Monday, November 21, 2011


I’d intended to write this piece three weeks ago but I put it off; chickened out really. I didn’t think I’d be able to make sense of the horror occurring daily in the confines of this space. Even more telling, I wasn’t ready to deal with the hornets nest sure to be stirred up by candid talk of the widespread sexual abuse of girls that reside in ‘the under’. Sexual abuse more often than not at the hands of “momma’s” new lover who moved into the house and made a move on the girl after her daddy had slunk off and tuned out.
Now that the sordid Sandusky saga alleging sexual atrocities perpetrated against young boys at Penn State University and the Second Mile Charity is receiving non-stop media play perhaps its time.

I teach Empowerment to individuals stuck in the muck of ‘the under’. I teach to illuminate the path up. For the past several years my students have included ex-offenders, high school dropouts, the chronically unemployed, the functionally illiterate, substance abusers, “at risk” youth and people labeled as “special needs”. Some come from families that have existed for generations under the poverty line; subsisting on a hustle and a hope with allegiance to nothing and no one.

I’ve been amazed by the damage done to many of my students, by their own hand sometimes but predominantly at the hands of a predator; someone who saw their vulnerability or weakness or deficiency and pounced.

Of all the wreckage I’ve walked through teaching in ‘the under’, it is the girls I think that have been wrecked the most. Low self-worth, inability to trust, promiscuous behavior in some, withered emotions in others. Mostly afraid - afraid that the rape won’t stop, afraid that people will know - some afraid because guiltily they crave the attention, still more because they want to kill the rapist or themselves.

Recently I asked a male group I teach to raise their hand if they had children. Every man in the room of about fifteen raised his hand. “How many of you live in the house with them” I asked. Every hand but one went down.

In my Blog dated 10-24-11 I asked if we could talk, seriously talk about curing our ills and fixing ourselves. Can we start here, with this?

What do we do about the girls whose anguish lies hidden and whose wounds run deep? What do we do about the daddies that don’t parent and have abdicated their responsibility to protect and nourish their offspring? What do we do about the mothers who turn a blind eye to the actions of their new man as he creeps Jody-like to destroy her child’s world?

What to do… whom to tell… what to say? I’m not sure so I’m asking you; can we solve this one if we start talking about it?  

Monday, November 7, 2011


The Crisis
         DREAM BIG!!!

“What’re you doing now” is a question often asked by people who knew me when but haven’t seen me in awhile. “I teach now” is my standard response. “I teach Empowerment.”

I watch their reaction to the word empowerment: uncertain, confused, unsure, unaware. “Empowerment huh” then, “where do you teach?”

“Everywhere and anywhere” comes my ready reply. “Anywhere that ‘the under’ mentality roots; everywhere that the traps to ‘the under’ ensnare.” “Huh?” most respond, perplexed.

In an earlier Post I wrote that I’d been walking in ‘the under’ for a time. You know ‘the under’ probably or you’ve heard tales of it. ‘The under’ is inhabited by those of us classified as under served or under privileged. Its residents more often than not are under-educated, under-employed, under-housed, under-paid, under-valued and under attack. An anything goes underworld if you will; where millions upon millions of people dwell, facing an under-future and a lifetime of living hell.

‘The under’ is the major intake valve for the “Pipeline to Prison”. It is a prime breeding ground for drug abuse, sexual abuse, child abuse and domestic violence. Those stuck there alternate from predator to prey at a moments notice. Their actions are based on a mind-set of ‘get mine by any means’ or ‘me against the world’ or ‘I’m in it by myself’. ‘The under’ is a very scary place because the rules are different or flipped or non-existent. Extreme poverty, distrust and the inability to unite there (as here) reinforce the status quo. Lack of literacy helps control the populace while social isolation allows the resulting mayhem.

Since 2008 I’ve been teaching Empowerment to people mired in the despair of ‘the under’. What I’ve learned since then is as perplexing to me as my cryptic response was to the oft-asked question, “what’re you doing now?”

Mostly I’m perplexed by the general population’s indifference to the chaotic misery in ‘the under’. Perplexed by our silence in the face of the evidence of our rapid societal decline. Perplexed as to why we don’t recognize our direct link to ‘the under’ or accept our collective responsibility to reverse the power of its pull.

