Twenty 20 by Butch Ford

2020
Twenty 20 by Butch Ford

As we kick off a New Year and New Decade, I’d like to get something off my chest that’s been weighing heavily on me for some time now.  With the rash of kidnappings, infestation of drugs, poverty and crime in our communities, I thought about how things were for generations past.  Check it out and tell me what you think?

“Mother, mother there’s too many of you crying.  Brother, brother, brother there’s far too many of you dying.  You know we’ve got to find a way…to bring some lovin’ here today.”

“Thousands of lives wasting away…people living from day to day.  It’s a challenge just staying alive.  Cuz in the ghetto, only the strong survive.  Broken down homes, kids strung out…they don’t know what life’s all about.  Stealing cars, robbing bars, mugging, drugs, rat infested.  And no one’s interested.”

“Her brother’s smart.  He’s got more sense than many.  His patience’s long… but soon he won’t have any.  To find a job is like a haystack needle.  Cause where he lives they don’t use colored people.”

These are a compilation of lyrics from Marvin Gaye’s “What’s Going On” (1971), The Temptation’s “Masterpiece” (1973) and Stevie Wonder’s “Living for the City” (1973).  All written 45+ years ago but still quite relevant in today.

It’s scary that nearly 50 years have passed and we’re no closer to the dream that MLK spoke of.  We’re not unified like our forefathers taught us to be.  Nor are we trying to make a difference to others.  It’s 2020 my people.  Not 1970.  We’ve got to get it together.  AND FAST!!!

 

Butch Ford

 

References

Gaye, Marvin.  “What’s Going On.”  What’s Going On.  Tamla, 1971.

The Temptations.  “Masterpiece.”  Masterpiece.  Motown/Universal, 1973.

Wonder, Stevie.  “Living for the City.”  Innervisions.  Tamla, 1973.

Photo Cred:  Photo by Nathan Dumlao on Unsplash

 

 

 

 

Let’s Start Anew by Butch Ford

start anew photo
Let’s Start Anew by Butch Ford

As we come to the close of another decade, there are some things I’d like to see change within our community.  As a people, we have really lowered our standards and expectations of one another.  And as a society we have come to be too accepting of mediocrity.

Professional sports are all about marketing dollars and network ratings.  Gone are the days of good sportsmanship and integrity.  It’s so much pressure on these kids nowadays.  Bring back the days of playing for the love of the game(s).  

Social Media has taken over as our main source of communication.  There’s no one-on-one interaction anymore.  Everything’s so impersonal.  There was a time when we had to talk to one another, meet up, ask someone out or just getting to know people.  Now everyone’s just typing away.

Which brings me to the education system, or the lack of emphasis placed on learning.  This one’s self-explanatory, but perplexes me nonetheless.  Generations past took pride in being the best at tasks at hand.  Millennials couldn’t care less.  They just want, want, want.  No concept of working to achieve goals.

And last…the lack of family dynamics.  We once ate meals together, taught each other hobbies & skills, supported the dreams of our relatives, asked how each other’s day was, etc.  Now everyone’s out for themselves.  Fathers are absent from their children’s lives, which forces the mothers to carry the load.  But they must be mature and responsible enough to take on the duties of parenthood.  Again…we must do better.  

We need to own our own businesses, invest in our communities, teach our youth and overall be better as African Americans.  We owe it to ourselves and to our future.   WE NEED CHANGE…LIKE YESTERDAY!

               

                                Butch Ford

Something’s Got to Give by Butch Ford

 

sad fans

Something’s Got to Give by Butch Ford

The Detroit Lions are about to complete yet another disappointing season with a losing record.  This has become the norm around these parts and the fans are outraged.  In fact, some are even calling for the sale of the team by The Fords (no relation).  Unfortunately, ineptitude has become the yearly expectation for the franchise by football purists.

General Manager Bob Quinn, the former Director of Scouting in The New England Patriots’ organization was hired by The Ford family in 2016 to right the ship.  While making several good personnel decisions since his arrival…the one blemish and questionable move was the firing of fan favorite and former Head Coach Jim Caldwell in 2018.  Caldwell boasted a 36-28 record and a .536 winning percentage in his 4 seasons in Detroit…making him the winningest coach in the franchise’s history.

He was let go in favor of another former New England Patriots’ stalwart Matt Patricia, a friend of Quinn’s with no head coaching experience at any level on his resume.  With two games remaining on the schedule, Patricia is about to complete his second full season as the Lions’ Head Coach.  He only has 8 wins to show, so far out of 30 total games during his tenure.  Clinching another losing record, some believe that he has lost his players, as well as respect in the locker room.

