Monthly Archives: March, 2013

Playing Chess? Or Are We?

chess-players

I’m not a chess player, but the game, as we all know, is a game of skill and of strategy; it is, above all things, a game of the mind. The main objective is to “checkmate” the opponent’s king, forcing it into an inescapable threat of capture. Each player is desperately trying to out-wit and thrawrt the other’s goals, and as you can see here in this picture, you have a member of the KKK robed in his traditional garb, and beside him is his weapon of choice–the knife (I’m sure there’s a rope nearby somewhere). Across from him, we see a young African-American male robed in a hat turned backwards, black garments, and of couse, his weapon of choice–the gun. I’m not too certain of the artists’ intended message, but I can only ascertain that the chess board itself would symbolically represent American soceity in general: economics and employment, struggle and progress, education, healthcare, the interrelatedness and dependency of one upon the other (or the lack thereof). I can further assume the klansmen represents the power structure, or the oppressor. The klansmens’ objective, as we all could guess, is to thrawrt the young African-American male from achieving the prosperity that is his to claim while the Black man is manuevering to outwit his oppressor and gain what he feels is owed to him, but by his own terms which is symbolized by the gun.

Most of the comments I read on Facebook about this pic sort of mentioned “the Black man needs to wake up; ‘they’re trying to keep us from blah blah blah; the klan will use the rules against us and to his own advantage to keep us down yada yada yada.” I think this is the type of bull-crap race-baiting that is a cancer on the intellectual and even social progression of the African-American male. For one, the gun-toting Black male in the picture is a stereotypical representation. For me, it conjures up images of gang members, thugs and hoodlums and I think that’s the wrong message to convey if this is meant to be positive or thought-provoking. It is not picturesque of our plight nor progress. The klansmen, even symbolically, is fallacy. The Ku Klux Klan or any other racist, for that matter, I feel are in no way the biggest threat to present-day African-American males. It’s no secret that the biggest threat to the Black man is just that–another one. I may have posted about this before, but the number of deaths due to black-on-black violence has more than exceeded the number of Black men killed by the Klan. Now had this picture been of one that excluded the hooded white vigalante and inserted a Black vigilante hooded in gang colors on one side, and on the other, a Black “school boy” trying to avoid those same pitfalls made by the gangmember, then to me, that would make more sense. Or what if that “school boy” dressed in shirt and tie armed with a book is pictured making a move against American society in general–a man hooded in the American flag, symbolic of the socio-economic, educational, and political struggle? I don’t know. I’m just throwing out ideas that would make this pic a lot more powerful. We have to eventually move beyond “victimologist” and thought processes.

“Whitey” does not affect my day to day struggle, and he does not have a direct hand in my plight. What I’m worried about most is myself or my family being gun-downed by another Black man. I’m worried about the ever-increasing achievement gap that eventually puts the gun in the hands of another young brotha that will eventually land himself in prison. I don’t wake up each morning worried about what “whitey” is going to do to me next. I worry about the outcome of me failing at getting these young brothas to value an education; I worry about failing to empower these brothas and not giving them the life skills they will need to succeed in this world so that they do not have to “play chess” with America armed with a pistol. I want to teach them to arm themselves with their best “weapons”: family, education, whatever spritituality that rests within their souls, and brotherhood. That’s my vision.

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“Farewell to the British People”, March 30, 1847

I do not go back to America to sit still, remain quiet, and enjoy ease and comfort. . . . I glory in the conflict, that I may hereafter exult in the victory. I know that victory is certain. I go, turning my back upon the ease, comfort, and respectability which I might maintain even here. . . Still, I will go back, for the sake of my brethren. I go to suffer with them; to toil with them; to endure insult with them; to undergo outrage with them; to lift up my voice in their behalf; to speak and write in their vindication; and struggle in their ranks for the emancipation which shall yet be achieved.
                                        —-FAREWELL TO THE BRITISH PEOPLE, March 30, 1847

