Author Archives: Patman

Oh Yes, Wakanda IS Real! Believe it!


As of right now, the hit Marvel Comic film Black Panther has made over $700,000,000 worldwide and still counting.  Contrary to what commentator Ben Shapiro and other obtuse threatened right-wingers believe, their negative opinions toward the movie and toward black people being excited about it have had no effect on people’s enthusiasm whatsoever.  Among other asinine claims made by Shapiro and others is that Wakanda isn’t real.  Well it’s a good thing he told us or we would never have known!  I hope we won’t hear the shocking news that Asgard, Gotham City, Metropolis and a galaxy far far away aren’t real either.  Oh but Wakanda is very much real.  Not the African nation of course but what it represents.


Wakanda, in the Marvel Comic Universe, is an African nation rich with the most precious metal in the world known as vibranium.  Over centuries it has developed into the most advanced nation in the world.  It symbolizes what Africa could have potentially been without the effects of colonization and that is a large part of Black Panther’s appeal.  However, throughout history, going back to the beginnings of civilization, we as black people have shown what we can really accomplish and what we can be when the physical and mental chains are broken.  We need to look no further than the US for examples throughout history.  Washington D.C., our nation’s capital’s, boundaries were surveyed by a black man named Benjamin Banneker.  Banneker, who had already built a clock at the age of 22, would go on to author an almanac.  We all know what an ugly and horrific thing that war can be but imagine the death toll from poison gas if not for an invention known as the gas mask.invented by a black man named Garrett Augustus Morgan and patented in 1912.  Morgan, probably the greatest unsung inventor in U.S. History, created many more inventions including a self-extinguishing cigarette, a polish for sewing machine needles which kept the needles from scorching fabric,  hair straightening cream and hair straightening dye.  His most significant invention, however, has to be the traffic signal which we see on the streets every day.  The next time you’re frustrated with being stuck in bad traffic, thank Garrett Morgan for it now being worse.


When recognizing pioneers in the field of medicine, it is almost criminal how some of the most significant contributions are rarely recognized due to not looking like Louis Pasteur or Jonas but Wakanda exists there too.  Dr. Charles Drew’s research in blood transfusions and blood preservation and development of large-scale blood banks saved thousands of allied lives during World War II and has saved many more since.Although Dr. Drew may not have received the accolades he may have deserved during his lifetime, his work speaks for itself.  Fast forward to the 1960’s.  We all know about John Glenn’s historic space flight in 1962 when he became the first American to orbit the Earth. Who knew, until the 2017 movie Hidden Figures, that it might now have been possible if not for the mathematical genius of this black woman here,  Katherine Johnson?  Her calculation of trajectories, launch windows and emergency back flight return paths were essential to Glenn’s mission and man others, including the monumental Apollo 11 mission resulting in the first landing on the moon.  You could suggest that her contribution to the space program was much like Shuri’s contribution to T’Challa’s effectiveness as the Black Panther.

Ever heard of the gamma electric cell?  If not, you’re likely not familiar with it’s inventor, engineer Henry Sampson.  Sampson, the first black person to receive a PhD in nuclesr engineering in 1971, is considered by many to be the inventor of the cellular phone which makes use of the technology he invented.  The gamma electric cell, according to Dr. Sampson, was interestingly enough created to produce stable high output voltage and current used to detect radiation in the ground.  Even he probably never thought that it would revolutionize communication throughout the world. And yes,we can thank a black man for that.

So while the nation of Wakanda may be a fictional place, the people and the potential it represents certainly are not. There are many other past, present and future examples 0f black genius, excellence and innovation who have advanced our nation and world tremendously in many ways and are continuing to do so.  So when we say “Wakanda forever” it isn’t a wish, it’s a proclamation.


A Question of Faith

Faith is still a fairly new concept for me.  For 21 years now I have considered myself a Christian.  Unlike most black Americans I did not grow up in the church or follow any particular faith at all.  There were many reasons for that, not the least of which is I simply did not believe what I couldn’t see.  Part of what led me to finally accept the Lord was looking back at my life and realizing how blessed I was when things could have gone awry.  While I have been dutiful in praying, going to church and trying to live a life that the Lord would approve of, I have fallen short many times and have had my faith tested in many ways.  The latest example being the last two weeks.

My wife had a health scare which could have shaken us to the core.  She had a condition which, when she read up on it, was very symptomatic of cancer.  We prayed on it every day and reminded ourselves that it could be any number of things but one can’t help but fear the worst.  As much as I tell myself, and have been told by others, that God doesn’t make mistakes, we shouldn’t question him and that he knows what he’s doing, you can’t help what you feel.  I found myself angry at God, questioning the fairness of it all, trying to be as supportive as I could of my wife while trying to hold it together myself.  Like many others we claimed that 2018 would be a year of prosperity and breakthroughs but how could that be if the worst case scenario were true?  Our sons are still teenagers and they need their mother.  My wife should not spend the best years of her life undergoing surgeries and treatments which are not even guaranteed 100% success.  Yet we’re still supposed to be thankful and full of praise.

In spite of my feelings I did the only thing I could do, stay in prayer.  After all, we didn’t know what the condition was for a fact and even if worst came to worst it was early enough to treat it and beat it.  I spent more time praying in the spirit not just for my wife’s health but for emotional and spiritual health for us all.  There would be no reason for the Lord to help us if we curse and reject him now, especially for something that hadn’t even been confirmed.  Perhaps this was just a test, perhaps it was Satan messing with us, and Satan certainly will.  Perhaps we were merely being impatient and overly anxious.  Whatever it was, could anyone really blame us?

Then we got the news.  It wasn’t cancer!  It was a viral condition which, over time, will run it’s course, not ideal but way better than having cancer.  Instead of fear, anxiety and uncertainty we now feel relief and absolute gratitude.  If anyone asks, “Won’t He do it?” the answer is an absolute yes!

