Category Archives: Heroes

Don’t Forget To Check The Scrap Pile

Have you ever seen a junk collector or metal recycler? If you have then you probably noticed them picking up old broken stoves and refrigerators, A, C units, sometimes discarded furniture and other items. All things that another person judged as useless, unfit,  outdated, and a waste of vital space. So they threw them out.

While you and I may drive by and see only useless junk, a collector sees potential, not to mention $$$$. Because he’s not looking at what is, but what will be. You see, it’s all in a matter of perspective. The person who threw it out was looking at the past and present, while the collector has his eyes on the future.

That’s how I liken my prison experience. As I look around I see a sea of human, wreckage-wasted lives and unused potential. People who just like that junk on the side of the street society have been declared as unfit, useless, outdated, as vital waste of space and resources.

But every now and then, I run into men like myself who do more than refuse these harmful labels. They scoop them up and hurl them right back into the faces of the senders. So fast that they begin to wonder how did he do that, he’s a convict? Who does he think he is anyway? I’ll tell you. He thinks he’s someone with more potential in his future than calamity in his past. Someone who knows that it’s not what you say about me that counts, but what I say about me. As British author Zadie Smith so eloquently states, “I am the sole author of the dictionary that defines ME.”

For that reason I was excited when I ran into a group of incarcerated brothers who have created a community service problem solving organization called OnDaVerge.com and I wanted to share it with you that you can be inspired as well. Check these brothers out as they are doing big thangs.

http://www.ondaverg.org/

From the brochure:

On Da Verg.Org is a community service organization geared towards educating & assisting people in problematic situations about proven methods they can use to alleviate their burdens. We also offer vital resources to prisoners, their families & children of incarcerated parents.

Founded in 2004, On Da Verg.Org’s pioneers have designed and developed informational products called Solution Based Models, which are the blueprint or problem or crisis resolution!

At this time, our main focus is on youth ages 12-19 who are faced with various negative circumstances, and at-risk. Our models also assist the parents & guardians of troubled youth, providing easily understood steps to totally eradicate the problem at hand. Our social networking spectrum is wide-ranged & very resourceful, as we direct parents & guardians to the proper agencies who specialize in dealing with specific problems.

Our On Da Verg.Org team is filled with crisis survivors and our crisis response team have effective tactics to intervene in certain problems when necessary.

Everyone is looking for solutions to problems. The problem is, ‘Solutions’ are very limited. This creates a Demand!

Perfect Business Model. The illusion in the world is that everyone is solving their problems. Fact is, almost no one is solving their problems effectively. 99.9% are actually trying to avoid their problems. The
average person’s life is rife with problems. This is what makes the name, On Da Verg.Org what it is? People are constantly on the verge of some extremely important decision(s)….

 

On da verge broch 1

on da verg broch 2

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Will The Real Heroes and Role Models Please Stand Up

In the United States we tend to look at celebrities and sports figures as Heros. Even though the antics of a good portion of these individuals constantly reveal that majority of them are anything but .

For instance I am a Miami Heat fan who likes league MVP Lebron James, but I don’t consider him a hero or role model. For me he is a young athletic man who plays a game that a lot of people like extremely well and earns a large income as a result. Nothing more or less. Same thing with rappers, singers and so forth. Since when does talent, record sales, and box office reviews equals morals and character?

What got me to thinking about this subject was that awhile ago myself and few more guys were in the weight room working out when another guy begin to make a point by quoting rapper Lil Wayne. Another guy jumped in and cut him off, he was like, “Man, wait one goddamn minute, who the F— is lil Wayne that you basing your life on shit he say? What college did he graduate from, what movement did he start, how many people has he helped, or how many lives has he changed for the better?”

I listened to this dude rant and nodded my head in agreement. But that got me to thinking about what a hero or role model is and isn’t. I mean, normally we quote people who have really changed our world, like Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Jesus, Thurgood Marshall, President Obama, Winston Churchill, Malcolm X, Fredrick Douglas, to name a few. Yet here was a young man basing a large portion of his thinking on something he heard Lil Wayne say on a rap song.

As I gave it some thought I came to the conclusion that a true hero is someone who improves the lives of a significant number of people in a measurable way, while often being unsung and derided in the process.