My young bros and I recently finished up reading Douglass’ first autobiography, “Narratives in the Life of Fredrick Douglass” and I was doing some extra research on him, particulary his old speeches, to bring into the study group discussion in the study group for the following week [Again, we meet twice a week. Tuesdays are book study meetings or biographical leader study, and Wednesdays are our normal body meetings].  I think the above quote is one of the most powerful messages I’ve ever read and is giving me goosebumps as I type this.  In this quote I can hear Fred Hampton, Huey Newton and the Black Panther Party; I hear Malcolm X, Martin Luther King, Jr., and Medgar Evers; hell, I even hear  Public Enemy, Tupac and  Common, especially what I consider my personal theme song, “The People. 

For Common’s, “The People” official video, click here —->>>http://youtu.be/S7B2VgRShew

I guess what I’m saying is Douglass is a father to us all–all that are committed to empowering others in our  schools, churches, community and grassroots organizations, and any other facet of society that works tirelessly for the upliftment of a people. 

Lessons from Douglass/Principles of Success

                                   * Understanding that the proper use of power is to help others.
                                   * Giving up something you want in order to help someone else.
                                   * Learning how to challenge and overcome doubt.
                                   * Understanding why and how to control the human ego.
                                   * Doing what is right and proper without delay, even if no one is looking.
                                   * Learning how to use knowledge and understanding wisely.
                                   * Overcoming indecisiveness by developing proper organizational skills.
                                   * Making gratitude a part of every thought and action.
                                   * Practicing the skill of listening before making judgments.
                                   * Remaining true to your word.
                                   * Practicing the art of giving without expecting something in return.
                                   * Recognizing that success is as much a motivation to others as to you.

The above bullets are  By Author Fred Morsell
Fremarjo Enterprises, Inc.

 

The Great Liberator, The Little Giant

Trinity United Methodist Church: Mar. 17, 2013

Today is St. Patrick’s Day and I’m not too big into holidays, and fault me if you like, but I’m not into spending half of my Sunday in church, either. I’d much rather spend a day like today planning for the upcoming week and/or directly serving the people.  I personally think that’s an even trade-ff.  I don’t think God won’t be too mad at me for skipping church to service my people, but oh well.  I digress.  We set a community service goal this month and up until today, we had none; so, I thought it was imperative that we get out and do something soon.  I really want the bros to see how to set goals and then work diligently to  persiste to reach them if not flat-out overachieving.  So today, we successfully and remarkably fulfilled our Manhood Standards 8 and 9 (there are 11 total that I drill in their heads. Just click on the tab above and you’ll see them all). Standard 8, Brother’s Keeper, is all about being there for one another–loyalty and reliability. Standard 11 is called “The Breakfast Program” or simply put, “The People“. It states that every real man is a selfless giver who is undoubtedly committed to the healthiness of his community and it’s people. I named it after the Black Panther Party’s breakfast program in which they set up free meal programs and health clinics in their communities.
 
We started our day early this morning at around 9:30 or so and made the 20 minute journey to our destination at Trinity United Methodist Church located in downtown Atlanta.  Now I’ve worked in a soup kitchen several times before and so had one of the other young bros I brought with me, but I don’t think either of us was prepared for what our day was about to be.  In my life, I’ve worked at Food Fare (local grocery store), Golden Coral, and Chik-Fil-A, and I don’t think I ever worked that hard in no one’s kitchen!  Almost immediately, we were put in charge of the chilli.  There were two huge, stainless steal pots (they were more than just a traditional pot around the house; I just don’t know the proper term for them) that the coordiator told us that we would use these to cook the chilli in.  Well thankfully, we didn’t actually have to make it.  There was a also church group there who had many of their members cook it and place into big Ziplock bags.  There were about 30 bags.  Seriously.  So our first task was to cut open all the bags and dump the frozen chilli into the pots to melt them down, a heating process that took up the better part of an hour. 
 
