A Tiger Named Trump

IMG_5323It took several key stroke, but eventually I ran down the author who said “…those who foolishly sought power by riding the back of the tiger ended up inside.” The words were used by John F. Kennedy in his Presidential Inaugural Address delivered on January 20, 1961. My cousin who is a prolific writer believes strongly that “words are spirits” and I could not agree more. Even though JFK may have spoken these words the truth about the orgin and authorship of “words” have to go back to ” In the Beginning was the WORD.” But for the past year or longer, RNC Presidential Nominnee, Donald J. Trump, has taken over the Republican Party, defeating his 16 challengers and appears to be well on his way from Trump Plaza to the White House by his crafty use of “words.”

President Barack Obama could be credited with being the creative force behind Donald J. Trump, when he publicly made Trump the butt of his jokes at the White House Correspondence Dinner. Remember when Donald Trump lead the “Birther Movement” and how he claim national attention alleging that Obama was not born in Hawaii? If I am correct his investigators are still in Hawaii as the result of their investigation was never revealed. Remember how Trump dogged out the first African American President until Obama had to produce the “long form” of his birth certificate and then to add insult to injury Trump later demanded he produce copies of his transcripts from Harvard? The bottom line, President Obama made the unpardonable sin of a black man embarrassing a “white man” as Donald J. Trump. the very epitome of the rich and famous, was the butt of a national joke, on national television/cable delivered by the nation’s first black president.

Donald Trump had no other alternative but to run for president. The green-eye-monster of vengeance and pay back could never be achieved by any means other than the entertainer in chief pulling out all the stops in his effort to become the commander in chief. Trump found a willing and wanting audience of voters who finally, since the days of Ronald Regan, had the nerves to “say” what they always wanted to say and felt in their heart. The use of codes words, blowing the dog whistles and going from one extreme to the other, enable Trump to go from one percent and a laughing stock during the primaries to knocking off all of his challengers in grand style. No one is laughter now. The GOP has been taken over by ‘Trumpism.” Be not deceived. Donald J. Trump could be elected president of the United States in this toxic atmosphere of greed, the fear of white America  losing the “America” of yester-year and the desire to turn back the hands of time when Jim Crow was alive and well (still is but now refined to James Crow). Trump asks African Americans, “What the hell do you have to Lose?’ as he has of late being talking “about” black America but not “to” black of America. Well, Mr. Trump we would like to have “change” not “chains.”

Trump’s overture to building a “wall” reminds me of a guy named Haman who after the use of his crafty words and scapegoating one people (the Jews) at the expense of another, built a gallow for a Jew named Mordecai. As the sinister plot unfolded, the heroin of the story, named Ester, reveals the plot and Haman ends up on the very gallow he built for Mordecai, the Jew he hated. Mr. Trump, you can find these words not at “Two Corinthians” but in the old Testament Book of Esther 7:10. I conclude with a question by Joseph N. Welch put to Joseph McCarthy during the Army-McCarthy Hearings. “At long last, have you (McCarthy) no sense of decency?” Keep riding the tiger.

We Will Not Forget

The memorial was captivating to the eyes and the soul as I gazed at the thousands of shoe strings, the pictures of the many children killed during the Holocaust, the child’s coat hanging and the one pair of high top shoes on display at this unnamed consecration camp. The memorial read, “In Memory Of The 1.5 Million Children Who Perished During The Holocaust. We Will Not Forget.” I immediately concluded that this well kept middle school that appeared to be 99 percent black “now” was at one time a middle to upper class school populated by a Jewish Community.

Memorial to the 1.5 Million children killed during the Holocost

I am here with my granddaughter as she practice at this middle school several times a week. I watch as the black kids run back and forth to the restrooms and this nice size memorial, glassed incased, appears totally invisible to them. I wonder how many of the children know what the “Holocaust” was? How many Jews were killed during this dark and evil period of man’s history on earth? Two scriptures came to my mind. “My people are destroyed for the lack of knowledge”: Hosea 4:6 and …”these words, which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart: And thou shall teach them diligently unto thy children, and shall talk of them when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up.” Deuteronomy 6:6-7

