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charlottesville

Explaining why Charlottesville happened requires me to do something I haven’t in years — go to church. There is a big, hairy demon that possesses the soul of America and it is white supremacy. White supremacy begot racism in America and ultimately, the evil and irrational nature of it has no logical explanation other than it must be a demon. It is too diabolic, non-sensical and potent to originate from any other place but hell. As whiteness slowly depletes its privilege we are seeing an exorcism in real time; this demon is coming out but not without a fight.

Charlottesville happened now, during the Trump age. It is an age that can best be understood through a passage in the New Testament — Mark chapter 9, versus 14-29. In the story a father brings his demon-possessed son to Jesus in hopes of deliverance. The demon would often take control of the boy’s body and cause him to do crazy shit, basically. When the demon saw Jesus, it threw the boy to the ground and began convulsing, rolling around and foaming at the mouth. Essentially, the demon began to “act up” rather than go quietly. The demon, feeling threatened, lashed out rather than humbly submit to its fate. That is where a sizable faction of white America is today. White people run America and maintain privilege but there are discernible cracks in the foundation of white supremacy. Indeed, white power structures still frame the day to day existence of us all and yet there is a sense that white power is being threatened, a sense which energized the candidacy of Donald Trump and gives rise to groups like the “Alt Right.” Charlottesville is but the latest convulsion in an ongoing exorcism. This demon feels threatened.

Drug overdoses, liver disease and suicide are driving a peculiar trend among whites. Of late, their life expectancy is not increasing but decreasing. That is according to Elizabeth Arias, the statistician at the National Center for Health Statistics. Based on federal data of deaths recorded nationwide, black men actually had the greatest gain in life expectancy in 2014 of any group. White supremacy is under attack. Babies of color now outnumber non-Hispanic white babies. 2014-2015 was the first year in which minorities were more populous than white students in America’s public schools. America will be a majority-minority nation soon, led by individuals who more closely resemble Barack Obama, Kamala Harris and Luis Gutierrez than Mitch McConnell. The world that has always been will simply not be anymore. For those conditioned by generations of privilege, that is a scary proposition.

A big demon is being exorcised, slowly. It senses its demise and in response shrieks, convulses and lashes out, even irrationally. And Charlottesville was irrational. The rally was initially a protest against removing a statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee, a slaveowner who fought vehemently to uphold slavery during the Civil War. Removing the statue is not an attempt to erase whites from the American tapestry. Objecting to its removal, however, suggests a commitment to the ideals of Lee and ultimately that is what this demon is fighting for. The critical question now is what we will do as this demon continues to lash out.

In the biblical text Jesus responded quite curiously to the demon’s little sideshow. As the boy rolled on the ground convulsing and foaming at the mouth, Jesus calmly turned to his father and asked him, “how long has he been like this?” It was as if Jesus was saying, “I refuse to get caught up in this show. I will not pay attention to you lashing out and I certainly will not be intimidated. I will simply pretend that you do not exist as I go about the work of overpowering you.” The father explained that the boy had been that way from his youth. He pleaded with Jesus, “but if you can do anything for us please help us.” Jesus, perhaps almost offended replied, “If!?!? Bruh…all things are possible if you believe. Ain’t no if to this!” Jesus exorcised the demon and went about his business. I choose to ignore the noise and the shrieks. I choose to go about the work of black power, even in this age of Trump.

 

 

mirror tom

Uncle Toms are the greatest threat to black America. In 2017 Uncle Tom might take the form of Dr. Dre on Monday, T.D Jakes on Tuesday, Future on Thursday and morph into Very Smart Brothas by week’s end. Even I, the writer, am guilty. In his autobiography Malcolm X indicated that he could stomach a conservative racist more than an Uncle Tom. Malcolm understood the danger. If black people are to achieve true revolution and freedom, we must eliminate Tom, wherever he might be found.

The trouble in 2017 is that we don’t understand what makes one an Uncle Tom and we resist the notion that each of us, woke as we believe ourselves to be, have some Uncle Tom in us. Again, I myself am not exempt.