Here we are churning away.

Here we are churning away.

 
 
 Believe it or not, there is actually a little skill involved in churning.  You have to grab the big wooden spoons seen above, get down to the bottom of the pot, pull up and twist as you break surface of the chilli.  You want the contents of the top of the pot to get the opportunity to get down to the bottom where its hotter, and vice versa.   It probably seems easy from reading this, but trust me, it’s not as easy as it sounds, especially when you have frozen brick-hard chunks of chilli you need melted down in 30 minutes before the first 50 patrons walk through the door expecting a hot meal.   Much of the joking stopped as we began to feel the pressure of the hour, and more “elbow grease” was needed to break up the large chunks of what we began to call “icebergs”, the huge blocks of chilli left unfazed by 100+ degree heat.    Churn, baby, churn!  We sweated profusely and barely had time to sit down and rest.  No pun or disrespect intended, but it was like that reality show, “Hell’s Kitchen”.  We were moving as fast as we could to get the bowls filled with rice and chilli and out into the hands of waiting guests. 
 
 
Sheer teamwork. Had someone filling the handing out the bowls; someone to fill them with rice' someone to fill them with chilli; pass the bowls off to someone at the open-counter to be passed to another volunteer who would serve the hungry gentleman and gentlewomen seated at the tables.

Sheer teamwork. Had someone filling the handing out the bowls; someone to fill them with rice’ someone to fill them with chilli; pass the bowls off to someone at the open-counter to be passed to another volunteer who would serve the hungry gentleman and gentlewomen seated at the tables.

 
 In the end, we served close to 200 of Atlanta’s homeless.  I took a picture of the data sheet one of the other volunteers was keeping, but I idiotically deleted it. Here’s what I remember:
 
  • Served 186 total
  • 166 African-American (about 10 women)
  • 2 Asians
  • 12 Hispanics
  • 6 whites

These numbers are not 100% accurate. I told you I deleted the photo of the data sheet.  I do know, however, that we did in fact serve 186 people and 166 of them were African-American.  The number stuck out to me like the elephant in the room.  I can’t help but to ask myself what factors contribute to this dilemma; its a socio-economical enigma that I wholeheartedly believe isn’t being addressed, or pursuing as actively as it should be.  Is the achievement gap and dropout rate linked to homelessness? How so?  How do the rising rates of alcoholism, drug addiction, family structure and background, and mental health problems such as depression and bipolarism impact the numbers of potential homeless Black men and women.  What proactive measures can be taken to ensure our youth are not sucucmbed to the same fate? 

Anyway, it turned out to be a GREAT day! We worked very hard and absolutely every bit of sweat was worth it.  I’ll do it again in a heartbeat.  In fact, we ARE going to do it again.  See you again next week!

group shot_trinity

 RIP, thanks, and in memory of Huey Newton, Eldridge Cleaver, Mark Clark, Bobby Seale, Fred Hampton and the Black Panther Party.
 
 
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PYB Meeting, Mar. 13, 2013: Conquering the Bowtie

I don’t know if you read my post last week about how everything went with the arduous task of teaching my young bros to tie the urbane bowtie; well, to make a long story short, I ended our meeting that day with an overwhelming feeling of defeat.  The feat would’ve been much more productive had I had a mirror, but due to my absent-mindedness, it never occured to me that I would need one, or two, three, four, or five of them.  I beat myself up that evening because I felt that the time we spent, a little over an hour, was practically useless.

The next day at work, a coworker of mine must’ve read one of my Facebook posts where I expressed my disappointment, and suggested that I buy a long, back-of the-door mirror, in which I did. Needless to say, today’s tying session went much more smoother and productive, and the sight of seeing my young bros diligently tying, looping, and tucking the sophisticated knot, overwhelmed me, this time, with sheer exuberance.  One of the bros tied his almost perfectly, another descently enough to be worn neatly without the untrained eye detecting he is a novitiate, and while the others proved to be unsuccessful, I feel they learned enough to have completely mastered it by next meeting.

