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Thursday, September 30, 2010

Did desegregation really work out for Africa-America? Not so much for my hood!

Imagine if you will the neighborhood that I come from. It is sometime between 1930-1960 in 5th Ward Texas. The area is bustling with growth, home ownership, trailblazing good schools, doctor’s offices, dentist offices, printing plants, photography studios, many entertainment venues, professional people, and little crime relative to today’s onslaught. There are current prominent people as well as those that would make their mark on the world that are proud to call it home: Julia C. Hester (Hester House namesake), Barbara Jordan, Ruth Simmons(The very first black president of an Ivy league school), Mickey Leland, Joe Sample, George Foreman, Lester Hayes, A.K. Kelly(Kelly Courts namesake), and Lightnin' Hopkins to name a few. If you grew up with me I am sure you could easily add a member of your family to this list.

Jensen drive was the place to be on the weekend. Many Negro artists would come to Fifth Ward to entertain, not Houston but Fifth Ward. People expected their children to do well and the community did well as a result. You got fruit on Jensen and Collingsworth, your shoes were fixed on Collingsworth and 59, you swam at Finnegan or Tuffly, and kids would ride bikes from Jensen to the railroad and Clinton to Collingsworth, then came the integration of the 1960’s.

Many residents moved away to pursue other opportunities. With this came the deterioration of the fabric of life that was pre-1960’s 5th Ward. Crime started to rise, families fell into states of unrest and the “hood” became notorious for being one of the most crime-ridden and financially retarded areas in the nation. This can be said about many predominately African-American areas that were prosperous before integration. Travel this country into old Africa-America and there are still people behind that have the oral history, the American Griots if you will. They watched their culture strive and build when insulated and watched it water-down and leave behind the have-nots when emancipated from integration. Did we really want to start to look out for number one in the 60’s? Did we discontinue being our brother’s keeper and becoming integrated soloist as a result of the good fortune of integration? Were we integrated when we really wanted an end to desegregation?

The world may be better as a result of integration but areas like the area that I grew up in are far worse. These areas were left behind. The Fifth Ward was a place where everyone took care of me as a child. I knew the entire neighborhood and they knew my family. They made sure that my family knew what I was doing and where I was doing it at. This works if your family responds appropriately to the intelligence. Now the yards of many of the people that took care of me are overgrown with weeds, the homes are boarded up or gutted, the city rarely maintains their part since the taxes collected from this area are far less than other less forgotten, more prosperous areas of the city. Buildings that were once vibrant with commerce or entertainment life are abandoned, the area bounded by Collingsworth, Russell, Liberty Road and Jensen Drive that was proudly once known as  French Town has been absorbed into the rest of the neighborhood as it lost its rich Louisiana-Creole/Catholic identity. People now walk down Collingsworth as if there is no urgency in their steps, almost as if they are seeking something that has been lost.

Desegregation helped many of us to get to where we are today; it also played a part in us forgetting where we come from. Many are reluctant to remember the history and the vibrancy of what was ours alone. It was when we didn’t commercial our culture or have a lack of color on our album covers and in our videos. We were once proud to be from the Fifth Wards of the world because it meant you came from good stock. Now many look down to those remaining as if they just haven't made it out yet. We were once happy to go down to Jensen Drive for the concert. We were once asking only that you desegregate, not integrate…we could handle that part. We are losing our own and clutching what belongs to someone else in our unfocused and unconscious effort to let our history die. There was once a time when other people copied us, now our young men wear skinny jeans and speak proudly of getting white-boy wasted. If the jewels of Fifth Ward could see us now!

Conservative and Black, yeah that’s what I am

Sojourner Truth, P.B.S Pinchback(twenty-fourth governor of Louisiana and the first African-American governor of a U.S. state), Eldridge Cleaver, Frederick Douglass, Alveda King, James H. Meredith(the first African American student at the University of Mississippi), Rod Paige(seventh U.S. Secretary of Education), Colin Powell, Hiram Rhodes Revels(first African-American Senator), Condoleezza Rice, Michael Steele(chairman of the Republican National Committee), Lynn Swan(former NFL receiver and Hall of Fame member), Peter Boulware(Super Bowl Champion Linebacker), Booker T. Washington, Ida Bell Wells-Barnett(co-founder of the NAACP), Wallace Jefferson(chief justice of the Texas Supreme Court), Karl Malone, Jimmy Walker(J.J. from Good Times), T.D Jakes, Sheryl Underwood, Richard Parsons(CEO of Time Warner),and Don King to name a few.

