Friday, June 19, 2015

What It's All About

The older I get, the more I realize how important it is to appreciate our relationships with each other. Nothing is promised to any of us except a choice of the action we take, and being held accountable for these actions. Why don’t we do all we can, when we can, and quit making weak excuses as to why we can’t. After all, a disregard for somebody else’s feelings, whether intended or not, takes us away from contributing to the well being of the universe we all share. 

I had an opportunity to visit my great nephew in Chicago, and found him confined to a wheelchair as a result of having been shot some months ago. He’s nineteen now, and the last time I saw him he was eight years old. It was on 35th and Prairie at an auto repair shop, and I heard him call my name. Upon asking him what he was doing there, he responded that he had asked the owner for a job, and was told to come back in a few years. Seemingly undismayed by the owner’s response, he asked if I could give him a couple of dollars. How could I refuse such an enterprising young man.

His younger sister called me recently, told me she was graduating from high school, and asked if I could attend her graduation. My schedule being what it was, I answered in the affirmative and it was from her that I learned the circumstances of her brother’s condition. 

He and two of his friends had just entered an apartment building when a gunman, looking for someone else, opened fire on all three. None of them were able to stand after being shot, but my great nephew, being at the top of the stairs, was pushed by the young man beneath him and was able to knock on the door at the next landing. A little girl answered that she could not let him in, and he told her to call 911 right before losing consciousness. He came to in the hospital hours later, and found that had it not been for his quick response, he and his two friends would have died.

Age, relationship, attitude towards, or our alleged busyness should not be the criteria for when and with whom we spend our time. Our honest appraisal of if we have time, should be the only basis for our decision. 

You see, I was blessed by merely being in the presence of my young relatives. Just by being there, I was given an opportunity to be reminded that some of my so-called ‘problems’ are minuscule when compared to those of others. I was also given a chance to see that the resilience and resourcefulness of our young people far outweighs the negativity that we bound them to. As I put my hand on my great nephew’s shoulder, I was blessed with the understanding that love was being shared, and that something as seemingly insignificant as spending a little time with someone else, is an investment in which all involved can share in the benefits that coming together can bring. 

In the words of our beloved Maya Angelou “People may forget what you said. People may forget what you did. But people will never forget how you made them feel.”  I heard that at the graduation I attended, and for me it served as a confirmation that we have the power to better someone’s life by merely being with them. We will always be given opportunities to spend time with one another, and our response to the request will either contribute to or take away from the universal consequences that will inevitably come about. Let’s choose wisely y’all, cause it ain’t just about him or her, you or me…it’s about us.

I’ll holla...

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Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Are Black People Beyond Loud?

The following is a copy of the posting found near an elevator of the Irvine housing complex ironically named Equity Residential. The issue is in reference to‘Resident Noise Levels’, and it’s addressed to two parties: 1. ‘fellow residents’ and 2. ‘African-American residents.’  The first concern is a request to reduce the stereo and television volume, the second to keep conversation and music levels down. My question is why noise levels are specified on the basis of race instead of being inclusively addressed to one group, i.e. the residents. After all everyone, at one time or another, can have their stereo, television, music, and/or conversation too loud, why is the posting so racially explicit? Look at the words communicated and judge for yourself.




I took the liberty of calling the phone number listed on the notice, and asked if the company was aware of the posting. The woman I talked to said that they were aware, that she welcomed my call and that the management and police department were taking measures to find the person responsible for the act. Good luck with that I thought, and then asked her if they had made any effort to inform the public of the alleged mis communication and potential blame. She then stated that a notice had been sent out to all residents informing them that the management was not responsible, and that they were doing what they could to resolve the situation. However, no apology was indicated.

We African-Americans are all disenfranchised when it comes to housing, because regardless of our socio-economic status, whether we are in Africa or America, it’s ultimately the white man that determines where we live. Let’s face it, black people are able to live in Irvine not because Martin Luther king died for that right, but because people like Donald Bren allow us to do so. Ethics and morality dictate that one who has knowingly been a factor in causing another pain should at least apologize, but being money driven why should Donald’s people apologize to anyone that is no threat to the acquisition of billions of dollars more. We black folks are needed for labor in the newly lucrative slave trade, i.e. the prison system, but we’re totally dispensable when it comes to funding the housing market. We are perpetually reminded of the disdain for our presence, and no concerted effort is being made to make us feel that somebody, somewhere is at least tolerant of our existence.

