Five Reminders from an Old School Mama

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Well, its the beginning of the school year. Time to get back to building those “A” students. Bertha Jenkins, my mom, affectionately referred to as Berta Mae by my sisters…lol was what you would call an OLD SCHOOL MAMA. Because of her tactics, I did well in school. Were you blessed with an “Old School Mama?” Are YOU an “Old School mama?” These powerful and success-breeding parents are in danger of becoming extinct. And whoever says, “He’s in high school now, I try to step back and give him some space,” is just ASKING for it. The Hands off approach simply doesn’t work. Until there is a diploma in hand, the Old School Mama says, “My HOUSE MY RULES.” Lets spread the word so that these habits never die. Here are 5 reminders from an Old School Mama:

REMINDER #1: If they say there’s no homework, that’s never true.

HOMEWORK AS SOON A YOU GET HOME. First priority for a teenager when they get home is to kick back and relax, watch a little tv, chat it up with the friends and go hang out. Well not in Bertha Jenkins’ house. Your first order of business is to do that homework while its fresh. And PLEASE don’t try that old, “They didn’t give us homework” trick. There’s ALWAYS homework. And don’t try that, “I did my homework” or “They let us do it at school” trick either. She needed to SEE it. And if for some unusual reason there wasn’t homework or you claim you did it at school and its in your locker, be prepared to face justice.

Bertha Jenkins knew that every teacher worth their salt either assigns homework every night or on the off nights expects the kids to study for a test, read some material, or work on an upcoming project. My mama knew that, and trust me she was good at sitting at the table and saying, “Well show me what chapters yall are on.” And if I couldn’t produce homework, she made UP homework. I can hear it now, “Read this chapter and that chapter, and then let me know. When you finish, I want you to explain to me what you read.” Either way, there was going to be some homework EVERY night! lol.

REMINDER #2: Never assume. Regular Check ups are crucial.

I can’t even remember how many times I’ve heard the phrase, “Well when I call out to school, they betta not say…” And believe me she did. She had my schedule. She knew all of my teacher’s names. She called the school and asked for them. She asked how I was doing. She asked when report cards and progress reports were coming out. She asked if I was doing my work, if I was doing my homework and what my grades looked like.

When you ask a teenager, “How was school,” the answer is almost ALWAYS, “fine.” From my experience as a teacher, that “Fine” can actually cover up anything from “I failed my test” to “I got detention” to “I’m failing all of my classes.” That is to an amateur. Bertha Jenkins would NEVER let you off that easily. She wasn’t about to be surprised at report card time. She checked…lol. And every now and then, she managed to show up at the building unannounced. Partly to see how you’re doing in school. Partly to see how you’re carrying yourself in the school building. The new wave today for teenagers is to wear one thing out the door and either stop at a friends house to change or keep clothes in your locker that you REALLY want to wear. Lol. That random pop up can really be informative.

REMINDER #3: If its Important to you, it’s more Important to them.

I don’t know how it was, but my mama had this sneaky way of knowing when EVERY parent-teacher night was being held, EVERY open house, EVERY opportunity to be at my school, and she showed up, walking cane and all. She knew that if she blew off school functions, I was more likely to blow off school as being that important. And somehow knowing that school functions were important to her made school more important to me.

When I got home, she always asked, “How was school today?” Then just as I thought I was off the hook, there came the follow up questions: “Tell me about it.” “What did you learn today?” “Explain it to me. How does it work?” “What are y’all working on?” “Go get your books. Show me.” “Bring me your vocabulary words” “make some flash cards.” “let me call them out to you.” Any “C” and “D” student can easily get by a quick, “How was school?” Only an “A” or “B” Pro can get through the after school interrogation…lol. Trust me, knowing that she would ask THAT many questions made me pay attention THAT much more. lol.

REMINDER #4: Make sure they Go to school like a student and come home like a student.

Inspection was before and after school. I left with a bookbag full of books. I arrived home with a bookbag full of books. You’d be surprised how many teenagers today are allowed to come home with only a spiral notebook and a pen these days. She checked to make sure I had a hand full of pens and pencils in my book bag at all times. Trust me, buying them at the beginning of the school year only lasts for about two weeks. A LARGE number of kids come to school with nothing to write with, not because of poverty but because of priority. Clean paper, books, notebooks for every subject. A STUDENT carries all of these. Students who do poorly in school are generally not a surprise to an Old School Mama.

