Thursday, April 15, 2010

Can Those Who Kill Put Themselves In A "Better Place"?

I have advocated for years that as adults we need to be careful of what we express in front of our young people, because they take things literally. Their young minds are not fully developed and capable of doing a lot of critical thinking.

As an example, many of our young people have grown up hearing people my age say, "If that person does this or that, I'll get my gun and blow their brains out."

Well guess what? Our young people are now doing that at a rate that make our city more dangerous than Iraq. We are seeing young men killed at a rate that, if was the Klan, the community leaders would be in an uproar.

But because it's black-on-black crime, we get the occasional whimpers from the preachers and the nodding in agreement by the politicians who don't take the lead on ending the violence.

And I make that claim based on a simple premise. Tell me which black politician has made it his or her stance to always speak out on the murders and killings going on in the black community?

I'll take a nap while you try to think of a name, because I know that none of them immediately come to mind. Sure, there are those that make occasional statements, but it's not something where they've taken the lead and are the first person the media would go to in order to get a sound bite.

Well, there is a new phenomenon that is occurring, where our young people have heard us say something so much that they are now taking those words literally. For years when someone finally passes away (perhaps they had been ill or suffering in some other form or fashion), we would offer words of condolences to the family members.

We would tell the family that the suffering was now over and that their deceased love one was now in a "better place." Well our young people have heard us, but they only heard the second half of the message.

I first noticed this the other day when there was an interview on television regarding Reggis Washington. On Friday April 2, at 7:35 p.m. at 69th and Wabash, there was a call to police about shots being fired. When they police arrived, they found Reggis face down on the ground, shot in the back.

When they interviewed a friend of his, the young man stated, "He's (Reggis) in a better place now!" It was shocking and surprising to hear our young people take words of condolences and make them words of statement and fact.

Yes, death is the inevitable end to life. And it is hopefully a place where our souls can find a better place after living this life. But it is not the journey or decision for others to make - to give or send us to the "better place." We cannot allow our young people to warp the meaning and, therefore, validate the murders and killing by claiming that the deceased is now in a "better place."

Because if death is such a better place, then the killers and murders can do us all a favor and end their own wretched lives and put themselves into a "better place." But we know that ain't happening.

We need to talk with our young people and challenge them when they speak so cavalierly that death "is a better place." If it is, then why are so many scared to take a stand that might lead to their death and journey to that "better place?"

Why do religious leaders who profess to speak to God and know about heaven surround themselves with security guards so they can remain on this earth and avoid getting to that "better place?"

This is not about the religious connotation to death. It's the reality that our final destination should not be the legitimate excuse to give other the right to end our lives. And our anger should be directed against those killers and murders. Otherwise, what our young people are doing is inadvertently validating the killing, since the end result is the "better place."

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Harold Washington's Words Still Ring True

I’ve been a fan of Celebrity Apprentice (CA) ever since it first came on the air. And even though I am rarely home to see it when it first comes on the air on Sunday night, you can be assured that I will catch it over the Internet the next day. What makes this season episodes of CA apprentice even more fascinating is the appearance by former Governor Rod Blagojevich.

Now I’ve never been a big fan of Blago. He was always a sleazy character in my book. But because I really didn’t know him, CA would give me the perfect opportunity to see him in a different light. Unfortunately, my hopes for that to happen quickly fell short as one of Blago’s first words on the show was that he is “An innocent man wrongly accused.” Now Blago has all the rights that the constitution gives him to profess his innocence. But would he be a real “team player” or was he using the show to promote his legal troubles.

The latter appears to be more his motives. In the very first episode of CA, Blago allows some food to sit and go cold while acting as a waiter. He was speaking to people professing his innocence while the food sat unattended waiting for him to pick it up and deliver it to the table. The second and third episodes of CA also showed Blago in a poor light. Again too much emphasis on his legal woes and not enough attention paid to the tasks he needs to be completing. Plus in the third episode, Blago is given a laptop and he is so technically challenged that he doesn’t even know how to turn it on. But it was the very last episode in which he appeared that doomed him. He was given a Blackberry or some other type of smart phone and was incapable of sending a text message. Funny and yet…sad. Because while holding the position of governor of this great state, he made decisions which affected all of our lives and yet lived such a privileged lifestyle whereby he didn’t ever have to practice what he preached. He had others to do it for him as he would often say.

As I pondered Blago’s incompetence with text messaging, it made me rescore just how important a Lt. Governor candidate is in case they ever have to assume the position of Governor. It was fun to have Pat Quinn as the Lt. Governor. His quirky nature was easy to dismiss. It is not fun to have Pat Quinn as Governor. Blago had said upon leaving office that he had been fighting attempts to increase our taxes and all Quinn has talked about since being appointed Governor is increasing them. It is very easy to solve the fiscal problems for this state by asking the taxpayers to pay more. It takes a real leader to come in and look at the state’s budget and slash waste and fraud first before asking taxpayers to pay more into an insatiable system.

