Archive for the ‘Life’ Category

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General Jeff Skid Row Activist

I’ve just come in from the funeral of Charly Lendeu Keunang aka Africa. It is the culmination of a very long and sometimes stressful journey. You may remember Charly. He was gunned down on the mean streets of skid row by the Los Angeles Police Department. It was a shooting that took place amid the national epidemic of police involved shootings that finds black men dead in cases where other methods could have seemingly been utilized. The shooting was deemed justified so once again, officers get away with what appears to be murder.

Allow me to briefly share and describe the Journey that’s got us here today.  On Sunday night March 1, I saw the news.. you saw the news… millions saw the news… I saw the youtube video.. you saw the youtube video… millions saw the youtube video. There was a struggle…. LAPD shoots and kills a homeless man on Skid Row….

The narrative quickly emerged that this man attempted to take an officers gun – a feat that seems nearly impossible in my eyes especially as one is getting wrestled, tazed PLUS 6 rough and tumble LAPD officers are there to take the man into custody. Besides the officer’s armaments are designed to prevent such an easy snatch…..

The narrative quickly emerged that Brother Africa was a mentally ill homeless man living on Skid Row…. They said he did time in the penitentiary… They say he used a stolen identity… The positioning of the entire narrative was designed to discredit and say to society that this man was someone who we could just throw away and forget about. It gave the general market a chance to say ok. well.. it’s ok that they killed him. No one knows him anyway.

Charles Keunang, the homeless man who was fatally shot by police on Skid Row, was laid to rest at Holman United Methodist Church in Los Angeles Saturday, May 16, 2015.

Concerned citizens gathered in the sanctuary of Holman United Methodist Church to honor the life of Charly L. Keunang (left), killed by LAPD on Skid Row

It is here that the LORD moved in my heart. Skid Row is a troubling place to be.. It is rock bottom for many.It’s the proverbial no-brainer to note that something happened in the man’s life that got him to Skid Row in the first place. So why focus so much on his past? Why so assertive to advance such a denigrating description of Africa? Why assassinate his character? Does this give way to society’s approval of the hard hand of deadly force used in this case by the LAPD? Because the man made certain choices in life does this give you cause to shoot to kill? Africa is a child of God.. even in his condition… Even in his struggle of life on earth, God loves him…. Jesus loves him… and so I was led to personally go out on Skid Row to seek the answer to the question who is Africa? How did his neighbors and loved ones in context of the Skid Row community know him? Where is his family?

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Charly’s grieving mother….

For 8 evenings I went out on Skid Row talking to residents of the street… I called my activist friends… I called General Jeff – I know he is active on Skid Row.. I called Najee Ali – I know he’s going to be on the case… I even called Reverend Andy Bale of the Union Rescue Mission…. What are we going to do? What do you know? I believe there is a different narrative than what we are hearing on the news… This is a human being we are talking about.. In spite of his choices, in spite of his condition this man needs to be funeralized…. He needs to be memorialized…. If we don’t act he will be thrown away… another anonymous homeless person discarded by the system…….

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Rev. Kelvin Sauls, Pastor Holman United Methodist Church

Jeff and Najee urged me to go to a meeting held by the Community Action Network where they introduced me to Pete White. And so we went to work…. Seeking to have a memorial service. Reverend Andy Bale used his
influence to put me in contact with the highest level of the County Medical Examiner’s office…. I wanted to find out what they would do with the Body… It was through this contact that I learned Africa’s true name. It was through this contact that I learned that Charly has a family. It was through this contact that I learned that Charly was Cameroonian. And that the family had enlisted the support of David Singui to handle their affairs in this tragic time.

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Minister Gregory L. Johnson             West Angeles Church of God in Christ     KJLH Radio

I had to searched the internet to make contact with David, and in that search I met Cameroonians from Arkansas who told me that they could find him. The next day, they introduced me to Emanuel Nahslai one of the family’s legal representatives. David reached out to me and we connected and began this journey together. I was led by the Lord to reach out to Rev. Kelvin Sauls who up until this point I had not formally met but I knew that his church broadcasts on 102.3 Radio Free KJLH where I serve as the Marketing Director. I also knew that he is from South Africa and could be a powerful catalyst for the mobilization of Africans and African-Americans in this case.