In closing, let me make one thing perfectly clear. I am neither surprised nor disillusioned with the aforementioned incident, or its potential outcome, because it only serves to confirm that we are nowhere near experiencing a post-racial environment, and that corporate entities are still insensitive to the souls of black folk. What concerns me is the lack of meaningful response from the self proclaimed white progressives, and their apparent disconnection to reality. You say you understand our pain, you support our cause, and that you want to help us. Yet you hurt us more by telling us in so many words, “Get over it.  It ain’t that serious. Don’t blame us for what one racist white person did.”  Well if you had gone through for one hour, what we have gone through for a lifetime, you’d understand why it’s more than serious…it’s killing us on a daily basis. So if you’re not going to at least talk to your people about the wrong they’re doing to mine, then don’t talk to me about letting it go. And just so you know, I’m saying that real LOUD.

I'll holla...


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Doing What We Do

I heard that, “Old men talk about what they’ve done, young men talk about what they’re doing, and fools talk about what they’re  going to do. I personally don’t consider myself young, old or a fool, and maybe that’s why I talk about all three. Another reason might be that I love to run my mouth and that 1) I want you to know what has happened in my life thus far, 2) what I’m doing with my life now, and 3) what I’m looking to do later on. Maybe it’ll help you maybe it won’t, but at least you’ll get a chance to decide whether what this old, young, or fool of a man is saying can help you in one way or another.

In regard to talking from each of the above perspectives, this is my 101st blog and 87th radio show so I’ve done a lot of talking. What I’m doing right now is writing blogs, hosting talk shows, traveling with my wife and babysitting our granddaughter. What I’m going to  do is move into another house, get some land and start manifesting the plan outlined in my earlier posting entitled “Billion Dollar Blog”

I believe that what the educator Carter G. Woodson implies in the opening statement, is that old men, young men, and fools talk a good game, but it’s what they actually do that really matters. We men have a tendency to embellish our conversations and often say that we’ve done more than we have actually done, that we’re doing more than we are really doing, and that we’re going to do more than we generally wind up doing. I take sides with Andrew Carnegie who said, “As I grow older I pay less attention to what men say, I just watch what they do.”

What it’s really all about ya’ll is simply doing what we do. You see each of us has been blessed with  something meaningful to do, and simply talking about it ain’t gonna get it done. Mr. Woodson is a renown educator, Carnegie an empire builder, and both of them have left us with legacies that speak volumes for their accomplishments. We might not reach their level of notoriety, but that does not diminish the importance of what we have been assigned to do. Be it shining shoes or singing the blues, if we don’t do what we’re supposed to do, the universe can’t respond with being all that it can be and, giving all that it’s capable of giving in return.

What is our assignment? Whatever it is that we’re doing right now as long as it’s not bringing harm to another. Doing what we do, and doing it as best we can is really all that matters. We needn’t worry about what to say cause what we do speaks for itself. It also goes without saying, that we can learn more from one’s example than we can from their conversation. So be okay with where you are, knowing that it’s exactly where you’re supposed to be, and understanding that it’s from where you are right now that  your greatness is going to come…as long as you persevere in striving to be all that you can be.

In regard to what I’ve done, what I’m doing right now, and what I’m getting ready to do…all I can say is watch my smoke cause I’m going to continue being me and I’m going to continue trying to be the best that I can be.

                                                                      
I’ll holla…


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Friday, May 29, 2015

I'm Still Ridin With The King

I heard the following words spoken by a guy in the year 2000, taken from a cut entitled ‘Riding With The King’,and I will always hold the speaker and this expression close to my heart.

