Five years ago, on May 2, 2006, all the headlines across the country were basically the same. A powerful new movement had occurred the day before. Those who participated in the movement basked in their glory from all the attention they had garnered.
Many people like me sat back insulted that it had even happened. I was especially taken back when a local activist came on the radio, and when asked if he had reached out to the black community for support, basically said no because they were trying to do it themselves. In others words, the support of black folks wasn't needed as part of the initial strategy. However, like a good card player, they reserved the right to play us if they thought it would be necessary.
What is most interesting is that the movement that occurred on that day had used the civil rights movement as its blueprint. The strategy was simple. Just as blacks had marched in record numbers on Washington and Selma, Ala., their numbers all over this country would march in major and minor cities to show their strength. The only problem with that show of force is that far too many carried flags of other nations representing the countries of their origins while they protested in America.
By now I am sure you know what the issue is? Illegal immigration, to be precise. Those who came into this country and are now here illegally wanted to force this country to abandon the current immigration policy and give citizenship and all the rights that come with it to millions of foreign nationals simply because they are here.
Their PR campaign was as slick as anything Madison Avenue could have put out. We are brainwashed into believing that those here illegally are the backbone of the country. That without them, we as a country would fall to shreds. The campaign to defend those here illegally tells us they pick our food, watch our children, mow our lawns and pay taxes. Yet, seldom is much credence given to the fact that a lot of those tax payments are via someone else's social security number. Also, it is rare for anyone to mention that illegal immigrants are not the majority in any work field. Thus, no matter the job category, the majority of the work is still done by Americans and not illegal immigrants.
One of the underlying efforts of the illegal immigration movement is to forge the gains made by blacks onto their movement. It is no coincidence that Dr. King is constantly portrayed as limited to his "I Have a Dream" speech. So what word do they come up with to try and give American citizenship to the millions of young illegal immigrants? The Dream Act. Coincidence? No.
And speaking of the Dream Act, the Illinois Senate has been sent a bill to give students who are here illegally money for school and driver's licenses. That's right. The same folks who tell us that we need to up the age for licenses for American young people are quick to want to legitimatize hundreds of thousands of folks who are here illegally with a driver's license. They also want to open up the state's limited coffers so that college saving programs and prepaid tuition programs are for all Illinois residents.
One has to only sit back and marvel at how in less than 30 years, the gains which took one segment of this country centuries are being rewarded to folks who not only just showed up at the table, but showed up uninvited.
I have been on a soap box lately when it comes to children, especially about how so many black adults seem to be in denial when it comes to what black children should and should not be exposed to. With both of my children now in their 20s and no grandchildren in sight (thank God!), I am seeing more clearly the kind of lifestyles that far too many children exist in today. Unfortunately from my vantage point, those children are subsisting in dysfunctional homes with corresponding dysfunctional adults.
Over the past couple of weeks, I have written about adults who seem to practice the "they'll be OK" method of childrearing. That method requires little or no involvement with their children. Rather those adults expect that children will learn via osmosis as opposed to the tutelage of a parent's guidance. It is very evident to me that far too many adults (and I am being kind in calling those grown folks "adults") don't have a clue as to what it takes to raise a child. They have no idea that there should be a clear-cut line on which adult behavior/discussions/actions should not take place in front of kids. Our children deserve a childhood, not a mini-adulthood. Yes, there are things that children will have to know when they grow up, but they aren't grown yet.
Why are so many adults in the black community willing to rob children of the innocence of childhood? Many of us grew up in an era where adults would spell and whisper code words so children would not be privy to adult conversations. But today, when audio pornography is disguised as current popular music, we have far too many adults buying into the hype and exposing children to it without realizing the real consequences of their actions.
After writing several columns lamenting the language in a lot of the music being played by deejays in front of children, I am not shocked that my mantra hasn't been taken up by others. Part of the reason we have ended up where we are is that far too many have accepted what is going on as par for the course. We don't have any "moral authorities" anymore. We lack individuals who stand on principle and morality. There is no outrage over lyrics that would make a sailor blush. In fact, it is standard fare to play in front of kids. That is both sad and sick and a reflection on those who speak God's name on one hand while serving the devil with the other.
I am not going to stop my tirade against those who should know better, yet choose not to do better.
I recently learned of an opportunity for us as a community to send a message to the children of Austin that we do support and care about them. Austin Town Hall is entered in a contest to win a $50,000 renovation from Maxwell House. All they have to do is get votes over the Internet. That's right. No stamps, no checking the box. Just a simple click of the mouse. Of the 10 organizations vying for the money, Austin Town Hall is 10th!
