Why can’t a city be too big to fail?

There is something terribly (morally) wrong when a city’s retired civil service workers are being asked to literally pay for the lack of, and/or poor decision making on the part of  the  city’s/state’s political leaders. The working poor in our nation have taken the full blows of an economy that was purposely speculated into distress. And now, the “retired civil service poor”, are being slated to expand the pool of improvised Americans. Civil service pensions are the new Black (people); the cause of the “problem” (fill in the ______________). It is a new and cynical take on “blaming the victim”, “flipping the script”; it is like the placing of Trayvon Martin on trial for creating a situation that forced the victim George Zimmerman to shoot him. That’s it; turn the victim of the crime, into the primary suspect. And it may work, as too few Americans are asking: “is this right?” or, “Is this even fair?”; that is perhaps, until their pensions are reduced.  In Detroit and (now also Chicago, and soon in a city near you); we are being led to believe that the ill-economic health of many of our municipalities is primarily the fault of those civil service “greedy pensioners”. At least we now know who is at fault for the sad state of financial affairs in places like Detroit: Teachers, Health care workers, Bus Drivers, Sanitation Workers, Fire and Safety personnel, etc. What were they thinking about? Going to work every day, serving and sacrificing every day; having money deducted from their bi-weekly paychecks with the hope that when they reached the age when they could no longer perform their duties that a promised agreement between them and their government would be honored. They did not steal, and they did not speculate, and so why are they facing this great betrayal by a government they not only worked for, but believed in? “State legislatures” are being blamed for not legislating “pension reform”; translation: fix the problems of the economy by making the working poor, the retired poor take reductions that push them closer to poverty; while federally rescued corporations (some even in Detroit) and Banks realize stunning record profits. And who is better to blame; the lobby-less and, non- big campaign donator, the pensioners of course. Surely not to blame (we are told) are the “bailed out” speculators that either made bad business decisions; or in some cases criminal decisions, in their endless search for obscene profits. Not the managers and custodians of these pension funds who invested poorly. Not the poor planning of a series of city government officials; including a corrupt mayor who Hip(ped) and then Hop(ed) his way to prison. It is wonderful (I guess) that the governor of Michigan has chosen to put a Black face on this attempt to perpetuate this crime against the working people of Detroit; somehow I am not sure if it will feel less painful if a “brother” steals your pension. What we do know is that many of these pensioners (present and future) are facing an increased cost of living; increased supplemental “out of pocket” health care cost; and living in a city where the value of their homes is rapidly decreasing. There is just no way that these retirees will be able to live in Detroit if they are saddled with radically reduced pensions. And who (be honest) in their right mind is going to actively seek a civil service teaching, nursing, etc. job in Detroit? This will have the effect of dramatically reducing the pool of quality candidates for civil service positions in that city. This Bankruptcy, was always the primary (not secondary) plan, and is not being proposed here to save Detroit; rather its purpose is to clean out Detroit through urban removal (of Black Folks) and “save it” for urban “renewal” by financial speculating vultures (didn’t they start this entire mess?). This group unlike the poor civil service working folks of Detroit, control too big a piece of the financial pie; and have too big of a control of political influence, to fail. They truly, are the only actors in this story who are too big to fail.

Those who make the rules, don’t want to play by the rules; wonder why?


Change Agent Indeed: Change Agent in Education Collects Critics in Connecticut Town”.. NY Times….. http://www.nytimes.com/2013/07/22/education/change-agent-in-education-collects-critics-in-connecticut-town.html?ref=education&_r=0

The meaning of the phrase “Change Agent”, I guess depends on who, and what is being changed (or not being changed). Words can mean different things to different people; the article’s writer states:

             “Paul G. Vallas, a leader in the effort to shake up American education, has wrestled with unions in Chicago, taken on hurricane-ravaged schools in New Orleans and confronted a crumbling educational system in Haiti……”

And yet not one single example of proven academic success in all of these places; isn’t raising academic achievement the point?

