Times of Testing

Happy and Sad Face

The statement a test failed is a tested rings true in many ways. From an existential point of view I cannot tell you how many times I have bumped my head making the same mistake and doing the same thing over and over. Someone once mentioned to me that doing the same thing over and over, but expecting a different result is the very definition of insanity. Personally, I often wonder why I continue to do the same wrong thing over and over when I always wind up with the same results.

I wonder how we would see ourselves if God allowed us to have an out of body experience while we were doing something stupid or something we knew was wrong. Would we shake our heads in disbelief or would we cheer on the foolishness we see?

The other day I had a déjà vu moment and the pain from a previous event struck me like a stone from a sling. And for a moment I thought to myself why would I knowingly cause myself or someone I love to go through that type of pain again. And why fool myself into thinking this time it will be different?

There are many tests we must go through in life that we must ‘pass’. We will face testing on our jobs, in our finances, in friendships, and ,yes, even in our homes. It matters not the type of test we face, but how we handle them. Dr. King said, “The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort or convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.” I’ve learned to live by that statement and it’s helped to give me focus when times are tough.

What are you currently going through that seems to wear you down? What test has The School of Life placed before you? Whatever it is or whatever they are do not let them master you. As a spiritual person I’d like to share with you a promise from the Holy Bible, which I believe is the word of God, that’s found in the book of James. It says,

“Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.”

Through many times of testing these words have been my rallying cry. They have allowed me to face the toughest times in my life with joy and the conviction to know all will be well. As you travel this road of life I share them with you.

Be encouraged and know that He who began a great work in you is able to complete it. Even until the end.

Dealing With Loss

grief2

One of the hardest things we will have to go through in life is the loss of a loved one. Whether it’s due to the loss of a family member or close friend the pain we wrestle with seems to last forever. The silence of an empty room or the ceasing of the habitual phone call leaves an unimaginable void. For many reading this post, thoughts of a loved ones passing comes to mind. True it is a painful event in one’s life, but what about the loss of a family member or friend who is still living?

The dark veil of loss is not always worn by the Grim Reaper. Disagreements, misunderstanding, and miscommunication is sometimes the cause of death in many relationships. And for the one who is left holding the bag of pain and hurt there is nothing left to do but ask the question, Why? The ex-spouse who asks the question, “What could I have done differently”? The friend who regrets the stinging words to someone they really love or the family member who has done all she can to hold the family together.

Dealing with the loss of someone who is still living is difficult and can be lonely. However, I’ve realized in some instances a loss can equal a great gain. I’ve seen many instances where divorced couples become better friends than spouses. Times when losing someone you thought was a friend was the equivalent of losing dead weight. Consider the opportunities you’ve had in your life when God replaced what you thought was great with something better. The loss of a job lead to a better one or the loss of a terrible spouse led to the finding of the man or woman of your dreams.

In short, I guess I’m saying that even though losing someone or something may be a dark event in your life, but after the pain fades away brighter days will come. What’s the saying? You can’t have sunshine without the rain. So cry if you have to and you can even use the entire box of tissue. But don’t cry to long because I am a firm believer that when God closes one door He will definitely open another.

Out With the Old

baggage

Happy New Year!

One of my favorite artists, Erykah Badu, wrote a song a while back titled, ” Bag Lady.” The song referenced woman who carried around ‘baggage’ from previous relationships. It’s a catchy song and I wondered if Sister Badu ever considered writing a song entitled Bag Man.

All of us of travel through life with some sort of baggage. Whether we are from a broken home or still dealing with broken relationships many still carry around the hurt, anger, and disappointments from those stages of our life. Many times one cannot move on because of their insistence on judging future events on past hang-ups. How many blessings have we missed because we continue to look back and not forward?

As we begin this new year, I encourage you to reflect on new goals and dreams for the year. What happened in the past should only be used to teach and strengthen us. I’ve had the benefit of learning from every hurt, every disappointment, and every failure I’ve gone through. Whether it was my fault or caused by someone else I’ve really learned that every thing that happens is designed to teach me or make me stronger.

So this year decide to be better than you were last year. Whatever you were not able to accomplish add it to this year’s list. Past hurts – as hard as it may be – leave them behind. Let’s start with a clean slate.

Destinies are only reached when we move forward so don’t let your past be a pain in the behind.

What About the Children?

