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6 Black women absolutely dominating the television and film industry

If you don’t know their names, you probably would know their works: Greys Anatomy, Power, Selma, A Black Lady Sketch Show, Queen and Slim, or Just Right.

Shonda Rhimes, Debra Martin Chase, Courtney Kemp, Ava Du Vernay, Robin Thede, and Lena Waithe are just a few of the lady bosses that are changing the television and film industry forever. So, let me introduce them individually:

Shonda Rhimes

If you are looking for a winning project, Shonda Rhimes might be the answer. The award-winning producer, show-runner, and writer have become the go-to woman to work in Hollywood.

She started her career as an intern for Debra Martin Chase, she worked as a writer while still being in college.

In 2015 she blessed the drama world with the two winners of the best drama series: Grey’s Anatomy. Soon, ABC’s “Thursday Night” turned into “Shonda Night”, with back to back episodes of Grey’s Anatomy, How to Get Away with murder and Scandal — all created by her.

Debra Martin Chase

Her love for storytelling was inherited from her father. In 1995 she met Denzel Washington at an event,  both artists found themselves interested in the same content. And, a week after this encounter, Debra was running Denzel’s company.

In 1997, she the executive produced of Cinderella, starring brandy and Whitney Houston. “It always bothered that I never saw me,” she said when talking about the movies she liked. And, like a true boss, she took matters into her hands.

Debra became the first African American Producer (not women-producer, JUST producer) to work at a major studio: Disney.  And for more than 20 years, she’s been working on content that represents all of “us” — women of the world.

Courtney Kemp

Talking about change and power, let’s not forget about the mastermind behind Power (the TV Show), Courtney Kemp. The perfect example of a series that merges violence, power, sex, and romance — themes which Kemp is obsessed with.

When she first pitched the idea, it was 50 Cent, Chris Light, and “100 other dudes” in the room. For the first time ever, “it was the girl” who everyone was listening to.

To no one’s surprise, Power has grabbed the attention of its viewers for 6 years. Now she has signed a deal with Lionsgate that would allow her to keep working in Power and many other projects.

Ana DuVernay

But the queen of awards is Ana DuVernay. The first African American woman to win the best director prize at the Sundance Film Festival for the feature Middle of Nowhere in 2012.

She started working as a publicist, in fact, she didn’t pick up a camera until she was 32 years old. Once she did, however, she hasn’t dropped the camera nor the awards that come with it.

Her groundbreaking work directing Selma (2014) not only landed her an Oscar nomination for Best Picture, but it also established her name in the Academy and around the world. Now, her documentary, 13th (nominated for best documentary (2016), was becoming even more popular at the time favorite given that it teaches about racial discrimination and oppression.

(Not to mention that she is also the first Black woman to direct a $100 million budget film: A Wrinkle in Time)

Robin Thede

Robin Thede is perhaps the best example of women’s power to multitask. She is the creator, writer, executive producer, and leading lady in A Black Lady Sketch Show. Comedy series that has been nominated for three Primetime Emmy’s.

And her talent goes beyond tv series, Robin Thede was the first African American Women to be the head for Late Night Shows. She started writing for the White House Correspondents Dinners (2016) and she was also the head writer for Comedy’s Central The Nightly Show With Larry Wilmore.

Robin was also the critically-acclaimed host of the late-night show: Rundown with Robin Thede.

Lena Waithe

You probably recognize her for her role as Helen in Ready Player One, or for being the mastering behind Queen and Slim’s screenplay, but Lena Waithe has talent far beyond acting to offer.

Before being the first black woman to be nominated and win an Emmy for her writing in The Master of None, Lena hustled her way up in the industry.

She started her career being the assistant to the executive producer of Girlfriends, the sitcom. After receiving great recommendations from Mara Brock Akil (The Game producer) director Gina Price-Bythewood took Lena to work with her for Love & Basketball. Women ruling the game!

Later, went on as the production assistant for both The Secret Life of Bees and Notorious. Until 2014, she served as a producer for the popular show Dear White People. That same year she was offered her first role as an actress in The Comeback TV series. This role opened the doors for multiple other jobs in TV and film.


How high are we? An in-depth look into the racist history of cannabis

When it comes to America’s racist history cannabis and the stigmas surrounding the drug should head your heated debate.

As of 2020, twelve states have legalized the use of marijuana, thirty have either decriminalized it or allowed its use for medical purposes. Only eight still hold it illegal.

The war on drugs appears to have come to an end, but in all reality, it has not. More and more information about the benefits of legalization floods the internet, yet little do we know about its precautions.

The question is not “if” marijuana should be legal, but “how” to legalize it.

Another racist tale

Marijuana use dates way back to 2,737 BC. The first recorded use of the plant was from emperor Sheng Neg of China, who prescribed marihuana tea to treat malaria, gout problems and, poor memory!

