Archive | September 2006

Black Revolutionary v. Black Radical

What’s the difference (if any) between being “a radical thinker/actor” and being “a revolutionary thinker/actor”?

This question, among others, was poised to me in an email by a sister/colleague of mine from my days at the University of Michigan. The fact that this question was sent over email is further evidence of why spaces like the Superspade are so vital, so we have active and lively discussions pertaining to Black Thought. Primarily because for those of us who were active in college but are now spread across the country, it is difficult to have conversations like this. Thank you Tiffany,

I remember having a conversation with my nephew where he used some slang term I can’t remember right now, but I asked him what the word meant. He tried to define it as best he could but to no avail. The lesson learned was that we should all be careful to use words that we know what they mean. This same principle applies to the question posed from the outset.

What’s the difference (if any) between being “a radical thinker/actor” and being “a revolutionary thinker/actor”?

The operative words here are obviously radical and revolutionary. A dictionary search of these terms I think provides a good foundation for our discussion.

For our purposes the best definition we have for radical is favoring drastic political, economic, or social reforms.

As for revolutionary, two definitions actually suit our purposes;

1. of, pertaining to, characterized by, or of the nature of a revolution, or a sudden, complete, or marked change: a revolutionary junta.

2. radically new or innovative; outside or beyond established procedure, principles, etc.: a revolutionary discovery.

With these definitions in tow, I think it is safe to say that a radical is someone who believes things should be profoundly different while a revolutionary is someone who takes action to realize the manifestation of radically held beliefs.

Are these terms commonly used interchangeably — if so what are the implications in doing so? Do we use the terms “revolution” and “radical” in superficial manners?

Unfortunately these terms are thrown around like dirty socks. People should understand that real revolutionaries died and risked the safety of their families just so we could go to college, vote, use public accommodations, and give us the peace of mind to be anything we wanted to be. We are the living dreams of those who sacrificed and imagined what a better America would look like.

I think it is safe to say that the term radical is not widely used as revolutionary. Having said that, the term revolutionary has become so superficial that people think they are a revolutionary if and when they put their fist in the air. If we took time to appreciate the sacrifices of those who actually started to raise their fists, I don’t think many people would feel worthy to do so.

What does this mean for the black community? (i.e. does it change how you think about our history? how would collective definitions of “revolution” and “radical” impact our future?)

What all this means for the Black Community is that we need to have real discussions about first what radical means. For example, is it too radical to think that the federal government should apologize for slavery? Moreover, is it radical to think that we should completely change the way we fund K-12 public education that leaves inner-city schools with the least resources and the most problems? Is it radical to think that mentorship in the Black community should be a way of life and not something you do to spruce up your resume’? I could go on and on but I think on a fundamental level, we have convinced ourselves that all of the big battles have already been fought and won.

What’s more, what we think of as radical seems to be constantly minimized. Just about every time I was at a town hall meeting for the Black community, someone would always say that in order to build our community, we should make a point to speak to every Black person we see on campus. For some people this was a radical idea believe it or not. So what would help our efforts is to really dig when people claim to have radical ideas and use our rich history to test how radical this idea really is. Because I am sorry, but speaking to each other is not radical, that is required. But we do disservice to those who came before us when we either start with a defeatist attitude or we let our fear diminish the size and scope of our dreams.

How do these definitions apply to you and your profession and/or your contributions to the black community and society as a whole?

I’ll start with what I do. I work as the Michigan Field Organizer for the United States Student Association, the nation’s oldest and largest student association where our motto is, “Education is a right, not a privilege”. Right now I am doing voter registration/get out the vote work across various campuses and after the election I will be coordinating campaigns focused on increasing access to higher education. So for me, the work I do is directly tied to radical ideals and I have the opportunity to work on two issues where revolutionary action is needed; political and educational access.

