Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Forwards ever, backwards never.

"Forward Ever, Backwards Never."
(My father's favorite quote.)

Seko Benjamin Eric VArner
09/22/2010

It's one year later. I lost my writing voice a year ago. A "other-father" of mine read one of my blogs a few weeks ago and encouraged me to keep writing as he was touched by the sentiments. "It's publish-able; For-a-price publish-able." he encouraged knowing how money focused I can be at times. I couldn't raise the courage to admit to myself, or to him, that I lost my voice. I lost my voice when my Father passed.

As one who continues aspects of traditional Afrikan culture I've been 'Pouring Libation' for over 30 years now. When my friend Juan Orso passed, I poured libation. When Grover Washington Jr. passed I poured. When Sean Sharpe passed I poured. When Elder Clarence Motsongo Vincent passed I poured. In the shock of Mother Gloria's passing I poured. I actually pour libation daily. Sometimes frequently. When Dad passed I felt as if I were being poured. 40 days after Dad's funeral I visited his earthly womb. I poured. Today I just feel empty. I miss my Mother-Gloria, I miss my dad. I just feel depleted.

Today the Wifey and I were clicking away on seperate computers as the television that was watching us was showing Spike Lee's documentary about If the creek don't rise.." Last year Wifey and I returned from New Orleans on 9/21/2009. Dad crossed the bar on 09/22/2009. While I was emotionally battered from watching the difficult footage I remembered the depression that sacked me when Hurricane Katrina occurred.

When Katrina occured I became continually physically sick, was emotionally depleted, and felt such a loss of life. One of the sacrifices of having a connection with the ancestral world is at times I feel when people are sucked into that exsistence. I know my fellow Christians may not understand. I've come to believe that as one focuses upon Yeshua (Jesus), the ability to feel the connection to other aspects of the spiritual realm is removed. My fellow Conscious believers may understand. I simply felt those Americans, those African-descendants, those New Orleanians, those humans, those other parts of me being dragged 'unpeacefully' into the spiritual world.

As the television watched us the Wifey began reading out-loud, as she often does when she's on the computer, and I tried to begin to listen to her. She then stated "Papi' died on the anniversary of the Emanicipation Proclamation." I thought "He's finally free."
(photo - Untitled by Henry Louis Stephens 1863, A man reading the newspaper about the Emancipation Proclimation)

Yesterday I found a casette tape of a speech I did for Youth day at Providence United Church of Christ on 6/6/1993. The speech was called "What's the 411." In this speech I began by performing a public Libation ritual in the sanctury. I then discussed how as one becomes older one gets closer to GOD and one shouldn't be afraid of death. I actually stated "We should embrace death as that's when we become closer to God." Listening to the speech I laughed at the level of quasi 5% (Nation of Gods and Earths) Hip-Hop lingo I used to use, and how radical I must have seemed, and the level of devotion I had at that time to "improving the lives of people of African descent to improve the United States of America." I was a great speaker then. I was on the road to becoming a great person then. As I look at my current life, I feel empty. My passion is gone, Mother-Gloria is gone, my father is gone, my voice is gone.
Bless-fully I continued listening to the casette after my speech ended. After my message was the voice of my father. He prayed, sang hymns from the pulpit, and ended the Sunday service. T'was refreshing hearing his voice. T'was refreshing feeling his presence.
Today my father is free. A year ago he became free. I've learned that I needed to embrace his freedom. I needed to embrace his death as his freedom. I also sat down and cried like a baby after the Wifey stated "Papi died on the anniversaryof the Emancipation Proclamation." As I take my Mother to his gravesite today, as I pour libation today. I'll proclaim that he has been emancipated. He is free.
Fresh water keeps me well;
Fresh water opens the way;
Fresh water is my sustainer;
Fresh water is from above.
I thank GOD for Fresh Water.
Fresh water in life;
Fresh water in Yeshua;
Fresh water in the form of those who walked before us.
Fresh water in the form of Mother-Gloria,
Fresh water in the form of DJ Law (crossed 09/19/2010),
Fresh water in the form of my Father.
I prasie you, Almighty, for fresh water.
Ashee, Ashee, Amen.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Postscript:
I think I found my voice again.
"Forward ever, backwards never."
As my father used to say.

Monday, December 7, 2009

A Scottish rememberance

A HERO IN HIS LIFETIME:
A TRIBUTE TO REV. DR SAMUEL LEE VARNER,
by Yvonne Morland (Iona, Scotland)

‘I’m still concerned, and I still have great love and admiration for what the Community has always stood for … the Community influenced my thinking about issues, about the Bible, about theological reflections on the Bible, and also the political witness that pastors should make.’
Sam Varner, speaking in 2004 when being interviewed for Iona Community’s history archive

It was a rare privilege to meet Sam Varner, who was, from 1963 until his death on 22 September, 2009, aged 71 years, the only African American Member of the Iona Community. I was lucky enough to do so in 2004 by the happy chance that he lived very close to my sister in Virginia Beach, USA and someone was needed to interview him for the Community’s history archive.

Having heard many anecdotes and tales about George MacLeod, it was notable to hear Sam’s memories and reflections of him.

It was as a thoughtful, committed scholar in his second year of seminary that Sam struck up a correspondence with George, after being given and reading in a single sitting his book We Shall Rebuild, and having been inspired by the famous passage about Christ being ‘crucified on the garbage heap’.

‘I was fascinated by George MacLeod’s thoughts and ideas and reflections, theologically, and his biblical knowledge and information. And that famous quote! So after that I wrote him and told him what I thought, and we carried on a two-year trans-Atlantic communication about his book and about his work.’

The fact of the correspondence amazed a professor acquaintance of Sam’s, who had sent groups of students to Iona. He was even more amazed when George wrote to say: ‘Sam, if you’re so excited and so interested in what we’re doing, why don’t you come to Scotland and study with us for a year and join the Community?’

The professor gave Sam his full support to make the trip, and he arrived in Scotland in 1960, aged just 22. He planned to spend a year working with the Community – but ended up staying five years!
Sam told me that he felt that this time away from home saved his life. Literally. Many people in his community in Alabama were being badly beaten up or even killed. Sam, who as a child had witnessed the lynching of four black men by white mobs, was active with Martin Luther King in the civil rights movement, young as he was, and knew that every day could bring tragedy to one’s door.
When he arrived on Iona, the Community was in the throes of the preparation for the 1400th anniversary of the coming of St Columba, and the arrival of the New Men to start their training coincided with the June Community Week and the celebrations. George MacLeod conducted an open-air communion service – a huge ecumenical event that brought many guests to the Abbey and island.
Once work started, it was necessary for the New Men to make several trips across the Sound to collect granite for the rebuilding of the west range, a task that Sam played full part in. Community member Jack Laidlaw recalls:

‘Sam managed to get to the bath in the Abbot’s House before any other of the New Men, who on at least one occasion threw cold water over the partition to hurry him up!’
Jack Laidlaw again:

‘Soon after Sam started his time on Iona, the Wynant Volunteers arrived and Sam was confronted with affluent, middle-class white Americans. They learned from him a little more about the struggle for civil rights going on in their own country. For many it was the first time they had met and listened to a fellow American who was black. There was the moment when Sam was leading worship in the Abbey and froze because, as he explained later, all he could see was a mass of white faces, and he experienced a flashback to an angry mob at a civil rights demonstration when he had been attacked.

