Monday, July 30, 2012

Who will lead the Durham Committee on the Affairs of Black People?

With the November election rapidly approaching, there’s no time to waste in preparing a strategy to assure success.  Both local and national teams are busy formulating a plan of attack.  Local candidates will reap the benefit of high turnout.  This is an important time for anyone interested in politics.
The looming election should be a matter of crave concern for the Durham Committee on the Affairs of Black People.  While its political committee should be preparing for an all out fall blitz, the group is forced to contend with the implications of Philip Cousin, the group’s chair, stepping down to return as a member of the Durham Board of County Commissioners.
Cousin emerged from the crowd of those who almost made it and those who wish they had come closer.  Cousin was chosen due to his ability to hit the ground running.  His past stay on the board was enough to sway those who remain to give him the nod versus Fred Foster, who they will run against in the fall.
Cousin and the board are a good fit.  The bad news is the domino effect it has on the leadership of the DCABP. His emergence on the Board of County Commissioners may force the DCABP to select a new chair.
“It has created an issue about leadership,” says Chuck Watts, vice-chair of DCABP’s political committee. “It is unfortunate because it occurs just as he was about to establish himself as the new leader.”
It’s not clear what will become of Cousin's role with the DCABP.  Cousin's desires a leave of absence while others contend he should step down due to his position on the Board of County Commissioners. Some don’t see it as a conflict of interest.
“I applaud Rev. Cousin ability to let the Committee work,” says Darius Little, a member of DCABP. “His being appointed to the Board of Commissioners has not changed his style of leadership.”
A group within the DCABP lobbied for Lavonia Allison to return.  If Cousin is forced to step down, Randal Rodgers is set to assume the role as chair.  Those supporting Allison’s return point to the upcoming election and the need for credible, proven leadership headed into one of the most important elections we have ever seen.
“She had her turn,” Watts says. “All agreed with her decision to move on.  Some thought that she should have moved on sooner.  I can’t imagine that there are many who believe that she should take the lead again.”
Most agree Allison lacks the votes to reemerge as leader of the DCABP. “She exited in a fashion by which she’d still have her hands on some things, which was predictable,” Little says.  As far as a comeback however, I don’t see the votes for such an occurrence.”
“The work of The Committee seems to be rolling along positively,” Little continues.  “Our Standing Committees are out on the ground running as never before. The Health Committee, led by Dr. Terry Morris, for example has formed coalitions and is hosting a Community Health Fair, which will include free screenings, free dental extractions/fillings, free mammograms, HIV checks, Sickle Cell Counseling, Free Barber Cuts. The Political Committee had an excellent fundraising year and has worked hard to incorporate previously alienated elements of the Black Community back into the fray of things.
It’s not clear what will happen to Cousin's role with the DCABP.  According to the group’s constitution, no elected official is allowed to serve as the DCABP chair.  It is a serious conflict of interest that many refuse to dismiss.  The squabble over who runs the DCABP may be a serious detraction from the matter at hand – winning the fall election.
Sometimes national politics is held in the hand of local politics.  Hopefully all that power will not be wasted on a question of who will lead the way.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Public transportation should be called poverty transportation

 “I need for everyone to get off the bus,” the bus driver said after parking at the stop near Durham Regional Hospital.  “This is the end of the line for this bus.  The next number 9 will be here in an hour.”

“One hour,” the six people remaining on the bus burst in unison like the thunderous sound of a Gospel choir.  I glared at the dark thick clouds as they rapidly approached our way.  A storm was coming. I made my way to exit the bus with the other passengers tired from a long day of simply trying to survive the best we can.
I wasn’t aware that the route changed at 6:30 pm.  After riding for close to 40 minutes, I had to walk two mile further than usual.  A total of four miles while praying the rain would hold back long enough for me to make it home.
Frustration brewed with each step taken.  I crossed the street near Goodberry’s Creamery and picked up my pace.  The wind began to pick up its velocity as I increased my own.  I did my best to fight back the tears looming from that place that poor people must feel every day.  The faces of those forced off the bus came to me as I carried the bag with my laptop computer, a chicken breast and sweet potato I picked up from Whole Foods and Francis Wheen’s biography about Karl Marx.
 “Today’s my birthday,” I wept as the perspiration emerging from under my shirt tricked me into thinking the rain had begun.  The load of the bag in my right hand forced me to shift it to my left.  I prayed to understand the cruelty that forced me off the bus.  I speculated regarding the frequency of being kicked off before getting to one’s destination. 
“I’m beginning to understand why poor people commit crimes,” I blurted as I slogged my way across the parking lot at Lowe’s.  The burden of the hike combined with the threat of rain coerced the uprising of thoughts hidden under the net of privilege. 
I had become one of them.  I wanted to hurt someone for the pain I felt.
Riding the bus is one of the many adjustments I’ve made since moving out of my loft at West Village after 14 years.  Walking is part of the lifestyle I’ve chosen as a way to exercise, save money and to protect the environment.  Living further away from the places I frequent has made it more difficult due to the challenge of finding a bus stop. 
I’ve watched as women run with children to catch the bus only to have the driver pull away because they failed to make it to the posted sign in time.  I’ve watched as senior citizens wait in the heat. I’ve watched people bow in disappointment because the bus arrived late forcing them to miss a job interview. Most perplexing was witnessing the groans of a woman in a wheelchair who couldn’t get on the bus because there were two passengers in wheelchairs already on the bus.  There is only space for two.
I was one of them that day. I had become one of the masses on public transportation without the power to scream “that’s not right!” Like them, all I could do was walk or wait.
The tears came with the rain. I cried for those who have to walk.  I cried for those forced to wait. I cried for those who paid a dollar to ride the bus only to be told to get off before making it to the sign closest to their destination.
We’re told to use public transportation to reduce the number of people driving cars and creating problems to our ozone.  If that’s all true, where are the hippies on the bus?  Where are the men and women wearing business garments?  Most of the people I see are black and brown and ride because it’s the only option they have.
It takes work riding the bus.  It’s difficult to ride when it’s about to rain, and you’re kicked off the bus due a change in the schedule.
So, stop calling it public transportation.  It’s poverty transportation.  

