Dwight Hobbes

Recent Articles

Keith decides things could be worse

Right now, Lesli had raised something else to deal with. “Would you like,” he asked, “to tell me about this your-mother’s-not-going-to-like-me business?”

Turned out this was not something to which Lesli had looked forward. Since Mari, her mom, deliberately found something about all her boyfriends to intently dislike. You could count on it. Hence, she simply stopped introducing them to her. There wasn’t any two ways around this, though. Because she’d never been this sold on a guy. And knew there was no point delaying the inevitable. Knew it from the day she’d basically badgered Keith into proposing. That she’d finally landed that ever-elusive great catch, even if it took two years and change to reel him in. “So,” she said, “guess we better bite the bullet, hunh?’

“Well.” Keith sipped at his drink. “What about your dad?”

She shrugged. “Good old easygoing Hank Hall? He tends to stay out of it. Not that he’s whipped or anything. He just doesn’t want to hear her mouth if he doesn’t have to. Let’s say he picks his spots.”

Keith nodded. Sounds like a smart man. It might not hurt to take a page from his book. Continue Reading →

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The tragedy of LaVena Johnson 

On watching The General’s Daughter, a tragically brilliant account of a high-ranking U.S. Army officer’s complicity in silencing his own daughter, herself an army captain, about her sexual assault to further his career, I found it a monstrous, wholly plausible story I had to be grateful was a work of fiction. On learning what in reality happened to Private First Class LaVena Johnson, there wasn’t a damned thing for which to be grateful. You can find the facts in full, appalling detail in LaVena Johnson: The Silent Truth (2010 Midtown Films). This man’s army is, in this day and age, still exactly that — a place of male privilege where the more attractive and independent a woman is, the greater risk she runs that a fellow solider or fellow soldiers will rape her and, quite possibly, murder her to cover their tracks. In 2005, 19-year-old PFC Johnson’ body was discovered on a military base in Balad, Iraq. She’d sustained a broken nose, black eye, loosened teeth, chemical burns on her private parts, and a gunshot wound to the head. U.S. Army’s finding: suicide. In other words, she beat herself half to death, poured acid between her legs, and then blew her brains out. They had the gall to deliver that finding to her family with a straight face. Continue Reading →

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Aspiring educator shares penny-pinching tips

Youth, it’s understandably said, is wasted on the young. Not, though, in the person of Vanessa Young who, at 24, is an excellent exception to the proverbial rule. She’s sensibly down to earth when it comes to the fundamental nuts and bolts of dealing with a dollar, though she feels it wouldn’t hurt to get a bit better at it. Employed this summer at Freedom School in St. Paul (she’s also a professional tutor at East Side Learning Center), Young reflects, “As a servant leader intern, it is terribly hard to budget. Continue Reading →

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Dinner goes sour

Lesli guardedly watched him as Keith coughed on a mouthful of fries, spitting out bits of short-rib. Managed to wash it down, wiping sauce from his face. He looked in his whiskey glass at specks of meat. What good mood he’d held onto since leaving the show, waiting for this shoe to drop, was gone. He sipped water and summoned the waitstaff, beckoning for the first person handy. Thinking, wasn’t this the greatest news? On this enjoyable evening? “Lesli,” he declared, taking the napkin from his lap, dabbing at the tablecloth, “long as I’ve known you, baby, girl, you full of surprises.” She sensed that was not quite meant as a compliment. Continue Reading →

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Meeting the in-laws grows complicated

That evening they stepped out on the town. They’d gone to see that revival of No Place to Be Somebody at the Apollo.  Leafing through the playbill, he’d idly suggested that it was time he met his in-laws-to-be. She had simply nodded, seriously reading hers. Going over the bios. The production was powerful. Greatly deserved the standing ovation it got. After, filing out with the crowd, they’d strolled the block or so over to Sylvia’s to have themselves a good soul food dinner. She laced her arm through his, leaning in, and said, “Honey?”

He never like it when she said that word quite that way. “What is it?”

“Now, baby, don’t be like that.”

