Sunday, May 21, 2017

Why African Americans Ought Not Ever Purchase or Wear Ripped and Torn Cl...

Why African Americans Ought Not Ever Purchase or Wear Ripped and Torn Clothing of Any Kind : An Opinion

Now I know many of you before you even get started reading are already turned off by the title. Many of you are already defensive and are asking yourself the question, "Who is he to say what I should or should not buy; wear or not wear?  So, before we get started, I need everyone to understand that this is an opinion piece, an "Op-Ed," if you will and by the time I finish, I hope you'll have a better appreciation and understanding for why my opinion is what it is especially concerning African Americans. 

As African Americans, we ought to intentionally not purchase any clothing that is ripped, torn and tattered based on our history and struggle. Therein lies the issue, as too many of us don't know or don't care about our history because if we did, there is no way in the world we would be rewarding designers and retailers, making them wealthy by purchasing merchandise that is already damaged upon receipt. Yet we do because we have been programmed and brainwashed that we must be in "style." If some artists wear it or some designer designs it and deem it the "style," then we feel that we MUST partake. We want to be "Down."  I hear it all the time from both young and old alike; child and adult alike; professional and non-professional alike, "It's the style" as if that makes it so. We need to understand that all styles that are created are not necessarily in our best interest. Most of the "style" creations are about the "almighty dollar," and we need to be wise as to how, when and where we spend our dollars. 

Most of the ripped clothing that I observe usually falls into the dungaree or denim category. Usually, they are jeans [pants] that have shreds or worn out holes in them. The frayed strings are usually hanging from the holes, looking authentically worn and ragged. The clothing, however,  is not just limited to jeans or denim wear. I've seen shirts, jackets, vests, and even gloves that did not "wear out" from use but were a point of purchase sale with the consumer walking out of the store with clothing merchandise that is literally damaged goods. 

Historically, denim was and still is the traditional fabric for workwear.This is significant especially for African Americans as it was the clothing if any clothing were given or could be afforded that was worn by us as we were tenant farmers who gave a part (in too many instances it was not a part, but the whole) of each crop as rent. It was the clothing worn by us as we built this country virtually wage free. It was clothing worn by many who just as we have those slits in the jeans today were receiving very similar looking slits in their backs from whips cutting into their skin. The breaks in the skin are eerily similar to the breaks in the fabric.

For many of us, when our clothing came to the point of looking torn, tattered and raggedy, it was because we had worn the item so much that it just did not have anything else to give and therefore burst from exhaustion and distress. The material had been worn so much that it did not owe the owner anything else other than to be placed in the garbage, burned or to be used going forward as a rag. The clothing became ripped from being passed down and handed down over and over again. Passed from one child to the next, from one family to the next from one body to the next wherein each case the recipient had nothing else to wear but that item.  It was worn daily and in many instances scrubbed and hand washed each night. The owner in many cases, ashamed and embarrassed to be seen in torn and raggedy clothes. Just thinking about it as I write this piece, makes me want to cry.  The tears are welling up and I am fighting to hold them back at the thought of how we cavalierly parade around with clothing that looks like the clothing described in my brief history lesson above. It's almost like a double rape. We were raped when we had to wear that clothing and now are being voluntarily raped as we purchase these items making some designer wealthy, all in the name of "style." We consciously choose to look raggedy. I don't apologize for my view because that conscious decision to look dirty, torn and tattered when you do not have to, just does not make sense to me. There was a time when our clothes were indeed distressed due to overuse but for most of the folks that I observe flaunting this "style" today, that is not the case. 

As African Americans, when do we say "To hell with style and rise up to a standard of excellence? When do we realize that dressing well, speaking well, and carrying ourselves with pride are all connected and are all in our history as we come from kings and queens?  In my eyes, the conscious choice to wear ripped clothing does not depict pride. In fact, for me, it displays just the opposite. It sends the same sorry message as the sagging of pants; the refusal to become educated; the calling of each other "nigga"; the wearing of the baseball cap to the side or backward; the covering of an entire body with ink; the happiness with being slack or mediocre; the acceptance of living in squalor; the senseless killing of each other, and the list could go on. None of the aforementioned exhibits pride or excellence.  We have an entire movement now known as "Black Lives Matter," and while the hashtag and title are cute and indeed significant, we must begin to act within the African American community like our lives matter. We must stop subscribing to everything that comes down the pike. We must recognize foolishness for what it is. We cannot be shouting and walking around with signs and then acting counter to what we are shouting about and fighting for. 

