Volume 39: A Man With Legendary Status

“I don’t know the key to success, but the key to failure is trying to please everybody.”
-Bill Cosby

            This is a direct quote from one of the nation’s most successful African Americans and more importantly, one of the nation’s biggest Philanthropists. Bill Cosby has done more for underprivileged people than many of us could ever dream of. Even with his various contributions, Bill Cosby had come under scrutiny in recent times with the African American community, with many considering him an “Uncle Tom” and a “sellout” to his race because of controversial remarks made during several speeches in his hometown of Philadelphia. During these speeches, he spoke out about illegal drugs, teenage pregnancy, high school dropouts, single parenting, vulgarity and Black Entertainment Television and hip hop. He focused on the lower income black families and he bashed the counterproductive black people, “who had forgotten the sacrifices of those in the Civil Rights Movement.”


            Black people didn’t seem to take that very well. Many questioned if Bill Cosby was “out of touch” with the black community and claimed that Bill Cosby was being judgmental and turning his back on the community that made him. What many don’t know is that Bill Cosby is not only from Philadelphia, but also lived in the infamous Richard Island Projects. I agreed with what he said in his speeches and his observations reinforced what many already know-The Truth Hurts! I believe that many were embarrassed by Cosby’s honesty in entailing what we already knew. No one could formulate a rebuttal for what Bill Cosby was saying. Here is a man that overcame the same struggle as everyone else and gave away millions of dollars to noble causes and worthy children who made education a priority. I had the privilege to be in attendance to one of his speeches a few years ago in New Jersey and left truly inspired, holding on to Cosby’s every word.

            That is why I was extremely pleased when I saw a note on Cheyney University’s facebook page about Bill Cosby coming to the very HBCU that I received my education from; America’s oldest historically black institution of higher learning, Founded in 1837. I have had a serious love/hate relationship with that school, however Cheyney is family…and no one ever wants anyone else to talk negatively about their family…no matter how true some things may be or how dysfunctional a family may appear. I figured the great Bill Cosby coming to Cheyney could only produce wonderful things and figured to be a once in a lifetime opportunity for students to actually see and meet him. I read the note on the facebook page:


We will have a brief visit of Dr. Bill Cosby on Monday morning. Dr. Cosby has requested that we do not ask for autographs, pictures, or rush upon him for conversations. There are a small group of invited people—to honor his wishes.

As you also know, we are in the process of developing a community of interest for Cheyney University that will help us develop our centers of excellence, respond to the needs of the region, and increase the college-going rate. Thus, it is my hope that the visit with Dr. Cosby goes well, and that we develop a long-term relationship with him and others.

Let us show him our Cheyney Pride!

Thank you.

President Howard-Vital

            I was confused. I couldn’t understand how a legendary figure from such humble beginnings that had amassed such colossal success would request that from a small campus of college students, who would be so enthused by his presence. I couldn’t think of anyone more deserving for a few moments of Cosby’s time than the college students of Cheyney University, who after all are enrolled in school to receive education-the very same education that only 10% of Americans attempt to receive…and an even smaller percentage actually attain. I had to read the letter again for clarity: “do not ask for autographs, pictures, or rush upon him for conversation.”

Each word had the impact of a kick in the groin from Serena Williams. I couldn’t envision Bill Cosby requesting that. Not the same Bill Cosby that donated $20 million dollars to Spellman College years ago, or was the Activist, or purchased computers and gave scholarships to underprivileged kids in Philly. He’s the same man who garnered the nickname of “America’s Dad” and has the Doctorate of Education. I figured that the only people who made those requests were the administration at Cheyney…but why?

            Deeply annoyed, but still perplexed…I asked a few alumni what they thought of the note on facebook and asked them to simply tell me If I’m Buggin’?
They saw things the exact same way I did. But who’s idea was it? If it was in fact Bill Cosby’s idea to be left alone…were the people who said that Cosby was “out of touch” correct? Or was this a case of a man who just wanted to be a normal citizen for a day and wanted to walk Cheyney’s beautiful campus without being disturbed. I remember when I first came to Cheyney and stood on it’s quadrangle-the Universities most beautiful site to behold. I thought about the obstacles that I overcame to get there and the pressure and honor of being the first in my family to go to college-and I wanted to shed tears. I thought about how slaves weren’t allowed to read and would be killed if caught learning. I thought about the blacks who actually died for people like me to go to schools that costs thousands of dollars a year…and I inhaled deeply…looked around and told God “thank you.”
Perhaps Cosby wanted to do the same…undisturbed and taking in a private moment to thank God.