The border to ‘the under’ is adjacent to our own and a passport is not needed to cross from one side to the other. The apathy of those not trapped there, combined with our perplexing lack of vision leaves us open and vulnerable. I’m sick of the devastation wreaked on the folks in ‘the under’. I’m tired of the carnage caused through their ignorance and rage. So I teach now. I teach Empowerment.

Monday, October 24, 2011


Can we talk?

I mean seriously talk about how to handle the really heavy stuff? I’ve been wondering for quite awhile now, if we can use this Social Media thing to really engage. Wondering if this technology thing that connects us can be used as something more than ego walls, promotional pitches or instant updates on largely irrelevant information.

Can we talk?

I’m wondering if it’s possible to divide the Network into the Social to solve the problems plaguing our society. Social as in a multi-voiced, multi generational discussion focused on articulating, illuminating and debating the solutions. Then apply them to close the fissures caused by past mistakes, and cure the ills that slowly eat us alive as we embrace the silent killers, apathy and denial.

Can we talk?

Can we “put it all in play”, with no sacred cows, no taboo topics? Can we have a “no holds barred” nationwide dialogue to find the answers? Can we determine community priorities, and then drive a plan of concerted action through an on-line portal as a networked community?

Don’t get me wrong; I’m not a humorless curmudgeon. I’ve got nothing against partying or a good time; life should be about fun. Nothing wrong with ego walls or self-promotion; life should be about self-gratification. But not entirely, life is also about finding a balance; doing the work, taking care of business, and taking care of each other.

That’s why we need to talk. I’ve been walking in ‘the under’ for quite awhile now and it’s a very scary place; deeper than it used to be with more power to its pull. We’ve got tons of heavy lifting to do and it will take a network to succeed, a linked chain. That’s why I’m asking, “can we talk”?

Monday, October 10, 2011


I got back to my office late on a Thursday afternoon, in a hurry. I was rushing to get downtown by 6:00 for the “Freedom Riders” traveling exhibition; opening that night at the Detroit Public Library, but wasn’t sure I could make it. A looming production deadline for my new Empowerment video series, and several after class student meetings at the school where I teach, were conspiring to rob me of the time I’d planned to devote to the “Freedom Riders”.
click above photo for more info

Just as I was reaching the decision not to attend my phone buzzed.  Answering, I immediately recognized the voice of the well regarded TV News Anchor and Host of a local show, where guests with different opinions try to verbally rip each other’s point of view to shreds. It’s a popular program with all the power packed elements: polarizing topics, semi-celebrities, put-downs, lots of noise and conflict.

“Jeff”, said the voice, “I want you to appear on my show tonight we’re taping at 10:00. We want to talk about Governor Rick Perry’s Texas camp, you know its called N----R-Head. We want to know who can use the N-word and who can’t and why, according to Sherri Shepherd, it’s OK for Whoopi Goldberg to use it but not Barbara Walters. It’s going to be a hot show,” the erudite journalist promised. “Can you make it?”

 “Who’s Sherri Shepherd” I countered, buying some time till my brain could comprehend his request. “You can check her out on You Tube. Google ‘The View’, you can see the whole thing, can you make it” my persuasive caller repeated.

I thought about my options for the evening. I could go be inspired by the stories of heroic struggles to banish a second-class status and mentality. I could skip the Exhibit to work on my video project, focused on community uplift through the application of the Empowerment Principles; or I could spend two hours to tape a ten-minute segment on the N-word.

Not enough time to talk about why the word is such a lightning rod for divisiveness. No time to discuss Willie Lynch or the Black Codes or Jim Crow or Restricted Covenants or the hundred year fight to end apartheid in the U.S.

I could go and say that NOBODY has the right to EVER use that word, but without the time to debate our sordid ethnic history I realized nothing would be heard but the shouting.

“Not this time” I replied to the show host, “but keep me in mind down the road.”

Monday, October 3, 2011

Tens of Thousands Lose Welfare Cash Eligibility / Big Brother Knows Best

“My name is secluded. We live in a house the size of a matchbox. 
Roaches live with us wall to wall.”  
Motown Records

Can you hear it yet? It’s on the wind; a low mournful wail, sure to grow to a gale-like crescendo by December. A flat out high decibel shriek of despair and desolation as more than 40,000 people in Michigan realize the impact of a lifeline cut in two.

