Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Paul Ryan and the Generation in Tailspin

Jonathan Capehart
I love Washington Post columnist Jonathan Capehart. His clear, personable and personal way in which he describes national political issues, as well as issues which deal with the poor, makes his writing interesting and accessible. He evidenced this capacity last week when he filled in on the "Melissa Harris-Perry Show". 

His open letter was in response was to Congressman Paul Ryan's assessment of the problem of unemployment in the 'inner city'; a problem which, in another day and another time would have been referred to as 'laziness'. Of course he cited the works of Charles Murray ('The Bell Curve') and Bob Putnam who themselves cite 'social lethargy' as a reason for black people unable to find work. Although Capehart didn't do this in this essay, let me provide him with other intellectual writers who explain with historic accuracy the reason for this problem: Harvard professor William Julius Wilson whose, "When Work Disappears" focuses on the factories and local businesses which left black Chicago and thus began the decline in black neighborhoods (without benefit of public transportation for residents left behind to follow those jobs. 

Also 'Family Properties' by Beryl Satter, by Rutgers-Newark professor Beryl Satter, whose father, Mark fought such unconstitutional practices in the 50s - 60's. It is a rich story of how blacks were literally excluded from living in the nicest homes their money could fine by restrictive covenants, banning rental or sale of property and ultimately violence. So you see, Ryan's not the only person with authorities to cite.

Read Capehart's letter to Paul Ryan and find out just how out of touch (or 'inarticulate' the resort of fiscal and social conservatives when black people surprising them by reading past code) his comments were...

This week, Wisconsin Congressman Paul Ryan found himself trying to dance his way out ofthese comments he made Wednesday on Bill Bennett’s “Morning In America” radio show:
“You know your buddy Charles Murray or Bob Putnam over at Harvard – those guys have written books on this. Which is, we have got this tailspin of culture in our inner cities in particular of men not working. And just generations of men not even thinking about working or learning the value and the culture of work and so there’s a real culture problem here that has to be dealt with.”
Twenty-four hours worth of backlash later, Congressman Ryan’s office responded, saying in part:
“After reading the transcript of yesterday morning’s interview, it is clear that I was inarticulate about the point I was trying to make. I was not implicating the culture of one community, but of society as a whole.”
Got that? He didn’t mean “inner cities in particular.” He meant “society as a whole.” The congressman went on to say that, quote:
“I have witnessed amazing people fighting against great odds with impressive success in poor communities. We can learn so much from them, and that is where this conversation should begin.”
If one thing is clear about all of Congressman Ryan’s comments this week, it’s that he does indeed have much to learn. So I thought I’d help begin that conversation today with a letter.

Dear Congressman Ryan.

It’s me, Jonathan.

By now, you know we know you knew exactly who you were referring to when you were talking about those men in the “inner city.” Your congressional colleague, Barbara Lee of California, made it plain when she said:
“Congressman Ryan’s comments about ‘inner city’ poverty are a thinly veiled racial attack and cannot be tolerated. Let’s be clear, when Mr. Ryan says ‘inner city,’ when he says, ‘culture,’ these are simply code words for what he really means: ‘black.’”
Presumably, congressman, this insight into the minds of inner-city black men came from speaking to them directly. Since, according to the Washington Post, you spent much of last year “quietly visiting inner-city neighborhoods.”

And I sincerely applaud your effort. But if you came to the conclusion that their “culture” was to blame for black male unemployment being near double the national average, I can’t help but wonder if you learned anything during your visit. Because if you had, you would have known that the existence of the inner city, and the problems of those who are confined within it is no accident.

Rather, it was the end result of discriminatory housing policies enacted decades ago by federal, state and local governments that created a cycle of residential segregation for black people that persists to this day.

You might have learned that policies like red-lining and restrictive covenants, and the departure of manufacturing and commerce from cities, created pockets of generational poverty that were all but inescapable for those who were left behind. So you wouldn’t have been surprised to see a graph like this (see page 2), showing black unemployment has consistently been more than double the rate of white Americans for nearly four decades.