I stepped out of Mississipi 
when I was 10 years old,
With a suit cut sharp as a razor
And a heart made of gold.
I had a guitar 
Hangin just about waist high
And I’m gonna play this thing
Til the day I die…

Yup. It’s B.B. King who passed this past Thursday, May 14, 2015. He was born Riley B. King on September 16, 1925, and took on the moniker  Blues Boy, while a Disc Jockey at radio station WDIA in Memphis, Tennessee. He has been recognized as B.B. King from that point forward.

When it comes to those we know, love and respect, the date of birth and date of transition may not always be remembered, but there is something in the dash that lies between those two dates that we’ll never forget. The phrase I opened this blog with is that something I’ll never forget about B.B., because from the time I first became interested in his music in 1968, I saw him live what he talked about. 

So many times we are limited in our ability to hear the story from what is called the ‘horses’ mouth’, and are restricted to biased media, and admittedly semi-factual websites like ‘Wikipedia’. Good fortune smiled on me again in this particular writing endeavor however, because last night, while my wife and I surfed the Netflix channel, what should pop up but a 2012 B.B. King documentary. So let me pass on to you, a bit of what B.B. and the people that knew him shared.

By 1940 his sole caretaker, his grandmother, had died, and at the age of 14 B.B. was on his own as a sharecropper, earning 35 cents per hundred pounds of cotton. He said he picked from ‘cain to cain’t’ which meant you picked from the time in the morning when you ‘cain’ see, till the time at night when you ‘cain’t’.

He had been farming since the age of 7 and said that he walked behind a plow mule for 18 years, 30 miles a day, 6 days a week, 6 months a year, and that if you add it up he had walked around the world. This work ethic transferred to his blues career where he averaged almost 300 one night stands a year. One of his wives, Sue Carol Hall, said he was on the road one year for 365 days, and another year, early one morning told her he was going fishing. When asked why he was wearing a silk suit, he responded…”Cause it’s all I got.”

B.B. King was a multi millionaire when he died and albeit money was certainly a catalyst and sustainer of the altered lifestyle that came with time, he never faltered in his mission. As he put it, “I want everybody to hear and know B.B. King and his music.

Something I noticed in watching that 2012 documentary, was an eighty-six year old blues legend who seemed to have no regrets. He had lost two wives to divorce, and had missed a lot of lost time that he could have spent with his children. His sentiments? “Marriage should not be a part of a musician’s life until he stops traveling, and I tell my kids, grandkids, and great grandkids I love them as much as I can, cause although I know he did, my daddy never told me."

We can definitely learn from others what to do and what not to do before we make that choice. What B.B. leaves with us is to be dedicated to what you do, but be aware of how what you do affects those everyone around you, especially those closest to you. He leaves a wonderful legacy but a somewhat broken family dream. Balance is what is missing in most of our lives, and every now and again we must STOP, reassess who and where we are in our quest, and then readjust whatever is needed to get back on track.

I thank B.B. King for sharing the joy and pain of his life with us all through his music, and for his ardent dedication to letting the world know that we all have a story to tell and must tell it through whatever means we have available to us. As B.B. has said to himself, I now say to you… “Saw a little boy remind me of me, and said what can I tell him? And I thought,…The sky’s the limit”.

I’ll holla…


To comment or respond please click on the word comments at the bottom of this page, or email me at grace.calvin187@gmail.com

Friday, May 22, 2015

Nine One One, Nine Eleven, Or Right Now


Reportedly, the first-ever 9-1-1 call was placed in 1968, and it was a testing of the efficiency of the system. The first 9-1-1 call I was ever affiliated with was placed in 1974. It was placed from a public phone booth near Chicago’s Dearborn Housing Projects, to the city’s police department, and was my cousin’s response to me experiencing a heroin overdose. Reportedly he called 911 two times, between three minute intervals. It was not until the third call however, when he announced that a white caseworker was unconscious in a black housing project, that an ambulance arrived almost immediately.

In 2001, when the twin tower incident (nine-eleven) occurred, I was a guest in the 73 story Detroit Marriott hotel, that is in very close proximity to Dearborn, Michigan, which has the largest Arab American population in the United States. After returning about 10:00 that morning from a cancelled conference , a note had been slipped under my hotel door informing me that I could stay that night, but that there would be no staff or hotel service available. I decided to stay, even though every body that didn’t live there was leaving by taxi, rental car, boat, or plane to get away from the preconceived danger.