Another dead giveaway that he wasn’t going to like whatever it was she’d eventually get around to saying. It was a good thing he was crazy about her. Continue Reading →

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Acting can help troubled youth face real-life drama

Crossroads Panorama uses theater arts to build coping skills 

 By Dwight Hobbes 
Contributing Writer 
If you’re going to salvage a community, the important populace to focus on is the young. And, face it, the urban African American community is seriously imperiled, which renders a program like Crossroads Panorama — Youth Education Through the Arts (crossroadspanorama.com) — helmed by determinedly committed Executive Director Joyce Marrie, Ph.D., a vital resource. Based, fittingly, at South Minneapolis’ venerated Sabathani Community Center, known as a community cornerstone, Crossroads Panorama utilizes the concept that the arts aren’t only for entertainment. “Creative drama therapy,” says Marrie, “provides a means by which youth can learn to take control of their feelings and engage in self-discovery. As they take a role in acting out therapeutic issues, this equips and empowers them to learn how to cope, and not only in a classroom setting but in their everyday lives. Continue Reading →

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Bobby Womack

March 4, 1944 — June 27, 2014 

 Bobby Womack, one of the last great legends of soul music, has passed into lore, leaving an incomparable legacy a generation will long remember. They don’t make music like this anymore, haven’t for quite some time, and quite likely never will again. Bobby Womack, a.k.a. “The Preacher,” harked from an era when dyed-in-the-wool artists honed their craft and cut their teeth the hard way, paying their proverbial dues in bars and clubs, creating a distinct sound in the recording studio. Without benefit of big-money backers and engineering gimmicks, groundbreakers like Bobby Womack made history. He came up under such seminal figures as Sam Cooke and James Brown, backing up his lifelong hero Cooke on guitar and vocals, playing the Valentinos a.k.a. The Womack Brothers on tour with the James Brown Revue. Continue Reading →

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Fried Chicken, Watermelon and You aims to heal cultural damage

Author challenges dysfunctional decisions Blacks make that hinder their progression

By Dwight Hobbes
Contributing Writer


African Americans today are not known for an abiding sense of accountability. In fact, according to an overriding tendency toward excuses and blaming slavery on the one hand and the White man on the other as some sort of mantra, you’d hardly know we ever believed that, despite the institutionalized racism perpetrated against us, it’s our responsibility to do something about it. Keenly insightful essayist and candid social critic Cindy Traxler’s Fried Chicken, Watermelon and You (CC&J Publications) clearly details the imperative to self-empower. She takes on a complicated issue and, addressing vital aspects that usually are attended to with knee-jerk rhetoric, doesn’t simplify it, employing a discerning eye, common sense, and uncommon frankness to render solutions quite accessible. “I’m looking to challenge the old, stale, tired, and counterproductive practices of my people,” reads the introductory essay, “Let Me Explain.”

Among those counterproductive practices, she states, are “mastering things [like] our rapping skill before our grammar skills or nurturing our athletes more than our future doctors.” In “My People,” the author makes it clear she isn’t arbitrarily bashing Black folk, since we have had more than a little help in opting for skewed aspirations. Continue Reading →

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Lesli joins the two-percent club

“I’ll grab something more to eat after I get there,” Lesli said as she prepared to leave for work. “Hit the commissary, then tackle that damned letter to the board. They have got to approve the plan to add a fourth floor. It’s expensive as hell, but baby, it makes sense. Even a big-shot operation like that has to keep up with the times and keep improving. Keep tourism here instead of losing it to other cities.”

She had a point. And he’d seen some of this woman’s well-written letters. The board would side with her on the expansion or have to come up with a damned good reason why. Funders knew about this beautiful, brassy exec with a mind like a steel trap. The director had seen to it. Yeah, that new floor likely was as good as done. “Know what I feel like eating?” she asked. Idly, more to herself than to him.”

“Nope.” He had clicked on the remote and was watching the news with a lapful of Bruno, Butch and Sundance. For once the kittens were leaving the old guy in peace, hanging out, watching the news with Keith. “Not ’til you tell me, no.”

“A banana split. With the works. Different kinds of nuts, rich whipped cream, lots of syrup, the whole nine.”

“Mm-hm, sounds good.”

“And a bowl of tomato soup.”

Keith lowered the volume on the television. “What was that? Did you just say—”

“Yeah. Continue Reading →

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Keith resolves not to spook his new partner

Keith clicked the television on and quickly got bored with Harris Faulkner talking about whatever the hell it was. He hunted through the DVD library and couldn’t believe Lesli’s contributions. The woman was crazy about romantic comedies and had damned near everything from How Harry Met Sally to Boomerang and beyond. And she loved nature documentaries, especially when it was about dinosaurs or big cats, leopards, tigers, panthers and such. He smiled, remembering an afternoon that was just about as ugly as this morning, weatherwise. “Did you know,” Lesli’d asked, “that panthers actually are leopards?” She looked like some sort of cheerleader in a shiny, soft basketball jersey and matching, power blue shorts, bouncing up and down on the sofa. “Okay, so where are their spots?” “Right there!” Continue Reading →

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