That is unacceptable. As the largest community in the city of Chicago, we can do better than that. We can show our children we are willing to do what all the other communities do for theirs.
Take the time to do "good in the 'hood." To vote for Austin Town Hall to get the money, just visit Facebook and "LIKE" the Maxwell House site. Then be a real Chicagoan and vote early and often. Let's see if we can get a million votes for our park and our children. Let us make the kind of news that is positive and puts us on the news showing that we care.
Working in a place where one gets to deal directly with the public is a real "eye-opener." Anecdotal stories about people's actions and behaviors are quickly replaced by firsthand knowledge. As such, I am now more firmly convinced than ever before that some black folks have lost their minds or are stuck in a Peter Pan tale of never growing up.
My ire? I was a worker at a wedding where I again was privy to the current generation of music played and danced to with no regard for young children being in the room. The lyrics? Well, let's just say that in just over 20 years, the music industry have managed to make pornographic lyrics a mainstay of popular music. Those lyrics, along with the current craze of booty poppin' and jukin', have put center stage on the dance floor what should be left in the bedroom.
I watched in disbelief as the adults shook their booties to the music. They even stood around and admired how clever and cute it was to see the young children do the same. My desire to speak out was tempered by my boss reminding me that these people had rented the place and it is not our job to be telling them the kind of music they can play. But shouldn't it be somebody's job to monitor the kind of music that is stereoed out to a room if children are present? Teachers would lose their job if they played this music in a classroom. I can't even quote the lyrics in this newspaper. Why is it any different if a deejay plays it?
The subconscious mind is a powerful organ, able to hear and see what the conscious mind overlooks. So those young children hearing those lyrics are being directed into that kind of behavior unconsciously. I know several songs I have heard over and over again are stuck in my mind. I have to purposely ignore the song. If I as an adult find myself battling the lyrics to certain songs, how are young children going to cope when such foul and filthy music is pumped at them over and over again? If we as a society don't permit young children to see pornographic movies, how can we defend those who put the pornography in a song? And if pornography is now the basis for dance music today, what will it be in 10-20 years?
In advance of writing this column, I put a question out on Facebook asking if the deejay should be held responsible. Many felt that it was the parent's job to give a thumb's down to certain songs. But how many parents really know the words to most of the popular songs? And just because a parent wants it to happen, doesn't mean it is OK. What about parents of children who don't want their children exposed to such language?
Perhaps it is time we started licensing deejays and putting more responsibility on what they can play and to whom. I remember being at a huge outdoor picnic and the deejay played a raunchy song. It seems to me that in their zeal to become a famous deejay, many are not concerned with the content of the music they play so long as they are given accolades for mixing the music well. At some point, our elected officials need to put the subject of X-rated lyrics and to whom they can be played on their legislative radar.
I normally don't have a problem writing this column. But tonight as I sit up past midnight, I have started and stopped writing so many times, I lost count. I am never at a loss for words. But this week I waivered and changed the subject so many times, if I were using a pen, I would have run out of paper and my pen would be empty of ink. I haven't ranted in a long time and since I can't seem to settle on a singular issue, I'll just let off steam on a variety of items.
I gotta start with the news that was late hitting the airwaves Tuesday night. The allegations, if true, should have every resident of the West Side up in arms and demanding a resignation. Fox Chicago News is alleging that newly appointed State Senator Annazette Collins doesn't live in the apartment she has used as an address to run for office. She owns a condo in Hyde Park, and it is there that she has claimed a homeowner's exemption. Say what? Here we have a prior state representative who gets appointed to fill the vacated seat of Rickey Hendon, and now we learn she doesn't even live in her district? Give me an expletive deleted break.
The West Side neighborhoods and residents suffer from a lack of so much, and now we hear that those who claim to have our best interests at heart don't live here? Well her immediate reward, if true, should be to lose her office, be stripped of her retirement fund and to be tried and incarcerated for having lied and stolen from the people of the 5th state senatorial district. There will never be any real improvement and changes on this side of town if we continue to tolerate those who want to be our elected representatives but don't want to live with us and therefore are not truly interested in changing the status quo.
Speaking of things involving this state, I have noticed that something strange is going on with the numbers on some license plates. At first, I thought people were doing something to their plates - like coating the numbers with reflective paint to throw off the red light cameras. But I looked at my own plates and they are rusting/corroding near where the numbers/letters were pressed and then painted onto the plate.
