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 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 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.”
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.
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.
Most Americans with an iota of compassion were heartbroken by the senseless shooing at Sandy Hook Elementary where …
Dawn Hachsprung, 47 Mary Sherlach, 56
Victoria Soto, 27
Emilie Parker, 6
Jessie Lewis, 6
Ana Marquez-Greene, 6
Lauren Rousseau, 30
Benjamin Wheeler, 6
Charlotte Bacon, 6
Daniel Barden, 7
Rachael Davino, 24
Olivia Engel, 6
Josephine Gay, 7
Dylan Hockley, 6
Madeleine Hsu, 6
Catherine Violet Hubbard, 6
Chase Kawalski, 7
Nancy Lanza, 52
James Mattioli, 6
Gracy Audrey McDonnell, 7
Anne Marie Murphy, 52
Jack Armistead Pinto, 6
Noah Panzer, 6
Caroline Previdi, 6
Jessica Rekos, 6
….all lost their lives.
But if anyone is listening, please hear me. Being heartbroken just isn’t enough. The United States has a gun problem that has been ignored for too long.
I speak from experience. As a young African American man from the inner city, I was brought up in a culture of violence. One where disputes and disagreements frequently ended with someone being sent to the hospital or morgue. So this problem or issue isn’t abstract to me, it’s up close and personal.
What’s sad is rather it’s miseducated drug dealers gunning each other down in the streets, or people with mental health issues like the Connecticut shooter going on senseless rampages the common denominator is easy access to guns, any type of guns.
In the society that we’ve created, a person with the money can purchase pretty much any type of weapon from a handgun to an AK-47 assault weapon equipped with a 100 round drum.
Think about that, civilians able to purchase weapons of war in Any City USA. Who needs a hundred round drum and for what? Surely not hunters, or regular people just trying to protect their family? The only people whom I can think of are guys like the guy who went into Sandy Hook Elementary, right wing revolutionaries who think African-Americans and Hispanics or some other unidentified threat is out to get them and destroy their way of life, and other people involved in some form of illegal activity. In other words, a very small sliver of the US population.
This is the only developed country in the world where these type of weapons are readily available. SO IS IT ANY SURPRISE THAT WE REAP SENSELESS VIOLENCE WHEN WE HAVE CREATED AND FOSTERED A CULTURE OF VIOLENCE? There are an estimated 300 million guns in the hands of the public.
In referring to the tragedy, President Obama asked the question, is 26 dead the price of freedom?
I think not. I think that’s the price for the capitalist at Colt, Smith&Wesson, Clock, Beretta and so forth to continue to line their corporate coffers.
Why do you think these gun manufacturers donate millions of dollars annually to the NRA – an organization that turns around and funnels this money to various incumbents and candidates who support their deadly agenda lock stock and barrel?
Why else would the US Congress pass a law that keeps gun manufacturers from being sued for the havoc and destruction their products cause? Whose interest does such a law protect? Surely not yours or mine, but these are our elected officials.
Until a majority of Americans decide to put people before profits, nothing will change. We will continue to go from one Columbine, Virgina Tech, Colorado, Sandy Hook to another. Tragedy followed by tragedy. Slaughter by slaughter.
That’s not the type of society I want my children, grandchildren to live in. And I wager you don’t either. But what are we willing to do about it? For most of us the answer is a big fat nothing.
So where do we go from Sandy Hook? I don’t know but I do know that we need more than a moment of silence.
Using the gift I’ve been given, I have written an illustrated book of some 200 pages, a workbook for Africa- American youth, entitled “The Young African American Survival Guide for ages 8-18”.
The book is built around the topics of sex, drugs, hustling, education, gangbanging, and violence.
The book is certainly needed in many African-American communities:
• 67 % of all black children are born to single mothers
• African-American women and their children make up 60 percent of all new AIDS/HIV cases in the United States
• 50 % of black female teenagers have contracted a sexually transmitted disease by age 18
• At birth a black male child has a 1 in 3 chance of going to prison
• In 2002, 1,772 black youth died from gunshot wounds
• 1 out of every 21 black men will be murdered. The murder rate for black males is 10 times higher than the murder rate for white males
• 40 % of prisoners on death row are African-American
• 64 % of black students cannot read at grade level in the 4th grade, compared with 29 percent of white children
For many of us, these are only numbers, and essentially not our problem. But it’s the human beings behind these numbers that concern me and all individuals who have love and concern for their fellow human beings.
I decided to try to make a difference, even if it’s just a small one, in the life of some inner city child with my book “The Young African American Survival Guide”.
Access my book for free on Prisonsfoundations.com
“Oh, he got a problem with the police. No, I do not have a problem with the police. I have a problem with the police putting drugs on me that I did not have.”
— James Prince, founder of Rap-a-lot Records, on the chorus of 90’s rap song “Crooked Officer” by the Ghetto Boys
In Houston local activists are up in arms again after another Houston police officer has killed yet another unarmed citizen. This time it was Brian C. Claunch, a mentally challenged white man with one arm and one leg, confined to a wheelchair.
If you know anything about the Houston Police Department, or anywhere else in the country for that matter, then you already know that the police had the same old, tired, scripted, illogical, common sense defying story: “Officer felt threatened and in fear of his life as wall as the life of his partner, and as a result used deadly force to protect himself and partner. We regret the unfortunate loss of life.”
What got the “folks” pissed off is how in the hell could any able-bodied, armed, supposedly trained police officer feel threatened to the point that he was in fear of his life by mentally disabled man with one leg and arm confined to a wheelchair holding a pen.
