Review: The Social Dilemma (Netflix)

“There are only two industries that call their customers ‘users’: illegal drugs and software.”

By Michael P Coleman

The very aptly named Netflix docu-drama The Social Dilemma poses several provocative questions about the use of social media and the usage of social media users.

If you’re a social media user, brace yourself for this provocative new film.

I deliberately framed that statement in that way — it doesn’t mean what you may think it means.

Yes, if you spend any time at all on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, Snap Chat, Tik Tok, or any of a myriad of popular social media services, you use social media.

But according to Jeff Orlowski, the director of the riveting film, you’re also being used.

Watch the trailer to The Social Dilemma.

The Social Dilemma features provocative contributions from many of the architects of a variety of social media sites. Collectively, those tech pioneers describe an industry that exists for a solitary reason: the monetization of its users’s online behaviors. According to the film, every click, every “like,” and every ❤️ that’s shared on social media is recorded, analyzed, and used.

How’s it feel to know that?

Many of The Social Dilemma’s takeaways were startling.

“When I was there, I always thought that, fundamentally, it was a force for good,” one tech architect said of his earlier years with a popular social media site. “I don’t know if I feel that anymore.”

“We have gone from the information age to the disinformation age,” said another.

And how about these:

“If you’re not paying for the product, you are the product.”

“Cell phones are a digital pacifier.”

And check this one out — it comes from Anna Lembke of Stanford University’s School of Medicine:

“Social media is a drug. We have a basic biological imperative to connect with other people, that directly affects the release of dopamine and the reward pathway. Millions of years of evolution are behind that system to get us to come together, live in communities, find mates, and propagate the species.”

“So…a vehicle like social media, which optimizes the connection between people, is going to have the potential for addiction.”

Go ahead and admit it. This is just between you and me. You’re know you’re hooked. Lembke’s talking about people like you. And me.

Throughout The Social Dilemma, searing quotes like those are interspersed with scripted vignettes that vary in impact. One of the most effective of them depicts a teenage girl’s shattered self esteem after a Snap Chat follower criticizes her appearance. According to the film, the rise of social media about a decade ago directly correlates with the rise of anxiety — and suicidal ideation — among our young people.

And as Lembke pointed out, those social media accounts are beyond being mildly habit forming.

“There are only two industries that call their customers ‘users’: illegal drugs and software,” said Edward Tufte, professor emeritus of political science, statistics, and computer science at Yale University.

The Social Dilemma presented for me just one real dilemma: what in the world am I going to do when I delete my social media accounts? Since watching the film last week, I’ve already sharply reduced my time spent on Twitter, Facebook and the like. What in the world will I do with all of that free time?

Maybe I’ll actually have a conversation with the person sitting right next to me. That is, if I can get him to stop scrolling through Facebook and put his phone down.

Watch the trailer, then Watch The Social Dilemma on Netflix! THEN, prepare to spend a lot less time on social media!

A Pair of Pockies Provides A Perfect Pick-Me-Up

Because “pants just slow you down,” and the company wants to help us keep our privates private!

By Michael P Coleman

Do you remember when a certain soft drink company invited us to “Have A Coke And A Smile?” Or Nike encouraged us to “Just Do It?” Sometimes, the marketing of a product hits a home run. This is one of those times.

Ladies and gentlemen…well, gentlemen…allow me to introduce you to Pockies, the world’s first boxer shorts with fitted legs…and pockets!

Why, you ask?

“Because pants just slow you down,” according to a statement from the company. They want to help us “keep our privates private!”

In the spirit of full and total disclosure, I have been largely pants-free for decades. Growing up, my mom had a hard time keeping clothes on me.

I’ve been working part-time from home for almost 20 years, and full-time since 2012, long before the coronavirus sent many of us scurrying from our offices, ditching our daily commutes, and setting up shop from our couches and kitchen tables.

This has long been one of favorite t-shirts in my closet. I’m all about ditching the pants whenever I can! Photo courtesy of Coleman Communications.

During all of that virtual working, I and every other guy I know is completely put together from the waist up for each of our Zoom meetings. But — SPOILER ALERT! — what’s going on beneath the frame of that monitor or iPad is often a very different story…like a duck on water, or your favorite Muppet.

A VERY. Different. Story.

While I’ve been a card-carrying member of the Pants-Free Club for years, I’ve typically not had a place to tuck that card…or my phone, earbuds, or anything thing else that makes my work day go more smoothly. A messenger bag just doesn’t cut it at home, and you can forget a fanny pack.

I’m writing this while wearing a pair of Pockies. My iPhone’s tucked in my right pocket. I may never take these puppies off.

Without going into detail that the ladies may find either off-putting or too titillating for the work day, everything I’ve got is stuffed in its own special place, nestled comfortably in the smoothest, softest pair of boxer shorts that I have ever worn.