Maybe it’s time we demand answers.  For generations, it’s been speculated that football is merely a hobby for The Fords and winning just isn’t a priority.  There have been countless personnel changes in management, a revolving door for players year after year and directionless leadership on the field.  The only constant IS the ownership.  So, what should the next move be?

Is Patricia on the “hot seat”?  Is Quinn’s job in jeopardy after firing a Superbowl Champion Head Coach in favor of an inexperienced former colleague?  Did the Fords drop the ball in their selection of Quinn?  Should the team be put up for sale?  What should the long-suffering fans do?  Should action be taken or recourse?  So many difficult questions and so much uncertainty.  Something’s got to give.  Detroiters simply deserve better.

 

Butch Ford

Better Days by Butch Ford

Comerica Park

Better Days by Butch Ford

As a life-long Detroit sports fan, it’s been extremely tough to root for our hometown teams lately.  But what seems to be the problem?  Why are they all so bad at the same time, you ask?  Let’s get into this.

The Red Wings are the easiest to explain.  After 25 consecutive years of consistent winning and four Stanley Cup Championships between 1986-2011, they’re entitled to a down period.  They’re in a rebuilding process and deserve a pass.  You can’t stay on top forever.

The Pistons; after two very successful title runs, resulting in three NBA Championships (2 in back-to-back years by The Bad Boys in ’89 and ’90 plus another one by The Going to Work Squad in ’04) are in a bit of turmoil.  They suffered the loss of longtime owner William Davidson, the subsequent sale of the franchise, growing pains by new ownership and management and relocation to a new downtown arena.  This will take time.

The Tigers also suffered the loss of their long-time owner Mike Ilitch, who tried feverishly to put together a World Series title team before his untimely demise in 2017.  The aftermath is the Ilitch off springs searching for a vision and direction.  It isn’t working very well.  This could be a while.

And then there’s the lowly, cellar dwelling, career doormats known as The Lions.  There have been several dozen coaching changes, countless shuffling of management personnel, and a revolving door for players over the past 6 decades.  The one constant is the ownership…The Ford family (no relation).  And still NO Superbowl appearance to speak of.  What’s it going to take?

One thing’s for sure, Detroit is a passionate sports town that loves its teams and deserves much better.  Hopefully we’ll see better days in the near future!

 

Butch Ford

 

Soulless Music by Butch Ford

listen to music.jpg

Soulless Music by Butch Ford

In the early 90’s, approximately 1993, the public school system began shaving numerous programs as a part of massive budget cuts Nationwide.  The biggest impact arguably was the loss of music education in our schools.  The cuts didn’t immediately affect the music industry, but it began to rear its ugly head about a decade or so ago.

In years long since passed, music had meaning, feeling and substance.  Every artist had the freedom to create as he or she saw fit.  And it was reflected in their productions.  There were raw, unadulterated emotions embedded deep within the music.  Joy, pain, sadness, elation and rage could all be felt through the gift of song.  Strong horn sections, string arrangements and later synthesizers enhanced the distinct identity of each artist and what they shared with the world.

Now let’s fast forward some two and a half decades.  Today’s music is very impersonal and lacks substance and creative arrangements.  The subject matter is often disrespectful with very little depth.  And full compositions have made way to simple and repetitive beats programmed by unaccomplished musicians.

Program Directors at radio and television stations rely heavily on “oldies but goodies” to carry daily playlists and product endorsements due to the absence of quality new music.  Great music is still being composed and produced by incredible talent.  However, “the powers that be” are targeting a different demographic.  That would be the millennials. Those who were directly affected by the Music Education cuts in the 90’s and beyond.

Mainstream music, national award shows, and product advertisements are painful to watch/listen to.  And it’s mainly due to what’s being pawned as music today.  What did the masses think the results of the music cuts were going to be?  It’s plain to see.  Music with no soul.

 

Butch Ford

What the World Needs Now by Butch Ford

 

World needs now

What the World Needs Now by Butch Ford

As I look at the state of the world today, I can’t help but think about how things used to be.  When we respected our elders, education was paramount and there was unity and structure among families.  The neighborhoods and communities policed themselves.  Peace and harmony were a way of life.  But things are very different now.  And it’s difficult to watch how far we’ve fallen as a People (African Americans).  It’s deeply concerning.  Our Civil Rights Pioneers are probably rolling over in their graves.

