Wednesday, December 31, 2008

BLACK AMERICA: OUR HISTORY LIES BEFORE US

BENEATH THE SPIN • ERIC L. WATTREE

BLACK AMERICA:
OUR HISTORY LIES BEFORE US
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I just read a snippet in an old article in Essence Magazine indicating that researchers have uncovered new information suggesting that Cleopatra may not have been Black. The article brought back to mind a piece I read by Dr. Earl Ofari Hutchinson many years ago entitled, Whose Black History To Believe? In that very insightful article Dr. Hutchinson points out that black history tends to be given either short shrift by traditional historians, or is exaggerated beyond all recognition by historians of a more Afrocentric persuasion. His premise is that both approaches do a disservice to Africa American history. His analysis shows that African Americans would be better served by a more balanced interweaving of African American history into the fabric of American history as a whole.
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While I'm in total agreement with both his premise and analysis, I think it's important to take this issue one step farther. We need to explore why so many of us feel the need to exaggerate our history in the first place. We also need to understand how this game we find ourselves involved in distracts us from the bigger picture.
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The importance of cultural history is that it contributes to the collective self-esteem of a people. It brings cohesion by giving the members of a given group something in common to rally around as their own. A culture, much like an individual, is so much in need of a feeling of self-esteem that it invariably manufactures its own history, which often bears little or no resemblance to reality. For those very reasons, therefore, much of history is a lie. In fact, history itself has been defined as "A lie agreed upon."
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A concrete example of that process at work can be seen by looking back at the Viet Nam War. Having never lost a war at that time, upon entering the Viet Nam War the United States had already geared up for manufacturing a history to justify its presence in Viet Nam, much like we're struggling with today in Iraq. The U.S. Finally came up with what was called "The Domino Theory". According to this theory, the North Vietnamese were merely fronting for Communist China, and if the United States allowed South Viet Nam to fall to the North Vietnamese, people in that part of the world would be slaughtered, and all the rest of the countries in the area would fall like "dominoes" to Chinese communism.
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If the United States had won the Viet Nam war that lie would have become an official part of world history. Young children all over the world would have read it as gospel for eons. But since the United States didn't win, this would-be "historical fact" has been left without a home, and now, twenty-five years later, the lie stands as a glaring example of how nations manufacture lies to justify their conduct.
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The United States is not unique in fabricating history, however. All nations and all cultures do it. If Germany had won WWII the history of that war would have been written from an entirely different perspective; if Great Britain had won The Revolutionary War, the esteemed forefathers of the United States would have been remembered as a group similar to the way the United States currently view The Black Panther Party, or Cinque and the Symbionese Liberation Army.
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An example of this principle at work on a cultural level can be found in the white culture's touting of Benny Goodman as "The King of Swing", or Elvis Presley as "The King of Rock n Roll." We know that's not true today, but as time passes, and there's no one left to attest to the inaccuracy of such claims, eventually it'll become a "historical fact"-- or factoid (something repeated so often that it is seen as a fact).
So it is clear that the history game is just that--a game. But it's a game that black Americans should only play quite sparingly if at all, since due to the unique position of the African American in legitimate modern history, we come to this game with a decided disadvantage.
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The African American culture is a relatively new culture, thus, our history is verifiable. Therefore, African Americans don't have the machinery in place to effectively promote the hype necessary to fully participate in the history game. But since, in any event, the game only serves to divert our attention from what is really important--getting on with the business of building true viability as a people--black participation in the game is nothing more than an exercise in me-too-ism.
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But it seems that whenever I hear a discussion on Black pride, someone always brings up the issue of Egypt, and whether or not Cleopatra was Black. Black people have got to understand that the issue is not important–in fact, it's academic. While it is always good to stay in touch with one's roots, the fact is, the African American culture has long since ceased being purely African--even though the continent of Africa will always define the core of our being--and any connection that we may, or may not have had with Egypt and/or Cleopatra is remote at best, at least, in a strictly cultural sense. It's as though we're going around, hat in hand, desperately searching for a piece of history to call our own. We shouldn't place ourselves in that position–it's undignified, pathetic, and wholly unnecessary.
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We must begin to understand that we are a new culture. We ceased being Africans when it became necessary to adapt to the fields and ghettos of America.  Neither are we simply Americans--we became something more than simply Americans when it became necessary to become more than simple Americans for our very survival. We are a brand new culture--a culture conceived in pain, delivered into turmoil, baptized in deprivation, and weaned on injustice. And since adversity is experience, and experience translates into knowledge, we don't have a thing to be ashamed of. The uniquely pointed adversity that we have experienced makes us more, rather than less. Thus, we are a culture that is only now in the infancy of its development. For that reason, we cannot hope to compete, lie-for-lie, with ancient cultures relative to history, since our history is only now being written. But for that very same reason, we don't have to try to compete.
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The fact that we are a new culture doesn't mean that we are anything less than the older cultures, it simply means that our greatest contribution to man lies before us. We don't have to look back to antiquity to find a source of pride, all we have to do is study the life and times of our parents, our grandparents, and that generation of black people born between the turn of the century and WWII.
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In less than 50 years, the Black people of that generation went from housekeepers and flunkies to the boardrooms of multinational corporations. In less than 50 years, they went from playing washboards and tin cans on the side of the road, to becoming some of the greatest musicians the world has ever known. In less than 50 years these people have gone from the defenseless and nameless victims of public lynchings, to laying a foundation, along with their White supporters (who must not be forgotten), that led directly to Barack Obama becoming the leader of the most powerful nation on Earth--and that is a chapter in history that is verifiable.
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The most cursory glance demonstrates that there is something unusually unique about this new culture. While social scientists have postulated that all minority cultures must assimilate, dilute, and subordinate themselves to the dominant cultural soup, there is clear evidence that the African American culture has had a much greater impact on the dominant culture than is the reverse.
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Members of the dominant cultural group under fifty years of age have more in common with the African-American culture in terms of attitudes, style, and personal taste, than they have with their own grandparents. Black music--Jazz, Blues, Rap, and, yes, Rock n Roll--is the predominate music, not only in the United States, but in the entire world. Every time a Rock group goes on stage, they sing a tribute to nameless slaves moanin' in the fields--and just to turn on a radio or television set anywhere in the Western world, is to pay a tribute to Duke, Bird, Miles, and Diz.
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In addition, the United States of America has honored only four men in history by declaring the day of their birth a national day of celebration--Jesus Christ of Nazareth, widely accepted by many as the father of all mankind; President George Washington, the father of this nation; Christopher Columbus, the man credited with discovering the Americas (along with the native Americans who were already a part thereof); and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., a man whose forebears were brought to these shores in chains.
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That says a lot about that humble black man—and it says just as much about his people. In spite of the fact that Dr. King began his life burdened by the inherent disadvantages of being blessed with black skin in a Jim Crow environment, his words, his intellect, and his deeds so inspired the heart and soul of humanity that America saw fit to set aside a day for this nation--this world--to thank God that he was allowed to walk among us. His was a soul with such strength that it served to lift the rest of mankind to a higher level of humanity. That's not only a testament to one black man's ability to pull himself from the dust of his humble beginnings, it's also a testament to the capacity of his people to meet the test of greatness--and that's a history that is verifiable.
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So, we must take pride in our own personal journeys, and realize that in our own journey through life history is also being made. You don't have to be a world conqueror to have an impact on the history of mankind, you simply have to make decisions in your personal life that helps to enhance and move your people forward towards their appointment with destiny. And every time you face life's obstacles with courage and perseverance you meet that challenge. After all, you don't make decisions in a vacuum-- every decision that you make in life becomes a public decision. People are watching, your children are watching, and if you nurture your children properly, they will make the character of your decisions an indelible part of the public record.
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Thus, the character that you reflect in your daily conduct carries the seed that your children will carry with them for generations. For that reason, I don't regret one moment of my youth that I spent stumblin' through Watts on whatever drug happened to be convenient. Those years were part of a personal journey that stands as a monument to who I am today. Of course, I related those struggles to my children as stumbling blocks to be avoided at all costs, but they were also related as examples of perseverance, and the determination to overcome the obstacles in my life, and by overcoming those setbacks, it allowed me to relate those experiences with just as much pride as the White culture relates the experiences of General Patton to their children. George fought his battles, and I fought mine, and as far as my children are concerned--as far as I'm concern--one was no less heroic than the other. Thus:
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Neither scholar nor the head of state,
The most common of men seems to be my fate;
A life blistered with struggle and constant need,
As my legacy to man I bequeath my seed.
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More fertile, more sturdy these ones than I,
This withered old vine left fallow and dry;
The nectar of their roots lie dormant still,
But through their fruit I'll be revealed.
And that, is verifiable.