After a few minutes I return to my senses and remember that many Black Children know very little about their past. Not knowing your past can have a devastating effect on your present as well as your future. Have they (blacks children) every heard of Nat. Turner, Sojourner Truth or Harriet Tubman? Did they know that their fore parents didn’t land on Plymouth Rock, but Plymouth Rock landed on them? Have they been told how the sharks followed the slaves ships from Africa to the Americas as many slaves jump to their death to avoid slavery, reportedly the number in the million?. Do they not know that America is a land of immigrants who came to America for a change, while “we” came in chains. Have they ever heard of Emit Till or the thousands of Black American who died of their illness because they could not make it to a “black hospital, like the one that was at Mound Bayou, MS.? Many have read and heard of Martin Luther King and his “I Have A Dream” speech, but have they every read his Letter from Birmingham Jail?  Many young blacks may know Martin, but have they heard of Marcus Garvey, Megar Evers or Malcom X ? How about Fredrick Douglas, who he was and what he accomplish after someone broke the law and taught him how to read? I am almost certain that they have never read his “What the Fourth of July Means To Me” speech.

In today’s world of the IPhone, the Smart Phone, the I Pad and the other high tech gadgets that our black children can not survive one day without, there appears to be a problem with information over load with very little knowledge or “real” learning going on either at the home or the schools.. The right to an education, the right to vote and to right to pursue life, liberty and happiness are ideals that our children take for granted as if those rights always existed. We have created a narcisstic society that is Facebook oriented and the only viable family is their Facebook family. The middle class has basically vanished, good jobs with benefits and pension have disappeared. Struggling parents pay more for childcare today than many parents paid for a college education for their child years ago. A car note is equivalent to a house note in the past and our youth learn too soon about working the many hours at a fast food place and earning very little money.  And the beat goes on.

The salesman gave us our receipt after purchasing two new tires. He has taken noticed of our East St. Louis address and responds,” I remember meeting President Johnson (Actually Vice-President) in 1960 when he came to visit in East St. Louis.” He went on to explain how he could not have been more than 5 or 6 years of age and how this event had stayed with him over the years. “That was before all the factories and jobs left East St. Louis.” he said. Back in 1960 and before, the now financially strapped city of East St. Louis was then known as an All-American City and at one time boast of a population of more than 80,000 citizens until the white flight occurred and the political system built upon cronyism and corruption was passed on to the blacks. I explained that most of the factories were located “outside” of the city’s limit by design so the factories could avoid paying taxes to the city. Knowing one’s past, their present and their future are inter twined, especially when history is being recorded and revealed. If Blacks Lives Matter, then somehow, someway, there must be a memorial to “us” in the midst of a national election where others want to turn back the hands of time to the 1950’s or before. It is truly a different story when the rabbit got the gun.

A Time for Choosing

IMG_5323“If you can convince the lowest white man that he’s better than the best colored man, he won’t notice you’re picking his pocket. Hell, give him somebody to look down on, and he’ll even empty his pockets for you.” Senator Lyndon Baine Johnson 1960.

The above quote by LBJ was made during his campaign days in 1960 as reported by Bill Moyers, his public relations staffer. Reportedly LBJ witness a large number of white women with their signs on the street corners as LBJ’s motorcade passed by. LBJ was campaigning as the vice presidential candidate for the soon to be elected President John F. Kennedy in Tennessee when he observed the signs and the women. It was not reported “what” was written on the signs but whatever the message was, greatly disturb LBJ as he uttered this statement in his hotel room with Bill Moyers present and “after” all the other dignitaries had left the room  having finished off their drinks and smokes for the night. One can be assured the signs were derogatory in nature with the N-words proudly displayed as this democratic vice presidential candidate was in a State that was not politically friendly towards JFK or LBJ

Almost five decades later, some Americans are once again being told what they want to “hear” as the remaining Republican candidates attempt to portray themselves as more “conservatives” than their opponents. All the Republican candidates want to wear the mantle as being the most conservation and the most likely heir to that California Cowboy of the past, former President Ronald Reagan. Republican candidate, Donald Trump appears well on his way to becoming the Republican Nominee for President of the United States, as Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio battle it out to defeat each other and Donald Trump. It was behind this backdrop that I started to read E.J. Dionne Jr’s, Why The Right Went Wrong. I highly recommend the book for your reading. Anyway while reading I was introduce to Ronald Regan’s speech on October, 27, 1964 where the “Gipper” was speaking on behalf of the presidential candidate Barry Goldwater. Thanks to the age of Google and YouTube I was transported back to my freshman year in high school and was keenly aware of the 1960’s, the long hot summers and the civil rights movement. Reagan’s speech, “A Time For Choosing” was an Oscar performance and I understand “now” more clearly why he has been elevated to the status of the god of Conservatism, in spirit if not in the letter. “You and I have a rendezvous with destiny.” Reagan told his audience. “We’ll preserve for our children this, the last best hope of man on earth, or we’ll sentence them to take the last step into a thousand years of darkness.” After listening to Reagan’s speech, and observing the affect it had on his lily white audience, as a black man I could have been convinced to vote for Barry Goldwater, a staunch segregationist and a racist..

