Dear Joe…

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Friday, November 27, 2020

Dear Mr. Biden,

Sir, I want to congratulate you on an unprecedented and resounding victory in the 2020 presidential race. The outcome speaks volumes, of the hopes and expectations of the American people. Our democratic process has not failed us, despite the troubling times we are currently enduring. The people have spoken, and soon we will look to you to lead us into the future. You are ready for this. It is your time, Joe.

Among its many lessons, the Bible teaches us that God’s timing is not our own. Throughout the campaign process, many of your opponents made reference to the fact that you have spent 40 years of your lifetime within the political realm, supposedly without significant impact. I do not believe those statements to be true. You may have made controversial decisions in your political career, that may have alienated some. Sure, history may have recorded disparaging remarks made during the 1970s. You might not have done everything right. And yes, you have run for the office of the president of the United States of America several times; and lost. But, I believe all of those minor setbacks and trials had to be endured for such a time as this, Mr. Biden. You are a man of faith. So it should not be lost on you that, just maybe, God walked with you through the fire many times to prepare you for the leadership of this country, at a time when wisdom and experience would be needed the most.

We are in trouble. A house divided cannot stand; we are a house gravely divided. Unless we lift up a leader who can effectively reunite us as Americans, our demise is assured. History has taught us that powerful civilizations eventually topple; whether from the inside out, or by external forces, it happens. Personally, I would like to see our story be one of immense courage and an amazing rebound, in my lifetime; not the end of a great nation. I do not believe it to be a dramatic statement to say we are swiftly moving toward a point of no return.

You have to lead this nation. You have to unite this nation. And, you must do both with integrity, honesty and decency. These are traits Americans need to see and believe in again. You have to put us first. I think you are doing that, based on the choices you continue to make toward filling leadership roles. You seem to be purposely making decisions of inclusion, over favoritism, and these appointees seem to have much-needed experience. I see wisdom displayed. It’s a great start. But, you have to remember a team is only as good as its leader. Mr. Biden, you have to lead us. And, my hope is that you are putting God first in many of your decisions.  

Along the lines of integrity, honesty and decency, might I suggest focusing solely on what needs to be accomplished? Listen to your citizens. Hear us. And work on our behalf, for our good. Do what you promise. Tell the truth, and honor not only your word but your values. I found it disheartening to see our current leader focus on personal time off while the country as a whole continued to suffer from the unchecked effects of the pandemic of our lifetime. That (in my opinion) did not display true leadership, honesty, integrity or decency. And while I’m sure you know that as well, you have to be the man who ignores the failings of your predecessor, for the good of all of your citizens. Jesus never really put blame on the Pharisees, for the sinful state of the world. He simply came on the scene and did the work he was commissioned—by God—to do. He never played the blame game. You have to do the same, by remembering the race is over; the victor has been chosen; and that now, it is time to get down to work.

Remember those who made it possible for you to succeed. Remember the sacrifices of so many who never lived long enough to see your accomplishments. Remember the resilience of the millions of historically disenfranchised citizens, who stood up and collectively said, “Enough is enough”. Remember the courage of your former political opponents who rose up to support you, when you needed it most. Remember just how proud your son would be to see you now, and honor that thought with your actions, sir. In short, be presidential, Mr. Biden.

Now is your time. Get to work. We’re all counting on you.

You’re welcomed.

We Are Americans

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The election is over and the Democratic candidates are now the president elect and the vice-president elect. The people have spoken, in what has been noted as the largest voter participation in the history of our nation. All over America, a mix of emotions can literally be read in the faces of its citizens. There are many who jubilantly celebrate the historic appointment of the nation’s first black woman as vice-president. There are those who celebrate the tenacity of a man who spent more than half of his life devoted to politics; failed to attain the presidency twice before, but gave it one more shot for the win. And then, there are those who genuinely grieve the political-loss of the most recent one-term president. America’s many faces tell the story today.

Now what?

If this election has taught me anything, it has solidified just how broken we still are. Even after the results were announced yesterday, social media hatred was alive and well, coming from both sides of the political line, shared by the common citizen and super-celebrity alike. Everyone is taking potshots. Some of us are kicking fellow Americans when they’re down, while others (among us) are cursing the celebrations as premature and fleeting. One thing is for sure; we’re not healing.

