Monday, June 28, 2010

2010 BET Awards: A Step in the Right Direction...Sort of

Well, I know I'm a little late posting this but for those who watched the BET Awards the other night, I think it would be fair to say that they definitely stepped it up from last year's debacle.

For those who didn't see it...don't worry you didn't miss a whole lot.

Sure, Queen Latifah pretty much came out of the closet, Keyshia Cole butchered BoB's Airplanes, Monica looked like she was going to fly away (though she sang beautifully), Trey Songz murderlized Prince's song, Alicia Keys gave us all a baby scare when she recklessly climbed up on the piano during her performance, Patti came out of her shoes yet again and Prince look like he wanted to backhand each and every one of his tribute performers, but overall it was a pretty decent show.

El DeBarge's performance was priceless (all 7 of them), Chris Brown danced his way back into everybody's heart with is touching MJ tribute and subsequent breakdown, and BET did a great thing by honoring regular people who are doing great things in the community.

So all in all, we see you BET! You're trying to step it up and your efforts have not gone unnoticed. Keep working still have a ways to go, but you're definitely on the right track.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Toy Story 3 Review

Woody and Buzz Lightyear are back in the third and final installment of the Disney hit mega-series, Toy Story 3.

This time around Andy is all grown up and is preparing to go off to college. As he prepares himself for his transition, his mother insists that he get rid of his unused “junk” before he leaves. So naturally, the first thing she looks to him to get rid of, store, or donate are his favorite old toys that he hasn’t played with in years.

Once the toys get wind of the fact that they may be stored away in the attic, or even worse set out on the curb, they immediately begin scrambling to come up with a plan of action. One mishap and misunderstanding later, the toys find themselves in a bad situation. What ensues is an action-packed adventure that is synonymous with everything that is Toy Story.

Woody, Buzz, Jessie, Ham, Rex, Slinky Dog and Mr. and Mrs. Potato Head all find themselves in a daycare that, for all practical purposes, should be heaven for an old toy. Dazzled by the laughter of children and the colorfulness of their new surroundings, the toys find themselves being won over by the prospect of being in a place where they will never be tucked away on a shelf again. Meanwhile Woody, ever the loyal toy, tries his best to smooth everything out and convince his friends that they have to get home by trying to make them understand that Andy loves them and would never throw them away.

After deciding to try their luck at the daycare, Woody resolves to find his way back home to Andy. In the meantime, the toys quickly find out that everything is not as it seems when the head honcho, a crazed bear named Lotso, sentences them to endure toddler torture.

Without giving too much away, I have to say that this installment definitely kept me entertained. It had excitement, comedy and even a few touching moments; not to mention that the interaction between Ken and Barbie was hilarious. Tom Hanks and Tim Allen have a great chemistry with their respective characters, and the supporting cast did much to add to the Toy Story 3 experience.

Overall, I give Toy Story 3 a very enthusiastic ten spirit-fingers! It’s a great movie that the entire family can enjoy together. And now days with all the questionable things that surround much of the subject matter that you seen in movies, that’s saying a lot.

Visit us at
Follow me on Twitter at

Friday, June 18, 2010

Parents: Get Involved or Go to Jail?

Recently, Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy announced that she is pushing for a proposal that would force parents to become more active in their children's school lives by requiring them to attend parent-teacher conferences under the threat of  fines or jail time for failing to do so.

Her thought behind this is that if more parents are forced to get involved in their kids' education then maybe they will take a more active role in helping teachers be more successful in reaching their children and at the same time hoping that more parental involvement will curb juvenile violence and truancy.

Worthy's efforts on this matter have been met with a bevy of mixed emotions, and rightly so. On one hand, I completely agree with her thought process about parents needing to get more involved in the lives of their children, especially where education is concerned.  But on the other hand, I would have to say that putting people in jail for a lack of parenting skills is a little bass-ackward.

Though her heart is undoubtedly in the right place, one would have to wonder if Worthy really thought out the entire laundry list of pros and cons of what she is proposing. For instance, if a parent is brought up on charges for missing conferences, what good is it going to do the child if that parent is then thrown in jail? That reaction only compounds the problems by leaving another child in the system if there are no family members who are willing to step in.  On top of that the child now has to deal with an absent parent on top of everything else, and society has to foot the bill for yet another inmate.

But the biggest part of this piece is that you can't force someone to care. You can fine them and threaten them with the harshest punishments you can think of but at the end of the day, will that really make them care more about their kids then they do already?

While it is a no-brainer that parents obviously need to take more stock in the lives of their children, it really doesn't seem like jail time is a viable option for something like missing parent-teacher conferences. Our jail and prison systems are already overflowing with mothers and fathers who need to be at home raising their children.