On American land, the first reported legalization of cannabis was in 1619. That same exact year a ship full of human cargo arrived at what would become Virginia. During that time King James had required all American colonists to grow Indian Hemp in to export to from (now) Jamestown to England.

History has taught us about slaves planting, cultivating and harvesting cotton, tobacco, sugar chain, etc. What they forgot to mention was that pot was also a major product of the Atlantic Slave Trade and part of the exploitation of slave labor.

Later, in the early 1900s Mexicans immigrated to the United States in the wake of the Mexican Revolution. With them, they brought their customs, cultures, and traditions; smoking “marijuana” as medicine and relaxant.

During that time, social anxieties began to spread. Media played with the public’s fear, using these Mexican customs to falsely spread claims about “disruptive Mexicans.”

And in the 1930s we started to hear claims about marijuana causing people of color to behave violently and solicit sex from white women.

Federal Bureau of Narcos Commissioner was quoted “reefers make darkies think they are as good as white men.” -Harry J. Anslinger, a very confused white racist

Finally, Nixon officially began the war on drugs (allegedly to criminalize black people and hippies).

Stats and stories of today

Today, as more information about the benefits [and economics] of cannabis spreads through the world, people and policies are begging to “shift away” from its long-standing stereotypes. The system, on the other hand, has not.

Research relying on the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Uniform Crime Reporting Program shows that in 2010, 33% of marijuana users were white American and 28% were black. However, 200 arrests were white, and more than 700 were black.

By 2018, almost 26 states had decriminalized or legalized weed. Still, there were almost 700,00 marijuana arrests, all of which account for more than 48% of all drug arrests. This same year, the police made more marijuana arrests than for all violent crimes combined.

More than 6.1 million people have been reported for marijuana-related charges over the last 10 years; nine out of 10 arrests were only for possession.  Although black and white people consume marijuana at relatively the same rate, black people are four times more likely to get arrested.

More frustrating is the fact that today, black people make only 13% of America, but 40% of people imprisoned for drug crimes.

And the harm?

The harm goes far beyond a fine or prison. Drug charges haunt people as their background comes back more often than not. Some would never be able to get a job, or the life they wanted.

Marijuana money 101

Before the coronavirus, the legal weed industry was estimated to have an estimated worth of 19 billion dollars and 23 billion by the end of 2023.

And for years, government officials have backed their policies regarding marihuana claiming that legalization would benefit the minority groups for these same reasons; possibly increasing jobs and decreasing social injustices and racial inequality.

But who is actually benefiting from the legal weed industry?

Currently, the weed business if runs with licenses.  When California legalized recreational weed in 2016, policymakers imposed a one-acre limit to incentivize small businesses to rein over big companies. But then, in 2018 one of the big marijuana companies bought 200 permits, 46 acres.

Big businesses have been stacking close to 100 one-acre cultivation permits. Soon, the cannabis industry mirrored a High School hallway: the Big guys bullying little ones to get their lunch!

According to a study conducted by the Marijuana Business Daily, 4.3% of marijuana business owners are black, 5.7% are Hispanic and 81% are white men.

“I wanna take every Chardonay mom to replace Chardonay with Pot” – Adam Bierman, co-founder of Med Men.

And, as decriminalization and legalization happened around the country, states have built systems that support giant weed companies and hurt small-running weed business.

Florida, for example, gives very few operating licenses, making things complicated for small farms and very easy for big ones; one license was sold for over 55 million dollars.

As if things were not already complicated, Florida is one of the 11 states that require vertical integration to qualify for a license. This means that not only do they have to farm, grow and harvest the marijuana, but process it, distribute it and operate the stores that sell it.

Something that only companies with deep pockets are able to do.

The future of cannabis?

So, the answer to the above question is still: White men. White Men. White men.

At least that is what Wanda James, the first African American woman to own a weed dispensary in Colorado.

But, again, the question is not whether we should legalize weed or not. It does in fact bring social and medical benefits and it has proved to decrease (not stop) unfair arrest and drug charges.

However, it is yet another proof of how the system is making working under racial and economic inequalities hard by ignoring the true victims of the war on drugs.

Last year, New York delayed its democratization process because of these same reasons. This is a good step back to learn how the process works, who it works for and hopefully learn how to democratize the entire industry in order to enjoy its true benefits.

The shooting of father Jacob Blake is calling for more than justice

We are demanding justice for Jacob Blake. Following the shooting of the father of three on Sunday, protests have erupted in Kenosha, Wisconsin. And rightly so.

After the widespread anger and frustration that the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and countless other victims sparked within America, one could imagine police to [at the very least] think twice before pulling a trigger.

But, yet again we meet in tragedy. AND THIS NEEDS TO STOP.

We go to church on Sundays

Flashbacks to the death of George Floyd haunted us on Sunday afternoon when another video captured police brutality.  One more white police office firing several shots into a black man’s back.

