Thursday, January 30, 2014

Sports Teams With Native American Names

A writer writes!

The 2013 National Football League season featured a controversy regarding the Washington Redskins maintaining the current name of the team.  The "Redskins" moniker has been deemed offensive to Native Americans.  The owner of the Washington team has not agreed to changing the name to something else.  I believe his reason was because the name "Redskins" has some historical significance to the Washington football franchise.

Let's look at the facts.  The Native American culture that once existed in North America and what is now the United States of America, has pretty much been wiped out.  This extermination of the Native American culture was supposedly done in the name of progress for "civilized" people.  I assume that is the same civilized culture where today students and non students in this country go to schools and other public venues to kill people at random?  What benefit or homage does a team give to Native Americans by using a nickname that Native Americans themselves are against?   Are professional or non professional teams with Native American names paying some type of stipend to various Native American descendants for using those names?  I don't think so.  Are these teams contributing to a fund that builds museums and supports study of the Native American culture that once existed in North America?   If so, someone please send me that information.

What harm would come if all the sports teams in this country took off any references to Native Americans?  This country already doesn't do much to recognize that the Native American culture once existed.  So, why not go the extra mile and remove the reminders that the remnants of the Native American culture find offensive or demeaning?

There are plenty of other more up to date names available.  The Atlanta Snow Plows could be the new name for the Atlanta Braves baseball team.  The Cleveland Cadavers is a name that could replace that of the Cleveland Indians baseball team.  Who knows how many team names are out there from grade school to college level that have a sports team name, supposedly related to Native Americans.  "Steroid Cheaters",  "Concussion Makers", "Millionaires", "Idols" are all available names that could apply to various teams in different sports at the professional level.

For 2014, let's make that move.  Delete references to Native Americans as nicknames for sports teams.  Let's start picking nicknames that are up to date with the American culture that realistically exists in the year 2014.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Taking Back My Life from the World

A writer writes!

Most of us wake up everyday on a schedule.  We have to get somewhere at a specific time to do something in response to someone else.  Some of us have to report to a job, go to school, or appear someplace based on the command of someone else.  When we reach our destination, we often have to follow the rules and directives of someone else.  Sometimes within those rules and directives are opportunities for us to display some initiative or originality.  But, in most cases we are limited in the ability to really control what we do and say when we arrive at our destination.

Most people seem to value having the ability to be independent of others.  The freedom to do what you want, when you want is a goal many of us have.  In retirement I find that to some extent I now have the ability to do whatever I want each day I wake up.  After years of having to follow rules and regulations in a bureaucratic job, I can now say and do whatever I want.

My progress to reach my individual life goals are now up to me.  I have learned that one thing I should focus on is just putting forth my best efforts.  I realize that seeking recognition and awards is not important.  What is important to me is simply being able to write and compose materials that simply express my views.  The freedom to say what I want is something that an African American male could not do in this country during the years where slavery was an accepted institution.  Even after slavery Black people were still limited in freedom of speech.

I call this period of my life, taking back my life from the world.  Yes, I have economic limitations on what I can do.  But, within my economic means, I now have the ability to set my daily life schedule. Through the various social media, I can communicate with people around the country and yes, around the world.

Thankfully in terms of writing, my skills have improved with age.  Unlike an athlete who depends on the physical abilities of his/her body, I believe I have the ability still to create products that are better than when I was younger.  So, I continue my journey.  My journey is focused on calling time out and slowing down or stopping external events from controlling my life.  My journey may involve letting some of the world's "progress" pass me by.  I want to have a choice in deciding what my life will now consist of.  This is year one of taking back my life from the world.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Fox Network and Stereotypical Negative "News" Stories

A writer writes!

I have long heard that the Fox network is a bastion of negative news when reporting on events related to minorities.  I was watching the local morning Fox news, my mistake, when a brief news blurb came on about the "Black Expo Shooter".

Black Expo is a yearly cultural event in Indianapolis.  It is a week of activities that occur in July.  Positive stories, information, a health fair, and other cultural events are presented in downtown Indianapolis.  On occasion, a small group of teenagers or young adults have attempted to cause disruption in downtown at night during the Black Expo events.  One year some misguided person shot a gun into a crowd downtown.  He was tried and convicted of the crime.  It was of course negative press about African American males which the local news stations ran  towards and presented as opening breaking news stories.  Nothing like a good negative story on Black males to feed the starving stereotypical appetites of the locals.  Such stories are typical in this region of the country.  You rarely see a story on the positive accomplishments of a minority male, unless they are an athlete.