This list represents the great diversity in thinking that is our community. I count myself a conservative (no secret to those that know me). I will not use this moment in this blog to proselytize the merits of conservatism. I will say that my belief system dictates that I should pick up the banner of conservatism as opposed to liberalism. I deeply believe in personal responsibility and in the social norms that are driven by the churches that have sustained the African-American community through many trials and tribulations.

I respectfully honor those that believe differently and will in any way defend their right to believe as they shall. This is more of a glance into the forgotten history of the African-American. By nature we are a conservative people. Although our actions are often contrary, we hold vast conservative views. We believe in the sanctity of marriage, we believe in personal responsibility, we believe in handling our own affairs, we believe that the power belongs to the people and that the government is an employee of ours. On many issues we are more conservative than most of America. Being able to believe as I do is what really makes this country great.

Personally, I am a black conservative that believes in black nationalism, I believe that any two people can enter into marriage(it’s not my business what two consenting adults do in the eyes of the law), I believe that reparation need to be paid, and I believe that abortion is an issue between a person and their God.

I also believe that excuses are worn out tools to build monuments of nothing (thanks Mrs. Clara Bailey for that one). I find great fault in those that have many excuses for many things. I believe that the government should be small to govern well. I believe that a man that can and does not labor should not have a seat at the dinner table. I believe that you are your best friend and your worst enemy, suppress one and nurture the other and your life will pay the price or reap the reward. I believe that this country is the greatest in the world. People are dying to get in and no one is even yelling to get out. Patriotism, Nationalism, traditionalism  and capitalism are essential for our lives and prosperity to mesh into success.

I join the long line of black folk that were able to leave the herd and think independently. I am a black conservative and damn proud of it. When you think about it, are you?

Some of my favorite links and some websites that I am proud to be a member of:

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

The greatest thing to take into a relationship: The ability to walk away!

In growth there is change. This change is subtle yet extreme. Every organism that exists is hard wired to put forth it’s the best effort toward attracting a mate. What you see to attract you is often the very best of what attracts you has to offer. Of course this is not always true as some things and situations improve with time, when the minor issues are ignored, most don’t! What you see is often what you get. Unfortunately, many times we neglect to analyze what it is our eyes actually see.

We ignore the disgusting habits that will slowly rip the interwoven cloth of a relationship. In blind love or lust we try to achieve some other unstated goal that will at best blow away with time. You ignore the spending because most of it is on you. You ignore the horrible cooking because she is really attractive and it’s not that great an issue…now that is. You try not to give too much attention to the way he treats other women in his life because he doesn’t do that to you (or any other woman in the beginning). You ignore the lack of ambition because the other person has money for now. You pay little attention to the fights and arguments because the makeup is pretty awesome. As time continues to move, the things that you ignored have matured and now they desire ALL OF THE ATTENTION.

The issue with this is that the maturation of these issues was fed by your lack of ability to walk away. Now that these issues have reached adulthood, other parts of the relationship have taken your power of choice away. Mentally, financially, psychologically, and sometimes physically you have completely woven yourself into a person or situation that analysis could have proven the wrong move for your life. You have not the mental makeup to move on, you have not given enough attention to your finances to be able to leave a very bad situation, you have not psychologically prepared your life for separating yourself from a doomed relationship, or you have not physically taken care of yourself enough to feel that you can attract another.

I have always told my wife that she needed to be in a position where she could take care of herself and her personal situations without me. I have made it my point to help her get there. You see I like the fact that she wants me to be in a relationship with her much more that she needs me mentally, financially, psychologically, or physically. I have no idea what is in store for me around God’s next corner and I have always had a need for her to be able to handle things without me.

Some people find comfort in their thinking that their significant other cannot be prosperous in life without them. Some people love that they have beaten their other half down psychologically or mentally. It gives them the ability to abuse the situation. The perfected situation that allows one to have extra-relation activities is the feeling that your significant other has no other place to go. It is the perfect storm for an abusive and adulterous situation. Having more children than you can afford, lacking a skill and knowledge, being fiscally ignorant, and creating ungodly and unnecessary debt are just a few circumstances that can cause one to feel they are tied to very bad situations and even worse people.