Before the shooting, 29-year-old Blake had been barbequing with his children, a neighbor reported. He was helping to deescalate a domestic situation when all of a sudden seven or eight officers arrived.

Not interested in talking, Blake started to put his kids in his vehicle to leave. The video shows how he was followed by a white officer with a gun on hand who appeared to have no remorse when firing at least seven shots in front of Blake’s three children.

The shooting of Jacob Blake demands justice

“He’d be out here with us right now. It’s a bad dream. I’m just waiting for him to come outside,” said one of the neighbors who refused to give his name because he feared police retaliation.

The trauma, sadness, and fear are shared by all.

“They saw a cop shoot their father,”  Civil rights attorney, Ben Crump confirmed on Twitter.

“They will be traumatized forever. We cannot let officers violate their duty to PROTECT us. Our kids deserve better!!”

Jacob Blake was immediately airlifted to Froedtert Hospital in Milwaukee for surgery, where he remains in delicate conditions. He is now paralyzed from the waist down. According to Blake’s father, doctors don’t know if the paralysis would be permanent.

Enough is enough

Naturally, enraged protestors rushed to the streets on Sunday evening after the video circulated through social media.

Again, a Wisconsin county declared an emergency curfew after Sunday protests. At least three garbage Kenosha garbage trucks were burned and businesses’ windows were shattered.

At least 100 people raced to Kenosha County Public Safety Building by 10:15 p.m., chanting, “No justice, no peace.”

It’s again a flashback of what happened only weeks ago with the death of George Floyd.

“If we don’t have the systematic reform that this moment in America is crying out for, then we are going to continue to see hashtag after hashtag, protest after protest, and cities burning all across America,” Crump said.

The Wisconsin Department of Justice has not given any information about the identities of the officers, but promise that they are on leave (as if that was enough).

Several public figures have called for justice, including NBA star Lebron James, who leads the charge for justice.

Wisconsin Governor, Tony Evers, has also called for police accountability for the incident.

And, Joe Biden, who seems to be America’s only salvation at the moment, called for an investigation and the dismantling of systematic racism.

The night before the protest, in Lafayette, Louisiana, a 31-year-old man Trayford Pellerin, was killed outside a convenience store by another police officer in the city.

As the elections approach, the fury and grief caused by the long-standing systematic racism manifest continually, it is important to realize that we are way past the time of change.

We really need to start to take action.

UPDATE: According to a report from the Chicago Sun-Times, Blake’s father said his son is paralyzed from the waist down. Doctors don’t yet know whether the injury is permanent.

Mafiosos to narcos: What organized crime taught us about civil unrest

After weeks of constant ambulance sirens, increasing deaths and unemployment numbers, followed by widespread anger of the violent murders of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor and an 8 pm curfew imposed in a city that “should never sleep,”  I walked through deserted SoHo streets looking at protective plywood covering stores, and wondered:

“Gotham, is that you?”

With possibly the worst economic recession recorded in history ahead, perhaps the biggest question is: Are we in fact looming towards an influx of organized crime and violent times?

Sure, desperate times call for desperate measures. However, there is no economic evidence that proves that economic recessions are the exclusive cause of civil unrest or organized crime.

Still, why does it feel like we are living in a crime thriller?

A walk down memory lane

Remember the roaring 20s?

The times of Flappers, jazz, short skirts, money, [Great Gatsby?]. How about The Chicago Outfit, does that ring a bell?

The decade of the 1920s is historically known for its drastic social change and so-called “prosperity.” It also gave birth to an affluent society that stimulated a culture of excess and exuberance. 

Although it brought unprecedented freedoms; (white) women could vote, and express themselves as they pleased. It also sparked some anxiety.

During these times of “celebration”, the 18th Amendment had banned the sale of any “intoxicating beverages” above 0.5% alcohol. Later, the Volstead Act closed every tavern, bar, and saloon in the United States. 

Many white, middle-class Americans, saw these as necessary efforts to assert control over immigration masses who began to crowd the nation’s cities. The Prohibition Era backed the contemporary anxieties of an impending anarchy fallout.  

So, while young mostly white women danced to the sounds of jazz celebrating these new freedoms with bobbed hair and short skirts, others saw these curtailed freedoms as lucrative opportunities.

Welcome to Gangsterland

In 1925, Chicago alone had more than 1300 gangs. However, Alphonse Capone proved to be the most ferocious businessman.

Born to poor immigrant parents, Al Capone joined gangs from an early age. He earned the name of Scarface at only 21 years of age after being slashed by the brother of a young lady he had insulted at a bar.

Little did the attacker know who was he dealing with.

By the time he was 26 years old, Al Capone dominated the multi-million dollar operations of all crimes imaged;  murder, gambling, prostitution, and — the all-time favorite – bootlegging.