Well, whatever words are losing their meaning in contemporary linguistic usage, hypocrisy, for sure, is not one of them. And that is why it ceases to amaze me to see the shock and disdain of some folks when the “rules of the game” are applied fairly to them. Further, the obscene sense and insistence that we must have two sets of rules; one for them; and then a second set of rules for those who are not them. That is why the National Rifle Association (being, it seems to be always prepared to play the role of “situational opportunist”) have not launched a national publicity and recruitment campaign asking young black men to join their ranks, and legally arm themselves against the possibility of being a target of a racially profiled confrontation. I guess like their cousins the Republican Party; they have, in this regard, very little interest in “broadening their base”. To the consistently enfranchised, culturally empowered and racially “entitled”; simple fairness, justice and playing by the rules is perceived as unfair and unjust. In this nations most educationally starved urban canters, we have seen the creative fiction of “championship resumes”; the often repeated (but never verified) fake “success stories”; the “achievement track-record” that leaves no track, or trace of real student improvement. The false  “great non-Black educational savior (and their Black “stand-ins”) narratives, that has been created, inflated and never properly evaluated, by the public or the press; has (and continues to) inflict irreversible harm on millions of children of color in places like NYC, Chicago, New Orleans, PG County-MD and Washington DC. These struggling communities serve children who have the most to lose from a planned experimental educational neglected. And, the most to gain from a serious empowering educational experience that could change the social-psychological and economic trajectory upon which they are assigned. Playing with the futures of so many children cynically disconnects them from the promise and opportunity available to so many others in our nation. While these suffering communities waited for “Superman”, they got instead, the “Joker”.  Black elected officials carry some of the blame here; as they rightfully pushed back against dysfunctional, disruptive, and destructive; and in some cases corrupt elected school boards. These Black elected officials (many now second guessing themselves), along with many well meaning  civic leaders were also correct in limiting the self-serving anti-learning rules and regulations of the entranced labor unions. But the “cure” they have proscribe for the patient is killing our children’s dreams, as the medicine is falsely labeled as a healing “reform”. The defect and deformity of this reform movement is that it contained all of the same racist assumptions, accompanied with a disdain for any type of cultural awareness and efficacy, earned certification, expertise and experience. Nationally, Black teachers, principals and superintendents were systematically removed to make way for the unpracticed, the unprepared and the “casual-situational educator”; whose heart was set on making a name; not a difference for children. It is a movement that transforms children into “products”, who could then be sold (and sold out) to the charter school industry. To be honest, this was not a coup; rather it was the collective community of color giving permission for others to engage in risky experimentation with their children. The danger of this “educational adventurism” and “playing school” is that real lives and real futures are involved. The children of the poor, the politically unorganized, are unfortunately the best group to: (1) Build a resume. (2) Ride out a bad economy; and (3) As in the case of Mr. Vallas actually take a “show” on the road, make good money, without ever having to produce good and real results. Perhaps this judge’s action in Connecticut Is the hopeful inspiration for the beginning of a movement that would force the communities of color to insist that their children not be the objects of financial personal gain. The tinker toys of educational hobbyist. The designated and doomed recipients of a continued separate, unequal, and inferior educational experience.

Black men are often forced to trade humor for humiliation, just to stay sane…


We Wear the Mask

WE wear the mask that grins and lies,

It hides our cheeks and shades our eyes,—

This debt we pay to human guile;

With torn and bleeding hearts we smile,

And mouth with myriad subtleties.


Why should the world be over-wise,

In counting all our tears and sighs?

Nay, let them only see us, while

We wear the mask.


We smile, but, O great Christ, our cries

To thee from tortured souls arise.

We sing, but oh the clay is vile

Beneath our feet, and long the mile;

But let the world dream otherwise,

We wear the mask!

– Paul Laurence Dunbar


We Real Cool

The Pool Players.

Seven at the Golden Shovel.

 We real cool. We

Left school. We

 Lurk late. We

Strike straight. We

Sing sin. We

Thin gin. We

Jazz June. We

Die soon.

                    -Gwendolyn Brooks



It’s like those moments when you are hearing a sermon and you say: “Well, the preacher is talking specifically to me” (so you think). That’s what happened yesterday as I listened to the President’s impromptu speech on the Blackmans racial burden. It was amazing to see the POTUS weigh into what is perhaps the deepest part of the American cultural pool; the true section of (sorry fellow Star trek fans) the Undiscovered Country we Black men live in, every moment of our waking lives. I often imagine the amount of violence against our fellow White Americans that would occur if we were not able to channel many of these non-physical dangerous events into humor. Pretend to not see what we clearly see.  The daily slights if taken in straight doses, would simply drive a brother insane. For too many of our young Black men that violence is indeed released; although it is visited solely upon other Black young men; and thus the absence of a national concern. However, if and when the Trayvons’ of this nation start to “stand their ground”, and shoot first; there might then be a national effort in support of integrating young Black-men into the promises and possibilities of our nation. I do know that presently, any Blackman in America who is unable to “manage” an insult will fail in the workforce (common laborer or management), will be unable to take care of their family, will be soon dead, in a mental institution or in prison. Managing an insult means that you decided when your death (physical or psychological) has meaning. If you are engaged in a mission of service to others; you must weigh and decided (often in seconds); if your death (right then) serves a selfish-personal, rather than a group purpose. I have always counseled young Black men to: “Look, let’s just live to fight another day”; this calls for a different, and more difficult type of courage; but it is born in the idea that you have a unique purpose and calling in life; and therefore you can’t just decide to end that life because of one of the many slights you will encounter as you navigate this nation as a man of color; for the slights and insults will never end. And yes; to get through this life you may at times need to engage in politically conscious humor; for the ultimate reality of our Blackness is forever inescapable. I thought back to the 1990’s, when as a NYC principal I was vacationing in the Caribbean.  I walked pass the hotel pool and a White gentleman (with an American accent) ask me to: “bring him some fresh towels”. Utilizing my ability to instantly produce a Caribbean accent (my heritage); “Right away sir!”, I said. I then proceeded to the laundry room. My sudden appearance startled and worried the ladies who were working there, as they thought something must have gone terribly wrong for a guest to show up in their workspace; and they were right, something had indeed gone very wrong. I greeted them and assured them that nothing was wrong, but I needed their help. They all showed signs of relief. But their relaxed mood was short-lived as I introduced what was to be their second and perhaps, greatest shock. I asked for some gloves and a stack of towels; I then proceeded to drag the white towels on the wet floor until they were clearly filthy. The women in the laundry room had a look on their faces (but did not say a word) that said: “Now, we have heard (and perhaps seen) some crazy acts performed by American tourist but this…” I then carried the wet filthy towels back to the pool and threw them on the reclining sunning American tourist. “Your towels sir”; I announced. As I walked away toward the front desk, and the hotel exit. He followed behind me, and I could hear him say agitatedly to the young lady at the desk: “I want to report one of your workers; that man……”. But as I exited through the door I could hear her saying: “But sir, he is not one of our employees, he is a guest at the hotel”. For the rest of my stay I would receive an “our champion” smile from every employee I passed in the hotel; the restaurant staff and bartender absolutely refused to accept any money from me; and no one else ask me for towels.


