COMMON DAMN SENSE & WHY I NEED MY WHITE FRIENDS

Just be a descent human-being and use common damn sense!

When Colin Kaepernick is kneeling, he is exercising his “right” to peacefully protest. This is not a violent attack on our military or any civilians. Feelings may get hurt, but no one is in any physical danger. And yes, rich people have the right to protest too.

When openly racist members of white supremacy protest, but instead use violence to get their point across, that is not only dangerous, it is Un-American. It is the exact opposite of what our brothers and sisters in uniform or risking their lives for. It is a direct attack on American citizens. It is a direct attack on democracy. Our military fights for freedom, not oppression.

This battle for equality in America is not just for black people, gay people, women or immigrants. It’s about people. People who do bad things should be held accountable—that is all. People who use violence should be held accountable. Officials who abuse their power to oppress others, in order for their own benefit are just as guilty.

Nonetheless, I do believe in a system where white Americans have an inherit advantage; fair or not fair. That same privilege and power is what it is going to take to save our country. Who can come between a fight between two elephants?

Just like when viral youtube videos of black people acting ignorant makes all black people look bad; the same can be said for what is happening in Virginia right now. At this moment, this country needs descent, moral white Americans to openly and publicly be just as bold as the white supremacists; not just today and tomorrow, but everyday.

And to my black people. We need to continue to be good to each other; today, tomorrow and everyday.

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A driver plows into a crowd of protesters in Charlottesville, Virginia. Photo by Associated Press

A New Standard: How Viola Davis and “Moonlight” Flipped the Script

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The playwright Tarell Alvin McCraney, left, and the director Barry Jenkins teamed up to make the film “Moonlight.” NEW YORK TIMES

“Moonlight” won best picture and Viola Davis won best supporting actress. No one can deny the powerful cast and brilliance of Moonlight. Having grown up in Allapattah, a neighborhood some 20 blocks south of Liberty City, where the movie was set, gives me an even deeper appreciation for the film’s accolades and accomplishments. When “Moonlight” is celebrated, everyone who grew up in Black Miami celebrates. Black Miami has never existed outside of those of us who grew up there; on the other side of the bridge. Miami has always been perceived as a one night stand between “What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas” and  “Havana Nights.” I’m glad the cameras and stars took their talents to the hood this time; look at what they were able to create . 

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Viola Davis JEFF LIPSKAY/ A.M.PA.S PHOTO

The beauty, grace and talent of Viola Davis is undeniable. She continues to make history as a woman of color in film, but particularly as a dark-skinned black woman. Hollywood has always had a problem with colorism. America has a problem with colorism. Hell, the black community has a problem with colorism. White or anything associated with whiteness has always been the gold standard. So for Viola to be so successful in an industry driven by imagery and whiteness is extraordinary. With what she has had to overcome as a woman, a black woman, a dark-skinned black woman at that, might essentially make her the most talented actor that Hollywood has ever seen. 

While many will see the accomplishments of “Moonlight” and Viola’s Oscar-winning performances as monumental achievements for black actors and actresses, still, I am torn. On one hand, I realize that The Oscars is Hollywood’s Super Bowl. It’s the highest honor that any director, producer, film writer or actor could ever be bestowed with. However, The Oscars still represents an old American, patriarchy. According to a report written in 2016, 94% of the members of the Academy are white (The Economist). Ironically, this same group has the power and privilege to curate what art, beauty and the black experience is, from a white male perspective. And their perspective is golden? I have to be critical under those circumstances. I am genuinely happy for all the winners and nominees nonetheless. To have your life’s work and craft celebrated among your peers and fans must be a great honor.

In the same breath, Hollywood is also just as responsible for much of the social stereotypes and misconceptions of the black experience as any other American institution. The seemingly improbable journeys of the virtually all black cast and crew of “Moonlight,”along with Viola Davis’s personal triumphs, is what makes their achievements greater than the Oscars themselves. 

I shake my head at the the Oscars, for the many who were snubbed or pegged into subservient roles in order to be recognized. Black actors and actresses do not need the Oscars, if anything, the Oscars needs more diversity and representation. 

The No Look Pass- Why the Trump Administration Continues to Keep America on it’s Heels.

