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Monday, December 28, 2015

Reclaiming a Heritage, Step by Step

I continue with researching my "family tree".  As an African American the real family tree challenge is to find facts from the slavery days back to our descendants in Africa.  My journey is only beginning so I do not fully know what challenges or barriers exist to track my descendents to Africa.  One barrier I have come across is that early on the government of the United States of America did not document slaves by names in the official census taken in this country.  A document called "Slave Schedules" were authorized by the government as part of the census.  What the slave schedule did was identify the slave owner by name, but not the names of the slaves owned.  Only the age and sex of the slaves were documented in these slave schedules.  For an African American today to track where their descendants were during the slavery days therefore becomes very challenging. As my research continues I will see what other documents exist that track free Africans being brought from Africa into slavery conditions in what is now the United States of America.

Documenting my family tree to my father's grandkids has identified one ironic fact.  Many of today's African American generation are giving their children unique names.  African Americans are moving far away from the tradition that was forced upon slaves coming to America.  During the slavery days, slaves were assigned names by slave owners.  These names were often European names that better suited Caucasians than people from Africa.  A slave had no input into what he/she would be called. They were told what their name would be.  Since the 1970s and the era of black pride, more and more African Americans have been moving away from naming their kids traditional Caucasian names.  That movement is clearly shown in the names of my dad's grandkids.

So I have to applaud the younger generation for helping to move African Americans away from being totally "Caucasianized" and moving us back to some element of our original African culture.  Continue to give your children unique names reflective of your culture and beliefs.

I hope this movement continues in other areas of our lives.  I look forward to African Americans rejecting the vices thrust upon African Americans.  Some are the same vices that were thrust upon Native Americans.  Some of those vices are the American culture's widespread acceptance of excess usage of alcohol and drugs.  Vices which proportionately damage the lives of African American families.  Alcoholism dealt a death blow to many Native American families.

For some reason all I can see when African American families gather to socialize and break out the alcohol, is the thought of some non black business owner reaping the profits of the alcohol industry in their million dollar home.  A home where you will not find a black person for miles.  I see the image of legalized marijuana being sold in Colorado and that industry being controlled by Caucasians.  Then I see a young black teenager in another state being taken to jail and punished for the possession of marijuana.

In the days when Native Americans were being moved off their property by "settlers" the Native Americans would often be given "gifts" of smallpox infected blankets.  That smallpox would then wipe out total Native American communities.  Alcohol and drugs are the new smallpox for African American families.  Why buy smallpox and bring it home to your family?

I look forward to the day when the image of having a bankroll of money and flashing cash is not seen by some African Americans as being successful.  Do the math!  Money invested gains interest.  Interest being additional money.  Money carried around to impress others gains you no interest.  It only promotes spending and a quick loss of your finances.  When I see photographs of African American flashing a big bank roll, I say to myself, "slavery still exists".

I know this viewpoint may offend some, but such is life.  As I've told many, I don't take my freedom for granted.  I make comments that I know slaves in the past couldn't say.  People didn't give their lives in the Civil Rights struggle for me to forget what they went through.  And don't get me started on African Americans continuing to be in slavery by the use of the "n" word.

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Christmas Day Reflections From the Past

I was thinking about my Christmas memories from the early 1960s in Saint Louis, Missouri. I recall my parents did not have the income to purchase many gifts. But I didn't know what others were getting in terms of presents, especially people who were affluent and had money to spare. So, not knowing made Christmas time tolerable in those days. I only recall one or two Christmas days from my youth. Getting a tricycle around age 6. Then bringing home some used gifts we got from school when I was maybe in the 3rd grade. I do recall from the Saint Louis days helping to make a Christmas wreath using popped pop corn and sewing the popcorn together!  I recall the old "silver tinsel" and putting it on a tree. Getting swamped by too many toys was not something I had to worry about when I was a kid!

When my adult Christmas days came, I know I overcompensated with my two sons and gave them too much on Christmas Day. But in a way it was making up for the Christmas Days I never had (in terms of material things). So my sons' Christmas joy was also my Christmas joy. As parents you want your children to have better than you had.


In the early 1960s Christmas time images in the media (television, movies, radio) largely depicted the Caucasian culture foreign to us as black people. Black people were rarely featured on television, or in movies. Television during the Christmas holiday primarily showed images of Caucasian people and their lifestyles. A TV commercial featuring black people was a rare event in my days as a youth. I actually remember yelling out loud whenever a commercial showed a black person. It was like we did not exist in this country. Yes, the images thrust at us was of a culture that did not reflect how we as black people lived in reality.


In my youth, during the holidays you might see one or two black entertainers on TV singing traditional white Christmas songs. At home I know my parents played Christmas songs by black entertainers that you never heard on "white" television shows. Of course it was a big thing back then to find a black Santa Claus to take your kids to see.


As the 1960's progressed, we as black people got more into our own culture and ways to celebrate Christmas. A black Santa became common. Kwanza became an African American alternative to celebrating Christmas. Our music became more prevalent and black entertainers started making "albums" where our soulful versions of Christmas music was featured. Thankfully progress was made. Sometimes I think the progress we made has slowed some over the past years. We still control our destiny. It is up to us to keep progressing forward and to not allow future generations to think they have to fully adopt the values and customs of a culture that once enslaved them. It's more than okay to be a black person.