Nor would you have been surprised to learn that the recession exacerbated those problems for black men in particular because they were overrepresented in the manufacturing and construction jobs that were hit hardest by the recession.

Congressman, if you’d looked around when you visited those communities, you would have understood that what you were seeing was the consequence of that concentration of poverty. You would have noticed the failing schools without the resources to provide their students with a quality education. And perhaps you would have reached the same conclusion as the Bureau of Labor Statistics: that education–not your “tailspin of culture”–is one of the most reliable indicators of future employment and income.

Congressman, did you listen–I mean, really listen – to the stories of the men in those communities? Did you hear them tell of being targeted by racial profiling, discriminatory drug enforcement laws and the cycle of incarceration that keeps them shut out of not only job opportunities, but also housing and the right to vote?

So, no: the problems plaguing the inner city aren’t created by culture. They are the indirect result of government policies. And it’s going to take progressive government policies to solve them.

Which means you were right about one thing, congressman: to end the intergenerational cycle of joblessness and poverty, there is a group of taxpayer supported inner-city people who definitely have to learn something about the culture of work. Namely, you and the rest of your colleagues in the “do-nothing Congress” in Washington, D.C.


Monday, April 28, 2014

In Memoriam Earl Morrall (1934-2014)

It's no secret that I'm a football fan and it's also no real secret that I favor football as it was played in the '70's, when there was no salary cap, players didn't make nearly enough money (although there's nothing wrong with players making money) and many of the players lived in neighborhoods close to fans. As a matter of fact there were two or three pro players that lived in Hamilton Park, where I grew up!

Earl Morrall
Of course those players are getting older and passing on. One died this past week, Earl Morrall. There are young people who probably have no idea who I'm talking about, but Earl Morrall was one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL, although by the time I started watching the game he was not a starter he was a back-up, but what a back up!

Starting with in 1956 when he was drafted by the San Francisco 49ers, Morrall played more than 20 years ending his career with the Baltimore Colts and the Miami Dolphins. As Johnny Unitas' back-up with the Colts, he led them to a 13-1 record, victories in the playoffs, finally losing to the New York Jets in the Super Bowl 16-7. He replaced Unitas again in the 1970 leading the Colts to a 16-13 victory over the Dallas Cowboys. He may have been the first back-up QB to lose a Super Bowl in one era (NFL era) and win one in another (NFC/AFC era).

In 1972 he was picked up on waivers by the Miami Dolphins where he was re-united with his head coach from Baltimore, Don Shula. When Bob Greise, starting quarterback for the Dolphins went down with an Achilles heel injury that year, Morrall took over against the San Diego Chargers. They won the game leaving them 5-0 for the season. It was Earl Morrall that led the Dolphins to the only undefeated season of a team in NFL. Can you name a starter today (let alone back-up) who can lead a team to an undefeated season?
That year Morrall was named NFL Comeback Player of the Year and American Football Conference Player of the Year.

I liked Morrall because as a backup, he showed himself to possess the greatest quality of a player who doesn't start for his or her team - he was always ready. He always gave his best, and his best always put his team in the best position to win! And he never fought for first place. It's said that when, during the undefeated season Morrall struggled against the Pittsburgh Steelers and Shula told him he needed to make a change at quarterback and put in Greise, who by this time was well, Morrall simply told the head coach, 'I don't agree, but it's your team.'

Everybody can't be a starter. Everyone can't get all the accolades a starter gets. What everyone can do is be ready to give their best whenever they're called on. I think Earl Morrall was a great quarterback, although, as I said earlier, many may not know his name, he's well worth remembering.

Earl Morrall died April  25 at 79 years old.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

So, Think You Got Good Religion?

