Mrs. Francis, Mental Health & Me (A Tribute)

Mental-Health-Awareness-Month

I remember the first time I went to see Mrs. Francis J. Thomas (Miss Francis) for therapy. I had done some group therapy regarding my personal lifelong battle with depression. It was time for some one on one sessions. It was scary looking for a stranger to trust with my deepest and darkest secrets. I looked online for someplace close and affordable. I called a Christian based counseling service because their fees were based on income. After leaving a message on the company line I got a call from Miss Francis. Since there was a group of counselors under this umbrella, I imagined a scene from, “The Wire,” where Miss Francis was sitting around along with other counselors waiting for her turn to be up in the rotation. If it wasn’t her turn, perhaps she picked up the voicemail and decided to give a f#@! when it wasn’t her turn to. Regardless, she called back and we set up an appointment.

Laying eyes on her I said to myself, “Aww such a sweet looking lady.  Her radiant spirit gleamed through her chocolate cheeks. Her smile was extremely welcoming. I felt safe in her presence. She asked me why I had come in. I paused, sighed, thought for about 30 seconds, and began to tell her my story as best as I could. This went on for about 20 minutes. The remaining 40 minutes featured her talking. She wasn’t giving me any advice or counsel. She was completing my story for me, expressing things that I could only imagine saying but didn’t have the words to articulate. I was amazed. I knew this was going to work!

There are several different themes I remember about our sessions. Like the time she challenged me in a way that I didn’t think was right. I yelled at her at the top of my voice because I felt that she was being so unfair. If I recall there were a few profanities as well. I was very angry. After a moment, I was sure she would toss me clean out of her office. But she totally surprised me. “Christopher! YES! Finally a breakthrough!”  

There were other times after leaving a session when I  said to myself, ‘Wow, that was an interesting thought provoking.’ Then in the next moment I thought, ‘Hey wayment! Did she just rip me a new one but was so smooth about it I had no idea I was getting my ass whipped? Yea she did that! She ain’t slick! Damn, I guess she is. She got me!’

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There is so much more I could say. Sometimes I didn’t have the money for the co-pay.  She took me anyway. She told me at one point that she was considering retirement because she had some health challenges. She would continue to see her ‘special’ patients of which I was one. Miss Francis and I grew incredibly close through the years we had together. So much so that she shared some of her own personal challenges with me. She told me she was a bit ill and wanted her son and I to meet one another. She gave me his number and said she would tell him she did so.

My favorite and most memorable phrases of her’s were:

“Christopher, you have to learn radical acceptance.”

“Ooooh, that’ a hallelujah moment! Pat yourself on the back.” (Then she would pat herself on the back to show me how.)

She was a Christian counselor, but don’t get it twisted. We had some hard core raw conversations. She said some surprising things that blew my mind a few times.

One day I really needed Miss Francis. I called her cell phone on a Saturday with my ’emergency.’ She answered the phone and said, “I’m here for you. Just call me back in 20 minutes so I can get myself together.” She didn’t sound like herself. I asked her if she was sure it was really an OK time. She assured me it was. I did. She listened and counseled like she always did.

To my surprise and dismay, Miss Francis died two days later. She had Stage 4 Cancer and never told me. I was one of her very last patients, on one of her very last days on the earth, off the clock. In spite of her great pain and suffering she gave all she had to be there for her patient and friend. There is no greater gift one can give than this.

At her celebration of life service I found out that Miss Francis was a counselor of counselors. She was their teacher. It was a pleasure to speak at Miss Francis’ service and share with her family and colleagues how she touched my life and made me feel so special. She helped me gain my self worth, love and respect.

I share all this to encourage anyone who may need an ear and a voice to reach out for help. It’s a good thing and can definitely be a game changer. Take care of your mental health!

 

A Salute To The Women Who Know Their Place

I have always been attracted to strong women. My mother is a strong woman. So is my sister. I can’t think of anything more stimulating and sexy than a woman who is confident, bright, thoughtful, self-aware, and my intellectual equal if not master.  I’ve never been intimidated by a woman’s strength. The only mystery in the beginning is understanding whether the strength being displayed is authentic and true as opposed to a cover to mask insecurity and pain. In this case what may look like strength is actually a facade. Beneath the cover is a wounded person who may have great potential to give and experience a beautiful love, but will use her tools as a weapon to strike as opposed to an artisan looking to build something.

I’ve experienced the latter in a few cases. What I perceived as a strong woman was in reality a strong willed woman. There is both a distinction as well as a difference. These women were bright, but they were also competitive within the relationships. Instead of looking to build consensus, they sought to carve out a space and claim territory. They’d dig trenches for the sole purposes of establishing as constitution their own sensibilities. It’s wasn’t easy for me to tell the difference between the strong vs strong willed women in my life. To the untrained eye they look like the exact same thing. It’s only after experiences that require humility, compromise, repentance and trust is authentication revealed. Where there is true strength, humility, compromise, repentance (when necessary) and trust are easy because the goal is beyond self-interest and competition. The goal is for each party in the relationship to win. It’s not to make someone pay for a debt that is intellectually or spiritually impossible to fulfill.

