Saturday, December 26, 2009

Oh What a Time!!! 2000 to 2009

Time is our most valuable commodity, 1440 minutes each day is all we get. Unfortunately, once spent it can never be returned concluding that most of us understand we have less time in front of us, than we have behind us. Or another way of putting it is that we are dying slowly, and I mean that literally, from a life standpoint and from the standpoint of life. Therefore, as this year ends I will reflect upon this time in which we have lived. Further, it is also the end of a decade to which I will recall some of the highlights or maybe low-lights. This post is a little longer than my usual articles but I tried to capture the essence of a decade. So let me try to remember the time.

The decade began with a huge scam called Y2K. Remember, the world was supposed to end when all of the computers shut down – it didn’t. This was just the start of what was to come. We witnessed the nation’s capital paralyzed with fear because of a psychopath known as the DC Sniper. At its resolution, I received a huge shock, and dare I say to most people, when it was discovered that this terrorist was a black man – particularly most African Americans. It was believed that crimes such as this were committed by others. This was just an example of insanity being a disease that is a human condition, which will be relived throughout this decade.

The nation was introduced to a Texas Governor, who was known for putting more people to death via the prison system than anywhere else in America. However, he became infamous as the new president for what many believe was stealing the election. He and his partner in crime, you know the guy, who shot his hunting partner in the face, left the scene and the wounded friend apologized for catching the bullet. This ushered in an era of what I call “Gangsta Politics”.

Then about 8:30 AM on Tuesday, September 11, 2001, the world changed as we knew it - the unthinkable happened. The nation was attacked by nineteen guys with razor blades. They high jacked four commercial planes crashing them into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon in Washington DC with one crashing into a Pennsylvania field killing thousands – a horrible tragedy. The worst attack upon America since WWII. Let me pause to offer my condolences to the families of those lives lost. But something has always puzzled me, they were able to find bones, identify rings and watches of victims but never found any of the black boxes from the planes.

The United States under the direction of the new regime responded to the attacks by launching a War on Terror invading the “Graveyard of Empirers” (Afgahanistan) to depose the Taliban, who had harbored al-Qaeda terrorists. Our government enacted what became known as the USA Patriot Act giving the them the power to do anything they wanted superceding all or most Constitutional rights, and George became King.

He and the shooter used this event to invade two nations under the guise of many misrepresentations, like “weapons of mas-destruction”. These wars, which appear to be endless, caused the deaths of over a hundred thousand people and wounded countless others, and no victory. They then funneled all of the money authorized to a company once headed by the shooter. They hired mercenaries and hung the leader of one of the country’s who had nothing to do with the attack. When in fact the culprit was a villain or an international terrorist known as Osama Bin Laden who is like the invisible man that can’t be found, but he has put out more videos than Tupac.

They have satellites that can tell the time on your watch from space, yet they can’t find this guy. Now in a country where people make a dollar a week, why has no one come forward with information concerning his whereabouts, particularly with millions of dollars on his head? The hunt for him and these wars introduced us to torture, rendition, secret prisons, and GTMO (Guantanamo Bay). Oh, I cannot leave out the “Coalition of the Willing”, which was a group nation’s supporting us so small and insignificant that no one knew they were on this planet. I will forgo the remainder of the “Gansta Years” because we all know the story.

However, the most reprehensible act of King George’s rein, aside from refusing to attend any of the NAACP conventions, was his regimes response to Hurricane Katrina. As it was happening he was enjoying a birthday party and did not take an interest in New Orleans drowning until he returned to Washington. As the televised images of visibly shaken and frustrated political leaders, and of residents who remained stranded on roof tops because of flood waters without food, water, or shelter. He sent his friend “Brownie” down to help.

Deaths from thirst, exhaustion and violence days after the storm had passed, fueled more criticism, as did the dilemma of the evacuees being called “refuges” at facilities such as the Louisiana Superdome (designed to handle 800, yet 30,000 arrived) and the New Orleans Civic Center (not designed as an evacuation center, yet 25,000 arrived). Of the 60,000 people stranded in New Orleans, the Coast Guard rescued more than 33,500 people of which most were black. Some alleged that race and class contributed to delays in the government’s response.

This caused many to agree with rapper Kanye West who veered off script at a benefit concert for the victems to harshly criticized the government's response to the crisis, stating that "George Bush doesn't care about black people." I am sure you will never forget the images of how America abandoned its poor people. They can get aid anywhere in the world in almost a heartbeat yet did attempt sucessfully to do so for its own citizens within its boarders.

As desperate as the situation was a shining knight appeared as God sent his best soldier to the rescue - General Russel L. Honoré. He gained my respect, praise, and accolades for turning around the situation in the city. In one widely played clip, Honore was seen on the streets of the city, barking orders to subordinates and, in one case, berating a soldier who displayed a weapon, telling him "We're on a rescue mission damn it!" Mayor Ray Nagin, who I fondly call “My Nagin”, was quoted on a radio station saying: "Now, I will tell you this -- and I give the president some credit on this -- he sent one John Wayne dude down here that can get some stuff done, and his name is Lt. Gen. Honoré. And he came off the doggone chopper, and he started cussing and people started moving. And he's getting some stuff done." - I thank you General.

Now, I’ll fast forward to the election season of 2008. The country was in disarray as we endured a presidential primary election campaign that seems too lasted forever. Actually, it was kinda like the Mod Squad - one Black, one woman, and an OLD guy. This is very significant because the Black guy beat a formidable opponent in the wife of who I thought was the closest we would get to a black president in my lifetime – Brother Bill. Now, during the campaign in support of his wife he digressed a few time letting us know that he was still a white man, but all has been forgivin.

Now, the real opposition, the Republican opponent was a different story. He took a page straight out of the fifties with racism being the foundation of his campaign. One of his themes was to repeatedly ask “Who is Barrack Obama?” Implying and reminding his constituents that he was a Negro, but it was the war hero’s running mate that came off as the real redneck. Caribou Barbie came into the race as the pure example of white womanhood, which lasted about a week. Then it became clear she was about as unqualified as a door knob and about as well informed. However, the joke took every opportunity to remind those of the same hue that they represented the “Real America”.

I have learned that there comes a time when time itself needs a change and after the brutal rein of “King George” - that time was now. There had always been Robber Barons but this crew was “straight gangsta” with one objective “cash and cash only”. The economic situation was a mess nearing times compared to the Great Depression. Unemployment rocketed, home foreclosures skyrocketed as everyone struggled financially, and investment money seems dry up as Wall Street was bailed out with government funds. It was like they thought we were unaware of crooks like Bernard Madoff, Bernard Ebbers, and the likes of ENRON - but Wall Street prospered.

Then the unimaginable happened - Barrack Obama was elected the first African American president in the nation's history. From the hatred and racism that followed from some quarters, it must have been the same feeling the confederates had when colored men were freed after the Civil War. Nonetheless, Obama has broken a huge barrier and has had a profound impact on the entire world. A black man and a man that is the embodiment of what so many African Americans have prayed so disparately for since we were dragged onto the shores of Virginia to build this country. Ironically, the new president won the state were the first slaves landed, which was also the home of the confederate capital that fought to keep us enslaved.

The election of a Black man president of these United States is something no one living or dead ever thought would happen. I cannot think of a single event more significant in world history, or at least since the resurrection of Christ, to compare it too. Ironically, the thought of a scripture comes to mind, which tells us that “the first will be last and the last will be first”. His recent Nobel Peace Prize award just goes to show how much the rest of the world values his presence and feels the impact. However, in spite of this there has been talk of secession and tea parties were formed instigated by the Drugster, the Alcoholic, Caribou Barbie, and of course Fox comparing our president to Hitler as many prayed for his death, and that of his family using Bible verses to rally their faithful (Psalm 109:8).

Then in June the world stopped to mourn the death of “the King of Pop” Michael Jackson. In the pop culture world, no story has been bigger than this one. Michael Jackson was an iconic music legend, and his unexpected death shocked and upset millions of fans around the world. The legacy of Michael Jackson will no doubt live on for all eternity.

Probably the most dangerous of all the issues was health care reform. It brought out the birthers, deathers, and the tea party crowd to represent the most extreme right-wing politics since the citizen’s councils ruled a segregated society. I found it amazing that a cause so moral and just would cause people to come to where the president spoke openly armed bringing Christ into the debate. Like these Bible thumpers misread the part where Jesus healed the sick, which was his mission – provide for the least of thee.

Thankfully, as the decade ended something in terms of health care reform has passed to provide for the needy. Is it a good bill, we’ll see, but it is better then what the insurance company cartel’s have offered. To show how deranged the world has become a woman jumped the barriers in St. Peter's Basilica and knocked down Pope Benedict XVI as he walked down the main aisle to begin Christmas Eve Mass. Oh what a time…

Lastly, I would be remised if I did not briefly cover the obituary. We lost so many great souls who impacted the world and were huge parts of our lives: Richard Pryor, James Brown, Shirley Chisholm, Coretta Scott King, Luther Vandross, Aaliyah, Bernie Mac, Marlon Brando, Rick James, Yolanda Denise King, Mrs. Rosa Parks, John Lee Hooker, Farrah Fawcett, Lionel Hampton, Althea Gibson, Maynard Jackson, Gregory Hines, Reggie White, Ray Charles, John H. Johnson, Barry White, Ted Kennedy, Walter Cronkite, Ed McMahon, Paul Newman, Super Fly, Moses, Superman, and my son to name a few.
A FOND FAREWELL - Rest in Peace…

Happy New Year!!!