On this Christmas Day it's okay to think about your Christmas Days of the past. Yeah, compare those to the Christmas Day you are having this year. Then promise and commit to keeping some element of your black/African American heritage as part of your Christmas celebration.

Saturday, November 28, 2015

In Memory of My Dad

My father died early morning on Thanksgiving Day.  There was some symbolism to his passing on Thanksgiving.  To me it was an expression of being thankful for 85 years of life. Thankful for the opportunity to experience and see a range of events.  As a teen he lived through the World War II years and even joined the military towards the end of the conflict.  He survived the 1950s when the civil rights movement in the United States began to flourish.  As he was growing up black men were typically referred to as boys and worse. He was a black man in his 30's during the turbulent decade of the 1960s admiring Dr. Martin Luther King.  My dad did what he had to do to survive with a wife and a family of four.  My dad survived the antics of a racist society to live 85 years. He lived to see the election of the first Black President of the United States and a Black family in the White House.

Eighty five years.  That is more than 3-4 lifetimes of the black men police have murdered in the past few years.  Murders recorded on video tape.  So I am thankful he was not the victim of that negative aspect of the American police justice system.

Health wise, the last 10 years were not the best for him.  As we get older the facts of life are that the body starts to break down.  Eventually our life in our human form has to come to an end.

My Thanksgiving thoughts were that I am glad that I had a father whom I could see.  Some men go through life never meeting their father, or their father may have passed on early in life.

My earliest memory of my dad may be of when I was around 6 years old.  It was Christmas Eve night/early Christmas morning.  I awoke to the sounds of someone in the living room area of the second floor apartment we lived in.  I walked in and discovered that there was a tricycle by the Christmas tree and my dad and mom were near it.  I think that was my first inclination that maybe Dad was Santa Claus.  My father loved to barbecue.  He enjoyed cooking ribs using a charcoal grill.  He continued that art well into his 70s before finally retiring from his rib master duties.  I recall his Santa Claus yawn.  "Ho, ho, ho!" he would yawn anytime during the year.  I or one of my brothers would say, "Santa Claus is here."

He didn't have the benefit of having a formal education that would open doors to him in this world.  So he survived through old fashioned hard work.  He would wake up early, especially once he retired, and start being busy.  It's a trait I've inherited from him.  Even when he came to visit me and my sons during the Fall season he would spend time outdoors raking leaves.  His legacy continues in the many grandchildren he has.  His legacy continues in me.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

ISIS and the reasons for the violent acts

A few weeks ago, I was going about my mundane daily tasks when I saw a news report about organized coordinated violent acts in France.  The locations were non political in nature.  A theater, a cafe, a stadium.  A group called ISIS was credited as being behind the violent acts.  I have wondered in the past what is the agenda of this group? In this modern world I sought an answer through search engines on the internet.  "Political objectives of ISIS" was my search question.  In response came a 42 page article from the magazine "The Atlantic". Among the information presented was this comment.  The actions of ISIS reflect a "...carefully considered commitment to returning civilization to a seventh-century legal environment, and ultimately to bringing about the apocalypse."

That is a pretty sobering objective.  Let's face the facts.  A suicide bomber is determined to give their life as a means of promoting the objectives of the group.  A suicide bomber is dedicated to taking the lives of others.  Only the failure of the bomber's equipment will prevent mayhem from occurring.  I have yet to hear of a negotiator talking a suicide bomber away from carrying out their mission. Bombs, gunfire, kidnapping/beheadings and planes have been the instruments of destruction for terrorists over the past 14 years. Who knows what upgrades they have in mind?

Their apparently is some religious fervor behind the beliefs of ISIS.  A July 5th 2014 delivery of a sermon by an individual is quoted as being a significant event in the elevation of ISIS into a major player in world terrorists events.  Allegedly, ISIS rejects peace as a matter of principle.  ISIS allegedly hungers for genocide.  It's hard to refute these allegations based on the actions of the group that it has taken credit for.

I do wonder if ISIS is an extremist group, why don't the mainstream Muslim groups come out fervently against ISIS and their methods?  Why are "traditional" Muslims allowing ISIS to be the image of Muslim religion that dominates in the media?

Violence attracts attention.  ISIS has received the attention of the world. Now it is the world's turn to respond to ISIS.  A response that goes beyond military action is needed.  Educating people to the true positive points of the Muslim faith is needed.  There is a need to ensure that people do not automatically think that Muslim = jihad.  Muslim does not automatically equate to suicide bombings and beheadings. Muslim is not equal to violence.  So Muslim community, help us overcome the negative images presented by an extremist group.

Until then, for those who travel overseas or even those here in the United States we have to pause.  Do your research and see who/what have been the targets of ISIS.  Where have they attacked?  Who have they attacked?  Then be vigilant if you see that you are someone, or you are going somewhere, that  might be the target of a future act of violence.  Surely the intelligence organizations of the United States and foreign countries have developed a profile of high risk targets for ISIS?

There is no need for the United States to continue with announcements that promotes itself as being the greatest country in the world, or the best country in the world.  Sometimes those boasts attracts the wrong type of attention.  Attention needs to be paid to those who are joining ISIS from countries around the world.  Individuals who feel abandoned within their own country or alienated within their society are turning to ISIS.  People are giving up on peaceful co existence.  We need to pause and understand what we are doing that is alienating people to move into a lane of violence.

If ISIS does not want to dialogue about issues we only have one response.  That is the typical response of violence that has existed since human beings were created.  It is our flawed response to a flawed situation.  Maybe violence will never cease.  What we can do is understand the underlying reasons to the violence.