REMINDER #5: Neatness is next to Godliness.

My school experience was HER school experience. The extended random Bookbag/Notebook inspection could happen at ANY point. Oh the dreaded inspection…lol. “Take everything out of your bookbag and dump it on the bed. She looked at every notebook. I couldn’t have any folded up pages inside my books. My notebooks had to be neat. It had to be full of papers from school. I have seen the notebooks of some kids lately. Some of them have 5 sheets of paper with writing on them for many of their subjects. After a semester of school work, that’s just not possible. If my book bag or notebooks looked messy, I had to take everything out and put them back in neatly.

If there wasn’t enough evidence of school work in there, that was an immediate grounds for a phone call to school. She checked every single graded paper there was. Items I got wrong, she made me fix them and make them right or worse be able to explain to her the right answers, and since she had never been to high school, I had to explain it well enough for her to understand it. Wrinkled papers had to be re-written on fresh sheets of paper. Notes or work written in a rush and sloppy had to be re-written.

IN SUMMARY…

Old school parents see it as their responsibility to make sure their kids are doing their part in school–not just in elementary school, but until the day they walk down the isle with cap and gown. Old school parents need evidence and never merely sit back and take a teenager’s word for it. I think it was Judge Judy who said, “Wanna know when a teenager is lying? Its when their lips are moving.” lol. As a teacher in an urban school district, I have passed out progress reports to a class of 27 students where 24 out of 27 students have been failing at least one class. I have seen report cards in the hall on the floor, in the trash, hidden in books, in notebooks by young people on a, “Don’t ask, don’t tell policy.” If you don’t know when grades are given out, they won’t tell you. Parent who see their child’s success in school as their personal project generally have kids who perform much better than their classmates. Bertha Jenkins did her part to make me the college graduate that I am today. We cannot afford for Old School Mamas to become extinct. Let’s keep it going. Share this with someone you know with teenaged kids. Lets make this school year count.

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Don’t Shoot; I’m Only Walking

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As corny as I am, I’ve been that young brother walking through that neighborhood so many times. I’ve been that young brother walking into that store or walking along the road even walking across a college campus or into that office building with that strange set of eyes following me, suspicious of my every move. My parents didn’t take me everywhere in their car so at times, yes I had to walk. Assumptions and stereotypes. You don’t belong here. Why are you over there? What are you doing? Why are you parked in your car? Why did you drive down that street? Why are you standing there? Are you going to buy something? What are you up to? Too many of you are standing in one spot. Too many of you are in the store at once.

I have been that young brother who had to watch what kind of clothes he wore, how he moved his arms, how long he stood in the same spot, where he placed his hands, what tone or volume of voice he used, which direction he looked in and for how long. I have had police officers accuse me of potentially dealing drugs, stealing a vehicle and robbing a furniture store, none of which claims even made it beyond the scene. I know George Zimmerman gets to go home scott free at the end of this trial because as long as he says he was afraid of someone who looks like me, people will relate and understand. But I’m just so glad to see for once someone at least has gone to trial for killing one of my young brothers “by mistake” because they ASSUMED he was up to something. For this one brief moment, one of my boys is considered a whole person, not just some random number on a statistic chart about violence or some stereotypical villain.

In this world we have been taught that we have to be strong, else the pain of discrimination is too much to bare. The ladies on this jury took one look at the evidence in this case and for whatever reason they could relate to the fear George Zimmerman claimed he experienced when he saw this tall black figure wearing a hood walking through the neighborhood he swore to protect. They were able to relate when he said that these a$$holes always get away. And a major part of them feel that Trayvon because of his appearance was a dangerous thug who caused his own death by being so threatening. For whatever reason, they couldn’t see through to the 3.7 Grade Point Average. They were too blinded to see the full scholarship to college, and they were ignorant to the 600 volunteer hours he did in his community by choice. If he had not been a tall dark skinned black male, they would have allowed themselves time to see those things. But since he was, they listened to a stellar defense brought to us by Sean Hannity, Fox News and enough gun rights advocates to raise almost $400,000. They convinced themselves that the prosecution just didn’t make their case well enough. That gave them the peace of mind to render a not-guilty verdict.