However, the fatal flaw far too many of us make the assumption that our revolutionary work (if we do work at all) is confined to our college days and once we graduate, we put those things behind us. Working a corporate job does not give you a community service pass, nor does working a community service job give you the moral high ground. A word on folks holding down the corporate job; stop saying you are too busy. In college you held down two jobs, 16 credits, and managed to hold down 4 organizations. So just know that you make time for what is important. And if it is the case you literally have no time for anything other than your job, I would ask you two things. 1) Are you being efficient with your time? And 2) are you leading a life of significance or success?

Lastly, I would ask everyone to really ask themselves what it is they want to do that is revolutionary on a small scale and a large scale and draw up a backwards plan and see these goals through fruition. And the beautiful part is that you will need allies to help your goals. That is the true beauty of my people. For if anyone has ever been to a rally with a sizable amount of Black people intent on accomplishing one goal, you know exactly what I’m talking about. That is truly revolutionary.

Stay up fam,


Loneliness, Black Men, and Friendships: Part IV

For those keeping score at home, we are at Part 4 in our series on Black male friendships. Up until this point, I have not discussed the issue of how women figure into the situation. And because one post would have been too long, at a later time I will explore how friendships are affected by men in relationships. But today, we will focus on the single brothers.

Let me say for starters that it is probably easier for single brothers to manage more meaningful male friendships. However, this is not always the case.

When things are down, do you call your boy or your “friend”
One issue that many single brothers have to deal with is going through emotional downtimes. And for a myriad of reasons, it is easier for many of us to share our deepest feelings with women rather than men. Now I understand that if you need to get something off your chest, then by all means do what you have to do. However, we should take a step back to think of the long-term implications of never being able to tell your boy what is really going on in your life.

If we were really honest, most brothers do not use each other as sounding boards. However, it is not until a situation has either blown up or otherwise finished, that a brother will then share what happened. But we need to get to a place where we have conversations like this; “Steve, I have this situation and these are the options I am looking at, let me know what you think.”

And since conversations like this are not widespread, it is often the case that brothers will turn to their girl “friends” for comfort. But here’s the twist, whether you are attracted to the woman or not, there is something very intoxicating having a woman listen to your woes while your head is in her lap, figuratively speaking. Now I am not saying brothers shouldn’t be talking to sisters but I am challenging brothers to be honest about what is accomplished after they have heart to hearts with their girl “friends.” Do you get sound, practical advice that you use to help your situation? Do you start out trying to get sound advice but end up talking about topics completely unrelated? Are you intentionally unintentionally laying the foundation for a relationship? Do you find yourself more attracted to this person after talking and/or are you sending signals that might be misconstrued that you may want more than just friendship?

I pray that at least one of these questions speak to you where you are at. My point though is that the majority of these issues could be alleviated if brothers had the courage to have more meaningful conversations beyond work, women, and sports. To be clear, this is not an either/or proposition, such that brothers should only talk to women or men. However, the current balance is heavily in favor of women and we need to tip the balance in the other direction.

For players and non-players alike, it does you no good to be running around with pseudo-girlfriends because you afraid to be lonely. Do some self-evaluation so you can be a better boyfriend/husband for your next relationship. What I mean by pseudo-girlfriend is someone (where there is an established mutual attraction) who fulfills one or some of your needs, but you have no intention of making her your girlfriend. Some examples include but are not limited to physical intimacy, spirituality, emotional support, intellectual debate, hanging out, etc. Situations like this are one of the sure fire ways to guarantee an argument framed around, “What are we?” or “Are we building something serious or not?” So beyond having clear communication, it is important to take advantage of being single and use that time to grow in all the ways you deem important. However, this constant girlfriend status (real or pseudo) does little to help this process. Nor does it help the women who think they are building something that is really all smoke and mirrors.

And if you can’t talk to your friends about real issues, why are they your friends to begin with?

In a word, get off the bosom fellas,

Stay up fam,


The Weekly Dream: Things Fall Apart Pt. III

“Lust, can sometimes override trust…”
-Lupe Fiasco, Real

Growing up and being the oldest son, I was often called upon to share my things: clothes, toys and various hygiene products. Often, these are things I purchased with my own money. Therefore, I was extremely anal about their maintenance and placement. But it never failed, my brothers would always take my things without asking. And since it was not their property, the same level of care or stewardship was not exhibited. I would find my clothes, dirty, on the floor, things left all over the place or used up without being replenished. As anyone could imagine, this caused me to become 1.) Very protective of my things (which I am unto this day) 2.) Very reluctant in allowing anyone to use my belongings. In school, I learned early not to trust anyone, because everyone does not operate from a place of integrity.