The last 9-1-1 that I was involved in occurred in 2012, right here in Long Beach, California. About 3:00am one morning, our dog CoCo started barking, and my wife Nicole and I got out of bed to witness a man using all the effort he could muster to open our locked door. While Nicole inexplicably conversed with the 911 operator, I held the door knob and used every ounce of strength I had to offset the pressure that this much larger individual was applying to the wooden door frame. One police car finally arrived, then another, but the two police officers stood outside their vehicles with flashlights drawn, and waited until there were a total of four officers before they even approached the assailant.

What i garnered from these three experiences is: 1. Illegal drug use is hazardous to your health. 2. A response should not be entirely based on a group of peoples’ ethnicity or what another group of people think they might do, and 3. Don’t expect others to adequately serve and protect just because they wear uniforms that say they will. Unexpected circumstances are going to take place, yet how we respond is not always dependent on the initial situation because there might be other factors and other people over whom we have no control. What we can do, nonetheless, is prepare ourselves for whatever might take place.

Although I have no regrets toward how I’ve responded in the past, I know that it is imperative that I focus on right now, and do what I can to be prepared for what might happen later. What I’m doing along those lines is simply trying to be a better person today than I was yesterday.  I’m paying closer attention to what I’m doing, than to what’s being done around me. In that way, if a 911 situation materializes, I don’t have to worry about how to react…I can just go with the flow.


I’ll holla…


To comment or respond please click on the word comments at the bottom of this page, or email me at grace.calvin187@gmail.com




Friday, May 15, 2015

Experience 101

Experience is the best teacher, so how do we get our grades? The cut, ‘Hard Knock Life’,from the broadway hit ‘Annie’,speaks to how some people feel about life’s merit system. 

Steada treated, we get tricked  
Steada kisses, we get kicked 
It's the hard knock life!

What I’m hearing is that we want to be accepted and respected, but instead we’re being hoodwinked and rejected. What I’m believing is that life is simple but the way we approach it will determine the amount of hardship we encounter. In short, our attitude and actions will dictate how well we learn from what we’re experiencing. I’m doing my best to accept that people, including myself, are going to be who we are, and do what we do, until we make a spiritual decision to change. If I’m having a hard time dealing with others, or am upset about the situations I find myself in, then  my only option is to change.

Most of you already know about the discomforts I’ve experienced, like cancer, divorce, drug addiction, and racism. What you might not know is that I’ve been lied to, cheated, stolen from, and suffer from bouts of unworthiness and low self esteem. You wanna know how I feel about all of this? I am not alone. We all go through stuff, and as long as we’re living on this earthly realm, …it ain’t gon stop. It’s not about what happens to us, or who we think caused it, it’s about how we respond.

I thank God for my drug life, cause can’t too many people beat me out of money or compromise my financial well being. I knew that pimps, players and hustlers were in the night clubs and houses of ill repute, but now I know that they reside in executive offices and corporate boardrooms as well. I appreciate the illnesses I’ve endured because I’ve come to realize that all the surgeries, medications, herbs, and alternative treatments have their place, but faith and the desire to be healthy is what’s most important in the recovery process. Last but certainly not least, I thank all the haters and naysayers for not believing in me cause you only provoke me to be stronger in fulfilling my God-Given Purpose for being here. That purpose…To be of service to others.

Now don’t get it twisted. There's the good experiences as well, which teach us how important it is to give and to be grateful for what we receive. Y’all actually read my blogs and listen to my radio show. I’ve even been approached by those of you young and old, friend and stranger, who have thanked me for something I’ve said or done to enhance your life experience, and it’s those particular encounters that coerce me into wanting to do so much more.

Everyone, everywhere has had similar experiences, and my contention is that it is through these experiences that we grade ourselves. An acquisition of knowledge is fine, but a Bachelor, Master, or Doctorate Degree in life skills is what makes us who we are. We will continue to  experience life, and it's how we respond to its challenges that will determine our grade point average.

