Thursday, February 26, 2009

The Literacy Library...

The Literacy Library in Greensboro, NC is an effort to encourage marginalized youth to not only read books but also think more critically about their lives. Bertrand E. Brown, President and Founder of the program is calling on all literary folks to donate any books we believe might help fulfill his mission. I donated copies of my first two books; and once I finally complete Vol.2 of Before You Fly Off I'll be donating copies of that one as well. Keep up the great work, Mr. Brown. We need you in the trenches of saving our boys and girls, and we thank you for celebrating Black History Month every day!!!

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Monkey Doo

Why we avoid talking openly and honestly about racism is because it points to the on-going injustices of one people everywhere and those who benefit from it everyday...

Fussing about the messenger coming off too strong is also avoiding...

How a forward-thinking school teacher can address race-ism is not by regurgitating recycled Black History Month facts that don't necessarily change students' mindsets and behavior, but by celebrating the different skin complexions in the classroom; asking if anyone has friends or neighbors who look different than them, if their parents socialize with people who look different than them-- why or why not? And what are some wonderful things about being different, anyway? Reminding White kids, especially, that having white skin is considered something different also. Is the curriculum avoiding the topic of race-ism altogether? Are you using your instructional handcuffs to make a new way? Maybe taking one day out of the week to talk openly about the harm race-ism can cause in and outside of the classroom, and defining race-ism as a virus, like something you can only get by someone teaching it to you and creating a gotcha kinda' game to learn when someone got race-ism or not...

If it's all about flash and cash, then what a real gangsta high school teacher does is show how race-ism allows one group of people to set standards while another puts up with the lies, even the ones they put on themselves. You tell the truth, no matter how much safe fluff the curriculum dictates because you know you're job is not only to relay the standards but more important, to save lives. So schooling Daquan and Jesus, for instance, on the fact that smoking blunts isn't at all like smoking a cigar when shredded paperbag means inhaling dye which is what causes dark purple lips. It's this kind of 411 that improves class management because the lesson is about their empowerment, and not more indoctrination of Black and Brown peoples. The suit n ties may not like your approach, but they do like results...

A college professor can address race-ism by not being intellectual about it but by welcoming emotionality in lecture halls and study groups, since researching is more of a scientific, unemotional process that encourages students to acknowledge race-ism but not feel it. Fearing the emotionality of those who have to tolerate race-ism is a personal problem, not ours.

Deans and administrators can help by being proactive about addressing race-ism on their campuses. Pushing Black History Month events is cool, but when they merely make us feel good then go back to our old ways it's not forward-thinking. It's more avoiding. Allowing the students themselves to come up with ideas for events is a sure bet that even the experts will learn something new, especially from students whose gpa's aren't the best. Not because they're slow but because they're way too intelligent for factory mindset. Plus, it helps with the emotionality issue when the typically overlooked is celebrated...

If you're the kind of Direcor or Coordinator who can make sht happen! You give a tour of historically African American neighborhoods that are now being replaced by gentrification and encourage young people to talk about race-ism, so that the dis-ease becomes less and less fatal; show films that aren't necessarily safe (a/k/a avoid reality); welcome critical discussions on The Trail of Tears, for example, when Native Americans were forced to give up their land and go west for the sake of incoming White settlers, or Puerto Rican mothers in 1965 being sterilized without their knowing as a way of controlling the Boriqua population; how illiterate Black sharecroppers from 1932 to 1972 were used as laboratory animals for syphillis experiments, and the role of White Guilt in the 21st century...

Principals can model progressive leadership by reminding their school superintendants that the African holocaust is still going on and asking them to send books reflecting this reality. This way talking about issues that specifically affect Black folks doesn't have to be so taboo both in the classroom and at the family table...

People we call facilitators are already trained to think out the box, so all we have to do is tell them we're willing to listen and work on the reasons why we avoid talking about race-ism; to do interesting exercises on privileged and victim mindsets; why Obama wasn't Black enough at first and then suddenly too Black; why we paid more attention to Rev. Wright's anger towards America than the truth in his passion; how inernalized racism helps keep race-ism alive; why Danny Glover had to turn to Venezuela to get a movie made about a slave revolt leader; our uneasiness with confident, unapoligetic urban Black males; how the term educational reform includes teaching little White boys and girls that they are part of the global experience, not its barometer; and what if White males were forced to stifle their feelings to make Black people more comfortable? what if White guilt took the shape of real educational reform beginning with telling the whole truth in our history books, admitting to being the beneficiaries of American apartheid systems, that missionaries helped push race-ism, and allowing our youth to show us how to prove we're not cowards after all?...