‘He did tell us about one time when he had been imprisoned and the treatment he had to endure when, without water to drink, the only moisture he had was the guards’ spit soaking his shirt.’
Of people in the Community, George MacLeod obviously made the biggest impact on Sam. But in our interview he also spoke of Ralph Morton, Donald Rennie, Cameron Wallace and David Jarvie.
He worked as an assistant parish minister with Fergus MacPherson in Greenock, until Fergus was called away by Kenneth Kaunda to be his Minister of Education in Northern Rhodesia/Zambia. Sam was asked to stay on in sole charge for two years, and then stayed for a further two years with Donald Rennie after he took up the charge. He said in our discussions that in Scotland he did not feel he was discriminated against because of his colour, on Iona, in Greenock or anywhere else. He was told it was more of an issue which of the ‘Old Firm’ teams he supported!
At the time of his arrival in Scotland, Sam was a member of the Zion Methodist Church, one of the protest Churches from the time of slavery. For most of his ministry, though, and till the end of his life, he was a pastor in the United Church of Christ.

The obituary posted on the website of the funeral home in Chesapeake, Virginia included the following about his life’s work:
Sam was a retired UCC Southern Conference Association Minister, retired Clinician with the City of Chesapeake, adjunct professor at Thomas Nelson Community College, and Seminary professor at Regent University.

Having asked him in 2004 to describe his current work, he told me:

‘Well, my work now is somewhat like a bishop. I have fifty-six churches … Twenty-five or twenty-six of these churches are predominantly African/American churches, and thirty of these churches are predominantly European/American churches, and one of the churches is the Filipino/American church. And my job is to be a counsellor and a pastor to the pastors of these churches, and to assist them in their work … I preach in a lot of the churches, I participate in all the Ordination Services, all the Installation Services … These are the kind of things I’m doing right now.’
Sadly, although he kept up teaching, preaching and counselling for as long as possible, Sam’s health, early on affected by severe asthma, presented him with continuing and debilitating challenges. He became more and more immobile and his sight deteriorated, until he was registered blind. He was lovingly and well cared for by his family: his wife, Ruth, daughter, Elizabeth, and sons Seko-Benjamin and Daniel, who gave him six grandchildren to also continue his considerable legacy.

Sam was never able to fulfil his wish to return to Iona and Scotland. As we all know, though, he did witness the election of the first African American President of the United States, and he must have felt vindicated for all those years of struggle.

Speaking to him by telephone on the day of the Inauguration, Sam was animated and excited, and when I referred to the long hard grind to reach such a significant point, he responded as though his life had just been a ‘walk in the park’!

His faith in the power of the Holy Spirit was immense and he was an inspiration. I shall always be grateful for the chance to meet him and to make a personal connection with such an important history of justice and peacemaking, which Sam continued to embody throughout his long ministry.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Not just a hero, my hero.

What a difference a year makes. 10/19/2008 We shared a meal, family, and my pops. He received a cup, an Obama t-shirt, and other gifts. His birthday cake held two candles, a number seven followed by a number one. Today, one year later, his birthday cake was without candles. Today we shared a meal, some tears, and shared family.

Next to our table a young girl smiled widely as the waiters gathered around her table sing "Happy Birthday to you !" Later an older man surrounded by his family grinned as the waiters serenaded him. Each time our family clapped for the celebrant, then slowly hung our heads as the jubilance left. My son began..."All the children should say someting about Papi." My son shared a wisdom beyond his years, my daughter reluctantly passed. The four year old fraternal neice shared her memories, invoking a smile a relief from the moment. My elder fraternal neice passed. The adults chimed in.

We were cuting the cake, my brother and I, hoping to remember that the family remains intact in his physcial absence when I noticed that the cake I ordered held no candles. In place of the numbers seven and two were two dates............ Sunrise 10.19.1937, Sunset 09.22.2009. This year held no jubilation, this year held no joy. This year had no presents, this year was without his presence. The cake read "In rememberance of you." As I looked up to make a toast to my father I saw my elder-neice nestled under the arms of my mother as Mom was being comforted by my son. All were crying. The entire table wept together. I missed last year.

Last year my elder fraternal-neice stood a read prose created to celebrate Dad's 71st birthday. She ended by saying "You're a hero. Not just a hero, my hero." My sentiments, excatly. I miss my hero. (Press the play button for the below video).

video

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Dr. Varner will always remain

Metropolitan Wesley A.M.E. Zion Church
1712 North Capitol Street, NW
Washington, D.C. 20002
202-483-3262

Rev. Dr. Heath Cheek, Sr. Pastor
Rev. Sharon Cheek, Co-Pastor

9/26/09


To the family of the late Rev. Dr. Samuel Lee Varner,

Words are truly inadequate to express the life of one who was truly blessed.
A servant of the Most High whose name Dr. Varner would convey and be an example in his living showing the lost The Way.

Royalty in stature yet he kept humility at his side, along with a beautiful woman he made his wife and two sons and a daughter to guide. His imprint has been left in those who knew him best the transition he makes is an honor for Dr. Varner has undoubtedly earned his rest.

He is among those great clouds of witnesses the spirits of the past, an honored elder an ancestor whose spirit will always last.

Words are truly inadequate and it is hard for me to express, yet I was one he did encourage to always do my best. Friendship is truly essential that I doubly share with his son, Seko-Ben, we experienced a great deal together and share the joy of calling each other friend.

To the family rest assured that the LORD feels your heart felt cries, when the days become overwhelming angels will be sent to dry your eyes. A portion of Dr. Varner will always remain in each and every heart and the lessons of love he taught, from your lives never let them part.

With the love of Christ,
Rev. Dr. Heath L. Cheek

Friday, September 25, 2009

My father is now my ancestor

Dr. Rev. Samuel Lee Varner: Sunrise 10/19/1937. Sunset 09/22/2009.

9.22.2009 I was awoken suddenly at 1:37 a.m. I couldn't determine what awoke me. I couldn't immediately return to sleep. 10 minutes or so later I was snoring. At 1:51 a.m. I'm awakened by a phone call. I hear my mother's muffled voice crying hysterically. My sister in-law then appears on the line saying "Seko, Papi's gone. He's gone."

I couldn't breathe......... "Are you saying that he's dead ? Is that what you're saying ?" hoping that Dad was moved to another room in the Rehab' Center. Life nudged me and I fought back throwing the telephone receiver at the mirror shocking my wife awake. "What, what is it Seko ?" I couldn't answer........Too busy screaming.......Too busy crying.....I wanted to break everything in sight. I ran out of the room yelling and grabbed a lamp on the way out hurling it towards the window. Rhonda's trying to calm me down while I run down the stairs and out of the house screaming. "Don't drive, don't get in the car" she begged as I ran down the streets of my neighborhood. I had to get somewhere where I couldn't break anything else. Finally I fell to my knees on a patch of grass near the main street. After a while I sobbingly returned to my house, dried my eyes, and gathered myself........ Until I looked into the worried face of my 7 year old daughter. The look on her face weakened me as I fell to the floor crying and trying to catch my breath. I couldn't look at my son, I didn't want to make eye contact with him as I couldn't be a strong supportive father at this moment in time. I hated that he saw me completely floored and unable to control myself. I tried to breathe to calm myself but I couldn't. I felt as if I lost the reason to breathe.

