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T.L. Gillette

Bill Cosby's Legacy (An Opinion Piece)
3 minute read

I don’t know about you but I will never look at a pudding pop the same way after all this Bill Cosby stuff. Too soon? Maybe it wasn’t the best idea to start with a bad joke but what else can you do at this point? When Konnected Magazine editor-in-chief Kevan Glover asked me to write about Bill Cosby’s legacy I was unsure about what to say as I am still sorting out my own thoughts and feelings. So I decided to use this as group therapy, as you read and think we can all try to talk through this, together.

When I first read the report from the initial accuser like most Black folks I thought, this is nothing, just some woman looking to get money and smear his reputation. I mean come on; this is Bill freaking Cosby right? Mr. good guy, funny face, bad sweater wearing, all-American TV dad. There’s no way he could have done that right? All those pudding pop commercials, the years on TV making kids laugh and say funny things on camera made us fall for the image of a guy who could do no wrong. OK, so that’s just one lady talking about an incident from 20+ years ago, blah, blah, blah. Then there was another woman with a similar story, then another one, then another, then…you get the point. I believe the final count of Cosby accusers is more than two dozen, maybe more but I stopped counting after ten. According to all these women he would offer to help them with their career as all were young actresses looking to get their feet in the door. If anyone would be able to help it would be Bill Cosby with all his connections and name recognition. Why not go see what advice he has to offer, what could it hurt right? Again, according to the accusers he would offer them something to drink whether it was coffee, wine or liquor that was laced with drug that made them pass out and wake up the next morning usually naked in his bed with very little memory recall. If you’re like me and you live in the real world, we know this kind of situation happens all the time, but this is Bill Cosby. NO way he could do that, could he? Think about this, what do we REALLY know about him off camera? We don’t know any of these actors or celebrities that we image worship once they leave their set. This is the danger of putting people on pedestals based on an image. To be fair though, we never had any reason to suspect that Mr. Cosby was anything but a good guy off camera. He was very active in many charities, supported him alma mater Temple University in many endeavors and was honored with doctorate degrees from several universities for his philanthropic work. This is the William H. Cosby that we all grew to respect and admire since the 80s, especially once The Cosby Show got popular. I wasn’t born when he was big in the 70s doing the movies with Sidney Poitier (Uptown Saturday Night & Let’s Do It Again) but I do have both on DVD and will co-sign both of those as classic comedy movies.

Now back to our discussion, we know the story and we know what we’ve seen from him over the years, so what is real? If you know then please tell me, drop an email to Konnected Magazine with your thoughts. Personally I feel where there is smoke, there is fire. If there are 25 people that all say the same thing about me, it’s pretty hard for me to say “that’s not me”. Let’s be real people, not everything is a set up or a conspiracy. This is coming from someone who thinks almost everything is a set up or a conspiracy; I just don’t feel like this is the case. These women have nothing to gain from this, they are not asking for money, nor can he be prosecuted due to the statute of limitations so why go through all this? Many will ask why they waited so long to come forth and for that I have no answer but I’ve also never been the victim of rape or sexual assault either so I don’t know how I would deal with it. Maybe once they saw the first two or three women speak up, it gave them the courage to do the same. Again, I can’t say for sure, I’m just presenting another side of it. All I want at this point is for the truth to come out but I doubt we’ll ever get it because he won’t be obligated to testify under oath in court. Other than that or some last confession, it’s just another case of he say/she say. What do you think??

Published February 24, 2020
Health + Hip-Hop: An Unhealthy Marriage?
3 minute read

Guru 2010, age 48, cancer. Heavy D, 2011, age 44, pulmonary embolism. Nate Dogg, 2011, 41, complications from strokes. Lord Infamous (3 6 Mafia), 2013, age 40, heart attack. Sean Price (Boot Camp Clik), 2015, age 43 unknown (died in his sleep). Pumpkinhead (PH), 2015, age 39, was waiting to undergo surgery on gall stone. Phife Dawg, 2016, age 45, diabetes. Just a few of the well-known hip-hop artists we recently lost due to health issues. Although death is guaranteed for all of us, sometimes the lifestyle we lead or the various health conditions we have, some genetic and some are self-afflicted, play a part in the amount of time we do have to spend on this planet. I don’t want to scare you off with this article, in fact to be honest its not a topic I enjoy discussing or even thinking about but you can’t hide your head in the sand and pretend the world outside doesn’t exist. Prevention and being proactive in our approach to our health can be beneficial and lead to a longer and more productive life. We’ll examine health and how it relates to our community, specifically in the hip-hop culture.

