Thursday, April 28, 2011

When Silence Is Not Golden

Of all the Critical Thinker blog posts I have written, this one is likely to be one of the more serious ones as it deals with a topic that I am sure has been around for as long as time but it just seems to be more prevalent now as more and more women reveal what tragically happened to them as children.

The topic has come to my attention because through my recent reading it seems to keep cropping up more and more. Books that immediately come to mind that I have recently read include Memories by Sister Claudette Marie Muhammad; Dare To Take Charge by Judge Glenda Hatchett; and Peace From Broken Pieces by Iyanla Vanzant. Not only had I read these books in succession and was hit in the face squarely with this issue, but many of my female guest authors this year on The Reading Circle with Marc Medley on WP88.7 FM transparently shared with the listening audience the same thing happening to them when they were a child or a young woman. Women such as Nicole B. Simpson, Allison Hobbs, and Syretta Walker shared with the audience how this very issue has impacted their lives. By now you are probably wondering what issue I am writing about. Well I am glad you asked. The extremely serious issue that this blog post is about is child molestation and rape. I decided to tackle this issue because it seems to be coming to light more and more by prominent women in our society.

Take a look at the account given by Sister Claudette Marie Muhammad in her book Memories in the chapter entitled Little Girl, Big Secret concerning one evening when her paternal grandfather came to visit:

“One evening he came to our house, ate dinner that my mother had prepared, played with us, and went into our bedroom to go to bed. He put me in the bed with him. Early the next morning, I woke up with Papa Travis on top of me. He had gone inside of me, tearing my vagina, splitting my rectum. Although, I tried to be silent, I knew that my grandfather was doing something very wrong to me. It reached the point where the pain and the smell of my grandfather were so overbearing, I screamed. My mother was in the kitchen cooking breakfast. She heard me scream, picked up a broom, ran into the bedroom and beat her father-in-law with the broom. He jumped up off me, picked up his clothes and ran out of the house.”

In Dare to Take Charge, Judge Glenda Hatchett recounts a case she had with a young girl Jamie who came into her courtroom:

“A young girl who came into my courtroom, Jamie was first victimized by William, her mother’s live-in boyfriend, when she was in the sixth grade. For years thereafter, she was verbally and sexually abused – one of the most horrendous situations you can think of, the chronic abuse of a child. William threatened to kill Jamie’s mother, Marie, if Jamie told anyone what was going on. After years of this horror, Jamie was no longer able to live with the shame and the agony. She confided in a trusted high school teacher. By then, Jamie was sixteen. A warrant was issued for the arrest of her mother’s live-in boyfriend, this despicable man. During her most vulnerable and formative years, Jamie had endured unimaginable, spirit-robbing abuse. In her child’s mind, she endured these violations in order to protect her mother. Of course, once the truth was out in the open, Jamie imagined that her mother would come forth and protect her. She expected her mother to reach for her and comfort her. But sadly, that was not the case. Even in this state of crisis, Marie withheld the love and support her daughter so desperately needed. Jamie’s mom did not behave as most mothers would have. Marie repeatedly accused Jamie of improper behavior. Marie insisted that her boyfriend could never have done this. She said that Jamie was blaming a poor innocent man when in fact it was Jamie who had behaved improperly and was having sex as a young child! Not only had Marie failed to provide a safe haven for her daughter, but she also turned against her, siding with a disgusting sexual predator of a boyfriend.”

Iyanla Vanzant gives an account in Peace From Broken Pieces as follows:

“Uncle Lee extended the other pig’s foot in my direction. Does he expect me to take it with my bare hands? Before I could, he dropped it; right on the sofa, between his legs. Rather than use his hand to retrieve his lunch, he grabbed me by the wrist. Instinctively, I pushed him with my free hand, which gave him the opportunity to grab my other wrist. Something was very, very, wrong, but I couldn’t figure out what it was. The mixture of scents flowing into my nostrils, the queasiness in my stomach, and the strange smile on my Uncle Lee’s face had rendered me feeble-minded, drained of all defenses. My face was too close to his. His tongue had no business being in my ear. Why was his foul-smelling, sticky mouth on my mouth? The more I twisted and turned to get away, the tighter his grasp became. I could feel my body become rigid just before it went numb. “Stop fighting me. Don’t fight me. We’re gonna have some fun. I’m gonna show you how to have fun.” My blouse was torn. My panties were ripped. His weight was smashing me into the sofa. His breath was foul. His calloused hands were groping my private parts. He was hurting me; ripping my insides apart.”

These accounts are chilling and for Claudette and Iyanla both in their late 60's/early 70's happened nearly sixty years ago when they were very young women. According to Child Help,  children are suffering from a hidden epidemic of child abuse and neglect. Over 3 million reports of child abuse are made every year in the United States; however, those reports can include multiple children. In 2007, approximately 5.8 million children were involved in an estimated 3.2 million child abuse reports and allegations.