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Honoring Saint Pauli Murray

Its days like this that make me wish I had become an Episcopal priest.  I would struggle with the liturgy of the church, but my progressive ways seem to be more at home with the Episcopal Church versus Baptist folks.
My preaching style may terrify those more comfortable with a monotone delivery.  Yes, I tend to get excited when I talk about social justice and the need for God’s folks to embrace a love that refuses to let them remain glued to pain. All of that pomp and circumstance would get in the way of my desire to avoid all things that hinder the work of transformation.
With that being said, I love the Episcopal Church for getting things right.  They named Pauli Murray a saint of the Church. Murray, who grew up on Carroll Street in West Durham, was a feminist, civil rights activist, attorney, author and the first black female Episcopal priest. Murray’s name will be included in the church’s book of saints, called Holy Women, Holy Men. July 1 will be set on the liturgical calendar to remember Murray’s life and work.
There’s so much to remember when it comes to the work of Pauli Murray.  I honestly can’t think of anyone who jumped in to fight as many causes as Murray.  Making her a saint was an easy task.  Thanking her enough for all she sacrificed is impossible. She wrestled with all forms of hatred and discrimination.  She did it all for the right reason.  Murray paved a way for others to find a way.
That’s what trailblazers do.  They go places where no one had the guts to go before the road was cleared to travel.
When I look at pictures of her frail body, I wonder where she found the strength to fight.  How did she find the courage to keep trying after being told she didn’t fit? There were places black people couldn’t go.  There were others were women couldn’t travel.  Then there were those places that frustrated her courage because of her gender orientation.  How did she keep fighting when everyone told her she was not good enough to remain in the room?
I moved to Durham for three reasons: Pauli Murray, John Hope Franklin and C. Eric Lincoln. I decided to attend Duke instead of Yale, Harvard and Princeton after reading Proud Shoes.  I wanted to walk in the streets that stirred the faith of Pauli Murray.  Each word pouring from her text read like holy words from the work of one of the prophets.  I loved her then.  I love her more today. 
She is my shero.
I cried when I received word that she was named a saint.  The emotions overwhelmed me with joy.  I wept because of all she sacrificed to become a saint.  It hurt knowing that her walk of faith meant giving up what others take for granted.  She was much greater than her net worth.  She deserved more than she gained while alive.  She deserved to be a bishop, or dean or Senator, a member of the President’s cabinet, Vice-President or the Head of State.  No one I know accomplished more.  No one I know sacrificed more. 
It hurts knowing that pain comes with being a saint.  Few make it on the road everyone travels.  Saints are always ahead of their time.  We rarely understand them until years after the dirt hits their face.  Saints suffer with not being understood.  They are saints because they never give up when people fail to understand.
So, Durham needs to honor Saint Pauli Murray.  It’s time to name a street after her in Durham.  It should have been done before now, but now it must be done.
I will be making that request before the Durham City Council within the next few weeks.  I hope others will join me in celebrating Saint Pauli. 
Thank you for your sacrifice Pauli Murray.  I pray for the courage to walk in those “Proud Shoes”.  God, grant me the strength to not get weary.  Grant me the courage to stand when I’m too weak to walk.  Grant me the peace to resist the temptation to walk away from the work that must be done.
Just like Saint Pauli.  Lead me; guide me, along the way.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Where is the money to tell Huey P. Newton's story:

“I’m disappointed in the lack of response coming from members of the black academy,” Dante James told me after sharing the difficulties he’s faced in raising money to make a documentary on the life of Huey P. Newton. “Given the subject and the work they do, you would think they would contribute to the project.” (go to:
Only 51 people have made contributions at the Kickstarter account set up to raise $40,000 to fund the documentary.  Less than $4,000 has come in to help tell the story of the man who helped start the Black Panther Party. 
“All we need is for 4000 people to contribute $10 or 2000 people to give $20,” James says with the conviction of a man who remembers the power of grassroots movements.
James is left pondering where are the people who talk about black power and telling the stories not mentioned in history books.  Where are the masses of people touched by the plan of the Black Panthers before police resistance and talk of revolution distracted from the good work that started in Oakland, Ca and spread like wildfire across the nation?
Where are the historians and professors of African American and African studies programs?  Why haven’t checks been written by those who make a living teaching about inner city agony and injustice in the streets?  James is burdened that those who know the truth about Newton have failed to support his effort to tell the rest of the story.
Where are the young people who wear t-shirts about black pride?  Where are the followers of Malcolm X and Ernesto “Che” Guevara?  Where are the disturbed voices of the Occupy Movement?  Certainly they have a few dollars to tell the rest of the story? Where are the brothers of Phi Beta Sigma, the fraternity Newton joined?
Where are the black men who complain about continued hostility coming from the police?  Why haven’t those who have endured incarceration written a check?  Why haven’t those robbed of freedom by the manipulation of power taken the time to give just enough to make a difference? Isn’t this their story?
They may say no, but how soon we forget.  How many of us have been stopped for driving in the wrong neighborhood?   How many black men have been labeled too dumb to think and placed in remedial classes before they had a chance?  Shouldn’t we celebrate Huey P. Newton for moving beyond illiteracy to obtaining a Ph.D?  Isn’t that the story of the American Dream?
Maybe our dollars are attached to ignorance.  Some may call Newton too radical to support.  His story, in the minds of some, shouldn’t be told.  Our lack of contribution says more than the rhetoric we preach in classrooms and in pulpits across America.  It repudiates the legitimacy of the voices on the other side of privilege.  We lock up those memories by keeping our money flowing in those places that endorse the good side of America’s journey toward the dream.
Some may say we don’t need to tell Newton’s story.  To that I respond with a shout.  Remember Jena 6.  Remember Troy Davis.  Remember Trayvon Martin and the countless other black boys and men denied their rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. 
We need to tell the story of black men’s pain.  We need to hear Eldridge Cleavers’ message from Soul on Ice.  People need to know about Frantz Fanon.  Make them read The Wretched of the Earth and Black Skin, White Mask.  Why is it that the world refuses to listen to what black men think?
Are they afraid of where we’ve been, or is it fear of what we may become?  It’s all part of the history.  It has to be told.  It is part of the story of America’s battle to become the melting pot we claim to be.
Dante James already has an Emmy Award.  This documentary is certain to give him attention for another once it’s completed.
That is if those who say they care will contribute to the work.  If not, not only will the revolution not be televised; there will be no place to discuss the reason for the revolution.
To contribute to the Huey P. Newton, Jr. documentary, contact Dante James at (919)475-9879 or

Friday, July 20, 2012

Is age just a number?

My plan was to take a day off and simply chill.  Then it hit me.  I have nothing else to do.  The most exciting part of the day has been reading the Happy Birthday wishes from my Facebook family. 
Today, I turn 53.  My status on Facebook says it all, “I’m much too young for my age.”
I’m way past using that phrase, “age is just a number,” but it’s the best way to describe my feeling 30 with a birth certificate that says 53.  My age has become a source of major contention for me over the years.  Sometimes I don’t know what to do with being measured by years when I’m not willing to function within the limits of age.
Age can work to your advantage in certain situations.  Then there are those times when you’re left screaming due to being limited because of age.  It happened to me recently when I contemplated applying for a job in Arizona.  The job description asked for a person between 25 and 35.  After blasting a few bad words, I conceded that they were right to give an age range.  The person hired would assume the role of leadership once the person in charge retires.
I had to give them credit for telling the truth. Often organizations have a wish list that is kept private.  After putting energy in the process you get your feelings hurt when they hire some young sucker right out of college with no experience.  Age is used to weed out those who are assumed to be too old to learn new tricks.  Companies are more prone to go with the puppy than the grown dog. Maybe they fear we will bite.
Maybe they think I'm walking around with one foot in the grave.  Who wants to hire a person creeping toward social security and health problems? Yup, they say age is nothing but a number, but people make assumptions based on that number.
It’s one of the reasons I hate the application process.  The line that asks for date of birth served as my ticket in the door when I was one of those puppies.  With experience far beyond my years, I was able to use youth like a magic wand.  It’s funny how you gain more experience over the years, but it’s viewed different after you pass that half century mark.
If age is just a number, and in many cases that’s true, what does one do when the age doesn’t fit the person?  It’s impossible for me to be stuck in 53 year-old ways.  I’m not even sure what that means.  What does 53 look like?  How does 53 act?  What are 53 year-old tastes?  Do people place limits on themselves due to their age?
Of course, there are certain benefits to getting older.  Certain things don’t make me tick like they did in the past.  I don’t have patience for shallow things anymore.  I’ve discovered that you have people of all ages who haven’t figured life out.  There has to be more to living than going through the motions to pay those bills and prove to others you have made it to the other side.
That’s the confusing thing about being 53.  I just want to be left alone.  I’m tired of the games people play.  I don’t want to waste time on other people’s drama.  I just want to find a comfortable place to rest.  How do you do that when people use your age to define what it means to be in that space?
Darn it! I’m too young to act like a man ready to be sent to the pasture.  Shucks darn it! I’m too old to be limited by what others think of me.
Age is just a number. Or, is It more than a number?