Eight hours ago I returned from an anniversary trip to New Orleans with my wife of twelve years. I planned to see Dad as soon as I returned, but became wrapped up in seeing a few counseling client's instead thinking that I'd be able to see Dad tomorrow. Tomorrow never came, tomorrow will never come. Enroute to the nursing home to hold the lifeless hand of my father I sent the text: "My father is now my ancestor."

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Then (1972) Pops & I:
Circa 1987 I was in a Hampton University college psychology class and our instructor self-nicknamed "Mr. R.E.O." (Read Early & Often to pass my class) was encouraging us to debate each other. As the discussion turned to 'fathers' a classmate stated with extreme anger that "Fathers ain't nothing. We don't need fathers. Ain't nobody's father ever done nothing for them." I shared how my pops had cooked most of my life and had been in our house everyday except when he took the family our of town. I ended by saying how I enjoyed my pops' food until the #@tch interrupted me yelling out "I'm glad you grew up in the Huckstable's Home but the rest of us had to live in reality. " As I sat there confused I slowly realized how blessed I had been, how much this #@tch was gonna' pay for embarrassing me, and how much justified anger she showed for her mother's bad decisions. As the entire class erupted in laughter I attempted to respond by saying "I'm sorry that you grew up in the ........" stuttering I realized that I couldn't come back on her and be right. I sucked up the embarrassment and kept it moving. I kinda' laughed to myself, she was fat, unattractive, a female, and angry. There was no way I was gonna' win this war with words. A few seconds later on a young lady stated something nice about her father and a few other students agreed. The fat, unattractive, female kinda put her head down on the desk and then I felt a bit sorry for her. I also noted that she had some sexy legs for a fat unattractive female and she stopped being unattractive......... I digress...........
Now (2009) Pops:
All my life my pops has fathered me. (Not to leave Mother -Dear out but I talk about her in another blog). The last 8 months I've washed him, fed him, cleaned after him at times, and guided him with some financial decisions. He shared one day how he ended up having to care for his father, and now his first son was caring for him. My pops has become legally blind and is so sick sometimes that life surely feels like torture. I'm having problems sleeping and I'm over-eating and I realized the other night that I'm making myself sick.What's wild is how my son and daughter know how to say the wrong thing at the right time and make everything alright. Just when I begin to beat myself up comparing my son-status to my brother's son-status (he'll probably always win the "Best Child Award" if there is such a thing) or I begin to think about my pops becoming an ancestor, one of my kids walks up and hands me a handmade card/picture/structure that they made for me effectively washing away the depression. I know that I'll have future fears, pains, tears, and worries about my father - yet It's rejoicing to know that my kids will have a 'creation' up their sleeves to Daddy their Daddy.

Thanks be to Father Almighty, thanks be to the Son of Father Almighty, thanks to the ancestors. I love you Pops. I love you Moms, I love ya' kids.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

The Riot Starter

T'was the night before News Years (Roman Calendar December 31st, 2008) and we just picked up Pops to take him to go to the Watch Night Service. Mums didn't feel good and refused to go with us stating "I'll be fine right here." as she gently patted the bed she layed in. When Pops opened the door his pupils were dilated and he stood rocking back-and-forth trying to get his balance. His Glaucoma is kicking his tail, the surgery he recently had for his eyes seems to be in vain. The eye that didn't receive the surgery is now his "good" eye.


We walked out of the house, off the porch, and then made a wide circle towards the vehicle instead of walking directly to the truck. Instead of guiding him I let him find his way. It has to be depressing to loose your vision. He's facing the same thing his father faced.......Blindness. He shared with me a few days prior to Christmas how I'm fulfilling the same role he fulfilled for his father..... He became his father's eyes, I'm doing the same.....Reluctantly. I try as much as possible to allow Pops to accomplish anything he can with out treating him as a crippled man. As I fully want to guide him to the car as a normal person would move, he needs to be capable. He wants to be capable. He can get so cranky when he's helped to do things he can do for himself.


En route to the church Pops mentioned a friend of the family, Sarah Kinard, who is writing her thesis about her father and my Pops' Omega Psi Phi chapter brother John Kinard. John helped Pops cross into our Omega fold in 1958. Influenced by a man in his neighborhood Pops was originally interested in Alpha Phi Alpha but as one of the Alphas on campus showed an interest in Pops (in a different way) Pops decided against Alpha Phi Alpha. The Omegas knew that Pops was destined to walk in Purple and Gold and John Kinard opened the doorway. Years later they remained friends as John became the curator of the Anacostia Museum in Washington D.C. John and his family were frequent hosts to my family when I was young and I fondly remember eating Monkey Meat, Shark Meat, Octopus, and other exotic delicacies. Sara interviewed my Pops and reminded him that John and Pops help start a student riot on Livingston College's campus. According to Pops, who then shared the story: An another future man of Omega Psi Phi - Jesse Jackson Sr. (of I am somebody fame) and some other students held some sit-in demonstrations in North Carolina and the "white" citizens of Livingston North Carolina wanted to avoid having a similar situation. These citizens had been donating great sums of money to the historically Black College Livingston, and also the beginnings of the Food Lion Corporation had been supporting the College. A delegate from the citizens contacted the school and sharing their concerns about a possible sit-in stating that if such a sit-in occured in Livingston the citizens would remove their support and also could impact the funding received from Food Lion. The school's Chaplin contacted Pops and Mr. Kinard and encouraged them to act in the best interest of the school's funding. This Chaplin then drafted a letter written from the perspective of the students stating that they had no interest in holding a demonstration. Pops and John Kinard signed the letter with the implication that they authored the letter and the correspondence was published in the local newspaper calming the concerns of the "citizens". Pops then shared how the students gave he and John hell for their act of betrayal and then held a riot to "demonstrate" their anger on campus.


As Pop's story ended we drove up into the parking lot of New Life - Providence, the church that my wife and Kids having been visiting for over two years now. Their New Years Eve service had been heavily promoted in the church and included food and drinks prior to the service, a service, and food and drinks following the service. New Life is a mixed congregation and prides itself in being "Trans-ethnic" as it boasts membership consisting of people of many ethnicity's promoting that the body of Christ, and the Church accepts all people ethnically. This position of Trans-Ethnic initially turned me off, and now I could take it or leave it. Surprisingly this pastor, Pastor Dan Backens (photo to left) has often shared information I learned in my times frequenting Black studies groups such as the incorrect presentation of 3 Kings on the standard Christian Nativity scenes. Today as we walked in the sanctuary Pastor Dan surprised me and Pops by giving the Black History of the New Year's Eve (Watch Night) Service. I normally post to the e-group of the Imani Foundation each year a special historical note regarding going to church on New Years Eve. "The Watch Night Services in Black communities that we celebrate today can be traced back to gatherings on December31, 1862, also known as "Freedom's Eve." On that night, Blacks came together in churches and private homes all across the nation, anxiously awaiting news that the Emancipation Proclamation actually had become law.Then, at the stroke of midnight, it was January 1, 1863, and all slaves in the Confederate States were declared legally free. When the news was received, there were prayers, shouts and songs of joy as people fell to their knees and thanked God. Black folks have gathered in churches annually on New Year's Eve ever since, praising God for bringing us safely through another year. It's been nearly 140 years since that first Freedom's Eve and many of us were never taught the African-American history of Watch Night, but, tradition still brings us together at this time every year to celebrate "how we got over." Pastor Dan, an older white guy, almost read the above information word for word with a few changes in the presentation to make it appropriate and relevant. Pops and I looked at each other slightly amazed.