As a minister, I sometimes find what people know...and don't know, about religion and the Christian faith they espouse, amusing. It's the reason I found Nicholas Kristof's latest column, "Religion for $100o, Alex" to be so humorous...and poignant. It's rightfully one of those,  'America's full of Christians who know nothing about the Bible...' columns...
WITH Easter and Passover freshly behind us, let’s test your knowledge of the Bible. How many mistakes can you find:
Noah of Arc and his wife, Joan, build a boat to survive a great flood. Moses climbs Mount Cyanide and receives 10 enumerated commandments; for all the differences among religious denominations, the Ten Commandments are a common bedrock that Jews, Catholics and Protestants agree on.
Sodom and his wild girlfriend, Gomorrah, soon set the standard for what not to do. They are turned to pillars of salt.
The Virgin Mary, a young Christian woman, conceives Jesus immaculately and gives birth to him in a Jerusalem manger. Jesus, backed by the Twelve Apostles and their wives, the Epistles, proclaims what we call the Golden Rule: “Do one to others before they do one to you.” The Romans repeatedly crucify Jesus — at Cavalry, Golgotha and other sites — but he resurrects himself each time.
Christianity spreads through the gospels, which differ on details but all provide eyewitness accounts of Jesus’s life from birth to death. Finally, Rome tires of throwing Christians to lions and becomes the first country to adopt Christianity as its religion. The Bible is translated from the original English into countless languages.
So how many errors did you spot? There are about 20 mistakes, which I’ve listed at the end of this column, and they reflect the general muddling in our society about religious knowledge.
Secular Americans are largely ignorant about religion, but, in surveys, religious Americans turn out to be scarcely more knowledgeable.
“Americans are both deeply religious and profoundly ignorant about religion,” Stephen Prothero noted in his book, “Religious Literacy.” “Atheists may be as rare in America as Jesus-loving politicians are in Europe, but here faith is almost entirely devoid of content. One of the most religious countries on earth is also a nation of religious illiterates.”
Nearly two-thirds of Americans say they believe that the Bible holds the answer to all or most of life’s basic questions. Yet only one-third know that Jesus delivered the Sermon on the Mount, and 10 percent think that Joan of Arc was Noah’s wife.
Many Americans know even less about other faiths, from Islam to Hinduism. Several days after 9/11, a vigilante shot and killed an Indian-American Sikh because of the assumption that a turban must mean a Muslim: Ignorance and murderous bigotry joined in one.
All this goes to the larger question of the relevance of the humanities. Literature, philosophy and the arts have come to be seen as effete and irrelevant, but if we want to understand the world around us and think deeply about it, it helps to have exposure to Shakespeare and Kant, Mozart and Confucius — and, yes, Jesus, Moses and the Prophet Muhammad.
Secularists sometimes believe religious knowledge doesn’t matter because the world is leaving faith behind. Really? Faith is elemental in much of the world, including large swaths of America.
Read the rest of Kristof's column here...

Friday, April 25, 2014

The Rich Do Keep Getting Richer...Here's Why

Although there have been complaints of persecution from the 1 percent by the 99 percent, those victimized by such wealth/income equality may have a good reason.  According to the 'Economic Policy Institute, its a gap that has been growing for quite some time...
"A key point in Thomas Piketty’s new bookCapital in the Twenty-First Century is that strong forces in the economy could, if unchecked, lead to an ever greater concentration of wealth and the incomes that flow from wealth. The fact that income from wealth (capital gains, interest, dividends and so on) goes disproportionately to those with the highest incomes means that rising income from wealth leads to greater income inequality. One reflection of this process in the United States is that the share of income from wealth going to the top 1 percent has greatly increased in the last few decades, rising from 33.5 percent of all income from wealth in 1979 to 54 percent in 2010."
"The figure below shows the share of income derived from owning wealth in the U.S. economy between 1979 and 2010, using data from the Congressional Budget Office (CBO). It adds up rents, dividends, interest payments, capital gains, and business income and calculates what share of this income derived from owning wealth—often short-handed as “capital income”—is claimed by the top 1 percent of households, the bottom 90 percent of households, and the 9 percent of households in between these groups (households between the 91st and 99th percentiles)."

What's quite clear is that unless something is done, those of us at the bottom will never catch up!

Thursday, April 24, 2014

"Carpe Diem"

I made a mistake last night. 

I went to a church last night to speak to a group about payday lending. I actually wasn't the one speaking, I was supposed to be supporting the guy who was speaking. At any rate, I got to the church a little late and no one could tell me exactly where the group was meeting. The people directed me to a Bible study class. I decided to stay because I was afraid even if I found where they were meeting I would have been really late.