Monday, November 16, 2015

When Parents Take Kids Along While Shopping - Comedy

As any parent knows, shopping with kids can be a nerve wracking adventure.  You try to avoid the drama, peacefully.   You start off with the kids at home. You get them together on the couch.  You bring out the diagrams and flow charts.  The message is clear.  YOU are going to the store to buy stuff.  THEY don’t have any money, don’t even have a job.  So YOU are not going to buy THEM anything.  You’re taking them with you because you don’t trust their ass to behave while you’re gone.  So they are coming with you.  No discussion.  Shut up!  Let’s go!

Then you get in the car and while driving you remind them again.  This time in stronger language so it will sink in.  Don’t touch shit.  Don’t ask for shit.  Don’t look at shit.  Don’t think about shit.  Just walk behind me.  Questions?  Shut up!

So you get in the store and what happens?  The kids start touching shit and grabbing shit.  Then they have the nerve to bring you boxes and ask you, “can I have this?”  You look at them confused.  Because you are sure you told them at least twice not to ask you about buying anything for them.  Then you ask the question, “What did I tell you?”

So then your mom gives you the job of pushing the cart to keep your ass from wandering off bringing back shit you can’t have. Now you don’t want to push the cart. So you’re driving crazy, knocking into stuff, not watching where you’re going.  Then you make the mistake of running into the back of your mom’s heel.  Mom reacts naturally and you find yourself on the floor of the store with your brother counting over you….4, 5, 6, 7.  You stagger up before you’re counted out.  Yes, mom has connected with a vicious left hand back slap that has floored you.  Your brother is laughing his ass off.  Until mom gives him the death star look and shuts his ass up.  After that martial law is in effect and you know not to say another word or mom will leave your ass at the store.


Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Unplugged From Being Forced Fed The "News"

The local news stations typically begin every program with a "Breaking Story" by line about the latest murder and shooting in the city.  Positive news for viewers to begin their work day!  Negative information is news.  That is the media's viewpoint.  Murders and shootings have priority over most other stories.  Video to accompany the story is a must. Most times it's dark footage taken at night or early in the morning.  The media knows that a daytime video is less eerie and scary.  So set the proper tone.  Get the night time video, even if no one is around to talk to.

Next, find the most uneducated person you can and put them on camera.  Build up the image of uneducated people in crime laced neighborhoods killing themselves.  Give the viewers something to look at and shake their heads to so they can say, "Glad we don't live in that area!  How can people live like that?"  Then they can begin their day having been fed their portion of stereotype visuals for at least the morning.

What the news does not do is present any ideas being worked on to decrease the violence.  The news does not show the other side of the story.  Positive stories of people who have turned away from violence and are now doing constructive things with their lives.  All is not hopeless as the media depicts.  All is not a violent society.  Everyday the media begins with negative stories because that is what they do.  Negativity is how the media earns a living.  The more terrible the story the more dramatic it is.  And that is what the media specializes in, drama.  The news is reality TV at its best.

My reaction is to unplug from watching the news.  Once again I control what the media can tell me and when.  I decide if I want to turn to the news for a weather or traffic report.  If I want to hear the negative news I will turn on the television.  What I now refuse to do is simply turn on the television and simply sit there allowing the news to bombard me with continuous negative stories.  It's time to take control.  We should not allow our smartphones and television control our lives.  Don't allow information to be pushed out to you.  Take control of what you let into your lives.  Change the news by sending a message that you will not listen, watch or read the news until the caliber of the stories change. Unplug from the nonsense being thrust at you.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Hillary Clinton in Parody of movie "Mr. Brooks"

FADE to Black Screen and opening theme music to movie “Mr. Brooks” followed by narrative.                                                 
NARRATVE (O.S.)
The hunger has returned
To Mrs. Clinton’s brain.
In never really left.
The desire for public service.

INT. CAR – NIGHT

Hillary is driving.  Her PERSONAL ASSISTANT sits in the front passenger seat.

                                                                                                HILLARY
                                                                                (praying)
                                                                Oh God, God grant me the serenity to accept
the things I cannot change…

In the rear seat appears BILL CLINTON.

BILL
                                                                 Why do you fight it so hard Hillary?
                                                               
                                                                                                HILLARY
                                                                ….the courage to change the things I can…

                                                                                                BILL 
Come on, you’ve been a good girl for a long time.
You know you want to do this.
                                                                               
                                                                                                HILLARY
…the wisdom to know the difference.  

INT. CAR – NIGHT

                                                                                                BILL
                                                                It’s not like it’s your first race.  You already ran
before.  You know how to organize it. Come on.

                                HILLARY
No.


                                BILL
You’re the freakin’ Woman of the Year.
You deserve a treat!

                                HILLARY
No Bill.  I said no.

                                BILL
Well I heard you. But you don’t mean no.

                                ASSISTANT
What’s wrong?

                                HILLARY
Uh, Nothing.

                                ASSISTANT
You’re frowning.

                                HILLARY
Oh, I was thinking about 2008.  We came
so close.

                                ASSISTANT
It’s still not too late to enter the race.

                                BILL
There having a caucus tomorrow.  There’s no
harm in just stopping by.

                                HILLARY
No means no Bill.

                                BILL
Please, pretty please. (laughing).

                                HILLARY
Yeah.  I think I might do it.

