Saturday, October 31, 2009

Why didn't anyone do anything?

That has been asked by countless people over the past few days?

Well, we all have our reasons/excuses/justifications we can form into flowery language. Most times we speak in the beauty of landscapes to not offend and/or to not be real about reality. We just go with the flow:

It is what is

How I have heard this over the past 10 years.

It is what it is

This is stated as if there is some form of defeat lurking. As if we have been permanently defeated. Like we, as humans, have been demolished by our creations: hate, greed, insensitivity, and cowardice.

Cowards are those men and women who stood by and allowed a 15 year old girl to be raped by maniacs who, by the way, deserve a death sentence. A sadistic raping for what I am sure seemed to be an eternity for the young lady.

While this indecency and brutality is enough to make me nauseas, what is equally toilet hugging is what the viewers of the reality scene did:


Reminds me of a friend who claims she “selects” to choose her battles. While I understand that, what alarms me is that we, people who claim to be for the people, now have a tendency to choose battles that will not make us too uncomfortable. Gotta be in First Class and/or VIP! Gotta keep 'their' job. (Yes, sir Boss)!

I wonder what Angela Davis, or a more 'cautious' rebel would have done if a big-wig (Good Ole Boy) of an agency entered a board room dressed with traditional Gambian attire on as a Halloween costume. What would James Farmer have done? I will tell you:

He would have selected to battle.

The present culture of the United States is so rooted in a sickening contagious inaction. So much so, our kids sit back and partake in real (really real) criminal reality events i.e. watching a helpless woman get gang banged.

I am curious: what was that like for them? Did they get a rush? Like the one they get when playing those video games that have a V on the label that represents extreme Violence. Or, is it like the hard-on a man gets when viewing a porn flick?

Was there ever a moment in someone's limited intellect: This is not right? I want to believe that was at least a fleeting thought. If not, what we are dealing with is not a Nation of Punks, as I have so passionately and accurately described over the past 10 years - what we have is a Nation of Sociopathic Zombies.

Zombies are what we are supposed to dress as on Halloween; not as an African elder, by the way! Good Ole Boy needs to be told that. I challenge my friend to at least voice her discontent officially, or NEVER speak of it again in frustration to anyone. Almost like those who claim about politicians – but don’t vote.

Also, if the twenty plus young men and women who 'watched' the assault were anything like the Africans before us they would have done something - and if we were true natives of Africa we would be prepared to render an appropriate judgment for those beast who sexually and emotionally traumatized the 15 year old girl outside a homecoming dance.

So much for home!

Written by Brian E. Payne on a BlackBerry at 3:00AM, October 29, 2009.

Could not sleep...haven't in 2 days. Something's wrong. Yes it is. I am so disappointed in what we have become.

I wonder if the attached photo image ‘inspired’ the rape?

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Words are strong. They can uplift and they can be used as tools of destruction. Ultimately words have meaning. A purpose for their use. The picture tells a story. I will tell another below.

Play on Words: Praise, Good, Mercy, and Help

Two weeks ago I had a long and tiresome email discussion with two women who are Born Again. Yeah, Born Again. What does that mean, by the way? I thought one can be born only once…Guess I am not into the religious terminology minutia. I should be, I did spend three years ‘mastering’ my intelligence in seminary. The interestingly surprising – but pleasant reality about my time while at seminary: the professors did not spend useless time on the religiosity and semantics that typically dilute spiritually and theology. Praise God!

Praise God

is a saying that most of us articulate when we are pleased and/or relieved e.g. she’s not pregnant, Praise God! ‘Oh, God’ is another signature expression…typically during sex. Would you agree? Actually, there are countless religious phrases we blurt when we are positively or negatively affected by a major life event or minor situation.

When we say, ‘Lord Have Mercy’, I am of the belief that we are implying that we are possibly astonished, seeking grace, or in disbelief. If we take a deeper look at the statement it is a request. We are asking God to have mercy thus implying that people are of the understanding that God is the Mercy Giver. Also, indicating that without this divine mercy we cannot rectify situations without His assistance which also means we believe God is significantly involved in our lives.

