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Four Decades Along the Rainbow Road

Saturday, May 28, 2022

Standing With Gabe


Giants' manager Gabe Kapler takes a stand against gun violence.

As our country and much of the civilized world are still reeling from the anguish stemming from arguably one of the saddest episodes in U.S. history, Gabe Kapler, a former major league ballplayer and currently the manager of the San Francisco Giants, had enough.  

While the team was in Cincinnati , Kapler announced he would refuse to take the field for the customary playing of the national anthem.

“I’m often struck before our games by the lack of delivery of the promise of what our national anthem represents,” he wrote on his blog the day before.

“We stand in honor of a country where we elect representatives to serve us, to thoughtfully consider and enact legislation that protects the interests of all the people in this country and to move this country forward towards the vision of the ‘shining city on the hill.’ But instead, we thoughtlessly link our moment of silence and grief with the equally thoughtless display of celebration for a country that refuses to take up the concept of controlling the sale of weapons used nearly exclusively for the mass slaughter of human beings. We have our moment (over and over), and then we move on without demanding real change from the people we empower to make these changes.

“Every time I place my hand over my heart and remove my hat, I’m participating in a self-congratulatory glorification of the ONLY country where these mass shootings take place.”

He reiterated his stance to reporters in the dugout.

Then San Francisco 49er quarterback Colin Kaepernick caused a major firestorm when he kneeled during the playing of the Star-Spangled Banner in 2016 to protest police brutality. Kaepernick, who is Black, witnessed fans boycotting NFL games, listen to former President Trump demagoguing the issue to death, endured racist slurs, and he has still yet to take a snap in the NFL since.

On the other hand, Kapler, whose parents were civil rights activists, isn’t kneeling; he is simply staying away during the anthem until he sees a change in direction of the country on gun violence.

Predictably, there was blowback. “San Francisco Giants manager Gabe Kapler is the latest ingrate to disrespect our flag and proud nation,” wrote Sid Rosenberg, co-host of the Bernie and Sid morning radio program on WABC in New York City, on Twitter. “This [sic] coming days away from most Americans celebrating our best’s heroism on Memorial Day. He should pick up Kaepernick in his fancy car & leave the country today. Get out Gabe!”

Gabe Kapler wasn’t the only sports figure from the Bay Area to speak out against the inaction of our leaders. Coach Steve Kerr of the Golden State Warriors blasted the Congress and Senate for failing to do anything to stem gun violence and being beholden to the gun lobby. He made his passionate remarks during a pre-playoff game press conference and chose to speak out on the mass shooting than discuss the game ahead.

“In the last 10 days, we've had elderly Black people killed in a supermarket in Buffalo, we’ve had Asian churchgoers killed in Southern California, now we have children murdered at school,” Kerr told reporters.

“When are we going to do something? I’m tired. I’m so tired of getting up here and offering condolences to the devastated families that are out there ... I’m tired of the moments of silence. Enough.”

For Gabe Kapler, Kerr and Kaepernick, despite their high-profile platform, they understand that little will “move the needle,” as Kapler pointed out. But it keeps the conversation moving forward with the hope our legislators in Washington finally heed the call.  If the slaughter –and it was slaughter—of 19 innocent 9 year-olds and 2 teachers in Uvalde won’t move the needle, it is hard to imagine what would.

By his words and actions and knowing that he will be castigated by the far right, Gabe Kapler demonstrated courage that is so needed.  Yet, several of his fellow managers have offered support.

As we continue to grieve this senseless and despicable tragedy, Gabe showed the world what true patriotism is.

Thursday, May 12, 2022

Pride Cap Fuss Shows Why Pride is Needed

It’s just a ball cap. But oh, how some people get triggered!

The Los Angeles Dodgers announced that for the first time, the players will all be wearing a Pride cap featuring rainbow colors on the interlocking LA logo during the team’s LGBTQ+ Night on June 3 at Dodger Stadium when they face off against the New York Mets. Moreover, the following week at Oracle Park in San Francisco, both the Dodgers and the Giants will for the first time wear their respective Pride caps during the game.