For the amount of money we have to pay for a renewal sticker and the cost of the plates, someone needs to investigate why the quality of this last set of plates seems to be deteriorating much faster than other plates. There is a tremendous danger if the plate can't be accurately read or if they can be easily altered.
And speaking of things that are easily altered, I swear there must only be about 10 of those temporary Illinois license plates, and they are being shared by everyone who gets a new/used car. I have never seen so many battered and old looking temporary plates as I am noticing mounted on vehicles driving around this city. I don't think those temporary plates are any better than the old "License Applied For" pieces of paper that used to dot the back windows of too many cars. It would seem to me that with current technology, we can have a better system of putting a plate on a new/used car. The abuses of the old system appear to still be occurring with this new one.
Lastly, we are not even into full-blown spring, and the shootings (especially the number of young children under 12 being shot) are an absolute disgrace. Our governor signed a bill to end the death penalty, but the criminals don't seem to have the same mindset, as murders occur like the rising and setting of the sun. Every day the number of people shot approaches double digits. Those killers/murderers walk among us and even when people know who did the killing, they are silent. It is time to write an anonymous note or buy a burner phone and use it to call the police and turn in the killers.
When Luelicious Yarbrough parked his car late Thursday night on the vacant lot in his West Side neighborhood, the 89-year-old retiree never expected that by morning it would be towed - especially since he's parked in that lot near Jackson and Kolmar for the last 18 years.
Yarbrough's 1996 Ford Windstar van was towed Friday morning, along with seven other vehicles parked in the same lot belonging to neighbors on the 4600 block of West Jackson. The vehicle belonging to Sandra Rowe, a community volunteer beat facilitator in the neighborhood, was also towed by the private company.
Rowe said she asked the tow truck drivers why the cars were being removed and was told that a complaint was made. Police were also on the scene to prevent neighbors from moving or retrieving items from their cars, according to Rowe. She and other upset neighbors spoke to local media Friday afternoon about the incident.
Some neighbors on the block, however, are casting suspicion toward outgoing Ald. Sharon Dixon, alleging that Friday morning's incident was retaliation against some on the block for their vocal support for Dixon's campaign opponent, Michael Chandler. A former 24th Ward alderman himself, Chandler defeated Dixon in Tuesday's run-off election to win the seat he lost four years ago.
Austin Weekly News called Dixon's West Side office Friday evening to inform her of the charges and to seek a response, but her office was closed.
Rowe said she didn't know who made the complaint or why. Concerning the accusation that Ald. Dixon was somehow involved, Rowe said she could not say if that was the case because she has no evidence. But she and other neighbors did note that several Chandler signs that were on their block were pulled out of the ground or torn down. About a half block away from Rowe's home, several Chandler signs were sprawled out in the street.
Other neighbors, though, were emphatic that Dixon was behind it.
"She lost and this is how she gets back at the people who didn't support her," one neighbor said.
According to Rowe, when she later called police to ask about the complaint she was told that none was on file. Yarbrough, who is disabled, said his walking cane and groceries were among the items in his van. According to Rowe, the police would not allow her or other neighbors to retrieve Yarbrough's belongings. More than a dozen neighbors stood on Rowe's porch answering questions from the media this afternoon, and asked a few questions of their own.
"Who filed the complaint? And why were the cars in this lot the only ones that were towed," she asked, pointing to the now-vacant lot just across the street from her home.
Neighbors said no other cars on their block were towed, including cars parked in other lots and on the street that haven't been driven for months. Rowe and her neighbors also want to know what the process is for towing cars, and if it was followed this morning.
"I came outside to see what was going on," Rowe said. "I'm trying to get information from the tow truck drivers and they were really rude and obnoxious, and they basically said that they couldn't talk to me and they weren't going to talk to me, that I should take it up with the police.
Rowe recalled that when she talked to police at the scene, they informed her that they were there to prevent neighbors from stopping their cars from being towed. All of the vehicles were taken to a facility at 701 N. Sacramento , neighbors said. Some neighbors went to retrieve their vehicles, according to Rowe, but she and others, including Yarbrough, have not yet. Rowe said that'll cost about $150 per car, not including a storage fee if the vehicles are not picked up.
Yarbrough said he's on a fixed income and wasn't sure how he'll come up with the money. At Friday's press conference, several neighbors collected money in a hat for the elder.
Austin Weekly News will have additional coverage in next Thursday's paper.
