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What Makes a Black Man?

I penned an article for the Rising Oak Foundation Newsletter that was published this week called “What Makes a Black Man?”

It’s the first of a two-part series on the topic. Here’s an excerpt:

The responsible man is always accountable in everything he engages in. The responsible man has a sense of accountability that actively denies hypocrisy wherever it tries to creep in. The responsible man is healthily consistent in his worldview, while be sensitive and introspective enough to realize that he may need to update his view from time to time.

Rising Oak does a lot of great work around the country empowering communities and organizations that focus on strengthening the quality of the lives of Black boys.

Enjoy the piece, and stay tuned for part 2.

One Love. One II.

I Will Stay If…

Abandonment destroys the future of everything it touches: people, families, cities, states, countries. There is perhaps no city in our country that is living an abandonment fantasy nightmare more than Detroit, MI.

In light of this, GLUE (Great Lakes Urban Exchange) did a project where they asked Detroiters of all ages, shapes and sizes what it would take to keep them in the city called I Will Stay If…

The project asked people to complete the sentence “I will stay [in Detroit] if…” What a simple, elegant, brilliant concept. Some of the answers were very interesting.

This has been on my mind a lot over the past couple of days of bad news about GM and negatively framed analysis on the future of Detroit, of Michigan, and of the entire Midwest. For example, my fiancée & I heard an NPR BBC broadcast Monday night that had someone from Detroit’s Capuchin Soup Kitchen (incidentally, a place I worked in 2001) talking about how Detroit resembled a 3rd world country. His arguments were too ridiculous to repeat. Suffice it to say that this guy was not a good advocate neither for the disadvantaged nor the city.

As someone who, frankly, is a prototypical example of Southeastern Michigan brain drain, this troubles me. Not only does my home need people like me to stay & not leave in the first place, or come back home] we also need present ourselves in a positive way and share our vision for a future brighter than the present.

Finishing the “I Will Stay If…” sentence is a great way of beginning that.

One Love. One II.

Video credit: Model D

The way church should be…

Great article from CNN I read about last week regarding how I think church should be. Read the article below, with my commentary to follow.

(CNN) — The pastor of a non-denominational church in Argyle, Texas, passed around the collection plate to his congregants earlier this year — and asked them to take money from it.

Donations at the Cross Timbers Community Church had slumped because of the economic downturn. Pastor Toby Slough thought that his congregants had to be hurting, too. His gesture, instead, was met with an unexpected response: The church had its highest offering ever.

It was a eureka moment for Slough: Give away money to those who need it, knowing his church members will help fill the need. “In these economic times, we can’t be so into church business that we forget what our business is, and that is to help people,” Slough told CNN television affiliate KDAF in Dallas-Forth Worth, Texas.

In the past two months, the 9-year-old church has done just that: handed out a half-million dollars to members and non-members who are struggling.

“We’ve taken $200,000 and spread it out to organizations — four local, two missions that are feeding and clothing people in these tough times,” Slough said. “We’ve paid utility bills for members of our church that are unemployed or under-employed.”

His favorite giveaway came three weeks ago. The church gave 1,400 families $50 each and told them to hand it out to someone else. One of the recipients was Katie Lewis. “I’ve been alone so long. Just to be thought of and to be remembered, to be welcomed — it’s amazing,” she said, crying. Church members are pleasantly surprised. “You don’t hear about a church giving money away,” Amy Sullivan said. Slough said he is not concerned if people try to take advantage of the church’s generosity.

The church has now formed a group to look into the best ways to give out money. And, Slough said, it plans on doing so as long as there is a need in the community

What makes this story incredibly hype is that far too many churches berate their members to give to the building fund, church anniversary fund, or join the VIP or the $1,000 line. People are hurting and if I recall correctly, the purpose of giving to church is to maintain or expand the church ministry along with having enough resources in the store house for God’s children. This storehouse concept is all but lost in many of the churches I know and the fact that it made CNN, speaks to how relatively rare this kind of generosity is. I wish more churches went this route because if we are not helping people in their time of need, we as the church risk losing relevance.

Stay up fam,

Brandon Q.

John Legend's Commencement Address at UPenn

I generally disdain the Cult of the Celebrity. It frustrates me when the unqualified, unverified, and unquestioned present weak arguments and empty claims that are accepted as facts given from experts. While I also reject the Cult of Expertise, I’d take that one over celebrity.

The Cult of Celebrity & the Cult of Expertise often cross paths during this time of year: graduation time. Colleges across the country are hosting commencement celebrations and inviting speakers of all types to inspire students to go off and change the world. President Obama. First Lady Michelle Obama. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Newark, NJ Mayor Corey Booker. John Legend.

John Legend? Yeah, that John Legend.

He addressed the graduating class of UPenn on Monday, the school he graduated from 10 years ago. At first, I saw this as a classic case of the Cult of the Celebrity:

  1. Why exactly is this guy giving this address.
  2. Is he really that interesting/compelling/appropriate?
  3. I bet I’d give a better speech than him

While I will definitely not concede the third point, I was pleasantly surprised with the address he delivered. So much so in fact, that I’d like to share it with all of you.

My key takeaway from the speech was:

Now, I don’t assume that the truth is commonly found. Like its bedfellows of democracy and justice, I believe it is quite rare to find. It is born through process. It is gained through questioning. It is found in listening. It’s about accepting that complex problems require complicated solutions.

