Thursday, September 2, 2010

Dance With My Father

Life is about change and adaptation. I've not written for a while due to a job change - from consultant to government servant for a dynamic, get-it-done type of Governor in the great state of New Jersey. But this posting is not about that. It's much more personal, for you see, my father died today.

Change and adaptation.

Folks have always said that to lose a parent is one of the most painful, yet insightful events to happen in your life. I believe them. This hurts like hell. You can never truly prepare for this.

Change and adaptation.

Dad is no longer physically here. I only see him now in photographs and within my "minds eye".

Change and adaptation.

But the lessons that he instilled...no....drilled into me and my sister and brother, all seem to make real sense now. Family.Honor. Giving. Helping. Mentoring, Honesty.Involvement. Hardwork. I could go on and on with a list of one word elements that he drummed into us either by word or example.

Change and adaptation.

It's amazing how, as I drove the four hours to the family home tonight, I felt myself changing and adapting to the new reality of life without Dad's physical presence or baritone voice giving me fatherly advice....on everything.

Change and adaptation.

I suprised myself that I could actually drive with tears in my eyes (I don't recommend it) one moment, and a smile on my face the next remembering some incident from my childhood that involved Dad.

Change and adaptation.

During the drive, I thought about how I was raising my own children. Did I measure up to the standard set by Dad? My thoughts turned to them - two girls, one going to college in just a few days, and I saw them through a different prism tonight.

Change and adaptation.

I saw them as I think my Dad saw me and my siblings. Wanting all the best for them with few of life's disappointments. Loving them unconditionally, but with a firm hand to help guide the way. Accepting them yet pushing them to always present their best effort, regardless of the activity.

Change and adaptation.

To say I loved and respected my Dad is easy and so very true. It will be much harder to follow in the immense footsteps that he left behind and will require.....Change and Adaptation....and I was taught well. I love you and miss you Dad..........

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Tiger Woods, Michael Steele, Governor Bob McDonnell

Finally Tiger Woods has teed off and returned to playing golf. The pundits have been off the hook in analyzing what his return means; how he will play, what kind of reception will he receive, what his mental state will be, how he can save the planet...ok maybe not that, but you get my drift. Actually, I had expected to hear all this stuff and sadly, wasn't disappointed. Like many folks, I just wanted to see Tiger play golf again. I could care less what his family situation is because, well, it's just none of my business. He has to take care of that with his family, not me.

It really burns me up when everybody and their brother becomes an armchair marriage counselor and head doctor. The best line came from Billie Payne, the Chairman of the Masters, who berated Tiger in his State of the Masters Address, (I use my interpretation of his statements liberally here) for “disappointing my children and grandchildren,” and what a horrible person "the Tiger" is now.

Ok, let's get this straight. Payne didn't seem to mind that Tiger has helped rake in the money and attention for the golf world as soon as he picked up a 4 iron. We have clergy who sexually abuse and take advantage of children; teachers who do the same; parents who "act out" in front of their children; politicians who do damn near everything - yet a GOLFER is the gold standard by which all others are measured? Please.....To be sure, what Tiger did was not good. But to play “holier than thou,” is just as wrong.

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While I'm on a roll, let's talk about Michael Steele, Chairman of the Republican National Committee. Ok, Michael has definitely made mistakes and drawn some serious negative attention to the GOP. A lot of this attention is not the type that endures you to the stogy party elders who ultimately determine your fate.

I like the fact that Michael went in to shake up the status quo, because the party needed it. As a black republican, I welcomed a “flame thrower” leader to say, "we are here too, and I'll be damned if you ignore us or play “we really want you in our party, but not too close", games.

Michael had a great opportunity to be that kind of leader, but now, with the sharks circling both inside and outside the party, his window has just about closed. Too bad. He had a real chance to make changes within the party. My fear is, now that he has not succeeded, will the party be reluctant to give another minority the chance to lead again and return to the status quo? Only time will tell.