Think of the mostly faceless and nameless college students of CORE and SNCC who came together and helped to desegregate the South with their sit-ins and Freedom Rides. Besides a few of the leaders, I bet you can’t name even one, yet there were literally hundreds.

True heroes. Or someone like Sojourner Truth who wasn’t content to simply escape to freedom herself. She continued to put herself in harm’s way by going back to help some 300 others. Knowing all along that should she be caught, the penalty would certainly be death, but only after being raped and tortured. That’s a hero. Not someone who makes 20 million dollars for their latest action movie, lives in a mansion, has 13 luxury cars yet hires illegal immigrants to raise her kids and clean her house in a effort to save money. I mean come on people.

And while heroes heroics tend to have an effect on a large number of people, role models can be just plain everyday folks who work with what they have while living their lives with respect and dignity.

With this in mind it’s my pleasure to introduce you to a few of my heroes and role models.

Claressa Shields

Claressa Shields

Claressa grew up in Flint, Michigan in a low economic area surrounded by drugs, gangs, violence, and negative influences. Raised in a small house with several other siblings, her mother was a real heavy drinker, she said, “Growing up, I could never get my mom to stop drinking.” She was also picked on by older bigger girls in her neighborhood. According to Claressa, “I was smart, but skinny. There were always girls who would pull my hair and try to bully me for no reason. I felt like nobody could hear me or understand me, so I stayed to myself.”

Her sense of having no voice had began even before she was a teenager. At the age of 5 she was repeatedly raped by a friend of her mothers. To get away from the sexual predator whom her mother was still involved with, she had to move in with her grandmother.

All in all this brown skinned girl had had a hard life. But God. Her luck begin to change when at the age of 11 she wandered into a local boxing gym and asked to train. At first the coach laughed to himself and thought she was just joking. Not wanting to make a big fuss, he figured she would mess around for a few days, a week at the most and then be on her way. But before long he noticed her dedication and the disciplined approach to training that she exhibited. That, and the fact that she was whipping up on every boy her size and bigger in the gym. The girl had fire.

It turned out that Claressa’s inner pain had found an outlet in the form of a pair of boxing gloves. She said, “At the time I felt like I was in a real dark place; I was just real mad. And then I started boxing, it kind of brought light into my life, into that dark room. It opened a window.”

Before long Claressa was considered one of the best female boxers in her division, eventually qualifying for the 2012 Olympics where she not not only competed but won a gold medal. The first for a African-American female boxer in her entire state.

The girl from the bottom had made it to the top on the world’s biggest stage. She said, “I don’t walk around carrying a burden like, oh I was raped; oh, I was molested; oh, my mom didn’t believe me, because to me, all that is in the past and I overcame it. God let all that stuff happen to me because he saw that I was strong enough to handle it. He knew that I would be successful. His purpose was that all this would happen, and when I make it, when I win a gold medal, I’ll be able to tell my story, and they’ll be able to see that God is real.” Claressa Shields – a True Hero.

Ms Latiker

Ms. Latiker standing in front of a a memorial she built to memorize the 370 young victims of gun violence killed Chicago in 2012

Chances are you’ve never heard of Diane Latiker. Our President probably hadn’t either when Ms.Latiker typed him a letter. She wrote, ”Being a organizer from Roseland, I’m sure you understand the need that exist concerning the violence that’s taken the lives of thousands across our nation. We need your help Mr. President.”

You see Ms. Latiker is one of our unsung real heroes. In the city of Chicago, a city with a gang epidemic as well as the highest murder count in the nation, 507 in 2012 alone, she decided to do something heroic and step into the gap by starting ”Kids of the Block”, a youth mentoring and after school program for underserved poor kids on the cities’ Southside. Since she began, some 2000 kids have passed through the doors of her organization.

While Ms.Latiker and the world may never know for certain, she has undoubtedly saved many of these young people’s lives. All with no radio or TV shows or fanfare. But that’s what a real hero does, continues to fight the good fight even in the face of seemly insurmountable obstacles. All the while Screaming “No retreat, No surrender. Victory or death.”

Catherine Rohr

Catherine Rohr

Another hero I want to introduce you to is Catherine Rohr. An attractive young white lady who once earned millions of dollars as a Wall Street investment banker. A job she gave up to teach MBA style entrepreneur skills to incarcerated robbers and murders.