This week when I decided to take a look at the seemingly lack of concern for our children’s education I did not expect the teachers in one of America ‘s largest cities to go on strike. As a result of the teacher strike in Chicago , 400,000 children are being used as a pawn in a chess match between Chicago mayor and the teacher’s union. Don’t get me wrong, I believe the teachers have a right to protest for better wages and benefits. In my opinion, they are the hardest working yet underpaid working group in America and deserve better from our government. But I have to ask the question – why now?

In a city that has one of the highest urban populations in the country and where many of the students see the school as a sanctuary it puzzles me as to why the teacher’s union would choose the first few weeks of school to stage this protest. For many, school is the one place where they can receive at least one meal and be protected from the violence in their community. Their actions have highlighted why it’s important that we put education first in America .

According to an article in the Huffington Post, “The United States has fallen to “average” in international education rankings released by by the Organisation of economic Co-operation and Development”. In a nation that prides itself in being leaders in everything we have obviously dropped the ball on the one thing that will allow Americans to compete on a global level.

We’ve heard a lot of talk from politicians lately about leaving a legacy for future generations. We’ve heard them talk about cuts to balance the budget, protecting social security, and strengthening the military. But when they speak of funding for education it is just a ten second sound-byte that amounts to nothing more than empty rhetoric. Irony – many politicians are married to current or former school teachers so they should know what’s going on. I guess it’s easier to overlook the importance of public school education when you can afford to send your children to top private schools, but I digress. Since it seems like the voices of our children are not being heard in Washington D.C. as parents and concerned citizens we are going to attach our anemic educational system on a grass roots level.

As parents we have to take an active role in our children’s education. We have to do more than making sure they look nice for school by having the latest fads. Begin spending time with them at night while they are doing their homework. For some parents, especially single parents, this may be a sacrifice but isn’t it worth. Join the PTA at your child’s school so you can stay abreast of what’s happening in the classroom. If you can take an hour off work then do so and volunteer to read to young children at the local library. There are so many avenues of involvement we can use to let our children know that we care. Attend school board meetings so you will know how your tax dollars are being spent and find out how too can take part in the decision making process. Whatever you think could be done then I encourage you to do it.

The teacher’s strike in Chicago has once again reminded me that we cannot rely on government and the educational system to do what they have been elected and hired to do for our children. We must as parents, civic leaders, and community activist take charge of our children’s education. Growing up I would always here the United Negro College Fund’s slogan, “A mind is a terrible thing waste.” And that couldn’t be truer now than it was yesterday.

Moving Forward

I read an article this week that stated the California has spent more on building prisons than building schools. My adopted home state, Louisiana, known as the prison capital of the United States, has 20 times more prisons than Germany. And sadly, Texas can be considered one of the nation’s top prison building states.

On the other hand, a ranking of countries with the best education places the United States 16th in the world. I find that reprehensible for a country that falsely prides itself with being a country full of innovators and scientist. Almost every election year schools are forced to have a bond election to convince its citizens to give them more money to either build new schools or update older ones. And in many cases these bond elections fail because they are deemed unnecessary.

However, state governments have decided they would rather build a prison than educate our children. Millions are spent each year on building cages for men and women who have not been properly educated or given the services they need to survive. Laws such as mandatory minimum sentences have incarcerated millions of poor men, women, and in some cases children who with the proper training and education coud be productive citizens in our nation. Notice I said poor men, women, and children. Instead of investing in the intellectual capacity of these citizens they have become pawns in a system that benefits from their labor.

Sadly the largest two investments in our country are not the intellectual capital of our children or in an infrastructure that would meet the needs of the have-nots, but in tools for war and the prison system. By investing in those two industries America ensures its lasting legacy of not intellectualism, but barbarianism.

Nationally, the perception when discussing poor people who make up the majority of the known criminal element many feel more prisons are needed. They cite the various news stories of criminal activity and think incarceration is the answer. I believe that criminals must pay for their crimes, but I also believe in education and rehabilitation. And we need more of the latter than the former.

How can we change this and ensure a strong future for our children? There are three things I believe we must do to secure a strong future for America.
1) Invest in education
2) Improve health and services in poor communities
3) Encourage economic community development

Any community and society that focuses on these will ensure its economic prosperity and adaptability to changes in technology, science, and the market.

Over the next few days let’s delve into how we can in President Obama’s words, “Move forward.”

