Confessions of a Congressional Candidate

So I am John Wood, Jr., and I am, and ‘till November the 4th of this year will be, the Republican nominee for congress in the 43rd district of California. I am running against a woman everybody (white and black) paying attention to the conversation knows, and that is Congresswoman Maxine Waters. She’s a hero to many in South/South Central Los Angeles, a flame of pure fire in the annals of black political history. On the liberal left she is a champion, and I like her in part cause she’s an old school liberal, a black liberal, and she carved out her place in American politics by embodying the militant convictions of black nationalism. She had the lightning of a true activist, and the elegant thunder of a lady of the church. She is an icon in our culture, and one of the more memorable political personalities in the history of America.

I do not think Maxine Waters needs to be representing the people of Los Angeles in congress anymore. But I think she is an extraordinary human-being. And while she is hated on the right for reasons I almost fully understand, those conservatives I know who truly know her love her the same, even if they disagree with her about everything.

My problem with Maxine Waters is that she has no vision for the future, and in that has become the past. It is not a matter of her being old. But she has no grand strategy to save the inner-city community, or to save America (both of which need saving). Ron Paul is Maxine Waters age, but for years he has been the candidate of the future; and his vision will still determine the future of American politics.

I’m just saying it’s not cause she’s old. :-/

There are certain overwhelming problems facing the future prosperity of inner-city America. Most of these problems reflect the shortcomings of liberal policy planning because, well, liberal Democrats tend to run everything. In black communities, that is almost 100%. (If Republicans ran everything, our problems would reflect the excesses of Conservatism, which there are.) But they equal a social spending system that doesn’t achieve assistance, financial and transitional, effectively enough; an educational system that maintains the social and economic vulnerability of black and brown communities rather than lifting them up from them; a criminal justice system that has yet to be deprogrammed from formulas of justice that unjustifiably promote generational cycles of incarceration among black boys and men, feeding a pattern of fatherlessness and familial deterioration in the deserts of gang violence and drug dependency. The system is rigged against us. It even teaches us to rig it ourselves.

It’s the Willie Lynch mentality. It’s the psychology we were gifted by master to always think less of ourselves, and more of him, to accept what he gives us. It has never really gone away. It has simply morphed through generations of political evolution in American society, and has survived the death of the mainstream acceptability of racism itself. It is the systematic broadcasting of messages across the societal spectrum formed perfectly to make black Americans think less of themselves. It is the patronizing of the welfare state and the hostility of the court. It is the neglect of the educational system and the brutality of the police. It is the confluence of sins from the right and  left wing of the political spectrum that ensure that one-hundred and fifty years after the end of slavery in America the black man isn’t free.

Now the truth is the black man is far freer today than he was yesterday; than he was 50 years ago. (It is also true that the institutionalized racism of many American institutions is not always a product of active racism but of the power structures of a more racist age that have flourished unto now.) But he is not as free now as white men have ever been in this country. Barack Obama is the exception, not the rule. And while that is to glide past a grand historical argument it is just to say that blacks in this country fool themselves when they are led to challenge only one half of the political system, which is to say not at all. Maxine Waters challenges one half of the system by justifying the other half. She can’t defeat the system. She is the system.

Maxine isn’t my enemy then; it’s the system she can’t reform. I can’t reform it either. I’m running to let people know they can.

Why We Need Black Republicans

We need black Republicans. By black Republicans I don’t mean black people who will cheerlead for the Republican Party. I mean black people who actually speak for the interests of the black community within the GOP. There’s a big difference.

Anybody who knows me knows that this article has got to be a little self-serving; I’ll cop to that. I’m a candidate for congress in Los Angeles, and yes I am a black Republican. But the point here is a real one: the black community suffers materially, because the political conversation does not focus on our interests. It doesn’t, because black votes are not in play.

