Sunday, June 15, 2014

Something's Gotta Give

After reaching the Western Conference finals of the NBA last season, the Memphis Grizzlies fired, then Had Coach, Lionel Collins. This season, upon losing their leader and father figure, they struggled and barely make the final spot in the western conference playoffs.
 After making the playoffs the past 2 seasons for the first time in over 10 yrs, the Golden State Warriors recently fired Head Coach Mark Jackson. Will they digress next season after losing their father figure?

So today is Father's Day. A day set aside to celebrate and Honor our Fathers and Father figures.
The scripture encourages us to “Honor your father and mother,” which is the first commandment with promise: that it may be well with you and you may live long on the earth.” (Ephesians 6:2-3 NKJV)

We are all called to honor our father and mother with the promise to live long and be well. I'd like to use this particular scripture to focus on men, if I may.
Is it possible that the lifespan of our men are shortened because, for the most part, we only honor our mothers? Think about the black community, men are usually raised by our mothers, taught by our mothers, and guided by our mothers. As a result, we only celebrate and honor our mothers. The last 3 MVP's of the National Basketball Association gave heartfelt, compelling acceptance speeches. They acknowledged their fans, teammates, coaching staff, and those who supported them along their journey to this remarkable achievement. The common thread in all three speeches was the deep felt gratitude for their mothers. I don't recall any celebration or honoring of their fathers. And this is the case with most of our black entertainers. From sports, to music, to film/tv, the consistent statement of gratitude is "I wanna thank my mama."   

There's a small fraction of us celebrating our fathers in public because there's a small fraction of our fathers present in the privacy of our homes.....Something's Gotta Give.

Paul, the author of Ephesians lets us know that honoring both our father and mother is the first commandment with a promise. The promise is that your days will be long. Not only long, but fulfilled. I'm fully persuaded that a large percentage of black men are unfulfilled and experiencing premature death because of the alarming rate of absentee fathers in the household.  
As men of color, how are we supposed to honor our fathers, when most of us don't know what our father's look like? How do we honor someone we occasionally see on holidays? How do we honor a person we have little or no relationship with? Is it fair to honor who you don't know? 
I believe we've lost the promise of long life because we've lost the presence of fathers. 
Certainly the reasons for the absence of a father varies. Some fathers are simply dead beats; No involvement whatsoever. While some are wildly inconsistent with their co-parenting responsibility. This sometimes leaves the mother no choice but to painfully pull the plug on the relationship all together, because the father's inconsistent presence proves to be more painful than his departure. (Read Day 1 of "31 Days of Wisdom" by Dr. Jonathan Shaw.)

For this particular post, I'd like to illuminate mass incarceration as a reason for absentee fathers. We have entirely too many of our black and Latino men behind bars. 

According to the NAACP Criminal Justice Fact Sheet, in 2008, US prisons were comprised of 58% African American & Hispanic males. How is that possible when we only make up approximately 25% of the US population?
 If this country invested more funds into mental health care than the penal system, I strenuously believe we'd have more of our men raising families than raising bail. The Fact Sheet states that about 70 billion dollars are spent on corrections yearly. Prisons and jails consume a growing portion of the nearly $200 billion we spend annually on public safety. From the way I look at it, a portion of these funds should be allocated toward mental health care for the sake of rehabilitation. What "offenders" need is rehabilitation. Prison has not been proven as a rehabilitation for behavior, as two-thirds of prisoners, history shows, will reoffend. 
HELLO US of A!!! Direct some of these funds toward mental health and quit expanding the prison system!

Mass incarceration reflects the old caste system of slavery. Yes we were oppressed and forced into free labor. But on a larger scale, this system separated Men from their families, which in turn, destroyed the family nucleus. From slavery, we transitioned into another caste called Jim Crow. Pay close attention to the correlation between Jim Crow and present day mass incarceration. Under Jim Crow, African Americans were denied the right to vote & participate in jury service, discriminated against in opportunities for education & employment, legally denied housing, food stamps, and other public benefits.
According to Michelle Alexander's  "The New Jim Crow", mass incarceration serves as a redesigned racial caste system that seems to be history repeating.
Once labeled a felon in present day United States, a criminal is subject to the same legalized discrimination as during Jim Crow. A felon is denied the right to vote & participate in jury service, discriminated against in opportunities for education & employment, legally denied housing, food stamps, and other public benefits.
From me personally knowing drug dealers, some who I call brothers, I can understand how some of them choose to remain involved  with illegal activity to provide for their families. Please understand that I am in no way shape or form advocating this lifestyle. What I am saying, unapologetically, is that if I was involved in drug trafficking and had a felony attached to my name, and was legally discriminated against in public benefits that affords me the opportunity to excel and provide for my family, I would stay right in the drug business and milk it for every dollar it's worth. The risk factor would be a possible return to prison.
This was the mindset behind the Reagan administrations "War on Drugs". I'm highlighting drugs among other forms of criminal activity because, since 1982 when Ronald Reagan officially announced the "Drug War", drug convictions have accounted for the majority of the increase of the US penal population. In less than 30 years the numbers grew from 300,000 to 2 million impacting from the drug war. 

