Archive | February 2006

The Weekly Dream: Tough Love

Love as Correction

“This is going to hurt me more than it hurts you.”

As children, I am sure we have heard this phrase in one context or another from our parents in response to some wayward act on our parts. If you were like me, you could not help but scoff at this statement. However, as I began to get older, I understood that discipline/correction is an unpleasant but necessary part of a true love relationship.

I think back to the days when I could not wait to be free from the control and direction of my parents, when they could no longer punish me and I could do whatever I wanted. I have since learned that “grown folks” whippings is far worse than anything that my family could ever do. Life can inflict a pain all its own. Looking back, my parents did my siblings and I a tremendous service by correcting us out of love, rather than letting us learn everything the hard way.

I may not have always agreed with my parents or where they were coming from, but I always respected having that external point of view. And I knew that they only wanted the best for me.

“Open Rebuke is better than secret love”

This tough love is not easy to give nor is it easy to receive. Most of us would rather hear our praises than our faults. We would love to shower or be showered with tendering loving care. But that is not real. No one is all good and no one is all bad. Love is about truth and to not speak out when our loved one is wrong is to commit an egregious error.

So why can strangers, who may not have our best interest at heart, criticize us and not those who are closer?

At school or work, we learn how to take criticism because it is suppose to concern an external, objective product. Normally, your teacher or boss doesn’t have access to the real you. But your family, significant other and friends, they know you. When they say things, it hits a little closer to home. Their words put us on the defensive. They know how to hurt you, they know your weaknesses. However, is this reaction love? Love is predicated on a voluntary openness and vulnerability. Also, love takes a trust that those who you are in relationship with will not do anything to take advantage of that. If they would, then you may need to move some people around (but that is another article).

We discount what these individuals say because we did not like the delivery. But most of the time, it is something our conscience is already dealing with us about. We might say things like, “I don’t want to hear that” or “Mama doesn’t know what she is talking about.” But if you react, it must be worth a little consideration.

“If you correct a wise man, he will love you.”

In truth, our loved ones only want us to flourish. It truly is a sign of maturity to let someone from the outside looking in tell us about ourselves. However, when on the receiving end, we need to take a step back and see it from their viewpoint, and understand that whether right or wrong, they mean well. Check in with your “committee” of trusted personal advisors.

When we are giving the tough love, we need to be empathetic to the other person and speak to them in a way that will foster a productive exchange. The ultimate goal is communication and understanding.

This is not to say that there are not times when you just have to come out with it, rough and raw. You may have to cut them off for a time or take extreme measures to shield yourself from the repercussions. However, you want the other person to realize the effect their actions are having on you and on them. But understand, it is their decision to make. God gave us freewill for a reason. Let them take it for what it is worth and protect yourself from any unfortunate repercussions.

It is hard at first

We are going to lose our way from time to time. That is why it is invaluable to have people around you who remember who you are at your best and care enough to let you know when you are not reflecting that. This type of honesty and openness is rare and should be preserved at all costs. The party receiving it may not appreciate it at the time, but with a little patience, they will eventually get the message (resist the urge to say I told you so). If you find yourself getting that wake up call, step back and look at the motives of the person and if they have a valid assessment. If not, instead of shutting down, help them to understand you better. But it is imperative to listen to your conscience and remain true to your internal compass for better or worse. If your life is inconsistent with that, it will shine through sooner than later.

We only have so many people who truly love us in life, let’s not let situations alienate us from them.

Speak the truth in love, as hard as it may be.

Thanks to everyone who has ever done it for me. You know who you are.

Truth and Peace,
Steven M DeVougas

Question of the Week: Can you recall an instance where you experienced some tough love?

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Don’t you hate liars?

I am sure you thinking, “heck yeah!” But have you ever thought about what effects your so-called “white lies” have on your conscious?

On a basic level, there are two questions most everyone hear everyday and most people routinely lie about everyday. The first is, “How are you doing?” And the variant of this question is, “How was your day?” And I would guess that often times you respond by saying, “Fine.” But what if you are having a bad day and you don’t care to divulge the details? Do you still say fine or do you say that you are having a bad day and care not to talk about it? You probably still respond by saying fine because you probably want to avoid the inevitable follow up question; “So why are you having a bad day?”