We’re so accepting of mediocrity and underachievement.  What happened to the once proud, determined race who were driven by Faith?  A lot has changed since those days.  Currently, that’s too lengthy of a discussion.  But sadly, we lack direction.  And it’s going to take a lot of hard work, a change of philosophy/focus and some positive leadership to restore our purpose.  Radio, television and video games are poisoning a whole generation.

Today…in the social media era, people are more concerned with likes, followers and views…more so than they are with morals, values and self-respect.  The world is extremely selfish and monetarily driven.  Our role models have dissolved…or just refuse to lead by example.  The love of money is the root of all evil.  And it’s killing us.

Controversy surrounding a sandwich from a fast food establishment, females twerking on video and the recording of physical altercations in public have trumped the more serious issues in our community…i.e.: the kidnapping of our black women and children for the purpose of sex and illegal black-market organ trafficking.  This shit is real.  And we are in danger.  I haven’t even mentioned the resurgence of The Klan yet.

We must find a way to take back control of our communities.  And it starts in our homes.  Parents…we must do a better job of preparing our youth for the real world.  Teach them right from wrong.  They are our offspring…not our equals.  They are products of their environment who mimic what they see…unless we show them a different way.  We must also allow our educators to effectively do their jobs unapologetically, without stress or worries.  We must hold our children accountable!  Use tough love and discipline!   They yearn for it.

Activities such as: Team Sports, Mentorship Programs and Church Involvement, will help us rebuild decades of hardship and blight that has robbed us of who we are and who we’re meant to be.  Bring back Home Economics, Art, Music and Workshop in schools. Our youth need an outlet.  Allow them to use their minds creatively and utilize these skills to excel.  The trap has been set.  The path has been laid out.  But we can’t continue to fall victim anymore.  This should motivate, and not hinder us anymore.  We must rise above others’ expectations of us.  Let’s do better.

Let’s be more than we’re expected to be.  We are still those same proud, strong and determined people.   What the world needs now is a lot of love and compassion mixed in with a little guidance and direction.

 

Butch Ford

 

“Purplesploitation” by Butch Ford

 

Prince

“Purplesploitation” by Butch Ford

In the 1970’s there was a term called Blaxploitation.  It described an ethnic subgenre of exploitation films made by, of and for African Americans.  But that’s a story for another day and time.  Today, I want to discuss the term “Purplesploitation.”  A term I created just this morning while trying to figure out a way to express my feelings regarding the handling of the legacy of the icon known as Prince.  The heirs of the Prince Estate (his family) have been in constant litigation since his untimely passing in April of 2016.

Prince Rogers Nelson released over 40 albums in his prolific musical career, which spanned well over four decades.  There’s also reports of an alleged vault which contains another several hundred unreleased songs, various concert tour recordings, and band rehearsals.

Prince, a child prodigy, turned musical genius from Minnesota…reportedly filmed everything during his illustrious 40-year career.  He was considered passionate, driven, and a focused workaholic who worked tirelessly to perfect his craft.  He was also very private, keeping unreleased music and the aforementioned recordings under strict lock and key.

Since passing, his estate has profited from the sale of his previously unreleased material, as well as other gems taken from “the vault”.  As a lifelong fan, I’m a bit torn by the recent events.  Although I’ve enjoyed hearing music that I would have never heard otherwise, I do believe it was his wishes to keep the contents of the vault locked away.

There’s no judgement on my part.  I’m not questioning anyone’s motives.  I’m just curious to know, what Prince would have wanted?  By no means am I suggesting that this is exclusively for monetary gain.  Nor am I implying that it’s a form of exploitation.  It could just merely be a case of his family sharing hidden treasures with the world.  But I’d still love to know his feelings regarding these actions.  We’ll probably never know the truth.

On the bright side…be sure to check out “Piano & A Microphone (Live in 1983)”, “Purple Rain (Deluxe Edition)”, “Originals” and the forthcoming “1999 (Deluxe Edition).  ALL PREVIOUSLY UNRELEASED ALBUMS.  They’re well worth the time and energy.  Enjoy…

 

 

Butch Ford

Dumbing Down by Butch Ford

Black Boy Graduate

How many of you have heard of the term “Dumbing Down” before?  Well, it’s really a thing and has been for quite some time…especially in the urban (African American) community.  But what does it mean exactly?

Let’s take two kids who have been honor roll students since starting kindergarten.  One male, the other female.  The playing field is level throughout elementary school.  Culturally, both students are admired and respected for being academically gifted.  But somewhere during the middle school years peer pressure becomes prevalent and things begin to change.  But why?

The female student remains highly regarded for continued success in her studies.  While the young man begins to be ridiculed by his male counterparts if he’s perceived as “smart” or gifted.  Why is it not acceptable for our male students to maintain honor roll status?

