The People vs. Chris Brown

Chris Brown is on trial in the court of public opinion…again. For the last 8 days I've read a couple dozen articles and listened to numerous people chime in about Chris Brown's performance on the BET Awards and his subsequent breakdown. I've seen it called everything from "emotional" to "staged", with everyone having an opinion about him, his performance, his contrition and his prior bad acts. I've seen his actions on the night of February 8, 2009 linked to the overall dysfunction of relationships in the African-American community and the sociological ramifications of forgiving him explored. That's a heavy burden for a 21-year-old coming of age in the public eye to shoulder, even more when the uneven response of the criminal justice system, media, peers and community doesn't support and guide you as they should.

The facts are simple, Chris Brown was riding a wave of success until he lost his mind after the Grammy Awards last year and assaulted then girlfriend Rihanna. A few trips to court, a plea agreement and he's guilty and sentenced to a sentence that was not harsh enough in comparison to the photos of the damage he'd done. However, his most severe penalties would come in the field where he was making his living, entertainment. He lost an endorsement deal with Wrigley's, his last album Graffiti tanked and he was left out of last year's tribute to his idol Michael Jackson. By his own admission, he made a horrible mistake that night and let plenty of people down, but then he was abandoned by fans and executives, radio pulled his songs and he became the punchline (no pun intended) in jokes and shoutouts in rap songs.

There's one more fact, Chris Brown is still a child. He was 19 on that fateful night and is still only a couple months past 21, much too young for many of the factors that placed him in that car, that night, with that woman. He was far too young to be drinking, much too young for the type of relationship he was in, and still not quite old enough to understand the position his talent and success had put him in. I'm not excusing anything that happened that night, but I am saying that the time has come for a few hands to be extended to this young man, to help rebuild his career and his life.

It's funny that it's taken this long for his humbling act of forgiveness and the public outcry for acceptance. Do we as a community love Rihanna that much, I don't know anyone with any of her albums or have we raised our standards in the age of Obama? I'm just saying, we've been quick to if not forgive and forget, accept and move forward with many of our beloved stars in the past. Janet Jackson flashed us during the Super Bowl, OJ reenacted a scene out of the Scream movies, Michael Jackson thought it was ok to sleep in the bed with little babies,Whitney Houston spent 10 years getting high as hell and Alicia Keys is playing homewrecker, but we were there to ride or die with them. Lest not forget that R. Kelly thought it was cool to pee pee on a girl barely in her teens, but we stepped in the name of love and supported him through "Happy People" and that weird ass "Trapped in the Closet" series. We were right there when he put on that silly Zorro mask and even when he went on BET and thought it was cool for him to have 19-year-old friends. As a matter of fact, we rolled with the R-rah until the music got wack!

Hmmm, if Chris Brown has made a better album would folks have been more lenient towards him? I'm just saying, it seems as you keep asses shaking, folks are more likely to look past your transgressions. Yeah, that's it, had he dropped the bomb first single that had everyone talking, singing along and two stepping to bass, his breakdown on BET would've never been necessary. But as it were, it happened. I'd be willing to venture that the combination of doing the tribute, being back in the public eye and knowing that this was his moment led to the tears. I'm not one of those haters that's gonna say he used eyedrops before he took the stage or claim that I told him to do it (Shut up Lloyd!) or even speculate if his emotion was real or not. What I do know is that I've cried like that before, you know when you get that frog in your throat and can't talk, let alone sing and that's hard to fake.

Something else we can't take for granted is the prevalence of domestic abuse in our community and while I may not discuss it within these paragraphs, it is a serious issue that needs to be addressed from all angles, publicly and privately and offenders need to be exposed and punished. That's what has happened with Chris Brown over the last year and some change, but offenders also need help, especially those still in their youth. So, pretty soon Brown is hitting the road to promote his upcoming movie Takers and he has a new mixtape out, a few new videos and people are talking about him again. Let's just hope that he's learned from his mistakes and taken a few singing lessons in the interim…

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