And I’m not alone! Since the Amsterdam-based company launched Pockies in 2015, they’ve sold over 200,000 pairs of the blissfully comfy shorts. With that success, Pockies are arriving in the United States, for the very first time, as we speak.

And if this afternoon in my home office is any indication, Pockies are going to make it REALLY hard to talk anyone who tries them into going back into the office after the global pandemic is over.

“We try to make your life on the couch extra easy,” Pockies founder Michiel Dicker says.

That’s right. Hand to God. I couldn’t have written that if I’d tried: the company’s founder’s surname is Dicker.

And Pockies have fitted legs, too! So now you don’t have to worry about wanton breezes, let alone giving your office mate / roommate / the UPS delivery guy too much of a view. (At least get ‘em to buy you a cup of socially distanced coffee first…)

“We hated the fact that people in the room could see everything dangling about when we sat down,” says Dicker. “That’s why we created our boxer short with fitted legs. This way, it won’t crawl up and you don’t have to present you friends and family with your precious parts.”

Each pair of Pockies comes packaged with smile-inducing “Safety Guidelines” like “This is not a sweater” and “In the event of airplane failure, relax: you’re probably at home.”

And if you’re hankering for the perfect shirt to top off those new Pockies, the company offers cozy djellabas (the D is silent). We used to call them “nightshirts” here in the States. As I pulled my new djellaba over my head, I thought “This will be perfect if it has pockets!”

Dicker and his team must have read my mind. In lieu of pockets, the company’s djellabas have perfectly-placed side slots, giving us immediate access to those pockets on the Pockies,

…because, of course, men would never walk around the house with a nightshirt on and no underwear under it. If we did, who knows what we might grab.

Zoom meetings are one thing, but walking around the house or yard might get dicey without the drawers.

He looks like he’s having a good day, right? Right??

Pick up some Pockies for yourself, or for that special man in your life. He’ll thank you the same way I’m just about thanking Jesus right now for mine. You can grab ‘em at pockies.com.

EXCLUSIVE! Marvin Winans Talks All-Star Collaborations, the Whitney Houston Duet That Almost Happened, and the Upcoming Remake Of “The Question Is”

“I think my best song is still in front of me.”

by Michael P Coleman

Marvin L. Winans, Pastor of Detroit’s Perfecting Church and founding member of the legendary gospel quartet The Winans, is the recipient of multiple heavenly gifts. In addition to being one of the best singers in his family (which is saying quite a lot) and of his generation, he’s a prolific songwriter.

During our recent phone chat, Winans told me that he wrote his first song, “God Is A Miracle Worker,” when he was just 13 years old. He went on to write songs for most of his nine musical siblings.

I joked that Winans didn’t have enough siblings to sing all of the songs that he’d written.

“Yes, there were enough of them,” Winans warmly laughed. “They just didn’t want my songs!”

Pastor Marvin L. Winans

Whether Winans’s famous brothers and sisters rejected songs from the man who penned classics like “Straighten My Life Out” and “Millions” or not, the singer / songwriter went on to collaborate with a dizzying list of artists from a variety of different genres. One of them, Anita Baker, is from his Detroit hometown.

“I met Anita in the airport,” Winans remembered. “A week earlier, I’d seen her on the cover of Ebony Magazine. I had never seen her before, but I’d heard her song on the radio. In fact, my cousin, Gary Glenn, had written ‘Caught Up In The Rapture’ for her.”

Grammy winner Anita Baker

Winans told me that his introduction to Baker was fairly nondescript, and I assumed that the pair had trotted off to the recording studio to cut the classic “Ain’t No Need To Worry,” for The Winans’ 1987 Decisions album.

As it turns out, another 80s diva had her sights on the song before Baker ever got ahold of it: “The Voice” herself, Whitney Houston!

“The first person who sang that song was Whitney,” Winans shared. “I had just written it, and The Winans were in concert in New Jersey. I called Whitney up and told her to come on and sing this with me, and I taught it to her, and she tore that song completely up!”

“We kept asking Whitney “Are you gonna do it,” but for whatever reason, it didn’t happen. And so I went and got Anita.”

“The song Anita wanted to sing was “Give Me You.” But if she would have taken that, we wouldn’t have been gospel singers any more,” Winans laughed.

The Winans became almost as well known for their high profile duet partners, like Baker, as they did for their anointed gospel songs. Over the course of almost 15 years, the group shared a mic with artists like rock’s Michael McDonald and Kenny Loggins, gospel’s Vanessa Bell Armstrong, new jack swing’s Aaron Hall, jazz’s Kenny G, country’s Ricky Van Shelton, and the King Of Pop himself, Michael Jackson.