Bootlegging was the term given to the ‘illegal sale of intoxicating substances’ or alcohol.

Al Capone was also the face behind the infamous St. Valentine’s massacre, where he ordered the deaths of seven of his enemies. A crime that gave him the official “public enemy” tittle, granted in 1929 by President Herbert Hoover himself. 

(Not that he worried. He had 1,000 gunmen and half of Chicago’s police force on his payroll)

Spoiler Alert! He was never indicted for his racketeering, nor any of the murders. 

Experts say he was responsible (directly or indirectly) for the deaths of between 300 to 700 people. And, according to a study from Chicago’s Crime Commission and Illinois Crime Survey of 1929, the homicide rate during Capone’s times was 12 murders per 100,000 residents!

Finally, in 1931 when Capone was 32 years old, the federal government was able to indict Capone for 22 counts of income-tax evasion

In 1947, Chief of Chicago Gangland died of cardiac arrest in his home in Florida.

International Markets

Talking about masters, let’s bring the conversation overseas and focus on arguably the biggest Drug Lord in history: Pablo Emilio Escobar Gaviria, Lord of the Medellin cartel of the 1980s.

How did Escobar gain control?

In the 1960s, growing anxieties of communist ideologies began to spark in the United States. With the efforts to establish relations with Latin American countries and promote capitalist ideologies, President Kennedy initiated the Alliance for Progress Program

Colombia became one of Alianza’s greatest examples. By the late 1960s the country’s economy began to grow by 6% annually after years of political instability and warfare. 

Still, the popular class felt left out and betrayed.

Noticing the growing division between the rich and the poor, young Pablo took it as an opportunity to become a national hero and possibly the most powerful man in the Country.

 Robin Hood kinda style

Don Pablo gained popularity within the popular class sponsoring charity projects, soccer clubs, recreational parks, and education. The true source of his power came from the Robin Hood Figure earned by stealing from the rich and giving to the poor.

But Escobar’s times were times of terror.

In 1975 he allegedly ordered the murder of Fabio Restrepo [top-ranking drug trafficker] in order to grab control over cocaine trade happening in Medellin. Restrepo’s death immediately gave Escobar an opportunity to expand his operations and become the King of Cocaine.

Pursuing his dreams of becoming President, in 1982, 33-year-old Pablo was elected as an alternate member of Colombia’s Congress, but knowing about the true reasons of his wealth, the then Justice Minister forced him to resign.

Not only has he unleashed  The Drug Lord’s fury, but this also gave the birth of his famous “Plata o Plomo” or  ” bribery or death” trademark. 

He became so feared that he was able to intimidate top-ranking politicians. Claimed the lives of three Colombian Presidential candidates, an attorney general,  a record of judges, and more than 1,000 policemen. Not to mention, the bombing of a Colombian Jetliner and the deaths of hundreds of people.

During his time, he has an estimated network of  30 billion USD. And, in 1986 he was ranked as one of the 10 wealthiest people in the world by Forbes Magazine, and continued to be featured six other times.

And, after gaining control of over 80% of the cocaine smuggled into the United States,  Pablo Escobar started the biggest, most deathliest game of cops and robbers in history.

 The true villain of the decade

Yes, the growing rates of unemployment and the impending economic recession caused by the Coronavirus are disturbing. Yet, most alarming are the political injustices and oppressive systems that the virus has revealed.

While over 40 million Americans file for unemployment, black and Hispanic workers continually report higher claims compared to white.

Reports have shown that minority groups die from COVID-19 at a triple of other races due to a lack of medical security. The long-standing racism in the United States has never been more evident.  

So, perhaps the only, most dangerous, connection between reality and the not-so-fictitious city of Gotham is the fact that its infamous villains have done a better job shedding light on socio-political problems than any of its heroes.

IG copies another app AGAIN: Will Instagram reels kill Tik Tok?

On August 5, 2020, Instagram surprised the world with reels. The application added a  new feature that allows its users to create short-form videos and share them with friends and followers.

Hmmm… Tik Tok? Is that you?

Coincidentally, the launch comes in the wake of a potential ban of Tik-Tok from the United States. Thus, one can’t help to wonder: Has Instagram just declared war (again)?

One concept, two products, one king

Like Tik Tok, Instagram’s reels are 15-second long videos that allow its users to use an array of filters and effects and include popular music on them.

The app has also improved its “Explore” page so that it has a specific landing spot for reels. And, like the “For You” page in Tik Tok, users are able to scroll through videos.

Just a week ago ByteDance, Tik Tok’s parent company, accused Facebook of plagiarizing its product with reels.

Robby Stein, Instagram’s product director, defended the company by stating that “no two products are exactly alike, and ours are not either.”

Still, after 2016 no one will trust Instagram anymore. #RIPSnapChat.