What is the takeaway from this?  Number one, prayer works!  You have to not just say the words but to believe that they are at least being heard.  Number two, you can’t lose faith or disconnect ourselves from our problem solver.  I’ve also come to accept that fear, uncertainty and even occasional anger at God are sometimes okay.  We are still human and we are still entitled to our emotions.  The key is channeling those emotions the right way.  Instead of lashing out at God, I simply prayed harder not just for healing for my wife but for emotional and spiritual strength for both of us.  When Job had everything taken from him, his family, his wealth and his health, he was bitter against God for allowing his life to fall apart but when his wife told him to curse God and die, he would do no such thing.  He knew that God was the one who gave him everything that he lost in the first place.  His reward for his faith was being blessed with everything he lost in greater abundance.  What the Lord eventually has in store for us remains to be seen but we already claim the good things he has to offer.  As long as Satan exists we know that there will likely be temptations, trials and tribulations but that’s why we continue to pray for understanding how to deal with it.  What proof do we need that what we pray for and claim will come to fruition?  We need nothing more than the numerous blessings we’ve been bestowed with over the last several decades.  The question will no longer be “Won’t he do it?” but to merely state “He did it!”


Another New Year’s Resolution? Not exactly the same thing

It’s another NewYear, usually the time we reflect on everything that happened the previous year and do these things called resolutions.  We know the usual, I”m going to lose weight, I’m going to save more money and this and that.  The thing is that very few of us see them through or give a serious effort in the first place.  My wife and I taught the lesson in children’s church at our church this past Sunday and while we hope the kids learned a valuable lesson, we certainly did.  Part of the reason why I stopped doing resolutions many years ago is that I wouldn’t see the results I wanted, or they weren’t happening fast enough.  Much of it was impatience, much was simply laziness but there’s one thing me or my wife, who I’m sure would agree, have been failing to do and that is putting God first.


One of the lessons we taught in children’s church used a poster and Pop Tarts as a metaphor.  We asked the little Biblical scholars what had to be done to produce a warm Pop Tart.  Some answered unwrap the Pop Tarts, others said to put them in the toaster, others said to pull the handle down, and all were right.  the correct answer though was to plug the toaster in.  Even when you do everything else, unless there is a power source, nothing will happen.  We came to understand that it’s the same thing in life.  Resolving to lose weight, to save money, to accomplish a certain goal or whatever else you can think of to improve yourself, you have to believe in something bigger than yourself to really see it through and this year, we intend to do just that.  Before going to work today, I said my prayers as I usually do but I also made it a point to spend time with God before starting my day and work and it certainly set the right tone for my day.  It’s only January 2nd but I am more than confident that progress is coming for all of 2018.

2017 was a trying year for all of us but especially for me.  I lost my beloved Grandma in January of last year (I blogged about it) and I lost my uncle who was the patriarch of our family just last month. The year as a whole has been a roller coaster ride and as blessed and thankful that I am, I’d rather not go through another year like that.While it would not have prevented my grandmother and uncle’s passings, putting God first in every other aspect of my life would have made it much more tolerable overall.  It certainly would have made a difference in my finances and my relationships with my wife and sons.  many do not believe in the power of prayer but I can honestly say that it has worked for me when I’ve exercised it consistently and faithfully.

So I only have one resolution for 2018 and that is to stay plugged in with God and his word. I’m looking forward to the next 11 months already! Happy New Year family, Let’s all enjoy the ride!

Goodbye Grandma- for now

On January 23rd, 2017,  ago my beloved grandmother, Grandma to me, Granny to others, Grandma Becca to her great grandchildren, was laid to rest.  She passed away at the age of 96, a long life by any standards.  Needless to say, her passing left my heart heavy and leaves a void that only a grandmother can fill.  It would be a disservice to her, however, to simply talk about what a good woman she was but I have to acknowledge what a strong black woman she was and how she fit the very definition in my eyes.

Grandma was born in rural South Carolina in 1920 and only made it to the 3rd  grade before she had to drop out of school and help support her family as many black people did in those days.  The rest of what she learned was taught to her by the white lady she used to work for.  She joined her church at the age of 12 and was an active member ever since.  She got married at 16, had her first child at 18 and had six more since then, all of whom have grown up to be good productive individuals who raised good productive children themselves.  At the age of 49, she opened and ran a local store for 16 years, doing farming along with it.  Along the way, she lost two husbands but never her faith in God.  The things that too many parents put up with children now would never be tolerated by her and her children and grandchildren were all better for it.  The legacy that she left is unmeasurable.

Would I suggest that being like Grandma would get us as a people where we need to be?  Not necessarily.  A lot of things that were done in my grandmothers time were out of necessity and we are past many of the barriers she had to face.  Our children no longer have to drop out of school to go to work and many would agree that starting a family at the age of 18 is too early in these times.  However, many examples she set were timeless.  She always believed in marriage before childbirth, the value of prayer and hard work.  Grandma knew the value of a good education, not having had the opportunity to further hers, so she always encouraged her children and grandchildren to further theirs.  She could have used every excuse at her disposal to not be a good mother or a productive individual but that wasn’t her.

Grandma was a classic disciplinarian, did not spare the rod but everything she did was out of love and not wanting to see her grandchildren going in the wrong direction.  Thankfully me, my sisters and cousins were all raised to respect our elders, authority and to be good citizens but even if we didn’t get that at home, we sure got it from Grandma.  We make sure to instill it in our children and even the grandchildren that some of us have now.  We will miss her very much but will always be grateful for everything she has done for us and for the precious memories.  Goodbye Grandma.  I’ll see you on the other side.

Black America, we may be bent but we can’t break

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To suggest that war has been declared on Black-America may sound hyperbolic but it’s not without reason.  It’s been a month since that night on November 8, 2016, when the unthinkable happened.  The racist, narcissistic, misogynist juvenile twitter happy buffoon known as Donald Trump was elected President of the United States.  How in God’s name could a country that elected Barack Obama, our first ever black President, twice possibly do this?  Like many other Americans, especially black, I wasn’t simply dejected, I was sad, angry and in a total funk for the next several days.  For the last eight years the level of hatred against Black-America was cringeworthy.  In the days since Trump’s election, it has really intensified.  Even with all that, I took some comfort in knowing that Trump only won because of the electoral college and if the Presidential election were based on popular votes only, he would have lost significantly.  It wouldn’t change the election results but it did mean that bigotry and the white supremacy which some now try to call “alt-right” wouldn’t prevail as easily.