Our Latino brothas and sistas could do their part by first admitting their own racismo and reminding each other that there wouldn't be a Latin America without the Haitian Revolution; to also show balance in their television shows, since not all Latinos look Spaniard...

Even the Police can do their part by deciding that 50 gunshots is not, Please stop or we'll shoot but Die, nigger, die!!! And remembering Timothy McVeigh, the White American who bombed Oaklahoma City six years prior to 9/11, each time they get the itch to assume that only dark-skinned males are proned to terrorist acts...

White parents can take a chance on worrying their relatives and neighbors by teaching their children that it was a Black person who invented the air conditioner, the lightbulb, elevator, fire extinguisher, guitar, lawn mower, refrigerator, stove, traffic light, watch and the cell phone, to not only show folks they're that serious about addressing race-ism but to make sure their children don't grow up assuming Black merely means freed slave...

And as well-meaning as Evangelicals or conservative Whites might be about religion, they could put up in their churches and homes a portrait of a man who actually has hair of wool and skin of bronze and not someone who looks more like Kris Kristofferson (no disrespect, brother) as a show of solidarity with those who want to see race-ism be done with once and for all.

This helps also--

Those who benefited from race-ism in 1909
White males
White females
White children
Light-skinned Blacks
Anglo Latinos (Latinos who look more Spaniard)

Those who benefit from race-ism in 2009
White males
White females
White children
Light-skinned Blacks who don't bring up race concerns
Dark-skinned Blacks who deny race-ism even exists
Anglo Latinos who don't marry Black
Asians who avoid being associated with Blacks
White Jews (especially those whose names don't sound Jewish)
White gays and lesbians
The Catholic Church
Companies and institutions that only hire safe Blacks. 'Safe' meaning, those who don't challenge race-ism or stand up for themselves

And Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, and any other man of color who got rid of his ethnic swag.

(Arabs and Persians--and even East Indians, if they could get away with it--would check the white box when filling out college or job applications. But thanks to 9/11 and the Bush administration, they're now considered the new niggers!)

Of course, race-ism is not something that will go away any time soon. It may take a few more generations before we're actually post-racial or at least willing to admit how this dis-ease benefits Whites and those who see having white skin as the ideal complexion, even if it's purely out of basic survival instincts. In other words, until Black--not diluted, not passive, not docile--is truly beautiful to Hollywood and corporate America, we just play along with the color game.

I remember when my daughter was just five. We were at a playground. Her locks were merely twists then. A White boy who looked about the same age came to play with us. My daughter was already used to seeing Whites in our home, so there was no hesitation on her part. Not until the boy innocently asked, "Why's your hair like that?" My daughter looked just as puzzled as he, but her confusion had more to do with the question itself. Like a curious butterfly, he flew back to another play area while my daughter looked on. Later that evening she asked her mother to take out her dreds.

This is how effortless race-ism can be. No white hoods and fire torches that day. Just a little boy having already decided that my daughter was odd for having a different hairstyle; and just that easily, so early in her life, she questioned her natural beauty. And not yet passed kindergarten, this charming boy had already received messages that anyone who didn't look like him was different, odd, not in line with the standards. Both the protective parent and teacher in me cleverly asked back, "Why's YOUR hair like that?" and I imagine that's why he suddenly flew away, already perfecting the art of avoiding.

So are we a nation of cowards, as our Attorney General suggested, when it comes to talking honestly about racism?........What say you?

Friday, February 20, 2009

For Us...

In this place
This sacred place
We held so dear to our hearts
And in our collective consciousness
This bothered ground
We call our home;
Our reason to fight and fight again
All in the name of Pan African salvation
We stand in truth
Having resolved our struggle with the pale one
And with one another

To now simply be
Each of us
Doing what we were called to do
As dedication to the promise
Those before us had made
Before relinquishing their very last breaths
To aborted uprisings and public castrations

In this here place
With our hands clutched together
Bowing our heads
As we call upon those who await us
For the renewal of our plight
We so lovingly give homage to
This borrowed soil
On which we’ve chosen
As our point of reference
Without division of any kind
But with the conviction of one force
One people
One objective
In the name of spiritual egression

It is at this moment
That we make the decision
To return to our most basic of rituals
As in before captivity and social buffoonery
To look on and ahead
Without the meaning of ‘I’

That this day
We begin at the end
At the beginning again
Our heels fixed firmly
In our agreement to transition
Having learned from our past
Leaving behind the chains that once defined us
And lift our heads towards the All Knowing
To finally
Once and for all
After being forced to despise our own
As we sing the praise of justice and forever
Give the sign
Then disappear.

