Tuesday, August 5, 2014







By Cash Michaels

            IS IT ME? – Is it me, or has most of the world gone mad? Superpowers invading smaller nations. Passenger planes being shot down. A deadly virus there is no cure for killing hundreds in three African nations. Refugee children fleeing to the United States because they’re afraid of being killed in their homeland.
            And rabid, racist Tea Party congressmen passing laws to send those children back, not caring what happens to them.
            Oh, and I almost forgot…those same rabid, racist Tea Party congressmen voting to haul the president of the United States into court, simply because he’s doing the job they won’t do.
            The world is going mad…I’m certain of it.
            The question is, what are we going to do about it?
            Please let me know when you come up with something.
            GET ON UP – No, I didn’t get a chance to see the new James Brown biopic, “Get On Up,” starring Chadwick Boseman (who played Jackie Robinson in “42”) Jill Scott and Viola Davis. But thus far it’s gotten excellent reviews. I read that Boseman turns in a superb performance as the Godfather of Soul. And last weekend, up against box office powerhouse “Guardians of the Galaxy” (which did $75 million, a record August opening), “Get On Up” did $14 million. For a musical black biopic, that really isn’t too bad.
            So that raises an interesting question…do we really need black directors anymore to do black themed movies? “Get On Up” was done by the same white director, Tate Taylor, who did “The Help” a few years back, and that film not only did gangbusters at the box office, but also garnered Oscar nominations, and even an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for Octavia Spencer.
            And don’t forget, another Oscar winning black musical biopic, “Ray,” for which Jamie Foxx took home the Best Actor golden statuette, was directed by a white director, Taylor Hackford.
            Gee, did I mention “Dreamgirls,” which also saw Jennifer Hudson exit the stage with a Best Supporting Actress Oscar (and should have given Eddie Murphy Best Actor). That was directed by Bill Condon, who won a Golden Globe Award for it.
            So does Hollywood know black people so well now that Spike Lee and Tyler Perry are no longer needed? The answer is of course not, but thanks to “The Help” and “Get On Up,” Hollywood has shown that it doesn’t have to get black directors to helm black-themed stories. So we may indeed get more black stories from Tinseltown in the future – those films are comparatively cheap to make and have a track record of turning decent profits (invest $7 million and earn $50 mil at the box office isn’t bad) – but if more black stories don’t bring us more African-American producers and directors, then once again, we no longer have any control of our story.
            And like it or not, movies do shape our perception of history, and that perception isn’t always accurate. Take the fine, fine film “42” (by white director Brian Helgeland) which Chadwick Boseman also starred in as baseball legend Jackie Robinson. It was great, inspiring entertainment, but there were also parts of it which were dead wrong. To be fair, there were also parts of “Malcolm X,” directed by Spike Lee, that were inaccurate as well.
            We’ve come to understand that for story purposes, sometimes one character might represent two or three real people in a biopic. And to move the story along, situations may be conflated, or left out entirely. Denzel Washington warned us not to take any of his biopics, namely “Malcolm X” or “The Hurricane” literally, because the demands of making a good movie trumped the demand, and expectation, of accuracy.
            So while Hollywood is going to do what it does when it comes to black films, it shouldn’t be at the expense of giving us more exciting black producers and directors.
            But wait a minute, if we make that demand, are we then also saying that whites should only direct white films, and blacks should only direct black films? Our concerns could give basis for that argument.
            Good example, in 2006, Spike Lee and Denzel gave us the thrilling bank heist film, “Inside Man.” It was not a black film, though it had a black star in the lead, and a black director. The film was a great success (though producers decided not to make an anticipated sequel).
            Spike was given the opportunity because producer Brian Grazer, head of Imagine Entertainment (“24,” “American Gangster,” The DaVinci Code”) thought he could bring a style and vision to the production that no one else could, and he was right.
            It was under the direction of black director Antoine Fuqua that Denzel Washington won his first Best Actor Oscar for 2001’s “Training Day.” And you might be surprised to learn that popular films like “The Italian Job” (F. Gary Gray), “Barbershop” (Malcolm D. Lee) and “Fantastic Four” (Tim Story) were all done by black directors.
            Even one of my daughter’s favorite animated films, “Rise of the Guardians” was directed by black director Peter Ramsey. Ramsey has been associated with big films like “Shrek the Third,” “Independence Day” and “Godzilla.”
            So the apparent answer is black and white film directors should be interchangeable, with the best talent, regardless of color, going to the best suited project. And yet, because of the horrible racial history of this nation, we in the African-American community have a special sensitivity as to who tells our story, and how our story is told.
            And we have great reasons for feeling that way. History tells us that Hollywood has done such massive job at portraying black people as maids, mammies, crooks and thugs, that our real stories are rarely seen or known. It is rare, like with the 1977 ABC-TV mini-series “Roots,” that white directors capture some of our true history.
            Steven Spielberg’s “The Color Purple” is beloved in the black community as a classic. The list could go on.
            So let’s find a way to muddle through this racial mess that we seemed to have had for forever and a day. We don’t want to deny our talented black movie director any golden opportunities to shine, because Lord knows those gigs are hard to come by.
            But we also want stories about our heroes and community told in accurate, respectful ways by anyone who gets the responsibility to tell them.
            We’ll keep watching…and hoping.
Make sure you tune in every Thursday afternoon at 4 p.m. for my talk radio show, ''Make It Happen'' on Power 750 WAUG-AM, or online at www.myWAUG.com. And read more about my thoughts and opinions exclusively at my blog, ‘The Cash Roc” (http://thecashroc.blogspot.com/2011/01/cash-roc-begins.html).
Cash in the Apple - honored as the Best Column Writing of 2006 by the National Newspaper Publishers Association. Columnist Cash Michaels was also honored by the NNPA for Best Feature Story Journalist of 2009, and was the recipient of the Raleigh-Apex NAACP’s President’s Award for Media Excellence in Sept. 2011.
Until next week, keep a smile on your face, GOD in your heart, and The Carolinian in your life. Bye, bye.


