Tag Archives: social justice

Calling It What Is

https://youtu.be/-RV0kUChjG8

what is IT? What may start out as early morning ramblings will undoubtably evolve into either something very true or something incredibly pungent.

Look beyond the story that is told. Even the smallest lies can have an alarming impact. History is told by the winners, but it’s the victims who rue the day.

Extremes: you’re either in or out; it’s black or white; either you’ll stand for IT or you’ll fall for anything…

Propaganda!

We are talking but no one is listening. The “fake news” is only real when it’s happening to you. The survivors only survived because they had a choice. But those who didn’t survive could not choose. But some choose to tell the story of the victim because it pushes their agenda. It makes them feel but requires far less sacrifice.

We can either become victims or we victimize. The oppressed or the oppressor. The law of hierarchy. Survival of the fittest. Eat or be eaten. Hunt or be hunted. Who IS Maslow?

Anyway…

Is there no middle ground? No lukewarm?? Must we take a position on EvErY thing?!?

(Breathe)

I can’t breathe because you’re choking me. I can’t live in peace because there’s too much noise. The noise is in my head AND all around me. You too are making noise. That’s why you can’t hear me. I’m right HERE!

Stop. Wait. Go back and click on the link above. And just listen…

Listen to what’s not being said.

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Umi

One of my all time favorite Mos Def Songs, “Umi”Positive Change

I don’t wanna write this down,
I wanna tell you how I feel right now
I don’t wanna take no time to write this down,
wanna tell you how I feel right now…

Tomorrow may never come…

For you or me, Life is not promised…

Tomorrow may never show up…

For you and me…

This life is not promised

I ain’t no perfect man. I’m trying to do, the best that I can,

With what it is I have.

I ain’t no perfect man. I’m trying to do, the best that I can,

With what it is I have

Put my heart and soul into this song.

I hope you feel me.

From where I am, to wherever you are…

I mean that sincerely.

Tomorrow may never come…

For you and me…

Life is not promised…

Tomorrow may never appear…

You better hold this very moment very close to you [right now]

Very close to you [right now]

So close to you, So- close to you

[your moment in history is right now!]

Don’t be affraid, to let it shine

My Umi said shine your light on the world.

Shine your light for the world to see.

My Abi said shine your light on the world.

Shine your light for the world to see[I want black people to be free, to be free, to be free].

My Abi said shine your light on the world [Want black people to be free, to be free, to be free].

Shine your light for the world to see

[Want black people to be free, to be free, to be free].

My Umi said shine your light on the world

[Want black people to be free, to be free, to be free]

Shine your light for the world to see

[Want black people to be free, to be free…]

Sometimes I get discouraged.

I look around and, things are so weak.

People are so weak

Sometimes;  Sometimes I feel like crying.

Sometimes my heart gets heavy.

Sometimes I just want to leave and fly away [fly fly fly, like a dove].

Sometimes I don’t know what to do with myself [ow!]

Passion takes over me.

I feel like a man Going insane Losing my brain…

Trying to maintain…Doing my thang.

Hey hey hey hey hey.

Put my heart and soul into this y’all.

I hope you feel me.

Where I am, to wherever you are…

Sometimes I don’t want to be bothered.

Sometimes I just want a quiet life,

with Me and my babies, me and my lady.

Sometimes I don’t want to get into no war

[Black people to be free, to be free…].

Sometimes I don’t wanna be a soldier.

Sometimes I just wanna be a man, but

Umi said shine your light on the world.

Shine your light for the world to see.

My Abi said shine your light on the world.

Shine your light for the world to see

[I want black people to be free, to be free, to be free].

My dreamers(?) said shine your light on the world

[Want black people to be free, to be free, to be free].

Shine your light for the world to see

[Want black people]My elders said shine your light on the world

[Hey hey]Shine your light for the world to see

I want black people to be free, to be free, to be free.

All my people to be free, to be free, to be free.

Oh black people to be free, to be free, to be free.

Oh black people to be free, to be free, to be free

That’s all that matters to me

Black people unite and let’s all get down.

