Saturday reflection on Santa Monica, race and identity politics

Rosalind Helderman’s excellent Stephen Miller profile in the Washington Post got me sitting down to write this morning before heading out. That profile was just as inspirational as an impromptu visit to a Gardena music studio yesterday for a Grammy Week party to watch a showcase with organized by a black female violinist who shared the stage with Brooke Valentine, who performed a cover of the timeless Groove Theory joint “Tell Me.”

And that’s nothing to say of the fact that I shared my Eric Grant (RIP)-It Was Written story with an emcee named Cassius, whose business partner in the said Gardena studio is named Clay and reminded of Clay from a NoHo topless party at which all I remember was saying allah akbar before getting being sucker punched by a gang member/s who turned that party into a riot. Cassius and his band performed an interpolation of Pac’s “Dear Mama” that transported me back to 1996 and Downtown Business Magnets English class.

So, here I am, today, listening to dead prez’ M1 f/ K’naan and Stori James “Til We Get There” in my headpones and reading the WaPo profile of Miller, marveling at who this unknown 31-year old political operative that came up in Santa Monica to liberal Jew parents,was a sore outlier as a conservative and ingratiated himself with Larry Elder on the radio and penned some editorials in the Santa Monica Mirror. Mind you, I worked as the education and sports editor between 2010-2011, a little after Miller was a student there. He is clearly a smart guy, accepted and matriculated to Duke University, where he really stepped up his conservative game. The plug from David Horowitz to Jeff Sessions, who is now the AG of the U.S., seems like plausible progress. (If I wasn’t such as loser, I wouldn’t have impregnated a married Tanzanian national when I was a 22 year old reporter at the San Fernando Valley Business Journal. Maybe by now, I’d be working at The Camstoll Group).

Ironically, today another story really struck me. As reported by ESPN.com, Michael Bennett has declined the NFL trip to Israel explicitly because the Zionist government is underwriting it. The cool thing is that Bennett, a Super Bowl champion with a platform is not just taking a position, but is also able to articulate it like a seasoned crisis PR pro.

Perhaps foolishly, I accepted the opportunity to travel to Israel as part of Project Interchange in 2002, underwritten by the American Jewish Committee. I was looking to find my Jewish roots, but instead produced a feature story that started out with a paragraph set in a Arab Israeli town living room. Yep, I took what was clearly an Israeli propaganda trip and flipped it into foreign reporting. CSUN journalism department chair Cynthia Rawitch made sure that my work was awarded several department awards and even surprised me with a $2,500 Los Angeles Times Fund Scholarship at a dinner. I was, and still am, kinda shocked at how that happened.

Fourteen years after that article was published, Israel is still up to the same tactics, lol. Not to be selfish, but it’s amazing how far a first-generation Ukrainian – a naturalized U.S. citizen – can come in this ‘Make America First’ era yet support the underdogs, the marginalized and powerless. It goes way above Obama, guys.The difference between Stephen Miller and myself is that I actually embrace and feel embraced in the multicultural and very hip-hop community in Santa Monica. In fact, today, I’m about to head back to CSUN, my alma mater, for a meet up with fellow journalism alumni and tour the campus facilities. Then, I plan to head out to a Hip Hop Caucus event, organized by Jordan Eversley, a former student-athlete who is a prototype of a political communication strategist similar to Stephen Miller had Miller came out of the hood in Chicago. Yep, Jordan is my dude, although when I was brought in to do web copywriting and blogging on the Supreme Justice campaign, there had been plenty of times when I wanted to smack him. Still, it’s all love bro. Much respect to you and keep fighting for the people.

I want to make this last point very, very, very clear: I am not a Stephen Miller hater. As a University of Maryland University College graduate student who hopes to be continue his education at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government beginning in 2018 or 2019, I believe that civil engagement is at the very foundation of a democracy in this great country of ours. I respect conservatives. Santa Monica to Foggy Bottom to Vermont to Miami. I actually want to commend Stephen Miller for his political success, not chide him. His time in the spotlight is going to end, though, and he will not be on the right side of history. I wholeheartedly disagree with his position against Muslims, as we all know, the federal judge and the appeals courts are on the side of the majority. Bottom line is that I, a Ukrainian-American with a Tanzanian baby mama, see a vastly different world than what Miller see. I am steadfast and will always remain steadfast in seeing myself in a role to support friends and associates in the Latinx community.

Why?

Because it has guys like Alex Aldana, a USC Marshall grad student, who was the organizer of the One Nation Hip Hop Summit in Santa Monica. In 2010, following an introduction by friend and confidante Leila Steinberg – who is not Jewish, contrary to popular belief, because her mother is Mexican – I teamed up with Alex and other volunteers to organize that event. It was hella memorable, and not just because it was headlined by Pete Rock and CL Smooth with a budget from the Pico Youth Family Center. But, because the executive director, the esteemed Oscar de la Torre, a board member of the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District, supported it. It was a community building effort, one that connected black, Latino, Jewish and all cultures the way that only hip-hop can.