            Bill Cosby was born in 1937, so that would make him about 72 years old today, compared to my 30 years of life here in earth. At that age, perhaps a man simply wants to be left alone. One of my friends from college referred to him as a “sellout” after reading the note, but I couldn’t bring myself to agree with that. That man has done so much for us and given so much time, it would never be just to discredit his legacy. Many know that he is also a member of Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, like myself. He spoke at a commencement at West Chester University a few years ago and some of my frat brothers initiated our fraternity call to Bill, to have him simply wave and not reciprocate it back. It was totally understood. After all, he was Bill Cosby-he had legendary status and was exempt from the ridicule of childish things. But was Bill Cosby genuinely disinterested in meeting the students of Cheyney University, who would love to be able to achieve a mere fraction of what he’s done? Or were things taken out of proportion? Sometimes it’s not what you say, but how you say it. When the Philadelphia Eagles make an appearance at a school, does the principal request that the students “do not ask for autographs, pictures, or rush upon them for autographs?!?”

            I truly would like to know what you guys think. Am I Crazy’?

“The true hypocrite is the one who ceases to perceive his deception, the one who lies with sincerity” -Andre Gidi

…These Are The Random Thoughts Of Ronald Gray…


Volume 38: Is A Good Man REALLY Hard To Find??

When we’re incomplete, we’re always searching for somebody to complete us. When, after a few years or a few months of a relationship, we find that we’re still unfulfilled, we blame our partners and take up with somebody more promising. This can go on and on and
 on-series polygamy-until we admit that while a partner can add sweet dimensions to our lives, we, each of us, are responsible for our own fulfillment. Nobody else can provide it for us, and to believe otherwise is to delude ourselves dangerously and to program for eventual failure every relationship we enter.”  -Tom Robbins
            Last week, while searching for something of substance to listen to, I came across the topic of discussion on a popular Philadelphia radio talk show. The male host posed a question to the masses-comprised mostly of African American females: “Why is a good man so hard to find?”
I immediately laughed to myself at the thought of some of the responses that would begin to flood the airwaves. I thought about the diverse array of women who would be calling in. Women ranging from the well cultured and highly intelligent, to the ill-tempered sistas, who resort to man-bashing to cope with the aftereffects of years of bad choices & promiscuity. Minutes later I received a phone call from a friend and avid reader of my blog, thegrayareas.com- who happened to be listening in to the talk radio show. She was debating whether to call in herself and give her two cents on the issue. Her story was one that many of us have heard over and over: Educated, hard working sista hurt badly by a man. After years of dealing with the frustration of finding a suitable companion, she is now reduced to the role of The Angry Black Woman-who now believes that all the good men are either taken, dead, gay or in jail. “Well, if he’s in jail…I doubt that he’s a good man,” I quipped.
            She turned serious for a moment. She asked, “Why is it that I can never find the right man? How can I find the right man?” I then told her, “Never worry about finding the right man. Instead, concentrate on becoming the right woman. When you’ve accomplished that…everything else will become inevitably clear.”
We’ve all been there…bitching about not being able to find the right counterpart. In reality, many people complaining about it still aren’t ready to meet their Mister or Misses Right. I asked her if she truly thought that a “good man” is hard to find. She responded with a resounding “Hell Yes.” Then I asked her if she thought I was a good man. She said absolutely. “See how easy that was?” I asked. Sistas often act as though we’re some kind of endangered species, but I believe there are ample amounts of good men and women around us. Sadly, we’re brainwashed by television, relationship gurus, and our single friends who don’t know shit…about what they’re supposed to look like and what they should have. So then she asked me the question that I hate to hear coming: “What is it about me that attracts assholes?”
            See, this is a difficult question, because there are things in us that attract and repel a particular type of person. To the sistas who feel as though they do not attract “good” men, first ask yourself…are you approachable?
Philadelphia is a large city, and large cities are filled with aggressive people. Have you seen that sista who is simply radiant, but has that icy stare and hate filled disposition?
