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Transformation Dreaming


I used to have dreams of death that would literally scare me awake.  In my dreams, I have died a variety of ways.  I’ve fallen to my death.  I’ve been peppered with bullets.  I have been attacked by vicious wild animals from rabid squirrels to grizzly bears that were far from being a gentle Ben.  But for the last couple of nights I had a couple of dreams of death that gave me a new perspective on my relationship with the universe and my relationship with my spirituality.

Two nights ago, I had a dream that I was driving down the street in a Jeep CJ.  I pulled up to the red light of an intersection getting ready to make a left turn.  Two men were crossing the street in the crosswalk in front of the Jeep.  They stopped to talk to each other right in front of me.  I thought they were being jerks.  When the light turned green they continued to stand in front of me holding their conversation.  I turned the steering wheel a little harder and made my left by going around them.  As I continued to go on my way, two men appeared in the middle of the street again.  I drove by them as well.  Like the first pair of men I just went around the second set.  I looked up into the sky and there was a contrail of something headed straight down into the ground.  Suddenly there was a huge explosion.  It looked like a nuclear device detonated.  A few seconds later it looked like the horizon was growing.  A huge, fiery wall of sheer force was fanning out from the explosion point.  Escape was impossible.  I had only seconds to live.  I blew a kiss to the sky and thought to myself, I’m coming home.  When the wall of furious fire hit I was immediately consumed by the flames.  I had an out of body experience.  I could see inside the flames and I watched as my skeleton was charred to black inside the Jeep.

Last night I had another dream.  It started off inside what I believe to be a Home Depot.  I was in a gigantic home improvement store.  I remember walking through the paint and wallpaper department.  I was pushing an empty shopping cart.  As I walked out the store the shopping cart was able to follow me.  It was dark and kind of cool outside.  The parking lot was sloped and as I walked down it the shopping cart hit me in my back.  At the edge of the parking lot, I saw there was no place to park the cart so I turned around to push it back up the slope.  Suddenly I heard two gun shots.  I hadn’t noticed before but there was a young black teenager pretty close to me and he started ducking.  Not wanting to be a target I started ducking as well.  Two more shots rang out.  I turned and across the street from the parking lot was an angry young man with a pistol pointed in my direction.  He was wearing an oversized, red hooded sweatshirt and white sweatpants.  He was yelling.  He yelled at me that he hated my punk ass.  I did not know who he was or why he would be angry with me.  I fell to the ground.  A bullet from his gun grazed my left shoulder blade and left buttock.  The shooter was running towards me with the pistol extended and pointed at me.  By this time I’m lying prostrated on the ground with my head his best target.  His aim is bound to get better.  I am about to die.  My last thought was how much I loved my son.

At the end of both dreams I woke up.  The typical reaction to me dying in my dreams would be a racing heart from a sudden rush of adrenaline.  But instead of a racing heart I woke up as if I had experienced one of the most pleasant dreams ever.  From what I understand death is a symbol of profound change.  Death is nothing if not the most transformative change humans will ever experience.  All we know from this side of the life/death portal is that people mourn when loved ones die.  It’s typical to fear the loss of communication that comes with death.  No one knows what, if anything, lies on the other side waiting for us.  And fear of the unknown is one of the biggest fears of all.  If I had these dreams a few years ago I would have been waking up with my heart racing and head pounding and gasping for air as if I had ran a marathon.  But in these dreams I stayed calm.

While I am far from living with a death wish, I do understand that death is inevitable.  It is a common law of nature.  If something has a beginning, it too will have an end.  Nothing at our plane of existence is forever.  Everything changes.  To resist change is to resist growing.  To resist change is to resist progress and to resist proceeding down one’s spiritual path.  Growth doesn’t happen without change.  Transformation doesn’t happen without change.

No doubt my subconscious is trying to tell me something.  At forty six years old, I’m probably going through some sort of midlife crisis.  Like a lot of people, like many men, I’m probably trying to come to terms with the loss of my youth and the fact that there’s a good chance that the majority of my life years are behind me.  Unable to turn back the clock and redo parts of my life already done I really have no choice but to look forward to my life.  While others might don a leather jacket, bling, and a new sports car, I guess it appears that I might be ready for something a little more transformative in my life.

Saturday, November 22, 2008 Posted by | Ancestors, Life, Philosophy, Religion, Spirituality, Thoughts | 6 Comments

Does The “C” In CNN Stand For Coon?


My morning workday rituals include catching up on all the news overnight.  At some time around four in the morning I will start my day with the television on in the background.  I will start with the CBS national news.  I then will switch to the ABC national news to get their version of whatever somebody says is the top news for the day.  I then switch back to the CBS affiliate to get the local news.  And I wrap it all up with CNN, the most trusted name in news.  MSNBC with Joe Scarborough is not an option.  And FOX News is anything but news.  While the others get about thirty minutes apiece, CNN can benefit from as much as ninety minutes of my time.

For the past couple of months or so, with just about every break for commercials, CNN, the most trusted name in news, has been peppering their broadcasts with advertisements for their head coon as farce, D. L. Hughley.  CNN wants to capitalize on the trend for young people to get their news through comedy shows like the Daily Show with Jon Steward and the Colbert Report with Stephen Colbert.  In order to exploit this development, CNN has put its effort for comedy news behind Mr. Hughley.  And what a choice it is.  It ranks right up there with Arizona Senator John McCain choosing the infamous Alaska Governor Sarah Palin as his running mate.  One of the advertisements for the program shows Mr. Hughley with his hand up as if trying to slow one of his guests down during one of his sure to be far from in depth interviews and saying something like, “Come on, man.  I barely know how to read.  I’ve got a G.E.D.”

Mr. Hughley is first to admit that he has no love of news, politics, current events.  He is quick to complain about the rigor of reading newspapers and web sites, listening to the radio talk shows, and watching his own network’s number one product, the anchored news broadcast.  And this is the man CNN wants to represent their foray into satirical news.  Mr. Hughley is about as qualified to be a network news anchor as Rush Limbaugh is qualified to be an advocate of affirmative action.

