Tag Archive | Black community

Olympic Dreams Should Never Die…

DayshaWith so much tragedy and uncertainty going on in the media- from the China & Greece stock market crash to the continued violence on the streets (in Chicago)– we sometimes forget to celebrate greatness.  Well, I’d like to celebrate a young lady who is not “famous” but whom, through hard work and dedicated parents, was able to raise the bar for herself–securing a chance to compete at the National Track Meet in Jacksonville, Florida.

Daysha Tillman is a 16-year-old track star at Shepard High School in Palos Heights, IL.  She is an Olympic-grade athlete with dreams of competing there one day.  The purpose of this article is to help her and her family raise money to cover the cost of her travel, expenses, and equipment–allowing her to participate at Nationals the week of July 27th.

Her parents, Sam and Keshania Tillman, have raised their 3 girls and 1 son with honor and integrity and in spite of the financial strain, they have made sure that their kids studied hard in school and competed in the sports of their choices.  All 3 of the girls have participated in sports- softball, basketball, and track–giving their absolute best.  The youngest daughter, Daysha, has her eyes set on the Olympics and has trained hard to progress in her sport.

Daysha has qualified to go to Nationals—she was all conference winner with 4 FIRST PLACE medals as well as placing strong in down state track meets.  This young lady is a highly intelligent, hard-working, and gifted athlete. I believe that she has more than earned this opportunity to be able to go and compete without worrying about how her parents will pay for it. It is my honor to be able to help them raise the funds.

Our children are not born to fail.  They have the ability to achieve greatness and all that is required of us–both parents and the community–is to fan the fire that is already underneath their feet.  Daysha Tillman’s feet are meant to fly.  We just need to give her a nudge.

To support Daysha’s efforts please go here

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Baltimore – Another Tinderbox of Destruction

Freddie Gray

Admittedly, I haven’t kept abreast of the news in the past 2 weeks so I was shocked when someone told me to turn the TV on and watch the riots in Baltimore.  25-year-old Freddie Gray died from injuries he suffered while under police custody and some of the protests morphed into riots.  So once again we have a case of a young black male detained, brutalized, and murdered by police officers.  We have another situation in which protests are necessary to demand justice in a system that holds no value to the human lives of black people. Our anger is valid and completely justified. It’s a deeply rooted anger that owes no apologies and demands justice.

Yet, instead of protesting and bringing attention to the atrocities, there are some who have chosen to lash out in anger and burn down or loot businesses that serve their neighborhoods.  It sounds very revolutionary, militant, and reminiscent of the days of Angela Davis and Huey Newton but the reality is that violence only begets more of the same.  It doesn’t effect change.

The anger that has bubbled over in Baltimore and all over America is not about Freddie Gray.  It’s about a system of racism that has infested the very heart of the black community.  The police have no respect for blacks but the problem isn’t them.  The problem is at the top.  The officials who continue to cover up and protect rogue cops.  The commissioners, district attorneys, mayors, and others who refuse to do the job they were elected to do- serve and PROTECT their constituents.  The problem is us– the ones who continue to vote blindly (and that includes along party and racial lines) to keep these people in office.  Why should they care?  What message have we the people clearly given them at the polls?  Why work harder and with integrity when they know that they will either run unopposed in the next election or voters will punch “Democratic” or “Republican” regardless of their level of service?

Instead of educating ourselves on how the government works and finding out who to put pressure on, we sit back and wait for Freddie Gray to happen so that we can jump on our laurels and protest on Facebook and other social media.  We want heads to literally roll and would rather burn down viable and needed businesses in our own backyards than to figure out how we can individually and collectively make a difference.

Of course CVS is insured and will build again.  But will they rebuild in the area where they suffered the loss?  Blacks have lived in some of the most disenfranchised areas in this country.  I get it- we are the “throw-away” people.  Brought here and abandoned after we no longer served our original purpose. Our neighborhoods are full of entire blocks of abandoned or burned out structures, pot-holed streets, liquor stores, and low-valued housing.  We step outdoors and see emptiness and despair.  So in our minds how will a few more fires take away from what is already a bad situation?  I challenge you to ask yourself “how will continuing to destroy it help rebuild it?”