Gotta have what,Gotta have that love,

Peace and understanding.

One God, one light, One man, one voice, one mic.

Black people unite come on and do it right.

Black people unite come on and do it right.

Black people unite come on and get down.

Gotta have what,Love, peace and understanding.

One God, one voice, one life, One man, gon’ shine my light

Black people unite, now hop up and do it right.

Black people unite, now come on and do it right.

Yeah baby that’s what I like.

Yeah baby that’s what I like.

Yeah baby that’s what I like…

Umi

Boys or Men In Law Enforcement

I had an epiphany while waiting at the Wawa.  A detective I’d worked with nearly twenty years ago walked into the Wawa where I get my weekly coffee.  It’s my Friday morning treat.  But this morning, unlike others, I garnished an idea that had to be explored immediately.  What if cops were not hired until AFTER they were 35 years old?  Thirty-five is the cut off for new recruits.  Most seasoned officers have scaled the ranks and are preparing for retirement by the time they’re in their late 30s.  By age 45, most officers are too young for the retirement home obviously, but young enough to embark on a new career. The wisdom that a mature officer must have… 

Not knowing the statistics involving the average age of officers accused of misconduct, I can only recall the emphasis on empathy. The civil injustice argument is that our law enforcement community is out of touch with the people that it serves. Rookies are so eager to make their mark that empathy is not as coveted as aggression. Making the arrest gets the recognition that restoring community confidence lacks.  But what if these cops already had the experience in the community that was not embalmed in distrust, racial inequity, or profiling?  An older cop (who usually aspires to be a detective or ranking officer) is more likely to deescalate a situation.  Police don’t just arrest criminals. They are community servants.  There’s an opportunity to lead a community and to be a positive example.  Cops are the ones who respond to all types of distress calls.  Caught in traffic with a woman in labor?  Grandpa wandered off again? Noise ordinance violations?  Who do we call?  We are never disappointed when the police arrive regardless of the officers’ age.  But wouldn’t we agree that a seasoned officer has a more realistic approach?

In a more intense scenario, which officer would you want to respond?   In a domestic violence call? Community disturbance? How about an attempted larceny?  A recruit straight out of the academy (or with only a few years experience) has a lot to learn about long term implications.  Since when does a year of physical training, days of class lectures, or hours of practice at the shooting range qualify anyone to effectively manage a crisis?  Are they equally qualified to mediate a dispute?  The answer is yes according to past practice and societal norms.

With all of this (mis)information spinning in my head, I approached the plain clothes cop who was wearing his badge on his belt opposite his cuffs. I let the fellow behind me in line scoot ahead just so I could chat with the detective. Omitting an introduction, I was blunt.  I asked him, “do you suppose that with all that is going on with our failing pension system, it would be more prudent to be starting a career at our age rather than preparing to retire?”   He responded gently, “pardon me?”  I introduced myself as merely another public employee. I took a different approach.  He was not annoyed.  Seemingly intrigued, he waited for me to explain.  I continued, “do you suppose there would be fewer cases of misconduct if the officers were a little older?”

He said, “well, I hadn’t given it much thought”.  This was probably the most honest answer he could have given.  Why not?  A forced answer is not necessarily a good answer. Who was I to ask, anyway?  I thanked him for listening and thanked him again for serving the community as I paid for my coffee.


I walked away wondering if he would ponder why I had engaged him. Would he follow me to my car?  Would he write down my tag number?  Was it probable that he might remember working with me long ago when I was a cadet?  Our hair is gray now and our memory is selective.  Did it even matter?  Even after I no longer worked in law enforcement, the sight of uniformed officers intimidated me. Today was very different. The detective was no more thrown off than I was. Perhaps I planted a seed. Or maybe the entire conversation would be discarded.

WTFUND

What the Fund?!?!?  I’ve watched.  I’ve participated.  I’ve become an activist. I’ve contributed to the union.  I’ve supported the lobby for education. I’ve done what I was suposed to do.  I’ve done what I was asked. I’ve followed the law!  I’ve religiously prayed about the situation, and every set back has forced by faith to grow–because I know who the victor is in the end.  I’ve been ethical, logical, and rational.

