One of my favorite characters from the series The Wire was Omar Devone Little. I loved Stringer Bell too. Oh, did I love my Stringer. I also loved Lester Freamon, so don’t think I only like sociopaths. But Omar, there was something about him, his complex character, intelligence, that mind-bending scar running down his entire face (the actor who played Omar in fact has this scar, it was not makeup), his often gentle homosexuality, his reluctance to use profanity, his unwavering code (he never robbed, killed or attacked anyone not in “the game”) and the way he said, even while in the middle of a killing rage, “You feel me?” that just lured me in. I know he didn’t coin that phrase, but I love it. It’s cutting. It’s not removed and distant like “Do you understand?” or “Get it?” Rather, it expresses the depth of his commitment to his being, his needs, his sociopathic nature. I loved the way his presence caused children to scatter shouting “Omar comin’ ya’ll.” These were children who sold drugs on street corners, parentless, homeless children who weren’t afraid of much. But they feared Omar. And that eerie whistle. The I own these streets whistle—a lone Omar strutting smack dab down the middle of an empty street, weapon by his side whistling his own adaptation of the children’s rhyme The Farmer In The Dell.

Michael K. Williams, the actor who portrayed Omar was asked about the whistle in 2007 by Here are his comments:

I chose to take it there. Technically it is the tune to Farmer In The Dell but there are certain lyrics in there. For instance, “The cheese stands alone” is very reminiscent of Omar’s character, he’s like a lone gun. But me personally, as Michael Kenneth Williams, when I get into character – especially when I have to use that whistle in a scene – I like to think of a Looney Tunes character by the name of Elmer Fudd. He used to [sing] “A hunting we will go.” At the end of the day Omar’s just going to work. He ain’t doing nothing spectacular, he’s just having fun. He enjoys his work, but he’s going to work.

And that’s the deal with Omar. He’s going to work. Everyone in that show was just going to work. Based on who they were, where they were born, the circumstances of the world around them, they went to work wherever and however they could.

I’m not a television critic nor am I a professor of sociology. But I’ve watched a lot of TV in my day, some of it very bad TV, and I’ve done some living. I believe The Wire was and is the best television series ever. The depth of character, the grit, the truth and the teaching for all of us on poverty, class, bureaucracy, and the social ramifications of economic change go beyond where any other show has gone. And, while I enjoyed Treme, The Wire creator David Simon’s next show, it pales in comparison, for me, to the streets of Baltimore. I’m a cop show/crime junkie so that’s part of it, I’m sure.  I also need to give it more time. I only watched the first four or five episodes.

The point is this: we can all learn from shows like The Wire and Treme. They tell truths about this world that need to be heard, understood, dealt with. If you haven’t seen The Wire rent it, watch it on BET, do something because you’re missing a lesson in sociology, race, culture, the world, and not insignificantly, some damn fine entertainment. You feel me?

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