My Reflections on the Interview of Juror # B-37

Trayvon never had a chance for justice, based on the composition of the jury…

Juror B-37: “George Zimmerman learned his lesson”.  First, what lesson did George and other vigilantes in waiting really learn? And do we want to teach a lesson through murdering a child?

Education (particularly cultural literacy) is so important; what you don’t know can hurt others……

Neither the Judge nor the prosecution understood that race was a determining factor in this tragedy; however the “clever” and better prepared defense team clearly understood it. Their job (as they saw it) was to make a social-cultural link between George Zimmerman and the jury; such that the members of the jury would, at the end of the day, feel that on that terrible evening, they too would have shot and killed Trayvon Martin.

Do we not only need to diversify juries; but also prosecution teams; Judgeships?

Having a difficult time communicating with my “inner-feminist”.  A women judge (who prohibited the mention and use of race as a factor in this case); and an all-female Jury; and a clearly incompetent woman States Attorney (“Trayvon was profiled, but not racially profiled”; Huh?)  I often imagine that perhaps we would have a better world if women were in charge; but this case is not a model for that type of imaginative thinking….

There was a terrible cultural-linguistic divide (revealed as best she could by Rachel Jeantel) that formed the belief system that drove this trial; eventually to an innocent verdict. The only party that fully appreciated, and successfully exploited this divide was the defense attorneys. The cross examination of Ms. Jeantel had three objectives: (1) “They”, are not like us; they are not us. (2) The contrast to the nation: shown graphically by the internet posting of Don West and his children eating vanilla ice-cream; but more to the jurors. “Is this”; he asked psychologically (the “this” being Ms. Jeantel) like the teenagers in your family, the teenage family members of your friends? And should you not be afraid of them? (3) The jurors did not understand the concept of “friendships” in the context of teenagers; and further, with Black teenagers in particular. The historical segregated housing patterns in the U.S.; has created Black communities in this nation that contain a broad spectrum (social, economic, educational) of neighbors and friends. For example, growing up in Brooklyn meant that many of my friends took paths (and lived lives) very different from the path I took, and the life I lived. If I were in Trayvon’s place and unable to speak for myself; and some of my friends were called to testify; it would be false to link their belief systems, social practices, life styles and interest to me. If there is one powerful take away from my experience as a professional educator (and my primary interest in opposing it) over the years; is the inability of those “in charge” (that includes the Right, Liberals and the so-called “new reformers”) to appreciate the “differences” (lifestyles, interest, academic capability) of Black students. All Black students are seen as being inside of the same section of a uniquely restrictive “failing” bell curve, until and unless they through the force of their will (or the wills of strong parents) break out. The American child who has, and continues to be left behind is the Black and Latino student who is on or above grade level; who likes to read, and who is interested in STEM* and other creative activities. On that day in the courtroom Mr. West was asking the jury an important philosophical question: “This (Ms. Jeantel) is Trayvon Martin, now do we really need to make a big fuss over his death?”