The concept of a tree for my book cover kept badgering me but I couldn't figure out why, nor what the artisitic details could or should be. That's when Spirit sent one of my students, Rajiv Mahadeo. He'd heard I was looking for a cool design for my first poetry collection. One day he stepped to me with a drawing, and it was one of those surreal moments when telepathy rules! Because he pulled out a piece of paper that had a tree on it with branches appearing as locks and asked, "How's this?"

Look out for this kat. He's about to blow up big time, even if it's just behind the scenes. Thank you again, good brotha!

For You...

Short eyes is a prison expression
Like six months to a year
But with the delicate politics of romantic perversion

I wanted to write something for the victim resurrected
Who mistook twisted affection for brilliant persuasion

What is it exactly that makes some men chase newborns?
Is it that the aging is less obvious when a trophy’s at hand?
The lies he tells a child are the same lies he tells himself
Each time he’s startled by the grimace in his mirror

I wanted to write something about men and trophies
About predators who wear the latest fads
To lure unsuspecting neophytes

What is it that’s especially enticing about picking young flowers?
Or fucking a god who doesn’t yet know his name?
Counterfeit hands and money for manners
While the eyes of a baby grow wiser by the years

I wanted to write about love upside down
About magnificent illusion and the turning of tides

I love you
And not in the way he taught you
But unfailing, without competition
Even if it frightens me to be so naked and pure

I wanted to write a poem just for you
And maybe others as unseasoned as you
Who missed their chance to start over;
Reinvent themselves within the pit of recovery
Only to discover they never lost heart after all
Just the years of denial and loud indecisions

I wanted to tell you that men who need trophies
Seek their assurance from the outside in
While I stand for the things you can take to heaven

I love you
And not in the way he taught you.

From my second book, The Dredlocks Tree.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

28 Days and a Mule: The Trouble With Black History Month

Haitian photographer, Ocean Morisset put a bug in my ear-- Recycled. He wasn't talking plastic and newspapers, but instead calling us out on our formula-driven annual itineraries for Black History Month. You know, MLK, Langston Hughes, slave burial grounds. Telling it like it was, as opposed to telling it like it is. He's no traitor to The Cause, so I knew better to pre-judge a word and the intention behind it. But it did make me relfect a bit on what's being pushed as standard, acceptable Black History Month mentions and reminders. Because just as quickly as I was to defend the memory and legacy of Dr. King, praise one of our best literateurs and give honor to our ancestors, I realized he was making a valid point. We do tend to promote what some of our more forward-thinking relatives might call safe historical figures and events; 'safe' meaning that it doesn't upset the status quo. Or as my brassy daughter would say, Those who run sht!

Young school heads, especially, will tell you that Black History Month, to them, is that 28-day period when it's not grassroots folk who are deciding what to put on the menu, but administrators and media titles who like to keep it clever and not too emotional. Because the business appoach is not to encourage people to feel or take action, but to showcase an illusion of something that can bring change in mindset and behavior.

So the challenge for me was to stretch my mind and think out the box of what Black History Month is and can be. I started paying more attention to what kinds of assignments teachers and professors were pushing, what we were seeing on tv, what our newspapers were regurgitating, which same legends were getting props, and the loud absence of figures--often times right in our community--who've been ignored every year because of our tendency to be stuck on formula, along with our reluctance to address the many contradictions at the family table. I knew I was already in a position to complain. Like Morisset, I don't wait 'til February to celebrate myself and those before me. When you wear Black History every day, your words and camera eyes are fluid and open. Your carriage is strong and unapologetic. You become a true instrument of God because of your willingness to reject doubt and allow the past, present and future to travel in and out of you with the only one expectation, and that is to learn more about who you are and why you're here.

So this challenge was my gift. Like the itch on my head that made me scratch out this here piece. I decided, while formula still deserves its due respect for establishing a wellspring for us to drink from, that history can be made not only by how we turn pain into victory but also by peering through and between files of stories either untold or still unfolding...

Like the plight of African Iraqis...

Haitian children still being forced into slavery in D.R....

Our sons inhaling paper bag and dye, and calling it cigar smoking...

Gentrification not just happening in Harlem...

Admitting and exploring how Christianity and Islam were forced on us...

Venezuela gives actor/activist, Danny Glover 18 million pesos to make the Toussaint L'Ouverture film, since he couldn't get the support at home....

First Lady, Michelle Obama invites Black D.C. youth to The White House and tells each of them that they're history in the making...