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Earvin “Magic” Johnson confuses a pair of Atlanta Hawk defenders with one of his signature no look passes.

Earvin “Magic” Johnson was one of the most dynamic, durable and talented players in NBA history. His natural gifts gave him a distinct advantage over his opponents. At 6’9” 230lbs, he was built like a power forward, but had the grace, ball handling skills and on the court leadership of a point guard. And though his size at his was not customary for a point guard, he became the best point guard to ever wear Los Angeles Lakers jersey. Point guards are typically the smallest players on the court. Their job is to control the tempo of the game by making good decisions with the basketball and allowing the players around them to score, by embodying a pass first, shoot second mentality. But Magic, because of his size, intelligence and smarts, could play every position on the court. His combination of size and speed made him a complete package, a once in a generation caliber of player.

And though Magic had an arsenal of skills, he is best most known for his passing. Magic had an uncanny ability to place the ball in the hand of his teammates from under the most improbable scenarios; like magic. He was so good at dishing the ball around that he didn’t even have to look in the direction of his passes. Hence, “no look pass.” It’s like he had eyes in the back of his head and three arms. A player could be on the opposite side of the court, totally out of position to receive the ball, yet Magic could penetrate the defending team with a laser pass that was only attended for his player’s hands. Squared up with a defender in his face, closing in on him… and POOF, the ball was out of his hands and being laid up by someone else, for two points. And when teams tried to anticipate his passes, he would keep the ball and score himself.

For his entire career he deceived us into thinking he was going left, when in actuality, his true intention was to go right. We thought that he would surely take the open shot, but he actually passed it off to someone whom you forgot was on the court…because you had been so engulfed in watching him. How did he do it? How did he see it? It was unexplainable. But he did it time and time again. You could never predict how the play would end, once the basketball touched Magic’s hands.

As I watch news and read reports about the state of politics in the United States. I feel like I am watching Magic Johnson play again. We are all being told to focus on emanate threat of Islamic terrorists. For a slither of time, some of us would have been duped into thinking that the Trump administration had a legitimate concern about Muslim extremists finding their way into the United States. Even if the World Trade attacks took place over 15 years ago and we had virtually no “terrorist” attacks on American soil since.[i] As a matter of fact, more than 90% of all “terrorist” attacks perpetrated by Muslims are inflicted on other Muslims… in Muslim countries. With the exception of Antarctica, when you look at the facts, the United States might be the safest place on the planet when it comes to “so called” terrorist attacks. Europe, Asia and Africa catch far more hell than we could every dream of.

So while a travel ban was being placed on Muslims in the name of protecting America from terrorists, another play was being drawn up. Social media has been flooded with posts about ICE (Immigration Law Enforcement) [1]going into neighborhoods from Los Angeles, to New York City, to Miami to setup “check points.” Folks are being stopped, searched, detained and deported for being undocumented. The government is supposedly, only going after those with “criminal charges.” Whether the reports of checkpoints[ii] are true or false, Trumps rhetoric towards immigrants has fostered a growing climate of fear and mistrust of immigrants.

A few weeks ago, the Trump administration dribbled the ball down the right side of the court, telling us that Muslims were a threat because of their inherent ties to “terrorism.” But this week they through the ball to the opposite side of the court to our wide open ICE Agents who are allegedly boarding public transportation in places like Flatbush Brooklyn with a huge West Indian population and Flushing Queens, which is considered to be the most diverse neighborhood in the world, with families from virtually every country in Latin America and Asia. It seems that it’s not just about “criminals.”

The African American community already knows all too well about having their neighborhoods heavily policed. Black men very familiar with being stopped and frisked in the name of “proactive policing.” It seems like it will always be a reason to accuse people of color of being suspicious or a threat to America. It seems like all those years of stopping and frisking black people paid off after all. Those same protocols are now being practiced on the Latino and Muslim communities in America.