Like most of us true “80’s babies” that grew up when hip-hop was still in its infancy, it was routine to hear and often quote the combo “40s & blunts”. Am I right? I’m not sitting here in judgment, just pointing out the real and looking deeper to help understand how it’s impacting us in the long term. Sure when you’re in your teens and 20s you feel invincible. The future seems so far off its hard to fathom, therefore you tend to push the limits of your body’s tolerance, not realizing the long term effects it can have. You try to go hard drinking, smoking, whatever else you do looking to get the maximum effect, thinking only of the short term high. I know there have been plenty of nights I wondered how my liver didn’t explode from too much liquor. Once you get into your 30s what happens is that life tends to slow down as you usually have a family or about to start one so your priorities shift, as they should. When I say slow down I am strictly referring to the time you have to hang out with your friends because your family becomes your main focus which takes up the majority of your time. When you do get a chance to hang out with the boys you still go hard but it’s not as often and not quite as much as it was before. This is the typical cycle for the average man, not counting celebrities and those in the higher tax brackets; their reality is not the reality of the 95%. Also, what tends to happen is that you become less active and weight starts to add on faster and is more difficult to shed off. Now what you have is the perfect recipe for diabetes, heart conditions and strokes. Depending on the amount of damage done in your younger years, it may be very difficult to reverse with proper nutrition and exercise. Those are the keys to improving your lifestyle, proper diet and daily exercise. Hip-hop shows are often late night events which lead to bad eating for everyone involved; greasy fast food at 2am. Countless nights of fried foods, combined with liquor and drugs is not a good mixture for your body, in the long or short term. We should incorporate more fruits and vegetables in our daily food choices, less fried and processed foods and avoid fatty animal meats. For exercise, it is recommended that 15-30 minutes daily is all your body needs to maintain a healthy balance. This could be a quick walk around your neighborhood or some other physical activity like cutting grass or running the stairs in your home for 5 minutes at a time. Too often we think of exercise like you have to join a gym or even do one of those workout programs like Insanity. This its totally not true, any type of activity that gets accelerates your heart rate is all is you need. Of course only THE ONE decides when our time is up, but in the mean time you do have some control over the type of life you lead while here.

Looking back on my own life, personally there are many nights I wish I could take back but we all know that’s impossible. Even with the advice provided in this article there are many other factors that determine your overall health, the first step is to go see a medical professional! Please my brothers and sisters, brothers especially, go get a checkup. Its worth the time and money, we are talking about your one and only body that you will ever get. If you can wait in line and pay hundreds of dollars for sneakers, video games, movies and other material things then you need to value your own self at least 10 times more than that. Note, in this article I focused only on the hip-hop deaths but we can certainly include pop/rock stars like Jimi Hendrix, Bob Marley, Amy Winehouse, Janice Joplin, Michael Jackson and Prince in this conversation. Either health or drugs was the cause of demise for each of those legendary artists, sadly. Let’s all make a commitment to take better care of ourselves and hang around this rock called Earth as long as possible…Be blessed! 

Published February 24, 2020
Who Is Really A Terrorist?
2 minute read

When you hear the word terrorist I know an image comes to your mind. You don’t have to acknowledge it but if you’re human we always associate words with an image, we can’t help it. And depending on your personal feelings, prejudices, upbringing, etc. that image will be different. For most of us though, I believe we’ve all been lead to think of a terrorist the same way, especially since 9/11. As a writer for Konnected Magazine I get to explore any topic and founder/Editor-in-Chief Kevan Glover gives me the freedom to touch on a variety of topics. Without getting too political I just want to dig into this term terrorist and ask why only some are labeled this way and others are not.