The Uncle Tom, for our purpose, is any person who identifies as black but actively or passively undermines black power; black power= black freedom and self determination. This can be momentary or a permanent condition, for some. Holding conservative views does not make one an Uncle Tom. Having liberal views –which I do– does not make one aligned with black power, either. In fact, the most dangerous Uncle Toms in 2017 happen to be liberals/Democrats. The danger we pose is that we think ourselves woke because of our liberalism. When our lives are misaligned with the ideals of black power and independence, however, we have to be convinced that we are in fact Uncle Toms.

By virtue of American citizenship all black people wrestle with some level of internal Tom. Indeed, it is often a necessary evil for survival. In the 1940’s it may have been necessary to buy from white folks to literally escape death. Survival. In today’s world Van Jones went from basically condemning Trump voters on election night as bigots to now traveling the country, holding town halls with Trump supporters to explore their “viewpoints.” Again, survival. But black power is beyond survival and to attain it we must be mature enough to reflect on our level of Uncle Tom and work to kill that son of a bitch. Are you bold enough to join this collective journey and identify which variety of Tom lives in you?

The Religious Uncle Tom

Bishop T.D Jakes has shined brighter than most preachers for years. His books and sermons have reached millions. Still, given his tremendous platform, it is fair to ask how it all has furthered the quest for black freedom. The bishop is to be commended for preaching a message of self-healing and empowerment but he is positioned to actually erect or support institutions to help facilitate that empowerment. Based on the ministries his church website promotes, this is not the case. Further, sermons are fine but black people need his voice to confront the many crises we face on a more consistent basis.

Yes, his ministry helps ex-offenders and needy people but because the Bishop has been given much, more is required. Some might say his role as a preacher is simply to inspire individuals, who then will minister to society. That argument is tempting but disarmed when the history of the black church is considered. The African Methodist Episcopal (AME) church is the oldest denomination founded by black people in America, back in 1816. They preached the word but also built colleges like Wilberforce University and by 1880, operated over 2,000 schools. In an era of strict segregation, their congregations raised the money needed to keep those schools operational.

In a time when black people literally risked death for speaking out on social issues, AME bishops like Henry Mcneal Turner were fearless in the political arena. From the dangerous terrain of central Georgia, Turner successfully ran for the state legislature and used his voice as a trumpet for justice. Jakes, on the other hand, speaks loudly on prosperity but historically has been mute on topics of black oppression. He plays it safe, not wanting to alienate supporters. Turner risked his life to speak out but Jakes appears apprehensive about losing offerings or influence. After all, he never would have gotten a talk show had he gone all Jeremiah Wright.

The religious Uncle Tom is dangerous and I have been him. My thoughts were of heaven and developing the self toward godliness. In that state I chose to downplay social issues, having been taught that if we all just stopped sinning everything would be fine. I knew oppression existed but again, I was told that it was the result of sin. I saw racism but rather than call it out, I was taught that we should focus on –you guessed it– the sinful nature. I was told that it was godly to bring people together rather than directly rebuke those who oppress others. Those who taught me seemed unaware that it was Jesus who said that he did “not come to bring peace but a sword.” As we looked to the sky in our piety, we failed to see the urgency on planet earth.

I prayed often but the ills of the world persisted. At times I even tried to feed the hungry but never evolved to the understanding of Archbishop Hélder Câmara, who said, “When I give food to the poor, they call me a saint. When I ask why the poor have no food, they call me a communist.” The religious institutions I belonged to played it safe. Feeding hungry people earned our nonprofit a grant. Speaking against those who oppress the poor and building institutions that promote power, however, might lose offerings and friends. Our nonprofits ultimately rendered us “non-prophets.”

Some of our churches can raise a nice offering. In fact, the black church is one of the few institutions that successfully pools the capital of black people. Those dollars, however, go toward maintaining facilities and the work of the “ministry.” We can’t seem to connect the dots. Our community faces crises in employment and resources and yet, the church’s successful pooling of black capital never results in job creation or combatting the deep disparities our communities face. The church building remains in tact, however, as the neighborhood crumbles. We believe we are doing the Lord’s work but in fact, we hinder the progress of black people.