December 5, 2016.  The jury in the case of Michael Slager, a white North Charleston South Carolina police officer charged with murdering Walter Scott, a black man who was running away from him after a traffic stop that escalated, by shooting him in the back.  Slager then placed a tazer next to Scott and claimed that Scott tried to attack him.  Thankfully a bystander recorded the shooting and the planting of the tazer so it seemed to be an open and shut case.  Not so.  At least one juror, in spite of everything, could not get himself to convict this man of anything at all and a mistrial was declared.  Slager will be re-tried so some would argue that justice hasn’t been denied, only deferred, but I’m not so optimistic.  The jury was already stacked in Slager’s favor, one being black and all the others being white, in a city that is predominantly black, and I’m not confident that the next jury will not have at least one member who simply refuses to hold one of their own accountable when it comes to killing black people.  It was 11/9/16 all over again for me.

I had “the talk” with my sons yet again, about racism, about the importance of voting, about how to deal with the police and about how we in Black-America are still feared, hated and viewed as less than by many in this society.  I’m tired of having to do this but I have to for their survival.  It’s time we all had “the talk” among ourselves not only about Trump’s election and police brutality but about where we go from here.  I don’t have a definitive answer to that and probably never will but thing is for certain and that is that if we don’t value ourselves, no one will.  How do we show self value?

First of all, Black-America, register to vote.  Many of are registered and do come out on election day but too many of us don’t.  Yes voter ID laws enacted in those states that have them are there to suppress black voting but that just means we have to put in the work.  The next major election occurs in 2018, halfway through Trump’s “administration” and that is a long time to put in the work in obtaining a state sponsored ID.  Get it and get your behind to the polls with no excuses.


Also let’s reevaluate your values.  Many of us claim to be poor but will buy our children the latest Jordans before paying the rent or utilities.  Does that make sense?  Not to the mentally stable.  The money you save by living within your means can be put toward saving and investing in things that mean something.  While the economy has improved remarkably over the last eight years, it sitll isn’t where it needs to be and don’t expect any imporvements under the Trump “administration,” especially as it pertains to Black-America.  That is why saving, investing, living within our means and becoming more financially savvy is really going to be important.


Black health matters too.  Republican lawmakers are already salivating at repealing the Affordable Care Act and even if it stays, health care isn’t getting any cheaper.  What’s the best way to combat health care costs?  By having must less of a demand for it.  It doesn’t matter if a pharmaceutical company jacks their prices up 200% if the product isn’t being bought does it?  We’ve been told for decades not that we have got to get more regular exercise in our routine and develop better eating habits.  Yes it’s okay to have that tasty fried greasy stuff once in a while but it should be at a minimum and in moderation.  If we can decrease high blood pressure (the thorn in my own side), diabetes, heart disease and kidney problems by the sligtest percentage, someone who gets rich off of it will feel it.


And let’s show some more self respect everybody. I would love to see much less of the N word and the B word.  Anything that you would slap anyone of any other race for letting out of their mouth should not come out of yours.  The same goes for what you would not want anyone calling your mother or sister.  When a recording artist is on take having se with underage girls, he is to be condemned, not defended.  When an up and coming  singer beats up his girlfriend in public he is to be condemned, not defended. It would be nice to turn that reality trash off of the TV once in a while too. Black images matter just as much as black lives.

Simplistic you may say but don’t tell me that it isn’t significant.  I don’t have the magic answer but not trying will not be an option between not and 2020.  I don’t know what’s in store for the next four years but I don’t think it’s anything that we can’t get through.  If we can survive slavery, Reconstruction and Jim Crow , we can survive a Trump presidency.  I suggest a lot of retrospection and value reevaluation in the meantime though.




White Privilege, A Crash Course


If there are two words that unsettle unknowledgable white people as much as the words Black Lives Matter, they have to be white privilege.  Given the racial climate over the last eight years, exacerbated by the election and reelection of President Barack Obama, we’ve been hearing a lot about it lately.  To the willfully ignorant or simply misinformed white person, they’re fighting words uttered by anti-white black people to stir up resentment and to emphasize black victimhood.  Well actually no and no.  For those whites who really want to know what I’m getting back, sit back, have a cup of patience sweetened with open mindedness and just listen.

When we talk about white privilege, are we saying that the life of a white person is a bowl of cherries?  Of course not.  No one with any sense believes that being white means that life is trouble free and that white people don’t have to work for anything they have.  It also doesn’t mean that being white is to be insulated from injustice.  The fact that the majority of welfare recipients and recipients of other forms of public assistance are white (there goes a convenient racist stereotype) and that, in strictly numbers, more whites are killed by police than people of color shows that struggle and pain doesn’t bounce off of white skin.  Those who choose to interpret otherwise are doing themselves a disservice as well as those of us who recognize it.  What is white privilege then?

White privilege is being able to take for granted the rights, dignity and freedoms that are denied to others on too far a regular basis.  Don’t black people have the same rights and freedoms as everyone else?  On the law books, yes, but that isn’t always how it is in practice.  If we look at the numerous attempts by some states, mostly in the South, to suppress voting rights, we have an example.  Many of these laws require voters to present picture ID and others are doing away with early voting, same day registration and weekend voting.  What’s wrong with that you ask?  Just having to ask the question is a form of white privilege.  Black people, especially the elderly, are far less likely to posess picture ID due to being more likely to use public transportation, therefore not needing a drivers license as much.  Many elderly black Americans, who were born during a time when they didn’t always receive or keep birth certificates, would find obtaining a picture ID much more difficult.  The state of Alabama, where ID  is required, is actually closing down many license offices in predominantly black areas which really makes you go hmmmm.  Republican legislators will swear to the max that these laws are not discriminatory and that they are meant to prevent voter fraud but the number of proven cases of fraud has been so miniscule that even talking about passing laws to combat it seems a waste of time.  Well I guess it isn’t if you’re trying to disenfranchise people.