And speaking of affirmative action, it should be obvious to anyone with or without working vision balls that Mr. Hughley is a classic example of an unqualified black man benefitting from seriously unfair favorable treatment.  The last time I had anything to say about this man who will do anything to ingratiate himself to anyone willing to pay good money to see him lick boots, he was doing his best to bring attention to himself by telling black people to get over themselves and leave Don Imus alone.  Mr. Hughley was quick to add his less than helpful opinion and say, “There were some nappy headed women on the team and those are some of the ugliest women I have ever seen in my life.”  As a reward for being the epitome of the news media’s cheesing lawn jockey, Mr. Hughley is now given his own television show.

I must confess that I was tempted to tune into this show once.  During my morning ritual, an advertisement for the program showed an officious looking man calling Mr. Hughley a liar.  That piqued my curiosity for about a minute.  Early one Sunday morning, probably after the second or third airing of Mr. Hughley’s show, I found out that the officious guy calling the head coon as farce a liar was actually Josh Levs who appears regularly as part of CNN’s Truth Squad segment.  It turns out that Mr. Levs was planted on the scripted show and the liar accusation was nothing more than a gimmick.  The Sunday morning anchors were giving Mr. Levs a bit of teasing for being the victim of some colorful threats from Mr. Hughley.  I was glad that I never followed through on my curiosity.  I was disappointed in myself for being so easily duped into almost thinking of tuning into this travesty of comedy or of news.

Watching any other CNN program, no anchor, reporter, contributor, producer, cameraman, assistant, or anyone else affiliated with the news network would even think of promoting the fact that they didn’t have a degree, never mind never graduated from high school.  But there is no shame to Mr. Hughley’s lack of an education or lack of anything to credibly support him getting his own television show on CNN.  Stephen Colbert studied at Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois.  Jon Stewart attended the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia.  It took some searching but according to his web page Josh Levs attended Yale University.  But Mr. Hughley gets a pass with nothing more than a successful score on his general educational development test.

The Colbert Report is a 2008 winner of the George Foster Peabody Award which recognizes excellence in news and entertainment.  In 2008, the program also won an Emmy Award for outstanding writing for a variety, music, or comedy.  While I’d like to think that my opinion of anything is not influenced solely by the number of awards won or the caliber of such awards, for a comedy show to garner such recognition indicates a certain amount of sophistication and intelligent delivery in its development.

However, it would be no surprise to see Mr. Hughley’s show stoop to the sophomoric humor as fart jokes and put downs that are the staple of Mr. Hughley’s comedic talent.  What more can you expect from a man whose two cents to racially charged issues like a white man calling an organization of predominantly black women “There were some nappy headed women on the team and those are some of the ugliest women I have ever seen in my life.”  CNN might as well let Wolf Blitzer tell fart jokes in his opening monologue before he gives his “news” reports.

Thursday, November 20, 2008 Posted by | ABC News, Affirmative Action, African Americans, Black Community, Black Culture, Black Men, Black People, CBS News, CNN, Life, News, Philosophy, Politics, Racism, Thoughts | 2 Comments

Personal Gain Ahead Of Personal Sacrifice


From the October 28th edition of the Colbert Report.

Stephen Colbert:  Are Native Americans going for McCain or are they going for Obama?  And McCain obviously head of the Indian affairs committee.  That you got in Arizona.
Sherman Alexie
:  Let’s get one thing out of the way.  They are both politicians so we’re both a little nervous.  We’re all a nervous about any politician.
Stephen Colbert
:  But do Native Americas have a choice here?
Sherman Alexie
:  Oh yeah.  Big time choice.  Obama.  About ninety percent of Native Americans are for Obama.
Stephen Colbert
:  But why?  I mean we know he’s half black half white.  There no half left for Chickasaw.
Sherman Alexie
:  Well the thing is McCain is actually great for Indians.  Has been great for Indians in Arizona but he’s bad for the country.  So unlike all other groups of people…
Stephen Colbert
:  So you’re taking back your support for McCain?  You know what we call that?
Sherman Alexie
:  What do we call that?  Indian giving!  You taught us how.  We’re only assimilating in your way of dealing with other people.
Stephen Colbert
:  Why give it to Obama?  I don’t understand!
Sherman Alexie:  We’re giving it to Obama because unlike other groups of people in this country, we Indians vote for the good of everybody and not just for the good of our little group.

I have been asking people a hypothetical question.  If you had the power to make someone President that you honestly felt was bad for the country would you do it if you would gain a benefit personally?  Most people want to know how much they could gain.  Few would say straight off the bat that they wouldn’t do it.  It’s a hypothetical question so you can supply whatever benefit you want to the scenario.  It’s fair to say most people would at least entertain the idea.

I asked myself the same question.  If I could earn millions of dollars by making it possible for whom I believe to be the worst candidate to win the presidency would I be willing to sellout the country for personal gain?  I’d like to think that I wouldn’t.  I’d like to think that my personal integrity would be strong enough to say no to the thought of screwing the public for a personal agenda.  But I won’t know for sure the strength of my character until I’m actually placed in the situation.  Unfortunately, I see other people quick to surrender to the compulsion for personal gain quite easily.

After Senator John McCain lost the election people who worked for the McCain Palin campaign didn’t wait twenty four hours to start slinging the trash about how unqualified Alaska Governor Sarah Palin was as a vice presidential running mate.  And yet, these same people were working hard to help get her elected.  These people were willing to bite their tongue and help her and the man who they felt exercised poor judgment by selecting her as the absolute best person to manage the country should something happen to the President.  Now that Senator Barack Obama is our President-elect these people want to say how the country, the world even, dodged a bullet.  If these people truly wanted to do the country a favor and help the country from voting for the wrong candidate they would have brought their concerns to the nation’s attention before

And there’s a flipside to this coin.  Some people want to see their opponent as nothing but the epitome of the worst of humanity.  Now that Mr. Obama is President-elect, people are already blaming Mr. Obama for the economic crisis that the country is going through.  Conservative political commentator and national talk show radio personality Rush Limbaugh, along with his political opinion doppelganger Sean Hannity of FOX News, made the suggestion that Mr. Obama is to blame for the current economic woes of the country.