My wife maintains the ability to walk away from our relationship. I would have it no other way. It is, in part the engine that drives me to be a better spouse, friend, father, and lover. I know that she does not need to be there and that sends me to the gym, keeps me constantly looking for ways to advance in my career, it also lets me know that someone else would love to step into the situation and take advantage. I am not going anywhere! The greatest asset that she has to keep me a great partner is her ability to leave my foolishness behind; therefore, I try my best to make sure I act according to the way a man is supposed to.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Keep the division of duties between Men and Women DIVIDED!!

My wife and I once had a spirited discussion about me helping with the laundry. I am not opposed to helping with the laundry nor am I a Neanderthal of a man, but this really bothered me. You see there should be, in my opinion, a clearly bolded line that defines the separation of duties in a relationship. It helps to maintain order, it helps to teach children about our cultural definitions, and it helps in nurturing an ambiance of blissful division and cooperation.

You see women are fairly quick to ask for help as it involves the duties that are traditionally that of the female, yet they are curiously taken aback when approached for help in the duties that are befitting their male counterpart. I am often asked to help cook, clean, wash dishes and clothes, iron, fold, and even mop and wax at times. Let me state again that I have NO problem with these duties. After all, it is my abode as well. The problem begins when it is time to divide what are traditionally my duties. I get no help cutting the lawn, weed eating, changing tires and oil, grilling, cleaning the garage, cleaning the house (Hardy Plank and brick as per the Homeowners Association), there is no help with mending the fences, scrubbing patio furniture, washing vehicles, or cutting and hauling the firewood. No one helps me to clean the fireplace or chimney; I am alone in mulching and planting, etc.

You see the duties need to be divided more evenly and the responsibilities shared across the board, if this is the way it is to be. When the lines get blurred I receive no benefit, only more responsibility and duties. As a man you are expected to do all of the “manly” things and at times wash some dishes, cook some meals, and fold some clothes. If you are not willing to do this you are described as one who, “doesn’t help around the house”. What about my help? What about my assistance? Can I define her as the one who is not helping around the house?

The story goes like this: My wife and I were in the bed one night after having that spirited discussion about the equitable division of our duties as they are traditionally known. I expressed to her the importance of what I do around our home and how it contributes to the welfare of our investment as well as our lives together. She disagreed. At this I told her that we were going to split all of the duties down the middle, women’s liberation style. She continued to try to make her point and convince me of the merits of her view. About an hour later she shook me awake because she thought she heard something downstairs. She said quietly, “Trent, I think I hear something downstairs. You need to go see what it is!” I turned to her and sleepily replied, “ I went last time, it’s your turn.” Let’s keep it real and divided people. You cannot want to be treated as an equal and also want me to open your door. Choose what you will be and stop confusing us.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

STOP calling EVERYONE your friend!

If you are blessed, lucky, and charmed you may be able to count one person as a friend. I was taught as a young man that you don’t really have friends but a great many associates. My parents made sure to let me know how these were different. In elaborating, my father would say, “Son, if you find yourself fortunate you will have a friend in this world.”

What he told me later is that you will not find that you have that friend until some drastic action weaves its way into your world. I was told that these actions would serve to let me know who my friends were really and who my associates were. Of course I thought this was a bunch of crap from a person whose bitter experiences were singing their misery into the ears of my youth. I thought that he knew nothing of my “friends” and they were my boys. Just because his friends turned out to disappoint him was no reason for me to accept or expect the same lot in life. I had friends and we would be friends forever, through thick and thin.

What he didn’t tell me was that I would have to experience the shortcomings of my own judgments and the frailness of the character of most people to know exactly what he was speaking of. This advice was indeed truthful and needed. I learned that everyone is your friend when you have something to give but you are truly lucky if you have ONE when you have nothing to give but yourself and you are in need. You are truly blessed if you can count more than one person when, not if, such shortcomings call your name.

How many “friends” do you really have that would visit you in prison, How many would really give you refuge when you have no other place to turn and no means of gaining resources to secure said place? How many would share their last with you? How many would really tell you the truth about yourself? How many would give because they love you and not expect anything in return?

I suspect that most that read this piece believe they have more than one person that would do one or more of these things for you. They will…in theory, but most will fail in test! Friendships are always eventually symbiotic in nature. The basis of this is never material. Traits that make true friends are never tangible. They are always things that you cannot go into Macy’s and purchase.

