John Kerry is finally showing some damn heart.
Here is the video of him talking about how G. W. Bush is trying to distort his words from earlier this week about the troops and the Iraq occupation. Here is the transcript of the video. John Kerry’s official written response is here.
What we are seeing here is a grown man grow a backbone. During the election of 2004, Kerry was coached into playing the passive liberal, and not defending himself against personal attacks and not attacking his opponent rigorously. What this exchange between Kerry and the GOP establishment demonstrates is that you have to confront these people and call them out when they lie, elsewise they will keep doing so. Bill Clinton did this earlier this year, and I don’t doubt that Kerry took a page from the former president here.
Republicans want to equate liberalism with weakness. More steadfast rebuttals of right-wing distortions will destroy such math.
Does this make you respect Kerry more? Less?
I’ve been talking a lot about racist indifference lately. Today, I came across a blog with an entry entitled, “How to Suppress Discussions of Racism.” The entry is a joke, poking fun at individuals that try to defend themselves after they do/say racist things, but what is sad is that people really, seriously do this.
Here are the 6 points from the post:
1. Control what your audience sees
2. Attack the person, not the argument
3. Argue against straw men
4. Deflect attention away from the specific criticism
5. Racism, however ugly, is better than the alternative
6. Prove your opponent has mistaken some other quality for racism
Do any of these sound familiar? They should because people do this every single day.
A blogger has created an image that shows CNN reporter Wolf Blitzer in blackface. I’m no fan of Blitzer, and think he’s a bit of a pawn, but I wouldn’t create an image like this of my worst enemy. Here is the same blogger’s response to people’s criticism of him.
The guy makes valid, “He who is without sin cast the first stone”-esque points, but I don’t think that this excuses the act or the criticism of it. I do not understand why people do resort to racist imagery when they don’t like someone or someone’s stance(s) on issue(s). The only way I can understand it is that they must want people to get all hot-and-bothered about it. But how far should one be willing to go to get attention? Does this bother you, or is it no big deal? Does it bother you less because Wolf Blitzer is not Black?
October 30th, the day before Halloween, has in the past been referred to as Devil’s Night in Detroit. This has been a night notorious for violence, vandalism, and arson. Over the last 10 years, a lot of work has been done to change that. USA Today has an article that is talking briefly about this.
This is a great example of what I’ll called People Powered Policy. People Powered Policy is anything that starts as a volunteer or community effort that grows so greatly and quickly that politicians have no choice but to become participants. For those that “don’t like politics” or who “don’t care about politics,” understand that politics is not always conducted by politicians. Politics is action-focused conversation. Angel’s Night began because people got together, voiced their concerns for their safety, the safety of their children, and the safety of their community on this night before Trick-or-Treat Day. From that meeting, from those conversations, action was born. This should be a model for making positive changes any and everywhere that change is needed.
Look here for more info on Angel’s Night. Note that this is an official City of Detroit website.
This weekend, I had the honor of being the keynote speaker at the CLIMB Rally. CLIMB (Communities Learning to Invest and Mobilize for Business) is an initiative that works to increase financial literacy and awareness in inner-city communities in Wisconsin. I have been working closely with this organization since 2004 and it has been a rewarding experience. Originally in outline format, I have converted, to the best of my memory, the speech to prose form. Take a look and tell me what you think.
It is an honor and a privilege to stand before you today. I am humbled that I was chosen for the keynote spot. The lunch hour is always a difficult slot to fill, so I will try to make this as brief and painless as possible.
When I was first asked me to speak on EMPOWERING YOURSELF, EMPOWERING YOUR COMMUNITY, I was at a loss. I thought, I am only 23 years old, and I am not a professional speaker. What do I know? Sure I had written a few articles and done a little volunteer work, but what qualified me to speak on such a deep topic? Well, the most important qualification I could think of is that I LOVE MY COMMUNITY and I genuinely WANT TO SEE PEOPLE LIVE TO THEIR HIGHEST POTENTIAL. I am not much of a public speaker, I am more of a conversationalist. With that said, I have a few words, but what I really want to have is a dialogue with you, the beautiful people who make up the COMMUNITY of MILWAUKEE. So after I get done, if there are any comments or questions you have, I am open to them.
