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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Saturday, January 31, 2015

Stay Outta My Grill

In the movie 'Friday', Chris Tucker's character 'Smokey' talks to a 'blind date' on the phone who claims she looks like Janet Jackson. After having met her in person, he concludes that she looks more like the male singer Freddie Jackson, and tells her that right now he has an errand to run. She requests that he call her later on, and "Smokey' responds as follows: "...If you come by, I won't call you. Don't ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever come by here, ok?

At a meeting last week I asked other staff members if I might visit their respective venues later on to take photos, and it was suggested that I not visit but allow them to email the pictures to me. Now I don't think that my appearance appalled anyone, but what I suspect is that at least since the movie Friday’s production in 1995, we as a society have unawaringly allowed technology to compromise our humanity.

With the advent of the telephone we were able to call those who weren’t in close proximity, but we did periodically visit those who were. Like ‘Smokey’, we sometimes preferred to converse from a distance, but  there was a verbal interaction that allowed us to at least hear the voice of who it was we were talking to.

What we have now, with the subjugation of texts, email, Facebook and Twitter, is a cold, unfeeling connection with others whose countenance and sensibilities we are totally unaware of because we can’t see or even hear who it is we’re communicating with.

My young nephew, when asked why he preferred to text rather than call, very honestly proclaimed that when he texted he didn’t have to answer questions. No desire for accountability ya’ll, that’s what’s happening to us. The fact of the matter is that we are here to love and support one another. Even if we don’t especially like each other, our ultimate survival is predicated on our ability to amicably coexist. Our tendency toward machine like behavior is leading us toward a cold-hearted and non-compassionate consciousness that causes us to maintain that unless I need or want something from you, “Stay outta my grill (face)”.

What we gon do? I’m going to continue, cordially of course, getting in people’s grill (which is a synonym for face), and taking their pictures even if I don’t have a camera. You see I want to know that people, especially those that directly affect my life, are well. My intent is to fortify whatever ties I have with others because whether we want it or not, at some point we’re going to need another and since we don’t know who or when that might be, it is in our best interest to treat everyone like we want to be treated. 

Now there is certainly no need to cease using the technology we have available to us, and there will be times when it’s in another’s best interest that they don’t see or hear from us at certain times. I implore all of us to take the opportunity, whenever we can and no matter how brief, to use our eyes, ears, and actual voices to interact with another so that the warm, human energy that ensues will bless the entire universe in ways we never imagined. 

Kindness and concern works ya’ll, and it benefits us all to work from those perspectives.

I’ll holla… 

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Bring It

Since the beginning of time, man’s inhumanity to man has been off the chain. In the bible you’re got the world’s first son and you kill your own brother cause he’s got more game than you do. Then you got Jacob, who with the help of his momma, steals his twin brother’s inheritance. Then there’s Joseph’s brothers, who throw him in a pit and leave him for dead. Now all of this is in the first book.

We fast forward to the second world war and you got Jewish folk being thrown into gas chambers in Germany, while people of Japanese ancestry are being uprooted and placed in internment camps in the United States.

Since the beginning of time, men and women have brought the plight of their condition to the light, via word and music, and I’m sure that biblical, Jewish, and Japanese, and other communicators will continue to express their displeasure and anger at what they’re going through. Now I’m not going to dwell on the deaths, suffering and inequity still being experienced by black folk, but allow me, if you will, to bring what we feel from an African American neighborhood.

Sojourner Truth once remarked “I have borne thirteen children, and seen most all sold off to slavery, and when I cried out with my mother’s grief, none but Jesus heard me”. Ralph Ellison and countless others have eloquently and adamantly expressed our discontent with the way black folk are treated, yet still today many of us feel as he did when he communicated in the prologue of the ‘Invisible Man’, “I am invisible, understand, simply because people refuse to see me”. 

Countee Cullen may not have fully understood his Divine Commission when he said “I doubt not God is good, well meaning, kind…Yet do I marvel at this curious thing:To make a poet black, and bid him sing”, yet he continued, through his poetry, to sing. You see there is something inherent in all of us, and visible in a lot of us that reflect our Maya Angelouian response to adversity, “Still I’ll rise”.

The key to resolving this rampant inhumanity that yet exists, is for all of us to bring it. We all got to bring our voices but also our ears. Most importantly…we got to bring intent and constant commitment to being of one accord. Of course we have our differences, but if we’re able to share them equitably, and people are willing to hear what we have to say, our oneness will become manifest, and we’ll be amazed at the blessings that ensue. We can do this y’all. We can put a lid on this mess, by simply listening and doing for another, that which we desire for ourselves. 

I’ll holla…

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Sunday, January 18, 2015

We're All Experts Ya'll

Upon entering Lake Forest College as an English major, one of my first assignments was to write an essay on the Herman Melville novel entitled ‘Moby Dick’. I titled the discourse ‘Moby Dick And Its Relevance To The Black Community,' and likened the large white mammal to the great old U S of A, while rendering Captain Ahab as the maligned yet formidable Black American population. The professor,  graded the paper with a big red ‘F'. He commented that my analogy was totally out of context, and remarked that it had nothing to do with Mr. Melville’s literary intent. My disagreement notwithstanding, I had to concede that the professor, regardless of his aesthetic leanings, was correct in his assessment simply because he was recognized and accepted as an expert in the literary arena. 

A number of highly unproductive years later, I signed up for and passed a skilled trades apprenticeship test. After having registered for training, my initial class was ‘Tools and Equipment’. At the onset I developed a sense of racial inadequacy, because most of my Caucasian counterparts were well aware of the utilization of the material being discussed. I knew a little somethin somethin about hammers, screwdrivers and the like, but on the other hand, the tools and equipment being  presented yielded nothing to me but a total blur.

Getting back to the Moby Dick experience, it did coerce me into changing my major to Sociology and Anthropology, for which I am eternally grateful. It was a fellow apprentice that put my intellectual discomfort in perspective however, when he inadvertently shared that beginning at the age of seven, he had worked for several years with his father building garages. What an epiphany! Of course he was more familiar with impact wrenches, tig welders, and the like because an extended exposure to anything can create at least an unconscious assimilation of knowledge. And if you like, or feel obligated to learn more about what it is that you’re exposed to, then the sky’s the limit.

What about you? Ever been in a situation where the other person seems to be such an authority on a particular subject, that you envision yourself as an idiot. Well don’t be dismayed. The only difference between you and them is exposure, experience and possible dedication to whatever it is that they’re discussing. By the same token, you know about some stuff that they’ve never even thought about. From designer clothes to luxury cars, from professional sports to video games, hopscotch to double dutch, rocket science to quantum physics, we all got some information to give to another that they might not already have.

My suggestion is that we all garner as much expertise as we can, on whatever it is that we have a passion or preference for. Let’s then be humble enough to graciously share this knowledge in a non-condescending manner, and be open-minded enough to listen to and at least consider the input of another. After all, there are no big I’s and little you’s, there’s only the one ‘WE’ looking to survive and to thrive.

There’s a vast universe out there ya’ll, and it contains an infinitely unfathomable amount of knowledge, and no one of us will ever acquire it all. However, if each of us becomes willing to share what expertise we do have, and to accept that which another is willing to give, we can all leave our every interaction with more than what we came. After all, no matter how we choose to look at it,  it’s ultimately all about us.

I’ll holla…

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