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.

big-and-ash

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God Shed His Grace?

That ominous feeling we all had when Trump began to gain momentum in the primaries, has gone from just a feeling, to a palpable reality. The “polls” the “experts” will try to act as if they were shocked by the results,  but we know better.  We heard Trayvon plead for his life… We saw Mike Brown’s lifeless body left for hours in the August heat… We witnessed Eric Garner’s last breath… We watched our sister Sandra Bland get tossed like a rag doll. But We never saw justice.

But things have changed right?  We had a black president; for two terms at that.True.  But race relations in America are as bad as they have been since Dr. King’s assassination.  It seems like Obama was able to do some great things for America, but not for Us. He bailed-out Wall Street, brought our troops home, shook Castro’s hand, lower the unemployment rate and killed Bin Laden. Okay, cool. But how has that changed anything for Us? We still exist under the thumb of racism and prejudice in this country.

Something that continued to annoy me during the election, was the birth of a new demographic in America,  known as “non college educated white men.” They are the ones to blame for the sophisticated,  systematic,  school to prison pipeline and ambushing the ballots in Trumps favor? Give me a break. The very educated, wealthy and powerful have always been responsible for the outcome of elections in this country. Poor white folks never owned slaves, they never had any real power. Don’t blame them for Trump’s ascent to the presidency.

There are some very wealthy,  sophisticated and well educated folks  who wanted Trump to win. They may pretend to not like his approach or rhetoric,  but fundamentally,  their elbows are locked with his. And secretly they voted for him. The Klan used to wear white sheets to hide their identity. They have traded their sheets for the ballot box. Old trick new method… that’s all.

I’ve played sports my entire life,  but never shared a locker room with Donald Trump. I’ve had dinner at many tables,  but not with Donald Trump. There’s obviously a deeper dialogue happening among white America. These are conversations that I will never be a part of. I cannot control that reality. I and millions of others in this country can only wait by the proverbial door, in hopes of hearing good news.

Election night had millions of us feeling like one of our loved ones were in critical condition. As time went on, the updates became less promising… Florida…brain dead,  Michigan and Wisconsin…kidney failure…North Carolina…liver failure…Pennsylvania….lungs collapse. .. Ohio… the heart stopped beating… flat line. “Sorry,” the media said, “She didn’t make it.” A hush of silence rushed across the country. Some were in utter disbelief. While others were satisfied, but did not want to reveal their true beliefs.

More than ever, America exists in two realities… One man’s progress, is at the expense of another man’s plight. This is Donald Trump’s America. This is the Make America Great Again that he speaks of. This is democracy?  A bitter pill it is. This is what makes America great huh?

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Duane Merrells walks with an upside down flag in a protest Monday, Aug. 18, 2014, for Michael Brown, who was killed by a police officer Aug. 9 in Ferguson, Mo. Brown’s shooting has sparked more than a week of protests, riots and looting in the St. Louis suburb. Credit: AP Photo/Charlie Riede

“America, America, God shed hid grace on thee,
And crown thy good, with brotherhood,
From sea to shining sea”

As a little black boy raised in America, I had to learn the lyrics of America the Beautiful for our school’s end of the year musical performance. I was the only black boy in my kindergarten class and I was chosen to sing the solo. Years later I can only laugh at the irony. I did not know any better. The words are sketched in my mind for ever. I just sang it, because I loved the melody and I loved to sing. And now look at how our country has voted….God’s grace might be shedding on thee, but it damn sure ain’t shedding on me.

Thy Kingdom Come: Hidden History and the Fall of Haiti

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The story of Haiti, is the story of a fallen champion. Today, Haiti is tagged as, the poorest country in the Western hemisphere. However, this tag it is unfair, incomplete, inaccurate and therefore misleading, as it proclaims Haiti’s present, without giving a full scope of its past.