Empowering the Community
Since we are in a church, I figure it would be appropriate if I took my text for today from the GOOD BOOK. We gonna go to church for a minute. I was raised in a Christian household, so a lot of my life lessons come from the Word. I know service isn’t until tomorrow, but bear with me.
In the book of Joshua, specifically Joshua 4:1-9, God has parted the Jordan river and the Israelites have just crossed into the PROMISE LAND after 40 years of wandering in the WILDERNESS. GOD tells Joshua to memorialize this moment of crossing over by choosing a man from each tribe and have them grab a boulder and make a heap of stones.
1. He says, “THAT it may be a memorial among you, that when your CHILDREN ask their FATHERS in the time to come, saying, WHAT DO THESE stones signify?” v.6
2. “Then ye shall answer them, THAT THE WATERS of JORDAN were cut off before the ARK of the COVENANT of the Lord: when it passed over Jordan, the waters of JORDAN were cut off: and these stones shall be a memorial unto the children of ISRAEL for ever.” v. 7
When I was doing my research, I came across this passage and I got to thinking: All threw out the Bible, the Israelites memorialized everything. Yet as a group, the Jews have been through some of the most systematic persecution the world has ever seen; from the expulsion from Rome, to the Crusades, to the Holocaust. Yet, today, they manage to own almost everything. And they have tremendous solidarity as a community. How is this possible? I came up with one answer: The Power of Legacy.
In order to talk effectively about subject matter, we need some definitions.
1. Legacy is defined in the dictionary as “ANYTHING HANDED DOWN FROM AN ANCESTOR; AN INHERITANCE.”
a. Traditionally for the rich (e.g. property, a coat of arms, written works, etc.) because the poor did not own anything. It granted them IMMORTALITY because every time their children or great grand-children sat down in that BIG HOUSE or spent that MONEY, it forced them to REMEMBER who made that possible.
b. LEGACIES are formed by mindsets that have been cultivated over time.
iii. UNDERSTANDING/INTERPRETION OF THESE EXPERIENCES AND EXPECTATIONS. BUT MOSTLY, WE DO WHAT WE SEE.
For example, my little brother and sister, when they were little, would watch me talk on my cell phone and walk around the house. When they were able to walk and talk, they began to do the same thing. Then I remembered, I saw my dad do that everytime he got on the phone. We do what we see.
Why are legacies important? CONNECTS us to the past, GIVES us WISDOM, GUIDANCE and STRENGTH for the Present, and HOPE for the future. It also makes us accountable for the things we have received and what we will pass on.
2. Community: A group of PEOPLE living TOGETHER as a smaller social UNIT within a larger one with interests in COMMON. A group of PEOPLE with COMMON legacies.
a. Communities are built on TRADITIONS, which is a type of legacy.
i. In fact, COMMUNITIES exist for the SOLE PURPOSE of PERPETUATING these LEGACIES, which are ways of doing things.
With these definitions, it leads to two interesting questions: What have you inherited? And what legacy will you leave behind? We need to take a critical eye towards our legacies. For example, soul food is a bedrock of the African-American experience, but the way it is traditionally prepared is killing us. We are suffering from diabetes and high blood pressure as a result of these foods. Legacies can hurt us when they outlive their usefulness.
My own family was not rich, but they things they lacked materially, they made up for in training and maintaining the family. CHURCH FAMILY, INTEGRITY, SACRIFICE, and CONCERN for one another was of crucial importance. Whenever I would go off to school, my parents would always say, “You are a reflection of us, do not do anything that will dishonor the family.” It was this groundedness and upbringing that has made me the man I am today. Seeing my grandfather interact with my grandmother and his children. Seeing my father and mother do what they did and take the time to teach me about life and my roots that made all the difference.