And I am guilty of this as anybody else, but I am striving towards being honest all the time, not just in so-called big lies. Because if you really think about it, every time we conceal that we are going through a hard time, we lose an opportunity for someone to give us advice or words of wisdom. Of course, I am not saying that you say everything to everyone, but there is a way of telling the truth that is clear and respectful. So when someone asks you how you are doing, just think about your response and whether or not you are being truthful.


And a more insidious form of lying that is harder to detect is lies of omission. A rough definition of a lie of omission involves information known to be important that is deliberately withheld. One example of a lie of omission involves a college student getting requesting an extension for a paper deadline claiming that he was sick. But if the student was sick because he was out drinking all night, then should that be considered a lie? I think it does and I could think of many more examples but I think you get my drift. So many of our conversations in everyday life are so scripted that lying I think has become somewhat of an accepted norm, but how do we break this cycle? I believe that there should be no hierarchy of sins, such that lying about murder and lying about your weight is still lying, and are both sins. It amazes me how lying has become the lubricant that our society uses to not offend others while often misleading people into thinking and therefore believing lies.


Stay up fam,

Brandon

And I have some discussion questions for you that I look forward to seeing in the comments section.

Are lies of omission really lies? And if not, why?
Is lying ever justified?
How do you the lies I described above affect your spiritual/moral life, if at all?
How have you overcome telling so-called “white lies”?

Finding Our Roots in Africa, Part 2

Brandon’s post on Finding Our Roots in Africa posed a series of questions. To help the dialogue along, I would like to post here my answers to his 7 questions. Please do the same in the comments section of either post.

1) If you could, would you like to able to learn about your ancestry going back to and before slavery? And if so, what do you think are the possible benefits or drawbacks?
Benefits
Anything that a person can learn about where and whence they came is a great thing. It definitely instills a sense of self-worth and pride knowing what people who bled the same blood as you have experienced. This gives you the opportunity to connect with them spiritually as well as intellectually, and engage both living and dead ancestors in ways that will enlighten you as to what you are made of, literally. There is also the benefit of being able to give a definitive answer about where you come from. Immigrants can do this. Refugees can do this. We, the descendants of slaves, cannot readily answer this question. I for one am envious of those that can point to the specific section of India that there family is from and has been for the past 300 years. I think that is absolutely awesome. I want to be able to do that as well.
Drawbacks
I am concerned that folks at racist organizations such as the Pioneer Fund, has a long history of subsidizing efforts to prove blacks are genetically inferior to whites, will take this DNA mapping of Black people to certain places and equate it to Black inferiority. Those who agreed and still agree with Thomas Jefferson that Black people are physically inferior to white people or with David Hume who believed that Black people were “naturally inferior” to white people will likely want to twist this to support their claims. Think about this in the same way that conservatives spun Bill Cosby’s crusade to fit their own messages. I don’t want that, and I don’t think too many other people do either. I think that the same can be said of those who believe in eugenics as legitimate science, and YES, there are people alive who believe in such nonsense. I also think that I may have mixed feelings if I were to find out that I was not “wholly” Black. That might complicate my world view a bit. I did not see the special, so I would like to further understand the science behind this research. The engineer in me can’t help but be a little bit skeptical. Finally, being a complete skeptic, I’d be worried about this stuff ending up in some US government database.

I don’t want to give those I disagree with any ammunition. However, none of these drawbacks are worth the price of ignorance.

2) Is it important for you to have a working knowledge of current events in Africa or its history? And if so, what books/articles/internet sources have been particularly useful?
This is absolutely important, as such knowledge helps one to gain perspective on who they are. Knowledge of history and knowledge of current events contribute to knowledge of self in the same way that knowledge of your family history and knowledge of your personal thoughts, emotions, and preferences are part of knowledge of self. They all lead you down the path to answering that all important question: who are you?

3) Have you ever heard family members or friends say disparaging comments about African people? How did you respond?
Absolutely, and it is truly sad. I am ignorant to my concrete ties to my ancestry in any part of the African continent, but I do know that they are people like me. “Civilization” is a subjective term. People today equate non-Westernized lifestyles to barbarism the same way they did hundreds of years ago. The difference is that hundreds of years ago, we had a lot fewer black people peddling those messages.

4) Do you view Africans with the same kinship that you show towards Blacks in America?
I almost do, and I know many people do not. That is terribly sad because I am fighting through the lie that says that they area not me and I am not them. That is the same lie that labels me as an “African-American” and not Black. What does that really mean? Can you point to “Africa-America” on a map? I can’t. It’s all B.S. See my answer to question #6 for more on this lack of kinship.