            [RALEIGH] It took a month past the July 1st deadline to do it, but finally last weekend, once the state House and Senate agreed on a deal to pass a seven percent pay hike for teachers, both bodies ratified a $21 billion budget that slashes social programs and Medicaid. A close at the teachers’ pay raise reveals it’s based on lottery money returns, federal grants, and using teachers’ longevity pay, all of which may mean the raise may be just a one year deal. Gov. McCrory has signed off on the deal, saying that it meets “his values.”

            [WILMINGTON] Controversial state Senator Thom Goolsby resigned his senate seat Monday in a letter to Gov. Pat McCrory, saying that he’s been proud of his tenure in office, particularly of being a “Jobs Senator” and “…the conservative fiscal reforms I have helped to enact.” The New Hanover County Republican Party’s Executive Committee will meet to decide on a replacement to fill out the rest of Goolsby term. Candidates for Goolsby’s District 9 seat – Democrat Elizabeth Redenbaugh and Republican Michael Lee – are already set for the Nov. 4th election.

            [LILLINGTON] A recent outbreak in violent crime in Harnett County has spurred the sheriff there to tell citizens to arm yourselves. Sheriff Larry Rollins all but admitted that his department is having a hard time keeping up with crime when he told those gathered Monday evening at Spring Hill United Methodist Church that because of an influx of gangs and drugs, even he has to carry a weapon when he goes out with his family for protection. “I want my deputies at your house just as fast as they can when you got a problem,” Sheriff Rollins said, “ but you better be able to take care of business until we get there if you have to protect your family." Many residents at the church meeting expressed fear to even leave their homes because of the growing crime rate.



            The pastor of a church in New Bern has been charged with taking sexual liberties with a child. Rev. Telas Ray Staten of Kinston, the pastor of St. Matthews Church of Christ in New Bern, was charged by Kinston Police Monday with statutory sexual offense, indecent liberties with a child, and crimes against nature involving a teenage boy. Rev. Staten, 39, also reportedly works for the Lenoir County Boys and Girls Club. Tuesday he was in the Lenoir County Jail under a $510,000 secured bond.

            By 4-2 vote, the Wake County Commission Board rejected a proposal to ask citizens on the Nov. 4th referendum permission to raise the local sales tax rate to help supplement teachers’ paychecks. The goal was to add a quarter-cent to generate approximately $27 million in revenue targeting teachers and other school personnel. Republican commissioners said it wasn’t needed because teachers received a seven percent raise in the latest state budget adjustment passed last weekend. But Democrats on the Wake Commission Board argued that the state pay raise had lots of gimmicks attached that seemingly makes it a one-year deal. Because of legislative restrictions passed by the General Assembly, Monday was the last opportunity Wake Commissioners had to have the referendum added to this November’s ballot for two years.