Allow me to share something for a moment. Folks, I give you: The New Colossus (Emma Lazarus 11/2/1883)

Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
‘Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!’ cries she
With silent lips. ‘Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!’”

This is the poem adorned on the Statue of Liberty (just in case you didn’t know). It was supposed to represent what we, as a people, stand for. We’re all immigrants if you trace back our individual histories. As such, we should all be one people. That’s what the idea of America being great was supposed to be about; the giant melting pot. But, in the 244 years since our official establishment, we have not always seen accurate representation of all our citizens. Yesterday, for the first time in our 244-year history, a woman—not just any woman; but a woman of color—was chosen to hold the second highest position of leadership in our nation. Folks, I seriously need you to take a moment to put whatever your political allegiances are, to the side, and recognize this fact. We just elected a woman of color to become vice-president of the United States of America. In our 244-year history, that position has been held by white men! We—as a nation—just made history!

Just as the senator’s appointment to vice president is something that should be celebrated by all Americans, we should also be collectively mourning another historical event: the Corona Virus. In the 21st century, this pandemic is still running rampant. There is no vaccine. There is no cure. Its tole is devastating on the population of the entire world. While our national-economy should be a priority, we have to come to terms with the fact that…if we don’t do something about this pandemic, there will not be anyone left to comprise an economy. This isn’t a Democrat or Republican problem; it’s not even an American problem. This is a worldwide problem. And it didn’t just magically go away, while we were voting.

We have to stop fighting. We’ve been doing it for long enough. The new president elect is calling for unity in the nation, and I get that it’s going to take some folks longer than others to get onboard with his rallying cry. But we absolutely must do this. It’s bigger than political ties. Personally, I want my great-grandchildren to see an abundant life someday. That just doesn’t happen unless we all take to heart the words of “The Colossus”. Right now, we’re all tired and weary; and we’re taking out our frustrations on one another. We have to change that. We have to turn it around. My enemy shouldn’t be my neighbor, who voted Red. My church brother shouldn’t hate me because I voted Blue. We need each other. When we come together, there is nothing we can’t accomplish. That’s what we do, because we are Americans. Today is a brand new day. Let’s get to work. People, let’s get to work for each other.

There Is No Title

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I think the best thing about having a blog is the spontaneity and honesty of a post. I’ve been told by a lot of really good writers—including a few professionals who shall remain nameless—that serious writers never print anything without thinking it through. Personally, I don’t believe that. Sometimes, my best work comes out of whatever happens to be on my heart in the moment. It took me years to build up the courage to share my personal thoughts with the general public, and now that I am comfortable with expressing who I am through my writing, I try not to follow the advice of what others may think. I also try not to care too much about how my message is received. You can’t please everyone, after all. Someone’s bound to be offended by what’s written or said. And with that, I’m ready to talk about it. You don’t really need to ask what “it” is.

By now, if you don’t know the name George Floyd, you’re in a coma in some hospital; or you’re part of the problem whether you want to believe that or not. Yeah, it’s really that simple. Even the Amish know who he was, and are actually showing support. Racism isn’t new to this nation. It’s always been here, since the first colonists arrived, and forcibly took the land from its original owners. Facts…as the cool kids like to say today. Chances are high that if you are a man or woman of color, you have or definitely will experience some form of racism—subtle or blatant—in your lifetime. Racism didn’t just magically appear with the murder of George Floyd. The sad reality in the black community is that he’s the latest high profile victim. That statement doesn’t diminish the importance of what happened; it doesn’t blanket the significance of the impact on Mr. Floyd’s family who have to go on with life without him. It doesn’t soften the hurt of an entire race of people who have to once again bury their collective feelings and get on with the business of life. No…that statement is our way of life. It keeps happening. I don’t think a lot of my white friends and family truly understand that kind of hurt. It.Keeps.Happening.