Some of my relationship failures caused me to question my ability to find my own ‘perfect match.’ I’d ask myself, “How do I in essence come up with basically the same (strong willed) chick over and over again?” Logically the common denominator is me! I started to think there was something about me that cause these ‘strong’ women to turn against me. Was I too kind, too graceful, or too easy to figure out?

Being honest and vulnerable early on, even if in limited layers has always been my idea of achieving a pathway to acceptance. Having safe spaces is an important foundation in my humble opinion. I enjoying sharing and being my authentic self with all of my quirks and unusual peculiarities. It can be painful to have your eccentricities rejected, made fun of, or taken advantage of; especially during a dispute. But therein lies an insight into whether one is strong or strong willed.

I see strong minded women (and men) all the time on social media. When it comes to relationships or prospective relationships, there is little hope and much skepticism.  I totally understand. The dating game can be so cruel. People are out here seeking ‘whatever’ for so many reasons. Rare are these reasons totally understood even by the person holding them. In any case, when conflict occurs defenses go up and before you know it, a confrontation is at hand.

I am not afraid of confrontation. I embrace it when I know the object is to resolve the conflict to achieve the best understanding. Many times, however, I’ve found that the women I was communicating with’s ultimately goal was to prove a point, or even worst to win the argument. For some their purpose wasn’t to achieve understanding, or establish healthy boundaries, but rather drawing lines that so that they could enjoy a privileged or Powered status. When discussing a disagreement and there is tension, I understand that she may not understand my intentions. She may think I am attempting to threaten or take something away from her identity or value.  I soften my approach taking the low road offering a clarification if necessary. Then I wait.

Will she soften as well and show some humility?  Or will she relish the victory and keep it moving? If the former, then we may very well be on to something. There is mutual respect as words are chosen carefully to maximize understanding and reduce the tension. If the latter, she’s not looking to build something, she’s looking to have her way. It only gets worse. I learned to distance myself in this scenario. No arguing, just acceptance. We can be cordial, but there is nothing for me to invest in. Soon, I’ll quietly walk away.

There is difference between a strong woman vs a strong willed woman. Though she can be both, a strong woman knows that she doesn’t always have to play her strength card to get things she needs in her relationship. This is of course assuming she has a strong man who wants to give and grow. Instead she is much more crafty and sophisticated in her methods.

I thought about five couples that I respect and admire the most. The women are brilliant and formidable, able to take on most any undertaking. The men are successful yet progressively growing and expanding their depths and potential. The women are the foundation and backbone in the unit. I’ve witnessed them demonstrate the one thing that supersedes Power in any relationship, influence. A strong recognize her areas of influence on her man and she uses it for the greater good.

A man can excel in a lot of areas on his own. But even a greatly accomplished man who doesn’t have the touch of a wise woman to counsel him is going to be a fool in many areas, even if he doesn’t realize he’s a fool. Show me a weak childish and petulant man, I’ll show you a woman who doesn’t influence him at all. (Insert face of the president here.) If you’ve ever seen the Netflix series, “House of Cards,” you’ve identified that the only reason Frank Underwood was a successful governor who parlayed that into the presidency is because of his wife Claire. Frank is the face, standing on the podium with prestige and respect. But Claire is the soul. Her influence, support and counsel were essentially and in advance of any potential successes to Frank’s highly aspired ambitions. Claire embraced her role as the soul and reveled in their ascension as a team.

So when I say, Salute To The Women Who Know Their Place, by ‘place’ I mean ‘role’. And make no mistake it is a role! Why? Because no matter what we (men) do in the marketplace, no matter how many people know our name or sing our praises regarding our exploits or popularity, no matter what kind of car we drive, when WE go home at the end of the day, WE know we ain’t shit unless and until our woman validates us and says we are.

Let’s face it; whether because of necessity through evolution visa-vi social or societal oppression and circumstance, women are often smarter and more intuitive than men; specifically regarding things men tend to be blind about. While we go through life looking to conquer one challenge or another, our women study us and knowing our strengths and weaknesses. They know when we are about to say or do something stupid. They have the ability to see the big picture when we are tunnel visioned. When a man lays eyes on a cake, he sees a cake. An intuitive woman considers the ingredients down to the infinite measurements. It doesn’t matter who makes the most money or who holds the most powerful position in the marketplace either. In a successful relationship, the joint recognition and understanding is differing roles, equal value. Each couple chooses the roles that work for them based on their given talents and strengths.

The woman who operates by influence and uses it accordingly to build her man up, praise him publicly and privately, doesn’t do things to damage his dignity, she has the ultimate power. You see influence IS power but with a soft ‘p’. It is to be shared. But I can’t stress how important it is for men to have the strong yet confidently reassuring touch of his woman’s influence.