General statistics include:

•A report of child abuse is made every ten seconds.
•Almost five children die every day as a result of child abuse. More than three out of four are under the age of 4.
•It is estimated that between 60-85% of child fatalities due to maltreatment are not recorded as such on death certificates.
•90% of child sexual abuse victims know the perpetrator in some way; 68% are abused by family members.
•Child abuse occurs at every socioeconomic level, across ethnic and cultural lines, within all religions and at all levels of education.
•31% percent of women in prison in the United States were abused as children.
•Over 60% of people in drug rehabilitation centers report being abused or neglected as a child.
•About 30% of abused and neglected children will later abuse their own children, continuing the horrible cycle of abuse.
•About 80% of 21 year old that were abused as children met criteria for at least one psychological disorder.
•The estimated annual cost of child abuse and neglect in the United States for 2007 is $104 billion.
•Abused children are 25% more likely to experience teen pregnancy.
•Abused teens are 3 times less likely to practice safe sex, putting them at greater risk for STDs.
 •14% of all men in prison in the USA were abused as children

•36% of all women in prison were abused as children
•Children who experience child abuse & neglect are 59% more likely to be arrested as a juvenile, 28% more likely to be arrested as an adult, and 30% more likely to commit violent crime.

As a father of four daughters, I implore men to leave these children alone. If you read the accounts I have shared in the post, you must agree that this behavior is SICK. Think of the damage that is being done to these lives. These children's lives were never the same for them again and any child that it happens to now will never have life the same again. Any and all forms of child abuse must stop.

Too many lives are being lost and altered due to abuse (see trend above). If you know a child that is being abused, please do not sit on your hands and do nothing. Do not just think that it will go away because it will not. Please call the National Child Abuse Hotline at 1-800-4-A-Child. You may just be saving a life.
After speaking with my guest authors and hearing their stories and reading the hellacious accounts of Sister Claudette Marie Muhammad, Jamie through Judge Hatchett, and Iyanla Vanzant, my mind could not help but wonder how many of our children right before our eyes are experiencing the same type abuse or some other form of abuse. My heart goes out to them and because it does, I wrote this blog post to raise awareness. We must stop any form of abuse in its tracks. Again the National Child Abuse Hotline is 1-800-4-A-Child.  As always I welcome your commentary and feedback in the comment section of the blog.

Monday, April 25, 2011

The Epitome of Cool

One of the most famous TV quotes from comedies of the 70’s was “Aaaaayyyy” ..... always spoken by “The Fonz” played by Henry Winkler in the sitcom Happy Days. Fonzie or "The Fonz" was considered “cool” by Richie, Potsie and Ralph along with the rest of America. When one thinks of cool, one might think of James Dean, Marlon Brando, Billy Dee Williams, Sean Connery or Yul Brynner(I love the way Yul says “It is written, so it shall be done in the movie The Ten Commandments.); perhaps Michael Jordan or even Jay-Z, but has anyone ever considered Jesus as cool? Well if you have not……..I have and let me tell you why.
We have just experienced the Lenten season culminating with Resurrection Sunday and it really reaffirmed for me the coolness of Jesus. I’ve always based my opinion of Jesus as cool by the responses he gave in various situations. He always had an answer and it was never the answer or reaction that was expected or anticipated. In many of the biblical scenarios Jesus was being set up by his enemies, detractors and critics who expected him to give an answer that would trap him or contradict who he said he was. The funny and ironic part is his critics and naysayers always had to walk away shaking their heads as their plans were foiled once again. Let’s take a look at some of the scenarios and the response given by Jesus:

Take a look at Matthew 27:11-14 where we see Jesus standing before Pilate being interrogated:

11And Jesus stood before the governor: and the governor asked him, saying, Art thou the King of the Jews? And Jesus said unto him, Thou sayest. 12And when he was accused of the chief priests and elders, he answered nothing. 13Then said Pilate unto him, Hearest thou not how many things they witness against thee? 14And he answered him to never a word; insomuch that the governor marveled greatly.
Check out the answer in John 8……
3And the scribes and Pharisees brought unto him a woman taken in adultery; and when they had set her in the midst, 4They say unto him, Master, this woman was taken in adultery, in the very act. 5Now Moses in the law commanded us, that such should be stoned: but what sayest thou? 6This they said, tempting him, that they might have to accuse him. But Jesus stooped down, and with his finger wrote on the ground, as though he heard them not. 7So when they continued asking him, he lifted up himself, and said unto them, He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her. 8And again he stooped down, and wrote on the ground. 9And they which heard it, being convicted by their own conscience, went out one by one, beginning at the eldest, even unto the last: and Jesus was left alone, and the woman standing in the midst. 10When Jesus had lifted up himself, and saw none but the woman, he said unto her, Woman, where are those thine accusers? hath no man condemned thee? 11She said, No man, Lord. And Jesus said unto her, Neither do I condemn thee: go, and sin no more.
Or Luke 14:5
And answered them, saying, Which of you shall have an ass or an ox fallen into a pit, and will not straightway pull him out on the sabbath day?
Or Mark 4
And there arose a great storm of wind, and the waves beat into the ship, so that it was now full. 38And he was in the hinder part of the ship, asleep on a pillow: and they awake him, and say unto him, Master, carest thou not that we perish? 39And he arose, and rebuked the wind, and said unto the sea, Peace, be still. And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm. 40And he said unto them, Why are ye so fearful? how is it that ye have no faith? 41And they feared exceedingly, and said one to another, What manner of man is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?