Enjoy this, and share it.

One Love. One II.

P.S. Now, back to my hating on the Cult of the Celebrity.

Domestic Tool of Torture: The Taser

This post is part of: A day of blogging for justice: Standing up against the police pre-trial electrocution of black children, women and men by taser.

Tasers are instruments of torture.

Tasers are instruments of torture.

Torture talk has been all over the news recently. The unfortunate [yet understandable] focus of the conversation is on torture in a military & international context.

This causes us to overlook the torture and murder of citizens here at home, victims of racial profiling, police brutality, and excessive use of lethal force by law enforcement.

This issue is not new, but the instruments of this type of torture are ever-evolving. While military torture involves tools like the waterboard, our domestic version uses the taser. 

Torture mentality has perverted our entire system

What happens at the top always impacts the bottom. Lawless leadership leads to lawless practices on the ground. When the Bush Administration OK’d torture, low-level interrogators became torturers. On the local level, when police chiefs embrace tasers as “non-lethal” alternatives to guns, people get killed unnecessarily.

Leadership complicit in torture and murder must be held accountable at all levels.Further, we need to preemptively demand that our leaders craft policies that prevent death, not enable it.

Our wars here at home on petty criminals and the disenfranchised should not be ones that result in capital murder.

What you can do

Contact your local police chief and ask whether officers are carrying tasers. Look up their contact information by searching for their zip code on USACOPS. If they’re using tasers not, thank him or her. If they are carrying, do the following:

  • Sign this petition calling on the Congressional Black Caucus to investigate this phenomenon.
  • Ask: Is the entire force armed with tasers?
    If not, which units have them?
  • Ask: Do officers carry both tasers and guns?
    Ask what the motivation is for this policy.
  • Ask: What’s the usage protocol for tasers?
    This will answer the question “when should tasers be used in place of guns?”
  • Suggest: Stop carrying tasers
    Direct them to our site documenting taser abuses in the US. Let them know that you’ll feel safer if police enagaged in non-lethal ways whenever possible. You know that the officers are well-trained and highly professional, and you just want them to do the best they can without taking lives.

Simply asking these questions will cause leadership to reflect on their policy. Reflection is the first step to change.

Let’s prevent this from spreading further.

One Love. One II.

Photo Credit: strangedays on Flickr

"It's not about race…"

In the car today, I had my attention split between driving, talking on the phone and listening to the BBC World Edition on NPR. On the show, they were discussing that how Britains (I could be wrong) have a more difficult time accepting immigrants into their culture because at least as far as recent history is concerned, Britain is a self-contained country by which those who live their have a distinct view of what being Britain truly entails. This state of affairs was contrasted with America where everyone, minus Native Americans are immigrants, can legitimately claim and believe to be truly American.

The part that jarred me is when an interviewer asks a Britain why its more difficult for Britains to accept immigrants (I should note that there appeard to be a tacit understanding that they were really talking about people of color) and a woman responded dryly, “It’s not about race, it’s about space.” For years now, I have considered how conflicts over land and resources become painted in race/culture specifiic terms in order for the powers that be to misdirect their true intentions. But I think the woman’s response more accurately depicts my thoughts and here is why.

Taken literally and figuratively, what keeps racism thriving is a perpetual denial of accepting “others” into your space. Literally, this “space” can be interpreted by where you live, where your kids go to school, where you hang out, etc. No less important is the figurative sense which can be interpreted via who you do/don’t allow to have access to your emotional space. There are a range of things people do with this void. Some fill this void with stereotypes that can serve as barriers to the type of humanity that God envisioned; Love your brother as yourself. Others are aware of their void and take steps to fill it with love and understanding. In the end, I suppose the takeaway from this post is that you should be mindful of how you filter who gets in your space and the morals and values that under gird these filters. It is impossible to allow poor morals to inform who gets into your space and not think these same values are expressed when you try to enter into another person’s space.

Stay up fam,

Brandon Q.

Asia McGowan, a terrible and unfortunate loss

Asia McGowan, a beautiful, talented, and warm-hearted twenty year-old woman was murdered by a deranged lunatic that murdered her at Henry Ford Community College in Dearborn, a suburb of Detroit. Anthony Powell, 28 shot Asia, 20 at point blank range and after doing so, committed suicide….like a punk. But Brandon, you don’t understand what he was going through. He killed an innocent woman!!! Apparently, Powell posted some crazy youtube videos where he scorned Black women, discussed suicide, and decried atheists. No one quite knows for sure yet, but according to some youtube comments, (and I wouldn’t be surprised) Powell had a crush on Asia and left scathing comments on her videos.

In her last video, Asia addressed people leaving hateful comments on her videos, which were all innocent, funny, and not worth any hate, whatsoever.

So to everybody, and especially my nieces and nephews, be careful with whom you friend and converse with online. No one needs to know where you are at every second of the day. No one needs to see you do the latest dance, however innocent it may be. I know free speech is important but it is too easy with advances in technology to track and possibly do harm to someone. Just think about twitter, “I am at the coffee shop,” or “I am in history 101.” Please be careful and be wary of people who spew hate at you. Asia, was terribly young and had a bright future ahead of her so I ask you Lord, please provide solace and peace for Asia’s family and friends in their time of loss. Don’t let the day end without a warm heart and clear conscience.

Stay up fam,

Brandon Q.

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