Eric Holder, the first African American U.S. Attorney General proves you can have a high ranking title and still keep it gangsta, after calling America "a nation of cowards" for avoiding to talk honestly about racism. This after The New York Post portrays President Obama as a monkey causing even Whites to protest...

Rapper, NAS says Hip Hop is dead, now that we've allowed bling and ice to replace Community and African pride...

R&B singer, Usher creates Project Restart for Katrina survivors...

Bloods and Crips sign The Peace Treaty in 2007 and Dr. Joy DeGruy publishes Post Traumatic Slave Syndrome in 2005...

High School student/researcher, Kiri Davis discovers that after Dr. Clark's 1954 test little Black girls still prefer white dolls over black dolls...

Or Adam Clayton Powell told Dr. King he'd start a rumor that him and the Civil Rights Movement spearheader, Baynard Rustin were lovers, just so an openly gay Black man wouldn't be recognized as a heroe. The kind of Black History that not only informs and instills pride in the most modern sense, but also challenges our prejudices and fears. The same kind of Black History that helps a Black kid see our legacy of stuggle as an on-going poem, and that his and her job is to simply add on to it whatever words deemed worthy of eternal life.

For those of us who choose to honor the past yet still think forward, making way for more interesting shapes and shades of our truth is the way to healing old wounds.

And so this challenge, this friendly yet decisive nudge to get me to re-think Black History encouraged me to by-pass the usual menu items and read the fine print, which is how I accidentally--or not so accidentally--stumbled onto a documentary called Mr. Dial Has Something to Say. An unlikely video-essay of the late and little-known artist, Thornton Dial (They never show Black people on Ovation TV, but then it's February). I hadn't heard of him. I know Picasso, Michaelangelo, Renoir and Van Gogh. Four artists who most likely could've cared less about my plight.

To be honest, Dial's art didn't move me that much. Nothing but respect, but I'm not big on what they call outsider folk art. It was the interviews about his life that kept my attention, especially when another Civil Rights Movement icon, Andrew Jackson was dropping serious knowledge!!! Saying how MLK got a C+ in public speaking during his doctoral studies because his White professor didn't like the message, and how Black academicians typically have the burden of shedding their african when attempting to get the Letters, since the regiment is essentially based on the preponderence of European intelectualism.

I think I was rooting more for Jackson than Dial, out of being so thrilled to hear a respected Black icon be candid about stuff we should be saying but for whatever reason avoid calling it altogether. It validated my choosing to keep my voice and identity over fancy stipend money!!!

How we choose to celebrate Black History Month is both a cooperative and personal show of pride; and the personal doesn't have to be so individualistic. Not when your individual boasting elevates the rest of us. And it doesn't have to be recycled either. Elevating barbershop convo, for example, from bling and booty talk to what are we doing about our health problems?

Is the reason why our boys keep their standards low because we've allowed our own standards to drop?

Are we ignoring the temptation to gossip about what went down between Rhianna and Chris Brown, and focusing instead on having serious talks with our young men about violence against women?

Does community service have to be attached to punishment?

If our schools are failing our children, what are we teaching them at home?

Are we expecting Obama to play messiah or do we understand that now that we've voted for change we have the responsibility to create change within ourselves, beginning with how we treat and interact with one another?

And are we willing to discuss what typically makes us uncomfortable but that our youth find necessary to handle, for the sake of forward movement?

Are we mentoring and volunteering in our own hood?

Are we teaching our boys that it's okay to have emotions so they don't become detached men?

If we're fortunate enough to own or manage space, are we using it to promote our artists or collect more space?

If we inherited some loot, are we thinking internet cafe or liquor store?

Are we making less boring music videos and demanding that the record industry stop exploiting our daughters?

What if Black Friday meant Support Black Businesses?

Do we have a full comprehension of this economic crisis; that this obssession with bling and fluff is really over, and how we're goona have to re-learn to count on each other?

Are we staying in unhappy relationships for fear of being alone, and are we alone because we're forgetting how to connect without gadgets?

I don't know about you, but 28 days and a mule just won't cut it for me! Not when we're still dying from homicide, depression, internalized racism, incarceration, religious indoctrination, and denial. Plus, we never did get that mule...

I say, bump da mule and take a good look at where you are right now. If you're still feeling stuck and depressed or angry and powerless, then you're not making history!!!

Monday, February 2, 2009

Inauguration Poems

Inauguration 1
I know about not quite fitting in...

When your own kind calls you a foreigner
for wanting more...

This is what my grandmother meant by
the makings of a leader.