And Matthew 4
Then was Jesus led up of the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted of the devil. 2And when he had fasted forty days and forty nights, he was afterward an hungered.   3And when the tempter came to him, he said, If thou be the Son of God, command that these stones be made bread. 4But he answered and said, It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God. 5Then the devil taketh him up into the holy city, and setteth him on a pinnacle of the temple, 6And saith unto him, If thou be the Son of God, cast thyself down: for it is written, He shall give his angels charge concerning thee: and in their hands they shall bear thee up, lest at any time thou dash thy foot against a stone. 7Jesus said unto him, It is written again, Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God. 8Again, the devil taketh him up into an exceeding high mountain, and sheweth him all the kingdoms of the world, and the glory of them; 9And saith unto him, All these things will I give thee, if thou wilt fall down and worship me. 10Then saith Jesus unto him, Get thee hence, Satan: for it is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve. 11Then the devil leaveth him, and, behold, angels came and ministered unto him.
In each of these scenarios, Jesus did not lose his cool. he just plainly, calmly, confidently and in a matter of fact manner gave his answers. You could feel the power in his answers, you could feel the coolness. He was very clear, yet his detractors always left perplexed. Even his own disciples questioned what manner of man is this? Jesus was and still is a cool brother.

So the next time you think of the folks who you consider cool, add Jesus to that list. He is the epitome of cool. Something to critically think about and as always I welcome your commentary in the comment section of the blog.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

“There Has Been More Technological Improvement In The Last 50 Years Than In The Previous 5,000

“There has been more technological improvement in the last 50 years than in the previous 5,000,” asserts Patrick Cox, co-editor of Technology Profits

According to Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia, the Jetsons is a prime-time animated sitcom that was produced by Hanna-Barbera, originally airing from 1962–1963 and again from 1985–1987. It was Hanna-Barbera’s Space Age counterpart to The Flintstones, a half-hour family sitcom projecting contemporary American culture and lifestyle into another time period.[2] While the Flintstones live in a world with machines powered by birds and dinosaurs, the Jetsons live in a futuristic utopia in the year 2062[3] of elaborate robotic contraptions, aliens, holograms, and whimsical inventions.[4] The original incarnation of the series aired Sunday nights on ABC from September 23, 1962, to March 3, 1963.
I start this post referring to the quote by Patrick Cox and the Hanna-Barbera cartoon The Jetsons to give us an appreciation of just how fast technology is moving. Think about that.......more technological advancement in the last 50 years than in the last 5,000.  That is something to critically think about. As I write this post I am surrounded by a Yamaha E413 Musical Keyboard, my Iphone which has over 300 songs downloaded on it sitting on a docking station with speakers, a Dell Inspiron CPU, Digidesign Pro Tools software, Rosetta Stone Spanish Language software, Microsoft Flight Simulator X along with the Flight Sim Yoke and rudder pedals, Playstation II  and the list goes on and on.

Think about it, there are children today who do not know what an 8-track tape or 45 RPM recording is. For some, they barely know what an audio cassette is. In every field or industry we are technologically whizzing along. The Jetsons aired in 1962 and who could have known just how prophetic that little cartoon was.

Go Up On The Third Limb
For me personally, I love the technology, but it MUST be used responsibly and for good. The social media developments are awesome when used correctly. I am having so much fun with the technology that I have been able to write and produce my first original instrumental jazz CD  Go Up On The Third Limb, Enhance my radio show, The Reading Circle with Marc Medley, write a blog (The Critical Thinker) that is read all over the world and just recently moved the blog up off of the written pages with the addition of The Critical Thinker Video Blog on YouTube and Ustream.  Be sure to tune in to not only read The Critical Thinker but to hear him give you things to ask yourself "Does that make sense to you?"