What good man in his right mind feels like breaking out the mental chisel and tearing down that wall? But I’ll tell you who wouldn’t mind dealing with those cat and mouse games. A brotha who has nothing to lose and virtually nothing going for himself will jump at that opportunity. So…enter Shafiq, the 29-year old professional weed dealer with the 7th grade education and 3 neglected children. I realized that men who sistas classify as “losers” are some of the most bold people on the planet. They will approach any and every woman they see. They will get shot down nine hundred and ninety nine times a day, but it’s all about the one woman who says “yes.”
            Once I noticed the patterns of wrong women that were coming into my life, I stopped searching for the right kind of woman and worked on becoming the right kind of man. Before that, I realized that all of the women I dated all had one thing in common. They were all holding onto the pains of past relationships-and many of them had not even had closure with their ex’s. These were women who were months, weeks, even sometimes days removed from relationships that had consumed as much the past six years of their lives, now looking for someone to complete them. It was amazing how every sista I met had just gotten out of a relationship or in some cases were in the process of dating several men at the same time when they met me. Many of today’s “good” brothas weren’t always a hot commodity. Many of us went about our love lives in relative obscurity from the vast majority of women…totally off their radars. But the strangest of things happen when we get older. Our taste in people begins to change, and sistas begin to tire of casual dating and look for men who represent marriage material. I believe that some of my best traits, many of the men from their past lacked. They could not understand that me having qualities that their ex lacked had nothing to do with the things they were lacking in them self. They could have been honest with themselves and adhered to the fact that they weren’t ready for a new relationship, but sometimes it’s our ego that knows that we’re not ready but selfishly will not allow that person to be with someone else who could be tailor made for them.
            And so we allow ourselves to get involved with the wrong people, and it’s doomed from the very beginning. And then those who gave in to their own selfish desires, pose questions like “Why is a good man so hard to find?”
            Someone once told me that Dating should be less about matching outward circumstances than meeting your inner necessity. Perhaps with the last few days of my 20’s winding down I find myself full of thought and reflecting on the various lessons I’ve learned. I write this Random Thought not because I’m some kind of love guru, but because relationships are something that all of us can relate to…something that all of us have experienced. It’s time for many of us to take time out from chasing love and work on ourselves to recognize the patterns going on about us. I challenge all men and women to make strides towards truly understanding yourself and understanding what you want from the opposite sex V.S what you need in order to be happy. What do you guys think?
“Find a guy who calls you beautiful instead of sexy, who calls you back when you hang up on him, who will lie under the stars and listen to your heartbeat, or will stay awake just to watch you sleep…wait for the boy who kisses your forehead, who wants to show you off to the world when you are in sweats, who holds your hand in front of his friends, who thinks you’re just as pretty without makeup on. One who is constantly reminding you of how much he cares and how lucky he is to have you… The one who turns to his friends and says, ‘that’s her.’”  -Unknown
…These Are The Random Thoughts Of Ronald Gray…


Volume 37: Internet Dating 101

“The worst lies are the lies we tell ourselves. We live in denial of what we do, even what we think. We do this because we’re afraid. We fear we will not find love, and when we find it we fear we’ll lose it. We fear that if we do not have love we will be unhappy.”

-Richard Bach

The Internet is perhaps the greatest innovation of the communication field in history. With every great innovation, there will be advantages and disadvantages. The Internet has totally revolutionized the way that men and woman communicate with one another…and broadened the way that some tell lies and deceive the unsuspecting. I recall a time when meeting with someone for a blind date was looked upon as daring; Oftentimes friends would grow increasingly concerned with the potential results of arranged meetings with strangers. Today, many people look towards the Internet to find love-but what are some of the pros and cons of the Internet? What are its flaws? I believe that when statements are made on the web, there are three things to dissect: The actual phrase, what that phrase is designed to mean, and what it actually means.

Facebook is one of the nation’s most popular social networking websites- responsible for connecting and reuniting friends, classmates, and even long lost loves. But in the wrong hands, facebook can be a stalking ground for liars, sociopaths, and people looking to discreetly cheat and prey on those that don’t see the signs. During a recent conversation, a close friend and I laughed about the things that people keep it Less Than Real about: The things they say, what they want you to think, and what they really mean.