On the November 11th broadcast of his nationally syndicated radio program, Mr. Hannity said, “Wall Street keeps sinking.  Could it be the Obama recession: The fear that taxes are gonna go up, forcing people to pull out of the market?”  Many conservatives in the media are referring to an Obama recession in an obvious attempt to provide to poison public opinion on Mr. Obama’s administration before inauguration day.  MSNBC’s Chris Matthews noted on his November 12th broadcast of Hardball with Chris Matthews, “[Radio host Rush Limbaugh] says the recession isn’t President Bush’s fault.  It’s the fault, catch this, of the President who hasn’t yet taken office.  It’s an Obama recession, that’s what he’s calling it.”  Mr. Matthews went on to characterized the reference to an Obama recession as some of the most bitter sore loser rhetoric we are hearing these days.

Since October of 2007 the overall trend in economic markets has been downward.  When Mr. Obama clinched the Democratic Party nomination in June the DOW was already off virtually twelve percent of its October 2007 high value.  When Ms. Palin was announced as Mr. McCain’s running mate the DOW was down more than eighteen percent.  And now that Mr. Obama is President-elect people want to lay blame squarely at his feet before he’s had an opportunity to enact a single policy.  Even if Mr. Obama did everything correctly I seriously doubt if these people would be willing to give him any credit.  Why?  They know they are more likely to do better with the other guy in charge regardless of what happens to the country.

Would I be willing to screw the country for personal gain.  We all know Benedict Arnold did it.  We know that John Anthony Walker and his family did it when they compromised the advantage America had with submarine development by selling technology secrets to the Soviets.  History is littered with examples of people blatantly screwing or trying to screw the country for personal gain.  Truth be told it looks like there are more examples than we give people credit for.  People working in politics for personal gain is par for the course.

I would like to think that I would follow Mr. Alexie and the overall Native American example.  But then again the Native Americans have a history of living in a more socialistic environment.  Nevertheless, I would like to think I would follow John F. Kennedy’s plea to the nation to ask not what my country can do for me but what I can do for my country.  I would like to think I would put personal sacrifice ahead of personal gain when the welfare of the country is on the line.

Friday, November 14, 2008 Posted by | Barack Obama, Life, Philosophy, Politics, Thoughts | 2 Comments

No Longer United

The American Civil Rights Era was probably the black community’s finest hour.  Generally speaking, without much more than basic educations and modest employments the black community was able to affect great changes to the American landscape.  Starting with the bus boycott in Montgomery, Alabama sparked by the refusal by Rosa Parks to cooperate with orders to relinquish her seat to a white man back in December of 1955 to the fatal gunshots that took down Doctor Martin Luther King Junior and Malcolm X, black people became a near unstoppable force of change for racial equality.  That was forty years ago.  That was a lifetime ago with a totally different people with totally different goals.

Today, there are far more professional black people than there was during the peak of the fight for civil rights.  There are far more educated black people and more black people have good paying jobs and very rewarding careers.  A black man will soon be the President of the United States.  And yet, the power and force of the black community of today is a mere shadow of the black community of change made up of our elders and ancestors.  While the black people of the past worked together, black people of today are more concerned with personal gain and personal safety.  A black person speaking out about the racial disparity that persists in our culture will be abandoned by the more financially successful members of the black community and railroaded into obscurity by a dominant culture intent on keeping the racial status quo.

Black people back in the day would not hesitate to put their personal safety and, to a certain extent, the safety of their entire family at risk for the greater cause.  We’ve all seen the pictures of black men and women and children being subjected to full force water hoses, attacked by dogs, spat on, humiliated, arrested, and, ultimately, lynched and murdered as they fought and pulled together for the greater good of the black community’s future.  For the most part, the greater part of the black community moved as a single unit with a single purpose of demonstrating that we want to be recognized and respected as equals.

Many white people worked as a unit as well.  White people were a well oiled machine of violence and intimidation to the peaceful protest of black people.  The same white people that would tell black people to get an education would protest black people going to school.  White people who would tell black people to get a job would protest when black people showed up at the work place.  And white people had the upper hand.  They controlled the law, they controlled the courts, they controlled the police, they controlled the money, they controlled the schools, they controlled every level of government, they controlled the dogs, and they controlled every aspect of life.  White people had a huge arsenal of tools at their disposal.  And yet, black people with little more than steely determination remained undaunted to the task at hand.

It wasn’t an overwhelming number of educated black people that broke the segregationist policies of the Montgomery Bus Company.  It wasn’t some high profile black politician.  It was black people, the educated and uneducated, standing unified against oppression that turned things around.  If the resolve of black people showed any major cracks the movement would have probably fallen flat.  It would have been easy for black people to say that they didn’t want to inconvenience themselves.  Just like we do now people back then had to get to work.  And unlike we do now a lot of black people didn’t have personal transportation so it was either the bus or walk.  A lot of black people did a lot of walking back then.  But they did it knowing what was at stake.

Today, the collective determination of the black community is nonexistent.  Black people who advocate ideas, policies, methodologies, rhetoric, and propaganda that run contrary to black unity are regularly heralded as prime examples of independent black thinking and role models by the dominant community.  People would rather sit back and wait for others to come up with “the plan” for the black community rather than come to the table to with ideas and offers for a plan.

And too often black people who were fortunate enough to become successful are all too willing to do their part to disassemble the very programs that have led to their success.  A black Supreme Court justice doesn’t feel very successful because he took advantage of affirmative action programs in establishing his career.  Instead of leaving the programs intact and helping other black people by sharing his experience, he would rather simply disembowel the program and remove any opportunity to help other black people.  A black member of an academic governing board wants to use his position to make any system that tries to assure racial diversity in an academic setting a footnote in America’s history books because black people don’t need because no one would ever do anything to keep black people from progressing.

These are the type of black people the dominant community wants to see succeed in America.  Not the type of black person that might do something radical like work to help other black people.  More than likely the type of black person that is going to be the model of success in America is the type of black person that will help protect the status quo.  The message to other blacks is that if you want to succeed, quit trying to affiliate with your ethnicity.   Instead of black people stepping to the plate to boycott any institution that contributes to our perpetual subjugation, we simply try to get ours.