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Examining how these play out:

Power (large P) Dominates – Influence Negotiates

Power is harsh and rigid – Influence is gentle and flexible

Power commands – Influence suggest

Power pushes – Influence nudges

Power breeds fear – Influence breeds loyalty and respect

Power says, “You must do this for me!” – Influence says, “I want to do this for you.”

Power produces minimum requirements – Influence produces above and beyond

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Hopefully this makes sense. I did my best not to appear chauvinistic and I hope the feminist reader (I consider myself one) allows for nuance in understanding my intentions here. I’m not assuming this is a woman’s obligation, or that affirming her man is her ONLY role in a relationship. What I am saying is that I absolutely witnessed though my own life and the lives of others the consequences of the woman who demands Power, and the rewards of ones who dispense influence. It’s like night and day, life and death.

 

Are Relationships Hard?

I was having a conversation recently about a couple who are in the midst of some turbulent times in their relationship. It’s possible that they may not make it to the forever they promised one another. It’s commonly said that in any relationship it will not always be ‘peaches and cream.’

Well it’s true that life in itself is at times very challenging. Externally there are things going on all around us that grab our attention. We have goals, wants, needs, and desires. Sometimes it’s as simple as survival. From where will come our next meal? How will the rent get paid? Whether goals or stresses, these will abide no matter what. I’ve heard it said that in life we are either going through something, about to through something or recently came through something. We don’t need to be coupled up to have these challenges. They will be with us regardless.

So what does this say about relationship?  Are they hard or are they easy?

As I think about it, I don’t believe relationships are hard. I believe WE are hard. It’s easy in the beginning to find favor with someone we like, care for or love. We even know going in that the object of our desire is not a perfect person. We know that he/she has faults. If we are self aware we also understand that we are deeply flawed or at least far from perfection in a human sense. There will always be room for growth no matter what stage in life we are in. And yet when someone has our favor we are graceful towards our partner’s imperfections. Some of us overlook them altogether. Some of us who are a bit wiser recognize them yet view our partner’s imperfections as an opportunity to step up and really show love and compassion towards him/her. Either way, it’s not the relationship that is the problem. It’s us!

At some point in relationships it is us who change. We become less graceful towards our partner. We become stubborn, resentful, unforgiving with a hardened heart. We become rigid, impatient, judgmental, prideful, lazy, and self absorbed. We forget or refuse to remember the first fruits of what attracted and connected us in the first place. We stop putting in the work of developing our own character to grow and be a better person and by extension a better partner.

It’s easy to love when ‘things’ are good and going our way, right? However, love is strengthened through trials and tribulations when we as people decide that no matter what is going on externally, we are determined to remember and maintain a basic foundation of humanity and decency when we think of and address our partner. When he/she misses the mark in our opinion, we can choose compassion instead of spite. We can choose soft words or if necessary temporary silence in the midst of conflict or pressure. We can choose to remember that our partner is a person who needs the same grace and kindness that we desire when we are not our best selves. We can decide to never ever remove the emotional security blanket that assures our partner that he/she is never alone and will always be received and accepted; without question. We all have and will always have faults as well as external distractions. Through love and devotion our partnership can grow us under the tent of a security that says, “No matter what, I’ve got your back.”

Always remember, nothing great and worthwhile happens by accident. Love is an action word. It is achieved, maintained and perfected intentionally!

She (Great Intimacy, Great Risk, Great Love)