The lesson was on Ecclesiastes and the young preacher was really good...I mean really good. For those of you who don't know, Ecclesiastes is an Old Testament book which talks about the emptiness of life. But somehow he transcends that spirit of depression and emptiness and realizes the nearness of God. He speaks about the true simplicity of God and the need to live life simply, searching for God's Will as we live and enjoy the life He's given us. 

Finally, in order to emphasize the point the preacher (the teacher of the class) ended the lesson with this video clip from the 'Dead Poets Society'. It's poignant and thought provoking. Long before You Tube, I used this as an illustration of the same need for us to live our lives to the fullest. 

The lesson and the video reminded me that any period of our lives can be a moment of newness and fresh power. We can make of our lives an adventurous thing...

"Carpe Diem"...Seize the day!

I wonder how much of a mistake not finding that class really was?

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

"Home Rule"? Dallas Doesn't Need It...

This clip features progressive media master Bill Moyers interview education reform guru (author of 'Left Behind, 'The Schools We Deserve', and most recently, 'Reign of Error') Diane Ravitch. The subject has to do with the question whether public schools in the nation are 'for sale'. It has to do with the issue of public vs. charter schools. They are big business in the country. BIG business. According to Ravitch, $500,000,000 worth of big business. But that's why I'm posting the video. I'm posting this because less than 7 minutes into the interview Moyers brings up Dallas' controversially proposed Home Rule debate. 

The discussion on Home Rule is brought to us by 'Save Our Public Schools' is backed financially by John Arnold, a Dallas ISD graduate, former Enron investor and all around wealthy guy and Mike Morath, DISD trustee. Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings is also behind the effort as is a board of businessmen, educators, and reform activist who have seen the direction the school is going and do not like it.

I have talked with the Mayor about it. I've met with Mike Morath. In fact, those meetings constituted about three meetings in one week about Home Rule. And yes, while I actually did sign the petition and actually 'liked' the Save Our Public Schools Facebook page, I've reached the conclusion that a Home School district is not necessary in Dallas.

We have heard all of 'benefits' of Home Rule: the flexibility it will bring with regard to curriculum; the prospect of a year round schedule; even a new school board make-up. But with the exception of the school board piece, there appears to be nothing that can be done in Home Rule district that can't be done under the current arrangement. Schools in Texas can already go year round. Flexibility in curriculum is already possible. The fact is, as Bill Moyers says in the interview, this is nothing less than 'the charterization' of public schools. And frankly, I'm not a fan of charter schools.

What convinced me that charter district is unnecessary? It's not the rest of the opponents. In fact, I think the hysteria of teachers unions, some trustees and candidates are way too involved in fear mongering. I understand that, Dallas voters, particularly in the southern part of the city vote so poorly in school board elections unless you scare them they won't turn out.

But the facts are, this is not a power grab by the Mayor. I wonder has anyone ever thought that the Rawlings' position as mayor of Dallas gives him a vested interest in the direction of the education system in Dallas. When businesses don't come to Dallas or don't invest in south Dallas that doesn't just give our city a black eye, it is lost revenue for the tax base. Despite the cries from many a school board trustee, the business of education is the mayor's business. I think I know the Mayor well enough to doubt sincerely that he's interested in running the school district. But I do believe he will step in with counsel if necessary. But its ridiculous to suggest that because Mike Rawlings was elected to run the city that gives him no say in what happens in the district. Interestingly enough, former Mayor Tom Leppert and former DISD Superintendent met regularly when they were in office and I don't remember anyone criticizing them for it.

The fact is what's wrong with public education is the lack of public engagement by all stakeholders. Diane Ravitch has it right, what's wrong with public education is the 25 percent of children growing up in poverty. And frankly anyone suggesting otherwise is simply wearing blinders. Teachers are simply not prepared to teach an army of hungry children coming to school every day. This is not to mention the myriad of other pathologies which make up a life of poverty. And these are problems that transcend whether or not poor kids can be trained to take tests. This is about children being emotionally, physically and, yes, even psychologically prepared to be educated.