To my brothers and sisters, let this be a wake up call that the struggle for equality in this nation is not over. Our ancestors made it through slavery. Our parents and grand parents made it through Jim Crow. CERTAINLY we can make it through OUR generation’s challenge. But like those generations before us, we cannot afford to throw our hands up. We cannot afford to hide our heads in the sands of entertainment nor can we afford to shut down into our own selfishness. We cannot afford to be silent as our rights are stripped away. We cannot ignore a Voting Rights Act being demolished. We cannot ignore student loan rates doubling. We cannot ignore Obamacare being delayed. We cannot ignore our children being shot and killed by the hundreds in our urban neighborhoods.

And like our ancestors, we cannot become bitter, nor can we adopt the mentality of revenge. We cannot hate. We cannot prejudge. We cannot respond to profiling with profiling.

At the end of the day, this is a reminder that our mission is clear. We cannot rest until our children can walk the streets without fear of being profiled or murdered by those who look like them or those who don’t. We cannot rest until our children know that if they are lost that the country is just as engaged in finding them as they would be anyone else. We cannot rest until our children know that their hair and their styles are just as acceptable anyone else’s. We cannot rest until our children know that they can drive down the street or into the fanciest of neighborhoods without being harassed or suspected of ill-will. We cannot rest until we end assumptions based on the color of skin. And we cannot rest until all of our children feel valued as equals to anyone who walks the planet with them, be it in applying to college, applying to a job, seeking a promotion, applying for a loan or driving down a public highway. We are fighters. We are resilient. And we are ONE!

God is STILL in control!!

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While Our Eyes Are on National Leaders, Our Local Elected Officials are Wrecking SHOP!!!

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Presidential Election –2008 – 132 Million people voted

Midterm Election –2010 – 90 Million people voted (that’s 42 Million less, GOP took over the House)

Presidential Election –2012 – 129 Million people voted

Excitement is always in air for these mega Presidential Elections, but did you know that the majority of the important local elections actually happen on the midterm and off years?

***36 of the 50 States actually elect their governors during midterm elections while only 11 elect theirs during the big mega elections. Coincidence? I doubt it. And states like Virginia, Louisiana, Mississippi, New Jersey and Kentucky wait until folks REALLY aren’t paying attention. They elect their governors on off-year election years, you know those pesky little odd numbered years like 2013 when turnout is always desperately low. And while everyone is so focused on those huge Presidential year elections, just look at the craziness that happens as a result of those supposed little LOCAL elections:

YOUR VOTING RIGHTS ARE NOW IN QUESTION:
The Supreme Court’s decision on the Voting Rights Act last week (which sparked outrage for all of 30 minutes) was significant, because it sends the right to vote back down to those local officials that live right in your city, you know those same local officials who so many of us couldn’t pick out of a line up. Forget Washington and the President, those decisions happen right down the street from your house. Between last week and November, those people will decide who gets to vote and how convenient it will or will not be to vote, especially for folks who they feel may not be willing to vote for them. Did you know that this past week alone since that Supreme Court ruling that every single state in the South that the voting rights act once monitored has “coincidentally” filed for a change in the way their citizens will vote during the next election?

FUNDING FOR SUSTENANCE (UNEMPLOYMENT BENEFITS, HEALTHCARE, ETC.) HAS BEEN STRIPPED TO DESPERATE LEVELS:
In North Carolina, teachers and citizens are being arrested by the hundreds for standing up against cuts that burden the poor, cut off unemployment, block the healthcare expansion and threaten education, decisions all made by the Republican governor and the LOCAL representatives and the LOCAL state senators. Yet in that same North Carolina, voter turn out was down 53,000 among Democrats and up by 200,000 among Republican voters in 2012. And as folks sat down, those new Republican legislators stood up and sliced everything that helped those in need. Oh and did you know that if it was discovered that racism was a factor in your trial (like a licensed professional testifying under oath that a defendant deserves the death penalty because he is an African American and because African Americans somehow are more prone to violence than other races –actual case) thanks to those same LOCAL guys, you no longer have any recourse? Hmmmm.

