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A different New Year’s Eve?

This is how I spent my last 5 New Year’s Eves:

Mexico City in 2008. (12 grapes and the Zocalo, oh my!)

Beale Street in Memphis, TN in 2009. (They actually have a guitar drop.)

Charles Barkley’s NYE party in Arizona in 2010. (I plead the 5th.)

The Dominican Republic in 2011. (I’m going to move to the DR eventually.)

Atlanta in 2012. (They actually do a peach drop.)

And, this year, I’ll be bringing in 2014 in New York City, the New Year’s Eve mecca!  But, don’t let that fool you.  I won’t be partying.  I won’t be in Times Square.  I won’t be attending a friend’s house party.  I won’t be at a sexy Manhattan event.   I’ll be in the house and steps away from my sleeping 11-month-old who has a bedtime of 6 p.m.

Given my proclivity for partying on New Year’s Eves in the past, this year’s “celebration” seems out of character, but truth is, there’s something sweet, symbolic, and satisfactory about starting the year this way: steps away from my sleeping daughter … who can sleep a little more soundly knowing that daddy is right there watching over her as she starts the first full year of her life.  That is how 2014 should start, and symbolically sets a tone for my 2014 priorities.

OK, who am I kidding?!  We’re looking for a last-minute babysitter right now!  It’s New Year’s Eve in New York City!!!!!!!!  We’re about to go get it on!

In search of one woman

In a packed convention hall, a woman stood up in front of thousands of strangers and painfully admitted that her husband is a cheater and that they may not make it to their next wedding anniversary.  I nearly cried.  The crowd nearly crucified her.

She was among the crowd that gathered to hear me and my fellow panelists at the Circle of Sisters Expo in New York on Saturday.  The panel (“Black Men Reveal“) was billed as “an insider’s guide to what every man is thinking and what every woman wants to know.”  My fellow panelists were singer Eric Benet, actor Gbenga Akinnagbe, and radio host Lenny GreenTamar Braxton (in her unique style) moderated the discussion before opening it up to audience questions.  There were questions about dating, sex, finances, having friends of the opposite sex, and of course, cheating. READ MORE

A free education? So what!

I won’t get into the issue of fairness.  I understand the perception: universities, conferences, coaches, and the NCAA are making truckloads of cash from athletics, but the college athletes are not getting paychecks, despite their contribution to the system.  That, on a most primitive level, just doesn’t seem fair.

I also don’t want to get into the logistical and legal challenges of paying college athletes or allowing them to profit from their names, likenesses, and fame through appearances, autograph signings, etc.  That’s not my issue either.

Rather, my problem in this recent debate over paying college athletes is that there seems to be no value placed on what the college athlete is currently getting: a free education.  A free college education seems to be an afterthought or dismissed altogether.  That sends an awful message.

I’ve spent a lot of time with young black men who truly feel their options in life are the NBA, the NFL, rapping , or the streets.  One young man told me last year that if rapping didn’t work out, he’d go back to robbing people.  That was his life plan.  It is impossible to simply tell that young man and others like him, “go to college!”  Education is a tough sell to young people who haven’t had the value of education explained to them and instilled in them early and often.

Young adults with college degrees earn more than those without degrees.  The current unemployment rate among college graduates is 3.7%, but graduates these days are leaving college with an average of over $35,000 in debt.  Meanwhile, the probability of a high school basketball player eventually making it to the NBA is .03%.  For a high school football player making it to the NFL, it’s .08%.  An education, especially a free one, is of incredible value, even for most big-time athletes.  We devalue it when we argue that college athletes are getting nothing in return.

Of course, the current debate is really about the superstar athletes in the major sports who bring eyes to the TV screens, put fans in the seats, and bring attention to their schools.  But, the national debate can often come off as if ALL athletes are being cheated because they’re only getting a free education.  I hate the message that’s sending: that working your butt off to be a scholarship-worthy athlete only pays off if you get paid cash in college.

Yes, being athletically gifted and working at your sport can lead to great rewards, but please, add free college education to that list.

Missing Roland already

I’m in touch with Roland Martin just about every week, and sometimes, several times a week.  And, depending on what’s happening in our worlds, we might talk everyday.  So, it seems strange that I would be missing him.

I already miss Roland on CNN.  I know, I know … there are plenty of other places I can see & hear him.  But, I liked seeing and hearing him in that particular place.

Roland has established himself as a prominent voice in national political discourse through CNN and other platforms.  To his credit, as his national profile reached new heights and his message reached new audiences, Roland has always kept strong ties to black media.  He has also been a proponent of black publications, websites, and networks, including networks that compete against TV One where his show “Washington Watch” airs.  And, I personally know he has gone to bat for black journalists at CNN and advocated for reporting stories on the network that are relevant to the community.

Having CNN recognize Roland’s value by hiring him 6 years ago was a win.  It was a big deal and something that benefited black media.  As Roland said himself, he understands that new management wanted to get new people in and there always comes a time to move on.  I get that.

Still, I’ll miss him on CNN … ascot and all.