What did burning down a neighborhood CVS pharmacy do to help the community?  It removed a convenient location that your 70-year-old neighbor walked to for her medication.  That’s what it did.  You see, not everyone has a car.   The bus stop is not always within walking distance for an elderly or otherwise physical restricted person.  Sure, something will eventually take its place but how will that help those who need it now?  Will the masked young men who are out there rioting and protesting knock on her door and offer a ride to the next closest pharmacy?

As the mother of a black man who has seen more than his share of unjust interaction with police, I am angry.  I want to break something and scream at the top of my voice “enough!!”  But that won’t make a difference.  What makes a difference is putting pressure where it needs to be:

  •  Protests – non-violent shows of solidarity
  • Vote responsibly- show them that if they don’t do what they promised, they’re fired
  • Businesses – support black-owned businesses. Stop supporting Nike and the like
  • Finances – teach our children to stop “flossing” and become financially responsible
  • Petitions – Pressure officials to enforce policies and create ones that protect everyone. Force them to create “enforceable” standards, become tougher on hiring, disciplining, and FIRING of officers
  • Education – Refocus our goals in educating our children in business, politics, and finances early on
  • Community – BRING THE VILLAGE BACK TO THE COMMUNITY

Yes, I’m angry but how can we be “heard” or taken seriously when we’re burning and looting our own communities? Why does every protest have to be violent and distracting?  Sure, it gets attention but who really hears us? It’s easy for us to debate this on Facebook and other social media from the safety of our keyboards.  We need to come together and effect REAL CHANGE.  The stark reality is that this will die down eventually–just as it did with Trayvon Martin, Rekia Boyd, Michael Brown, and the countless others before and since them.

Another young man is dead—dying a painful and brutal death.  Let’s find a way to use that to get him justice.  Burning down the city is not the answer.  Huey Newton had no room for God while he was running the Panthers but even he finally had to say: “As far as I am concerned, when all of the questions are not answered, when the extraordinary is not explained, when the unknown is not known, then there is room for God because the unexplained and the unknown is God.”  Violence is not the answer- Martin Luther King taught us that and he influenced change.

When the dust settles from this riot all that will be left are more abandoned structures and lost businesses – in black neighborhoods—and NO solutions.  Angry people fight.  Angry thinkers find ways to change it.  Let’s find a way to change the tide and stop throwing gasoline on everything.

CVS

(c)2015 Kim Woods All rights reserved

Parole Me Not

Parole Me Not

The probation system is set up to frustrate, discourage, and jam up ex-offenders who truly want to turn their lives around.  It is seriously broken and needs to be overhauled. This is unfortunate because it keeps the majority of ex-offenders (who are minorities), in the “system”—preventing them from securing a law-abiding future. This is not news to anyone but, having seen it first hand, it is nothing short of a bureaucratic bubble waiting to explode in the face of anyone determined to untether themselves from it.

My nephew made his expected “call in” to his parole officer (PO) a few days ago.  As arranged, the officer was to come over and visit my nephew and ensure that he is doing well and following his parole agreement.  Now, my nephew has made his share of mistakes and this was his first incarceration.  Effectively ‘scared straight’, he immediately secured a job after release and has continued to work in the direction of stabilizing his life.  His PO did not show up for that first meeting but instead, informed my nephew that he was no longer his contact and that someone else had been assigned his case.

After not hearing from the new parole officer, he called the State’s Department of Correction’s parole number.  This time, instead of reaching the automated menu (the standard), all he got was a busy signal.  After several attempts over a period of hours, we looked on the internet in an attempt to locate a brick and mortar building that we could visit for his check-in.

The purpose of parole is to keep track of men and women released from prison.  The State must know where the parolee lives and works.  It must ensure that all terms of the agreement are being met and they are staying out of trouble.  This is crucial to prevent repeat offenses.  This isn’t a one-way street because it also helps the parolee stay on track and focus on creating a better (crime free) existence.  It’s a huge burden on the court system, parole board, and other officials to make sure this system runs as expected.  When it doesn’t, the parolee runs a risk of “violating” their parole and returning back behind bars.

The other day I watched my nephew dance this precarious tango with the Department of Corrections.  We were unable to locate any information on the State’s website that pointed us to an address.  In fact, the information that was there was ambiguous at best.   After calling Chicago’s 311 line, I was provided an alternative number and I passed it to my nephew.  He called and was finally provided an address.  Upon arriving there, we found that address was no longer a legitimate location. My nephew eventually remembered another ‘general’ location as a possibility.  So not knowing for sure where we were going or if the location, like the one we’d just visited, would be open or not, we took a chance and went anyway.  Driving down the street, looking for “official” looking buildings, we finally found a Department of Corrections location.