YOUR EMPLOYMENT RIGHTS HAVE BEEN STRIPPED AWAY:
Remember all of those shots of Wisconsin Union workers taking over the state chamber chanting? That was in THEIR city, not Washington. Just that quick, the LOCAL representative and the LOCAL state senators and the LOCAL governor decided among themselves that you shouldn’t have the right to organize and use your collective strength to negotiate better salaries or benefits for you and your co-workers.

YOUR REPRODUCTIVE RIGHTS HAVE JUST BEEN LIMITED:
In Texas, LOCAL representative Wendy Davis stood for 13 hours delivering a filibuster speech before a LOCAL chamber full of protesters as means of blocking a crucial vote limiting abortion rights for millions of women throughout the state of Texas. And even though she managed to kill the vote for the night, Governor Rick Perry called a special session of those LOCAL representatives and state senators that most couldn’t name so that they can bring the vote up all over again. This time, it will likely pass.

And in the quiet of the night in Ohio, those little LOCAL representatives and LOCAL state senators slipped into a budget bill of all things provisions that made it much more difficult for women to exercise their right to an abortion by blocking funding, putting limits on counselors, increasing costs by adding mandatory ultrasounds and by requiring mandatory hospital referrals that are impossible to come by. None of that took place in DC, nor did it have anything to do with Barack Obama.

IMMIGRANTS AND HISPANIC CITIZENS ARE BLOCKED FROM BENEFITS AND NOW LEGALLY PROFILED:
In Georgia, our LOCAL representatives and LOCAL state senators achieved their moment in the limelight when they chose to block the education of immigrants in America. Meanwhile even on the national stage, it is the House of Representatives and not the Senate that is responsible for blocking reform that would allow immigrants in America an opportunity to gain legal citizenship and no longer have to exist as fugitives.

Governor Jan Brewer of Arizona only became famous when she and the LOCAL representatives and the LOCAL state senators decided that they wanted to make it legal to force anyone who appeared Hispanic to show their papers to prove they are legal.

LGBT RIGHTS OF EQUALITY HAVE BEEN GIVEN IN SOME AREAS AND LEGALLY BLOCKED IN OTHERS:
Some 13 state LOCAL legislatures offered the LGBT community the right to equality in marriage. Six LOCAL legislative bodies passed laws to block the right for the LGBT community to marry in their states. Protestors have taken to the streets in states like California, and finally the U.S. Supreme Court has spoken and cleared the way for these citizens who are our friends, our family, our neighbors and our co-workers to have the same rights as others who choose to marry “different” sex partners.

LET’S FACE IT!
None this was about Barack Obama, John Boehner, Harry Reid, or Eric Canter.

My point is simple, every year we hold local elections in our cities, and they are ALL important. There are people who put those same generic signs near shopping centers with names we don’t even recognize, some do quick commercial adds while many do not. And we are SO focused on our national leaders that many of these people are easily elected just because they simply slipped their name on the ballot and no one even cared to pay much attention. Once in office, they come to work, vote to limit your rights, go home to their families often on in the wealthiest sides of town and laugh as they watch on the news as we scream and yell at President Obama, the U.S. House and the U.S. Senate all the way in Washington, DC who if we’re being honest haven’t really been in the business of actually passing laws these days.

We cannot continue to take to the streets AFTER things have already happened. We have got to BLOCK them from happening by waking up to the fact that they use off year elections to get into power because they think we aren’t paying attention. We have to find out who these people are. Who represents OUR voices right in our own communities? What are they up to? How hard are they really working to block some of these drastic initiatives? We cannot keep our heads in the sand, DISTRACTED by entertainment while other folks head to the podium to strip us of our rights, of our equality and of our freedom.

Friends don’t let friends skip elections.

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Confessions of a Foodie: While we may perish from the lack of knowledge, we fail from a lack of consistency

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Sometimes I want to body slam those health nuts online that delight in the healthy lifestyle. You’ve seen them on Facebook. They post their pictures of salmon the size of a cellphone on a bed of lettuce, their before and after body shots (crap I even posted one of those myself. lol), their gym pics, their spinach protein shakes, and that status that says, “I just ran 15 miles and boy do I feel good.” Why does that get to me?