The defense team completely destroyed a great deal of the credibility of the “media talking legal heads”; who said that women and mothers would be sympathetic to the young victim and his mother. Listening to this juror; it was clear that these women made no connection between the murdered youth, their own children, and children in their social-ethnic circle. There was no “sisterly-motherly” identification with Trayvon’s mother; rather they saw Ms. Sabrina Fulton as the mother of a tried, convicted and executed perpetrator; and perhaps George Zimmerman could have done a better legally procedural job. They probably (based on her comments) would have preferred that the police arrest him, and that he go through the criminal justice system. The “turn-key” thought (the rational for the innocent assertion) however, is that the objective reality of Trayvon’s innocence was never a consideration in their minds.

Our young people have to be advised that when they are in a “formal” situation (i.e. legal, a job/internship interview) where they are speaking to a group like the Trayvon Martin jury; that they must “code-switch” so that they can successfully communicate their ideas. Educators must push-back, against the push-back of the “keeping it real” concept many teens cling to. Ms. Rachel Jeantel understood the misunderstanding on the part of the jury, but only after she testified. The idea that Trayvon saw George Zimmerman as a possible sexual predator was never made clear to the jury.

I think in the back of those Jurors’ minds: “Well my teenage son would not be going to the store alone at that hour of the day”; and so, at some point in their mental deliberations they had to diminish the standing of Trayvon’s parents; or an acquittal would have been impossible.

If the “Dred Scott” factor is a fact in the subconscious minds of Jurors; combined with the idea of: “your mere presence means you are up to no good”; then this does not (and has not) boded well for young Black men who find themselves in court, whether as victims, or as the “really” accused.

If in cases like this (and unfortunately there will be more cases like this; particularly since the “act” has been legally sanctioned); where the murdered victim like Trayvon, will actually be forced to prove their “innocence”; the prosecution then, must fight to have a: Jury that included the peers of the victim, not just the perpetrator; who is in this case was actually the defendant, although the case did not play out that way.

There is this odd notion; not only held by this juror but clearly also believed by many in this nation that racial profiling does not exist; thus their inability to understand the problem with: “Stop and Frisk”. I wanted so much for Anderson (Don Lemon where were you when I needed you?) to ask her: “Is there such a thing as racial profiling?” If she answers “No”; then things are clear. But if she answers, “yes”. How would she explain how it did not exist in this case?

I don’t honestly believe that Juror # b-37 and her fellow jurors are “racist”; as we would ascribe this term to someone who is a Nazi or a member of the Klu Klux Klan. I do believe that they are living with a set of racial prejudices and presumptions; that when given a powerful operational context; i.e. being a member of a jury or an armed member of a “neighborhood watch group” can have deadly outcomes. But further, these pre-judged belief systems can, as in this particular case, serve to deny justice, and encourage vigilantism against a nation of young people, who are unable to trade in their skin color for a safer hue.



*STEM= Science, Technology, Engineering & Mathematics

Race the Primary Factor in the Death of Trayvon; and Race the Primary Factor in the Death of Justice


“…How would it end…ain’t got a friend

My only sin…is in my skin

What did I do…to be so black and blue…”


         Forget the post-verdict “high-fiveing” callousness of George Zimmerman’s defense team; after all they deserve to gloat in the comfortable presence of an anemic and passive questioning press; who never asked:

“You were able to utilized race (by appealing to the fear of black men on the part of the jury); why was the prosecution so ineffective in this regard?”

“You had the advantage of having both your witnesses, and the prosecution’s witnesses work to exonerate your client, how were you able to do that?”

“You successfully transferred the title of victim from George Zimmerman to Trayvon Martin; how were you able to successfully convict the victim?”

“Have you ever tried a case where the prosecution raised more questions concerning the doubt of guilt than the defense?”

            And then, it was the “prosecutors” turn. Well forget about the: “our hearts were never in it but, the Negros wanted a trial, and so we went through the motion of a trial”; “prosecution teams” post-verdict press briefing where that same press crew gave them a pass; even after the States Attorney’s uninformed and untrue bold statement: “This case was not about race, Trayvon Martin was profiled”; but (I wanted to ask), profiled as what, a Martian? Even at this most painful moment for so many, they stood there like a football coach whose team just lost a game 62 to 0; and he could not bring himself to speak the obvious: “We dropped some passes we should have caught, and we missed some tackles we should have made”. If this is Florida’s best (well…); if Black Parents in Florida must rely on this team to protect their children, then only God can help them. The usually aggressive press failed to ask:

“Did you lose because you guys were purposely, or not on purpose ignorant of the central role of race that would weigh heavily on the minds of a majority White Jury?”

“Is there such a thing as properly preparing a witness in your office, why did the defense repeatedly “flip” your witnesses?

“Why was the defense so passionate, so well prepared, so procedurally thoughtful, and willing,(even risking the ire of the judge) to go all out on behalf of their client; did you truly believe that your “client” was a victim?”

“Were you concerned (and took into account) that the majority of the jury may have felt a greater fear of Trayvon (standing in, even in death, for all dangerous young Black men), then for George Zimmerman; the righteous antidote to that danger?