For some reason, inner city males are not supposed to be intellectual.  And they’re frowned upon if they are.  It’s viewed as being soft or weak in our community.  When and where did this stigma originate?

I know from experience.  I WAS THAT KID.  I was double promoted in elementary and remained an honor roll student until around the 7th grade.  I started being called hurtful and derogatory names.  My solution was to act out while allowing my grades to slip, in order to fit in with the other male students…and to not be singled out.

This behavior and mentality continued throughout my high school years.  I did just enough to skate by…when I was capable of doing and being so much more.  This is called “dumbing down.”  I deliberately underachieved to avoid being bullied and ridiculed.

This continues in our community today.  It’s a major problem among African American males.  But what can we do to prevent it?   We’re too accepting of mediocrity and modicum.  Our male youth deserves better.  There’s more to life than incarceration and an early death.

 

Butch Ford

 

A Musical Journey by Butch Ford

Record Store

 

A Musical Journey by Butch Ford

Let’s have a little fun with today’s topic.  So, join me on a musical journey that spans the better part of three decades.

I touched down in the dead of winter during the fourth quarter of the 1960’s in Detroit, Michigan…post-riot.  Aretha was already “The Queen” around these parts.  The Motown Sound was at its pinnacle. The shiny suits, elegant sequined dresses and meticulous choreography made famous by the Temps, Tops, Supremes & Marvelettes were slowly making way for the more social and politically charged content of “Hitsville” heavyweights Marvin and Stevie.  Black Power was the epicenter.  I have fond memories of my grandparents telling me about the unity and pride displayed by our people during this era as the decade was ending.   Profound!!!

In addition to Black Power, the sound of the early 70’s was about finding and losing love.  There was a mesh of Blue-Eyed Soul combined with down home Rhythm & Blues.  The playlist of AM radio stations enveloped this vast collection of songs.  I don’t recall “all black” radio coming into existence for several more years. You’d hear The Bee Gees, Doobie Brothers & The Average White Band, and a super talented, soulful Caucasian duo out of Philly, played in succession along with Isaac Hayes, Barry White, and those five talented brothers from Gary, Indiana with the dynamic young lead singer.  The daughter of the great Nat King Cole had also made her grand appearance in the spotlight.  Musical Genius Curtis Mayfield had lent his talents to Hollywood for several projects in black cinema Powerhouse groups such as:  The Stylistics, Chi-Lites, Spinners and Dells dazzled audiences far and wide with their quality distinct vocal abilities.

The mid to late 70’s boasted extreme sex appeal, while introducing the masses to The P-Funk and a totally new sound called Disco.  We were captivated by the spirituality of Earth Wind & Fire, intrigued by the tight “pocket” of Chic and utterly blown away by the sounds of Cameo, The Brothers Johnson, Bootsy Collins & Parliament Funkadelic…just to name a few.  Peabo & Teddy P. revolutionized a whole different type of party with the red lights in the basement. Right ladies???  While Gladys & The Pips, The Isleys, Whispers, O’Jays, Commodores and LTD were in heavy rotation in my household. Especially on Saturday mornings during my family’s scheduled housecleaning.

Just down the road, in Ohio there was a Funk Revolution happening with the likes of Zapp, Slave, Lakeside, The Dazz Band and some Players named after the state in which they all originated. While on the local scene The Dramatics, Enchantment, The Jones Girls, Michael Henderson, Chapter 8 and the Floaters were all creating a buzz around town.  And I’d be remised if I failed to mention the diminutive blond from California with the big powerful voice…who everyone thought was black, and her musical mentor out of Buffalo, N.Y. who was more aptly known to tie masses as “Slick” Rick James.

The 80’s saw Michael J. moonwalk his way to the top of the charts, witnessed The Purple Army (featuring The Time, The Revolution, Andre Simone, Vanity 6, Sheila E., Jesse Johnson & Alexander O’Neal) led by “His Purple Badness”  Prince, as he changed the game musically with his infectious Minneapolis Sound. And the incomparable Mr. Vandross crooned his way into our hearts…proving love is eternal.

There was a brief British invasion mid-decade that showcased a plethora of talented acts across “the pond.”  And this was followed by a whirlwind phenomenon that nobody saw coming (but we’ll get to that momentarily). Michael’s baby sister and Whitney were about to embark on historical record setting crossover careers.  Legends like Chaka Khan, Frankie B, Ms. Patti, Sade and Uncle Charlie and his band from Oklahoma were in full stride.  Stephanie, Evelyn and Anita were sangin their butts off as well and were no slouches when it came to great music.  The R&B genre was thriving and in great hands.

