minion, emergency room doctor; Curtis Boyd, Jackson County Coroner’s office; Randy Carter Sr., father; OsscoBolton, P.O.S.S.E.; Ms. Belinda Wiley and Dr. Bernard Franklin. Dr. Cosby presented the keynote address during this session.
Each panel member shared their personal life stories on how they overcame many obstacles in their lives to become successful. They shared solutions so that others who shared simular circumstance to over come theirs as well.
Flowers overcame being shot several times and confined to a wheelchair to run one of the city’s most successful programs and recently obtained a law degree.
Ms. Jones overcame the loss of her mother at an early age and a close family member who had been addicted to crack cocaine to graduate from journalism school at the University of Missouri and earn a Master’s degree.
Bolton gave up the gang life when his baby nephew was gunned down in a drive by shooting right in front of him. He now helps young people stay out of gangs.
Ms. Wiley became the first person in her family to graduate with honors after bouncing back from a battle with drugs.
Ms. Joyce and Rachel Riley of the 24th Street Non-Violent Marchers told the crowd about how they took back their neighborhoods.
Dr. Minion and Boyd shared information and the Coroner’s office. Boyd ended his presentation by laying a body bag in front of the stage.
Some of the mothers and father of murder victims shared their stories in a special segment of the program. One mother plead with the community to start assisting police with information pertaining to a murder.
Last year, the Kansas City, Mo., Police department solved approximately 60 percent of the city’s 128 homicides.
During his presentation. Dr. Cosby told parents to recapture their households.
“No where in the Bible does it say, ‘Thou shall be afraid of your children,’” Dr. Cosby told the near capacity crowd.
He also warned people about accepting labels such as “disadvantaged” and “at-risk”.
“People say, ‘I’m disadvantaged because my parents are disadvantaged, my grandparents were disadvantaged, even our dog is disadvantaged. Stop allowing people to put labels on you,” he said.
Pat Clarke, a local activist who is putting together a Million Youth March on June 3 told THE CALL that he really enjoyed and agreed with everything Dr. Cosby said.
“His message was simple. We need to take back our communities and take back our households. But, the testimonies that came before he spoke were powerful. Many people got mad and left saying that they came to hear Cosby, but those testimonies connected to many things that people have experienced in their own personal lives,” Clarke said.
As Dr. Cosby closed his presentation he called for the community to get in the entrepreneur spirit by opening a fresh fruit and vegetable store in the 24th street area.
Dr. Cosby also had a film crew in Kansas City filming a documentary on the economic plight of some areas in Kansas City.

Thursday, June 01, 2006 12:31:00 PM  

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