Inauguration 2
Jesse wanted to move Black people forward
by exploiting victim mentality...

Barack wants to move Black people forward.

Inauguration 3
He's marketable
The others weren't so
Maybe Powell but
Not anymore...

Inauguration 4
His swagger is not conceit
nor a reason to refer to Hip Hop
Rather, it's a reflection of the slave's promise
to find his butchered foot...

Inauguration 5
To have the meek reside
at the foot of your castle is
practically a military tactic
For it takes uncommon ammunition to even recognize
how a dream defers, in the first place...

Sometimes a military tactic
turns on itself...

This is what my grandmother meant by
waiting your turn.

Inauguration 6
You pose next to change
but your smile says otherwise...

Firm handshake
yet no vision in your grip...

Just more fluff for the family scrapbook
while your children despise you.

Inauguration 7
They rolled him onto the ramp
and into the bright wintery...

His horns having lost their significance,
out of an embarrassing yet well-deserved exit...

And he sat there
A wealthy yet broken, ornery old man...

The First Words
shushing his agitated self,
forgiving him, even...

And he sat there
in his borrowed ambulette...

This is what my grandmother meant by
tending to your own.

Inauguration 8
There's been so much fuss
over her not looking camelot enough
When Eleanor whispered in the January air,
Am I not already beautiful?...

Inauguration 9
Across a pool of camera heads,
Indonesia wished him well...

He looked over
then answered back in first tongue...

And we all smiled

For the first time
in a long time.

Inauguration 10
Amen means Amin means Ashe means And so it is
Or do you still see walls?....*

*From my second book of poems, Throw.

Father Knows Less

The story goes like this-- A woman who had heard about my first book, excited about the topic, came to see me not only to thank me for my efforts to help parents gain a better understanding of their female teens (and vice versa), but to also share her concerns regarding the man she's currently dating who apparently has an out of control 15yrld daughter. The woman loves him enough to want to marry him, but his refusal to deal with his daughter's unruly ways is keeping her from fully committing. She's tried encouraging him to set boundaries, learn healthier communication skills, pick up help-guides for fathers, but he avoids any kind of critical reading or discussions. "She's my princess," he tells her, while princess runs circles around him! The woman respects the undying love he has for his only child. But knowing that his daughter has managed to scare off his past mates, she's afraid the same thing may happen to her. So she figured by hearing another father speak of his own struggles with parenting that he might very well get inspired to make the necessary changes in himself first, for the sake of his relationship with his daughter, as well as their own. Seems like a fair enough deal, right? Daddy looking at what he might be doing wrong in his attempt to relate better to his teen; teen comes out of 'princess' mode and begins learning to express her pain in a more constructive manner, and woman gets to plan a beautiful wedding! Sounds like a good enough ending to the story, to me. Problem is daddy doesn't want to do any reflecting or changing. He's stuck on ribbons and lace. The fantasy so many fathers keep locked in their minds when it comes to their daughters. They don't really see their daughters, just their idea of what a daughter is supposed to look and act like. And what does daddy's little girl do? Exploit the situation, of course. What else?

When daughter is allowed to hustle father, there's really nothing anyone can do but wait until father has had enough. Until then, he'll make all kinds of excuses to keep his fantasy going, because the harsh reality of seeing her for who she is, to him, is far much more devastating than the emotional and financial burdens of keeping up appearances.

I didn't want to offer any couples advice, but we both knew what time it was. She said, "How can he expect me to leave my place of peace only to enter a chaotic environment?" Then later adding, "I can't be with a man who won't even make the effort to take control of his own household!" It's as if she needed to say this out loud in order to give it power.

Brothaman, if you're reading this please don't let ego and fear cause you to miss out on another chance at love. Just like not all males are dogs, not all daughters are fragile, innocent flowers. Some of them are downright toxic creatures! By denying yourself of not only true love, but true bonding with your child, you take the risk of spending the rest of your years chasing someone who doesn't want to be found, then wake up one day and discover you've let so much time go by out of your desperate need to hold on to nothing but ribbons and lace!

So how do I love you in the way you need it most? How do I turn your blackouts (SVR/sudden violent rage) into great opportunities for me to see and understand your pains better, so that you can understand mine? Here’s another cheat list I use when my ego gets in OUR way—

I say
“Go to your room!”

She hears
I’m not willing to deal
with reality, so I turn
to a formula
that I already know
doesn’t work with you

I say
“I forbid you!”

She hears
I’m so out of control,
I’m trippin’!

I say
“Did you do your homework?"

She hears
I care more about grades
than how you're doing personally

I say
“You’re just like your mother!"

