Category Archives: enlightenment

Doubting Thomas

The echo of footsteps leading to his destination fills the breezeway. The opening of the automatic doors quickly removes the moisture that was accumulating on his shaven head. As he enters the venue, a quick scan of the setting is all too familiar; conference room tables lined in three (3) rows, two (2) tables each, with four (4) chairs, each table for occupancy.  He relishes in his ability to speak before a captive audience. During his adolescent years this would have been unforeseeable, as criminal activity and school truancy was the pillar of that period.  For the individual dubbed as “Brother Truth”, his propensity to enthrall onlookers is unlike a grandiose salesperson pitching their products to an unsuspecting homemaker. His introduction, comforting; his conversation; spellbinding. Before being able to finish his presentation, the customers are reaching for their pocket or purse, producing cash, a debit or credit card to purchase what is being sold. When an individual is passionate about what they believe in, the speaker is only lending voice to the capacity of what is being presented. In their eyes, the truth needs no convincing; it is only the listener’s willingness to accept that truth, which will then reward them of those efforts.  As the new millennia Don Quixote, “Brother Truth” toils to educate the masses in his quest to broach subjects that have become both popular and yet taboo in today’s society; the disenfranchisement of the Black male, and sexuality as it relates to spirituality. In both instances, standing seemingly alone, his messages are a labor of love and salvation.

Thomas 2

Street Disciple

In preparation for the event, the controversial author and community activist places his manuscripts at the location for which he will be seated. A name plate placed before his chair will identify him before he is able to utter a word. He harkens back to his Miller Homes Housing Projects upbringing in Trenton, New Jersey to an era where conflictions were the norm. Being raised in a conservative evangelical household meant attending some semblance of church activities five (5) to six (6) days per week. His father being an Associate Pastor believed in discipline which led to a strict upbringing.  Attending school to receive a formal education proved challenging, as there was a level of disinterest from hearing lectures and participating in book assignments. He attributes his behavior then to that of many melanoid young men in the school system; he, and in his assessment like many Black males as a culture are kinesthetic learners. They desire hands on experience as opposed to watching demonstrations or reading books.  As a “doer”, the inability to actively participate in the educational process leads to disinterest, shorter attention spans and behavioral problems.  Compound that fact with witnessing discourse within his family unit; something which had been concealed from his vision throughout his childhood, he ultimately became a living statistic. As a result of his parents’ divorce, his suburban rearing had been reduced to a one-bedroom apartment to house himself, his mother and younger brother.  At age fifteen (15), he dropped out of school to pursue a life of street pharmaceutical sales and lusting the temples of females mind manipulation.  It was only at the behest of his crying mother did those activities cease. After receiving an ultimatum, the potential scholar attended an alternative educational program, New Jersey Youth Corps, to attain his GED (General Equivalency Diploma).  After which, he enlisted in the United States Army and was commissioned as a Medical Officer for which he served four (4) years in the armed forces earning an Honorable Discharge upon his departure.

A Call to Serve

The sands continue to seep sluggishly from the hourglass, as patrons slowly make their way into the dwelling to be seated.  As the attendees mingle amongst themselves, whispers between onlookers are reminiscent to the discrete hand to hand exchanges that were the standard during his days as a “boulevard broker and sexual intercourse negotiator”; in laymen’s terms, a drug dealer and pimp.  His call to ministry was far different than that of when he was requested to pick up fists full of U. S. currency or drop off packages of narcotics. It was a telepathic connection between he and “the source” which transpired at the age of twenty (20) during his time in the military. While stationed at Ramstein Air Base in Kaiserslautern, Germany, he began his journey as a spiritual teacher.  Upon returning state side, in the year 2000, he graduated from Philadelphia Biblical University, now known as Cairn University, with a Bachelor’s Degree in Biblical Studies and a Graduate’s Degree in Church Leadership.  He was a devout minister of the Pentecostal Apostolic Church and taught at the School of Theology in Plainfield, New Jersey.  As a juvenile, he recognized his felonious behaviors were a detriment to him and those he loved; though wrong, he fashioned it as a necessary evil. He knew he had to step away from that lifestyle or risk having his obituary printed in a newspaper or be incarcerated in a correctional facility. He was now experiencing a spiritual tug-of-war. At the apex of his ministerial career, he faced a number of unanswered questions which deviated from the teachings of the Pentecostal Church.  There were no overlapping police patrols, neighborhood watch programs or rival competitors to be fearful of on this occasion; it was resistance from local church leaders that led to his resignation and steered him to the founding of a house church ministry in Ewing, New Jersey.

Ministry in Manuscript

The seal tears from the opening of a bottle of water as his heart rate begins to elevate. Though calm yet slightly parched, a quick sip allows him to collect his thoughts. He takes his seat and recites his speech one last time within the silence of his consciousness; wanting to ensure that each sentence flows flawlessly when the words are spoken from his lips; that all the analysis and research that has brought him to this moment are concise and potent. The determination he used to hustle during his childhood, he now implores to distribute messages of unconditional love, universal salvation and warnings about the plight that African-American boys face on a daily basis. Challenging conventional thinking and the need to discuss sexuality from a spiritual perspective led to the writing of The Naked Truth: Understanding the Spiritual Origins of Sex, Marriage, and Intimate Relationships. It dares the reader to strip themselves of their societal binds, such as religion, gender specific roles, cultural assumptions, and provides an in depth look into why women are more promiscuous by nature, why males and females were cursed by God with circumcision and menstrual cycles, and why oral sex is the most sacred act of scripture.  From the Books of Genesis to Revelations, he provides a thorough synopsis as to why the Bible is the most sexually provocative book on the planet and how civilization arrived at an inequality of genders.  And like any good entrepreneur, the momentum he garnered from his first offering led to the writing of his second book, The Streets Can’t Have My Son.  Using his experiences as a barometer, the book was written to equip parents, educators, and church members with the skills required to assist African-American boys in succeeding and graduating from public schools, escaping the trappings of the juvenile justice system and going on to enjoy lives as productive members of society. With each page turn, the typeface font sentences release a passion and reveal a reality unto familiar with those who have either dealt with or experienced those ordeals. The book divulges tools which are paramount in the educational training of their sons and provides the attitudes, principles and skills that must be acquired to be prosperous for a lifetime.  Foreworded by Dr. Chance W. Lewis, Ph. D., professor of Urban Education in the College of Education at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, the book has been touted as, “A must read for anyone raising an African-American son.”

Reasonable Suspicion

When attending presentations, the listener eagerly anticipates hearing words and seeing images that relate to their struggle.  They want those phrases to resonate in such fashion that it conjures memories from past experiences with the hopes of a better tomorrow.  The believability of the utterer is paramount in retaining the addressees’ attention throughout the course of the proceedings and any deviation from their beliefs will leave them disinterested.  The foundation is laid by revealing his background in a media scripted biography, but how involved in the underworld was he truly? Did he sell small quantities of narcotics or was he involved in huge shipments from state border to border? Were there periods of incarceration or misdemeanor citations given for court appearances? Did the aroma of late night transactions and criminal exploits linger in his clothing? How many times did he have sex with his “employees”, what went into the manipulation of their hearts and minds; what was said or done that was so controversial at his previous church home(s) that led to division and prompted him to amass his own congregation?  Will the “conscious community” be offended by the failure in The Naked Truth to mention the Egyptian Goddess Seshat (AKA Ashat), who before the account of Adam and Eve in scripture is storied to be the giver of the “Fruit of Divine Light and Wisdom” in order for the king to rule the throne as explained by Dr. Ashra Kwesi? Or that in metaphysical doctrine and varying forms of spirituality that the serpent is a representation of kundalini energy, the divine feminine creative power sleeping at the base of the spine awaiting the call for the joining with the masculine energy through the heart, conflicting with the perceptions indicated in the book? Does he question issues raised from Norman Stamper’s Breaking Rank: A Top Cop’s Exposé of the Dark Side of American Policing, where the former Seattle Police Department Chief discusses why White cops kill Black men and racism in the ranks? These are some of the questions readers are likely to ponder during their appraisal of the book(s) or sitting uncomfortably in metal chairs listening to dialogue pertaining to his works.  Some critics will dissect each page and scrutinize the validity of what is written.  They will question his level of expertise in the realms of child psychology, understanding of the criminal justice system and interpretations of the Bible as an individual who is formulating an opinion to turn a profit and not provide substance.