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David Gedeon Singui President, Cameroonian Community-LA

And so two months later, we are gathered together… Africans, African-Americans and those who are concerned about black life… Those who would say no to unbridled Police violence.. Those who agree that Charly Lendeu Keunang deserves the dignity of a funeral… the dignity of memorialization and the unity of community to bring peace and offer condolence to his family…. We have found Charly… and we honor his life

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To my daughter: It would seem that an open letter is the only way that we can communicate. This is very very personal, but I don;t care. You have falsely led yourself to believe that we are not to have any relationship at all. And so I take to social media to talk to you. I don’t know if you will ever read this. But hopefully someone will see it, share it with you, and you will have the opportunity to read the pain that I feel. Perhaps you will even recognize that  tremendous pain. I am aware of the snide and sometimes hurtful posts about me that you have made on past Father’s Days. You have created this less than truthful truth in your mind. Nonetheless, you are hurt and you feel that I have not been there for you. I want to address that with this letter.

No. I was not there in your childhood. Being the honorable man that I am, I am very sorry for this.  I divorced your mother when you were very young. There is no way in this earth that she and I could have stayed together. I’m sorry that you had to deal with life without your father because of it. However, you and I both know that you can never truthfully claim that you did not know your dad.

You are a grown woman now. twice married, with four beautiful children. Yet, you have completely abandoned your kids. And I am left to raise two of them while your brother raises the other two. This comes at great sacrifice. Our own families have suffered. Our lives have been paused, re-arranged and altered just so we can take care of your children. And not even once, have you reached out to them., tried to participate in raising them, nor even uttered a thank you to us for stepping in and taking care of your kids.

While you hide behind claims that I wasn’t there for you, please note I was there to counsel you when you met Robert who told you he was going to join the Army and take care of you and your first-born. Of course you did not listen and married him anyway. But you quickly found out why I counseled against it. You’d just had the twins when he left you with no food in the house and no way to buy some while he went on a military exercise. You had to approach the Red Cross to get assistance. Then he assaulted a superior officer, got locked up and subsequently kicked out of the Army. You had no place to go. But I was there for you- opening my home to you and three children. A complete and sudden about face in my life.

We could not take your irresponsibility. I labored to find assistance for you.. support.. guidance. But you lied about going to appointments. Refused to do anything around the house…Not only did you turn our household upside down, you gave me a very hard time with disobedience, irresponsibility and general trifling behavior. You and your kids – a two newborns and a toddler. And so I took you back to your husband where you promptly had another child although your life was topsy turvy.

I was there for you when he got arrested the first time. And this is when you again refused my advice and counsel and even stopped returning my calls. Robert is now doing a life term for murder. I said it then and I’ll say it now. That could have been you. I don’t believe he did not abuse you. Not one bit.

The next time we would see each other is when I had to track you down in the city to tell you that your grandfather was gravely ill. That’s when i learned that you had gotten married a second time. To Akeem. Now, I don’t know what kind of young man this is. I do know that you and he led a very unholy lifestyle. One that deeply harmed your children in thier formative years. And as I came to observe your life at this time, I tried to counsel you again.. I was there for you.

Yes. I was there for you. As you and he lead a sordid lifestyle that I will never ever understand, I began to observe how neglected you left the children. Colicky, filthy… wild. I stepped in gradually. When you started relying heavily on your mom’s parents to raise them (they were in thier 80’s!!!) I was there for you – participating in the school activities because you and your mom refused to do so. Keeping up with thier progress. and while doing so I began to learn about the mental effects from that which you had been exposing them to. I was there for you when the authorities removed them from your care.

Yes. I was there for you. I went to the hearing to get them out of the childrens shelter. I was there. Your mother was there. and you elderly grandparents were there. The authorities asked your mother if she would continue to care for the boys. She said no. They would not allow your grandparents to continue and rightfully so. But then they asked you about your caring for the children. You sat there and said absolutely nothing. Not one word. Not a groan, an utterance… NOTHING! But I was there. and so i signed to take custody of the boys. And that was the ONLY reason they were not permanently removed, I was there for you.