She hears
I still got unresolved
issues with your mother
and I’m trying to lay them on you

I say
“My princess.”

She hears
I’m so in denial I look
at my daughter as a
fairytale character,
rather than a real
young woman with
real young woman issues*

*Excerpt from Before You Fly Off - Vol. 1

Letter to President Obama

Dear President Obama,

First off, congrats on your historic election. I figured at some point we'd finally have an African American U.S. President, but like so many other Blacks I just never thought it would happen in my lifetime!!! Once again, I thank our White American allies for rejecting the usual fear tactics and allowing progress to come thru, along with the multitude of Black and Brown people, canes and wheelchairs included, who helped make your victory and ours a reality. Never before have we seen such participation in the presidential electoral process. Even Rapper extraordinaire, Ludacris took a break from his gangsta caricature to get involved in the Georgia senatorial race. Whether or not a democrat gets the seat doesn't matter, at this point. It's the fact that Lude did his part.

Of course, your inauguration is yet another triumphant event that will no doubt fill our eyes with tears of joy. Your election win felt like New Year's Eve countdown, so I can only imagine the overwhelming sense of pride and retribution that's about to warm our hearts and soothe old wounds, come January 20th! Nevermind the controversy over your pick for the inauguration pastor. You don't have to say it. I'll say it for you-- Rev. Wright blew it big time by not only betraying his own 'son', but also by coming off as a bitter, vengeful buffoon with no regard to the delicate politics of electing our very first Black President. (Even Minister Farrakhan was wise enough to stay low key for the sake of brotherhood and mass solidarity.) As ego-driven as he obviously is, not only did Rev. Wrong missed out on becoming the first African American to give the official blessing to a newly-elected President, he cheated us out of witnessing an adopted father baptize yet another significant turn in a young man's life. Not to mention, he most likely won't be selling too many books. That's if any publishers are still interested in what he has to say. Nevertheless, the choice to have an evangelical pastor do the honor says less about your possible reservations about a specific population but more about your political savoir faire. Seems to me you're merely trying move from right to left in a manner that doesn't cause too much panic among those who see America through narrow lens and to transcend the particulars that make us different by showcasing instead what brings us together. I get it. We get it. Those who don't will later, once they see the benefits of thinking outside the box.

In the meantime, I, along with what is now said to be 98% of Americans--and that's not including the other side of the globe--am counting the days for Bush's final date in Office. Can we stand it any longer? And has there ever been a time when the whole world waited impatiently for the final ousting of a hugely overrated leader, other than George W. Bush? Hoover, maybe? Mugabe? Jong-Li? Al-Bashir? Britney Spears?

But this leads to what I really want to address which is our tendency to turn hope into messiah. While I'm impressed by all the well-deserved fuss over you and your promise to bring change, I'm concerned about Black folks, especially, mistaking you for The Second Coming. We have a habit of praying for this and for that, and when one of us comes along, appearing as though he or she is immune to the racist and corrupt machine, we sit back and wait for miracles to start happening on their own without realizing that we are the miracle and that it's through our organizing and taking action in our personal lives that really makes change happen. Still, your pen alone can help start the ball rolling. So here're a few suggestions I'd like you to consider--

1. Call a meeting between you and the Congressional Black Caucus to go over issues that have been plaguing our communities, including skillful Black men being passed over for trade jobs in preference to illegal immigrants;

2. Hold all council members representing inner-city neighborhoods accountable for the on-going cocktail parties and expensive cars while regular folk still have to deal with high crime rates, poor services, and gentrification; replacing them, if you need to, with officials who are less impressed by bling and motivated, instead, by affordable rent and community safety;

3. Recruit progressive superintendents, principals, educators and counselors for our schools. Increasing teacher salaries is cool, but the problem doesn't go away as long as the curriculum and mindset still works against Black children. You said it yourself in your last book how our schools are merely holding pins, so please don't go back on your words. Talented teachers like me escaped from the public school system because of the educational handcuffs placed on us that limited our sense of creativity and natural know-how. To put it bluntly, sir, young people don't give a damn about degrees and licenses, not when teachers are viewed as merely messengers of lies, oblivious to the realities outside of the classroom;

4. Make family court more father-friendly. I understand and respect your challenging Black fathers, in particular, to step up to the plate. But most separated fathers do want to do the right thing. It's just that we want to be allowed to play the parent role without constant interference from the mothers. So by telling us to come back home, you're leaving out thousands of heartfelt stories involving fathers who find returning home an unhealthy option. Yet they still want to be good, responsible dads but are not allowed to see their children for personal reasons and whose pleas are ignored by the courts;