5) How far can you trace your lineage?
My family has actually traced its history back to being brought to the West Indies. I would be interested in tracing it further. We did this back in 1990 when technology was not accessible, so I can only imagine what we may find out if we combined today’s methods with the information we already have.

6) Do you think there could ever be true unity/appreciation between Blacks in America and Africa?
There could be, since peace is a possibility between all groups of peoples, especially those with some sort of inherent connection. Ignorance about one another is the main barrier, as we tend to look at “Africans” through our “american” eyes as opposed to looking at them for who they are: us. “Divide and conquer” is the most effective way to destroy anything, and it has been successful in murdering our identities, our self-esteems, and our dreams for tomorrow. The fact that this question is even posed is a sign that we need to tear down these negative perceptions we have about one another and build tangible, positive relationships.

7) If you could trace your family tree back to slavery, what questions would you like the answers to the most?
The question I would be most interested in knowing is if I had blood relatives walking some part of this planet that I have never dreamed of. I would like to know if things about my person (e.g. my size/shape, my affinity for technology, etc.) were things common in people from the place where my family originated. That would be fascinating.

These are all important and thought-provoking questions. It is therapeutic simply answering these. Think how much more healing could be realized after finding out who we really are.

Hampton Waves Goodbye to the ‘Corporate Thug’

Hampton University has officially banned cornrows and dreadlocks for their Business School students. I know that Black people in general are pretty conservative, but as I would like to think that conservative does not equal dumb [in most cases]. Unfortunately, this might be such a case.

I’m sure there are plenty of people that think this is no big deal. They think that this is simply readying these students for the future realities of corporate citizenry in this country. They say that such styles are immature and make you look less intelligent and/or presentable to your potential employers. The story states Business School Dean Sid Credle’s (pictured here) motivation: “When we look at the top 75 African Americans in corporate America, we don’t see any of them with extreme hairdos.” Pardon me, but what is an extreme hairdo?!?!?!?! Who defines that? Black people? White people? Rich people? Poor people? Employers? I guess this guy would have thought that Madame C.J. Walker’s improvements to the metal straightening comb were bad because at that time “straight” hair was an extreme hairdo for black women.

You know where their notion of an extreme hairdo comes from? It is the result of staring at today through the lens of the supremacist, “Good Ol’ Boys” network that dominates american corporate culture. I am led to believe that because of the following statement from the article:


“Afros are OK but cornrows and flowing dreadlocks are not…’We don’t have problems with Afros,’ business Dean Sid Credle said Friday. ‘A nicely tapered Afro – that’s fine.'”

I’m not that old, but I’m sure there was a time not-so-long ago when the “nicely tapered Afro” was considered extreme. What is different from yesterday’s afro and today’s cornrow? Why is this formerly extreme hairdo now mainstream? Because white people think it’s cool. Period. Why do they think it’s cool? We will save that question for another day. Anyone who knows anything about hair knows that a caesar with a bad line up looks 1 billion times worse than newly braided cornrows. So why doesn’t the Hampton B School just take a look at EVERYBODY’S hair when they enter the building, and give them the go or no-go. It would go something like “If you don’t have waves homeboy, go get a brush before entering my school,” or “I’m sorry ma’am but you perm has not made your hair straight enough.” What’s their policy on facial hair I wonder? That wasn’t all that acceptable a short while a go in contemporary corporate america either, but I digress.

What kills me about these sorts of stupid policies are their selective nature. There have been lawsuits filed against other educational institutions for similar policies. I know that somebody in the Dean’s Office had to have known that there was some precedence with these sorts of policies. So either they disregarded that knowledge, or they felt that their policy was different. Maybe it was “different” because this is a policy at an HBCU. You know the theory: it’s not racist or culturally insensitive or prejudiced if it is done/said by a Black person or institution.

Maybe I wouldn’t have a problem with this policy if [it actually made sense, or if] the B School at Hampton took a multi-pronged approach to addressing the problem it is trying to “solve.” In addition to suggesting non-extreme hairstyles why not educate their corporate partners on what is and is not extreme and begin to change their ignorant perspective? I guess this can’t happen because the administration is too afraid of biting the hands that feed them.

Hmmmm…

That sounds familiar…Black folks not speaking up because they are afraid of being reprimanded, rejected, or punished…I think that that is an image we need to try to destroy and not repeat.