Once inside, he explained his situation and asked to be connected with his new PO.  The employee seemed skeptical that he called the main number (and found it wasn’t operational), but she called his new PO.  Unfortunately, she had to call four bad numbers before she finally reached him.

According the 2010 Census, Illinois reported 130,910 adults on probation and 33,162 people on parole.  After what I’ve witnessed, I have to question how many revocations and absconders were due to individuals not having the proper information to enable them to check in and be compliant. Given the fact that funding for critical programs such as this is stretched to the limit, it is imperative that a solution to this problem be reached that ensures a smoother transition for parolees.  Low cost and small fixes should include at minimum:

  • The website providing updated information such as addresses for parole locations
  • Keeping their main number and menus operational at all times
  • Updating parole officer contact information (4 different numbers is inexcusable)
  • Keeping in-home check-in appointments with parolees

My nephew was diligent in proactively locating his new Parole Officer.  He is working now and maintaining healthy structure and balance in his life—determined not to violate his parole– “Once was enough for me” is his motto.   It is my fervent hope that he does not fall through the ambiguous cracks of the State’s parole system.

Deep Hurt In The Mind of a Child

I came across a video the other day of a young girl who wrote a song for her father.  Heartbreaking to watch, she spells out the myriad of ways her father has hurt her through his absenteeism.   It’s a heartbreaking reminder that we as a community have so much work to do in order to bridge the gap between our children and their indifferent and absent parents (father and mother).

It’s a painful subject to speak about because I once had to answer my then 15-year-old son who asked me “Why don’t my father want me?”  I was driving at the time he asked me that question and I gripped the wheel in anger and pain.  I explained to him that “I don’t believe that he doesn’t want you.  We had you at a young age and he lacked the maturity and knowledge to be the type of father you need.  I’m sorry that he’s hurt you by not being here for you.”  My son sat quietly, wiped his eyes, and absorbed what I said.  He stated that he understood what I said but he also vowed to never bring a child into the world that he was not financially or emotionally able to take care of.

I wanted to cry because no child should ever have to carry that question in their hearts.  They shouldn’t have to stand in the window crying on Saturday morning for hours because dad promised to pick him up and is once again a no show.  Coming from a two-parent home, I had a hard time dealing with this situation as my son grew up not knowing his father.  He grew up remembering the lies and broken promises. Since the age of 13 he has called him “the sperm donor”.  What a cringing testimony for a child to have regarding a parent!

There’s a study that states Black fathers surprisingly spend more time with their children than originally believed.  In fact, this study states this is the case more than White fathers.  That might be the case but try telling that to the child featured in this video, or mine for that matter.

The ax swings both ways.  There are mothers out there –whom because they can’t let go of the failed relationship—are determined to keep the father away from the child.  They speak negatively about the father to their children and poison their minds against him.  Sure it hurts him greatly but it hurts the child more.  Their anger is so great that it literally blinds them to reason and common sense.

My anger toward my son’s father knew no bounds.  Weeks after the birth of my child he told me “I know you’re going to turn him against me.”  I looked in his eyes and told him “I’ll tell you what… I will never speak negatively about you to him—ever.   Because I want to make sure that if he ever ends up disliking you, it’ll be because of you.”  I am proud to say that I kept that promise.  Even as I drove down the I90 Expressway gripping that steering wheel, wanting to go into a foul-mouthed tirade, I kept my promise.  I had to because my son’s well-being was always more important than my anger.  That’s what moms do—they suck it up and protect their children.

Mother, your child is not a weapon.  You cannot sling them in the face of his/her father to inflict pain.  Look in the mirror and ask yourself why is it so important for you to hurt this man to the detriment of your own flesh and blood?  If he’s not paying child support, take him to court.  In the meantime, put him on the back burner and love on your child.  Don’t bad mouth him.  Half of that man’s DNA is in your kid too. Let it go. We can do better because we have to.