Plus the fiasco about who will be Quinn’s running mate has forever tarnished him in my book. First he wanted Hynes, then Tammy Duckworth, then State Sen. Susan Garrett before finally settling on Sheila Simon. I too, am one of the angry, irate African American voters who didn’t like the way Art Turner was summarily overlooked in the process. My anger runs so deep that Quinn has forever been renamed by me to be Quinn-Ain’t-Our-Friend.

I also went back and looked up that commercial that played in the waning days before the primary where the late Mayor Harold Washington said of QAOF, “I was nuts to do it. I must have been blind or staggering. I would never appoint Pat Quinn to do anything. Pat Quinn is a totally and completely undisciplined individual who thinks that government is nothing but large easel by which he can do his PR work. He almost created a shambles in that department. The Revenue Department was in a slow process of being revised…and made into a whole. He went in there like a bull in a closet. Wouldn’t do what he was told, which was to put the systems in there which I had discussed thoroughly with him. No he thought that department was a PR plantation and he didn’t do his work. And he was dismissed and should’ve been dismissed. My only regret is that we uh hired him and kept him too long. That was perhaps my greatest mistake in government in terms of appointments.” And the same can be said of QAOF of being appointed governor. A big mistake. But not one we have to live with. Recently Bill “Dock” Walls has announced that he is reviving his campaign for Governor and will run as an Independent. Thank goodness the mistake that is currently in the governor’s seat can be removed this November by electing Walls to the job. You can hear and learn more about Walls this Sunday night on WRLL 1450AM from 10 until Midnight.

Friday, April 09, 2010

The Jewel Of The WestSide

I had the pleasure last Thursday, March 25 of being a guest at Douglass High School on North Waller Avenue. Years back it was primarily a middle school but has been converted into a high school. I was invited by Dr. Louverta Hurt, our preeminent educator here on the West Side to participate in the Career Day at the school. It was an opportunity I couldn’t pass up.

I had never been inside Douglass before and I didn’t know what to expect. But after having worked with the young students from Collins High School in North Lawndale earlier this year on a political forum, I know that our young people are negatively portrayed at every opportunity. Too much emphasis has been placed by the media on one or two negative events and never is the spotlight shown on all the positives things that they do.

I was greeted at the parking lot door by members of the ROTC unit. With their spiffy uniforms and fresh faces, the young people immediately brought a smile to my face. They were well mannered, efficient, and demonstrating responsible behavior with nary an adult in sight. They offered to help me with my suitcase full of books and to escort me wherever I needed to go.

Upon checking in at the library, I was given an itinerary to follow for the day. I would have the opportunity to speak to four classes. As luck would have it, the classes I got were perfect for me; two were for the Spanish class and two were Computer Science. As one who majored in Spanish in college and worked for over twenty years as a computer programmer—well the fit was perfect.

I spoke to the students on a variety of subjects. I told them about getting a job writing for this paper simply because of my weekly letters to the editor. I spoke about writing my first novel, Billion Dollar Winner and my having been inspired by listening to activists who always knew the answers but rarely have the money to fix the problems. I spoke about living in this community and loving technology so much that I normally travel with my laptop wherever I go. When one young man asked if I was concerned about someone stealing it, my reply was swift and without hesitation. I live in this community. I am not allowing that type of negative mindset to infiltrate my reality. I don’t believe this community is full of thieves and therefore don’t subscribe to it.

The young man was taken aback with my response. He has probably spent too much of his young life being labeled a thief without proof. From being watched every time he goes into a store to being profiled by the police, criminal behavior can often be painted on our children whether it is justifiable or not. But he wouldn’t get that label from me. What he did get was a lecture that reminded him and others that just because there are those that expect them to fail doesn’t mean that they have to buy into that mindset. His goals in life should be the ones he strives to achieve and not fall prey to the lack of expectations that others want him to possess.

Douglass nicknames itself the Jewel of the Westside. And like any jewel in its unpolished and natural state, it doesn’t reflect the light like it should. But once cut into the right shape, an unpolished diamond will become a brilliant stone. Getting a good education is akin to becoming a polished stone.

My message to all the students at Douglass High is this; achieve even though many don’t expect you to achieve. Soar to the highest level of the sky leaving those behind who do not or can’t soar with you. Learn from everyone as even a fool can teach you how not to be one. Think and think critically about what you are being taught. Don’t accept “no” for an answer when you know that it is not right. Strive to be the best because only by being the best can you really get to know yourself. Read everything you can get your hands on and ask questions. Be curious about learning and open to learning new things. And as I always like to remind people; the most brilliant of all brain surgeons was once a snot eating two-year-old. You came into this world not knowing how to walk or talk and have mastered those two things. You can master everything else if you put your mind, energy, and effort into it.

