Wednesday, April 29, 2015


As teenagers, Murray, James, Roscoe, Goose, Larry, Ray Ray and me used to get sharp on Easter Sunday and ride to downtown Chicago. I made it a point to get my shoes shined , even when it snowed that one Easter afternoon. I also recall another Easter Sunday when this rival gang member snatched my brown felt Armstrong hat, the one with the brown and white rope band, and Goose, all in what seemed one motion, ran in a restaurant grabbed a fork and chased the guy about two blocks but without success. For the most part however, Easter Sunday was the time when all seven of us rode the el train together, went to a movie together, and ate together at Ronnie’s Steak House on 100 W. Randolph. Our total expenses on those holiday outings, believe it or not, was less than ten dollars each, and the memories of what we experienced, while being together, were worth much more than money could buy.

It’s now the second Sunday after the Easter of 2015, and I’m sitting in the JFK airport with a four hour layover when my wife Nicole asks me if I’m going to write this week’s blog while waiting for the plane. I let her know that I don’t have a topic as of yet, and that I’m going to take a walk with the hope of being inspired. While walking I spot a shoe shine stand. Without giving it any thought I step onto the platform, take a seat and prop my feet on the two supports. Now I hadn’t given any thought to those Easters I spoke of earlier, but what happened next was the impetus for what I’m sharing with you now.

While sitting there I’m getting bothered cause the operator is on his cell phone and seems more concerned with texting than shining shoes. Just as I decide to get up, he concludes what he’s doing and asks me what kind of shine I want. Somewhat relieved, I look to where his eyes are focused and there’s a sign which reads:

Bullet Proof Shine  $10   longest lasting shine…most protection and conditioning  

Basic Shine  $8   standard polishing…including conditioning and edge treatment  

The Quickie  $5  one coat wonder…gets you to the gate on time 

Being a bit amused, I opt for the Basic and strike up a conversation asking how he got started in the business, and how he feels about what he’s doing. He starts the shoe shine process, tells me that he works for a company, that nobody is watching over him and that shining shoes is a dying art form. This takes all of two minutes and before I can start my spiel, he pats my shoe in the old shoe shine tradition, and says, without even looking me in the eye, that’s $8. I step down give him a twenty and he walks away to another establishment. He comes back with the change, hands me twelve, I tip him two, and I walk away thinking, “Yea, my man, shining shoes is a dying art form and you’re helping to kill it. After all, you didn’t pop that rag one time.

I’m back to being perturbed now, and suddenly the lyrics to a cut, performed by the1970’s group the ‘Dynamic Superiors’ , comes to mind…

Shoe shoe shine used to cost a dime
A penny could buy you plenty.
A nickel was the fare to take you anywhere
Troubles we didn’t have many.

Now don’t get me wrong. I’m not upset about the money, I’m bothered about how our attitudes have changed and see that change as one of the reasons why our relationships with one another are not what they used to be. When you got your shoes shined back in the day it was by some cat aged 8-80 who was in a barber shop or shoe shine parlor where all the hustlers, pimps, and players would be in and out talkin trash, lying and signifying. No matter how young or old the shoe shine operator was, he was able to hold a conversation with the best of them, cause he knew he might learn or teach a little somethin somethin, while making a nice tip in the meantime. 

He knew he wasn’t gonna get rich, cause the real money was being made in the back. All you OG’s (Original Gangsters) know what I’m talking about and the rest of y’all can use your imagination to figure it out.  Point is people were not constantly focused on the dollar, and on all the gimmicks that distract us from consciously interacting with each other. They were thinking, “How can what I do, make something happen for you.” Be it in a restaurant, airport or what have you, be it the customer or the worker, folk took a little time out to focus on somebody else beside themselves. 

Let’s be like those people if only for a moment at a time. Let’s have that ‘I got somethin for you’ attitude of the the shoe shine man poppin that rag, or the hustler trying to sell him the Brooklyn Bridge. Let’s remember those Easter Sundays with me and Murray and them and look at how much we can share in the time we spend together, rather than what it costs us to do so.

I’ll holla…

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Friday, April 24, 2015

Who's In Charge...Them Or Us?

Would somebody please tell me why we're constantly allowing technology to take our humanity? Case in point. I think I'm calling my friend's number, he doesn't answer, and here's the message I get: "You've reached the voice mailbox of 333-456-7890." First of all, I don't know anybody with the name 333. Secondly, my friend is black and the person answering the phone obviously ain't. So why, if he's not available, or not going to answer the phone, didn't my friend at least leave a personalized message, so that I'd know I had the right number.