One of my most favorite people who walked the face of the earth said it thusly, "There can be no deep disappointment where there is not deep love." I have a deep love for life. I have a deep love for human beings and I have a deep love for African Americans as I am one; it is for this reason that I am able to write this piece with such passion and conviction. As I observe so many of our [African American] behaviors and activities, I become deeply disappointed. The wearing of ripped clothing is just one example of things that we do that deeply disappoint me as a member of the human race and as a member of the African American race. Ironically enough, the person I referenced above came out of his suit and tie and put on blue jeans, but for an entirely different purpose and to send an entirely different message. The following is excerpted from a historical profile written by Oscar Schwartz about him:

The atmosphere was strained. They debated loudly, shouting over one another. “This is not where we belong,” a middle-aged minister shouted. “We belong back with our families, in our churches.” The exception was a young man with gentle almond eyes called Martin, who slouched in an armchair in silent contemplation. While the debate circled endlessly, Martin quietly stood up and walked into his room, closing the door behind him. Moments later, no longer wearing his black suit, Martin walked back into the room and everyone became silent. He was wearing blue jeans and a sweat shirt. These were not clothes to go to Church in. These were clothes to march in; clothes to go to jail in.
For the record, I would like to add that the jeans Martin walked back into the room wearing were not torn or tattered. I hope by now you will have said to yourself that this is indeed something to critically think about as this blog is THE CRITICAL THINKER. I do not care if you agree or disagree with me, but I do ask that you at least give the information provided in the post some thought. I also ask that you share the post and pass it along as a discussion starter. If you choose to spend your money on damaged goods at the point of purchase, then so be it. As for me, I will never purchase a piece of clothing that is already ripped, torn, dirty or tattered and I don't care what the style dictates. 

Hear me live on Saturdays as I interview authors from around the world as I host The Reading Circle with Marc Medley, a book talk radio program. The show kicks off at 6 a.m. Eastern Time on gobrave.org and on FM Radio 88.7 FM in northern NJ communities. You are also invited to follow me on Twitter @thinkcritical01 and @readingcircle01. 

Saturday, April 1, 2017

We Must Not Fail To Connect The Climate and Culture Dots



  • Reporters and activists were outraged that White House press secretary Sean Spicer was curt with American Urban Radio Networks correspondent April Ryan during Tuesday's press briefing, and told her to please stop shaking her head.
  • President Donald Trump on Thursday asked April Ryan, an African-American reporter and longtime White House correspondent, if she would arrange for him a meeting with the Congressional Black Caucus. 
  • “The O’Reilly Factor” host Bill O’Reilly said in response to a clip of Maxine Waters that he “didn’t hear a word” she said because he was “looking at the James Brown wig,” referring to her hair. 
  • A white man from Maryland who told police he traveled to New York to kill black men turned himself in on Wednesday, about 24 hours after he fatally stabbed a man he encountered on the street, officials said. Authorities described the suspected attacker as someone who had long harbored feelings of hatred toward black men before violently acting on them this week. Police said he carried out the attack in a way that intended to draw attention. 
  • A woman walking on a sidewalk in Queens was shot in the face with a BB gun by men laughing and yelling an anti-Latino slur from their car, police say. 
  • "This is a new low," he [Michael Flynn] said, retweeting a message that read: "Not anymore, Jews. Not anymore." 

Unfortunately, the list of hatred can go on and on.  SLATE, an online magazine is keeping a running tally of the hate crimes that are occurring in a similar manner to how I started this post in an article Hate in America an updating list.  Let us not be naive in thinking the increase in these types of crimes is not connected to the bullying persona of our current leader and his team. The views, arrogance, chaos and blatant disregard for those who do not share the president's perspectives are indeed fueling what we are experiencing as a part of the culture and climate of the country.