Why don’t headlines ever talk about how Haiti was once, one of the most prosperous colonies in the world and one of the world’s leaders in coffee and sugar exports? Why don’t headlines emphasize how it was the first Black republic in the world and for that, it was isolated, punished and blackballed by its former colonizers and their slave-holding allies? Why don’t the headlines report how Haiti was occupied by the United States military for nearly 20 years and how the Haitian people were exploited for cheap labor against their will? Why don’t the headlines mention how the United States government sponsored Jean- Claude Duvalier, also known as “Papa Doc,” one of the most ruthless and notorious dictators of the 20th century with money and arms to rule Haiti for decades under pure fear and terror? I don’t hear many headlines tagging Haiti for having its already fragile economy destroyed in the 1990’s by Bill Clinton’s backdoor deal, that bankrupted and pushed out Haitian rice farmers, while subsidizing farmers from the Clinton’s home state of Arkansas. And more despicably, the hundreds of millions of dollars of humanitarian aid to Haiti in response to the 2010 earthquake that the American Red Cross used to build gated communities for its workers, instead of homes for the victims of the actual earthquake. Oh yeah! What about the United Nation “peace keepers” who have impregnated hundreds if not thousands of Haitian girls and women, while leaving them to raise a generation of children on their own.  Did I mention how those same “peace keepers” brought cholera to Haiti, by contaminating the Haitian water supply with their human waste and feces, leading to the deaths of thousands of people?

To continue to simply tag Haiti as the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere is like watching Mike Tyson’s last fight against Lennox Lewis and deciding that Mike Tyson’s legacy would be cemented from the results of a fight, that should have never happened in the first place. Tyson had been far beyond his prime and to say that he was damaged goods, would have been a compliment. Tyson was merely a shell, a shadow of what his name meant to millions, who watched him in his prime destroy anything that dared to stand in the square with him. And let us rest assure, that his fall from glory, was not by happenstance. The untimely death of his mentor, coupled with his exploitation by the infamous Don King among others; lead one of the greatest fighters the world has ever known, to his back on a canvas mat, in an arena filled with perplexed eyes, pitied hearts and the realization, that this once great boxing warrior-god, had been reduced to a mere mortal. But still, in his downfall, Tyson will always be recognized as one of the greatest. We do not honor hour heroes in their defeat, but in their glory. We should do the same for Haiti.

Haiti has been down for quite some time now, but its true historical and cultural narrative, still outweighs its current calamitous present.  The black sheep, the dark child, prodigal son, the underdog. All these metaphors hold the real story of a nation that continues to fight for its rightful place in the history books and in a world that is quick to forget and dismiss the mighty legacy of the land where black people actually came together to achieve the unspeakable and the unthinkable… FREEDOM.

Many nations have built tremendous wealth on the backs of the oppressed. Just over 200 years ago in 1804, when New World slavery was at its relative peak in places like Virginia, South Carolina, North Carolina and Georgia, 1000 miles away, nearly half a million slaves had flipped the script. Greater than any March on Washington, Million Man March, Emancipation Proclamation, Thirteenth, Fourteenth Amendment or Black Lives Matters hashtag… Just as the Patriots had defeated the British, the Africans on the island of Hispaniola had defeated the French army.  Inscribed on the Haitian flag you will find the quote, L’union fait la force, In unity there is strength; which is a kin to the motto of the Thirteen Colonies during the American Revolution… “Join or die.” To be Haitian is to know that you come from the same ilk of the only nation on earth to ever lead a successful slave revolt and to know that running in your veins is the same blood of men in women, who were the original freedom fighters. This is what Haiti should be known for. Because if not, then to be fair, accurate and transparent, we must tag those countries responsible for Haiti’s economic demise … France, the country that still owes Haiti billions in reparations. England, the country that colonized and enslaved millions of people and bled their resources dry until the mid 20th century. The United States, the wealthiest country in the world by inheriting a lucrative slave economy from the British and continued to profit for nearly a century from free labor and has yet to provide reparations to the families of former slaves, while the families of former slave owners continue to thrive from generational wealth.

With the recent landfall of Hurricane Matthew, today, Haiti is clinging onto the ropes. The combination of natural disasters, political and economic sabotage have taken its toll on Haiti. Her opponents have hit her with every hook, jab, uppercut and combination imaginable. She is hurt, wounded and bloodied. And though she has been knocked down and knocked out, she continues to pick herself up and fight again. What a mighty people! What a mighty nation! Haiti, the strongest country in the world, the champion of the people. 

