Tears For Sam Cooke

Vol. 1, No. 4, January 26th, 2021

Over the weekend, my wife and I finally finished One Night In Miami. I specifically use the words finally finished, because the Arehs have a tendency to start a film and an hour into it fall asleep or engage in other activities. No fault of the movies themselves, but sometimes you have to seize the moment for either sleep or sex. I don’t recall what we chose that night, but I can definitely say I enjoyed either option. After watching the Regina King directed film, I left having more questions than answers. [The next few sentences are spoilers.] Why did Cassius Clay (Muhammad Ali) still pursue the Nation of Islam after Malcom X revealed to the group that he was leaving? Why was Jim Brown so embarrassed for the brothers to know he was leaving football for acting? Finally, was Sam Cooke as self-absorbed as the film portrayed him as?

Throughout One Night In Miami, the four main characters ponder over the question of black celebrities’ responsibilities to the Civil Rights movement. Malcolm urges the group to use their talents to bring awareness to the plight of Black Americans and Sam feels business success is the path to acknowledged equity. Neither solution is wrong, we all have different roads to freedom. The film is heavy on dialogue with some impassioned discussions sprinkled in that take creative liberty in what truly may have been said in that hotel room on February 25th, 1964. The debates between Malcolm X and Sam Cooke were all too familiar to me, in the sense that my friends and I would have similar spirited conversations. The goal of these arguments being two-fold: first, to get your point across and second, holding your brother accountable for his actions. Or in the case of Sam, his perceived inaction of using his songwriting ability to pen something for the movement.

One Night In Miami painted a picture of Sam as someone solely focused on the economic betterment of himself primarily and black people secondary. It portrayed Sam as a man that was solely concerned with white people liking him and less interested with the plight of his people. We know films sometimes will fictionalize people’s lives in order to dramatize the plot to move it forward. As amazing as the film was, there seemed to be some creative liberty with Sam’s character. To fulfill our curiosity on Sam’s life and what he truly stood for, my wife and I found a documentary on him immediately after watching the movie.

ReMastered: The Two Killings of Sam Cooke is a Netflix documentary that peels back the many layers of Sam. After watching it with my wife, I was overcome with emotion and stricken with questions. There are plenty of tears to go around for the man that was Sam Cooke, but there are more for the legacy that should have been as well. So much of what made Sam who he was and what he truly stood for was omitted from One Night In Miami. Understandably, filmmakers have limited time to tell a story while keeping the audience's attention. There is much needed nuance about Sam that was revealed in the documentary that would have been great to explore in his movie adaptation. Based on documented instances and verified by the people who knew him best, Sam was very outspoken on his views of civil rights. He studied African history, began to wear his hair naturally, and empowered those around him to never treat themselves like second class citizens. Additionally, Sam along with fellow musician J.W. Alexander started a record label, publishing imprint, and management firm. Sam had ambitious ideas of merging his label with other successful black artists at the time so they wouldn’t be beholden to the record labels that often exploited their black talent. As you could imagine, this ruffled feathers not only in the entertainment industry, but allegedly with organized crime who many felt at the time were covertly bankrolling record companies.

I’ve come to learn that Sam was inspired by the Nation of Islam, particularly with their message of self-empowerment. On the night of his death, detectives working the case found a copy of Muhammad Speaks, the official newspaper of the Nation of Islam from 1960 to 1975 in Sam’s car. Sam Cooke died at the very young age of 33 under very questionable circumstances. There are several theories floating around on why Sam was killed, besides what was produced in the Los Angeles Police Department’s “investigation”. Sam lived his life on his own terms and fought for his people similarly. We're all searching for freedom in our own individual ways. One brother’s method may differ from the next brother's, but we all (at least the majority of us) have the same end goal. That aim is the right to determine our own futures in the way we see fit.


Business Moves

Jay Z establishes a $10 million fund to invest in minority-owned cannabis companies

Hip hop legend and business magnate, Shawn “Jay Z” Carter has not only partnered to form the largest cannabis company in the U.S., but has now created a $10 million fund that will invest in minority-owned cannabis companies. The fund will also be used to prompt diversity initiatives in the cannabis industry.

Sports

Civil rights pioneer and MLB Hall of Fame player, Hank Aaron dies

Henry “Hank” Aaron passed away on Friday, January 22nd in his sleep, according to his daughter. Hank Aaron was not only known for breaking Major League Baseball’s home run record at the time, but an individual known for championing civil rights. Regarded as one of the greatest baseball players of all time, Aaron leaves a lasting legacy.

Patrick Mahomes going to back to back Super Bowls

There’s been so few Black quarterbacks in the National Football League to play in the Super Bowl and even fewer (three) to actually win the big game. After the Kansas City Chiefs defeat of the Buffalo Bills in the AFC Championship, Mahomes will be heading to the Super Bowl again after just winning it last season. Best of luck to him and his teammates.

Politics

First Black person sworn in as U.S. Secretary of Defense

Lloyd Austin, a retired four-star general, became the first African American defense secretary on Friday, January 22nd. Austin was confirmed by the U.S. Senate in a 93-to-2 vote. Austin will focus on the military’s involvement with coronavirus vaccine deployment, China, and rooting out extremism within the ranks of the armed forces.

What I’m Listening To

This week I’m taking it back to this past summer and want to highlight Nas’ album, King’s Disease. Not just one of my top rap albums of 2020, but one of my overall favorite albums from last year, King’s Disease stands out due to production solely handled by HIT-BOY. The album is short, with just twelve songs and a bonus, but is weighty with potent lyrics and Nas’ introspection. The entire album shines, but the following are my choice songs: “Car #85”, “Til The War Is Won”, “All Bad”, and “The Cure”.

Notables

According to the CDC, the third leading cause of death in 2018 for black males between the ages of 15 and 34 was suicide. Now more than ever, it’s important for us to make our mental health a priority. 


“I believe in the brotherhood of man, all men, but I don’t believe in brotherhood with anybody who doesn’t want brotherhood with me. I believe in treating people right, but I’m not going to waste my time trying to treat somebody right who doesn’t know how to return the treatment.” - el-Hajj Malik el-Shabazz (Malcolm X)