Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Disgusting Places or Disgusting People?

Isn't this world a disgusting place to live? It is this ugly place where some police are allowed to kill freely. It is this place where kids are killed and dreams are murdered. This place is disgusting.  We would rather watch viral videos of teens fighting than take out our headphones and actually acknowledge the humanity that is sitting next to us. What's wrong with this world? Why are we forced to live in this place that celebrates the cycles of pain, despair, hatred? There is no doubt a problem.

But when I took a second look, I realized something that was alarming and discomforting. The problems of this world while messy, disgusting, and demoralizing, are carried and created by US. The sad truth is this place we live in is disgusting because WE are disgusting. We are the fundamental problem. We have pledged allegiance to violence and decadence. The ugliness doesn't belong to this place, it is ours to claim.

Let me be the first to say that I am ashamed of myself. I have at times, scrolled past tragedies posted on my timeline before. I have tried to ignore some of the violence in this world. I have chosen when and where I wanted to pay attention to the cries of the blood that has stained our grounds. I have marched at times and remained silent at times, what a shame. I am to blame. The place is not the problem I am.

Is there anyone else out there that can be honest? Anybody who has chosen when and where to be relevant? Has anyone else tried to ignore the pain that seems to rule this world? Is there one besides me?

We must all admit that we can't clean up the world until we clean up ourselves. We are the murders of justice, when we stay silent. We are the opponents of hope when we chose to not pay attention to the violence. It is us who are the ambassadors of hatred when we reject humanity. Truly the blood is on our hands, the crime scene is filled with our fingerprints, and we stand guilty.

Once we have stared at our guilty reflections in the mirror, we must rise from our vanities of self care, and selfishness and attempt to be more human. This attempt to be more human is radical in nature and revolutionary in form. We must learn that justice is not found in some secret hall of invisible laws, rather it abides in all of us as we interact with one another. Hope is not some untouchable ideal; rather it waits in the dark corner’s despair. Love is not some romanticized value that is unattainable; rather it is embedded into the core of our being. All of these things are on the inside of us, but many times we choose to live from the outside, by this I mean we let the external evils of this world extinguish our internal goodness. So then we must start this process of reclaiming humanity by living from within to combat and destroy those things that we are without. Yes, this world is disgusting but we don't have to be. 

Friday, June 27, 2014

Race: The Crisis of Crayons

If the world has to be black and white then I prefer to be grey.  Why is my color more important that my character? Why is it that being a proud part of a race means more than being human. This is a sad social reality that divides and categorizes everything. This excuse for a country has split us into colors like a broken box of crayons. Sadly, according to society I am the undesirable, worn down, and almost crumbled black crayon placed on the margins of the box. We all have been thrown in a broken box and expected to add color to canvas of this world, and I would like to add color to the canvas of the world but the problem is that my color keeps the box closed to me as some other crayon makes stereotypical strokes on my behalf.

This is the problem with race, we see colors which are diverse; but racism dilutes the depth and importance of certain colors. Believe it or not race makes no biological sense. The average person on the street thinks that race consists of differences in physical appearance, in particular things like eye color, eye shape, skin tone, hair type, and aspects of body stature. They also think that from looking at a person's physical appearance, in the way I just described, that they can find out or know more subtle things about them such as their potential intelligence or their likeliness to be aggressive, to commit crime, predisposition towards disease. These assumptions are simply not true when we look at biology. The truth is we are running our lives off of 19th century science that has no genetic backing.
Race has some serious ill effects; but because it is bad science and a dangerous illusion, one can choose to live out the truth. That truth is that there is NO such thing as race. Yes that means we cant be categorized be skin color like a broken box of crayons.

The beauty of crayons is that when one uses them you have access to all colors and none are preferred over the other. In other words, we all have something to add to the canvas of life.

Im not Black, African American, Negro or anything that points directly to my skin color. I am human, and thats about it. I dont have a need to move black people forward; I am  just concerned about moving humanity forward. Im not worried about which shade my fellow crayons are; im just happy to be a crayon.

What's at stake when one chooses to live only as a crayon? Is there a lost of culture? Is there a diluting of history? Will there be a loss of identity? No, the only thing you lose is the unchallenged lack of unity. Its addition by subtraction, when you subtract the false notion of race you add so much more beauty to human existence.

Race is a lie that I will no longer live in. As long we let race exist racism will exist. Lets break the box and just be crayons.

Monday, March 24, 2014

The Ghetto IS a Gated Community

I reside in the ghetto. I simply reside there because it is impossible to live. There is no real life in my "hood". There is the lifeless look in the eyes of prostitutes. In this ghetto lies the dead and broken streets filled with the pot holes the capture aborted dreams. These streets display damaged homes that house broken families, this place is dead. It is impossible to live. Living is thriving, and in this place there is only survival. 

This dead and cold place is a gated community. This community is marked by gates that have strict entrance and exit policies. These are not the gates of suburbia that are strong and beautiful, rather these gate are wide and rusty. These gates keep us locked in the ghetto and barred from the outside world. These gates are hopeless, dangerous, and impassable. They let you in but they won’t let you out. 