I did not take the boys because I wanted to work with you to create a situation where the authorities would see you were trying to be a responsbile mother and therefor would allow the boys back into your care. We went to the mandatory guardianship orientation. You were late. I observed you in the parking lot sitting in your car. And then, to my bewilderment, you just drove off. Not only did you drive off you lied to me about being there. wow. I was there for you.

Each week thereafter I learned more and more about the neglect you were imposing on your children. I observed them at their school with shoes in serious disrepair. Dirty and oversized clothing, unwashed faces, hungry, just general neglect. On my way to my daily commute I would stop by the school and groom them. I was there for you.

And then the school meeting….. I drove down to San Diego for this meeting with the authorities. You mother was there. You were there. There were some deep seated and serious emotional issues. Issues of abuse. Your new boyfriend had taken the abuse to a whole other level. In attendance at that meeting was also the Child authorities. Again, you mother refused to care for the children but because i had already promised to take the boys in, I had to take them back with me to Los Angeles. And so I have them now. I was there for you.

Since they have been here we have learned of the tremendous abuse you have imposed on your children. Since they have been here, my family life has been strained, changed. My career path has been altered. The children exhibit very serious and sometimes dangerous mental health issues. All stemming from the lifestyle you led around them. There is unspeakable trauma while under your care. There is crazy CRAZY behavior that is beyond my comprehension. There is violent, emotional distress. There is long term mental health evaluation because of overtly violent behavior. This all stems from what you did to them – what you exposed them to. And yet. I am here for you.

I am here for you, daughter. In a way that is so much deeper than you could imagine. I am sacrificing all for the life of your children. My family life is damaged and strained. My stress level is increased. I have to be vigilant because something could happen at anytime. That phone could ring. We have had to deal with multiple hospitalizations(mental hospitals), encounters with law enforcement, therapists, social workers and so many more intense and uncomfortable situations. Yeah. I am there for you.

Meanwhile you go about your days, enjoying your life. It’s as if you haven’t a care in the world. Your great job, so you say. Your happy hours, going out with your friends… yeah. you are living it up. You have NEVER reached out to your kids. You have never thanked us for raising your children. You have never expressed any emotion, opinion, input about the situation with your children… crickets. But yet, you will post some sort of cryptic message about your father and how he was never there for you.

There is so much more I could write in this blog – but In the end, we are doing the best that we can for your children. We are all that they have. When you formally gave up your rights, you effectually ended your relationship with them. And so, we raise them and we love them.

Yes Daughter. I am there for you.

I am still outraged that George Zimmerman was acquitted of murdering Trayvon Martin. I am suspect of Florida’s Stand Your Ground Laws. I am convinced that mandatory sentencing guidelines are overly harsh in most cases and affect black folk and other minorities disproportionately. And while I reeled from the news of Zimmerman’s acquittal, I was hit in the gut again by the news that Marissa Alexander faced decades in jail as she defended herself from an abusive mate. Her defense rested on the controversial Stand Your Ground Law after she fired a warning shot near or at her abusive husband. Marissa claims she was protecting herself from another attack at the hands of her man. She “stood her ground”. Instead of Justice, Marissa was sentenced to 20 years in prison, igniting a firestorm of objection and protest across the country, particularly from black Americans still reeling from the Zimmerman verdict.

The anger I felt as this woman’s picture was showing up time and again in my social media timelines, usually accompanied by the headline or status update that all she was doing was defending herself against an abusive male. I saw images of an innocent mother. That’s somebody’s sister…. another innocent sista trapped in an abusive relationship… There are so many stories like this in our community, I was thinking…. I was like dag.. yet another brotha beating down his woman…. I had sympathy for Marissa…. Compassion. I joined in the voices that said “INJUSTICE!! DISCRIMINATION!!! UNFAIR!!! Yes. On the surface, it appears that Marissa would be yet another black person unjustly consumed by the court system in America. A fact made worse because the case is in Florida.

Then I began to seek the facts. Facts that reveal why Marissa’s Stand Your Ground defense was turned away at pre-trial hearings. Facts that also demonstrate why Marissa was convicted on multiple charges and sentenced to a mandatory 20 years. After only 12 minutes of deliberation, the jury convicted Marissa of three counts of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon. (Click here to read the actual court documents) So then what happened?? How did we get to this point???