One of the special treats of the entire day was to have a meal prepared by the culinary students at the school. I had baked chicken with a maple cream sauce, rice pilaf, and asparagus with lemon butter. Oh my goodness was that food good. The students in the culinary program acted as the wait staff and they did a fantastic job. I am normally not a dessert person, but the pound cake with fresh strawberry topping was so good that I ate mine and that of my tablemates who didn’t want theirs. One of our local restaurants should consider having a special event and allowing those children to cook so that everyone in the community can taste what they can whip up in the kitchen.

To the parents of the students at Douglass High School, your children need to know that we as a community care about them. But we cannot do what you must do. And that is fight for every nickel and dime that the schools gets. It is your children’s education that is on the line and no longer can you expect anyone to do it for them but you. If you don’t fight to insure that your children get the best of everything, no one else will. This column will only mean something if you’re willing to take a stance and tell the board that no more will your children get second class anything. The tax dollars from this community cannot go to the top five high schools while children from this community are short changed.

Lastly, I’ll end my column with this. Thank you students at Douglass High School. Thank you for allowing me into your classrooms. Thank you for letting me intrude into your school day to have a few minutes of your time. Thanks for reaffirming that we have hundreds of hidden jewels in this community and all we need to do is open our eyes to see them.

The Black Agenda Is The American Agenda

Last Saturday morning, the wind howled, the snowflakes swirled, and my alarm clock went off at 5 am. I had set the alarm to go off even earlier than normal so that I could be on time to attend Tavis Smiley’s We Count – The Black Agenda event at Chicago State University (CSU). I wanted to be on time to hear from all those that were to be on the panel. I wanted to hear and come away from the meeting with a clear, concise, concrete, and complete agenda. And I did.

Now the event was definitely interesting. The panel combination of Smiley, Dr. Cornell West, Rev. Jesse Jackson, Min. Louis Farrakhan and ex-Ald. Dorothy Tillman and others was a listen-fest for the ears. And although I could have stayed home and watched the entire event over the internet, it’s not the same thing as being there. Television cannot televise the atmosphere of the crowd that showed our hunger for real discussions, real solutions, real decisions and in the end—a real agenda.

I got to CSU shortly before 7am. If you haven’t seen the Emil and Patricia Jones Convocation Center, it’s a beauty. I had gone there for the first time a few weeks back for the Census concert, so I was shocked to see newly installed (or temporarily placed) metal detectors at the front door. My mind immediately acknowledged that it was because of Farrakhan. I also had to have my bags searched. I was taken aback when the CSU security guard allowed the women from the Nation of Islam (NOI) to rummage thru my possessions. Those NOI women were not duly authorized state employees who have been fingerprinted, identified, duly trained and have had their own backgrounds checked for criminal activity. I have written a letter of concern to Wayne Watson, Chancellor of CSU pointing out my contentions that allowing the women from the NOI to search my bags was akin to permitting the general public to rummage through my possessions. My metal thermos full of hot tea could have held a weapon and those women didn’t have the knowledge to detect it, or even the curiosity to open it, so their actions were more show that security.

Smiley started off the discussions by placing a cube labeled with the word “Love” on the table and it set the tone for both the individuals on stage and those of us in the audience. If there were to be disagreements, it could be done in a fashion without people being disagreeable (which is why I held my protest about the NOI women acting as security until I could pen a letter). And it worked. It was a lively four hour conversation with some things being said that needed to be said. But because this discussion was so vast and it was so much to take in and truthfully I wasn’t taking notes because I wanted to be in the moment and not just be a reporter of it.

Since coming home, I have again re-watched the entire conversation. And what I saw in retrospect is that what had been good in person was even better replayed. I saw individuals put information on the table that may make others uncomfortable, but the data was facts and not just suppositions. The black community cannot afford—no matter who is seated at the head of the White House table to not put forth our agenda. And what is that Agenda? It’s the one that has already been defined by Smiley’s 2006 book, The Covenant with Black America.

The Covenant has a ten point agenda that is as valid today under Obama as it was when the book was first published under President Bush. The ten points are; Healthcare, Education, Criminal Justice, Police, Affordable Housing, Voting, Rural Development, Economics, Environmental and Digital Divide.

My only criticism of the event is that it didn’t have a single male under the age of 30 on the panel. That is the age group with the most unemployed. They do the most killings They are the ones most often killed. They are the ones going to jail, dropping out of school and in need of the most intervention.

I love and respect President Obama. But I also love and respect black people more. We must force him to do for us and to address our issues the same way other groups are pushing forward to get theirs. We cannot afford to allow this opportunity to pass by sitting back and waiting. We are the only group of people who didn’t immigrate to this country. We are the only group that had laws made so that we couldn’t participate. As the title to the conference stated, “The Black Agenda is the American Agenda.”