Oh…but something epic, something ground-breaking was brewing in New York. There was a new form of musical expression know as Rap.  Rappers or MC’s would rhyme and wordplay in a poetic, rhythmic cadence over dope beats.  Early incarnations were simply designed to rock the party.  Kurtis Blow, The Sugarhill Gang, Grand Master Flash & The Furious Five feat. Melle Mel & Run-DMC were the early pioneers of this new Hip-Hop Movement.

Subsequently, the sound of R&B changed drastically, due to rap music becoming more mainstream. Production teams like Jimmy Jam & Terry Lewis and LA Reid & Babyface, along with New Jack Swing creator and innovator Teddy Riley manufactured hits at a prolific pace, rounding out the 80’s, while fusing these two genres.  It was a match made in heaven. New Edition, Bobby Brown, Keith Sweat, Al B. Sure, Guy, Karyn White, Cherrelle and After 7 were all beneficiaries of this new sound.

The early 90’s brought about a renaissance of the singing group.  Boyz II Men, Jodeci, The Tony’s, TLC, EnVogue, SWV, BBD, Troop, and Hi-Five led the way.  While later in the decade Jagged Edge, 112, Destiny’s Child, 702, and Blackstreet made their marks, respectively.  Hit making juggernauts R. Kelly, Mary J. Blige and Gerald Levert were superstars in the making who laid the musical blueprint for years to come.

There were several other artists too numerous to mention.  It just wasn’t possible to list everyone.  I meant no disrespect by omitting anyone.  I simply wanted to spotlight those who were significant in the near 40-year soundtrack of my life.  The “Godfather” James Brown had a huge stamp on all of this.  He was just a little bit before my time…and I didn’t have the accounts or recollection of him personally to share his accomplishments.  But he’s still quite influential in Hip Hop and R&B music today.

In conclusion…artists such as Bobby Womack, Switch (The Debarge Family), Angela Winbush, DJ Quik, Dr. Dre, Aaliyah and The Body Sisters (out of Detroit) were impactful throughout “My Musical Journey” and had to be mentioned. It’s been an incredible ride and I can’t wait to see what the future has in store musically and culturally.

Thanks for Riding Along,

 

Butch Ford

 

See the Other Side by Butch Ford

Thoughtful man looking out the window in bedroom at home

See the Other Side by Butch Ford

During my professional career in Human Services…I’ve had the distinct honor of working in the inner-city Public Schools System, the Clinical Psychiatric Field and in Juvenile Detention.  I was blessed to have met some incredible people throughout my journey.  In each of those positions, I encountered individuals dealing with extreme challenges.  A lot of them beyond our comprehension.  Most of them precipitated by social, emotional, and/or economic conditions.  Often…to no fault of their own.  They were commonly judged unfairly and, in most cases, categorized by what was only visible to the naked eye.  All they truly desired was someone to care, who was willing to put forth the effort to help them work through their obstacles.  Or someone to listen to their story.  Sadly, most of the clients couldn’t see beyond their current circumstance.

I always made a point to talk to them regularly, taking the necessary time to familiarize myself with them as well as their cases…to be a support system.  I was always professional; I spoke to them respectfully and I treated them with dignity and class…looking beyond their diagnosis or their charges.  These core values proved to be extremely helpful and were vital in establishing a healthy rapport needed to build trust with the clients.  It was amazing to see how barriers would crumble as we got to the root of several of their issues.

One strategy that I found beneficial was my suggestion for the clients to travel and visit different cities, states or even countries.  My belief was…a change of scenery could potentially lead to a change of lifestyle, a difference of philosophy or perhaps a totally new mindset altogether.  In life, people take on the qualities and mentality of what’s familiar to them or what’s common in their natural habitat.  And as humans we adapt to these surroundings.  The adage is…If you want a different outcome, you must make the necessary changes that are required.

Let Today Be The Start Of Something New. Inspiring Creative Motivation Quote Poster Template. Vector Typography

During my time as a civil servant, I would recommend to the clients that they try to see the other side.  Meaning…see how people in other areas geographically, live differently.  I would encourage them to read and do research of other cultures.  This was a hit with the clients, because their faces would light up with anticipation.  For this was unfathomable to many of them.  The idea of new beginnings never occurred to them.  I think this applies for everyone.  There is more to life than what you presently know.  Everyone should take the time to see the other side.  It could be life changing.  I wonder how many will attempt to try something new.

 

Butch Ford