(Note: As of June 10, a retrial was postponed to December, while the state learns if the New Warning Shot bill will be passed or not)

On July 31, 2010, Marissa left her newborn child in the hospital days after giving birth to visit the home of Rico Gray, her husband. The couple had gotten married in May, but Marissa had not lived with Rico for two months prior to the shooting incident. When she got there, Rico wasn’t home so she parked her car in the garage and waited. She spent the night but Rico did not come home until the morning along with his two sons. Sounds like everything is cool, because they all sat down and had breakfast. Everything is great. But then Marissa gave her phone to Rico so he could see pics of their newborn who was still in the hospital. She gave him the phone and then got up to go to the restroom. Rico found text message conversations between Marissa and her Ex. Rico got mad and confronted her as to whether the baby was even his. You know that set it off, right? And so it was on…. Rico prevented Marissa from leaving the bathroom at first, but she managed to get around him and exited. According to experts, this is where the Stand Your Ground laws went awry.

Marissa’s actions at this point made the difference. Marissa exited the restroom and went to the master bedroom. Rico left the bedroom and headed to the living room. His sons were there. Marissa then leaves the bedroom, walks past Rico and the kids, straight to her car where she got a gun from her glovebox. She came back into the kitchen and pointed it at all three(Rico and his two sons). Rico put his hands in the air but Marissa fired anyway narrowly missing Rico’s head and sending a bullet through the kitchen and into the ceiling of the living room….. dayum!!!! Rico got the heck outta there with his sons and called 911. Marissa stayed at the house but never did call 911. It should be noted here that Rico did have a history of abuse against Marissa and other chicks. One such incident sent Marissa to the hospital with head injuries after he shoved her into a bathtub.    Court Record of Gray's 2009 Domestic Battery ArrestIn the following legal actions, they decide to depose Rico. And wouldn’t you know it.. the couple is now conspiring to keep the laws out of their business. Rico said he had all but threatened to kill Marissa. He said she couldn’t leave the house through the garage because it was broken and that she never pointed a gun at him or his kids. But that was a completely different account than what he gave to the cops. Then, after swearing in court that she would have no contact with Rico, she continued to see him. In fact, when the court dismissed Marissa’s Stand Your Ground defense, the judge noted that not only did Marissa continue to see Rico even after swearing not to, Rico and her discussed what Rico should say during the deposition!!!! Shady…

Rico says he lied in his deposition to protect Marissa. Further, after Marissa was convicted and sentenced to 20 years, she requested a retrial. At that hearing, Rico said he never threatened to kill her and said he begged and pleaded for his life when she had the gun. To make things worse, while she was out on bail and awaiting trial from the shooting charges, Marissa was arrested for domestic battery against Rico. Apparently she came to drop off their child at the house and they started arguing because he would not allow her to stay overnight. Police were called but Marissa had fled the scene. But not before she left Rico with a swollen eye and bloodied.  Po- Po caught up with Marissa about an hour later and of course Marissa claimed to not know what “this was all about” – she had an alibi. But as he police kept questioning her, the story changed with Marissa claiming that in fact she had gone to Rico’s house but he attacked her with his fists because she wouldn’t stay overnight. But Marissa had no visible injuries….Marissa Alexander's December 2010 Arrest Report Marissa was arrested and her bail revoked.

Needless to say, Marissa’s case has a lot of issues. She had choices when she felt she was in “life threatening danger” – leave through the front door, back door or garage. She stayed in the house and although she and Rico said the garage was broken, police were not able to confirm.

Marissa says it was only a warning shot, but she shot at Rico, narrowly missing him. The fact that she shot at him and did not hit him in the body presents the argument that she wasn’t trying to kill him so why fire at all. She was never in life threatening danger. She never called the police. If she was in fear for her life, she should have dialed 911.

She kept returning to the house even after the court ordered her not to. She did not fear Rico as she had previously claimed.

The last arrest for Domestic violence while she was out on bail coupled with the fact that she lied to police about even being there demonstrates that she was not in fear of her life…..

