When Iyanla Vanzant (born Rhonda Eva Harris) took to the camera and social media challenging different rap artists to appear at a community event in Ferguson, I paused. In her message she spoke of young men attending who were "willing" to die and they needed to hear from the "elders" as she called out Jay-Z, Common, Nas and other rap artists. Elders? She painted a picture as though they were troubled and delinquent needing guidance. I was concerned that this was a distraction showing how 'out of control' the young black men are in the community (although Michael Brown's death is the first homicide this year in Ferguson and he had no criminal record.) If the young men were in some way reaching out for help by talking to the community, they could be helped without cameras or challenges to rap artists.
Let me point out here that I have watched her show and been a fan of Iyanla Vanzant for years. Even after she received criticism following the Fix My Life episode with DMX, I supported her knowing that I was concerned about the way the interview was handled. I gave her the benefit of several doubts. However, I will not support this "special report." Following a tweet posted by Oprah Winfrey Network, there was outrage on twitter calling Aunt Iyanla an opportunist as well as accusing her of 'selling out' her community. According to the tweet, there was a special broadcast of Iyanla Fix My Life scheduled to air Tuesday, 9:00PM Eastern. The tweet included a photo of a meeting with Ferguson Police Chief, Thomas Jackson, and Michael Brown's uncle, Pastor Charles Ewing.
In the photo they are holding one another's hands as they begin this "peace and healing" challenge. By this time, my eyebrows are completely raised, my held tilt and that 'deer in the headlights' look upon my face. Come again? Unless the chief of police is at that table answering several questions that have yet to be answered, I will not watch. Unless he is there explaining the militarization of the police and tear gas on peaceful protesters, I will not watch. Unless he explains why (even today) the incidental report of Michael Brown's death is nearly blank and questionable, I will not watch this "special report." Even with Aunt Iyanla taking to Twitter to asks critics to watch the show before making judgments based on the photo, I will not watch... as I have not watched the news in a couple of days around Ferguson. Why? I recently read an important piece confirming my thoughts by Ryan L. Schuessler, a journalist who spent several days in Ferguson before it became what he described as a "media circus." Therefore, all of this makes me question the motive of our "Beloved" Aunt Iyanla and Mother Oprah's network. Capitalizing from the hurt of a community when it's this fresh is just wrong no matter the network.
When we are courageous enough to look through the lens of what's right and confront it, we will ask the necessary questions. These are questions the community deserve answers to right now. We all know that something went terribly wrong and it has not been brought to light. As a matter of fact, we've heard statements from law enforcement in Ferguson and most don't connect.
- We know that Michael Brown was unarmed and shot at least 6 times.
- We know that the shooter, Darren Wilson, is a policeman and is on paid leave and there have been thousands of dollars raised on his behalf (initially going to an address related to the police union in the town.)
- We know that Michael Brown's body laid in the street uncovered for hours while family members, witnesses and friends stood by in disbelief and pain.
- We know that Michael Brown's body was transported in an unknown automobile.
- We know that less than a week ago, this same police chief released a video to the media against the request of the U.S. Department of Justice.
- We know that the released video was unrelated to the fatal shooting of Michael Brown.
As we see here, there is a greater dynamic that must be addressed and not the community's hurt exploited. Unless Iyanla Vanzant is in a position to make serious changes to the system in that community as well as nationwide (or at least address them), everything else is a distraction. At this point, the City of Ferguson deserves answers, not pacification, not a false sense of healing or to be treated as spectacles for cameras. God heals. And, God is just. In times as these integrity and accountability is necessary, not more cameras; not a false sense of peace and healing. We are looking at more band-aids on cancer. There is still what appears to be obstruction of justice. There are unanswered questions. There is still no peace.
Do you plan to watch? What do you think?
Also, please go to Go Fund Me to give toward The Michael Brown Memorial Fund.