Consequently, I grew up immensely concerned with my legacy. Everything I did was done to make God and my family proud of me; and also to put my children in a better position than I was in. This is what led me to get involved with the Weekly Dream and The Superspade. I felt that every man should have a legacy and I wanted to memorialize the lessons I had learned to guide my children, to keep them on the path set before them. I thought about the stories my father told me that helped me through my rough times, and I wondered, what stories could I tell them? Those stories and lived experiences helped me through my own tough times when I came to that same fork in the road.
If we look at the LEGACY we are leaving our children, can we be proud? Our parents inherited the legacy of the Civil Rights Era, community activism and social awareness and empowerment. But my generation and the ones after us are seeing one of violence, drugs, absentee fathers, and poverty. Are we equipping them with the tools they will need to FACE TOMORROW and To COMPETE in this global economy?
Empowering the person
This leads me to the second part of the equation: Empowering the person. If we want the community to get better, we must get better. When the people get better, our community will get better. In order for us to get better, WE NEED TO GET OUR HOUSE IN ORDER. So allow me to present the Steven M DeVougas 4-Point Plan for Getting Your Life Together (patent pending).
First, Get a VISION. You need a revelation of your purpose and potential. In Proverbs it says that where there is no vision, the people perish. If you do not know who you are or what you are suppose to be doing, abuse and neglect sets in. I am a big proponent of asking the hard questions and seeking the truth. If you have more questions than we have answers, that is all right. The questions will lead you to your vision. And your vision will guide you actions and fuel your passion. So ask yourself:
1.) AM I LIVING THE LIFE I WANT TO LIVE?
2.) AM I MAKING THE MOST OF WHAT I HAVE?
3.) AM I FULFILLING MY DESTINY?
From the sixth grade on, I had one goal: To get out of my mama’s house and go off to college as far away from Milwaukee as possible. This goal carried me through grade school, high school, college and into grad school. Now, I am searching for a new vision to build and orient my life around, to fuel my passion and take me to the next level. After years of chasing this one vision and achieving it, I have to begin the process anew. That is the soul-searching I am currently undergoing so that I may achieve my destiny.
Second, Make the DECISION. And keep making the decision, to chase your dream and fulfill the vision. TALK to people who are making it happen. DON”T miss out because you didn’t open your mouth or seek the answers. INCREASE your awareness daily. WE ARE IN A WAR, with ourselves, for our communities, for our families. And change is not going to come easy. We are going to have to fight to the end.
THIRD, CONTROL what you can. You might not be able to save the world, but you can influence those around you and be a local catalyst for change. You might not be able to stop the war in Iraq or the atrocities in Darfur, but you can change what is going on right outside your door, right here, in this city. Take control and be accountable for your actions. SPEAK UP: Talk to your family and friends about legacy and what they are doing with their lives and talent. Bring them to things like the CLIMB rally, so that they can see a different way of doing things. Remember, we tend to do what we see.
Fourth: KNOW WHAT YOU HAVE TO OFFER. Help others and be a resource. Remember, it is bigger than you. SERVE with your gifts. That is why God gave them to you. Not everyone is built for visiting the prison or working in a homeless shelter, but you can do something that you enjoy that serves others, and that is how we glorify the Creator. Keep an eye toward your legacy and capitalize on it. A lot of times, we do not think that the things we possess has value outside of our family or community, but we all possess something the world needs. As a community and a people, we miss out on wealth creation and opportunity because of this limited thinking.
I will share a story that typifies this. At my family reunion last year, I learned that my great-grandfather had a BBQ sauce so good, that people in a tri-state area would come to his rib shack just to taste it. When I learned of this, I thought, wow, my family could be a BBQ sauce dynasty. When I inquired about where the recipe was, the answer I got was, “we don’t know, nobody ever wrote it down”. As a result, Sweet Baby Ray’s wears the BBQ crown.
Sounds simple? I do not have all of the answers, but this is how it seems to me. If we empower ourselves by being our best selves, then our community will be a reflection of that. It cannot be about me and mine, because we are all connected. When we move from a ME mentality to a WE mentality, then change will occur. But if we do not SHARE information and RESOURCES, nothing will change.