The sad part of this is that the GOP had a tenuous hold on few minority souls as it was. I’m afraid, right or wrong, how this situation with Steele pans out, may determine how many continue to stay with the Grand Old Party.
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Last but not least, let's talk about republican Governor Bob McDonnell of Virginia. What the hell was he thinking? A proclamation honoring Confederate History Month - ok, but without a mention of slavery? Oh, I guess he didn't think about it. Another racially insensitive action by a republican politician. And you wonder why the party is viewed as "minority unfriendly."

Every time one of these events occurs, it makes black GOP folk cringe. I for one will not make any more excuses for the boorish, insensitive behavior by folks in the party.

And no, I don't give a damn if democrats do this stuff too - it makes no difference, because I'm not a democrat.

The Republican Party has the right kind of philosophy to help create a prosperous country. But that's only on paper. Until the visible leadership, and state committees do not get a pass here, starts acting in a manner representative of all people who call themselves republican -black, white, Latino or Asian- this party will not grow. It will remain, as is the perception now, a one dimensional party. What a shame.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Enough Already!

This is getting just plain ridiculous. Grown adults (and I use that term loosely)can't have a difference of opinion without using racial, ethnic, gender, religious...(wait...no political correctness here please).....without calling someone a nigger or a faggot or whatever else, if they don't agree with you!

Is that the best you can come up with in the heat of the moment when tension and anger is high? Can't control the outcome of an event, so let's just call them names...told them didn't we!....right....proud of yourself?

This kind of nonsense really burns me up. Ok, ok, I know that in the previous blog, I said that minorities need to become more thick-skinned, and find ways to become "players" in the economic sector...show me the money.

And yes, we were taught that "sticks and stones can break my bones, but words will never hurt me."

But what we saw play out during and after the extremely volatile healthcare reform debate was just plain ugly....and disheartening.

Item: Tea Party protesters calling Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.) a nigger.

Item: Rep. Emanuel Cleaver (D-Mo.) was spat upon.

Item: Rep.Barney Frank (D-Ma.)-whose policy stances I really don't like- was called a faggot.

Item: Rep. Louise Slaughter (D-NY) had a brick thrown through the front window of her district office.

Item: Phone messages threatening sniper attacks against law makers and their families.

These are just a few incidents, and don't tell me that the same kind of stuff was done while George Bush was in office - yes the vitriol was just as bad, and that's a fact.

But let's get to the core of this stuff - when were we taught that when all else fails, call somebody a name or do damage to their person or property?

And why is it that some white folks have to call black folks “niggers” when they get pissed off? Ok, so not all do, just like not all black folks call white people "honkies" either. But you get my point.

Maybe it's just me. If I think you are an asshole, I don't care what color or ethnicity you are. It doesn't matter, and it's not the first thing that comes to my mind.

So if I disagree with you, no matter how passionate the disagreement, RACE PLAYS NO PART in the argument for me. That's the way I was taught. Thank you Mom and Dad!

Imagine this scene - the family unit (mother, father, sister and baby brother) all go, let's say, to Washington DC, to participate in the democratic process by supporting a particular position on a landmark policy decision.

It can be an exciting time (I've been to a few myself, including a Klan Rally in DC, but that's another story).

Anyway, great experience for the kids - until mom or dad and others start calling people names and spitting on them or exhibiting behavior best suited for demons and monsters in a Stephen King novel.

Well, congratulations! You have just implanted in the young minds of your children that it's all right to act and speak like that because, "if mommy and daddy do it, it must be ok". Not Good.

These children are the “future” of our country. Wow. We think that the education problem in America is huge, what about the “education” they receive at the hands of parents and other “responsible” adults in leadership positions….Please….

We in this country who have so much, have a responsibility to act a whole lot better than what we’ve seen recently. The question is…can we?

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Attention Walmart Shoppers - Black People Must Leave

This was the announcement made at a Walmart Store in South Jersey the other day. Don't know who made it, just that it was done over the loudspeaker system in the store. To say it caught shoppers unaware is an understatement.

Poor Walmart. It has a fragile relationship with minorities anyway, as evidenced by suits and complaints across the country, ranging from unfair hiring to harassment in the workplace. Walmart has been trying to clean-up its act for awhile, and then this comes along.

To be sure, they really don't know who made the announcement because there are a lot of phones scattered around the store accessible to the public. My guess is that they will tighten that up, and in a hurry.