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

William Raspberry paved the way for black columnist

William Raspberry set the gold standard among black columnist.  He taught the rest of us how it’s supposed to be done.  Raspberry, 76, died on Tuesday after a battle with prostate cancer.
I’ll never forget first meeting Raspberry.  It was shortly after he was named the Knight Professor of the Practice of Communications and Journalism at the Sanford Institute of Public Policy at Duke University.  Raspberry was introduced to the community with a lecture.  The room was packed with people like me – those who write for a living. 
It was like lingering in the shadow of a great guru.  His words offered me hope in what could be mine one day. I listened as I took note of Barry Saunders, an impressive local columnist, who relished the moment like a disciple waiting for the rite of passage.
It’s not often that one meets a Pulitzer Prize-winning syndicated columnist.  Raspberry wrote masterpieces for the Washington Post for 39 years and appeared in more than 200 newspapers. He started in 1966 under the title Potomac Watch before using his own name.  Rather than write about the obvious, the Washington DC political scene, Raspberry focused on crime, poverty, education, violence, drug abuse, parenting, civil rights and gay rights.
Raspberry impacted the way I approached column writing from the beginning.  My first column appeared in the Durham Herald-Sun on July 20, 1997. It was my birthday.  Before writing that first column, I recounted the voice of Raspberry.  He uncovered what others had missed.  Like Raspberry, my work appeared in a white newspaper.  I felt the weight of an entire community on my back.
Before writing that first column, I reflected on the column Raspberry wrote in 1993 about the lyrics in rap music. “I wish their songs could be less angry and ‘victimized’ and more about building a better world,” he wrote.  Every word of that column stirred an amen from my soul.  Something was happening in the streets of America, and I could feel things getting worse as rappers spit words with no thought of the implications.
I wanted my words to matter.  My desire was to attack injustice with each word.  I hoped to inspire.  I prayed to open eyes.  I wanted my space on the Sunday editorial page to evoke conversations regarding life among those with no voice.
Those words have power.  Sometimes we, those who write columns, have to stand alone when we write.  The challenge is in not becoming the tool of any given group.  Column writers are forced to stand in the middle.  Sometimes that means we function with no place to call home.  Home is our words.  It can be a lonely place.  Raspberry helped me understand that I was not alone.
When I faced attack from the leadership of the Durham Committee on Affairs of Black People for columns that called into question their failure to move beyond the rhetoric of race, I went back to 1989.  I was reminded that Raspberry faced criticism from NAACP officials and civil rights leaders for a column that criticized leaders as dwelling on racism, rather than solving problems facing blacks.
 ‘‘I don’t underestimate either the persistence of racism or its effects, but it does seem to me that you spend too much time thinking about racism,’’ he wrote. ‘‘It is as though your whole aim is to get white people to acknowledge their racism and accept their guilt. Well, suppose they did: What would that change?’’
The attacks from black leaders reminded me of my own.  Time after time I’ve been told that I’ve been used by white people to expose what happens behind closed doors.  Black journalists aren’t supposed to discuss what happens in the black community.  Organizations like the Durham Committee on the Affairs of Black People have a policy that forbids journalist to be in the room if their intent is to write about what happens. 
Raspberry, and all black columnists, endure the tragedy of having to prove allegiance to the race.  All while shifting through the news.  All while witnessing the contradiction between what is being said by those who lead, and what is being done to repair the massive problems in the streets.
I admired Raspberry for more than that Pulitzer Prize he won in 1994.  I respect being awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award by the National Association of Black Journalist.  Those are on the top of things I would like to achieve.  As impressive as all of that looks in the award chest, I needed Raspberry for direction.  I read him to help me endure the constant attacks that come when those words offend those you respect.
It’s lonely standing in the middle.  Raspberry stood with those who write.  He did it with integrity.  He never wavered. 
You can’t bow to fear when God gives you a pen and a place to share.
I’m gonna miss you Mr. Raspberry. I’m here because of you.
All of us are.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Jesse Jackson Jr.: Living with the David Syndrome