JUST A SEASON

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Tis’ the Season

This is the season we rejoice with great celebration for Christmas is the day Christ was born. Rarely do I share much of my personal being, but in this post I want to pour my heart out because this is neither my favorite season nor one that I look forward too. It is not due to a lack of faith or my strong belief in someone greater than I; who I call chose to call God. Rather, it is due to an event that will forever pain my heart. Each year during this holiday season I have to relive a dreadful horror that no parent should have to endure.

Please forgive any tears that may stain the pages as I write. If you have experienced the greatest love of all, and lost it, you feel my pain. Therefore, I will use this writing to express my feelings and to pay homage to my late son, who I miss very much. I know that I am not alone as adversity, like that which I have experienced, happens to someone every day. Therefore, to anyone experiencing adversity whether it is from health, financial issues or the pain of missing a loved one. I offer my deepest sympathy to you, particularly those who have joined this unwelcomed fraternity of losing a child.

The Christmas holiday season and welcoming the New Year will never be the same. It was a dreadful dreary cold day about eight years ago, early in the morning, when I lost my only son due to a tragic automobile accident. It was without question the worst thing imaginable and most certainly my darkest hour. This pain never seems to subside although during this season it is more painful. Adding to the sadness of this situation his death occurred on New Year’s Eve and on the morning of his son’s first birthday as we were preparing a birthday party for my grandson.

From this nightmare I have come to understand that adversity can either destroy or develop you. Unless and until you have suffered enough pain, then and only then, will you reach deep inside and feel the breath that God has breathed into your soul coming eye to eye with your destiny. Now having said that my salvation was to take this lemon (for lack of a better word) and make lemonade. What I have learned from this tragedy is that there is a definition of service that is not written in Webster’s Dictionary that says “I can heal by giving of myself to the benefit of others.”

In spite of this never before known pain that resides permanently within my soul I am very grateful that God saw fit to bless me with a wonderful grandson whose name is Elijah. So as each year passes and Elijah resembles my son more and more. The pain eases and the season becomes more bearable. I pray that my son is rejoicing in the bosom of our Lord knowing that I am here for his son in his stead. I am looking forward to the day when I see him again so we can walk around haven all day reveling in wonders of God’s kingdom.

R.I.P.
“RASHAD ALI WILLS”
1981 - 2001

JUST A SEASON

Thursday, December 10, 2009

I'm “Going Rouge”

I thought about writing this piece a while ago but wondered if it was really worth the words. Then I said, well why not. Words are powerful and capable of creating images that can often create an illusion. That is exactly what I discovered during my cursory review of the book written by someone for the quitter - “Caribou Barbie”. Our freedom of speech affords everyone the right to say whatever they want, within reason - of course. The right-wingers have reacted to this book as if it was the Bible. Liberals find it more in line with creative fiction or a vengeful attempt to place blame on everyone for everything but the author. I would fall in the group who has a perception of reality.

I was in Wal-Mart standing at the counter, you know, where they keep all of the tabloid papers. The book caught my attention and to my surprise there it was at the unbelievable low- low price of $4.00 reduced from twenty-four dollars. No wonder it is a runaway best seller. I must say I personally don’t put much creditability in her mainly because she is (wink) one of those “Real American’s”. As an African America I know that is a buzz word akin to supremacy and oftentimes what comes with, I will use a Native American phrase, “they speaks with fork tongue” willing to say anything regardless of its merit. However, as a talking head what she says is comical and very entertaining.

Aside from all the other nonsense we know about her – SNL, the interviews, and being devoid of facts. I was glad to read where she said she has not ruled out a third party bid for the 2012 election. Despite what is predicted (according to the movie) to happen in 2012, which I suppose means - if she wins. I for one support her in this independent bid, if we can believe it, to challenge President Obama. This would be great – not the part about the world coming to an end.

I guess what I am saying regardless of her positions and all the wining she does in the book, and there is a lot of it, which seemed at times too outrageous for her to believe. I am reminded of this quote: “Pundits seemed to assume that I was thinking only of my future on the national stage (YEAH). And no matter how many times and in how many ways I repeated that Alaska came first (BUT SHE QUIT), the opposition interpreted every position I took through the prism of my supposed "national ambitions" (BUT SHE HAS A TOUR BUS TOURING THE COUNTRY). Hmmm.

Like I said in the beginning, this topic is really not worth the words nor do I feel the book is worth $4.00 and surely not a President Palin ...

JUST A SEASON

Friday, December 4, 2009

MUCH TO DO ABOUT “TIGER”

Does anybody really care about the Tiger Woods situation? If you have followed or read my “Thought Provoking Perspectives” you know I could not resist this mess. Since the dawn of these United States anyone of color, particularly a Black Man, knows the most sacred of all American possessions is a “white woman”. Thousands have been lynched and murdered for merely looking at one, most notably little Emmett Till a 13 year old child who I am sure you remember.

Before I go any further, let me be VERY CLEAR that I am not espousing bigotry with respect to my opinion concerning this issue. Rather, I am speaking from a historical perspective that was, and is, part of America’s disgraceful past. In fact, there are a few backward places in America that still have laws on the books against interracial dating. If you can recall just a few months ago there was a Justice of the Peace in Louisiana who refused to marry an interracial couple. Therefore, race matters in every aspect of society and I say it is possible that it is present in this situation as well.

Try to forget for a moment, if you can, that Tiger is not the suburb athletic superstar hero. Now look at the picture of the couple. You will see a blonde haired beauty in the photo with a black man, which I suggest is the root of the problem for many – he had the nerve to cheat on HER!!! In other words, because of his money and that much of it, which he has made as a result of ruling a sport that he is carrying all by himself, and the money he generates. He was given a pass and society pretended it was ok - but now it is discovered that he has a “stable” of white women. So the media and society is redrawing Tiger’s self made portrait.

Let me ask you to recall the first news account of the situation. We were told at 2 AM Tiger backed out of his driveway, which he has done many times, collapsed and crashed into a tree feet from his home. Then it is reported that his lovely wife rushed out of the house, with a golf club, broke the back window in a frantic attempt to save him. Fess up, be honest, you felt for them - right. However, the retired player in me said, wait a minute. Something is wrong with this picture. In fact, I told my boy that Tiger got busted and the woman was on his A$$. It sounded like this was an escape or an attempt at one.

As the days past it has come out that Tiger’s got a little freak in him and good taste in women. But with a billion dollars it’s not hard to attract beautiful women. The problem is he committed a cardinal sin, and a playa knows better than to, for one thing, leave a trail, i.e., voice and text messages. Two, he should have known to use a throw away phone or not to communicate from a one connected to him. This is clearly discussed in the “Playa’s Handbook”.

Now, Tiger is rich, no wealthy, the first billionaire athlete and one of only a few a African Americans billionaires, has now come face to face with the fact, maybe for the first time, that he is a Black man. The truth of the matter, as I see it, Tiger has never connected with the African American community or shown any evidence of relating to it. Other than his father, I can’t recall seeing more than a few pictures of him ever being with a black person.

However, I will credit him with the evolution of our consciousness to a sport that we’ve long been denied access too. I am almost positive all of the other golfers are calling his wife because she seems to be the only one who knows how to beat him. Or maybe Tiger just wanted to live up to his slogan “Just do it”. I could not resist adding this bit of humor. But seriously, would this uproar have been the same if he were married to a black woman and the affair/discretions had been with black woman?

I’m not hating – I am just saying.

JUST A SEASON

Saturday, November 28, 2009

A Birthday Reflection


On this day, November 27th, my birthday, I woke up in my right mind, I think, understanding that I have less time to live than ever before. As prophetic as that sounds, it is very true. However, I am so very grateful because I received a very special blessing, which was the gift of life. As I sat with a cup of java reflecting upon my journey, to this point, I am humbled by the many blessings I’ve received. I was born with nothing at a time when hope was a concept that was an unrealistic ideal for people of my hue. Yet, today I bare witness to a reality I never thought could happen – a Black Man as President - from the outhouse to the Whitehouse, as Jesse would say.

As I sit peacefully thinking about the phenomena that is my “Dash” I can only say Amen. What I mean by the “Dash” is this: on my final marker, like yours, there will be a beginning date, a dash, and an end date inscribed on the stone. In other word, the whole of my life will be contained within a tiny little “Dash”. As I continue to recount the time God has granted me, I subconsciously think about my mortality. Asking myself the ultimate question, if today was my last day, have invested enough equity into the contents of my “Dash”. For I know judgment will be based upon the work I’ve done.

During this wonderful journey I have endured mountains, milestones, and valleys that I have come to understand were not obstacles rather stepping stones that has made me stronger, in some cases whole, and surely a man. My life has not been unlike that of any other man, although challenging at times, the answer to those challenges was to have the will to survive and that means being accountable for life on life’s terms, and of course understanding that I have no control over life’s terms.