Eric L. Wattree
Religious bigotry: It's not that I hate everyone who doesn't look, think, and act like me - it's just that God does.



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Friday, December 26, 2008

Get on the Beam--Black Excellence And Maturity

BENEATH THE SPIN • ERIC L. WATTREE

Get on the Beam--Black Excellence And Maturity

Now that we have a Black president about to enter the White House, it's time for the Black community to do a serious assessment of where we go from here. How do we adapt to this new state of affairs? One of the reasons we're going to have a problem answering that question is that many of us don't really know who we are. We've been spending so much time fighting and protesting, that we haven't bothered to ask ourselves that very simple question in years. That isn't to say that many of us haven't studied Black history, and the kings and queens of antiquity, but while all of that is fine, it doesn't give us a hands-on feeling of who WE are as modern-day African Americans.

Most of what we think we know about ourselves comes from the very same sources and stereotypes that informs White Americans about who we are. The problem with that is we've allowed ourselves to buy into a negative stereotype of ourselves that in many cases, like in our inner-cities, we not only embraced as a romantically heroic image, but we have even set out to embellish upon it.

So, instead of benefitting from the luxury of defining ourselves, like every other culture in America, many Black people have quite literally embraced a form of gross ignorance regarding their own character. So it is imperative that we take the time to stop just long enough to consider who we really are. Then once we become cognizant of the truth, warts and all, we should address our issues, then teach our young people to embellish our assets..

An excellent example of who we actually are was reflected around the turn of the 20th Century, when you could find Black musicians sitting along the side of the road playing washboards, tubs, and anything they could put together that would make a sound. When people passed them by, including White musicians, they would simply smile, and sometimes even throw them a few pennies for the modest effort and industry that they displayed for even attempting to make real music with such crude instruments.

These simple music-makers were looked upon as "quaint". There was no hostility towards them at all, because they weren't a threat. After all, they were no threat to the White musicians, since they could never hope to get any real instruction in music. Most of them couldn't even read their names, so why should anyone ever worry about them learning to read music; and they had to struggle just to get through grade school, so what threat did they pose to White musicians who had access to the great music conservatories of the world?

Well, little did the world know that in the very near future, those simple little ragtag musicians with their makeshift instruments, would develop into some of the greatest musicians the world has ever known. They would contribute one of the most important and harmonically complex forms of music to the world in the history of all mankind. Few knew at the time that one day Universities, musicologists, and music conservatories all over the world would struggle to understand the complexity of their musical genius, and even fewer could have guessed that many of these "quaint" musicians would someday become world renowned, and synonymous with their respective instruments–Louis Armstrong, Jellyroll Morton, Duke Ellington, Charlie Parker, Miles Davis, John Coltrane–just to mention a few.

As a point of irony, I began to typed "Duke" into Google, and the program completed my entry with a list that presented Duke Ellington before the Duke of Windsor. I'd say that says it all about the impact that the Black culture has had on this society, and the world.

But what we've got to recognize and address as a community is that creativity is not restricted to just music. The reason that the creative genius of Black people has been reflected more in music than in business, science, or technology is because it was an area where we didn't have to depend on the approval of others, and more importantly, we were rewarded in the community for its development. We've also got to recognize, as any scientist who studies cognition well knows, creativity is not stagnant–it has associative properties that allow it to be transferred from one endeavor to another. Thus, as Barack Obama is clearly demonstrating, Black people have much more to offer the world than a twelve bar blues.

So today the Black community is in a similar situation as those early musicians were in their day, but this time we have the advantage of not having to sit on the side of the road. We have a supportive Black man in the White House, an economic environment that's thirsting for innovation, creativity, and new ideas, and no one to hold us back. So all that's left for us to do now is to recognize it's a new day, shed all of the defensive excuses and bad habits that were a part of the old paradigm, and get to work.

And our very first task should be to reassess and rid ourselves of the negative cultural mores that we've developed over the past hundred years or so. That involves discarding, and refusing to reward or romanticize the image of the Black man as urban predator. That is the very root of our problem. How can we possibly expect to raise a well adjusted generation of young people when their being sired by idiots running around in unlaced tennis shoes, wearing baseball caps sideways, and whose most heartfelt ambition is to be looked up to as a successful gangster? It can't be done. So we've got to stop rewarding such behavior–and make that a community effort.

When I was a kid my grandfather use to tell me, "All I want from this whole damn nation is a pretty little wife and a good foundation." I didn't realize it at the time, but he was relating the key to life to me in that one little limerick–the foundation of happiness and success starts with a solid family.

So we need to start with our girls in order to get the attention of our young men. We've got to start teaching our young girls from birth that young men who assume the gangster image are bad news, and we've got to keep such images out of our homes. We must also create an environment where if BET wants to continue to enter our homes, its call sign will have to be changed to mean Black Excellence Television.

In addition, we've got to demand more responsibility from our other community institutions. We've got to demand of our churches, that if they expect to take collection money out of our community on Sunday, they'd better be prepared to put some kind of service back into the community during the week. Our churches should be serving as low-cost child care facilities for working mothers during the week. They could then employ unemployed mothers, and at the same time hold classes in child rearing. The message–"Don't just preach me a sermon, live me one."

And we should also encourage the promoters of these awards shows, like the NAACP Image Awards, to start places more emphasis on honoring young scholars, educators, and the people in the community who are helping to move Black people forward, instead of the same old celebrities all the time. That isn't to say that celebrities and entertainment shouldn't be involved in the shows, but they should be the "help", not the honorees. After all, if all our young people ever see the community honoring are singers, movies stars, and athletes, why should they aspire to be anything else?

So let us get on the BEAM, and start honoring Black Excellence And Maturity.

Eric L. Wattree

wattree.blogspot.com


A moderate is one who embraces truth over ideology.

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Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Jamie Foxx: How to Use Fame to Step on Your Brother

BENEATH THE SPIN • ERIC L. WATTREE

Jamie Foxx:
How to Use Fame to Step on Your Brother

One of the readers of last week’s column, “Why are Black People Killing Themselves?”, wrote me a very heartfelt response suggesting that I was being a little hard on Black people. Michele (with one ‘L’, as she likes to remind everyone), a 36 year old Black single mom, a Staff Sergeant in the United States Marine Corps, and founder/creator of poeticworks.com, wrote the following:

“We are a community of thriving thinkers We accept responsibility for our actions and focus on community based projects, to ensure that posterity has something when it's their time to take the thrown. We love excelling in life, and independently and intuitively find ways to give instead of take, take, take. We promote and instill pride in our community each day when we walk down the street and give a gracious nod to the passerby. We are beautiful, but this is not to be taken as conceit, because we also realize that we are only one small speck in a beautiful world. This is what I see in our community.”

I fully agree with most of what Michele said, regarding MOST of our people. But we also have a dark and self-hating side that needs very much to be addressed. A prime example of which is reflected in a video that’s making the rounds on the internet, where Jamie Foxx goes out of his way to embarrass the struggling Black comedian, Doug Williams, during a roast for NFL player, Emmitt Smith. Even the name of the video indicates a lack of empathy for the underdog in many parts of a community that’s made up of underdogs–“Jamie Foxx Ruins A Not Funny Comedian.”

Next to the picture of the rotting remains of an infant wrapped in a baby blanket in Iraq, that video is one of the most blatant examples of arrogant inhumanity I have ever seen–not because of any special talent that Foxx displayed in carrying off his awful display, but because of his blatant disregard for his fellow man. I found it so unconscionably disgusting that I will never again support any project that either Jamie Foxx or Monique is connected with.

As master of ceremonies, right off the bat Foxx introduced the Williams as “A person who doesn’t know anything about Emmitt Smith, and you don’t know who the F**k he is. Give it up for Doug Williams.”

After that rousing introduction, Doug tried to make the best of the situation by admitting that he wasn’t a part of the clique, and that he was quite probably the “brokest” person there. He said, he was only there because he was trying get a deal.

Then in spite of the way he was introduced, he began to win over the crowd by telling jokes about some of the celebrities in attendance. But Foxx couldn’t allow that, so he began to interrupt the brother’s routine as “YOUR CONSCIENCE.” Every time Williams would say a word, or begin to tell a joke, Foxx would break in as William’s conscience, saying things like, “We’re here for Emmitt Smith–do you have any jokes for him tonight?” and “I’m your conscience. Man, it sure is getting hot in here. Am I fu**king up? Maybe I should just say something nice about Emmitt and wrap it up.” Now, instead of the celebrities laughing at his jokes, Williams becomes the joke--and in the background you can Monique telling Jamie, “Get ‘em, Dawg.”