Thomas 3

The Time Has Come

The microphone becomes live; and with each movement on or about the transducer, the motion causes the instrument to reverberate creating uneasiness amidst the attendees. The glare of the fluorescent lights causes perspiration about the bridge of his nose and forehead. A swift wipe of the brow alleviates any discomfort that may have been felt. In scripture, John 20:24-29, one of the Twelve (12) Disciples refused to believe that the resurrected Jesus had appeared to the other ten (10) apostles until he could see and feel the wounds received by Jesus on the cross.  After meeting with Jesus, the savior spoke with the individual stating, “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.” Upon confirming the individual appearing before him was indeed the revived Son of God, Jesus told him, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”  In accepting the task of being a public figure, he fully understands that he is undertaking a thankless endeavor.  Armed with his belief in himself and the information he yields; he looks to provide young men with the weapons to defend themselves from the cruelties of this reality. He alerts spectators to three (3) objectives intent on the continued disenfranchisement of African-American males; miseducation, incarceration and annihilation. That the awareness and avoidance of subliminal imagery is key in keeping the heart and mind free from corruption; having “knowledge of self” is vital to removing the shackles that thwarts evolution and impedes progress; being sexually uninhibited is not a “Scarlet Letter”, and that confronting each of these issues aids in shifting the paradigm and brings awareness to situations that plague our existence. The reservations had by that disciple prior to seeing Jesus is the same had by each member of the audience until the information is disseminated and the words resound in such a way that captures their hearts.  The truth is uncomfortable, unsettling; but when delivered in such a way, the messenger can remove all uncertainties. “And without further ado…”, the Master of Ceremonies states. “Presenting Osceola Thomas!”  He approaches the podium to a round of applause; confident in knowing that unlike the apostle bearing his namesake, he efforts to bear his soul and leave no doubts.  “We Are the Change!” I’m gone! (b)

To purchase your copy of The Naked Truth: Understanding the Spiritual Origins of Sex, Marriage, and Intimate Relationship, The Streets Can’t Have My Son or his forthcoming book The 11th Commandment – My Saints Better Have My Money, scheduled for release later this year, please visit http://www.imthatbrother.com. The books are also available for purchase on amazon.com, amazonkindle, at Barnes & Noble and BAM! (Books-A-Million). Follow Osceola Thomas’ social media outlets: Facebook: Osceola Thomas; Twitter: @ImThatBrother; Instagram: OsceolaThomas.

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A Picture’s Worth

Look at the featured photograph of this piece. Now dependent upon your state of being, the image can be considered uplifting or demeaning. Case in point… Many people of color (POC) will consider the image deplorable, and without context issue comments such as, “ignorant or despicable”. In fact, I’ll venture to guess that they’ll state that the adult figure is a poor example of a man and does not exemplify fatherhood.  Edward L. Bernays, the father of modern advertising, stated in his book “Propaganda” written in 1928, “In almost every act of our daily lives, whether in the sphere of politics or business, in our social conduct or ethical thinking, we are dominated by the relatively small number of persons…who understand the mental processes and social patterns of the masses. It is they who pull the wires which control the public mind.” You have to understand that manipulating the masses is reality, not a conspiracy.  Thus, in a snapshot, I may have taken a photo of a father and son returning home from the gun range; the elder celebrating the fact that his seed is increasingly mastering weaponry to use for his personal defense, to an alleged “gang-banger” or “thug” administering poor ethical characteristics because of the discernment of Black men in society; though the image does make it hard to dispute.  Conversely, the image of three young ladies welding firearms is thought of as being a “family rites of passage”; a family teaching their daughters the art of protecting themselves from the cruelties of this world. The funny thing is that in either scenario, based on their perception, the viewer will ultimately utter the phrase, “That’s what THEY do!”  Who shapes public opinion? Who’s to blame for the distortion of perspective? Is it the media, the government; perhaps an unseen hand? Though all are integral to the mechanisms that barrage our psyche, we’re in fact to blame for all these transgressions.

3 Girls

The thought is we’re all human beings. So ideally, we should have an ability to coexist without race, creed or gender being an issue. During sporting events, we all root for the same teams; our camaraderie shaped by the colors and names shared on both the front and back of the uniform. During the Olympic Games, we cheer our fellow countrymen to victory in their designated sports as they begin their pursuit of metals ranging from bronze to gold; with pride reflective of the winning athlete’s determination to reach the pinnacle of their chosen activity; tears streaming as their country’s National Anthem blares from the speakers of our television sets. Yet those instances are mere microcosms as to what occurs on broader scale.  Malcolm X explained it perfectly when he stated, “The media’s the most powerful entity on earth. They have the power to make the innocent guilty and to make the guilty innocent, and that’s power; because they control the minds of the masses.” Additionally, he stated, “If you’re not careful, the newspaper will have you hating the people who are being oppressed, and loving the people who are doing the oppressing.”  The media controls the rhetoric; the government has been found to have implemented strategies to sway and frighten the population with specific stories to curb public opinion.  In 1975, Operation Mockingbird, was uncovered by a committee called, “The United States Senate Select Committee to Study Governmental Operations with Respect to Intelligence Activities” (the Church Committee), which was chaired by Senator Frank Church (Democrat – Idaho). Through their investigation, it was discovered that a program was developed in the 1950s for the purpose of “persuading American and foreign media, as well as to use the media as gatekeepers to prevent certain information from being published and reaching the masses.” In addition, there are entities that attempt to control the power of our thoughts; one of which is the Council on Foreign Relations. Though it fancies itself as an independent, nonpartisan membership organization, think tank, and publisher; there is evidence to the contrary that shows that the CFR is a more sinister association that organizes media manipulation. You must understand that the media in the United States is controlled by six (6) corporations (General Electric, News Corp., Disney, Viacom, Time Warner and CBS) which include 1,500 newspapers, 1,100 magazines, 9,000 radio stations, 1,500 television stations and 2,400 publishers.  This means most of the news and entertainment content shown on both the small and large screens are intendant on having an underlying agenda; one which alters the subconscious and manifests in our ideals. “The promotion of shallow, materialistic, ego-centric values and the obvious dumbing down of the American population is coming from these six (6) corporations. Think about that. These are the companies that glorify consumption, obedience, ignorance, the hyper-sexualization of youth, the glorification of war and government surveillance, and so on. The advertisers that support these media companies have tremendous sway over what makes it on the airwaves. They help to control public perception.” We fail to notice because who wants to work hard in deciphering what content is being fed to them each time they engage in relaxing activities.  The adage is “you are what you eat”, so why wouldn’t those same principles apply to what you observe? Isn’t your brain consuming information and processing that data based on what’s being seen or heard?  “When you’re watching television, you’re watching the news, and you’re being pumped full of fear. There’s floods; there’s AIDS; there’s murder. Cut to commercial. Buy the Acura. Buy Colgate. If you have bad breath, they’re not going to talk to you. If you have pimples that girl isn’t going to fuck you. It’s just a campaign of fear and consumption. That’s what I think it’s based on. This wild idea of ‘keep everyone afraid and they’ll consume.’”  (Marilyn Manson) So help me understand the logic of this, watching two (2) hours of violence in a movie has no influence on the public’s behavior, but a thirty (30) second Super Bowl ad worth$2-4 million dollars will make the customer run out and buy a product?

So now, let’s discuss the elephant in the room. What is the relation between imagery and POC?  Understand that our first interactions are made through visualization.  The hieroglyphs of ancient civilizations and cave carvings indented on mountain walls tell stories in intricate detail which provide a connection to the past.  We are naturally attracted by what we see and visual interpretations help formulate opinions and prove to shape our lives.  Entertainment as we know it was created as a means of propaganda, with the intent to marginalize and demean. There’s a reason why there’s always been a negative, distorted perception of Blacks. From its advent, individuals such as T. D. Rice (back in the 1820’s) and others prior to the Civil War performed in blackface creating the image of the “Sambo” and “Zip Coon”. The movie “Birth of a Nation” directed by D. W. Griffith in 1915 lead to the rebirth and enormous rise in ranks of the Ku Klux Klan based on the subliminal messages relayed in the film. The screenplay was adapted from the novel and play The Clansman. It was released on February 8, 1915. The NAACP (founded in 1909) spearheaded an unsuccessful campaign to ban the film. The film suggested that the Ku Klux Klan restored order to the postwar South (Reconstruction). For decades after its release, the Klan used the movie as a recruitment tool.   Let’s bounce from entertainment to the realm of sports. During October 2005, the NBA implemented a dress code policy which was instituted by former commissioner David Stern to distance the league from its then “thuggish” image in the mainstream.  The rule was made mandatory for players to wear a jacket and tie before games, after games, during interviews, on the bench while injured, and in attendance at league charity events.  The policy drew criticism with Allen Iverson stating the following, “I feel like they want us to dress a certain way. They’re targeting guys who dress like me; guys who dress hip-hop.  Just because you put a guy in a tuxedo doesn’t mean he’s a good guy.  You can put a murderer in a suit, but he’s still a murderer. It sends a bad message to kids.” Ten (10) years later, the NBA’s sense of style has evolved to the point where several stars routinely make their own unique fashion statements such as Russell Westbrook, Dwyane Wade, and many others.