5. Create a task force that will deal directly and unapologetically with the plight of Black males; and don't just make it look good on paper. Use the same exceptional campaign savvy for obtaining the Presidency to not merely talk about what's wrong with us but actual policies that address the psychosis that goes on in da hood that's merely a reflection of our issues with poverty, poor or no parenting skills, miseducation, physical and mental health matters, fear of reporting crime, classism (Black flight), and internatlized racism. And when I say 'task force', please don't just send suit n ties to fix the problem. We have ordinary folks right here who can do extraordinary things, if given the opportunity;

6. Create another task force that will once and for all address the homophobia in our Community and the Church's unwillingness to deal with the fact that denial and avoidance play a direct role in down low behavior;

7. Help stop police brutality and the disproportionate number of incarcerated Black males that only serve as fuel for the prison bizness, and don't be afraid of being creative about rehabilitation either. We can save a whole lot of taxpayers' money by sending Black inmates south of the gumbo to help rebuild New Orleans' 9th ward than by sending them upstate to become even more demonized;

8. Make high-class politicians give up their secret low-rent apartments to folks who are being put out on the street because they can't afford paying $2,000 a month for a studio;

9. Keep real superdelegates like Al Sharpton, Maxine Waters, Michael Moore and Dr. Adelaide Sanford close by so you don't lose sight of the prize;

10. Use the plight of African Iraqis as an opening for diplomatic talks;

11. Meet with Russell Simmons about having a real Hip Hop summit that's not merely about rappers stroking each other's egos but to come up with active--emphasis on active--policies that will push record companies to allow more balance in Black music and to finally put an end to the exploitation of Black females in videos. And if the bizness motto is sex sells, then have the male rappers themselves drop it like it's hot and see how that goes;

12. Remind your domestic anti-terrorism people that it was a White male named Timothy McVeigh back in 1995--six years prior to 9/11--who helped bomb Oklahoma City and to stop assuming that only males with darker skin complexion are prone to causing such menacing acts;

13. If the Hispanic Caucus brings their own list to you, ask them what they plan on doing about the racismo in their community rituals, hiring policies and media, in return;

14. Tell Israel occupation is not a peace treaty and that the African holocaust is still going on;

15. Support progressive Black television so that buffoonery is no longer the standard;

16. Don't discontinue AIDS and inner-city afterschool programs to help balance the national budget, just make them more relevant and accountable;

17. Don't let our mayors just be trophies;

18. Don't let the System handcuff our trophies;

19. Don't forget to address The Trail of Tears;

20. Help my mother keep her house.

And since you plan on meeting with Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Raul Castro and Hugo Chavez, how about adding Rene Garcia Preval to your short list? After all, it was a Haitian who founded the city of Chicago; it was Toussaint L'Ouverture who inspired the American slave revolts, and it was Haiti who taught Latin America how to fight, in the first place.

I don't expect you to accomplish all this during your first term. I imagine our economy, ending the invasion of Iraq and helping establish a Palestine state will take priority. But please don't forget to address the issues that affect those who look more like you. You can play it off like you're just visiting Bed-Stuy, Compton, or Port-au-Prince for that matter, for decorations sake, so as not to make conservative and poor Whites nervous. We'll understand. It's part of the job to be that diplomatic.

25 Things Blacks Don't Wanna Hear or, I Hear You, Dyson but There're Really No Sistas in Africa Named Shaquana!!!

1. We think street culture is Black culture;

2. We spend more time and energy on our appearance than on how we actually feel inside;

3. We'd rather stay stuck in victim mode than take responsibility for our bad choices;

4. We think wanting our hood to look nice is a bougee thing;

5. We think dog fights are fun;

6. We don't hold our local politicians accountable;

7. We don't mind the gay thing as long as it's just entertainment;

8. We'll buy an $80,000 truck rather than spend $10 on a self-help book;

9. We need a messiah and a White family court judge to make us act like good, responsible neighbors and parents;

10. We think inhaling paper bag and dye is real cigar-smoking;

11. We wear wigs because we despise what natural hair represents;

12. We still got issues with skin color or there wouldn't be so very few dark-skinned sistas in our music videos, and when we do see them they usually have on crazy long weaves;

13. We make boring and predictable music videos;

14. We say it's just a fashion statement and not a sign of arrested development when our boys walk around like toddlers because their pants are so low;

15. We encourage our boys to be unemotional then turn around and ask why they're so detached;

16. We think Michael Jordan is a heroe, not for all he does for the Community but because of how many 3-pointers he can shoot;