Yup, The Winans backed up MJ on this classic track!

But despite the dabbles in different styles of music, The Winans’ lyrics remained true, and they remained committed to spreading the gospel via song.

“My brother Ronald and I said ‘We’re going to sing gospel music, and that’s all we’re going to sing’ But we said we would love to [sing with] Stevie Wonder, Marvin Gaye, and Donnie Hathaway,” Winans said. “Well, unfortunately Donnie Hathaway died, and Marvin Gaye died, but we were able to do “It’s Not Heaven If You’re Not There” with Lalah Hathaway.”

As Winans and I were both born in Detroit — although he gave me a hard time about having grown up in the suburbs! — I had to ask the legend about working with another musical titan, Stevie Wonder, who duetted with The Winans on “Everyday The Same,” from 1990’s Return album.

“Stevie was amazing,” Winans said. “We grew up in Motown, when Motown was in Motown. We were coming off the freeway one day, heading home from church, and we saw Little Stevie Wonder in the back seat of a station wagon. We lived on Woodingham, and Stevie lived on Greenlawn, which was the street behind us. So having a chance to work with him years later was all joy.”

From L-R Carvin Winans, Michael Winans, Stevie Wonder, Marvin L. Winans, and the late Ronald Winans

Of all of Winans’s musical collaborations, my favorite may be their stunning version of “Leaning On The Everlasting Arm,” a duet with Ladysmith Black Mambazo. Winans remembered the duet like it was yesterday.

“I’ve never forgotten that project, to this day,” Winans said. “They called me and asked if I would produce something on their record. I was done!”

“My great grandfather was from Mississippi, and he was born in 1875, so most of the folks I grew up with were born in the late 1800s / early 1900s,” Winans continued. “We had upstairs church and downstairs church, and I could often hear them in the basement of my grandfather’s church. They’d be ooo-ing and humming, even while the preacher was preaching or someone was testifying. They had this hum, this sound, that just came out.”

“Years later, I’m in the studio with Ladysmith, and I’m where the console was with their manager and their engineer, working out parts and stuff. At one point I went into the studio with the rest of the folk. They were just sitting there, just quietly talking to one another.”

“And then, all of a sudden, one of them broke out with ‘Hey!’ and the group ‘Huuuummmmmed’ and it sounded just like those old people in my great grandfather’s church! There was such a connectivity with them! I can’t TELL you what I felt in that moment!”

Winans’s recollection of hearing Ladysmith Black Mambazo reminded me of when he and three of his brothers first blew me away with “The Question Is,” in 1981. Over a decade later, the group rerecorded the classic for their final album, Heart & Soul. As slick as the newer production was, the original’s on a whole different level.

The Winans’s final album, 1995’s Heart & Soul

I asked Winans which version he favored. He told me that he prefers to look forward, not back.

“I didn’t want to do the remake of ‘The Question Is,’ Winans shared. “I never want to live in the past, musically. I think my best song is still in front of me.”

For all of the tea in China, I would not question Marvin L. Winans’s sincerity or sanity. But seriously? Given the songs that the man has already written, THAT is quite a statement!

“But get ready,” Winans continued. “BeBe [Winans’s youngest brother] has a group called Korean Soul, and they just recorded ‘The Question Is.’ I was in Nashville with them a couple of weeks ago, and I did my part on their record. I love it! You’re gonna love the arrangement.”

Undoubtedly, gospel music fans will be thrilled to hear Winans on some new music. And as it turns out, BeBe’s cover of his brother’s “The Question Is” isn’t ALL that we have to look forward to!

“Something’s getting ready to come out,” Winans teased. “I ain’t gonna unleash it now, but when I do, I’ll give you a call.”

So the REAL question is: when will we hear this new music from Marvin L. Winans? Can we dream, as promised in the final refrain of “The Question Is,” that it will be soon?

“We’re gonna try to finish it up in a couple of weeks,” Winans said. “That’s all I’m saying!”

Tips For Avoiding The Trump Slump

Spoiler alert: Portion Control!

By Michael P Coleman

Everyone knows about the Freshman 15: the few extra pounds that many young people put on after they leave home, get to college, and are exposed to unlimited snack / comfort foods and unsupervised drinking.

The key to dodging that is to consume those snacks and drinks in small doses to avoid that waistband from getting too snug or, far worse still, the onset of chronic health problems. I figured that out over the course of several decades, as my own waistband expanded from 29 inches to one that topped 40 inches.

As our young ones head off to school (or off to their laptops) this fall, I’d like to talk about another ingestant that we all need to consume in very small doses: Donald J. Trump.

The man is like a nearly walking, almost talking, Little Debbie Swiss Cake Roll — except I love the taste of those. But for my overall health, I take them in VERY infrequently.