In this current environment, closet racists are seeming to feel empowered and emboldened to come out in the open in myriad ways. They've watched President Trump instruct bouncer-like security/ police officers to remove people from audiences, ("Get'um outta' here") name call, berate entire ethnic groups for the actions of some, degrade women, praise a dictator and demean anything that was done by his predecessor, Barack Obama, an African-American. They watch nightly the arrogance of  White House Press Secretary, Sean Spicer as he condescendingly spews "alternative facts" and lies through his lettuce filled teeth.

Some will argue that this began with President Obama and this is partially true as it was driven by the fact that many could not and would not accept the fact that an African-American man became the most powerful man in the world. As a result, racism heightened due to that dissonance for too many. In fact, if you notice, it seems Trump is obsessed with undoing everything Obama did and even most likely ran for office under the notion that if a Black man can be elected president, anybody can. He thought the seat was an easy seat based on a Black man [Obama] holding it.

It's been my observation that followers, subordinates, or whatever term you would like to use to describe those who are being led, take on the characteristics and personality of their leader. I have seen this phenomenon in schools, churches, corporations, fraternities, sororities, the military and even households. Sadly, the U.S. is mimicking the behavior of her leader and the victims are racial groups, gender groups, sexual orientation groups and anyone else who differs from Donald Trump's point of view. I can't even call it a Conservative view because in my mind it is a Donald Trump point of view. At the end of the day, Donald Trump is about Donald Trump and everyone else be damned. It's his way or the highway. Don't believe me, read THE TRUTH ABOUT TRUMP by Michael D'Antonio.  You'll see that Trump has not changed an iota over the years. His tone, words, and body language have stirred up his would-be imitators and wannabees and that's why we are seeing the hate crime numbers increase.

The views and opinions expressed in this blog are solely my own. You can agree or disagree as I really do not share my thoughts for agreement or disagreement for that matter. I share my thoughts to encourage thinking. Come up with your own conclusions based on research and your own observations. If you do this, you will be able to connect the dots for yourself. Something to critically think about........

Hear me live each Saturday at 6 a.m. ET as I host The Reading Circle with Marc Medley. I interview authors from all over the globe discussing a wide variety of topics.  The show is heard around the world on gobrave.org and locally in the New York area on FM Radio WP88.7 FM. I invite you to visit my website at thereadingcircle01.com and to follow me on Twitter @thinkcritical01 and @readingcircle01.

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Please Help Me Sponsor a Children's Defense Fund Freedom School for Summer 2017


As an educator and a parent, I know the value of our students not losing instructional time during the summer months away from their respective schools. Many students leave school in May or June and do not participate in anything academic until school starts again in August or September. This is not the case for students who are fortunate enough to attend a Children's Defense Fund (CDF) Freedom School that may be offered in their area.

I can personally attest to the benefits of Freedom School because my children attended the first one sponsored by the St. Luke Community Development Corporation (CDC) some years ago. It is this same CDC who I am a part of who is raising funds to sponsor another Freedom School for the Summer of 2017.

Across all of my social media sites I have nearly twenty five thousand connections and as a part of my fundraising efforts, I am asking that a minimum of five thousand of you donate a minimum of one dollar. For that matter ten thousand of you can donate fifty cents and so on and so on. My goal is to raise and donate five thousand dollars to the school.

The trickiest part in my mind (and it really is not that tricky) is downloading the Givelify app on your mobile device.  It will take a couple of minutes for you to set up the app in order for the dollar to be withdrawn from your account. It will actually probably take you a couple of more minutes to set it up than to actually donate the dollar, but it is for an extremely good cause.

Once you've downloaded the app and created your profile, select "Charities" from the bottom (it looks like a ribbon) and then input into the search box Saint Luke CDC. Tap the "Donate" button at the bottom and determine your donation amount. I am only asking you for a dollar, (of course you can donate more if you'd like) so you would tap "other" input $1.00 and tap "Done."  Once you have done this you will see a choice of where your donation can go.  Select "Freedom School." That's it and you will have helped a child have a summer academic experience of a lifetime.  The CDF Freedom Schools program is outlined below and briefly in the video above. I thank you in advance for helping me to raise funds such a worthy cause.