The Right to Remain Violent

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It is in America’s DNA to mistrust and be fearful of black people or anyone who speaks out against the poor treatment of blacks. When the early boatloads of enslaved Africans reached the shores of the Americas in the early 1600’s, there was already a social order in place, that forced black people to the bottom of society. A century later, The Making of a Slave ( A speech that was said to have been delivered by Willie Lynch on the bank of the James River in the colony of Virginia in 1712.  Lynch was a British slave owner in the West Indies. He was invited to the colony of Virginia in 1712 to teach his methods to slave owners there) became the official blue print of how to totally destroy the black spirit and mind through physical violence. Since virtually every black person that arrived in the Americas or born on American soil during the first 300 years were considered slaves, essentially, the foundation of the New World was rooted in a social order that promoted and sustained itself by means of subjugating black people. Just think, slavery existed in the Americas for four centuries, while blacks have only been emancipated for 151 years in the United States.

With 300 years of psychological and physical damage to the minds of blacks and whites, who were programed to believe that the black man, woman and child were inherently inferior, makes the very difficult task of unlearning the systematic racism that exists deep in the pores of our culture, our laws and our everyday existence. Though we have made tremendous gains in technology and science; socially, we are still at an impasse. America still struggles and struggles terribly to treat black people as full citizens. It still does not give black people equal representation, opportunities, protection or privileges.

When we continue to see unnecessary force being used on black men, women and children by law enforcement, it is simply the reminisce and vestigial components of a time when to be black, meant that the black body belonged to someone else. As unfathomable as it may seem, unfortunately the laws in America continue to be enforced in this archaic fashion. A runaway slave did not get to determine his or her own path or plot in life. If a slave ran away, they were considered a fugitive. Depending on the values, economic standing or mindset of the slave owner, the fugitive slave might be spared upon capture, so that they could continue to produce and be profitable. However, there were times when an example had to be made. Black bodies were beaten, battered, crushed and torn on public display, so that anyone else who thought to runaway would surely be aware of the inevitable consequence of physical torture and in some cases death. These were the original policing practices of black people in America.

Centuries later we are still witnessing the outcomes. When the slave did not comply, they were beaten back into submission. In 1816, to comply was to acquiesce to being nothing more than an ox or a mule; a beast of burden. To be noncompliant meant to want to be free, to be human and to actually act upon those notions of freedom and dignity. Slavery in the United States was legally abolished in 1865 with the Thirteenth Amendment. The Fourteenth Amendment  in 1868, granted black people equal rights and protection under the law. However today, blacks are not asking to be freed. Black people are asking for equal protection. If a white man can sit in a parked car and not be approached or questioned or searched, then a black man should have that same right. Nonetheless, it seems as if law enforcement are still being trained in the ways of America’s barbaric past; under the philosophy that black people are inherently criminal.

The spirit of Willie Lynch and the Fugitive Slave laws are still entrenched in the social and cultural fabric of the United States and are alive and well within the legal system. Without equality, there can never be justice. Black people in America have been emancipated for well over a century, but in 2016, America’s ghosts continue to haunt her, one dead unarmed black body at a time.

 

 

The Good Negro

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When Colin Kaepernick decided to kneel, instead of stand during the playing of the Nation Anthem, he positioned himself and changed his status from “the Good Negro,” to “a Problem”. Immediately, his critics became historians, patriots and defenders of all things American. Well, at least from the dominant culture’s perspective. When Francis Scott Key wrote the Star Spangled Banner during the War of 1812, people who looked like Colin Kaepernick would have been considered slaves, chattel, property, 3/5 human being or at best, byproducts of infidelity manifested through the rape of enslaved black women. A little more history will reveal that during the war, that thousands of black people actually fought against the United States on the side of the British, as they were promised to be liberated, if they fought for the British crown. Ever heard of Freetown, Sierra Leone? Look it up.

After all, Britain had abolished slavery by 1808, nearly 60 years before the American Civil War (1861-65). So any historian or person of color might naturally be inclined to believe that the Star Spangled Banner was not a song about justice for all, but a song of preserving the rights, freedoms and liberties and the union of a nation that was built on the oppression of black people; so much so, that they fought to preserve the union, as well as slavery. So to any well-versed and well-read person, black, white or any other label, can clearly see, why someone of color, or any American for that matter, might be dissatisfied with the content, context and history of our National Anthem.