Trust and believe that they are like cellophane-wrapped crack cocaine. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

If you don’t limit your exposure to Trump and his bile, you’ll wind up deep in what I call the Trump Slump: that funky feeling, that low-key rage, that most of us feel just watching Trump’s comb-over blowing in the wind, as he struggles to match a couple of errant nouns with a couple of random verbs.

Your tax dollars at work.

Just this past week, I realized what a clean break from Trump, or at least limiting exposure to him, could do for my mental and emotional health.

I am a lifetime news junkie. My dad used to joke about me being the only kid on the block, way back when I was in grade school, who would suspend a late afternoon driveway basketball game for 30 minutes, to dash inside, plop down cross-legged in front of our solid-state Zenith 25 inch color console TV, to watch The CBS Evening News with Walter Cronkite.

Veteran news anchor Walter Cronkite

In those prehistoric, pre-internet days, before we all got news alerts in our pockets or had entire networks devoted to news programming around the clock, I spent many weeknights taking in every word that came out of Cronkite’s mouth. I’d sometimes even practice the iconic anchor’s famous sign off, in front of the bathroom mirror: “And THAT’s the way it is!”

These days, it’s Lester Holt. I don’t run in to watch his NBC Nightly News…but if I happen to be inside at 5:30pm on a weeknight and the TV’s just sitting there, I flip him on. I’m glad I lived to see a black Cronkite.

NBC’s Lester Holt

Early last week, my family unexpectedly and very suddenly lost our beloved pit bull, Rover Jo. That trauma, along with a family emergency, the usual cares of the work week, and the pending long holiday weekend kept me unusually occupied. I didn’t watch CNN, or any other news broadcasts, for the balance of the week.

As a means of sensory self-protection, I even turned off notifications on my iPhone, so my Apple Watch stopped buzzing every time Trump said something stupid. For a while, that sucker was vibrating so much I could have unstrapped it from my wrist and used it as a sex toy. Think about THAT the next time you close one of those rings.

Photo courtesy of Coleman Communications. It has not been altered in any way — I actually did that last week! I love closing my rings!

I also made a concerted effort to get at least 30 minutes of cardio in every day, as I knew that it would help my overall mood.

It wasn’t until Saturday morning that I realized I’d not flipped on my beloved CNN all week, when my brother asked me by phone about what I’d thought of Trump’s verbal, daily dust up.

“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” I muttered, somewhat shocking myself. I’m sure I surprised my brother, who’d been frustrated decades before by my Cronkite-driven, truncated kickball games.

And then, even more surprisingly, I realized that I felt great about not knowing what the Moron-In-Chief was up to. In fact, it was freeing.

As it turns out, Trump was insulting war heroes (again) and threatening to pull funding to a public school system that is reportedly incorporating the New York Times’ excellent 1619 series into their curriculum.

God forbid we teach American public school students about slavery. When I was a kid, I was well into junior high school before I got my first academic introduction to the truths about the horrors that the ancestors endured, as they stepped onto American shores, via Alex Haley’s Roots. So I am all for using actual history to teach history.

But we can’t expect Trump to be all for that. The man suggested that we inject bleach to protect ourselves from coronavirus.

After the phone chat with my brother, I quickly got caught up on the news of the day and week, checking out a few of my favorite news apps. But as I did so, I realized that, overall, I felt better without the effects of the daily, and sometimes hourly barrage of negative information coming out of Washington.

Minutes later, as I listened to a member of Jacob Blake’s family speak of still not having heard from President Trump, contrasted with the moving story of their visit with Joe Biden and Sen. Kamala Harris, I knew I’d heard enough…for that day, or moment, at least.

One of the ancestors I referenced earlier, Dr. Maya Angelou, once said “When you know better, do better.” So I’m going to follow her advice, and take the lessons from last week into this new one:

CNN will no longer be on a loop just outside of my office each day. It has been replaced with some soothing sounds from my brother from a Jewish mother, Kenny G.

Kenny G & me, from NYE 2019 in Napa, California. Yes, it’s a shameless plug…he’s a friend of mine!

With the exception of one or two news apps, notifications are going to stay off on my phone. If Trump says or does something really crazy — although I’m not sure how we would differentiate that from what he usually says and does — someone like my well-meaning brother will ask me about it.

I just set my DVR to record NBC Nightly News with Lester Holt, and I’m going to watch it every evening. And once a month or so, if I meet my fitness goals, I’m going to eat a Little Debbie Swiss Cake Roll while I watch it.

Speaking of fitness goals, I’m going to continue the daily cardio, up from the five days a week I had been doing. Even with the late-summer heat wave, I’ve been loving the early morning bike ride. It’s also been freeing.