I thank God for the technology and everything that we can now do. If little ol' me can do all of this with my limited technological knowledge, think what technology can do in terms of saving lives. Conversely, think of what it can do in taking lives as well, i.e. war weaponry but we won't go there, we will keep it positive.

If you are interested in obtaining a copy of my CD Go Up On The Third Limb it is available for purchase from this site and The Reading Circle website at Purchases may be made through PayPal. I will also keep you posted each time I film the video version of The Critical Thinker. Until then enjoy the technology that God has blessed us with and use it responsibly.  I know I will.  As always, I appreciate your feedback via the comment section of the blog.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

History Teaches Everything Including The Future.

Noellee Howell
 Today (April 2, 2011) was the Northern Regional Competition of the Kenneth E. Behring National History Day Contest sponsored by Seton Hall University College of Arts and Sciences, History Department; the New Jersey Historical Commission, The History Channel and William Paterson University. The competition was held at Seton Hall University and was a part of New Jersey History Day. I had the opportunity to share in an incredible experience with the students and teachers who were representing the Paterson School District and I was especially excited because my niece Jada and my daughter Noellee along with many of my colleagues were intimately involved with New Jersey History Day. I witnessed them diligently preparing their projects for weeks.

The competition was broken into three categories which were exhibits, documentaries, and performances. Each category requirement could be satisfied by an individual or group presentation. As we arrived at Seton Hall University, we came across both my niece and my daughter along with their respective groups and teachers. I could feel the competitive spirit in the air. The students had been up since 6:00 a.m. or earlier to meet a bus leaving Paterson by 6:45 a.m. to make their 7:30 a.m. start time and nervousness and fatigue was setting in. I had the opportunity to be an audience member in two excellent documentaries presented by the freshman and sophomore students from Paterson Eastside High School. One was an eye opening documentary uncovering the unsanitary practices of the meat packing industry prior to the creation of the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the other was an interesting debate concerning world relations and the views on appeasement dating back to Adolf Hitler to the presidential campaign bid of Barack Obama. The third documentary was one delivered by my daughter Noellee where she took an in-depth look at Brown vs. Board of Education, the landmark decision of the United States Supreme Court that declared state laws establishing separate public schools for black and white students unconstitutional. All three presentations were outstanding.

After the documentary presentations, we had some time to kill before the announcement of the qualifiers for the state competition at William Paterson University, so we walked the beautiful campus of Seton Hall and had lunch. The Jubilee Hall Auditorium was filled to standing room only capacity. We anxiously awaited the winners/qualifiers names to be called. We nervously sat through each category cheering for other schools and hoping that our schools would be called and lo and behold the Paterson school district had qualifiers in each category. I was almost moved to tears as my daughter and my niece brought home ribbons. Oh the looks of Mr. Balsamo, Ms. Carlock, and Mr. Ollo as words cannot describe the happiness and pride expressed by each of them as their students walked across that stage.

Now let’s get to the significance of this post and why I spent time detailing a part of my day at the New Jersey History Day Northern Regional Competition. This was an academic event and there was not a reporter in site. No little note pads and pencils (or I guess Ipads and Netbooks in 2011), no cameras, no news trucks, no news anchors; no one but proud parents, students and teachers cheering for their children who had performed in such an excellent manner. After all it was only a history contest; nothing newsworthy. Not a basketball or football game. No touchdowns or three point baskets, just children spouting historical facts or their understanding of history and its connection to their future.

Now let’s flip the script and say those same students were now in the streets in gangs or had been a part of a crime or had been carrying weapons, I am sure there would have been a swarm of reporters there ready to let the world know how horrid our children are or can be. I’m sure they would have been there as well if it had been the star quarterback, running back, point guard or center So that’s why I am taking the time to let the world know of the wonderful event that took place at Seton Hall University this day.

We must get our priorities straight. Academics are just as important, in fact more important than athletics in my humble view. For some reason we do not embrace academics in the same manner that we embrace athletics, thereby causing our students to think that academics are not really that important. Too many of our students think that in order for them to be noticed or recognized, they have to be a part of one of the sports teams. Well I am here to tell you that today was far more important than any football or basketball game will ever be. You want to talk priorities…… critically think about this from USAToday:

“The Rutgers University Programming Association paid Nicole “Snooki” Polizzi $32,000 Thursday to offer important advice on her hairstyle, fist pumps, as well as the GTL — gym, tanning, laundry — lifestyle. And that’s $2,000 more than the $30,000 the university is paying [Toni] Morrison to deliver Rutgers’ commencement address in May.”
I believe we can sum that up with “Enough Said,” and with that said, congratulations to Noellee Howell, Jada Osgood and to all of the rest of the students and staff members who qualified for the state competition at William Paterson University. The competition will be the held May 7, 2011. As always, I welcome your commentary in the comment section of the blog.