Sunday, November 18, 2012

And I Know My Rights So You Gonna Need A Warrant For That

Originally Made April 2012

I made this video in conjunction with a community Law Enforcement panel held this past spring. It led into a conversation with Brooklyn lawmakers, professors, and police officers on dealing with law enforcement If you are unfamiliar with the issues of police/resident relations in urban communities, I urge you to take just one look at my favorite movie, Do The Right Thing (I told you this movie explains life!). At the heart of the movie are the different relationships between community members, and the police scene at the end along with the Tawana told the truth graffiti, are indicative of the continuing struggles that are still faced today.  Additionally, today's struggles with the Stop and Frisk policies in New York have garnered a great deal of attention and several local movements have started to protest the New York Police Department and city-sponsored actions.

Because while it makes for a great rap song, there's no reason to be stopped, just because you're young and you're black and your hat's real low.
Law Enforcement from K.D. Williams on Vimeo.

Tuesday, November 06, 2012


The Fifteenth Amendment , the Women’s Suffrage Movement, and the battle against Jim Crow were
moments that left an indelible mark on my childhood brain. Both the American
struggle as well as the international fights were taught to me via the
classroom, the church, home lessons, and my insatiable appetite for learning
through movies. I was well aware of the importance of political participation.
I was just never 100% on its power.

While I suffered
through my dad’s insistence on watching the news at home and listening to news
coverage in the car, and  did
biannual treks to the voting booths with a parent, I was always slightly disengaged. For me, civic duties are better fulfilled through volunteer opportunities and donations to charities that actually do the work. Local politicians sometimes make a difference –and their sessions are hilarious- so I'll give
them their due as well. At any given point,Mr. President and his compatriots in
Washington did not seem to be making much of a difference to my personal life. Most of the
time, I felt like this poor child:

Really though,
all I ever wanted to do was curl up with a good sitcom. The thought of Bill
O’Reilly all day made me cry.

To a certain
extent, I was not to be blamed. The first presidential election I
truly remember was Bill Clinton, with his smooth Arsenio Hall saxophone playing steez. In my Weekly Reader, I correctly predicted him to be the winner. By the
time I was in the 8th grade, he was impeached, yet somehow never had
to leave the office. Huh? It didn’t make sense to me. Then came Al Gore and
George Bush and pregnant chads that never got counted correctly. As far as I
was concerned America pretty much did whatever it felt like, not necessarily
what was right. The fact that welfare reform, dot com bubbles, and other major
events were occurring didn’t really matter. September 11th had to do
with politics, but in my personal bubble was more an affront against me, my
classmates, and my hometown. And John Kerry who?

Yet for some
reason between the 2008 and 2012 Presidential elections, it all began to make
sense. The importance of it all was in my face. Perhaps it was because I grew
up a bit. I did my own taxes, paid for my own healthcare, experienced
unemployment and  dealt with grown
people problems. Spending time abroad really opened me to what people thought
of America, especially as it pertained to our foreign relations. Between the
blood diamond cultural awareness surge of 2006-2008, constant press about
Darfur, the earthquake in Haiti and the 10th anniversary of the
September 11th attacks, I had no choice but to pay more attention to
America’s interactions with foreign entities. I watched Arab Spring unfold via
twitter in between highlights of my favorite tv shows. The Tea Party and Occupy
Wall Street weren’t just movements, but also memes in my social media
procrastination. Politics were infringing on my pop culture obsessions and I
was being-dare I say- edutained by it all. To top it off, the historical and
cultural significance of the 2008 Obama election made it impossible to ignore
what was going on in the country. That, and I watched a whole lot more Colbert
Report when I did not have a bed time.

This election I
decided to engage. Instead of feeling like everything was happening to this
amorphous figurative “America” I began to see how it was happening to everyone
around me. I understood the anger and rage of those on both sides of the fence.
And then after hearing fallacious arguments and false corollaries,  I felt the unthinkable happen. I moved
from apathy to concern, concern to disdain, and am possibly on my way to
righteous anger. The lives of every single person in the country were at stake,
and there was no way I could take people taking their personal minute concerns
over the rights and welfare of the nation. Quite frankly, unless you’re making
Romney money, I really do not understand. My little cousins need an education.
I need equal pay! Really, you can miss me with all of that air you’re blowing.