Ok, ok, let me be honest. It’s because they are doing exactly what I should be doing and because running ¼ of a mile makes me want to pass out. And even though in my mind I want to upper cut the next person that posts a saucer of fresh fruit, I actually thank them for choosing to live out loud and for showing us all what’s possible. I keep asking myself, after all of the let’s get fit efforts being made in the world, from Zumba to Tybo to our First Lady’s “Let’s Move” campaign, are there really any of us left who don’t actually KNOW how to get and stay in shape? Seriously? Or is the problem something else?

Can I be real for a moment? I was born in Bertha Jenkins’ home where food was absolutely a part of our everyday culture. My mom and I bonded through food. Our family came together around food. Being the mama’s boy I was, I spent a great deal of time with my mom in the kitchen, her perfecting the craft that was Southern cooking, me being her helpful assistant. It was difficult for my mom to get around largely due to weight issues and other health impairments that were largely an effect of the weight. So I could reach for dishes she couldn’t reach for and could stoop down into the cabinets to retrieve those special pans she couldn’t get down low enough to grab for herself.

And after she was done, wow! There were biscuits from scratch, white flower, lard and all, soaked with butter after coming hot out of the oven, golden fried chicken, baked spaghetti slathered with cheese, maybe bread or rice pudding, fresh or boxed mashed potatoes and homemade gravy, collard greens seasoned with pork, chocolate cake and butter pecan ice cream, red Kool Aid with just that perfect balance of sugar, sugar and sugar, or maybe Pepsi Cola. For breakfast, those pancakes drizzled with dark Karo syrup, scrambled eggs and sausage patties, oh yea on some days when the budget was short an invention called, wait for it, “Rice, Sugar and Milk” the breakfast of champions who don’t have that $4.99 for that box of cereal. And when we really bonded, you know between meals it was that signature moment of a box of Jiffy Gingerbread, which we literally baked in a pan, sliced in half and ate sitting across the bed.

After all of that good eating, NOW I’m supposed to change and “follow the rules.” (My new 30’s metabolism responds sarcastically, “Uh yea.”) And yes, I know the rules. Fried foods are bad, grilled and baked foods are good. Doritos and Double chocolate fudge cake and vanilla ice cream are bad. A nice apple and some tasty almonds are good. Pepsi Cola and Sweet Tea are bad. Water is good. Banana Nut Waffle, scrambled eggs with melted Kraft singles cheese, crispy bacon, and Texas toast slathered with butter are bad, oat meal, whole grain toast and egg whites are good. And more rules: Quinoa and brown rice good; 10 for $10 little packs of Monsanto flavored mashed potatoes bad. Taking a nap on that couch after eating a plate over flowing with what is clearly 2-3 serving sizes of food (if I really take the time to read the back of that depressing box with those hateful nutrition facts) watching that episode of Judge Judy from the DVR—–kinda bad, while hitting gym or taking a brisk walk are good. I get…I get it.

Confession: after a stint of doing the right thing for a period of time and reaping some of the rewards, full disclosure, I have that moment of weakness that begins with a quick snack and before long, that little buzz word moderation I’ve been taught to adhere to takes a break. And just when I’m not looking, the dam breaks, and its good bye, “Could I have a grilled chicken wrap, substitute honey mustard instead of ranch and a cup of water,” and hello, “Could I get the bacon whopper, extra cheese with lettuce, tomato no onions, and a fruit punch for the drink, and are the apple pies still 2 for $3?” And just like that, every last piece of that healthy living knowledge goes out the window.

And I’m suddenly again reminded that when those hunger pains go off, I don’t actually want a nice slice of apple, I want some vanilla Oreo cookies. For whatever reason, I seem to have no craving for a nice healthy vitamin enriched smoothie. When I’m starving, for whatever reason, I don’t want a light salad drizzled with a light vinaigrette. When I’m worried or stressed, angry or upset or even happy, I want those foods that I remember having actual flavor.

People keep saying if you can stick to a behavior for 2 weeks it becomes a habit. But what they almost never seem to say is when the craziness of life comes at you all of those original habits that formed your default all find a way of creeping right back in as if they had never left. And those habits for many may be eating junk, but for some they may be smoking, drinking heavily, pessimism, you name it. This one just happens to be mine.