The CDF Freedom Schools® program seeks to build strong, literate, and empowered children prepared to make a difference in themselves, their families, communities, nation and world today. By providing summer and after-school reading enrichment for children who might otherwise not have access to books, the CDF Freedom Schools program plays a much needed role in helping to curb summer learning loss and close achievement gaps — and is a key part of CDF’s work to ensure a level playing field for all children. In partnership with local congregations, schools, colleges and universities, community organizations, and secure juvenile justice facilities the CDF Freedom Schools program boosts student motivation to read, generates more positive attitudes toward learning, increases self-esteem and connects the needs of children and families to the resources of their communities. Since 1995, more than 137,000 preK-12 children have had a CDF Freedom Schools experience and more than 16,000 college students and young adult staff have been trained by CDF to deliver this empowering model. 
The CDF Freedom Schools model incorporates the totality of the Children's Defense Fund's mission by fostering environments that support children and young adults to excel and believe in their ability to make a difference Site coordinators and project directors are also trained by CDF to provide supervision and administrative oversight.
The program provides an exciting Integrated Reading Curriculum (IRC) including carefully chosen developmentally appropriate and culturally relevant books. The model curriculum supports children and families around five essential components.
Something to critically think about. Hear me live as I broadcast around the world on gobrave.org each Saturday at 6:00 a.m. ET as the host of The Reading Circle with Marc Medley. The show can also be heard locally in northern NJ on FM radio WP88.7 FM. I also invite you to follow me on Twitter @readingcircle01 and @thinkcritical01. Again I thank you for joining me in supporting this worthy endeavor.  

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

In Their Native Tongues

This is my own personal opinion and not based on any fact. It is pure speculation based on observation of the administration so far. In my comical imagination, I imagine the world leaders who take part in the G20 Summit saying the following in his/her own language when the current President of The United States enters that room. 
Aquí viene este tonto.
Here comes this fool.
Brazil, 
Aí vem ESTA tolo.
Canada, 
Voici esta fou.
China, 
這裡談到ESTA傻瓜。
France, 
Voici esta fou.
Hier kommt esta Narr.
India, 
Here comes this fool.
Di sinilah bodoh esta.
Italy, 
Ecco che arriva ESTA sciocco.
Japan, 
ここでESTA馬鹿が来ます。
여기 ESTA 바보 온다.
Mexico, 
Aquí viene este tonto.
Russia, 
Вот идет Эста дурак.
Here comes this fool.
Hier kom esta dwaas.
Turkey, 
İşte esta aptal geliyor.
Here comes this fool.
Here comes this fool.

I could be wrong and I am writing this tongue and cheek, but I can see it happening. Something to critically think about. 

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Be Careful What You Ask For. You Just May Get It!