The playwright
Doug Wright (no I don’t really know who he is, but it is a good quote, and it’s
all over the innanets)  summed it
up best  when he said: “Then look
me in the eye, speak with a level clear voice, and say, 'My taxes and take-home
pay mean more than your fundamental civil rights….'
It’s like voting for George Wallace during the Civil Rights movements, and
apologizing for his racism. You’re still complicit. …You don’t get to walk away
clean, because you say you ‘disagree’ with your candidate on these issues.” He
was referring specifically to gay marriage, but it pretty much transfers to
anything at stake in the elections.

While I have
threatened to run away depending on the outcome of this vote, the great thing
about this country is there tends to be some kind of balance. We won’t end up
completely on either side of the spectrum, and life will go on without too much
interruption. But if nothing else, I hope the debates, constant coverage and
incessant talk of Bronco Bama and Mitt Romney can force my fellow disengaged
buddies to stop being apathetic, and give in to full, active participation…both
during the election season and afterwards.

Sunday, November 04, 2012

It's the News Hour With Special Guest: Everyone

Originally Written April 21, 2012

I wrote this piece after reflecting on the popularity of The Melissa Harris Perry Show and Up With Chris. I never posted it, but thought it accurately reflected the community that news talk had created. Two months after I wrote this, NYTimes published this piece. I felt justified. The New York Times always picks up on things a few months after the public.

It’s the News Hour With Special Guest: Everyone

Once upon a time, the news spread by word of mouth. People gathered around town circles, sat in salons, and communities were bolstered through the sharing of news. Over time, the sharing of news became less of a community event and more of a one-way process. The exchange between the public and the media was one where the public gave their time in exchange for information, but no one provided reasonable means for closing the feedback loop. Outside of the world of community access and citizen run programming, the one-way model was common across all media.

If there was anywhere in the media landscape expected to alter the production/consumption model, it definitely was not the news. Yet, after a rowdy Friday night, the hypest place on a Saturday morning is MSNBC and Twitter. Two programs: Up With Chris Hayes and The Melissa Harris Perry Show have revolutionized the way people watch and share the news. Comments fly through social media. “Right on, #uppers” one tweet reads. Two hours later, “Yaaaas, love this perspective, but not those earrings. #nerdland” is posted on facebook. These shows have succeeded in creating a community, and increasing participation from viewers in a way that news programming and television outside of community access television has failed to do recently. This new community built news programming has bolstered the effect of the shows by prompting more interaction, and in the particular cases of “Up With Chris” and “The Melissa Harris Perry Show” also created positive returns for the network.

The hashtag (#), the tool that unites viewers across these mediums, merits some of the glory for this community building. #uppers and #nerdland suggest a more relaxing and inviting atmosphere than say, #upwithchris or #themhpshow. For one, #uppers sounds likes a stimulant drug, something that would get your blood flowing for the day. It is an energy builder to get you ready for deep thought on the weekend. #nerdland invokes a fantasy aspect for one to get lost in, even thought the topics are very real. You visit #nerdland, after tripping out on #uppers. It also plays on the fantasy and fanboy literature that used to signify a small community of intense fans of science fiction books and TV series.

These news programs have reached beyond how traditional media has sought to use social media. Most media outlets have simply moved the traditional flow of “I talk. You listen.” to these newer programs. While the audience may provide feedback on Facebook or Twitter, no one is building a true conversation. The community, these news shows build, differs because they allow interaction and conversation on all aspects, and from all participants. The hosts bring viewers into conversations about the weekly preparation. The weekly panelists contribute thoughts, and respond to each other as well as the community with opinions, facts, and links to additional information. Viewers discuss the show’s topics as it happens on air and end up engaging with people they may have never met in person, but through online personalities can identify, argue, and commiserate with, while in the midst of Saturday morning cleaning or hangover healing.

It would be nice to think that this community building would then lead to action. People uniting to address the societal ills brought up in conversation on the show would probably be the most positive and community-building outcome that this model could bring. But, for the time being, it is enough to revel in the conversation around the metaphorical time square. I am sure the networks do not mind pointing out the social impression to their advertisers either.