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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Thursday, March 5, 2015

Shoulda Been There

Professor Nicole Mitchell of the University of California Irvine, spearheaded the first Black Urban Music Conference this past weekend, because according to her..." African American music, culture and history speaks to the core of American history and culture, and presently our students are being denied access, through limited exposure, while studying at UCI. Our students should not be put at a disadvantage. When they depart from UCI with their degree, they should be prepared to navigate the diverse multidimensional environment of our American population. They shouldn't pay tuition and study diligently to enter into the world with ignorance."  

As everyone present at this phenomenal event can attest to, if you weren't there, you rally missed out on an opportunity to be entertained while expanding your cultural horizons at the same time. According to renown author, critic, and musician Greg Tate "...Scholarship... as Performance, she pulled off." 

Professor Mitchell started on this project six months ago, and with the assistance of history PHD student Marketus Presswood, she was able to bring African American musical expressions to the forefront by way of musicians/scholars like the aforementioned Greg Tate who was the conference's keynote speaker. Mr Tate is also the founder and leader of the Burnt Sugar Arkestra Chamber, an ensemble that turned the audience on its head Saturday night, dazzling us with a technique called 'conduction,' which he had elaborated  on, and allowed the audience to participate in, at an earlier conduction workshop. 

Marketus Presswood and Professor Mitchell were also able to petition the presence of Nigerian master drummer Najite Agindotan and Chicago born Ugochi Nwaogwugwu, an international performer extraordinaire of dance and song, known as the African Buttafly. Both these artists, along with LA's Afro Beat Agindotan Family Band, performed and wowed us on Friday night with compelling rhythms and vocalized staccato phrases. The two artists returned on Saturday for an interview that spoke volumes about their affiliation and respect for Nigerian musician and composer Fela, who changed the course of Nigerian political history through his pioneering of the 'Afrobeat' genre, while losing his mother in the aftermath of her being thrown out of a window by a Nigerian soldier. Both Ugochi and Najite selflessly shared with us their current life's work and their respective visions and future objectives, while displaying an apparent dedication to continuing Fela's legacy of altering socio-political consciousness, through music, as a means of soliciting justice and freedom for all. I'm positive that we all left that interview with a sense of inspiration, appreciation, and some degree of personalized motivation. 

Then there was music producer Ras G whose presentation on Saturday awakened some and reminded others of the importance and value derived from immersing oneself in whatever endeavor one might undertake. He exemplified the significance of cherishing the process one goes through to manifest an idea, and then illustrated the importance of being willing to share the outcome with others. I was personally enamored with the unheralded creativity what this young cat brought to the table, and am anxious to witness the unlimited possibilities that lie ahead in terms of new and fresh stuff. 

It goes without saying that I was amazingly impressed with the honesty and integrity of music producer Ryat, who unashamedly admitted an affinity for black cultural aesthetics, and openly demonstrated how her music was infused with African American influences. Giving credit to others is not something that is readily carried out by others, especially when it comes to some of the accomplished white artists admitting the true source of their work. Her acknowledgement of such, and her being of the Caucasion persuasion, gives credence to her honesty and allowed her to not only give credit where credit is due, but freed her to unabashedly share the undeniable uniqueness of her craft with us all.

The conference started out with a screening and discussion of the film 'Long Road to the Hall of Fame' with Morrocan filmmaker Reda Zine, his subject of the film Malik Farrakhan, UCI's own professor of Middle Eastern History, Mark Levine, and legendary rap artist and composer Chuck D with whom all three have a meaningful affiliation. The film was centered around an arduous trek by two African American pro footballers, that being the former Tony King, Malik Farrakan, and his brother Charles King to an election to, but an as of yet unfulfilled induction into the NFL hall of fame. In relation   to the conference itself, this particular portion readied us for the conference's overall focus, that focus being to... "encourage the counter dialogue of visionary artists who impact global consciousness...while existing outside of the formal channels and economies that corporate and mainstream culture perpetuates." Kinda reminds me of the 'veil' concept that W.E.B. Dubois speaks of, where black folk can see what's on the other side of the veil, but can't participate in it.

Professor Mitchell's goal of exposing us to the existence and importance of black culture was certainly met, what we do with it is yet to be seen. Of one thing I am sure however, if we are to prepare for a maximally beneficial interaction with our fellow inhabitants, let us be ever aware that we must take advantage of every opportunity that allows us to do so. 