                                BILL
                (clapping his hands)

SIX MONTHS LATER

INT. CAR - NIGHT

It is a rainy evening.  Hillary Clinton is behind the driver’s seat.   Bill sits next to her in the passenger seat. They are looking across the street.  Looking for someone.

                                                                                                BILL
                                                                I don’t see them.  Maybe they won’t show up.
               
                                                                                                HILLARY
                                                                Maybe….wait.  There they are.

They gaze at several of the Democratic CANDIDATES running for President.

                                                                                                HILLARY
                                                                They don’t see us.  Maybe I should pull
                                                                Over and pick them up.

                                                                                                BILL CLINTON
                                                                Nah, just honk.  Maybe they’ll step out into
The debate traffic and knock themselves out.
Save us the mess of doing it.

                                                                                                HILLARY/BILL
                                                                (laughing simultaneously)

Hillary blows the car horn.  The candidates see her and then step off the curve.  We hear a loud screeching sound as a truck swerves around the candidates.

Hillary and Bill observe.

                                                                                                HILLARY
                                                                Wow! 
                                                                                               
                                                                                                BILL
                                                                Almost.

The CANDIDATES trot over to Hillary’s car and cramp themselves into the rear and front seats.

                                                                                                CANDIDATE 1
                                                                It’s coming down hard.
                                                                                                HILLARY
                                                                It should be sunny tomorrow, at least for me.

                                                                                                CANDIDATE 1
                                                                                (giving Hillary an envelope)
                                                                My list of where I want to be an ambassador.

                                                                                                CANDIDATE 2
                                                                                (giving Hillary an envelope)
                                                                My cabinet preferences.

                                                                                                CANDIDATE 3
                                                                You know I like the Supreme Court.

                                                                                                CANDIDATE 4
                                                                You know what I want.

                                                                                                HILLARY
                                                                Thank you gentlemen.

                                                                                                CANDIDATE 1
                                                                Just beat that A hole.  Destroy him.

                                                                                                HILLARY
                                                                Does it bother you if I destroy him?

                                                                                                CANDIDATE 1
                                                                No.  An A hole is an A hole.

Hillary and Bill laugh simultaneously.

Mr. Brooks theme music comes back on.  A montage of shots shows Hillary attracting huge crowds and winning the election.

                                                                                                NARRATIVE
                                                                The hunger has been satisfied

                                                                At least for the time being….

Monday, October 26, 2015

Why Are People Turning to Violence/Terrorism?

Last week I heard a brief news report that two high schools students had been arrested for plotting a shooting spree at their high school.  These students were not planning an original act.  High school shootings have happened before.  These students were going to conduct a copy cat event that has received widespread attention in the media before.

Throughout history individuals have turned to acts of violence as a means of making a statement; as an extreme method to express their disagreement; or simply to just get attention.  These actions have represented their way of voicing their "views" or "feelings" toward issues or subjects.  Or these events represent those individuals making their mark in their life.  They may have been ignored all their lives and given no attention.  Maybe it's attention that they craved? They have chosen to use violence as being their historical event and contribution to society. Their violent actions have been both against people who they disagree with and against innocent people.

Why do people turn to terrorist acts and why do they inflict violence onto those not even involved in the subject matter or issue?  Well I've never spoken to a person who carried out these acts so I do not have any first hand knowledge of their reasons.  It is disturbing that in these United States of America we do have individuals pursuing alliances with violent groups.  We've heard news reports of young people attempting to leave the country to join ISIS.  Plus the myriad number of shootings at various public places across the country.  For the assailant to have murdered innocent people raises questions of whether they were stable mentally?  Did the assailant value the lives of people?  Why do they commit suicide after committing these heinous acts?

One thing seems common.  They are copying actions taken by others and reported through media. So what should the media do?  Would it be better if the media did not mention any personal information about those who commit these acts of terrorism?  Should the media not publicize their name or share a photograph?  What is gained by sharing with the public the assailant's personal information?  Their was one event recently where the sheriff in a town refused to even say the murderer's name.  Maybe that is the way to go.  Don't give these murderers any publicity.  Don't feed information that can be copied by others to commit similar crimes.

But these acts of violence seem to fall into the mental illness category rather than the "terrorist" category.  Terrorists appear to have some type of political/religious agenda behind their actions.  Terrorists give up on discussion and dialogue as an answer to disputes and turn to violence.  The violent acts by themselves do not result in disputes being resolved.  The violent acts escalate the dispute to an even worse level.  The acts of violence result in innocent people being harmed or killed.  How do terrorists rationalize the taking of innocent lives?

Terrorism appears to be the result of people giving up on peaceful means of resolving conflicts.  Terrorists don't want to commit to the political process. Or they may have been turned away from the peaceful process because they did not get the results they desired.  If an individual has a point of view that they believe matters and that viewpoint is ignored, what is the result?  Some may walk away and live their life as they choose. Others may believe violent acts are the answer. Maybe we have to relook at our institutions and processes to ensure they don't push people out the door into the terrorist lane.  A person excluded from a process will find other means to make a statement.  Unfortunately violence or terrorism appears to be the process many are taking to express disenchantment or their views.