The generation that preceded us did a great many things with their meager resources.  It didn’t matter if they didn’t have a pot to piss in because as long as they had a breath they worked to change the system.  The black leadership back in the day wasn’t concerned with personal gain.  They lived as simply as the next person.  Today, black leaders live in mansions that would do Egypt’s mightiest pharaoh proud.  It’s no longer about the welfare of the entire black community.  Today it’s all about getting paid and living large.  Today, black people are far more concerned about about making history instead of making the upliftment of the black community a priority.  Our goals are no longer for the benefit of the entire community.  We are no longer a unified people.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008 Posted by | Affirmative Action, African Americans, Black Community, Black Culture, Black Men, Black People, Life, Philosophy, Racism, Thoughts | 8 Comments

Ifa Spirituality Or Ifa Superstition

“The Orisa pot is ‘birthed’ with the Ase’Nature power’ of that particular Orisa. The mechanics of Orisa worship has been formulated so that Orisa pots are necessary as they are part of an empowered shrine this doesn’t negate the need to go into nature but having this shrine w/ the pot has allowed us to encapsulate the Nature energy.You must admit that your opinion of how this works is based on the Western mind’s process of how things fit together.This Western thinking cannot fully appreciate or understand the spiritual science of Orisa. If you understood the socio-spiritual dynamics of Yoruba religion Orisa religion you’d never suggest that people share their pots for others who don’t have one. There are community shrines and personal shrines.Please don’t take offense but based on your explanation I’m confident to say you are not Yoruba born and bred within the Orisa belief system. You cannot take apart and define that which you are still trying to understand.”Omi

People who claim to practice traditional Ifa believe that anything that runs contrary to the spiritual practices developed by our African ancestors thousands of years ago is based on western thinking that couldn’t possibly understand the mechanics of Orisa worship.  Orisa worship isn’t really hard at all.  It goes something like this, “Oh mighty Orisa you are so great and you are so wonderful.  You are so powerful and everyone loves you so.  You bring the sun up in the morning and you lay the sun to rest at nigh.  We are nothing compared to you.  Oh mighty Orisa.  How can you stand to look upon us who are so unworthy and blah, blah, blah.” I believe you get the point.

Orisa worship requires nothing sincere.  Orisa worship can consist of nothing but a bunch of flowery words and the memorization of rote prayers and songs and learning traditional African dance and buying spiritual trinkets so that we look more spiritual to our peers.  When someone develops a different understanding of the socio-spiritual dynamics, traditional Orisa worshipers will automatically dismiss the non-traditional thinking as wrong and unworthy of the spiritual science, an oxymoron that ranks right up there with peacekeeper missiles and friendly nuclear bombs.  Traditionally, the word “science” implies a process or methodology that can be qualified and measured with somewhat predictable outcomes or theories based on sound, observable results.  And if spirituality is a science then where does the word “belief” come into play?  Ifa, like most spiritual belief systems, is supposed to be a matter of faith.

Because Ifa is based on a tradition that started thousands of years ago, many people who practice this belief perceive any changes to the understanding of the traditional way this belief system operates is invalid.  People want to lead others to believe that the traditional way is the only way.  However, if we were to live by tradition, black people will still be considered white people’s property.  The established thinking in America’s early days was that black people were not human and were less than white people.  We have managed to change that traditional form of thinking that blacks are only three fifths human.  And while we have not fully succeeded in reversing this line of thought, a lot of people are continuing to work to change the tradition that considers black people as less than.  Traditional thinking is not automatically the correct or the best way of thinking.

People need to learn to keep tradtitional Orisa worship practices in their proper perspective.  For example, an Orisa pot is not a vessel where the Orisa or the Orisa’s energy or nature’s energy resides.  If by some unforeseen circumstance an Orisa pot is lost or destroyed, the energy of that vessel isn’t doomed to obscurity like the unfortunate ark in an Indiana Jones movie.  An Orisa pot is a symbolic vessel.  It is not “birthed”.  Orisa worshippers buy their pot and trust that the person selling the pot has the moral and spiritual integrity to help you develop a spiritual relationship with the Orisa the pot represents.  And there is no law other than tradition that says the pot cannot be shared with others.  In reality, the symbolism of the Orisa can be shared with others without any detrimental affects to the pot, the pots owner, or the others.  For anyone to claim otherwise means that they have developed a rather limited understanding of spirituality not at all the encompassing social spiritual dynamic many people claim but a strictly limited personal belief constant.

Nature’s energy cannot be encompassed by any man made pot.  To even say that this is possible is to manifest an understanding of spiritual concepts that are more superstitious than anything else.  Some might say that there is no difference between superstitions and spirituality.  While it is true that they both are based on a belief in the supernatural, superstitions come with an entire series of baseless laws, rules, mandates, procedures, science and who knows what other tomfoolery to influence the behavior of others while spirituality doesn’t try to control others with such manipulation.  The fact that Ifa priest and teachers who perpetuate the myth that pots can’t be shared stand to make money from people buying their mandated, nature encompassing, personal pots is purely coincidental I’m sure.

Spirituality doesn’t confine Orisa energy to an individual pot that cannot be shared with others in order to get as many people as possible to buy more pots.  Such a superstitious perception of Orisa can be very lucrative to the pot seller.  With very few exceptions the pot seller will be someone who claims the traditional way is the only way to develop your spirituality.  Anything else is a taint of western culture.

But in all honesty, spirituality isn’t limited to any culture.  It isn’t western or non-western.  It isn’t African or non-African.  It isn’t traditional or non-traditional.  Spirituality isn’t about following mandates and rules established by other people millennia ago in a far away land.  What is generally believed to have worked for them then is not necessarily what will work for us now.  Spirituality is about establishing a personal relationship in your belief system that works for you.  Don’t let anyone tell you that you have to follow certain processes and procedures in order to become spiritual.  That only leads to superstition.  Spirituality is totally different.  It is liberating and not confining.  I would be suspect of anyone who describes spirituality otherwise.