“The Los Angeles Dodgers are proud to stand with and recognize the LGBTQ+ community in Los Angeles and globally,” said Stan Kasten, President & CEO, Los Angeles Dodgers in a statement. “The Dodgers have a history of breaking barriers and we’re proud to be a part of another chapter in MLB history as the Dodgers and Giants each wear their team’s pride caps on June 11. While our organizations have a long-storied rivalry on the field, we stand together when it comes to equality for all.”

Adds Gabe Kapler, the manager of the Giants, “It is an honor to be a part of this moment. I hope everyone watching the game on June 11 sees the clear statement being made — we stand for equality and respect of all people, regardless of sexual orientation. Wearing the Pride logo is both a reminder of the discrimination the LGBTQ+ community faces and the importance of supporting and creating a more inclusive environment.”

Most major league baseball clubs have held similar Pride celebrations at their ballparks but never had players taking the field wearing such attire. According to Outsports.com, a site that focuses on LGBTQ+ athletes in sports, only the Texas Rangers and Houston Astros did not host a Pride event during the pre-Covid 2019 season.

Not everyone shared in the celebration of the new ball cap to be worn by the Dodger players.  When the Dodgers unveiled the cap on Instagram, there was quite a number of negative comments sprinkled among the many who voiced support. Some were benign as in juliannavaaa’s post, “Why can’t we just play baseball?” Others were more sinister (reported to Instagram as hate speech) like “We should have taken them [gays] out years ago.”

Then you have the typically juvenile homophobic snark by commenter richnowlandrn “Brings a whole new meaning to ‘Switch Hitter.’” Or the genius of aliyahsdead, “need the dodgers and the giants to make out to truly express their support for pride”.

But responding to one of the haters, sdotarick wrote, “You can tell who woulda booed Jackie back in the day too.” On that same theme, baserobber posted, “All the people hating now would have been the same people hating on Jackie Robinson. Be open to new ideas and other people being different.”

It is encouraging that nearly 88,000 liked the announcement on Instagram and the unveiling of the Dodger’s new Pride cap with many speaking up to defend it and calling out the homophobes.

Homophobic comments frequently appear on fan pages and message boards all over. One jerk on the Baltimore Orioles Facebook group lamented the Orioles Pride Night last year and inquired why there wasn’t a Christian pride event. I guess he was bothered by so many Christians being physically attacked or fired from their jobs or bullied at school or kicked out of their homes by family members for being Christian. Or maybe he believes the manufactured war on Christmas is real.

Whatever the reason, there are too many folks who resent that the LGBTQ+ community being celebrated. Surveys have been positive in recent years regarding LGBTQ+ acceptance. In the macho world of sports, however, we haven’t made enough progress though leagues and teams have become very supportive. Still, there is no open LGBTQ+ athlete currently playing in any of the four major male sports leagues.

There are going to be ignorant buffoons and haters no matter what, especially those who are shielded by the relative anonymity of the internet. The stereotyping and homophobia are palpable on these platforms.

And this is exactly why the LGBTQ+ community needs Pride.  A tip of the cap to the Dodgers, Giants and all the MLB teams who celebrate diversity and equality and do so in a public way.

Monday, May 09, 2022

Blue Skies?

Why Republicans shouldn’t be spiking the ball just yet.

Republicans could hardly contain their glee. The president’s approval rating is low. A bloody war is waging. Inflation and gas prices are threatening our economic stability.  There’s trouble at the border.  Covid is hanging around. The stock market has been in a free-fall. Biden’s economic agenda has been stalled. Gerrymandering has locked in Republican districts. These developments and more are pointing to a November blow-out. Even popular presidents see their party lose seats in Congress during the mid-terms.

All Republicans needed to do is hold on to the ball and run out the clock. A red tide would sweep the country. But sometimes there could be a bad snap, a fumble or an ill-advised penalty and suddenly victory, which was ostensibly certain moments earlier, could be in jeopardy.