And overall, I’m going to file President Donald J. Trump right next to my formerly beloved Dominos Meat Lovers Pizza, my McDonalds Double Cheeseburger, or the eight piece spicy Popeye’s over which I used to fight.

Yup. You have to remember your past to avoid making the same mistakes.

Yes, I used to eat eight pieces per sitting. How do you think my gut got up to 40 inches?

SMALL DOSES, matching Trump’s minuscule intellect and vocabulary, are the keys.

As we head into fall and toward November 3rd, let’s do everything we can to avoid the Trump Slump!

RIP Rover Jo

By Michael P Coleman

2020 has certainly been one for the record books, and we’ve got four more months to weather before we roll it over!

I can endure Trump…at least until November 3. I have learned, over the last six months, that I can survive a global, viral pandemic. But something happened a couple of nights ago that brought me to my knees, literally. I was surprised at how hard it hit me.

The best, sweetest dog in the world, Rover Jo, died just before midnight Monday, August 31, in our kitchen, with her head on my lap. After spending 11 of Jo’s 12 years on earth with her, I now understand why someone once called a dog “man’s best friend.”

Rover Jo, circa 2020.

I said Jo was 12, but we don’t know precisely which day she was born, as we adopted her from a shelter back in Michigan one hot, humid July. The folks at the shelter guessed that she was 10 months old when they’d found her days before we took her home.

She was a beautiful, full brindle pit bull mix. Animal Control had found her walking the streets after having chewed threw a rope leash and escaped what we think had been a puppy mill. Jo had already been bred and delivered a litter of pups by the time we got her. My husband and kids often joked that she had been looking for me as she roamed those streets, on her way to our home and hearts.

That dog’s escape story was what led me to name her Rover Jo, after a character from a little-known 1972 TV special, The Muppet Musicians Of Bremen, which told the story of a quartet of musically-gifted animals who had assembled after escaping from abusive human owners.

When I realized that my new pup had been physically abused before she came to us — for a couple of years, she jumped or hid whenever I grabbed a broom, a mop, a rake, or anything with a pole attached to it — I remembered that TV special, and the name stuck — although I only called her by her full name when she was in trouble.

My Rover Jo’s Muppet namesake, from the 1972 TV special. Jim Henson would probably be honored that I named my dog after the character.

Most people thought that “Rover Jo” was an odd name to give a dog to you, but for a family with another hound named Reeses (after the popular candy bar), the unconventional name was a perfect fit.

And so was Rover Jo.

Just months after we adopted Jo, I left a job that I’d grown to loathe and we moved to California, which Jo LOVED. She never really liked rain — she didn’t like to get her paws wet — but she really hated snow and the midwest’s chill. Rover Jo’s favorite place to be was lying in the sun, even in the middle of a hot, Sacramento summer, within inches of wherever I was.

One of my first ever selfies, circa 2010. Whenever you laid on the floor, Rover Jo was all over you. Friends accused me of trying to do the “thug” thing. In reality, I was pissed that Jo wouldn’t get out of the frame!

I always described Jo as a pit bull mix, but the truth is, we’re not sure what breed she was mixed with! Friends and neighbors used to guess all kinds of things. One neighbor insisted that Jo was a full-blooded Queensland Heeler. Most African Americans are a good mix of a lot of things, and my family is no different, so for yet another reason, Jo was a good fit for our family.

For most of her life Jo had boundless energy, especially if a cat or squirrel was anywhere around. One sunny summer afternoon, she killed a squirrel during a pool party! Another time, she’d have killed one of the neighbors cats in our front yard had I not been there to stop her. She always listened to me…

…except when someone rang the door bell. The pizza delivery person, the Jehovah’s Witnesses, Trick or Treaters…they were all new friends to Rover Jo. Our ferocious looking brindle pit bull was a sweetie pie. A sweetie pie dog. That’s what I always called her: My Sweetie Pie Dog.

Jo was never quite the same after we had to put her older sister Reeses down, just last summer. Weeks after that, Jo started developing health problems. Her leg started bothering her — it had always been wonky, but she’d managed it well in her youth — and in her later months, she slept more than she did anything else. But she had her last check up just one week ago today, and after a minor surgical procedure, she’d come through with flying colors. I thought Jo would be around for a few more years, as Reeses had lived to be 16.

For most of the day that Rover Jo died, she’d seemed fine. She wolfed down her breakfast, wanted to hang out with me in my office during the day, and sat up when I started fixing her dinner. But when I sat her food down that late afternoon, she wouldn’t eat. She didn’t want to take her evening walk, or even go outside to enjoy the sun that she loved so much.

By late evening, she was lying on the kitchen floor, whining and breathing heavily, and she had trouble standing. When she wouldn’t share one of the chicken strips I tried to hand-feed her, I knew something was really wrong.

