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We’re already over a week into this new year and I would hate for any more time to pass without acknowledging, or resolving to keep certain folks and events in our hearts and minds from the year 2010. Time can march on coldly, so it’s up to us to keep our attention focused on a number of important things that happened in 2010

So let’s begin with a resolution to keep the Queen of Soul in our thoughts and prayers. I know she doesn’t like people prying into her health issues but we certainly love and care about American singing icon, Aretha Franklin, who was reportedly diagnosed with pancreatic cancer late last year.

Even the term, icon, doesn’t do her justice. In 1968, she became only the second African-American woman to appear on the cover of Time magazine; in 1987, she became the first woman to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame; in 2005, she was awarded The Presidential Medal of Freedom; and in 2008, Franklin was named by Rolling Stone as the No. 1 all-time best singer by music industry insiders.

She performed at the inauguration ceremonies of both Presidents Clinton and Obama and she has won 18 Grammy Awards while holding the record for most Best Female R&B Vocal Performances with 11. Franklin also played an active role in both the civil rights and black power movements of the 60s and 70s.

She is truly a queen.

And speaking of incredibly gifted American singers, I’ll offer a resolution to keep the music and the memory of the incomparable Lady T alive in 2011.

I’m sure that all of us were shocked and saddened by the passing of talented songbird, Teena Marie, in the last week of 2010. Also known as the Ivory Queen of Soul, Marie was beloved by our community for her soulful voice and incredible range. She could simultaneously raise the roof and bring down the house with one of her jazz-inspired ballads or her up-tempo songs. She was a musical phenomenon who will be missed.

Then, there’s another person we shouldn’t forget about in 2011 who ran into a bit of legal troubles last year and is currently spending some time in the Big House.  That’s right, Wesley Snipes.

Now I know some of you may not be feeling me on this one, but I want you to consider something. Snipes was sent to jail for three years for a misdemeanor.

Forget what you heard, he was not put in jail for tax evasion as some have reported, but for ‘failure to file,’ which is a misdemeanor. His three year sentence is unprecedented because he not only has since paid the government what he owed, but also because most folks don’t go to jail at all for such misdemeanors.

The old phrase comes to mind “justice” or “Just-us.”

This next one is a quickie. And since he’s a bit immature, we need to come together as a community and make his 2011 Resolution for him.

I, Chris Brown, resolve to not offend anyone for an entire year.

Let’s keep it movin…

On a very serious note, in 2011, we really need to keep the family of Frederick Jermaine Carter in our minds and prayers. Carter was the 26-year-old black man found hanged from an oak tree in Greenwood, Mississippi in December of 2010 in what has been ruled a suicide. The local NAACP and other civil rights groups have since challenged that ruling and are pushing for further investigation into this tragedy.

There are a lot of questions still surrounding the case. First question: what black person hangs himself from a tree? Even suicidal black folk are not down with lynching.

Second question: what’s up with Greenwood, Mississippi?

Emmet Till was murdered in that area in 1955 and his mutilated 14-year-old body was found after it was tossed into the nearby Tallahatchie River.  Greenwood is also the town in which Byron De La Beckwith, the convicted murderer of civil rights activist, Medgar Evers, was raised.

Doesn’t seem like a warm and fuzzy place for black folk.

So let’s resolve to keep the family of Frederick Jermaine Carter, the health of a queen, the memory of a songstress, and the plight of a famous actor in our prayers and thoughts in 2011.

Stephanie Robinson is President and CEO of The Jamestown Project, a national think tank focused on democracy. She is an author, a Lecturer on Law at the Harvard Law School and former Chief Counsel to the late Senator Edward M. Kennedy. Stephanie reaches 8 to 10 million listeners each week as political commentator for the popular radio venue, The Tom Joyner Morning Show.  Visit her online at


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