I’m sure you’ve heard about the Charleston shooting in June, a devastating tragedy that changed South Carolina forever. The end result of the mass shooting was new state legislation passed to remove the confederate flag from the SC state house grounds. Sure this was a monumental occasion as we strive towards racial harmony, just a shame it took something like that for it to spark change. I refuse to mention the name of the shooter here, if you want to look it up feel free but I will not waste ink on that fool. I heard many labels being used to describe the shooter such as: angry, mentally ill, loner but one was never used in the mainstream media; terrorist. Now let’s look a few years to the mass shooting at the movie theater in Colorado at the Batman premier. Once again, the shooter was called a loner, strangely quiet, detached from society but never was he called a terrorist. If an armed individual enters a place with the intent to kill or cause serious harm to unknowing victims, that sure sounds like a terrorist act to me. I could give you the definition of terror from the dictionary but why? Any reasonable person knows what a terrorist act is when they see it; it doesn’t take a bunch of big words to define the obvious. Isn’t a person who strikes terror in others a terrorist? The same way a person who plays the piano is a pianist. Ok, maybe not exactly the same but you get the point. The –ist is the one performing the act. Not to get too technical on you but why not learn a little about grammar and English today. Lol!

These are just two examples; unfortunately there have been too many other tragedies I could use just the same, only the details change. The overwhelming theme of them all is that the shooters were described in a way that can perhaps provoke sympathy from some. By some in the mainstream media they are casted as the ones left out of society who were lashing out in the only way they could. This narrative can gather sympathy from some; this is shown by the huge donations to the Go Fund Me campaigns set up to help with lawyer fees for these yokels. Another unfortunate side effect of each of these tragedies is the endless debate between Liberals and Conservatives about gun laws, gun rights, anything gun related. Blah, blah, blah…it’s all the same speeches every time. We need more guns; no we need tighter gun laws. No really need better background checks for the mentally ill…blah, blah, blah. Although I can write what I want I am NOT going into the debate on guns or anything political, ever. Not because I’m afraid to voice my opinions but because I waiver from side to side so I don’t really have a strong stance either way. As a writer it’s not a good idea to do a piece about an issue you don’t have a firm position on. The whole point of this article was just to give you something to think about. Next time you hear the word terrorist, what will the image be?

Published February 24, 2020
What Defines a “LEGEND”?
3 minute read

Lately there have been a lot of artists self-proclaiming themselves to be “living legends” and it caused me to ask, what defines a legend? By nature an artist, especially those that have achieved great commercial success have a certain confidence about their skills and music, this is no secret. It takes a special inner confidence to get on stage in front of strangers and perform your music, your thoughts and ideas. This same confidence helped these artists rise to the top of their profession, thus with fame, fortune and a super inflated ego; you have a recipe for guys calling themselves “legends”.

I guess I will sound like an old school cat to some readers but I remember when the word legend was actually given to an artist by the FANS. It was for their long body of work, massive fan base, longevity credibility that caused the people to title you as a legend, often times that word wasn’t used until after the death of an artist. When you think of legend you should think of game changers with timeless songs that stretch across all demographics, people like Bob Marley, Phil Collins, U2, KRS-One, Michael Jackson and Whitney Houston are names that instantly come to mind. Despite whatever genre their music may have been classified as, their songs reached across the masses and will last for generations. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying guys like Kanye West for example, won’t be considered legends when it’s all said it done but…to anoint them as such right now seems a bit premature. Let’s see how long he can continue to deliver because there have been some shaky albums along the way, I’m just being honest. I’m not picking on Yeezy because many others have said it recently as well; I only used him as an example because he speaks the loudest and makes brash statements on an almost daily basis. Personally, ‘The College Dropout’ is one of my favorite albums and I think it is a top 10 all-time debut album by a solo artist. 

With that said, we’ve seen a lot of artists have a nice run then flame out, like I said earlier, it’s the total body of work that we’ll have to judge. If we could only take the good part of someone’s career, Grant Hill would be a Hall of Fame NBA player. For about 7 years he was a top 15 player in the NBA until he was derailed by an endless string of ankle injuries. He ended up playing 16 years in the league but was never the same player after sitting out almost 4 full seasons due to injury. I used this example partially because Grant Hill was my favorite player in college and the NBA, but also to illustrate the point that you have to wait until the full body of work is completed before making any declarations of total greatness. Sure, you can be great in spurts, but can you sustain it over a long period of time is the question. Understanding that music is different from professional sports because you don’t have to depend on speed/athleticism to do it, both of which will deteriorate with age. As a musician, as long as you have your mental capacity and a studio to access, you can continue to earn a living so the life of a career is usually different. Although sometimes it’s not quite as different; think about all of the athletes who had some really good playing years then faded away. 

Now think about all the rappers specifically, that came out with a hot song that rocked for a year or maybe even had a few successful albums but after a few years they are reduced to “yo remember so-and-so?” Exactly, it happens y’all. In 1995 you couldn’t tell me that Mobb Deep wasn’t going down as one of the best duos/groups ever in hip-hop history. Don’t laugh; I’m sure I wasn’t the only one who thought that. Again, point is: let the movie play out before you grade it thumbs up or thumbs down.