But the remarks that got to me, and I thought were most telling regarding these so-called celebrities’ frame of mind was at the point when Foxx began to say things like, “I wish I were in a movie with Jamie. Maybe I should tell them how Black people have to struggle. Yeah, that’ll get ‘em on my side.” And all the while, the Black celebrities in the room are falling out laughing.

At that point, those people weren’t just laughing at Williams–they’re laughing at the Black condition, and struggles of poor Black people in general. While watching their gross arrogance, I couldn’t help being reminded of the very same kind of behavior during the Roman Empire, when the aristocrats would take pleasure in watching the Christians being fed to the lions.

They were having great fun at the embarrassment and expense of one strugglingBlack–who was already feeling nervous and out of place–and who probably had to spend the entire day getting up all of the courage he could muster just to attend this affair in the first place. Then you have all of these Black, so-called “stars” pulling out all the stops to drag him down, and falling out laughing at the audacity of his thinking that he could show up and pull himself up to where they are. As I watched I was thinking, that could have been me, or my brother, or son. It was simply unforgivable.

I also began to think of another time as I sat there watching this public lynching. My mind drifted back to a time when we really had pride in the Black community–a time when what I was witnessing never could have happened. If Jamie Foxx had pulled something like that in the sixties, his career would have instantly come to a screeching end. It would have immediately been seen for what it was–the ignorant behavior of an arrogant brat with no sense of community, and who’s fame had completely gone to what passes for his head.

So again, while I agree with much of what Michele said about the importance of always reminding the community of its beauty, it is also important to face reality, and aggressively address that which is ugly about ourselves.

Efficient thought requires that we first, see life as it is, and only then, as we would have it. So while we should definitely teach our children that they are beautiful, we must also instruct them what they need to do to enhance that beauty. If my kid is out dealing drugs and verbally abusing his girlfriend, neither he, nor the community benefits from my telling him his behavior is beautiful, and he's just a victim of society.

I don't care how badly society has treated you, what you do with your life, and how you treat others, is your decision and not society’s. Yet, we have too many people in our community who are willing to give our young people a pass by telling them that they’re beautiful, and their bad behavior is society's fault. That message is killing us as a people.

We should motivate our children by assuring them--through the way that we treat them, not just with words-- that they are beautiful and exceptional people. Then we should help them to develop their skills and talents to reinforce that belief (because it’s hard to have pride when you can’t do anything). We should also make them aware of the fact that there is a segment of the population that don’t perceive them as the beautiful and talented people that we know them to be, then instruct them in how to deal with the possible adversity attendant that situation.

When my son was a youngster, I pointed out to him that he shouldn’t be surprised if at some point in his life some racist pointed at him and told his son, “See that guy over there–he’s a ni**er.” I advised him that getting mad and acting a fool would just prove the man’s point. I taught him that the best, and only way, to protect himself from such an occurrence was to look, and carry himself in such a way that the little boy would look at him, then look back and assess his dad, and say, “Daddy, I want to be a ni**er when I grow up. That’s the way you overcome adversity.

So the bottom line is, talk is cheap. While we can repeat millions of times that we’re Black and we’re proud, it won’t mean a thing until we can root out the kind of ignorance that Jamie Foxx and friends displayed above–and the world will knows it. Because in the final analysis, we’re not judged by what we say–we’re judged by what we do.

And beyond the judgement of other people, if you have a persistent headache and refuse to address the issue by insisting that you’re Black, beautiful, and in excellent health, eventually you could die of a brain tumor. Because, while positive messaging is a wonderful thing, some things in life require aggressive action, to be rooted out.

Eric L. Wattree
wattree.blogspot.com




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Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Why Are Black People Killing Themselves?

BENEATH THE SPIN • ERIC L. WATTREE

Why Are Black People Killing Themselves?

For all who might have missed it, I'd like to call attention to Larry Aubry's excellent article, "Black on Black Violence: Part Pained Indifference," that appeared in the Dec. 4 edition of the Los Angeles Sentinel. In his insightful article Aubry discusses the Black community's tendency to simply stand by as a small segment of the community embarks upon a course of Black annihilation. He very correctly points out that "Black-on-Black violence is a manifestation of race-based poverty, frustration and self-hate, spawned and nurtured by official neglect and the complicit indifference of Blacks themselves." In other words, our children are dying as a direct result of the apathy attendant to a lack of self-respect.

But wait a minute, how can that be? Aren't we the people who claim to be "Black and proud?"

Yes, we're the very ones--but that's nothing but lip service. Due to centuries of having to survive on vapors and dreams, we've become specialists in embracing style over substance, and delusion over reality. Thus, we've been coming up with slogans, nursery rhymes, and completely meaningless axioms for years, in an attempt to compensate for our lack of action–it's a cognitive device designed to hold on to our self-esteem.

But the national joke is this--we're the only ones who take the farce seriously. Everyone else in the world know our dred locs, swagger, and raised fists for exactly what they are–an attempt to create an image of who we would like to be, rather than who we, in fact, are. Everyone knows that if we were truly the proud people that we represent ourselves to be, we'd die before we'd allow what's going on in our community. So the fact is, we're not only killing ourselves, but we're looking like fools in the process.

You see, all the swagger notwithstanding, it doesn't take much insight for the world to recognize that a truly proud people would never allow themselves to be so totally overwhelmed by circumstance. What kind of pride would allow one's children to be abandoned, under-educated, drugged, and killed in the street with impunity? And what kind of pride would allow us to watch our daughters be seduced by a lifestyle that degrades, disrespect, and abuses them, then have us idolize and enrich the very people who brought that lifestyle into our homes? So, Black pride? I don't think so. What we're dealing with in the Black community isn't even remotely related to pride, it's more like cultural malfeasance–and if we allow it to continue, we're not going to survive.

The Black community has simply got to face the reality of our shortcomings, then take the time to reassess our cultural mores. We've got to recognize that if we truly want our children to take pride in who they are, we must begin to embrace knowledge, and make the pursuit of excellence a cultural priority. If we're waiting for our young people to obtain a thirst for knowledge through osmosis, we can forget it. The love of knowledge must be bred into them–and that will never happen as long as we continue to reward materialism over character. So if we ever truly want to become the proud people that we profess ourselves to be, we're going to have to set aside our worship of materialism as a primary value, and begin to impress the importance of knowledge, character, and dignity upon our youth.

We've got to help our young people to see that the heroes in our community aren't the ones driving around in flashy cars, and wearing fancy clothes--the community's true heroes are standing at bus stops in work clothes trying to feed their families. They also have to understand that having a good jump shot is only means to an end, and not an end in itself. And our young men have got to be raised to recognize that manhood is not about having the courage to rob and steal, but having the courage to face a bill collector, and life is not about being tough enough to beat a man to death, but being loving enough to raise a little girl. As long as we're failing to relate those values, we'll never be able to take pride in our community.

But one of the reasons we can't coalesce around these kind of values is that we have competing interests in the community. Most responsible Black people whose interests lie directly within the community understand the importance of eradicating drugs and violence from our midst, getting young men off our corners, and urging deadbeat dads to support their kids. But these values are in direct conflict with the interests of those Blacks who'd rather remain mad at the White man than see the Black community prosper.

It would be counterproductive from their point of view to simply sit back and allowed the Black community to change its ways and begin to prosper, that might indicate that it could have been done before, and demonstrate that the Black condition might not have been totally the White man's fault after all, and they simply can't allow that. They have too much invested in the White man's guilt.

Many of these people also have a professional stake in seeing the Black community remain stagnant and disaffected. Many make a lucrative living through protesting the Black community's pain. You know the ones I'm talking about–some of our so-called "civil rights leaders", politicians, and even a few professionals who benefit directly from our support, or indirectly by riding the coattails of the disaffected Black populous to gain professional advantage.

What makes this situation particularly unconscionable is the fact that while these people will criticize any attempt to speak out against negative conditions in the community as "blaming the victim," they've moved their own families out of the community, thus, effectively shielding them from the dangers that failing to address the community's issues would bring into their own lives.

We never hear a word from these people about the work that we to improve our community, but mark my word, as soon as Barack Obama takes the oath of office you're going to hear them screaming at the top of their lungs that if Barack was truly a Black man, he'd swing the doors of the treasury open to the Black community. They know damn well he can't do that, but they need something to protest to justify their existence. You see, with these people, it's not about actually improving the Black community, it's about giving themselves a reason for being. I call them, "Protest, Inc."