What particularly caught my attention, however, was the reaction of, "the Black folks", who were in the store at the time of the incident. Several said they were upset and wouldn't be shopping at Walmart until the issue was resolved; another said he had "heard worse".

My feeling? If it was an employee..bye, bye...in the words of the Donald, "Your Fired".

If it was a member of the general shopping public, oh well, welcome to the world of "Reality Stupidity". Unfortunately, this kind of dumb behavior goes on all the time in many forms by all nationalities, races, religions and socio-economic groups.

As minorties, we need to get over real or perceived verbal slights, and focus on how to get major retailers and other businesses that depend upon our buying power, to be good, responsible community partners in the geographic areas they serve, (which aren't just limited to the urban centers either).

If they aren't giving back, then don't give them your hard-earned dollars (my parents have been preaching this gospel since I was knee-high to a grasshopper).

This isn't asking for a handout, because actually you have already paid for it through the money you spent in their establishments, in many cases, for years!

The good community partners "get it", and find many ways to accomplish this that don't always involve money. Cudo's to them. For the others? Get with the program. Consumer dollars in this depressed economy are precious things, and it's OUR choice where we decide to spend them.

We also need to have the Democrat and Republican parties "get with the program" as well. What that "program" is, will be a topic for another blog post.........

Sunday, February 21, 2010

A Story From Segregation

The popular phrase used now to define the community structure needed to sustain and protect our children is "It takes a village."

Well, where I grew up in Frederick, Maryland, we didn't need a catchy phrase to know that as children, there were plenty of adult folks looking out for us. Sometimes we thought there were too many! We couldn't get a way with anything without someone calling home to tell our parents (yes I said parents in the plural) or to give us a good tongue-lashing about questionable behavior.

One of those folks was Warren Dorsey. Mr. Dorsey, who is turning 90 years old this year, had been a principal at Carroll Manor elementary school in the county, and is close friend of my parents. Mr. Dorsey is always writing - he loves the written word. He sent this story to me recently, and I share it with you now. As with all of Mr. Dorsey's writings, there is plenty of food for thought, and this one is no different. The story is based on an event in Mr. Dorsey's life.

DUNK THE NIGGER, by Warren Dorsey

I grew up in a small rural town in the southern part of Carroll County, Maryland. The years spanned the presidency of Harding, Coolidge, Hoover and F.D.R. The community numbered about 1500 people, with about fifty being African American. Segregation was absolute with only incidental interaction between the races. Minorities lived on the edge of survival as a reality of daily life. The only opportunities for employment were as domestics for women and menial day labor for men. Most of life was a struggle to keep body and soul together.

Our world was defined by a boundary that included the shack-like house we lived in, the church we attended and the one-room school established just prior to the First World War. For many members of our community, an entire life could be spent without leaving the boundaries of the home-church-school enclave. I was born in this world I describe 90 years ago.

The people of my rural community established a volunteer fire company as protection against fire loss. Funds to buy equipment, and for operations, were raised mainly by an annual carnival. This annual event was the one time persons from the African American enclave were permitted to attend an area where the majority group assembled. Even then we were only permitted to access a limited few attractions and only then on a strictly segregated basis.

There was one booth that attracted droves of the people of the community. I don’t recall the exact designation above the booth, but it featured a large tank of water with a seat above the center that was connected to a triggering lever that could be activated by thrown baseballs. A person was perched on the seat and if a baseball was thrown against the tripping lever hard enough, the seated person was sent splashing in the tank of water. The person on the perch was an African American. Throngs of the majority community would stand in line awaiting a chance to get a shot of throwing baseballs hoping to trip the activating lever. The actual name of the attraction is completely lost in my memory and is replaced by a chant of those in line – “Dunk the Nigger.” The clamor to succeed in sending the man on the perch into the tank of water was surreal.

Every time the man on the perch was sent splashing in the tank of water he would scramble out of the tank, position the seat and the trip lever, and climb back onto the perch with the satisfaction he had survived the onslaught.