We can't cry now about what we woulda, coulda, or shoulda done, but I implore those of you who did not attend, to go online and access and investigate the significance of the participants present at the conference, and to unequivocally vow to yourself, that the next time you hear of Professor Nicole Mitchell throwing a "Function at the Junction''re definitely gonna be there.

I'll holla...

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Thursday, February 26, 2015

A Thorn By Any Other Name...

Believe me y’all, I’m just as tired of talking about racism as you are listening to it, but I’m going to continue to do so as long as it rears its ugly head in my presence and takes time out to speak personally to me. People can call it what they want, but the fact of the matter is, we’ve allowed a phantom of an idea, that we won’t even talk honestly and earnestly about, to compromise our existence. We’re at a point now where we don’t even recognize that it’s leading to our collective demise, while convincing some of us that it doesn’t even exist, and subsequently causing us to feel there’s no need to take any action to offset it.

 I totally concur with Audrey Smedley who in the November 1997 edition of the Anthropology Newsletter, posted the following from her article entitled the ‘Origin Of The Idea Of Race’:

“Contemporary scholars agree that "race" was a recent invention and that it was essentially a folk idea, not a product of scientific research and discovery. This is not new to anthropologists. Since the 1940s when Ashley Montagu argued against the use of the term "race" in science, a growing number of scholars in many disciplines have declared that the real meaning of race in American society has to do with social realities, quite distinct from physical variations in the human species. I argue that race was institutionalized beginning in the 18th century as a worldview, a set of culturally created attitudes and beliefs about human group differences.” 

Now that was Audrey Smedly talking, and as I said earlier, I concur with what she said. You see, when my wife and I arrived at the airport, on our way home from Strasbourg, France,we found that it was literally situated in three countries, France, Switzerland, and Germany. Yet this phenomenon did not diminish the unpleasant, yet not surprising reminders, encountered while in the airport, that racism abides far outside of our immediate surroundings. As I’ve stated in blogs before, my intent is to recognize a person’s humanness prior to assuming their racial stance, but it’s rather difficult when people stare at you as if you’re in a cage, they feign an inability to speak English with you but manage to communicate with another of Caucasian persuasion in that same language, all accompanied by innate and covertly unspoken tirades of ‘You don’t belong here”. What I see taking place all over the globe, is racially triggered responses instigated by socially accepted myths and presuppositions. What I see y'all, is people viewing other people only on the basis of what they heard about them.

I speak to all white folk when I say stop denying that you have privilege, unequivocally acquired by virtue of your skin color, and use that privilege to counteract some of the inequity that exists all over the world. Now I’m not asking you to risk life or limb in the process, but if you witness discrimination at least acknowledge its existence, and allow your sense of righteousness provoke you into doing whatever you can to address it. 

I implore us Black folk to quit using the mindsets of “It’s the white man’s fault” and “We’re entitled to reparations”, as excuses for not going that extra mile, and vow, I say vow, to make a concerted effort to research, study, and  brainstorm on what role we’re playing in not having what we believe we should, and then ascertain what we need to do in order to obtain what is rightfully ours.

I’m not omitting other cultures from the equation, because you too will have your opportunities to play a major role in this dilemma we all face on a daily basis, but take it from one of the most visible, viable, and major targets of prejudicial behavior, if we don’t do something now we’ll pay later on down the line. You see we all have our special somethings that will contribute to the well being of others, and if we don’t come to some type of collaboration on what that something is, we’ll all continue to merely exist while sacrificing an opportunity to share fully productive lives for ourselves and our posterity.

I’ll holla...

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Wednesday, February 18, 2015


Isn't it amazing that right now, at this very moment, we're all that we can be, we have everything we need, yet we still manage to feel that somehow we've fallen short or been shortchanged. The ongoing question that relentlessly plaques us is "Why is everybody else getting theirs and I can't get mine? Well the solution, albeit hard to accept, is simple "What and how much are you doing to get what you think you're supposed to have."