This morning's depiction of the shooter as "The Black Expo Shooter" made it appear as if the person was sanctioned by Black Expo or in fact worked for Black Expo.  It was a typical attempt to paint a negative image of both Black Males and Black Expo as a cultural event.  Now, people living in safe upbeat neighborhoods will relate Black Expo with shootings.  The seed has been planted by Fox and the person responsible is smiling to themselves and likely getting compliments for a good story.

I challenge Fox to cover a positive story about Black Males.  In the Indianapolis area Fox can start by doing a story on the graduation of Black Males from the local 100 Black Men of Indianapolis, Beautillion Program this Spring.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

No Need to Hide behind a Hoodie

A writer writes!

There was a case not long ago where a young African American teen was killed by an over zealous neighborhood watch person.  The teen was profiled as being dangerous by the neighborhood watch person partly because of the wardrobe the teen was wearing.  A hoodie, which covers the head and the side of the wearer's face, was the clothing item tied to the wearer being a thief or worse.

During the protests against the teens death, several adults protested by wearing hoodies themselves.  I believe an entire professional basketball team also wore a hoodie in a photograph in protest to the senseless killing of the teen.

My take is this.  Why do youth think  that a wardrobe item that hides their face and obscures them from the world is a positive thing to wear?  Instead of promoting wearing of the hoodie as a harmless thing to do, I would promote that young teens not feel they have to wear something that hides them from the world.  There is nothing wrong with a teen age African American male walking proudly down a street showing his face.  There is nothing wrong with a teen age African American male wearing a pair of pants that clings to their waist instead of sliding halfway down their legs.

Instead of promoting an image that is negative and fuels the fears of others, be proud of who you are.  There is no need for African American males to be bill boards promoting the brand of  a company that wouldn't hire you if you were the only person who applied for a job.  Instead of trying to look "tough" just be yourself and gather the respect you deserve for just being you.  Don't cover your head with a hoodie, hat, scarf or whatever.  Simply wear your natural hair combed neatly as you walk down the street. Walk naturally.  Don't walk as if you are playing a stereotypical African American male role in a Hollywood movie.  Walk proudly, secure in who you are.  Be polite and respectful to those you encounter, especially adults.  Don't get swept into being the stereotype people say you are.

African American males, let's stop hiding from the world and be the talented and valued men we always have been.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Reflections on 1968 and the day Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Died

A writer writes!

In the year 1968 I was a 10 year old in living with my parents in Saint Louis, Missouri.  I recall seeing Dr. King occasionally on television reports, but was not truly aware of all he had accomplished.  It was the latter part of the civil rights years of the 1960's.  I don't recall much blatant racism that I was exposed to in Saint Louis during that decade.  Or I wasn't aware of what racism I or my parents had been subject to.  Later on during my teen years I recall an occasion where our school class, from a predominantly Black catholic school, had gone on a field trip to see some event in downtown Saint Louis.  Our class was seated in the balcony.  Below us on the main floor we could see a section of white students being spoken to directly.  I do recall someone asking why couldn't we sit down there with the other kids?  There was ample seating to accommodate us on the main floor. On another occasion I do recall a white bus driver passing me by at a bus stop rather than stopping to pick me up.

As a 10 year old I don't recall many other direct contacts in a mostly white environment.  I do remember that some teenage white female students chaperoned our class one school day to Grant's farm in Saint Louis.  I'm not sure if the female students were doing so as part of some public service day volunteer effort.  I just recall that as one experience where I had direct contact with people who were not Black.  Other than that one occasion and contacts with my white teachers in Catholic school, my world consisted mostly of contacts with people who looked like me.

On April 4th 1968, I was at home watching TV upstairs in our makeshift home.  The home seemed to be one that a store owner must have lived in.  There was an empty store front portion in front of our home.  We lived in the "home" part of the building.  The home was two stories with a basement and a large back yard, where my father parked his car.  We lived in a black neighborhood among other older homes in the area. My two brothers and me shared a small bedroom that consisted of 3 beds and a dresser that we all shared. I recall that at times we did not have heat in the house.  During those times, we heated our rooms via some type of contraption that looked like a fan with hot red coils emitting heat into the room.

That night I was in the house either alone or with my sister when the news flash came on the television. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. had been assassinated in Memphis, Tennessee.  I knew Dr. King was famous and that this was not good news.  When my parents came in the house I rushed to tell them what happened.  They had already heard the news and seemed worried.  I did not go to school the next few days.  I believe my mom kept me home out of respect for Dr. King's death.  I think she participated in a march held in St. Louis sometime after the death of Dr. King.