Remember? That time when Instagram cloned Snapchat’s concept and incorporated it as another feature inside its app?

You know what I’m talking about; when Instagram literally fed itself from Snapchat’s ideas.

After only a few months from its launch in 2016, Instagram’s stories had more than 200 users, it outnumbered Snapchat users by more than 50 million.

Would it be able to eat its now competitor — Tik Tok — the same way?

Instagram vs Tik Tok

During times of social distancing and lockdowns, Tik Tok offered unconventional ways for people to connect and entertain themselves. The app not only became a quarantine novelty but a form of distraction and socializing during highly stressful times.

Have people developed an emotional connection with the app after it saved their lives and minds? That is yet to be seen.

Just within the third week of March, the application downloads increased by 18% from its previous week, totaling 2 million downloads in only 5 days.

Now, it has over 800 million users and it been downloaded from the Google Play store more than 1 billion times — numbers that were never seen for SnapChat.

Yet, during its 10-year anniversary this month, Instagram celebrated 1 billion users.

As of July 2020, Instagram was the 6th most popular social network; quickly followed by Tik Tok. Being the home of many influencers, and the most popular place for many multi-million endorsement deals, Instagram has embedded loyalty from its users.

Celebrities like Kylie Jenner, Cristiano Ronaldo, and Nicki Minaj earn from 150-230 million dollars PER POST. The trust and reach that his social network has generated for business are unparalleled.

However, these are things that are easily replicated on Tik Tok.

Within less than a year, Addison Rae Easterling earned 5 million dollars thanks to her dances in Tik Tok. She is Tik Tok’s highest-earning star, followed by Charlie D’Amelio (4 million).

COVID surely helped Tik Tok gain popularity, but has it won its user’s loyalty?

Pacman complex

While it may have been easy for Instagram to eat Snapchat up, Tik Tok may be putting up a battle.

SnapChat was born out of the conversation of two Standford students — Evan Spiegel and Bobby Murphy. They developed Picaboo, looking to create an app that allowed its users to send pictures that would eventually disappear, which later evolved to SnapChat.

Naturally, when the time came, Facebook (Instagram’s parent company), knew exactly what they were against; two college students building a “safe” environment for… hookups? (Let’s call them dates).

ByteDance, on the other hand, a Chinese multinational technology company founded in 2012, has a net worth of over 100 billion USD.

It has 7 different acquisitions, 20 investments, and billion dollars founding. The company has handled different social networks for over 8 years, Tik Tok being the most successful.

It’s less than half the time of experience that Facebook has, but ByteDance clearly understands how to handle social networks. It has had both WeChat and Facebook as the role model and teachers to learn from; both, Eastern and Western cultures combined.

And, although it sparked during the COVID pandemic, it has been growing in popularity since its launch in 2016 at astonishing increase rates.

Having more than 800 million users within only 4 years, endorsement deals of millions of dollars. It has conquered all aged demographics, established a strong identity, and managed to get its community constantly engaged.

Surely Tik Tok is ready to put on a good fight. If they don’t get banned from the United States, of course.

From vandalism to street art: The history and people of graffiti universe

Once upon a time, writing on the street was considered vandalism, acts of criminals, and uncivilized efforts to communicate. It was (and, sometimes still is) sanctioned by law with penalties up to 1-3 years of prison.

Then, how did mural “stains”  end up on museum walls?

Longer-than-life graffiti

Drawing on walls is not something new. On the contrary, it is a practice that has been around for more than 40,000 years ago. Cave art was the first form of human storytelling ever recorded in history.

The first painted cave is known for being Paleolithic (from the stone age) was found in Altamira, Spain. The artists [experts believe] were our fellow beings Homo Sapiens. These are considered being the first form of symbolic communication of their beliefs.

Wikimedia Commons

It wasn’t until the mid of the twentieth century that writing on walls became recognized as a rebellious act endorsed by gangs and criminals.

By 1965, things got interested when 12-year-old Darryl McCray covered the Philadelphia’s Youth Development Center walls with the word “cornbread.” He had pestered the center’s cooks so much cornbread meals, he was nicked named after the bread.

And she passed his time leaving his unique signature at the walls of the YDC  instead of getting involved in the drug dealing as his mates did.

No need for violence to make himself known.

Upon his release, Cornbread took the streets of Philadelphia and tag his name across the city.

Soon he was using it to communicate his other deeper messages. And messages like “Cornbread loves Cynthia” started to become not only popular but effective. His name became widely known and appreciated, his messages spoke for themselves (literally), and he became a celebrity under Philadelphia’s eyes.

These inspired others to do the same and in no time the city’s walls grew dense with names and numbers. Each writer writing their name to glory.

The urban problem

Soon, New York City’s walls and subways were covered in color with tags and names and new pieces. It became a form of expression and an essential aspect of the formation of a subculture.