Black churches have not the luxury to exist as other churches do. No other group in America had to emerge from the depths of chattel slavery, live under neo slavery/Jim Crow and seek equality in the face of constant harassment, void of meaningful reparations. The urgency, focus and commitment required to overcome this legacy leaves no room for passivity. Here are a few tangible ways to take action as a faith community:

  1. Use money collected from members to start a fund to support local entrepreneurs and black institutions, such as your closest HBCU.
  2. Deposit church funds into a black owned bank.
  3. Use the pulpit and church communications to direct members to business owners in the congregation and the community.
  4. Require candidates for public office to articulate their plan for black empowerment through economic development prior to giving them a platform at your church.
  5. Use the pulpit to rebuke policies and policymakers that hinder black freedom, especially locally.

To kill Tom must be a daily fight and it is difficult. On the other side of that fight, however, is a world where black people are free, independent and collectively walk in power. Religion can serve the aim of liberation or pacify both the oppressed and the powerful.

Stay tuned for the next installment on “The Hood Uncle Tom”

 

In this image released by HBO, host Bill Maher, left, appears with actor-rapper Ice Cube during a broadcast of "Real Time with Bill Maher," on Friday, June 9, 2017, in Los Angeles. (Janet Van Ham/HBO via AP) ORG XMIT: NYET663

After “niggergate” last week, Bill Maher did little on his show this past Friday to convince me that he learned anything. I saw Maher, a political commentator, try to hide under the shield of comedy and throw himself on the altar of, “I made one mistake.” Maher never wrestled with the simple truth that white supremacy and indifference to black suffering are the American norm and that is what brought about this whole thing.

It matters. The world is not a dangerous place for black people because the Klan patrols the streets of our cities. The world is dangerous because although black suffering exists, from the White House to the trailer parks of America, there are too few human responses of compassion. Policymakers have shown the ability to respond to white opioid users in their suffering and they should. Yet black people suffering with addiction are met with law and order. Indifference is dangerous.

I never see (non-Jewish) comedians dare try or get away with Holocaust jokes. I haven’t seen anyone bold enough to joke about 9/11. Yet slavery, somehow, is a subject for white liberals to joke about. How, Sway? It is understood that the suffering of 9/11 and the Holocaust are no laughing matters but Maher was quite comfortable invoking references of house slaves in his attempt at humor last week. The use of the n-word was an obvious offense but the reference to slavery in the most casual and irreverent manner is, on its own, deeply offensive. How is it that the death of millions during the Middle Passage, the raping of women and children, the decimation of families and untold horror over centuries are laughing matters? Only when those who suffer are black.

As I watched this week’s show, it was clear that Maher doesn’t think he, like most Americans, suffers from some deeper condition. Maher continued to insist on this week’s show that he made one mistake, one bad joke and that not rooted in any racist sentiment. I’m sure most members of Congress and state legislatures honestly believe they hold no racial animus either but their indifference to black suffering still yields policies that often have a disparate, if not targeted impact on black communities. From the War on Drugs to the disparities in funding HBCUs receive, many lawmakers who think themselves well intentioned do actual harm to black people. Maher seems unable to connect his actions to this larger machinery of white supremacy and that is unfortunate. That Maher is a liberal, one of the “good guys,” is frightening.

Symone Sanders and Michael Eric Dyson made the point on this week’s Real Time show that slaves in the house were also subject to terror. Still, the message that slavery along with the n-word are off limits was not pressed. Further, Dyson challenged his friend (Maher) to see how his actions as a “good guy” speak to the danger in the world that exists but did not press the matter, choosing rather to highlight some mythical record Maher has fighting for black liberation. Perhaps Dyson did not want to eternally wound a friend or perhaps he sensed Maher’s unwillingness to do more than navigate the bad PR from last week. Who knows? I only know Maher seemed agitated when his guests tried to delve into the matter, repeatedly throwing up his wonderful liberal credentials.

Maher blew it. It is clear he simply wanted the matter to be over, the storm to pass. Maher probably believes in his heart that he is truly one of the good guys and that any energy spent correcting his “one mistake” or other white liberals is better spent on the really bad people in the world. Then again, if my roommate showed signs that he was capable of harming me, I’d probably pay more attention to him than the “n-word” down the block.