WE need each other and MILWAUKEE needs us. OUR city needs leaders who are not AFRAID to SPEAK UP, but who have enough LOVE in their hearts for the CITY and the COMMUNITY to stop and make a difference. The surest way to empower yourself and the community is to WALK in LOVE and LIVE THE TRUTH. Live a life consistent with what you know is right. What will the heap of stones you leave behind say about you?
I encourage everyone to check us out on http://www.thesuperspade.com and support some young brothers trying to make a difference in our own little way. THANK YOU and I WISH ALL OF YOU TRUTH AND PEACE in this pursuit of EXCELLENCE and financial freedom.
What’s up fam, how is everything?
What really grinds my gears is watered-down conversation. What do I mean? I am talking about those bland lines that we all fall victim to in everyday conversation. Examples involving people we don’t know include: So what do you do? Where are you from? /Where do you live? The last question is usually connected to the event and/or environment you are at. It wouldn’t be so bad if the person asking these questions didn’t make so many assumptions and deductions based off the answers to these questions. And because so many of us think we know so much after these types of questions, the art of the follow-up has diminished. Additionally, and I think sadly, we don’t take time to appreciate the stories that make each of us unique which in turn prevents us from learning invaluable life lessons.
But what’s worse is that we have the same old tired conversations with people we care about. You know exactly what I’m talking about. How are you doing? How is your significant other? How is the baby? How is work coming along? All of these questions are not unimportant but imagine how much more meaningful our conversations would be if instead, we asked, “Is there anything I can help you with?” “I know you said everything is fine, so what goals are you working towards?” “How is your relationship with God?”
By asking questions like this, we cut through all the unnecessary small talk and fast-forward to topics that might actually make a difference in each other’s lives. Real talk doesn’t just happen so let’s stop waiting for it to fall out of thin-air. So again, how is everything?
This story ponders whether 2006 will be the Year of the Latino Voter. Whether that becomes true or not will be evident on Election Day, 7 Nov 2006.
The most important part of the article is the following (my emphasis added):
Latinos are now the largest minority in America. However, due to historically low registration and voting rates, they are nowhere near as politically powerful as the African American community. Politicians feel free to ignore Latinos and their issues, because they don’t vote.
Why is voting important? Because if you do not vote, you are giving politicians explicit permission to ignore you and the things that you care about. Why would you give someone who you might want to pay attention to you a reason not to do so?
To those who feel that even if they do vote that they will be ignored, understand the voting is not an isolated act. [Responsible] people who claim that they don’t vote because it “doesn’t matter” do other things to create change within their communities. What they fail to realize is that responsible people that do vote also do other things to create change within their communities. This is not a one-or-the-other, mutually exclusive choice. If the goal is change, why not try to change things in as many ways as possible?
Question of the Week: What do you worry about? How do you deal with worry?
“Therefore, do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”
“Life is really simple, but men insist on making it complicated. With coarse rice to eat, with water to drink, and my bended arm for a pillow- I still have joy in the midst of these. Riches and honors acquired by unrighteousness are me as a floating cloud”
I was listening to Lauryn Hill’s “X-Factor” and the first line really stuck with me. It opens “It could all be so simple…” And it is true, life, relationships, everything could all be so simple. The truth is normally simple. There is right and there is wrong, whether we like it or not. This naturally led me to ponder, if it could all be so simple, then why does life seem so complicated/dramatic?
So, I began on a quest to simplify my own life. I started with my workout. I went back to the basic exercises. I moved on to my diet, cutting out soda, sugar and processed foods. Pretty soon, it just mushroomed. After awhile, simplification became fun. I just focused on trying to do what I was supposed to do, when I was supposed to do it. And doing what I could with what I had.
Shades of Gray
I am not so naïve that I do not understand that situations are not always cut and dry. But how many of us are architects of our own destruction? Or by our actions/inaction, we make a bad situation worse? However, the real issue is the underlying motive. Some people are drama queens. They do not have enough to keep themselves occupied, so they stir up mischief. Riding emotional roller-coasters is what makes them feel alive. But I am going to assume that the majority of us do not fall into this category.
