Last weekend, Rafael Nadal ended the French Open with a win against Novak Djokovich, securing his place as not only the top seed, but also arguably the best tennis player on clay. This title makes nine total wins for Rafa at the Roland Garros Tournament, which is most wins for any single player in one tournament. To honor the King of Clay, Nike Tennis created a life size sculpture of Rafa in one of his standard victory poses. Of course, the statue was made in none other than red clay. I’ll never forget when I first started watching Rafa play back when he still wore muscle tees and long shorts. I still haven’t seen him play live, but I’m glad to be able to witness this history being made. Congratulations to Rafa on shaping the history of Tennis and props to Nike for noticing!
This week marks the 50th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr’s “I Have a Dream” speech, which he delivered in front of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C. It was a pivotal moment in the Civil Rights Movement that called for equality, unity, and acceptance. Since then, times have certainly changed and I think we can all agree when I say that our civil rights situation in America has greatly improved. Segregation is gone and we’re seeing more interracial families everyday. However, the Civil Rights Movement shouldn’t stop at that and we certainly shouldn’t look back at MLK’s speech with the thought that our work is done. The truth is there is still plenty of room for improvement and it is up to our generation to maintain that momentum and hunger for progress.
Unfortunately, discrimination is still around, but, now, it is just less visible. The worst part though is that prejudice isn’t one sided. I think everyone makes presumptions about the people they encounter based on stereotypes, personal beliefs, and what they see in front of them, often clouding what is truly presented to them. Many times we have already made up our minds about a person before they even have the chance to convince us otherwise. It’s in our nature. It’s normal, but it can be changed. It is up to us to stop looking through a bias lens and instead make a conscious decision to give others an opportunity to show us who they are. It’s not right for anyone to assume who someone is without hearing them first. If anything is going to get better, we have to start with how we see the world and how we react to it. We can’t feed into the negativity we complain about. Instead, we have to at least stop it from stemming from within ourselves.
Today, our issues of civil rights don’t solely revolve around if a person is black or white. Now, individuals are being categorized as illegal aliens rather than people. Couples are being shamed, ostracized, and denied because of who they love. All while a person’s complexion is still a measure of their significance in society. In 2013, it’s beautiful to see a light skinned little girl with bouncy curly hair walking down the street with her white mom and black father. I love the fact that I was able to go to school with my black, Hispanic, Asian, white, and mixed friends. But I also want to see my cousin marry the love of his life without people being shocked that he has a husband. I don’t want my students to feel like they can’t go to school because their parents immigrated here for a better life. I’m tired of still feeling uncomfortable for being the only Hispanic in a room.
The problem is not gone. We haven’t finished what so many set out to do half a century ago. Yes, we have taken huge strides since Dr. King delivered his speech in 1963, but we have to continue marching forward to make his dream and the dream of so many others a complete reality.
Today would have been Michael Jackson’s 55th birthday, but, although he is not physically present anymore and he can’t surprise us with any new music, it is safe to say that his essence and legacy has never died. He will always be the King of Pop, who continues to inspire endless artists around the world. His music can still be heard on the radio and his videos can still be seen on TV. Las Vegas is full of MJ impersonators and kids who never got to see the king alive still know his music. Sometimes, what he left the world with is so strong that it’s easy to forget that it’s been four years since his passing. However, I think it is much more appropriate to celebrate everything he accomplished and created that made him the King of Pop. Here is the video from Michael Jackson’s performance at Motown’s 25th Anniversary where MJ sings “Billie Jean” live and debuts his infamous moonwalk. Enjoy!
A couple of days ago, the public got word of Big Sean’s latest track “Control” from his sophomore album Hall of Fame; however, it’s Kendrick Lamar’s verse that is causing an utter uproar among all hip-hopheads. Many people are perceiving Kendrick’s lyrics as a diss track to his fellow MC’s, but my honest opinion is that he is simply being real. It’s been a while since the rappers of this new generation have been professionally threatened, allowing them to get by on commercializing their rhymes rather than producing genuinely impressive lyricism. Thus, I would call Kendrick’s words a call to action before I call it a diss track. Don’t get me wrong, there are a few rappers who do display their talent properly, while there are even more who could do so but choose not to and that’s the problem. Rappers are getting too comfortable.
Since the verse was heard around the world, social networking sites have become billionaires with everyone’s two cents (yes, I made my own donation, as well) and even a few “responses” are beginning to make their way into the viral world. So far, I must admit that I’m most impressed with Bad Boy’s King Los, a rapper I had never even heard of, who delivers a classy rebuttal to Kendrick’s infamous lines. He says his piece, proves his point, and still manages to respect his colleagues all at the same time. In my opinion, he directly reflects Kendrick’s own tone on Big Sean’s track. With that being said, my favorite response comes from none other than Joel Ortiz, who, despite his clear rage, is able to deliver a top notch set of bars in record time. Yeah, Ortiz sounds mad, but I guess he had to be inspired by something. I think Joel did what he needed to do to win round one of this debate by including egotism, passion, and references to the original source of Kendrick’s verse. Point to Ortiz.