At the age of 25, Ms. Rohr became a born-again Christian and took a trip to several Texas prisons with a church group whom she was visting. It was during one of these trips that Ms. Rohr got the inspiration to teach business classes to inmates. According to Ms. Rohr, “these men exhibited many of the same qualities she looked for when she met with founders and investors.”

Fired up, Ms. Rohr quit her cushy investment banker job, moved to Texas and started the, “Prison Entrepreneurship” program, or PEP for short, with her own money.

In a five year time PEP had graduated 500 students, 60 which went on to start successful businesses. Even better was that compared to the national average of a 40 percent recidivism rate for PEP graduates, it was only 10 percent a significant improvement

Eventually Ms. Rohr left Texas and moved back to New York, raised 1.5 million and began a new prison entrepreneurship program called “Defy Ventures”, a program that is doing for convicted felons in New York, what PEP is still doing for men in Texas — changing lives forever.

 Quanell X

Quanell X

The last unsung hero whom I want to give credit to is local community activist Quanell X. He grew up in Southeast Houston in a predominantly black area known as Sunnyside. A recent report on America’s best and worst neighborhoods named Sunnyside as the 6th most dangerous neighborhood to live in in the entire United States. So it’s no secret the types of activities that you can find going on in Sunnyside and areas like it.

As a black male child searching for his way in the world this is where a young Quanell cut his teeth. And it wasn’t long before he was on the path of death and destruction that seemed the only avenue open to a entire generation of black youth. But after his young brother who was also in the, “game” was found murder execution style along with his girlfriend Quanell decided to change his life for the better.

Initially he found salvation in the Nation of Islam. Articulate and well spoken he quickly rose in the organization until a split caused him to go his own way. For awhile there after he was affiliated with the New Black Panther party before eventually forming his own community support activist organization.

Today Quanell X is considered the number one activist in Houston’s black community who even has his own nightly TV segment called Face-off on the local Fox News affiliate. As the first person most African Americans call when they need someone well spoken, fearless, and knowledgeable to speak truth to power he is at the pinnacle of success.

While many people dislike his confrontational in your face style, very few can doubt his effectiveness. And knowing Mr. Quanell personally, where he comes from as well what he was once about, it’s a joy and inspiration every time I look up on TV and see this former SA Fool immaculate in his tailor made suit, telling the mayor, Police Chief, FBI and whoever else that we won’t rest until justice is served.

Talk to Your Daughters

Asia Graves, a former teenage prostitute

Disclaimer: I’m from the hood which means I know what it is to go without. What it means to have your lights or water turned off. What it means to see your single mother rob Peter to pay Paul and try to stretch a dollar thinner than the paper it was printed on. So I understand Poverty and the soul killing, ambition stealing nature of it.

I stated the above to stress that I understand hustling and what people in poor communities have to do to make ends meet, even when their actions sometimes puts them on the wrong side of the law. Even as a Christian man, I can’t knock a person in their battle for survival .

However, there is one hustle that I personally never appreciated or condoned, which is pimping, where a man uses force, mental coercion, manipulation, material possession or whatever to convince a woman to sell her body for his financial benefit. And to be honest with you, it upsets me every time I read or hear about it, especially when a young girl is turned out and either forced or tricked into this soul-crushing lifestyle.

But it’s happening everyday right up under our noses and it happened to Asia Graves the beautiful young woman whose picture is at the top of this article. Like a lot of black girls from the hood, Asia had a rough childhood which consisted of a drug-addicted mother, and being bounced back and forth to different relatives homes.

Until at the tender impressionable age of 16, she found herself broke and homeless on the streets of Boston. One night while she was out on the streets, broke and cold, a well-dressed man approached her smiling as if he had the world at his beg and call. He told Asia that she was pretty and much too beautiful to be outside with no place to go. Encouraged by his nice words, she accepted what she naively thought was the man’s kindness. Kindness that consisted of food, clothes, money and a place to stay. To tell the truth, she felt like she had been rescued by a nice wealthy man whom she had no idea was a pimp.

After a few days of providing her a place to stay and feeding her, the man told Asia that it takes money to live in this world and that she had to start earning her keep — pimp talk for whoring.