In the end, this case is sad. It is the story of a tragic and, in my opinion trifling couple with severe anger issues. Marissa clearly has issues within this relationship. Rico clearly has violence issues. But they keep seeing each other… They keep trying to protect one another… Thier relationship is a messy mess and now Marissa will have to do major time for her actions. The pictures we see with the status sentences and twitter updates present an entirely different picture of this woman. We are led to say poor Marissa…. but in fact, this relationship was a mess. Clearly Marissa is not some helpless victim of domestic violence. They maintained a messy, violent relationship. Abusers of one another. They clearly need anger management and mental health counseling.

Now I am not saying the sentence isn’t too harsh. I am all for seeking justice where injustice has been applied. I am saying that I need to sit this one out and see how it shakes out. I am saying that besides whatever the courts are going to do with Marissa, this couple needs mental health and anger management treatment. This dysfunctional relationship has caused a world of pain.

Marissa Alexander. A symbol of American injustice? not so fast is what I say…. I wish her luck…. It’s all unfortunate. But this one? Not so fast…..

And so I originally wrote this from the solitude of a hospital room. Yes. After years and years of basically perfect health, I experienced a severe pulmonary embolism upon my return from South Africa. I did not move about the cabin enough during the 18 hour trans-Atlantic flight and as we returned to the states, blood clots formed in the legs, travelled to and lodged in my lungs rendering me unconscious, short of breath and near death at a point. A life threatening health issue.

I am ok now, anxious to get back to full and complete health. As I sit here in the loneliness of my hospital room, my experience has ignited a firestorm of thoughts, introspection and contemplations. Here are some of my thoughts:

Thank God for Health Insurance – Even as the politicians quibble about ObamaCare, it’s easy to lose sight of the fact that serious health issues can occur at anytime to anyone. I am a living witness have never experienced life threatening illness or health trauma, that things can go downhill fast. I shudder to imagine what this treatment and recovery would be like without insurance. I am blessed and I know it.

Pragmatic quality of care – I have to mention that the doctors and hospital staff have been excellent. Sure there have been one or two staffers who are seemingly detached from the personal connection between patient/caregiver – a quality that surely must be a prerequisite for this line of work; however, nearly all have been patient, kind, and most importantly it appears that they were genuinely concerned for my well-being and complete recovery.

Spiritual Care – My hospital is run by the Catholic Church. On my first day, the priest came by and seemed surprised that I had my Bible open and ready to read. He took a couple of steps BACK and muttered something about if I pray for him, he’ll pray for me. And then he hurried out of the room. The next day, he came to the ward, but did not attempt to approach my room. I was a little perplexed. So I hurried up and call my COGIC family. Spiritual Care for this non-Catholic was severely lacking. Glad I had backup!!!

Personal Introspect – I am keenly aware that I am one of God’s elect. This is not an emotional or shallow impulse. This is a declaration of unabashed truth. As I follow God’s calling on my life I see that the devil tried to kill me. But God Blocked it. He preserved me. He protected me. He reminded me that He has so much more for me to do.. He has charted a course of meaningful ministry opportunity… a course of career opportunities that will impact the world and underscore His glory in the earth.

I am thankful to God for preservation!!!! And the road I walk is much more illuminated and life is more precious in my sight….

I am, like some, if not most of you, perplexed, profoundly disappointed, positively angered, and even peeved at the verdict in the George Zimmerman Trial. Yes. I understand that the prosecution was unable to prove beyond a reasonable doubt, Zimmerman’s intention to kill Trayvon in cold blood. Based on the circumstances as I have come to understand them, Zimmerman saw a young black teen dressed in the urban fashion of the day – the hoodie – walking through hs neighborhood. He assumed Trayvon Martin was up to no good, even calling 911 to report this “suspicious” person. Zimmerman follows him even after the authorities admonish him to cease. He confronts the young man, a struggle ensues and in the end, 17-year-old Trayvon Martin is dead. Shot point-blank by George Zimmerman. Now, this sounds like a murder to me. But yet, the jury did not, or could not see it this way. Not Guilty. A justifiable homicide perpetrated in self-defense.

Brothers and Sisters, it seems that everywhere we go, we have to prove our right to be there. We still have to possess a “pass” to be in a place and time. Even President Barack Obama has been challenged as to his “place” in American history. Remember the “birther movement”? Trayvon was killed because he was apparently “not in his place” as interpreted by George Zimmerman. There is great disagreement on this point, mostly along racial lines. Most blacks say that Trayvon was profiled. Most whites will say that George had a right to question confront and even kill Trayvon because of his erred assessment that Trayvon did not belong in that area. They will say that George had a right to “stand his ground” based on his assumption of danger. A fatal assumption. A tragic error in judgement.

