Opinion: George Zimmerman Trial Is Exposing America's Ugly Truths

America is witnessing a second murder as the George Zimmerman trial comes to a distressing and despicable conclusion. What is left is the verdict, the possibilities of which terrify and anger many before it is even stated. We hope for justice but we expect the worst. That is because, first, 17-year-old Trayvon Martin was pursued and shot by Zimmerman on the night of February 26, 2012, apparently because this Black boy posed such a grave threat to this man, and in spite of a police dispatcher telling Zimmerman not to follow Trayvon. Now, for days, I’ve watched a joke of a trial, in which Zimmerman has been magically transformed into the innocent victim while Trayvon Martin has been morphed into a monster, his character assassinated by the defense and certain media outlets. The more we go forward in America the more we seem to go backwards, too. That is because the real issue here is racism, something a lot of us like to pretend no longer exists. But I say later for the talk about a post-racial America because Barack Obama is the president. Later for the pomp and circumstance around 2013 being the 150th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation or the 50th anniversary of Dr. King’s “I Have A Dream” speech. America has a long and deep-rooted race problem, and if ever a scenario puts that on blast, it is what happened to Trayvon Martin, and what has happened since. For me the most jarring episode of this trial was how Rachel Jeantel (pictured above), Trayvon’s friend, and the last person to speak with him on his cellphone before he was killed, got mugged by the defense, and by the media, and by many of us from her own community, because of the way she looks and speaks. Ignorance is a mighty thing when it does not know its own history. For Rachel Jeantel is a former slave named Sojourner Truth asking in 1851, “Ain’t I A Woman?” to this day a classic expression of women’s rights; Rachel Jeantel is Moses Wright, Emmett Till’s great uncle, saying in his Mississippi dialect in the 1950s “Thar he” in a courtroom in reference to the murderer of his nephew; Rachel Jeantel is Fannie Lou Hamer, at the height of the Civil Rights Movement, summing up American racism: “sick and tired of bein’ sick and tired”; and Rachel Jeantel is Kanye West saying, bluntly, “George Bush doesn’t care about Black people,” as the then president took his time responding to Hurricane Katrina victims in New Orleans. But when racism has become a series of blurred lines, when a Rachel Jeantel, because of a combination of racial bigotry, a strong dislike for poor people, and, yes, Black self-hatred, can be twisted in the wind, it says anything goes and anything is possible with the soon-to-be verdict in this trial. Only in a nation that has never dealt directly with its history of racism could we venture from a Black boy being murdered by a man with a racist mindset to that Black boy being a monster and his friend Rachel a disposable shero lost in a barrage of personal attacks. Rachel Jeantel, Trayvon Martin’s father and his mother, and any who’ve stepped forth to tell the truth represent great courage. And courage is not always pretty, shiny, or perfect. Sometimes it is just mad raw and mad real. As raw and real as the blood that gushed like from Trayvon’s body as his life was blasted away. The great irony of all this, to me, is that it is our America that has for a long time pushed, like a drug dealer, some of the worst and most stereotypical images of Black folks. You see this on the local news, in reality TV shows, hear it on the radio, and on YouTube videos with millions of views. American racism is a sport where we discriminate and marginalize people into a corner then wonder why, isolated and fighting for survival every single day of their lives, they behave, react, and speak the way they do. And then we turn around and seek to verbally destroy what we’ve created when it fits our racial agenda. This is the sickness that is American racism. Far too many honestly believe Black males of any age are dangerous. Far too many honestly believe a Rachel Jeantel has nothing to offer to our society except a bad attitude and her version of the English language. And perhaps some unfathered children along the way. Even more ironic is that George Zimmerman’s father is White and his mother Latina and he appears to be physically Latino but he clearly thinks like a White racist male. But you have to wonder if it ever crossed Zimmerman’s mind that just how he pursued aggressively Trayvon is how Latinos who look like him are pursued so aggressively by anti-immigration racists in our America? Racism is not merely about skin color, then, but it is also a belief system, a system of oppression that any of us can and do participate in, if the shoe fits. That is how George Zimmerman rolls, and how countless others roll in America. And why Zimmerman refused to testify in this trial, for he would have been further exposed for the racist he is, and those who support him for the racists they are. Finally, I do not want to see violence in any form if “not guilty” comes back for George Zimmerman. We’ve got to figure out how to live and work and be together as a human race, even in our ugliest moments like this. But how nearsighted is it that local law enforcement there in Florida have produced a video asking people not to become violent, seemingly in anticipation of “not guilty” for Zimmerman? And I wonder why no one ever encourages the George Zimmermans of the world to be nonviolent and peaceful as well, until it is far too late?
Kevin Powell is an activist, public speaker, and author or editor of 11 books, including "Barack Obama, Ronald Reagan, and The Ghost of Dr. King: Blogs and Essays.” He is a former senior writer for Vibe. Email him at [email protected], or follow him on Twitter (@kevin_powell). Photo credit: Getty Images