But he told her not to worry about it, that he would take care of it by setting her up with a “date”. Only this date involved Asia having sex with men in exchange for money. Soon this one date turned into two and three, until Asia found herself having sex with multiple men a night for money. Money that she had to quickly turn over to the man who has supposedly “rescued her”. Asia said, “If we didn’t call him daddy, he would slap us, beat us, or choke us.”

For nearly two years Asia found herself stuck in this destructive lifestyle as a result of her need for material support and a place to stay, and fear of what her pimp would do to her if she tried to leave. And because it was Asia along with some other girls that he had selling his body for him, he was able to convince them that they were all one big family and used them to recruit other girls for his “stable”.

”It’s about love and thinking you’re part of a family, a team. I couldn’t leave because I thought he would kill me.”

Fortunately with the help of the police and FBI, Asia was able to break free of her pimp after he nearly killed her and she had to be hospitalized for her injuries. But not every girl is so lucky – too many wind up dead, or strung out and on the streets for life.

Today Asia works with “Fair Girls” a D.C. organization started by Andrea Powell that offers a four hour curriculum entitled “Tell Your Friends” about how young girls in general, but especially black and Hispanic girls from single parent households are these predators number one target.

Since it began, “Fair Girls” has reached thousands of teenage girls. However, that is still a drop in the bucket compared with the millions of young girls in these predator’s crosshairs .That’s why we all each individually have to do something. We have to talk to our teenage daughters, sisters, nieces, cousins and neighbors. Don’t think it can’t happen to anyone who you love and care about. Girls have been exploited from the suburbs to the Subway and from the Penthouse to the Poorhouse pimps and sex traffickers don’t discriminate.

Asia Graves put herself out there on the front page of a national newspaper so we call could see the face of teenage prostitution.

Now the ball is in our court talk to the teenage girls in you life, don’t assume it can’t happen because it can and is happening everyday all around this country.

43,800 Days

The judge gave me 43,800 days

1,140 Months

1,051,200 hours

63,072,200 minutes

To build a nation

His prison, My university

His punishment, My salvation

Moses was raised in Pharaoh’s house

Old Pharaoh still feeding Moses at his table today

He fed Malcolm, Huey, Geronimo Pratt, Eldridge Cleaver, George Jackson,

Big Tookie, Mumia Adu Jabar

And now Old Pharaoh feeding me

Yet I have the blood of Nat Turner in my veins

The brains of Booker T

The brashness of Muhammad Ali

What Old Pharaoh going to do with me?

Right now I am eating in the kitchen, growing strong

Tomorrow I will own the table

Time to rewrite this American fable…

 

Reprinted  from  “A Windowless Room”, Trafford Press

The Company We Keep

The other day somebody dropped this jewel in my lap and I wanted to share it with you:

“He who walks with wise men (or women) will be wise” — Proverbs 13:20

The company we keep

It is Better to Be Alone Than in the Wrong Company

Tell me who your best friends are, and I will tell you who you are. If you run with wolves, you will learn to howl. But, if you associate with eagles, you will learn how to soar to great heights. A mirror reflects a man’s face, but what he REALLY is like is shown by the kind of friends he chooses. The simple, but true fact of life, is that YOU become like those with whom you closely associate-for good or for bad.

The less you associate with some people, the MORE your life will improve!

Anytime you tolerate a compromising attitude in others, it increases your compromising attitude. An important attribute in successful people is their impatience with negative thinking and negative acting people. As you grow, your associates will change. Some of your friends will not WANT you to go on. They will want you to stay where THEY are. Friends that don’t help you climb…will want you to crawl. Your friends will stretch your vision,or choke your dreams. Never receive counsel from unproductive people. Never discuss your problems with someone incapable of contributing to the SOLUTION, because those who never succeed themselves… are always first to tell you how and why you can’t. NOT everyone has the right to speak into your life. You are certain to get the worst of the bargain when you exchange ideas with, the wrong person. Don’t follow anyone who’s not going anywhere. With some people we SPEND our time, with others we INVEST it. Be careful where you stop to inquire for directions along the road of life-Wise is the person who fortifies his life with right friendships.

Happy moments? Praise God

Difficult moments? Seek God

Quiet moments? Worship God

Painful moments? Trust God

Every moment? Thank God

— Author Unknown —

 

 

 

 

I have a lot of respect for Houston defense attorney Dick DeGuerin. So much that he was one of the first attorneys I attempted to hire, but was unable to afford when I found myself facing the daunting prospect that later became a reality of being “railroaded” by Harris County.