It happens so often I have a term to describe it – The David Syndrome.  The recent victim of the deplorable condition is U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson, Jr.
The old folks used to call it “smelling yourself”.  It’s the state before the fall.  It happens suddenly and comes often without warning.  It’s the rapid demise of those who have it all, but sacrifice it all for a moment of pleasure.  It happens because of misuse of power and forgetting the importance of one’s position.
For those who have never walked in boots of power it is hard to understand.  For those perceived as golden children it is easy to find compassion for people like Jackson.  The pain Jackson carries may be rooted in the burden of exposure.  It’s hard to fight back the tears when faced with what should have been, could have been, and would have been if not for a walk down the wrong path.
The fall of Jackson has become the subject of national dialogue.  People want to know how a man with so much promise could make such a horrible series of mistakes.  Some are sensitive to his being treated for an unspecified “mood disorder” by an unnamed doctor.  Others condemn Jackson for being off the job for over a month.
Jackson’s fall from grace began when his name was tied to Rod Blagojevich as one willing to pay cash to assume Barack Obama’s vacant Senate seat. Prosecutors alleged that longtime Jackson friend and businessman Raghuveer Nayak was prepared to raise up to $6 million in campaign donations if Blagojevich, the governor, named Jackson to the post. Nayak also paid for airfare for a female social acquaintance of Jackson to fly to Chicago.
The scandal cost Blagojevich his job and freedom.  It has also tarnished the reputation of Jackson who is entangled in an ongoing House ethics investigation.  Added to Jackson’s problems is the exposure of an affair.  For those who hoped this apple would fall far from the tree, Jackson’s actions affirm the old adage like father like son.
Those who suffer from the David Syndrome have no place to hide.  It’s tough to carry scandal.  It’s even harder when an extramarital affair is in backdrop creating havoc on life at home.  There is no peace at work.  There is no comfort at home.  There is no place to heal from that which one creates during a moment of weakness.
I call it the David Syndrome because of the King who optimizes the notion.  King David used his power to sexually assault a married woman.  When she shared being pregnant, David designed a plan to kill her husband.  What followed was a series of incidents that reveal what happens when power is misused and that same power is utilized to cover up the mistakes we make.
Jackson is now left with severe emotional problems.  Many lack sensitivity due to their expectation that he continue in his role.  How can you work when facing those demons in your head?  How do you move past the mistakes you make when they are reported before the world.  It’s in the newspaper.  It’s on the evening news.  It’s talked about in the barbershop. 
You land hard when you fall from grace.  Sadly, you can’t make your way back after making that type of mistake.
The only thing left to do is heal.  The only way to heal is to stay away.
Stay away Jr.  Stay away.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Playing the name game

Sometimes I play games with my readers.  I’ll say something so outrageous that even I don’t believe it’s true.  It’s my way of making a point within a point.  It’s like saying, that’s stupid, but isn’t it similar to what you just said?
I played that game when I changed Mitt Romney’s name.  I called him Nick.  The funny thing is it took close to 24 hours for a reader to bring it to my attention.  I waited patiently for my correction.  The correction would be the point.  It has to do with calling people out of their names.
It’s a game we used to play on the playgrounds back home.  We gave people nicknames.  Sometimes they were given out of respect for some achievement.  Like greyhound for someone who runs fast, or thunder and lighting, the names we gave a pair of running backs.  I had my share of nicknames.  They called me “see no evil” in middle school due to the thick glasses that made me look like a skinny Clark Kent with an afro.
There are times names are given to communicate deep discontent.  They often come with bad words or some messy suggestion.  Many were called “know it all”. Girls were called “stuck up” as the prefix to the profane word that followed.  Get the point?
Yesterday I played the name game.  I called Mitt Romney Nick as a way to add further meaning to the boos offered at the NAACP annual convention.  For me, the boos served as payback for all the name changing and name calling being dealt during the campaign.  Names other than Nick came to mind, but I went with Nick to keep it clean.
Name changing is one of those unspoken issues that disturbs black people, and makes it difficult to move past the burden of the past.  It’s why the boos were so empowering.  It was a chance to give back what has been taken for centuries.  It was in common to saying, “hey boy, not in this house.”  Boy is a name change.  So are coon and, you get the point.
It’s powerful taking a person’s name away.  Doing so implies the stripping of identity and remaking in a way that gives pleasure to the one who gives the name.  It strips the person of their individuality and cultural upbringing.  It forces those names to become the reflection of the one who gives the name.
So, why rename Nick, I mean Mitt?
It’s because of what I felt when I heard those boos.  I thought of the pictures of Obama that made him into a monkey.  I thought of the references of Obama as the incarnation of Hitler.  I was reminded of all the cartoons and assertions about his faith.  I couldn’t stop thinking about those who question his citizenship.  It’s like changing his name.  Like he’s not American enough.
I considered Morgan Freeman’s comments about Obama not being black.  Haven’t we heard enough of that?  He’s not American enough, black enough, Christian enough to lead our nation.  He’s more monkey than man and is an undercover agent plotting to overthrow the government.  He’s a socialist cultivated in the teachings of Saul Alinsky. He’s a liar and an opportunist who will do and say whatever it takes to get a few votes.
It’s like changing Obama’s name.  That’s what I felt when the boos came, and, in response, I changed Mitts name to Nick to give those protecting Romney’s honor a taste of how it feels to be forced to be called something other than what your parents call you.
Yes, it’s disrespectful.  Yes, it’s unacceptable.  Yes, I should be ashamed of myself.  I’ve thrown my sticks and a few stones.  My mama taught me better than that.
So, I changed his name back to Mitt today.
Maybe they’ll stop calling Mr. President a Nazi