“ (role-reversal)How did your team end up serving as the “defense team” in the trial of Trayvon martin?”


       Forget the entire above, “mistrial travesty” of a minstrel justice show. And focus on the post-verdict interview by CNN’s Piers Morgan of George Zimmerman’s brother Robert Zimmerman. And after you watch that interview, and you are a Black parent in America, you should immediately restrict your teenage son to the house; for everything that could go wrong about your child’s future was revealed in that interview. It is not that Mr. Morgan is not a smart, sensitive and a thoughtful interviewer; he is all of those things. But in this particular case he found himself over matched and out of his weight class. You see Piers was questioning (and not properly prepared for) the very embodiment of a racial Nietzschean figure; a modern moral nihilist; who views feelings of regret or remorse, an understanding for the suffering of others, as contrived, irrelevant and a non-productive feeling. He was not angry (also a wasted emotion); he was not resentful or revengeful; he was just focused on the fact that the “other” (Trayvon); in this case did not matter, in life or death. This so-called Christian presented an updated version of Dostoyevsky’s Grand Inquisitor, who has chosen a form of Christianity that cannot be  burdened with the inconvenient presence of a Christ. If Mr. Morgan seemed to be unclear as to whom he was interviewing; Robert Zimmerman was not. He refused to accept the many “humanitarian” premises that undergirded Mr. Morgan’s questions (No, Trayvon was not a victim; and therefore there is nothing to feel sorry about). In this way he reflected the views of all men in history who have visited great harm on others; because of their ability to “override” and detached themselves from their human feelings. And they achieve this by simply denying the existence of humanity in those they victimize. He continually frustrated Mr. Morgan with his honest sincerity; he refused to accepting the often insincere but PC obligatory softball questions presented to allow for the display empathy; there would be no: “my heart goes out to the family…”; “There were two victims here……” No as far as he was concerned there was only one victim in this scenario; and that person was his brother George Zimmerman. Who in this case was falsely accused, demonized by an inauthentic and opportunistic public outcry; and persecuted by having to stand trial for simply defending himself.  His articulate defense and justification for the future killing of Young Black men; guilty of being, well, young Black men; contrasted so greatly with the spokespersons for the Martin family; who are still hopelessly mired in “race not being a factor here”, to the tune of, “why can’t we all just get along?”


See the interview here: http://piersmorgan.blogs.cnn.com/2013/07/14/robert-zimmerman-jr-to-piers-morgan-there-are-people-that-would-want-to-take-the-law-into-their-own-hands-they-will-always-present-a-threat-to-george/?hpt=pm_mid



P.S.: The first step is to engage young Black men (it may take the efforts of some voluntary community dads, so as to reach all of the young folks); in “the talk”. Just teach them the techniques of staying alive. Protecting their safety from both those who look, and don’t look like them. Everything else in a young person’s life has the possibility of being fixed, except death

      :The second task is to take on this violent epidemic that is robbing Black communities of its young people; this disease is “Zimmerman like”; but, it  is also a Black on Black daily onslaught. Young people need a quality education, Jobs, Justice, and most important a hope, that allows them to see themselves in a positive future.


Poem for Paulette

Poem for Paulette

don’t be afraid of fear;

when your body resist its own happiness,

the illness is…is not you,

defines….. and must not define you,

it is living within your living…..it is living without you,

and you are very much living without it,

it is you, and yet you are not it;

you are so much more, in so many different ways;

and yet the body comes courting as friend and betrayer,

we still love it despite its playing the role,

of failed and disappointing lover,

it seeks to bound and bind you through pain,

it seeks hegemonic harmony over your song,

imposing its ill-will on our waking, and our sleep;

just saying,

don’t be a silent witness to suffering,

but don’t cry too long either,

eyes are for seeing the hope in things,

for seeing the seed-things of hope in us;

and yet you must sometimes not share your concerns,

and care so much time for more than one;

you are/can be more than affliction,

the opposite direction of a destined despair;

be a golden promise of your(real) self,

acting and being a smile crafted in creation,

in  a place where all the peaceful waters (those worthy) wait,

being true in patience and not: “just a patient”.

she said: (in search of herself),

“amore-me-more (loving me/myself more now)”,

see her bravely taking deep breath between brackets:

(“I know me and the other person too, and I am not afraid of her”);

you can/are outlasting disappointment,

hope enters with a new found earnest loudness,

unafraid now of the sound of your own laughter,

waiting as a verb for a changing action of the heart,

time as a rescue sign restored to a proper noun,

metaphorically held at last in a lighthouse moment,

stating categorically the inside scooped to the surface,

the restorying of my life”; she said, “will take time”;