So what is this all about? Where is the Trump administration really going with their agenda? Unlike Magic, his “no-look” passes and skillful ball handling made those around him better. It made the team better. He led the Lakers to five NBA Championships.[iii] Also, in the game of basketball there are two teams on the court. The objective is to defeat your opponent. However, America is not a basketball court, it is a country. How is all this rhetoric and division making all Americans better? We are supposed to be unified. We should be trying our best include everyone, in our so-called democracy, polarizing and excluding certain groups. “United we stand. Divided we fall.” America is supposed to be a land of opportunity and refuge for those who cannot find refuge anywhere else. A land built on the backs of the same people who are now being systematically pushed away.

It is far too easy to place the blame of our shortcomings as a country on immigrants and people of color. It is far too easy to complain and pull on the emotions of the American people rather than make the necessary changes and sacrifices. America is not perfect, however, it is still one of the safest places in the world. It is still the land of opportunity. We cannot fall for the bait and allure of prejudice, fear and xenophobia. While it may look like hour president is going to work, to solve the problems of our nation, we need to look a little deeper. What is his real agenda? Because I know that expelling millions of immigrants and banning the entry of hundreds of thousands more, will not make America “great again.” But it will continue keep us confused, divided and distracted.

Sources

[1] ICE- Immigration Customs Enforcement

[i] ACLU FACTSHEET ON CUSTOMS AND BORDER PROTECTION’S 100-MILE ZONE https://www.aclu.org/other/aclu-factsheet-customs-and-border-protections-100-mile-zone?redirect=immigrants-rights/aclu-fact-sheet-customs-and-border-protections-100-mile-zone

[ii] False Stories About ICE Sweeps & Checkpoints Spark Fear In New York’s Immigrant Communities

http://newyork.cbslocal.com/2017/02/23/bogus-ice-reports/

[iii] NBA Encyclopedia –Earvin Johnson, Jr.

http://www.nba.com/history/players/johnsonm_stats.html

 

Whose America?

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Hundreds of thousands protested along 42nd Street in Manhattan during the Women’s March.

Crowds of protesters flooded the streets of every major city in the United States; hundreds of thousands in Washington, D.C., Chicago, New York City and Boston. Even my hometown of Miami drew over 10,000 protesters. To think, just days before the mass demonstrations, I had no idea of how immense the protests would be. As my social media feed continued to update, I learned that it was not just a movement in America, but it was a worldwide collaboration. London, Nairobi, Berlin, Paris and Prague too? Over 1 million people worldwide protested on Saturday (see article Washington Post ). It was a worldwide march lead by women, with a unified message; the disapproval of the recently elected United States President, Donald Trump.

There has been a tremendous amount of controversy surrounding this campaign and his ascent to the White House. Many have viewed his words as racist, misogynistic, xenophobic and divisive. One of Trump’s most troublesome ideas is to build a wall along the southern border of the United States, in which he initially stated that the Mexican government would pay for (see article Los Angeles Times). He also painted a grim picture of Mexicans and other immigrants from Latin American countries as being responsible for bringing crime and drugs into the United States.

On 16 June, at his campaign launch for the Republican presidential nomination in 2016, Donald Trump aired his views on immigration, saying: ‘[Mexico is] sending people that have lots of problems … They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists.’ (see video The Guardian).  

Not only did Mr. Trump speak harshly  about Hispanics, but he also proposed a ban on immigrants from Muslim countries, (see video CNN News) creating a larger rift within America and its immigrant communities.

According to News One, Trump received single digit support from black voters throughout most of the campaign. His rallies were overwhelmingly white and there were several instances in which black people were physically assaulted by white crowds (see video Washington Post). Furthermore, Trump publicly received support from the white supremacist group, the Ku Klux Klan (KKK) (see article Washington Post). Trump’s campaign swiftly denounced the group’s support, however their public endorsement left an undeniable stain. With this kind of negative press, relations with the black community became as tense as ever.

And just 24 hours before a nationally televised presidential debate, a recording of Mr. Trump having a conversation about groping women and “grabbing them by the pussy” was made public (see video New York Times). This brought even more controversy to his campaign and the timing could not have been worse. Surely, his approval ratings would drop. Surely Mrs. Clinton would expose Mr. Trump and use his words and ideas to show just how unfit of a candidate he was. But like a cat with nine lives, Trump survived yet another blow to his campaign and came out seemingly unscathed.  His crowd remained fervently supportive of him.