Saturday, October 18, 2008 Posted by | African Americans, Ifa, Orisa, Philosophy, Religion, Spirituality, Yoruba | 1 Comment

Nightmare For The Peacemakers

I thought my family and I had a house.  We went through all the hoops to create a proposal to present to the board of directors who control the vast majority of the abandoned property here in Saint Louis.  We went to the board to show our faces and answer any questions they may have had about our proposal or our ability to carry it out.  We were approved without question.  We thought we would be starting on our rehabilitation by now.  Unfortunately, somebody else had different plans.

When the letter confirming our approved status arrived in the mail it contained a condition.  In order for us to gain title to the property the board required us to take out the previously approved construction loan prior to receiving the property.  My jaw hit the floor.  In order for me to buy a three thousand dollar piece of shit property I had to convince the bank to give me a two hundred thousand dollar loan to rebuild it.  The proposal we submitted said plain as day that we wanted to rebuild the property ourselves and that we would have X amount sweat equity hours and a budget of Y amount of dollars over Z number of years.  The board had an opportunity to ask us questions about our plan if there was any misunderstanding and declined.  Yet, some bureaucrat at the LRA decided that we were in over our heads and took it upon his or her self to force us to hire contractors to do the work.

Has anyone in the city followed the news lately to see what’s happening in the credit market?  Even with the most excellent credit rating people aren’t getting loans because there simply isn’t any money to loan.  And even if there were why would I want to borrow money when the budget and plans for my house have been approved?

A call to the LRA office got us nowhere.  Some secretary or receptionist of the woman whose name appeared on the letter simply told us that the representatives of the city were concerned that we were taking on a project that was too large.  We can have the house but the city wants to make sure the project is completed in a timely manner.  The city was within its rights to require the project to be completed in a timely fashion.

We called the little lady over the Old North Saint Louis group who is helping to manage the redevelopment project.  In the years that she’s been working with the city she never saw such a condition placed on anyone’s approval letter.  She wanted us to fax a copy of the letter to her so she could get to the heart of the matter.  After waiting a few days she came back with the name of a financial broker who would be able to help me secure the funds.  So much for her getting to the root of our problem.  Securing funds wasn’t the problem.  The problem was that we didn’t want to go into debt to rebuild this house, at least not in this current housing market crisis.  Nobody in their right mind these days would give us a two hundred thousand dollar loan on a house that has an estimated value of three grand.  I wouldn’t even think to take out a loan based on such numbers.  We were not going into debt to own this home.  If I wanted debt I would go and buy a two hundred thousand dollar house.

We called the city alderwoman over the ward where the house sits.  The alderwoman never heard of the city making such a move.  But she did tell us that the city is well within its rights to require assurances that anyone who purchases property has the financial resources to complete a rehabilitation project on hand.  But has the city ever exercised this right before?  Not to her knowledge.  The alderwoman was of no help.

On the day of our deadline to accept the city’s terms we called the LRA legal department and starting asking questions.  Does the city require people buying abandoned properties to secure funds before they can accept the deed?  Not normally but it’s totally proper. So how often does this happen and what are the conditions that would require funds to be secured?  Well it’s totally at the discretion of the board. But how often does it happen?  I’m not at liberty to say really. But isn’t it just a matter of public record?  Wrong number! (Click)  Not exactly what happened but close enough.

Within hours of talking to the legal department the woman who worked in the office of the woman whose name appeared on the original acceptance with conditions letter called us back.  She was somewhat perturbed.  She didn’t understand why in the world we would be concerned and calling around trying to figure out why we were being told to take out a loan and having so many people telling us how unusual this move is.  It was nothing but a misunderstanding and the city is now ready to withdraw the condition.  It’s no big deal!  Obviously it is a big enough deal to be added to the original approval letter.  We were assured that a second letter would follow and the deadline for acceptance would be extended.

When we originally found the house we wanted, we took a drive through the neighborhood to see exactly what was happening in the area.  There were a number of people working on their new homes on their own.  Although some people had experience working on houses virtually nobody hired contractors to do the work.  One horror story was about this one house where the new owner wanted to dig the basement deeper in order to add some height to the basement ceiling.  He dug out the back of the house, knocked out the back wall, and drove a little bobcat into his basement to help facilitate the dig.  This was back in April when the rains were particularly heavy.

On a subsequent drive through the neighborhood, the house had collapsed upon itself.  The rains had turned the ground to mush and it started to move.  The weakened foundation couldn’t resist the movement of the ground and went along with the flow.  One of the exterior walls followed suit and the house simply folded in on itself.  As we drove by we could see all the work the owner had already put into the project.  There was fresh yellow pine lumber jutting out of the rubble with brand new metal brackets at the ends to secure the new lumber to the rest of the house.  It was a massive loss.  And the little bobcat was sitting in the basement at the bottom of all that.  Obviously the city allowed other people to manage their rehabilitation projects and make their own mistakes.

One of the other things that we noticed as we drove through the area was that without exception, the people who were to be our neighbors were white.  It may have been coincidence.  But no one we saw working on their home was black.  Nobody involved in any part of the rehabilitation project was black.

I can’t prove it.  I really don’t have the time or the desire to research all the motives of what may have happened.  But my theory is that the woman at the LRA office took it upon herself to cast judgment that the black people who were trying to buy one of these nice houses didn’t know what they were doing and decided to save us from ourselves, or simply tried to keep us out of their new nice white neighborhood.  The woman took it upon herself to treat us with disparity in order to keep the status quo.  And it’s unfortunate.  Instead of giving black people the same opportunities as other people, somehow black people are held to a different standard.  In this situation, much higher standards and seriously unfair standards.  We have been conditioned to think that it is okay to put obstacles in black people’s path without even a second thought.

Monday, September 29, 2008 Posted by | African Americans, Black Community, Black Culture, Black People, Life, Philosophy, Racism, Thoughts | 9 Comments

A Favorable Review

It is official. I have made the transition from contractor to employee. I would have said something earlier but I didn’t want to count my chickens before they hatched. About two months ago I was sitting in my cube when one of the senior managers asked if I would step into her office. This is it, I thought. They found out that I was doing a little internet surfing on my breaks and I was about to be reprimanded. I can’t help myself! I want to keep tabs on my website.

We went to her office and she closed the door behind me. This is too serious, I thought. My heart started thumping in my chest. What were my options for finding another job? Better make that move to Houston. I was asked if I liked working here. Trick question, I thought. But sensing a trap I replied, yes. Would you consider becoming an employee?