Let’s talk about white privelege in law enforcement.  You say obey the law, respect the police and use common sense, right?  Well I’m very certain that Tamir Rice, Philando Castile, Terence Crutcher and John Crawford III would give you a sideye if they could.  Crawford was simply looking at a BB rifle on the shelf at Wal Mart and talking on his cell phone when officers gunned him down after reports of a man with a gun in the store.  It’s likely that they simply saw a black man with a gun and all preconceived stereotypes led to the worst.  In spite of the many school, theatre and shopping center and church shootings committed by whites, it’s still a safe bet that a white man looking at a BB gun in the store would be assumed to be browsing.  Terence Crutcher, who first committed the heinous act of having his car break down, was walking with his hands up when shot.  An officer in a helicopter, without knowing what was going on, concluded that he was a “bad dude” from high in the sky.  Lavar Jones, who was stopped by a South Carolina state trooper for a seatbelt infraction two years ago got shot in his hip after he reached in his vehicle to get his drivers license, as he was asked to do.  Let me add that his hands were up and he was backing away.  Thankfully Mr. Jones survived and the trooper, Sean Groubert, pleaded guilty to assault and although, at the time of this writing, there is no word on his sentence, will never be a law enforcement officer again but the fact that the shooting victim survived and that the officer received at least some repercussions is an anomaly.  I seriously doubt that there are many whites who are wary about reaching for their licenses when stopped by police for fear of being a statistic.  Last year an Indian man named Sureshbhai Patel, while visiting his son in Madison Alabama, was tackled by a white cop and partially paralyzed while taking a walk through his son’s subdivision.  Mr. Patel was already handcuffed mind you.  The officer was responding to a call from a neighbor reporting a “skinny black guy” in the neighborhood.  White privilege is not having to worry about being confronted by the police while simply taking a walk.  It also means not having to worry about a neighbor calling the police in the first place after taking one look at your color and assuming that you’re up to no good.  Oh and did I mention what happened to Dylann Roof after he shot and killed nine black churchgoers in Charleston SC last year.  Not only was he taken alive without a scratch, he was treated to a meal at Burger King.  Get the privilege idea a little bit now?  How about being able to drive an expensive car without being pulled over because the officer, who can’t afford it himself, suspects that you sold drugs for it or stole it, or is simply sore at seeing someone who doesn’t look like him with something that only he should be driving?  Or not being suspected of burglarizing the house in the affluent white neighborhood that you recently moved into.  That’s a privelege that many of us would welcome.

Now let’s talk about white privilege and personal achievement.  Let’s start with sports.  Most of us know about Michael Phelps, not only the winningest swimmer in Olympic history but the winningest Olympian period.  Most of us would attribute his success to hard work, dedication and sacrifice, as we should.  We also know about Jamaican sprinter Usain Bolt, winner of nine Olympic Gold medals and world record holder it the 100 and 200 meters.  I attribute that to hard work, dedication and discipline also but there are many asking the question “Why are Jamaicans such good sprinters?” Those of us who follow track know that Kenya has some of the best middle-distance runners in the world but that wasn’t always the case.  Until Kenya began to stand out, the best middle-distance runners were Great Britain’s Sebastian Coe, Steve Ovett and Steve Cram and New Zealander John Walker.  No one asked, however, why British Commonwealth runners were so good.  No one asks why Canadians are such good hockey players, why white Americans are such good speed skaters and why southern good ole boys are such good stock car drivers.  Ever since Jesse Owens shattered Adolf Hitler’s myth of Aryan physical supremacy, scientists and casual observers have credited black athletic success with black people having inbred physical and genetic features which give us an advantage.  Larry Bird, undoubtedly one of the greatest basketball players ever was a 6’9 tall example of white privilege in the 1980s when his accomplishments were heavily touted as being due to his intelligence, court sense and work ethic while Magic Johnson and Michael Jordan were merely faster and more athletic.  Jon Entine authored a junk science book called “Taboo” which was published in 2000 which suggests that black athletes have genetic advantages over whites.  Venus and Serena Williams have often been commented on for the supposed physical advantages that they have over their white counterparts.  When the Arkansas Razorbacks, who were predominantly black, defeated the Duke Blue Devils, who had more whites on the roster, to win the 1994 NCAA basketball title, a white female reporter asked Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski if the Arkansas players were bigger and quicker.  Uh lady, maybe Arkansas simply played better basketball!  If you ever achieved anything in sports without anyone thinking that you achieved it due to any special advantages, consider yourself privileged.

Oh and lets get to academics.  As everyone knows, it is generally believed that whites are more intelligent than blacks and that makes white the superior race.  If you’ve been paying attention, you’ve noticed many examples of black teenagers making the news by being accepted into multiple Ivy Leagues schools, some being accepted to all eight.  While they have all received many accolades, they have had detractors suggesting that their acceptances were due to affirmative action, in spite of their high grade point averages, their SAT scores, extracurricular activities and other positive accomplishments.  White privilege is being accepted into a prestigious university and it is assumed that it’s because of your qualifications and nothing more.  As flattering as some may think it is to credit Asians with being an intellectually superior people, many would quickly tell you how insulting it is to credit anything other than rigorous study habits for that.

Need further explanation?  Feel free to ask someone instead of being defensive and/or in denial.  The racism that still exists in our society has gotten more exposed over the last several years and with that includes a greater awareness of what I just explained.  Don’t worry, no one is asking you to give up anything or suggesting that the better your life is the worse ours are.  What we see and know, however, is what we see and know and progress isn’t made with a buried head.




Grandfathering, a dad’s perspective

Today is National Grandparents Day, which I didn’t know until this morning, but it is so timely since I was thinking about my own grandfather the other day.  I was sharing stories with my sons about what a nice old man he was to me and his other grandchildren yet to the grown ups, he was a crotchety and irritable figure.  If you ask my mother and my aunts about it, they’ll mostly laugh at it as they accept it as him being who he was but, to this day, I can’t picture that side of him.  What I can picture, as my mother has also described, is the hardworking, honest, responsible man who, like other blacks of his day, experienced racism and indignity yet never used it as an excuse to abandon his responsibilities and set a good example for every male in his life.  I remember when my family moved in with him when I was two years old, three years after my grandmother passed away, and he kept the house in immaculate shape, the yard tidy and was always a pleasure to be around.  I always go the sense that being an older man who lived on his own, he not only learned to live independently but got a boost from the love he had for his grandchildren.  I remember whenever he would come to visit  he would bring a bag of candy for me and my sister, a bag of peaches for my parents and staying only five minutes but always making sure me and my sister felt the love.

What did I learn from Granddaddy?  I learned to live my life as a good example to my sons and that when the day comes that I have grandchildren that I learn from whatever mistakes I may make with my own so that I can be the kind of grandfather to them that mine was to me.  To have my grandchildren share the kind of memories with their children that I have of mine would be a true honor but I have to earn that honor.