We ended our meeting with “For the Good of the Group” comments/suggestions/constructive criticisms; we repeated our ’11 Standards of Manhood’ (I’ll post on this later); and I challenged all to take a pic of their successful knot, once mastered within a week, send it to me via text/email to be voted on for best knot for a prize likely a iTunes gift card, or better yet, a gift card for K&G Mens’ Store.

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Who are the real Racists?

I’m reading Joe Clark’s book titled Laying Down the Law: Joe Clark’s Strategy for Saving Our Schools, and I came across an interesting dialogue he had with a former male student of his where the young man referred to one of his teachers as racist. [If you work in the schools in practically any fashion, or if you observe the sentiments of Black America closely enough, you’ll find that this type of race-baiting is all too common and usually used as a cop-out or excuse for inexcusable behavior as opposed to holding oneself accountable for said behavior(s).]

Anyway, so Mr. Clark sat down with this young man and his first question was, “Tell me, Lester. Tell me what a racist is. What is a racist?” The boy responded, “Someone who hates Black people.” Clark jumped down his throat, “WRONG! A racist is someone whose words and actions are destructive to a particular race, any race!” Mr. Clark proceeds to ask the boy to describe what a Black dope addict is. Of course the boy is confused and doesn’t really know how to respond to his principal’s peculiar question, so he stutters and fumbles along trying to find the right response to such an seemingly assinine query. Mr. Clark fires, “A Black dope addict, Lester, is a racist! Yes, a racist! Because his actions are destructive to a particular race. His own! The Black dope addicts are destroying themselves and bringing down shame, degradation, and ill-will upon their people. They are racists, real racists. And if you become like one of them, you’ll be a racist too!”

Many may disagree with me, but I stand firm in what I believe is an accurate depiction of what I think a slither of Black America has become. But let’s think back a few hundred years and explore this in a historical context: What’s the difference between the Africans who got rich by selling their countrymen–their own tribesman, in some cases– to the white slavers for guns and jewelry, and today’s drug dealers who get rich by selling poison to their own for guns and jewelry? What’s the difference between the young brothers in the ghettoes of Chicago, Atlanta, Detroit, St. Louis, L.A. who are killing each other for drugs, guns, jewelry, and territory? To me, that’s racism, practically genocide, in fact. I can go on and on. What about the number of Black men killed by the KKK versus  the number of Black men killed by other Black men? It’s documented. A study by the Tuskegee Institute cited that KKK killed 3,446 Black people in a span of 86 years, whereas Black men in America, on a national scale, kill that many in a matter of six months. We continue to blame “whitey”, but he is not our problem. We are our problem. We’ve all heard the mantra, “Crabs in a barrel”, right? If you’re Black, I’m sure you’ve experienced this a time or two in your life. In the workplace, in the school setting, or wherever, we continue to sabotage, bring shame and denigrate our own before we do that same to anyone else. No, I’m not saying we should begin disrespecting anyone who isn’t Black, but what I am saying is that we’ve done a poor job at uplifting one another, so bad, in fact, that we’re aiding and abetting in, as Clark says, “words and actions [that] are destructive to a particular race.” Our own! And because of this I feel we have failed miserably in creating positive, upstanding, stable and successful Black men.

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We only refer to one another as b**** and h****, n***** (without the ‘er or with an ‘a’; it’s all the same to me; its just a different connation and urban linguistic spin to it). We’ve been killing each other, disrespecting one another and pulling each other down for centuries, but yet have the audacity to blame the white man. So who’s the racist here?

Sophistication and Class–The Bowtie

Just to give you a real quick update since my last post, February was a very busy month for us.  I didn’t really do much Black History Month stuff because I feel practically everything we do is somehow tied back to the appreciation of our history.  Not to undermine the month, but I do BHM stuff all year long. 