Pops, who has been a minister for over 60 years left the service feeling refreshed and stated that he approved of Pastor Dan's approach to ministry and the service. He had visited the church once before this year when his eyesight was with him. What a difference a few days make. Three months ago he drove himself to this church, now we have to lead him from the truck. I give thanks to the Almighty for 2008. I've had a chance to spend a great deal of time with Pops and my life has been affected, my fatherhood has been affected, and my faith has deepened.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Seventy One Years



Sunday 10/19/2008 (Roman Catholic Calendar) Dad became 71 years old.......We guess. In Dad's day an official-actual-legal birth certificate wasn't provided for Colored people in Opelaka Alabama during the 1936-1938 years. Most kept a copy of the baby's note in a family Bible or so. His birth was done with a mid-wife and somehow the records haven't been located. Since the old place that Pops was raised in isn't around at this time, and both of my grandparents are ancestors, we will probably never know.
We gathered around the dining room table. The only folk missing were my sister Elizabeth and my (Sister's daughter) niece Karina. Dan and his wife and three children were in the house. My wife and kids were in the house. Dad was happy.

His grandchildren wrote compositions and recited them. His children gave him presents. His wife gave him directions. All was well with his soul.

Dad had been complaining about his health lately, specifically stating that he wasn't sure if he would see this day earlier. I have been driving Dad back and forth to his classes lately and asked a week or so ago if he was aware of how the family has been bothered by him making such statements. He shared that he wasn't aware that we had become privy to his worries. Today he made mention that he was looking forward to many future parties with his family, he looked at me and smiled, resolving our discomfort.
We ate food, we ate cake. Dad held his newest grandchild and sang to her. This was a small, warm, and touching night.
Today I looked upon a man who was very different. The man who first gave me an allowance and who sold a car he allowed me to use after I neglected to pay him insurance money was now asking me for financial advice. The man who seemed like a giant is now shorter than I. The man who gave discipline with a heavy hand was now lighter than I. There is one thing that has remained in regards to our relationship - fear. I used to fear his wrath, now I fear his absence.

Happy Birthday Pops, we love ya.

Seko Benjamin-Eric VArner

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Civil Rights & Civil Rage


"The White man came to African with rifles and Bibles, heard the names and started changing the titles. So instead of Shaka Zulu I'm Nat Turner with a burner..."
.....Dead Prez - 2000
I'm sure most of America (U.S.A.) will not understand my parent's rage. My mother describes American-born Blacks and/or African-Americans as suffering from Post Traumatic Stress disorder when she share how Africans and African descendants who migrate to our country seem to fare better on a whole than native born Blacks or African-Americans on the whole. My parents have been the best example of not harboring hate towards people, and have never held their tongue when describing the life that America has given them. I'm walking the same road as they did as a parent; I'm attempting to raise my children, and other children I come into contact with, with a love for all and an appreciation for all creation.
As I listen to Sean Hannity, Neal Bortz, and my old favorite Rush I've learned that America's rugged individualism will seem at odds with the communal approach to living that seems to be in the heart of all African civilizations and nations that have an African genetic make-up. Our communal living seems similar to socialism and communism. When we support Black Businesses it may seem like reverse racism. I understand why the ideas expressed in the Kwanzaa principles may seem anti American to one who seems like an outsider to what the principles embrace.
While discussing why some many were upset with Dr. Jeremiah Wright's statements and worried about Obama's connection with Trinity United Church of Christ I saw the rage jump out of my parents. They felt personally attacked by the "Republicans" who were airing the concerns that I was able to express to them as an avid listener of conservative radio. My dad pounded on the table shouting "Do you know what white folks have done to me ?"......."Yes" I answered. We have experienced America's devilish and Godly nature. The colored Americans of my great-great grandparents, great grandparents, grandparents, and parents time have all looked at America and said "Forgive them God, for they know not what they do." These generations loved America as Yeshua (Jesus) loved the world. Yeshua loved the world enough to be radical and tear stuff up in the temples and also to allow those temple folk to inflict terrorist acts upon him while he prayed for the Almighty to change their hearts. As we spoke, and allowed them to vent their anger, an understanding of the dual feelings we have for our country surfaced. We love America and hate America simultaneously at times. We love our country but don't truly trust our government. We've said "Damn America" and would pray for America in our next breath.
Seeing the media demonize Dr. Wright, a U.C.C. pastor, because he said what many of "African in America" have said. Americans in their zeal to better America are now attacking anything that seems to radical. My parents generation remained quiet and full of hope for America when America showed progress and regress in regards to Blacks. This generation is now being demonized for feelings that are natural. Our country legalized and allowed terrorist acts to occur to it's primary non-European descended citizens. Our country paid others to commit acts of war to our enemies. It's always been interesting to me how we seem to have ongoing disputes with countries and individuals that were former employees of America such as Ben Laden and Castro.
I've heard hosts and callers of my favorite shows state that while Dr. Wright may have a little truth in his statements his statements seem to ignore the great strides our country have made towards ensuring civil rights to it's citizens. I stated to my parents that we are going to seem angered and "preaching hate" unless we constantly drive home the point that America has changed, while we continue to point out it's past and present flaws. The conversation ended with an uneasy air as both parents wrung their hands containing the anger towards the past sins of America upon it's citizens. This generation was never given a chance to heal from the wounds that America inflicted upon them. Today their attempts to heal these wounds seem Anti-American. They can't win for loosing.
It's funny how America and Christianity have had similar effects upon Africans and Indians. Both have been blessings and curses. Via America a group of Africans/Indians have been able to be a part of the best Nation in our current world, through America some of the greatest acts of evil have affected these same African/Indian people. Via Christianity our people have been in contact with the creator through Yeshua, at the hands of Christians our African/Indian people have died, lost land, and been enslaved. Both America and Christianity were a the core of this issue that the country faced with Dr. Wright's statements.
As Christians and as Americans my parents have faced the difficulties and opportunities with a fortitude I admire. When I consider what people who considered themselves to be Christians have done to others and when I consider what Americans have done to others I've often wondered why I am so proud to called a Christian and an American. I must say it's because of the models I've had with my parents. Civil Rights & Civil Rage now seem to be the Christian and American way.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Awakenings....Great and small.


Rhonda was told my Pops that he would be speaking at Mom's church on Sunday at 8:30 A.M. Since we normally attend service at New Life - Providence at 9:15 a.m., we agreed that we would go to worship with Pops instead of New Life. As I drove up (late) into the parking lot at 8:49 I noticed the Great Awakening signage with an 8:30 AM service time. I parked the car, looked at Rhonda, and shared "This is the alternative service time. Dad's preaching for the Alternative congregation." Rhonda was a little thrown off for a moment and then said "Oh. I get what you are saying." We attempted to say very little as the kids were starting to unbuckle their seats and I re-started the car. I told the kids to put their seat belts back on. "We wanna' go to BeBe's church to see Popi" said the kids one after another. They knew that this was the location where my mother, their grandmother, their "BeBe", attended church. They also overheard that my dad, their grandfather, their "Popi" was planning to preach there today. They didn't realize that my Mum's service is held at 11:00 AM, and the (U.C.C.) United Church of Christ's local Gay-Lesbain-Bisexual-Transgender (GLBT) church had services each Sunday morning at 8:30 AM on the premises. I looked at wifey and whispered "I'd rather take the kids to New Life." She whisper-agreed and we went down the road.