Don’t get me wrong, I am a very trusting person and I want to trust people, but everyone does not value the things I value and vice versa. Sociologists call trust a function of a person’s belief in the benevolence and competence of the other party. People are more likely to forgive incompetence (e.g. ignorance) than a lack of benevolence (i.e. moral uprightness). It is this asymmetry of values that I believe is responsible for the suspicion that permeates our relationships. For example, if I know what you value, then there are only two outcomes: either I will respect and treasure your values or I will not. And then you know where you stand with me. In any event there must be communication, understanding and forgiveness when trust is broken.

The Foundation

Trust is the belief in the good character of one party, and their desire to fulfill their previous promises. As I have said before, trust is harder to come by than love. However, love without trust is just sound and fury, with no power behind it. Think about how many people you truly trust? There are two types of people in the world: the innocent until proven guilty crowd and the guilty until proven innocent consortium. The former are very trusting, until you cross them, then your name is mud. With the latter, it may take some time to gain them over, but once you have them, they will give you a little more rope to mess up. Which are you? Most of the time, you trust people to be themselves, based on your assessment of them.

A lack of trust is lock-and-step with unforgiveness. People may be able to forgive you, eventually, but when the trust is gone or damaged, it is almost impossible to get back. It is one thing to ask for forgiveness, it is quite another to asked to be restored to your former standing. That is truly an exercise in Christian/Agape love (see the story of the Prodigal Son).

Why? It goes back to how trust is formed. Trust takes time and experience to build. After you have assessed someone’s character and integrity, only then is it safe to be vulnerable around them. But when selfishness, negligence, or weakness enters into a relationship and is succumbed to, then trust is threatened.

In relationships, people make mistakes and people get hurt. Either people do not respond to you the way you would like them to, they might be flaky or moody, or just plain rude and inconsiderate. For whatever reason, people do things that make us hesitate in trusting them or dealing with them. Is it completely their fault or could you be to blame? Were your expectations set and are they realistic?

What is even more complicated is when you have done nothing wrong, but the other person does not trust you, therefore they hold back. It is hard for them to let go and trust your judgment or take your word. But you still want the relationship to work, you still want to deal with the person, so how do you rebuild/strengthen the trust?

It Aint Easy…

Regaining trust has a lot to do with redemption and restoration. There literally is a breach in the relationship that must be repaired in order to continue in the relationship. First, the person who was transgressed against must be open to the possibility of placing their trust in the person. As previously stated, unforgiveness and self-preservation will be the biggest obstacle to doing this. But if the person is not open to forgiving and trusting again, then it is a losing battle.

Next, take time to communicate earnestly and listen to each other. This way, you can see who the person really is and you lay the foundation to “reset” the relationship, when you catch a glimpse of the person’s heart and if they truly have your best interest.

On the other side, the transgressor must do everything to prove their consistency and steadfastness. And, hopefully, with time and God’s help, all will be well.

Fight the Good Fight…

Lack of trust is like brain cancer or a house without a foundation, it is only a matter of time before it is a wrap and the relationship is irretrievably broken. If the trust has been damaged, you must reassess everything to see if it is worth saving and if you can truly move past the hurt and suspicion. If you have healthy, trusting relationships in your life, guard them jealously, because once trust is gone, there is really little left. If you can bounce back from a breach in trust, then you will be closer than ever. There is nothing like the threat of losing something to make you cherish it.

Any relationship takes work, you must decide if it is worth it…

Life is too short to constantly be looking over your shoulders around the ones you love.

Forgive and love again-if it is worth it and with God’s help.

Truth and Peace,
Steven M DeVougas

Question of the Week: What lessons have you learned regarding trust and relationships?