Confession: for the record, yesterday I ate two small bags of Monsanto favored Doritos, some Fat belly flavored cupcakes, some Diabetes Iced tea, a sodium encrusted Jamaican Patty, and later some artery clogging shrimp, sausage and mushroom pasta drizzled with an herb cream sauce, and I topped it off with one of those garlic sticks, you know the kind similar to what they serve at the Olive Garden. Hold on. Can I pause? There is SO much wrong with that list. Even as I go back and read it, I’m like WOW! Now how did that help me with my goal of being at my healthiest self by the age of 40?

Confession: lately I have become what I like to call complacent. I saw a few improvements in my body and health, and when confronting the ups and down of taking on new life challenges and missions, the anxiety caused me to revert right back to my comfort zone of eating without thinking. And like a flood, I once again became suddenly aware that the Billboards in my city advertise the Burger King Chicken sandwiches 2 for $3.00 mix and match, yet never Quinoa and grilled salmon (DISTRACTIONS). Its Bojangles and Wendy’s on the side of the road when I’m starving, and no one is there to say, “Hey don’t eat that, or consider that healthier option instead of BEING DISTRACTED BY what’s in that nice colorful picture beside the menu. In the grocery store, they will never feel the need to hit you with that nice fresh spinach and brown rice display as you entire the store. None of my friends on a Friday or Saturday night want to hang out and go grab some nice “grilled options” or grab bucket of light salad drizzled with olive oil and vinegar at the movies. Nobody sees it as their job to encourage me to do the right thing when it’s not convenient.

Truth is, while it may begin with the knowledge, true change takes time, sacrifice, focus and commitment. It is not the world’s job to care about my health. Stores, restaurants and food producers are concerned with their bottom line, making a profit. L.A. Fitness will never consider a payment option that involves pay as you go, nor will they call or text me if I don’t swing by. They thrive off of bringing in people who will pay them monthly whether they go or not.

No matter what diet, healthy plan, new fitness crave, or latest Dr. Oz supplement that is announced, this journey goes nowhere until you have made the personal decision to choose a better life over the convenience of the moment. And once you’ve made that decision, it’s about being realistic enough to acknowledge that there will be set backs and being able and bold enough to get back in there as many times as it takes to accomplish what you set out to achieve.

So today, I recommit to this effort this challenge of breaking the generational curse by acknowledging that while this transition into a new way of life is tough, I have taught my sons to never run from a challenge and that you can have whatever you want in this world if you are willing to do the work. Today, I accept the adage that old habits die hard, but I challenge myself to simply do better at being their murderer. Today I recommit to mind over matter. Today, I stand on my ability to find my reset button, that most prized and powerful skill that we all possess. Today, I return to my commitment of doing what is right over doing what feels good in the moment. Today, I take full responsibility for my own health, making choices based upon what I KNOW rather than what I see or feel. Today, I recommit to that power within me that is real and does not even bow down and surrender to the most powerful of all beings, that biscuit from Bojangles. Lol.

Today, I choose to get back up.

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Why I Refuse to Join in on the Outrage Against Paula Deen

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I fear sometimes that while we grab our picket signs, put up our shields and head into battle over one person who we’ve never even met using one trifling and ignorant word (mind you one that was used to bring pain and shame to a people), our communities are being terrorized by folks who can look a lot like us. And many of these people use the same exact “n” word as a joke every day of the year but in THEIR case all while causing REAL and tangible destruction to our people. And because of that skin deep disguise, no one is outraged or moves to hold these people accountable through protests, through news coverage, through facebook posts, through boycotting, or through letter writing campaigns.

I have to admit, it does make me curious. How do we feel about people who perform exceptionally well at their jobs, but turn out to not be the human beings we feel they should be? If a Paula Deen can burn in the kitchen, but uses the “N” word here or there socially, do we not eat at her restaurant? Do we not purchase her products? Do we not support her as a Chef? I mean, she’s an amazing cook with a terrific restaurant and amazing food. I know I’ve eaten there. But are we so offended by her scandal that we now advocate the complete shutting down of her brand? If Bill Clinton builds a strong economy but cheats and lies and says things that suggest racial insensitivity during a Presidential primary, do we not celebrate his Presidency or his record? Do we not support his family returning to the Whitehouse?