This gated community has special features; it is the only place where playgrounds can be morphed into battlefields. This is the only place where children have 10th grade bodies but read on 1st grade levels. This is the only place where drugs are more mainstream than dreams. This has to be the only place where abandoned homes have more appeal than shelters. This ghetto is the only place where liquor stores outnumber grocery stores. This is the place where your backseat can become someone's bed. This is, no doubt the only place where poverty is the way of life. 

This is the real "city that never sleeps". Sirens fill the night, screams turn sweet dreams into bitter nightmares. If you listen closely you can the sound of hope banging against the ghetto's rusty gates as it tries to get in. Nobody really sleeps. We watch the night grow into an endless feeling of horror and despair. 

Is there a way out? They say it's through education but the schools within the gate are more like prisons with classrooms. Some say that hope can be found in the church, but the church is more like a congregation of the careless. Some say it’s through hard work and ambition, but those ideals left this community a long time ago. There is no way through those gates, unless you tear them down.

Monday, February 10, 2014

A Lost King Bible or a Forgotten King Dream?

My father was not Dr. King, but he was my king. He died when I was only seven years old. The fathomless hole that my father's death opened is still at times painful, almost twenty years later. It was an ugly place for me; but even in death there seems to be a small but pretty horizon of hope. Death is indeed ugly but what he left behind was quite pretty. He left me a library of his hand written sermons, personal Bibles, and a cache of vinyl records. These are markers of the legacy that he had left behind for me. It is with these things that he still lives, speaks and directs me. 

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. is long gone. His voice can only be heard by recording, his touch can only be remembered, and his smile is only captured in photo. However, his legacy has transcended his death. His work for humanity cannot be undone with an assassin's bullet. The markers of his legacy are all around us. We all see the public markers of his legacy, but his children hold the sacred private markers of his endowment, namely his traveling Bible and the Nobel Peace Prize. 

The benefaction of the harbinger of justice is now up for grabs. These sacred items have been defaced by sibling rivalry. Will the King Bible become the next suggested item on Amazon? Will the Nobel Peace Prize become a dusty collector's item to the highest bidder? When did the promise of cash trump our sense of civility? When did greed cause us to barter our treasured memories? 

This no doubt is ugly, but I must ask what is worse? A lost King Bible or a forgotten King dream? Will the people who stand in line for Jordan's stand up for justice? Will the churches that shamelessly beg for cash, cultivate a better future or hoard an endless building fund? Will the oppressed who strive for the edge of life demand to be placed at the center of life? Will babies be seen as another stream of government income or a source of undying hope?

My father left things behind that I will never sell and the Father of Fairness left things behind that we have long ago placed on the clearance rack. The markers of his legacy are us but have we been sold? Humanity is wrapped up in an ugly sibling rivalry, and while we bicker, the dream suffers. 

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Sounds of Hell, Bells of Hope

I live in an ugly neighborhood, where drug addicts thrive and violence prevails. In that place I constantly hear sounds. It is a place where sirens are constant and laments are loud. It is place where screams drown out the sound of children's laughter. Many of the sounds seem to be conflicting, but this place has managed to pull the sounds of hell and the bells of hope together in an ambivalent symphony.  

It is in this ugly place that pretty moments begin. I see mothers grasping small hands and escorting them through ugly streets. I see church goers walk into a pretty sanctuary and return to an ugly reality. I see workers leave their ugly homes and travel on ugly buses in an attempt to make pretty money. What I see seems to blur my vision yet, I have some sense of conflicted clarity. 

On last night this neighborhood proved true to its character as I heard the sounds of hell and bells of hope. I saw danger and safety in the same sense of conflicted clarity. On last night I heard gunshots. These shots struck me with fear. I went through the process of the "urban fire drill" and lay on the floor of my apartment, in fear and disgust.I arose to view the carnage and called nearby neighbors. When the shooting stopped, I heard a strangely comforting sound. Only seconds after the gunshots the church bell rang out. 

What does it mean that only seconds after I heard shots that caused great fear, I heard a bell that inspired hope? Was this some sick divine prank? What is God saying through these sounds? Shouldn't sirens and screams follow shots? Shouldn't I be paralyzed with fear instead injected with hope? 

This is the pretty moment that lies in an ugly place. The church bell which represents the presence of God within the community somehow seems out of place. The church bell rings and reminds those who hear it that there is sanctuary, its sound is soothing. But this ring is not some simple reminder of hope, God, and safety. It is a call. The bell calls us to action. It rings in spite of the constant sounds of hell. If this is the case, the gunshot must also be a call. These gunshots ring in spite the presence of the church and its bell. They too elicit feelings like the church bell. 

Gunshots and church bells are signs of a conflicted reality. Which sound can silence the other? It is the gates of hell that will not prevail against the church, but what about the sounds of hell? Who will win this clash of kingdoms? Will both sounds remain ambivalent partners in a dangerous dance that we call a neighborhood?