Archive | February 2006

The power and irony of Wal-mart’s relationship with Black folk

For better or for worse, Wal-Mart is making big moves in the Black community. For starters, “Working Families for Wal-Mart, a group of community leaders from across the country, was set to announce Monday that Andrew Young will be the chairman of its 16 member steering committee formed in December to counter charges from two union-backed groups that are pressuring Wal-Mart to improve wages and benefits.” Unfortunately, it wasn’t until I read this article that I realized how noticeably absent Black folk have been with respect to debating Wal-Mart’s corporate policies.

We may have been silent because we are all clamoring over the Covenant with Black America that was announced at the State of the Black Union hosted by Tavis Smiley. And I love Tavis Smiley and whenever I turn on the Tom Joyner show, I look forward to hearing his commentary. And when Tavis finishes, Tom Joyner informs us that Tavis’ commentary was sponsored by Wal-Mart. Now if the allegations against Wal-Mart are true that they drive out local businesses, are hostile to their employees in terms of not providing adequate living wages or healthcare, then what does that imply about the potency of Tavis Smiley’s commentaries, given the fact they focus on Black empowerment? And does this say anything about the Covenant with Black America?

And As I stated in the introduction, Andrew Young is spearheading a pro-Wal-Mart group that is at odds with two union-backed groups. I readily admit that sometimes unions can cause more harm than good but that is beside the point for now. The article pointed out that “Young, himself a former union organizer, said he decided to get involved because he believed much of the criticism levied at Wal-Mart by unions was one-sided and wrong.” In Young’s own words he said “The union position is talking about the redistribution of wealth, but they’re not talking about generating new wealth. Wal-Mart is generating new wealth when it comes in.”

For the purposes of this post, I am less concerned with the logic of Andrew Young’s defense of Wal-Mart, but what are the implications of Young being a “public face for the group, giving interviews and publishing opinion articles defending the company.” Now don’t get me wrong, Andrew Young is a bad boy. He is an ordained minister, former US congressman, ambassador to the UN, former mayor of Atlanta, and even helped draft the 1964 Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act of 1970. And his work as a Civil Rights Activist is fierce. Young was a confidant of Dr. Martin Luther King, and was with him the day he was assassinated. In 1964, Young was named executive director of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. And I could go on and on, but where are we as a people when a civil rights leader with that much clout puts his reputation on the line for Wal-Mart? Is this just a case where businesses need civil rights protection too, or is it a case of selling the richness of our legacy to the highest bidder?

And what do you think Young’s activities will have on Black people’s perception of Wal-Mart? Because not only are Old School Civil Rights leaders (Young) sticking up for Wal-Mart, but New School Civil Rights leaders (Smiley) are as well.

Somebody talk to me,

Stay up fam,

Brandon

Nigga clothing?

I am not sure if you heard yet, but for 14 months now, Damon Wayans has been trying “to trademark the term Nigga for a clothing line and retail store, a search of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office’s online database reveals.” I guess in my short 23 years, I have almost heard it all.

This is the most outlandish idea I have heard in a while. I actually wanted to write on the war today but whoever sent me this email made me detour. Now I won’t front like I don’t use nigga but could he not have thought of anything more creative? For all the comedic genius that the Wayans are famous for, this is not funny. In fact, I feel tricked, I feel hoodwinked, I feel bamboozled!!! (In case you forgot, Damon Wayans played the leading role in Spike Lee’s, Bamboozled)

But this is not the movies and even if this is an attempt on Damon’s part to spark a national discussion on race while getting paid, he is sorely mistaken. Aside from the myriad of problems that will be raised from White people rocking these clothes, is it really good for uplifting the Black Community? I remember growing up wearing Karl Kani and Cross Colours and these clothing lines were designed by Black folk and it caused a sense of pride. I feel the same today about Sean John and RocaWear. I say all that to say I wouldn’t mind wearing “Wayans Wear” if his stuff was on point. But why nigga?