Life’s lessons have taught me that I can never plan the future by the past, which leads me to conclude that I don’t know what the future holds, but I know who holds the future. To live has only one purpose and that is reality. With that said, I thought these words were very appropriate to describe the rest of my life. I have only just a minute, sixty seconds in it, I did not choose it, can’t refuse it; it is up to me to use it, just a tiny little minute, but an eternity in it.

I am keenly aware that I stand on the shoulders of the ghost of many greats whose inspiration, courage, and motivation humble me, and I’m filled with gratitude that their example enriched my soul before they made their transition into the kingdom of heaven. So much so that in those times of trouble, when the bridges are hard to cross and the road gets rough, I hear their gentle voices reciting these words: “Fear not for we are with you.”

So I ask you, if someone were to tell the story concealed within your dash. What might they say?

Author of "Just a Season"

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Anti-Obama bumper stickers – Psalm 109:8 - SHOCKING!!!

While reading the New York Times today I came across a blog written by Schott Vocab referencing a slogan that the right is using which seems to urge people to pray for an end to the President’s days. What is despicable about this is that they are using Bible verses to rally their faithful to bring harm not just to the President but to his family as well. Appalling, and inexcusable!!!

I have seen a few of these stickers that said “Pray for Obama – Psalms 109:8” but I honestly did not think much of it until I read this blog. Then I decided to use Google to see how viral this was and found that these people (and I use the word loosely) are selling posters, T-shirts and bumper stickers of this slogan that is disturbing, and dare I say sinister. However, as a number of commentators have noted, the wording that follows this bumper-sticker’s appeal is even more alarming. It reads as follows:

Let his days be few; and let another take his office.
Let his children be fatherless, and his wife a widow.

Let his children be continually vagabonds, and beg: let them seek their bread also out of their desolate places.

Let the extortioner catch all that he hath; and let the strangers spoil his labor.
Let there be none to extend mercy unto him: neither let there be any to favor his fatherless children.

Let his posterity be cut off; and in the generation following let their name be blotted out.

Let the iniquity of his fathers be remembered with the LORD; and let not the sin of his mother be blotted out.

Let them be before the LORD continually that he may cut off the memory of them from the earth.


Every time I think the “rightwing nuts” have gone too far – they find a way to go further. Most of these folks, I assume, believe they are Christians, although not of any faith I want to be part of. This seems eerily similar to the way the Bible was interrupted to justify slavery and other amoral atrocities by racists who call themselves “Americans”.

I have to ask myself “how can these people say the love God who they cannot see and cannot love a man (a great man) who they can see?” Who, by the way, is the elected President of the United States charged with the responsibility for their salvation?

President Obama has received treats of unprecedented proportions and now his family. I ask that we PRAY for our President and his family. If you agree, please repost and share this message to make others aware and ask all who believe this great man deserves our support and prayers to please do so. Pray that we are delivered from evil.

GOD BLESS YOU MR. PRESIDENT AND YOUR FAMILY...

JUST A SEASON

Saturday, November 14, 2009

My favorite Negro – the Man of Steele

I’m writing this article not from the perspective of disrespect rather from an inquisitive concern, but frankly I am vexed. As you know, from past articles, I delve into the political arena every once in a while and I was compelled to say something about the Republican’s puppet. Although I must admit, I really find it hard to understand or find the words to describe the “Black Face” of the Grand Ol’ Party. So I will use Malcolm’s words and say he has been hoodwinked, bamboozled, or maybe more appropriately stated “run a muck”. How can an “educated” Negro be so out of touch with reality?

Before I add my commentary, let me explain. Last Sunday I was watching “Washington Watch” hosted by Roland Martin whose guest was none other than the man of Steele. Roland asked Chairman Steele to name two issues that “speak to black voters that Republicans have a shot at.” Steele replied, “Education and the economy. Education and jobs. Education and small business.” I was surprised because I thought “finally” this guy was going to reconnect with his identity.

Roland then pointed out that he has long criticized the GOP because “white Republicans have been scared of black folks.” Uh-oh. Well that’s when my man Steele relapsed meaning “foot in mouth disease”. Faced with this loaded statement, surely the first African American chairman (after six ballots) of the overwhelmingly white and increasingly Southern party would use some tact or at least realize he was being viewed by an African American audience – people who looked like him even if he is not one of them.

So, how did Steele defend his party's honor?

“And what if, eh, . . . No, you're absolutely right,” Steele said. “I mean, I've been in the room and they've been scared of me. And I'm like, I'm on your side. You know, so I can imagine going out there and talking to someone like you…” WOW!!!

Let me be perfectly clear, I am all for ANYONE having a hustle. If you can succeed and are trying to accomplish something - GREAT - but this guy is severely challenged with respect to his ideals or identity. Now, he has every right to be as foolish as he wishes and I understand that there have been house Negro’s since they’ve been Negro’s - but Negro Please!!!

As we celebrate the most significant event since the resurrection of our Lord, the first African American President, we also must be subject to this throwback to the days of a Blackface minstrel show. So to the man of Steele, I say I am scared because you are the face of the Grand Ol’ Party.

More and more he reminds me of my uncle whose name is Tom…

JUST A SEASON

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

The 41 Cent Secret

I was very fortunate to have been asked by a wonderful lady out of H-Town, Ar-Lena Richardson, to be a guest on her radio show - “Deeper than the Game”. First, let me thank Ar-Lena for the opportunity to be interviewed by a truly phenomenal host. During the interview, Ar-Lena asked me to share something powerful from my novel “Just a Season” to which I shared a subliminal message. It was interesting because we hold it in our hands but most people probably have no idea there is a message concealed within what I call “The 41 Cent Secret”.

The legacy of America is a heritage that is controlled by economics, no matter what, nothing trumps cash, and cash only. The lure of money is so powerful that you will sell your soul for it. Most people think racism is about the color of your hue but it’s not. It is about color true, but the color is green. Therefore, the phrase on money, “In God we trust,” is really a catchphrase suggesting that economic superiority is the cornerstone of this legacy. As we know slavery and the economic profits derived from it built a capitalistic society and this message speaks to the heart of it.

I’m sure you know that a secret is designed to elude observation because it contains information that, if disclosed, could endanger. Therefore, secrets are never to be told or shared. So this is just between you and I. I would like for you to take a quarter, nickel, dime, and a penny placing them in a row in that order from left to right. Look at the coins very carefully. What do you see other than the obvious - forty-one cents. Notice the faces on the coins. You will see four presidents - but there is more.

“Let me explain.” There is Washington, Jefferson, Roosevelt, and Lincoln. Washington was the father of the country who instituted, by law, slavery as an American institution and owned many slaves. Jefferson, well we all know his storied history relating to slaves. Then there was Roosevelt who had the same philosophy but live in the era of segregation.

Now notice that Washington, Jefferson, and Roosevelt have turned their backs on Lincoln arguably the most significant of all presidents. Lincoln is on the lowest denomination of all money and it is made of copper, the cheapest metal. Now, notice that the penny looks like you in color (if you are African American). This was done to scorn Lincoln for all eternity because he freed the slaves. Anytime someone comes along who changes the system, status quo, they will be scorned or destroyed. You have heard of assassination.

You have carried change in my pockets all of your life but did you know there was a subliminal message. It is important to understand that “The system is designed to protect the system.” Now, let me put this into perspective. It takes an act of congress to get a face approved to be put on a postage stamp. This was no accident. If you can see this and understand it, know that there are other forms of deception perpetrated by the majority people who control the system. In particular, systematic slavery, that continues, and designed to make sure people of a certain races remain a permanent underclass. This is what is meant when they referred to the system protecting the system. It is all about wealth, which drives the system.

Just a Season

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Brown v Board of Education - fifty five years later

This year we will celebrate the fifty fifth anniversary of the landmark Brown v Board of Education case successfully argued before Supreme Court of the United States. It is also very appropriate at this time to also take this opportunity to recognize the skill of the late great Thurgood Marshall who brilliantly won this case and more than fifty other cases before the Supreme Court - winning all of them.

This case changed the face of America in away unlike any other decision. The Brown case, as it is known, was not the first such case regarding civil rights argued before the court it is worth mentioning. It was just the most significant of what some would say was the final battle in the courts that had been fought by African American parents since 1849, which started with Roberts v. City of Boston, Massachusetts. It is also important to note that Kansas was the site of eleven such cases spanning from 1881 to 1949.

The case was named after Oliver Brown one of 200 plaintiffs. The Brown case was initiated and organized by the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) leadership who recruited African American parents in Topeka, Kansas for a class action suit against the local school board. The Supreme Court combined five cases under the heading of Brown v. Board of Education: Delaware, Kansas, South Carolina, Virginia, and the District of Columbia. The ultimate goal sought by the NAACP was to end the practice of “separate but equal” throughout every segment of society, including public transportation, dining facilities, public schools and all forms of public accommodations.

The Brown Supreme Court ruling determined racial segregation in public education was unconstitutional in Brown I, the first opinion. The court’s implementation mandate of "with all deliberate speed" in 1955 is known as Brown II. In 1979, twenty five years later, there was a Brown III because Topeka was not living up to the earlier Supreme Court ruling, which resulted in Topeka Public Schools building three magnet schools to comply with the court's findings. As had been the case since Homer Plessy, the subject in Plessy v. Ferguson in 1896 when the U.S. Supreme Court decided that a Louisiana law mandating separate but equal accommodations for blacks and whites on intrastate railroads was constitutional. This decision provided the legal foundation to justify many other actions by state and local governments to socially separate blacks and whites.

