I recently attended a VIP Open House for Heartstoppers Haunted House in Rancho Cordova.  The attraction is very aptly named. 

I’m a grown ass man.  A family man.  A man of faith.  And I cussed like a bitch trying to get out of that event.  Lord, Jesus.  That was no way to treat a “VIP.”  “VIP” my ass. 

Very specifically, two parts of the attraction killed me:  upstairs was “The Asylum.”  Downstairs, “The Catacombs.”  I can’t honestly tell you about the rest of Heartstoppers Haunted House, because after I flew up those stairs and out of that underground death trap, I ran to my car and bolted.

Here’s the situation:  I’d never been to a “haunted house” attraction before, except for the decidedly G-rated, family-oriented Haunted Mansion attractions at Disneyland and Walt Disney World.  So guess what your boy thought?  I thought that the night’s frights were going to be provided by animatronic figures.  NOT “living,” breathing zombies, etc. 

Like. A. Bitch.   I’d lost my voice by the time I got out of there… from screaming…

And I’m a claustrophobic bitch, so I should have NEVER agreed to go UNDERGROUND into those Catacombs.  NEVER!

For the full story, visit http://www.sacculturalhub.com/item/11555-heartstoppers-haunted-house-in-rancho-cordova-scared-the-out-of-me-nsfw.

Connect with freelancer Michael P Coleman at michaelpcoleman.com, or follow him on Twitter:  @ColemanMichaelP

 

 By Michael P Coleman

Anyone who has ever been followed around a store while shopping, or pulled over by a police officer for no apparent reason, or read about Stephon Clark will “get” Anthony Ray Hinton’s new memoir, The Sun Does Shine.  It’s the harrowing account of a man who was accused and convicted of two murders he did not commit.  Hinton was sentenced to death, and spent 27 years waiting to be executed in the state of Alabama. 

I was raised in an “eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth” household. The only cheek my mother ever turned was her ass to you with an invitation to kiss it.  So capital punishment was an institution that I grew up supporting, without the knowledge of a criminal justice system that overwhelmingly convicts men of color and issues harsher sentences for them.  It is estimated that one in ten people on death row in the United States are innocent of the crimes for which they were sentenced.  One of those inmates was Hinton, despite a rock solid set of alibis and irrefutable evidence that was contrary to the charges against him. 

Most of The Sun Does Shine is akin to a great suspense novel, as Hinton displays a gift for prose that is surprising for a man in his late 50s who was educated in the deep south and spent almost 30 years on death row.  Hinton also displays a phenomenal sense of humor and an almost unbelievable sense of optimism, both of which undoubtedly served him well in his quest for emotional survival in the face of seemingly impossible odds. 

And like the best of novels, this memoir includes a cast of villains: the police officers, prosecutors, and others who were complicit in sending Hinton to prison and keeping him there for almost three decades.  There are also a couple of heroes in the book, but surprisingly, Hinton is not one of them. 

That’s not to say that Hinton’s not a sympathetic “character.”  He’d have to be in his own memoir, right?  But attorney Bryan Stevenson of the Equal Justice Initiative displayed dogged determination in seeking justice for him.  And everyone needs a friend like Lester Bailey, the childhood buddy of Hinton’s who never missed a visit with his pal in all of the years Hinton was locked up. 

As an African American man who has been accused of things I didn’t do, The Sun Does Shine wasn’t the easiest of books to read.  The enormity of Hinton’s plight got the best of me in the middle of the book.  Also, Hinton’s penchant for printing the actual legal correspondence in support of and in opposition of his case grew a little tiring.  And the memoir suffers from the reader’s knowledge of how it all turns out, removing some of the dramatic tension I look for in a great page-turner. 

That said, when Hinton gets the word that he’s finally free, and he steps into the light — figuratively and literally — for the first time in 27 years, the reader has taken the emotional journey with him.  The payoff was almost as sweet for me as it was for him.  Almost. 

Overall, The Sun Does Shine is a incredible read that shines a light on a corrupt, broken criminal justice system.  I told you earlier that I used to be a capital punishment advocate.  If I hadn’t already been “woke,” Anthony Ray Hinton brilliant new memoir would have changed my mind.

The Sun Does Shine is available at retail, on Amazon, and at all major digital outlets. 