So while racism has undoubtedly had an horrific impact on the Black community, these voracious leeches within our number have been just as perniciously destructive to our way of life. So we must always keep in mind that while these very same people have been protesting and complaining for the past forty years (every since Martin Luther King was killed), they haven't brought one constructive thing into the community in all that time. Think about it. The Black community is essentially in the same condition that MLK left us in 1968.

But of course, Protest, Inc. is going to claim that it is only due to their selfless efforts that Barack Obama's presidency was made possible. But that's also a lie. Barack Obama is not president because of these people–he's president in spite of them.

Eric L. Wattree

wattree.blogspot.com

The problem with ideologues of every stripe is they tend to give ideology priority over thought.


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Thursday, December 04, 2008

The Art of Global Politics (in B Flat)

BENEATH THE SPIN ERIC L. WATTREE

The Art of Global Politics (in B Flat)

The problem with many on the left who are already criticizing Barack Obama's cabinet appointments is that they're neither as smart nor as creative as he is. As Barack so deftly pointed out in his interview with Barbara Walters--regardless to who he appoints to his cabinet, he's the president, and he will set policy.

Think about it. Who better to draw down the troops than a hawk? Obama is a student of history. He realizes that it took Nixon to approach the Chinese, had a liberal president attempted it the conservatives would have staged a march on Washington to call him a Communist. The same is true in other areas. It took a Southerner, President Lyndon Johnson, to broach the subject of civil rights effectively, just as it took Reagan to approach the Soviet Union.

President-Elect Obama is looking for talent, experience, and brains–he'll handle the direction of national policy. One of the major criticisms against him during the election was that he lacked experience. He assured America that he would use good, sound judgment to offset any shortcomings that he might have in that area, and that's exactly what he's doing.

How is he going to find experience in the Democratic Party without drawing from the Clinton administration? And further, by appointing Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State, whether we want to acknowledge it or not, we also get Bill. Thus, when that phone rings at 3:00 a.m. In the morning, it'll be answered by a very formidable President Obama, who will undoubtedly be firmly in control. But in essence, there'll be two presidents on the line, along with an extremely no-nonsense Secretary of State–and our enemies will know that.

Americans will have two challenges to adapt to with a President Barack Obama. They'll not only have to get use to a Black face in the White House, but also a Black way of thinking. I know it's not politically correct to acknowledge that there are differences between us, but the fact is, there are. While no one group is any better than another, we tend to excel in different areas of knowledge. I call it sociological niches. It is true that Jews tend to excel as merchants and in business; it is true that Asians tend to excel in math; and it is undeniably true that Blacks tend to excel in creativity. Let me make it clear, however, that my position is not that these talents are innate in any way, but rather, due to cultural focus--or what a given culture view as important to their way of life.

What makes this point so significant is that Obama has already started to demonstrate to America, and the Black community, that the creativity that the Black community has nurtured over the centuries, has distributive properties. In other words, that very same creativity that goes into making a Charlie Parker, an Aretha Franklin, or a Ray Charles, is just as effective in excelling in other disciplines far beyond the scope of music.

As I mentioned above, we've already seen many characteristics of the Black community at work during the election, and ironically, they contributed greatly to Obama being elected. One example, is Obama's ability to remain cool under fire. That comes directly from the fact that part of being Black in the country has made it necessary for Black people to become comfortable in dealing with adversity. Adversity is no stranger to us. That explains why during height of the Great Depression when many on Wall Street were jumping out of windows, the Black community was in the midst of the Harlem Renaissance. It was better than business as usual–we never had better time. "Depression, what depression? I was broke before it started–now I got company." While it was like the end of the world for White people when they couldn't pay their rent, Black people would just throw a "rent party."

What brought this to mind is the fact that the current economic downturn has had a serious impact on me personally. My son and daughter are so worried about me that they're about to have a nervous breakdown. They're calling me and e-mailing me everyday. I think what makes them so nervous is that I seem to be so laid-back about it, and they can't understand it. But the fact is, they see adversity through the eyes of White folks, because they've never known it–my late wife and I managed to shield them from it. But I've been there before, so I know the importance keeping a clear head while I work to resolve the issue.

That's the kind of thinking that we saw in Obama during the campaign. When the economic crisis first broke, McCain was suspending his campaign, running to Washington, making contradictory statements, and generally, flopping around like a chicken with his head cut off. That's what caused him to lose the campaign. On the other hand, Obama remained calm and began to gather and consult the very experts in economics that we not see in his cabinet. He made sure that he had some idea of what he was talking about before he made a statement. And he also had the foresight to start quietly building his cabinet.

So what we have in Obama is a man who's fully acquainted with adversity-- and there is nothing more impressive than a person who's been dragged through the pits of Hell, as I'm sure that he has, and then come out the other side as a well rounded and highly educated individual. He had to obtain a Ph.D. in problem solving and perseverance on the fly, even before his higher education began. Then when you add the creativity, that is a trademark of the Black community, you're left with a very formidable individual indeed.

So Obama's critics on the left need to get use to a new way of thinking. Because again, I predict both America, and the Black community, is about to get a lesson in the many varied uses of creativity. The world didn't call Ray Charles a genius for nothing–and just like Ray, Barack Obama's thinking two bars ahead of the band.

"So what we about to do now, ladies and gentlemen, is Geo-Global Politics–In B Flat."

"Uh, count it off, Fathead."

Eric L. Wattree

wattree.blogspot.com

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Tuesday, December 02, 2008

I’ve Known Bullshit

Beneath the Spin * Eric L. Wattree



I've Known Bullshit



In
Every newspaper, every nook,
I see blatant bullshit wherever I look.
Prolific bullshit,
pro and con,
Man deceiving man,
like human pawns.

We
Bullshit our children
whenever we can
On the role of government,
and the sojourn of man;
We bullshit the people
regarding their lot,
While failing to address
the conservative plot.
And now I hear even Santa's a myth,
So even my mother was touched by his kiss.

So,
My threshold for Bullshit is extremely low,
I sense him wherever he hides;
While Langston Hughes has known his rivers,
I've known Bullshit in every disguise.

I've
Known bullshit lovers of innocent women,
Who fades with a piece a ass,
I've known bullshit preachers who loved the Lord,
But not nearly as much as your cash;
I've known bullshit politicians,
who "Just want to help"
Right up til they get your vote,
Then after reciting their bullshit oath
can't wait to start cuttin' your throat.

Yes,
Bullshit's' a stalker, who seems to haunt me;
I see him wherever I go--
On the street, in the store,
In the eyes of my lover,
Though I try to deny that it's so.

I used to
Simply shut my eyes,

so I wouldn't see him no more,
But my ears betrayed me and--
Knock, Knock, Knock--
"It's Bullshit. Open the door!"

So
I came up with a plan to take a stand, a
nd 
Confront Bullshit wherever he hides;
Like the terrorist he is, you must weed him out,
By confronting him where he resides.

I learned
That shit will be shit because shit is shit's nature,
So it's really not Bullshit's fault;
It's the fault of society for embracing ignorance,
For the enemy of Bullshit is thought.

Only you, can take care of you.
Eric L. Wattree

Http://wattree.blogspot.com
Religious bigotry: It's not that I hate everyone who doesn't look, think, and act like me - it's just that God does.

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Thursday, November 27, 2008

The Statue of Liberty Wears Shackles

BENEATH THE SPIN • ERIC L. WATTREE

The Statue of Liberty Wears Shackles

For over a hundred and twenty years the Statue of Liberty has greeted immigrants to these shores with open arms and the promise of the kind of freedom that they had never known. As a result, that towering, stately, and majestic lady has come to represent the quintessential symbol of freedom, liberty, and justice for people all over the world. Just the sight of her brought hope and inspiration to millions of European immigrants as they entered New York Harbor, and that initial vision sustained them as they started their new lives in America.

The scene must have seemed surreal as their boats slowly moved past her in the harbor. Oceans of tears must have flowed as the immigrants stared in awe at this magnificent lady. In her right hand she held the burning flame of passion and enlightenment--outstretched and high, as though reaching for the very face of God. In her left arm she held the tablet that represents the rule of law, and the guarantee of equal justice for all, and on her right foot, the broken shackle of a freed slave. That's right–millions of European immigrants were welcomed to America by the statue of a freed slave.

On the pedestal upon which she stood, were the words that had inspired their journey. It says... "Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse to your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door."