That friend is the one that hold’s your hand when you don’t realize you need someone to grasp it. It is that person that tells you, and not the world, that you are screwing up and on the path to a negative destination. It is that person who knows what can hurt you the most but never speaks about it. It is the person that will physically fight you to save your own life. It is that person who gives when you need before you have to ask!

Everyone is your friend at the funeral of your loved one, but who was there when that loved one was sick. Everyone is your greatest and oldest friend when you find success, but who was there encouraging you when others thought you were in over your head? All are friend when you wear Versace and Gucci, but who was shopping at Target and Wal-Mart with you? All of your friends will show up at your premier party, who was there at Denny’s after that show in Palestine, Texas when you played in front of 15 people in the audience?

You see friendship is a true blessing that can only be secured under the extreme pressures of life. Like diamonds, it becomes beautiful under hot and dire circumstances and it is almost indestructible. A friend is a person you disagree with, this tells you that they love you enough to be truthful and they know that your bond is stronger than seeing things differently. The next time you find yourself in a dire situation and there is no publicity to be gained and you have nothing left to give, take a good look around you and all of your associates will be gone…only friends remain.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

I love me some messy and nosey people!

Our communities are in disarray. In many ways it is because of our apathetic attitudes about our own surroundings. It is too much of a hassle to try to improve our communities or it is too dangerous or we would like to think that our lives are so important that we lack sufficient time to be concerned. We tend to believe that the rain will not fall on all of us when we see thunder and lightning. The rain eventually leaves the whole ground wet. It always picks spots at the beginning of a storm but watch long enough and you will see that everything is wet. Even with an umbrella, the ground underneath your feet gets soaked, no matter where you move to.

We would like to insulate ourselves from the ills of the world, and in our immediate communities. That kid that is selling drugs on your corner is not your problem as long as he leaves you and yours alone. The neighbor who is sick is none of your concern. The children on the street who have no fathers but cry out the men in the neighborhood with their actions are to be left alone even though you are sure that they will soon become felons. Your friend is in an abusive relationship but you convince yourself that, “She knew what she was getting into to.” This is probably true, but does she know how to get out?

In our lives we have been convinced that those that show concern are nosey and refuse to mind their own business. My grandmother was one of these people. I learned later in my childhood that her nosiness was what kept the door’s of her neighbors from being kicked in. I learned that she was the first person the community called on when they needed, “someone”. I learned that to be involved when it is not your turn means that prayerful people will surround you when it is your turn. I learned that only the rats that were the thieves, killers, and perpetrators despised her nosiness. She knew where everyone was, where they were supposed to be, and when they were getting back!

In many ways I feel like a sellout. It is because I left the community that she loved so much because it was just too hard for me to raise my kids there. Although she encouraged me to move away, I can’t help but feel that my life is missing something very important. I knew each of her neighbors and they knew me. I knew not just the neighbors on her street but almost all of the people within a 1 mile radius. This is not true of my new and improved neighborhood. I am ashamed to admit that I don’t even know my next door neighbors name. Eight years I've been there and her name escapes me. My grandmother would scold me for this.

I promise that I will start today to be the person who is concerned about all of my community. It is what I come from. Your home’s concern shall be mine. Knock on my door when you need to borrow sugar, that is what neighbors are for. Ask me about my wife’s health. Ask me about my kid’s grades. It doesn’t bother me that my neighbors want to know who is at my house. If more neighbors were like that less crime would take place. Our communities are fragile and on the brink of becoming something other than communities. We need more nosey grandmothers. We need more people saying, “ Ha ya durin”, as my PawPaw would say to his neighbors and friends.

I really need you to be concerned with what is happening in my life and I need to be concerned with yours. Don’t worry if the old people talk about you. I promise you that you would rather they talk about you than them not being concerned about you. Neighbors that aren't nosey tend to be unconcerned also.

Ever notice that the families that are labeled, “messy” and "nosey" are the closest families in the hood? Ever notice that those messy people are usually unbothered by the criminals? (Well, sometimes thay are the criminals but that's besides the point)Ever notice that no one outside those families can bother anyone in them? There are some uncomfortable things that come with close families and communities, embrace them and deal patiently with them. If not, there are things far more uncomfortable to deal with alone. The nosey and messy people don’t bother me. I know that love is usually a by-product of the two. The ones that concern me are the ones that never have any mess going on and are not concerned with anything outside of their homes. Those are the ones that you can least count on. When you next experience real issues, watch closely those that are there! The messy and nosey ones, right!