What I'm on right now is looking at the progress that's taken place since I was diagnosed with cancer in January of 2014, and why it doesn't seem to correlate with where I feel I should be. Comparing myself with others who have shared this experience doesn't work for me, cause people can look like they're doing better, they can act like they're feeling worse, but in the final analysis 'God only knows' because each day brings moments of exhilaration and depression, feelings of joy and pain, and all of that before we even get a chance to eat breakfast. As we experience these every day situations we either tackle them with careful consideration or with reckless abandon; but in the end we're still asking ourselves, "Have things really gotten better?"

I'm sitting here this afternoon, stressing because my latest blood work shows that my white blood cell count and platelet levels are low, my glucose and ALT /AST liver components are high, and I'm wondering how in the world I'd gained almost forty pounds when twenty-five was my goal. Then I experience an epiphany.  "Calvin, I asked myself, what role are you playing in all of this. After all, you're  the one that was diagnosed with cancer, have you personally gathered enough information to accurately ascertain how you got it in the first place, and have you questioned what you can do to prevent it from reoccurring. There's tons of information on the internet that address each and every situation we find ourselves in, and rather than stress yourself my brother, why not stretch yourself by accessing and examining what is readily available to you.

I, like most of us, want all I can get and I want it right now. Not only that, I feel I'm supposed to have it because I've done what it takes to deserve it. Wrong assessment ya'll. Sad as it might seem, life on this planet is played like a  game of Monopoly and the ones in the shot calling roles are those who have hotels on Boardwalk and Park Place. Not only that, in this game of life, the shot callers can change the rules whenever they feel a need or have a desire to do so. So you wind up getting only what others feel you're supposed to have. Now there's a way to offset this condition, and that is to do more than you've being expected to do, and then allow the universe, undergirded by the Grace Of God,  to respond accordingly. Then, although you'll only get it when you're ready to receive it, you'll get everything you got coming and then some.

So I got a message for you doctors. Continue setting up my appointments, continue testing my blood, continue trying to convince me to take those new drugs, and to eat this and not eat that. What I'm gon be doing in the meantime, is acquiring all the knowledge I can about me and my condition, and then sharing  and discussing my thoughts and theories with like minded others. In the process I can develop and maintain a positive attitude and renewed sense of satisfaction and contentment, with who I am, where I am, and what it is that I'm doing to make my life better.

It takes time to really accept that the only entitlement we have is an opportunity to be here. What we have to gain from that participatory existence however, is an awareness of the unlimited possibilities available to us, that are only contingent on how willing we are, to do everything we can, to make them become manifest not only in our own lives, but in the lives of those around us. We all got what it takes to get what we got coming ya'll,  let's go for it.

I'll holla...

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Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Do We Know That We Know?

Maybe it's just me but I detect a sense of urgency in the universe, yet our complacency has not diminished accordingly. In other words, time is passing really fast and some of us seem willing to just let it go past without at least sharing what we have.

What's going on in Ferguson, Misssouri? Has the so called rioting been addressed to the point it will never happen again? The police force in New York. Are cops feeling liberated to continue disregarding the sanctity of black life, or is something being done to offset that manner of thinking? The closing of over fifty public schools in Chicago. Has mayor Rahm Emanuel put out an affidavit
 that shows how the closings have benefitted the educational pursuits of our youth, or possibly suppressed the gang violence. And what about where you live. Is every thing honky dory, or is there another sad story about to be told.

Some of us have taken on an attitude of how insignificant and powerless we are to do anything that might make a difference. We need to drop it like it's hot ya'll. Quiet as it's kept, we all have the capacity to empower ourselves. We don't have to wait for somebody to tell us what to do, when to do it and what manner to do it in. We don't have to wait for something to happen and then angrily respond until a designated anger management team, appearing somewhere in the media, tells us to hold it down...cause everything gon be all right. We've got to drop that sense of 'ain't nothin' I can do. pick up the enthusiasm that made us angrily respond in the first place, and use it to do something that contributes to the straightening out of whatever the mess might be.

Do we know what's really going on in Ferguson, or New York or Chicago, or are we only aware of what we're being told. Should we continue to get upset when we're told something disturbing? Of course we should. Should we respond with bitterness and anger when whatever it is takes place?happens. Well, when we're in the vicinity of where some form of negativity is occurring, I don't know if any of us can be unresponsive, cause most of the choices made in those types of situations are emotional and reasoning, prior to acting, has little if any bearing on how we might respond. The key here is not to downplay what's going on around us, not to wait to respond to the next event, but rather to do something now, to feel comfortable in knowing that whatever negativity comes about, no matter where it takes place, we did our part in trying to prevent it.