Great Intimacy, Great Risk, Great Love;
One thing about receiving true love that I have found to be true is that we cannot experience it unless our hearts are truly and totally open to receiving it. This is generally a difficult thing to do because we naturally tend to self protect. Well, actually we don’t start out self protecting. If we are blessed to have loving relationships from the beginning at birth, certainly this infant is not shy at all about any form of self expression. The infant isn’t scared to be open about it’s needs and desires.  It’s only after rejection do we begin to put up defenses.
As we get older and experience life, disappointment, or betrayal we tend to develop as a survival tool the ability to open little cracks here and there of ourselves.  We learn what we are comfortable with exposing and during that process especially early on we stand ready with the proverbial STOP button when something doesn’t feel right about it.  Some things may hurt a little or piss us off. But the button kicks into gear with phrases like, “I knew this was going to happen.” This just adds another chink to the heart armor and take that suit to the next encounter.
Well, it is only when I take off my suit of armor do I receive this gift.  I must open myself up, my heart, my conscious.  And I leave nothing in the way of protection or survival.  I must trust her with my heart.  As life goes on I’ll learn how this looks as we experience new adventures giving us opportunities to develop character within our relationship.  I want the best intimacy that God/The Universe has to offer.  And though we are fully grown adults, full of love and experience… experience that I expect us to use in wisdom to help us grow; still I must give her all of me so that she can give me her wonderful unconditional love and acceptance.  That she can embrace me in all of my glory, and all of my shortcomings.  To know that I am never judged, but I am always loved to the bitter end. This kind of love inspires me to be better and reach all of my potential. 
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When I played sports. I was very competitive. And there were times when coaches or teammates were really forward in correcting something I did or didn’t do. Depending on how I felt about the coach or the teammate, revealed how I took that criticism.  If you had credibility in my life, then you can really get on me and I’ll receive it.  But even more so… is after that criticism, argument or fight I am the type of person that the more faith you express in me the more I am apt to accomplish even more than I thought I could on my own.  I am a person who loves to encourage by nature. And when the right people encouraged me, I go above and beyond because of my natural bent towards loyalty.  I believe in loyalty so much!  I’m happy to prove that confidence in me will be rewarded, not disappointed.  
So in relating this to such a precious friendship, relationship, bond, commitment promises, and covenant, she is to be my ultimate teammate, partner, life coach, intimate soulmate.  She has the credibility to teach, correct, adding input to my life, my character, my manhood.  She can challenge me in love and help make me to be all the man I need to be.  In turn, because my heart is open, because I trust her with me knowing that she will never leave, forsake or betray me, my only response is to take heed to her intelligence and insight, and work my ass off to earn her praise. Then as she praises me even unexpectedly, when I least expect it, I am humbled and blessed, thankful as I waddle in her love.  For you see she has my heart in her hands.  She is in charge of it.  She will keep it safe.  And I love her for taking on this heart of mine.  

Thanksgiving, Traditions, Native Americans and Evolved Self Definitions

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It’s that time of year again.  The heaviest travel day in the United States.  The time when family and friends gather to feast, mingle, catch up, argue and watch a little football. Since the expansion of social media, it’s also the time where we are reminded of the horrific tragedy that befell our original citizens, the Native Americans.  The memes are have been prepared with care, ready to remind America of just one of it’s original sins.

I get it.  As a matter of fact, I endorse the expressions of truth regarding the historically accurate facts of our nations history and hypocrisies.  Those that know me, know that I do that just about everyday.

But there is another side to this as well.  As a people, especially people who have been the abused, the tortured, the terrorized and murdered, those who have been placed in the under caste status; Those of us who have survived in spite of the fact that we are still in a battle for our lives; With our ingenuity and ability to adapt on the run, we have managed to turn what was originally a negative into our own divine positive.

I remember as a boy in school hearing that story about the pilgrims and the settlers.  I remember drawing turkeys by tracing the body and head around my spread apart hand.  Like every  other school kid, that part about the small pox blankets and slaughters were left out.  But you know what, growing up at MY house, we never talked about that crap anyway.  For my parents, grandparents, aunts and elders, it was about the fellowship around a meal that took several hours of hard work and dedication to perfect.  (Or at least try to perfect)

Listen, as a people, even as we come into new knowledge, we should also embrace our abilities to make lemonade out of lemons, sugar out of sh#!  And you know what, there is no need for us to apologize for it. One of my biggest realizations in life is that two things can be true at the exact same time.  Yes Thanksgiving as is being told to us traditionally is a farce.  One could compare it to the Nazi’s telling a false narrative of how they collaborated with Jews in Europe.  We should know that history.  Equally true, is that like many other things in life, we as a people have created our own narratives and definitions thereby turning a tragedy upon its head and making our empowering choices work for us.

I’m a social and political warrior.  Many of you are.  Even in war time, troops get leave, rest.  In order to fight the long game and not die of exhaustion, you must come away.  Traditions are neither good nor bad. They are the product of who and what we decide to make them to be.  Though I am mindful to thankful everyday, there is something good about much of our activities stopping, folk taking the time to slow down, be present and enjoy a few moments where we are all focusing on the same things.  I can do that and still fight for and stand with Standing Rock.

Bless You All~

The Warmth of Other Suns ~ Isabelle Wilkerson

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Been reading this wonderful book about the great migration.  I can’t say enough about it. Though I am not finished yet, there are some things I would love to share about it.

I’ve heard of the Great Migration here and there.  But never thought about it in terms of the gravity and significance of detail.

Here are some interesting, Did You Knows:

During an 8 year period, 8 million people of African descent moved North and Westward from the South. Can you imagine 8 million people per year?  Most without any assurance of what would await them.  It created such a labor crisis in Southern states, that the in some cases, white police officers would literally rip the bus or train tickets out of potential travelers hands so they couldn’t leave.  Many had to sneak out as if it were the Underground Railroad, though it was during the 1900’s.  People were lynched for plotting to leave.   Many packed themselves up in wooden boxes and had themselves shipped like cargo on trains. In spite of starting from the bottom, they were the least to use welfare and public assistance than any Caucasian immigrants coming from Europe.