One of the most misleading things that I often observe on social networking websites is RELATIONSHIP STATUS. Have you ever had someone openly flirt with you on facebook or myspaceIn A Relationship? You look closer to see a profile picture of them and their significant other…engulfed in a teenage-like public display of affection. Facebook offers the options of stating that you’re in a relationship, single, or my personal favorite…”It’s Complicated.” Let us explore what is said, designed to say, and really mean… and you take a look at their profile and it reads:

IT SAYS: It’s complicated-meaning that something is difficult to analyze or understand; A puzzling complexity.

THEY WANT YOU TO THINK- They are still single and free to mingle. There may be someone on the horizon, someone that they are possibly dating. However, they are still technically single and there is something that obviously is keeping this from being a full-fledged relationship. They want you to feel bold enough to still pursue them.

IT REALLY MEANS- Someone is hittin’ that. They may not be in a relationship…yet…but someone is in the picture. Women often have a tendency to use this status option when they are in a lousy relationship and make pathetic attempts to shop the market before having complete closure in her relationship. Men tend to be slick and simply keep their status “Single”, but sistas will usually have the dignity to tell you that “It’s complicated”, confirming the old adage that men lie the most but women tell the biggest lies.

Internet social networking sites are often overrun with people who use what I call PICTURE TRICKERY-Picture trickery, aka O.A.P (Old Ass Pictures) are when people attempt to mislead you will outdated pictures of themselves that are not consistent to their current stature or glamour shots that mislead the observer. Fellas… how many of you know a sista who gained 10 lbs for every year that you’ve known her, but her profile picture is one taken 8 years ago when she was still a size 6?

It’s a cheap form of deception. And sistas, how many times have you come across the profiles of brothas that boast of their athletic builds and 6’3 frame…only to meet up with a 5’6 balding man who hasn’t been to a gym since High School Phys Ed?

Is it wrong to use an old picture of you in your prime? Even if that picture isn’t consistent with what you look like now? I guess ultimately it depends who you ask. As a photographer, I appreciate the right to see things exactly as they are, but also know firsthand that the camera, with a little photoshop and makeup can fool anyone. I’ve turned a few Chaka Khan’s into Halle Berry’s.

The Internet is like alcohol in some sense. It accentuates what you would do anyway. If you want to be a loner, you can be more alone. If you want to connect, it makes it easier to connect. ~Esther Dyson

There’s a lot one can tell from a simple assortment of pictures. There are some women who post pictures of them selves, but have all of them cropped right outside of their face. No photographs of their bodies. This raises a red flag with the Educated Negro and leads us to believe that this is the cunning work of a woman, who may be insecure about her figure. To those women I offer this advice: Be yourself and embrace what you are.

You’re overweight? Fuck it, I’m skinny. I accept it, and make up for it ten fold with my intellect, charm and boyish good looks. (laughs) Men and Women can smell insecurity. It’s like blood in an ocean of frenzied sharks.

And finally, there are those things that I never want to see ever again on social networking sites. I think I speak for the entire human race when I express my detest for the PARTY PROMOTING ASSHOLE-who rapes my inbox with 10 invites a day to the same stupid parties at the same stupid clubs that no one wants to go to! I swear I want to track them down and do something horrible to them. I can see it now…they awaken in a filthy North Philadelphia basement chained to a contraption that I built. A TV screen across the room turns on and you see that doll from The SAW movies turn towards them.

Doll: (in an eerie SAW voice) “Hello Party Promoting Asshole. I want to play a game. For months now you have sent out thousands of invites to the same stupid clubs that no one wants to go to, and flooded people’s inboxes with your spam. The device on your chest is linked to a remote at a New York Club. If the DJ there plays 3 or more Jay-Z tracks, your head will explode. (If you’ve been to a New York club, you know that’s guaranteed to happen)

You have sixty seconds to send apologies to the inboxes of everyone that you solicit your stupid party’s to. Make your choice…live or die.”

(laughing out loud at my sadistic imagination)

Hooked on Internet? Help is a just a click away. ~Author Unknown

…These Are The Random Thoughts Of Ronald Gray…