As blacks we vote Democrat because we do not trust the Republican Party. Why would we? The  Republican Party has done virtually nothing to earn the trust of black people for the last 45 years, and in fact has threatened the interests of black and poorer peoples, by threatening welfare and unemployment spending during times of recession (even while some of them continue to support government subsidies for oil companies and tax payer funded bailouts for big banks), and by maneuvering to suppress Democratic turnout by trying to pass cynically timed voter I.D. requirements in key states in the 2012 election. Of course, there is a lot that can be said about the ways in which the Democratic Party has actually betrayed the interests of black people as well, but such points do not absolve the guilt of the Republican Party.

I am a fan of neither party as they currently stand, though I understand why most black people would rather be Democrat than Republican. But it doesn’t change the fact that black people are left in a lousy political situation, taken for granted by the party we’re in and ignored by the party we’re not in. Why should Democrats work particularly hard for black votes on a broad scale when they are going to get them anyway? And why should Republicans when they know they are inaccessible? Black people often complain to me about how it is politicians always seem to be talking about Latino issues and Gay issues, fighting for immigration reform and the DREAM Act, gay marriage and Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, etc., but seem much slower to move on issues of direct concern to African-Americans (inner-city education reform, the war on drugs, reparations…?). The answer to this lies in the politics. Latino-Americans and Gay Americans are predominantly Democratic, but between a quarter and a third of them routinely vote Republican. As such both parties feel they have a reason to compete for these votes.

The results of this show themselves in real legislation. Don’t Ask Don’t Tell was repealed because Democrats and Republicans supported it as a matter of gay rights, and high profile Republicans one by one have been quietly indicating their support for gay marriage or at least greater rights for gay people (including Dick Cheney). And while immigration reform and the DREAM Act have not passed yet, the bipartisan support for these efforts (especially where you have Republicans representing significant Latino populations) is real, with some Republicans like Marco Rubio and John McCain showing a real willingness to fight their fellow Republicans and work with Democrats to get such reforms accomplished.

Any black American who knows the political history of the Civil Rights movement knows that the passage of the Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act were only possible because Republican and Democratic legislators joined together against segregationist Democrats and reactionary Republicans to make it happen. But in the sixties, there was a significant black population in both parties pushing them to accomplish this. In the early 20th century almost all blacks were Republicans, and we did not get that much accomplished politically. In the early 21st century we are almost all Democrats, and we are failing politically (in terms of getting key bills passed or even considered) for the same reason.

As a people we do not need to turn out a bunch of black Republicans overnight, but we do need to establish power within the Republican Party in order to push both parties to serve our interests. Furthermore there are Republicans that the black community can work with to find real common ground. Ron Paul’s campaign opened the flood gates for a wing of the party that is eager to put the brakes on the war on drugs, to renew voting rights for ex-convicts, to eliminate institutional racism in the criminal justice system and perhaps more importantly than anything to dismantle a bureaucratic and self-interested educational system that systematically punishes inner-city children of color and to replace it with a system of equality. But without blacks speaking for the black community within the Republican Party this coalition will not be forged, and in the mainstream legislative conversation we will continue to be ignored.

Culture Connection – You Should Know Them!

Have you ever stumbled upon a YouTube video via social media that made you say, “Wow, I’ve never heard of her or him?” Yeah? Me too! I love the internet for its unfailing ability to drop us all into the rabbit hole of never ending research, funny videos and ubiquitous “10 things you need to know about being the best you” or is it “5 habits of highly successful people” who can keep up? The point is every day is another opportunity to discover something or someone new online and today is no different.

This week on Culture Connection we introduce you to 7 artists and organizations you should be aware of.  I promise you,  these folks will surely give you Culture Vulture street cred!

Kehinde Wiley- Is an artist whose work must be experienced in person.  I’ve seen his colorful, stately portraits of young men of color. Massive in their presentation and yet oh so intimate in your presence, Wiley’s subjects stare at you as if they’ve been purposely enshrined as a reminder that their existence in the world is to never be forgotten.

Shana Tucker- Will change how you categorize a soul singer.  In fact she categorizes her uniquely lush warmth of tone and impeccable musicianship as Chamber Soul. Currently the only African American woman in Cirque du Soleil’s Ká,  you’ll quickly fall in love with her music like I did!