The bombshell leak last week of the Supreme Court draft opinion that foretold the demise of the popular Roe v. Wade ruling was tantamount to a political earthquake. The most nervous person in the U.S. is Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, who has expected to return to his majority leadership position, has been in the “let’s run out the clock camp.” Now he has seen the ball sail over the quarterback’s head.

So worried that the news of the likely overturning of the 49-year-old ruling could galvanize downtrodden Democrats—downtrodden because of the political headwinds mentioned above—that the Republican response was Trump-like focused on the identity of the leaker rather than the substance of the opinion.

GOP folks have attempted to downplay the impact by turning the subject back to inflation. In other words, change the subject and fast. But people don't like their rights taken away and will motivate them to act.

Importantly, the early indication of how SCOTUS would rule on Roe gave the Dems an extra month or so to mobilize the opposition and change their attitudes and strategies towards the mid-terms. Democrats received a new lease on life.

It’s hard to say at this point how this will play out. Democrats can wound themselves if protests at

Supreme Court justices’ residences get out of hand. Recall how Republicans turned largely peaceful protests over the murder of George Floyd into the radical left burning down cities narrative. They used this whataboutism technique in trying to explain away the riots and insurrection on January 6, 2021 and they will use it again to blunt the outrage over Roe.

Democrats stand to regain the allegiance of suburban women and independents based on overturning Roe. They could let that slip away if they don’t play their cards right.

The hope for Democrats as they scramble to do what’s necessary to protect a woman’s right to determine the well-being of their own bodies is that the fire and energy we see now will not dissipate come November. Clearly, they can use this highly emotional issue and bludgeon Republican candidates from the Senate to the state legislatures.

Potentially aiding the cause will be the onset of the bipartisan January 6 House Select Committee’s public hearings, which will occur next month. It is fairly obvious the committee will lay out methodically how President Trump not only inspired the riots of that day and did nothing to squelch them, but more significantly how he and his allies plotted to execute a coup. The public should also be reminded of which congressmen and senators voted to not certify the presidential election.

This one-two punch should give the Dems a major boost. They need to harness this energy to raise money and launch major voter registration drives and develop get out the vote strategies in all 50 states.

We won’t know the outcome until November as to which party recovered that bad snap. But right now it’s a free ball.

Wednesday, May 04, 2022

‘Ain’t Too Proud’ at the Hippodrome Brings Sunshine on a Cloudy Day

I totally enjoyed Ain’t Too Proud: The Life and Times of The Temptations, currently playing at Baltimore’s Hippodrome Theatre as part of a whirlwind national tour. To me, it ranks right up there with my favorite jukebox musical Jersey Boys. Perhaps it’s because of my growing up in the 60’s in recalling the superb music and entertainment generated by The Temptations and the Four Seasons.

It is no small coincidence that both musicals were directed by Tony and Olivier Award winner Des McAnuff in which he won the honors for Jersey Boys as Best Musical and Choreographer Sergio Trujillo for taking home the Tony for the Broadway production of Ain’t Too Proud: The Life and Times of The Temptations. This is a winning combo for sure.

There have been quite a number of high-quality jukebox musicals making it to Broadway, but Ain’t Too Proud with music and lyrics by The Legendary Motown Catalog and a book by Dominique Morisseau is a standout on so many levels.  

First and foremost, you have the vast cache of mostly familiar hits to work with. In this production 31 Motown favorites are performed—most but not all are Temptations songs. Some of the songs featured in the show include “Cloud Nine,” “I Can Get Next to You,” the iconic “My Girl,” “Just My Imagination (Running Away with Me),” “I Wish it Would Rain,” “Papa Was a Rolling Stone,” “Get Ready,” and “Ain’t Too Proud to Beg” among a host of others.

Then there are songs from the fabulous Supremes who ruled Motown until the Temptations climbed to the top and are part of this show. “Baby Love,” “Can’t See About Me” and “You Can’t Hurry Love”—all in a marvelous medley are performed. And one of my personal favorites, “I’m Gonna Make You Love Me,” where both the Supremes and the Temptations team up, is simply wonderful.