Do you know how to do that? Of course, we all do. We already know that charity starts at home and spreads abroad. We already know that we should treat others like we want to be treated, and we already know that TRUE LOVE conquers all. So there's no longer a question of "Do I know" it's a matter of doing something with what I know. We must keep in mind that it's the little changes in our personal lives that will revolutionize the very nature of our collective existence. When each of us goes to bed tonight, remembering that we hugged our child today, or that we spoke to somebody we didn't know, or gave something to somebody in need,  or that we did something positive, on this day, regardless of its seeming insignificance, we can all rest comfortably knowing that we contributed to the well being of another living being. We can then continue getting up each morning, with a renewed conviction to do something, on this day, for somebody, until it becomes our daily objective. 

Life is unfolding exactly as it should. Whatever you're doing, have done or plan to do, is going to work out exactly as it should. You see the outcome is not ours to decide, we're only responsible for the choices we make. We all know however, that the choices we make will have a direct bearing on the consequences that come from our having made them. You see, no matter how small what we give to another may seem to be, the universe is extremely grateful for our having shared it, and will respond accordingly. And no matter how dismal things might seem, a lot of people in a lot of places are doing the little things that make a beneficial difference in all our lives. You know how I know, cause we still here, in spite of what's going on around us. What that means is that we still have a chance to make our situation even better. With that being said, let's each of us continue to do what we can, when we can, wherever we can. Why? Cause we already know that we can.

I'll holla...

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Monday, February 9, 2015

If You're White...

I never understood white folks, and having lumped all of you in a category based on what I deemed as a collective inhumane treatment of people of color, I could never bring myself to being comfortable liking any of you. Now there were exceptions of course, like Ms. Kessell at Crane Jr. College, who initiated my getting a scholarship to a predominately white college where I met another exception named Zack, who knew where to get the good weed. There were others as well, at the jobs I held from graduation up until the time spent in Seminary in New York. Keep in mind however, that my attachment to pigment challenged individuals was still restricted by an undeniable lack of trust, fueled by an inability to fully comprehend what it was about me that might coerce some of you into desiring to be my friend.

Well, time should and does bring about a change, and although the trust factor is still compromised, and complete comprehension of some white folks’ motives are still challenged, I am exercising an open-mindedness that allows me to look at everyone as a human being first and then allowing our subsequent interactions to determine what role race plays in our relationship. It’s been working well thus far, and although I hesitate to assert that ‘some of my best friends are white’, I can honestly say that my knowledge of and appreciation for ‘you people’ has been noticeably intensified.

I’m not being pretentious about my newfound desire to purposefully interact with people of a different persuasion, because what had happened was that some of the white seminarians I shared time with in New York literally expressed that they wanted to know what made black folk do what black folk do. In turn, my African advisor at the Seminary Consortium for Urban Pastoral Education in Chicago, who I informed that North Park seemed too white oriented for me to pursue a masters degree there, told me that I needed to go so that I could teach them about us while I learned more about them. Then there was the move to Long Beach, California and an assignment in Irvine, California that convinced me that it was for the benefit of all that I get in y’all grill(face).

Me and my wife Nicole are on a plane from Paris right now and if I gained nothing else while there, I have been assured that my intent to better understand others is precipitated by an internal drive to better understand myself. Our trip to France was a collaboration of the ‘Black Earth Ensemble’ from Chicago and the ‘Laborintus Contemporary Ensemble’ of Paris. The intent was to mesh the cultural aesthetics of  a group of African descent, with those of a group of Caucasion lineage, through a musical interaction. The two groups practiced together for two full days and culminated their labor with a melodious presentation that tore the roof off the concert hall, leaving the audience in a state of total admiration and appreciation. After having conversed with both the French and African American musicians, as well as some of the patrons, I now return to my native land with the feeling that somebody beside myself had been challenged to see others in a different light and to appreciate that difference while recognizing our alikeness at the same time.

Racism is an invention of those seeking to control by division and distraction. As long as we seek what the other has, and spend our time keeping others away from what we think is ours, then our eyes are off the prize of freedom and fairness for all.  Well I’m black and right now I refuse to go back. If you’re white…what you gon do?

I'll Holla...

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