Through His ‘graceful involvement’ we are encouraged to believe and say in unison,

Good is God

My question:

With what we boldly, intelligently, and ignorantly claim to know about God, do we really believe that our behavior is in need of mercy?

If that is the case, we are well aware that some behaviors are inappropriate – and then we go and act in ways that leave us and others repeatedly saying,

Lord Have Mercy

Giving evidence that we are not learning, and leaving me to conclude with another sincere request:

God Help Us

Written by Muata. Inspired by the two Born Again Holy Rollers.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Prayer: A Waste?

Last week I received a chain email (below). Like all chain emails especially the ones with references to religiosity I typically delete on sight. Not this one! Not this time! I was determined to state my non-believing/agnostic peace that’s littered with seminary education. Read the chain email content - and heated dialogue that ensued as a result of my response. -Muata

Prayer is what it's going to take…

Folks, if you have not noticed...few Presidents have ever worked this hard for our country, having to deal with such hatred and ill-will. Many wonder, does he ever sleep? Only God can sustain such energy, knowledge, and perseverance. Will you please join in this prayer?

Let's keep this going!

Lord,we pray for optimum health, mental clarity, and political prosperity for President Barack Obama. We pray that what he lacks in political 'experience' you make up for with supernatural wisdom and power. We also pray that when his enemies come upon him they will stumble and fall; and that your love will fill his heart to the end that 'Your will' will be done through him.We pray mightily for his protection. We plead the Blood of your son, Jesus, over him and his family. We reverently ask you to dispatch legions of angels to protect them from all hurt, harm, and danger as he serves as the President of the United States of America.We thank you and praise you for answering our sincere prayers, in Jesus' precious name, AMEN!

Is this prayer supose to be heard by God? Is it effective? -Muata

Friday, October 09, 2009

The Black Man is Irrelevant…Now

First let me say that the picture on pages 102 and 103 of the October issue of Essence magazine is fabulous! Love to see me some black females in all shades and sizes. Can’t get enough of the sistas!!

The beauty of the photo captured and sustained my attention for what felt like marathon minutes. Minutes that kept me emotionally captivated. Intrigued. Proud, and erratically turned on.

Desiree Rogers is enough for any man to become 'imbalanced' - and later discovering as I turned the pages to 106 that Ms. Rogers is 50 years old intensely pulsated my interest. I swear I would have guessed 30. Not a number more!

As the countless sets of sixty seconds passed my elation for the 16 black women (9 proudly displaying no wedding bands) unfortunately turned to disappointment. As I tried to stay in the joyful moment I wa s pulled to what is real for me, as a black man:

The black man is no longer the character of interest. He is a void. A forgotten creature searching for a new place.

Our dark skin day in the sun has passed (yellow brothers hay day been gone). Black women are now of importance while black men have been regulated to a 'thing' of the past. Funny, I rarely use the word 'thing' in my writings. I have learned the word, 'thing', is empty. It is a weak term that does not give a meaningful description. It is a word used when the writer's vocabulary becomes limited.

Perhaps, the black man has limited himself in some ways? Perhaps, he stopped reaching for the stars? Perhaps, he has given up in this battle to remain relevant?

I am not sure - but the somber feelings I had as I stared at President Obama's women helped me, with trepidation, confirm that the most feared and once revered human being on earth has become irrelevant.

Where is America's black man? What happen to his strength? How did his rising dominance diminish to a saggin pants and white t-shirt wearing never-ending fade?

I can say that the white push to criminalize him. Jail him. Kill him - has been successful. What that justification ultimately does, however, is remove all the responsibility that we have, as a brothers, to be on pages 102 and 103.

Is that it? Has America's sista's taken a more responsible approach to be in the forefront? Are they making all the right moves or are they less intimidating?

Intimidation is perceived and functions in various ways. One way that it has worked is that black men are intimidating when they are taking legitimate steps to unify the black family e.g. to be good fathers and accountable husbands. We are no longer sufficiently doing that to be seriously impactful. And, not to take away from the successes of black men: We are the majority in the NFL and NBA. Hooray!

We must admit that we are too busy in the candy store anxiously picking and choosing which tasteful black woman we are going to select from the 10 to 1 ratios while black women are beyond us: Professionally and Personally.