Addressing poverty means addressing the environment surrounding the school. Here's where the Mayor can be helpful: draw a ten block circle around every school, particularly in south Dallas and determine that there will be no crime, no drugs sold, no prostitution, no illegal gun sales, no car thefts in that area. Make certain that the only businesses that are within eyesight of a school are businesses that lift personality, support education and give children a hunger and thirst for knowledge.

Finally, we need people with money who believe in public education to invest in education, not hijack the system. If Ravitch and Moyers are right, it is a sad commentary that now wealthy businessmen and women look at our children and see dollar signs. Not dollars that can be made as children grow up with great character, a strong work ethic and prepared to make a contribution to our country as well as business, but who look at our children  - my grandchildren, your children and grandchildren - and ask, 'How can I make money off of them?' Everything from testing to text books is primarily a dollar in some adult's pocket. That's not bad - until it becomes all that adults are concerned with.

So in short: I'm against 'Home Rule' because it is not an answer for what ails public education. In one of those meetings I attended, I heard one of SOPS tell how he and his neighbors had changed education in his neighborhood. If that is the case, then why can't we do that for most, if not all of our other schools? What we need is simple, a society that wants to do right by its children. That's really 'home rule'!

Sunday, April 20, 2014

He's MY King Too!

SM Lockridge sermon, 'That's My King' is a triumphant ode to our Resurrected Savior whom Christians all over the world worship and celebrate today. Those of us who love Christ are blessed because of His wonderful sacrifice. This is makes this sermon fitting on this day. 

For all who would like to hear the entire sermon that can be heard here...ENJOY!

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Diana and Marvin - Two Voices that Blend Like Magic!

These appear to be two little known and definitely seldom played songs from an album by two of Motown's greatest artists, but it is one of my favorites! Marvin Gaye and Diana Ross' voices blend together like magic.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Congratulations Hank! Try and Pay No Attention to the Narrow Minded

On April 15, 1974 I was in front of the television set browsing (it was '74 and we didn't have a remote for our black and white TV, so you couldn't legitimately 'channel surf'') and believe it or not I stopped on this channel right at this time...

Now at this time I didn't like baseball. I barely knew who Hank Aaron was. But I did know that someone named "Hammerin' Hank Aaron was close to breaking Babe Ruth's home run record pretty soon. I also remember, vaguely, that there were some anger among baseball fans because some didn't want the Bambino's record broken. What I don't think I knew was that there were many didn't want it broken because Aaron was black.

I also didn't know how much the hate mail he received wounded him. Pretty deeply. So deeply in fact that he kept a good deal of that hate mail to remind him of America's inequality and hatred. 

Fast forward 40 years. Aaron has spoken his mind  regarding racial inequality and how far we have to go in this country to attain true equality. 

"We can talk about baseball. Talk about politics. Sure, this country has a black president, but when you look at a black president, President Obama is left with his foot stuck in the mud from all of the Republicans with the way he's treated."

Now this is 40 years after Aaron's historic home run. America is supposed to have gotten past the hatred and vitriol spewed back in the day. And while there are clearly Americans with short term memories or those who like to draw false equivelencies between the way Presidents Obama has been treated v. Bush, surely those people can speak to Hank Aaron and say, 'You're wrong Hank. Stick with baseball, stay out of politics.' 



"Hank Aaron is a scumbag piece of (expletive) (racial slur)'' read an email from a man named Edward, according to USA Today."
"Edward evidently used the racist epithet five times."
"My old man instilled in my mind from a young age, the only good (racial slur) is a dead (racial slur)," he wrote in closing."
"One man called Aaron a "racist scumbag," while another vowed to never attend another Braves game until Aaron is fired from the team's front office. A man named David said he plans to burn Aaron's autobiography."
Soooo, just how much has America "changed"?