Thursday, July 12, 2012

And the boos keep coming

Mitt Romney used black folks to make a political point.  It cut like a knife.  It hurts deep.  He deserved those boos.
When the Republican nominee told the NAACP that he was committed to eliminating Obamacare, those in the crowd went Apollo on him.  They shouted and booed in wait of the sandman to come on stage to drag Romney with one of those rods used to guide sheep.  
Who can blame them?
At the root those boos are in response to the unspoken message Romney was making to black voters.  He doesn’t care about the black vote.  He showed up not to convince the people at the annual convention to give him a try.  He came to show the world he’s willing to go into the lion’s den and take stabs at the people in the pit.
It smells like one of those political maneuvers aimed at rallying those who view Obama and his agenda as the antichrist covered in darkness.  Romney told the crowd to kiss his white behind and face the music.  I’m not here to get your votes.  I don’t need you.  I don’t respect what you think.  I’m not concerned about the process that went into passing the legislation that will offer affordable care to the people in your families. 
It doesn’t matter that the plan was modeled after the one Romney created while serving as Governor of Massachusetts. His speech was an attack of all things Obama, even if his plan looks the same.  This was not a tea bag meeting.  Those listening have enough intelligence to smell bull dung when it’s slung in their faces. 
Why did he show up?  Was it to convince other voters that he’s not the mean dude represented in those ads that claim he sent jobs overseas? Should we connect the dots between Romney’s NAACP speech and his new campaign ads that argue Obama’s commercials about Romney shipping jobs overseas are a lie?  Is the timing an indication that Romney is attempting to transform his image by showing up at the party held on the black side of the tracks?
Romney wanted to get booed off the stage. He wasn’t there for votes.  He knows he won’t get them.  His desire is to garner enough reports that portray black people as narrow minded enemies of his agenda due to his white skin.  He showed up to prove that point.
Can you hear the echo in the room?  Hey you.  Yeah you, the conservative white dude over there.  Did you see my guts when I walked in a room filled with black people and told them I don’t care about what they think?  Come and tap me on my back.
It’s the type of message that galvanizes conservative voters.  They’re looking for a political messiah willing to put black people back in those fields with tobacco waiting to be picked.  Obama represents the fulfillment of black folk’s dreams.  Imagine all the clapping hands on the white side of the tracks when Romney stood up to those supporting Obama.
The bravery of Romney places a spotlight on white fear.  As much as many hate policies that elevate black and brown people, most are afraid to stand in a crowd and face the potential beat down.  They fear that black power.  That’s why they cross the street when they see us coming.  They’re comfortable in using all that covert racist power to keep people subjugated.  Obama took all that power and control away by becoming President of the United States.
I can hear the roar in hillbilly land. “You tell em Mitt,” followed by a quick slurp of Budweiser.  “Put em back in their place Mitt.”
Of course this is all speculation.  It could be that Mitt simply wanted to convey his heart.  It’s possible that he does care about black people.  Certainly he hasn’t been nurtured by the thoughts of a religious organization that excluded people of black African descent from Priesthood and from participation in temple ceremonies until 1978. Or maybe he has.  Should it matter?
There are multiple reasons to boo Romney.  It’s one of those things that happen when you’ve been disrespected.
And the boos keep coming.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

A message to those who create

I celebrate my birthday in nine days.  The countdown to July 20 is my annual come to Jesus moment to reflect on the state of my personal mission statement.  That’s the mental document I’ve created to maintain balance and an understanding of my purpose in the world.  This year has been filled with multiple eye openers that both took me by surprise and left me celebrating the amazing people placed in my life.
Put another way, I’m one blessed dude.
Coming to that realization is part of getting older.  It’s clear that I’ve been stripped of the need to live according to the expectations of others.  I’ve walked in integrity of a special call on my life – for better, and, yes, for worse.  I could write for days regarding the burden and joy of carrying that cross, but that’s not the point today.
The past year has been about discovering human pain.  So many people are walking in shoes crafted in disappointment.  We often miss them due to our own desire to find the path leading to pots filled with gold.  It’s our obsession with our own place in the human tribe that keeps us from hearing and seeing the hurts of others.  I’ve seen more than my share of pain.
What’s the pain about? Unfulfilled dreams.  They are everywhere you look – people who take two steps backwards for every step taken in a positive direction.  They are hindered by elements beyond their control.  Its part economic, part people, part internalized agony.  Those shoes are heavy to walk in, and many have collapsed before making it to the finish line.
My movement toward listening has been the source of my own liberation.  That’s the power of contentment.  Many people miss that message while seeking to find something beyond what is already within.  They are frustrated by their lacks more than encouraged by their strengths.
I could say that I have been broken this year, but this message is about healing and growth.  Isn’t that the point of faith?  Isn’t that why we keep ticking when the batteries go weak?
I’ve written columns and blogs over the year that reminds me of the human struggle to be free.  Some, like the Trayvon Martin story, remind us of the cruelty of assumption.  I’ve written about white people engrossed in racist ideologies and systems that minimize and degrade those devoid of privilege.  I’ve talked about institutions of faith and the hatred felt by those waving the Bible to cast out the supposed evil of homosexuality. 
There is so much to write. Some of it takes place in our own backyards, and some is far away.  No matter where we go, we discover a lack of freedom and peace.  It never seems to go away.
The challenge is in finding the strength to write through the pain.  Writing too is an exercise of faith.  It’s done when the heart is elsewhere, beating so fast it’s hard to keep back the explosion.  Some days it’s the flooding of tears caused by disappointment.  Some of it is personal.  Most of it is about what you can’t change.  We just write and pray the words will make a difference.
Writing is like taking steps.  Each step is a hope seeking a new destination.  Sometimes, more often than not, we can’t see the finish line.  We write not knowing if we are headed in the right direction.  Each word is a step. Take another, we breathe in between, then another. How much more must we write.
So, today is not about an issue in the news. This is a pause on the journey to share the burden of the words written.  A hug may be needed today.  The words are hard to carry.  The messages in my head are too many to write.  I can’t keep pace.  I’m writing too slowly, but I’m trying my best to catch up.
This is a message to all the creative people.  Don’t stop.  The world needs your words, your songs, your art and your dance.  Don’t let the pain stop you; be inspired by the voice within.
My birthday is coming.  I’m standing in disappointment.  I have my words to keep me on the path.   
The journey has just begun.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Frank Ocean takes the power of gay hate away

