Sunday, June 17, 2012

Paying Respect To The Every Day Dad

Today is Father’s Day. It’s the one day of the year where dads can expect to be pampered and praised without feeling uncomfortable about it. Usually dads don’t worry about all that stuff because they are too busy trying to do all the things that make a good father. It’s a never ending job that you never feel is over no matter how old you are your children are. I’ve never told my dad this but since we’ve been living in other cities after Hurricane Katrina there are certain things I don’t call him about anymore. It’s not because I don’t want to. It’s because I have so much faith in my daddy being there for me that I think he would get in his car and drive from Memphis just to help me if I sounded  like I really needed it. I have to save the man from his own instinct.

While he’s a hero to me and my family my dad is a regular guy to the rest of the world. He can’t sing. He can’t act. He only has one degree. He’s never had much money. In the black community guys like that don’t get much press. There are so many brothers that get up everyday and grind through their daily routine and no one ever recognizes they are there. Those men and the people around them have been trained to not expect anyone to make a big deal out of what they do. We do what we have to do anyway and we should continue to but I think our approach to how we present things sends a mixed message to the kids in our community.

We want our young men to stop being violent and live their lives in the right way but at the same time the men close enough to do something about their actions get hardly no acknowledgement. Our wish is for men  whose plates are already full to accept responsibility for the kids who don’t have fathers in their lives and turn them around. At the same time our music and media do nothing but highlight the kind of behavior and mentality  that leads to the problem. Thug life is big business. On the other end of the spectrum you have the intellectual crowd that are so smart and talented that they don’t know how to interact with regular people anymore so they say a lot of impressive things but the majority of it never gets down to the level where the problem is. If things are going to change it’s going to be the bus drivers, maintenance men, construction workers, security guards, and all the blue collar men who live on the blocks our sons are fighting on. Today is the day to give those guys a much deserved pat on the back.

Friday, June 1, 2012

When We Lie To Mask The Fear

Lately I have found that there are certain things I just can’ find the energy to talk about. I was going to let what happened Tuesday slowly fade to the background of my memory. I changed my mind over the last couple of days because I have never had so many people start a conversation about an incident the way they did after Tuesday. Maybe what I have to say will be good for some people to help cope with how they are feeling.

When you live where I live with the things we are facing right now you have to find ways to cope. One of these coping mechanisms is lying to yourself. Self brainwashing is very effective in this type of environment. One of the main lies I have been able to talk myself into believing is that I am so experienced at living in this city that I can avoid almost every violent situation.  I’m so good at this that usually when I see things on the news happening to other people you can always find something they did that I would never do. That’s how you validate the mind state.  This is one of the main reasons why I am never scared living here. I go through my daily routine with crime being the farthest thing from my mind.

Every now and then something happens to wipe that sense of security all the way out of your mind and you have to start over. Tuesday three men opened fire in a busy intersection towards a kid’s birthday party. Five year old Brianna Allen and 33 year old Shawana Pierce were killed. Ms. Pierce had three sons. Since this tragedy happened I have not only been scared but actually pretty shaken as well. 

It always shakes me when the babies are killed because that’s just a sad event and demoralizing to the community. To me that’s the ultimate failure when we can’t protect them. The baby’s dead shook me but the killing of Ms. Pierce scared me. In the morning during the school year I brought babies to the same school she brought her babies to. Maybe it was the fact that when Mr. Johnson, the principal at KIPP Central City Primary school asked for a moment of silence for her at the end of the year program Wednesday said her name my 8 year old daughter told me the names of her sons and her nephew she went to school with and gave me a confused look like she didn’t understand what happened and I was thinking of ways to explain it. 
I drive the same direction Shawana Pierce was driving day after day. If it wasn’t the end of the school year I probably would have been in the same area she was in around the same time. As good as I think I am at watching for danger I wouldn’t have been able to react to the gunfire she was caught in. It seemed like there was nothing she could have done to avoid that at the time and that’s the part that has everyone messed up mentally.

It gives you that hopeless and helpless feeling because you don’t what to do to stop it from happening. I already know the mentality we are dealing with. I also know the culture it thrives in. We've been through this before. This was another event that led to a discussion with children about violence and we already discussed not wanting to deal with that.

Do you move away? Do you hope the mayor comes up with a task force to go door to door and determine who gets to stay in the city and who has to leave? Do you change your kid’s school and isolate them from the same neighborhoods you grew up in because it’s just too dangerous to have that connection to your hood anymore? There may be a few people who follow through on these things. Most of us will do what we always do. We’ll talk about the thugs and the people who raised them. Then we’ll find comfort in one another knowing that we are not part of the problem. Then the brainwashing starts all over again. If there isn’t a tragic story like Tuesday we’ll all fool ourselves into normalcy soon.pretty soon it will be football season and we'll really be distracted. We just need to talk our way through the summer and things will seem alright.

The tire on my truck has a slow leak in the front tire. I filled it with air and went out about 11:00 PM to see if it was still inflated so I could drive it to work in the morning. As I stepped outside around 11:20 and looked to the left and the right to see what was going on I thought to myself “Why am I tripping like this? This is a working neighborhood and nothing crazy ever happens on this block. I’m safe as long as I’m home.” The sooner you start the brainwashing process the easier it works.