Many have argued that Kaepernick is dishonoring, or disrespecting America and especially its veterans. Well, they have the right to believe that, but up until the 1950’s, our military was still racially segregated. And it was not until the Obama administration, that being openly gay in the military was legitimately addressed, protected and recognized by our government. And if you truly understand our history, America has always been a land of protest and freedom of expression. After all, the Bill of Rights, protects the very actions that Kaepernick has decided to exercise. The first amendment gives all United States citizens the freedom of speech, which also includes freedom of religion, press and peaceful assembly. This means that even organizations built on the foundation of using terrorism to intimidate black people from voting in the late 1800’s, known as the Ku Klux Klan, can have parades, demonstrations and marches, while being protected under that same amendment. This means that Neo-Nazi groups can pass out white supremacist literature and rhetoric to the public and they have the right to do so, under the same amendment. Our unique principles of individual freedoms that are protected by the U.S. Constitution, were supposedly built on these same rights.

However, when I see someone who looks like Colin Kaepernick being attacked for exercising his freedoms, I become suspicious. I begin to question whether my contemporaries really believe in justice for all, or are they just as short sighted as our founding fathers were, when it comes down to race and gender equality. Are they upset because of his complexion, or his privilege as an elite athlete, who just happens to be a person of color? If you feel that not standing for the American flag is un-American, then you must have the same sentiment towards the Confederate Flag, which was a direct dis against our United States. Then you should be just as passionate about the Ku Klux Klan being able to continue to operate after going on a reign of terror that lasted 100 years, as they hung innocent black, men women and children and any brave white folks who dared to stand for justice and equality for their black brothers and sisters. You should be outraged at how the 2nd amendment continues to be the same device used to allow almost anyone over 18 years old to purchase an assault rifle, that was only designed to do one thing —-and that is to destroy human flesh.

However, I do see why some people may be upset with Colin. They are upset because Colin Kapernick has gone from the conventional role of the unassuming, quiet in the storm of injustice, Michael Jordan silent, endorsement filled “good negro” to “a problem.” Our history has always been fine with people of color who simply conform to the system, even in times when the flaws of the system have direct negative impacts on them. We can look at the Trail of Tears, under the Indian Removal Act of 1831, under Andrew Jackson’s presidency. As long as the people of the Cherokee, Creek, Choctaw, Seminole and other nations did not resist leaving their ancestral land and being forced to march 1000 miles to Oklahoma, then they were fine. But if they resisted or protested in any way, they were eradicated. As long as black folks in the South did not show up to the ballots on election day during the Jim Crow years (1877-1965) they were fine. But as soon as a negro tried to exercise their right to vote, they were eradicated. Do you know who Medgar Evers is? Look him up.  As long as immigrants work under the table, doing menial jobs for impoverished wages, it is not a problem. But as soon as they begin to get involved in the political process, send their children to school and demand higher wages, “they need to go back to Mexico, because they are taking all of our jobs, committing crimes and leaching off our healthcare system.”

I’m sure that Harriet Tubman was an excellent slave. They say that she was a strong as any man. She probably worked as hard as any slave during her years of bondage; and her masters benefited greatly from her production- as a slave. But when she ran away, she was no longer helpful to them. And when she began to free others, she became a problem. By no means am I saying that a multimillionaire professional athlete is a slave in today’s society—- at least not from a materialistic stand point. But if our argument is that because Colin Kaepernick is wealthy then he has no worries or place to speak out or protest the unjust treatment of some of his fellow Americans; then what is the point in becoming wealthy; to only remain wealthy and not use your influence or platform to change the things that are flawed with our system?  May he should just continue making millions and keep his mouth shut. Paying a few black athletes millions of dollars does not even begin to address our country’s battle with racism, discrimination and inequality.  And just because Colin was raised by white parents does not mean that he does not understand what it is, feels like to be black in America or that he is not somehow, immune or protected from the same unfair treatment of those who do not have the implied protection of white privilege.