My mind shifted into overdrive. What? That’s not one of the questions people ask when they’re firing someone. I had missed a deadline a few weeks before and I thought for sure people were unhappy with my work. Go figure! But getting back to the question I was asked I was about to be offered a permanent job with complete benefits. The market for database application developers is shrinking. The economy is tanking. I really would like a little job security. I thought all of this in about a tenth of a second. But I should play this cool. See what they are willing to offer before I commit to anything. So I responded.

Hell Yes!

Earlier this week I went to the orientation process welcoming me along with about twenty other people into the employee fold. The chief executive officer of this company that has well over twenty thousand employees made an appearance to our orientation. It’s standard procedure that he spends an hour with the new employees. He gave his five minute speech telling us his door was open and then we went into a question and answer period where he would take questions and manipulate them to tell us whatever he wanted to tell us. Even with the manipulation he actually was very interesting.

He told us that the success of our company depends on us. Nothing earth shattering there. He told us about how he regularly takes a moment to help others who visit our campus. The company actually sits on something like twenty city blocks. This place is huge and it’s easy to get lost. When he sees someone in the lobby or in the hallway who is confused or who looks like they might be lost, whenever possible he’ll take the time to help them find their way. He admitted that he really doesn’t know the layout of the campus that well. But what he wants to do is establish a rapport with the person. He’ll ask how they’re doing and he’ll ask about their visit. He’ll show some empathy for the visitor and their situation whatever it might be.

By the time they reach their destination, the CEO will take a moment to introduce the visitor to whoever he or she is there to visit. The CEO would say something like please take care of my new friend. And of course, with him being the man in charge, more often than not the person being visited always replies to the visitor, you sure know how to pick your friends. Most of the people at the orientation session responded as if it was one of the funniest things they’ve ever heard. The point of the story is that when we take the time to listen to people, to actually listen to their needs and respond with a sense of caring, more often than not we will make huge steps towards developing a relationship that extends beyond whatever the business relationship and actually make their relationship with our company much more personal. More visitors to the company would be more likely to give the company a favorable review if they had a similar experience.

But the story got me to thinking. What if people took the time to empathize with the people who suffer the conditions in the black community? All too often when people in the racially generic dominant community that is coincidentally predominantly white, there is little compassion for whatever happens in the black community.

Hurricane Katrina was the best demonstration of America’s lack of compassion for people in the black community. I actually had a conservative black man tell me that after watching all those people sitting in the late August, mosquito infested heat of New Orleans, Louisiana, right here in America, without food, water, medication, or hope that it was perfectly understandable that the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) took four days before it could respond. More appropriately, before it would respond.

When we tolerate police officers beating and killing innocent, unarmed black people who have committed no crime in our streets, the majority of America does little to empathize with our black brothers and sisters. We are more likely to look the other way and say, well you know it was a black person or you know it happened in the black community. It really is disturbing to see people make such a callous comment as if it alone explains away our national racial disparity.

When black people say we need jobs, people in the dominant community respond with go get an education. As if getting an education is so easy. When black people say okay we need quality education, the dominants will say, show some personal responsibility and pay for an education. Okay, we need jobs to pay for the education. When people from the black community are the subject, the majority of America will respond with varying examples of this circular, self canceling, logic.

It would be wonderful if more people would make the choice to try and develop a more personal relationship or a more compassionate attitude with more people. But while people are more likely to empathize with others, the chances of such empathy being extended to black people are slim to none. The dominant community couldn’t care any less if black people had a positive experience or not. Nationally, our collective attitude is that any problems in the black community are of the black community’s own making and can be corrected if black people would just do whatever. The lack of compassion could not be more stark. And from many black people’s perspective, it’s hard to have a favorable view of a country when we as a people are more likely to support police officers for using their guns and batons and their authority to subjugate against black people at the slightest whim.

Thursday, September 25, 2008 Posted by | African Americans, Black Community, Black Culture, Black People, Life, Philosophy, Racism, Thoughts | 10 Comments

Hurricane Ike

I have family in Houston, Texas.  Hurricane Ike has me concerned for their safety.  I wanted them to leave before the hurricane got there.  I called my sister and suggested she head for safer pastures Thursday night when the highway looked clear.  I went to Google and looked at the traffic map for the city.  All the highways had green flow bars.  Open highway to safety.

But my family made that evacuation trek just before hurricane Rita a few years back.  They spent seventeen hours on Interstate 45 to get to Dallas when there wasn’t much of an impact to Houston.  In fact, I was living in Houston at the time when Rita came ashore.  I was out of town and decided to stay away until after the hurricane came through.  The only damage to my home was a section of fence went down that spent the majority of its time down on the ground.  Rita managed to get me off my ass to repair that fence once and for all.  However, for the most part, Rita was a bust.

Ike is different.  While Rita was smaller, weaker, and actually came ashore east of Houston, over Beaumont and Port Arthur, Texas, Ike is much larger, stronger, and its eye will fly almost directly over downtown Houston and the city hall.  As I write this, just after six this Saturday morning, Ike is now on the north side of the fourth largest city in America and it’s still rated a category two.  Sustained winds are still in excess of one hundred miles per hour.

Much of the electricity in the Houston and Galveston area is out.  Phone lines are busy.  I’m cut off from my family.  I’m watching the news and I see video of places I’m familiar and it’s unbelievable.  And like a lot of people, all I can do is wait and watch and hope that my family is okay.

Oya and Yemonja and Sango are coming through hard on this one.  A few days ago hurricane Ike filled the good majority of the Gulf of Mexico.  The phenomenon looked massive and menacing.  There were predictions that it would reach a category four.  But it never got that strong.  But such a massive storm at a relatively low category two is still a freaking hurricane.

I don’t even bother trying to discuss what’s happening with Baba Orunmila.  This hurricane was predicted days ago and my family, along with a number of other people in the area, decided to take their chance and ride out the storm.  Now I could be superstitious and give a couple of ebos to Oya, Yemonja and Sango to do what I think will persuade the Orisas to keep my family safe.  But ebos are not an effective replacement for common sense.  Besides, I seriously doubt if a ten dollar bottle of rum is all it takes to affect a change on such a massive phenomenon of nature.