And so, we’ve seen the masses of the people take to the streets…. angry. protesting. civilly disobedient. To borrow an old civil rights adage, we are sick and tired of being sick and tired. Yet the Word lets us know that George Zimmerman is not getting off…

“Anyone tormented by the guilt of murder will seek refuge in the grave; let no one hold them back” Proverbs 28:17

‘Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord. Romans 12:19

And so, as Christians, we need to stand down.

Now I am not at all suggesting that we abandon the fight against social injustice. After all, the struggle continues but always to God be the Glory…. and Black folk know all too well about assumptions and how it can lead to egregious circumstances, hurt feelings and irreparable social damage. I am saying that while we stand down, the consciousness of the nation has demanded dialogue and introspect among the citizens thus you may consider this a situational analysis from a Christian perspective.

How many times, brothers, have you walked onto the elevator and the white women clutch even the more tightly, her purse? How many times have you, while on your way to a meeting or presentation, have you been mistaken for the bellboy, maitre’ D’, security, waiter, attendant et. al…. How many times have you been followed – with a pocket full of money- in the mall….. How many.. O how many times have you been pulled over by Johnny Law because they assumed you were in the wrong area or up to no good? Or at work, where your so-called white friends make those jokes about black people and then look you dead in the eye and explain to you that you’re different and they are not talking about you.  Assumptions.

Profiling is a reality to black men…. The responsible black father of sons would be remiss if he did not have the talk about how to conduct themselves with the police… It is as important as the inevitable “sex talk”…. Because as my mother would say at each victory of the civil rights movement, “The more things change, the more they stay the same”…. I am not saying we hold hate in our hearts. As followers of Jesus we are mandated to “Love ye one to another”. I am saying that as we move about this world, we must be aware that even in this day and age, even as there is a black man and his family in the White House,  folk still make assumptions based on race. Yes, beloved, you can adjudicate and make or change laws, but you cannot change the hearts of people.

And then again, beloved isn’t it amazing that even as we protest, jump up and down and scream against profiling, that we are the biggest profilers on the earth?? Oh you know how we get… My brothers see one another in the street and we give the side eye, looking each other up and down, making sure we are “right”…. Sisters cutting their eyes at one another saying “who do she think she is” all because sisters dress is cut a certain way or her hair is done or the eye shadow color is different than hers….. Reality shows are now taking our profiling tendencies and broadcasting them across the world for all to see that black folk are the champions of profiling and assumption….

We profile one another based on skin color. Light skin, dark skin…. how is it that the darker brethren are made to feel inferior to those black folk who have lighter skin…. Some of y’all don’t want your daughter to marry Tyrone…. it doesnt matter that he is top of the class… has a job… is drug free… is not a hoodlum or a thug… no not at all, he may have it going on except for one thing… he’s too dark. Yes, we profile based on skin color, geography, what kind of car we drive or not…. frat or no… soror or no… we profile even unto the hair texture and style we choose to wear…. Black people are the consummate profilers of black people and our assumptions derived from that profile are in alot of cases even more hurtful and more deadly than that of the police and our white brethren. Fatal assumptions.

Black folk are killing each other in droves based on profiles… assumptions…. you wear red so I gotta kill you because I wear blue. I have to shoot you because you live on the south side and I live on the north side. Our profiles of one another are making the funeral man very busy and very rich… The hood is full of mothers who, like Sabryna Fulton, have lost a son to gun violence. The only difference is that an assumption by black folk lead to the tragic loss of life. Mothers are seeking justice. Mother’s are asking where is the march for the killing of my own son at the hands of his own????  Why is the outrage so strong when the “other man” profiles and life is lost. Our sons were also profiled… assumptions were made and the result is fatal. The only difference is that the perpetrator was another black man….. Where is Justice?

