I am an avid basketball enthusiast. Like so many people, each night, I am glued to the t.v. set watching the National Basketball Association’s (NBA) Eastern and Western conference playoffs. In a few days I will be also watching the Finals.
I must also admit I am a Lebron James fan. Each game he plays in I want him to win and compile dazzling statistics, hoping he catch up with and eventually surpass in all categories of greatness, titles, and championship rings of my other idol- the great Michael Jordan – who many people say I look like.
I just admire Lebron’s off-the-court social politics. Michael was too quiet, too timid, and too safe on many social issues during his years in the NBA. Maybe it is because he wanted to concentrate on building his commercial and business brand. It has been reported in 2019 that his brand is worth over $2 Billion. OK, I have to accept that.
But Lebron takes a much different approach by simultaneously being outspoken on many social issues while building his commercial brand. In doing so, he is dispelling the “myth” that when star athletes, entertainers or businesspersons speak out on controversial social issues it threatens their commercial and business interests. Lebron has been public about the unjustified police killings of unarmed Black people, calling out President Trump on numerous occasions, establishing a school for inner city youth, providing tuition free scholarships for them to attend college, making documentary films on stories relevant to the Black community, and God only knows of all the other laudable initiatives that aren’t being reported by the media.
However, it was not my admiration of Lebron nor my eagerness to watch the NBA playoffs that recently caught my attention. It was the commercials being aired. One particular type of advertisement, that I am sure many of you have seen year after year during the playoffs and finals, is the advertising of a soon to be released Black movie.
Each year, right in time for the playoffs and finals, a Black movie is released by Hollywood. In the stereotypical manner that Hollywood portrays black life, the movie depicts the tragic side of the Black community. We are all familiar with how it goes: a Black youth joining a violent street gang, a single-parent mother struggling, against insurmountable odds, to steer her children straight amid a crime-infested neighborhood, someone being brutally robbed or murdered, a young drug lord trying to protect his ill-gotten drug money or preparing for warfare, a Black adult male serving life in prison for a triple homicide conviction while trying to counsel his wayward son.
Annually, this type of motion picture is pushed down our minds through repeated advertising as we sit in our favorite room with family and friends and eating chicken while watching a game of basketball. And in the process of our enjoyment, our minds are being assaulted by these commercials. We are reminded that we are the “others” of American society. We are reminded of our inferiority, our community’s weaknesses and our families falling apart. Our pride of seeing Black athletic greatness, the rhythmic skills and versality of flying supermen displaying their mastery of physics, aeronautics and physical beauty being polluted by these upcoming “horror movies” of Black madness depicting thugs, urban crime, violence, and family dissolution.
For the past 30 years or more, Hollywood, in producing these distorted images of Black life, has gotten away with this level of crime on the Black community. Hollywood needs a wakeup call. It needs to be challenged and put on notice that either it stops releasing these films or we will boycott their movies. We need to write letters to the management of these studios (and their independent lackey producers) that we will not tolerate this mental abuse of our minds.
We also need to let the NBA and television studios (that broadcast these games) know our community will not tolerate this while they reap millions of dollars in advertisement revenue. The bottom line is that the NBA, Hollywood, and the advertisement industry need to know we will fight back by threatening their financial interests. Black lives must matter in all its dimensions
Malik Ahmed is the author of the book, “From the Projects to the Pyramids in Search of a Better Family Life.” The book is available on amazon.com., at the BFL Cultural Center and in several local bookstores.