Another man who is truly earning that honor is my other father.  Like the classic rags to riches story he grew up poor in rural South Carolina, graduated from college, served some time in the Air Force, got a good job, earned his masters degree and ran a successful accounting firm for almost 40 years.  He didn’t believe in religion and my mother was an agnostic so my sister and I didn’t grow up in the church but we were brought up with solid values such as telling the truth, respecting other people and their property and always putting out best face forward.  Daddy wasn’t always the perfect or ideal father (Who is?) as he made his share of mistakes but rather than hold those mistakes against him, I’ve tried to do better.  One thing I remember almost vividly is when I got in a fight with a kid across the street, walked away because I didn’t want to continue fighting, and he kept sending me back to fight him since I needed to toughen up and stand up for myself.  Several years later, after the birth of my older son, I remember being stressed out by him and Daddy calling to talk to me.  He told me about that incident and how he regretted it and I let him know that I didn’t hold that against him and how I planned to raise my son.  I have taught him to stand up for himself in situation when he has to but I wouldn’t force him to fight anyone.  In the times we live in now it is hard because it’s not quite as easy to tell your child to hit someone back when people are shooting and killing each other over senseless things.  Thankfully both my sons know Tae Kwon Do so defending themselves in unarmed confrontation isn’t as much of a worry.  When I see my boys interact with their “Gramps”, I see the growth and learning from past mistakes that I felt when he called me that evening.  When Daddy was running his business he didn’t often find time to spend with me and my sister since he was busy but he makes and effort to spend time with his grandsons every chance he gets.  He also gives plenty of compliments and encouraging words that I didn’t always receive.

I feel that the lessons I learned from my father are valuable in how I raise his grandchildren.  Unlike Daddy I accept Christ as my lord and savior and my sons are being raised to be Christian men but like my father, their mother and I try to instill basic values of honesty, respect for others and the value of hard work in them.  Like my father I try to be a good provider and an example of a hard working may who has his family’s back but I try to give positive reinforcement on a more regular basis.  I already see the same relationship with my sons and both their grandfathers, the other nicknamed “Pops” that I had with mine and it makes my heart jump.

My sons are rare in that they have all four grandparents surviving and living in close proximity and their interactions with all four, who have four different personalities and ways of doing things, are amazing.  I have learned so much about the kind of father I want to be and not to be, the kind of grandfather I want to be and not to be, from both but especially my own father and grandfather and I am blessed for that.  My father’s own personal growth and evolution is an influence on me and so are the memories of my grandfather.  I am in no hurry to be anyone’s grandfather right now but when that moment does come, this granddaddy will be totally up for the challenge.

Colin Kaepernick and the new age of athletic activism


San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick (7) stands on the sideline during the second half of an NFL football game against the Seattle Seahawks in Santa Clara, Calif., Thursday, Oct. 22, 2015. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)

Much has been made lately of San Francisco Forty Niners quarterback Colin Kaepernick and his recent refusal to stand during the playing of the national anthem before the game.  He explained it by saying “I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color. To me, this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way. There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder.”  Very rare to hear that from any prominent pro athlete these days.  Of course the condemnation was swift and inevitable, everything from police union spokesmen with hurt feelings demanding an apology to offended right wingers referring to Kaepernick as a terrorist, a reverse racist and other terms that can’t be repeated here.  My take?  Kaepernick has every right to express his opinion, he is not required by law or by the NFL to stand for the national anthem and he’s not doing anything wrong.  What’s really refreshing is to see someone in his position taking a stand which could be costly for him in public appeal, endorsements and the overall future of his career.  So far he doesn’t seem to be fazed by it.

Kaepernick represents what many felt had gone the way of the station wagon, the 8 track tape and leaded gasoline, the activist athlete.  Up until the early 1960s, any athlete fortunate to make it to the pro level was very careful not to engage in social issues.  Jackie Robinson breaking the color barrier in baseball was activist enough and that was just to play the game.  As the Civil Rights movement gained steam, however, more and more felt compelled to speak out.  NBA legend Bill Russell, before the 1961-62 season, was refused service in a Kentucky restaurant before an exhibition game and in response he and other black teammates flew home.  Because he realized that many of the same white fans who cheered him on the court called him and other blacks the N word behind his back, he once stated “You owe the public the same it owes you, nothing! I refuse to smile and be nice to the kiddies.”  He referred to Boston, where he helped the Celtics to win numerous championships during the 1960s as a “flea market of racism.”  Everyone knows about the popular heavyweight great Cassius Clay converting to Islam and changing his name to Muhammed Ali which alienated many white Americans.  Even the most mortified among white Americans, however, were not prepared for Ali’s refusal to submit to the draft or his declarations that “I aint got no quarrel with them Vietcongs.” and “No Vietcong ever called me n—-r.”  Before the 1968 Summer Olympics, many black athletes talked about boycotting the games to protest racism in America.  Among those was UCLA center Lew Alcindor, who we now know as Kareem Abdul Jabbar.  The boycott never materialized, however, and it was decided to leave any decision to protest, or not protest, up to the individual athletes.  Two of those were sprinters Tommie Smith and John Carlos, who finished 1-3 in the 200 meters, with Australian Peter Norman finishing second.  During the playing of the Star Spangled banner, Smith raised his right black gloved fist while Carlos raised his left black gloved fist in a “black power” salute.  Norman, who remained friends with Smith and Carlos until the day he died, wore a button in support.  Smith and Carlos were sent home and were vilified by the press and the public but are now regarded as heroes.  Norman was barred from future competition in Australia but never apologized for supporting his black American friends.  Abdul-Jabbar, who refused to play on that year’s Olympic team, to this day speaks out against things he finds wrong in society.

Compare the before mentioned individuals to who we have seen over the last three decades and where is the comparison?  Society has changed for the better but many would argue that there has still been much left to improve.  Michael Jordan, considered to be the greatest basketball player of all time, was notorious for shying away from social issues.  When asked about endorsing former Charlotte NC mayor Harvey Gantt in his 1990 campaign against Jesse Helms for senator he reportedly said (and later denied) “Republican buy sneakers too.”  During the 1992 Olympics, the first year the pro athletes were officially allowed to play, as part of the “Dream Team,” Jordan threatened to not take part in the victory ceremony due to the warm up suits being manufactured by Reebok while he was under contract with Nike.  In 1972, the U.S. men’s basketball team refused to accept the silver medal in protest of what was perceived as them being cheated out of the gold medal game in favor of the Soviet Union.  Compare that to millionaire athletes standing up for the grand cause of representing a shoe manufacturer 20 years later.  Draw your own conclusion.