As I drove off a sister with long Dred Locks walked off the street into the parking lot. With her Timberland styled boots and baseball cap facing backwards and a masculine styled walk I knew that I had connected the dots correctly. I scoured the parking lot looking for a rainbow bumper stickers or a lei of multi-colored flowers hanging from one's windshield mirror. But none of the normal tale-tell signs were visible in the many cars in the parking lot. As I drove the three minutes to our normal church I thought to myself "Am I doing the right thing?" I wanted to spend Easter with my Mum and Pops who were gonna' be in the service and I'm driving away from the service due to it's demographics. Asking myself "Is this the best thing for my children ?" I concluded that I didn't want to provide that type of experience for my kids yet. Wifey, looking at me frown as I wrestled with my decision shared "I think we are o.k. I don't want to put them into that environment yet." Both of us pivoted upon the "yet" word. It's great when we dance together. As I drove up to the church I blurted to the Wifey "I think I'll go back and let the kids go here. She smiled and said "I'll stay, you can go to your daddy." I dropped the fam' off and drove back to my Daddy. As I entered I felt a sense of discomfort from the greeters who asked me "Have you been here before?"........I had........

I met the Pastor of The Great Awakening, this GLBT congregation, two years or so as I attempted to aid the congregation in finding a location for thier group. Thier pastor event took me to visit one of her last listing as we were both real estate agents and she also held her broker's license. I found her to be very cool, very valuable, and very attractive. I remember thinking to myself "I'd marry her, she'd make a great wife." as we talked about her ministry and her former activities as a real estate agent and broker. I further thought "That's a waste, I wish I could introduce her too..." considering some of the guys that I know who. at that time, were having difficulty meeting a good woman. This woman seemed a bit reserved in our interactions, and possibly a bit shy. We did avoid the nature of her congregation in our discussions. I remember saying to her "My wife and I may have to visit your church !" with a very jovial voice. Only to receive her luke-warm invitation to visit. I did find her to have a bit of a solemn aura about her. A similar feeling I've experienced around some other women involved in woman-to-woman relationships.

Since our initial meeting I've referred about seven women to her church who I've met who shared that they didn't feel welcomed in their churches or religious circles due to their sexual orientation. I saw the Pastor of The Great Awakening at my father's 70th celebration in November of 2007. After the dinner she kinda' rushed out and I didn't get a chance to speak with her like I wanted too. I gave her a big-hug as she arrived and a she left. I've often thought about visiting her church, and planned to do so to show support as soon as I had a chance. I know that she has a heavy load. The U.C.C. decided to fully support GLBT organizations and I haven't been one to publicaly support the U.C.C.'s decision. I still don't know if I can ever support the decision publicaly, although after some soul searching and prayer I have come to support the decision. I do currently think that a legalization of alternative unions should occur and these unions should be called something other than a marriage. I think that a 'Union' or a 'Joining' or another of the terms the alternative groups have used may allow the groups to legalize a portion of their cultural inventions rather than attempting to re-define an older paradigm.

I've often had a strange experience with the manly-looking gay women. I guess the political correct term is transgendered. It's still kinda weird to me. She (tries) to appear masculine in dress, attitude, and other aspects; and I still find these transgendered women incredibly attractive as women. In my pre-marital past a number of them have actively found me attractive as well..... I was even approached by one such woman a few weeks ago. Whenever I'm around one of the groups of these women a sense of discomfort-yet-connection envelopes me. Stating to this Pastor that I "may have to" visit her church was an outreached hand to her and her culture from a 'sometimey' outsider.

The greeter asked "Have you been here before?".....I said "Yes."...I had........ I had visited the service that meets at 11:00 AM. This service is an 'Open' church in the U.C.C. They have some gay members and have an open-door policy for anyone who wishes to enter their doors. The Great Awakening is an 'Open and Affirming' congregation and further accept GLBTs as members and/or clergy. Although I understood that the greeter truly meant "have you been to our service before ?" I slid in the doors pretending to mis-understand her question. The entire event was weird to me. I've always knew that the church choirs attracted many gay dudes, I didn't consider the amount of gay dudettes would gather together to lift up the Lord in praise. In a previous portion in my life I DJ'd in a lesbain club for a short while. I was a bit comforting to see what seemed to be one of the former patrons of that club singing in the choir. Yes, I had been here before.

I've been here, in that intellectual/emotional place where I didn't know if I should be playing decision ping-pong in regards to GLBT issues. I'm glad that some people believe that they have found the right culture for them, yet I'd hate for one of my children to become involved in that culture. I fully support the right to wave the rainbow flag yet I am truly disappointed when seeing that waving flag. I support the legal rights to a gay unions yet I wish the term marriage isn't applied to these unions. I support the U.C.C.'s decision, yet I have chosen not to return to visiting my mother's church with my children after attending one of their services and worshiping with openly gay Christians. I hate the fact that Girls-Gone-Wild commercials exists yet I've watched the commercials for a minute before I work up the strength to turn the channel. Sometimes this strength didn't come for a half an hour. I love my cousin and his long-term partner, yet I still wish they would wake up one day and experience an orientation change. Yes, I've been here, playing ping-pong, before.

So today I sit in the pews, worried if someone might get the wrong idea about me. I've had that happen frequently in my life. I often worry about my son who has developed some of my possibly slightly-femine seeming movements. My wifey keeps telling me that it's all in my nervous head and I shouldn't have anything to worry about. Yet I do worry about my son. I would really be bothered if either of my little ones were gay. My parents were worried about me as I grew up. It's funny how they have both become as Open and Affirming as their denomination. As a teenager my parents prevented me from DJing in a club after Pops visited the spot. This spot was in downtown Columbus, Ohio. The club was pretty dark and had a great light show. I had visited the club during the early afternoon and early night a few times as this DJ played a couple records for me that I hadn't heard before. I'd often ask the DJ "When do the ladies start showing up ?" He would always tell me "You need to come at night to see for yourself." All I knew at that time was the main DJ played 'House music' and was teaching me about this music I hadn't heard much on the radio. This DJ met with my father at the club and after some discussions the DJ told me "You should follow your father's decision, this may not be the place for you." I met this DJ in 1984. When I returned from college for spring break in 1987 this DJ was an ancestor. Dad then told me that it was gay club and shared with me the newspaper clipping about the DJ who died from AIDS. I was in this club looking for the ladies who I assumed showed up at night. I remember now how the bartender was always so nice to me. I didn't have a clue.