No, we can't all agree on everything.  But maybe we can compromise to the point where acts of terrorism are not even an option.  Or maybe we need to simply agree to go our separate ways and respect each other's views.  Neither of us gain from the violent acts of terrorism.  Violence has been a method used by people throughout history.  But, violence has been shown time and time again to not be the answer.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Expectations of Our Leaders

The Democratic Party first Presidential debate was yesterday. I caught a few glimpses of the last hour. I still recall the comments of one of my college professors.  He said it doesn't really matter overall who wins an election.  Problems will generally not be solved based on which political party comes out on top.  I think he was partly correct.  Solutions to problems are difficult when there never is one solution that fits all people.

So what should we expect from our leaders and politicians we elect to various offices?  We elect people to carry out the business of government.  They are our elected caretakers.  They are to ensure the governmental systems operate efficiently and economically.  Especially if public services are delivered from governmental offices.  While we go about our daily business, working at jobs, taking care of our family etc., we expect office holders to do all the correct things so we also don't have to come home and worry if public funds are being spent properly.  We don't want to worry about the details of plans to pave roads and what precautions our government is taking to ensure we are safe in our homes.  So we delegate to others by voting people into office whom we believe will ensure our collective needs are being taken care of.

The "caretaker" role is therefore at the foundation of our expectations.  We want the system of public services to run smoothly.  Keep the water clean and flowing to our homes.  Keep us free from those who may want to invade our homes.  Keep order in the community.  When it snows, plow our streets.

After the "caretaker" role comes the "problem solving" role.  If there are issues that need to be resolved we want action to solve problems.  But when the "solution" brings about increased costs on us in the form of additional taxes, we pause and care even more about how a problem is solved.

We also want our leaders to behave.  We don't want to hear about their personal idiosyncrasies getting in the way of performing their duties.  Plus we don't want to be embarrassed by poor personal judgments they make that turn into public fiascos.

We definitely do not want leaders who take public funds and use it for personal needs.  Or don't use political influence for private gain.

Let's face it.  Public service is a sacrifice.  You sacrifice personal desires to do work that will benefit a range and hopefully a great number of people.  Our leaders speak for us. They advocate for us.  They express outrage for us.

One thing we definitely want from our leaders is action.  Do something.  Don't just talk about a problem.  Figure out the options to reducing the problem or even better solve the problem.  Then if you want to run for re election again, we will more than likely vote you back into office.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Indigenous People/Native American/Columbus Day

As America gets older and the landscape of people inside its boundaries change, our perspectives tend to change also.  Columbus Day was once revered as the day to celebrate the discovery of America by a European explorer.  That well meant proclamation has been overcome by a truth that was ignored years ago.  People and a civilization were already in  place when Columbus and his crew ventured into the north american territory.

Now more people acknowledge that Native Americans were here before Europeans settled into this land.  Now nicknames such as "Redskins" are no longer welcomed. So tomorrow Columbus Day will receive mixed recognition.  Those of Italian descent might celebrate the day.  In schools teachers will be faced with the dilemma of telling students the truth versus continuing the myth of who discovered America.  In the year 2015, the truth should prevail.   There is no shame in acknowledging that a race of people were already here when Columbus arrived.  North America and South America were inhabited by people at the same time European culture existed.  The limitations of travel and communication created a void between that already being a recognized fact.

What we can do is just acknowledge the fact that Native Americans did exist and were the caretakers of the land before Europeans came.  Europeans were the first immigrants. There is no record that as Europeans landed on shore they were met consistently by Native Americans who told them to go back home.  Such an act would have helped prolong the culture and wide spread existence of Native Americans, but for some reason they did not collectively act to repel those invading their land.  The result is what we have today.  A nation where some people today are attempting to keep immigrants from neighboring Mexico out of the country.  Truly ironic.  But such is human nature.  Those in power want to maintain that power.  People recognize when they have a good thing going and for self preservation try to keep others from getting what they have.  You should thank Native Americans for not having that view many years ago.

Saturday, October 10, 2015

A Volunteer's Story

Over the years I've learned that when you attempt to volunteer time to assist with a cause, it does not always mean your volunteering will make conditions better.  For some reason the organization you volunteer for may not follow up and call you back.  Then you wonder, well if they really needed help why isn't anyone contacting me?  You've offered your valuable time and skills only to be met with silence.

For the past six years I've been a volunteer with an organization whose mission involves providing mentoring to youth from elementary to high school age.  It is a non profit organization.  They have been funded by the United Way for several years to help run one of the mentoring programs to provide in school mentoring.  But the inability to provide evidence that the mentoring program was effective resulted in reduced funding from United Way. Other than anecdotal stories the organization could not provide any qualitative evidence of the positive impact of the mentoring program on the students.

As a volunteer I attempted to assist in supporting a mentoring program by doing administrative tasks.  Making copies, preparing articles about the mentoring program to be published on the organization's website. taking photographs.  I even created a Facebook page to help promote the activities of the mentoring organization.  The article was never published, although other articles about the organization's programs were.  The Facebook page attracted about 22 people into following the activities of the mentoring organization.  That was 22 more than who followed the organization's website.  I recently tried to inform the followers on my page to follow the organization on their page.  Not many followed over to the new website.

I attempted to provide advice on how the program could be improved.  What I learned is that those who are in charge of an organization have their own vision and really don't want input from volunteers.  So I decided to pull back and let them do what they wanted to do.  If I could provide any help to their efforts I tried to help.  But, ideas, thoughts.....those I know are not welcomed or desired.  It's best to try to be efficient.  If your ideas and efforts are not wanted, don't waste your time.  Re dedicate your time elsewhere into an activity where your efforts are wanted.