Now that I have provided some history related to the case let me add my commentary. It has been said that as sure as things change they remain the same. First, it took 60 year to overturn Plessy with Brown and it took “with all deliberate speed” 13 years for integration to begin fully. During this period of time from 1954 to 1967 Governors blocked school entrances and actually closed schools rather than comply with the law of the land. I am not going to touch on the violence that caused President’s to send the US Army and National Guard troops to schools in order to protect the safety of those the ruling was intended benefit as a result of the Brown decision.

Since then and over time many scams have been devised to disenfranchise minorities and African Americans in particular – need I only remind you of “No Child Left Behind”. This brings us to where we are today. Schools are equally as segregated, poorly funded, dilapidated facilities, and a police presence to save, often times, the kids from themselves. The dropout rate averages 2 to 1. These are just a few issues and by any measure of academic standards or common sense – is a failure.

Let’s make sure we understand that public education was not created to develop minds rather it was intended to simply teach reading, writing, and arithmetic. It was created to maintain a permanent underclass. Now maybe the word “class” is the operative word in all of this – the haves have and the have not’s will have not. So as sure as things change they remain the same. That is why it is imperative for us to celebrate this milestone and continue to the struggle as the ghosts of so many who died for the principle that “education is the single most important ingredient necessary to neutralize those forces that breed poverty and despair”.

JUST A SEASON

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Upton - “The Jewell of the Chesapeake”

The next city in the “Brownsville Series” is Upton in Baltimore, Maryland where I found one of the most affluent African American neighborhoods in the United States at the turn of the twentieth century. As I continue my quest to resurrect the ghost of those honored segregated communities of a time long past I will examine the “Jewell of the Chesapeake”. If you’ve never been to Baltimore you’re really missing something special. Today, it’s called “Charm City” which should have been its name back in the day or at least that’s what Upton should have been called.

In Upton, Pennsylvania Avenue was the main drag connecting all African American life in the city and beyond. To the south and west of Upton was the poor and working class African American neighborhoods of "The Bottom”. To its east were the German American and Jewish American neighborhoods. Upton is about a fifteen minute walk from Downtown Baltimore but blacks of that era had no need to go downtown, for obvious reasons, they were not allowed to patronize or enter, through the front door anyway, the white establishments unless they were working.

Baltimore is best known for crabs, crab cakes, delicious seafood, and of course a good time. The neighborhood was home to the most educated African Americans, property owners, and professionals to include doctors, lawyers, retailers who served the middle class and an upscale clientele, jazz clubs, dance halls, and theaters, as well as other public and private institutions for the black community. On the Avenue, as it was called, was home to a premiere shopping strip for black Baltimorians, inspiring comparisons to Lenox Avenue in Harlem – Upton had it all.

Upton was also the staging ground for much of the local and national civil rights initiatives. It was a crossroad for many great African Americans who fought for equality and improving conditions for communities suffering from the ridged “separate but equal laws” and there cruel amoral agendas. People like the great Frederick Douglass, Justice Thurgood Marshall, Booker T. Washington, W.E.B. Du Bois, Marcus Garvey all visited Upton and organized in its local churches. The Baltimore chapter of the NAACP was based in Upton as well as the New Negro Alliance who rallied for justice from this proud community.

In the mid-20th century, Upton's population swelled due to the popularity of the neighborhood and the pressures of segregation that kept African Americans confined to certain areas. Single family homes were subdivided into small apartments and Pennsylvania Avenue's sidewalks were crowded on Saturday nights, as loud music and heavy drinking became popular vices on the strip. There were several notable venues hosting great entertainment like the New Albert Hall, Savoy and the Strands that drew many performers and partygoers.

But it was the Douglass Theater, renamed The Royal Theater, at Pennsylvania and Lafayette, that became famous and a mainstay on the Chitlin Circuit on par with the legendary Apollo Theater. Cab Calloway grew up in Upton and Eubie Blake performed his debut in a club on Pennsylvania Avenue. Stars such as Ethel Water, Pearl Bailey, Louis Armstrong, Fats Waller, James Brown, Stevie Wonder and the Temptations all performed at the Royal. It was like the Apollo in the sense that you had to play the Royal to get your chops.

Churches were also a huge part of this community providing safe havens for its people. Since the 18th Century, African American churches have nurtured their souls, feed the hungry, clothed and housed the poor but their roll was far more important. The church community was a launch pad for activism and served as communication networks, which was the backbone of the community. The church community fought for civil rights, supported business initiatives, and job placement. From the beginning going back beyond the Underground Railroad Baltimore’s churches were a place of empowerment through worship and serve as incubators for organizing and planning regardless of domination or faith.

Baltimore has produced prominent businessmen such as Raymond Haysbert who was the owner and founder of the famed Parks Sausage Company that became the first black-owned company to go public in 1969. The Parks Sausage Company was a legend in Baltimore and you could hear its slogan “more Parks Sausages mom” everywhere. After the company experienced financial difficulties two former National Football League Hall of Famers Lydell Mitchell and Franco Harris partnered to come to the rescue maintaining the company’s black-owned legacy. James Brown, the “Godfather of Soul”, was also a prominent businessman in the city owning WEBB, a local radio station, and several other businesses.

Upton also produced its share of colorful characters known as “hustlers” that were legendary. One of the most famous was "Little Willie" Adams. Mr. Adams or "Little Willie", as he was known, opened a shoeshine stand on the Avenue when he was 18. Sources say he was an ambitious young hustler with dreams of being his own man. One day a flamboyant numbers man got in his chair, he popped his rag like a firecracker while talking jive making him laugh. He convinced the numbers man that he too was a businessman, solid and dependable, and he wanted in on the numbers game. The hustlers slapped palms and Little Willie started at the bottom the next day as a runner.

Hustling was a family business and Little Willie was taught by his grandfather who ran an after-hours gambling house on Madison Avenue were most of Baltimore’s established hustlers and entrepreneurs enjoyed their favorite vices. Little Willie was a welcome star at grand pop’s gambling house as he was eager to learn this way of life, as early as age seven. By age 34, the young dapper Adams was already a living legend and the King of B-more. Little Willie was known to say, after he became the numbers czar, “This was our thing started by slaves”. I’m told he would say that “prayer is good but when you get up off your knees. You’ve got to hustle”.

Then there was Mr. Melvin Williams who was the inspiration for the enormously popular HBO series "The Wire." Known as “Little Melvin”, he has also been featured on “American Gangster” where he told his story, his way. Before he was old enough to shave Little Melvin possessed a genius I.Q. of 160 but he says it’s closer to 200. Little Melvin, a legend at age 15 years old had made a few hundred grand hustling pool and shooting dice. He’s a high school dropout who can talk tax codes, inner-state commerce, calculus and physics with the best of them. No one doubts that he was a prodigy in the gambling haunts and alleyways along glittering Pennsylvania Avenue.

When heroin addiction exploded in the 1960’s, Mafia drug traffickers sought out connections in big cities that were accustomed to dealing in large sums of cash and were smart enough to keep their mouths shut. They needed to look no further than to Melvin, known in street lore today as “the man who brought heroin to Baltimore.” For three decades Melvin ruled as the uncrowned king. Frustrated with their inability to penetrate his operation, Baltimore police framed him by planting a hand full of pills in his pocket during an orchestrated bust. Five years later, Melvin emerged from prison a bitter man out for revenge. He accomplished his mission accumulating untold millions in narco-profits but ultimately paid the price by serving 26.5 years in prison.

His street legend was larger than life, when the Baltimore riots erupted after the 1968 killing of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., there came a knock on Melvin’s door on the fourth morning of fire and rage. In walked National Guard Gen. George Gelston, state Sen. Clarence Mitchell III, and Police Maj. William “Box” Harris. “We think you can help stop the rioting,” they said. “We’ll give you a bullhorn and a bullet-proof vest.” Williams says he told them “I’ll take the bullhorn. Give the vest to Senator Mitchell.” That afternoon, as thousands stood at Pennsylvania Avenue and Mosher Street, Williams told the crowd that they’d expressed their rage, they’d made their point — and now it was time go home. The streets quickly emptied, and that day the riots were over.

In the 1960’s and 70’s, controversial urban renewal projects destroyed much of Upton's historic architecture, especially in the southwestern portion of the neighborhood. However, it only replaced a portion of what was removed. Once the buildings were razed it was difficult to secure developers to build new construction. The famed Royal Theater was demolished in 1971. Further problems faced Upton during this time in the form of economic depression, housing abandonment, crime, and racial rioting.

Pennsylvania Avenue is now lined with sneaker shops, dollar stores, other low-rent commercial uses, and many abandoned storefronts. The Avenue Market sells produce and holds occasional events such as jazz shows. According to the city, 60% of Upton families with children under 5 are living in poverty. The median home sale price in Upton in 2004 (not including Marble Hill) was $28,054. Many of the row houses in the neighborhood are vacant, either abandoned by their property owners or owned by the city.

Yes, the ghost of what was our creation has been stained and the Jewell of the Chesapeake has lost its luster. Unfortunately, the city of Baltimore, known as Charm City, forgot that Upton was responsible for a large part of its charm but African Americans know it lure looms large and its legacy will never die.