Universes– On the verge of their 20th anniversary, New Yorkers and Americans alike owe a debt of gratitude to this fearless ensemble for their passion for telling truths of voices that seem to be left out of mainstream conversations. Universes is simply a beacon.

Azure Antoinette- When you’re referred to as the “Maya Angelou of the millennial generation” what more is there to say. Ladies and gentlemen I introduce to some and present to others a poet for our time.

Imani Winds- Considered to be the premier wind quintet in North America, this ensemble of all hues of black, brown – genders, female and male- boasting a quality of sound only described in one word, exquisite!

Jeffrey Page- A name you should remember and never forget. One of the most gifted dance artists in the performing arts and commercial dance world, Mr. Page has a resume that is impressive to put it lightly.  Fela! The Musical, Beyoncé’s go-to choreographer, “So You Think You Can Dance” Emmy Nominee and recently choreographer for Tony-nominated Violet starring Sutton Foster.  Like I said never forget!

Sphinx- When your tag line is “Transforming lives through the power of diversity in the arts” you had me at “hello!” The Sphinx Organization is the truest of American organizations. Founded by violinist Aaron P. Dworkin “to help overcome the cultural stereotype of classical music, and to encourage the participation of Blacks and Latinos in the field,” I dare you to not be impressed by the indelible impression being left by this awe-inspiring institution.

That’s it for this week! Please remember to “Make a career of humanity. Commit yourself to the noble struggle for equal rights. You will make a greater person of yourself, a greater nation of your country and a finer world to live in.” – Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Until next week, Peace!

Brother Malcolm

A New Year Promise

Our friend, Toria, sent an email out to her sister friends this week speaking of the promises – not resolutions – that she is making to herself this year. Her thoughts were with me as I set out to write this morning.

So often we start a new year off with resolutions to ourselves that we do not keep. It is often a matter of trying to continue or conclude unfinished business: weight loss goals, career goals, repairs around the house, more diligence with our finances, etc. But instead of resolving to stay committed to those things that, quite frankly, should be routine or are just a part of life’s journey I asked myself how often have I made a promise to commit to things that really fulfilled my spirit?

Chris returns to work this morning after a two-week break, and while I’m sad to see him go back I am also invigorated by the time we have spent together. We had more hours of cuddling, late-night talks and quality time with our son in the last two weeks than we had throughout the entirety of 2013, and I awakened this morning feeling fulfilled and determined to bring our lives to a place where that experience occurs more frequently than once a year.

Yes, I willl continue on my own health and career trajectories, and yes there are still many projects in our home that I would like to tackle. Finances are always at the forefront of my mind, be it this year or the next. However, the only thing I’ll promise to myself this year is to spend more quality time with my family doing very little of nothing. I will stand still in many moments with them and thank God for giving us some time to do that. We will play Eli’s many board games, plant fresh fruits and vegetables in our garden, eat more meals around the table and less around the television, and take some walks after dinner to keep our unit tight and focused on what we do have. It fulfills all of us when we spend that kind of time and it is evidenced by the “love sandwiches” (Eli’s term for a multiple person hug) we give each other before bedtime.

I wish the same for all of you in 2014. Our health, career, and financial goals are a part of our journeys and not going anywhere. What makes reaching them important is the quality of life we live in this moment.

What promises can you make to yourself that will keep you feeling uplifted throughout 2014?


Meet the team that makes it all happen!


As we welcome 2014 into our lives, we decided the best way to start our year was by acquainting you with the many members of the Black Is family! Though Chris and I work feverishly to bring you quality content every week, we cannot make it happen without the dedication of our editorial and podcast team members. We invite you to meet them and learn a little more about the people behind the mics.

We also want to encourage you to register as a Black Is member to receive our new, quarterly newsletter, THE BIZ, and gain access to members-only content and updates on what’s coming to the site. Trust us – you will benefit from registering early! If you would like to hear from us more frequently, sign up for your Daily Dose of Black Is to get our weekly content straight to your inbox for easy access! You will find the Daily Dose sign up on the right-hand side of the homepage. If your like what you receive, please share it with friends and family.