The N Word

It’s one of the most divisive and offensive words ever used. To hear it during the Jim Crow era was a reminder to others that you were less than a man. No word has been used more to define a culture or a people. Jigaboo, porch monkey, spade, and coon have almost disappeared from the everyday conscious of a group of people who were misused and mistreated. But the word “nigger” seems to be as powerful a word today as it was during the days of slavery.

Nigger…

I debated, with the fear of offending anyone, whether I would use the word in this post or just identify it as the N Word. Since I’ve said it, for the remainder of this post and afterwards I won’t use it again.

The word has become accepted in the African-American community as a term of endearment. Whether you keep the original spelling or add “ah,” it’s still the same word. Sadly, some of the brightest minds in our culture explain the use of the word amongst ourselves is a way of removing its power. They say when we use it we are sharing a bond and taking away the sting of racism. Its the same as girlfriends calling each other bitches (I disagree, but that’s a topic for another day).

I find that ludicrous and would ask those intellectual brothers, since slavery was such a horrific time for Africans in America would it lessen the horror if we began calling each other slaves? And how hypocritical is it that we can call each other that ugly name, but deny the ones who created it the use of the word?

Over the weekend super model Gwyneth Paltrow sent a tweet regarding her hanging out with her “Niggahs in Paris”. The Internet was in an uproar, but the black men she was referring to laughed it off. I wonder if they would laugh it off if Mitt Romney or Sarah Palin said it.

Each of us know the pain of words and in an effort to be hip or cool we use the N Word like its a compliment. I think the problem is that we have forgotten its use of violence and hatred against African-Americans. When used against us it meant lazy, stupid, ignorant, and less than human.

I guess that’s why our community is still in despair. We get excited about calling each other lazy, stupid, ignorant, and less than human. We forget that we act according to the labels that are given to us. So by using the N word we continue to perpetuate the stereotype that as followed us for centuries.

Do you still think of it as a term of endearment?

My grandfather is 85 years old and grew up in Louisiana during a time when calling a Black man the N word was as natural as breathing. I can never imagine the embarrassment and the sting he felt when such an ugly word was thrown at him and knowing that if he spoke up it meant going to jail or even worse, being lynched.

Now that I think about it; I have never heard anyone from his generation use that word as a term of endearment. Maybe that’s our problem, we don’t know our history so we think it’s a cool word because of its frequent use.

Maybe if we began to see ourselves as the royalty we really are our perception of ourselves will change. According to history we originated from kings and queens, created the maths and sciences, and sailed the ocean blue before Columbus was born. Maybe if we grabbed hold of the positive things from our history we would be further along than we are now.

Or maybe, just maybe, if we stop embracing a term used by slave masters we can finally and truly be free.

My Utopian Vision of the Black Community

When I look around and throughout the Black community I often wonder what I would be like if things were in place…

A community where there is no crime and neighbors are able to get along with each other. Communities where fathers spend time with their children after coming home from work. Looking through windows and seeing mothers teaching their daughters how to take care of home while the baby brother or sister tagged along behind.

A community where teenage boys gather to play a game of basketball after finishing their homework. Games like hopscotch being played by giggling girls who are more focused on winning the game than impressing the guys.

No liquor stores on every corner and a neighborhood park where kids can play and not have to worry about sliding into drug needles or condoms. A place where fathers can push their daughters on a swing and laughter fills the entire block.

A community where wives and mothers are treated like the queens they are. And at times gather with girlfriends and brag about how great their men are instead of complaining about them.

No police brutality, honest politicians (black and white), and schools filled with teachers who are embraced by their call and love the children the teach.

A community where the church focuses more on outreach than building the next edifice. The pastor knows his congregation and they know him. A transparent church that focuses more on the glory of God than the lusts of man.

A community where our children embrace their heritage and are prepared to enter a world that accepts them for the beauty they bring.

All these things I see as a vision for how things should be. With closed eyes and clutched hands I pray this vision I will one day see.

Let’s Talk About… Sex

The other day I was walking home and I noticed something that caught my attention. It was around 3 p.m. and a young teenage girl was walking who I perceived to be her boyfriend down the driveway. He was walking to his car with his chest stuck out like a warrior after a great triumph and she was looking at him with puppy dog eyes. Her parents were not home and from the looks of things I knew exactly what they just finished doing.

As they were walking down the drive way I wondered if they knew that according to the Center for Disease Control…
* In 2009, black men accounted for 70% of the estimated new HIV infections among all blacks.
* In 2009, black women accounted for 30% of the estimated new HIV infections amoung blacks.
*At some point in their lifetimes, an estimated 1 in 16 black men and 1 in 32 black women will
be diagnosed with HIV infection.