 

freedom logo

How many paper towels did you use this month? How many of those paper towels created jobs for black people? If we want different results, we have to take different actions. Once again, Freedom Paper Company is a black owned firm that produces paper products, including paper towels. If you care about ending black unemployment, it’s time to do your part and make the switch.

We can end black unemployment, as I’ve discussed previously. The key is simply identifying one product or service each month that you already use and finding a black owned company to fill that need permanently. I don’t know anyone who doespaper towels not use paper towels. You spill some water: paper towel. You drop an egg on the floor: paper towel. You want to wipe off the countertop: paper towel. You get the point. We already buy paper towels and we will continue to. Why not switch to a great product that gets us closer to our goals as a people?

Would you like to stretch your dollar? Buy the Freedom Super Jumbo Roll. One case should last an entire year. While most competitors sell 78 sheets per roll, the Super Jumbo Roll has 210. You could pay .022 center per sheet but with Freedom Paper, your cost is .013 cents per sheet. Click here to make a purchase now. Freedom is the company name and the promise.

 

 

gtown

If Michael Jordan scored ten points in a game during his prime, we’d be disappointed. If his teammate Dennis Rodman scored ten, we’d be impressed. The difference is expectations. We expected so little of Rodman, as we do white people on issues of race. Georgetown University is now an anomaly and trailblazer in academia, after the school recently apologized for its role in slavery. The University renamed two buildings after slaves and will now give preference in admissions to descendants of the 272 slaves the school sold in 1838 to settle its debts. It pains me to criticize the university in any way –sincerely– because their actions are lightyears ahead of other institutions. But that just shows how little white folks have to do in order to impress us.

Georgetown University owes its existence to plantations the Jesuits operated –in the name of Jesus, I’m sure– to finance operations and the 272 slaves sold in 1838 to settle the school’s debts at that time. There is no way to erase these offenses. The hope is for some meaningful form of repair toward the untold damage done and that is not what Georgetown has offered. Renaming buildings does not repair the damage done. Giving preference in admissions is cute but the children and grandchildren of Georgetown alumni already receive that perk. Indeed, to receive in 2017 what those who (largely) benefitted from the system of slavery have received for generations is not a radical effort at repair. Still, the most important lesson in this ordeal has largely been overlooked.

Georgetown fails to understand that slavery was a system, not an individual circumstance. That system impacted all black people and their descendants, not just the 272 sold in 1838. Georgetown could only benefit from the sale of those 272 slaves because it participated in a system that made all black people subject to a similar fate. To solely acknowledge the harm done to the descendants of those 272 slaves is tantamount to planting an atomic bomb in one home and refusing to acknowledge the damage done to the entire city which that bomb decimated. It is to deny benefiting from the other slaves that worked the Jesuit plantations that financed the school and the system of slavery as a whole. The life outcomes of the 273rd slave cannot be divorced from the 272 acknowledged by the University.

Even the best known attempts at reparations in the American context are laughable, at best. This is merely the latest chapter in a larger story. But Georgetown is at least pursuing some substantive efforts toward atonement and that makes the institution rare. I want to praise them and perhaps should, but I am conflicted. If I criticize the University, well-meaning whites will undoubtedly be frustrated. They will think, understandably, that any attempt at repair –rare as it may be– is not rewarded but scorned. So why bother? If I praise the University, however, I signal that such paltry efforts at repair satisfy the requirements of true justice. That is one hell of a quandary to live in and yet one more burden black people are asked to carry.

Ultimately we must come to accept, as a nation, that the legacy of slavery is far more dramatic than we have acknowledged. Many have just now begun to understand that academia is yet another staple of American greatness that owes its existence also to slavery. We fail to grasp how deeply our banking, manufacturing and various other sectors are rooted in slavery. More troubling, we fail to discern how damaging its impact was for people of color, even to the present day. Our view is further distorted when we consider the tremendous progress black people have made in this country. It is because we fail to discern the true depth of it all that we struggle to approach repair in a meaningful way. For the sake of survival, black people cannot wait for others to understand. Black power requires committed action, even when others refuse to render justice.