Trump promises to “Make America Great Again” and Cruz and Rubio and the others expound every chance they get had “bad” President Obama has governed the country. It appears like everyone have forgotten the financial nightmare that Obama inherited with General Motors tinkering on bankruptcy and the implosion of the housing marker just to name a few not to mention the unfunded wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. But I like the way Dionne chronicles the political landscape from the dawning of the New Deal under FDR to Obama. It appears as everyone, blacks and  white, rich and poor, urban and rural dwellers, all have been in the words of Malcom X “bamboozled” and a lot of folks are angry. I have always maintained that Black America needed a “Goldwater” to give a cold slap to the face to Black America in order to awaken the sleeping I Have A Dreamers  “parked” on the out skirt of the promise land.

I disagree with President Obama as it relates to Donald Trump and the American voters would not elect someone of his temperament as president. As “the Donald” dance around his endorsement by the KKK and his avowal or dis-avowal of David Duke, whenever the dust settles, angry white men (and women) fear the “darkening” of America. The “fix” was in before Obama was inaugurated for his first presidential term and if Hillary Clinton ultimately obtain the Democratic Nomination and wins the presidential race she will be treated just as bad if not worse by her political opposition. On the flip side, one can not imagine how a Donald Trump Administration would end up as he has already made overtures of challenging the Constitution, the media and offended every group except the rich (those aspiring to become rich like Donald) and powerful. Former President Ronald Reagan was right when he delivered his speech, “A Time For Choosing.” But it would be wise and prudent If voters compared “what” the Great Communicator ( entertainer) said while campaigning for office and what he (President Reagan) actually did  once he was in the White House. America is “broken” and Hillary Clinton was right in her victory speech after her South Carolina win. American needs to be made “whole” not made Great. America is already Great, but America has never been “whole.” Humm…

From Here To Eternity

Courtney Teat, of Teat Chapel, Funeral Home & Cremation Service, 1 10-year old who pursued his dreams.

Kourtney Teat, of Teat Chapel, Funeral Home & Cremation Service. No longer a 10-year old child who pursued his dreams.

A Hurst pulled up and unload a casket, entering through the unlock doors of the church. A set of ten year-old twins observed this activity like they had observed so many times before from the window of their Chicago home. Their home gave a bird’s eye view to the front of the church located at the corner of the street. Unknown to their parents the twins, Kourtney and Hiliary, dashed from their home as the Hurst leaves the church and make their way into the church sanctuary before the grieving family and friends arrive. Kourtney, three minutes older than his sister, Hiliary, examine the decease and critiques the work of the mortician, saying, “I could have done a better job”. Normally children their age would be fearful and not willing to enter into an empty church with the decease. But these two were far from “normal” in that regard. They were more than inquisitive as they made a routine habit of observing the work of the local mortician and somehow were in “awe” regarding death. At the age of 10, Kourtney’s dream of becoming a mortician was engrained in his heart. Kourtney tells when asked what he wanted to be in elementary school he stated a mortician. “The teacher had to explained to the other students what a mortician was.” said Kourtney.

Some 30 years later, Kourtney finished high school in Chicago, graduated from Western Illinois University with a degree in Economics and later successfully completed a two year program in “one year” at Southern Illinois University at Carbondale in their Mortuary Science Program. He worked part time at a local restraunt while in pursuit of becoming a licensed mortician. By license he explained he had to pass a state exam before he was granted his license. “I had to pass a 500 question exams that took 8 hours to complete,” Kourtney replied. He is also an ordain minister as well.

I officially met Kourtney after my 98-year old aunt transition from here to

Mr. Courtney Teat of Teat Chapel. Licensed Funeral Director & Embalmer.