And I realize my contradiction in using nigga in private amongst my people but being against the idea of this clothing line. But what do you think? Is it hypocritical for Black folk to use nigga amongst Black people but to be against Damon Wayan’s idea? And how is it different from rappers using the word nigga in their lyrics? Could Damon be on to something that will ultimately help Black folk?

Looking forward to your comments.

Stay up fam,
Brandon

The Weekly Dream: The Greatest Love of All

The Most Important Relationship You Will Ever Have

“These people come near to me with their mouth and honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. Their worship of me is made up only of rules taught by men”
-Isaiah 29:13
As the final week of Love Month, I struggled with how to close out this series. I began to reminisce on the times I have felt love and been loved, when I have experienced tough love and had to sacrifice. I really wanted to understand the character of love and its effect on me as a person. Eventually, as I followed this line of thought, I came to how I have developed as a person and how my understanding of God developed over time. Now walk with me for a moment. I am not doing an altar call or nothing like that, and I do not expect to win any popularity contests, but this is too important to sweep under the rug.

I grew up in a Christian household, reading the Bible, praying before meals and going to Church on Sundays. Do not get me wrong, I broke my fair share of commandments, but I did what I thought a good Christian should do for the most part.

Make it real for you…

But as I entered manhood, and no one was there to “make” me go to Church, I began to question my upbringing. Not that I wanted to switch religions or anything, but I had become frustrated with the imposition of rules and judgment by other people. I was tired of people bringing God into things He had no part of. I did not like what I had seen and the world I was entering. My interactions with others just caused more confusion. So I went through this real selfish phase, where I was just out for me. I was going to “figure it out for myself”. I was not going to bother God with the small everyday things, I would just tap him for the “big stuff.” I was full of pride. I wanted things to go my way and God to ride shotgun.

The reality was that I needed to get to know God for myself.

Up to this point, God had not yet become real to me, like really real. He was still in the sky.

You Got It Bad

One day, it sunk in that God wanted a relationship with me. I thought about how I acted when I first fell in love. Let me tell you, I love hard; it is all or nothing with me. So, when I fell in love with that special person, there was no more “me”, it was “us” from that day forward. When I looked around, everything reminded me of her. There is nothing I would not do or give if she needed or asked. And I didn’t expect anything in return. I was just glad to be able to come through for her. If she hurt me, I just couldn’t stop loving her, though I wanted to. I would not eat or sleep until things were right with us.

If I was having a bad day, just hearing her voice was enough to make everything all right. All I wanted to talk about was her. All roads lead back to her. I would move heaven and earth to make them happy. There were times when I did not have a dime to my name, but I would hustle up some change to make sure she did not have to go without. I was literally in my own world and she was queen.

This behavior was so irrational that people who have never experienced it think you are crazy. My family and friends thought I had developed a drug habit or something, because I was sooo not me anymore. I had lost all control and I did not care. I was consumed with love.

Once I experienced this, I understood it when in the Bible it said that God wants us to love Him with everything we have. It became real for me.

So from that day forward, I began to treat God as if He were a real person.

Love Makes Things Easy

A lot of people treat God as an option and not a necessity. Would you go days without saying anything to your significant other or children? How would you feel if your girlfriend or boyfriend never said “thank you” or “I love you”, ever? Or if you gave them everything they needed and wanted and they did not recognize how much effort you put forth and took you for granted?

If we treated people the way we treat God sometimes, no one would want anything to do with us. We would find ourselves alone very quickly. Yet, I believe that until you get that first relationship right, you cannot truly love others to your fullest potential.

The real question is why we treat God this way. Why do people treat God as a chore? For me, it was because I had not fully embraced God’s love. Love makes those things that are hard, easy. For example, if you love what you do, you can do it for hours. But if you hate it, time drags on. It is the same with spiritual matters. If you find that you possess this same attitude, and that you do not have the same joy doing what God wants or spending time seeking Him, then you might take a step back. It is a privilege to have God in our lives, because loving us is not easy. You and I are not good people all the time.