As a child in school I was taught that the idea of the Statue of Liberty was conceived by a Frenchman, Edouard Laboulaye, as a monument to the collaboration and friendship of the United States and France during the Revolutionary war, and that it was sculpted by sculptor Frederic Auguste Bartholdi. But at the urging of one of our readers I revisited the issue, and did a little research. As a result, I found that Laboulaye did indeed conceive of the Statue of Liberty, but not as a monument to the Revolutionary War. The Statue of Liberty was conceived as a monument to the end of slavery, and to honor those men, women and children who had been enslaved.

Laboulaye conceived of the Statue of Liberty in 1865. That was a hundred years after the Revolutionary War, but it just happened to be the very year that the Civil War came to an end. And it also turns out that Laboulaye wasn't just any Frenchman--he was not only an abolitionist who had dedicated his entire life to the abolishment of slavery, he was a leader of the French abolitionist movement. In addition, the sculptor who actually created the Statue of Liberty, Frederic Auguste Bartholdi, was connected with the abolitionist movement as well.

In an Associated Press interview, Richard Newman, a research officer at Harvard University's W.E.B. DuBois Institute for Afro-American Research is quoted as saying, "It is widely believed in academic circles that Laboulaye meant for the statue to honor the slaves, as well as mark the recent Union victory in the Civil War and the life of Abraham Lincoln."

The Statue of Liberty wasn't actually completed until 1886, but there's a 21 inch replica of the statue that was completed in 1870 on display at the Museum of the City of New York. That replica, or, original, is not white, it's terra cotta (brownish-orange), and it is said to have been designed in the likeness of a Black woman. In addition, the replica has a broken shackle around her left hand. The 151 foot statue in New York Harbor has a more . . . Discrete shackle around her foot.

The words at the base of the Statue of Liberty from the poem, "The New Colossus", by Emma Lazarus wasn't added to the statue until 1903, during a time when there was a huge surge in European immigration, and that's when the fiction began. During an interview with the Associated Press, Rebecca M. Joseph, a Boston-based Park service anthropologist is quoted as saying, "There is wide agreement that Liberty's now-familiar association with immigration was not planned by the statue's creators."

Nevertheless the thoroughly ironic scene of European immigrants weeping as they passed the Lady's flame must have played out thousands of times. It's the stuff that movies are made of–and just like most movies, the irony of a magnificent subplot churned discretely beneath the surface. One of the ironies is that now, many the grandchildren of some of those very same immigrants--those indigent immigrants that Lady Liberty welcomed into this country with open arms--have used voting fraud, unfair labor practices, redlining, blatant discrimination, and every other device, in an attempt to undermine the very people that we now know the Lady was originally created to embrace.

So irony is the operative word in this piece, and exquisite in its irony is the deplorable state of ingratitude of many of the people that this magnificent symbol of Black liberation welcomed to the country. It is all but a complete indictment on human nature that some of the very same people that Lady Liberty served as a symbol of hope, and who she welcomed to this country as literal vagrants, would now attempt to slam the door of hope and justice on the very people that she was created to enshrine.

Considering that ironic twist brought a tear to my eye as I researched this issue, because as a kid, I couldn't help but be awed by the majesty of that Lady--and that was in spite of the fact that I thought she was created for everybody but people like me. But now to find that she was created specifically for me, and even that was stolen, is almost too much to bear. Just think of how many young Black lives might have been salvaged by just the simple nudge to their self-esteem that something so grand and majestic could have provided had they known what it was created to represent. Just that knowledge alone could have given them the sense of pride, dignity, and purpose that might very well have sustained them throughout their lives.

But in spite of that, or maybe because of it, the Lady continues to hold her flame high as a tantalizing subplot silently plays itself out beneath the surface. For even as pernicious ingrates continued to indulged in their evil machinations, yet another immigrant quietly sailed passed the Lady's burning flame. He was a solitary young man from Kenya who presented papers in the name of Barack Obama.

I'm sure the immigration official laughed as he examined the papers and said, "Who?" But little did he know that it wouldn't be long before the entire world would answer his question.

Eric L. Wattree, Sr.


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Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Is Same Sex Marriage Really Against the Will of God?

BENEATH THE SPIN • ERIC L. WATTREE

Is Same Sex Marriage Really Against the Will of God?

I just read an editorial entitled Don't Shake Your Fist at God, by Larry Bufford. In the editorial Mr. Bufford comes out against same-sex marriage based on the Bible and his view that it is not a civil rights issue. He refers to gays as "reprobates" and implies that by allowing same sex- marriage our society is on the threshold of becoming a latter-day Sodom and Gomorrah.
.
Larry Bufford is a friend and a very gifted writer, but I found his position on this particular issue to be absolutely ridiculous. While I'm as straight as they come, and it's beyond my comprehension why with all the beautiful women in this world one man would want to marry another, it is just as incomprehensible to me why one group of people would insist on shoving their belief system down everyone else's throat.
.
It simply eludes me why a person who's against same sex marriage can't be satisfied with simply taking the position that since I'm totally against same sex marriage, I'm going to make it a point to marry someone of the opposite sex, then just leave it at that. But that's not good enough for some people. Some people aren't satisfied unless they can make their opinion THE LAW. There's simply got to be some kind of pathology attendant to that kind of obsession.
.
I was raise by devout Christians, and most of my values are consistent with the values reflected in the Bible, but I didn't get any of them by reading the Bible. All of my values evolved around the principle of minding my own business, and treating people the way I want to be treated–and I didn't get that from the Bible either, I got through what God gave us to live by long before there was any such thing as a Bible–it's called, common sense.
.
For that reason, even though my values are consistent with those of the Christian tradition, I have refused to formalize my association with the Christian community, because I've known too many Christians over the years who are more interested in looking down on other people than looking up to God. Too many tend to be narrow-minded and discriminatory in mind-set. They also tend to be more interested in preaching you a sermon, than living you one.
.
I've pointed out several times in my columns that true Christians are some of the most loving and beneficent people in the world, but unfortunately, there are far too many demagogues hiding among their number. Some of the most vicious bigots in the world find the Christian community a very convenient place to hide, and spread their hatred and bigotry. By feigning to be Christians, these demagogues are allowed to say, "It's not that I hate everybody who don't look, think, and act like me, it's just that God does, and I'm simply following his will." That allows them to demonize and slaughter anyone who is different from themselves, while at the same time being propped up by the legitimacy of the Christian community.
.
That creates a serious problem within the Christian community, because much too often these bigots are in positions of authority, and since many Christians believe that these authoritarian bigots have a direct pipeline to God, their poisonous bigotry tends to seep into the thinking of legitimate Christians.
.
We've seen the demonic impact of these people throughout history–we saw them during the Inquisition, and the burning of so-called witches; and they raised their ugly heads again with the brutality of slavery, and again during the so-called "Manifest Destiny," where they justified the slaughter of nearly all the Native Americans across this land. Now we see them, once again, spreading their malevolence in the middle-east, while at the same time disseminating their poison here at home.
.
So I want to take this opportunity to point out to my well-meaning, but grossly misguided colleague, that whenever one group in our society attempts to demonize another, that's not God's will - that's the will of bigots, and it is, indeed, a civil rights issue.
.
When I was a kid, about five years old, I had a friend who was quite effeminate. It was clear that he was "different" long before we even knew what sex was. The adults knew that he was going to be gay, because they use to whisper and giggle whenever he'd come around. But of all my friends, even then, he was the smartest and the most loyal. Later in life, it turned out that he indeed was gay, but there is no one on the face of this Earth that can tell me that he had a choice in the matter, anymore than I had a choice in growing up to love women, because he was effeminate before he was old enough to make a choice. Therefore, if God made him gay, who are we to discriminate against an act of God?
.
With respect to the Bible, many Christians tend to be quite hypocritical in picking and choosing what scriptures they choose to adhere to. While those who are against gay marriage often select scriptures that tend to justify their bigotry, there is another scripture - one that seems to me to be much more reflective of what Christianity is suppose to be about. It says, "Judge ye not."
.
What makes that scripture so important is that it seems to be a warning from God. It tells man to stay out of God's business, because man is much too narrow-minded and stupid to understand why God chose to do what he has done.
.
It is important to remember that the people who taught us the attitudes and religious beliefs that many Black people so passionately embrace had us tied next to the mules when they taught it to us. They were killing and abusing us even as they taught us to "Love thy neighbor," and it seems that many of us have learned our lesson well - that God wants us to love our neighbors, except for the ones the bigots taught us to hate.
.
We should also remember that at the time that Barack Obama was born, there were many states in this union where it was illegal for his mother and father to marry. There were many people who thought that reflected God's will as well - and they still do.
Eric L. Wattree
wattree.blogspot.com

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Monday, November 17, 2008

The Making of a President

BENEATH THE SPIN • ERIC L. WATTREE

The Making of a President

Certain things in life are just meant to be, and the election of Barack Obama as president of the United States was one of those things. What were the chances that at the lowest point in this nation's history that a young Black man would walk unto the world's stage from out of nowhere, and capture the hearts and confidence of not only the American people, but the world? The chances were slim to none, but when dealing with providence, chance doesn't enter the equation. Barack Obama was simply meant to be. From the moment the first Black man was chained to a slave ship, his role in posterity was assigned. It was written in the wind. And isn't it ironic that just one Black man from Kenya would be destined to come to the aid of the children of a million of his stolen brothers.