I don't remember seeing news reports on television about the violence that broke out across the country after the death of Dr. King.  I do recall that the 60's was a turbulent decade.  My awareness of the contributions of  Dr. King came about later partly through my parents purchasing a record album featuring several of Dr. King's speeches.  They would play that album on occasion and I would hear the booming voice of Dr. King echoing throughout our residence.  Television would provide me the visual history of Dr. King's life and experiences.  He died at age 39, relatively young with much to offer the world in the future.  There are visual and audio records of what he accomplished during those brief years.  A greater legacy is  the improvement in the lifestyles of Black people since those days in 1968.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

A Customer Service Experience With The Organization of Black Screenwriters

A writer writes!  I recently had an unpleasant customer experience with the Organization of Black Screenwriters (OBS).  In August 2013 I applied for an affiliate membership in OBS.  An affiliate membership is for those writers who are not located in the state of California.  The notice on the website that I applied through did caution potential members that it would take up to 4 weeks before membership information would be sent out.  So, I patiently waited two months.

Early November came and I still had not received my membership information.  I then contacted OBS by phone and left several voice mail messages.  I then contacted OBS through the listed email contact address.  Neither method resulted in someone responding to my inquiries on the status of my membership information.  After about 6 emails and 4 phone calls without a response, I decided it was time for more action on my part.  I first attempted to cancel the credit card charge by which I had paid for the membership.  But, the credit card company explained that it was too late to do so citing 60 days had elapsed.  I then decided to complain through consumer agencies.

I filed a complaint through the Better Business Bureau of Silicon Valley.  They contacted OBS but did not get a  response.  I then contacted another BBB, sent another volley of emails to OBS to include adding the names of OBS Board members to the email request for a refund of my money.  Finally I went to the OBS website and raised my issue through several posts on the website and by rating OBS one out of five stars on the website.  After my third post on the website, someone finally sent me an email apologizing for my membership info not being sent to me.   The explanation was that OBS was a volunteer organization, and that they sometimes don't get things right. My membership information apparently was sent to the wrong email address, even though they had the correct address in the body of the letter.  Someone typed in the wrong email address before sending out the email.  As consolation, I was offered an extended membership or a refund.  I chose the refund as I felt an organization that couldn't handle a simple membership request probably, likely would not be much value to  me with my being out of state.

Now I will see how long it takes to get my refund! The lesson learned is that OBS might be a great organization for those in California who can attend meetings and network in person.  But, for those who are out of state, OBS may not be the best option for aspiring minority screenplay writers.  What I have learned from this experience and others is that I should write for myself.  I don't necessarily need the feedback of strangers on work that I passionately create.  I can learn formats, and structure from a book on my own.  But creativity in my writing must come from within me.

I now have no interest in entering screenplay contests or seeking validation from an "organized" writers group where you have to pay membership fees, etc.  The simple act of writing doesn't require a formal network.   If you are a writer, just write with passion.  Write about topics that you care about and have a passion for.  This customer service experience has helped me to just have faith in my writing skills.  Because as we all know....a writer writes!

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Compromise - Our Best Bet for Survival

A writer writes!

On occasions you hear about "win-win" situations.  Or meeting someone "halfway".  Both terms refer to the art of compromise.  What is compromise?  Some would say it is something you should never do.  You may hear someone say, don't compromise your values. Or, don't give in.  Both statements are fair if you in fact do not get something out of the compromise agreement.

An agreement, in my opinion, makes up the foundation of a true compromise.  Parties trade something in order to get something.  A compromise may be a business deal, it may be an arrangement between a husband and wife on  resolving an issue so both the husband and wife walk away feeling that both have gained from the decision.

If compromise does not exist, you will likely have one party that feels animosity towards the other based on the final decision made.  Animosity maintains tension in a relationship and definitely does not make a relationship better. Whether it be an agreement between two countries or two children deciding how to divide up toys during play time, compromise allows both parties to get something that allows them to maintain respect for themselves.  Maintaining respect should always be a consideration when involved in making compromise.

Would you rather make an enemy by getting all you want and giving the other party nothing?  Or would you rather gain the respect and possible friendship of the other party through compromise?  If we want to develop better relations with each other and our fellow inhabitants of this planet we need to place compromise as something that is the prevalent theme.  Of course there may be some moral or ethical issues where compromise will not work.  A group that believes in monogamy versus a group that believes in polygamy may have difficulty reaching compromise on the basic beliefs of each group. But, there may be other economic or social issues that they may be able to agree on via compromise.