Naturally, as being an extraordinary form of expression, graffiti art became a political target. In the mid-1970s New York mayors, John Lindsay and Edward Koch saw the movement as “a symptom of a larger urban problem.” Thus, washing graffitis off became a symbol of political control.

But writers fought back, using their own elaborated systems with subway maps and shared intelligence warned each other about the spots that were safe to write on.

This gave birth to both, a “Guerrilla War,” that drained the city’s resources and a counter-movement of collective efforts that provided writers a platform to speak against some of the government’s oppressive systems.

Superkool 223, Phase 2, and Kotter became popular writers. They became an active and valuable part of popular culture. Tracy 168, for example, appeared in John Travolta’s classic sitcom Welcome Back. 

These fostered a climate of creative innovation and matured into a subculture of artists and innovators.

From the street to the museum

Yet, during the 1970s, art was still seen as part of the bourgeoisie, high class and it was sealed inside museums, protected from the “unworthy.” Although people were getting used to the idea of having the walls of their cities colorfully painted, graffiti was still considered acts of vandalism endorsed by criminals and uneducated people.

Then, how did it leave the streets to museum walls?

Perhaps two key figures for the movement to flourish into an art form are Keith Haring and Jean Michael-Basquiat, kings of street art.

During 1970s, still studying at the School of Visual Arts, Haring started his career using  New York’s subway walls as his canvas. He wished to communicate with a larger audience in a less formal way. Bringing art to the streets and breaking the exclusivity of the museums.

At the same time, 17-year-old Basquiat, together with his high school friend Al Diaz, started to write cryptic phases, easier to read and digest than other graffiti.

“It was supposed to be a logo, like Pepsi,” explained Basquiat.

Basquiat and Al Diaz became known as SAMO. The ad-like phrases, became interactive as people started to cross them and add their own ideas. And people reacted to their messages as it spoke about the mundane in an organic way.

The medium became the message for both artists, trying to reach a popular audience where they could connect with the ordinary in a creative way.

Haring and Basquiat attracted the attention of commuters and the city’s authorities, but most importantly also of art critics, dealers, and other artists. As their career expanded they gain recognition and respect from one of the most prestigious industries of all.

And, after being endorsed by the public eye and prominent artist like Andy Warhol, graffiti became accepted as “street art.”

Both artists inspired and contributed to the modern narration that “art is for everyone” by going against the belief that art should only be for the educated. And graffiti was no longer vandalism, rather a rebellious form of art.


2020 Vol 4: Accidental bomb devastates Lebanese capital of Beirut

Massive fires terrorizing Australia. Rising anxieties of a possible third world war. The melancholy of losing a legend. A global pandemic threatening humanity. And, the widespread anger of long-standing social injustice. 2020 has surely been a wild ride.

But, right when things seem to stabilize, a massive explosion ripped the city of  Beirut.

So far…[Not] so good.

2020 did it again

On Tuesday, August 4th, a giant mushroom cloud erupted in the port area of Lebanon’s capital, Beirut.

A sea of wreckage homes, businesses, and buildings flooded over the city.  More than 300 thousand people are now left homeless, 5,000 have reported injured and 135 have died.

The Government Palace, home of Lebanese Prime Minister Hassan Diab, was damaged and this wife and daughter have been reported injured.

Hospitals struggle to attend the streams of wounded people. Meanwhile, doctors perform surgeries with smartphones in the open air and, rescue workers save those who have been trapped under their damaged homes.

The country, which already faced food insecurity, lost 85% of its grained located in Silos. Now, more than ever Lebanon relies on imports for around 80% of what it consumes, especially food.

Now, high levels of nitrogen oxides become even more problematic for those with respiratory issues. Not to mention that ammonia can potentially cause the respiratory tract to burn to result in blindness, lung damage, or death.

All these while battling the consequences con COVID-19.

The roaring blast, which was heard 125 miles across the sea of Cyprus, shook the earth with the power of a 3.3-magnitude earthquake. It rattled the entire world with an enormous wave of shock and mourn.

What caused the explosion?

The explosion erupted in the port of Lebanon, where 2,750 kilotons of ammonium nitrate had been stored in a warehouse.

It all began in 2013, when a Russian-lead cargo ship, destined to Mozambique, made an unscheduled stop at Beirut’s port. The Rhosus (ship), carried a volatile cargo; 2,750 kilotons of ammonium nitrate, chemicals used for fertilizer and…Bombs!

The ship was declared unseaworthy due to its poor conditions. Consequently, the owner Igor Grechushkin embroiled himself in several financial and political disputes. Thus, abandoning the ship and its combustible material at the port of Beirut, in Lebanon.

So, the cargo was stored in Beirut’s port warehouse was for at least 6 years lacking safety measures.