They are getting the jobs black men once got; and they soon will look pass us and become the bride/woman of the Caucasian/Asian/Latino men they work with at The White House and at corporations. This, supporting what I have always known would happen as long as we (black men) continue to marginalize ourselves:

The Dilution of the Black Family

What can we voice happened without pointing the finger?

Written by Brian E. Payne. Inspired by those beautiful black women in October's Essence magazine.

Stay tuned for The Shadow's latest installment (next week):

Choices: "The Black Woman is No Longer One for Me"

Thursday, October 08, 2009

This young man made a decision to change his life. He did it with his own fortitude. He did not create an 'excuse'. We (black folk) STILL have too many of them. -Muata

Derrius Quarles

Derrius Quarles leans back in his seat and methodically debates Aristotle's theory of truth during freshman honors English class at Morehouse College. He strides across campus in a navy blue tailored suit and a bold red sweater handing out business cards that boast "Student/Entrepreneur/Leader."But behind the 19-year-old's dauntless appearance is a past that few on campus know.

When Quarles was 5, the state took him away from his mother. He spent his childhood bouncing from home to home before ending up on his own at 17 in an apartment on Chicago's South Side. His arrival at a prestigious, historically African-American college -- with more than $1 million in scholarship offers -- is a story of inspiration and anguish. And it's a testament to his determination to prove that he is better than his beginnings."You can't go around thinking you are inferior just because you didn't have parents," he says. "For me, it's about knowing where you are from and accepting it, but more important, knowing where you are going." Despite his polished veneer, sometimes there are glimpses into a more complicated young man.

In sociology class, when students discuss their childhood dependence on parents, the usually verbose Quarles withdraws from the lively discussion and doodles in a notebook. When a tutoring coordinator asks students about the "caring adults" in their lives, Quarles mumbles something about an aunt. He rarely talks about his childhood, but when pushed, the words tumble out. "I've had people tell me that I ain't never gonna be s---. That's not a scratch, that cuts deep," he says. "After so many people put me down, I said, 'I'm gonna show you.'

"Quarles made good on that=2 0promise when he won more than $1 million in scholarship offers, including a full ride at Morehouse. A graduate of Kenwood Academy High School in Chicago, he is one of about a dozen students nationwide to garner such a bounty, according to Mark Kantrowitz, who runs the Web site Finaid, which tracks college aid. He won full scholarships to five universities, the Gates Millennium Scholarship worth $160,000 and the Horatio Alger and Coca-Cola scholarships, each worth $20,000, to name a few. He'll use most of it to pay for advanced schooling. Now, Quarles hopes to weave a new family narrative at an all-male college known as much for molding brotherhood as for molding scholars. He is searching for a band of brothers who will not abandon him, as so many others have in the past.

Left alone

When Quarles was 4, his father was stabbed to death with a pocketknife in a fight on a vacant lot. His mother struggled with drugs. Quarles doesn't remember much about those years, outside of being left alone with his brother for long stretches of time, pilfering bread and snacks from a convenience store. "We had to fend for ourselves the best we knew how," he says. "My brother really stepped up as an older brother . He never left my side. "This connection to his brother was a sustaining one. But it would not last.

When Quarles was 5, officials placed him and his brother in a temporary foster home, then with an aunt. Quarles remembers this as a period of calm. He learned to read sitting in his aunt's lap, paging through her favorite Bible passages. He recalls eating around the dinner table with more food than he ever imagined. But when Quarles was 13, his older brother was removed from the home and placed in a foster home in Maywood. Quarles wanted to go with his brother and his aunt let him. State records simply show she was not interested in becoming his legal guardian. Quarles says he is not certain why his aunt let him leave and he would not provide her name. "I'm content not to know," he says. "I'm sure it was a good reason." Quarles' brother left the foster home a few months later, one of the toughest losses of Quarles' life. "That's when I learned you can't trust people to stay around," he says. "That when I learned to lean on me."

Three years later, Quarles was placed with his grandmother and an aunt in Chicago. But within a year, he convinced officials with the Department of Children and Family Services that he would be better off on his own. The high school junior packed his clothes, books and a set of golf clubs and moved to an apartment as part of a state transitional living program for foster children. There, he learned to budget his money, wash and dry his clothes, shop for groceries and cook. He received a small stipend and got a part-time job at a barbershop.