One notable exception is former Denver Nuggets guard Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf who in March of 1996 was suspended one game by the NBA for refusing to stand for the Star Spangled Banner.  Abdul-Rauf claimed that the U.S. flag was a symbol of oppression and tyranny.  He worked out a compromise with the NBA where he would stand and pray  during the playing of the anthem.  Many compare Kaepernick’s more recent stance to Abdul-Rauf’s.

Let me be the first to say that no individual, celebrity or not, should be compelled to be an activist.  People should be free to do what they feel is right and it isn’t up to me or anyone else to make that decision for them.  I myself have defended Jordan and others against charges that they don’t get active enough in social issues or do enough for the black community.  My issue with Jordan has been that while he has the right to keep his political views to himself, he has shown himself to be quick to stand up for the grand cause of Nike and anything that affects his financial bottom line and that represents what many feel to be the problem with today’s athlete, more about making money than about what’s going on the world outside of sports.

What we have seen in recent years, however, is more and more athletes speaking out on issues that matter to their community as a whole.  In December of 2014, five members of the St. Louis Rams protested the shooting death of Michael Brown by Ferguson MO police officer Darren Wilson by entering the stadium with their hands up.  Cleveland Cavalier superstar LeBron James, along with teammate Kyrie Irving and other players wore shirts with the slogan “I can’t breathe.”in protest of the death of Eric Garner due to a police choke hold.  That would have been unheard of a decade ago.  Even Jordan contributed to President Obama’s campaign in 2008 and about a month ago spoke out against police brutality and the murder of police officers in retaliation.  I have not heard any news reports yet of Hell freezing over.

I have no idea where Kaepernick’s career goes from here but I predict that as far as his protest goes, history will be kind to him as it now is to Russell, Ali, Smith, Carlos and Abdul-Jabbar.  In the meantime, the boos will be rained down on him, the calls for him to be cut (which may happen anyway due to his performance) will intensify and he will surely receive a threat or two.  I have a feeling though that like the before mentioned, he will end up not regretting a single moment of it.

See, even sweet little Gabby isn’t immune to the vilification


Anyone care to tell us what’s wrong with the above picture?


Nothing, right?  Okay, tell us what’s wrong with this one?


Still nothing, right?


What do the individuals in these photos have in common?  Both show USA athletes on the victory stand while the Star Spangled Banner is being played.  The former pic is Gabby Douglas receiving her gold medal as part of the winning women gymnastics team.  The former is of men’s shot put winner Ryan Crouser and American silver medalist Joe Kovacs.  There is one big difference that stands out though.  Yes Douglas is a black woman and Crouser and Kovac are white men.  But which one received condemnation, hate and vitriol from many in the social media universe for not having her hand over her heart during the playing of the national anthem?  I’ll give you three guesses.

For those of you who don’t know, Gabby became the first black women to win an individual Olympic gold medal in gymnastics in 2012 by winning the women’s all around.  She won another gold medal in the team competition, making her the first American woman, black or white, to win both.  I have observed, as well as many others, that whenever a black person breaks through in an area in which our very presence, let alone success, is rare, there are some whites who are, at best, uncomfortable with it and, at worst, threatened by it.  We saw it with the hatred thrown at tennis stars Venus and Serena Williams, speed skater Shani Davis and, most recently, Cam Newton.  The Williams sisters have been accused of having bad attitudes and have had nasty comments about their femininity thrown at them for years.  Davis was accused of being unpatriotic and of having a bad attitude during the 2006 Winter Olympics when he refused to take part in the men’s team pursuit at the last minute so he could concentrate on his individual events.  When he came back to win another gold medal in the 1000 meter event in 2010, some reporters talked more about his attitude and demeanor in 2006 than they did about him repeating as champion in his best event.  Cam Newton is arguably the most dominant quarterback in the NFL right now and last year he had an outstanding season leading the Carolina Panthers to a regular season record of 15-1 and eventually to the Super Bowl.  He received much attention for “dabbing” in the end zone after a touchdown (not to mention handing the ball to children in the stands) and other expressions of joy.  For that he has been called a thug, a bad influence and everything else but a child of God.  Of course there are many who still believe that the quarterback p0sition should be the exclusive domain of white men who, in their minds, are more intelligent and have greater leadership skills to lead an NFL football team.  Go figure.

Of course only a miniscule number of white bigots are going to publicly admit to having an issue with black people breaking through in areas in which white dominate.  The days of umpires yelling “Get those n—–s off the field!” ended well over 60 years ago.  Instead we get manufactured crises, claims of bad attitudes and not being a team player.  Gabby, who already had to deal with criticism about her hair mostly from a handful of shallow black women, had to deal with criticism about her not smiling enough and seeming to bitter and upset about not having the opportunity to repeat as all around champion.  I don’t know of anyone, even those well conditioned enough to be Olympic athletes, who have enough in them to keep a smile on their face 24-7 just to avoid having their emotions analyzed, but l guess Gabby is supposed to be special.  That was before her egregious act of treason on the medal stand.  Among her critics was Los Angeles Times columnist Bill Plaschke who devoted a whole article toward the incident.  Gabby issued a tweet in which she apologized, explaning that she didn’t mean any disrespect and that she was overwhelmed at what the team had accomplished which Plaschke responded to with “If Douglas was truly overcome with emotion as she claimed, that would have been visible, yet her expression was black and distant.”  Excuse me?  The most prolific mind reader and body language expert in Southern California, knowing that it would be pointed out that very few athletes at sporting events put their hands over their hearts explained the lack of criticism there with “Except those players aren’t representing an entire country as it’s flag is being raised to the world.  The next time Gabby Douglas stands on a podium for the national anthem, she can forget the words, disagree with them, protest them.  But there’s hoping she never again ignores the weight of their meaning.”  My head is still spinning from that.

Let me note that we still haven’t gotten Plaschke’s body language and mind reading analysis on Ryan Crouser and Joe Kovacs.  It’s doubtful that we ever will.