“Fools base their thoughts on foolish assumptions, so their conclusions will be wicked madness” – Ecclesiastes 10:13

In the church,  where you would think folk are more sensitive to the hurtful nature of false assumptions, we are prolific profilers. We make hurtful assumptions based on appearance and even worse, gossip innuendos. We hoop, holler and dance every week. We walk around all deep but cannot even lend a helping hand in the name of Christian charity because we are too busy profiling and assuming the worse in people.  I heard a story about a pastor who was assigned a new church…. thousands of members…. On the Sunday when he was to be introduced to the congregation, he decided to dress like a homeless man. He came to church early and sat around watching the congregants arrive. He got up, walked around to shake hands… no one would shake his hands… He asked for some change for food… no one would reach in their pocket to help…. Some congregants whispered behind his back…. others looked on his clothing in severe disdain.. others just straight laughed…… Church got started and the choir sang songs….. then the assistant pastor takes the mic. He announces that they have a new pastor and asked the congregation to stand and welcome their new man of God….. As the congregation stood, they opened with thunderous applause – applause that began to fade when they saw the “homeless” man walking toward the podium. By the time he reached the mic, the entire church was stone cold silent. The pastor stood at the podium, surveyed his new congregation and began his message with Matthew 24: 42 -51

42“Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come. 43But understand this: If the owner of the house had known at what time of night the thief was coming, he would have kept watch and would not have let his house be broken into. 44So you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him.

45“Who then is the faithful and wise servant, whom the master has put in charge of the servants in his household to give them their food at the proper time? 46It will be good for that servant whose master finds him doing so when he returns. 47Truly I tell you, he will put him in charge of all his possessions. 48But suppose that servant is wicked and says to himself, ‘My master is staying away a long time,’ 49and he then begins to beat his fellow servants and to eat and drink with drunkards. 50The master of that servant will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he is not aware of. 51He will cut him to pieces and assign him a place with the hypocrites, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

He also shared Hebrews 13:2 -Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it.

Would you profile Jesus? “But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.” Mark 13:32. Would you look upon his face and make assumptions based on your assessment of how you think he should look? His hair? his clothes, the way he walked??? The color of his skin???

That assumption could be fatal for your soul……

I recently returned from a trip to South Africa. It was an incredible experience.  No.  It was more than that.  I don’t really have a single word in my vocabulary to describe the experience. The concept of global travel is exciting enough but this trip left me in a special state. The essence of South Africa touched my consciousness to it’s very core.

From the start I immersed myself into the culture of this beautiful country. I was eager to learn the folkways and mores of the society. I was intensely and keenly tuned into the music of the land. I was sensitive to the powerful euphoria of freedom which had only blanketed this country since 1994…. Yes, it has only been 19 years since the abolishment of apartheid. And the scars on the people and scenery were certainly fresh…..

Our flight to Johannesburg from Los Angeles was certainly long and was a reminder that South Africa is indeed on the other side of the world… We departed LAX at 9:45pm Friday night and did not land in South Africa until around 11am Sunday Morning…. Even as we endured that marathon flight, we did not take time to rest, for Luke, our tour organizer had a full and complete schedule in store for us..

After a nice lunch in Nelson Mandela Square, we boarded our bus and headed to the Apartheid Museum. It was here that I realized that the foundation of the system of Apartheid was rooted in the South African Gold mining boom. I would learn of life under apartheid and I would learn about the legacy of SA’s Freedom Fighters. The visit to the museum was really short as we were on a tight time schedule. However, the Apartheid Museum was a very emotional experience for me and set the tone for what and how I would process the cultural and sociological essence of the country.

And while we visited various parts of Johannesburg, the scars of the precious metal and mineral mines on the land were painfully obvious to me. Not only did the Europeans oppress the people in the name of greed, they oppressed the land in the process.

Our visit to Soweto was indeed eye opening. Soweto is the largest black township in South Africa and is the epicenter of the struggle against the racist system. During the era of Apartheid, the government forced non-blacks out of the cities into townships. In fact, the very name of Soweto is a government designated acronym SOuth WEstern TOwnship.

