Open Letter to Michael Jordan


Dear Mike,

I’m sorry but we just don’t have time to listen to you right now. We’ve been a little too busy burying children…some of whom looked up to you … some of whom may have even dreamt of being “like Mike”.

So many young Black boys see so much of themselves in you. I wonder how many more we’ll lose before you begin to see yourself in them. Remember when you were a little Black, impressionable boy, Mike? Remember when you were Tamir Rice’s age? Trayvon Martin’s age? MICHAEL Brown’s age? JORDAN Davis’ age… hell, two of their first names form your whole name. Remember??

I’m trying to get to your soul Michael. Now I am no advocate for the killing anyone of any color but if I am honest, I find your timing a bit troubling. You wait until after a rash of police officer shootings to say something? Yet the epidemic, the apparent “open season” on Black lives at the hands of police officers didn’t warrant your concern?  I’ll admit Michael, I don’t know your entire life story but I don’t think you have ever been a police officer… but I’m pretty sure you’ve been a little Black boy.

I don’t know, Mike … maybe I’m being too harsh. Perhaps I shouldn’t beat you up because at least you’re on record as having said something. But I’ve got to be honest… I’m not there yet. I can’t help but think – in the shadow of the death of Muhammad Ali less than two months ago – that I can’t put your names in the same sentence. See, Mike, the athletes of those days gone by gave their all and they didn’t have half of what you’ve got in the way of resources but they had double what you’ve got in heart and commitment to social justice.

In the remembrance of the late Muhammad Ali,  Curt Flood, Jackie Robinson and so many other unnamed heroes, I need you to speak up more. In honor of the Jim Browns, the John Carlos’ and Tommie Smiths and all those who used their talent and celebrity to further the cause of the least, the lost and the left out, I need you to speak out, more. For the many whose glory  days were spent in a courtroom, jailhouse or battling the residue of racism that beset their collective spirit, for those who knew they wouldn’t get lucrative endorsement deals because they couldn’t remain silent in the face of those who only loved them for their athletic prowess and damned their politics, I need you to show up, differently.

For all these young Black boys who have died in the streets for whatever reason… whether by the hand of those sworn to protect and serve or by another jealous, misguided young child, who wanted his victim’s “Air Jordans” …I need you to show up more, to say more …to do more…  to be MORE …than a brand.

So forgive me if I don’t rush over to kiss one of your championship rings … there’s work to do. I’m not sure if you are seeing he light or feeling the heat … and while I’m glad you finally said something I really can’t hear you right now. I may get there …but not yet.


/fək/  /ˈrāˌsizəm/

This Independence Day morning I decided to walk to the grocery store to get some milk and juice. It was to serve a dual purpose: mind clearing, rejuvenating exercise and necessary errand. The skies were cloudy so it wasn’t too hot. Eric Reed & Cyrus Chestnut’s “Prayer” was playing in my earbuds; a near perfect mix of jazz, blues and gospel. The early morning hour helped ensure I was in the company of a different set of God’s creatures; deer, geese and rabbit and not many humans. And even with all that, racism’s residue managed to creep in!

When I left the store I realized my music took a back seat to the voice in my head that screamed “F@%k Racism”! Out of nowhere I started worrying about things that only those directly affected by racism would understand. If you don’t understand then you ain’t affected. Racism’s residue has stolen so much of my time over my 52 years… wiggled it’s way into my thoughts so many times throughout my life.

Despite many positive role models there were moments where I suffered from doubt… truth be told there still are from time to time. I often find remnants of racism hoarding valuable space in my already cluttered mind. For example, why the hell do I still remember my Maryland Driver’s license number 37 years after I got it and almost 10 years after I turned it in for a North Carolina Driver’s license? The question made me reflect with anger and sorrow simultaneously. The anger was all mine but the sorrow was for my parents. How many of my extended adolescent nights had I caused them to worry?

I was mad my thoughts went where they went. Mad that I had to memorize my driver’s license number because as a Black male teenager growing up in Baltimore (or anywhere else for that matter), you didn’t want to go into your pocket for anything. We were taught to keep our hands in plain sight and to be respectful –  even if the police were not. “No sense being right AND dead” we were told. “Cemetery’s full of folk who were ‘right’ “, said others.

I then found my thoughts bending toward a consciousness of what I was wearing (tee shirt, cap, sneakers and shorts) and whether or not I had need of my receipt… not for proof of purchase but proof of “whereabouts” for an alibi in case something “happened” to any one, any where in the city during my walk between the store and home because “you just never know”. But what could happen? I was walking home with milk and orange juice, right? Oh, but wait, wasn’t Trayvon “just” walking from the store to his home? And wasn’t Tamir “just” playing by himself in broad daylight? 

Sometimes there is nothing “just” in the way America deals with justice… or is it the way she deals with just “us”?