When our recording artists catch us with their sound and their beat, yet call our sisters “B,”s and Hoes, or in some cases refer to urban people as “N”s—not in what we’ve been taught is a “friendly” way like, “Hey there my “N” but in a degrading way like, “You ain’t nothing but another ‘N’” and maintain illegal dealings every day or get arrested from time to time even as millionaires who have no need to do the illegal to say…feed a family or keep a roof over their heads, do we stop listening to their music?

I almost wonder, is it only racism that causes us to react or alter our support? Is it only when a person of a brighter shade says an “N” word that we feel the need to, “Do something.”

I run across areas where people say how wrong it is for people to support any Paula Deen products since she clearly doesn’t respect our people. My first instinct is to applaud. I would LOVE to see my people pick and choose where they place their dollars and support based upon how they are treated and viewed by those who provide goods and services, but if THAT is the criteria for when it’s time to take action, then you’ve got to go down the list. Might we begin by asking why is it that establishments on the good side of town where minority populations are the smallest are clean, watch their customer service and manners, mow their lawns, pay close attention to landscaping, paint, answer their phones, provide fresh products, decorate, and greet you with a smile all while establishments on _____ southside (any city will do…lol) treat you worse than some treat their dogs, and the customer base comes back every day—no protest, no outrage, no boycott, no facebook campaigns, no letter writing campaigns, only a sour face and a few words mumbled to a friend or family member.

In urban centers like Chicago, people murder our brothers and sisters almost every single day of the week, many of those who commit the murders look just like us. In fact Chicago alone, just a few weekends back, had as many as 46 shootings in one single weekend. The only one that was even highlighted was a young black boy who had been shot by a white police officer. And while that incident was certainly shameful and unacceptable, why were all of the others tolerated, accepted, brushed aside, ignored? As a people and even as a nation, we have grown to associate one single word with an entire century of evil, oppression, discrimination, control, abuse, and murder. Today, while much of that has changed—much not all—that one word alone still brings so many people to their knees, but the everyday actions of people within the same community, never seem to phase the community as a whole at all.

Paula Deen chose to share information about her use of the word and circumstances surrounding that use (knowledge that was largely between her and her husband). Her use of that term was WRONG! It was OFFENSIVE! But I would submit that there are people every day who use your proper name who treat you way worse than Paul Deen has EVER treated you OR our people.

Ok, so what’s done is done. The sponsors are dropping Paula Deen like hot potatoes. So what now? If Paula Deen goes to the poorhouse, the kiosks in the malls on the urban sides of town will still be selling marijuana and shot gun medallions for necklaces. The “N” word will still be in nearly every hard core rap song, in the performances of half of the Black comedians in the business, and on the tongues of countless teenage descendants of slaves across the nation in our urban communities. The urban side of town that largely serves minorities will still offer the worst products and the worst customer service with the highest prices even though they have the lowest property taxes. Owners of these corner stores and gas stations will still hide behind the glass windows because they feel you will rob them. Stores that serve healthy food will still only set up shop in the areas of town with the smallest proportion of minority customers while establishments on the side of town with the highest proportion of minorities will still stick largely to fried and greasy high calorie options. And litter and poor upkeep will still be worst on the South sides of towns, a crime committed largely by members of the community itself. I could continue to go down the list, but I think the point is made.

So where is the outrage for any or all of that which remains? On a collective scale, it doesn’t exist.

So no. I will not be giving any outrage over the Paula Deen scandal any energy whatsoever. After all, those issues are just distractions. Wake me up when it’s time to talk about the REAL problems.

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Case of the Common Thug Who Deserved to Die

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You know, sometimes life just isn’t fair. To all my sons, and other young brothers out there, please take this one lesson from both the Trayvon Martin and Aaron Hernanez cases even though one is an innocent victim and the other is an accused criminal: public perception is that pesky little factor that creeps into cases when you least expect it. Those of us who believe in the rule of law hold fast to what we know to be the fair and legal way to approach the journey toward justice. We know what evidence matters, what facts are legally relevant and what a judge, an officer, or a jury SHOULD legally consider when working with an arrest or a case. Sad thing is there are people who know that perception is that invisible but deadly factor that technically cannot legally be regulated. And when it comes down to it, trust me, those who seek to define you, will absolutely use it in their favor.