Going into the November election, the polls and experts had Hillary Clinton ahead with a double-digit lead (see article CNN News). But on the night of Tuesday, November 7th, the unexpected happened. Clinton’s so-called lead never actually materialized. As a matter of fact, the race was a lot closer than the experts had anticipated, and the world witnessed one of the biggest upsets in election history. Though reports will show that Hillary Clinton won the popular vote by 2.9 million votes, the electoral map was overwhelmingly red (see article CNN News). The results of the election created an uproar. Members of the Democratic party demanded a recount. It even brought our electoral college system into serious question; many legislators are now arguing to have it removed all together.

What a campaign year! Our country seems more divided than ever. Though many continue to contest Trump’s presidency, the fact remains that he is our nation’s leader.

I was part of the massive crowds that marched, chanted and protested. And as I marched among the throngs of people, something became apparent, more than ever. Dr. King’s words never rang truer:

“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.”

 

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Protesters crowd the streets at Grand Central Station.

The historic crowds were impressive and beautifully diverse. The marches brought people of all walks together. However, I had to ask myself:

 

  • When scores of unarmed black bodies were being mowed down by law enforcement, sparking protests and giving birth to the phrase Black Lives Matter, where was the uprising then?  Where was the outrage?
  • When mass shootings of innocent men, women and children in Colorado, Connecticut, and Florida revealed how our gun laws continue to put as all at risk, where were the mass protests then?
  • When families were being torn apart by aggressive deportation practices-again, where was everyone then?
  • When our native American brothers and sisters’ livelihoods were under direct attack by greedy and heartless companies threatening to build a pipeline directly through their water source and ancient burial grounds, where was everyone?
  • Where was everyone on November 7th?

 

All of our struggles are just as important, but they are not always treated with equal care, respect and the unity that they deserve.

The mere threat of the Trump administration galvanized millions world-wide. So what gave this march priority over everything else? I cannot quite say, but moving forward, if we want to preserve our rights and dignity as Americans, it would behoove us to capture a wider lens that includes everyone in the struggle. We can’t just protest when we are inconvenienced. We must speak out against oppression and injustice for everyone.

 

A New Year: One Day at a Time

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On Marcus Garvey Avenue. Photo by Anthony Dickens 

Approaching the new year is always a complicated process for me. I try to treat it like any other day, but it’s more than that. As a person who constantly self-reflects; how can I view the turning of a new calendar year as something simple or trivial?

As someone who loves history, dates and timelines are very important. Knowing when something happened in relation to other significant events, creates a sense of context and relevance in which all things are connected. For example, I was born in 1980. That’s the same year that Ronald Reagan was elected, the U.S. boycotted the summer Olympics, the Mariel boatlift resulted in the arrival of over one hundred thousand Cubans into Miami and my neighborhood of Liberty City (Miami)  burned for nearly a week after the McDuffie riots; one of the worst riots in the city’s history. Each year is shaped by the events that take place within them. Some years stand out more than others, as a result of the impact of those events. 2016 will be remembered for all the celebrity deaths and the election of Donald Trump. What will 2017 be remembered for?

Usually a few days before January 1st I hunker down to jot all the awesome feats that I plan to accomplish in the upcoming year. The list can become quite ambitious some years, while fluffy in other years. Open-ended goals like read more, exercise more and saving more, never actually seem attainable. Furthermore, if I don’t get started right away, then I probably won’t start at all, giving up on my resolutions before Valentine’s Day. This year I already read a status on social media that said, “I already messed up this year, but I’m ready for 2018.” We’re not even out of the first week of January for crying out loud.

Now, what I won’t do is declare my fate on the results of my annual to-do list. I also won’t pretend as if this isn’t a great opportunity to refocus and recharge. This New Year I’m just going to go for it. I’m going to remain committed to chasing my dreams. Your dreams don’t change from year to year; just your commitment to them do. Sometimes life changes our trajectory, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t still pursue your passion.