Iverson - Westbrook

Perhaps you wish to continue deny the evidence presented before you in this piece. Yet, if I were to ask you to close your eyes and imagine the likeness of the deity you worship, many of you (admittedly or reluctantly) would see an image of the individual that Leonardo da Vinci was commissioned to paint by Rodrigo Borgia/Borja (Pope Alexander VI), Cesare Borgia.  And since that time, his portrait has graced the covers of religious magazines; actors have portrayed his resemblance in television and cinema; and there are monuments crafted in his honor with the largest appearing in both Brazil and Nigeria.  Another glance behind those same eyelids will have you believe an entire continent is savage, primitive and desolate. A land ripe with riches and natural resources is thought to be ravaged with war and famine from ocean to ocean – boarder to boarder; infomercials urge viewers to run to their telephones, and in three (3) minute intervals, a 800/866 number flashes on the screen petitioning the onlooker that for a mere $.45 per day, your contribution “can” uplift those in a poverty stricken state, providing a semblance of normalcy, with the proceeds having the ability to feed an entire family.  And as you witness their frail, downtrodden frames illuminate the pixels of your small screen; stomachs seemingly touching their backs, you can’t run fast enough to retrieve your ATM card.  That of the fifty-four countries that occupy the landscape, your lasting image is that of barren huts, wild animals and sprawling deserts and fields, and not of cities, suburbs, shopping malls and highways?  GTFOH! The same entities that sought to colonized Africa prior to 1914, seek to exploit the land and viewing public for their hard earned dollars and wealth, with a large portion of the funds never utilized  by the people it was intended to assist.

Jaden Smith

Dr. Umar Johnson – Propaganda

So we condemn young boys and girls for being able to perform the latest dance craze and assume the participants do not have any intellectual capacity to recite the alphabet or solve simple math problems. That it’s threatening to see young Black men with their shirts off and pants hanging pass their buttock. The Rza, one of the founding members of the infamous Wu-Tang Clan, a rap group based out of Staten Island, New York, who helped usher in the widespread branding, marketing and collaborate sell of urban wear by wearing oversized clothing, Timberland boots, which later led to the creation of the profitable clothing company Wu-Wear stated the following, “If I’m a cop and every time I see a young black youth, whether I watch them on TV, movies, or just see them hanging out, and they’re not looking properly dressed, properly refined, you know, carrying himself, conducting himself proper hours of the day—things that a man does, you’re going to have a certain fear and stereotype of them.” We’re petitioned to believe that when WE were dressed dignified prior to and during the Civil Rights movement, we were somehow more respected and taken more seriously; not taking into account that leaders during that era, such as Malcolm X, Martin Luther King, Jr., and Medgar Evers were murdered in the same clothing that was thought to be the salvation to being treated justly.  Look no further than the postcards and old photographs that grace the internet with individuals being lynched wearing white collared shirts/blouses, pleated dresses/skirts and tailored slacks; strange fruit dangling from tree branches or burned alive at make shift stakes for daring to fight or live for something that is a universal right of all people.  “Women grow up constantly bombarded with images of what society says is beautiful.  These unrealistic ideals feature models that have makeup to cover their blemishes and Photoshop to change their physical features.  The result is young girls that grow up obsessed with their outward appearance and feel pressure by society to achieve a look that is often impossible.  When the girls fall short they feel inadequate and a downward spiral ensues.  They purchase make-up full of toxic chemicals to cover up their skin and closets full of clothes to feel better about whom they are.” (Truth Society) Consequently we sit back and watch the emasculation of our brothers via song or cinema then question how these trends (skinny jeans, skorts) began.  “We’ve been robbed! We’ve been robbed!”,  as DeAndre Jordan scurries down the stairs clad in a black dress and blonde wig in the latest State Farm insurance commercial; or all of your favorite actors being requested to dawn a female hairpiece at some point during their careers or risk banishment the likes of Dave Chappelle if they dare speak out. Supporting a multibillion dollar industry with the Global Skin Lightening Market which was predicted to reach $10 billion dollars at the close of last year; that an individual has such disdain for their complexion that they’re willing to alter their appearance for acceptance.  This is all an end result of psychological conditioning.  A picture of a spouse having dinner with the opposite sex discussing a business venture is seen as adulterous behavior; a young man (Jaden Smith) advertising woman’s clothing is seen as eclectic and groundbreaking – “The image support the idea that a person can appear traditionally masculine and feminine at the same time”; an All Points Bulletin (APB) is issued over police airwaves for a suspected criminal act with persons of the same hue all “fitting the description”. Ask Lionel Tate, then twelve (12) years of age, if his infatuation with the World Wrestling Federation didn’t ultimately lead to his thirty (30) year imprisonment for imitating the moves of a famous wrestler which led to death of six-year old Tiffany Eunick. The thousand (1000) words that can be used to determine a photo’s worth can be manipulated to be both beneficial or a detriment to the individual captured in the frame. It is our responsibility to distinguish between the two (2) and not pass judgment based upon the caption read atop the image. “No society wants you to become wise, it is against the investment of all societies. If people are wise they cannot be exploited. If they are intelligent they cannot be subjugated, they cannot be forced in a mechanical life, to live like robots… They will have the fragrance of rebellion around them. In fact, a wise man is afire, alive, aflame. He would like rather to die than to be enslaved.”  (Osho)  “‪‎We Are The Change!” I’m gone! (b)

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Love’s Gonna Getcha’ (A History of Violence)

There are a million different ways to say “I love you”. As a male, even if whispered from the softest of lips from the one who holds us in the highest regards, the premise still seems unfathomable; it makes us uneasy. It doesn’t always come in the form of physical contact; it’s frequently delivered in subtle methods such as, “Put on your seatbelt.”; “Watch your step.”; “Did you eat?” or “Get some rest.” So as a man, imagine how uncomfortable it is when one of your brethren conveys that sentiment in any form. The slightest expression of emotion, the least bit of vulnerability is met with resistance or disdain. “Alright!” or “Stop tripping” are phrases that you might typically hear in response to adulation. An often time, a quick change of subject is warranted to re-regulate the testosterone loss by any displays of affection. “The male has paid a heavy price for his masculine ‘privilege’ and power.” According to Dr. William S. Pollack in the Department of Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, “Although boys have the same emotional potential as girls, their emotional range is soon limited to a menu of three (3) related feelings: rage, triumph, and lust.” Anything else and they risk being seen as a sissy, says Dr. Pollack. Society demands that men display “machismo” at every turn; and culturally, as a black male there are but two (2) reactions that can be made when faced with conflict; fight or flight; there is no in-between.

Long before deciphering the concepts of the Willie Lynch letter – The Making of a Slave (in one case pitting black male against black male), the publication of Michelle Alexander’s book The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness, or understanding the dynamics of the prison industrial complex, there was October 15, 1997. The phrase “black-on-black crime” was first brought to the mainstream media in the early 1970s, which included Ebony magazine using the phrase in a November 1973 editorial titled, “What Can Be Done?” As an individual growing up in that era, as I matured, it was a normal part of my existence. On that overcast October morning, myself and two (2) of my dear friends were involved in a violent altercation. When I reflect upon the run-in, it was incomprehensible. The echo of gunfire reverberated off the surrounding structures as a number of bullets pierced the skin of my fallen comrade. We had all scattered in different directions after he attempted to remove the weapon the assailant pointed at his head away from his face; seeking to deprive him of the currency and jewelry he had in his possession. As the tires squealed from the vehicle that was left idling in the adjacent parking lot, and fled northbound on the major roadway making their escape, I rushed over to my companion to discover what damage had been inflicted upon him. There were no tribal screams or acts of rage, flailing arms or legs as depicted in cinema; just a feeling of disbelief and remorse. I had seen this coming; spotted the play as it was taking place, and had done nothing to prevent it. I would like to think my skepticism about the events even taking place would relieve me of any guilt I may have had, but honestly we were slipping; I was slipping. We took the fact that we were in our neighborhood for granted and thought our stature in the community made us immune to incidents such as this. That was a lesson I’ve never forgotten.

The paramedics quickly arrived on the scene and our friend was airlifted to a hospital that managed those types of injuries. I had been out of college almost four (4) years and was three (3) years into my career in law enforcement when the confrontation transpired. So as the police conducted their investigation, numbered cones marked shell casings and yellow tape intertwined with trees and branches, questions needed to be answered. Admittedly, neither I nor many of my immediate friends were cut from a fabric of cutthroats and killers. Like most of Middle America during that period, we enjoyed mimicking the lyrics of our favorite gangsta rap artists and lived vicariously through movie characters like Doughboy from Boys N The Hood or O-Dog from Menace II Society. But after witnessing what had transpired, I believe we were all willing to take penitentiary chances in an attempt to get retribution for the possible loss of our homeboy. A visit to the hospital determined that he would recover and the only thing left was to “get our man/men”. After the laughter subsided, the saline solution was properly filled and administered, bed pan checked and breathing apparatuses were in place, there was a sense of angst in the air; a collective tension that justified action needed to be taken. Traveling to the police station once removing the bullets from my hood after leaving the hospital, I contemplated what measures needed to be taken to satisfy my desire to avenge the earlier proceedings. Was I willing to go to jail and throw away my career for the sake of attaining “street justice” and to not look “green” (soft) for failing to retaliate for an occurrence for which I was involved? It was a no-brainer. I contacted Azreal AKA Samael (the Angel of Death) who was willing to help undertake the task of delivering vengeance. And similar to Dough, Lil’ Chris and Monster, but without the convertible ‘64 Impala, we rode through the streets of then Unincorporated Miami-Dade County looking for our transgressors.