We called the vet, but got an after-hours recording. We thought about taking her to an emergency pet clinic, but as she’d finally settled down and was snoring (like she usually did — that dog hated loud noises when she was awake, but often sounded like a freight train while she slept), we decided to let her rest until the following morning.

Rover Jo died an hour or so later, just like I told you, with her head in my lap as I sat on the kitchen floor. The last words she heard were “It’s OK, I love you.” After she was gone, I gently placed Jo’s head on her bed, and wrapped her in one of my favorite blankets — remember, she hated being cold.

Over the last three days, I’ve realized that Jo was the best friend I’ve ever had. I knew I would get back to the “man’s best friend” thing! She always loved to see me coming and hated to see me go, and I can’t say that about anyone I’ve ever known…or even anyone I’ve ever married! My kids may be the exception to that…but if I’m honest, I know that there were days during their teen years that they hated to see me coming!

While JoJo was here, I underestimated how much she helped me manage my mental and emotional health. She helped me survive several of life’s curve balls — all without me ever asking her to.

For the third straight day now, I’m roaming the halls of my house during breaks at work, turning corners and opening doors all over the house, still looking for her as, maybe, she’d searched for me over 11 years ago.

As I edit this column, I’m on hold with our home security folks. I need to upgrade our system, because for 11 years Jo’s been on top of things, keeping an eye on our home and on all of us. As of the other night, she’s taking a long awaited, very well deserved rest.

Reeses and Rover Jo, circa 2016.

Rest in peace, Rover Jo, you sweetie pie dog. Tell Reeses I said “Hi.”

Me with Rover Jo and Reeses, circa 2019.

Sacramento’s 3 Black Chefs Put Their Money Where The People’s Mouths Were

The trio donated thousands of free meals at the beginning of the COVID-19 crisis.

By Michael P Coleman

It’s one thing to put your money where your mouth is. It’s another to put it where someone else’s mouth is.

That was the model for Berry Accius and his business partners Michael Harris and Willis Webster, all of Sacramento, at the dawn of coronavirus shelter-in-place orders, last spring. They decided to offer free pop up dinners on Thursday and Friday nights, to as many people as they could feed. I heard about the trio recently, and had to talk with the guys.

Photo courtesy of Sammy Caiola / CapRadio

Accius told me that he and his friends weren’t prepared for the demand.

“The need was greater than what we assumed it would be,” Accius told me by phone. “We thought we were going to have to feed 200 people — no big deal. On the first day, over 1,000 people showed up. We were prepared to feed 300, and wound up having to turn hundreds of people away.”

“I felt some kinda way about that — we all did — and we decided that we weren’t going to let that happen again. We got our menu prepared to feed a lot more folks. We got some folks on board to do pre-orders, and we were able to start feeding the number of people who needed to be served. No one left without a meal.”

When Accius said “no one,” he meant it: 3 Black Chefs handed multiple meals to individuals, no questions asked.

“We didn’t care if someone was saving that food, or giving it to someone else,” Accius insisted. “Families of eight, families of 16: here’s your meals. We made it simple.”

Accius said that 3 Black Chefs didn’t just slap a hamburger and a bag of chips together for anyone picking up a free meal. The trio marshaled their formidable, collective expertise in a variety of styles — Louisiana, Caribbean, and American soul food — to feed their community.

Initially, the funds to do so came from their own pockets, but soon after they kicked things off, they received assistance and support from the most unusual of funding sources: some of the very people to whom they served the free meals!

“When people saw how real the program was, folks began supporting us in different ways,” Accius said. “We started a GoFundMe page, and people started galvanizing. We exceeded our GoFundMe goal of $17,500 by about $800 dollars. The community saw what we were doing and decided to back us.”

“And then, the most powerful thing was people picking up a meal, and feeling so grateful and appreciative that they would donate,” Accius continued. “So we wound up with at least a couple of hundred bucks at each event, that we used to pay our youth.”

“Our youth?” I wondered aloud about the connection between donating meals and “our youth.”

“We decided we had to give the youngsters something to do,” Accius said. “They didn’t have school, and the program became more than just a food program. We served food, but we supported other people, we served families, and it showed what we as a community could do when we see a need. We can come together and do some powerful things, and that’s what happened.”

“We made people feel human, not like they were getting a handout. We just served people because that’s what we’re all supposed to do.”

EXCLUSIVE! Marvin Winans Remembers the UK’s Lavine Hudson

“She had a very unique voice, a very different voice. For some reason, it just never translated in the US like it did in the UK, where she had a massive following.”

By MPC

Last week, THE HUB remembered the artistry of the UK’s Lavine Hudson. She collaborated with Marvin L. Winans on her debut album, Intervention, on a beautiful song entitled “Home.”