LESSON: please understand that anyone who ever chooses to accuse you of ANYthing, whether you did it or not, will absolutely take as their first priority to convince onlookers that you are the type of person capable of committing such an offense. Please know that they will pull up every facebook, every instagram, every twitter, and ever tumblr picture you have ever taken with a gun, with weed, with knives, or a scarf hanging from your back pocket, every status you have ever posted with profanity, every tweet you have tweeted while “keepin it real,” all the pictures with money, all the pictures with hand signs. They will seize every picture or communication that they deem fits the description of a stereotypical common thug who folks would believe deserves to be punished. All of those snapshot images will in an instant transition from something you did in the privacy of your own home with your own friends into something that is now city, state, or nationwide news.

And just like that, whether it’s relevant or not, officials will use it to portray you as someone who is violent, who deserves punishment. As adults, if we don’t communicate this to our nephews, our nieces, our sons and daughters, our mentees, our students and our friends, we do them almost as great an injustice as those who seek to define them. Our kids MUST know that their image to the world IS important.

Trayvon Martin died at the hands of a man who had no right to bring harm to him in ANY way. He did NOTHING to deserve that. His personal style has NOTHING to do with his death. This is a case about murder where TRAYVON MARTIN is the victim, but we are all witnessing with our own eyes how quickly perception is being manipulated from being a story about a young boy murdered by a reckless, unqualified vigilante who disregarded the orders of 911 officials to being a case about a young, common, violent thug who deserved to die for scaring this man who was only protecting his community. And that is shameful!

And in that same case, Rachel Jeantel has been placed on the stand as the young lady who was the last human being to speak with her murdered friend yet is having her image manipulated into the young lady who lied to make her friend look less violent. She has been forced to use over and over again the language that Trayvon Martin last used because the goal is to get these 6 suburban women, many of whom carry their own gun to protect themselves from criminal types, who sit on the jury to view this Trayvon Martin as some mean and nasty, violent thug roaming our streets, clearly up to no good who violently attacked poor unfortunate George Zimmerman as he strived to keep his neighborhood clean and “pure” of the wrong kinds of folks.

I want so much to be able to just say you are a private citizen and have the right to do anything you please, take any pictures you wish to and post them, say whatever you want to say out of your mouth, wear whatever you want to wear, because all of that is 100% true. You DO have that right. But for the sake of those who do not care about your privacy, for the sake of those who wish to define you for their own sick and twisted purposes, be careful of what you post for public consumption. Sometimes your image is all you have.

I pray for the family of Trayvon Martin and for this young lady Rachel who is trying so hard to do her friend’s memory justice.

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Texas Gets Right at the Business of DisenfranchisementBefore the ink even dries, Texas is already making it more difficult for minorities to cast their vote next election
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Seems like it was only yesterday that the Supreme Court struck down federal oversight on voting regulation for the South…Hey wait a minute…IT WAS YESTERDAY. And just that fast the state of Texas has already changed the way people will vote on election day. Within hours of the Supreme Court Decision, Texas decided that the one voting site that has the lowest proportion of minority voters will now accommodate 6,500 voters. But get this, the voting site with the highest proportion of minorities will now serve 67,000 voters. Guess who will be standing in EXTREMELY long lines this next election day…

Terrible thing is Texas attempted to make this change back in 2006. But then the BUSH Justice department blocked this change citing how obviously unfair and unequal it was. But back then, section 4 of the voting rights act was in place so the federal government had a say. Today, that is simply no more. As of today, states like Texas, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississipi, Alabama, South Carolina, Virginia, Arizona, and Alaska, states notorious for not exactly being enthusiastic about minority voices at the polls, can do whatever they want. And in the new political game, if you can’t convince them to vote for you, then make it difficult for those who disagree with you to vote.

Trust me, this is a major game changer. Is there a way out? Sure there is. The House of Representatives could help pass a law to fill in the gap. Of course, this is the same House that has blocked nearly every progressive effort to move minority rights forward since the GOP has been in power. There’s about as much of a chance of that happening as Santa Clause fitting down my artificial chimney at home.

Time to wake up and pay very close attention to our state legislatures. These guys mean business.

Texas Gets Right to the Business of Disenfranchisement

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