When I wrote last week's column, I admitted to finding myself in an unusual quandary. I found a situation where the "rightness" and "wrongness" of an issue wasn't as black or white as I wanted it to be. The issue of "statutory rape" in some instances is one where, depending on the circumstances, the "rapist" and the "victim" may not accurately describe the individuals involved in the act.
As an example, if an 18-year-old girl who is in love with a 15-year-old boy has sex with him, she has committed "statutory rape." In such a case, is the boy really the "victim" and is the girl a "rapist"? Legally, the response would be yes. But if she gets pregnant and subsequently gives birth, she and other parents like them are labeled "young mothers" and "fathers" and not "rapist" and "victim." Hospitals and law enforcement won't go after those mothers or fathers of the children born of such a relationship. And for the most part, when statutory rape is invoked, it is usually by the parent of the younger person who is upset that an 18-year-old (or older) had sex with their child. And rightly so.
Last week I also asked you all to put yourself in the shoes of the parents of a young man who has been charged with "statutory" rape. I created a phony background for that young man. I made him less than perfect, but still someone who tries to do the right thing. Some of you wrote some very eloquent responses (which can be viewed online) to my scenario. One person made an observation with which I must concur. The term "rape" may be the wrong verbiage to use to describe the encounter between two young people who are "dating." Just like there are degrees to murder, should we have a similar set of degrees in place for sexual encounters?
The law states that a child cannot agree to sex. But we do have young people engaging in sexual intercourse and one of the barometers by which we measure that act is the teen birthrate. How should we as a society address the sexual encounters that don't easily fit into the literal "rape" mode? Do we need degrees of accountability in judging the behavior of both individuals in the sex act or is the younger one automatically free from being held accountable?
As one commentator on my blog wrote: "There are certainly different degrees of culpability when men and older boys have sex with an underage child. Part of the difficulty in making distinctions is the use of the word rape to describe both non-consensual, forcible sex and consensual underage sex. Without making any excuses for those who have sex with an 11-year-old, however mature looking, willing, and whatever age they represent themselves to be, forcible rape is worse. Perhaps 'illegal sex with an underage person' rather than 'statutory rape' would be a better term for the sex where the illegality is solely based on the age of the younger participant, and force or threats are not used, would make the distinction clearer."
I thought that response was very insightful. It helps to ease the grayness of my dilemma. I could see supporting that fictitious child in his journey through the criminal justice system even though the charges against him were horrific. One of the reasons I wrote my last column in the method I did was because, over the Internet, so many people had vilified the parents, neighbors and relatives of those "accused" without even beginning to see it from their perspective. How can one seek justice when, at the core of the crime, there is a perceived injustice?
P.S.: Join me every Wednesday for the Blues at Chez Roue 5200 W. Chicago Ave.
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Arlene Jones' Biography
I was born in Chicago. I grew up in Cabrini Green. I attended Wells Sr High, the University of Illinois at Chicago Circle where I majored in Spanish and minored in Education. I have a diploma in Computer Programming.
I moved to Austin when I purchased a home here. I have two children.
I have been active in the community since moving here. I started with my blockclub. In the early 1990s, I worked with several people to try and form the North Austin Homeowners Association. I even went on patrol with a group of people who had a walkie talkie car patrol of the neighborhood.
As with most programs in the AA community, many factors led to the demise of those groups. Lack of support from elected officials was at the top of the list.
There were several people who had a group and we met out of DaVinci Manor. DaVinci Manor was at the corner of North Ave and Central where Walgreen now stands. Again there was very little interest in saving that building and our community lost a beautiful hall.
I have protested the state of the Central Ave bridge. I worked with Leola Spann and did many a smoke out including one in the 1500 block of North Lorel where drug paraphenalia layed on the ground. I have over the years here in Austin worked with the following groups at one point or another:
Northeast Austin Organization (Mary Volpe, Tom Hosea);
Northwest Austin Council;
Brotherhood of Black Men;
Westside Health Authority;
Every Block A Village;
25th District Housing Committee;
African American Employees at the Merchandise Mart (AAEMM);
Lafollette Park Advisory Council;
Garfield Park Conservatory Advisory Council;
Westside Executive Advisory Council;
Austin Landmark Cultural Center;
Concerned Citizens of East Garfield Park
and so many others that it gets hard to remember.
QUOTE OF THE DAY
If you're not careful, the newspapers will have you hating the people who are being oppressed, and loving the people who are doing the oppressing. -- Malcolm X