It’s the noise created by combining discordant elements: uncertainty-fear-dread-anger- rage- to create a scary sound; a sonic boom of a blast, as the hopes of tens of thousands of “the secluded” are simultaneously extinguished by a whirlwind induced through “Big Brother’s indifference.

Welfare kids already suffer too many lacks: stability-mobility-variety-opportunity- while welfare mothers are diminished daily by constant worry and unceasing anxiety.

Surely our Republican autocrats realize that $515 per month is a pittance which wouldn’t cover their monthly golf fees. Surely they understand that despair drives desperation, and that desperation creates chaos and causes mayhem. They’ve got to know that soon these seemingly invisible people, the poorest of the poor, will be out of options. Soon they’ll have nothing; not even roach infested houses.

‘Big Brother’ must know that people without hope have nothing to lose or live for, and that the now low wail on the wind could trigger a social tsunami, doesn’t he?

“My name is nobody. I don’t even have to do something to you. You’ll cause your own country to fall.”  

Thursday, September 29, 2011


(continued from: 9/28/11)

I took his advice; kept my mouth shut and played the, ‘who can hold the stare longest’ game with him. Suddenly the uncertain Oakland County cop (still holding his handcuffs) literally screamed in my face: “WHAT IF IT HAD BEEN A BLACK POLICEMAN THAT STOPPED YOU? WHAT IF IT HAD BEEN AN AFRICAN AMERICAN FEMALE OFFICER, WOULD YOU CALL THEM RACIST PROFILERS TOO?”

He looked at me as if he’d just scored a point. Summoning my most arrogant manner I smiled contemptuously. “Are the other Oakland County cops as ignorant as you” I asked, “or are you the only one who doesn’t know that it’s the race of the detainee not the race of the detainer that makes it profiling?”

“That’s it,” he snapped, moving as if to take me into custody. I pointed to the store entrance. The other cop stood there trying to get my captor’s attention. “It’s not him,” he shouted, making a slicing motion across his neck. “It’s not,” asked my disappointed pursuer, deflating like a balloon with a hole in it.

He looked at me defeated. Trying to save face he spat out: “we didn’t stop you for shoplifting. It was for prescription fraud.” As I turned to go, soaked to the skin he added, I didn’t profile you, the pharmacy did, I ain’t no racist.”

Turning to face him I inquired, “just so I’m clear how did the pharmacist describe me?” “Black man, white shirt” he replied as if that explained everything. I looked at the shirt I had on. It was as tan as my brown face. I looked back at the glaring, staring dummy with a badge and wondered how long it would take him to figure out that the alleged prescription fraudster, now long gone, would be glad to know that another black man was at the big box ‘we sell everything store’ at the same time he was.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011


(continued from: 9/27/11)

“I wanna know what’s in the bag”, the florid faced cop repeated, his breathing returning to normal. I stood looking at him glare at me with the rain beating down on both of us as his partner caught up. “I’ll go get loss prevention”, he shouted, hustling back into the store. “Hold him here” he advised the flush faced cop, who positioned himself as to cut off my escape should I attempt to flee.

“Hold me here for what” I said not moving a muscle, hostility edging into my voice. “I didn’t steal anything”. Narrowing his red-rimmed eyes to slits he retorted, “shut up and let me see some I.D.” Stunned by his anger I slowly shook my head no. My view widened to take in the on-lookers, whispering to each other, gawking at the scene like freeway motorists who slow traffic to a crawl in order to view the wreckage from a recent collision.

“I’m not showing you anything’ I replied, you ever hear of the 4th amendment? He stood there slack jawed, infuriated and puzzled by my response. Before he could say anything I added, “What is this racial profiling? Is that why you’re holding me?”

The old cop went ballistic. I could tell he wanted to get physical but there were too many eyes on us. Instead he took out his cuffs, stepped even closer and hissed, “I ain’t no racist. You better not call me a racist profiler.” Stepping back from the spray of his venom I countered, “I didn’t call you a name. I asked you a question.” “Just keep your mouth shut and wait smart boy” he threatened. ‘I’ll have your I.D. as soon as my partner gets back.”