Drug Commercials with Cartoon Characters

There seems to be a trend in video commercials to depict prescription drugs using cartoonish type characters.  I've seen several commercials where a person is dressed in a costume as a pill with feet, hands and in some cases eyes.  The cartoon like character is depicted somehow as being the companion and friend of the ill person who needs the pill to be better.  Then in the background the announcer runs through a lengthy list of the negative side effects of the drug.  But, you never see the cartoon character acting out those side effects such as suicidal thoughts, stroke, internal bleeding, depression, etc.  Now seeing the cartoon character acting out those symptoms would make the commercial even more dramatic!

I wonder what small kids who see these commercials think of them?  Do they see them as funny? Does it give kids a favorable opinion of pills as something harmless like candy?  So why not swallow a couple of these comical pills and see if the pills make them smile and laugh?  The pills are funny in the commercials so they have to help you be funny in real life right?

There was one commercial which depicted the bladder of a woman and how the bladder controlled her life.  This was based on the fact that the woman had to use the restroom often due to the limited ability of her bladder to retain water.  Have you ever actually seen someone walking around with their bladder by their side?  I didn't know bladders could even live outside our bodies.  I also didn't know they had big sad looking eyes, arms, and legs.

Come on advertisers.  You can do better than that.  Don't demean the intelligence of your audience by depicting your pharmaceuticals as cartoon characters.  It reminds me of the pharmaceutical sales people who routinely come to doctors offices attempting to sale their drugs.  Pharmaceutical pimps. Out for a profit.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

News Flash: Vice President Biden Announces his Presidential Campaign Strategy

In Las Vegas, Nevada to give a speech, Vice President Joe Biden surprised folks at the MGM Grand Hotel when he broke out into song and dance in response to a question from a News reporter about his  Presidential campaign prospects.  Biden had just finished a speech to a full house of convention goers.  While walking towards the exit flanked by his Secret Service detail, a reporter asked him “When do you plan to announce whether you’re going to run for President?”

Biden responded by singing the George Gershwin classic song “Bidin My Time” accompanied by an orchestra that surfaced out of nowhere in the lobby of the hotel.  Here are the lyrics as song by the Vice President in tune to the Johnny Hartman version of the Gershwin classic song “Bidin’ my Time”.

            Vice President Biden:
 I’m Biden my time,
That’s the kind of guy I am,
While Hillary grows dizzy,
I keep busy
Biden my time.

I’m Biden my time,
That’s the kind of guy I am,
There’s no regrettin’
I keep settin’
Biden my time.

Next year, next year
Somethin’s going to happen
This year, this year
I’ll just keep on napping

I’m Biden my time
Cause that’s the kind of guy I am,
While Hillary grows dizzy,
I keep busy
Biden my time.

(music/dance chorus)

Next year, next year
Somethin’s gonna happen
This year, this year
I’ll just keep on nappin’
Cause, I’m Biden my time,
Cause that’s the kind of guy I am,
While Hillary grows dizzy,
I keep busy

Biden my time!!!!!

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Switching Channels from Same Sex Relationship TV Shows

I eagerly awaited the premier of a dramatic series on television this week.  But, in the first 15 minutes I was ready to switch channels.  The dramatic series storyline includes a gay main character.  This is the world we live in.  But for some reason the writers for the television show decided that the act of these two male characters kissing lustfully was essential to the story line.  Well I don't think it was.  It just seemed another attempt for the television entertainment industry to push out to the viewer the image of same sex relationships being the norm.  Since the industry has decided to push out that image I have decided to push back and will no longer watch that dramatic series unless they tone down the same sex story line.

There are several television shows that  depict same sex relationships.  The entertainment industry for some reason has decided that this is what people want to see.  Men kissing each other.  Women kissing and groping each other.  What was pornography in the 1960s is now mainstream television in the year 2015.  My individual reaction is to watch something else, because I have a choice.  As a writer I can also write stories that don't depict same sex relationships.  I have a choice.  Will those stories ever be produced and be on television?  The odds are against that ever happening, but that isn't important to me.  Just as writers have the freedom to write stories that depict same sex relationships, I have the right to depict stories that don't depict same sex relationships.

What I don't like is the entertainment industry thinking that most people want to see same sex relationships on mainstream television.  The entertainment industry is promoting same sex relationships as being the norm.  The entertainment industry doesn't care if young kids see these images or if the young kids copy these images.

Thankfully we have a choice to switch channels.  I am exercising that choice.

Monday, September 21, 2015

Presidential Debate Follies

I have yet to watch any of the Republican Presidential debates.  The field of Republican Party candidates was more than 10 when I last checked.  Entertainment rather than substantial discussion of issues seemed to be prevalent in the debates.  The entertainment soundbites of the debate is what the media shared.  The candidate who made the most outrageous comments has been the frontrunner. That candidates comments ranged from offensive to border line racist/sexist.  But the popularity polls continued to show him as leading the pack.  That says much about those who vote and what the media cares about.

Thankfully the outrageous remarks candidate is now starting to slide downward in the polls.  Maybe reason and common sense is starting to take root.  The idea of a President who offends others with his/her comments rather than trying to link people together is a scary thought.  Hopefully that candidate will become an afterthought in a couple of months.