Finding our roots in Africa

Yesterday I finished watching the second half of the PBS special, African American Lives, hosted by Henry Louis Gates Jr. I highly recommend you find a way to see this series either by catching a re-run or actually buying the series. In the special, Gates utilized DNA analysis and history to pinpoint which countries in Africa (or outside of Africa) with a high degree of statistical reliablity. I was simply amazed at the prospects this new technology may hold for Black folks all over the Diaspora.

Growing up, I always had a longing to know which country in Africa I was from but after awhile I gave up that dream and instead chose to keep abreast of African culture and history. I have taken classes on Africa, done extensive research on my own, and regularly keep up with current events across the continent. But it wasn’t enough. I felt like I was looking for a specific needle in a pile of needles.

And it wasn’t until the PBS special that my childhood desire ignited in a fury of questions and imagination. I might be able to find out which country I was from. Just writing the aforementioned sentence sends tingles down my back. And as I reflected on the possibilities of telling my children stories of their ancestors during and before slavery, I was reminded of how disconnected Africans and Black people in America are. But if we could learn to respect and honor each other like the brothers and sisters we are, then the problems we face might not seem so daunting.

So I have a series of questions I would like to throw out there just to get a sense of the effects of a widespread program to help Black people in America trace their ancestry.

1) If you could, would you like to able to learn about your ancestry going back to and before slavery? And if so, what do you think are the possible benefits or drawbacks?

2) Is it important for you to have a working knowledge of current events in Africa or its history? And if so, what books/articles/internet sources have been particularly useful?

3) Have you ever heard family members or friends say disparaging comments about African people? How did you respond?

4) Do you view Africans with the same kinship that you show towards Blacks in America?

5) How far can you trace your lineage?

6) Do you think there could ever be true unity/appreciation between Blacks in America and Africa?

7) If you could trace your family tree back to slavery, what questions would you like the answers to the most? Please be forthcoming with your comments about this topic.

Stay up fam, Brandon.

The Weekly Dream: Examining the Possibilities

“Love is about the possibility of a thing. So when people say that the
love is gone…naw. What they really sayin’ is that they have exhausted
the possibilities.”
-Larenz Tate as Darius Lovehall in Love Jones

Well, well, well. Welcome to the second installation of the love
month. This week, we will be exploring arguably the most interesting
facet of love, romantic love between the sexes. Please bear with me.
These are just my reflections of what I have seen or experienced, so
do not take it as Gospel. Instead, think of them as talking points. If
you agree, weigh in, if not, say so also.

Now, in my simple mind, finding someone should not be that difficult.
Yet, my empirical data instructs me to the contrary. With the
commonality of cohabitation and divorce, relationships in this era
have taken on the flavor of a business transaction. As a result, there
is more of an arm’s-length approach to love. This especially is
noticeable during Valentine’s Day. The week leading up to Cupid’s
fiesta is marked by conflicting emotions. I have encountered three
women who said they were sending themselves flowers, three more who
said their Valentine was their mothers, and a general consensus that
men on a whole “don’t be actin’ right.” This no doubt is a sad state
of affairs, at least in my corner of the world (and I hope other
places are more cheerful than this). The guys on the other hand, have
a more diverse response. But most of the time, no matter what the
plans, it involves the word “budget”.
These interactions and sharp gender politics started me to thinking:
what is the problem? I am fortunate to know a lot of wonderful women,
and nearly all of them have consistent relationship issues. On the
level that I interact with them, I would think that they would be
great catches. So, I have come to two conclusions: 1. I really do not
know them all that well, or 2. it’s the people they are
attracted/dealing with.
As to point one, that could be true, but some of them I know very
well, so that is kind of moot. The second point has a little more
meat. Individuals will entertain those who they know they cannot
have a future with because of boredom or in hopes they can change them
or they are holding on to what was. These are the same people who will
tell me that they are looking for a “serious commitment” but they know
that whoever they with now is not who they are going to end up with. I
call this “dead-end dating.” Boredom or insecurity normally lies at
the bottom of this stack. You also have people who just take what
comes along with no direction or purpose. They say they are looking
for love, but every one of their actions is inconsistent with that
aim, they do not know what they are in the game for.
I believe that a large part of the problem is that few of us have
taken the time out to assess what it is we truly value, in ourselves
and in others. What types of people are we attracted to and why? What
does love look like for us? Love is a lot like barbeque sauce,
everyone has their own particular blend. We need to define it for
ourselves. After we define what we are looking for, be true to that.
Set your boundaries and expectations. Then, be patient. When you
find it, you can tell it is real when the other person makes you want
to be a better person and vice versa. The power of love is that it
allows you to catch a glimpse of your highest self and that is a
revelation of the truth.
My experience has refined what love looks like for me, and it is
still being refined. However, it is astounding how we make such an
important decision based purely on a gut level reaction. Initial
attraction is just the beginning. You need to know what it is going to
take to be successful and paint that perfect picture. It needs to be
colored not just with love, but patience, understanding, kindness and
communication. Highlight that with time and experience, the bedrock of
every relationship and you have created a masterpiece.