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Signage is seen at the 2020 Billboard Power List Event at NeueHouse Hollywood on January 23, 2020 in Los Angeles, California.
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Billboard’s 2020 Power List Event Pins Leadership As The Music Industry’s Most Lucrative Tool

The start of a new decade inspired a change of plans for Billboard’s annual Power List. In previous years, the publication ranked 100 music industry professionals for their strides in the business by creating strategies that have propelled artists to the top of the charts and proved that the senior practices of the business can sometimes benefit from a fresh makeover. For 2020’s edition, the brand opted to not rank those chosen professionals but instead gathered and produced a list of honorees including Lyor Cohen (YouTube’s Global Head of Music), Roc Nation’s Jay-Z (Chairman), Desiree Perez (CEO), and Jay Brown (Vice Chairman) to Quality Control’s CEO Pierre “P” Thomas and COO Kevin “Coach K” Lee.

To a resounding applause inside the event’s NeueHouse location on a balmy Thursday evening (Jan. 23) in Los Angeles, Hannah Karp, Editorial Director of Billboard Media Group, explained the reason for the change and the company’s hope that next year will produce another list of futuristic innovators. “For one thing it’s always been hard to compare the power of executives in different sectors,” Karp said. “We also wanted to inspire a new generation of music business executives that honor leadership instead of just leverage.”

The first award of the night, which was named in honor of Jay Frank, a beloved music industry veteran who worked as senior vice president at Universal Music Group (UMG) before he passed away from cancer in 2019, was given to Mitchell Shymanskly, vice president of data and analytics at UMG, for his strides in digital music leadership.

“Jay was a visionary in our field, he saw things differently which is the true definition of an innovator,” he said. “He was looking constantly for an edge and it was a great privilege of mine to have the opportunity to work alongside him.” Shymanskly learned the mantra, “We don’t succeed alone.” That quote was echoed by Columbia Records chairman/CEO Ron Perry, who received the Breakthrough Award. He gave praise to his team for their work and success, especially after a year of witnessing Lil Nas X’s breakneck speed to pop stardom.

While future pioneers both in front and behind the mic filled the room, a living legend who helped shape some of music’s most fortified models also made a special guest appearance. The Clive Davis Visionary Award was presented to Atlantic Records’ Craig Kallman (CEO) and Julie Greenwald (COO) by the man himself, Clive Davis.

Greenwald shared the duo’s singular vision that allows Atlantic Records the ability to remain one of the music industry's pillars of success. “Build and maintain a music company that we love, we surrounded ourselves with an extraordinary team of people and then we signed artists that both Ahmet and Lyor would truly be proud of,” Greenwald said. For women in the music industry, being able to take that stage and receive these awards was a major feat for Jody Gerson, UMG’s CEO, who received the Executive of the Year award. The Executive of the Decade award was given to UMG's chairman/CEO Sir Lucian Grainge. “To me, what is most meaningful is that this is a recognition without qualifications,” she said. “I am being honored not as a female executive, but as an executive. It is my hope that this award will help pave the road for more exceptional and diverse leaders to come. We all deserve to be judged for our merits regardless of who you are or how you identify.”