In "The New Jim Crow" Michelle Alexander informs us that "The racial dimension of mass incarceration is it's most striking feature. No other country in the world imprisons so many of it's racial or ethnic minorities. The United States imprisons a larger percentage of its black population than South Africa did at the height of the apartheid. In Washington, D.C., our nations capitol, it is estimated that 3 out of 4 young black men (and nearly all those in the poorest neighborhoods) can expect to serve time in prison. Similar rates of incarceration can be found in black communities across America. 
These stark disparities cannot be explained by rates of drug crime. Studies show that people of all colors use and sell illegal drugs at remarkable similar rates. If there are significant differences in the surveys to be found, they frequently suggest that whites, particularly white youth, are more likely to engage in drug crime than people of color. That is not what one would guess, however, when entering our nations prisons and jails, which are overflowing with black and brown drug offenders. In some states, black men have been admitted to prison on drug charges at rates twenty to fifty times greater than those of white men. And in major cities wracked by the drug war, as many as 80 percent of young African American men now have criminal records and are this subject to legalized discrimination for the rest of their lives. These young men are part of a growing undercaste, permanently locked up and locked out if mainstream society."

With these alarming stats and historical facts in mind, Something's Gotta Give!
Our men need to be home raising FAMILIES, not raising hell in prison.
Mass incarceration keeps our homes imbalanced, which in turn, keeps us from the promise from Ephesians of a long life. If we want to see a generation of young men that will live with integrity and purpose, past the age of 21, there has to be a solution to keep our men in the homes, to lead and guide our young men on how to live Life on Purpose. 

I'm in total solidarity with the movement to #BringBackOurGirls. Today, I sound the alarm to #BringBackOurFathers

Monday, April 28, 2014

Internal Inferno


PASSION is that thing that drives you. It attracts and draws you to a targeted point. What I absolutely Love about PASSION is that it pushes you when you don't want to be pushed. As a result, it keeps you on your toes and ahead of the game.

But lately I've developed a hatred for PASSION. What I absolutely Hate about PASSION is when what you desire is in the wrong season, it can cause some internal damage. You start to make decisions based off your emotions rather than your instincts. It's frustrating to want something now, but can't have it till an unknown time in the future (God's time). 
It is the equivalent of having a fire that cannot be tamed. Fire that cannot be tamed is hazardous to anything in it's circumference. Because that fire, or PASSION that's burning within you does not have the  proper outlet to function, you'll enter a season of fighting an Internal Inferno.

It'll feel as if your PASSION is doing more harm than good. During this Internal Inferno, the essence of YOU is affected by the fire, and parts of your nature will experience burn out.
Your joy starts to burn out, your creativity burns out, your fortitude burns out, your tenacity burns out, your discipline burns out, your prayer life burns out, your focus burns out, your energy burns out...Even your love for people burns out....along with so many other traits that you identify with on a day to day basis.
Please note that it doesn't all burn out at once. You just look up one day ask God, "What happened to me? How did I become so depressed and frustrated with life, when I used to be the life of the party? When did I become so cynical?" 
And at this point, you become sensitive to things you usually dismiss. You used to just keep it moving when things or people bother you, but now you can't wait for someone to step on your toes so you can go OFF!!!....just so you can have an excuse to curse and get out of character. It's an Internal Inferno!!! 

You don't like who you've become in that season. It doesn't suit your nature, calling, and purpose.
That fire has caused a lot of internal damage. It's like going back into a house that was on fire. You would like to go back and save your most important belongings, but they were caught up in the fire before you got to it.
From this Internal Inferno, you try to save and reclaim the essence of who you are, but most of it was caught up in the fire. You want your joy back, but it was caught up in the want your tenacity back, but it was caught up in the want your fortitude an will power back, but it was caught up in the fire. 

Now, the focus is no longer building the vision that you're so PASSIONATE about. You're now focused on building stability. You've exerted so much energy trying to tame the fire that you just want to live, and function as a Man/Woman. 
When you rebuild a house that was on fire, you don't build using the parts that were build with new parts. 
After your Internal Inferno, you can't reconstruct yourself looking for the parts of you that were burned in the fire. You still need those parts, but they have to be new for you to function. And those new parts can only come supernaturally from God. He make all things new, and I know this to be true. (Read 2nd Corinthians 5:17)

Here's my question, as we wrap this up.
How do you function on a day to day bases with no outlet for your PASSION? Remember, you only tamed the fire called never put it out and quite frankly, you can't. You didn't light the fire, (God did. Only he can't put out what he lit.) 
Because it's not burning wild like it used to, doesn't mean the fire no longer exists. If you've ever walked into a house after a fire, you can still spot some flames in a little corner that's waiting to spread.

PASSION, I love you an hate you at the very same time.