We look forward to what 2014 has to bring us and we hope you enjoy it as well! As always, feel free to reach out with comments, questions, suggestions, and topic ideas by emailing us at, or calling the hotline at (323) 455-4219.

Much love,

KC & Chris

The Pros and Cons of Obamacare

There is a criticism of Barack Obama that I hear levied against him, not primarily from white people or Republicans, but from black people, that I take some issue with. It is the claim that President Obama has not done, or has not tried to do, anything for black people. Some will point out that he has championed immigration reform for Hispanics and gay marriage for gay people, but nothing for us. Those who say so however probably have not considered this point within the context of health care in the African-American community. Some conservative critics of the healthcare overhaul have criticized the reform as a 100% solution to a 10% problem. And they’re right, in a way. It had been widely reported at the beginning of the healthcare debate and before that there were 46 million Americans without health insurance in this country. Really though it was never that bad; 10 million Americans without health insurance are people making above $75,000 a year who did not want insurance. 14 million were eligible for state sponsored care and never enrolled, while 6 million were eligible for insurance through their employer but never took advantage of it (another 5 million are undocumented immigrants, another 5 million are legal immigrants who are not insured for various reasons) thus leaving about 6 million Americans without reasonable access to health insurance. Too big a number to be sure, but a relatively small percentage of the American population. Yet of that 6 million, most are black Americans, making what might be thought of as a 10% problem for the rest of America a 100% problem for us. In seeking to expand healthcare coverage for all Americans, President Obama was not simply doing something for the country at large; he was doing something for the black community.

Yet and still there are serious concerns to be had about the new legislation as it unfolds, as well as things to be grateful for. The number one positive thing which the Affordable Care Act (its legal name) does is expand coverage to millions of Americans who did not have it previously (assuming the unfortunate glitches with the website are eventually worked out). As noted, in the black community that is a particularly big deal. Medicaid expansion, subsidies available to lower income Americans, and coverage mandates for children and young adults up to the age of 26 as well as for people with pre-existing conditions will help secure the healthcare of millions, including those who are economically and physically the most vulnerable among us. This is a victory for the health of the black community, and for all those who were unable to afford care.

For the black middle class however, and for working class black families and others making more than a relatively modest income (above $43,000 a year for individuals and above $92,000 a year for a family of four, though keeping in mind too that for many making less than these levels but still doing relatively well the subsidies available to them are smaller) there is an increased economic burden resulting from the law that needs to be acknowledged. One of the reasons for passing the ACA to begin with was to help control rising premiums, costs that have been straining the budgets of many American families, and black families are no exception. But for most people in this income range, premiums are not only still too high but are still getting higher, especially for those who don’t receive employer based coverage. (A study by the Manhattan Institute has shown that average premiums on the individual market have risen 99% for men since the implementation of the law.) Particularly as minimum coverage requirements are applied to insurance plans on the individual market, and as insurance companies seek to recoup monies spent on guaranteeing coverage for those with preexisting conditions by passing costs on to other consumers, it seems that what we can expect is for middle class premiums generally to continue to rise even as subsidies and Medicaid increase affordability and access to care for poor and for many working class African Americans.

One might say that this is a fair trade off, and maybe it is. But we shouldn’t be quick to give up on making things easier for the middle class. After all, the prosperity of this nation and certainly the future success of the black community are built upon having a thriving middle class, and insuring affordable health coverage for the middle class is a necessary part of that process. To that end there are many more reforms to be considered, from defensive medicine reform, to expanding competition across state lines, to encouraging Health Savings Accounts, etc.

The point is that, in some important areas, we have made progress. But make no mistake: the effort to fix the healthcare system continues.

Culture Connection: Cultural “Snacks” Online (VIDEO)

From time to time I find myself grazing the internet like a cow in search of a snack. Just a little something to distract me from the task at hand. Something that can provide a momentary taste of inspiration or awe! Today’s culture connection is dedicated to cool stuff I’ve found on the internet that represents artistry, innovation and wonderment! I hope you enjoy!