Prior to the Civil Rights Act of 1964, (and in many cases afterwards) if you were traveling by train from the South to the North or vice verse, a person of color would have to ride the Jim Crow train car in Southern states.  It was an intricate process.  For instance, if you were traveling from Boston to South Carolina, in Boston you would board an integrated train.  You could sit where you wanted with whom you wanted.  When you got to DC however, the train would stop and the conductors would disconnect the integrated cars and attach Jim Crow segregated cars.  The passengers with melanin would have to get off their previous train car and then enter the Jim Crow cars before they crossed into Virginia. The opposite would happen if the train was coming from Virginia to Boston or New York.  Train arrives in DC, the Jim Crow cars would be disconnected and the integrated cars attached.

The two worlds (North and South) were so vastly different, that when Southern migrants came North, it was impossible to hide.  The differences were so magnified compared to a second generation “Northerner” that there was for many blacks, a reticence and resistance of the incoming black population.  They were reminded of where they came from and what they quickly tried to forget and separate from.  There were programs and classes to teach Southerners ‘how to live in the North.’  For instance, the were told not to wear head scarfs in public.  Don’t hang out your windows yelling.  Don’t walk barefoot.  It made you stand out looking beneath the race.  The migrants didn’t know any better.  Their way of living and resources was all they had.

This book interweaves these stories around 3 individuals, Ida Mae Brandon Gladney, George Swanson Starling and Robert Joseph Pershing Foster.  But most all of the historical figures we know of, from James Baldwin, Duke Ellington, Malcolm X, Adam Clayton Powell, they all are the fruits of The Great Migration. New York, Newark, (Newark was heavily populated because many Blacks heard of New York, intended to go to New York, but when the train stopped and said, “You’ve arrived in Newark,” many thought to themselves, Newark… I guess that’s it!  They thought it was New York.

It literally is the ULTIMATE American story.  I highly suggest reading this book.  The Great Migration is something that every American child should learn about in school.  It’s possibly the most Unsung story of American history.  I’ve couldn’t begin to cover the intricate and painstaking details the author put forth in giving this gift of historic significance.

For more details about the author and information on the numerous awards and acclimation this work has received, click on the link.

For the Love of God, People Put Your Affairs In Order!

The death of Prince has brought to bear many reflections regarding his music, his genius, his influence, and his tremendous charity work.  In the midst of the mourning and speculation about the cause of his earthly demise, I can’t help to be be frustrated and disappointed in seeing another person of color, someone whom I looked up to arguably more than any other artist in the history of my lifetime, leave a scattered mess of financial confusion – leaving his fortune and musical legacy to be fought over among relatives – subject to money grubbing lawyers and adjudicated in the courts.  WHY?

I’ve seen this many times among family and friends.  I’m not talking about millions.  I’m talking about hundreds or thousands of dollars worth of insurance money, cars, furniture and keepsakes. One would like to think that family can come together and handle adversity in a decent and orderly fashion when it comes to the death of a beloved family member.  But sadly, far too many times that is not the case.  When it comes to just a little bit of money, I have seen brothers, sisters, cousins, aunts, uncles and grandparents lose their minds, their religion, and any amount of human decency over material things and a few quarters.  It’s as if the deceased loved one’s body can’t be buried good before greed sets in turning people into vultures circling the carcass.  It’s disgusting!  There are people I have nothing to do with today because of the way I saw them behave in situations of death.

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They say that there is nothing certain in this world but death and taxes.  If you have a good enough accountant or the right connections, perhaps you can avoid the taxes.  But best believe, death is not one to be cheated.  It doesn’t matter how much money or power you have, or how less of it you have.  We’ve seen it happen with other celebrities before.  But Prince?  The man who worked for years to get his own name back?  The man who recently won the rights to his masters from Warner Brothers?  The man who had the world by the tail.  He was creative, an artist, but one who learned the business of music as well as any record company CEO.  We’re talking about a man who was the OG, the Godfather, an Untouchable who controlled everything about his name, his image, and the product that he released.  Prince was pure in that he never handled his musical friends in an altruistic sense.  When he recorded with you, there were no contracts.  Whatever was agreed upon that you would be paid was guaranteed to be yours.  If he performed a Led Zeppelin hit during one of his concerts, he paid them stricktly out of principle.  He was true to the game. That’s all well and good as long as you are alive and well.

From the initial reports, it seems that Prince has been struggling with his health for a while.  Upon hearing of his passing, I immediately surmised that his ‘piano tour’ was a way in which he could perform without jumping all over the stage as his custom over the last 40 years.  Similar to Michael Jackson, Prince had given it all.  His body was broken down from thousands of performances circling the globe many times.  He also started writing his memoir.  It seems that he had a sense of his mortality.  This is why it is beyond explanation that there were no preparations made in how to distribute the wealth he had been so generous in sharing.  Much more larger and significant than that however is the music.  This man has spent his entire life creating so much unreleased music that a vault had to be enacted to store it all.  Since the estate is going to probate, a bank had to drill holes into the safe that only he had the combination for.  These banks executives aren’t artist. Their interest is not in preserving something as significant as any collection of Rembrandt’s, Picasso’s.  Prince was so inquisitive in his explorations, so protective of the product, and yet his own blood relatives are left to having the government decide what to do.  Behind the scenes schemes are being plotted and plans are being made by the same people Prince fought seeking to bastardize this man’s creative lifeblood.  One brother admitted that he hadn’t spoke to Prince for 15 years and yet claims that his ‘brother meant everything to him.”  I just bet he did!