17. We don't mind young Black females being exploited in our music videos, as long as they're not our daughters when they actually are;

18. We'd rather call each other nigga than brotha because it's too much work to change the way we address and treat one another;

19. We know sexual abuse exists at the family table but we're reluctant to talk about it;

20. We love having annual State of Black America summits to talk about what's wrong vs. what we plan on doing about it;

21. We think street soap opera books is serious reading;

22. We suffer from depression, internalized racism, religious indoctrination, and denial;

23. We'd rather Cosby just make us laugh than tell us what we need to hear;

24. We'll support a singer who likes urinating on girls to the point where we'll even buy the video, but we got a problem with same sex marriage;

25. We can't handle the truth.

Do the Rasta!!!

For diehard Rastafarians, the fall of Babylon means the fall of the New Roman Empire--America--suggesting that greed, corruption and police state will be forced to make way for simplicity, transparency and spiritual awakening from religious indoctrination. With our nation's economics going asunder, along with Bush and other white collar criminals having betrayed their own, it should be obvious we've gone so far out into capitalism--all for self--that there's no other choice now but for us to DO THE RASTA! An entirely different kind of dance that involves going back to the basics and remembering what our grandmothers used to do when trying to get honor and everyday survival to meet--

Sell the bling truck for more metro cards. If you absolutely need to hold on to it out of having more than two children, then do away with the ice hubcaps and other extra fluff;

Do some serious home inventory, and stop spending unnecessary loot on foods that go against our bodies anyway like soda, white sugar, and pork chips;

Do another inventory of more personal habits that got to go too like negative thinking, victim mindset, confusing dancehall music with Reggae, and misogyny;

Take this economic crisis as an opportunity to re-evaluate what you stand for;

Grow your own veges, if at all possible or start a neighborhood vegetable garden;

Take good care of your temple to avoid shady medical insurance policies. That's if you even have med insurance;

Hold on to your gym pass if you can afford it. If not, turn everyday chores into a gym regiment;

Suppot local vendors and Black bookstores;

Take the tap-tap, and if you can get some vans start your own;

When shopping for necessities, focus on the lower shelves (they push the high-priced items on top shelves);

Involve the children in your work, so they can learn skills and the value of self-help;

If you've been blessed with lots of children, try temporarily letting them stay with safe relatives to give you a chance to get it together. And don't be too hard on yourself about separating them. Children can be mad resilient once you sit them down and let them know what's up and for how long;

Start an afterschool or tutoring program;

Put the word out that you know how to repair stuff at a lower price than Home Depot;

Read books that remind you of your inner powers;

Don't feel sorry for yourself. Feel sorry for those who never learned how to turn a sandwich into Thanksgiving;

Offer to walk neighbors' dogs for a cool price, or start a dog sitting biz if you got the space and love;

Rent one of the rooms to a college student or artist;

Teach the children how to create their joy, and leave Toys R Us alone for a min;

Support local or Black-owned businesses;

Skip McDonald's and make your own fast food;

Find out who's good at what in your hood, so everyone can pull together without having to depend on big bizness;

Contact local leaders and tell them you'd be willing to do some neighborhood repairs for decent pay;

Find out what your councilmember is doing to make sure everyone's good;

Check on our elderly and our sick;

Clean out neglected areas, so that folks don't start acting hopeless and careless;

Feel free enough to use the tub as your mini washer;

Sell your arts and crafts;

When you land a gig or a secure job, find a way to bring other brothas in;

Look up grants for under-represented populations. We're an under-represented population;

Go half or more on vending opportunities;

Start a mural, push your incense. Just keep creating;

Focus on what you have to build on, not what you don't have.....yet;

Start a car or van service gig, but keep it as legal as you can;

Become your block's 'free lance' barber, seamstress, taylor, baby-sitter, and no snitching;

Teach the male teens how to fill out a job application, interview know-how, how to report discrimination, and the difference between being a man and hyper-masculinity;

Update your own res;

Find out what your community college club members and their advisors can do to help;

Learn tenants' and homeowners' rights;

Go back to school and choose a major that motivates you;

Attend a trade school to learn a skill that can bring you some quicker money;

Volunteer, beause that's another way of getting a job;

Invest in your personal mission and not somebody else's, for a change;

Avoid using un-natural things (liquor, dope, texting) to get your natural back;

Look out for money scams, cos tis da season to be grimy!!!

Pray for clairity, stamina, guidance, protection, and the ability to recognize a blessing when it comes;

No fear (We cannot die, remember?);

Think us and we, not me and I;

Re-invent yourself!