While Lebanese authorities try to blame the Russian’s for the event, people range is focused on the negligence of the authorities who were aware of the danger that 2.720 tons of ammonium nitrate, yet failed to act.

Times of crisis

Already battling with the devastations of the “you-who-who” (virus) and, a political turmoil that has left the country with a deep economic crisis, the blast comes during sensitive times.

Before the explosion dismantled the city once and for all, Lebanon hosted poverty, disease, anger, hunger, and anxiety.

The hyperinflation of the Lebanese pound (compared to the dollar) had lost 85% of its value since October — third highest in the world.

The unemployment rate after the virus is estimated at 40% of the population. More than 50% of the Lebanese population are already living under the poverty line and, 3/4 are expected to live under food handouts by the end of 2020.

And as if not already conflicted enough by the bulk of people, hospitals are prompted to turn off their air conditioners and postpone surgeries due to the power cuts that last up to 22 hours per day.

Not to mention, the rising political tensions after Friday’s, July 3, verdict over the killing of former Sunni leader Rafik al-Hariri.

What now?

Yet again, 2020 poses opportunities for compassion and humanity. Nations all over the world are sympathizing with the tragic event that just occurred in Lebanon’s capital.

Today, Germany has dispatched dozens of search and rescue specialists to Lebanon. Australia pledged 1.4 million for Beirut’s relief effort. British Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, promised a 5.6 million pounds for humanitarian support packages.

The World Food Program is preparing to provide support for those who left homeless. The Tel Aviv Municipality has lit up its City Hall with the Lebanese Flag in stands of solidarity.

(President Donald Trump sparked controversy by claiming the explosion to be an attack… But we are not talking about that!)

Ironically the explosion comes 2 days before Hirsohima’s 75th anniversary. Both, as a reminder of how vulnerable life can be, and as a compilation; 75 years ago nations were bombing each other in war, now in the midst of a global economic crisis, they are able to come together in solidarity and empathy.

Sure, conflict, tension, and anxieties will always exist. But perhaps this is another prove that humanity can persist at the core of every nation.

Here is a link for your own act of humanity.


Don’t get tight but Kanye West might be better than Michael Jackson

Kanye West for 2024 or nah?

Still, a difficult concept to gauge and yes it’s highly improbable but let’s bring it to greater debate. Is Kanye West better than Michael Jackson?

Now, I don’t know if this is facts but the stats and data point to a chance that this might render true. When it comes to branding, globalization, viewership, musicianship, and more, Kanye might have it.

We’re talking about the King of Pop vs. the King of hip-hop. Two masters; that if they went head to head, who would win? My bets are on Ye. The god. The king. The master of none.

The Music of Masters

We all know about the seemingly endless list of records and awards MJ won during his realm.

Starting in 1970, when 12-year-old Jackson and his brothers [Jackson 5] became the first group in pop history to have their first four singles — “I Want You Back,” “I’ll Be There,” “The Love You Song,” and “ABC”  — hit NO.1.

Plus, their first Grammy nomination with “ABC.” Since then, MJ made it clear that he was here to conquer.

Twelve years later, as an already established, well recognized and respected solo artist, Michael Jackson released “Thriller” (1982).

A groundbreaking album, the first one in history to generate seven Top 10 Hits on the Billboard Hot 100. And the movie-like music-video that revolutionized music video productions: “Thriller.”

The mini-movie provided a sophisticated metaphor for the existing racism towards Michael Jackson at the time and a modern intake for new forms of storytelling.

Michael Jackson is one of the 14 recipients of the GRAMMY’S Legend Award and the only artist in history to score Top 10 Hits on The Billboard Hot 100 in five different decades.

Surely, the “Pop Messiah” set the bar too high, but has Ye caught up with it? While Michael Jackson “only” won 13 Grammys, The King of Hip Hop has 21 and counting

Kanye West revolutionized the entire Hip Hop genre. How Sway? Let me explain.

During 2004 hip-hop was undergoing a “bling era:” is baggy pants, corn crowns, and chains, chains, chains.

Artists were rapping about cars, fame, money and of course, chains. Back then, there weren’t any spaces for mainstream, universal problems, or thoughts.

Just material desires. Then Kanye released “The College Dropout” an unconventional album that tackled subjects such as family, prejudice, and religion. It wiped-out the lines of what the “bling era” painted.

Then, in 2007 he proved a point when “Graduation” outsold 50 Cents’ “Curtis” by 266K copies. And, what about “808 & Heartbreaks” (2008)?

The album challenged the convictions of hip-hop by using and electronic landscape and pushing the boundaries of what could be considered hip-hop even further.

This influenced the music of artists such as Kid Cudi, The Weekend, Travis Scott, and Chance the Rapper. Ye re-defined what hip-hop artist should be like, no wonder why he calls himself “God.”

“Learn the rules like a pro, so you can break them like an artist,” they say.