That’s power.

I wish Stephen Miller read this and whispered about it to his boss in the White House – for good laughs, for betterment of the nation, because it is the right thing to do.

Donald Trump is to hip-hop like Russell Simmons is to yoga?

That’s my theory. At least, having sat five feet away from Russell last Sunday and geekin’ at his patience in signing books after a hot yoga class. Now, with that plug out of the way, here’s one of the most rational pieces of media depicting that ‘Trump is actually the epitome of hip-hop and capitalism.’ It came via a WhatsApp from my brother Camilo Smith, a Columbia j-school grad based down in Houston, Texas, these days.

I have been saying that Trump’s the quintessential American opportunist, ladies and gentlemen. Now, someone with a larger platform than myself is saying it, too.

Remind me to quote from Mr. Simmons’  Nelson George-penned 2002 biography when you see me. Or ask Russell yourself if you catch him over at Tantris studio in West Hollywood (not from his Beverly Hills residence, I presume). It’s aight that Russ is about that yoga life and while I feel it may be perceived as a cult, I don’t think of that as a bad thing.

Although at $23 per class, it sure sounds a whole lot better than $200 per month.

More on this story later, I’m sure. Hey, The Source, you still do journalism?

On the ground at #TechFairLA today

Well, since Russell Simmons’ yoga activism dynamic is not quite a freelanced story that I can pitch to a media platform such as, say, TRONC, think I’m going to just go and chop it up with All Def Digital at the Tech Fair LA Today. And Amazon’s Audible, if its reps are around. A marketing cross-partnership between ADD and Audible is something I discussed over dinner last night with my friend SJ who is working towards building out Russ’ yoga kingdom. I actually feel a strong appreciation for Russ’ work ethic and dedication to yoga, and sitting five feet away from him was inspiring. I am glad I was able to at least offer something back in the form of the reminder that this Tupac Shakur letter is arguably the most interesting item in Pac’s estate, considering he wrote the letter to a Death Row Records publicist (who a source I met just yesterday told me has moved to England after living in Calabasas for years; I guess one does that after seeing a $150,000+ payday, and here’s to hoping that letter ended up in the hands of an individual who would loan it to places such as the Museum of the African Diaspora up there near where my friend Fatimah lives and create a forum in which Leila Steinberg and I can finally reconcile). But that’s neither here nor there.

Back to All Def Digital. Most of the niggafied stuff they do is not for a business journalist such as myself. However, as a University of Maryland University College graduate student with Harvard Kennedy aspirations, I love to see dope collaborations such as the Spotify-ADD #TrafficJams. I had the opportunity to attend a taping of one, and met Amir Abbassy, b/k/a @blamethelabel, Freeway’s former manager and someone I have the utmost respect for in the entertainment industry.

I haven’t seen the content materialize on Spotify, which I actually do not use as much as Google Play Music these days. Truth be told I have never even tried TIDAL and it will stay that way until Shawn Carter decides to send someone to Ukraine to negotiate signing Neyba to a Roc Nation contract (Yeah I believe in transparency to this level). It would just be better if that person spoke Russian fluently because I am assuming that’s Neyba’s first language.

Now, before you think I’m a fool to handing out ideas out like rappers give out CDs on Venice Beach – hand out USB drives, breh –  keep in mind that the move to Dar es Salaam and/or Dallas is all but done deal, as far as I am concerned. I have nothing against L.A. but to work as a foreign correspondent and create other business opportunities, one has to get on planes and actually stay abroad. I did promise my Tanzanian fam bam that I would return if Donald Trump ascended to the office of POTUS, and I like to keep my word. While it would be nice to visit Kiev again and see my father, I’m not quite sure what stories are there to be told or employment to be had outside the CIA, which I’m going to pass because incompetence has been the Agency’s benchmark since they last touched base with me when I was in DSM in June 2007.

Generally speaking, I’m very interested to hear what the L.A. tech community hiring managers will have to say one-on-one. I’m going to the Tech Fair as a somewhat disenchanted job seeker, although participating in Mark S. Luckie’s #Journo2Tech webinar the other day definitely planted a seed in my mind.

The most important take away from that session?

To be liked. 

I’m still grappling with that one. Considering working for someone else would inherently lease away time I could dedicate to writing The American Opportunist book in Dar es Salaam.

We’ll see what the day holds at Tech Fair LA. As a fan of Mayor Eric Garcetti, I genuinely look forward to it.

What I Learned From Harvard Kennedy School PolicyCast While Eating Lunch at Sweety Pie’s In North Hollywood

First and foremost, here are facts on the ground. John Coltrane’s “How Deep Is The Ocean” tune is playing on Pandora. I am plopped down here at a chain eatery at the corner of Lankershim and Chandler boulevards in North Hollywood’s spiritually rejuvenated Arts District. Next, I’d like to quote from Travels, a manuscript published in 1988 by my favorite Harvard-educated-doctor-turned-novelist. This quote sums up my outlook and worldview moving forward in this existence pretty well. Before upcoming travel to Tanzania via Ukraine, or U.S. politics, African politics, religion politics, business and death, I offer you this:

“It is my intention to write about the interstices of my life, about the events that occurred while what I imagined to be the real business of my life was taking place.”

