Monday, December 19, 2005

'BURN" is (Almost) Done, and the Contest is Definitely Won!

If all Monday's could be this good. Not only have I just submitted the mansucript for my third novel BURN to my editor at New American Library/Penguin, I drew the winner of the my first contest.
First the correct answers to the five questions:
1. The name of Cassandra and Leila's principal in EXPLICIT CONTENT is MS. OLIVERA.
2. In EXPLICIT CONTENT, the hip hop artist that Cassandra and Leila have a debate about on the way to the concert is LI'L KIM.
3. In PICTURE ME ROLLIN', Priscilla had her ears pierced THREE TIMES.
4. Esperanza rubs COCOA BUTTER into the scar on her chest in PICTURE ME ROLLIN'.
5. The title of the next Black Artemis novel is, of course, BURN!
Although several people had all the correct answers, I could choose only one winner. So as per the contest's rules, I took all the qualifying entries and randomly selected one. The winner is:
Congratulations, Jasmina, and use your $50.00 American Express gift card in good health! Thanks to all of you who enter, and please continue to try and win future contest. Now there may not always be such an elaborate prize, but I'll try to keep it interesting. :)

Randal Was Right

Maybe we should not be surprised, but now that a person of color -- a Black man to be exact -- has won "The Apprentice," some Americans have forgotten how capitalism functions, and the racist backlash has begun. I won't bother to engage the nonsense being spewed on boards at AOL and Yahoo! Read any of those boards after ANY article that mentions a person of color has been published, and you'd think that you'd have stumbled into a cyber-meeting of the Klan. I'm more outraged at the supposedly liberal news media criticism of Randal Pinkett for not choosing to share his deserved spoils with the second place Rebecca Jarvis.
First, let me say that I happen to know Randal Pinkett. We were both in the final cohort of the Next General Leadership Program sponsored by the Rockefeller Foundation. I can tell you that not only is he a great mind, but he's a class act and a good soul (not to mention a snazzy dresser. We used to tease him about his GQ outfits all the time!) Having been in NGL with Randal for almost two years, when he announced that he had been selected to join the cast of this season's "The Apprentice," I knew that he would win by (1) the strength of his own ability and character, and (2) the fact that the impetus to create entertainment (i.e. put people on the show more for their personality than their skills) would ensure that some of his competitors would be weak.
One thing that set Randal apart from most contestants on any season of "The Apprentice" is that he's just a genuinely and consistently likable guy. Lots of folks in the corporate world rightfully pride themselves on being real movers and shakers. Very few, however, can boast that they are NICE people. If anything, too many busines folks perceive being nice as weakness as if you can't be shrewd without being nasty! The most underappreciated aspect of Randal's win, I think, is that we witnessed a rare instance when integrity prevailed.
So it really shocks me that after weeks of earning not only the respect but also the unabated fondness of his colleagues, folks now criticize Randal for not agreeing to Trump's suggestion that he hire Rebecca, too. This is not a cutthroat guy, nor was it a cutthroat decision that he made. The truth is, it was the shrewd business decision. No matter how much you may like and respect the person, you do NOT share your power with the also-ran. It may not be the sweetest thing in the world to do, but it's not in and of itself a terrible thing either, and in the world of business, it's the right thing. Even Trump knew it (more on that in a minute.) Yet by doing what any smart business person of any race or sex might have, Randal has gone from being painted as the overwhelmingly deserving favorite to reality TV show villain. See, an educated Black man who knows his worth is most dangerous Black man there can be.
Even more ridiculous than attacking Randal for not sharing his new position is the notion floating around that he had the job on lock weeks before the finale in Trump's effort to make a token hire. Let us not forget that that this is the same Donald Trump who bought a full page ad in the New York Times calling for the death penatlty for the men accused in the Central Park Jogger rape case (of course, there was no full-page ad pleading mea culpa when DNA evidence led to the overturning of those convictions.) While I don't doubt that Trump's producers look for people of color (and women for that matter) for the sake of diversity and entertainment (don't you dare tell me Omarosa was on that show because she's some great business mind!), my response to those who speculate that Randal was given his win weeks before the live finale is this: bullshit. If you followed the show, episode by episode, it's undeniable that Randal earned his victory every step of the way. So even if you want to believe that Randal was put on the show out of white liberal guilt, you cannot deny that he won that job fair and square (surprising the hell outta all of 'em in casting.)
It was ludicrous for Trump to suggest that Randal share the job. Oh, now that the brother won he can't be the only one calling the shots? My guess is that Trump did it for several reasons. First, Randal was such a more superior candidate than Rebecca, his win bordered on predictable so Trump wanted to throw a curve into the process for the sake of entertainment. Furthermore, Trump has also been accused of being sexist -- even more so than being racist -- and here he saw a chance to "prove" he wasn't. Had Randal accepted the ridiculous proposition, Trump would've killed two birds with one stone. But Randal didn't let him get political points at his expense, and while I'd love to see a woman win "The Apprentice," neither was Rebecca the right woman nor was this the right way for a woman to win. If she herself believes that she is as outstanding as Trump praised her to be, she should be at least puzzled if not offended by and suspicious of Trump's pandering. (And I wonder if, had she the opportunity to gain the job that way, if she would have been tough enough -- apparently Trump's favorite trait of Rebecca's -- to turn it down because of the way it was offered to her. )
Some have argued that Randal could have been more "gracious," but I actually think the way he refused to share the apprenticeship with Rebecca was quite gracious. If he wants to hire Rebecca to work FOR him in a position that fits her experience and skill levels, that would be ideal. But Trump's proposition was to share his position, and this is a business venture where the buck has to stop and start with one. Trump himself has admitted to the media that while he was suprised that Randal shot down the proposition, Randal's independent thinking affirmed that he made the right choice in choosing him over Rebecca. (And unlike some suddenly touchy folks who bizarrely are expecting to witness unprecedent levels of compassion from the competitors of a reality TV game show, I think Randal nixed the proposition gracefully. He did not trash Rebecca, and he used humor to argue compellingly that he was the best, single person for the job.) Now since he has never done this to the White male winners of past seasons, I can only wonder if Trump was testing Randal or not. But he has gone on record saying that he RESPECTS Randal for his unwilligness to share the position. Had Randal given into the emotion of the moment of winning and said, yes, Trump would doubt him now.
To me there is one unsung heroine in the finale of "The Apprentice," and her name is Marshawn Evans. I want to give a loving shout out to that sister for being the first to stand up loud and clear for Randal in the last episode. After watching Omarosa go out of her way to sabotage Kwame who could've won "The Apprentice" the first season (don't remember Trump asking winner Bill to share his job with him), it was heartening to see a woman of color stand by her brother when it mattered most. Reality TV is notorious for casting people of color who won't mesh. I've seen so many shows where the solitary Black man and Black woman loathe each other, it can't be a coincidence. And it's usually because one of them assumes that they'll have some kind of affinity toward each other because of race, but the other is bending over backward to ingratiate her/himself with the white cast members (not trying to be "too Black, too strong. Daps to you, Marshawn.
And congratulations, Randal. Revel in your win, 'mano, and keep your head up. Sometimes you have to look at the hate as a blessing in disguise -- it's often a sign that you're doing everything right.