1 Samuel, Chapter 8 (NIV)
Israel Asks for a King 
8 When Samuel grew old, he appointed his sons as Israel’s leaders.[a] 2 The name of his firstborn was Joel and the name of his second was Abijah, and they served at Beersheba. 3 But his sons did not follow his ways. They turned aside after dishonest gain and accepted bribes and perverted justice. 4 So all the elders of Israel gathered together and came to Samuel at Ramah. 5 They said to him, “You are old, and your sons do not follow your ways; now appoint a king to lead us, such as all the other nations have.”6 But when they said, “Give us a king to lead us,” this displeased Samuel; so he prayed to the Lord. 7 And the Lord told him: “Listen to all that the people are saying to you; it is not you they have rejected, but they have rejected me as their king. 8 As they have done from the day I brought them up out of Egypt until this day, forsaking me and serving other gods, so they are doing to you. 9 Now listen to them; but warn them solemnly and let them know what the king who will reign over them will claim as his rights.”10 Samuel told all the words of the Lord to the people who were asking him for a king. 11 He said, “This is what the king who will reign over you will claim as his rights: He will take your sons and make them serve with his chariots and horses, and they will run in front of his chariots. 12 Some he will assign to be commanders of thousands and commanders of fifties, and others to plow his ground and reap his harvest, and still others to make weapons of war and equipment for his chariots. 13 He will take your daughters to be perfumers and cooks and bakers. 14 He will take the best of your fields and vineyards and olive groves and give them to his attendants. 15 He will take a tenth of your grain and of your vintage and give it to his officials and attendants. 16 Your male and female servants and the best of your cattle[c] and donkeys he will take for his own use. 17 He will take a tenth of your flocks, and you yourselves will become his slaves. 18 When that day comes, you will cry out for relief from the king you have chosen, but the Lord will not answer you in that day.”19 But the people refused to listen to Samuel. “No!” they said. “We want a king over us. 20 Then we will be like all the other nations, with a king to lead us and to go out before us and fight our battles.”21 When Samuel heard all that the people said, he repeated it before the Lord. 22 The Lord answered, “Listen to them and give them a king.”Then Samuel said to the Israelites, “Everyone go back to your own town.”
The above Biblical account is found in the book of 1 Samuel, Chapter 8 in the New International Version (NIV) and reads like the current events facing us today. Truly, there is nothing new under the sun.  Like the Israelites of that time, we too asked (maybe not in those exact words) for a "King."  For the intent and purpose of this post I will define "King" as someone tough, someone who is not politically correct, someone who says and does whatever is on his mind at the moment, someone like Donald Trump. Even bragging about groping women in the crotch because he is a "famous" king, whether they wanted to be grabbed or not, was not enough to dismay those who wanted this"king"  to be the king of the United States of America for the next four years. Like in the story above where the people rejected Samuel, we rejected our previous president, Barack H. Obama [Yes, we did. You all might as well admit it]. Many feel and felt that President Obama was soft or weak because he showed compassion to and for people of all countries. Many thought he gave away the store with a health care system that would benefit those who might not have health care otherwise. Many couldn't sleep at night because Obama refused to say "ISIS" (Islamic State of Iraq and Syria), instead always stating "ISIL."(Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant). The same Congress and Senate who is remaining silent as this king is signing all of these "Executive Orders," blocked our prior leader [Barack Obama] at every turn.

Just like the people in the story above, God has allowed us to have our requested king in Donald J. Trump. Out of 18 king candidates, we [American people] selected this one. Similar to the king above, this king is claiming his ideologies as his rights regardless of who gets caught in the crossfire. This king claims to care about all, but in reality only cares about himself. It's all about "Donald," and by the time the masses see that, it will be too late. Why else would a billionaire who has been on the planet for three score and ten years, be worrying about someone being "nice to him," or the crowd size at his inauguration versus the crowd size for his predecessor ? Why else would this king who won the electoral vote, the only vote that mattered, be so fixated on the popular vote that Hillary Rodham Clinton garnered? Because it's all about him. It's not about the American people and it never has been for him. It's been all about him from day one and like the Israelites depicted in 1 Samuel above, we missed it. While this king's mantra is "Make America Great Again," in reality (not alternative reality or alternative facts) he is stirring a pot that not even he will be able to recover from when it boils over. America will be great again alright [sarcasm].

But, we wanted a king[tough, no nonsense, not politically correct, free reigning, no filter, hard charging, water boarding dictator] and folks, we've got him. Americans put him in and now will have to deal with whatever comes as a result of that choice. Make no mistake, choices have consequences. Be careful what you ask for. You just may get it. 

Sunday, January 15, 2017

There Is A Stark Difference Between A "Handout And A "Hand-Up."

Blog posts similar to sermons and other messages can come from anywhere and at anytime. In fact, the creation of this post is one such example. Ironically, speaking of sermons, this one came to me while in church and listening to the morning prayer offered by a childhood friend who referenced both the "handout" and the "hand-up" in her petitioning on behalf of the congregation. As I connected with the spirit of the prayer, a voice spoke to me saying "There is a difference between a handout and a hand-up," and I immediately knew that before the day was out, I would write the post you are reading now. 

While both phrases start with the word "hand," over time each has taken on different connotations. Handout generally is connoted negatively, while Hand-Up is thought to be something positive. Oddly enough when researching the definition of  Hand-Up, I found that the Merriam-Webster dictionary defines Hand-up as, to deliver (an indictment) to a judge or higher judicial authority.  For the purposes of this post, we will use the English Oxford Living Dictionaries definition which is as follows:

1 An act of assistance provided by one person to another to help him or her climb on to something, or move to a higher place or a standing position, by using a hand or hands to pull up and support his or her weight. Frequently in to give (a person) a hand up

2  An act of assistance or aid (typically in the form of practical advice or support) given to a person or persons in order to help them improve their circumstances; a helping hand.