The vast majority of people are full of worry and anxiety. We are confronted by situations or overwhelmed by the demands of daily life and the first response is an emotional one. We worry about our family, what are significant other is doing, we worry about being made to look like a fool. We worry about keeping up with the Joneses. And these irrational worries often convolute what is real.
For example, I have talked ad nauseam about what a lack of trust will do to a realtionship, but you will be surprised at the number of people who go through their significant other’s cellphone, their Facebook/MySpace pages, mail, sock drawers, you name it, because they are worried about being played. The simple approach would be to talk to the person or to get out of that situation. But if you are happy, be happy and eventually the truth will come out. Why chase unhappiness?
Our desires and unfulfilled wishes are also a source of anxiety. This is a fundamental tenet of every religion. I know in a materialistic/consumer driven society, this is difficult. It is good to enjoy what life has to offer, but everything in proper perspective. Our lives are worth more than what we have and do not have. People are more valuable than what they can offer you or what you can offer them.
The more you desire things and they enter your heart, the more unfulfilled you will become and blind to the blessings around you. When you don’t count your blessings, you miss opportunites.
Naturally, as human beings, we are going to have worries and anxiety. The world is a scary place. But we must train ourselves to walk by faith and not by sight. Sounds simple right? We can start by simplfying what we can. Something I have been working on is being present. Focusing on the here and now. People are normally living in the past or looking towards the future. But how many of them are truly enjoying what they are doing now, in this moment. The past is for lessons and wisdom, the future is for hope, but the present is a gift to be enjoyed.
Cut out the unnecessary and get back to the essence. The first love, the beginning, the basics. Focus on what you really need and shut down your wants, for once. This is how to live contently.
Be confident. Know that whatever life has to dish out, you can meet head on. Do what is right, live the truth and things will work themselves out. Don’t worry about making mistakes, don’t worry about failing, don’t worry about getting hurt. Life is a contact sport, these things are gonna happen.
The trees don’t worry about the rain, they grow from it. You do the same.
Find happiness where you can. It’s the simple things that count the most.
There is an ad that advocates for stem cell research that features Michael J. Fox that was created and has been running over the last week. Fox is living with Parkinson’s Disease, and he and others believe that Embryonic Stem Cell Research can lead to a cure for his disease and other ailments in the future.
We talked earlier about whether endorsements of candidates by groups influenced your vote. The article in the first link says that this ad is effecting the opinions of potential voters. There has been a counter-ad put out by opponents of Stem Cell Research, and that ad can be seen here.
Do you find ads like this influential?
Could campaigns like this change your vote?
First and foremost, I want people to vote. I am less concerned about what party or person that they vote than I am with people voting in the first place.
With that said, the L.A. Times says that Black and Latin people are re-evaluating whether or not they should vote Republican. The only reason that this is a story is because a number Black people voted Republican for the first time in 2004. This was because they were sold on a series of lies, including but not limited to these two:
Faith-Based Initiatives would finance programs by Black churches/in Black neighborhoods
This recently published book by David Kuo, former special assistant to the G. W. Bush from 2001 to 2003, deputy director of the White House office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives, talks about how much of a joke that office was, and why he resigned from it.
Republicans don’t like same-sex marriage or abortion either
This is a different kind of lie. Republicans may not actually not like same-sex marriage or abortion. The problem here is that they tried to turn Black voters into single-issue voters. What is a single-issue voter? It’s a person who votes based on one thing and one thing alone. The ‘single issues’ in 2004 were abortion and same-sex marriage. Why is that problematic? It’s problematic because those seeking power can use whatever your issue is to get you to vote against your own best interests on other issues. This not only happens on issues like abortion, but it is also a problem for people who’s issue is the so-called war on terror.
In voting, and in life, it is important to understand why we do the things we do. In order to do this, we have to step back and look at all of our motivations, decisions, and actions. The last thing I want to see is people doing things because they were deceived into doing them. I feel that this is what happened in 2004, and I don’t want to see that again.