Love the one you’re with

Let me distinguish something here. There is a difference in dating
for fun and dating for commitment. If you are just out there having
fun, then do what you do. But it is another thing all together to
complain and state that you are ready for love and your
actions/personnel do not match up. I had to learn a long time ago that
there is a distinction between wanting something and being ready for
it. Just because you want something does not mean that you are
necessarily ready for it. And if you do not have what you want, then
most likely, you have preparation to do. It is a hard truth, but
repeatedly in my life, when I have been truly ready, everything fell
into place.

After the Love Is Gone…

So let’s say you have someone and you have been together for a while.
After sometime the passion cools. That newness wears off, you stop
doing the extra things, and start taking things for granted. I have
seen this time and time again. These couples that love each other, but
have not been madly in love with one another in sometime. It
is–unfortunate. There is a thin line between comfort and complacency.
The good news is and what a lot of people do not realize is that
passionate love is an emotion. And emotions can be created at will.
All you have to do is get back to basics. Think about how things were
at the beginning and go back to that. Create new possibilities and
experiences. Day-to-day life is already mundane enough; your
relationship should be an adventure. To get there, it is going to take
some honesty, communication, selflessness, and creativity. Every
relationship has its ebb and flow. As long as both parties are working
toward the same aim, then anything is surmountable. But it takes two
individuals working together, you cannot be in love with yourself. Be
willing to hold yourself and your relationship to the light.

Closing thoughts…

This has been a difficult piece, because it is so expansive. Just
know this, it begins with you. You have to know what you are in it
for, on what levels you are going to deal with people and be true to
that. I know it is not as cookie cutter as I have made it sound, but
it is a learning experience. If you have that special someone, make
sure you make time to enjoy life together. Do something different and
exciting. Your relationship is what you make it.
For those of you who have not had the best luck in this area, do not
lose hope. When you finally find what you are looking for, it will
definitely be worth it. Make sure you are prepared when it does.

Make every day a day of love.

Unleash the power of love, and unlock the power of truth.

Truth and Peace,

Steven M DeVougas

Question of the week: How do you know when you are in love?


GDG II
http://www.TheSuperSpade.com

Can I die?$?

In the Washington Post today, there was an article that discussed Bush federal budget proposal that included a cut in the $255 Social Security funeral benefit. How did our priorities get so mixed up where you can’t afford to die?.

I don’t have the immediate answer right now but I am working on it. The funeral benefit program was started in 1939 and was designed to help families deal with funeral expenses. The amount was set at $255 in 1952 and, until 1981, the payment was made directly to funeral homes, they said.

You might wonder how in the world this affects you, right? Well, if you have family members whose only income is derived from Social Security and they pass away, then your family will have to work together to pay for the funeral. In 1999, the average cost of funerals was nearly $6,000 so if your family is low-income, then I am sure $6,000 is not readily available and you will have to bring it down a couple thousand dollars. So let’s say you can get a funeral for $2,000, your family will still be looking for any assistance it can. And if you could get $255 from Social Security, it won’t do much, but it will do something.

The article went on to say “Congressional aides said Jo Anne Barnhart, the Social Security Commissioner, had told them during a closed-door briefing on Monday that the $255 one-time death benefit has become an administrative burden, since it is not paid in all cases.” That’s like saying we shouldn’t give out tax refunds since not everyone gets their check. Whatever influence I can muster through my voice, I will speak up for the people whose concerns often fall on deaf ears. It amazes me how helping the poor is described as administrative burdens but tax cuts for the rich are touted as the remedy for everything from curing AIDS to cutting the deficit.
If you do nothing else, speak truth to power when you see injustice. Start a blog, email your Congressman, talk to your family, because it may not do much ($6,000)in and of itself, but it will do something ($255).

Stay up fam,

Brandon

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