“since this feeling is knew 2 me 2”;

a sure sign of design unbroken on the borderless page;

she fights to dream before sleeping,

“I am a witness bearing witness 2 my own 2 lives”,

“I am the sea, the storm, the ship, and the sailor 2”;

naturally there is always the whispered wish for normality,

simply doing the simple normal things,

(“I want to just eat dinner with my family”),

the oh so subtle inclination to a right of banality,

an ordinary act raised to a thing of beauty,

a wish to be a burden-less-life-formed in the arms of kinfolk,

“I try hard to keep an I on my I in I(n)dependent”;

who could really rightfully read blame in her;

or try to decipher her notes on a 2 complicated life:

“my life is my life”,

surely not a browed life,

not able to be given or lent to another life,

a life cannot be changed, worn and washed like clothes;

can’t be closeted for a time long after a present grief;

“I am myself inside, and outside of myself”,

even when beside herself is another self she misses,

in solemnity stretching its vision above the gathering crowd,

waiting for its moment, its turn, to be born;

the mind and heart are never ill,

they always will us more good than bad,

illness is a road (sometime alone, sometimes peopled),

and yet not a destination;

affirming the ever-healthy spirit,

“I vow to live fully within what I mean to live”,

never defined by lack or luck,

the most brave thoughts will join her at the beginning sea,

immersed in their refusal to be still while singing at night,

“on that day when my words swim to meet my future”;

(when the waves resist not returning,

at the moment the sun kisses the blue/green glassy surface,

and dreams float just above her fears of being alone.)

 it is then that something sacred begins to happen,

a craft on an unwavering voyage of a craft hidden in memory,

a practitioner unpracticed in the art of spiritual self-knowing,

sailing softly through an ocean holding all of the worlds tears;

“wait”, she tells them; “just you wait”

“is it now”; they question in unison born in the womb of quiet unintentionality,

(she is very near, now…),

(she picks up the threads of her life, now…..),

(she speaks to the future in ancient words, now…)

“I will weave a path that will heal everyone,


and starting with me;

I will leave no heart unopened,


and starting with my own”

                                                                                     -(Uncle)Michael A. Johnson..5/29/13

Good Intentions Pave the Way to Our True Self

To Steven Ingraham: Prelude #2 to the “30 Most Important Things I Learned in Life”


(I know, these preludes are getting longer than the list itself!)


           Being immersed in science-thinking for so many years I have always felt that Race; as expressed in the genetic (DNA) and/or the phenotype (what you see) is perhaps one of the least scientifically reliable variables for making judgments about who, and what people are. And yet I must balance this understanding, with an understanding of how “race plays”, on the American stage of life. For example George Zimmerman may in fact be a “closer genetic relative” to Trayvon Martin then he is to most White people in America. But the social/political reality is, that on that tragic violent night he saw, not a possible relative; but his culturally defined: “Black Antagonist/Nemesis/Opponent”. I have been haunted (greatly of late); by the consoling and counseling words of my mother who in response to my being disappointed time and time again would ask: “When, will you learn; I know you love your people; the question is: do they love you?” Over the years (and long after her death) her logical (no college experience) question, and the implied answer; would repeatedly defeat my (college educated) frustration in the face of reality. I love education; but one cannot out think reality. To tell the truth, life is full of amazingly contradictory experiences that seem to challenge our inclination to live life in a reality that we have created in the solitary confines of our minds. I have for many years (and I can’t deny it) often felt spiritually closer to many of my Muslim students, than to students with whom I share a religious tradition. Also over the years, it has been very often been students and parents who are not African-American who have shown the greatest understanding and appreciation of my efforts. Many of these parents spoke little or no English. I remember with so much detail when the father of two of my Bengali-American students came into my office, after the graduation of the older brother. He confessed that he was at first worried about me; but that he had come to realize that I treated all of the children the same; and in tears he expressed his appreciation for what I 127had done for his son over the last four years; and what I was presently doing for his daughter. There we were two men, from two very different cultural experiences; both standing and celebrating in tears. That experience was one of the most wonderful moments in my career. But somehow I missed the lesson of that day; I missed what God (sometimes by way of my mother, but on that day by way of that parent) was trying to teach me. And that is: being in control of your calling is at best counter intuitive  and at worst counter productive. I truly believe that we are forced to “repeat a life-grade”, when we fail to learn the lessons of that life- grade. I would for better and worse go for many years; in many different localities; be forced to learn, again and again the important lesson of that moment. If you call yourself to a task (as opposed to being called), then I believe that task is in vain. Success is authentically and obediently responding to the call placed on your life; and like Jonah you can’t pick the where, and to whom you are sent. And for good reasons; our vision is too limited; our patience too wanting; our prejudice too overwhelming; our ability to forgive to faint; our compassion too weak, and our capacity to love unconditionally to shallow. It would (so it would seem) be easier to help people who look like us, live like us, and worship like us. But God has an interesting way of getting us back on track, when we are off the track of our calling.  Success for me has always been centered in my belief that by creating the possibility for young people to realize their true possibilities; meant a win for them, for their families, for the communities from which they come, for the nation, and indeed for the universe itself. A positive change in one person is a positive change for the entire world. But the truth is that doing a good may not be appreciated (even and including by the primary targets of that good). And perhaps the greatest beneficiaries of your good act will fall not on those who you intended it to fall; but rather, our good deeds will follow the intentions of God. 

