Robin Williams: Reflecting on the Man and His Comedy

By: Kevin Brooks, PhDrobin williams


On August 11, 2014, Robin Williams, the Oscar-winning actor, was found dead in his California home. The news of Williams’s death was a bombshell. Even more shocking was that authorities said he committed suicide. It has been reported that he wrestled with depression over the years and was recently diagnosed with early stages of Parkinson’s disease. Considering Williams built his career on making people laugh with his uproarious comedy and sidesplitting humor, the thought of one of Hollywood’s most innovative, creative, and fascinating actors and comedians taking his own life is perplexing. After learning about Williams’s apparent suicide, I took a moment to mourn and reflect. My thoughts on his comedic genius led me to think about his predecessors and contemporaries who preceded him in death, such as Redd Foxx, Richard Pryor, George Carlin, Robin Harris, and John Ritter, to name only a few. Each of their deaths resulted in sudden distress, but nothing like the way I felt when Pryor (my favorite comedian) passed away. Later that evening, I went home, turned on the television, and, interestingly, the program airing at that instance was a documentary on Pryor, titled Richard Pryor: Omit the Logic, in which Williams was featured, providing color commentary on Pryor’s career.

Williams, who also starred on NBC’s The Richard Pryor Show, provided expert analysis on Pryor’s career, demonstrating his kindness, compassion, and consideration of others as well as his profession. Scores of family members, friends, and fellow entertainers from Jimmy Fallon and Conan O’Brian, to Chris Rock and Wayne Brady, to Billy Crystal and Whoopi Goldberg paid tribute in their own ways, both with and without words, describing Williams as a warm, gentle, and remarkable human being.

Williams got his major break on the television sitcom Happy Days, where he starred in a 1978 episode playing the alien Mork from Ork. His uncanny ability to transform from character to character using bizarre improvisations, including impersonations and physical comedy, heightened his popularity and led to a co-starring role in his own sitcom, Mork & Mindy (1978–1982). The show achieved instant success in its first season, but ironically began to decline by the second season, as Mork became more human. The show was canceled two years later.

Although I never met Robin Williams personally, I liked him because he provided joy and cheerfulness through his boisterous comedy, which was a familiar presence in our household when I was a kid. Each week we would watch Mork & Mindy and laugh uncontrollably at his antics. Williams played a variety of roles in television, film, and theater. However, he will always be remembered for making us laugh and cry with his sharp wit and rib-tickling comedy. We commemorate his life and his homegoing.

Na Nu Na Nu!


Leadership, Not Speeches Is Required From President Obama

By: Charles E. Campbell, MSW, CEO, Entrepreneur

I think that instead of supplying federal funding for military-style weapons and vehicles, the Obama administration should sign an Executive Order mandating funding that requires: 1) the use of a camera in all police patrol cruisers, 2) the use of Google glasses by all officers, 3) the use of cameras on the barrel of police weapons that are activated and record when the weapon is horizontal or has pressure around the handle, 4) the use of police bullet-proof shields, 5) that all law enforcement officers not fire their weapon unless they are fired upon first, and 6) that all video involving a police shooting be made available online to the public within five days of a shooting involving the death of a suspect or bystander. Federal policies like these can make more of a difference than any protest, march, or political speech. These are the solutions for which strong Black leadership with the moral courage to lead should advocate. Judge them by their behavior or lack thereof to solve our problems.

I was glad to see that President Obama spoke out against the murder of Michael Brown, who was unarmed when he was killed by a White police officer in Ferguson, Missouri. In the past, his lack of concern about what is happening to Black African Americans has emboldened many White law enforcement officers to take the lives of and abuse Black African American men, women, boys, and girls. Under President Obama’s leadership, the number of Black African Americans incarcerated has significantly increased, which is a direct result of his failed trickle-down economic development and “Pay-to-Play” stimulus allocation polices that reward campaign contributors like Solyndra Solar.

Juries have gotten the message that the Black community will not tolerate another unjust verdict as in the Trayvon Martin murder case. Now a similar message must be sent to unlawful, unethical, and dangerous law enforcement officers so that they understand that “It’s no longer open season on Black African Americans in similar counties and cities.”

When Writing and Protest is Not Enough

By: Judson L. Jeffries, PhD


What can I say about the recent shooting of a teenager in Ferguson, Missouri, that hasn’t already been said? Over the course of my academic career I have published numerous journal articles as well as a book on the subject of police-community relations, namely police use of extra-legal force against people of color. When Demetrius DuBose, formerly of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, was killed in 1999 by police officers in San Diego I wrote about it; when Abner Louima and Amadou Diallo were sodomized and killed, respectively, by members of the NYPD I wrote about it. When young men were shot down in the streets of South Central LA in the 1990s while I was a graduate student at USC, I protested.

Years ago my colleague at Medgar Evers College, Dr. Carlyle V. Thompson, was so put-off by the sadistic manhandling of Abner Louima that he was prompted to write an article titled, “White Police Penetrating, Probing, and Playing in the Black Man’s Ass.”

As someone who was reared in a military/law enforcement family, I have a deep appreciation for the work that police officers do on a daily basis. In some respects it can be a thankless job. One could, however, easily make the argument that no state agent does, on average, more good on a day-to-day basis than America’s police officers. For example, if I had a dollar for every time I saw a police officer helping some lady change a flat tire on a busy highway, I’d have a big fat piggy bank. And while we often only hear about police work when the issue revolves around excessive force, the fact of the matter is that very few officers across the country engage in that type of cowardice. As someone who has an intimate knowledge of the profession, I am aware that most officers enter the field because they want to make a difference. Many are just hard working blokes trying to etch out a living and provide for their families.

While this may be hard to believe, incidents involving excessive force are typically committed by the same _ _ _holes. For example, in a department of 100 officers there may be one or two who exhibit a proclivity for this type of criminality. Most often the officers are white, but not always. On occasion, when in the company of a white officer, an overzealous African American officer might engage in extra-legal force against a black male in an effort to win his colleague’s approval. In the event these bad apples are allowed to enjoy a career of twenty years or more, what they will undoubtedly leave behind is a file as thick as a small-town telephone book comprised of complaints lodged by various motorists and pedestrians.

It has been years, I mean years, since I’ve participated in a protest against police use of excessive force and two years since I have produced a scholarly piece on the subject of excessive force against Black males. Why, because I’ve no more protest in me where this matter is concerned. I’ve run out of words to describe my contempt for those miscreants who dishonor police departments everywhere with their rogue ways.

Other than poverty and ignorance, I can think of no greater threat to American democracy than to allow these evil-doers to injure, maim, and kill residents with impunity. Neither words nor protest will sufficiently rid society of these perverts nor will five men in ski masks unskilled in the art of warfare. Nope, it’s gonna take way more than that.