So in essence, the remedy is not jail time; the remedy would be to address and modify the behavior. Maybe employers could be enlisted to make provisions for parents who need to leave work to attend parent-teacher conferences by granting time off to attend and then requiring a note from the school to verify that the parent attended. Or maybe perhaps instituting incentives for parents to come to conferences or fun incentives for them when their kids make honor roll status. Not that anyone should be paid to raise their kids, but free movie tickets would be a lot cheaper than housing them in jail for 24 hours a day for X amount of days. Just some food for thought.

I don't fault Kym Worthy for coming up with an idea, I just think that in this case the end doesn't justify the means. So let's go back to the drawing board on this one and see what else we can come up with.

What do you think?
Follow me on Twitter at

Friday, June 11, 2010

The Karate Kid Review

The Karate Kid is back with a vengeance! The 2010 remake of the original pop culture classic of the same name from 1984 that starred Ralph Macchio and the late Pat Morita, turned out to not be a disappointment.

Dre Parker, played by Jaden Smith, is forced leave everything he has ever known behind when his mother Sherry’s, played by Taraji P. Henson, job is transferred overseas to China. While he tries his best to be a good sport for his mother and give their new living situation a fair shot, all bets are off when he starts getting terrorized by bullies at his new school.

In the midst of ducking and dodging his middle school kung-fu master tormentors, he manages to find a friend in a young girl name Meiying (who just happens to be the object of affection of his main adversary), and an unlikely ally in the seemingly aloof maintenance man, Mr. Han, played by Jackie Chan.

If you’ve ever seen a Karate Kid movie, you pretty much know how the plot plays out from there.

In this rendition of the movie I have to give major props to young Jaden Smith. That young man did a phenomenal job in this movie. I can’t even begin to imagine the type of training he had to go through to prepare for this role. His training scenes were well portrayed and realistic, his acting was believable, and his fight scenes were very well executed.

And then to take into account the amount of dedication he had to have to see the project through to the end. Sure, super star mom and dad Jada and Will’s guidance had probably had a lot to do with it, but at the end of the day it was up to Jaden to get the job done.

Jackie Chan also gets a major kudo for his role in this project. While we already know that Chan is a masterful martial arts craftsman, he showed a whole different facet to his acting ability in this film. I have to admit that a shed more than a few mommy tears during this one.

So overall, The Karate Kid gets an enthusiastic ten spirit-fingers. This is a feel good movie with more than a few morally wholesome messages that the entire family will enjoy.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Usher's New Look

Check out my recent round table interview with Usher Raymond as seen in the Michigan FrontPage!

Usher’s New Look
By Janaya Black

After a harrowing year of divorce and media-frenzy, GRAMMY award-winning artist Usher Raymond has been flying high on the wings of all that is celebratory after topping the Billboard charts with his newest album release, Raymond Vs. Raymond, and the feeling of accomplishment in the midst of the successful launch and continuation of his New Look Foundation for kids.

During a brief stop in Detroit for the 12th Annual Ford Freedom Awards, where he was named “The Dream Maker” in recognition for all of his outstanding achievement and philanthropy, the FrontPage got a chance to sit down with Usher to find out more about his “new look” and what it means to carry the title of being a “dream maker”.

FrontPage: What do you say to young people to let them know that they can and should aspire to do something other than being an entertainer, actor or athlete?

Usher: Well, my being here is a sense of dedication to something and that’s really what I hope to convey to them, that if there’s something your passionate about you should be willing to spend the time and be patient in dealing with whatever it maybe. This is hard work and a lot of times when kids are able to find motivation in what they seek, they understand better as a result of physically being able to see something. Most of the kids who are inspired are inspired by looking at the television seeing the basketball players fly down the court, or either turning on the television looking at a video, or looking at a red carpet interview or whatever it may be. I just hope to speak to them in a way of simply planting a seed today for a harvest, not quick, but one that will speak to who they ultimately want to be.

FP: Is there a correlation between what you’re saying now and the comments you reportedly made about American Idol and leap-frogging into success?

Usher: Well, often sensationalism has given us the perception that things are one way; that things are easy to come by. As I said, them being able to physically see the hard work that goes into what we do as philanthropists and what we do as artists, they don’t get a chance to come behind the scenes. But at least I can talk to them about it, answer questions and show some sense of patience.

Just to speak to the comments that were quoted in the media about me and my opinion of American Idol, I, like some other people, was of the opinion that American Idol was not the real thing. [It] was a quick fix. You look at television and you see that an artist is on television [you think] they can make it over night. It doesn’t happen that way. That’s why I was honored to be able to mentor kids, and not just kids but young adults, and show them aspects of mastering the game, of mastering this industry, and understanding the nuances that come with being an entertainer. It’s not just walk on the stage and sing and that’s it. You really have to understand stage presence. You have to understand how to connect and identify with the audience that you’re playing to, how to connect through music, through melody, through passion…that’s the heart of things that you don’t get to see through reality TV.

FP: What was your incentive behind launching an organization to educate youth about the entertainment and sports?