Mr. Kourtney Teat of Teat Chapel. Licensed Funeral Director & Embalmer.

eternity on Christmas Day. My aunt had made prior preparation for her journey, having purchase the burial plots for her and her husband some 60 years earlier. Her husband died after 48 years of marriage. They never had any children. My aunt and her niece (my wife) picked out her transition clothing about seven years ago and planned her home going celebration at her church including her favorite gospel songs. Kourtney was amazed at her level of preparation as he stated she had to purchase two of the first “one hundreds” plots sold by the cemetery. “Over 26,000 people had been buried at this cemetery since she purchased these plots.” Kourtney said as we attended a private burial. As a licensed funeral director and embalmer servicing Illinois and Missouri, Kourtney also provides his professional service to four other funeral homes as he continue to pursue his dream and goals first established at the young age of 10 years.

I recall a billboard of one out of state funeral home where the company slogan was “Only heaven could provide better service.” The dignity, the professionalism and the care we witnessed from Teat Chapel, under the direction of a child with a dream captivated our hearts. But that should not be a surprise from a 10 year-old twin telling his sister as they inspected the work of a local mortician, “I could have done a better job.” And a “better job” he does.

An Old School Answer For A New Year

IMG_5323The young man sat in the barber chair and reflected on his life and the life of his brother.  I sat intensively in my seat taking in the conversation as I was up next for the chair. I always arrive early at the barber shop.  I feel I should not have to wait hours to cut the little hair I have and my beard. I remember the barber when he was a toddler and I am proud of him and his dedication to his craft. The young man tells how he was at a gambling establishment with “$15,000” cash on him. He explained as he left the gambling site, he started up his vehicle with the automatic starter device and somehow this act startled his assailant. He told how he ran as his would-be robber shot at him with the bullets striking him “five times.” He stated he landed on his back, bleeding profusely as he plead for his life and told the would-be robber to take the money looking skyward from his back. “He didn’t take the money” the young man said. He explained how he was shot in his arms and legs and his torso but “no major organs” were hit or injured.

He went on to explain how his brother was shot “one time” and died of his wound. He asked WHY he lived and his younger brother died. He talk about the hospital staff coming to him to asked if he wanted to give consent for his brother’s organs to be donated to others on a waiting list. His response was “no.” He went on to explain how the hospital staff came back asking him if his brother was in need of a kidney transplant or a heart transplant, would he being willing to accept such a donated transplant so that his brother might live? He responded emphatically with a “yes.” He changed his mind and consented to donate the requested organs. “At least five persons benefited from my brother’s donations,” he said. He then went on to tell how at his brother’s funeral four persons responded to the preachers’ call to salvation and how his brother’s death had made an impact on theirs lives. But the question of “Why” he lived and his brother died was still eating at him as he survived being shot five times and his brother died after being shot once. The barber finished up the young man’s haircut and I took my seat in the chair. I saw an opening and I suggested to the young man to read Psalm 139 and explained that the answer to his question could be found there. He said he would read it as he left. Seconds later he returned to confirmed the Psalm. He had previously said he was 39 and I told him to add a “1” in front of his age as he smiled and left.

About three weeks later as I was leaving a local diner the young man was coming in. He smiled and extended his hand and told me he read the Psalm. I would have never recognized him without this acknowledgement. Several weeks after this encounter he came up to me “again” at Walgreens as I was editing and selecting photographs and like at the diner’s, he greeted me with a smile and a hand shake. There was a “joy” emanating from his face as he explained he was there with his mother. I asked where his mother was and he pointed her out to me. I greeted her and gave accolades regarding her son. I instructed him to continue reading other scriptures as well. The Bible– Basic Instructions Before Leaving Earth, is the only Book that “reads You” instead of you reading it.

As we face the upcoming election for president in 2016, it appears that the United States may well be on the way to “anointing” Donald J. Trump as “King” or as he would put it, the next President of the United States. Trump has pledged to “Make America Great Again” and has tapped into the fears and prejudices of the many who yearn for the good old days. Martin Niemoller : “First they came for the Socialist…” appears appropriate for this time of our nation as a new majority (Blacks, Mexicans, Latinos, Asian.) stands at the threshold of America. The billionaire candidate who is speaking for the approximately 30 percent of conservative white America ” first came for Mexicans, and I did not speak out–Because I was not Mexican, then women …, then Jews…, then Muslims…. Then “he” came for me– and there was no one left to speak for me”. But the old school answer to the questions of yesterday, today and tomorrow can be found in the Word of God. The king’s heart is in the hand of the Lord,…Prov.21:1… We may not be able to answer the question, WHY, but we can answer WHO?…Humm.