Then I heard the “hero” defense DeGuerin successfully raised in the trial of ex-Houston police officer Andrew Blomberg, one of several Houston police officers eventually fired and charged with “official oppression” after administering a sever dose of, “street justice” to 15 year old Chad Holley back in March 2010. It just happened to get caught on tape, which was the only reason the officers were fired, or even prosecuted. Because as anyone with even a casual knowledge of Harris County will readily admit, police misconduct, judicial oppression and injustice are a way of life for the county’s black and brown population. So much so to where the average, poor African American or Hispanic is living a precarious existence not much different than a Jewish person’s in Germany during the rise of the Nazi party. I promise you, it’s that bad. They simply have no rights legal or otherwise that the powers that be, police, prosecutors, judges etc are bound to respect. None whatsoever.

So, when Dick DeGuerin proposed his “hero” defense, I couldn’t help but think about President Obama’s sudden election time support of gay marriage. And was reminded of the tenet that just like a politician the average defense lawyer, or DA will do or say anything to win a case. Even stooping to the level of calling a grown man and trained police officer caught on video stomping a 15 year old teenager a”hero”. What the !*??!!*

The not-guilty verdict came down with the resulting backlash of anger from Houston’s black community. (Note: The black masses in the United States of America have been mad so long that nobody really cares anymore. The official line is okay get mad, march, protest, wear T-Shirts, and for good measure we’ll even have a meeting with you. How about that? Would you like that? But next week, the nightstick will be right back upside your head. Why? Because you are a irrelevant population. When are you people going to learn that? No one cares about what concerns you.) But I for one wasn’t surprised that a all white jury of Blomberg’s middle class peers found him not guilty despite being caught on camera acting like the very thug his attorney tried to portray Chad Holley to be.

I mean, why should anyone be surprised? Was anyone surprised when a all white jury in Mississippi acquitted the two half-brothers of killing 14 year old Emmet Till for whistling at a white lady, after the brothers bragged about the crime?

Getting beyond the surface, let’s examine what took place from the reality of modern day America. Andrew Blomberg is a married, college-educated, white middle class man with enough disposable financial resources to hire arguably one of the best, if not the best criminal defense lawyers in the state. On top of this he has many supporters in the community and police force who packed the courtroom to add weight to the fact that he’s not the type of guy to normally do what he was caught on camera doing.

Now compare all that with the 15 year old victim who was a poor, black kid from a single parent home, burglary suspect and alleged gang member at the time of his assault by Houston Police officers. On top of that he’s dragging the weight of history with him and every stereotype and prejudice that the average white mind harbors about young black males.

Put another way in the eyes of this society Andrew Blomberg is a “somebody”, even a “hero” according to his attorney. While Chad Holley was and is viewed as a nobody. Just another unemployed, young black thug (code word for nigger) who was committing a crime and got what he deserved, a good old-fashioned butt whipping. Sure, in our political reality, never say what you really feel or think, no one in society will admit this – not the DA, defense lawyer, police officer, Blomberg, or his friends and family, but I would bet a small fortune that deep down, this is how they all really feel.

Undoubtedly, it was how the jury felt when they chose to acquit Blomberg.

Until people get real about what’s really going on with the police department and the criminal justice system – and how very little has really changed in the hearts and minds of the people of this country, despite the election of the nation’s first black president and all the post racial nonsense pundits like to sprout – men like Andrew Blomberg will continue to be “heroes” despite their actions to the contrary. While the Chad Holley’s and Trayvon Martin’s among us will remain endangered species under a official order as in Blomberg’s case, or unofficial as in Zimmerman’s to seek out and destroy where ever they may be.

No Justice. No Peace.

My First Brush With A Killer

Back in 2006, I struck up a correspondence/friendship with a Ebony bachelorette by the name of Crystal Brown-Tatum, who, in addition to owning her own communications company and being a published author, had also been named one of Houston’s top female executives.

As our friendship blossomed, I cheered as she went from a most eligible bachelorette to a happily married woman, and aspiring actress. And was frequently overjoyed when she would write me about her latest exploits in the movie industry, or send photos with her newest celebrity pal.