Recently, I caught up with Winans, renowned gospel singer and pastor of Perfecting Church in Detroit, who graciously shared his memories of working with the beautiful British songstress.

“The first time The Winans went to the UK, we were in London performing a series of sold-out concerts at the Shaw Theatre, and Lavine was the local act,” Winans warmly remembered. “We became friends with her and her family, and she said she wanted to work with me. After our performances [in the UK], she came over to our studio in Detroit, and we put the song together.”

“Home” was one of the highlights from Hudson’s Intervention album. Winans remembered her one-of-a-kind artistry.

“She had a very unique voice, a very different voice,” Winans said. “For some reason, it just never translated in the US like it did in the UK, where she had a massive following.”

Pastor Marvin L. Winans

”Her reach extended past the UK and throughout Europe, actually,” Winans continued. “She wound up touring with Joe Cocker, and they toured Spain and France, as I recall. She was much bigger in Europe than she was in the States.”

Soon after Hudson’s released her sophomore effort, Between Two Worlds, she was diagnosed with lupus. After a long battle with the disease, she died in 2017 at the age of 55.

“Lavine was very nice, and I was so hurt that she had that disease that crippled her and took her out,” Winans said. “The steroids or whatever medication they were giving her prohibited her from singing and continuing on. I was just so hurt about her, because she was such a lovely person.”

Come back next week for more memories from Marvin L. Winans of The Winans. He talks about working with other legendary artists like Anita Baker, Whitney Houston, Ladysmith Black Mambazo, and Stevie Wonder!

Chadwick Boseman’s Work Embodied Black Lives Matter. And He Substantially Increased My Wardrobe

By MPC

Entertainment fans around the globe took a sucker punch to the gut late Friday, when news broke of actor Chadwick Boseman’s death after a four year battle with colon cancer. He was only 43 years old. He reportedly died at home surrounded by his family.

Boseman’s all-too-brief career embodied — or prefaced — today’s Black Lives Matter movement, with his brilliant silver screen portrayals of African American icons like James Brown, Thurgood Marshall, and Jackie Robinson. But he’ll be best remembered, perhaps, for his starring role as T’Challa in 2018’s superhero phenomenon Black Panther.

To give that transformative role and film a little context, just for the young ‘uns in the room, let’s briefly go back a couple of generations to the superhero flick that started it all, 1978’s Superman: The Movie. While Christopher Reeve made us believe a man could fly, the only African American character with a speaking role in that film was a pimp, He stood on the street just outside of The Daily Planet, with his prostitutes, watched Superman fly up, up and away, and told our titular hero “Man, that’s a bad outfit!”

1978’s Metropolis was a LONG way from 2018’s Wakanda.

Boseman’s brilliant portrayal of T’Challa prompted me to add a Black Panther t-shirt to my huge collection of Superman t-shirts. Then a second. Then a third! Today, only the Superman himself holds more real estate in my closet.

Long after I’d switched to digital film consumption, I bought a copy of Black Panther on Blu Ray. As of this morning, I’ve still not opened it — but I had to have it.

Black Panther had been introduced to movie audiences two years before he got his own film, when he almost stole the show from Captain America in 2016’s Civil War. It was the same year that Boseman reportedly received his colon cancer diagnosis. We now know that the actor filmed Black Panther and his other final movies, including the historical Marshall and the last two Avengers films, between grueling chemotherapy and radiation treatments.

Now that’s a superhero.

The last time I saw Boseman, on some talk show or other a year or so ago, I remember thinking he looked a little gaunt. But I assumed he’d just lost a little weight for an upcoming role, in the way that he’d packed on the muscle to play T’Challa. Now we know he was fighting the good fight.

As much as Boseman was my husband-in-my-head — I always referred to him as “Chad,” shortening his name as I only do for close friends — we never met or talked. So when I heard of his death, my heart went out to his wife, his children, and his friends.

One of those loved ones, actor Josh Gad, released some of Boseman’s final words, texted to him after a LA rainstorm last spring, at the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic.

Boseman encouraged Gad to “Inhale and exhale this moment” and to “take advantage of every moment we can to enjoy the simplicity of God’s creation, whether it be clear skies and sun or clouded over with gloom,” he wrote, sounding almost like a Baptist preacher, encouraging his flock.

We should “thank God for the unique beauties and wonders” of the day, Boseman wrote.

You were one of those beauties and wonders, Mr. Boseman. If not today, certainly of yesterday.

And thanks to your exceptional body of work on the big screen, you’ll be one of those beauties and wonders later this weekend, as I revisit Captain America: Civil War, crack open that Blu Ray of Black Panther, and check out your final movie, last year’s 21 Bridges.