In retrospect, I am glad we never found the culprits that dreary, fall evening. There was a case of mistaken identity and misinformation. It is amazing how a series of events can cause a chain reaction which could plummet an individual into the pits of purgatory. I still have the deposition that reads, “State of Florida v. (insert name)”. The charges were Robbery, Gun/Deadly Weapon 1st Degree Murder/Premeditated and Robbery Gun/Deadly Weapon. The funny thing is we, myself in particular, have had plenty of opportunities to have our revenge; if death were our intent. It is common for most people not to recognize individuals that they have casual to little contact with. Perhaps either of them could not identify us; maybe they did not care and thought we were not going to do anything; just some clean cut rabble rousers living their lives and not causing trouble. On one remote Sunday afternoon years later, my friends and I were all together, ironically at the scene of the crime by the basketball court. The primary suspect in question was in our view, less than one hundred (100) feet away; none the wiser to who we were and our possible intent. I spoke with the individual who nearly had their life taken by this person; identified the individual as the perpetrator of the offense and asked him what he wanted to do. Any answering would have been acceptable while awaiting his reply. He had lived through that unpleasant experience; had to endure the pain and heal both physically and emotionally. If he would have said, “Let’s duct tape that shit and put his ass in the trunk”, I would have gone along and help commit the dastardly deed. Being raised in a broken home or lack of formal education would not be the justification for my decision making; as I enjoyed the benefits of being raised in a two (2) parent home and being an academic scholar. Anything that would have help make him whole again, although wrong and knowing the ramifications, I would have prayed to have had the courage to undertake the task, and would have done so because of my love and loyalty to him. I would not have asked for anything in return because in my mind, that’s what you’re supposed to do as a friend; be all in. With adrenaline rapidly coursing through my veins, I reluctantly awaited his response with anticipation. “Nah…!! I’m good!” We never asked for the reasoning behind his answer, just a retort of, “You sure?” And from that point, the subject was never broached again until the writing of this piece. The entire incident has been lost to the annals time; only raised when expanding the mythology of the individual who was summoned to help swing his scythe as the Grim Reaper.

The phrase “black-on-black crime” makes sense only if you understand our propensity to commit crimes against people of our own race as inherently different from the way other racial groups commit crimes. There is no difference; crime is crime. In our case, look at how many lives a continued cycle of violence would have damaged. We may not have lived or been free from incarceration to have careers, be a presence in our children lives, create generational wealth for our families, or be mentors and educators. That is what is lost in the equation of violence amongst our own. If I get into an altercation with someone and as a result kill them, then essentially there are two (2) or more people no longer apart of society; unless it’s determined I committed the action in self-defense, there is a strong likelihood that I will be incarcerated for an extended period of time. As males, without our presence and the ability to reproduce, there would not be children. If children were had prior to the incident, there is no fatherly guidance. Without a male figure present, there is no family dynamic or structure. Upon release from a correctional facility, there is now an economic toll that has to be paid; the inability to get public housing, food stamps, student loans; one’s ability to succeed is hindered. In whichever case, there would have been either a choir singing or commissary bringing. At the time of the robbery, neither I nor any of my immediate friends (seven of us) had children; collectively we now have seven (7). I cannot speak for any of them, but his decision to say no definitely saved my life. In my twenties, I would have thrown it all away to get the respect from my peers by retaliating for the incident; to show my loyalty and prove myself as gangsta as any tattooed, grill wearing so-called “real nigga”; never thinking about having to retain an attorney to fight for my freedom or how any of us leaving the block (by death or incarceration) will allow another soldier to fill our shoes. If jailed, perhaps the continuous changing of the months on the calendar would have provided a sense of regret. For those armchair quarterbacking saying, “It couldn’t have been me!” it is easy to utter foolish rhetoric until placed in that life altering position. The prospect of taking another’s life weighs heavily on the human psyche. Who wants to send “kites” from cell to cell as a form of communication or use mirrors as an instrument for social interaction; or have family and loved ones mourn a loss clad in black attire? I am eternally grateful for the opportunities I have had to live and see my friend recover and move past that moment in time. I have never inquired if there were any psychological scars as a result of being shot; I am sure he would not tell me the truth if asked. On many occasions I have told the harbinger of bereavement how appreciative I am for him always being there when I have appealed for his services; it was not until I reached this state of consciousness that I realized how valuable my friend’s decision was to my current existence. The thoughts of our possible response play out like a nightmare in my subconscious and often times haunts my existence. Love comes in any many different fashions. Who would have ever thought the word “No” would be so reinvigorating. Thanks for making that decision King; for that, I love you.

Note: I have spoken to the victim involved in this incident prior to me sharing this story, and he said if he had to make that decision again, he would do so a thousand times. That in itself shows you that the cycle can be broken and people can rebuild themselves when tragedy befalls them. He is a better man than me; I pray I could be that forgiving. “‪‎We Are The Change!” I’m gone! (b)‬

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It’s the God in WE!

Trying to establish a brand is hard work to say the least. It requires dedication, accessibility and social interaction. So while being supportive of a colleague’s event, Zakeya Fowler’s Girl Talk engagement, I had the pleasure of seeing and hearing an old childhood friend speak as a contributor. The DJ cued the music and as Mrs. Fowler made the introduction… “Inger Hanna….!” Dressed in all black, looking stunning and jewelry shimmering in the light, the lyrics began to play for the famous “Mary Mary” hit single, “It’s the God in me.” The crowd erupted as the vocals began blaring out of the venue’s sound system. As she made her way to the designated seating area, there was a noticeable bounce in her step; an air of confidence in her demeanor. She took her position on stage next to her fellow speakers and she continued to recite the lyrics verbatim, “You see her style you think she nice, you look her whip you say the whip tight, you look at her crib you thinkin’ she paid, you look at her life, now you think she’s got it made…” The song played for a few more bars and eventually faded out, but the message was clearly delivered. Mrs. Hanna, as well as the other participants, went on to provide excellent commentary as they sought to empower women and bridge the divide that separates them; but what resonated with me was the meaning behind the melody which was Mrs. Hanna’s introduction. “It’s the God in me.” It made me examine the meaning of that statement and those similar to it and how reinforcing a belief in one’s self is beneficial to an individual’s growth.

Enlightenment Entertainment by Brandt Edwards
When you find your inner self, are you destroying your strength?

“Sometimes it’s not the pain that makes you suffer; it’s your own negative thoughts that make things seem worse.” While residing here in the states we live in a Christian society, many people would classify the results we encounter on a daily basis, good or bad, as karma; which is the law of moral causation. According to Buddhism, this inequality is due not only to heredity, environment, “nature and nurture”, but also to Karma. In laymen’s terms, it is the result of our own past actions and our own present doings which manifests our realities. We ourselves are responsible for our own happiness and misery. The Heaven and Hell we create aren’t destinations our souls travel to in the afterlife; but are projections of the actualities we create with the power of our thoughts. We are the architects of our own fate. Confounded by the disparity that existed among humanity, a young truth-seeker approached the Buddha and questioned him regarding this convoluted problem of inequality: “What is the cause, what is the reason, O Lord,” questioned he, “that we find amongst mankind the short-lived and long-lived, the healthy and the diseased, the ugly and beautiful, those lacking influence and the powerful, the poor and the rich, the low-born and the high-born, and the ignorant and the wise?” The Buddha’s reply was: “All living beings have actions (Karma) as their own, their inheritance, their congenital cause, their kinsman, their refuge. It is Karma that differentiates beings into low and high states.” The Buddha then explained the cause of such differences in accordance with the law of cause and effect. Dr. Masaru Emoto wrote a book titled “The Hidden Messages in Water” which described how frequency (words/thought projection) can change water’s composition. He found that water from clear springs and water that has been exposed to loving words shows brilliant, complex, and colorful snowflake patterns. In contrast, polluted water, or water exposed to negative thoughts, forms incomplete, asymmetrical patterns with dull colors.