It will be a few hours before the storm passes through the city.  I will wait along with everyone else to see what’s happened to the Houston area.  My family lives well inland so there really is little danger from serious flooding.  But it’s a fair bet that there will be enough soggy floors to initiate some new carpet and other flooring purchases in the near future.  I don’t think anyone thought to board up their windows.  There might be some new window acquisitions as well.  I’m pretty sure my family is safe and will have many stories to tell.  But you never know.

One of my personal beliefs is that when your time comes, your time comes.  Contrary to what a lot of Ifa practitioners believe you can’t make deals with Orunmila to change your fate.  Things happen for a reason.  My family members may have thought it was their choice to stay.  But it is possible that they made the choice to stay because they were destined to lose their life in a hurricane related accident.  It could be something as straight forward as a water related drowning or a projectile driven by hurricane force winds.  Or it might be something as freakish as a leaking roof with water dripping on the floor making it slick and someone slipping and hitting their head just right, or just wrong depending on perspective.

I hope my family is okay.  I won’t know until I can talk to them.  And then again I might be worried about my family members in Houston only to find out something happened to another family member in a city nowhere near Ike and his projected path.  The reading for the year said that we should keep close to our families.  This year of Olodumare is a year of great change and we never know how that change will manifest itself.  The greatest reading in the world isn’t going to reveal what Orunmila doesn’t want us to know.  Sometimes we just have to go through it and figure it out for ourselves.

Saturday, September 13, 2008 Posted by | Hurricane Ike, Ifa, Life, Nature, Orisa, Philosophy, Spirituality, Thoughts, Weather | 4 Comments

The Center Of The Black Community

“I care enough about black young boys and girls that I have actually won Volunteer of the Year at the local Boys and Girls Club Teen Center here in Raleigh. Yea, by volunteering. I remember a teenage black girl, after seeing me in the center after several days, asking me why I was there. Before I could answer, she followed the question with a quick quip, ‘What you gotta do community service?’. When I told her that I was just there as a volunteer, she put a bewildered look on her face that struck home with me. Bill, the teen center manager, would soon tell me that volunteers at the center are few and far between. One day while signing in on the volunteer log, I noticed that only I had signed in as a volunteer for the past several weeks that the log displayed. This spoke directly to what Bill had told me.I know, I know. give me a hero cookie, right? The only reason I’m mentioning this is to qualify that I’m no hypocrite. BUT I SURELY DO HAVE A WAY OF VIEWING A LOT OF BLACK PEOPLE WHO CHIME IN ON THE TOPIC OF BLACK UNITY AS HYPOCRITES. What I find is that most of them will write something or take a position in conversations, like brothapeacemaker has, when the facts are that they themselves are all talk no action.”Regular Brotha

It’s wonderful that some people take time out of their busy lives to go and volunteer at the community center. There are a lot of black children who can benefit from such personal sacrifice for a few hours a week, a month, or whatever. More people should be so motivated. And after the few hours are done, the volunteer can go home knowing that they made a change in a child’s life or in children’s lives at least for a few hours. Such sacrifice can be its own reward, but it helps just a little bit more when you win something as noteworthy as the Volunteer of the Year recognition from the community center. Then again, if you’re the only volunteer showing up for weeks on end, you’re a shoe in for the award.

I have to confess that it has been years since I’ve volunteered my time in such ways. But one thing I must say in my defense is that while some are volunteering at the community center, I choose to live in the center of the black community. Being able to play games and entertain children for a few hours is nice. But living in the neighborhood with a number of underprivileged black children it can be considerably helpful to be one of the steadily dwindling number of black professionals in the black neighborhood, to be a neighborhood role model, rather than the weekend only role model.

Case in point, sometime ago a single black mother in the apartment next door decided she was going to go under her car and change her starter out herself. I have to give this woman some serious credit because I have difficulty trusting myself to change my oil correctly. I’ve done it a couple of times. But I have no confidence in my automotive mechanic skills and will stress myself out constantly worrying if I did it right. But this woman was under her car replacing her starter trying to save some money. The woman had two sons who were playing with other children in the alleyway. One looked about twelve, the other was walking and climbing but still in diapers. The younger started to climb a leaning chain linked fence. He climbed to the top and was doing his best to reach the tree just an adult’s arm length away. However, junior looked inevitably like he was going to fall. Mom was under the car working so I called out to the little boy’s older brother who was playing with some of the other kids his age.

Hey! Is that your brother climbing that fence?
Doesn’t he look like he might hurt himself?
My mom is right there.
She’s under the car and looks kind of busy. Why don’t you help her out by watching your little brother for her? I’m sure she’ll appreciate it.

The older brother took his little brother down and actually started looking out for him. Do I need a cookie? While it would be nice to have one right now, that’s not even close to being necessary. It’s not even necessary to get an award at the end of year. The fact that I can help teach a kid in my neighborhood about taking responsibility for caring for his little brother is just a little thing that helps make the black community a little better. Black people who chose to stay in the black community don’t get rewards for making the sacrifice to do what’s right for the black community. When we see the kids in our neighborhoods throwing rocks into a neighbor’s garage, looking for something to do because the nearest community center is about three miles away, we are there to stop them and make them realize that not only are they doing something wrong, but there are other people watching them.

They don’t give awards for people who sleep in the center of the black community at night, who wake up in the middle of sleeping to hear gunshots outside and press local politicians to take responsibility for cleaning up the community the way they promised when they were trying to be elected or trying to stay in office. However, I really don’t think that this type of strategy to help counter some of the social problems of the black community makes me a hypocrite. In fact, I suffer no doubt that I’m being hypocritical at all.