I’ve voted for the underdog in every election in the hopes of positive change. I’ve gone so far as to BECOME the underdog in my own election AND WON–so that I could be the voice of the the residents, the voters, the children, the victims, and the dedicated employees.  I represent the educators and the students, the parents and the grandparents, the academics and the vocational scholars.  I represent the volunteers–as I should because I am one (too).  Winning was the easy part, but fighting the others in power was the challenge.
We were winning!  We had hope.  We are still here, but the fight is not over!

Now that my pension has been corrupted, misused, and taken away I must take a hard look as to how I plan for my future.  Our life savings that were supposed to be secure, invested, and available has been given away. Not stolen!  Given away without our consent…

Am I supposed to continue my fight?  For what???  There’s nothing left to fight for.  We are in ruins because of the leaders WE elected.  They were wrong!  But we were wrong for electing them.  NEVER AGAIN!  They thought they could do what THEY thought was acceptable. They mistook our silence for consent. Wrong!  They ignored us!  And now we ALL pay the price!

Am I supposed to write to my elected officials now?  I’ve written my congressman. I’ve tweeted my governor. I’ve “thunderclapped” and memed my way to become that labor activist. I’ve Facebooked and instagrammed. I’ve delegated and public spoke. I’ve abandoned what is grammatically and academically acceptable to try something innovative and inventive to no avail. And now what?  Frustration?  No!  Determination!!!

We didn’t get here because someone gave us something.  Advanced placement classes, SATs, college acceptance, all-nighters, study groups, student loans, college work-study, struggles to get home on holiday, cut funds, cafeteria food, GREs, and more student loans. Deferments, and forgiveness; job searches and rejections.  And finally a career in education with a promise of a comfortable retirement only thirty years away.  Perfect!  Let’s buy a house. Let’s start a family.  Let’s root our lives right here in New Jersey.  For what?!?  To have it all taken away???

And now the next big ideas develop.  “Hey let’s do a work action.”  “No wait, let’s all take the same day off!”  I’ve got an idea… Let’s shut the freak up.  Just kidding!  “How about we all take out pension loans (and pay application fees and interest). That will show them!”  I’m sick.  I already pay hundreds of dollars per pay for the last pension loan that I HAD to take out to get me through the summer. I’m already paying the increased rate!  In addition to all the other “garnishments” of my wages (dues, healthcare, taxes, support, PENSION contribution, loans, etc), I can’t escape my pension loan payments unless I quit. And if I quit, the IRS taxes me for unreported income. Brilliant idea.

This essay is written in anger. I did not do what we teach  (“wait a few days before we publish, children”).  I feel!  I’m disappointed. I’m angry. And tomorrow can’t get here fast enough. Happy June, my fellow educators!  It’s time to start that non-pension-contributing summer job that pays less than a livable wage, with no benefits, and a hefty tax liability. Doing so makes me stronger?  No! Doing so only makes me hope for September–when I came come back to my career and be abused some more.

My Student Claims That They’re Racists

How could I dispute his claim. I too have walked that road. It wasn’t pleasant. Instead of argue with him, I embraced his claim. I shared my story. I encouraged him to prove them wrong. I explained that we have a responsibility to ourselves to reject their projection. We have a responsibility to ourselves to succeed in spite of their prediction. They made the rules. We will fight their rules. We will claim what is ours! We will rule instead.

It is likely that by the end of this story, we will coexist. But not until there is a shift in power. Not until we have made the same mistake (unfortunately). And not until we know the responsibility of carrying society. Not until they’ve experienced our pain. My hope is that it will not take four hundred years for us to recognize that the burden of power has a price tag far too high. That power will corrupt us too (absolutely). Are we no wiser? Can we not learn from their mistake? Can we learn before it’s too late? We waited too long to cry “racist!” They see it coming and are already prepared to fight for what they perceive is their’s–what was always their’s. “We’re losing!” they claim. Well, who’s winning?tumblr_nd3nn3nGRZ1r7m9kyo1_1280

The face of America is changing.  It’s not at all how we predicted.  We’ve been wrong so many times, and yet we insist on being right this time.  If ignorance is bliss, are we living in a state of constant euphoria?  It’s been suggested that to move ahead, we must look back to where we’ve been.  It’s not a good look.  It’s not getting any better either.  If the future is an arrival on this road we’re traveling now, we may have already experienced the best that society has to offer.  Not to put too fine a point on it, we’re fucked!