George Carlin eloquently framed his opinion of the celestial in this fashion. “Tell people there’s an invisible man in the sky who created the universe and the vast majority will believe you. Tell them the paint is wet and they have to touch it to be sure.” We’re under the premise that a divine being passes judgment and shapes the events that take place in our lives. It is the power of your beliefs that fuels your reality. Emotion and thinking are interdependent; both coexisting within the same realm of possibilities. When one exists without the other, it means that the other is residing in the individual’s subconscious; negative emotions results in anger, avoidance, depression and anxiety; thus attracting bad situations; while good thoughts promote positive situations. The stronger the thoughts, the stronger the emotions; when you change the vantage points for which you exist, you change everything. This mental manipulation changes the paradigm and reshapes our existence. “The more joyful, happy and light-hearted you are, the higher will be your corresponding overall rate of vibration. The higher your inherent rate of vibration, the more powerful your attractive powers will be. Joy is a very high emotion and therefore creates a high state of vibration and energy along with unconditional love. The more joyful you are, the higher will be your rate of vibration and the more aligned you will be to the SOURCE. This in turn will enable you to manifest your desires much more freely.” (Shelb Foster)

“No snowflake in an avalanche ever feels responsible.” All our lives we’ve been encouraged by our parents, coaches, mentors and those willing to provide encouragement to “believe in yourself.” “The kingdom of heaven is within you; and whosever shall know himself shall find it.” (Egyptian proverb) We’ve been programmed to believe that if we don’t have faith in some sorts of deities then who can you rely on? As mentioned before, believe in yourself. The contradiction comes from people posting photo captions and quotes daily about being strong, independent and self-sufficient, yet in the privacy of their homes they feel helpless and in need of confidence. In this world nothing happens to a person that he/she does not for some reason or other deserve. When you’re witnessing the signs of embodying your “higher self”, you feel physically and mentally lighter; you attract exactly who you need to meet; you can appreciate and embrace all emotions; you no longer seek love or attention outside yourself; you feel the interconnections of all life; you know how to heal yourself energetically; you only listen to your own heart; and you speak your truth even if it isn’t popular. Aren’t those the same characteristics befitting of the messiah in scripture? When faced with conflict, people are quick to proclaim that they’re a “child of God.” Well if that were truly the case, upon reaching an age maturity and an evolution in consciousness, would that in-turn make you a God; creator and ruler of your universe, source of all moral authority and having power over your fortune? Something to think about. “‪‎We Are The Change!” I’m gone! (b)

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Is It Really That Farfetched?

When preparing to address difficult, “touchy” topics such as race, politics and religion, one must always be cognizant of those who may become offended due to the nature of the conversation. This triumvirate of issues has caused devastation worldwide, ruined personal & business relationships and has sparked a myriad of wars throughout the course of recorded time. The truth becomes uncomfortable; and when dealing in that truth, one must understand that the facts do not cease to exist because they are ignored. When analyzing the headline photo caption, imagine the mind shifts and wide range of emotions exhibited based on one’s race and cultural upbringing. For the African-American, the reaction is often swift and definitive. Typically they’re in immediate agreement with the statement. I mean, how could they not approve of the blunt honesty of that sentiment expressed by @Adonissound (via Twitter) with all the historical evidence at our disposal – chattel slavery, Jim Crow, redlining, sharecropping, the Black Codes, the formation of unions, the Prison Industrial Complex, etcetera and so on. To those of European decent, they may find absurdity in the assertion. Their replies may consist of the argument that the playing field is level for all Americans; that slavery was a mere moment in the United States’ dark yet illustrious past which has been rectified by the adoption of the Emancipation Proclamation, the passage of the 13th and 14th Amendments and the passing of the Voters, Civil and Housing Rights Acts during the 1960s. To compare serious social issues to that of paranormal or supernatural activities is ridiculous and an insult to the public’s intelligence. That this opinion further drives the narrative of a racial divide which instigates disharmony amongst the races. But in a country where White Americans are the racial majority, with a 77.7% share of the U. S. population (which includes Hispanics who described themselves as White based on a 2013 Census Bureau report), is this a case of cognitive dissonance; that in which one race does not understand the magnitude of the chain events that has led to the disenfranchisement of another; or simply a case of the “majority” race being oblivious to, and in many cases having no disregard to the advantages they’ve secured by controlling all the industries, utilities, media and resources? How can one recognize a problem when they have no idea or understanding that one exists?

Race is a social construct that artificially divides people into distinct groups based on characteristics such as physical appearance (particularly color), ancestral heritage, cultural affiliation, cultural history, ethnic classification, which serve social, economic, and political needs of a society. We can all agree that no child is born understanding the concept of racism, discrimination or oppression. Racism is a learned behavior that is observed, implemented and experienced by the parties involved; no different than a child being taught the fundamentals of the world’s monetary system. At first, a child sees a dime, quarter or nickel as a shiny object; holding no particular value other than what is pleasing to the eye. Only after being taught its significance does paper currency become more appealing and desirable because of how it’s worshipped and the connotation that the more strips of legal tender one possess, the growth in one’s esteem; the more that can be purchased; the higher the adulation received by bearing large sums of it. The possession of coins is seen as insignificant; not understanding that with the accumulation of a large number of them over time, one’s wealth can be equivalent; the process is only slower. Race is regarded in the same fashion. If a family runs a corporation, and then allows an outsider to join their ranks as a consultant or employee, any complaints addressed with those with controlling interest would be seen as frivolous, because to them the company has always run in that fashion and any underlying issues were brought about by the disgruntled employee for not having an understanding of how things are. That’s why majority rules; and with race, as with big business, each rules on the concept of those in power establish the guidelines in which everyone should abide by.

Accepting those parameters, let’s discuss the phenomenon’s that makes the headline statement true. During the month of March 2015, according to NUFORC (National UFO Reporting Center), the ten (10) states with the highest number of UFO sightings since 1998 include the following – number of sightings to date in the state, last city reported, date and race ratio (White to Black) according to the latest U. S. Census from abcnews.go.com: California – 11,202 (Ladera Ranch; March 22, 2015; 69% to 1%); Florida – 5,113 (Deltona; March 23, 2015; 54.5% to 9.7%); Washington – 5,004 (Everett; March 24, 2015; 81.05% to 3.35%); Texas – 4,359 (College Station; March 25, 2015; 77.2% to 6.8%); New York – 3,837 (Bronx; March 22, 2015; 45.8% to 43.3%); Arizona – 3,212 (Green Valley; March 23, 2015; 91.9% to 0.3%); Pennsylvania – 3,142 (Philadelphia; March 25, 2015; 45.5% to 44.2%); Ohio – 2,907 (North Ridgefield; March 22, 2015; 92.6% to 1.4%); Michigan – 2,451 (Vicksburg; March 24, 2015; 93.6% to 0.5%); and North Carolina – 2,273 (Pfafftown; March 18, 2015; 90% to 8%). In cities other than the Bronx, New York and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, where the populations were diverse, everywhere else the ratios reflected a figure where White Americans were the distinct majority. Where grievances lodged by people of color could be easily overlooked as bellyaching and whining. The areas in which Sasquatch, or the creature commonly known as Big Foot, has been sighted also have eerie parallels to those of the UFO findings. Areas in which African-Americans would not normally frequent to encounter such a beast include Mt. Rainier in the State of Washington; the Muir Woods in the State of California; Ecola State Park in the State of Oregon; Drift Peak in the State of Colorado; and Shawnee National Park in the State of Illinois to name a few. And there shouldn’t be any argument about the Loch Ness, considering the monster is thought to lurk in the waters of Scotland where the ratio White to Black is 96% to 0.6%. Using these figures as a barometer, albeit a small sample, the caption defines that a demographic could more readily identify with the existence of mythical creatures, specters and celestial beings, than to the plight of those that weren’t considered their equal.

On July 22, 2015, MTV aired a documentary titled, “White People.” During its telecast, Jose Antonio Vargas (journalist and filmmaker) travels around the country and asks what’s fair when it comes to affirmative action, if colorblindness is a good thing, what privilege really means and a host of other questions. Unearned benefits not discussed in the film but appear to be a reality of life include examples such as being able to get into an expensive car without being suspected as a drug dealer; the ability to apply for a job and not being rejected because of a name; or while in an interracial relationship, being considered the breadwinner and/or the more educationally qualified of the two. Of course there are those with an opposing view who contend there are different types of privilege, not only related to skin color, that impact the way individuals are accepted in society or are discriminated against. That being born with certain attributes affords one opportunities that others may not have. In an article written by Gina Crosley-Corcoran titled, “Explaining White Privilege to a Broke White Person”, she lists citizenship (being born a U.S. citizen), class (financial stability), sexual orientation (being heterosexual), sex (being male), ability (being able bodied) and gender as being key components to determine one’s state of being, success and happiness. Regardless of your stance as it relates to this argument, while people scoff at the idea of #DrivingWhileBlack (John Felton, a Dayton, Ohio pulled over for making eye contact with a police officer), #CNNBeLike (the disparaging, uneven media coverage pertaining to crimes committed by both Black and White offenders) and now #LaughingWhileBlack (10 Black women kicked off the Napa Valley Wine Train after complaints for laughing too loud), we have failed humanity by continuing to allow this system to fester like an old wound without addressing the implications it has by allowing one group to have clear socio-economic advantages over others. It becomes more evident when the argument of reparations arises which has seen the Jews, Native Americans and Japanese awarded monetary compensation for the atrocities committed against them; while Blacks continue to seek the forty (40) acres and a mule “proposed” to them after the end of the Civil War. Were the “dreams” of equality King so eloquently expressed on this day on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in 1963 a desperate plea for America to change her tyrannical ways and usher in an age where “all men are created equal” merely quotes to be recited annually? Are the inroads made by revolutionaries of all races attempting to balance the scales of justice and equality footnotes in the annals of history? Until the Hubble Telescope identifies extra-terrestrial activity preparing to enter earth’s atmosphere for alien/human interaction, Big Foot isn’t imitated and belittled in Slim Jim commercials and ghosts aren’t figments of people’s imagination becoming tangible entities, those that debate the concept of white privilege will say there are “varying dimensions and degrees of discrimination” while following two (2) individuals in their store under the assumption that they may steal their merchandise, or dismissing a qualified applicant’s job application based on the name which appears on the document. “Sorry Levondia! You don’t fit the description we’re looking for.” Let’s change the paradigm. “‪‎We Are The Change!” I’m gone! (b)

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Silence

“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.” – Martin Luther King, Jr.