“This is why I care brothapeacemaker. While working in the teen center, there were some rough looking young men in there. I mean, to the common white person (and even some blacks) they looked like thugs. I’M FROM A CITY THAT IS 95% OR MORE BLACK. These were the bay-bays and shine dogs that I grew up with when I was a young kid. I saw the kid in these teens. After they get to know you a little, the tough shield starts to dissipate and what’s really there is a teenage kid that has hopes and dreams that are constantly being [challenged] by OUR culture.” – Regular Brotha

Glad to hear it. But, I’m willing to bet that it wasn’t just the neighborhood kids whose shields came down. I don’t even think they had a shield. I believe the author of this comment, Regular Brotha, was the one who dropped his shield. Once he spent a little time with the people he realized they aren’t as bad as our culture describes black people in general. This is the same man who claims that other black people are inspired “…to sport long white T’s as a fashion statements that influences them to stare me up and down while we’re in line at Wal-Mart ridiculing me in their minds because I’ve got on slacks and a dress shirt. They view me as sell-out. I got a damn mortgage. I gotta pay college tuition next year for my daughter. I’m doing what people died for, marched for during the 50’s and 60’s. And [you’re] looking down on me?” He also wrote, “I know what I see and I know what a mean mug is when I see it.”

This is the kind of thing that happens when we don’t bother to live amongst each other in a black community. Chances are good that if Mr. Brotha actually talked to those white T-shirt wearing brothers he would find out that they aren’t the thugs that he has been previously programmed to think they are. If Mr. Brotha got to know other black people he wouldn’t be so quick to judge them through the lens that the dominant community has defined black people to be. Without knowing any thing about other black people this black man reads other black people’s thoughts and can determine that all these other black people are ridiculing him. That sound like some pretty narcissistic paranoia.

When we take a moment to talk to each other we can learn who each other are and what each other are thinking and feeling. Like the girl in the original quote above we should have the gumption to talk to each other and ask questions instead of making propaganda fueled assumptions about how some black people hate other black people because they wear slacks. And when black people live in the center of the black community we can learn so much more about our other black brothers and sisters that no amount of propaganda can drive a wedge in between us. Black people should have an affiliation with each other, instead of just standing back and making asinine guesses as to who they are and what they are thinking. I can learn the conditions of the black community better when I live in the black community and not just by what I hear or read or learn through the filter of the dominant community. Volunteering at the community center for a few hours a week is really a good thing. But there is nothing better than black people actually living in the center of the black community if we are to rebuild the black community.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008 Posted by | African Americans, Black Community, Black Culture, Black Men, Black People, Life, Philosophy, Thoughts | 11 Comments

Obama And Biden

Democratic presidential hopeful Senator Barack Obama has finally let the cat out of his proverbial bag. Senator Joe Biden will be the vice presidential running mate. Like most decisions of presidential politics it could have been better. Like most decisions of presidential politics it could have been a lot worse. What does it mean for the black community? Like most things at our national political level it doesn’t mean anything good for the black community. Like most things at our national political level, there is plenty of evidence to support the supposition that the black community is simply along for the ride.

Many black people were put off when Mr. Biden described his black competitor for the Democratic nomination in the most simplistic of terms as “clean” and “articulate” while delving into carefully constructed, somewhat intellectual reports of the political positions of the other contenders for the nomination like Senator John Edwards and Senator Hillary Clinton. It would be a reasonable assumption to take such a lame description as an indication that he dismissed Mr. Obama as no one to be taken seriously. Was it because Mr. Obama is black? Mr. Biden was also one of the first people to dismiss Mr. Obama as inexperienced and ill prepared

The only other thing that I can think of off the top of my head that could indicate Mr. Biden’s appreciation for issues sensitive to the black community are the Clarence Thomas and Anita Hill Hearing that Mr. Biden presided over. Mr. Biden is a long time member of the United States Senate Committee on the Judiciary and served a number of years as ranking minority member. Mr. Biden was front and center in the Mr. Thomas’ contentious Supreme Court confirmation hearings back in 1991. Toward the end of the confirmation hearings, information was leaked to the press regarding an FBI interview with Anita Hill, an attorney who had worked for Mr. Thomas at the Department of Education and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). Ms. Hill was called to testify during the confirmation hearing.

Ms. Hill made a number of allegations of sexual harassment against Mr. Thomas. The hearings broke down into a who did what between Mr. Thomas and Ms. Hill. However, Angela Wright, who also worked with Mr. Thomas at the EEOC, told the Senate Judiciary Committee that Mr. Thomas had repeatedly made comments to her, much like those he allegedly made to Hill, including pressuring her for dates and commenting on her body. Rose Jourdain testified that Ms. Wright had discussed Mr. Thomas’ behavior with her at the time the incidents occurred, and that she had considered it sexual harassment. In light of the fact that Thomas had testified that he had fired Ms. Wright for calling another employee a faggot, Mr. Biden decided against publicly hearing Ms. Wright’s testimony. There were powerful interests putting enormous pressure into getting Mr. Thomas confirmed quickly to replace Thurgood Marshall. Mr. Biden caved to those pressures and made the controversy look like nothing but a squabble between a bitter black woman and a maligned Supreme Court nominee chosen to continue the legacy of black people being represented in the highest court of our land. The rest is history. And if Mr. Thomas had his way, so would the black community.

With respect to the black community, the choice of Mr. Biden to be the Democrat’s running mate says a lot about our relationship, or more precisely the black community’s lack of a relationship, with the Senator from Illinois. I seriously doubt if the good Senator who would be President actually wants to do harm to the black community. He simply doesn’t think the political strength of the black community is worth the effort of a positive thought. If anyone had a history of making any disparaging remarks or behaviors that would call into question Mr. Obama’s affiliation to people that he really did care about, like his unconditional affinity for the people in the state of Israel, Mr. Obama would not take a chance of taking that kind of hit on his reputation. But there is no danger in raising the ire of black people. Besides, some black people are so stuck on making history they cannot take a moment to pull back from that single tree of thought to see the entire forest of our relationship with Mr. Obama.

Politically speaking Mr. Biden was a choice that the black community can live with. Just like the way the black community had to live with the choice of the ultra conservative Clarence Thomas to the Supreme Court for the past seventeen years. It’s the kind of choice the black community has become accustomed to ever since we became a part of the American collective. Very little happens where the perspective of the black community is taken under any consideration. We should be used to this kind of treatment by now.

Sunday, August 24, 2008 Posted by | African Americans, Barack Obama, Black Community, Black People, Democrats, Joe Biden, Life, News, Philosophy, Politics, Thoughts | 11 Comments