            A 13-year-old seventh-grade basketball star at Wakefield Middle School has received a scholarship to play for the NC State University Women’s Wolfpack basketball team. What’s amazing is that Jada Peebles doesn’t graduate high school until 2019, but the team already believes she can be a star of the future. Peebles is 5-7, turns 14 this October, and is the daughter of former Wolfpack football star Danny Peebles.

By Cash Michaels

            If ever there was a class disparity between rich and poor, the current Ebola health crisis is it.
            The families of two American missionary aid workers ( one of them from Charlotte ) were literally making funeral arrangements when they heard that their loved ones were infected with the deadly, incurable virus in West Africa, when suddenly, the patients were flown back to the United States after reportedly being given a “secret serum” called ZMapp, which has been successfully used only on monkeys.
            Both are reported making remarkable recoveries.
            Meanwhile, as of Tuesday, the World Health Organization (WHO), the global group tasked with monitoring the progression of infectious diseases worldwide, reports that over 1600 cases of Ebola infection, and over 887 deaths in Sierra Leone, Liberia, Guinea, and now Nigeria were breaking out faster than it could keep track of, with over one hundred dying thus far.
            “This outbreak is moving faster than our efforts to control it,” said Dr. Margaret Chan, Director General of the WHO.
            Again, there is no licensed vaccine for treatment commonly available, meaning that the hundreds of poor Africans contracting the disease are doomed to death.
            A “secret serum” for a few, but no effective general treatment for the many.
            Thanks to recent news reports, many Americans now know that Ebola virus disease, known also as EVD, is a severe and often fatal illness that kills over 90 percent of those infected. Infection brings on a sudden onset of fever, nausea, headache and sore throat, among other severe symptoms, says the WHO.
            Incubation period after infection can be from 2 to 21 days.
EVD is most prevalent in remote villages of Central and Western Africa, and was first discovered in 1976. Human contact with other infected humans or animals, or their bodily fluids or organs, contributes to the spread. Fruit bats are considered to be natural hosts to the Ebola virus.
            As seen with the recent fatal infection of a doctor treating victims in West Africa, health-care workers frequently fall victim as well.
            The worst fatality cases on record where a multitude of people were infected was the first one in 1976 in the Democratic Republic of Congo, where 280 out of 318 perished, and again in the Congo in 2003, where 90 percent of the 143 infected succumbed to the disease.
            With the transport of the two infected Americans from West Africa to the Emory University Hospital in Atlanta earlier this week, and a third in New York City, concerns have been raised about containing the deadly virus so that it does not spread across the country.
            The US Centers for Disease Controls has reported that three other Americans, who have recently returned from trips to West Africa, have also come down with symptoms, and are being monitored.
            If a US outbreak were to happen – and most health officials assure that that isn’t likely to happen – researchers at major pharmaceutical companies have developed only experimental drugs that have been only tested on animals, not humans.
            One of the reasons why, after over 30 years, there is no vaccine readily available is because Ebola is rare, unpredictable and thus far, isolated from the world. Thus, drug companies see no profit in it. The disease has been most prevalent in poor African villages, among people who can least afford it. Because they have been the almost exclusive victims of the virus, drug companies saw no reason, nor money incentive, to develop cures.
            Critics say it is more likely that the vaccines being tested are for military purposes, given that governments are more likely to be able to pay for it to prevent against bioterror attack.
            One Canadian company, Tekmira, reportedly has a $140 million contract with the US government to develop vaccine.
            "It's not economically viable for any company to do this kind of research because they have stockholders to think about," Dr. Benjamin Neuman at Britain’s University of Reading, told Bloomberg Businessweek.
Thus, “secret” serums like ZMapp, which is developed by a San Diego company under contract to the US military, are in the pipeline, though none of them have been approved for use in the US. That treatment addresses symptoms, but no cure. Reportedly there are at least six other experimental vaccines available, but again, they have not had rigorous human trials, so dosages in patients are, at best, guesswork.
That then raises not just medical and ethical questions, experts say, but possible legal challenges as well.
There are already calls for funding and research to speed up in an effort to quell the death toll in West Africa.


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