To be fair, I do not believe that the criticism and hostility directed toward Gabby Douglas and the others mentioned earlier comes from a majority of whites.  Gabby was considered by many to be America’s sweetheart in 2012 and her beaming smile and personality delighted many just as much as her electrifying performances.  The Williams Sisters, especially Serena, are acknowledged as being two of the greatest female tennis players of all time and if you took a popularity polls of NFL players, Cam Newton would probably be near or at the top.  The negativity, however, still shows how long we still have to go.  Just like President Barack Obama’s election in 2008, and reelection in 2012, show how far the U.S. has progressed in terms or accepting black people in previously white only clubs, the disrespect, hate and vitriol thrown at him show that old habits die hard.  No one is suggesting that black athletes or other prominent individuals should be free from criticism but what is that criticism based on?  What white speed skater would have had his patriotism and commitment to his team questioned for wanting to concentrate on his individual events rather than a team pursuit he was asked to join at the last minute?  What other tennis player would have been accused of disrespecting her opponent after a loss simply for saying “I didn’t play my best.” as opposed to showering her opponent with praise or be criticized, for, God forbid, having interests outside of tennis such as fashion design?  Black people in certain positions are often made to feel like they have to almost walk on water in order to avoid criticism and they usually have two choices, walk on eggshells on a constant basis with the hopes of maybe not rubbing anyone the wrong way or develop a “To hell with it” attitude which sometimes works and sometimes doesn’t.  I doubt that Gabby takes that approach but I hope she realizes also that you can’t please everybody and it’s not worth the stress to even try.  If she is as smart as she is talented, and I believe she is, she’ll take the right approach for her.

Ms. Douglas, who according to her mother was driven to tears by all the social media negativity, will continue to be one of America’s most popular athletes and will get past all this even stronger, just like Venus and Serena Williams, just like Shani Davis and just like President Obama.  Right now she is getting a hard lesson in how a certain segment of our population will never see her as anything other than a n—-r gal who doesn’t know her place.  As for her multiracial, multicultural support base, which I am proud to be a part of, the only place she belongs is the top of the victory podium, hand on heart or not.

Olympic memories, the good, the bad and the ugly

The 2016 Olympics are under way in Rio De Janeiro Brazil and so far the performances have been entertaining.  I am reminded so much of what I remember about the Olympics from when I was a child and how much has changed, some for the better, some for the worse, over the years.  The very first Olympian I remember was Bruce (now Caitlyn) Jenner in 1976 who became a phenomenon after winning the decathlon.  Much was made of the fact that he lived as a pauper during the previous four years he spent training for the grueling competition.  The money that many track athletes make now on endorsements and appearance fees provide a good living while, in the days of strict amateurism, atheltes worked full time jobs and spent whatever free time they had training instead of watching TV and playing Candy Crush.  Is that a good thing or a bad thing?  Depends on who you ask.  If you enjoy the fact that the performances continue to get better and better and that  we truly get too see the world’s best athletes, regardless of income, go at it, it’s a good thing.  If you feel that commercialism has killed the spirit of competition for the love of sport itself and that today’s Olympic athletes simply aren’t in it for the right reasons, it’s not so good.  Personally I’ve wavered between both schools of thought but choose to believe that the Olympic Games are still the world’s greatest sporting event.  My biggest memories are as follows:

1980 Moscow:

The bad and the ugly-  The U.S. boycott of the games.  President Jimmy Carter, a man I have great respect for, had the U.S. boycott the Summer Games in response to the Soviet Union’s invasion of Afghanistan.  Many American allies boycotted as well.  Great Britain notably decried that actions of the USSR but left the decision to boycott up to the athletes.  While the USSR’s actions were deplorable, it was wrong to use athletes as political pawns.  I simply do not believe in mixing sports with politics.  Some may cite Tommie Smith and Jon Carlos’ black power salute in Mexico City, which I admire them for, as an example of mixing sports and politics but that was a conscious decision made by the athletes themselves and not by their government and they paid a heavy price for it.  The boycott of the games resulted in the dreams of many athletes being crushed and while some did participate in future Olympic competitions, they simply weren’t the same.

1984 Los Angeles:

The Bad And The ugly-  The USSR boycott of the games.  The Soviet Union, along with most of their Eastern Bloc allies, announced shortly before the games that they would boycott due to security and safety concerns.  Everybody knows, however, that it was simply in retaliation for the U.S. boycotting their Olympics four years prior.  Just like before, the athletes were the ones hurt by their actions.

Mary Decker (later Slaney) and Zola Budd, both expected to contend for the gold medal, collided in the women’s 3000 meter run, and it was a disaster.  The image of sobbing Decker’s face twisted in agony and anger still burns in my mind.  Budd tried to continue amid a chorus of boos but the hostility plus the personal guilt were too much to bear and she faded to seventh place.  The event was won by Romania’s Maricica Puica.

Rick Carey winning the men’s 200 meter backstroke and instead of being happy was upset that he didn’t break his own world record and his frustration showed on the victory stand.  He did apologize and tried to look happy after winning the 100 meter backstroke which also fell short of the world record.  Carey really didn’t own anybody anything but his honest feelings but, damn man, be happy that you got the gold medal, record or no record!

The good-  Carl Lewis won four gold medals in track and field, the first American male to do so since Jesse Owens did so in the 1936 Berlin Games.  Lewis duplicated Owens’ wins in the 100 meters, the 200 meters, the long jump and 4 x 100 meter relay.

Valerie Brisco Hooks becoming the first American female to win three gold medals in track since Wilma Rudolph in Rome in the 19630 Olympics.  Brisco-Hooks won the 200 meters, the 400 meters and was on the winning 4 x 400 meter relay team.  After winning the 400 in American record time her teammate Chandra Cheeseborough, who finished second made a statement that would have made Yogi Berra proud, “Losing the American record is kind of bad but I’m glad I lost it to an American.”  Like who else would you lose the American record to?

1988 Seoul:

The Bad And The Ugly-  Ben Johnson testing positive for steroids.  One minute you’re the fastest man who ever lived, the next you’re a cheater, a disgrace to your sport and the nation you represent and the poster child for a problem that would prove over the next two decades to be terribly widespread.  Johnson won the 100 meter dash in world record time, beating his hated rival Carl Lewis decisively.  He already made an ass of himself by taunting Lewis and didn’t seem to the least bit happy about simply winning the event.  Days later it was revealed that he tested positive for steroids, had his gold medal stripped and was sent home.  Lewis was declared the winner with Britain’s Linford Christie moved up to second place and American Calvin Smith named third place finisher.  Given the fact, as we would learn years later, that Smith and Brazil’s Robson DaSilva were the only two finalists who had never failed a drug test, perhaps they’re the only two who should have been awarded anything.