Now, I’ve spent a great deal of weekend time with my young bros before, but this was the first time we did like a “Shakespeare Weekend Camp”-type of thing.  Needless to say, I was painfully exhausted.  We didn’t have school on that Friday so we basically spent the ENTIRE day together.  That morning, starting at around 8, we made our journey down to Clark-Atlanta Univ. to visit their art gallery, but we actually walked in on the opportunity of an official campus visit.  The best part about the visit was that it was during school hours, so we saw the hustle of students going to and from class; we saw the hang-out spots on the CAU’s “Promenade” Walk; it was Alpha Week so we saw the bros stepping out in front of the student center.  They were truly welcomed into a microcosm of what campus life is like, at least on the campus of an HBCU. CAU’s gallery was interesting, to say the least. The tour guide gave them a thorough tour from the lens of “our” history. Many of the themes we saw expressed in paint, were the same historical lessons I was giving them in our meetings. It was good to actually see an artistic expression of the trauma Sarah Baartman experienced, a story I taught them for them so they’ll better understand why we should appreciate, not denigrate, our Black women. Not to dwell any further, we left CAU and went straight to  the Atlanta HIGH Museum to study one of my favorite artists, Frida Kahlo. This was to give them a different cultural experience to broaden their perspectives on art, and even their place in the world as young men of color. We examined artwork of Frid, her husband Diego and the works of contemporary artists like Radcliff Bailey, Elizabeth Catlett, Thornton Dial, Picasso, etc. I created a tour guide for them where they had to list the titles and artist names for 10 pieces, followed by a ranking system on a scale of 1-4 with 4 meaning “liked it a lot” and 1 being “I’m not feelin’ this at all.” This allowed them to really examine the artwork from an analytical and appreciative standpoint as opposed to wondering around the halls of the gallery aimlessly. 

After the HIGH, we found ourselves at the UniverSoul Circus, the world’s only African-American circus. After gut-wrenching laughs, sugar-highs, “stanky legs”, lean-wit-it-rock-wit-it, and swag surfin’, we called it a night about 11 pm to only get up the following day to go to Monster Jam, an experience neither of us ever had before. Aside from all the fun, one thing stood out in my head–while at CAU, the bros expressed an interest in wearing bowties. I remember I was wearing one that day, and I think we may have run across a couple CAU students who were also neatly dressed in the bow. I made it my mission to solicit funds and/or donations to acquire them some bowties. It took me faster than I expected, but thanks to the outlet of social media, I had the bowties within 2 weeks. I had a couple Facebook friends donate money to the cause, and I have a cousin, a Morehouse grad, who actually donated ties from his personal collection. After a brief history, I mentioned some notable Black men who were often seen suited in a man’s most formal wardrobe piece, the bowtie: men like Malcolm X and the Black Muslims, W.E.B. DuBois, sports contributor and former NBA champion, Bruce Bowen, and of course the brothers of the illustrious Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Inc. Once I brought out the ties their excitement left it practically impossible to contain them in a seat long enough for me to show them how to tie it.  After much redirection, I finally managed to get them seated long enough to start, but then I realized I was forgetting the most important piece to tying a bow–the mirror. It’s practically impossible to tie one without it.  All in all, I finished our meeting slightly disappointed because I felt they didn’t learn anything. I don’t know how I failed to realize I would need mirrors. We adjourned the meeting with repeated our ’11 Standards of Manhood’ and went home. I may have beat myself up for a couple hours for not accomplishing my task of ensuring every young bro would know how to tie a bowtie by the time w all went home. I left them with the resources to teach themselves, and they may be successful at it, but it doesn’t leave me with the satisfaction thay I taught it to them. I don’t know. That sounds pompous in nature, but that’s how I feel. I want them to one day look back and thank me for teaching them how to tie a bowtie at the age of 12, something most men can’t even do. Next week, we’ll try it again and this time I’m going to make sure I bring mirrors.

I’ll leave you all with some pics from the day’s event.

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