Yes indeed, it was written in the wind. The symbolism surrounding everything this young Black man represents is so powerful that just trying to explain it forces one to become melodramatic. It's poetic in its effect. He's the very personification of the prayers of a million slaves.

First, he's the product of both Africa and America, just like the African American people as a whole. Some may say, "yeah, but he has White blood." Well, news flash–so do most of us. And beyond that, everything about him contradicts the lies that have been spread about us by racists every since the moment we set foot on this land.

They said that we were ignorant, yet, this young Black man with the African name will probably be one of the most intelligent presidents this country has ever had. They said that we couldn't be educated, yet, Barack Obama will quite probably be one of the most learned presidents this nation has ever seen. They said that we were lazy, yet, even before he's been sworn in, President-elect Obama is hard at work trying to resolve this nation's problems, while the current president is all but napping under a shade tree as the country falls apart. But the most symbolic irony of all, is the fact that this nation is likely to be saved by a president who comes from the very people who's been treated so badly.

But could it be true that this man's ascendency was written in the wind? Let us consider the events that had to come together to make A President Obama possible. First, the DNA of an African boy in Kenya had to be mixed with a young White girl in Kansas, the heartland of America. That entailed the African boy traveling all the way to the United States, then of all the women in America, he had to find just that one who, combined with him, would produce the qualities of Barack Obama. Once that was done, Barack's father had fulfilled his task. So shortly thereafter, and after a brief bonding with his son, he passed on.

And he chose well, because Barack's mother had to have the insight, determination, and knowledge to wake her young Black son every morning at 4 a.m. To prepare him, and lay a foundation to ensure that he had a fighting chance in a world that she knew wouldn't cut him a bit of slack.

She then traveled, with her son in tow, exposing him to a knowledge of different cultures–including the Muslim culture, a knowledge that would prove invaluable to his future task. Then once her task was done, she suffered a lingering death–and even her death served a purpose. It exposed her son to the suffering of the middle class and poor who became ill without the resources to sustain themselves.

Barack was also exposed to the lifestyle and attitudes of his White middle class grandparents, giving him a specialized knowledge of White cultural mores in the heartland of America. They could have very easily chosen not to deal with the pressures and stigma of raising a Black child in their lily White world. But they turned out to be people of very strong character, and their love for their grandson completely overwhelmed any adversities that they would have to face. So through the devotion and struggles of his grandparents, Barack learned that people are people, and that we all love and suffer, in the very same way.

Once his grandparents' task was done, they too died–first his grandfather, and finally, his grandmother--but not before she delivered her grandson to the very threshold of greatness. Ms. Madelyn Dunham died just one day before her grandson would be elected President of the United States of America.

It's almost enough to make one feel sorry for Sen. McCain, because as Val would say, he never had a chance. The confluence of events made his task insurmountable: Katrina, Republican scandals, the collapse of the Bush administration, the financial crisis, and a very formidable Barack Obama, a man who had groomed by God himself, to lead America through these very trying times. It had all been written in the wind.

I know, it sounds ridiculous, but certainly no more ridiculous than if I had told you that on the forty-fifth anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King's prophecy that "I Have a Dream," a young Black man with the Muslim name of Barack Hussein Obama would accept the Democratic nomination for President of the United States to cheering crowds all over the world. And while it might sound ridiculous, it's no more ridiculous than if I had told you that a conservative preacher would suggest that all Republicans pray that it rained on Obama's acceptance speech, only to have the ill wind and rain of a mighty hurricane, disrupt the Republican National Convention, blowing in the controversy of Sarah Palin and "Troopergate," making it all but impossible for the Republicans to win. And while it may sound ridiculous, surely no more ridiculous than if I'd told you that former officials of the Bush administration, a member of the Eisenhower family, and the son of William F. Buckley himself, would cross party lines to support this young Black man. So, ridiculous? I don't think so.

But some might say, if this is truly an act of God, why would he be so cruel as to allow the untimely death of Barack's grandmother just one day before the proudest day of her life? In response, and as a person who's not even particularly religious, it says to me that there must be something beyond this life. Thus, I don't think taking Barack's grandmother away was a cruel act of God at all–on the contrary. It was a blessing.

What the world may see as an untimely death, was actually a reward from God for a job well done. He rewarded that grand lady with the best seat in the house--free of suffering, free of the ravages of age and physical pain–and gave her a sky box, right along beside her husband and daughter, to witness the wondrous moment that their love, selfless sacrifice, and dedication hath wrought.

Like anybody, I would like to live a long life. Longevity has its place. But I'm not concerned about that now. I just want to do God's will. And He's allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I've looked over. And I've seen the Promised Land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the promised land!

Martin Luther King, Jr.

Eric L. Wattree

wattree.blogspot.com

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Monday, November 10, 2008

Howling Winds


BENEATH THE SPIN • ERIC L. WATTREE
Howling Winds
As I watched my son, dapper as they come, walk down
Our walkway and into manhood, what I remember most is
The howling winds. I'd seen such winds before, but
Never like this--my old foe was pulling up trees by
The roots.

So I watched, but I watched alone.

As the winds raged on and the mighty palms bowed, a
Single leaf from our Winter bare Ficus Tree
Held tough against the ferocious storm; It fought
Valiantly against the angry gale, as though hanging
On just to witness the changing of the guard.
So I stood, but I stood alone.

Like that solitary leaf, all my life I've fought the
Ferocious winds, and now they've returned, this
Mighty foe, poised to seize the hopes and dreams of
My only son.

So I cringed, but I cringed alone.

But then, posterity glanced back and squared its
Shoulders, beat back hopelessness as it trudged
Through fields of ivy, then spread its wings and rode
Those howling winds over yonder mountaintop...

So I wept, but I wept with a crowd.
God Bless America.

Eric L. Wattree

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Wednesday, November 05, 2008

EMERGENCE

EMERGENCE

I now stand firm. My dedication to the power of knowledge is the platform upon which my podium rests. I stand firm, strong, and now free-- free of anger, free of self-delusion, free of the folly of empty vanity, and free of the pernicious bane of meaningless pride without substance.

I stand now free to look upon the eyes of other men, reflecting dignity over sorrow, accomplishment over pain, and with a burning passion, fueled by the very flame that forged ancestral shackles, with a deep sense of pride, and a pride that flows deep.

I now stand erect! The steel that once degraded my forefather, that chained him in bondage to this bitter Earth, now reinforce my character, making me more, rather than less; and the blood and sweat that once drenched his brow, and oozed from the yoke against his heaving chest, now rage with resolve and a sense of purpose, deep within my burning breast.

I now stand as a new being--neither simply African, nor simply American, but a hybrid forced to transcend the sum of my parts; no longer simply African, since being torn away from the African motherland to suffer and toil in the fields of America, and nurtured by America, to become more than simply American, but a renewed American, especially prepared to survive, in a new and challenging land.

Thus, I stand now armed—armed with the wisdom of deprivation, the courage of my conviction, and a deep conviction of my courage; And fortified--with the confidence of a survivor, the empowerment of knowledge, and a ravishing hunger for justice.

I now stand the product of love, struggle, and sacrifice; a witness to man's inhumanity to man, a monument to the hopes and dreams of a million slaves, and charged with the trust and destiny, of this great land.

Yes, I Now Stand Firm. Firm, Black, and Free.

Eric L. Wattree


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Monday, November 03, 2008

Pimps Up, Hughley Down?

BENEATH THE SPIN • ERIC L. WATTREE

Pimps Up, Hughley Down?

Comedian, D.L. Hughley is being severely criticized in the Black community over his new CNN show, D.L. Hughley Breaking the News. I first heard the opening salvo in an email sent to me from Dr. Boyce Watkins. Dr. Watkins was, and is, highly agitated over the tone of the show. He indicated that "Nearly every joke on Hughley's show came back to some generalized stereotype, reminding us that African Americans are seen as relatively trifling 'social critters' and not much of anything else."