Visit: www.justaseason.comJust a Season is a must read novel...

Friday, October 16, 2009

STOP THE WARS

I use this blog as a vehicle to express thought while engaging in a way that provokes thought. Sometimes I am on the receiving end of some vitriolic language but more often than not most comments are positive. Fortunately, I can, like many conservatives, stand on the Constitution which affords me the right to freedom of speech.

This article is one that will cause controversy because I want to talk about the WARS. I am extremely passionate about this because I speak from the perspective of someone who has carried an M-16 and have experienced war. In addition, my patriotism is validated by the Veterans Administration via compensation as a victim of war though a classification called disability. So I am not one who sat on a beach, did not serve honorably or one who watched it on the news from the sidelines talking about protecting America.

I can recall back in the day there was a popular song, “War”, recorded by Edwin Starr that had a poignant line that asked, “What is it good for? Nothing. Absolutely nothing.” I concur with that sentiment wholeheartedly. I am speaking as a man who went to the land of the little people, as we use to call it – Vietnam. One of the fallacies then was “we were winning the war”. I never came to that conclusion being a live witness to that debacle, as history tells us. The reason for that war was suppose to stop Communism. Today, the reason, if it remains the same for more than a week, is to stop extremists. Sound familiar?

I don’t profess to be as smart as those charged with administering the war in Iraq or Afghanistan but what I do know is this: “you cannot conquer a people who are unwilling to be conquered”. For thousands of years many mighty nations have tried and all have failed, which is why Afghanistan is called the “Graveyard of Empires”. Our army is no doubt the mightiest army the world had ever known, yet these ragtag groups of guerrillas are beating us with slingshots. By that I mean, they have nothing but what they can carry to use against us. I concluded that we are strangers in a place in which we do not understand the lay of the land or the people and like Vietnam it is an untenable situation. We have lost too many lives and it is time to bring our troops home – NOW.

Over the years, there have been policies that have proclaimed wars on this or that. For example, in the 1960’s President Johnson proclaimed a “War on Poverty” and today there is more poverty than it was then. Nixon proclaimed a war on “Cancer” and today there are more forms of cancer than ever before. Ragan declared a “War on Drugs” and today there is a larger drug problem than ever before. Bush declared a “War on Terror” and today, eight years later, no end in sight. So I say, when they declare a “War on something” little success is achieved. I suppose its good propaganda but in these cases there has been no victory.

Let me close with this thought. Recently, they spent 70 million dollars to shot a rocket into the moon when unemployment is 10% and for African American’s it’s more than 15%. If we look closer, more than 50% of African American youth and nearly 50% of African American men are unemployed. The number of people in American without health insurance is near 50 million and growing. The infant mortality rate is off the charts and America’s percentage of people infected with HIV compares too many Third World countries. Then there is homelessness, crime, and hunger right here in the US of A. We need to stop the wars and use those tax dollars being spent here at home.

Just a Season - a must read novel...

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Just a Season - a must read novel...

It’s been said, there are no words that have not been spoken and there are no stories that have never been told but there are some that you will never forget. Just a Season is a luminous story into the life of a man who, in the midst of pain and loss, journeys back in time to reexamine all the important people, circumstances, and intellectual fervor that contributed to the richness of his life.

This fictional narrative begins with a grief-stricken father visiting the grave site of his beloved son who was killed in a tragic accident; a moment that he and no other loving parent should ever have to face. As he sadly gazes at his son's headstone and reads what is inscribed there, the dates 1981 - 2001 bring about an illuminating discovery.

The tiny dash that separates the years of one's birth and death represents the whole of a person's life. So if this tiny dash were to tell his life's story, what would it say? In Just a Season, the dash of this man's life is revealed and what emerges from the pages of this book is a legacy of true benevolence and grace.

Praise for Just a Season . . .

"Just a Season is a thought provoking novel by author, John T. Wills. ...focusing on various topics such as pain, suffering, love and life. The characters and the plot are captured very well. It is very well written from beginning to end. This is one of those books, where you cannot judge the book based on its title and cover." Congratulations well done! -- Afrika Asha Abney

". . . Thank you for your example of tenderness and discipline in what I know is a story of love, delicately shared with readers in a way that says, this life, though brief, is significant. So hold it in highest regard for "the dash" is our legacy to love ones, indeed to the world, which we are blessed to share, albeit, for Just a Season." Excellent! --Sistah Joy, Poet, Cable TV Host

"Wills pulls you in from the very first page... Just a Season is a heart-wrenching story about growing up and believing in yourself. I highly recommend this book to young men in high school, trying to find themselves and feeling like they have nowhere to turn." -- Cheryl Hayes, APOOO Book Club

"This is the stuff movies are made of... not since Roots have I read anything that so succinctly chronicles an African American story." One Word Phenomenal!!!
Cheryl Vauls, Library Services

"Not since The Color Purple have I read a book that evoked such emotions. John T. Wills possesses the ability to transport the reader directly into the life and struggles of his main characters story. This book actually touched my heart and inspired me to increase the equity in my "dash"! Excellent -- Tonja Covington

"John T. Wills captures male bonding between generations and lets the reader passively watch as family love and closeness unfold on the pages . . ." Outstanding -- A great read -- Cheryl Robinson, Host and Executive Producer of JustAboutBooksTalkShow.com

"JUST A SEASON is laced with thought-provoking commentary on the Vietnam War, the assassinations of the 1960s, the migration of crack cocaine into inner-city neighborhoods, and a myriad of other ills that have rocked America. This is a very good piece intertwined with several history lessons spanning many decades." -- Dawn Reeves, RAWSISTAZ Book Club

"John T. Wills particulars each notion so eloquently that you feel that you're actually right there with him... this is an inflicting history lesson that I believe all African American males should experience." JUST A SEASON is a pivotal read -- Carmen, OOSA ONLINE BOOK CLUB

"From the first page you are transported into John's world as if you are there and are experiencing it with him. I am amazed at how John is able to use the events of the time to let you know where you are in time. I felt as if I was teleported... his ability to describe what was going on during that time makes me extremely proud of my heritage. You will come away with a feeling of, now I know why that is. I thoroughly enjoyed "Just a Season". - Mia L. Haynes

"Just a Season is a work of love, respect and honor... A book filled with the wonder of life, and the pain and growth encountered in living it." Outstanding! -- Ron Watson, Editor, New Book Reviews.Org

"in the final analysis the tiny little dash represents the whole of a person's life. If someone, for whatever reason, were to tell the story concealed within my dash. What might they say? ". A thought provoking and powerful read that will forever resonate within my soul . . . Speechless. Carron

This novel is 9 X 6 inches in size, 370 pages embracing the wonders of a life.
Visit: www.justaseason.com to read a chapter, reviews, and more information.

I humbly thank you for your support and help.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

The Snake

My Granddaddy told me fascinating stories designed to make me a man. In fact, he would tell me every day that “I raised you to be a man and as a man, you don’t know what you may have to do but when the time comes, you do it.” He said it so often throughout my youth that it was embedded into my mind. To this day a warm smile appears “when I have to do it”.

I have to admit, I loved this wise man more than life itself. I knew, even then, his teachings were an inspired declaration of his celestial will or more simply put - his vision that shaped my destiny defining my purpose. Pop’s would teach me lessons, often times, like an Aesop Fables to make me think and it was my job to figure out the moral of the story.

This is my favorite:

The way the story was told to me, Granddaddy’s friend, Mr. Bob whose job was to offer a prayer every Sunday morning at church during the service prior to the preacher’s sermon, a job he had held for years. Sunday was a special day for the community, and for him to have a position where he would have the attention of everyone was a big deal. More accurately stated it was a platform for him to perform. He would have been a great entertainer.

Mr. Bob would walk to church every Sunday morning, rain or shine, from his home. The trip was several miles up and down hills and around curves, and he would be dressed in his best suit for the morning service. During the walk he would practice his part for the service, the prayer, with the intention of making it a show complete with screams and tears. This show would sometimes last thirty minutes. There were many Sundays one would wonder how one man could have so much to ask of the Lord and maybe say, please, let somebody else get a blessing.

On his way to church this particular Sunday, Mr. Bob came across an injured snake. In what he perceived as divine intervention, God said to him, help this poor creature. He realized he did not have a prayer for that day’s service, so he thought, wow, if I help the snake I can pray for us to have the strength to help all of God’s creatures. Since the snake is the lowliest of all creatures, this would really inspire the congregation and hopefully give them the encouragement to do the same at least until next Sunday’s message. So he picked up the badly injured snake and placed him in a safe place until he could return from church.

With great energy, and now inspired, Mr. Bob went on his way. He planned and practiced his prayer as he marched on to church. After he arrived and exchanged a few greetings, the service began with a joyful noise, as they say, meaning full of song. Then it was his turn to pray. He began to pray with a powerful tone, full of emotion. He asked God to give each person within the sound of his voice the strength to reach out and help all God’s creatures, from the loving dove to the lowly snake. His message had many in the tiny church standing with shouts of Amen. He felt he had done his job as he closed, asking God to bless the church and said Amen. In his usual style this took about a half hour.