My own mother lives 2500 miles away.  My sister and I are the only siblings.  Our mother has excellent taste and as a result has nice things.  Because she is single, long ago I spoke with her about how she wanted things handled should she leave this earth before we do.  I had her write it down, sign legal papers and so forth.  My sister and I have already decided what is going to be what.  Not because we want any of her possessions.  As a matter of fact, truth be told I’m the one who is really sentimental.  My sister joked that while she may sell a couch for instance, I would be standing there saying, “You can’t sell that couch!  That’s my momma’s couch!”  Yes I would be the hoarder.  I love my mother so much, that anything she touched I would want as a keepsake; or at the very least have the wherewith to decide.  I’m married so my wife has the first rights.  Still we are creating a will, and even little things like who gets my sports jerseys, and who takes a hold of my music collection, hard drives with decades of family photos, are all on the table being discussed.

Prince FAmily

It’s not fun to talk about.  But its’s responsible to deal with.  It’s mature.  No man knows the day nor the hour.  But do yourself and your family a favor:

  1. Have some life insurance so that your loved ones aren’t trying to figure out how to pay for a service.
  2. Have a will or a trust indicating what you intend to happen with your remains.  I.e, burial, cremation, organ donation etc.  Share openly what type of service you prefer.
  3. Have a legal document on how to distribute what you leave behind, regardless of the monetary or sentimental value.

Perhaps you would like to believe your family wouldn’t act a certain way.  Perhaps you believe your shared faith will enable them to handle things properly.  But let me tell you something, Christ ain’t coming down to adjudicate your shit.  Handle your business and take that extra stress off of your people.  Allow them to grieve you, instead of turning on one another.

Message to Black Lives Matters Critics … who happen to be Black

Black folk are not monolithic.   I know that there are some in America who believe we are.  But we didn’t all agree in Africa before we were sold into slavery.  We didn’t all agree while in the state of slavery.  We didn’t all agree upon emancipation.  We didn’t all agree during Jim Crow, during the civil rights movement, even about having civil rights.  Like any other group of humans, our views differ from liberal, conservative, ambivalent, apathetic.  We are engaged, passionate and absent.  And just as we don’t agree about who is the best MC, the best basketball player of all time, or whether peanut butter is better than chocolate, we don’t all view the Black Lives Matter movement as it relates to police brutality, systematic racism and so called Black on Black crime within our neighborhoods.

Locally speaking, since Michael Brown, many of my friends have been on the forefront of protest, civil disobedience or spreading the word via social media regarding police brutality as it relates to the St. Louis Metropolitan area.  They have fought hard through the midst of resistance from many of their White counterparts, White police unions, and administrations resistant to give up the power of their privilege.  Equally true is that St. Louis is enduring a sickening amount of shootings and murders this year.  There are many reasoning and debates for the escalations of violent crimes, from lack of policing in certain North Side areas, to a mindset among Black youth that they just don’t give a damn about taking a life.  As mentioned in the first sentence, we don’t share all of the same views, therefore we don’t share the same passions.  But unfortunately, instead of respecting one another’s passions for a common goal of bettering the community as best as we can, some of us are at odds in direct conflict against the other.  Specifically, some who are righteously frustrated with the crime being committed against one another, are upset at protesters of police brutality and Black Lives Matter.  The video below from Ferguson resident Peggy Hubbard is an example.

Hubbard isn’t the only one who has expressed these sentiments.  Many of my African-American friends on social media have asked after a murder, “Where are all the protesters now? Why aren’t they protesting or holding a rally for this?”  These are similar to some of my White counterparts who refuse to acknowledge or even justify their lack of interest and subsequent support of police brutality because there are Black criminals; as if there aren’t criminals within their own group.  The difference is that White folk generally aren’t shot, chocked, tased, or mysteriously found dead while in police custody.  I’ve had those conversations with my White friends.  I’ve explained to them, that there are differences in community concern about criminal behavior vs state sponsored oppression and brutality.  My neighbor is a citizen, my police, prosecutors and judges are compensated with tax dollars that I participate in contributing towards.  These have taken an oath to protect and serve righteously for all of it’s citizens.  Contrary to popular belief, we can actually care about both equally.  Not to mention if there is a murder or a robbery in my neighborhood, more times than not we are looking to those same police to solve those crimes and remove those criminals from among us.  Some of us believe these crimes aren’t as vigorously investigated in our neighborhoods as they would in a White neighborhood; thus the cycle continues.