LOS ANGELES, CA - FEBRUARY 10:  (L-R) Actress Jessica Biel, singer Beyonce, rapper Jay-Z and singer Solange Knowles attend the 55th Annual GRAMMY Awards at STAPLES Center on February 10, 2013 in Los Angeles, California.  (Photo by Christopher Polk/Getty Images for NARAS)

The Grammys were brought to you by Donald Trump, a man who has managed to even make white America say “enough!” The the national mood of Trump resistance permeated the Grammys, accented by Katy Perry’s stance for “pantsuit nation,” Paris Jackson’s shot at DAPL and Laverne Cox’s call for solidarity with the trans community. These themes are popular in this moment of Anti-Trump fervor, black people still aren’t. While the NCAA is willing to boycott North Carolina over transgender rights, it said nothing when a US Court of Appeals essentially ruled that North Carolina was trying to block black people from voting. Seattle’s City Council (rightfully) voted to divest from Wells Fargo due to the bank’s ties to the Dakota Access Pipeline but when banks were found to have targeted blacks with subprime loans leading up to the economic collapse, municipalities never considered divestment. Black people are not and never have been en vogue. Wake up.

There is a surge of activism in response to Trump–from travel ban protests to the Women’s March–but that resistance does not necessarily include the core concerns of black people. That would be too risky for most, including many black folks. The stances taken at the Grammys are indeed important but not necessarily risky. Since most Americans support transgender rights and oppose so-called “bathroom bills,” even the NBA and PayPal have joined the NCAA in boycotting North Carolina, due to HB-2. Yet when voting, the most fundamental of American rights, was under attack the sports world batted not one eye nor did any corporation decide to abandon the state. The response of white liberals to DAPL helped to move the matter into the mainstream, such that it is more palatable to side with water protectors than clearly embrace the idea that “Black Lives Matter.” It is refreshing that thousands protested Trump’s travel ban at airports across the country but I don’t recall a massive non-black resistance to blacks being murdered on tape by police (although there certainly were and are white allies to the BLM movement). From the streets to the Grammys, ignoring black suffering carries no social consequences.

What troubles me is that routinely, blacks are asked to support every cause mainstream Democrats care about but reciprocity is often nonexistent. Yes, we as black people should stand up for all marginalized groups, even poor whites who are oppressed by the ruling classes. That said, it is hurtful that we cannot rely on those who ask us to support others to also stand with us. A Tribe Called Quest also performed at the Grammys and there is a significant lesson to be learned from their contribution to the show: if black people are to have our concerns voiced, we must voice them. Period. Our liberation is strictly our concern.

With this understanding, we should allow no one to question us when we advocate for ourselves. We must, for no one else will. Let no one shame you for caring about black people. It is not “racist” but simply rational and healthy to care for self. It is not “reverse racism” when we decide to vote and shop based on our interests. When you bank and buy black, it is a matter of self-preservation in a society that daily reminds us we do not matter. Until stars are lining up to denounce the injustices faced by black people daily, we must be focused on black power. Until the nation considers black concerns national concerns, every penny and ounce of energy we spend must be toward black liberation. We are not fashionable but it does not matter, for we are strong.

 

lips

I’ve never been a fan of Valentine’s Day. Why? I’m a good guy and as such, V-Day only serves to mitigate my actions the other 364 days of the year. If I’m good to a woman all year but fail to produce on this day, I’m discounted. On the other hand, if I treat a woman subpar all year but produce this one day, I get points. Valentine’s Day is set up perfectly for even the sorriest man to score points…but even this day can’t help an unemployed man. If a man–even a good man–doesn’t have a check, the woman he desires won’t be the envy of her coworkers on the 14th. For an unemployed man, Valentine’s Day is a lost opportunity. HopewellThought is committed to attacking black unemployment this year and this month it starts with your mouth.

Last month I laid out our 2017 strategy toward ending black unemployment. If you haven’t, I’d strongly encourage you to read that first before continuing this journey. We can make significant strides simply by identifying one product or service each month we already use, then begin using a black owned company to fill that need going forward. Now back to this. I’m single but it doesn’t mean that I don’t keep my mouth ready. I’ve been told that I keep Listerine in business. For years I’ve used their mouthwash. Listerine breath strips have been in my pocket since they hit the market. I even use their dental floss. I. Stay. Ready. That said, the idea of using a different mouthwash never crossed my mind. That changed when I came across a black owned company, Garner’s Garden, that produces a 100% all natural mouthwash; a company actively looking to expand and hire black people. Still, I’ve been a Listerine guy forever and change is difficult. After all, Valentine’s Day is approaching and my mouth needs to be ready, just in case! I decided to reach out to the owner.