There  are situations where compromise may back fire.  When some countries compromised with Adolph Hitler to avoid conflict, that compromise came back to haunt those countries.  Compromise involves trust in the other party.  If there are reasons why you can't trust the other party, then trust at first must be built through actions of both parties.

We as humans have many different viewpoints, beliefs, likes and dislikes.  Only through respect, understanding, and development of compromise solutions can we co exist and not destroy each other.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Genesis vs. Revelation

A writer writes!

As part of my attempt to not conform to the world and understand that there is a God, I often read the Bible.  I currently am reading Genesis and Revelation.  Definitely a contrast between the beauty of creation covered in early Genesis, and the horror of the termination of life on earth mentioned in Revelation.

After the early chapters of Genesis comes the story of what happened when man and woman were created.  My human thoughts are "how could God have created such imperfect human beings?"  The inability of woman and man to not eat the fruit of the forbidden tree seems amazing when thinking these are beings that God created.  Surely they would be perfect or near perfect creations?  Then comes the story of Cain and Abel where murder is introduced.  It made me wonder if those early creations could not fight off evil what hope do we in the present have to combat evil?  Certainly it must be more difficult now, with more human made distractions, to combat evil thoughts than it was in those early days.

I applaud those people who are able to live the near perfect life that God wants us to live.

It is remarkable to read that God was at a point where our Creator destroyed all of the people on earth due to the evilness that Man was promulgating on earth.  To destroy an entire species except for a chosen few speaks of how evil man was at that time.  Our actions as a people since that time have not been a blue print for saving us.  Many "leaders" have overseen genocide of people just in the past 100 years.  The antics of Hitler in Nazi Germany, ethnic cleansing in Europe, and sanctioned lynching in the United States of America are only examples of how Man has behaved many years since God destroyed civilization.

It is obvious that we are on the road to the destruction addressed in Revelation.  That does not mean we should give up in trying to be the good version of what God wants us to be.  It would be very easy to lead the hellish life that would surely bring on Revelation quicker rather than later.  I would rather try to contribute more good acts in this world than perform those evil acts that seem part of Man's behavior over the past centuries.

It is obvious that we as a people overall are not attuned to living the type of life our creator envisioned.  We have a choice.  Those who do live the life intended have the promise of eternal life.  Those who don't have the promise of Revelation awaiting them.

What is your choice?

Saturday, January 4, 2014

"Frozen" Out!

A writer writes!

I went to see the movie "Frozen" yesterday.  It was a Disney family film and I found it to be excellent.  The movie theater I went to was full of kids and their parents.  The only problem I had with the film was that there was not one character of color in the entire film.  That was also reflected by my being the only person of color in the entire audience.

But, if Disney wants to make a film that only acknowledges the existence of Caucasians in this world that is fine.  They have the right to do so and I again applaud them on an excellent story.  Rather than rail against Disney for not making a family animated film that supports the notion of a diverse world of various races and ethnic groups, instead I would rather attempt to write a story with diverse characters.  That is the positive thing to do.  We don't need to beg or plead to anyone to do anything.  We simply need to do it ourselves.  Self help.  A notion that has always been around.

So, on my "to do" list is "write a family animated story with diverse characters acknowledging the realities of this world."

2014.  The year of doing.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

What Awaits You in 2014?

A writer writes!

Another number appeared on the calendar today.  We now have to add 2014 as the reference point in our journey through life.  The first day is always refreshing.  It is a new start.  What happened before can be wiped clean and you can start a new chapter in your life.  Decisions you made the prior year can become old decisions as you implement a new refreshing decision making process.  At least that is our goal.

How long will it be before you revert to old practices?  Well, if those were positive practices hopefully you will continue those. But, if they were practices that were not good for you then let's pray that you do not revert to those old practices.

We all want positive things to happen to us as the year starts.  I haven't met one person who wants terrible things to happen to them as the new year begins.  How much do we control what happens during the year?  When it comes to our personal endeavors or occupations, we often are the protagonist to what will happen in our personal 2014 story.  Then there are those things that happen based on the actions of others or our interactions with others.

Pause and give thanks to our Creator for your life and the opportunity to continue living.  Pray that you make more good decisions then bad.  Pray that you are kept humble during the journey that is 2014. Then get to work taking those actions that will lead to a positive year.  You can only try.