And just so our teens do not feel they have been left out
* Most sexually teenagers will have contracted at least two sexually transmitted diseases by the
time they graduate from high school.
* Teenage mothers are less likelty to attend college than other other students.
* Most teenage mothers are left to raise their child alone without the assistance of the father.

Alarming as it is, little is being done to teach our youth about the dangers of premarital sex and more importantly , unprotected sex. I was one who blamed television and radio for leading our children down the road to sexual immorality, but something happened on my way to my soap box. I looked in the mirror.

Many young men learn about their sexuality by watching pornography and listening to other men give them a false ideal of what love is about. Many of our young girls learn about love by reading fictional romance novels, listening to their friends, and watching poor choices often made by the older women in their lives.

Its time that we have a serious, open, and honest dialogue with our children about sex. The birds and the bees were cute back then, but in today’s age of open sexuality we must get real. AIDS, Syphillis, Gonorrhea, ande other STDs are very real and very dangerous. We cannot teach them to protect themselves with fairy tales.

Abstinence or Protection – Thats a conversation for another day. But today we must warn our children not to trade in a minute of pleasure for a disease that will give them a lifetime of pain.

Stats taken from the Center for Disease Control website at

Morgan Freeman Says President Obama is Not the First Black President – Say What!!

Is it the heat or are black actors losing their mind? Morgan Freeman has decided to outdo Chris Rock by making a racial statement of his own.

In an interview today with NPR, Morgan Freeman made the statement that the United States does not have its first black president. What!! Mr. Glory has denied our President’s blackness? In his interview Bro. Freeman said, “Barack had a mama and she was white, very white American, Kansas, middle of America.” He later added, “America’s first black president hasn’t arisen yet … [Obama] is America’s first mixed-race president.”

It seems that Bro. Freeman has forgotten that President Obama had a dad and he was a black, very black Kenyan, east of Africa. He’s wrong, but that’s not my issue.

These types of ignorant and bombastic statements are what have divided our race for years. The Paper Bag Test, light-skin versus white-skin, straight hair versus kinky hair, and a host of other ignorant things we do to try to put each other down are foolish. But when we deny our own because they are a product of interracial parents we are no better than the slave masters who used this as a device to separate us.

I’m the product of two black parents so I will never know the pain of being rejected by my own. Growing up I was often teased for speaking properly so I can only imagine the turmoil children of mixed races go through. Many carry the scars of rejection they received from both races into adulthood.

We as a community must embrace all of our shades of color because that’s what makes us so beautiful. When we learn to love ourselves then we can be loved by others.

As far as I’m concerned my President is black!

African-Americans and the Fourth of July

Many do not understand why African-Americans are not fond of the Fourth of July. This statement is not inclusive of all African-Americans, but a pocket of us who feel that the celebration on that took place a couple of days ago does not include us. In light of Chris Rock’s tweet calling the Fourth of July the “White People’s Holiday” I thought I would share my own perspective.

First let me say this – In spite of the racism, classism, and obvious difference between the Haves and the Have-nots, the United States of America is the greatest country on Earth. It is a melting pot of beautiful people from all walks of life and different parts of the world. The freedoms we have today are far superior to those in other countries.

However, this was not the case in 1776 for the hundreds of thousand of African slaves who were kidnapped and brought to this new world. While the founding fathers gathered to create a document that guaranteed freedom for all in this country a certain population was excluded. This excluded population consisted of those kidnapped slaves, but also Native Americans whose trust of the founders caused their destruction.

African-Americans did not become citizens of this nation until July 9, 1868 with the adoption of the 14th Amendment (92 years after the signing of the Declaration of Independence). And even though we were citizens there were many hurdles placed in front of African-Americans that kept them from experiencing the freedoms guaranteed by the Constitution.

Those of us who are reluctant to celebrate the Fourth of July do not do so to highlight the wrongs that were done to our ancestors, thats a historical fact that cannot be erased. We do not celebrate the fourth because to this day there are certain pockets of our population who cannot sing songs of freedom. It is also very difficult for me to celebrate a day that did not include all people. And until the day comes when all of us (black, white, red, brown, and yellow) realize the dream of America, the fourth of July will be just another day.

Happy Birthday America and as you continue to age may God allow you to truly become the land of the free.

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