“Silence implies consent” is a concept of social interaction, which states roughly that people tend to assume lack of response to an action as tacit approval of that action.”

‘All too often we complain about injustice and prejudice; we watch as the rights, history, and culture of others are trampled on or erased (take a look around, it’s happening now). Yet we say nothing and we do nothing. Sometimes, we refrain from speaking out because we assume that “speaking out” means protesting with signs or acts of civil disobedience. Speaking out can manifest in this way, but it can also happen through writing, through the way you live your life (being consistent in your values and actions), and by pointing out injustice in everyday situations when you see it.

Writing about the civil-rights era, King said, “History will have to record that the greatest tragedy of this period of social transition was not the strident clamor of the bad people, but the appalling silence of the good people.” I can’t help but think that his words are applicable today in our current political climate—a climate in which civility has been replaced by anger, hate, and atrocious deeds. In order to change the tone of the rhetoric of hate, we must speak up. We must stand up against injustice and for those who are being treated unjustly.

King urged us to feel passionate about freedom and justice, even calling upon us to give our life for what we believe in—much like he did. He said, “A man who won’t die for something is not fit to live.” Whether he met this in actuality does not matter to me. What he was saying is that when we feel strongly, we must act in the ways that we know how. We must use our strengths as individuals to make society better and we must act as the conscience of our nation.

Whenever I feel strongly about an issue but fear the idea of speaking out, I think of the words of King. He said “In the End, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.” These are simple words, but they are wonderfully profound in their message to all of us.’ (Martin Luther King Jr. and Silence – written by Marybeth Gasman)

Think about this post as events continue to occur on both a domestic & global scale. What will your position be? Will you continue to remain silent? “‪‎We Are The Change!” I’m gone! (b)

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Hypocrisy

So let me get this right, because I’ve been seeing this position since the incident occurred. So when encountered by law enforcement, despite the circumstances, one should be cooperative, patient, bite their tongue and potentially allow their rights to be violated for fear of being taken into custody or perhaps death (worst case scenario)? Well how come I don’t see this turn the other cheek sh*t when you’re on everybody’s social media posts talking about how a b*tch cut you off in traffic, tried you at the restaurant, hated on you in the club or a f*ck n*gga sizing you? So what you’re saying is you’re “gorilla” with ordinary Joe’s/Jane’s but pooch up when it comes to authority figures? Doesn’t the average individual have the propensity to become violent, which may lead to a physical altercation that could end in death? People who wield power, whether wearing a police/correctional uniform, having the ability to brandish a weapon or being in charge of approving a loan will exert that power because they feel their current positions (at that moment) provide a sense of superiority. When people question that authority & fight back, unfortunately instances like Sandra Bland occur. So if you’re saying fighting back and standing up for what’s right is no longer an option, then what was the point of our ancestors being lynched, sprayed with water hoses, being bitten by dogs, marching/protesting and beaten by cops for? What was the point in having a Malcolm, Martin, Meager, Huey, Marcus, Bobby and Ali to point out these atrocities, standing in our stead facing that same abuse and ridicule? So the next time somebody’s cursing you out, gets your order wrong at a restaurant or provides poor customer service, don’t get mad; don’t ask for a manager, don’t raise up and act as if you’re gonna retaliate or create a problem, because f*ck it! You’re turning the other cheek and practicing good deescalation tactics and people skills. There’s a saying when dealing with the police, “You may beat the rap, but you won’t beat the ride!” The ride shouldn’t result in death because of a simple traffic citation or disagreement of principles; no matter the circumstances. No one is saying not to respect authority, but damnit, you desire respect as an individual as well. You shouldn’t have to compromise that. I swear, hindsight be 20/20 like a muthaf*cka! Like a majority of us don’t allow our emotions to get the best of us when confronted or in a heated debate. There’s a war on melanin taking place all over the globe and y’all trying to rationalize. Da f*ck outta here! “We Are The Change!”

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Burden Behind the Badge

Imagine being awakened by the body’s internal alarm clock and prior to putting together a group of collective thoughts, your heart plummets to the depths of its soul. Peering at the reflection in the mirror while firmly gripping your toothbrush unhappy and emotionally ill-prepared for the challenges you were forced to undertake on a daily basis. After clothing yourself, eating or drinking some semblance of nutrition and enduring traffic to reach your destination, you arrive at your location only to feel the pit in your stomach grow deeper with each advancing step toward the building’s entrance. For many of us, that’s a feeling we’ve grown accustomed to on a daily basis. Instead of satisfying our appetite for independence and entrepreneurship, we jump onto life’s conveyor belt and run at a frenetic pace in an attempt to keep up with the world’s constant changes. Realizing if we were to ever teeter off balance, slow our speed or stop completely without an alternative, we stand to lose everything we’ve worked so hard to build. So try envisioning the battle one must undergo when they’ve sworn an oath to “serve and protect” in the interest of public safety when they’ve reached a point where that desire no longer drives them. Where underneath the tactical gear, Hi-Tech boots and agency issued uniform dwells a person uninterested in being trapped in the confines of what the “shield” symbolizes. This was the case for former police officer Amos Mac, Jr. A crusader on the side of “right” and what’s just; a martyr for having those same principles and wanting to exhibit them to the public at large. In an occupation where secrecy and upholding the “code” is paramount and having upstanding moral values is often times frowned upon.

As an African-American in today’s society, the desire to be a police officer is far down on the list of occupations one wants to join in the workforce. Aside from being labeled a “snitch”, “5-0” or the “police” when around your peers, there are many other pursuits that appear more lucrative and pleasing to eye. The images of police officers abusing their authority are visible on every television set and social media site around the country. So as early as adolescence, many children’s aspirations are endeavors that require little to no education and don’t come with the stigma of being labeled a “Narc”. Why become a doctor, dentist, scientist, police officer or engineer, when those professions aren’t seen as any sort of accomplishment or aren’t visible in the mainstream. It’s much easier to become a model, video vixen, athlete, or drug dealer. In that world, you get exposure, flash and the opportunity to make what appears to be easy money. However, what isn’t discussed are the consequences of making those career choices and how not having a formal education will hinder one from progressing; leaving the pursuer underemployed if those endeavors fail. Mac, a Black male, was no different. He never thought that during his formative years he’d be a police officer. It wasn’t until his interaction with a Community Resource Officer at a local middle school changed his perception of the field. In Amos’ own words he explained that the “brother” (an African-American officer) was cool and encouraged him to join the force. He saw similarities with the officer and felt that if he joined an agency, he’d be able to make a difference. In his mind he’d utilize the resources available to him, and through his actions and diligence cultivate a relationship that had long been severed between the force and community. After careful thought, he decided to join and submitted an application. Upon being accepted, completing the rigors of the academy and officially being sworn in, he entered an arena where he could now see the disparities taking place in the neighborhoods he policed. Individuals became numbers; quotas had to be met; the community he had hoped to protect and uplift often times shunned him. With every traffic stop came fear of the unknown; the arrival to every call, be it a domestic disturbance or burglary, came a sense of insecurity. These inhibitions weren’t because he was frightened of the circumstances; they came from a state of how he’d react if he was threatened or if imminent dangers were to arise.