A handout on the other hand (no pun intended) is thought of as something given free to a needy person or organization with the keyword being "free." The person or organization do not have to do anything for what is given other than to receive it. In both instances, it is assistance given in one form or another to someone in need.  If you've read this far, stay with me as I am going somewhere with the definitions, as herein lies in my view, the issue.  In far too many instances what was initially meant to be a "Hand-Up" became a perpetual "Handout."  The hand-up was never designed to be an eternal handout and yet for far too many it became just that. The system was not initially designed for generations to pass the assistance along as if it were an inheritance or right. It was supposed to be a temporary provision to get one back on his or her feet. Partially to blame is the original design of the welfare system (Man-In-The-House Rule) which cut its own nose to spite its face resulting in consequences opposite of intent.

So what's the point?, you say.  The point is, as I heard a news reporter say the other day, this is not the most "Entitlement Friendly" group that is coming into office in 2017, meaning the possibility of a significant amount of  government assistance being reduced or done away with altogether. Which means it is incumbent upon us to always be preparing ourselves to support ourselves whether government assistance is given or not. It is imperative that when we do fall on hard times that we use the system as a true hand-up and not see it as a handout for life. We must prepare ourselves with education and beyond, continuously retooling to keep pace with the ever changing skills market.

Grassroots alternatives such as the Medi-Share program and other hand-ups like it covering all facets of life must continue to be developed in order for everyone regardless of demographics to move to a higher place.  We must all work together to prevent the hand-up from becoming a handout way of life.

Below are some statistics provided by Statistic Brain (http://www.statisticbrain.com/welfare-statistics/ ) citing the US Department of Health and Human Services, U.S. Department of Commerce, CATO Institute as its source for the information. Review information for what it is worth carefully and you will understand why we must keep a hand-up, a hand-up and not allow it to become a lifelong handout.

As always, something to critically think about.

The welfare statistics below represent anyone who receives any of the following government subsidies:
– Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), better known as food stamps
– Housing assistance
– Supplemental Security Income (SSI)
– Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF), or cash benefits
– General Assistance
– DOES NOT INCLUDE the 70.5 million people enrolled in Medicaid
Welfare StatisticsData
Total number of Americans receiving welfare government assistance67,891,000
Total number of Americans on SNAP / food stamps –  41,170,000
Total number of Americans receiving (UI / EDD) – unemployment insurance10,200,000
Total number of individuals living in a home that receives housing assistance7,676,000
Total number of individuals who received TANF during the past 12 months4,306,000
Number of individuals receiving some type of general assistance welfare not listed above4,537,000
Percent of the US population on welfare programs21.2 %
Total Federal government spending on welfare programs annually (not including food stamps or unemployment)$158,200,000,000
Annual size of the Federal grant given to states for TANF$16,489,000,000
Welfare DemographicsPercentTotal Number
Percent of welfare recipients who are white / caucasian16.8 %11,405,000
Percent of welfare recipients who are black39.6 %26,884,000
Percent of welfare recipients who are Hispanic21.2 %14,392,000
Percent of welfare recipients who are Asian or Pacific Islander18 %12,220,000
Percent of welfare recipients who are Other / Mixed4.4 %2,987,000

Welfare StatisticsData
Total amount of money you can make monthly and still receive some form of welfare$1,000
Total Number of U.S. States where Welfare pays more than an $8 per hour job39
Number of U.S. States where Welfare pays more than a $12 per hour job6
Number of U.S. States where Welfare pays more than the average salary of a U.S. Teacher8
Average Time on AFCD (Aid to Families with Dependent Children)Percent of Recipients
Less than 7 months19%
7 to 12 months15.2%
1 to 2 years19.3%
2 to 5 years26.9%
Over 5 years19.6%
 
Statistic Sources & References
 Sources: US Department of Health and Human Services, U.S. Department of Commerce, CATO Institute
Content Author: Statistic Brain
Date research was conducted: September 2, 2016
Welfare Statistics
Financial