Here's my take on the situation. We're becoming so reliant on technology, that we're forgetting that we're supposed to be thoughtful, caring human beings and not the machines that we've created. Let's take a look at where our dependence on just one impersonal communications devices, the smart phone, is taking us.

First of all we're becoming insensitive. We're not taking into consideration that the person calling us might be in a situation that requires immediate attention. Let's go back to the 333-456 scenario. Here's what it might sound like. "Now I know I haven't talked to Mustafa for a couple of weeks, but right now he's the only one that can help me. Who is this white guy answering his phone? Is this the right number or what? " 

Secondly, we're allowing a gadget to relieve the fear of what might happen, and thereby preventing ourselves from enjoying what can happen. We pick the standard message, rather than a personal one, because we don't want everybody who calls to know our name. It might be a creditor, or somebody we don't want to talk to, or somebody selling something that we don't want to buy. Let's stop being 'skurred' y'all. Let em know "Yeah, it's me and whatever it is you want I don't have right now, and when and if I do get it ...I'll holla back. By doing that, we open ourselves up to receive the positive things that a phone call just might bring.

And thirdly, we're compromising our human capabilities cause we're letting machines do for us what we can do for ourselves. Let's quit feeding into that industrialized concept which says, 'time is money'. Time is time and money is money...period. Since you've already spent your money on this new and improved communications device, take a little time to let the universe know that you're in charge and not this little gadget you can hold in one hand or with no hands at all. When the prompter asks would you like to set up your own voice mail response, say "Hell to the yeah", cause I'm still here and I'm responsible for the ground I'm standing on, not this phone I'm holding on to.  

I'll Holla...

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Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Where Do We Go From Here?

There's a term called 'transference' which can be loosely translated as believing that what I've done to others is what they're trying to do to me. White folk went to Africa, Asia and the Americas for the specific purpose of conquest and control. The fact of the matter is that they 're still benefitting from these subjugations and are fearful they'll lose what they erroneously claim as their own to the people they took it from. 

Some white people think that black folk want to live where they live, have our children go to school where their children go, and eat in the same restaurants they eat in. It’s a known fact that likes attract, and I believe that most of us love living around, going to school and breaking bread with people of our own persuasion. All we black folk really want is access to the same quality of housing, education, food and drink that's available to ya’ll.

Let's call it like it is. Black people were not conquered, and are not still being controlled solely because of the perpetuation of white supremacy and nationalism, it's also because we inadvertently support disunity. We're going to have to quit looking at the differences within our race, quit complaining about what somebody else is doing to us, and figure out we need to do to enhance our cultural commonality. I personally call out to Black churches, black businesses, black organizations, and even black gangs to come together and pool our financial, historical, and especially our human resources to regain our status of a loving, caring and fair minded people. Black folk, I know who we are, I know where we've been, and I know what we're capable of doing. We been through it y’all, so let's get to doing what we know how to do, and stop looking to others to do it for us.

As for everybody else....just do you. I know that if we all adhered to the spiritual concept of treating each other righteously all would be well, but I don't know how to implement that consciousness into somebody with whom I'm not totally familiar. What I can say however is, “Let's everybody go home ya’ll." Where is home? It's where you make it, as long as it ain't in somebody else's house. Later for wanting what somebody else got, let's build something on our own that we can allow others to check out, without the fear of having  it taken from us.

I'll holla....

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Monday, April 13, 2015

The Revolution Might Be Instagrammed

Regardless of our religious affiliation, I’m sure we’re all aware of what’s called the second coming of Christ. There are biblical accounts of what will take place at that time, with references to a lightening-like brightness, the heavens opening up, and Jesus’ appearing on a white horse. The point being made is that the date and time of this event is unknown, and therefore we should prepare ourselves now by dealing with each other in a righteous manner.

I was talking to a minister last Saturday about how the rampant decline of church membership might be due to our capability to access a church’s activities on social media. His feeling was that people were too dependent on technology and thereby out of touch with the spiritual significance of what they were receiving online. According to him, “The only way some people will know about Jesus’ coming is if they happen to be on Facebook at the time.”

Our conversation reminded me of a line from a song performed by a group called ‘The Last Poets’, that line being…”The revolution will not be televised.”  In the context of what we’re discussing however, it will be Instagrammed. Jesus’ message is that we should be morally prepared for the final revolution that will take place on earth. For me, revolutions or changes take place every day, and I’m wondering if we’re prepared for what’s going on right now, let alone what’s yet to come.