To his surprise, the pastor also chose a sermon nearly identical to his message which took about another hour and a half, talking about helping all of God’s creatures. What a great day it was, Mr. Bob thought. Normally after the service ended everyone hung around and fellowshipped as it was one of the few chances they had to socialize. Mr. Bob would not hang around on this day  he had a mission and left church in a hurry. He rushed back to the spot where his injured snake was placed hoping it would still be there. He was very excited when he arrived to find it was where he left it. He put his snake in a burlap bag he had gotten from the church and took the snake home.

Over the next several weeks Mr. Bob cared for this creature, desperately trying to save the snake and nursing it back to health. About three weeks later he thought it was time to take his snake back to where he found it, thinking it was well enough to be set free. The following Sunday, he put on his best suit and started his journey to church with snake in hand. As he arrived at the spot where he had found it, he thought, what a wonderful thing he had done. He was sure to receive God’s blessing for this act of kindness.

He rubbed the snake gently and said goodbye. However, when he reached into the bag to grab it, suddenly the snake raised his head and bit him. Then bit him again and again. Mr. Bob cried out, “Why would you bite me after all I’ve done for you? My God why?” I guess he was expecting an answer from God, but none came. He repeated his cry once more. Then the snake stuck his head out of the bag and said, “I am a snake and that’s what we do.”After hearing this story over and over again, I finally figured out what it meant. It was a lesson that would prove to be invaluable.

Be careful in your dealings with people because people, just like the snake, will hurt you  that’s what they do.

Taken from the phenomenal novel Just a Season
© 2007 All Rights Reserved

Friday, October 9, 2009

CONGRATULATIONS MR. PRESIDENT!!!

Our President, Barack Obama, the first African-American president of the United States, has won the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize for "his extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples," the Norwegian Nobel Committee said, citing his outreach to the Muslim world and attempts to curb nuclear proliferation.

I salute you Mr. President because the world sees the greatness within you, as I do. Winning the Nobel Peace Prize is an honor that only three Presidents have received - President Theodore Roosevelt in 1906, President Woodrow Wilson in 1919 (while in office), and President Jimmy Carter who was awarded the prize after leaving office in 2002. To put this into prospective, the President has only been in office about nine months, he is the second sitting president and the third of all forty-four to be honored, and he looks like me. Let me remind you that the last president only got a “shoe”.

The Nobel committee praised Obama's creation of "a new climate in international politics" and said he had returned multilateral diplomacy and institutions like the U.N. to the center of the world stage. I praise him for being sent to deliver us from evil. So I say to Fox, Caribou Barbie, the Drugster, the alcoholic, wrong-way Wilson, the racists and all the conservative haters – “If God is with you who can stand against you.”

This is a great day. Enough said…

Just a Season - a must read novel...

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

FINALLY!!! It’s been said…

As we travel through the journey of our lives we must endure enormous challenges. The puppet masters have devised a system designed to divide and conquer in order to maintain control over our lives. It’s worked very well for over four hundred years. I think we are now wise enough, or should be, to see this and overcome the devastating impact it has had upon us. Particularly, as it relates to our families and relationships at a time when our children are lost and dying. We need this message more than ever.

A few days ago, I received an enormously powerful message from a fellow author, Cassandra Mack, who I consider a friend. Her message was so profound and meaningful that I was actually shocked – not shocked in a negative sense. Rather, extremely impressed by her heartfelt words. The message spoke to a truth many African American’s know but fail to acknowledge or admit. It is a concern, or maybe an issue, that speaks to the fabric of our connection to one another. I firmly believe you can change the world but first you must change yourself and that means you’re prospective.

Cassandra articulated so eloquently what, dare I say, few would openly admit - let alone publish. I was so proud of her for writing this impassionate call for honest introspective thought that I felt the need to share it with you (with her permission of course):

"Brothers...We Need You Even When We Claim That We Don't" by Cassandra Mack

There are so many scars inside of black men and women that sometimes without realizing it we tear each other down when we should be building each other up. With all that we are struggling with and against, it’s no wonder that sometimes we struggle to love ourselves and each other. But despite all of our struggles there is one thing that remains constant: My beloved brothers...My Black Kings....My Visionary men of honor and integrity...WE NEED YOU. We need you with every fiber of our being and every inch of our soul. Trust and believe...WE NEED YOU!

No matter what things look like externally or how much it seems like black women have arrived, we need you. We need you irrespective of our circumstances. We need you whether we’re living in million dollar homes with luxury cars or pinching our pennies together to make ends meet. Contrary to popular belief, our need for you doesn’t change with our income or education level, because our need for you is internal.

Do you understand this? I mean do you really understand how deep our need for you goes? Our need for you goes so deep that it scares us silly, so much so, that we say things like, “I don’t need a man,” in an attempt to downplay this need and diminish your importance in our lives. We somehow believe that if we say the words, "I don’t need a man," we can remove the pain, sense of loss and vulnerability that we feel when you are missing from our lives, our homes, our families and our beds.

But here’s the funny thing about needs – they extend both ways. If we need you, then it would stand to reason that you need us too, so please don’t give up on us and whatever you do, don’t allow us to give up on you. WE NEED YOU.

This note was excerpted from Cassandra Mack’s book,
“The Black Man’s Little Book of Encouragement”
Copyright © 2009 by Cassandra Mack

Get your copy of “Just a Season” today
www.justaseason.com
It is a must read novel…

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Thursday, October 1, 2009

Happy Birthday Motown

This is a year full of historic milestones but none compare to the significance of Motown Records 50th Anniversary. Therefore, I want to take this opportunity pay homage and say THANK YOU to Mr. Gordy for your vision and contribution to the world.

Most people do not know or remember that prior to Motown Records few black performers enjoyed anything close to crossover success. The music we enjoyed was called “race music” and was segregated in the same way America was prior to 1959, when Motown was founded. Let me also remind you that rarely could the face of a black person be seen on an album cover prior to its founding. By the way, an album is what was used for music before CD’s.

Motown was the first record label owned by an African American to primarily feature African-American artists and its soul-based subsidiaries were the most successful proponents of what came to be known as The Motown Sound, which was a style of soul music with a distinct influence. From its Hitsville U.S.A building on 2648 West Grand Boulevard, Detroit, Michigan that served as Motown's headquarters produced the most universally recognized stable of songwriters and performers of our time or anytime.

Form this tiny little basement studio we were introduced to Michael Jackson, the Supremes, Diana Ross, Smokey Robinson, the Miracles, Mary Wells, Marvin Gaye, the Temptations, Four Tops, the Commodores, Lionel Richie, Stevie Wonder, Jr. Walker and the All Stars, David Ruffin, Eddie Kendricks, Gladys Knight and the Pips, Rick James, Nick Ashford and Valerie Simpson, Teena Marie, DeBarge, the Jackson Five, Martha and the Vandellas, the Marvelettes and Motown's Funk Brothers studio band just to name a few of the artists that graced our souls and touched our hearts making us proud.

Many of Motown's best-known hits were written by Barrett Strong, Norman Whitfield and the songwriting trio of Holland-Dozier-Holland who became major forces in the music industry. For example, it’s a known fact in the music industry that in order to get a number one hit song someone would have to write more than thirty songs. Holland-Dozier-Holland had a string of more than fifty hits in a row with some becoming number one with several different artists like the hit “I heard it through the Grapevine”. This is profound and will never happen again. No songwriter will ever achieve this feat – guaranteed.

Although Mr. Gordy sold Motown and it’s now in the hands of others its legacy resides in a very special place in my heart and I’m sure millions around the world. So again I say, thank you Motown for the music, the love, the magic, and the many great memories. Lastly, to the legends who are no long able to perform for us today - thank you for your contribution - Rest in Peace. Walking around heaven all day listening to the harmony of your souls must make haven more glorious and wonderful than I could ever imagine.

*** Let me take you on an amazing journey thought time in “Just a Season” to experience life and our proud history by visiting www.justaseason.com a novel that has been compared by reviewers to the Color Purple and the Roots of our time. A must read novel. ***

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Never Forget

The Jamestown colony, England's first permanent settlement in North America, was a marshy land poor for agriculture and a breeding ground for malaria-carrying mosquitoes. The settlement was such a wasteland that only thirty-two of the approximately one hundred original settlers survived the first seven months. His-story describes this as the “starving times” but all would change.

On August 20, 1619, the first African “settlers” reached North America as cargo onboard a Dutch man-of-war ship that rode the tide into Jamestown, Virginia carrying Captain Jope and a cargo of twenty Africans. It seems strange to me, but history cannot tell us why this mysterious ship anchored off Jamestown. It is believed the captain needed food. In exchange for food he offered his cargo of Africans as payment.

When the deal was consummated, Antoney, Isabella, and eighteen other Africans disembarked. Although they were not the first Africans to arrive in North America, they were the first African “settlers”. Regarded as indentured servants rather than slaves, fifteen were purchased to serve their redemption time working for Sir George Yardley, the governor of Virginia and proprietor of the thousand-acre Flowerdew Hundred plantation.

In ten years, by the 1630’s, the colony had established a successful economy based on tobacco through the use of the Africans. Slavery was born and slave trading became big business. These human souls were acquired in Africa for an average price of about twenty-five dollars each, paid primarily in merchandise. They were sold in the Americas for about one hundred fifty dollars each. As the price of slaves increased, so did the inhumane overcrowding of the ships.