Frank Ocean gave the world one big you can kiss my behind.  I love it when people do that.  It takes guts to stand in the midst of potential retaliation to embrace your freedom.
For those who have been hiding under a rock, Ocean is the talented songwriter who will soon release his debut studio album.  Ocean shocked the world with lyrics about his love for a man, and announced to the world he is gay. 
It’s the type of news that has destroyed the careers of some of the top male R& B crooners of all time.  Tevin Campbell was on top of the music world until he was arrested after soliciting a lewd act from an undercover male police officer during a sting operation in Van Nuys, California. Maxwell was a walking hit machine until rumors circulated that he is gay. 
It’s an issue that has plagued many in the business.  The media’s gaydar has become a source of contention for any black male with talent and a line of women waiting to throw panties on stage when they sling that voice.  Consider the list.  Neo, Chris Brown, Trey Song, Usher, the list of those accused of being gay is too long to remember.  Virtually everyone with a few hits and some whip appeal gets called out for not being a real man.
It’s happened to Will Smith before the breakup with Jada Pickett Smith.  The rumor makers claimed the Fresh Prince got kicked to the corner due to his love for men.  It’s the type of brutal attack that people ache to hear.  Gossip conductors like Black Planet and the Russ Phar Morning Show website carry the load on their train of destruction.
Ocean’s decision not to play the game deserves two GRAMMY’s and a lifetime achievement award.  In coming out he has taken the power away from those who use rumors to invalidate the music of men in love with other men.  Ocean shouldn’t have to pretend by singing songs about his love for women.  Doing that makes his music more about a role play than an authentic expression of what he feels when belting out those tunes.
My concern is that Ocean will be punished by those unwilling to embrace the significance of gay love.  His talent is unquestionable.  He has written songs for Beyonce', John Legend, Justin Bieber and Brandy.  He’s working with Kanye West and Jay-Z on their collaboration project. His debut mix tape Nostalgia, Ultra was met with critical acclaim with two singles, Novacane and Swim Good achieving chart success.
But how will the public receive him now?  I’m hoping he doesn’t fall into that category of amazing talents who underachieve because of hatred.  It’s maddening that Rashaan Patterson, who is openly gay, has failed to become a household name.  No one denies that Meshell Ndegeocello is one of the most talented music makers in the business.  She’s a singer, songwriter, poet, bassist and vocalist who incorporates funk, soul, hip hop, reggae, R&B, rock and jazz in her work.  Ndegeocello has teen career GRAMMY Award nominations, but has not gone home with the trophy. 
Her project Bitter shares her pain after the breakup with her girlfriend.  Peace Beyond Passion delved into the agony of gays and lesbians due to the teachings of the church.  The song Leviticus: Faggot is one of the most gripping songs I have ever heard.  Despite her talent you get the feeling that Ndegeocello suffers due to her lyrics and gender identity. 
Patterson, Ndegeocello and Ocean are making a statement to those listening to their music.  It’s a bold declaration followed by a series of exclamation marks.  They’re saying this is who I am, and I really don’t care how you feel about it.  Listen to my music for the music. Stay out of my business.
Maybe it’s the first step toward destroying the nation’s obsession with who’s gay.  It would help if others would follow.  The power needs to be taken away to enable people to be free.
Give that man a GRAMMY for courage.  Pull out a couple for Rashaan Patterson and Meshell Ndegeocello while you’re at it.  They have been punished long enough.
Just listen to the music.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Dante James chosen to produce and direct documentary on the life of Huey P. Newton