Gerson also sits on the board of directors for She Is The Music (SITM), a program that promotes inclusivity in the music industry. Gerson revealed that UMG will donate $50,000 to the organization, which aims to provide resources for gender diversity in songwriting, producing, executive positions and more. In 2018, the Annenberg Inclusion Initiative conducted a study on the lack of women representation in the music sector. The research, which was published in 2018, concluded that for the year of 2017 out of 651 producers only two percent were women while men dominated at 98 percent. In the songwriting world, out of 2,767 credited songwriters, 12.3 percent were women while 87.7 percent were men.

Now, with new sights and plans set to change the makeup of the industry, Gerson reiterated that there's no better time than the present to implement new practices. “The moment of change is here.”

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Allen Berezovsky

Lauren London Debuts The Marathon Clothing x Puma Collection

The Marathon Clothing and PUMA are teaming up once again. The brands will be collaborating in honor of the late Nipsey Hussle. His wife, Lauren London, debuted the Marathon Clothing x Puma’s “Hussle and Motivate” collection on social media on Thursday (Jan. 23).

London is featured in the line's campaign shoot with Hussle's close friends, YG, J. Stone, and Pacman Da Gunman. Per a press release: "After first releasing in September 2019, PUMA will re-issue key pieces from the collection for fans and supporters including co-branded tracksuits and t-shirts featuring checkered patterns and TMC motifs, as well as PUMA’s signature California sneakers in black and white iterations."


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Another image from the clothing collaboration shows London wearing a white sweatshirt with a message that reads, “We (The Marathon Clothing) honor the unwavering faith of those that never quit. Our products represent their testimony. Life is a marathon.”

A portion of the net proceeds from PUMA’s sales of the PUMA x TMC Collection will go directly to the Neighborhood “Nip” Foundation. Beginning February 1st, the collection will be available again in select retailers and on PUMA's official website.


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London previously linked with Puma for a viral video campaign paying tribute to her longtime love. Hustle, whose Victory Lap recently went platinum, will be celebrated at the 62nd annual Grammy Awards with a tribute featuring YG, Roddy Ricch, Kirk Franklin, DJ Khaled, and John Legend.

The 2020 Grammy Awards will air on Sunday, Jan. 26 at 8 p.m. ET on CBS.

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Lil Wayne performs at the 2019 Outside Lands music festival at Golden Gate Park on August 09, 2019 in San Francisco, California.
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Lil Wayne Reveals Release Date For ‘Funeral’ Album

Four years after initially announcing the project, Lil Wayne took to Twitter on Thursday (Jan. 23) to reveal that his  Funeral album will drop next week.

“Welcome to the funeral, closed casket as usual,” Tunechi says in the album teaser. The Grammy winner also tweeted a link for fans to pre-order physical and digital copies of the album as a CD, vinyl or “digital cassette.” The online shop features album merchandise, including long-sleeved shirts, hoodies and beanies.

In a recent interview with VIBE, Lil Wayne said that even though his recording process has drastically changed since his prolific mixtape days, he still finds enjoyment in going to the studio to create.

“I love the difficulty of trying to fit in with what’s going on today, making sure I sound likable to the ears today and having to remind myself that it’s not about what it was back then. Going to the studio now, for me, is awesome. I used to go to that muf***a and do 12 songs a night. Cut a beat on, I’m going to go and you let me know when to stop,” Wayne said.

“...I can’t wait to get in the studio now every night, just to see what I can come up with. [Before] it was just me going to the studio and saying, let me kill ten more songs and then I’m going to go home or do whatever I was doing. Now, it’s let me see what I come up with. Self-discovery, rebirth – call it whatever you want to call it but it feels awesome, I swear to God.”

The New Orleans native’s last studio LP, Tha Carter V, dropped in 2018 after years of delays. In 2019, the 37-year-old rapper embarked on a joint summer tour with Blink-182, but the jaunt was marred by difficulty as Wayne walked off stage during one show and threatened to quit. He changed his mind hours later.

Even with all the tour trouble, Blink-182 had nothing but good things to say about Weezy. “The one day where he walked off stage, he had said, ‘I just felt like they didn’t like me,’ so he walked off stage,” drummer Travis Barker explained in an interview last year.

Funeral drops on Jan. 31. Check out the album teaser below.


— Lil Wayne WEEZY F (@LilTunechi) January 23, 2020

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