I purchased my bottle of mouthwash and gave it a try. As the owner explained, this product is not simply designed to cover up mouthwashbad breath but to actually heal your mouth. That sounded good. I want my mouth to be ready, after all. It contains healing oxygen particles that attack a host of dental issues such as cavities, gingivitis and gum disease. Not only is it antibacterial but it is also antiviral, anti-fungal and it whitens teeth naturally. I found every bit of that to be true. I felt my mouth getting healthier when I started using it. It burned like hell the very first time I tried it; that’s because it was healing everything my Listerine did not. It no longer burns now, my mouth feels healthy. I’ve also noticed that I no longer have that “Enter the Dragon” morning breath! I’m sold.

The company also sells a “remineralizing tooth powder,” which they recommend using in tandem with the mouthwash. In all honesty, I was most skeptical of this part of the deal. After all, I’m accustomed to toothpaste. In my research, however, I discovered that every toothpaste on the market is made up of a tooth-powder-4ozbunch of poisons. The tooth powder is a natural product that literally pulls toxins from your mouth and naturally whitens teeth. I’m getting used to it and I like the results thus far. As a consumer, I appreciate the fact that the mouthwash and tooth powder are getting my mouth ready for Valentine’s Day (just in case), naturally. Most of all, I love that my purchases are going toward providing jobs in my community.

You can purchase the mouthwash here and get a 10% discount this month when you use the code “HopewellThought.” If you’d really like to make sure your mouth is ready for Valentine’s Day and save even more, buy the mouthwash and tooth powder together here. You’ll receive 15% off when you purchase the two products together, using the code “HopewellThought2.”

Valentine’s Day is no picnic for an unemployed man, nor is any other day. We have the power to begin creating jobs in our community now, simply by getting our mouths ready.

**Be sure to also purchase our featured products from each prior month**

January–True Laundry Detergent 

 

walmart

Rejecting blatant racism does not make you an “ally” to black people seeking power to determine their own fate in America. The true test of an ally is whether they believe our quest for self-determination is legitimate and truly support it. WalMart does not pass the test. A recent article on Breitbart complained that WalMart no longer sold items displaying the Confederate Flag, yet featured shirts with messaging supportive of the Black Lives Matter movement on the company’s website. WalMart caved and in doing so, legitimized a twisted logic that views the struggle for black self determination and freedom as equally offensive as the southern rebels’ treasonous devotion to slavery. This system of thought delegitimizes the pursuit of black power and WalMart catered to it. In the era of Walter Scott and Michael Brown, black people must carefully consider whether we can allow these small seeds of hostility to harvest into blood.

osu

I am a graduate of The Ohio State University and I watched in horror when our campus was attacked Monday morning. I walked those grounds for years; sometimes going to class, at others to a lady’s dorm room hoping for a kiss. This was personal. I just knew the attacker would be a white male and yet it was a Somali immigrant, a Muslim. That discovery made this piece harder to write. The Trump crowd will welcome this as a validation for their xenophobia and anti-Muslim crusade; that makes me uncomfortable. The reality is Islamic terrorists do pose some threat to us. It is also true that America has done quite a bit to create terror by its actions and at times, inaction. The OSU attacker expressed some of those grievances and the question we face in this age of Trump is whether we can be empathetic to a Muslim and hear him out.

kanye-prez

Kanye West is so gifted that he is insane. He has said that he wants to run for president and he just might be a black Donald Trump in the making: narcissistic, occasionally clever, obviously gifted but ultimately self destructive. Kanye said he did not vote in the last election but had he done so, Trump would have been his candidate. At a concert this past Saturday he compared himself to Trump and went on to give post-election analysis on why Hillary Clinton lost. His analysis validated the hurt feelings of the “white working-class,” who were privileged enough to endorse a blatant racist for president.