So how can we make a change? Make God real. Like human relationships, every one’s relationship with God will be different. Just like your marriage is going to be different than your best friends’ marriage. However, there are common traits that every normal and functional relationship has: good communication, concern, understanding, fidelity, etc. That is how you can measure the development of the relationship, by the fruit or characteristics of it.

In my generation, I run into a lot of my peers who use their distrust of the Church as a reason to not fully pursue their spiritual development. They think the pastors are crooked, the church folks were hypocrites, they would rather pay their tithes to a charity than to the Church and it was just phony. Others would say, “Well I just try to be a good person.”

I heard this with such frequency, I never stopped to think of it. When I did, I realized these statements arose out of ignorance and a misconception. If you think a pastor is crooked, you should not be a part of that ministry. You should go to a ministry that is not crooked. It is not about the church people being hypocrites, there are hypocrites inside and outside the church. If you have it all together, go and help those individuals out. Rare is the person whose words line up completely with their actions.

As far as tithes, you are not paying them to man, or an establishment, but because God wants you to. What the pastor or the church government does with those is between them and God, you did your part. And being a good person is just the beginning, God still wants to know you. And more importantly, that does not mean you know Him.

So the real issue is that people do not want to change. And when love comes, along with that comes the challenge to change and grow.

You Got It Bad

As with any relationship, it takes time and experience to develop. Maturity and perfection is a constant striving in order to manifest potential. Some days are going to be better than others, but the important point is to keep pressing forward. God is not going to send you to hell for a curse word or because you have a drink. But eventually He wants us to get to a place where we do not even have the desire to do the things we use to. God wants your heart. He knows it is a process, you should know it too.

It was not my intent to sermonize anyone. Everyone must walk their own path and come to their own spiritual awakening. Some people are further along than others. Nor am I saying that you should blindly adhere to any man’s doctrine or religion. Religion is no substitute for relationship. The truth is more than capable of withstanding scrutiny.

However, I felt I would be doing a great injustice to not at least touch on this. You may or may not agree with me. Even today, when an overwhelming majority of Americans profess to believe in God, the topic of religion is still an extremely sensitive subject. I am not saying I have it down. If I have learned anything this last year, it is that walking in love is not easy. I still struggle, I still want to do things my way, but I have to remember that there is no more “me”, it is “us”.

Take God out of Heaven and put Him in your heart.

Get to know God as a Father and Friend, in your own special way.

Walk in love. God is love.

Truth and Peace,
Steven M DeVougas

Question of the Week: How did God become real to you?

Blacks and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict

The Middle East is going to be the center of world attention for many years to come. And if you think that what happens in the Middle East doesn’t affect you, think again. So as we witness the victory of Hamas in Palestinian elections, along with the war in Iraq and the brewing battle over Iran’s nuclear program, what will history say about where Black people stood during these tumultuous times?

And although we could break down every conflict in the Middle East, no situation is more controversial than the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. So my question is simple but the issue is complex.

Where do you stand in the whole Israeli-Palestinian conflict? Should Black people have a natural bias towards either group? Is it any of our business?

I have heard some say that Palestinians are victims of Israeli aggression in much the same way Black Americans suffered under slavery and segregation. Likewise I have heard some say that Blacks have a natural bias towards Jews/Israel due to the support Jews they showed Blacks before and during the Civil Rights movement.

Stay up fam,

Brandon

Personal upkeep/hygiene help for the fellas

What’s up fam, I was talking to a nephew of mine about hygiene and he is pretty much on point. But a lot of us are not holding it down in this department. And hygiene is bigger than looking right for the ladies because it also major affects as you traverse the workplace. So whether you are Scruff McGruff or consider yourself metrosexual, please look over this list and add comments as you see fit. And ladies please, help us out if you have any suggestions.