Keep in mind this is an opinion piece, if you feel someone meets the criteria to be called a legend in the midst of their careers there is no law to stop you. I just advise you to use caution because soon that same CD could be gathering dust in the trunk of your car because so-and-so is whack now. Yes, I know some of what they say is just pure ego, some of it just bravado and 'swag' but some words I still hold with high value. Legend isn’t a word/title to be used lightly in my humble opinion due to its implication of the importance of the artist/person on whom it’s being used. As always, stay KONNECTED and keep reading…SALUTE!

Published February 24, 2020
Kobe Bryant: Mamba Mentality
4 minute read

January 26, 2020 was a day most of us will never forget. It is one of those moments where you will never forget where you were and what you were doing when you found out what happened. I was driving from Atlanta to South Carolina when one of my friends in a group text sent a link and said that Kobe was dead. It started with a TMZ report from southern California stating that a helicopter carrying 9 passengers, including the pilot, crashed into a mountain killing all members on board. Among those passengers were the icon Kobe Bryant and his 13-year-old daughter Gianna (Gigi) Bryant. His 20 year career as an LA Laker has been well documented, thus I will not provide those details here. Instead, I want to focus on Kobe's impact and legacy.

If you were like me, when you saw/heard the TMZ report you didn’t want to believe it. You thought to yourself, this HAS to be click bait or they got the names of the passengers wrong. All the members of our group text starting searching for other outlets to verify it. Most of us dismissed it as false and unfounded info. Unfortunately, the report was spot on and Kobe Bryant was taken from us at the young age of 41. Also killed in the crash were members of Gigi’s AAU basketball team and their parents, thankfully none of Bryant’s other daughters or wife were on board. As the news spread across the internet over the next few hours, there was a huge emotional wave shared by almost everyone; young to old, male to female. Although Kobe was a polarizing figure during his tenure in the NBA, his ability, passion and intensity were traits that everyone respected, from teammates to opponents. Kobe nicknamed himself ‘The Mamba’ years earlier after the highly venomous snake the Black Mamba. The nickname was fitting as his relentlessness on the court was unmatched and he was known to strike quickly and without warning, every time he stepped on the court. He struck fear in the hearts of opposing defenders with his variety of moves on the court and his uncanny ability to perform in the clutch moments of the game. His nerves seemed to be made of steel and his will to compete was magnified when he refused to leave the game after tearing his Achilles tendon, until he shot his 2 free throws. Legendary moment to say the least.

Growing up in Italy due to his father Joe “Jellybean” Bryant’s profession as a professional basketball player, Kobe would often say that his experience overseas made him self-reliant and admittedly aloof in social situations. After the family relocated the Philadelphia suburb of Lower Merion while he was in high school, Kobe thrived and became one of the most coveted players in the country, high school or college. He was drafted with the 13th pick in the 1996 NBA draft, straight out of high school. Five NBA championships later, he left the sport by scoring an unbelievable 60 points in his final game. Yet another legendary moment for the man who has a seemingly endless highlight reel of unbelievable moments. Aside from his talent on the court, Kobe had endeared himself to many people once his playing days are over as he allowed the general public to see his softer, more human side. The time he spent coaching his daughter Gigi’s basketball team and opening the Mamba Academy in L.A. for basketball training gave us a glimpse of a loving father/husband who poured himself into his family as fervently as he balled on the hardwood. While he was playing in the NBA for 20 years we rarely, if ever got to see anything other than a tough-minded assassin who didn’t express human feelings. This terminator-like focus was also shown when he created and produced Dear Basketball in 2018, a short film for which he won an Academy Award, becoming the first pro athlete to be nominated and win one. Add that to a long list of incredible accomplishments.