Tragic as it was, Mr. Claunch’s death was only the tip of a much bigger iceberg. The Malcolm X Grassroots Organization (mxgm.org) released a new report that chronicled police shootings of citizens from January 1, 2012 — June 30, 2012 and found that every 36 hours a black person is murdered by the police in the United States.
According to the report, out of the 120 people killed during this period, 55 percent of them were unarmed at the time that they were killed by police.
Keep in mind that this study only covered a six month period. What’s going on? Have the police declared open season on blacks? Is killing citizens the new form of interactive target practice?
James Prince had a problem with the police planting drugs on him. I have a problem with police officer appointing themselves judge, jury and executioner and killing unarmed people and you should too.
Is being black an act?
Is it a walk, or talk or, better yet, an attitude?
Maybe it’s the way you dress, or the car you drive?
Does being black equate a life of stress?
Is Clarence Thomas Black? What about Republican J.C. Watts?
What does being black mean?
Does being black meaning standing on the corner smoking marijuana?
Why or Why not?
Does it mean embracing the fictional American Dream?
A dream that was only intended for a few
Does it mean getting a so called good education?
To prepare you for a good job
Or getting the Clock and ski mask to rob?
Does being black mean dying young, or being strung out on crack?
How about doing time in jail?
Does it mean black women raising kids alone,
Or leading the country in rates of HIV?
Will someone please explain this to me
Or just answer the question…
What is Black?
Reprinted from “A Windowless Room” by Kenneth West, Trafford Press
Hi, I am Aiyana Jones. I like playing with my brothers, going to school, jumping rope and helping my grandmother clean around the house. Like a lot of kids, I got me some BIG DREAMS for when I grow up. I want to be a doctor, lawyer or maybe the first black female President of the United States.
Too bad I won’t get the chance because on May 16, 2010 while I was asleep on my grandmother’s couch, a bad man, who was a police officer, decided it was time for me to die and shot me in the head with a 9 mm.
Some people say the police officer was showing out for the A&E Next 48 TV crew that was tagging along with the police. I don’t know. I do know that I didn’t want to die and that I miss my family and friends very, very much, especially my granny. And that bad police man who killed me is still walking around with a gun, I hope he don’t kill another little girl.
I’m too young to know what justice is, although I hear people talking a lot about it, saying things like “Justice for Aiyana Jones”. But I hear others saying there is “NO JUSTICE, NO PEACE, NOT IF YOU’RE BLACK AND POOR”. I don’t know, maybe it’s true. But it don’t seem right. What do you think?
Every day from my Father’s lap, I look through the clouds to see if there is such a thing as justice for a poor, black little girl shot in the head by the people who were supposed to be protecting me and my family.
Oh by the way, I would’ve been 10 this year, but if you ask me what I want for my birthday, I’ll tell you, this thing ya’ll call justice.
Lend your support to the Justice for Aiyana Jones campaign at email@example.com
Click on http://sfbayview.com/2011/justice-for-aiyana-jones-now/ to read story originally published in VOD on JAJC aerial protest commemorating the first anniversary of cop murder of Aiyana Jones.
The Los Angeles police department recently held a, “don’t ask don’t tell” gun buy-back program and as you can see someone decided to turn in a BAZOOKA !!! Or, technically, a rocket launcher.
To borrow words from the famous urban sage Bill Cosby, “Come on, People” .
A BAZOOKA!!! mean for real, for real?
And we have the nerve to wonder at and bemoan the astronomical homicide rates in this country. I mean, ask yourself why wouldn’t they be high when our city streets are filled with AK-47’s, UZI’s, Mac 10’s, AR-15’s and other weapons of war.
As long as we continue to live in a society that values profits over people, one willing to arm any Tom, Dick, and Harry with anything for a price, the J.D’s, Bobo’s, June Bug’s etc. of our society are out of there. Doomed to early graves or lives of misery and hardships inside one of our modern day slavery institutions (prisons), where we place our undesirables.
I fully support gun buy-backs and believe even more of them are needed, every African American and Hispanic community in the country should have regular biannual gun buy-back programs,
and I believe there will be a strong correlation with the decline in homicides. So way to go, LAPD, for actually doing something good for the community for a change.
But I still say something is drastically wrong with a society where the average citizen can even get his or her hands on a rocket launcher in the first place.
Does it take a rocket scientist to realize that rocket launchers have no place anywhere other than the battlefield of war?
I mean, come on, people!!!
Norway, Norway, Norway
I too weep with thee.
I protest with the world
the fateful day evil attacked
a peaceful nation.
The day 76 angels were granted
Hark the Heavenly Angels sing.
While we on earth are left
Why Prince of Peace had the
menace of intolerance reared
its beastily head in peaceful Norway.
I too weep with thee.
My sister, what were your crimes?
Let your accuser come forth.
Which of God’s children had you
fair lady oppressed?
Had you ever built a wall to
Forbidden the free worship of God?
Murdered the poor or falsely
accused the innocent?
“No, no” she cried.
“Of none of the above am I guilty.
My values are peace and equality,
tolerance is my cloak, good works
my tunic. Never the stranger or
hungry have I turned away.
Oh do tell me, why this calamity?”
At her words, I turned my head in despair.
To her question I had no answer.
I too weep with thee.
But this I know, Peace and Hope will never
ever die. Nor will a Nation of peace despair.
For Norway will rebuild, and be forever more
A Nation Set On A Hill.