Dr. Watkins admitted, however, that he had lost respect for Hughley two years earlier during the Don Imus episode when Hughley allegedly told Jay Leno, "Yes, those women really WERE a pack of nappy headed hoes!" I hadn't heard about that, but if true, and I've never known Dr. Watkins to lie about such things, such a remark would have been highly objectionable to me as well–in fact so much so, that it might have tainted my opinion of his current project. So I decided I'd better take a look at Hughley's CNN show for myself before making a comment.

So I went to YouTube and pulled up a segment of the show. In the segment that I selected, the Freddie Mac corporation was being portrayed as a pimp–no problem, so far. Actually, I was beginning to think it WAs kind of funny until the pimp got to a part where he called Barack Obama a fellow pimp. Then when he went on to say that Barack was pimping the people out of their money, I began to see why Dr. Watkins was so upset. That was a seriously irresponsible thing to say–especially considering the fact that it was just days before the most important election in the history of this nation.

For the very first time in our history, we've finally stimulated the interest of a significant number of Black, and young people in the political process. Now to have a Black comedian appearing on CNN–a network known for reporting straight news–saying that Sen. Obama was a pimp, and indicating that the money the people are donating as "campaign contributions" is actually a pimp's game designed to rip them off for their money, is not only deeply troubling and over the top, but constitutes a direct threat to the integrity of the political process.

On Hughley's behalf, however, the concept of having Freddie Mac played as a pimp was brilliant. It's a device that can be used to educate the public about what this bailout was actually all about. And education is the key–it is a must that Hughley use his new platform to educate. Anything short of that will result in a disaster for both Hughley, and CNN.

Being Black, and the only comedian on CNN requires walking a very fine line. If Hughley uses that platform just to tell Black jokes and indulge in buffoonery, he's going to embarrass himself, embarrass the Black community, and destroy his career, because he'll be perceived as helping CNN to send the message that the only news they have to disseminate about Black people is that they're a joke. But on the other hand, if he uses this opportunity in a dignified and intelligent way, and use comedy to enlighten and inform, he could become one of the biggest, and most beloved stars in the country.

He needs to forget about all of the "Pimps up, hoes down" nonsense, and all the racial stereotyping, and begin to focus on political hypocrisy. He could use his show to take up where journalism leaves off–and that should be the easiest job in the world, since he has an entire nation filled with politicians who are living out his material for him. Politicians are known for being sneaky, disingenuous, and deceitful. The journalists at CNN are well aware of this, but they don't have the evidence to prove it. That's where Hughley would come in–as a comedian he doesn't need proof , all he needs is his intuition, and a funny scenario to point out the hypocrisy. It would also give him the power to focus the direction of the news.

I can think of several issues that could be addressed right of the top of my head. Sarah Palin is accusing Obama of "Palling around with terrorists", for example. But everyone seems to be conveniently silent over the fact that her own husband is a member of a political group that wants to secede from the union. In addition, Sarah herself addressed the group's convention before being picked to run for vice president. In her remarks she said, "We have a great promise to be a self-sufficient state, made up of the hardest-working, most grateful Americans in our nation" (She must have gotten that "hardest-working, most grateful Americans" line from Hillary Clinton). I wonder how many Black people they're going to let in their newly ripped off state, once they take their oil and secede from the union?

And consider this–Sarah's association with this group makes her intimately connected to a group that's a threat to our national security. So if she's elected vice president, how is she going to get a security clearance? What are they going to do, have her leave the room every time the grown ups have to talk? In addition, at her rallies she's always talking about who is and who's not "one of us." When she says, "one of us", who is she talking about–one of us, as Americans, or "one of them", who wants to tear the country apart? She moves quite easily among both groups.

Then there's the fact that even while both Sarah and McCain (notice that she has top billing now, and known by first name only) are calling Obama an elitist and embracing "Joe the Plumber", the "hockey mom" is walking around in a dress that cost $23,500 more than Joe's house–and the $23,800 that they paid to have her hair done for two weeks would probably pay off Joe's mortgage. That's a joke in itself.

And finally, here's the biggest joke of all. It seems that Todd Palin's "buddies" are an exceptionally talented bunch. They not only helped Todd build Sarah's brand new home, from the ground up, but also pitched in to build Wasilla's new $12 million sports complex less a mile away. And these are obviously a great bunch of fellas, because they also renovated Sen. Steven's house. You remember Sen. Stevens of Alaska, right? He's the one they just convicted for failing to report all that this great bunch of guys did for him--and why.

Eric L. Wattree

wattree.blogspot.com

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Thursday, October 30, 2008

Joe the Plumber: A Prime Symbol of Republican Hypocrisy

BENEATH THE SPIN • ERIC L. WATTREE

Joe the Plumber: A Prime Symbol of Republican Hypocrisy

John McCain accused Barack Obama of being an elitist. He then trotted out "Joe the Plumber" to symbolize that he, unlike Obama, stood in solidarity with the American middle class. That made for great theater, but like John McCain himself, it soon became clear that Joe the Plumber maintained a strained relationship with truth.

In an October 11 encounter with Barack Obama, Joe the Plumber, or Joseph Wurzelbacher, told Obama that he was a plumber who was about to buy the business from his employer. He said the business generated between 250 and $280,000 a year. It turned out, however, that none of that was true. Wurzelbacher's scenario was contrived in an attempt to show that Obama's tax plan would hurt those in the middle class who were struggling to improve their plight.

The fact is "Joe the Plumber" has neither a plumber's license, nor has he ever served an apprenticeship as a plumber. The United Association of Plumbers, Steamfitters, and Service Mechanics Union indicated that he applied for an apprenticeship in 2003, but never completed the program. It was also revealed that he only made $40,000 a year, and thus, probably not in any position to buy a business. In fact, he's currently in debt to the government for $1182.92 in unpaid taxes.

In another case, Ashley Todd, a 20 year old college student and one of McCain's paid organizers, reported that she was robbed and assaulted by 6'4" Black man. She claimed that she was at an ATM when a Black man came up behind her and put a knife to her throat. She said she gave him $60 and started to walk away, but then the man saw a McCain sticker on her car and hit her in the back of the head, knocking her down. According to Tood, the assailant said, "You're going to be a Barack supporter," as he kicked and beat her. Then he said, I'm going to "teach you a lesson for being a McCain supporter." He then held her down and scratched a "B" on her right cheek.

It was a graphically compelling story. There was only one problem–it wasn't true. The "B" that was scratched on Todd's face was what probably gave her away–it was backwards, as though done while looking into a mirror. Todd later admitted that she made the whole thing up.

Both Joe the Plumber, and Ashley Todd, are perfect metaphors for the lying, hypocrisy, and lack of integrity that's been a pervasive part of the McCain campaign–and the campaign seems to recognize that. The "straight talk express" notwithstanding, the McCain campaign seems to be made up of two separate camps–one supporting McCain, and the other supporting Palin–but in their wisdom, both camps seem to have enough sense not to trust the other.

It has become clear that truth, character, and integrity, to both McCain, Palin, and many of their supporters, represents whatever they can get away with. They're like a den of thieves, whose only loyalty to one another is in pursuit of their unconscionable ambition and greed. They've become so desperately engrossed in their rampant thirst for power that they've lost all perspective on political, or any other kind of reality.

Even as the McCain camp was criticizing Obama for what some surrogates characterized as the arrogant extravagance of using his campaign jet to fly to the bedside of his gravely ill grandmother, McCain's vice-presidential running mate, Sarah Palin, was strutting the catwalk in her new $150,000 wardrobe that had been purchased by the campaign. They had completely lost touch with the fact that such extravagance wouldn't play well while they were trying to align themselves with Joe the Plumber's middle class. How could they possibly claim that they were in touch with the plight of the middle class, when they spent $23,500 more on Sarah's clothes than Joe the Plumber had on his home? And beyond that, they paid Sarah's stylist $23,800 for just two week's work. Now, who's the elitist?

And now that they've been caught with their skivvies around their ankles, the only thing they can think of is to cry sexism. They're contending that if Sarah was a man clothes wouldn't be an issue.

How elitist and out of touch can one group be? They must think the American people are so stupid that we don't realize that clothes are not the issue here. The issue is their recklessly vulgar spending while Americans are losing their homes. And besides, how can they reconcile their claim of sexism in light of all of the fuss Republicans made over Sen. John Edwards' "designer haircut"? Was that sexist as well?

