What should I be doing instead of this?

Get Back

By Kathy Y. Wilson · April 18th, 2002 · Your Negro Tour Guide
"What have you bought into/
How much will it cost to buy you out?"

-- Poet Saul Williams

Back in the day, I used to like Alicia Reece. I voted for the vice mayor. Twice.

Be clear that I empathize with that age-old pull of being black in a hard place. Negroes expect one thing, while everyone else expects something else. When you're black in a hard place, you can never be good enough, do enough good, be black enough or tame your blackness into its safer, older cousin, the Non-Offensive Negro.

It sucks, really. It's a trap, and no Negro should believe the hype.

That doesn't mean there's room for an absence of integrity. More on that later. Now for the roller coaster.

I forgave Reece her unprofessional transgressions when she scarfed a bag of cheese puffs during our first meeting. While I was reporting the cover story "Ware-ing Thin" (see issue of Sept. 2-8, 1999) about the sorry state of local black media, I interviewed Reece at WCIN (1480 AM), where she was executive producer of 1480 Talk with Lincoln Ware.

I got over being offended by her orange fingertips. I stopped obsessing over whether she'd have done that had I been a white reporter in her office. Maybe. Who knows?

I respected Reece for attacking the vote in an old-school, grassroots style during her 1999 campaign for her first term on Cincinnati City Council. I even admired her for the way she worked her daddy Steve's connects like those white prep boys who cash in their daddy's blue blood favor chips.

Why the hell not? Since when has privilege been exclusively a birthright of the majority?

"You go, girl!" fell out of my mouth and, horrified, I'd look around to see who said it.

That soon turned into "Oh, gawd" whenever I read or heard about deals Reece brokered in her father's name, like the one with the Westin Hotel wherein anyone using Steve's Bond Hill meeting space Integrity Hall receives hotel discounts. That mires her objections to the boycott in a self-serving agenda. Suddenly, the name "Integrity Hall" is fraught with irony.

Negresses publicly scrutinizing one another puts us on shaky ground. But drama aside, Reece owes us.

She owes us more than her cross-promotional tactics of pushing her father's business interests. It's starting to smell like a conflict of interest. I'd rather they play out their Joe and LaToya Jackson scenario on their own time.

What Reece really owes us is the firebrand persona that engaged us in the first place.

Before she joined council, Reece called for a U.S. Department of Justice investigation into the police shooting of Michael Carpenter, even writing a letter to former Attorney General Janet Reno. This is the same Reece who, at the risk of alienating herself from council's other Negroes, brazenly and rightfully criticized the spending of the Greater Cincinnati African American Chamber of Commerce.

Then, as a muzzling tactic, Mayor Charlie Luken appointed her vice mayor.

I know, I know. Black folks like their public Negroes crusading. I'll cop to that.

But at some point in Reece's crusade, her Willona Woods Good Times feistiness morphed into the narcissism of Dynasty's Dominique Deveraux. It's the arrogance. It's also the oratio politicus -- the political speak -- the talking in circles and all the time landing back on herself.

After the April 12 signing of the collaborative agreement, when BET's Ed Gordon asked her about resolution, reparations and riots, Reece blathered on about how well she's done her job. I thought the point of politics wasn't what you did but what you'll do.

It's not just me who's noticed Reece should be charged with LWI -- Leading While Intoxicated (with Power). I heard she was booed and heckled when she took the microphone at the recent anniversary party of the demigods at WIZF (100.9 FM). A cash bar will bring out the worst in some Negroes.

On April 7, a group of us leftover from the March for Justice ended up on Republic Street. Several 40ish black women held forth, clutching large signs.

I yelled for a CityBeat photographer to get a shot of one of the signs. Later the photographer, a black man, passed the photo to me.

"I've been thinking about a column about Alicia, and this is the headline," I told him, pointing to the sign in the picture.

"Don't put that in the paper," he said.

Out of deference to him and to keep this from teetering further into a niggerbitchfit, I'll say only that the sign contained the words "massa," "mouth" and "slave." You connect the dots.

I'll put it more nicely: Reece is losing her grip on some much-needed street credentials. She need only get back to where she once belonged.

Hear Kathy's commentaries on National Public Radio's All Things Considered.


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