Next comes the first Democratic Party Presidential debate.  We can only hope and pray for more substance in discussing issues rather than entertainment and name calling.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

A Black Man's Prayer

I pray that when I have contact with people,  I am not immediately judged based on negative stereotypes, fears, apprehensions, and negative images displayed and promoted by the media about black men.  I pray that I am given the chance to display who I am based on my actions and words. I pray that as I walk along a street or in a store I am greeted with a smile and not a frown. I pray that I am not profiled as being a dangerous and suspicious person.  I pray that I am honored and respected even if I am not an athlete or an entertainer.  I pray that people are not surprised when they receive excellence from me. I pray that if my car should break down in the middle of the night and I seek help, people will not fear me, call the police and I wind up being shot to death because the police too fear me at night unarmed.  I pray that when I stand outside a metropolitan hotel checking my smartphone I will not be tackled by a policeman, thrown to the ground, handcuffed and lead away like a common criminal.  I pray that I will not be shot in the back by a policeman claiming to be fearful for his life.  I pray for opportunity. I pray for fairness.  I pray.

Saturday, September 5, 2015

When Simple Government Fails

Basic services deserve basic replies.  Issues with our streets, roads, and highway are areas where due to the public safety impact you would expect quick, swift responses to problems/issues.  Such is not the case in the State of Indiana.

In the past year I noticed a couple of simple issues with signs, absence of pedestrian crossing signals, and poorly placed street markings on streets/raods near my home.  Building of new homes has increased the number of single family homes in the area.  At the intersection of Olio Road/CR 600W and 96th street is a signal light for traffic control.  Left turn and right turn signals have been installed.  Pedestrian bike/walking/jogging trails have been built.  Several of these trails cross the busy intersection at 96th and Olio Road.  But, despite the increased population and the building of the trails, a pedestrian signal has not been installed at this intersection.  A pedestrian signal does exist at 104th street and Olio Road to assist joggers, walkers, and bikers to cross that busy intersection in a safer mode.

In the Spring of this year I sent a note to the Hamilton County Highway Department pointing out the need to install a pedestrian crossing signal at 96th and Olio Road.  The response was that pending any unforeseen problems a pedestrian signal would be installed in the Fall of 2015 or the Spring of 2016.

Earlier this year I had also sent a note to the Hamilton County Highway Department that the road markings on Olio Road headed south toward 96th Street, needed to be changed.  Road markings that the right lane is for right turns only are too close to the intersection.  Drivers unfamiliar with the area are having to merge over into the left lane at the last second creating hazardous merging conditions.

The common theme in both examples above is that the lack of action could lead to injury or death of pedestrians or motorists.  In both instances the governing agencies have been unable to take action to implement basic responses to improve the safety of the public using the streets and roads.  Of course if there were numerous accidents and several instances of deaths in these areas due to the lack of corrective actions, the responses would be quicker and the problems fixed.  

It is unfortunate that death and injury is a prerequisite to implementing changes needed.  But such is the nature of man.  We don't take an action until something bad happens to people.  Otherwise we think, "well nothing bad has happened so there is nothing to fix".

Citizens should expect basic services and protections from our governing bodies.  My thoughts are that if a governing body can't respond quickly to simple road fixes, we are in trouble if we expect them to respond to the intricate detailed problems that exist.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Home Owners Association - HOA Madnesss

I'm preparing to attend a meeting of our HOA this evening.  The topic is voting to raise the amount we dedicate each month to the reserve fund.  We paid some $3,000 to $4,000 to have a consultant analyze the needs of the community and provide proposed recommendations to the Board.  Our HOA Board had the consultant walk through about 10 Powerpoint slides last month giving us a broad overview of how much money would be needed to replace or repair major components.

After the briefing there were several questions from owners.  Then there was a push by the HOA president to have us vote the following week to approve the proposed increase in funds we pay to the reserve fund.  The actual report was not made available to owners.  I asked to review the report and had to travel to our property managers office to do so.  Within the report was a section with a proposed expenditure schedule.  It outlined when and how much would be spent each year for various repair or replacement of components.  I pointed out to all the owners that this document existed and wondered out loud why voters were not given the information, especially at our meeting?

No response from the Board.  Then today I noticed the minutes from a July HOA Board meeting had a discussion about the Board not agreeing with all of the findings of the consultant.  The Board mentioned in the minutes developing a two year maintenance plan that would be used to decide what to spend reserve fund monies on.  None of this was mentioned at our meeting.

So now in about an hour and a half we will meet, without all the information we need and possibly vote on funding our reserve fund.  Why would the Board not share with us all the information?  Maybe we'll find out but I doubt it.  I've heard about HOA communities being confrontational and at times a nightmare to deal with.  I think I'm seeing some of those concerns in action.

One thing our Board has done is establish a policy where owners are allowed to propose changes to common areas e.g., planting trees or in our case building  a fence to keep trespassers out.  But, our Board has gone the extra mile and now says once owners pay for the changes the HOA will then pay for the maintenance of those items.  What the maintenance costs are is something unknown at this point.  I wondered if someone damages the fence the owner has put up is the repair called maintenance?

I had an idea that additional security lighting should be installed along a dark area of our community. The idea fell flat with some owners embracing the darkness.  So, I backed off and will just do what I can to ensure the area near my condo is illuminated enough for safety.

One thing I've noticed is that the lack of communication and sharing of facts leads to emotions being on edge.  Tones of voices get very unfriendly.  Hopefully this evening calm and reason will prevail.