-Michael Crichton, Travels, p. xi

Fact is, while I pay attention to HKS podcast to gauge where Harvard’s bright minds are today because I am interested in being accepted to HKS for 2018-19 to become one, I come from a media background and will never been able to ween away from it. Fact is, I am one phone call-in away from having 2009 national champion North Carolina Tar Heels player and four-year NBA veteran Rashad McCants on the line. Rashad’s my guy, even though our business relationship has yet to truly take shape. He needs to reconcile with UNC board of trustees to be able to win over Michael Jordan and introduce us into East Africa.

Which brings me to the topic of trust. Today and for the foreseeable future – through at least Jan. 20, 2021, when POTUS Donald J. Trump will either enter a second term or a new president will rise – facts remain that the U.S is still the most diverse, embittered, conflicted and awesomely powerful nation on the planet known as Earth. But, let me defer to HKS’ roundtable participant, Roger Porter, who should not to be confused with Harvard Business School’s Michael Porter, the genius whose Five Forces concept is the paradigm underneath the mindset of global business.

When RP says that the U.S. is  “a nation that’s roughly 50/50,” he’s talking about half of the people wanting democracy and the other half wanting a republic. It’s the that finely-aged realism versus liberalism dilemma. For the uninitiated and uneducated, these  different sets of governments can govern a democracy.

“Democracy takes the preferences and priorities of all sorts of people and tries to meld them together.”

Elsewhere in the podcast, the fellas and a lady – named Barbara – bring up the good ol’ D.C. slang I’ve heard many times from R.M.D. in Northwest DC: low-hanging fruit. Even further down, I heard them bring up “the importance of strategic ambiguity,” which is a key phrase POTUS candidate Hillary Clinton has given in speeches to Goldman Sachs investment bankers.

I love how the entire roundtable laughed at the mambo jambo that Mama Chelsea uses to fundraise for her nonprofit organization Clinton Global Initiative, which I think should employ my good friend and family member Cecilia Membe in Tanzania to actually do some private sector that benefits that East African republic.

As far as POTUS Donald J. Trump’s concerned, I am actually a fan of the guy. I understand his professed appreciation of Russian leader Vladimir Putin (we share in that), sarcasm, his sexual innuendos, his vilification. He is a typical albeit oddly Scottish and niggafied New York City raised real estate developer, through and through.

Trump and I have a few things in common in that we play a villain to some and are grandiose to others. I was an Inland Empire commercial real estate reporter at the California Real Estate Journal from March to May 2007, hired and unceremoniously fired by Michael Gottlieb because he needed to churn through yet another reporter after burning a bridge with my predecessor. That’s my only basis for comparing myself to Trump, since I have yet to develop an inch of commercial real estate.

This post’s getting too long but let’s just say that blogging is a lot like hedge fund target practice when you have family in Tanzania and Ukraine. Furthermore, I have aspirations to give rise to the first POTUS born to a Ukrainian-American father and a Tanzanian national in the state of Ohio. Galion, Ohio, to be exact.

Now, if you will excuse me, let me go figure out the last quip I learned from Harvard Kennedy School of Government’s last PolicyCast, used by a participant as a reference to the 45th President of the United States of America:

“I think he’s strategically ambiguous to his benefit.”

 

 

President elect Donald J. Trump adviser Jared Kushner gets love on Россия 24

Watch this like whichever CIA director was watching the White House on the morning of 9/11/01 and my ex-DEA, hedge fund manager acquaintance in Washington D.C. up at the towers as his friends came crashing down to their death. Capitalism doesn’t have to be bloody under the Donald J. Trump administration. Osama bin Laden was diabolical but that’s all because he, literally, had women problems.

Is George Will a reporter or a genius?

Listen, folks. I’m a fan of George Will the columnist more so than Allah’s will – or Nas of Ill Will, but we’ll just let that rest – in ways than President-elect Trump, Rep. Cardenas and Rep. Schiff could not imagine if they all walked into the National Press Building and ate tacos. Syndicated columnist George Will writes:

Soon, foreign policy will be conducted by a man who, although in 2010 he said WikiLeaks’ Julian Assange deserves the death penalty, now seems to trust Assange on the subject of Russian hacking more than he trusts the consensus of the nation’s $53 billion civilian intelligence institutions. Time passes and, we are told, brings progress.

 

I want to add a link that popped up in my Google Alerts for good measure, but I can’t seem to find it. Too encompassing. And I’m looking for more money than VXI Global Solutions Inc. in downtown L.A. was willing to pay for my Russian linguistics and sound mind.