As I think about it, thanks to the wonders of film, we’re still watching Superman fly over the friendly skies, over 40 years later. So chances are movie fans will be watching Black Panther forever.

WAKANDA FOREVER!

RIP Chadwick Boseman.

NOTE: this feature was updated re: Boseman having been with his family at the time of his death.

Meet SHRA’s La Shelle Dozier and Tyrone Roderick Williams

By Michael P Coleman

The Sacramento Housing and Redevelopment Agency (SHRA) is observing its 80th anniversary. The agency administers the federal public housing program for Sacramento. Here’s a blurb from a statement SHRA just published:

“Through strategic partnerships, our team serves a diverse and growing population in need of affordable housing and supportive programs and services, to help them achieve a better life. The work SHRA does is changing lives by providing residents with hope, dignity, and opportunity.”

Late last winter, I was given the opportunity to learn what the agency was all about firsthand, when I was invited to interview members of SHRA’s team. As I drove to their offices in downtown Sacramento that sunny March morning, I didn’t realize that I would be conducting what will most likely be my final face-to-face interviews of 2020!

My first chat was with La Shelle Dozier, SHRA’s Executive Director. As we greeted each other on that pre-COVID morning, Dozier offered a customary handshake. At the end of our time together, as we stood up from the table in that conference room, we both leaned in for a hug. Ours had been a substantive, moving conversation, and while it was not standard business practice, I believe each of us had a feeling that the other needed something more than just a handshake.

La Shelle Dozier, SHRA’s Executive Director

Between the handshake and the hug, Dozier spoke with a palpable zeal about her phenomenal team and their work in Northern California. It had been a long time since I had been so moved during an interview.

Minutes later, I sat down with Tyrone Roderick Williams, SHRA’s Deputy Executive Director – Development. Williams exudes positivity, displays seemingly boundless energy — and as hard as it was to believe, Williams insisted that he doesn’t consume caffeine. After you get to know him, you’ll understand why that’s so hard to believe!

Tyrone Roderick Williams, SHRA’s Deputy Executive Director — Development

After talking to Williams, I think his picture should pop up when you Google “change agent.” He is also a man of faith, and you can believe me when I say that Williams literally moves heaven and earth to accomplish his and his team’s goals at SHRA. (But if you want to stay on Williams’s good side, don’t forget the “Roderick” when you’re calling his name!)

Get to know La Shelle Dozier and Tyrone Roderick Williams, and read the first features in a series on SHRA, as the agency observes its 80th anniversary!

EXCLUSIVE! Marvin L. Winans Plans A March 4 Justice In Detroit

“I can’t help but think about the emasculation of black men in our society.”

By Michael P Coleman

In the wake of the shooting of Jacob Blake in Kenosha, Wisconsin, and the continuation of our season of social unrest, one legendary Detroit pastor and gospel singer is letting his faith drive his church’s and community’s response.

And like the very best of us, he’s putting that faith into action with an event on Friday, August 27.

Marvin L. Winans, pastor of Detroit’s Perfecting Church and founding member of the legendary gospel quartet The Winans, is leading A March 4 Justice, in solidarity with the Commitment March in Washington DC.

According to Winans, the event may look more like civil rights marches from decades ago than some of the more recent demonstrations we’ve seen.

“It’s going to be different in that it’s a march for justice and a prayer for peace,” Winans EXCLUSIVELY said by phone. “That’s all we’re going to do. When God wanted the walls to fall, He told them to walk around for six days.”

“So we’re gonna walk, and we’ll pray,” Winans said. “And we’ll pull down strongholds, and watch changes happen in our society.”

I had to ask the pastor whether he could give a word of encouragement to the people of Kenosha, Wisconsin, who are still reeling — along with the rest of the world — after this week’s shooting of Jacob Blake.

“I can’t help but think about the emasculation of black men [in our society], that this man was gunned down in front of his three children,” Winans reflected. “I have to stop because it brings tears to my eyes that his life is [seen as] so insignificant.”

Pastor Marvin L. Winans Sr.

“And then they want to trump up things,” Winans continued. “They said he had a knife on the passenger side of the car, on the floor. Well, he was on the driver’s side. If they thought Blake was out of line, there were three policemen there. Couldn’t they have grabbed him and handcuffed him?”

I suggested that, in lieu of seven bullets in Blake’s back, a single one may have sufficed — IF the police officers really thought Blake had been a threat.

“One bullet in the foot would have stopped him,” Winans asserted. “All I can say to the people of Kenosha is ‘pray.’ I don’t have anything else. So that’s what we’re going to do in Detroit: pray.”

Detroit’s Hart Plaza.

“And then, at the end of the march, when we get to Hart Plaza, we’re gonna shout!”

Look to Pastor Winans’s Facebook page for more information on Friday’s March 4 Justice in Detroit.

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