I’d like to share four statements which express my feelings on how, when interacting with others, we can best prepare ourselves for whatever might take place.

1. Be willing to honestly share your thoughts and feelings for the benefit of the listener.
2. Be contemplative before taking action that might negatively affect someone else.
3. Be open minded concerning the thoughts and ideas of others. and
4. Be always ready to reassess and modify who you are. 

Saying that you're a revolutionary is an easy task because you don’t really have to care for the well being of others, you just have to act like you do. Being a revolutionary means sacrificing one's own ambitions to meet the needs of the people one serves. The objective is to attempt success from the efforts one makes each day, and to be willing to accept defeat as a catalyst for the next endeavor.

Now I know that revolutionary activity can be displayed on the social media, but despite that possibility, I’m gonna do my best to adhere to the statements I’ve outlined above because I believe in treating others as I would like to be treated. Besides that, when the revolution comes, and it is instagrammed, I want my face to reflect the joy that comes from righteousness.

I’ll holla…

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Thursday, April 2, 2015

Have You Had Enough Yet?

The newspaper reporter asked the CIA agent how he was able to carry out assignments that might harm other people. I’m paraphrasing his response, but the agent said that he joined the CIA because he was attracted to the authority it gave him. He became addicted to that authority, and ultimately he was devoured by it, leaving him without conscience or any misgivings about whatever he was assigned to do. What intrigued me is that this pattern is not limited to people who have license to take another’s life, but applies to every one who has the means to affect someone else’s well being.

There’s the police officers who claim they’re unaware that most black youth will run rather than wait for a  confrontation. They assume that said runner is guilty of some crime, and take immediate action to contain him. After fatally shooting the suspect, they still maintain their job. No diversity or sensitivity training is mandated, so they walk away with the same mindset along with a possible proclivity for doing it again. Being able to gain control over someone else leads  to a sense of power. If left unchecked that power will make one feel justified in doing whatever  they can get away with.

We all know the politicians who  promised to make things better for their constituents. However, as time passed by, they started receiving money for voting in favor of whoever  provided them with it. Before you knew it they were ‘living large’ and their major objective had become to extend their power base. In the meantime they’re claiming that everything they do is on the up and up.

Of course there’s the celebrities who are acquiring all the creature comforts that making millions of dollars allows them to enjoy. Yet they’re giving little if any attention to the harm their public images are inflicting on those who are trying to emulate their behavior. They’re accepting degrading movie roles, displaying unnecessary and tasteless modes of undress, disrespecting their mates and loved ones, and it’s all being done under the guise of “I gotta do what I gotta do to make a living.”

But what about the rest of us? We are well aware of the atrocities that are taking place, yet we stand idly by cause we’re scared we’ll rock the boat and possibly cut off our own blessings. We’ve  been attracted to something that makes us feel that the more we get the better off we’ll be.  Whether it’s money, position, or a sense of power, we have become addicted to what it can supply us with, and we are now being devoured by the drive to get more of it. We have unawaringly become all those people which I spoke of earlier. 

“Not you huh? You feel that you’re not the one using what you’ve got  to harm others right?” Well, take another look and ask yourself how you’re addressing the police brutality that’s become rampant in the past couple of years, and is constantly being  inflicted on black folk.  What are you doing about the miseducation of our youth, and how are you addressing the gentrification that’s displacing your less fortunate neighbors. If you’re not at least considering playing a role in eliminating some of these injustices, then you’re a part of the campaign to acquiring more for yourself at the expense of endangering and destroying the lives of others

Let’s look at our situations from a spiritual rather than secular perspective, and stop thinking, “It’s all about me”  Let’s stop kicking people under the bus and start realizing who it’s really all about.

I’ll holla...

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Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Keep Being You And Keep Doing What You Do

The title of this blog has been my latest mantra for a minute, because I feel it's imperative that we continually reassess who we are and what it is we have been assigned to do. If we are doing the best we can with what we have, and if our motives are pure when interacting with others, then we need to keep it movin. If we're not comfortable with where we are, then it's time to start doing what we need to do to get  back to where we need to be.

Remember when cigarette packs didn't have a warning on them and we weren't worried about smoking? Well I wasn't concerned about writing checks either, until I received the following notice with my recent order:

WARNING: This checkbook cover contains chemicals, including DEHP, known to the State of California to cause cancer, birth defects and other reproductive harm. 