The first time I was called a nigger, I was too young to understand the pride of my skin tone. So when it happened, and because I was surrounded by so many peers who were the same color as the kid who spouted the slur, I felt ashamed. I never told my parents. I buried it. Just about every time after that one, when I faced racism, I buried it…deep. But I want you to understand I didn’t just get it from white people, you see. Over my lifetime, I’ve been called many things by my own people, because of my wife’s skin tone. I’ve been told I wasn’t black enough; or I hated myself so much, I had to go out and get “one of them”; or (this is the one that NEVER gets old) I’m the whitest black person ever. The point here is that racism isn’t exclusive to the white community. People of all races believe in it. People of all races wield it like the weapon it was designed to be. It happens to hurt me personally as a black man, living in a country built on it.

Honestly, I believe the church is struggling to deal with this. Don’t get me wrong, and don’t take anything out of context. I believe a lot of good pastors out there in the world are really trying their best to address the issue of racism using God’s Word, as they should be. They have a difficult task ahead of them. I pray for my own lead-pastor constantly, because he’s the shepherd of a diverse congregation. I can see how many pastors are overwhelmed or frustrated with the continued division plaguing the world despite their best efforts. “How in the world did the church of Antioch do it,” I imagine many of them asking God. The problem isn’t God obviously. I think it may be difficult for some pastors to truly understand how hard it is for some of their congregation to find—and hold onto—faith when they (the pastors) haven’t lived the life of someone perpetually discriminated against because of the color of their skin. It’s hard for them to fully empathize with our—my—deep hurt. While I understand the message of “Give it to Jesus, and He will heal” that message doesn’t always know how heavy that burden really is for some of us.

This past weekend, I watched DJ Jazzy Jeff do his usual live set, from his home studio. But this session was different. Jeff labelled it “Resist” and for the first few moments of the set, Jeff simply sat behind the turntables, played a Donnie Hathaway song, and broke down in tears right there on camera. Man…I felt that. Thousands of miles away from this brother who doesn’t even know the name Ennis Smith, I really felt his pain. That pain was deep. As I wiped my own tears away, I remember thinking, “I’m so tired of this happening to us.” In that moment, I remembered the first time I was called a nigger; and I remember the first time I physically fought back. From my own basement, I was with Jeff. Jeff was with Dr. King in that moment spanning time. Dr. King was with Malcolm. Malcolm was with Colin. In that one moment in time, every black man who has ever experience some form of systemic racism throughout time’s history was with Jeff; was with Ennis; was with LaDon; was with Steven; was with Eric; was with Maurice; was with Dave; was with Shunbe; was with Marlon; was with Van Alan; was with Kovan, was with…∞

Family, we can’t just turn it off, and bravely hand it over to the Lord. It’s exhausting. It’s especially hard for us, because when we try our best to give that pain—that deep pain—to the Lord, we’re quickly reminded of its continued existence with another fresh incident. And just like that, the hurt is back in full color. Do I now have to seriously worry about jogging in my predominantly white neighborhood? Do I have to worry about the validity of the $20 bill in my pocket? Do I have to even reconsider participating in any form of a civil and peaceful protest? I don’t personally doubt the Lord; let’s get that straight. I just find it extremely disappointing that I have to see, hear and experience another instance where a man who looks like me is treated less than his peers of an opposite color. It gets old. Jesus’ timeframe is not the same as my own. I don’t doubt Him. I struggle with patience.

The irony of the backlash of the George Floyd incident is that just a few short years ago, Colin Kaepernick used his celebrity platform to stage a personal protest against this very issue, and America at large refused to listen. America at large labelled him an uppity negro; a spoiled and entitled NFL Superstar who should be thankful for his place in the world. He was cast out of his profession because he stood up for and against the very oppression that killed George Floyd. Today, social media is flooded with photos and stories of some of those very same people who shunned him for his stance, now kneeling in agreeance with his original protest. Instead of joy over this turn of events, I feel anger at the fickle behavior of the born-privileged. This newfound disdain for racism is suddenly appalling to many folks who have never experienced it before. It’s not new to me, or to people who look like me. The photos are nice. They make for good fuzzies. But the question beckons, are people—ALL people—finally ready to do something real about erasing it? Or is this just another thing for people to get behind for the moment.

One more thing. America, since you’re now on the bandwagon, you owe Colin a sincere apology.