For those of us who grew up in the 80s, Kobe was our MJ. In fact, many agree that he is the closest player to Jordan that we have ever seen, both in play on the court and influence off the court. No one can match Jordan's impact on the sneaker game however, Kobe sparked a whole generation of namesakes around the globe. How many kids do you know named Kobe (spelling may vary but still) that were born after 1996? He played in the NBA for more than half of his life, entering the league at 17 and retiring at 38, thus we all watched him literally grow up right before our eyes. We remember him going to the prom with Brandy in high school, the air ball in Utah in his first playoff series, the cocky teenager that won the dunk contest, the man who lit up Toronto for 81 points, and the superstar who lead his team to 5 titles and 1 NBA MVP. We saw his high points and his low points, reminding us that he was a flawed human being like the rest of us, which made him more relatable in a sense. It was all those things that made this sudden and unexpected loss so difficult to understand and deal with. We felt like Kobe was a brother or at least, one of our favorite cousins. Look around any organized basketball game and I guarantee that at least one player on a team is wearing either #8 or #24, that is no coincidence. He became revered by a new generation of NBA fan, those who idolized him the way others before them idolized Dr. J, Magic and Jordan. Kobe's legacy is a complex one, much like any great artist. Spending the majority of his life in the public eye made us feel close to him and allowed us to witness greatness up close. He will forever be remembered as a top 10 NBA player of all time, the stats and championships erase any doubt of that claim. Beyond that, we will remember him as a loving husband, father and coach. His tenacity on the court and singular drive to win left a lasting legacy that will be nearly impossible to replicate. Kobe was not interested in making friends or being cool with other players, his only friend was winning. Kobe Bean Bryant was one of a kind to put in mildly and that is not being cliche. Today's generation of NBA player seem to be more concerned with being friends and gaining endorsements, winning is often secondary to having a large bank account and fame. We will forever remember The Mamba as the ultra competitor and from now on you can never shoot a paper wad into a trash basket without first yelling “Kobe”. Rest easy Kobe & Gigi and the other 7 members on board. Life is not fair but death is certain, we only wish we could have gotten more time with Kobe on Earth. 

Published May 25, 2020
Sports Parents: How Much Is Too Much?
2 minute read

Anyone who is a parent will or has likely signed up their child to participate in a sport or activity such as cheerleading or dance. This is great, participation in team sports or activities teach many vital lessons that can’t be learned anywhere else. They also teach kids the importance of working together and being a part of something bigger than themselves. I encourage all parents to find something for their child to participate in, most cities have free activities sponsored by the local parks or rec commission. I have a son who has participated in many sports and I also coach both basketball and football so I’ve seen the full range of sports parenting on both sides. When it comes to being a sports parent I know we all want the best for our child however, there are some lines that shouldn’t be crossed on both sides and we as parents and coaches need to be mindful of how our behavior influences our children.

There are a few simple rules that I think all parents should abide by to make life easier on the coaches and their child as well. The rules are as follows: 

1- Be encouraging and positive. This should go without saying however; I have seen many instances where parents speak negatively about the coaches, team or other players specifically. This only creates a divide between the child and whomever the parent was referring to. All kids want to listen and believe their parents first so if you say things like “the coaches don’t know they’re doing”, your child will listen to that and start to undermine the coaches. A positive attitude even in the face of adversity is an important character trait that can be developed through sports. If the parents and coaches remain positive and encouraging, players will develop a ‘never quit’ mentality. 

2- Be realistic with your child and yourself. Again, we all want the best for our children and have a desire to see them succeed however; if a coach has your child playing a certain position is it based on their assessment of the player’s ability. This is main point of contention between coaches and parents because often times the parent has over inflated ideas about what their child can do. The coach’s job is to develop the player’s skills, turning weaknesses into strengths but that is a gradual process. It is actually harmful to a player’s development to put them in positions before they are ready. 

3- Last rule is the basic rule of life; treat others how you want to be treated. This pertains to everyone involved. Yes youth sports are competitive. Yes we play to win to win the game. We still cannot lose sight that youth sports coaches are VOLUNTEERS, working with your child for no pay, giving their time, energy and passion. Youth coaches spend their own money purchasing things for the team such as equipment, drinks, snacks, etc. without reimbursement so it’s important to understand that these men/women are giving a lot of themselves for your child. Sure adults can disagree but it can be done without yelling, cussing or threatening violence; I’ve seen instances of all three. If we can learn to treat each other right, there would be fewer problems in general.

In conclusion, parents need to be parents and let the coaches do their jobs. Feedback is welcome if done in a constructive manner; the key is proper communication on both sides. When the coach breaks your child down, the parent’s job is to build them up, not to pile on. Cheering is always encouraged, cheer as loud as you can, make signs, paint faces and support your child and their team. Make sure everyone on social media knows your child is a budding star but please, please, please….don’t turn into a Lavar Ball!!!

Published May 25, 2020