I had a friend and 1-5-1 Inc. fraternity brother who is now one of our ancestors. We were line brothers as we pledged into 1-5-1 Inc. together in 1987. We hung out, he used to stay at my parent's home on the holidays, we even dated the same girl at one time. She was his girlfriend at one time, she became my friend later. When I broke-up with one of my girlfriends in 1990 she attempted to seduce this friend but nothing ever happened. At first I thought he didn't want to hurt my feelings. He later told me that he just couldn't enjoy a woman anymore. I then found out how many people in 'The Family' (homosexuals) I used to hang-out with unknowingly. As he was dying from AIDS related problems he shared with me in one of our last conversations that he worried about his father. My friend's younger brother was also gay. He worried that his father might loose his mind after raising two sons, loosing one to what seemed to be a gay-related disease, and finding out that while one son is on his death bed, the other son comes out of the closet. My friend became an ancestor around 1998. I talk to his memory every time I find myself here, playing emotional/intellectual ping-pong in regards to his lifestyle. He was a brother to me. He also pissed me off frequently. On my wedding day this friend was one of my groomsmen. He tried to kiss me as I was getting dressed. I almost punched him as I backed away. He looked at me and said, "Sorry Lucky (I used to be called 'Lucky' while in college), this is how we gay dudes congratulate each other. I finished getting dressed. Then I grabbed him and we gave each other a "no-homo man-hug" as I shared with him that I'd hurt him if he ever tried to do that again. We both laughed, shook hands, and finished getting ready for my nuptials.

I also talk to another friend's memory who died to AIDs related issues whenever I'm trying to make sense of his former lifestyle. This friend didn't want to be gay and truly tried praying and fasting and 'churching' his gayness out of his life. We used to double date when I wasn't fully sure of his orientation although my dates would always tell me things like "You know your boy loves men and he's trying to hide it by dating that chick who's over there acting like she doesn't pick-up on it." I even made a bet with one of my lady-friends that my friend wasn't gay. I ended up paying her the waged money after burying my friend. This friend used to go shopping with me and pick out the clothes I'd end up wearing when we double dated with women (circa 1992-1996). My wife jokes me now saying that I was the test subject for the original Queer-eye-for-the-straight-guy show.

My father gave his Easter sermon. I've heard it a number of times in my life. This time he focused the sermon on the idea that Yeshua's (Jesus) resurrection narrative in our Bible should motivate one to resurrect themselves. As we pondered how Yeshua awoke or arose from the dead my Pops challenged the listeners to awaken from the dead parts of their lives and conquer the Hell that we all have to face and conquer. This man used to challenge me frequently when I was a teenager making sure that I wasn't hanging with all of them pretty-boys for any 'soft' reason. Now he has challenged others to consider that Yeshua would accept gay people as the church should. He truly believes that all churches should change their position and accept people in any condition or orientation. His church denomination supports this position, and the U.C.C. boldly made this proclamation in a general Synod about two years ago. Listening to my Pops and attending The Great Awakening's service awoke a portion of my consciousness. I have a discomfort around 'Butchy' women and 'Soft' men. It's awakening to be able to recognize and begin to face this discomfort, it will force me to make some changes in the way I approach discomfort. I'm not sure where this awakened portion of me will travel, yet I welcome the waking up process.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

White Folks

Drew Morris, a (White, and I say that to provide a visual) minister who is around 65 (Pops is 70) shared with me in a meeting information about my Dad that I didn't know. He stated "Your Dad is a phenomenal man, he has done things that others are still scared to do. He deserves a lot of recognition. He then says "We were in a meeting and he shared with us that Dr. King (The Honorable Dr. Martin Luther King) told my father in a meeting "You'll have to get rid of your hate for White people to do your job." Dad then reportedly shared in this meeting with Drew other things he did during the Civil Rights era involving racial reconciliation. Drew shared how he admired how my Dad, and other Blacks, rose above the problems of that time to act in a manner exemplified by Yeshua (Jesus). As a child I used to wonder how my parent's and ancestors lived under the suffocating veil of evil White supremacy without wanting to kill every White person in sight. As mad as I would become after hearing their stories I still couldn't hate Whites because my parents wouldn't allow that. They taught me to love Black and love White and everything in between. A lady once set Pops' hair on fire when he rooted for the other team at a football game. The Blancos around him wouldn't let him put out the fire nor retaliate against the witch. How could he be so loving after facing so much hate... He attributed it to "a relationship with Christ"... I thought that he and Christ were both crazy.
Dad is pictured here with his friend..........Baseball legend Jackie Robinson. I remember coming home from school after learning about Jackie Robinson in school and telling Dad and Mom I want to play Baseball like Jackie Robinson. Dad said something to the effect of "Jackie used to throw balls at you when you were a baby." Dad then pulled Jackie Robinson's book off of his bookshelf and showed me a signature from Jackie with comments that could only be made from people who are close. Dad used to minister to Jackie Robinson's family and was even referenced in the book's "Thank You's". This picture still makes me shiver. Two men who both shaped and changed the world I live in. Two men who faced the cruelty of Amerikkka (the U.S.A.) squarely in the face and 'showed love' in response to hate.
Dad raised us in a rather Afro-Centric environment, yet never showed a disdain for anyone. We were taught to love Africa and America. I still get looks of surprise when I often end prayers with my kids by saying "GOD bless Africa, GOD bless America, GOD bless everybody." GOD bless everybody.... Even those I want to hate. When Dad spoke of people he hated he spoke of Blacks who were racial betrayers. Dad is chock full of stories where White-folks did incredibly devilish acts of hatred to him, yet he only hated when 'we' didn't achieve, when 'we' hurt each-other, when 'we' failed to improve our station in life, when 'we' didn't appreciate ourselves...........Achieve, heal us, improve yourself, appreciate us.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

We dropped the ball.


We have a Christmas tradition of going to the movies after a Holy-Day meal. Today the Wifey and I viewed "The Great Debaters" with Mum and Dad. T'was great seeing this movie with Denzel holding the main character, who in real-life was a member of Omega Psi Phi ! (Dad and I are both Omega Men.) Scenes of a tar-and-feathered lynching and a few other scenes of racism hit my parents hard. Pops had watched a lynch mob lynch-kill an uncle, and Pops and his Dad also cut down about five other neighbours who were lynched in Opelika Alabama. Mum was touched by the overall feelings involved in the movie and wept for minutes after giving a rousing ovation at the end of the film. Strangers walked up and gave her hugs and initially left me wondering if I were doing enough to console her. I later realized that they shared her pain, and wanted to share the joys and pains the movie highlighted.
While walking Pops out to his car Dad began a story of an English teacher, a white professor, who played tennis with him weekly at 5:00 in the morning. The word circulated about this white female professor who was meeting with a negro boy most every morning and the college president made a general announcement that any interactions with white professors in that capacity due to the danger it posed to fellow students. In 1957 we were still getting lynched, Pops said. The situation became news when a bread company that delivered bread to the campus threatened if my Pops continued playing tennis with the professor, they would stop delivering bread to the campus. The professor responded by writing a letter to the bread company complaining if they were going to boycott by refusing to serve a Black college because of the Black student, they should also boycott a White college as the professor was white.
The big thing, Pops shared, was that the professor was teaching him English during the tennis games. He was failing English horribly and the professor decided to take extra time with my Pops who didn't have an adequate English class in his high-school. Pops reportedly took a class for four years that would currently equate to Freshman English 101. He learned standard English speaking patterns and nuances while conversing with a professor who needed someone to aid her in staying in shape and keeping her tennis skills sharp. What a trade. Dad noted that once the games ended, he had a hard time......but he remained alive. Times were hard, but he lived the life that was given him, and played the games life gave him. Pops is so proud of the accomplishments of his generation. It pains me now when looking at peers who really don't care. When the ball was passed, we dropped the ball. We dropped the ball. I give thanks to our Great Debaters.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Thankful for being raised