Both Kanye and MJ have globalized to another level

The life and death of Michael Jackson were simultaneously translated with the proliferation of media networks.

Naturally,  the King of Pop caught undivided, and well-earned, media attention.  In 1993, his Super-Bowl half-time show attracted 133.4 million views — the biggest TV audience at that time.

His influence went beyond western culture, thus his death was mourned all over the world and it even broke the internet a couple of times.

But, the true aspect of his influence on a global scale is on the imitation of his dances.  From Saudi Arabian men dancing to “Smooth Criminal” on the internet to Philippines’ prison inmates re-enacting the “Thriller” dance and a British-Indian Michael Jackson imitator combining MJ’s moonwalk with Punjabi Bhangra for Britain’s Got Talent.

Facts are that even civilians would be able to hum the sound of “Billie Jean” whenever the King of Pop is mentioned.

Yet, Kanye broke the boundaries of specialization. From producer to rapper, to fashion designer, to…(Presidential candidate?)!

Truth is that, although Kanye has not proven himself experienced enough for a presidential position, his influence goes beyond the music realm.

Ever wonder how your dad’s shoes went from a sartorial suicide to an ongoing trend featured in Vogue? Yep…Yeezy.

In 2015, after he officially launched his brand –Yeezy –Kanye West received the “Shoe of the Year Award” from Footwear News.

And just like that, the King of hip-hop became the King of Shoes too. Indeed, the Yeezy sneakers are the first to have shown the same level of relevancy and impact as the Air Jordans.

His multi-million dollar brand has backed the ongoing reformation of what fashion is. After Kanye, streetwear became luxurious lifestyle products.

Sneakers and hoodies turned into defying high-end garments. And fashion shows literally migrated to the Madison Square Garden. Even the relevancy of designers like Demna Gvasalia and Virgil Abloh [who later became Louis Vuitton Creative director] blew up after Kanye’s support.

So, besides having professional skills to scout talent, Kanye understood fashion as an immediate connection to culture and the ultimate tool for communication.

Now, people might not be fully aware of the extent of his influence, but we see his shoes, his clothes, HIM, in all corners of the world.

And, as it turns out, you don’t have to be into hip-hop to be listening to Ye’s advice.

Those suspect egos …

Of course, not all attention has been positive. This type of fame comes with its own burden.

In 2016, Kanye was diagnosed with bipolar disorder. This mental condition can have drastic effects on a person’s personality. Understanding it might be difficult for those who have not dealt with it closely.

Yet, West has a history of having no sense of consequence and in many cases, his impulsive behavior has resulted in very hurtful and highly inappropriate actions.

You can’t be willing out on Sway dawg. #NeverForget

Take his recent political campaign in South Carolina, where he publicly admitted “he almost killed his daughter.” West was talking about his stance against abortion and took the matter to personal experiences.

Of course, his wife Kim Kardashian wasn’t too happy about it. Which then resulted in a tweet rant. Also, what was Kanye doing at a presidential rally in the first place?

But, talking about inappropriate… Michael Jackson’s pedophilia claims can’t be neglected. This unjustifiable behavior has brought loathsome discourse against him.

And, although the claims became highly publicized after his death, during his life he also stirred great controversy.

After being diagnosed with Vitiligo (a skin condition that causes skin pigmentation loss) Jackson developed body dysmorphic syndrome.

He subjected himself to a number of plastic surgeries and managed to change his physical appearance completely. His journey of going from black to white caused a lot of public discomforts.

While it is impossible to compare one to the other, no one can deny the exaggerated sense of self both artists had.

Perhaps, that is exactly what makes them so controversial. Yet, it serves as a reminder of how dangerous narcissism can be, especially when it belongs to powerful, influential figures.

Creativity overdone

Still, as artists, both Kanye and Michael Jackson have changed the world, and its creative landscapes in unimaginable ways. Not only have they shed light on black talent where — for a long time — was ignored, but they have attributed the world with unprecedented mastery.

For Michael’s? Music, dances, and public persona had a prominent impact on the development of pop culture and what it has become. He broke the MTV color barrier being one of the first black artists to appear on the channel.

And became the first ever-present media image whose reach and global impact would be impossible to explain. There is no doubt that MJ is, indeed, the King of Pop.

Whereas Kanye, on the other hand, is an “Architect of Culture.” He has challenged the perceptions of what limits art by giving the mainstream a sophisticated meaning.

He has merged and collaborated with artists from all types of fields: architecture, painting, industrial design, fashion, music, etc.

And he’s managed to deliver impactful content every single time. Ye is not only a musician, he is an engineer, a producer, a rapper, a designer — an artist boundless to any field.

So… When it comes to debating who is best, no one would deny Michael had extraordinary talents. Still, Kanye might not be wrong when he says “I am the greatest artist of all time.”