Yes, it’s that simple….

I have found that in science, the most elegant proof is very often the most simple and straightforward explanation: From Chryssey A Schloss (An intellectual wonder woman who is always focused on the bottom line): “..the problem is that Trayvon is on trial instead of Zimmerman…”

Yes, it’s that simple

the crime of walking Black,


our constantly walking back in time,

being Black in a pre-existent-condition of a post-racial-existence,

is the same as being Black in a pre-assumptive position of guilt,

that’s all folks….that’s it

the victim trades places with the villain,

a desperado becomes Sheriff,

just in time and entitled to take any and all action,

against Black-listed enemies of his state of mind,

crime is in the eyes of whose watching,

don’t linger too long,

(time is also owned by the watcher);

stop and be followed,

don’t stop and be followed;

act un-Black and live;

and with no one to watch the watchman,

the trail begins and ends right then,

he completes the deadly closing task;

and seals the deed in blood;

its the hunters code in a never ending season;

a ritual expression sprinkled over the sons of the powerless;

“Now”, he said (fingering his tin star); “where did you say that 2nd trail was?”


American Businesses should mine their own business with diverse minds


         The seeds of a U.S economic decline are being planted by the lack of educational opportunity in the classroom for Black and Latino students; and also by the lack of diversity in the corporate boardroom when those students become adults.

          The ethical and fairness factors connected to the promotion of diversity in the corporate “culturally limited” leadership circle, is perhaps beyond their capacity to comprehend. In most cases they have not moved beyond the often pitiful and pathetic: “minority marketing events”; i.e. a “Black History Month Calendar” or the “Three Kings Key Chain” day. But maybe they can at least wrap their brains around the fact that a diverse leadership body is just plain good business sense. They undermine their own profit potential by not utilizing the creative minds of many capable members of the U.S. family. This terrible costly error by Target (and they are by no means alone) is only symptomatic of the many missed opportunities perpetuated by U.S. companies in their failure to engage a rapidly growing (soon to be majority) non-Anglo consumer.


“Target Admits Reminding Managers That Not All Hispanics ‘Wear Sombreros’Huffington Post 7/10/13


“Target used a training document at one of its warehouses reminding managers that not all Hispanic employees eat tacos and burritos, dance to salsa or wear sombreros, the company said Tuesday. A lawsuit filed by three former warehouse workers in California’s Yolo County shed light on the document, titled “Organization Effectiveness, Employee and Labor Relations Multi-Cultural Tips,” which included suggestions on managing Hispanic workers, and addressing stereotypes about how they eat and dress. Molly Snyder, a spokeswoman for Target, confirmed to The Huffington Post that the document was used during conversations at a company distribution center. She said it was not part of any “formal or company-wide training.” Snyder added that the retailer holds itself responsible for the contents of the document and that Target is “truly sorry.” “It is never Target’s intent to offend our team members or guests and we apologize,” she said.

According to the lawsuit, the document stated the following:

a. Food: not everyone eats tacos and burritos;

b. Music: not everyone dances to salsa;

c. Dress: not everyone wears a sombrero;

d. Mexicans (lower education level, some may be undocumented);

e. Cubans (Political refugees, legal status, higher education level); and

f. They may say ‘OK, OK’ and pretend to understand, when they do not, just to save face.

“The content of the document referenced is not representative of who Target is,” said Snyder. “We strive at all times to be a place where our team and guests feel welcome, valued and respected.”

The three former employees, Robert Gonzalez, Bulmaro Fabian and Pedro Garcia-Ayala, also claim in the lawsuit that their Caucasian bosses regularly used racial slurs when addressing Hispanic employees, and when Gonzalez reported the problem to the human resources department, his supervisors retaliated. Later, Gonzalez, Fabian and Garcia-Ayala were fired. All three claim that their terminations were racially motivated.”  http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/07/10/target-discrimination_n_3570717.html


A Gap in Geography, not Ability

“Only fraction of city schools producing bulk of students ready for college: report”…NY Daily News

  “It isn’t easy to graduate prepared for college — unless you come from one of the city’s select high schools, according to a new report released by the United Federation of Teachers. The analysis reveals that just 10% of city schools produce nearly half the students who graduate college-ready by state standards. That means an elite group of 35 high schools contributes to a disproportionate number of students ready for college — about 8,000 of the city’s roughly 16,000 seniors.”