First up the Switcheroo Project where photographer Hana Pesut captures couples cross dressing. There is something fascinating and cool about this project. You, like me, will find yourself looking at every detail of each picture to see just how accurate each pair of photos resembles one another.

Next, Marina Abramovic and Ulay started an intense love story in the 70s, performing art out of the van they lived in. When they felt the relationship had run its course, they decided to walk the Great Wall of China, each from one end, meeting for one last big hug in the middle and never seeing each other again.

At her 2010 MoMa retrospective Marina performed ‘The Artist Is Present’ as part of the show, where she shared a minute of silence with each stranger who sat in front of her. Ulay arrived without her knowing and this is what happened. All I can say is wow!

How about the Invisible man? You have to see it to believe it!
Of course I’m a sucker for any person who comes from nothing to make something of themselves  This Korean boy’s story is both inspiring and a constant reminder why the arts transforms lives daily and should be considered a global treasure. Enjoy!

I could not end this Culture Connection trip down the internet rabbit hole without paying homage to the playwright who changed how I see, experience and participate in theatre. Please sit back, relax and enjoy this Tony Award winning performance from the original Broadway production of  August Wilson’s Fences.

Have a great week and remember to “Make a career of humanity. Commit yourself to the noble struggle for equal rights. You will make a greater person of yourself, a greater nation of your country, and a finer world to live in.”

-Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Facebook: Black Is Magazine    Twitter: @BLACKISONLINE      Brother Malcolm: @caliyalie

Culture Connection: Invisible Cities Opera

Last week I had the distinct pleasure of seeing one of the most ingenious pieces of performance I’ve seen in a while. The Industry’s unforgettable opera Invisible Cities left and eerily moving impression on me.  Set in Downtown Los Angeles’ iconic Union Station, Artistic Director Yuval Sharon has created a one of a kind LA experience that rivals ambitious curated work around the globe.

I cannot do this work justice in my description of it so I figured I would give you the next best thing. Below are beautifully filmed segments from KCET’s Artbound.
One segment  is about the composing of an Opera in a space like Union Station  in which the audience and performers are all on headset.

Segment two showcases the beautiful choreography that weaves the opera in and out of Union Station’s crevices.

I do hope you will enjoy this week’s Culture Connection.  And please don’t forget to-
“Make a career of humanity. Commit yourself to the noble struggle for equal rights. You will make a greater person of yourself, a greater nation of your country, and a finer world to live in.”
-Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Brotha Malcolm

Culture Connection: We Are Proud to Present a PRESENTATION (VIDEO)

Watch and listen as Malcolm guest hosts a post-show discussion with the cast and crew of the play, We Are Proud to Present a PRESENTATION About the Herero of Namibia, Formerly Known As Southwest Africa, From the German SudwestAfrika, Between the Years 1884-1915 at Cal-Arts on October 19th. This provocative piece of work is captivating and provides much food for thought! Special thanks to Nijeul X. Porter for inviting Culture Connection to host this discussion. Enjoy!

For comments or questions about this or any other episode, call the hotline at (323) 455-4219.

Facebook: Black Is Magazine    Twitter: @BLACKISONLINE      Brother Malcolm: @caliyalie

LA EVENTS: Popstax

This Sunday, September 29th Leimert Park ArtWalk presents POPSTAX, a celebration of the 40th anniversary of the legendary Wattstax music festival (1972) and documentary (1973). This event is free for all and features performances by Andy Vargas of Santana, The House Click Society, Ali & His Funk Experience, Dave Williams, and Waberi Jordon. This event will be deejayed by none other than Stone Groove Radio aka DJ A-ski and Tailwind Turner! Special recognition/honors will be given to George Duke and Steve Arrington, amongst others. Additionally, a FREE screening of the Wattstax documentary will take place in Vision Theatre at 6PM. This is a wonderful family and community event so please come out and support it! See you Sunday!