Mike Coleman headshotonly nologo 300Connect with freelancer Michael P Coleman and Coleman Communications at michaelpcoleman.com, or follow him on Twitter:  @ColemanMichaelP

By Michael P Coleman

Superstar Whitney Houston left us in 2012 at the age of 48.  Often, when we lose someone who was so gifted at such a young age, we’re tempted to ask the question “Why?”

After last Thursday’s show at the Gallo Center in Modesto, I may have the answer:  we had to say farewell to Houston so we could meet the truly phenomenal Belinda Davids. 

Click here to read MPC’s full review.

Information on Sacramento-based freelancer Michael P Coleman is at michaelpcoleman.com, or follow him on Twitter:  @ColemanMichaelP

 

Aretha Franklin

By Michael P Coleman

This column marks the first time I’ve ever written two pieces about someone who’s passed away.  I published a “Remembering Aretha” piece last week, just after her death.  The way this one hit me, I’m going to be a basket case if I outlive Diana Ross! 

As we read about Franklin leaving this world without a will or trust, and about plans for a star-studded memorial service next week in Detroit, I had to share two Aretha-related experiences from the last week.  I think the Queen Of Soul herself would love them, and I hope you will, too.  

Last week, on the day Franklin died, I drove around town in a bit of a haze while listening to a variety of her music.  Overall, I was trying to move through a tremendous, almost overwhelming sense of sadness.  I found myself stopped at a red light, literally teary-eyed, as Franklin’s “Freeway Of Love” blasted from, no, not a pink Cadillac, but my silver Mustang convertible. 

When I realized how loud my music was, I glanced over to the lane next to me to see whether I was disturbing anyone.  The large, black Ford F-150 in the adjacent lane was being driven by a guy who looked like a ZZ Top wannabe, and his female companion was equally Duck Dynasty-esque.  Two pairs of dark sunglasses separated their eyes from mine as they glared down at me.  Just as I reached to turn my music down, I noticed the pair was swaying back and forth in time to my music, and singing “Freeway Of Love” along with Aretha and me. 

The driver then smiled and gave me the thumbs-up, instead of the finger I had feared he’d give me.  At that red traffic light on Folsom Avenue in Sacramento, Aretha Franklin bridged racial, cultural, and generational divides, much as she did throughout her six decade career.  

The next morning, I ordered Siri to play Aretha again, but unlike the day before that I’d spent with Franklin’s secular music, I decided to start the day with the apex of her gospel career — and quite possibly the best gospel album ever recorded — 1972’s Amazing Grace.  Instead of shuffling the tracks, I decided to listen to the album from beginning to end.  The project’s first track?  “Mary, Don’t You Weep.”  The rest of that lyric?  “And tell Martha not to moan.” 

Franklin may as well have sung “Tell MICHAEL not to moan.”  Even after she’d transitioned to the next realm, soul’s undisputed Queen and the Southern California Community Choir assured me that everything would be ok,  By the end of that album’s first track, I was smiling — for the first time in over 24 hours. 

This morning, over one week after Franklin’s death, I finally managed to listen to some music that wasn’t hers.  I started with Mac Miller’s new album, then moved on to Janet Jackson, then a little Whitney Houston, which reminded me of her duet with Franklin, “It Isn’t, It Wasn’t, It Ain’t Never Gonna Be.”  It’s one of those songs that would have been completely forgettable in the hands of a lesser artist.  As a matter of fact, Houston’s ad libs near the end of the track are painfully unlistenable.

But Franklin shines on it, and before long, I found myself back on that “Freeway Of Love,” playing Aretha and singing and dancing around the house as I got ready for work.  But unlike the somewhat sad day last week, I dropped the top, baby, and cruised on into that better-than-ever street.  

RIP Aretha Franklin, thank you, and long live soul’s most gracious Queen.  

Mike Coleman headshotonly nologo 300

Connect with Sacramento-based freelancer Michael P Coleman and Coleman Communications at michaelpcoleman.com, or follow him on Twitter:  @ColemanMichaelP

 

By Michael P Coleman

dianaross blog250When entertainment legend Diana Ross hit #1 on the Billboard dance chart with a remix of her classic “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” early this year, she hadn’t had a #1 hit in over two decades when her 1995 hit “Take Me Higher” topped the same chart. 