Imprisonedstory

As citizens, we become apprehensive the moment we hear the sirens blare and see the illumination of red and blue lights flashing behind a vehicle we occupy. Many officers relish in the fact that they can make your palms sweat by their mere presence in your rearview mirror. We grip the steering wheel tighter, nervously adjust our seat belts and assume the correct posture until our fears are placed at ease once the civil servant bolts in another direction. Our heartbeat steadies and our angst subsides once the perceived danger has passed. How can individuals who are thought to provide safety and comfort leave many of the populous shaken and uneasy with each encounter? Mac wanted to be the officer seen on the cover of brochures distributed at Job Fairs and Career Days displaying community activism as the photographer captured the moment under a manufactured title of “Public Outreach.” The bond he had desired to forge never materialized and became lost in a vacuum of politics and misgivings. And after almost four (4) years of service with a law enforcement agency in the State of North Carolina, Mac decided that his passions were best suited elsewhere and composed a literary piece entitled “Imprisoned In Blue”. Using his experiences in the field as a backdrop, within the manuscript is a collection of creative expressions uniquely assembled to describe his time on the force. From the onset, Mac admits you onto a rollercoaster of emotions; where with each ebb and flow the reader is engulfed into a magnitude of sensational highs and heart wrenching lows. At its apex you have a piece called “Impact”, where he describes his interaction with a seventeen (17) year old, their conversation, and how impactful his words were several years later after a chance reunion revealed that the young man had matured and righted his situation. It plummets at times and reveals the depths of Mac’s ambiance in a poem titled “The Price”, where he explains that subliminally he believed his honor and integrity were frequently questioned despite swearing his allegiance to principles that often had him feeling as if at any moment he could be handcuffed and placed into the rear of a squad car. The momentum quickens to a high speed and the reader experiences jerking turns with verses named “Thug” and “Suspect’s Cry”, where in the former, the word, both identified in the media and embedded in popular culture, is depicted in the same vein as the derogatory term which has been used to identify Blacks since the days of slavery and is the new code phrase uttered to identify the actions of a person of color; the latter an introspection from a suspect providing an account from his standpoint about the hardships he’s faced and being ensnared within the boundaries of civilization. At times, mid flow, it comes to a screeching halt with pieces like “Traitor” where Mac questions himself and the thoughts of being used as an instrument to further the agenda to disenfranchise Blacks in the role of an overseer; a Benedict Arnold to the people of his race. The work is a composition of all his thoughts and feelings, narrated piece by piece; a visual transcript of his experiences summarized for the reader’s enjoyment.

Though given a manual with countless rules, regulations, laws and statutes, Mac insists that being a police officer is an occupation that can only be learned by performing the tasks that come with wearing the armor associated with it. Experience is the best teacher, something that is lost when watching your favorite crime drama or reality television show. In a matter of fifty-two (52) minutes, a crime is committed, investigation conducted, suspect apprehended and verdict rendered all in a fashion that will have you believe policing is easy. Mac illustrates that it’s often a thankless job. One in which “discretion is the better part of valor” and the sole objective is to make it home safely after the shift is completed. Once the shift sergeant dismisses the officers from roll call, every interaction can have far reaching ramifications for the decision maker and the individual encountered. The difference between a physical altercation, a trip to the county jail, the receipt of a traffic citation or a friendly discussion is based on maturity, intelligence and officer’s prudence. The manner in which everyone involved conducts themselves determines any escalation of action on the part of the officer. Nowadays, Mac is secure in his new position with Parks & Recreation within the area he resides. No longer obligated to decipher coded jargon broadcasted over a police frequency, he now focuses his enthusiasm on mentoring the youth and establishing programs that would prove to enhance their abilities as they prepare for the perils of adulthood. His work, Imprisoned In Blue, lends voice to those that both carry the burden of wearing the badge and those whose voices yearn to be heard while enforcing a system, that at its core, appears to be broken. When one is willing to trade in their livelihood for the sanity of doing what’s virtuous, armchair activism isn’t acceptable. “We Are The Change!” I’m gone! (b)

To purchase your copy of Imprisoned In Blue by Amos Mac, Jr, please visit www.MacVisionz.com or follow Amos Mac, Jr’s social media outlets; Facebook: AmosMacJr, Twitter: @amosmacjr, @Instagram: @amosmacjr.

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False Flag

I’mma play the devil’s advocate on this one. So there’s an online petition asking for the removal of the Confederate flag fueled recently by the shooting in Charleston, South Carolina. In the south, for some, the flag represents a symbol of pride. When seen, it’s a rally cry for those that felt oppressed by a government (the North/Union) who destroyed their families’ livelihoods over a century and a half ago. For others, it represents a beckon of hate. A constant reminder of days past where people of color were tormented and tortured; entrenched in history, with the burning cross (imagine that), as a sign of the danger to come for those whose hue, sexual orientation or religious background were different from that of their oppressors. Whether carried by hooded rogues or waving in an afternoon breeze on the back of a Ford F-150, gun-rack in tow, it instilled fear and horror. It’s symbolizes the Black holocaust here in a country where one of the slogans are “Give us your poor, your tired, your huddled masses longing to be free.” Does removing the flag from state buildings, tailgating events and other venues resolve the root causes of racism? The answer for some is it’s a step in the right direction. It would mean that as a society we’re making progressive steps by attempting to solve a problem deeply woven in the annals of American history. The real answer is “No!” As a material object, it doesn’t change the psychology of the individual enveloped in its clutches. It’s something which is embedded as a result of exposure and practice; it’s a behavior that’s taught and the flag only serves as a reminder of a cause, not its intrinsic value or intent. Members of the Klu Klux Klan no longer walk around wearing their robes and other garments in reverence to their agenda. They pose as your doctors, attorneys, pediatricians, police officers and teachers. Though the fabric may be buried underneath valuables in a basement or hanging near trinkets in an attic, it’s a mindset that goes unchanged by judgment, public opinion or common sense. If you’re willing to remove the Confederate flag, be willing to remove the flag of this very country because the foundations are virtually the same. A mere search through history will reveal the methods by which the United States was able to establish, expand, maintain and continue its dominance as a global power.

I say keep the flag; let it serve as a reminder of the atrocities that have occurred under its banner. Keeping those that are aware of its history to be ever mindful of the smell of burning buildings, decomposed corpses, shattered windows and broken dreams which occurred and continues to do so while it flies. Allow it to summon the strength and courage necessary to overcome the adversity associated with its colors, stars & bars. Let people bask in its splendor as a reminder of the loss the South suffered during the War on Northern Aggression (The Civil War). It’ll be contradictory to remove generations of tradition, be it right or wrong, because it doesn’t adhere to the norms of society. No different than the Native Americans or the Africans that arrived here via the TransAtlantic Slave Trade being stripped of their culture, religion & beliefs. Changing the names and uniforms of the Ole Miss Rebels, stopping the sales of automobile license plates or removing the red bars from the State of Florida’s flag (which represents its time in the confederacy) won’t change the underlying issue. Racism, though enhanced by signs, symbols and images, is an inherent practice that is taught and instilled psychologically. Until the thought process changes, the removal of objects is only a superficial attempt to alleviate the issue. If that were the case, the existence of a divine being that can relieve the world of its ills and solve individual suffering wouldn’t be praised on a daily basis.

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Maybe I feel this way because I don’t reside in a Bainbridge, Georgia, the Appalachian Mountains or Jackson, Mississippi where racism is felt and dealt with at a different degree and the flag carries an entirely different meaning. On second thought, take that sh*t down! It endorses principles that are no longer applicable and is a constant reminder of servitude and alleged racial superiority based solely on the color one’s skin. . So as Bree Newsome is praised for her courageous act of civil disobedience after climbing the flag pole and removing the Confederate flag from the Statehouse in Columbia, South Carolina, perhaps it should be considered that other flags be removed from their perch atop buildings of stature worldwide upon further examination of their histories of colonization. “As a people we are fighting to maintain the Heaven-ordained supremacy of the white man over the inferior or colored race. As a national emblem, it (the Confederate flag) is significant of our higher cause, the cause of a superior race.” (William T. Thompson, designer of the Confederate flag) “We Are The Change!” I’m gone! (b)

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Endangered

“The more things change, the more they stay the same”, was first used by French novelist Alphonse Karr (1808-1890). There’s no explanation as to why he coined this phrase, but if he were alive today, I’m sure his sentiment would remain identical to his initial thought. Despite the world’s technological and socioeconomic advances, humanity’s compassion appears to resemble that of a Neanderthal; primitive, unenlightened, culturally and intellectually backwards. We live on a planet where the richest 1% of the world’s population controls nearly half of the global wealth; leaving the remaining percentile to fight for the residual resources; where despite these developments, we remain blinded to the reality that engulfs us in chaos.