         We could evoke the spiritual legal wisdom of Thurgood Marshall. Review the uncivil treatment of Black students in the pre-civil rights time in U.S. history. And then, there is the memory of Brown v Topeka. The consistent testimonial narratives offered by my teenage era southern raised elders, who migrated to NYC. They spoke of: Broken (if any) science equipment and supplies; handed down (flawed and broken) desk and chairs; Books torn, sections missing and always (in history), several U.S. President’s and world events too late. And how passionately they spoke about inadequate, old and inferior facilities; and yet also spoke in affectionately glowing terms of those brave and talented  (paid less than their White counterparts) Black teachers  and administrators who had high expectations for, and with them; and who push their students to excel despite the barriers of dramatically inadequate resources. Many of these great Black educators would ironically go on to become “casualties” of the school integration movement. We could review that famously and contradictory phrase: “separate and equal” that was delivered with sincerity by one in the same segregationist “straight men” and “jokester” as if educational denial was a comedy routine. No, this time I will rely on my memory of Pauline Johnson; who despite all of my protestation agreed with my Junior High guidance counselor, Mr. Berk, to send me (and a cohort of Black gifted and talented students) on a bus (is that why they called it busing?) to a White high school far away in Queens. Like most teenagers (a group I am very familiar with); I felt I knew more then any adult (the Mr. Berks of the world), and that included my mother. Further, like most teenagers I felt I knew everything in the world that needed to be known; and that included being thoroughly knowledgeable even about those things I had no knowledge of, including events that existed in the future. However, protest in my teenage days was limited to “pleading”; no such thing as ‘civil disobedience”, “boycotts”, or out and out refusals existed. First, a child had to actually respect their parents. Any perceived “right” of privacy, movement, questioning, opinion and speech was subject to final judicial review by an adult. Further, although “Child Protective Services” existed back then; if you “acted a fool”, don’t expect any agent of the government to come and rescue you from a serious “behind whipping”. And so my plea or argument against being sent (didn’t call it “bused” then); to a “White School” was as passionate as it was logical (at least in teenage logic). My mother listened patiently, and then rendered without explanation:  “You are going, because I want you to go”. With that statement, she signaled that the “plea period” was over; the matter was now closed. I could, and did continue my passionate argument in the safety of my room, under the cloak of darkness and the covers, but defiantly out of the hearing of my mother. But my mother (I was to learn much later) had no interest in offering me up in service to the civil rights movement. Neither was she sold on the “getting smart by the physical approximation to White kids” theory. She simply (and elegantly as with any good theory) hypothesized: “If you are sitting in a classroom (school) that is committed to the academic success of the children in that classroom, then, they will be forced to teach you too.”  She (although not college trained) knew pedagogically, what I actually came to realize in my first high school year. One day I was sitting outside and my friends and I started talking about our new high schools. I thought at that moment, that all schools were the same, and so I was quite shocked to learn how different our high schools were. I remember talking about “electives”, and which electives I planed to take (photography and sculpture). My friends who attended the neighborhood schools I wanted to attend queried: “What’s an elective, do you go to a private school”. As any Black male in that situation, I knew the drill; I shut down, and would spend the rest of my high school days in these neighborhood discussions, listening but never talking about the good and exciting things going on in my high school.

     This article points to our new “separate and unequal” state. And in many ways its subtlety and masquerade is more dangerous then its philosophical ancestor. At least under the old separate and unequal system, the motive and mission was clear. The intent was to relegate you to an inadequate and inferior educational experience. Today, our young people are trapped in buildings, many of which truly don’t deserve the name: “schools”. They have also become victims (read commodities) of a casual touring troupe of educational “reformers”, adept only at deforming the student’s one chance at a positive and productive life. These pedagogical pretenders are sadly joined by a compromised group of (politically elected) distracting detractors, who hide and hurt the children under the protective hoods of their Black and Brown skins. The truth is that we can dramatically increase the number of career and college ready Black and Latino students in our nation, tomorrow. We need only to simply provide them with an environmental culture that supports learning; professional expertise in content, methodology, and people who are culturally literate and respectful of the children and their families. The “achievement gap” is not in the heads or hearts of these students. The “gap” exists in our interest and will to make these young people into competitive participants in the rich opportunities of this nation. We need not bus them all out to sit next to White students as a requisite to receiving a quality education. We can however “bus-in” high expectations, efficacy and excellent expertise into learning environments that are rich with “extra-curricula” experiences, schools that are safe, encouraging, and academically achievement driven. Schools generate a lot of money and income for a lot of different people; it would be real nice if more children could get something worthwhile at the conclusion of their public school experience.



A report by the United Federation of Teachers shows that only 10% of city schools produce nearly half of the graduates considered ready for college.  http://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/education/fraction-city-schools-producing-college-ready-students-article-1.1386210#ixzz2Xhp9JDQq