At 17, he was living like an adult.Desmond Kemp, who became a mentor to Quarles -- a brother, really -- when they met at a tutoring program, initially opposed the move. But Kemp was impressed with how Quarles kept up the apartment and budgeted his money with such precision that he always had enough for fashionable clothes and textbooks. He was awed when he took Quarles to the grocery store and the teenager shunned the snack aisles and headed to the fresh fruits and vegetables."He kept saying, 'This is brain food. This is what I need to eat to build a strong brain,' “Kemp recalls.” I had to laugh but also stared in amazement at how mature he was for a teenager."Even though his home life was sometimes chaotic, Quarles brought home A's and B's in elementary school. That changed when h e entered Kenwood Academy. First quarter of freshman year, he got an F and eked out only a 2.5 grade point average.

Providence intervened in the form of a pushy biology teacher. Quarles had enrolled in a summer biology course but skipped the first day and was late for the second. Teacher Nivedita Nutakki pulled him into the hallway and told him he was wasting his talent."He needed a push and some encouragement," she says. "I spotted right away that this was a special kid who had a special mind."Quarles got an A in the class. Sophomore year, he earned a 3.6 grade point average. By junior year, he was carrying three advanced placement classes and earning straight A's."Initially, I was doing it to show my biology teacher that I could do it," he says. "But then it kind of moved into, 'I didn't have to show her anymore.' I was doing it to show myself." Quarles latched on to Nutakki and spent hours after school with her, engrossed in a subject that inspired him to want to be a doctor.

He found other mentors who, together, played the role of parent.Lynda Parker, a Kenwood counselor, recounts how aggressively Quarles pursued college scholarships. He would stay late to use the school computer for research and pester Parker to complete his recommendation letters. "With teenagers, the biggest motivator is the parent," Parker says. "Every step of the way, you have to contact the parents so they can push the kids. Not only did Derrius not have a parent to push him, he was pushing himself as hard, or harder, than parents of the other kids."Even his oversize ambition couldn't get Quarles past one roadblock. He dreamed of attending Harvard, until one college adviser told him his 28 ACT score was simply not high enough. He abandoned his plans.

At a crossroads

Now, as he walks the red clay hills of the Morehouse campus, the training ground of Martin Luther King Jr., Quarles seems poised between who he was and who he wants to be. His dorm room looks like every other teenager's. The bed is mussed, the refrigerator and shelves are stacked with Doritos and Coke, and the focus of the room is the 32-inch flat-screen TV and Xbox he bought with his roommate. But inside Quarles' closet hang four suits and a half-dozen wrinkle-free dress shirts. In the corner sits an iron and ironing board. As a high school senior, Quarles Googled tips on business attire. Now, his belt color always matches his shoes, and his shirt sleeves are tailored to fall exactly halfway across his watch. "How you dress says something to the world about who you think you are," he explains.

Quarles' counselors, friends and teachers worry he is too eager to grow up."I keep telling him that everyone has a right to live as a child during their childhood years," Parker says.Still, Quarles keeps an ambitious list of goals: graduate from medical school, earn a doctorate, start a tutoring program for low-income Chicago students, help shape the city's public health policy, become the U.S. surgeon general. "I have no time to play around," he says. "There are people back home in Chicago starving, homeless, unemployed, killing each other. There is a difference between enjoying life and wasting time, and I can't waste any time. "I want to make a difference. I want to show people that I can be all those things people said I could never be."

Quarles now has the means to pay for his education. And oversize optimism could get him the rest of the way. During a training session for a Morehouse tutoring program one day, students introduce themselves and list three songs on their iPod -- typically Kanye West, Beyonce, Jay-Z and Lou Rawls.When his turn comes, Quarles stands."Have you ever seen the movie 'Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory'?" he asks, prompting raised eyebrows. "There's a song in there called 'Pure Imagination.' That's what I'm listening to these days."Quarles later explains that the lyrics inspire him: "Anything you want to, do it. Want to change the world? There's nothing to it." "It's so powerful," he says. "It shows the power of imagination. If you imagine it, you can do it."

By Stephanie Banchero, Chicago Tribune Reporter