Therefore I was caught off-guard when I received a letter from her informing me that she had discovered a lump in one of her breast and her doctor had diagnosed it as cancer. I reread her letter a second time to make sure I wasn’t tripping because I’ve been known to get things twisted.

But there it was in black and white; Breast Cancer. How in the world could that be? Here was a beautiful, college-educated woman who seemed to be on top of the world. And here she was saying that she had been diagnosed with a potentially fatal disease.

As much as I pride myself on being well-read and having at the very least a cursory amount of knowledge on a wide variety of subjects, I am still a man, and like a lot of men I had paid scant attention to this disease that seemed to mostly affect women.

But now I knew someone who was personally stricken with breast cancer. It was no longer just an article in a Essence magazine encouraging women to get mammograms. Here was my wonderful, dynamic, successful friend telling me that she was scheduled to take chemotherapy and daunted by the prospect of losing all of her beautiful hair, and asking me if I would pray for her.

Of course I would. But what else could I possibly do? In addition to praying I tried to keep her encouraged with uplifting letters and by sending her positive articles from other breast cancer survivors .

I also became a breast cancer supporter and began to pay much more attention to this health menace that was affecting women of all races, but especially black women at a alarming rate. I learned that when black women are diagnosed their cancers tend to be worse, more difficult to treat, which results in a higher mortality rate.

It was these alarming and dismal statistics that I believe led Karen Jackson to found her organization The Sister Network (sisternetworkinc.org), a national organization dedicated to black women and breast cancer.

For me the more I learned not only did I become more concerned, but I eventually arrived at the realization that breast cancer wasn’t just a woman’s disease. Simply because if Moma, wife, sister, daughter, niece, or girlfriend is affected, then it affects all the men in their life just the same. Making the fight against breast cancer and the race to find a cure all of our problem, both male and female.

Fortunately for my friend, God smiled on her and after 12 weeks of chemotherapy, she’s completely cancer-free and living life to the fullest. She has even gone on to write a book about her experience to encourage and help other women by sharing her story.

 

A Gordon Spirit

The man in this 1863 picture is an escaped slave from the Mississippi Delta, named Gordon, whom I like to think of as a distant relative. Even if the connection we share isn’t of the molecular one composed of hydrogen, oxygen and carbon combined in the double helix better known as DNA that CSI NY has so many of us assuming we are familiar with, even if we failed high-school chemistry.

However, the connection that me and Prince Gordon share is a soulish one as we’ve both been victimized in the country of our Birth .

When you see the flesh of Gordon’s back cut open into a thousand pieces, what’s the first thing that jumps into your mind?

One person may wonder aloud, “what did he do to possibly deserve such vicious, inhumane treatment?” While another would protest vehemently that there was no offense that a man could commit that would warrant such treatment. Another person might bemoan the injustice of the entire American slave system and its aftermath that declared some men as masters and the others as beast of burden with absolutely no say so over their lives based solely on the color of their skin. Each would have a hold on a small fiber of the truth.

When I encountered the portrait of Gordon eight years ago, I was immediately drawn to the regal grace and kingliness of the man. And I saw the welts on his back representing not a source of shame but pride. A crown of splendid glory carved into his flesh as majestic as any that was ever worn by the Kings and Queens of Europe. For Gordon’s crown is emblematic of his quest to be a man, in a unjust soul-crushing system that refused to acknowledge him as such.

The more I studied the photo, the more mesmerized I became with who this man was and what he had endured in the name of manhood. It was then that I realized me and Gordon were kindred spirits and that the scars on his back represented the wounds of my very own soul.

Like a ghost from beyond the grave Gordon’s spirit was a light onto my feet. Showing me the way. The way of all those who refuse to turn back, lay down, let up, shut up, or give up come what may even the hated twin foes of bodily injury and death.

In essence, Gordon was telling me and all the world that yes, he was beaten, but he was UNBROKEN. That his head was bloodied, but UNBOWED.

From the seeds of Gordon’s courage came the inspiration for my publishing company UNBROKEN UNBOWED PRESS, with Gordon as the company’s figure head for his life represents the highest aspirations that UNBROKEN UNBOWED PRESS seeks to embody.

A publishing company for all the kindred souls who refuse to take no for an answer, who refuse to turn back in the face of adversity – for the outcast, social lepers, misfits, convicts, and all the men and women which a Gordon Spirit who retain their dignity, pride, hope, courage and grace even in the face of unimaginable hardships and adversity. UNBROKEN UNBOWED PRESS is for them and all the Gordons of the world.