I awoke from a dream recently and I had an eerie feeling I was again on the carnival grounds of my youth. There was a vast crowd assembled under a banner that read “America the Beautiful” and everyone was shouting, “Yes, We Can.” Euphoria abounds. And suddenly the scene changed. Only a line of people leading to the tank of water remained. Perched above the tank on a seat attached to a tripping lever is an African American with a sash across his chest that read, “Yes, We Can.” The people in line all wore a button bearing the word, “No.” The line of people was made up of a vast array of groups and individuals. There were: 1. “Talking Heads” from the print and electronic media. 2. “Suits” from federal, state and municipal governments, 3. “Birthers” of every description, 4. “Town Hall” loud mouths, 5. “Extremists” from all walks of life, 6. “Baggers” and a conglomeration of countless others. This was a diverse group of people, but they all chanted one refrain – “Dunk the Nigger.” They all eagerly awaited a chance to toss baseballs with the hope to see the man on the perch splash into the tank of water.

Only a few of those in line were successful in hitting the trip lever, however they seemed to get a measure of satisfaction out of taking their shot.

After each splash down, the man on the perch would scramble from the tank of water, reorient the seat, reset the trip lever and climb back to his perch. The episode was repeated until the last one in line took his shot. At the end, the victim of this repeated ordeal returned to his perch, but this time there was a group of multi-ethnic singers gathered around him. They draped his shoulders with a “Coat of Many Colors.” A sight challenged man was seated at a piano singing and leading the group of singers in a rousing rendition of “America.” Above the din of the singing, I heard a cultured voice intone the phrase, “The Dream Lives On”.

The dream sequence seemed so surreal. I found myself reaching to the heavens, as my mother often did when she was steering me and my siblings through the maze of a segregated life. I kept repeating, “Father, help your children, lest they fall by the side of the road.”

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Conservative Political Action Conference

The Conservative Political Action Conference(CPAC) starts today in Washington DC. The events of the past year should make this one of the most "energetic" conferences in years.

President Obama, the economy, healthcare, and the Tea Party Movement and its impact will probably dominate the dialogue. Alas, I can't attend to experience the conference firsthand.

It would be great to hear from those who are attending. Simply comment on this post, and share your thoughts on the conference. You can also allow me to follow you on Twitter.

I'm particularly interested in hearing about the minority representation at the conference and the overall themes presented by the featured speakers.

Is it all just "red meat for the believers", or is there a more balanced and realistic, "what can we do to help solve the critical issues facing us", flavor to the dialogue.

This should be an interesting few days.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

My9 New Jersey Now: February 14, 2009

Political Analysts George Dredden and Bill Pascrell, III debate Governor Christopher Christie’s emergency joint session address on the current budget crisis, executive orders to freeze spending to schools and transportation, and pension reform.

Click on link below to view.

My9 New Jersey Now: February 14, 2009

Thursday, February 4, 2010

The New Jersey Assembly Finally Gets It

Thank you Assemblyman Jon Bramnick!

This week the New Jersey Assembly held bi-partisan hearings to hear from the public about the problems facing us. Over 125 people showed up to testify. Finally, the state’s “peoples house”, truly engaged the people in the governing process by actually asking their opinion about how to address the states ills.

Incredible.

Why I thank Assemblyman Bramnick is because he has been clamoring for a long time to get the public engaged with the legislators to help fix what ails us.

Back in the summer and fall he held public hearings to solicit the public’s ideas on how to combat the corruption in the state. Yours truly actually testified at one of them.

Cudo’s also must go to new Assembly Speaker Sheila Oliver and Assembly Minority Leader Alex DeCroce.

Both of whom have been longtime advocates for public participation in the legislative process, and surely must be pleased to see this bipartisan activity actually take place.

What is amazing, however, is that there are some politicians who are grousing about the hearings and didn’t want them to happen in the first place!

Let’s get this straight-the people elect the politicians; the politicians propose and adopt the laws; and the people must abide by and follow those laws. Apparently, some politicians would rather come up with all the solutions to the states’problems themselves (with the “help” of special interest groups) rather than solicit the opinions of the folks who put them in office in the first place!

Now obviously, I said all the above with “tongue in cheek” to make a point.

What is the harm in allowing the public a voice in the process? As a former government administrator, I can tell you the only problem is that it takes time and you have to listen to some not quite so good ideas to get to some really good ones.