Next Day.  Well, the meeting was calm and to the point.  Our HOA Board presented a 2 year maintenance plan that was approved by a vote of 51 to 13.  Why the Board did not present the 2 year plan at the original meeting is puzzling.  Streets being fixed and buildings being painted was the emphasis of the 2 year plan.  The $50 monthly increase in what we pay into the reserve fund wasn't a welcome added expense, but to keep the community looking good it was a necessary expense. Next up  in October, discussion and approval of our yearly budget for 2016.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Hillary Campaign "Pushy" Fund Raising Phone Calls

I just answered a call from area code 202-618-3393.  It turned out to be an over zealous Hillary Clinton campaign volunteer soliciting funds for the campaign.  I politely tried to tell the volunteer that I would give when I was inclined to give.  In other words I would donate money when I wanted to, with no reminders needed from anyone.  That's because I am an adult who knows how to manage my money (most of the time) and I run my life.  I don't go by the budget deadlines of a campaign staff or whatever federal rules exist on campaign fund raising.

Unfortunately the volunteer wasn't in a listening mode which is par for the course for many people who are politicians or wannabe politicians.  I felt like I was talking to someone from a cable TV company who was trying to get me to buy a bundle of services even though I didn't want them.  So, after my third try of letting the volunteer know that I already had the information on where to donate money (the volunteer wasn't listening, just following the script she had been given) I terminated the "discussion" by pushing a button to end the phone call.

The result of the phone call was that the volunteer ticked off a voter who doesn't like being told when to donate.  The volunteer made it seem as if life itself would come to an end if I didn't donate this exact moment.

I find that those who call themselves public servants have the characteristic of not listening or wanting to hear what people are saying.  Many "public servants" just want to talk about their own ideas on how to "solve" problems rather than listening to the concerns of people.  That, in my opinion, is a big mistake.

I understand that people running for office need money to finance parts of their campaign.  But, we don't need pushy overbearing volunteers demanding that we donate now.  Whomever is overseeing the fund raising part of Hillary's campaign should put out guidance to volunteers to not come across as overbearing money hoarders just looking to get the biggest volunteer "sales" totals.  Respect people's right to say, "not right now" or even better, "I will give when I want to."  Otherwise I will have to make a phone call to the above phone number and let the person know to calm it down some.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Mental Health Issues & Violent Acts

Throughout the history of the United States, individual acts of violence have been performed by people who had mental health issues.  Presidents, celebrities, elementary age children and recently those attending movies are just examples of those who have been killed by individuals suffering from mental health issues.

The instrument of destruction in most of these killings has been guns.  This does not mean we must ban guns but means that more protections need to exist to keep guns and other weapons of destruction out of the hands of those who have mental health issues.  A difficult task indeed.   Their is no test required to have every person in the country to pass a "mental health" test.  So, how do we know someone is mentally ill?  Basically it comes down to family members, friends, or others noticing behavior or actions of people that seems violent or that raises concerns.  Physicians may have to be directed to report to police or other protective agencies information on possible concerns doctors may have with a patient carrying out violent acts.

The common denominator that may warrant triggering a report to officials is written, verbal, or actions taken by a person with mental issues that lean towards violent acts.  Of course caution needs to be taken that an innocent, misdirected comment by a person by itself does not become the sole evidence of follow-up violent behaviors.

Mental health issues are not something new that suddenly popped up. History indicates we as people have long had problems that fall into the mental health category.  Some people have lived with these problems.  Some have lived until they were no longer able to fight the demons within them.  In those instances suicide has been their choice of action rather than taking the lives of others.

Prevention of mental health issues requires what?  Are some people going to encounter mental health issues due to "inheriting" issues that existed from their parents?  Are mental health issues preventable? Can someone with mental health issues be cured?  If not, what actions should be taken in helping the individual deal with their mental health issues?  How much does the media and reporting on instances of violence impact the future behaviors of the mentally ill?  Are we partly at fault for glorifying and over reporting on acts of violence carried out by individuals?

Throughout our country and hopefully throughout the world there are dialogues on going on how best to deal with these issues.  Understanding, compassion and developing options on how to "treat" mental illness and better prevent mental issues from developing is what we need to continually invest time in.  I don't think life is getting any simpler.  Among all the issues in the world, one that may offer substantial benefit is understanding and developing ways to deal with mental health issues.

If you are involved in the dialogue regarding mental health, please share what discussions, recommendations and actions are currently ongoing.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Sandra Bland - Police Stand Down

I just watched the dash cam video of the altercation between the police officer and Ms. Bland.  These continued incidents make me wonder why there is not a nationwide "stand down" where all police officers are reminded on how to interact with the public.  Is it that difficult for police to gather in a conference room in each locality and review the proper procedures to reduce instances of escalating police stops into life and death situations for the public?

The police approach people armed with guns.  The police can not expect people to feel comfortable if  a person approaches them with a weapon.  Especially in light of events over the past year where policemen have been video taped killing people, just because they can.

In the military when events go wrong, especially leading to deaths, they go into a stand down mode. Procedures are reviewed and training provided to prevent repeats of the incidents.  So I ask again why can't this be done by police forces throughout these United States of America?  Provide police with sensitivity training.  Remind them that African Americans have been mistreated in this country for many years.  African Americans want to be respected.

A minor event has somehow curtailed into a woman now being dead.  As you hear in the video of the confrontation, people are tired of being seemingly picked on for minor issues.  The police, who legally carry weapons, need to go the extra mile to not escalate situations.

Stand down, educate yourselves.  Then treat us respectfully.