So does the first amendment apply to everyone or does it only apply to some? If you agree that it applies to everyone, then Colin Kaepernick is just as American and patriotic as anyone who has ever spoken out against injustice. He is just as patriotic as Thomas Jefferson, who drafted the Declaration of Independence and U.S. Constitution, while owning hundreds of slaves on his Virginia plantation at the same damn time; not to mention becoming elected our 3rd president, not to mention fathering at least six bi-racial children with his mistress, Ms. Sally Hemings. These documents were a direct response to the injustice that Americans faced under British tyranny. We were a country born out of a social revolution. But if we are going to have a double-standard about who can fight and speak out for freedom then the flag means absolutely nothing.

 

Guns and the City

Guns and the City
guns, pistols, rifle, revolvers, and ammunition

The second amendment gives U.S. citizens the right bare arms. This was essential during the American Revolutionary Era, when the British and Native Americans posed a realistic threat to invading our newly formed United States. However, hundreds of years later, we may have to revisit the amendment. It was originally intended to protect us from our foreign enemies, but now it seems as if  guns are  actually killing our nation from within. I wonder if the risk is worth the reward?

Over the past week in my hometown of Miami, Florida, there have been several fatal shooting deaths of children.  The most recent and probably the most tragic was the loss of of 8 year-old Jada Page. She was too young to have done anything to warrant such an untimely and unnecessary death. And even month before, because of the recent rash of gun violence in Miami, I had my  7th grade students in Brooklyn, write letters to students at Holmes Elementary in Liberty City, in show of support and encouragement, as they lead a protest against gone violence because they no longer felt safe enough to play outside, due to the constant threat of shootings in their neighborhood.

When 6 year old King Carter’s life was stricken down by a stray bullet, I, like many others had hoped that we would see a change or some type of reduction of senseless killing, but it seems as if our hopes have been dashed again. I prayed that these so called “revenge-seekers” would have more dignity and honor when it came to settling their beefs. But it is plain to see that there are far too many cowards with guns in Miami and around our nation for that matter, because it is not just a Miami thing. Gun violence is running rampant all over America.

But when I received the phone call from my sister, I was no longer simply reading about these killings in the newspaper or watching the reports from a screen. This time it was my family. My little cousin Christopher (19 years-old) was shot and killed last Friday. He was my cousin Rosita’s youngest son. She had already lost her only daughter Precious, to cancer 8 years ago. And now this? When I think of Chris, all I can think of is his infectious smile, his wit, his humor and good nature. I remember a bright and talented young man. Now he is gone. Days later, I am still in denial. You often read about this happening to someone else, but you never think it will happen in your own family.

Since receiving the news, I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about my cousin Rosita  and the pain she must be experiencing. I think of the hundreds of the other parents around the nation who have had to bury their children. I think of Trayvon Martin, Mike Brown and Tamir Rice’s mothers. I think of parents who have children in the military, who receive that call from the U.S. government relaying the message that their child died, while serving their country in some foreign land. I think about the families of police officers who wake up to hear that their loved ones never made it home. And I think of the parents of the hundreds of children all around the nation in cities like New Orleans, Chicago, Boston and Brooklyn, just to name a few. I think about the yellow crime scene tape, the body bags and the visits the the morgue to identify the bodies. I think about the doctors, first-respondents and good Samaritans that did all they could do to stop the bleeding, but to no avail.

When it is all said and done, there is no coming back from death. There are no words to comfort a grieving mother or father who has to continue living beyond the years of their own children. Life is not supposed to be this way. It is an unnatural process, that no one is built nor prepared for. Furthermore, to add more stress to grief, is the economic burden of burying a child. When an adult dies, there is a chance that they may have an insurance policy that will cover the funeral costs. But when a child dies, the family has to come up with the cash or borrow money. And it most be done in a timely manner.

It is going to be a difficult road ahead for my family. And an especially difficult road for my cousin Rosita. What is the lesson learned here? What is the moral in the shooting death of another black boy in America? There is none. None at all. But this is why we have to revisit our policies around gun laws. This is why we have to take care of our communities. We must look out for each other. We have to raise up our children to love each other, not to fear and hate each other. For only love, can conquer hate. I will continue to pray and continue to hope for a better future and take action towards a better tomorrow.

Christopher

If you would like to support, please visit Christopher’s Go Fund Me Page