A scene of uproar and confusion; bedlam has been embedded into the Black populous. “Allegedly” arriving to the New World in 1502, the injustices of the Black Male still stands atop a syndicated list. Since those times, we’ve dealt with indentured servitude, slavery, the Casual Killing and Meritorious Manumission Acts of 1705 and 1710 respectively, Reconstruction, sharecropping, the establishment of unions to exclude “negroes” from the workplace and mortgage discrimination. Notwithstanding the signing of the Civil Rights Act in 1964, the three (3) things that have hindered Black progress; the 13th Amendment in conjunction with the Black Codes and Jim Crow laws, which has led to mass incarceration; a contentious relationship with law enforcement and the psychological damage caused as a result of serfdom. The Thirteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution abolished slavery and involuntary servitude, except as punishment for a crime. Though the amendment formally abolished slavery throughout the United States, factors such as Black Codes, white supremacist violence, and selective enforcement of statutes continued to subject some African-Americans to involuntary labor; particularly in the once Confederate South. Many activists site this as the reason for the mass incarceration of people of color, as Blacks make up 12-14% of the general population, yet account for over 50% of the incarcerated individuals in correctional facilities. Jim Crow laws were racial segregation state and local laws enacted after the Reconstruction period in the “South” that continued until 1965 mandating de jure racial segregation in all public facilities starting in 1890 with a “separate but equal” status for African Americans. Jim Crow laws mandated the segregation of public schools, public places and public transportation, and the segregation of restrooms, restaurants and drinking fountains for Whites and Blacks. The implementation of these edicts followed the 1800–1866 Black Codes, which had previously restricted the civil rights and civil liberties of African Americans.

It can be argued that the foundation for police departments were instituted by the creation of slave patrols. The first patrols were established in South Carolina in 1704, and were organized groups of White men who monitored and enforced discipline upon Black slaves in the prewar United States southern states. The principle began when other measures failed and was installed to instill slave control and obedience. The first police department in the United States was established in New York City in 1844 (it was officially organized in 1845). This occurred as urbanization was occurring at a rapid pace and old informal watch and the constable system was no longer adequate to control disorder. This can be debated, as many will suggest actions like “Stop and Frisk” and “Driving while Black” are a means of profiling and singling out people of color as being unruly and unworthy of having the rights and privileges afforded to all of the country’s citizens.

Lastly, the most powerful weapon used was the division created amongst Blacks as a result of slavery. The encouragement for “self-hate” is accurately described in the Willie Lynch Letter, and whether real or fabricated, continues to ring true to this present time. According to the manuscript, Lynch presented to an audience of slave owners on the bank of the James River in Virginia in 1712, a full proof method for “controlling their Black slaves” and he guaranteed the slave masters that this method would control the slaves for at least 300 years. He stated that he used fear, distrust and envy for control purposes. After the slaves received this indoctrination, they would become self-refueling and self-generating for years to come. He first stated to pit the different aspects of a Black slave against another Black slave; old Black male vs. young Black male, light skin slaves vs. dark skin slaves, female vs. male and vice versa in all the situations stated. It appears this method continues to work as all the images and rhetoric reflects the self-destructive behavior Lynch stated would occur for centuries.

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We all see the atrocities on a daily basis; our hearts mourn for the losses of lives that occur in our communities, nationally and abroad. Police violence on its citizens appears to have escalated and acquittals for those that appear to “purposely” harm African-Americans are becoming the norm. The sympathetic tears no longer flow from those trying to understand their plight and the obstacles they’ve faced, because in their eyes, that’s the way they conduct themselves. Take the events of recent weeks involving the shootings of Walter Scott in South Carolina and Eric Harris in Tulsa, Oklahoma; look at the comment sections related to the stories and review the threads. Many of the responses consist of individuals stating, “If you don’t want to get shot, don’t commit the crime!” or “You deserve what you get for being a criminal!” The media (television, news and other visual forms of entertainment) plays a huge part in contributing to the public perception. What the Black community views as amusement is perhaps someone’s only glimpse as to who they think people are. So when a juror deliberates the information provided and has to determine the fate of someone who looks like “them” and is believed to have upstanding character, morals and values; and in return have to resort to imagery, lack of exposure or what they’ve been taught or heard when analyzing their inverse, the conclusion is seamless. Victims are left to wonder how this verdict could have been reached when the evidence is so clear. The African-American community sees it as a loss of life; every life is to be cherished and appreciated; no one individual is greater than another; we’re a part of the human race. However, in society’s mind they may only see the ongoing issues that inflict violence. From Chicago to the Bloods & Crips in South Central Los Angeles, we see gang violence. “Refugees” and looters craze the streets due to the damage of Hurricane Katrina. Television shows such as “Empire” and musical personalities like Rick Ross, Lil’ Wayne and Chris Brown paint imageries that our lifestyles are full of violence and their lyrics emend a negative monotone on our culture. We now have athletes; Ray Rice, Greg Hardy and the one who paved the way for them all; Ray Carruth who now adds counts to incarceration rates and nightly news segments identifying an African-American as the usual suspect. In many cases, society has a trained perception although it isn’t right, the Black race has provided them with this site map of autonomy due to the refusal to acknowledge the reflections within their own mirrors. So when an adolescent dies in the streets of Overtown (Miami, Florida); Charleston, South Carolina; Detroit or Philadelphia as a result of the catch phrase “Black on Black” violence; people, from behind their keyboards and telecommunication devices, cry out, “Why aren’t we marching against sh*t like this?” The fact is most murders are intra-racial; with 86% of White victims killed by White offenders and 94% of Blacks victims killed by Black offenders. Advocates will suggest that during the 503 days between the Trayvon Martin shooting and the George Zimmerman verdict, 10,865 Blacks were killed by other Blacks. In addition, there are those who will propose that there’s no significant racial disparity when it comes to police violence against the country’s inhabitants. In an article written by Politifact in August 2014, the website indicated that The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention keeps data on fatal injuries from 1999 to 2011 and one category is homicides by legal intervention. The term “legal intervention” covers any situation when a person dies at the hands of anyone authorized to use deadly force in the line of duty. Over the span of more than a decade, 2,151 Whites died by being shot by police compared to 1,130 Blacks. Brian Forst, a professor in the Department of Justice, Law and Criminology at American University, said this difference is predictable. “More whites are killed by the police than blacks primarily because Whites (63%) outnumber Blacks (12%) in the general population by more than five to one,” Forst said. A 2002 study in the American Journal of Public Health found that the death rate due to legal intervention was more than three times higher for blacks than for whites in the period from 1988 to 1997. Candace McCoy is a criminologist at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice at the City University of New York, and she provided a theory as to why the Black rate was much higher. McCoy said, “Blacks might be more likely to have a violent encounter with police because they are convicted of felonies at a higher rate than Whites.” Felonies include offenses such as violent crimes like murder and rape, property crimes like burglary and embezzlement, to drug trafficking and gun offenses. This would explain the outrage the public has when it appears that violence by those sworn to “protect and serve” is being perpetrated against one segment of society. ‬‬

What if I told you those same protests, marches and events that people clamor for concerning “Black on Black” violence and “police brutality” take place nationwide; but because you don’t, and in many cases won’t see them on your television, they weren’t announced, properly organized, or the occasion wasn’t as heavily “shared” via social media as Taraji P. Henson saying “Take these cookies!” you were unaware they took place. Taking all these elements into consideration, what is being done to prevent the perceived extinction of the Black race here in the United States or worldwide? We’re reminded through history that the Holocaust, also known as the Shoah, was a genocide in which approximately six (6) million Jews were killed by the Nazi regime and its collaborators under the reign of Adolf Hitler. We’re reminded annually about the terrorist events of September 11th. Yet when asked to right the wrongs inflicted by slavery or compensation (reparations) for helping lay the foundation for the United States being the super power it is today, Blacks are asked to “get over it” and no one is held accountable. According to Michelle Alexander, author the book “The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness”, there more Black men incarcerated or under the watch of the criminal justice system than enslaved in 1850. Cecil Rhodes was a perpetrator of genocide, responsible for the displacement of millions of African people for the benefit of White settlers and enslavement of African people on their own land. White people came from Europe and became wealthy from the theft of the gold and diamonds in Southern Africa. Rhodes paid a mercenary army from England and stocked them with Maxim machine guns; and with only five (5) machine guns the English slaughtered 5,000 African people in one afternoon alone–then celebrated with dinner and champagne. King Leopold II of Belgium was responsible for the deaths and mutilation of 10 million Congolese Africans during the late 1800’s. Belgium owes much of its spoils to the people of the Congo River Basin. Yet these events are rarely, if ever discussed, and many of these tyrants are forever honored for the mayhem and destruction they’ve caused, with an example being the Rhodes Scholarship, named after Rhodes, which is an international postgraduate award for selected foreign students to study at the University of Oxford. The world’s last surviving male northern white rhino – stripped of his horn for his own safety – is now under 24-hour armed guard in a desperate final bid to save the species. Sudan (the rhino’s name) is guarded day and night by a group of rangers who risk their lives as they try to keep it from poachers lured by the rising price of ivory. Who will protect the Black race from the verge of extinction as a result of mass incarceration, death by their oppressors or by their own hands? Albert Einstein said, “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” We want things on earth as it is in heaven, yet refuse to work together to create that reality. #Wakeup “We Are The Change!” I’m gone! (b)

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