I’ll Holla…


To comment or respond please click on the word comments at the bottom of this page, or email me at grace.calvin187@gmail.com

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Someone You Should Know

We called her GaGa. Maybe it was because she was from Louisiana and it was a Creole idiom for grandmother. Or maybe it was because her oldest granddaughter had a speech impediment early on, and couldn’t say ‘grandmama’. Whatever the case, you might not have known Loretta Davenport Smith, but you knew GaGa.

She came to Chicago in 1920 with her mother Celestine Barber, and at the age of 16 she married Roosevelt Davenport with whom she had three children:  Calvin, Madeline, and Nathaniel. They all lived with Roosevelt’s mother and stepfather Georgia and Earl Jennings, in a kitchenette apartment, at 5526 S. Michigan. 

Times were tough back then because of the Great Depression, and employment wasn’t on an upward swing until America entered World War II in 1941. The Works Progress Administration, formed in 1939, provided hard earned, honest money for Earl and his stepson Roosevelt. GaGa, on the other hand, got involved in what was called  ‘policy’. She wrote numbers for patrons in betting parlors, and delivered numbered slips and money to the policy headquarters located in a basement apartment on 54th and Prairie. Dangerous and illegal, but steady income, this precursor to today’s lottery was one of her earlier means of contributing to the family’s financial well-being.

Now GaGa was very fair-skinned with hazel eyes that turned gray or blue dependent on the color of her attire. Had she so desired, she could have easily passed for white but her refusal to do so caused her to be denied a job at Marshall Fields which her fair complexioned friend accepted without hesitation. GaGa’s favorite phrase, ‘Got to keep on keepin on’ was a never ending stimulus, and she was seldom without employment. She held several ‘legal’ occupations, the most sustainable being a waitress at an army officers’ club. From our conversations, her presence there can ironically be attributed to her being able to pass Hollywood’s ‘brown bag test’.

GaGa’s husband’s unfaithfulness, and her son Calvin’s heroin addiction caused her extreme vexation for several years. After a divorce she met Reon Smith, whom she married, and who was very adamant about moving to California. Wanting to start a new life, and seeing an opportunity to be relieved of her son’s continued harassment for money,  she and her new husband, in their mid fifties, moved to LA. Reon died suddenly a few years later, she remained in LA, but decided, at the age of 70, to return to Chicago.

She moved into a building about 5400 North, in a predominantly white area. At the age of 75 she shared with us that she wanted a companion. When asked why she didn’t pursue one she responded that there were only white men available, and  that she preferred men of the black persuasion. Within a month or so, after being informed that elderly black men frequently gathered at a McDonald’s on 7800 South Cottage Grove, she had moved into a building on 7600 South Maryland, 3 blocks from that particular McDonalds. 

Being the enterprising person she was, Ga Ga had no need to go to 7800 South Cottage Grove. Soon after the move, she came down from her apartment on the sixth floor and noticed an appealing gentleman in the lobby. She leisurely approached him and inquired if he knew how to defrost a freezer. He replied that he did and although the freezer was never defrosted they developed and maintained an intimate relationship for the next 15 years. They totall enjoyed traveling together and alternating their overnight night stays between her sixth, and his fourth floor apartment. According to GaGa , she had never been that happy in her entire life.

Today would have been her 101st birthday. I remember the day before she left this earthly realm, when just before her 91st birthday she announced, “If you want to see GaGa again, you’d better do it today”. I didn’t see her that day but I called that night. “How you doing GaGa?”, I asked. “I’m doing well”, she responded, “Just waiting on my mother”. Evidently her mother came, cause early the next morning, Ga Ga had passed on. 

The GaGa I speak of is my grandmother ya’ll, I love her, I appreciate the legacy she left, and I feel that she’s someone you should know. I ask that you join with me in saying ‘HAPPY BIRTHDAY GAGA’, and implore you to at least consider her conviction to ‘keep on keepin on’, despite all odds, cause someday someway it’s gon all work out…in this realm and in the next.

I’ll holla… 


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