Photo: Daniel, Dad, and I (Circa 1972 - Brooklyn New York)
I called Dad on my 39th born-day (12/19/2007) hoping to speak to he and Mom. I normally buy presents for my parents on my born-day and leave a card saying "Thank you for life.......Seko". The way I see it they gave birth on the day I was born so it should be a shared celebration. Folks think I'm crazy for this practice and I can't seem to get my kids into it after the Wifey told my son "That's not necessary" after he asked her what she wanted for his/hers/my birthday. This year I was feeling sick and knew I was broke-er than normal so I stayed in the bed and only kept a few appointments that day. I woke up around 6:30 p.m. feeling incomplete. Picking up my cellie I say that Mom called and left a message. I'm sure they were wondering what happened as I've been sharing the birthday with them for over 15 years now.
So Pops picks up the phone and I say "Happy Birthday Dad." He pauses, as normal, and then says "Yea... Happy Birthday Son. Your Mother and I wondered when we would hear from you today." He then says "I want to thank you for what you said at Thanksgiving, that made Mom and I feel honored." Although we spent Thanksgiving dinner with Wifey's fam' we visited my parents the next day and when my turn came to explain what I was thankful for I planned to thank GOD, thank the ancestors, and thank the wifey (in that order) but when I opened my mouth I heard myself say "I'm thankful for the way I was raised." Feeling a little shocked I closed my mouth quickly and smiled to make sure I didn't say anything else I didn't plan too (some secrets gotta' go to the grave) and squeezed the wifey's hand to notify her that it was her turn to speak. Dad then shared how he and Mom sat up late one night and discussed those eight words I didn't plan to say. Sometimes my heart just speaks for me, or maybe the almighty speaks through me, or maybe the ancestors want a message passed, or possibly the three are actually one. I didn't plan to make that statement but it's so very true. As I've looked at my peers, co-workers, clients, and surrounders I've often said to myself "I'm glad I wasn't raised like this." or "I'm glad I was raised like this."
A few days before my born-day I was sitting in the office of one of the agencies I work for facing an angry owner who told me "You are a failure! Yes, you are a failure. You are sooooooo Afro-centric, soooooooo about the community, sooooooooooo this and that, but you are really a failure. I know your parents and I know it's not about how you were raised so I don't understand why you are such a failure." I'm thinking "This trick is crazy." but I kept my mouth shut while she talked and simply said "I know I didn't approach that project as aggressively as I should have. I just wouldn't have said it that way. I have to disagree with you." She responded "I expected you to say something like that. I just want to hear what you are going to do from this point on." I responded "I'll let my work speak for me." as I kinda' left the room. I was still in the room and I'm sure she was still talking, but I was gone. As I left the room (physically) I was thinking to myself "Wow.......The way I was raised ? She knows the way I was raised ?"
My cousin Sean emailed me. He lives in Britain now with his wifey-4-lifey Carol. (Visit my first blog that detailed my experience at his wedding.) They are expecting ! I remember talking with him in London about the way he was raised and the way he would want to raise his kids. He said "I kinda' want to be the type of father your father was." I told him. "Yea, I do too." It's great to be thankful for my upbringing. I work hard to make sure my kids will say the same. Like Ed O.G. said "Be a Father to your child." It's funny. I used to think the phrase 'raise your child' simply meant to care for and love your child. Now the phrase means that the care and love and discipline I provide to my children should take them to the next levels. Ashee, Ashee, Ashee.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Celebrating 70 Years of Life ! - Samuel VArner

Click the play button or click the link for a 26 minute video that was played at Dad's celebration ! This video chronicles his life !

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

I smile, you smile.


Dad's family wished him well as he discussed going to college. His mother and father both had third grade educations. His grandparents had less formal education. He was never the smart child, he was only the one that was able to self motivate himself. The family went from plush to poor as the Whites in his neighborhood tricked his father out of land that he acquired. At one time my grandfather owned the first T-Model Ford vehicle in Opelika and had acres of land. After the devils finished with him, he was extremely poor. Dad grew up with no running water, eating every two days at times, and in a home/shack that may seem third-world'ish in today's American standards. I remember the day he received his Doctorate degree from Princeton. He smiled widely for hours. His teeth became dry, he was so proud. He ensured that my siblings and I had an easier life. He ensured that he was a better husband than his father was. He ensured that he would be able to provide us with an education after formal school since his father wasn't able to provide him with that opportunity. Dad made sure that he was the man that his father trained him to be and the man that his father wanted to be. Dad often told me that a dwarf standing on the arms of a giant can see farther and go farther than the giant. As I talk to Dad about the necessity of having more than an educational opportunity for my kids he simply smiles. I realized today that the smile he gives during those talk is the same as when he graduated. His graduation graduated our family, my new insight provides our family's new insight. I shine you shine. I pray now that I can experience that smile for many more years. After his last surgery his appetite has decreased. Dad now can go days without feeling hungry. I now enjoy every meal with him in a different light. Just watching him eat makes me smile. It's funny......When I smile my son looks at me and smiles without knowing why. I guess I have a dwarf on my shoulders now. I smile, he smiles.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Family

Most friday nights we have "Family" night at Dad & Mom's/Mom & Dad's house. Dad cooks, as he has most of my life, and we all enjoy. Tonight while sitting with my arms around Mom Dad told a story about Advent Community Church, the church he began in Columbus Ohio. The United Church of Christ intended the church to be a bi-racial church where (so-called) Blacks and Whites worshipped together as they had been aware that naturally only a 90-10 rule would apply. The U.C.C. gathered the 5 white families for Dad although he wouldn't begin the church until he had a black group as well. The church met with 15 whites and 35 blacks until the decision for a name surfaced. Pops really wanted to name the Church 'The Emaeus Road' yet the whites wanted to name the church "The New Hope" to recognize the hope of racial conciliation through intergration. Pops shared how the blacks decided, without regard to the name, that they were not going to let the whites name their church. Dad & Mom then noticed that the church was deeply into studying early christian celebrations and they were in the time of Advent. A vote allowed the divided groups to come together in a name...Advent. A name that is a big part of my life came about to bring the races together. Intrestingly enough the church my family attends has as one of it's tenants the concerted and delibrate effort to be Transethnic as a ways to destroy racism. I love the church for it's children-based offerings, the transethnic drive isn't really a draw for me but somehow it had a familar twang. I then considered my desire to place my children in a Black-owned elementary school while my wifey wanted a Christian-based school. We found a mix of the two in New Light Baptist School of Excellence. I also enjoyed the fact that New Light had a diverse Afrikan-descendant experience for my kids as American, Caribbean, Hatian, Afrikan, and Latinos of Afrikan descent all placed their kids into New Light. As my son became a first grader I/We decided that it was time for him to be placed into a school that offered a........(I hate this word).....transethnic experience that involved more than children who were of Afrikan descent to ensure that my son could conquer the world. As Dad finished his story I looked around the room at my family and realized that my Afrikan-centered family has always made strides to immerse ourselves into a morally-high quality Afrikan-experience before entering the more diverse world. I couldn't help but smile as Mom shook her head in agreement with Dad's story. My Dad, who broke racial bariers with instution-creation, my Mom who broke racial bariers by being strong enough to face the devils of the white supremacist paradigm, and our family who have always made decisions to break racial bariers only after becoming firm in our African/Indian experience. My family is your family......Let's be family.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Thanksgiving


