Covid-19 made me go to war with my former idol

A photo of the author, Marcus Dowling, next to an archival photo of Elvis Presley
A photo of the author, Marcus Dowling, next to an archival photo of Elvis Presley
Photo illustration, sources: Marcus Dowling; Michael Ochs Archives/Stringer/Getty Images

Let’s face it: Every Black person has at least one White icon they idolize.

Elvis Aron Presley doesn’t mean shit to most of my Black friends, but he does to me. Instead of falling in love with White rock and “blue-eyed soul” icons like so many of them did, I was excited by the reckless behavior of country music’s White male stars. Elvis’ sound and style perfectly blended equal parts Marlboro Man, Glen Campbell’s Rhinestone Cowboy persona, pop-rock idol, and soul superstar.

When I was a child, my mother told me Elvis was “much less of a redneck asshole than all those other White country crackers.” Ever since he received that backhanded — yet ultra-important — cosign, he’s been my hero. …


Rapper and sex worker King Noire encourages men to redefine sexual social norms

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Photo: Gabe Ginsberg/Getty Images

King Noire has spent two decades rapping, but his Twitter bio also notes his other expertise: “Master Fetish Trainer” and “Renaissance Fornicator.” As booties clap and latex glistens while Cardi B extols the joys of oral sex on “WAP,” there’s never been a better time for a sex worker — let alone one co-signed by the likes of Brand Nubian’s Lord Jamar and Masta Ace — to release a song like “Poly Sutra.” Here, he gets candid about music’s current sexual reawakening and how Black men can advocate for sexual freedom for all Black people.

Before James Brown’s “(Say It Loud) I’m Black, and I’m Proud,” being called Black was an insult for a lot of Black folk. But that song inspired a movement to get people to accept their Blackness. In the same vein, (thanks to) music from Black artists, accepting sexual freedom is becoming essential. …


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Labor Day 2120 saw Vocaloid heroine Hatsune Miku and legendary rap superstar Drake’s virtual avatar Drizzy 2.0 beamed into a VR-enabled crowd at National Mall in the city of Federal Square, Douglass for a unique concert and celebratory event surrounding their ubiquitously popular “MM 2020” single and album collaboration. Impressively, the show counted the currently feuding 65th United States President Belicalis Cephus and business magnate Jeffrey Bezos V (sporting as per usual a seemingly impossibly curved-brimmed black, “JBV” baseball cap with gold Washington Post New Roman-lettering) in attendance. Outside of the Secret Service physically separating both parties and their administrative hangers-on from a near-fracas, the event occurred without violence. …


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Photo via The Intercept

Neither candidate in the race for America’s Presidency has consistently demonstrated the talents to run a democratic society in the throes of a destructive viral pandemic, alongside terrifying fascist and racist unrest, plus a general national existential malaise. Thus, like a high school chemistry student, I’m paralyzed in intrigue by wanting first to see just how far our nation metaphorically centrifuges itself before reaching the peak of resolute separation. …


My grandma made sure I grew up Coach’s way

Coach Horace Broadnax (left) who played basketball for Georgetown meets with his old coach John Thompson before the game.
Coach Horace Broadnax (left) who played basketball for Georgetown meets with his old coach John Thompson before the game.
Coach Horace Broadnax (left) who played basketball for Georgetown meets with his old coach John Thompson before the game in 1997. Photo: Larry Morris/The The Washington Post/Getty Images

For nearly three decades, John Thompson didn’t just coach Georgetown University’s elite men’s basketball team, producing NBA Hall of Famers like Patrick Ewing and Allen Iverson. As a proud Black community elder, he also inspired and encouraged young Black men to expand their spheres of power and influence — and to so defiantly.

Thompson now rests well after 78 years. As a global civil rights icon, who spoke out to protect educational funding for students who needed it most, he extended the standard of Black excellence set by previous Black generations.

Growing up in Washington, D.C., I idolized Thompson and his Georgetown University Hoyas team. The coach’s influence taught me a lesson that still wears well with me today: It’s best to wear Nike Dunks while making “good trouble.” …


You can’t fundraise away years of indifference

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Protestors in New York City on June 4, 2020. Photo: Scott Heins/Getty Images

On the morning of May 29, 2020, I sat, freshly awake in my queen-sized bed as a king-sized headache throbbed between my temples and into my eye sockets. It was a Friday, ostensibly the end of the week, but it was the beginning of a very different kind of week — a seven-day stretch during which America and its stated ideals once again burned into a smoldering heap of ember.

I woke up to Minneapolis on fire due to protests sparked in response to the death of George Floyd. I saw the images of a Minneapolis police station in flames, and I watched an Afro-Latinx CNN reporter get arrested on live television. Witnessing America burn instead of granting me civil rights under equal law is old hat. But ultimately, because of social media’s newfound pervasive influence around the globe, my White friends were now caught up in the orange afterglow for the first time. …


Kanye’s “Beautiful, Dark, and Twisted” single turns a decade old today…

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In one song released a decade ago, Kanye West predicted our current nihilistic and dystopian mess. In 2020, we’re learning about the perils of what happens when one man (or one thing) has all that power. “POWER” led Kanye down the path of a beautiful, dark, twisted, and fantastic relationship with the world, similar to where we’re likely all headed in our post-pandemic society. Thus — as a case study for discovering tools to survive our modern age — it’s an appropriate time to both investigate the components of its creative process, as well as celebrate the song’s greatness. Kanye has emerged, scathed, from a space where the “system [is] broken, the school is closed, the prison’s open, and we ain’t got nothing to lose.” …


Today’s NBA stars are less “like Mike” and more public with their children

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Photo: Eugene Garcia/Getty Images

The current generation of NBA stars boasts dynamic athletes who inspire excellence through impressive talent, just like generations of hoopers before them. But one thing that has changed in the league, and significantly, is the role fatherhood plays. The league today is filled with proud Black fathers, men who don’t hesitate to bring their children into the spotlight with them.

We think of the late Kobe Bryant as Gianna “Mambacita” Bryant’s father, and Steph Curry as scene-stealer Riley’s dad. Dwyane Wade openly expresses love for Zaya at every turn. …


Here lies the confluence of rose wine, the Devil, and Bob Dylan

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In vino veritas.

It was the high alcoholic content of a bag of frozen wine I drank on my 42nd birthday that conflated “Highway 61 Revisited’s” vivid imagery in a uniquely fanciful way that unveiled the future to me. Forty-five years before COVID, Bob Dylan already said that our future was “easily done.” One frosé later, I’m afraid of what I saw will happen when America’s three ruling essences — God, the Devil, and Donald Trump — maneuver us down “Highway 61.”

As a slightly drunken headache began to cloud my mind, I closed my eyes. At that moment, I saw what I feel like was what President Trump’s “invisible enemy.” In my state, though, COVID-19 wasn’t a sea of red, multi-pronged spores. Instead, “the face of needless suffering and death” was the knowingly bemused face of Bob Dylan in 1965. Heartened, upon making this realization, I opened my eyes. I pushed play on the seventh and title track on the album for the second time that day. …

About

Marcus K. Dowling

Creator. Curator. Innovator. Iconoclast.

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