Fellas, we are too old to be having boo boo stains in our underwear. And if the only time your butt feels clean is when get out the shower, you have a problem. But it’s OK. Get some wet wipes and keep some on you and keep a pack at the house. And think about how much little time you spend wiping your butt. Sorry fellas, I had to take it there.

Black belt = Black shoes and Brown belt = Brown shoes. And matching socks never hurt anybody either.

I know you have heard the ladies talk about how much they love LL Cool J’s lips right? You are not him. Stop licking your lips all the time and get some Chapstick, Burt’s Bees Wax, Carmex, or something. When you lick your lips all the time trying to be cool or what not (especially if its cold), they are more susceptible to getting chapped and that is unacceptable. Period. This advice will help you from looking like a crack head and it will help the ladies know you take care of yourself.

Clip your hang nail. Just glance at your hands right now. If you have hang nail that is growing sideways, clip it off. And if you keep a small nail clipper on you, you won’t have to wait until you get home to take care of your situation

Just because you don’t stains in your jeans, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t wash them. Keep it real, when was the last time you either washed/dry-cleaned your jeans? My point exactly.

Women still pay attention to your shoes, so keep them looking decent. By decent, I don’t the most expensive, but if you bought white gym shoes and they look like you have been playing in the mud, it’s time for some new ones. And as for dress shoes, try to keep them shined up. You should either take them to the shoe shine parlor if you can and if you can’t do that, keep a little shoe shine kit at the house. (this kit usually includes shoe polish (brown or black), a brush, and a shine rag)

Assuming you wash your hands after you use the bathroom, then you know your hands end up looking ashy when you’re done. So keep a small bottle of lotion so the ladies don’t think you don’t use lotion.

Just because you have a close cut doesn’t mean you don’t need to wash your hair/scalp.

Learn how to blouse your dress shirts such that after you lift your arms, you are not looking sloppy.

There is nothing wrong with investing in nice cologne but know that you should pay attention to the type of soap you are using because every product you use (i.e. soap, aftershave, hair grease, etc.) work together to produce the scent that people ultimately smell. So be careful and if you are not sure, ask a woman who won’t lie to you.

Stay up fam,

Brandon

Why I love Black folks

You know what I hate sometimes? It is when high fallutin’ Black folk forget their roots. And you know what I’m talking about, the Black folk who get a little education and all of a sudden they are Cornel West and have a ready answer for any and all of the ills Black people encounter. But what I fear sometimes is that in all our intellectuality (yes that is a word and an example of the terminology you often find in high fallutin’ Black folk) we forget the basic things that make us love and appreciate our people.

Black history is so replete with Black people not only overcoming extraordinary circumstances but being the absolute best at everything they put their hands to. My history sustains me and is a constant source of inspiration.

I love how Black skin glistens in the summertime.

I grew up in the hood on the Westside of Detroit off of 7 Mile and I also went to private school when my parents could afford it. So to all the hardcore cats I grew up with and looked up to, thank you for not letting me get caught up in foolishness.

It’s amazing how Black people can talk to each other without talking and know exactly what the other person is saying.

I always chuckle when I learn that a Black man who is a junior has “Junebug” as a nickname.

And don’t the sisters get upset when the brothers get real particular about their feet? “Let me see them toes girl!” Blame Boomerang.

God must have invented Spades on the seventh day of creating the world, when he was chillin’ because I can’t think of any other game that brings Black folk together like Spades. And let me give a special shot out to my people who don’t re-nig.

To my beautiful sisters, the little pouch in your stomach is fine so please don’t try to work it off. A brother needs something to hold.

I love it when I am at a BBQ manning the grill because as I finish cooking the last tray of meat, a beautiful Black woman asks me what I want on my plate. And then she is so sweet because she will hook a brother up with the big piece of chicken. Let’s go!

I smile when I feel the pressure to see every new Black movie no matter how good or bad it will be. Because if we don’t support our movies, who will?

Isn’t it funny how Black folk can start bobbing their head to a song during the interlude and catch the beat right on time?