It takes a lot of black power to make a black film.  It’s especially true when the subject of the film is a noted black revolutionary.  Green power runs from movies about black power.
My good friend Dante James has been chosen to produce and direct a feature documentary on the life of Huey P. Newton. James was contacted by Fredrika Newton, the widow of Newton and President of the Dr. Huey P. Newton Foundation, and David Hilliard, executive director of the foundation, to tell the story of the man who helped organize the Black Panther Party.
James, who lives in Durham, has one of those resume that keeps people knocking at his door. He received three Emmy nominations for his work on the PBS series Slavery and the Making of America, and was awarded an Emmy as the series producer.  He presented the story of the jazz age in Paris between 1920 and 1945 in his critically acclaimed documentary Harlem in Montmartre, a Paris Jazz Story. James’s short film The Doll is based on a short story by Charles W. Chesnutt.  James is one of the best in the business, so it’s no surprise he been asked to tell Newton’s story.
Despite all the accolades packed on his impressive resume, the green power hasn’t knocked as hard as it should to fund the work of James.  It’s one of those perplexing matters that keeps me shaking my head and rolling my eyes.  When a black person decides to tell a black story, the mighty dollar is slow to show up.  When white filmmakers document black stories the money pours from places you never knew existed. 
It hurts telling that truth, but I’ve been around the block of documentary film making long enough to know it’s not just my imagination. As the young folk say, I’m not hating on white film makers who decide to tell the story of black people.  What disturbs me is how they hold an advantage in raising the capital to complete those projects.  Even a person with James's credentials has to beg to get the job done.  Something stinks in the room.
Over the next 30 days I will be sharing more with readers regarding the project. I will share with you James's thoughts on the documentary as we gets closer to its completion. But, before I talk to James, we have some unfinished business.  We need some green power to get the project started. 
So, stop what you’re doing, after you finish reading of course, and go to kickstarter to make a contribution. The link is at the end of this blog post.
If you’re one of those high rollers willing to make a contribution with multiple zeros, contact James at 919-475-9879 or You can also contact Hilliard at the foundation at davidhilliard66@gmailcom or 510-507-03853.
This is a documentary that has to be made.  There’s so much about Huey P. Newton and the Black Panther Party that many don’t know.  Did you know Newton obtained a Ph.D from the University of California, Santa Cruz?  After teaching himself to read, he moved on to obtain the big certificate. That’s black power.
An amazing story that must be told.
Make it happen.

Her's the link:

Friday, July 6, 2012

Since when is God a white dude

I’m doing my best to keep this faith thing going.  You know, faith in world peace.  Faith in a world oozing with love and little children holding hands like Dr. King talked about when he told us about his dream.
Some people make it hard for me to keep holding on to my faith.  It’s like DMX whined in that song, “I’m about to lose my mind, up in here, up in here.” Put another way, what’s up with white folks these days.
Not all of them, but just enough to remind you not to smoke the peace pipe yet.  The pipe might be laced with something meant to take you to a place where dirt gets tossed on top of your body.  It makes me wonder if those smiling in my face are holding a knife waiting for me to turn so they can stab me in the back. 
I’m trying to trust, but what’s up with white folks these days.
A few months back I wrote about a KKK rally in North Carolina.  Now the newest deposit in the bank of white folks being fed up with colored folks comes from the state of Alabama.  Kari Hueswa with MSNBC reports that a pastor in Lamar County, Alabama has conducted a three-day whites only religious conference which will conclude with a cross burning on Saturday.
Mel Lewis is the founder of Christian Identity Ministries, a group dedicated to promoting white people as God’s chosen people.  "Yes, we believe that the Europeans and their descendants are the chosen people of God," states the group’s website. "We believe this, not because we think that the white race is superior, but because there is overwhelming proof in support of this belief. We do not back down from this belief, because we are certain."
They may feel certain.  The only thing I’m certain about is that it’s deplorable for them to use the word ministries to define their work.  What Bible are they reading?  What Spirit are they following? As much as I’m offended that they tout teachings that reject the worth of people who look like me, I’m even more perplexed that they teach that God is a white folk loving deity.  Somebody has been drinking the Kool-Aid of white supremacy and has been tricked into believing they bring more to the dance than the rest of God’s creation.
It disturbs me when people use racial difference as a way to elevate their own position in this big world of diverse people.  What person in their right mind can be drawn to an ideology that creates a God in their own image? Isn’t that a form of idolatry?  The last time I checked that’s one of the no-no’s listed in the first list of bad things handed down to a dude named Moses after a trip up a mountain.
I must be fair in pronouncing disdain for this form of mockery.  White folks aren’t alone in making God their partner in racial pride.  Black folks have also played this game.  It’s the reason for the unholy union between the Nation of Islam and the Klu Klux Klan.  The groups have met over the years to discuss ways to forge a separation between the races - blacks over here, whites over there.  Both believe they are created with special favor.  White people are “blue eyed devils, according to the Nation of Islam.  Blacks are cursed by the mark of Cain, according to the teachings of the KKK.  Different races, same conclusion.
As one who promotes the rights of people to hold to their own faith claims, I’m unwilling to touch upon the racism of the Nation of Islam.  Personally, I loathe their thoughts regarding Jews and their assumptions related to all white people.  I consider it racism, but they’re not Christians.  That’s a matter for the Islamic community to address.
My fight is with how you talk about Christianity and how those discussions dilute the truths of the claims the rest of us make.  Don’t talk to me about a color coded system.  Don’t go preaching about how God loves you more because you are white, and that God is calling you to preach the message of white supremacy. 
Not on my watch! 
It’s not just white people.  It’s straight people.  It’s rich people.  It’s anyone who uses faith to minimize others walking in the skin that God has given them.  Sometimes its men informing women they need to bow down and abide in God’s will of their subjugation.  Don’t create a God in your own image and use the words between Genesis and Revelation to support your narrow claim.
Nope. Not having it.
It makes me sick when I think about what we make God out to be.  So, as a minister of the Church that Christ left behind, I have a message for anyone spewing that mess.  Stop calling yourself Christians.  Don’t use that label.  It makes the work the rest of us do seem irrational.  It gives us a bad name.  We’re not like you, so stop pretending to be a Christian. Use another name to describe who you are.
I suggest Neo-Nazi.  It fits better than Christian.