(To be continued: 9/29/11)

Tuesday, September 27, 2011


The rain was a daylong drizzle that by 3PM on a recent Monday had lessened not a bit. I was walking out of one of those big box, ‘we sell everything stores’, deep in the heart of Oakland County Michigan. I remember thinking that the computerized robotic scanners would soon put the check out clerks on the unemployment line; there to join the bank tellers, postal workers, journalists and others whose jobs have been usurped by the gizmos of technology.

Exiting the building I noticed two Oakland County cop cars pulled right up to the entrance parked nose-to-nose forming a V. My mind jumped off the robots and on to alert; something was going down in the store.

As I walked to my car, parked at the far end of the vast lot, I saw two brown-suited cops running fast across the expanse, dodging cars and shoppers like fullbacks sprinting for the goal line. ‘They’re chasing somebody’, my startled brain informed as my eyes began to search the area.

I spotted no one, and as I reached for my keys I received a shock I hadn’t experienced in a while, but its jolt was all too familiar. It was me they were chasing; me to whom they shouted, “hey you, stop right there!”

I did, turning warily to face the one who arrived first. He was panting from the effort, sweating in his bulky outfit. His face was mottled, his thin gray hair plastered to his scalp. With narrowed beady eyes he demanded, “what’s in the bag”, indicating with a jerk of his head the parcel I held. “ Why” I replied, wondering why they had targeted me.

(To be continued on 9-28-11)

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Corruption in Metro Detroit: Sh*t Rolls Down Hill

Those mired in ‘the under’ in Metro Detroit aren’t just stuck in the muck. They’re also buried up to their necks by the truckloads of crap dumped daily on their heads by the actions of self serving “leaders”, put in place to light the path leading up; smothered by the fallout from the greed of the “best & the brightest”.

Christine Beatty, Glenn Blanton, John Clark, Monica Conyers, Stephen Hill, Rayford Jackson, Karl Kado, Kwame Kilpatrick, William Lattimore,  Derrick Miller, DeDan Milton, Kandia Milton, Lou Pavledes, Sam Riddle, James Rosendall, Dr. Gwendolyn Washington, Sherry Washington, Mary Waters, and too many other so called ‘role models’ to list here are now confessed liars, felons, jailbirds. Some stole from the schools, some robbed the pensioners, others sold out their office, some bribed the politicians and all of them ripped off our trust.

 As we bemoan the folks trapped in ‘the under’ who steal copper or scraps from the bottom of the heap, those at the top steal opportunity from us all.

While we lament the lack of jobs or credit or adequate housing or quality schools, those whose job it is to provide them instead line their own pockets at our expense.

As we decry the lawlessness, illiteracy, and lack of shared values by those that exist on the margins of society, those we look to fix what ails us just keeping oozing their putrid filth onto our heads.

Sh*t rolls down hill goes the old saying, and in Metro Detroit it’s no wonder ‘the under’ can’t find its footing; that slippery slope people are trying to climb has been made even more so by the waste of lost potential, and the sheer volume of the discharge from above. 


Monday, September 12, 2011

In Michigan It’s Women, Children and Old Folks First

There has been much wailing and gnashing of teeth about the forty eight month welfare cutoff in Michigan, initiated by the Republican Legislature, quickly signed by the Republican Governor and decried by every Democrat close to a microphone.

Come October 1, 2011 families that have received welfare benefits for four consecutive years will no longer be eligible for cash assistance. They’ll be cut from the rolls; a Bridge Card perhaps and Medicaid but no more cash payments. Ever.

An estimated 12,600 families, many of them women-led with vulnerable children. Who will take care of them, asks the Catholic Church. What about the helpless kids, cry the Baptist Ministers. This is heartless, cruel and inhuman say the social activists. It’ll be a catastrophe, warn law enforcement officials. How can those Republicans be so mean, scream the powerless Democrats?

Sit down and shut up, retort those responsible. Welfare is short term, not lifetime. Welfare is meant as a temporary hedge against hard times. Those we cut off should go get a job or go back to school; we don’t have the money to take care of them anymore.

“But what about the children”, murmur those who still don’t get it? ‘Not our problem’ respond those who need the funds to sustain the $1.8 billion tax cut for Big Business. ‘They chose to have them, let them take care of them’.

‘Besides’, one of the bureaucrats added, ‘we plan to spread the pain. We’ll start to tax the pensions soon, then it won’t just be about the young vulnerable folk; it’ll be about the old vulnerable folk too’.