What is missed however, is that there are and have been activities standing up for victims of violent crimes.  They may not be as prevalent or publicly covered as those against police brutality.   But they are there.

http://http://http://www.wsiltv.com/home/top-story/Hundreds-March-to-Stop-the-Violence-in-St-Louis-321964351.html

http://http://fox2now.com/2014/06/01/prayer-vigil-held-to-stop-the-violence-in-st-louis/

http://http://fox2now.com/2015/07/29/funeral-directors-and-morticians-to-hold-stop-the-violence-rally-this-sunday/

Thus my message isn’t to my White counterparts who are anti-Black Lives Matter or anti-police brutality against people of color; though they can get some too if they like.  But specifically to those who like Ms. Hubbard, single mother with a son who is incarcerated, to my Black friends who poo poo the folk fighting the system of government oppression because they think these protesters should protest all things Black struggle, is get off your asses and do it yourself!  If there aren’t enough black protest and rallies against crime in your view, then dammit start one.  Gather like minded individuals, organize and get your asses out in these streets.  Why  be in conflict with your brothers and sisters who are fighting for your right to be equally valued lawfully in the system in which we all rely to a certain extent.  If I am in danger and I can’t solve the issue, I’m calling the police.  I have police who are good friends of mine.  But that prevent me from having a passion against police who are out to kill me.  There is no conflict for me to love my police friends while jamming Fuck The Police in my ride simultaneously.  It seems to me that the folk who DO have the problem are sitting at their computers or making videos or posting empty challenges to folk who are doing something, because they aren’t doing a damn thing.

I have given three examples of people who are making a difference in partaking in efforts that are related to our community, though not the same exact focus.  Hell I’ll throw in a fourth just for good measure.

http://http://fox2now.com/2015/04/29/homicide-in-north-st-louis-highlights-we-must-stop-killing-each-other-campaign/

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The point is, even if you are not a good organizer, there are some people doing some things in the area of crime in Black neighborhoods.  Join them.  It’s just plain ignorant and unproductive to ask those who are focused on police brutality to do your damn passion too.  Get off the sidelines, and do something and make us all stronger.  If not, then by all means stay in your lane and STFU!

Of Michael Sam, Black Folk and the Deity Factor

When I was at Webster University I took a class called Religion and Political Conflict.  It was one of my favorite classes, as it inspired critical thinking. Our professor, Chris Parr assigned us a paper asking the question: Why do people threaten violence and wage war in the name of religion?  I titled my response paper, “The Deity Factor.’

The basic premise is that a person will do most anything no matter how heinous if they believe the orders are from their highest power.  As much good that is done in this world for the sake of the deity factor, there are just as many if not more evil done against mankind. This could range from feeding the poor, evangelism, or strapping a pack of C4 on their bodies and killing innocent people. Logic and self analysis fall to the deity.  This is because the follower believes his/her eternal state depends on pleasing the deity.  Frankly, when dogmatic belief is serious enough, one would do anything to satisfy that longing to be approved of by his god.

What is interesting about the deity factor, is that it’s easy for those to believe their own illogical ideologies, while thinking others are ridiculous.  For instance, I can’t understand how radical Muslim extremist believe that the reward for martyrdom is 72 virgins in the great by and by.  I mean, you blew your body to pieces, and dead people can’t have physical sex.  And what does that say about a female martyr?  She can’t have 72  fresh penises because the sexism that rules on earth carries over to heaven or paradise. Sounds like a raw deal for the sisters to me!

femalesuicidebombers-640x480

Unnamed female Islamic radical

There is a segment of the White Christians who inherently believe that they are superior to all others based on their color.  They have used their interpretations of the bible to justify slavery then, and status now.

As silly as that martyr/virgin sounds to most, many Christians, don’t see the similarities or hypocrisy they display when they openly discriminate against the gays and lesbians.  This seems especially true of the Black Christian community.  I’ve had a plethora of discussions with my Black  Christian socially conservative friends.  I am amazed at how they hand select scriptures that supports their discriminative beliefs, but turn an unapologetic blind eye to other scriptures that would make their own lives uncomfortable.  Many are otherwise intelligent and thoughtful people.  But once the dogma of the deity come into play, they turn into blind nincompoops.

I wasn’t always as passionate about supporting the LGBT community as I have been in recent years.  I had never been an all out bigoted idiot, but I certainly wasn’t a friend.  There are some elements within the gay community that still rub me the wrong way.  I still typically frown on what I view as an overly effeminate male who acts more girlish than the most girly girl I know.  I agreed with a former gay male friend of mine when he told me, “I’m gay, but I can’t stand a sissy!”  That’s on me and I’ve been working on growing above that judgment.

A more appropriate critique that I do challenge them on is wanting to be equal without embracing the ability to take a joke. I hate racism but I am able to critique black folk,  laugh at myself and my people.  No group can truly prosper and be taken seriously if its members take themselves too seriously. Some of my gay friends haven’t gotten there yet.