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Laughter is a good thing. Photo by Anthony Dickens

As far as I know, you only get one chance at life. Why not give it your all? Just before the new year, I received word that one of my football players was diagnosed with leukemia. His name is Tariq and he’s a very gifted athlete. The news shocked all the coaches. Tariq had an amazing season, as one of the best players in the city. After suffering from severe chronic headaches, he eventually went to see his doctor. When the results of his blood-work came back, he was asked to return to the hospital and hasn’t left since.

Just imagine, at the age of 17 years old, having your entire life ahead of you and the next day being told that you have cancer. Though I’ve only known Tariq for a few months, we have always had a mutual respect for each other. I’d give him a few tips here and there and sometimes cover him practice. I had to go by the hospital and show my support; especially at a time like this. As I visited with him I couldn’t help but admire his courage and strength. He’s a fighter on the field and a fighter in life.

Some of his friends and teammates had also come by to see him. You could see the concern and fear in their eyes. One of the young men begin to shed tears as the time passed. From his hospital bed, with tubes in his arms, Tariq calmly and confidently said, “Don’t cry…” The young man looked up at Tariq and nodded his head.

Each day is a blessing and every year is a milestone. I pray that Tariq pulls through and that he gets the chance to celebrate many more New Years to come. In the meantime I am committed to living my best life, one day at a time.

 

Back on Campus

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Wayne State 2016 Homecoming Game vs. Augustana. photo: Yano Jones

“My last home game on the Cat Carpet was in November of 2001. It’s hard to believe that 15 years had gone by that fast. It was a totally different field back then.”

Massive renovations had been done to Cunningham Stadium. There is now a new track, field turf and a state of the art weight room in the stadium.

Not only was the field redone, but so was the campus. Bowen Hall was in the process of being renovated and there was beautification everywhere. Landscaping replaced driveways and parking lots. And the library received an extreme makeover. It felt great to see the progress that had been made.

Wayne played Augustana University that weekend, which traditionally has a strong program (not the team you want to schedule for homecoming). The game was close in the first half but the visiting team eventually pulled away. However, the highlight of the trip back to Wayne did not take place on the field, instead it took place in the parking lot.

Nearly 30 years of Wildcat football players got together to talk about the good ole’ days at Wayne. They tailgated, exchanged beers and memories. It was a perfect day to bring folks together. Brothers came from all over the world to ascend on the small town in northeast Nebraska; Los Angeles, Brooklyn and even Lebanon. 

There is something something special about this place. The plan is to do it again next year. It seems like a new tradition has begun. 

Omaha Rockets Kanteen

The Omaha Rockets Kanteen is a Negro Baseball League themed soul food restaurant located in historic North Omaha. This was the first meeting point of this year’s reunion weekend. There, the group had lunch and spent time catching up, while enjoying some down home Southern cooking.

Coaches Corner

Orenthian (Juice), Golden and Dion are all football coaches for respective programs in the Omaha area. Juice coaches a youth club, the Vikings. His son, “Deuce” Orenthian, Jr., is a standout player at Lewis and Clark Middle School.

Meanwhile, Dion and Golden are coaches at Concordia High School. Their time played in a nail-biter against Boys Town. It was great to see our brothers coach at such a high level.

The Power of Unity

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Fox & Hound Omaha, Nebraska.

When we were in Wayne, there were very few students of color on campus. We had the Multicultural Center, M.A.C.T., the football team and a constituency of brothers and sisters from Omaha and Iowa who pretty much made-up the black and brown population on campus.

Though we had some great times at Wayne, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the rivalries and petty drama that took place between us. We did not always see eye-to-eye, like most families. We all came from different experiences and brought our baggage to Wayne. But when it was all said and done. Most of us finished and have gone on to do great things. Leo, Barry, Yano, Yamika, Orenthian, Donovan and Ashley are leaders in education. Rob is a successful builder. Jennifer, Kendall, Carlos and Mike are all successful in there respective fields of work as well.

We’re doing it! We are setting a new trend for the next generation of black and brown Wayne graduates. That’s a beautiful thing.

Haiti 2017

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Wahoo Beach Resort Montrouis, Haiti. photo: http://www.takemeth3re.wordpress.

Join brothers Barry and Ashley next year on their annual reunion to the enchanted island-nation of Haiti, the first black republic in July 2017. Be on the lookout for more information in the weeks to come. Hope to see you all next year.

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