Father, if the mother of your child is keeping you away, you must fight.  We live in a technological age.  If you have time to spend on social media, you therefore have time to research the laws in your state regarding custody and visitation.  You can find lawyers who won’t charge much, will probably do it pro bono, or, you can learn how to be your own Pro Se advocator.  Your child must know that you are trying to be in their lives.  Short of being six feet under, there are no excuses for not being there—none.  They have to know that when they are with you, you are not spending time with your friends or your new lady.  You have to be present.  Your child is hurting and misses you.  Your child is tortured with pain and rejection.  Don’t believe me?  Listen to this little girl because I guarantee you, that’s what is going on in the mind of your child.

Please share this (and anyone else’s similar) story because we’ve got to tell indifferent parents that it’s time to stop being selfish.

We Just Don’t Get It

Air JordanA story recently broke in Houston as police were called to the Willowbrook mall to ward off a potential riot. There was also a report of 4 arrested in New York for fighting in a crowd. This chaos wasn’t created because of a protest in the name of justice. Windows on the mall weren’t broken due to angry looters. No, these events occurred because of a shoe: The Air Jordan 11 Retro “Legend Blue”, to be exact.

Today, as Demario Bailey’s twin brother, Demarcio, celebrates his 16th birthday without his brother and, as the family struggles to pay for his funeral, I can’t help but wonder what’s wrong with the Black Community’s priorities?

Barely three weeks ago, riots and protests surged following the Grand Jury’s decision not to indict Officer Darren Wilson- accused of shooting unarmed Michael Brown in Ferguson, MO. As the Black Community reeled with disappointment and anger many people began to seek ways create to solidarity and get justice. Then about a week later, in early December, NYPD officer Daniel Pantaleo was not indicted on the chokehold death of Eric Holder.

As anger spilled into streets all over the country, a movement to keep black dollars in the community began. There was the ‘Boycott Black Friday’ Movement, which, wasn’t very successful. There were posts on Facebook from black businesses asking for support of their products. There was even a call to not purchase on Cyber Monday. Today, seeing the news clip of the hordes of black people lined up to receive a purchase voucher to buy the $200.00 shoes made me angry. Once again, we just don’t get it.

First, let’s talk about the fact that for years- dating back to the late 80s, people have been dying after being robbed of Air Jordans. When Nike releases a ‘specialty’ shoe (as they did last year as well), people become violent in crowded lines just to purchase them. Now, in December 2014 we are still stepping over each other to purchase a $200.00 tennis shoe.

Second, let’s talk about money. According to the Neilson Company, Black spending power is expected to reach 1.1 trillion dollars in 2015. The lifespan of a dollar in the Black community is 6 hours compared to 20 days for Jews, a month for Asians, and 17 days for whites. How can we have that much buying power and have no wealth?

It’s very surreal to be reeling from yet another senseless death of a child – this one a robbery victim, witness weeks of “Justice for Mike Brown” and “I Can’t Breathe”, to witnessing this spectacle of materialistic spending – and the violence that it created. We have to get our priorities straight. Michael Jordan has more money than he will ever spend in his lifetime and Nike (and other companies) is going to use him (and other ‘celebrities’) to milk the Black Community until we wake up and stop trying to outspend each other.

Instead of standing for hours pushing and shoving each other, we need to focus on the real problems in our community. I’m sure Demarcio Bailey would appreciate the effort.

©2014 Kim R. Woods
All rights reserved

Poem: We Are Not Going Anywhere

break-every-chain-coverIt saddens me that another yet another high-profile racial storm is brewing in the United States. This one’s in Ferguson, MO. over the death of Michael Brown at the hands of police officer Darren Wilson. While I would love to say that racism doesn’t exist, I can’t because I’ve experienced it blatantly and have seen others deal with it first-hand. While traveling, I’ve experienced someone leave a restaurant, just white patrons present, after we sat down (he literally left his meal on the table). I’ve had someone “pinch” money from my hand and then place the change on the counter. The list is unfortunately long enough. This poem describes some of those experiences as well as the frustration of being Black in America.