In a most recent conversation on social media, some black folks were asking the question, “Why does Michael Sam have to announce that he’s gay?  What is the big deal?  He’s gay…. I’m straight.  So what?”  I explained why Michal Sam made his announcement.  (As if it wasn’t obvious)  I further explained that these same people who resent Sam for making his ‘announcement,’ don’t bat an eye when a ball player is interviewed after a victory and they say, “I want to thank my lord and savior Jesus Christ who gave us the victory.”  When Kurt Warner played for the Rams, St. Louisans heard this every week.  (Unless the Rams lost and Kurt sucked)  When Tim Tebow talked about his faith 24-7, it never occurred to Christians who supported his rhetoric, that Jesus never threw a pass, never threw a block, made a devastating tackle or sacked the other team’s quarterback.  Public figures give credit to their deity thereby ‘announcing’ their religious beliefs every day.

Christians love it when famous people do it.  It confirms their own brand of faith.  On the flip side, they merely reject Sam because his gayness doesn’t jive with their brand of religion dogma.  I told my Christian friends that to reject this recognition in light of the original question they posed about Sam’s announcement is being intellectually dishonest.  Of course, neither logic, theory, nor the incredible amount of irony couldn’t crack that steel wall of dogma!

mizzou students sam

Michael Sam’s return to Mizzou Feb 15, 2014

I pointed out that… “the real issue for you wasn’t Sam making an announcement, it was what he announced.  To suggest otherwise when you applaud announcements that support their own beliefs  is hypocrisy and intellectually dishonest.  And while gays are catching hell every day, you lack empathy for their struggle while still getting pissed at white folk who are racist against you and people who look like you.”

Look, the LGBT community has been here since the beginning of civilization.   In 20 years, there may not be a such thing as a closeted gay person.  You won’t be able to pray them away… and they aren’t trying to change your minds about them.  Neither will I.  You are free to hold on to your prejudices.  Just keep in mind the flip side.

Every time you criticize them for asking for what is rightfully their’s, (which is to live and be allowed to live,) you sound just like White folk who say, “I’m tired of your black shit!  Trayvon Martin was a thug and deserved what he got!  And so did Jordan Davis. What are you crying about?  This isn’t 1964 anymore.  Don’t talk to me about disproportionate injustice and  mass incarceration rates.  You have Oprah, Michael Jordan and Tiger Woods.  Dammit you have a black president for godsakes.  I never owned slaves.  Shut the hell up about racism already!   

Many Christians I know say that homosexuality and gay rights are being forced down their throats.  And yet this is the same language used in Mississippi, Alabama, and so forth when it came to Black folk as it pertains to equality.

I am certainly not going to suggest that you change your mind about approving of homosexuals.  Just as I am not looking to convince a racist white person to appreciate me for who I am.  But what I am asking you to consider is the same thing I ask of the prejudice:  

You don’t have to love me.  You don’t have to like or approve of me.  But don’t attempt to stop me from prospering.  Don’t kill me advocate or excuse violence against me.  Don’t arrest me for unjust reasons.  Don’t deny me equal opportunities.  Don’t stand in my way as I look to create a decent life for myself and feed my family.  Don’t support legislation that denies me full equal rights that you support for yourself.  Keep your prejudices if you must, but don’t exploit my life and ruin my opportunities because of them.  And dammit don’t support or excuse those who do.

If you can do that, you won’t hear me say another word!

Day 3, Are you kidding me?

knee braces

Say hello to my little friends!  These are the 4 way adjustable hinged knee braces I wear every night to my basketball games.  Though they look like a bulky mess actually they allow for quite a bit of freedom.  I am not slowed down in the least bit.   And best of all, they take the pounding OFF of my knees so I come away with no pain whatsoever on most nights such as tonight after two games at a JV tournament.

Back to Day 3; Well the good news is that I did walk another 4 miles of power walking today.   The bad news is that while adjusting the volume on my cell phone while listening to a book, I dropped the thing clean on the concrete!  For the first time I had one of those phones with the cracks all over the screen.  Not just any cracks either, but the cracks you can actually feel.  Thank goodness for insurance right?

The second part of the bad news is that while I was closing in on the last mile and a half or so, I got this rubbing irritation on the back of my left heel.  Though I took my shoe off and adjusted my socks, I couldn’t get the rubbing to stop.  The results was the onset of a big blister on the back of my heel.  This is just what i needed considering that I am working multiple games ever day until December 22nd.

Walking was a pain and I had no idea how I was going to ref the games tonight without clean rubbing the skin off the heel.

There are two things officials need to know when entering a gym.  1) Who is the administrator?  2) Do you have a trainer on staff?

I met the administrator at the door who directed me to the trainer.  After explaining my dilemma, she treated and wrapped the heel to perfection.  To my relief, it felt at least 90% better!  Crisis averted!

Game on!