This was the beginning of the worst crime every inflicted upon a people and the most morally reprehensible agenda the world has ever known. Adding to this in justice and more horrifying was that the perpetrators believed that their actions were sectioned by God with a religious manifestation that justified Slavery. The next two-hundred years was a designed systematic effort to destroy millions of lives through indocumentation, brutality, savagery, and horror.

I am always struck by the use of the word civilization in this matter because the root word is “civil” and there is/was NOTHING civil about the institution of slavery, which means chattel making human beings property and servants for life.
The business of slave trading had one purpose – PROFIT. The process would begin with the African being paid to venture into the interior of the continent, capture other Africans, put them on a death march to the coast and sell their captives to Europeans. Now, if capturing and stealing the victims was not misery enough. What was to follow surely was in every sense of the word.

A typical slave ship traveling from Gambia, the Gold Coast, Guinea, or Senegal would take four to eight weeks to reach New England, Chesapeake Bay, the Gulf of Mexico, or the West Indies. Africans from Senegal were the most prized because many were skilled artisans. Ibos from Calabar were considered the most undesirable because of their high suicide rate. Women, men, and children were crammed so tightly in the ships that out of a load of seven hundred slaves, three or four would be found dead each morning.

Most ships had three decks with the lower two used for transporting slaves. The lowest deck extended the full length of the ship and was no more than five feet high. Slaves were packed into it side by side to utilize all available space. In the next deck, wooden planks like shelves extended from the sides of the ship where chained in pairs at the wrists and ankles crammed side by side. Men occupied middle shelves and were most often chained in pairs and bound to the ship's gunwales or to ringbolts set into the deck. Women and children were sometimes allowed to move about certain areas of the ship.

There was no sanitation, although buckets were provided for use as toilets, which were not emptied regularly. The ships smelled of excrement, disease, and death. It is estimated that between 15 and 20 percent of the slaves died en route to the colonies, mostly from diseases associated with overcrowding, spoiled and poisoned food, contaminated water, starvation and thirst, and suicide. Others were thrown overboard; shot, or beaten to death for various reasons.

A typical slave ship coming directly to the American mainland from Africa carried about two hundred slaves and weighed about one hundred to two hundred tons, although some were slightly larger. Slave ships were eventually built especially for human cargo. They were long, narrow, and fast, and were designed to direct air below decks. Shackling irons, nets, and ropes were standard equipment. These slave ships could carry as many as four hundred slaves and a crew of forty-seven, as well as thirteen thousand pounds of food.

The competition at slave markets on the African coast grew so exceptionally that historians estimate that as many as 60 million human souls were captured and taken from the continent of Africa to be sold in to bondage. It is also estimated that as many as one-third of that number did not survive the trip called the Middle Passage to reach the shores of a place like Jamestown in the name of God. My last point is this – the first registered slave ship was named “The Good Ship Jesus”.

I am reminded of the powerful words of Sojourner Truth who was asked shortly before her death, if she knew how many slaves she had recued during her while conducting the Underground Railroad. She did not think about the question quickly replying, “I could have freed a lot more, if they had only known they were slaves.” My hope is that one day the devastating effect of bondage will be removed and we will be able to join hands and sing the words of the old Negro spiritual, "Free at last, free at last. Thank God Almighty, we are free at last."

JUST A SEASON

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Harlem Pt. 2 – The Underworld

The rich history of Harlem could never be told in a few words. Actually, it will require several posts (four Parts) to come close to capturing the essence of Harlem’s grandeur. This is a continuation of this great legacy – the Underworld. It has been said that the character of the community is determined by its members. Since the hamlet came into existence Harlem’s storied history has been highly romanticized. Aside from Harlem’s artistic achievements, what was most romanced was the role of the underworld, which was a huge part of the nightlife and social scene.

In the 1920’s, the Jewish and Italian mafia played major roles in running the whites-only nightclubs and the speakeasies that catered to white audiences. While the famous mobster, Dutch Schultz, controlled all liquor production and distribution in Harlem during prohibition in the 1920’s. Rather than compete with the established mobs, black gangsters concentrated on the “policy racket,” also called the “Numbers game”. This was a gambling scheme similar to today’s lottery that could be played, illegally, from countless locations around Harlem. By the early 1950s, the total money at play amounted to billions of dollars, and the police force had been thoroughly corrupted by bribes from numbers bosses.

When you talk about Harlem gangsters, particularly of that era, two names come to mind immediately. One of the most powerful early numbers bosses was a woman, Madame Stephanie St. Clair, a black French woman from Martinique known as Queenie or Madame Queen. A tall, abrasive and tough woman, with a seldom-seen gentle side ran the famous New York extortion gang known as The Forty Thieves. The Forty Thieves had a reputation for being so tough that even the white gangsters would not interfere with their illegal operations or attempt to take over their turf. She utilized her experience and talents to set up operations as a policy banker and recruited some of Harlem’s most noteworthy gangsters to support her and her growing numbers business. Within a year she was worth more than $500,000 with more than 40 runners and 10 comptrollers in her charge.

Then there was the legendary Ellsworth Raymond “Bumpy” Johnson known as the Godfather of Harlem. You may recall Lawrence Fishburn played Bumpy Johnson in the movie Hoodlum. Bumpy was one of Madame Queen’s main recruits. He was a colorful character from Charleston, S.C. He had moved to Harlem with his parents when he was a small boy and was given the nickname, Bumpy, because of a large bump on the back of his head. He was a dapper gangster who always made it a point to wear the latest and best clothes while flashing wads of cash wherever he went. Bumpy was a pimp, burglar and stickup man who possessed a recalcitrant attitude. He always carried a knife and gun, which he would not hesitant to use.

Bumpy feared nobody and did not shy from confrontations. He was known for barroom clashes over the slightest issue, having a short fuse and for his arrogance. He never learned to curb his temper or to bow his head to any man. It was because of his negative demeanor that he spent almost half of his life in prisons before he even reached age 30. During his interments he became an avid reader and began writing poetry. Bumpy also proved to be an incorrigible prisoner and spent one-third of a 10-year sentence in solitary confinement. Because of his attitude, he was shuttled from prison to prison until his release in 1932.

Despite his tough-guy reputation, Bumpy Johnson had a soft side. It was common knowledge among Harlemites that he often helped many of Harlem’s poor with secret cash donations and gifts. Madame Queen liked what she saw in Bumpy and offered him a position as henchman in her numbers racket. He accepted and quickly gained her trust. One of his first tasks was to confront the Bub Hewlett gang. It erupted into one of Harlem’s most violent and bloody gang wars. Eventually, Bumpy gained the edge and defeated Hewlett, temporarily saving the numbers game from the Mobs first takeover attempt.

The relationship between Madame Queen and Bumpy was strange and tenuous at best. Some said they had an ongoing affair - others claimed the odd couple were only business partners. Bumpy never abandoned his pimping and robbery professions both of which irritated Madame Queen but both knew what would make the numbers game a success, so they successfully coexisted. These bosses became financial powerhouses, providing capital for loans for those who could not qualify for them from traditional financial institutions – loan sharking. They invested in legitimate businesses and real estate as a way to legitimize their profits.

The Godfather of Harlem lived until 1968, dying from a heart attack as oppose to dying by the gun in the manner most did in his business. As a testament to his success he maintained control of the underworld for nearly forty years with some saying that nothing illegal took place in Harlem without his permission. After Bumpy’s death the underworld became loosely organized and overcome by the drug trade with its many factions. Bumpy’s protégé, Frank Lucas and his rival Nicky Barnes became the most dominate players in the game.

Frank Lucas operated the largest drug business in Harlem after Bumpy’s death during the late 1960’s and early 1970’s. He was particularly known for cutting out the middle man in the drug trade and buying heroin directly from sources in the Golden Triangle of Thailand. Lucas boasted that he smuggled heroin using the coffins of dead American servicemen. He controlled such large quantities that he was a supplier to the Mafia. When Frank was busted and facing life in prison, he flipped turning states evidence for the Fed’s causing the conviction of more than a hundred associates. However, it is important to note that most of those criminals were on the police force. His career was dramatized in the 2007 feature film American Gangster.

Leroy "Nicky" Barnes, known as Mr. Untouchable, led the notorious African-American crime organization known as “The Council” made up of seven powerful Harlem gangsters similar to the Mafia that controlled the heroin trade. Barnes was convicted in 1978 of multiple counts of RICO violations, including drug trafficking and murder, for which he was sentenced to life in prison without eligibility for parole. While in prison, Barnes became a “Rat” turning state’s evidence against his former associates in "The Council". In exchange for his testimony, Barnes was released into the Federal Witness Protection Program. Comparing the gangsters of the two eras, one thing is clear despite the viciousness of their chosen profession, the contemporary gangster’s careers were short lived and all of their ill-gotten gains were lost.

As a result of the carnage distributed by these characters the drug addiction rate in Harlem was ten times higher than the New York City average and twelve times higher than in the United States as a whole. Of the 30,000 drug addicts then estimated to live in New York City, 15,000 to 20,000 lived in Harlem. Property crime was pervasive, and the murder rate was six times higher than New York's average.