Black, Hispanic, Caucasian, and Asian
We are all members of the Human Race
America has so many colors and hues
And yet equality for all remains an issue
“They” will not admit that Blacks still have it bad
Because nothing has changed since we were brought to this land
We were chained, shackled, and treated like animals
Stripped of our dignity, we fought for our survival

Now we are “free” men and most still cannot accept it
After 130 plus years “they” think we just got off the ship
We have come too far now and enough is enough
We are flesh and blood, we breathe and we love
This country was built on our blood and tears
Gone are the days of shackles and fear
We had to fight for our rights in the midst of despair
Now we stand strong to declare: We are not going anywhere

Still we are hated for the color of our skin
So united we must stand and fight to the end
Our forefathers were brought here against their will
To be treated like animals and used for their skills
When they tried to run they were brought back and whipped
They were traded and sold like cattle to the highest bidder
Our men were beaten like dogs and DEmasculinized
And our women were lusted after and raped until they died
Yet to this very day “they” cannot see
We are all “family” – born of the same seed

They hate us because they envy the power of our minds
So they keep us in poverty pinching pennies and dimes
Schools are so bad they wouldn’t send their dogs to them
They pumped drugs into our communities to create a culture of hoodlums
But guess what? Some of us still slipped through the cracks
To fight against oppression and take our land back
So there is something we need to make very clear
We are here to stay—we are not going anywhere

Our skin is Black and our pride is fierce
And our spirit is stronger than their hate can pierce
They think we are monkeys falling out of trees?
We are the original race and they are our seed
As long as they hate us we will continue to fight
And as long as they fear us we will remain united
We remember our people came over here on ships
They rotted in those vessels –dying in feces and vomit
Our people built their homes and sweated on fields of sugar cane
We picked their cotton and nursed their babies

We fought in their wars to gain the constitution
And died for a country they stole from Native Indians
Now after 300 years they expect us to go back
We will not leave and they can accept that as fact
It they think we will revert back to living in chains
They had better get sober and think again
In grand ole’ America we have too much invested
Hate us if they must but they still owe us a check

We will not settle for ten acres and a mule
And their hatred just gives our determination more fuel
Because the debt America owes us they can never repay
So they treat us like dirt and try to wish us away
Now the problem is theirs and they must get over it
If they did not want Blacks here they should not have put us on the ship
We want our fair and equal chance to retain wealth
And we will not be ignored or stored on a shelf

Their fear and resentment will never kill our tenacity
Because just like them we have the right to remain free
So they can leave the restaurant if the cannot eat around us
And clutch their bags when our Brothers get on the bus
And sit our change on the counter because they cannot touch our hands
And stare at us as though we do not belong in this land
Just let them know this message is very loud
We are Black, Beautiful, Mighty, and Proud
We cannot—and will not go back to “yesteryear”
So get used to it because we are not going anywhere

©June 2003 Kim R Woods
All rights reserved

The Love of a Black Man

 

 

image002 

 PDF LINK:   The Love of a Black Man

Because you are loved. Keep your heads up!

The love of a black man is like no other
Because in him there is an essence of
The unknown and power unseen
His hands are like an iron mitt with just enough soft
To melt us like snow
His lips are full and strong
And taste like a promise unfulfilled
In his love is character of true
True to the knowledge of who he is
True to the passage of roads he’s seen
True to the fulfillment of his dreams
Because, you see
When he looks at you, he sees his destiny
The love of a black man is limitless
When he knows of himself
It reeks of a feral masculine scent
That is but a touch away
A glance away
Oh but when he looks at you what does he see?
His ability to be himself?
When the day is done and the mask is off
Can he be not the man the everyone else sees but …
Who you see?
And, when troubles rain down
Like an endless torrent of woe
When he begins to question his worth
It the money right
Is his status tight?
And there’s not enough time to catch a breath
Can he cry in arms of understanding?
Or be judged a punk or a loser
As time immoral has judged him so
In your eyes will he see a mirror of himself?
Oh but the love of a black man is fleeting and yet so real
It reeks of a long day’s work
And brandy
And calloused hands that caress so sweet
And heat that envelopes a dream
His love is long and strong and hard and … oh!
Did you feel that?
Was it the way he kissed or licked or gripped?
Was it the way he looked into your eyes when he
Oh! Discovered that he was home
The love of a black man is fragile
Like dropping a rock on a deck of cards
It is not self-sustaining
It is the rarest of all finds
And requires strength to hold
Because his back is strong
It holds the cares of his love and…
Needs to strength of
Softness to remind him
That he loves not in vain
And to encourage him that
The whips and chains of his
Own struggles
Cannot taint his heart
And, if all is good you will take flight
In his world that knows true
Because the love of a black man
Is you

(c)2011 Kim Rosemon Woods
all rights reserved