This week, the 74-year-old Ross hits the top of the Dance Club chart again, with a mash up of her classics “Upside Down” and “I’m Coming Out.” 

Two #1 hits in the same year.  It’s a first in the legend’s 57-year career.  What are the odds of that happening?  Probably around the same as the odds of a skinny girl from Detroit becoming an international icon. 

The new hit will be available for download on the "NOW! Dance Anthems" compilation this Friday, August 3. 

I said it in January when “Mountain” hit number one, and I’ll say it again: 

Cher, eat your heart out!    Diana Ross is THE BOSS! 

Connect with Sacramento-based freelancer Michael P Coleman at michaelpcoleman.com or follow him on Twitter:  @ColemanMichaelP

By Michael P Coleman

In 1988, Whitney Houston released “Where Do Broken Hearts Go,” one of a series of stirring  ballads for which she would be remembered.  As her seventh consecutive single to reach the top of Billboard’s Hot 100, “Where Do Broken Hearts Go” set a record for Houston that stands today. 

That’s one of several factoids presented in the riveting, revelatory new documentary Whitney

whitney untoldstoryInterspersing archival footage, home videos, and new interviews with Houston’s family, friends, and colleagues, Whitney paints a revealing portrait of a troubled ingenue whose most formidable demon, according to her infamous 2003 interview with ABC’s Diane Sawyer, was herself. 

You’ve probably already heard about the documentary’s biggest reveal: that a pre-teen Houston was allegedly abused sexually by her cousin Dee Dee Warwick, the late sister of the legendary Dionne Warwick.  Even so, the film offers several more, not the least of which is the tale of a drug-addicted Houston abandoning her infant daughter Bobbi Kristina, leaving her with a family friend for eight years. 

As joyous as it is to see Houston in her heyday, as a fresh faced teenager delivering a bravura performance of “Home” from The Wiz on The Mike Douglas Show, or belting out the definitive version of The Star Spangled Banner at the Super Bowl, it’s disheartening — no, it’s downright painful — to see a battered, beleaguered Houston gasp, choke, and yell her way through another of her signature anthems, Greatest Love Of All, during her final tour in 2011.   Having come from a show business family, Houston was undoubtedly living by the time-worn show business axiom “the show must go on.”  As footage of Houston’s final tour suggests, sometimes the show needs to end. 

While Houston’s last film, Sparkle, gave us a glimmer of what might have been the show business comeback of the century, the legend was tragically found dead in a bathtub at a Hollywood hotel at the age of 48 just before the film’s premiere.  Houston’s decline is meticulously documented in Whitney, and the movie’s final third is agonizing to watch.  But overall, Whitney does a good job of trying to burnish the star’s legacy. 

Where do broken hearts go?  30 years later, we finally have the answer:  to see this excellent new film.

Miss you, Nippy. 

Whitney is in theaters nationwide. 

 Connect with Sacramento-based freelancer Michael P Coleman at michaelpcoleman.com or follow him on Twitter:  @ColemanMichaelP.

HUB ORIGINAL: Mentors Needed For African American Youth In Foster Care

Recently, as all of my kids are now young adults, I started looking into opportunities to stay connected to youth.  I discovered AgingUP,  a great, new non-profit that’s working to serve kids in the foster care system in Sacramento County. 

A few alarming statistics paint a picture that’s hard for anyone who cares about children to ignore.  Within two years of “aging out” of foster care: 

-Nearly 1/3 of youth will become homeless

-More than 1/2 of them will be unemployed

-1 in 5 will be incarcerated

The disproportionate number of kids in foster care are African American and male. 

For the full article, visit http://www.sacculturalhub.com/item/10913-mentors-needed-for-african-american-male-youth-in-foster-care on SacCulturalHub.com.

THE HUB invites you to take a look at two original features, in observance of Father’s Day this year.

Click here to read our salute to Sacramento’s first black pediatrician, Dr. Vernon L. Walton.

Then, click here to read the feature that was inspired by our chat with Dr. Walton’s daughter, freelancer writer Michael P Coleman’s reflections on his own father, and the lessons Mike learned from him that can be applied to all of our lives. 

Happy Father's Day.