The Weekly Dream: Things Fall Apart Pt. II

“Love is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, love keeps no record of wrong”
1 Cor. 13:5

“Fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice, shame on me.”

After communication, unforgiveness is the second reason most relationships fail. This is a big one for me, because I can hold a grudge forever. But unforgiveness is a major roadblock in the progression of relationships. Why? Because when you let someone in to your heart, you expect them to know better. So when they do something, you feel it that much more. And although you want to forgive them, it does take time and prayer.

I think of unforgiveness as having rocks in your book bag, it does not do anything but slow you down. Every time some one does something to you, and you do not forgive, it begins to wear on you. You become a prisoner to the past and eventually bitterness and resentment comes in. You can always tell when some one has not really gotten over something because when you get in an argument, they bring up the old stuff into the new conflict. They use words like “You always” or “You did this last time”. They still are mentally stuck in the past.

I believe that, if you forgive someone, you don’t bring it up again. If you can’t move past it, it may be better to let the relationship go, because it is not worth making both parties miserable. Personally, when people have hurt or betrayed me, I have to forgive them or leave them alone. That is the only way to truly heal some times. Still having trouble? Think of when you have done something wrong, what if God held everything you did over your head? As they say, “To err is human, but to forgive is divine.”

What are the hurts are grudges you are holding? As the saying goes, pick your battles. Is it really a big deal or are you sweating the small stuff? Will you care about this issue ten years from now? And if it bothers you that much, confront them. What do you want from the situation? An apology? A remedy? Communicate what you are looking for, say your peace and leave it alone. Easier said than done, right? Human nature, being the dark, vindictive beast it is, does not make this easy. For some reason, we want to hold on to the hurt, the pain, if we did not, we would let it go. But if we do not forgive, how can God forgive us?

Forgiveness does not immediately heal the pain, but it starts the process. And if we are going to continue to be in relationship with each other, the transgressor must do everything they can to help the other person forgive, and the other person must do all they can to forgive. Check those emotions at the door and put forth the effort. At the same time, forgiveness does not mean that you can keep doing the same thing over and over again, that is wicked and weak. Just because I am supposed to forgive you, does not give you free reign to exploit my niceness as weakness. I will forgive, but that does no mean I will keep dealing with you.

The Bible says that love covers a multitude of sin. Love makes forgiveness easy. If we truly love someone, we find t difficult to stay upset with them. People I cared about have lied to me and took me for granted, but the love I have for them keeps me in their corner.

Forgive them, for often, they do not know what they do. And pray for those that despitefully use you. Only then, can we be children of the Most High.

Keep working on it, I know I am.

Truth and Peace,
Steven M. DeVougas

Question of the Week: What has someone you love done to you that you either had to get past or you can’t get past?


I’m Going, Going, Back, Back, to Detroit, Detroit

I’m going home to the D tomorrow, and I’ll be home for a little under a week. I’m looking forward to this trip because it gives me a chance to see my fam, connect with your favorite SuperSpade Brandon Q., and see other friends and special people in my life.

Just like my other trips (to New Orleans, to Minnesota, and to Milwaukee), I will use this as an opportunity to look at issues effecting the places that I am visiting, in this case Detroit and it’s surrounding communities.

I’m looking forward to the opportunity to share what I observe and read what you all think.

One Love. One II.


Have you Registered?

Since I’m now pretty much settled into my new place, I finalized establishing myself as a resident of the State of Washington yesterday.  What does that mean?  I did three things:

1. Got a new Driver’s License
2. Switched my tags over for my car
3. Registered to vote

#3 is what I’m stressing here.  We’ve talked about ensuring that you are registered early before, and I want to re-iterate that point again today.  As the 7 Nov 2006 election draws near, please make sure that you are registered properly.  You can do so by going to sites like this to get the ball rolling.