Usher: Well, I am the DNA for what I’ve created. As a result of having this incredible story that started from entertainment that really started from a dream, then passion and then success in music, and then a business man, and then a philanthropist and entrepreneur. To begin to engage them in that way, I feel like I’m speaking to the same kid who was 6-years-old who said, “I want to do that!” Well, here are the tools that you need in order to succeed in becoming that.

FP: Being as young as you are, how does it make you feel to be given the title “The Dream Maker”?

Usher: I love that. To be a dream maker or someone to help kids catch up to their dreams or be able to help them begin to shape these dreams into reality is, as I said, what I am. I’m a living product of it, so they can do it as well. This is part of the reason that with this 501(c) 3 that I’ve decided to go and mentor the least likely to be heard, because there lies some of the greatest most difficult, complicated stories that you have to deal with but yet they’re the most likely to succeed if you just give them the opportunity for their voice to be heard.

FP: What do you tell kids to do when it’s hard to believe?

Usher: That with the good comes the bad in life; there are high peaks and low valleys. But one thing that I told the kids as an entrepreneur, the first thing you’ve got to do is have a dream. Align yourself to your passion, create a plan and know that there will be high peaks and low valleys. Don’t stray from it if this is something that you are truly connected to and passionate about.

FP: How do you encourage young people to get involved in service?

Usher: I too am a believer that service makes a difference. The sheer statistics here in Detroit where we had an I Can’t But You Can campaign, where we allowed the kids through service to mentor adults about the voting process. The one thing President Barack Obama asked me personally was to educate our youth and give them a voice about understanding the voter campaign. So we decided to do something that would allow them to understand and that they could also be passionate about. Obviously, this president would impact their lives, so we gave them a voice through service to make a difference.

FP: What advice do you give to Justin Bieber?

Usher: Justin is a whole different story. This is a kid who, with the support of his mother, was daring enough to believe that someday all of his hard work of teaching himself single handedly to play drums, having gotten familiar with how to play piano and guitar, and listen to the radio and lean the lyrics and go out and sing about it and put it online…that right there was just unique in itself, which is why I wanted to be involved with the maturing of who he is and who he would become. The one thing that I always tell him and anybody is don’t be short-sighted. You have to understand that life is long and the story that is told then it of peaks and low valleys. Enjoy the high peaks but understand and appreciate the low valleys.

FP: How does it feel to be honored for something outside of music?

Usher: It’s right on time that in some way while you’re doing other good work, shall I say God work, things are getting taken care of.

For more information about Usher’s New Look Foundation, please visit
Follow me on Twitter at

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Parenting 2010

Parenting never has and never will be a 1-step, 2-step, 3-step thing despite what all the books that are written by people without children say about it. It takes time, patience, love and LOTS of prayer; especially now days during the age of technology when everything is right at your finger tips.

Today's kids are smarter, but at the same time they are sassier, sneakier, more cunning, disrespectful and desensitized to violence. Why? Because their parents are failing them. The number of single parents households is at an all time high as mothers are getting younger and younger, and fathers are becoming more and more scarce. And in households that have both parents, all too often due to hectic work schedules quality family time has fallen by the wayside.

Instead of mom and dad setting rules and regulations about what behavior will and will not be tolerated, they are more concerned with being friends with their child and making sure that they have all of the latest games and gadgets. Instead of seeing to it that school work is completed, monitoring grades and scholastic progress, or attending parent teacher conferences, it's easier to just put a child on punishment for bringing home bad report cards or blame the teachers. Instead of sitting down and talking to lil Johnny to find out how his day was, it's easier to send him off to watch television or play video games so that you can surf the web or play catch up on Facebook and Twitter.

Show your children that you are interested in them and being a part of their lives; take more stock in spending time instead of money. And don't be afraid to discipline them. There should be no privacy in your home for children under the age of 18. Parents should automatically have the voice mail and internet social network page passwords that they are paying the bills for. Not only should they have the passwords, but they should be periodically checking them just to make sure that their child is on their P's and Q's. The cyber world has way too much access to assume that your child won't venture off into murky waters that could prove to be more dangerous than you ever imagined or force them to grow up much faster than they should.

Develop an open door policy with your kids, and make sure that they know that they can come and talk to you about anything. No subject should be taboo. If they feel comfortable enough to come and talk to you about their problems or questions about life, then you have a 90% chance of being a positive influence on the decision that they make.

Children become products of what they live, see and experience, so lead by example.  The Bible says "train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it." (Prov 22:6) This verse lends heavily to the thought that if you put in the time and effort to shape and mold your child from an early age, as that child grows into adulthood your job will get easier. But you have to put in work to enjoy the fruits of your labor. And then maybe one day, when you are old you can take comfort in the fact that your child will be well equipped to live on their own as a productive individual and one day take care of you.

Be blessed.
Follow me on Twitter at