What is wrong with that? I have found that when you allow folks to express themselves and feel part of the solution to the problem, they actually are more understanding of the difficulties in providing or implementing the remedies.

I hope this era of bi-partisanship really does become something that is the norm rather than the exception in state government. People are tired of the partisan bickering and juvenile behavior of some of our elected officials. They want real solutions to very real problems and they really don’t give a damn who is in power so long as the problems are resolved.

Thankfully, this new era of leadership in Trenton seems to “get” it. Hopefully, this is not just window dressing. Our quality of life and fiscal health depend on it.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Is The Scalpel Sharp?

This has been an amazing week.

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Holiday on Monday, the inauguration of Republican Chris Christie as Governor of New Jersey on Tuesday, the democratic loss of the "Kennedy Senate Seat" on Wednesday, and another seismic event on Haiti, this time registering 6.1.

Lord knows I love to try and see common threads in uncommon events. Well, let's see what we have here.

Ok, they all involve people, and significant "change".

Dr. King, in my opinion, was the last "significant" mobilizer of Blacks in America. Although I do have great respect for the "reformed" version of Malcolm X, Dr. King's message had more far reaching consequences and results in "changing" the way America conducted it's racial business.

Chris Christie's inauguration as the first Republican governor in 12 years in a predominately democratic state, was a statement of "change" in the way New Jersey deals with ridiculously high property taxes, unrealistic and fiscally out of touch unions, a shrinking business environment and underachieving schools. (Of course an unpopular sitting governor didn't hurt in shaping this victory).

The election of Scott Brown in Massachusetts was also a signal of "change" in the way that state wants leaders to "work" for their vote, and not simply be "annointed" by the prevailing party.

The earthquake in Haiti demonstrates that the nations of the world need to develop a major plan of action to deal with catastrophic events.

A "change" is needed in quickly and efficiently getting humanitarian aid and support to those devastated by nature's powerful influences.

One but can not help to wonder what other "change" events are going to occur in 2010. This is only January, and the signs are indicating a banner year for "change" - politically, socially and economically.

The question that remains to be answered is how we will react to these "changes".

Will we embrace them and develop best practices from these real life lessons learned? Or will we bury our heads in the sand and continue to conduct "business as usual" to provide band aid solutions to "wounds" that clearly need heavy duty reconstructive surgery.

Time will tell.

I for one, hope the scalpel is sharp.

Friday, January 1, 2010

Time To Reflect and Give Thanks

This is the time of year when everyone seems to get sentimental, remorseful, joyful, or feel any of a number of emotions as the current year gives way to the new year.

Resolutions are made- vows to "never again" do this or that, new commitments to lose weight, gain weight, be nicer to folks, be aggressive in finding a job, (you get the idea). All these things are well intentioned, but rarely seen through to completion.

Almost sounds like political campaigns doesn't it? Promises made along the campaign trail in the heat of battle, give way to the realities of governing.

Can you imagine, however, if we didn't try every year to make ourselves and whatever ails us, better? Regardless of whether we succeed or not, goals and objectives are an important part of making us feel that we are in control of our lives and its subsequent outcomes. "Control what you can control" the saying goes.

Our political system, while flawed, is still the best system of governing ever devised, and I'm thankful for it.

A government of laws determined by the people, through our elected representatives, is an awesome responsibilty. Our elected officials are entrusted to carryout this critically important mission to the benefit of all, regardless of party affiliation, race, gender, or religious belief.

To that end, we must hold our elected officials to higher standards of fairness and equity than we would of others.

We vote for them to be our legislative champions and warriors for justice.

I want my elected representatives to set aggressive, realistic goals and objectives to properly and effectively allocate my hard-earned tax dollars within my community, county and state.

And I want to hold them accountable for delivery of these goals and objectives.

I don't want my elected officials to make promises they can't keep, and don't they dare try to make me feel "unworthy" for questioning them about their governing.

As we move into the new year, let's pray for the success of those who are elected to public office, regardless of party affiliation, for our own viability is dependent upon it.

To all, have a very successful, blessed, and Happy New Year!