With all of the talk of past election/voter fraud & intimidation that has happened in past elections, we have a choice between two reactions:

1. Behave as if pre-emptively defeated, and not vote
This is the whole “They’re gonna cheat anyway, so I might as well not bother.”  This is dangerous because it says that fear of election stealing in this case will lead to the paralysis of staying home on election day.  I know in my heart that we face challenges everyday, including election day.  Yet many most of us are able to work through these challenges and do what we need to do for ourselves and our families.  I submit to you that it is imperative to the well-being of you and your loved ones to vote your conscious and hold to account those who have misled you in the past.  I do not subscribe to the notion that those who have the opportunity and ability to voice their support of dissent of anything and chose not to are credible as critics.

2. Vote, believing that when we act collectively we are unable to be defeated
Here’s a secret: it’s a whole hell of a lot harder to steal a landslide than it is to steal a close election.  Why don’t we make these bastards take the election by having record turnout?  At the end of the day, I want to feel like I tried, like I said my piece, like I gave it a shot.  I don’t feel that there is anything wrong with that.  I am confident that if our people commit to voting, commit to becoming active participants in causes that affect them, commit to holding accountable those who have misled, mistreated, or misguided them, then we will be well on our way to understanding why voting matters.

I’m going with option 2 above.  If you disagree, tell me why.

One Love.  One II.

The Weekly Dream: Things Fall Apart Pt. I

“What we have here is a failure to communicate.”

“Whoever talks the most, needs the relationship the most”

Earlier this summer, I had the opportunity to spend some time with my grandfather. We talked and as my grandparents’ forty-seventh wedding anniversary was around the corner, I asked him how he managed to stay with someone that long. Among the many reflections he shared with me, he said, “You have to make up your mind that this is where you want to be, and that the sacrifices you make are worth it.”

It is a conversation that stuck with me. I realized, and I have said before, that we do not have many examples of functional relationships. My generation is embarking upon life without knowing how to make a relationship that lasts. What will be the fallout? So I started thinking, if no one can tell me how to make a relationship work, then perhaps it would be instructive to discuss why relationships fall apart. And I am not just talking about romantic relationships, but any type of relationship, although romantic relationships lend themselves easily to analysis. The next five weeks will reflect my top five reasons for Why Things Fall Apart and how to combat relationship cancer.

1. Communication

Communication is the one of the primary culprits for relationships breaking down. As my brother Garlin is oft to say, “90% of relationship problems stem from a breakdown in communication”. Most of the time, someone has a need and it is not being met. Or there is a disagreement, and what ensues is an exercise in passive aggressiveness. This will only make matters worse. You should be able to communicate with your partners with complete and utter candor and honesty. My rule is that I am willing to discuss it once and then, I leave it alone.

What does it take to effectively communicate? First, it takes a skill that we all can improve upon: Active Listening. This type of listening is concerned with trying to understand where the other person is coming from. Next, there must be a sensitivity to the communication style of the person we are dealing with. In writing, the first rule is to tailor your message to your audience. You cannot come at everyone the same. To do so is asking for disaster, because it ignores the uniqueness of the people you are dealing with. Some people need to tough love, others need to be spoken to in soft tones. Whatever the approach, you want to make sure that you are not wasting your breath or your time. So it is best to strategize your approach so that you are heard. We are looking for more than an emotional release, we communicate to inspire change.

Lastly, there must be a willingness to communicate. Stereotypically, men hate the fact that women always want “to talk things out” and do not take the process seriously. However, I have met individuals of both sexes who hate “arguing” or “conflict” or “talking”. In other instances, they “shut down” and act cold, implementing the silent treatment. These individuals make a horrendous error. It takes a lot for someone to open up and to disregard that bravery leads to resentment and it also sends the wrong message. Even when you do not feel like talking, you have to talk. You might need some time to cool off or think, but do not make the mistake of being to busy or too hurt to resolve issues. Life is too short. If you are dealing with someone who does these things to you or who will not put their feelings to the side for the greater good, then as the saying goes, “shake the dust off your feet” and keep it moving. All you are going to get for your efforts is frustration.

Any relationship is a process, and communication is the lifeblood of relationships.

A closed mouth don’t get fed.

Truth and Peace,
Steven M DeVougas
Question of the Week: What communication challenges have you faced and how did you overcome them?