Tag Archives: racism

Revolutionary Love on the Streets of NYC

18 Apr

NYC

Last Friday through Sunday I attended Revolutionary Love: Tools, Tactics, and Truth-telling to Dismantle Racism. The conference was held at the Middle Collegiate Church on the Lower East Side in New York City. With session titles such as “The Art of Sacred Confrontations,” “The Moral Crisis of Whiteness,” and “Dismantling Unconscious Racial Bias,” it was an intense two and half days.

By Sunday morning, my introverted self was feeling more than a bit drained. While there was a nice balance of breakout sessions and “all hands” sessions to provide small group opportunities, the noise and pulse of the city had plain worn me out. Although I live half way between Washington, DC, and Baltimore, MD, my little neighborhood features deer, owls, foxes, squirrels, and a great variety of birds. My head longed for a piece of that quiet.

I decided to lounge in a bit Sunday – sleeping in would be a misnomer with the whirl of traffic and the slamming of the balls on the nearby blacktop –then head for a nearby bakery to get some goodies to take home. On my way into the shop I noticed a man sitting on the ground outside and on the way out I decided to stop and say hello.

I put a few dollars in his cup, for which he thanked me, and I asked him what his story was. “It’s this,” he said, pulling down his shirt from the collar to reveal a nasty heart surgery scar. He went on to explain his defibrillator, which he said the doctors hadn’t even explained to him – he thought he only got a pacemaker.

The man appeared to be in his mid to late 60s, but he soon told me he was all of 53. I call him Fred to protect his identity. Fred said he lives on the streets because the shelters are too dangerous. “They are full of gangs,” he explained. “You can get shot, stabbed. I’d rather take my chances out here.” Fred said he has a mother and a sister but “My mother is too set in her ways to take me in and my sister won’t talk to me because of my homosexuality. She’s a Baptist. So here I am.”

Fred asked me if I wanted a bagel. He said people coming out of the bakery give him items, but he can’t eat many of them either because he can’t chew them (he doesn’t have many teeth) or because of his diabetes. He is able to trade them with other homeless people for things he can eat.

As I went to sit next to Fred, he told me not to do that and get dirty. “I don’t care,” I said. I felt more peace and calm with Fred than I felt in many other places of the hectic city. Fred told me he often thinks about walking into the street in front of a car. I told him about my recent hospitalization for suicidal ideations. I didn’t have any food with me he could eat (almonds? nope. granola bar? nope) or any water. I did have a cooling camping towel, though, so I gave him that and explained how it worked.

I told Fred I was at the conference across the street. Fred said he liked that church and it was trying to find him housing. “I don’t have AIDS or HIV and I don’t drink. That’s pretty amazing for an old Black gay like me,” he said. I asked Fred if he wanted to come to church with me. “Oh, honey. I haven’t had a shower in so long. That’s the one thing. I can get some food. There’s a place around the corner that lets me go to the bathroom. But there’s no place to get a good shower.”

“Well, Fred, I’m going to be on my way,” I said. “Thanks for stopping,” he replied. “Not many people stop. I get kicked. My cup gets kicked over. I get spit on. I get young, white men is suits calling me nigger. ‘Nigger, get a job. Nigger, get up from there.’ Not many people stop though.”

“Next time you’re in the city, if I’m still alive, I hope you’ll come see me.” He got up and we embraced.

“I will Fred, I promise.”

Revolutionary Love. Talk to a stranger.

Who Got Next?

14 Jul

Emmitt Till, July 25, 1941 – August 28, 1955
Ron Settles, June 12, 1959 — June 2, 1981
Trayvon Martin, February 5, 1995 – February 26, 2012

Learning is experiential,

Education theoretical in some damn book;

Staying in your lily white halls,

In your upper class malls,

Don’t tell me about justice served.

Ron Settles drove his car,

Minding his own business;

He was in my class,

Cops beat his ass,

Dead at 21 for driving while black.

Your darkness don’t scare me,

Your whiteness just might;

It’s what it’s in your soul,

It’s what you can control,

That keeps me up at night.

Get out of your small towns,

Get out of your small minds,

Go meet some other people;

Stop chanting at your steeples,

Loving your neighbor ain’t staying with your same kind.

Some of my best friends are this,

Some of my best friends are that,

Don’t give me that bullshyte;

This land got a bad blight,

You part of the problem or part of the solution?

My New, Exciting (and Modest) Business Propositions

30 May

With apologies to Jonathan Swift.

I’m very excited that I am finally making progress on one of the two books that has been in my mind for years. The first one to get going is on my great, great-uncle, who owned the Boston Braves when they won the World Series in 1914. He was quite the character, and I am working with both a research specialist and a ghostwriter to finally bring get this book in print. While I originally envisioned a biography, I think it is going to work better as historical fiction.

This book is not the only thing new in my life. I am also investing in a restaurant chain and becoming a minority owner of a baseball team. The restaurants are called “Bat & Balls,” and yes (surprise), they have a sports motif. The specialty is the mozzarella and jumbo shrimp plate. They are fried, but not in a greasy sort of way. They are served, appropriately enough, on a plate that looks like baseball’s home plate.

The servers are all male; they wear tank tops from various teams and speedos. As you might imagine, we have a very high percentage of female patrons, especially for a sports place. Our focus groups reveal that men feel a bit uncomfortable around our servers, as if they don’t “measure up.” Oh, well!

While the restaurant is exciting because it is something I never thought I’d get into, the baseball team is what has me the most energized. It’s a semi-pro team; I sure don’t have the means to own part of a pro team! My team is called the Blackfaces, and our mascot is this hysterical character called Darky. We found a local college student named Freddy Douglas who does a wonderful job entertaining the fans with his “Darky” antics.

Our focus groups showed some were offended at the name of our team, but it is an honorable homage to the vaudeville shows of yesterday. Besides, not everyone is offended, and even if the majority were, this is America – a free country – right? I so believe in the freedom we as Americans are given.

**********************************************************************************

You probably realize by now that only the first paragraph of this post is true…. I am not a big fan of the term “political correctness” because I view its true definition as, “Opposition to doing away with offensive, prejudicial, or inflammatory language and behaviors that in the past were not necessarily considered offensive, prejudicial, or inflammatory.”

One would hope that a restaurant chain named “Bat & Balls” as I described, or a baseball team named the Blackfaces, would be uniformly condemned, but as current business practices show, this may not be the case. Some seem to think there is a sort of “percentage vote” that determines what is offensive and what is not. The same people are generally the same ones who believe civil liberties and rights in this country should be bestowed by a majority vote.

Just because it is allowable to name restaurants after derogatory terms for female parts and name sports teams with racist terms does not mean I have to financially support them. That’s the true meaning of freedom.

Anything that does not build the kingdom, in effect, tears it down.

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