Tag Archives: manhood

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.

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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