In the 1980’s, use of crack cocaine became widespread, which produced collateral crime as addicts stole to finance their purchasing of additional drugs. Dealers fought for the right to sell in particular regions or over deals gone bad causing the murder rate to skyrocket. By the end of the crack wars in the mid 90’s and with the initiation of aggressive policing crime in Harlem plummeted and a since of normalcy returned to the once proud historical hamlet of Harlem.

TO BE CONTINUED…

Just a Season

Monday, September 21, 2009

Once called the "Capital of Black America" – Pt. 1


This is the third article or installment in a series that I’m calling “Brownsville”. If you have not been following or traveling along with me on the “Chitlin Circuit” not to be confused with those entertainment venues where African American artist were only allowed to perform.

The “Brownsville Series” is my way of resurrecting the memory of those areas designated for Blacks during the era of segregation, you know across the tracks – the other side of town. All of the above mentioned terms are fittingly proper for the place I am about to explore - Harlem USA - a cultural icon once referred to as the “Capital of Black America”.

First, let me pay homage with great pride to the noted theaters on the Chitlin Circuit. For those who are not familiar with the term “Chitlin Circuit”. It was the collective name given to the string of performance venues throughout the eastern and southern United States that were safe, acceptable, and in most cases the only places could perform during the era of racial segregation. It was in these venues where the ghost of the greats crafted their skills laying the foundation for the great performers we enjoy today.

The most popular of these venues were the Cotton Club, Wilt’s Small Paradise and the famed Apollo Theater in New York, Robert’s Show Lounge, Club Delisa, and the Regal Theatre in Chicago, the Howard Theater in Washington, DC, the Uptown Theater in Philadelphia, the Royal Theater in Baltimore, the Fox Theater in Detroit, the Victory Grill in Austin, Texas, the Hippodrome Theater in Richmond, Virginia, and the Ritz Theater in Jacksonville, Florida. It is with great pride that I pay homage to their memory and contributions.

Harlem once referred to as the Capital of Black America began as a European settlement established in July 1639 in what was then known as New Harlem. It was formalized in 1658, when the English took control of the colony changing the hamlets to Harlem. At that time, it was merely a small agricultural town just outside of New York City. The name Harlem was a synonym for elegant living through a good part of the nineteenth century. For example, the estate of Alexander Hamilton was located in Harlem.

In 1893, the Harlem Monthly Magazine wrote that “it is evident to the most superficial observer that the centre of fashion, wealth, culture, and intelligence, must, in the near future, be found in the ancient and honorable village of Harlem.” Even then Harlem seemed ordained to be the center of cultural significance but it was not until the mass migration of blacks in 1904 that it began to flourish as a predominantly Black enclave. It was because of a real estate crash that caused worsening conditions for blacks throughout New York City. Prompting Philip Payton, owner of the Afro-American Realty Company, who almost single-handedly created the migration of blacks from their previous neighborhoods establishing Black Harlem or Uptown as it came to be known.

Then black churches began to move uptown. St. Philip's Episcopal Church, for one, purchased a block of buildings on West 135th Street to rent to members of its congregation. Black Harlem has always been a religious community with over 400 churches of every faith becoming very influential because of their large congregations and wealth as a result of its extensive real estate holdings. However, many as do today, operated what is known as storefronts from an empty store, a building’s basement or a converted brownstone townhouse.

At the same time blacks were migrating to northern industrial cities fueled by their desire to leave behind the Jim Crow South seeking better jobs and education for their children. Jobs were abundant and many blacks were able to obtain work because expanding industries recruited black laborers to fill new jobs as a result of the war effort. Another reason was to escape a culture of lynching and violence.

By 1920 in a mere twenty years, Harlem became the center of a flowering black culture that became known as the Harlem Renaissance. This was the greatest collection of artistic production creating the sound and entertainment of the “Roaring Twenties”, but blacks were sometimes excluded from viewing what their peers were creating. Some jazz venues, including the famed Cotton Club, where Duke Ellington played or Connie’s Inn were restricted to whites only, although some uptown clubs were integrated.

The most famous venue in Harlem, and world renowned, was the Apollo Theater that opened on 125th Street on January 26, 1934 in what was a burlesque house. Best known for its “Amateur Night at the Apollo” that continues to this very day. The Apollo was a proving ground, of sorts; if you could make it there you could make it anywhere. Every black performer or artist was ordained by its audience in one way or another. I don’t have enough space to list all of the greats that graced the Apollo stage. If they were successful, they played the Apollo Theater. Another famous spot was the Savoy Ballroom, on Lenox Avenue, was a renowned venue for swing dancing immortalized in a popular song of the era "Stompin' at the Savoy".

During the 1920’s and 1930’s, between Lenox and Seventh Avenues in central Harlem, over 125 entertainment places operated. Such as speakeasies, cellars, lounges, cafes, taverns, supper clubs, rib joints, theaters, dance halls, and bars and grills. Throughout the twentieth century, particularly during the “Harlem Renaissance”, Harlem served as the home and key inspiration to generations of novelists, poets, musicians, and actors. It was because of the city’s pace, the blend of their backgrounds, the difficulties associated with living in Harlem and their experiences that found expression in theater, fiction, and music, among other art forms.

Some of the luminaries produced by Harlem were Paul Robeson, Claude McKay, and Langston Hughes just to name a few. Though Harlem musicians and writers are particularly well remembered, the community has also hosted numerous actors and theater companies, including the New Heritage Repertory Theater, National Black Theater, Lafayette Players, Harlem Suitcase Theater, The Negro Playwrights, American Negro Theater, and the Rose McClendon Players. Arthur Mitchell, a former dancer with the New York City Ballet, established Dance Theatre of Harlem as a school and company for classical ballet and theater training in the late 1960s.

Harlem is also home to notable contemporary artists such as the Harlem Boys Choir, a famous touring choir and education program for young boys, most of whom are black. There is also a Girls Choir of Harlem and both companies have toured nationally and internationally. Harlem is also credited with the creation of Hip-Hop and many hip-hop dances associated with this genre. It is also known for producing Rappers such as Kurtis Blow and Hip Hop Mogul P. Diddy.

After the romantic era of the Harlem Renaissance, Harlem ceased to be home to a majority of NYC's blacks and the character of the community changed in the years after the war, as middle-class blacks left for the outer boroughs and suburbs. With the increase in a poor population, it was also a time when the neighborhood began to deteriorate, and some of the storied traditions of the Harlem Renaissance were driven by poverty, crime, or other social ills.

TO BE CONTINUED…

Just a Season

Friday, September 18, 2009

Thank You President Carter


I would like to offer tremendous praise and much respect to the 39th President of the United States. Everyone knows that there is an elephant in the room, which is not just a reference to the Grand Ol Party and those who call themselves conservative. This group of largely white men, or at least they are the face of it, are the instigators of this vitriolic venom being castigated overtly. Maybe I made an error when I said LARGELY because there are a few people associated with this group that remind me of my uncle whose name is Tom for not seeing what is obviously present, but I will digress.

What I want to say via this writing is that I applaud President Carter for his outward expression of truth and for saying what most pretend does not exist. The former president, a civil rights champion raised in the South, said Tuesday that “an overwhelming portion of the intensely demonstrated animosity toward President Barack Obama is based on the fact that he is a black man.” He went on to say, “I live in the South, and I've seen the South come a long way, and I've seen the rest of the country that shared the South's attitude toward minority groups at that time, particularly African Americans,” Carter said in an interview with Brian Williams of NBC News. "And that racism inclination still exists. And I think it's bubbled up to the surface because of the belief among many white people, not just in the South but around the country, that African Americans are not qualified to lead this great country. It's an abominable circumstance, and it grieves me and concerns me very deeply.”

The most profound and truthful part of the statement, I thought, was this: “There is an inherent feeling among many in this country that an African American should not be president.” What the 39th President said is what few have dared to say out loud, or even admit. Therefore, I say “Thank you Mr. President”.

In response to this the Republican National Committee Chairman called the comments “a pathetic distraction by Democrats to shift attention away from the president's wildly unpopular government-run health-care plan. …I've had a problem with this post-racial attitude that some in the Obama campaign, now in the administration, have tried to -- to hoist out there,” Mr. Steele said. WOW!!! The possibility of racism is never raised by conservatives, despite polls showing that frightening numbers of conservatives believe that President Obama was born in Kenya or worst yet think he is the "anti-Christ." Again, WOW!!!

When these folks make statements like President Obama “should be buried with Senator Kennedy,” or they bring guns to his rallies, call him all kinds of names, and use vitriolic language propagated on the airwaves. We have a problem and a very dangerous problem because we have seen how this type of speech emboldens people to do horrible things. If this is not racism being directed toward the president, who happens to be black, it is surely HATE. It is time to rally and unite behind good – not evil.

Barack Obama is our President and I believed him when he said, “YES WE CAN”. This was whispered by slaves and abolitionists as they blazed a trail toward freedom through the darkest of nights. It was the call of workers who organized; women who reached for the ballot; a President who chose the moon as our new frontier; and a King who took us to the mountaintop and pointed the way to the Promised Land.

I say, yes we can to justice and equality. Yes we can to opportunity and prosperity. Yes we can heal this nation and make it home to all.

I say again, YES WE CAN…

JUST A SEASON