Jackie Joyner-Kersee, Making A Difference

Jackie Joyner-Kersee

Jackie Joyner-Kersee

It’s 8:00am as I make my entrance into the gymnasium at the Jackie Joyner Kersee Center located in East St. Louis. For weeks now I have taken notice of this constant stream of “little people” ages 3 to 5 years of age arriving at the Center as mom, dads, grandparents and other love ones escort the minors into the Center and sign them in. Later I would learn that more than 150 such “little people” are attending the SIUE Jackie Joynee Kersee Head Start Program. During my one hour of exercise walking the 145 yards per circuit every 90 seconds, I noticed some of the children are still arriving as I leave for the day as the caretakers are vested in giving their child a “Head Start” in life.

This particular morning I noticed what appears to be Christmas Gifts stacked more than three feet high and three feet wide. My mentor taught me that anytime the lens of your eyes have to take a “second look” there exist a potential photograph for the trained eye and aspiring photo journalist. After obtaining approval from the staff person for JJK I took several snap shots of the gift wrapped packages and planned a return after 10am. I am back at the JJK Center at 10:30am.

Left, Shadon Wilson, JJK Staff and Marcia Oliver, Center Coordinator for SIUE with Santa and his helper. Three members of Ms. Oliver's staff to the right of Santa, help to make sure that more that 150 Head Start students received a Christmas Gift and additional winter gear like wool caps and gloves.

Left, Shadon Wilson, JJK Staff and Marcia Oliver, Center Coordinator for SIUE with Santa and his helper. Three members of Ms. Oliver’s staff to the right of Santa, help to make sure that more that 150 Head Start students received a Christmas Gift and additional winter gear like wool caps and gloves.

In the middle of the gym seated before the gifts I find Santa Claus and his helper as the “little people” one by one are ushered to Santa to receive their Christmas Gift with a smile. SIUE staff members can be heard  coaching the little people  to say “thank you” before making room for the next child awaiting in line. One class at a time arrive to the gym and take their time waiting in line to see a Santa that  “looks” like them as they are greeted with a smile and if brave enough allowed to sit on Santa’s lap and whisper their most precious requests for Christmas.

I entered into the hall way of the JJK Center and observed previews of coming attractions as the Jackie Joyner Kersee Foundation and SIUE are working together to complete the new construction to the current 41,000 square foot center as “eight” new class rooms and other amenities will soon be ready next year. JJK’s photograph is out front at the receptions desk area with her holding a sign which reads, “I Am Here To Make A Difference“. I have flashbacks of this past summer and fall when it appeared that all roads led to the JJK Center. Organized football and soccer teams played during the day and “at night”. Many of the games were going on at the same time with the “little people” from the ages of 6 to 14 years of age were totally engaged in their sport of choice. Cars park outside of the construction area, people coming and going and the different teams where the “JJK” initials were observable on many of their uniforms.

It was at Russellville, Arkansas, more than three decades ago, while on vacation where I first took notice of Jackie Joyner, her mentor and coach, Nino Fennoy and what became known as the Nino Fennoy Connections. I was there because my cousin Jackie was also a track star and we traveled to observe her at this particular event. We were surprised to find our hometown folks there in the competition of the Summer AAU events. Here was Jackie Joyner “before” the Olympic Medals. before being noticed and claimed by the International Community as the Athlete of the Century and before gracing the box of Wheaties, the Breakfast of Champions. The track team from East St. Louis, under the coaching and mentoring of Nino Fennoy gave Russellville a preview of coming attractions.

I search the archives of the Metro Star and founds priors stories and events relating to JJK. An example when she made an unscheduled return visit to East St. Louis to be here for her mentor when his father died. The many times that JJK made it known how proud she was of her hometown roots and how she overcame obstacles in her life and turned them into opportunities. But the key and what stands out the most was her mentor and how he used sports as the “hook” to foster the pursuit of becoming All-American in the class room before becoming All-American in Athletics. There’s no doubt that JJK learned this lesson well as the JJK Center appears at time to be the very center and heart of the community. There is a reason why the Center services more than 3000 children a year and the numbers are growing. Jackie Joyner-Kersee,  “I AM Here to make a difference,” should make us all ask ourselves, Why AM I Here???