And I know the brothers remember trying to freestyle during lunchtime or having like 12 dudes at a table all making beats with their fists and knuckles, resulting in a fierce rhythm that made you thicken the wrinkles in your forehead.

I love the universal pound/dap that most Black men know like the back of their hands.

And a big thank you goes out to all of the Black singers and musicians from the church that moved me to tears by allowing God to move through your instruments and your voice.

I could go and on but sometimes, you just have to say it plain. But I want to know why you love Black people.

Stay up fam,

Brandon

The Black State of Beating Children

In the spirit of Steve’s post on tough love, I wanted to know what you think about beating your current or future children.

Yesterday, my sister sent me an email praising older Black mothers who were very strict and used a no-nonsense approach to raising their children. The email ended by thanking our Black mothers for setting us on the straight path while simultaneously challenging current younger Black mothers to learn from their elders as it relates to child rearing. And that got me thinking about the Black State of the butt whoopin’.

And just so we are clear, by butt whoopin’, I mean using a belt that will primarily be used on the buttocks but sometimes you might catch some thigh. Moreover, I am not talking about open handed slaps or beating kids upside their head. There is a difference between child abuse and corporal punishment.

Now I don’t have any statistics on how many Black parents beat their children and I think it would be difficult to find reliable statistics because you would probably end up with over or under reporting. And are you asking the parents or the child? Won’t the child be afraid of “telling” on his parents and won’t parents try to make it look like they are the best parents in the world?

In any event, I think Black people need to get back to beating. And I won’t say that beating is any less popular now, I just believe that as an aggregate, we forgot the purpose for beating their children. “Spare the rod, save the child,” is what I heard growing up and I think it is true as it ever was. But now I sense that Black parents are beating their kids trying to work out the anger or frustration in their own lives. Moreover, there are no rules, and if they are, they are enforced to varying degrees depending on how Mommy or Daddy “feels” that day. And kids are so conniving because they pick up on contradictions real fast and will play you like a fiddle. And parents need to realize that the innocent phase of childhood is getting shorter and shorter so it might be better to get out of the mindset that you won’t use corporal punishment until a certain time and nip things in the bud before it gets out of control.

All kids?
Now do all kids need to be beat? Of course not, because every child is different and therefore requires different needs. But I hate when the people who don’t believe in corporal punishment try to paint me as an aggressive person who will take pleasure in beating my children. Beating your kids is not fun and I will probably be crying myself if I have to do it. So I don’t have a pre-determined goal to beat my children, but if I see they understand the rules of my household and persist to disobey, please believe the belt will be in full effect.

What about fathers and daughters?
I had a conversation about a year ago that involved the issues surrounding father beating their daughters and the ramifications that may cause for the daughter. I started out the conversation stating that I would beat my son and my daughter. And I went on to say that don’t want my beautiful daughter to think that because she is cute, she can’t be disciplined. But the woman I was talking to pointed out that she would prefer that fathers beat their sons and mothers beat their daughters. And her logic was that fathers who beat their daughters may cause them to think it is ok for a man to put their hands on them. I was on the fence at first but I think she made a valid point so that is something I want to hear your feedback on. Should fathers beat their daughters? And what about single fathers raising girls?

I could go on and on about this because parenting is one of the most sacred acts of the human experience. And sometimes parenting requires punishment for hard-headed kids. Unfortunately, I have seen Black parents use corporal punishment for the better and for the worse. And for that reason, we need to get in each other’s business like we used to do back in the day. I was raised by almost everyone on my block and my mother was raising four kids by herself but the checks and balances of the “block” made her life easier because if she couldn’t come home at a decent time, I would eat dinner across the street. I say all that to say that the way you raise your kids is my business and vice versa. Not everyone will do the same thing and I understand that but it takes a lot more than a village with all of the madness of this world. Love your kids and as it says in Proverbs 22:6, “Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it.”

Stay up fam,

Brandon

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