Acknowledged as the best-selling R&B group of all time, the Temptations can boast four Billboard Hot 100 number-one singles and fourteen R&B number-one singles among forty-two Top 10 hits. They earned three Grammy Awards as well as a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award while six of the members had been inducted in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

But for these irresistible treasures to be effectively brought to life you have to have a powerful cast and ensemble as well as a strong orchestra to deliver them. In Ain’t Too Proud, there is that.  The talent level among the cast, especially the lead performers, is off the charts. The blending of disparate vocal registers is amazingly pure; the harmonies are perfect. It is tantamount to listening to the actual record.

And the dancing that goes along with the songs is beyond amazing. Yes, Trujillo’s meticulous choreography is worthy of the Tony. But the cast performing those numbers—each with a separate set of moves—is eye-popping. Even more polished than the actual Temptations, the cast executes these slick steps all in synch with an abundance of smoothness, rhythm, spins and when called upon, splits.

"The talent level among the cast, especially the lead performers, is off the charts."

However, Ain’t Too Proud is not just a concert although it feels like one. As many jukebox musicals do, the songs are woven together with a story, a bio of the subjects. In some cases that plot is secondary to the music and audiences eagerly anticipate the next song to be performed. 

The story of the Temptations is as integral to the production as the music, and Morisseau’s storytelling is superb. The scenes where the Temptations’ journey is depicted are short enough to keep the music flowing, and in doing so, maintains a high level of energy during the course of the production.

The principal narrator is Otis Williams, a co-founder of what eventually became the Temptations. Played magnificently by Marcus Paul James, not only his singing prowess is on display throughout, but his acting skills shine as he expertly takes the audience on a journey with all its highs and lows. The cornucopia of emotions—melancholy, anger, regret, worry, joy, celebration—are all on display effectively captured in Morisseau’s book and portrayed so expertly by Mr. James and the other cast members.   

Through dialogue and song, this journey chronicles the formation of the group in 1960 Detroit whereby the members navigate crime, drugs, poverty and fall in and out of love. At first there is a great amount of cohesion and camaraderie as their fame begins to increase. Then there is the ensuing friction caused by bouts of alcoholism, drugs, and unreliability.  Many of these episodes take place with the civil rights struggles and the turmoil that ensued as the backdrop with the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King becoming the punctuation mark.

While their musical and financial successes mount during the 60’s and 70’s, jealousy and suspicion of each other and the contract the group signed with Motown and in particular its mogul Berry Gordy begin to seep in. Members leave, others like Al Bryant and David Ruffin who in his case allowed success to get to his head are kicked out.

Others replace them; the Temptations amount to a revolving door and ultimately becomes a franchise of sorts, a brand, and not a singular group like the Rolling Stones who essentially stayed intact for over a half century. Later, as the original members pass away, Otis Williams had to endure the ultimate loss. It’s a moving story that is realistically portrayed by a skilled group of performers.

Besides Mr. James, James T. Lane as Paul Williams, Harrell Holmes, Jr. as Melvin “Blue” Franklin with his intoxicating bass voice, Jalen Harris as Eddie Kendricks, Elijah Ahmad Lewis as David Ruffin, and Harris Matthew as Dennis Edwards excel in their roles as members of the Temptations. Their vocals, dancing and acting are stellar.

Other members of the cast deserve praise as well. Brett Michael Lockley as Al Bryant, Shayla Brielle G. as Mama Rose and Florence Ballard, Traci Elaine Lee as Johnnie Mae and Mary Wilson, Michael Andreaus as Berry Gordy, Najah Hetsberger as Otis’ wife Josephine, Lawrence Dandridge as Smokey Robinson, Deri’ Andra Tucker as Diana Ross, and Joshua Morgan as the group’s manager Shelly Berger.

The remainder of the talented cast and ensemble as well as the orchestra that is co-conducted by Darryl G. Ivey and Jonathan “Smitti” Smith add to the quality of the production.