Elitism is defined by the American Heritage Dictionary as follows: "The belief that certain persons or members of certain classes or groups deserve favored treatment by virtue of their perceived superiority, as in intellect, social status, or financial resources." I'd say buying Sarah a wardrobe that cost over $23,000 more than many of your supporters' homes easily meets that standard. I'd also say, spending $23,800 to have Sarah's hair done for two weeks meets that standard as well.

And beyond that, how can a man whose father, and grandfather, were both admirals in the navy, thereby, giving him a free pass through the naval academy–in spite of severely "challenged" academic qualifications–call a man who had to struggle through life, and get through college on scholarships, an elitist? Superior intellect alone doesn't make one an elitist–the lack of humility is an indispensable component. On the other hand, having to refer to your staff to find out how many homes you own, and calling $250,000 "pocket change" puts you right there in the ballpark.

So just the thought of McCain calling Obama elitist is ridiculous, and it clearly demonstrates two things–first, we've allowed Republicans to redefine the word; and secondly, McCain is so elitist himself that he thinks the American people are stupid. And you know what? To a very real extent we are.

We've allowed the Republican Party to convince us that intellectual curiosity, and the active pursuit of excellence through knowledge is elitism. We've also allowed them to teach us that in order to be good Americans, we have a moral obligation to remain stupid, and anyone who isn't should be suspect. They would have us believe that anyone with an ounce of sense, couldn't possibly be "one of us."

Eric L. Wattree

wattree.blogspot.com

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Thursday, October 16, 2008

A Community in Decline

A Community in Decline:

Don't Preach Me a Sermon, Live Me One

I just received the following letter from the Kierrah Foundation. Read it and weep--but don't just weep for them, weep for the entire Black community:

Hi Eric,

You said it was unbelievable that the Black community won't step up to the plate to help its own, but you're new to this, I just brought it to your attention. It's far from unbelievable to me, since I've been living with the impact of it for years now. I've spent 3 years crying (I mean literally crying) over the community's lack of response to my pleas to help these former foster girls and their children. As I send you this email tonight, I'm not only having to deal with the disappointment of a community that's turning its back on its own, but I'm actually being ridiculed for my efforts. Here's the situation:

The Kierrah Foundation does not receive any funding from the City, County, State of Federal Government, why we don't is another story and we will talk about that at another time–and believe me, it's deep. In any event, as a result, my husband and I raised funds for our day to day operations through Celebrity Fundraising Events. It's a lot of work, but I am grateful for the journey. Not only do we help young women between the ages of 17 and 26 when they age out of the foster care system without family or friends. We also help them with their children.

To plan and host Holiday Events for them and their children takes up a lot of my time alone. Over the years, I have begged people in the community, including churches, newspaper people, radio stations, etc., to help me simply by donating their venue for events. Most of the time, they just flat out tell me NO. Other times, it's like OK but we charge $1200 to use our facility or we'll donate the facility but you have to give us XX amount of dollars from your proceeds. "Excuse me people, this is a FUND RAISING EVENT" for young women in OUR COMMUNITY that society has discarded and the county, state and the federal government have turned their backs on because there's no more money in it for them." And trust me Eric, I have been everywhere.

So with that said, I decided that I needed to reach outside the community because I need help. I ran into a friend that asked me had I heard of the Celebrity Centre in Hollywood. Of course, I hadn't, but she took me over there. This place sprawls over 3 blocks and the White Folks over there were so impressed with what I was trying to do for the young women and children. YES, this property is owned by the Church Of Scientology, but it is not the church. They asked me what dates I needed, what time, how many people, etc. And I gave them that information and went on to explain what I was trying to accomplish. You will not believe this but they told me that I could use their venue for FREE whenever I needed to have a Fundraising Event. I was floored.

So the deal is now, Black Folks are calling me all kinds of names, saying I am exposing my women and children to a cult and that I ought to be shamed of myself. Well Eric, the only thing the Celebrity Centre has required of us is that we let them do a 7 minute presentation about Scientology. They do not take anyone's name or information or impose themselves on the attendees to become Scientologist, they have their brochures sitting in the foyer for anyone that is interested. They do not come into the event other than that 7 minute presentation and it's only one person, not the entire church or even a group of people. This is no more than anyone else does. If you go to a church and have an event, they want to preach to you. When Anthonly Samad has his Urban Issues Breakfast at the African American Museum, the Director comes out and tells you about the musuem and asks for your support. So what's the difference?

Eric, I am just a Chicago girl that was raised that "you are no more than the lives you touch". And I was taught that really early in my life. I believe in my heart of hearts that these young women and their children are my appointment not my assignment and I have to help them whatever it takes to do it. Bottom line: The Kierrah Foundation is not a "faith-based" non profit. The young women we serve are adults and we encourage them to make their own choices in life and that includes their religious beliefs. As far as our exposing children to something, Uh! Wait a minute!! What about all that horrible stuff they are exposed to on Skid Row on a daily basis!! Every child that we serve has a mother present. These children are the former foster girls' children not ours. And every parent has the right to decide for their own child.

But despite what anyone says, I am having my next three events at the Celebrity Centre. They don't charge me a dime, I can bring my own food, my own sponsors, my own art people,etc. All those things are essential to raising the needed funds that I have earmarked for the holiday and also my girls and their children will have a wonderful Holiday Season because of it.

So NO, I am not surprised by the response or lack of. Some of the people on your email list have been contacted by me and my husband time and time again. And you know what, I have yet to get a respond from some of them. But when Patti LaBelle was here last year and her LaBelle Community Football League sponsored on of the Holiday Events for The Kierrah Foundation, some of those same people were calling and emailing me all over the place. And when I reminded them that I had sent them an email early in the year, they acted like they didn't know what I was talking about. And then the cold thing about it, some of them came out to my event to hang out with Patti LaBelle not to support me and Stan and The Kierrah Foundation. It's sad. Perhaps you can write something about it.

Let's be honest here. If this 12 year old Jordan Coleman, who is the voice of "Tyrone" on The Backyardigans, had jacked somebody or killed somebody, he would be front page news. But NO, Jordan took his earnings and wrote, directed and produced his own movie about the importance of education for African American boys. We all should be rallying around this child, not ignoring emails and give lame excuses why we can't do it. If it were not for the fact that Jordan wants to do this on November 6 & 7, I would do for him myself out of my own pocket.

Eric, please keep this in mind. No one, and I mean NO ONE in the Black Community who has money or power has helped me, although I have reached out to the majority of them (not all of them). It's the Black Folks like me and Stan that don't have nothing that all get together and pitch in to make things happen. Every single Black person that has every donated their money, time or energy to The Kierrah Foundation, were not in the position to do it, BUT THEY DID.

Eric, I thank you so very much for all of your help. YOU WANNA HEAR SOME UNBELIEVABLE?!!! You are the only one that answered my email!!! And I sent out 93 emails. But YOU were the ONLY one who responded and you are the only one that has shared my desire to get this wonderful kid out here to do his film. And you know although I love you for it, that's SO SAD. But like my husband said, "All you can do is DO YOUR PART" and I know in my heart that YOU and I have.

Email me back and tell me what's the best time to talk to you. I wanted to call you but I don't want to disturb you when you are working. Email me back Eric and tell me what you think of my situation with the Celebrity Centre. I would be interesting in knowing what you think I should be responding to this people who are criticizing me. Do you think I should be defending myself against these folks that will not support me? Tell me.

Riches Blessings,

Brandy

"People, even more than things, have to be restored, renewed, revived, reclaimed, and redeemed; never throw out anyone. " - Audrey Hepburn

Pamela "Brandy" Sanders

Spotlight On Sisters, Producer/Organizer

The Kierrah Foundation, Founder/Executive Director

311 N. Robertson Blvd. Suite 528

Beverly Hills, CA 90211

Phone: 323-692-1026

Websites: http://www.kierrahfoundation.orgwww.kierrahfoundation.org

http://www.kierrahevents.orgwww.kierrahevents.org

http://www.myspace.com/kierrahgirlswww.myspace.com/kierrahgirls

http://www.spotlightonsisters.orgwww.spotlightonsisters.org

Email: mailto:brandy@kierrahfoundation.orgbrandy@kierrahfoundation.org

mailto:brandy@kierrahevents.orgbrandy@kierrahevents.org

mailto:brandy@spotlightonsisters.orgbrandy@spotlightonsisters.org



Eric L. Wattree

wattree.blogspot.com

I take great pride in being the product of adversity, because having simply survived provides me with unassailable credentials.

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