However, like most of the hip hop world, I am definitely looking forward to the responses of some big names in the rap industry. It is way too early for Joel Ortiz to be the biggest name with a response to Kendrick. But I’m not interested because I want to see music artists antagonizing or belittling each other. I don’t see this revival of lyrics as an excuse to bash one another over a beat, but I think it should be taken more as an opportunity to prove why they deserve to be a player in the game. I’m interested to see how far these rappers can push their creativity and vocabulary to the point where their intelligence and innovative instincts are what make them get noticed. Kendrick wasn’t trying to diss anybody. He was trying to keep people on their toes. He clearly states that he has love for the rappers he calls out, but that he’s also trying to beat them. The music industry is a competition and Kendrick singled himself out as a lyricist who wants to compete. Now, it’s up to others to defend their place as competitors as well, but what Kendrick did is remind the world that the competition is based on talent and not commercialism, at least the competition of rap. He may have gotten a lot of people mad, but he also may have taken lyricism out of retirement.
It’s been four years today that the King of Pop has been gone, but like the many other MJ fans, it is clear to me that Michael will continue to live on through his music. Yes, he left too soon, but in some form or another he will always be with us and the impact he left on our lives will always withstand the years to come. I remember exactly what I was doing when I found out about Michael’s death and I also can recall a memory for each of his songs. This particular one brings me back to a dance I performed with my company during some difficult times for me personally. Although by this time Michael Jackson had already passed, his music helped me cope and move forward, proving that his work is still fulfilling its purpose. Rest in peace Michael.
After a seven month long break from tennis and a few small tournaments, Rafael Nadal reclaimed his title as the King of Clay by winning the French Open yesterday against fellow Spaniard David Ferrer. As his eighth win at Roland Garros, this victory has helped make Rafa the first player to win eight Grand Slam titles in any major. Despite his drop to being ranked fifth in the world, I think this is enough to prove that Rafa is still among the best in the sport of tennis. Rafa himself said that this was a crucial match for him after coming back from such a serious injury. While he was on hiatus healing his knees, nobody was really sure if his career would be able to continue when he was given the okay to play. Everybody, including Rafa, feared that his game wouldn’t be the same, making this victory even more important for Rafa and his fans. I personally got a little emotional as well when I saw Rafa’s eyes tearing up as he held the trophy in his hands listening to the Spanish National Anthem. It was a moment when the world of tennis was assured that Rafa’s career isn’t over just yet.
Three years ago on this day, the music world lost a legend that I don’t think can ever be replaced. At 50, Michael Jackson died unexpectedly, leaving all of his fans in a state of shock and grief. He was on the cusp of embarking on his world tour and everyone was preparing for his big comeback, but, before we could all watch it unfold, he was gone. Michael Jackson was undoubtedly an inspiration for musicians, dancers, artists, and humanitarians, serving as an irreplaceable icon for so many people. As the most-awarded recording artist in popular music, it is virtually impossible to overlook his impact on the world and to not know what MJ’s legacy means.
I, personally, have a strong connection with Michael’s work and, like many others, grew up as a big fan of his. It was hard not to when my mom loved his music, even emulating his notorious style back in the ’80s, and when my brother was always trying time and time again to master the Smooth Criminal lean. Not to mention that Halloween where I helped do my brother’s make-up for his zombie-Thriller MJ costume. But Michael didn’t just bring me good music, he also heightened my love of dance. His dancing talent was incredible and I’m not sure how my dance career would have ended up without his example. My first year in my high school’s dance company we even did a tribute to the legendary king. The first duet I ever did with my Capitan was to MJ’s “The Way You Make Me Feel.” (Of course, we killed it!) That was just the first of plenty of dances that I performed to his many great songs… and trust me the routines to his music just keep coming. (We’re currently conjuring up a dance to “Dirty Diana.”)
Say what you want about Michael Jackson, but there is no way you can take away the outstanding success he experienced throughout his career and the iconic talent that he possessed. After so many years, Michael still holds world records for album sales, award wins, and charitable donations. Also take into account the fact that his music and life continues to inspire today’s individuals. He’s still being recognized in new songs and he is still being named as the inspiration of many. Now with the Cirque de Soleil tour honoring him, it is clear that MJ is not going anywhere. He may not be here in person, but his spirit is still with us all. MJ will forever be the King of Pop. To all of the supporters of Michael Jackson, let us take today to celebrate the many great things that he accomplished throughout his life that ended way too soon.