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Alice Singleton Headshot

Dear Jesse, Thanks for the Ride. Here's Where You Get Off.

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We got Barack, we got David Banners and Young Jeezys.
"We're the voice now. It's no more Jesse. Sorry. Goodbye. You ain't helping nobody in the 'hood. That's the bottom line. Goodbye, Jesse. Bye!

- NAS, Rap Artist

Dear Jesse,

Well, I saw this coming. The official end of your relevance.

The same week that rapper Nas and your black conservative nemesis, Larry Elder, merge into intra-racial harmony on your irrelevance to the "black community." The train pulled into the "old coot" station, and you hopped on. Rev. Al, always viewed as a low rent version and copycat artist to your career, made hay with your new "relic" status by praising Obama's Father's Day comments and his commitment to the well being of the 'hood.

I could have told you of your coming nuclear self-implosion back in '91. There you were, on MTV with Luther Campbell, the Stone Age rap/porn entrepreneur and leader of Two Live Crew. You were right by his side, squeezing in for screen time as the semi-nude rump shakers bounced up the background to "Me So Horny." You proclaimed for the cameras you were "needed" at the outdoors strip show to support "first amendment rights, the right to free speech." Luther was another strong black man threatened with imprisonment for speaking truth-to-power.

Uh huh.

I racked my brain for years -- how could a man called by God could hang out with men who took glee and profit exploiting women? Black women. Yes Jesse, Jesus hung out with thieves, whores and murderers. But Jesus didn't have video hoes holding up the background, or an office issuing press releases on his up-to-the-minute comings and goings.

You had to move on from Chicago in '83. Our first black mayor, Harold Washington, wasn't Mr. Subtlety where you were concerned. Harold was "in", and you found yourself suddenly "out" -- like bell-bottoms. Harold made no place for you officially or otherwise in his administration. The local press took the hint, and when they wanted a black man's opinion, they'd head over to the Mayor's office. So you went "global", first putting the Reaganites on notice by heading to the Mid-East and securing the release of a black Navy pilot held by Syria. Then, you ran for president. You were the darling of the new progressive movement. You sat at the boardroom tables of Fortune 500 companies, forcing them to compensate your people (though I never received my check, thank you very much). You organized marches and marched along powerfully troubled men, including Ken Lay and Bill Clinton. You were a fixture at every cause celebrè, until you became The Cause Celebrè. For all the criticism and name-calling -- "poverty pimp," "race-baiter," "pulpit hustler" -- you pushed on, all of your agendas drum-tight. Personal flaws be damned, you seemed unstoppable -- at least by outside instigators.

But you cursed your good fortune, balled up your luck and threw it to the wind. Personal envy and professional greed left you with a nasty case of agita, and you gave up a legacy-ending burp on Fox News. You channeled a Sopranos episode. "Silvio, get the ball cutter!" I'm being pushed off the stage I built and I can't take it no more. Instead of Obama's, it was your nuts that you cut off. You even chipped in for the silver platter.

Now you've gone and relegated yourself to the civil rights kiddy table, alongside BET's Robert Johnson and Andrew Young, back-biting old men in search of that mythical cultural Viagra to make them as relevant with "our" people as they used to be.

The movement was never about the "leaders." You were one many doormen, the highest honor to be had. If the journey was/is to deliver our people to the promised land, there can be no stars. The Movement thrives if each of us opens a door to let the others in. Then we politely step aside to assume our place in history. The battleground is different, with no place for those already struck in past stone. There can be no deference to living monuments, Jesse.

Next time you find yourself at a beach party or legal defense fund dinner for some gangsta rapper, perhaps you should have reminded yourself of the words of your generation's rapper, James Brown. "Open the door, I'll walk through it myself." Thanks for the ride, Jesse. We'll get "there" from "here."

All the best,