Now the first question I asked was, "What is DEHP, and how long ya'll been knowing about it before you put a warning on the label.?" Cigarettes, GMO's, soy and corn products, plastics, and all other potentially dangerous substances have been jeopardizing our health for a while now. The only time the manufacturers notify us of the danger, is when they're forced to do so, and that notification only lets us know that they've been screwing us for quite some time.

For those of us that might not have given it much thought, the moral and ethic fabric of our world is rapidly deteriorating. Things like: domestic violence, juvenile sex trade, irreverent religious practices, pharmaceutical and illegal drug addiction, mental and physical illnesses, homelessness and world hunger, are escalating at an alarming rate. In spite of the fact that there's enough knowledge and resources to resolve these situations, only self help and special interest groups are making substantiated attempts to do so. As Marvin asked us years ago, "Who really cares?'

Well, I care, and whether we admit it or not, we all do. The question is, "What we gon do?" My opinion is that each of us can work toward our collective well being by simply applying the 'golden rule' whenever we interact with somebody else. Whatever good we're doing for anybody other than ourselves, we need to keep doing it. Otherwise the things that are not working in our mutual behalf, will become overwhelming and much more difficult to deal with. We can be forever hopeful however, because there will always be those who are working to make things better, but it's in our best interest to join them in that struggle.

At this very moment you are reading or listening to this blog, and you are thinking about being a better person and doing more positive things. Therefore, you're where you need to be in order to 'Keep Being You and to Keep Doing What You Do'.

I'll Holla...

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Sunday, March 15, 2015

Education...Not Necessarily The Key To An Open Door

I’ve heard that education is the key, but where’s the memo that addresses who it is that’s holding that proverbial door opener. We’d like to believe that our children are being adequately educated, but as regards the unsatisfactory condition of many of America’s learning institutions, we are understandably apprehensive about trusting our future plans to the care of our progeny. Not to worry mind you, because our parents felt the same way about us, and we’re doing okay. However, if there’s something we can do to better facilitate student preparation for the next go round, why not at least develop a platform for discussion. After all…we might find out that we have no choice but to answer in the affirmative when asked, “Are you holding the key?

Our granddaughter Leia is almost two now, and it’s time to consider the options in regard to her academic prospects. In visiting a nearby preschool and talking with the owner, we learned that she (the owner) was opposed to teaching children to read, prior to their kindergarten enrollment, because she felt it was a hinderance to their learning how to contribute to the well being of others. Social interaction from an altruistic aspect is of utmost importance, but reading is something Nicole and I both hold dear and not forcing but allowing it is something we deem as being critical to a child’s enrichment. However it was what she said next that substantially highlighted the seriousness of our task. She asserted that the schools in Long Beach were too focused on academic instruction, and thereby stifled the receipt of a well rounded education. The baby ain’t even two y’all and already she, her parents, and grandparents are faced with the dilemma of dealing with the very first group of potential primary educators, that don’t agree on what the basis of primary instruction should be.

When it comes to Junior High and High school, we all know that students’ hormones are escalating at that juncture in their lives, and that the likelihood of their paying attention to the academic rather than social opportunities offered in those educational settings, is greatly diminished. Later on down the line, a college environment will serve to enhance the chance for social interaction in a myriad of ways, and to paraphrase a college professor friend, “If I don’t capture their attention by the time those I-pads and Laptops are opened, then Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram will have diminished, if not nullified, any opportunity to beneficially interact with our college students.”

We’ve got to start early y’all and then stay on course. We as parents, administrators, and instructors are not always going to see eye to eye when it comes to academic instruction, so we must each do our part to insure that those in our care will be afforded the best means for maximizing their academic intake. As parents we can be honest with ourselves and allow our progeny to make meaningful choices, without pushing them in the direction we failed to pursue or have decided that they should go in. As administrators we can support students, parents, and instructors,  by accepting and at least considering each of their  opinions, and as instructors we can support the concept that it is not our charge so much to teach, as to facilitate an opportunity for others to learn by simply by being in our presence. You see all knowledge already exists in the universe, and it’s our assignment to show our young ones how to access what it is they’re looking for, how to develop it into something that will benefit others, and then how to implement what they’ve accessed into their every day experiences.

From my perspective LOVE is the key to whatever it is we undertake, and that KEY my friend, is in all of our hands.

I’ll holla…

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