We entered the gates of Soweto and drove to Freedom Square, where the leaders of the movement crafted the charter which is now the essence of South Africa’s modern constitution. The tour of Soweto left me speechless for most of the day… I detached from my group… There was so much to process, so much to understand… I had to come to terms with walking the streets of Kliptown where there was no running water nor paved streets… I had to manage my emotions stirred by the children who reside in the orphanage known as Soweto Kliptown Youth… I had to deal with the gravity of thought that the people of Soweto were living evidence of the brutality of the Apartheid system. The atmosphere was charged with the essence of the struggle. It was indeed haunting, electric and sobering all at once… However at the epicenter of all of these raw emotions was the sense of hope… Hope in the notion that all cultures and races can live together as one… Yes, the streets of Soweto were bathed in the blood of the lost in the name of Freedom, but they were rinsed clean by the essence of hope…

At the end of the day, we visited the street where Archbishop Desmond Tutu lived.. On that same street stood the home of Nelson Mandela (who I learned was called Madiba by most blacks in South Africa). I had a chance to tour the small residence.. I put my fingers in the bullet holes left by police and hate groups over the years… I walked in the rooms occupied by Nelson, Winnie and the children…. It was indeed surreal…

I must mention that in addition to seeing the homes of these great Nobel Peace Prize winners, we were treated to a luncheon at one of the areas popular restaurants and while we ate, we experienced a private musical showcase by a local band. This was most tasty…

As much as I wanted to celebrate and be happy, I still found myself in a sort of melancholy yet reflective state. I could not help but find all the crap we put each other through as black people in America seems so trivial compared to the streets and recent history of Soweto.. Yes, recent because one has to remember that my people over there have only been free since 1994….

It would be the visit to Hector Pietersen Museum that would push my emotions over the top… The museum stood as testament to the 1976 Soweto Uprising. Here students took to the streets in protest of Apartheid in general but specifically protested against the required learning of the Afrikaans language as part of the curriculum. The students staged a massive walkout and although the action was peaceful, the police shot into the crowd. Hector Pietersen was a fifth grader who was the first to fall. More than 400 children would die on that day and the Museum tells the story. It is fascinating.

As one walks into the museum, they are met with a huge panoramic wall photograph of the students as they marched in the streets. It is a sight to behold. On the left is a garden with hundreds of bricks strewn about. On each brick are the names of the fallen students. It was here that I would lose it… I cried. It was was just too overwhelming to understand that so many children lost their lives in the interest of freedom.

In the end, I have come to identify with the cultural volcano that is Johannesburg. The music, the people, the food, the history all resonated deeply within me…

The trip to South Africa was life changing on a lot of levels… My next few posts will attempt to define the essence of my experience…

Amandla!

As I move about the ‘hood, I am flabbergasted, repulsed and incensed at how many of my people spit. No, I’m not talking about spittin’ game or spittin’ dope lyrics. Naw. I am talking about honking up a mouthful of mucous and spewing it onto the sidewalk without regard to the community and the people around you. Brothas are just hocking logies all over the hood. Our sidewalks are filled with black stains of spit balls. Sometimes, one might even get a shower because the spitter just spews his logie without regard to whomever is in the vicinity. The other day I was walking on the sidewalk, and this brotha just let one go without looking. His spit ball came within inches of my face. It was a nasty close call and the brotha had absolutely no clue that he had almost clocked me with his spit.

folk are hocking logies all over the 'hood!!

folk are hocking logies all over the ‘hood!!

I wonder what’s the origin of such ill-mannered habits. Is this an epidemic of sinus mucous??  Is it the dreaded tuberculosis disease? What in tarnation is the origin of this spitting epidemic.

What is it’s purpose?

I turned to google in search of an answer.

I was surprised to learn that while I and others in our community are thoroughly offended by this repulsive action, white people have also noticed this disturbing phenomenon. Their interpretation of brotha’s spitting is of a racial nature. They regard a brotha’s need to spit as an indication of racial hatred. Further, I have learned that they have categorized this perceived racial hatred as a racial gender thing. White Women are wondering why brothas spit when they see them coming. They interpret the spitting action as a racial affront. To them, it’s as if brothas are spewing the taste of white women out of their mouth.

White men are enraged when they see the brothas spit. They see it as an expression of racial hatred and a serious challenge or confrontation.

To me, it’s not that deep. This nasty habit has nothing to do with a racial clash. Let’s just call it what it is… A disgusting habit that has nothing to do with race but everything to do with nastiness. My people, My people, My people!!!!!