Robert Brill’s basic scenic design allowed for Peter Nigrini’s projections to depict the cities and venues where the Temptations were touring to provide context to the performances. A conveyor belt worked feverishly to bring all kinds of set pieces and props on stage. Howell Binkley’s lighting design is exceptional and created simulated theatre marquees that brightened the stage and created added visual energy to the production.

Costume Designer Paul Tazewell attired the cast in slick period costumes, particularly the dazzling, colorful suits worn by the Temptations and the gorgeous gowns donned by the Supremes. It is no surprise that the costumes are so magnificent given that Tazewell had won a Tony for costume design for Hamilton.

In all, Ain’t Too Proud: The Life and Times of The Temptations is a thoroughly entertaining experience whether or not you recall the Temptations first-hand. The production features an uber-talented cast that acts proficiently while performing wonderfully memorable songs along the way. If you want to see the show in Baltimore, hurry to get tickets because the show will shuffle off to Buffalo next.

Running time. Two hours and 45 minutes with an intermission.

Advisory: The show contains profanity and adult situations and is not recommended for young children.

Ain’t Too Proud: The Life and Times of The Temptations runs through May 8 at the Hippodrome Theatre at the France-Merrick Performing Arts Center, 12 N. Eutaw St, Baltimore, MD 21201.  For tickets, call Ticketmaster at 800-982-ARTS or visit Ticketmaster or the Baltimore Hippodrome.

Photos by Emilio Madrid

Sunday, May 01, 2022

A Sign of the Times

Neighbors, clergy, allies stepped up to support LLUMC in replacing stolen welcoming sign.

Photo courtesy of LLUMC
Just two months after a welcoming sign at Linden-Linthicum United Methodist Church on Route 108 in Clarksville, Md. was chopped down and stolen from the property, a new replacement sign was installed. The new sign is almost identical to the stolen one, and its supports have been made sturdier.  

On a background of rainbow colors, the sign reads “Ever One Is Welcome Here” with a heart at the bottom. The LLUMC emphasizes that the message of welcoming applies to a broad population that includes among other groups, the disabled, immigrants as well as the LGBTQ+ community.

The vandalism and theft, which was first chronicled in this space and reported on the Clarksville Happenings group page on Facebook, led many people in the community to offer support both financially and spiritually to help the church replace the sign.

Undeterred by a steady rain on May 1, Pastor Gayle Annis-Forder moved what would have been an outside ceremony marking the replacement of the new sign to the church’s multi-purpose room to celebrate the event. Members of the church’s council, congregation and community attended. She reiterated the message that everyone is welcome including those who stole the sign. “Love is better,” she said.

Pastor Gayle expressed her gratitude for the outpouring of support during this period. She thanked various representatives from local religious organizations and individuals within the community as well as County Executive Calvin Ball.  Pastor Gayle read statements from Rabbi Susan Grossman of the Beth Shalom Congregation in Columbia, Md. and Rev. Paige Getty of the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Columbia in support of the LLUMC.

Said Richard A. Smith, Church Council Chair of LLMUC: 

"An act of vandalism, at a minimum, or more likely a targeted message of hate, the cutting down of this sign prompted an outpouring of support and love within this community. I for one, cannot thank enough those who have expressed support and graciously provided the funding for its replacement.

"There are not enough hours in the day to provide the context behind this sign. Although various groups who are being singled out and persecuted in numerous ways in today’s society is heartbreakingly too many, the LGBTQ holds community a unique place currently in the United Methodist Church (UMC)."

Though the sign had been vandalized last year, Pastor Gayle was surprised that the sign had been destroyed and removed in late February of this year. “Driving to the church the following morning, I had to do a double-take in noticing the sign was no longer there,” she said.

The church received donations from the community to help pay for the costs associated with replacing the sign. Pastor Gayle especially was appreciative of the owners of the Red Bird Bar and Grille in Glenelg, who held a fundraiser just days after the incident that raised $1,000 for the church.

Pastor Gayle explained that the church is still accepting donations to help with security and other expenses incurred by the incident. 

Pastor Gayle addressing the audience