Not because of the face of change, but because of what was lost in the struggle.  We fought for the wrong thing.  What we have won is the prize that we currently have–a culture of misfits.  We are free now.  Free from what?  Tyranny?  Free from oppression?  Do we now posses a freedom to act?  To react?  Overact?  Fact?  Fiction?   Where are we???

We are in a new state of consciousness.  Taking a positive position, we have arrived at a place in time that allows us to reflect and predict simultaneously.  We don’t like what we see, and our predictions are vague.  We reserve the right to change our destiny.  Like so many science fiction tales that warn of mankind’s demise if we do not change course, we are on the cusp of greatness.  Our ability to communicate is paramount and on par with our willingness to share ideas   Yes, we are on the cusp of greatness.  And we are about to fall off the edge…

The story of racism has now transformed itself into yet another rant of where we are as a nation.  My student’s claim is no less important than my own realization that a role reversal has occurred.  The teacher has become the student.  He doesn’t need me to educate him on the principals of “us verses them.”  His experience is no more limited than my own.   They ARE us.  The shift occurred, but the condition has not changed.  Human suffering is human suffering.  When we become them, there will still be suffering.  Meanwhile, instead of becoming wiser, we are becoming resilient.

Positively Negative

polarity

Why does it take a catastrophe like this in order for America to hear our cries?” –Danielle Williams, Baltimore protester.

If we knew 30 days ago where we would be today, would we have behaved differently? We’ve witnessed how other regions of our nation respond when public policy does not reflect the needs of the community. “Civil Unrest” is a term coined by those who are tired of the status quo. It is also feigned by those who resist it. Freedom has NEVER been offered without a struggle because those in power are already free to do what they want. We want to act in a positive manner? To do so is to takes action! 

Wait!  Thirty days ago?  We haven’t recovered from the last acts of social injustice!  Statistically there were in excess of 360 police-involved deaths last year alone.  With a wrongful death averaging almost one per day, how has this not become a national epidemic. Far more people are affected by injustice than Ebola and Mad Cow Disease combined!  But disease (no matter how limited or minimal) has everyone concerned because disease knows no ethnic, cultural, class, religious, gender, or age barrier.  There’s the rub!  Anyone can fall victim.  If it can happen to any one of us, we have a united concern!  Division dissolves. This is probably why zombie movies are so popular.

BUT THIS IS NOT SCIENCE FICTION.  THIS IS REALITY!!!

negativity

Only days ago I saw the news clip of Protester Danielle Williams explaining to the media that the frustration of the people is a direct result of a failure to act.  All Americans have witnessed and endured as much as they are willing to tolerate.  We have passed the breaking point (on countless occasions).The American people have tolerated inappropriate behavior since the American Revolution.  The government’s unwillingness to represent, promote, and provide for the needs of the people is what spawned the revolution. The Revolution ended a tyranny that lasted far longer than it should have.  The world will no longer be threatened by an “American Superpower” that fights for freedom abroad.  Instead the world is watching our nation implode.  Once a model of democracy, now a vision of division.  Us verses Them.  What we have here is either a revolution or an evolution.  What’s the difference?  One is violent.  The other is peaceful and natural.  I’d prefer the latter.

My prediction is that on the other side of the protests, the policy changes, and the police retraining;  there will be a shift in power that does not improve the overall status quo.  We, who’ve been mistreated, will rise up and claim a nation (for the first time) that was always ours.  But claiming what belongs to us and protecting what is ours are two very different acts.  When will we be any more protective of human rights?  Will we revise or REcreate systems in a manner that will lift up the rights of ALL living beings?  Or will we simply conclude in the knowledge that at least OUR people will no longer fall victim to brutality? Tough questions.