Add mine to the plethora of Top Ten lists that inundate us at every year’s end. Mine is different. It looks at men and women of African-descent, who unwittingly gave the image of black people a boost or a bust.
Topping my winners and losers is the inimitable, would-be President of the United States HERMAN CAIN. I knew he wasn’t about anything for my people because he was running as a Tea Party Republican. My God. The sex allegations, his annoying “9-9-9” mantra, his international insult to the nation he called, “Uz-beki-beki-stan-stan,” his song of praise to pizza, his brain freeze on Libya, and ending his farewell to the campaign with a quote from the “Pokémon” movie. All of these gaffes had me laughing in stitches until I realized that what America was seeing was a black buffoon. Thank you, Mr. Cain for nothing and I hope Gloria “whupped yo’ ass.”
Leave it to women to give us pride. The Nobel Peace Prize was conferred on two Liberians: ELLEN JOHNSON SIRLEAF, the first woman elected head of state of any country on the African continent; and LEYMAH GBOWEE, a peace activist credited with helping to end the civil war in Liberia and for promoting women’s rights. After spending a good deal of time in Africa, I always felt the women in African countries would be their salvation.
Still on a good note, what about J.R. MARTINEZ winning ABC’s popular “Dancing With the Stars?” I was so proud that the Iraqi war veteran beat out all the contestants, despite having suffered burns over 40 percent of his body, including his badly scarred face, which some could find disturbing. What Martinez had going for him were dancing ability, a warm personality and a desire to win, no matter what. An exploding IED didn’t stop him nor could Ricki Lake.
Far be it from me to deny a black man a show on a cable news channel but the REV. AL SHARPTON? He has been hosting his “POLITICSNATION” on MSNBC for several months, but face it: if he were a white man, a white woman, a black woman or some other black man, he would be fired. Television host he is not. The Rev. Al struggles with the teleprompter, stumbles on his words and he doesn’t talk to the audience but barks at it like an agitated beagle. One night Sharpton showed some documents with black marker covering up large portions of the text. He said the papers had been “didacted,” not redacted. Again and again he used variations of “didaction.” Sorry to say, he’s an embarrassment. Surely, there’s someone else.
One of them could have been RUSS MITCHELL or T.J. HOLMES. CBS lost the multi-talented Mitchell, who for years anchored the “Early Show” news, the Weekend editions of that show and the Evening News. He apparently didn’t figure into plans for revamped CBS news programming, so he left to become anchor of a local station in Cleveland. T.J. left CNN certainly disgusted by his twin woes…being stuck on weekends and the never-ending wait to be given a promotion by CNN. Now he is off to BET where he is slated to play a major role in bringing serious news to the Black Entertainment network. Here’s wishing them both success. I expect they will continue to bring distinction to the television news industry.
The much-ballyhooed OPRAH WINFREY Network (OWN) seems to be headed for a bust. The Queen of Daytime TV, who was just about Queen of America, started her network a year ago, this coming January 1st. It was a tough year. Everything Oprah touches does not turn to gold. Her loyal fans did not tune in. Ratings were so low that Discovery Communications invested a quarter of a billion dollars into the fledgling network. Winfrey acknowledged that, “mistakes were made.” She’s optimistic about 2012 when she plans to produce and broadcast programs, which take her “on the road.” But OWN left a chink in Oprah’s formidable armor.
Emerson College in Boston, where I teach journalism, made history by naming its first black president, DR. LEE PELTON. The Board of Trustees appointed the Harvard-educated former president of Portland, Oregon’s Willamette University, to perhaps settle some scores. Before he arrived there had been two years of campus turmoil over the paucity of faculty members of color and the threat of lawsuits by two black professors who were denied tenure. Pelton started the job last July and is beginning to win over those who had doubts about the scholarship of black faculty and students.
Last, but not least, PRESIDENT OBAMA. It’s been a year of pounding from the right, recalcitrance by the Republican-dominated House, grindingly slow economic recovery, and prospects of a tough re-election campaign. But he has managed to keep a “cool hand.” He killed Osama bin Laden and several other Al Qaeda leaders. He brought our troops home from Iraq. The Republicans blinked and passed his bill continuing middle class tax breaks and extended unemployment benefits. So, he didn’t accomplish all he promised but admit it: he’s done a helluva lot under the circumstances. Thank you, Mr. President for giving not just black Americans, but all Americans a much-needed boost.
Have a healthy and Happy New Year.