Roy Jones Jr. being cheated out of the gold medal in the 119 lb weight division in boxing.  Although he put a beating on his opponent, Park Si-Hun, for three rounds, the judges awarded the gold medal to Park.  Park himself apologized to Jones and the referee said he couldn’t believe it.  The judges were all suspended after a subsequent investigation and Jones went on to have a distinguished professional career.

The good-  No boycotts!  This would be the boycott free Olympics since 1972 (a series of black African nation boycotted the 1976 Montreal Olympics in protest of New Zealand’s participation after a rugby team toured South Africa) therefore no one could question the level of competition and it would be politics free.  This would be the last year the USSR competed as a team as the Soviet Union later broke up.  For the next two Olympics, atheltes from the former Soviet Union competed as the Unified Team.

Florence Griffith Joyner’s scoring a phenomenal triple.  “Flo Jo” won the women’s 100 and 200 meters in world record times and ran a leg on the 4 x 100 meter relay team to win three gold medals and making her one of the world’s top female athletes.  She won silver in the 200 during the 1984 Los Angeles games but no one saw her performances in 1988 coming, except maybe her coach Bob Kersee and husband Al Joyner.

Jackie Joyner Kersee’s heptathlon victory.  Joyner-Kersee was the favorite to win the tough seven event competition in 1984 but a hamstring injury caused her to fall short in her best event, the long jump, and she lost by five points to Australian Glynis Nunn.  there would be no close calls in 1988 as she set a world record point total.

1992 Barcelona:

The Bad And The Ugly-  Morocco’s Khallid Skah over Kenya’s Richard Chelimo in the 10,000 meter run.  Skah and Chelimo were battling for the lead in the final laps of the 10,000 when Skah’s fellow Moroccan Hummar Boutayeb, who was a lap down, deliberately impeded Chelimo instead of moving over as he should have.  Chelimo was unable to make up ground after that and Skah crossed the line amid a chorus of boos.  Skah was initially stripped of the gold medal but protested and won.  Skah was booed on the victory stand while Chelimo was cheered and when Skah tried to pull Chelimo and Ethiopian bronze medalist Addis Abebe up to the top of the podium with him, perhaps as a friendly gesture, both refused.

The good-  Derek Redmond finishing the 400 meter semifinal on an injured leg.  Redmond tore his hamstring early in the race and instead of leaving the track continued to limp on determined to finish it.  His father came to his aid with about 150 meters left and he was given a standing ovation as he crossed the finish line.  To this day that moment is seen as one of the best of the Olympics, a display of heart and courage and a refusal to give up.

1996 Atlanta:

The Bad And The Ugly- The bombing at Centennial Park.  One night as a crowd gathered at Centennial Olympic Park, a homemade bomb exploded killing one person while another suffered a heart attack and died funning from the scene.  That cowardly and despicable act, committed by a right wing anti-abortion (far from pro-life) extremist known as Eric Rudolph, was reminiscent of the kidnapping and murder of 11 Isreali athletes by Palestinian terrorists during the 1972 Olympics in Munich Germany.

The good-  Muhammed Ali shakily lighting the Olympic flame was a proud moment for everyone who admired him as a legendary boxer and as a man.  Though suffering from Parkinson’s disease his spirit was uncompromised.

Michael Johnson becoming the first male to double in the 200 and 400 meters in track.  Johnson smashed the world record in the 200 in a time that, to those familiar with track, was as phemomenal as Bob Beamon’s near superhuman 29 foot long jump at the 1968 Mexico City games.

Gymnast Kerri Strug securing the win for her team in the women’s all around.  Suffering from an ankle sprain, Strug knew that she had to the landing and in spite of great pain, she did just that.  The image of her lifting her ailing leg up after the landing is iconic to this that and is a symbol of great heart and courage.

Carl Lewis winning the men’s long jump for an unprecedented fourth straight time.  The last athlete to do so was Al Oerter who won the men’s discus throw in 1956, 1960, 1964 and 1968.

Dan O’Brien becoming the first American to win the decathlon since Bruce Jenner in Montreal in 1976.  O’Brien was considered the favorite in 1992 but missed making the team due to a no-height in the pole vault.  O’Brien more than made up for that in convincing fashion, bringing the title of the “World’s Greatest Athlete” back to the US.

Canada’s Donovan Bailey winning the men’s 100 meters.  Canada spent several years after 1988 living down the embarrassment caused by Ben Johnson’s disqualification due to steroids and Bailey brought the pride back.  Anchoring the winning 4 x 100 meter relay was icing on the cake.


2004: Athens:

The bad and the ugly-  Paul Hamm of the US winning the gold medal in the man’s all around in gymnastics due to a scoring error.  Although the judges involved were suspended, the standings were not changed since the mistake was acknowledged during the competition and not after.  Hamm, who of course was not at fault, was asked to return his gold medal which he refused to do.

2008 Beijing:

The good-  The 2008 Olympics gave us two modern day legends, American swimmer Michael Phelps and Jamaican sprinter Usain Bolt.  Phelps broke the record of seven gold medals in swimming set by American Mark Spitz during the 1972 Munich Olympics.  Phelps won the 100 and 200 meter freestyle events, the 100 and 200 meter butterfly events, the 200 meter individual medley and was on the 4 x 100 and 4 x 200 freestyle teams and the 4 x 100 meter medley relay team.  Bolt won the men’s 100 and 200 meter sprints in world record shattering times and introduced the world to his famous “lightning bolt” pose.  Bolt added another gold in the 4 x 100 meter relay.

2012 London:

The good- Bolt repeated his performances from 2012 by winning the 100, 200 and 4 x 100 meter relay and Phelps added even more hardward to his medal collection, winning five golds and a silver, making both undoubtedly  the greatest of all time in their sports.

American Gabby Douglas became the first black person to win an individual gold medal in gymnastics by winning the all around and her gold medal in the team competition made her the first American, black or white, to win both.  The “Flying Squirrel” joined Nadia Comaneci and Mary Lou Retton as gymnasts little girls wanted to grow up to be like.

19 year old Kirani James of Grenada winning his country’s first ever Olympic medal by winning the men’s 400 meter dash in track, making him an instant national hero.


As the 2016 Rio games go one surely we will see many good, bad and ugly moments as the competition goes on.  I will certainly be enjoying the ride.