At UNBROKEN UNBOWED PRESS, we agree with the eminent late black scholar Manning Marble who said, “KNOWLEDGE FROM THE VANTAGE POINT OF THE OPPRESSED, MUST NOT ONLY INFORM, BUT TRANSFORM THE REAL CONDITIONS OF DAILY LIFE IN WHICH PEOPLE LIVE.”

If you are anyone you knows has a Gordon Spirit check us out at http://www.wix.com/unbrokenunbowedpress/home as well as Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Unbroken-Unbowed-Press/365012860183016

A Negative Export

If you remember high-school economics 101, one of the things that was repeatedly stressed was that America has a negative trade deficiency – which means, stripped of all the Adam Smith economic jargon, that Americans buy more of other people’s junk from around the world then they buy ours.

Still, there is one product, good or bad, that the United States excels in exporting and that’s Western culture. American movies, music, and clothing styles can be found in homes from South Korea to Ghana, Africa.

With the tendency of some foreign cultures to embrace all things American, I was disappointed when I read a Dallas Morning News article about Iraq’s youth tragic embrace of American gangster culture. Which is really a subculture birthed by those who were initially excluded from full participation in mainstream society and today is tolerated and sometimes promoted in certain niches of the country.

The article stated that 8 million Iraqis, or a quarter of the population, was born after the 2003 US invasion. These kids grew up seeing the perceived bad-ass American soldiers totting machine guns with ripping heavily tattooed biceps, talking trash, sprouting slang and seemingly kicking ass and taking names. What kid wouldn’t want to imitate that? Which would you want to be: the father or uncle who gets stopped, frisked and possibly slapped around, or the bad ass gun totting American soldiers? As a result an entire segment of the youthful population set out to be like these American soldiers.

It’s no different in American ghettos and inner city communities where the only people who appear to be making any type of tolerable existence are the ones involved in some type of illegal activity, with no doctors, lawyers, or entrepreneurs role models. Kids in this environment too often grow up wanting to be drug dealers, gangsters, pimps, and players all to their own detriment and the harm of the community.

Now sadly this cancer of— gangsterism — has been exported all the way to Iraq via the occupying American soldiers. In the article Iraq youth are going around calling themselves, “hustlers” and “gangsters”, listening to 50 Cent and Eminem and getting tattoos in record numbers. One Iraq teenager, Adnan, said, ”all young men in Sadr City wear the same clothes when we hang around. Nobody minds. And we’re invited to weddings and celebrations where we perform break dancing.”

As fascinated as Americans are with gangsters and crime, most Americans are average Joes and Jills who work regular 9 to 5 jobs and are content to live their gangster/mob fantasy from the comfort and safety of their living rooms via cable TV (think Sopranos).

But for men like myself who actually crawled up and out of the rat infested gutter of gangster culture, with its violent dog eat dog, do you before you do me-mentality. I’ll be the first to tell you that it’s far, far from the glitter and glamour that Hollywood and a handful of rappers portray it to be.

Last month one of my best friends was laid in the cold hard dirt as a result of this lifestyle, and he was but one of many. Others who like myself avoided an early grave are locked in prison cells serving sentences two and three times as long as they’ve been alive. Imagine being 25 with a 90 year sentence or 21 with a 55 years sentence, and you will understand what’s really happening with the gangster lifestyle. Nothing but death and destruction and wasted potential and human misery.

In certain circumstances and environments, being a gangster is an adaptive measure, a response to the inner city jungles that society has locked so many of its underclasses into. Places where some are forced to become predators and others prey. When giving the choice the majority who are able to chose to become predators as opposed to prey. Which is why you can find so many armed dangerous young men in every ghetto of the country. The mentality is that the accident of birth put me into this jungle and it’s up to me to survive this concrete jungle by any means necessary.

But outside of those extreme circumstances and environments, to willingly adopt a lifestyle with the primary destination being the graveyard and prison cell, is beyond illogical. As crazy as the billionaire we see going to jail for stealing money.

I am all for seeing America’s trade deficiency decrease, but not at the expense of the world’s youth. Like lead based paint and asbestos some things need to be completely taken out of circulation—gangsterism—is one of them.