Thanksgiving was frequently spent at a relatives or parents-friends home (according to memory). The fondest of which were always with my pops side of the family. Today I'm thankful that Pops is alive. A while ago Dad was in the hospital and most recently Mom was in the hospital. The idea of being without a parent hit me like a Tyson blow (pre carniviours Tyson) . I've never been without either of my parents, the thought of the loss is a bit for me to fathom. I've long left the myth of the so-called Indian and so-called Pilgrims alone (I'm actually struggling with keeping quiet while these teachers are teaching my children that myth.......However, I realize I live in America. Attacking that myth will seem like selling USA-Haterade, almost Al-Quida'ish.) Thanksgiving has become a little more to me that the bull-chips presented in the commercial media which has become American culture.
I'm thankful for the lessons and life of Mom and Dad. I'm thankful to be a Dad. I look forward to tomorrow as my parents are currently doing well, but I know that the time is forthcoming for me to be parent-less. That frightens me more than I can express. It's weird to be scared for my parents, I used to be scared of them. That fear kept me from doing a lot of things my peers became involved in. As a teen Pops would stay up at night and inspect my eyes and breath as I returned from DJing a party or hanging out. As a teen I was constantly worried that Dad would do a pop visit at my school catching me being a teenager. He did a few of those and the fear of them kept me on my toes. Currently I'm afriad that I will disapoint pops more that worrying about his blows. Intrestingly enough that fear of disapointing my parents has geared me towards what people always seem to attribute to being in a church. I'm constantly asked "What church do you belong too ?" Folks seem surprised that I attend a church weekly but am not a member of any church. My behavior is truly more of a function of not wanting to disapoint my parents, my ancestors, and God rather than simply having a church inspired life. I remember the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan saying that a child first understands God through his parents. I'm thankful that Iwas raised by Yeshua (Jesus) by way of my parents. My father, the Minister, frequently told his flock "People would rather see a sermon that hear one." I grew up in a sermon and I'm thanksful. I could have done without the "Spare the rod and spoil the child" sermon however. OUCH !

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

I Dare You !

Driving with dad last night is something for the books. Dad needed to go to Suffolk again to continue teaching new U.C.C. ministers about the U.C.C. amenities. En route pops fell into a story about a book named "I Dare You." While dad was in high-school his principal made weekly addresses on Fridays. A number of these addresses were from the book wherein the author dared the reader to take chances, dared the reader to achieve at their apex, dared the reader to believe in themselves when no evidence supported their self-esteem. Dad took the dare. He approached his principal stating "I want to read the book." His principal provided dad a copy of the book to get rid of him. Dad read the book a number of times and shared with the principal how he enjoyed the reading upon returning the book. The principal shared his disbelief until dad was able to speak at length about the chapters. The principal was so impressed that he gave dad a copy to keep. The Principal then told Dad of a job in a mine and told Dad that he was only going to recommend 3 (out of 51) classmates for College. Dad would not be one of them. It was 1957 in Opelika Alabama. He told Pops that if he took this job he would be set for life as this company did not hire many Blacks, but based upon Dad's dad's reputation, they would give him a chance as long as he was honest. During that time the Principal's letter allowed college entrance as the SAT were not available then. Dad made it to college by himself and sent the principal a letter upon being accepted. He sent the Principal copies of his report cards, he sent a letter upon graduation, he sent a letter from Africa, he sent a letter from Europe, he sent a letter upon receiving his Master's degree, and upon receiving his Doctorate degree. In each correspondence he thanked the Principal for "everything else you did for me."
While in Undergraduate studies at Livingston College dad was exposed to healthy living from the doctors on campus. As a youth in Alabama the family did not have many interactions with health care professionals. A doctor from Africa told my asthma-stricken father that if he used barbells and added muscle mass to his chest he would increase his lung capacity. The African told pops to buy some barbells..........dad was so poor that couldn't even pay attention. Dad went to the school cafeteria, found two large cans for collard greens, put holes in the cans, placed cement into the cans, and put a metal stick between the cans. His homemade barbells took the place of medicine that he couldn't afford. He was teased by classmates who called him "Homemade" until the summer months when he strutted around campus in displaying his finely chiseled upper body. He then became one of the most popular men on campus lady-wise. After basking in some memories he didn't care to share with me he looked at me and said... "I dare you."

Evil Eyes

From Seko:
[Mi Madre holding her newest grand-daughter Domnique.]


This was my first trip with poppi(11/13/07). Dad needed to go to the conference office to teach a class for the newest ministers in the Southern Conference of the United Church of Christ. While driving those sleepy country Suffolk Virginia roads dad began drifting into stories of Mama.

Pops met mom as he returned from ministering in Scotland. A minister supervising him shared to pops "when you return to the states and go to Atlanta I want you to meet a friend of mine who is in the administration at Columbia Theological Seminary. They took in their first female Negro student and they need help." (One of Mom's Ministers and mentors was the first Negro male to attend the school a few years prior). Pops then shared how Mom was that female Negro and she caught hell from the other students studying to be ministers. This administrator and the administration of the school were courageous..... they courted this negro after her Presbyterian church-college, Agnes Scott College, refused to take her (since they sent their negro-money to Stillman College to help thier Negro Presbyterians). Pops shared how mama would sometimes be the only student in her classes as others peers would drop the course as soon as they saw her. By providing support to this hard-headed girl catching death threats and harassment from her 'Christian' peers Dad fell in love. He was there as my grandmother lost jobs when they found out mom was marching in the civil rights marches and was going to their school. Mom took the pain, cried her tears, passed the tests, and graduated. Mom shared with me that she caught Hell from the 'Christian' professors and her 'Christian' peers because she was both a woman and Black. She shared how the only outright support came from the ladies who were attending the college as they were facing the evils of sexism. Some of the professors hated the fact that women were being trained in the ministry. Mom was leery of the women, but she accepted thier support. A female white-peer who supported Mom painted a masterpiece full of color with many pairs of wicked eyes looking forward. Those eyes were Mom's classmates. (Interestingly enough Mom's classmate painted the faces of the evil eye folks brown.) I remember seeing this painting hanging in the basement-closet of our home in New York. I always wondered why a painting would be hanging in a closet. I remember seeing this painting in our garage while living in Columbus, Ohio. I always wondered why Mom would look at this work of art and stiffen her bottom lip with tears welling in her sleep deprived eyes. I remember getting a beating for something and mom catching a glimpse of those brightly-wicked eyes. She fell to her knees and sobbed. Then I didn't care, my beating ceased. Mom hated that painting and gave it to an aunt who hung in prominently in her college dormitory. Mama's pain, Aunties' propeller. Today I am thankful for those eyes. Mom made history and opened doors for our people....Daddy fell in love. Thank the creator for evil eyes.


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