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

The 38th Addition of The Urban League's "State of Black America"

My Column in Yesterday's Dallas Morning News

Why we must get to the heart of poverty and race questions

This year we commemorate two landmarks in the social and political life of our nation: President Lyndon Johnson’s War on Poverty program and his signing of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
Poverty and race are the two explosive topics that people in search of scapegoats for our national problems too often hang up on. They are the festering sores in important national conversations about our humanity and community.
Beliefs about poverty and race lead some to suggest that minorities in general and blacks in particular are congenitally predisposed to crime, unemployment and single-parent homes. Others see poverty and race as the pathogens that lead to living locked in airtight pockets of concentrated deprivation.
Getting to the heart of poverty and race is important if our nation’s economic and education policies are to be sufficient tools for rebuilding our fractured inner cities and if we are to ever discover civil political discourse.
Consider Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., and his newfound concern for those in poverty. Ryan said, “We have got this tailspin of culture, in our inner cities in particular, of men not working and just generations of men not even thinking about working …”
Yes, some might condemn this statement as racist — yet black progressives from Bill Cosby to Barack Obama have expressed similar sentiments.
Most recently, two high-profile columnists have engaged in a lively, and at times tense, debate on poverty and race. Jonathan Chait, with New York magazine, and Ta-Nehisi Coates of The Atlantic have taken turns opining on the state of racial progress in the United States. Coates takes the side that suggests that poverty in the black community has nothing to do with black culture; rather, it is rooted in centuries of bigotry and oppression. Chait seems to hold with those who believe that black poverty has little to do with residual racism, but rather the type of inveterate laziness to which Ryan alludes.
But will the much-publicized Coates-Chait disagreement lead to any better understanding on either side?
The poverty gap between blacks and whites isn’t new. It has remained the same for nearly 40 years: 35 percent among blacks and 13 percent among whites; in the 1970s, it was 33.6 percent and 10 percent.
America’s dealings with black people are fraught with contradictions, inconsistencies and hypocrisies.
America insists that children of color excel in school absent the comforts or security of their white counterparts. America insists that blacks overcome poverty while isolated by that same poverty, begrudging them even cellphones to communicate. And it is cruel to question the work ethic of men who, after they do their time for crime, are all but robbed of their citizenship and learn that finding a job is near impossible.
The fact that 73 percent of children born to black mothers occurred outside marriage is sad. But it is hypocritical to refuse to take notice of society’s new moral culture in which single women of all races are making the decision to have children. According to a report in The New York Times, the fastest growth in the last two decades has occurred among white women in their 20s who have some college education.
True equality of opportunity and freedom from old dogmas and hypocrisies will come only as we heed the words of President Lyndon Johnson: “We have come now to a time of testing. We must not fail.
“Let us close the springs of racial poison. Let us pray for wise and understanding hearts. Let us lay aside irrelevant differences and make our nation whole. Let us hasten that day when our unmeasured strength and our unbounded spirit will be free to do the great works ordained for this nation by the just and wise God who is the father of us all.”
The Rev. Gerald Britt Jr. is vice president of public policy at CitySquare. His email address is gbritt@citysquare.org. He blogs at changethewind.org.

Monday, April 14, 2014

The Queen of Soul is Coming for CitySquare!

This year's talent for our 'Night to Remember' is a real talent - Aretha Franklin! I'm not sure I can exaggerate on how big this is for us.

I mean, it is Aretha!

If I were you, I'd work on getting my tickets as soon as possible! The video is a shade old, but who gets tired of the late Don Cornelius introducing a guest?!

Sunday, April 13, 2014

In Memoriam: Dr. A. Louis Patterson

There are certain characters, certain personalities whose career looms so large that it seems that they should be here always. When it comes to the Kingdom it seems as if their influence, already firmly established, should make them permanent fixtures in our lives so that they can continue to exert that influence. 

No matter how well we knew them, there is some pain in our hearts when we hear that they are no longer with us.

Dr. A. Louis Patterson, Jr. passed away early last week. He was a masterful pastor, a great, great Bible teacher and a spellbinding preacher. I loved to hear him. I consider him among the pantheon of men whose preaching put them in a class all by themselves. 

When I was young the church was where I learned about preaching - the craft of preaching - and I learned that by listening to men like Patterson. I was introduced to him by Dr. E.K. Bailey, the late pastor of the Concord Missionary Baptist Church. Bailey, early in the life of Concord brought some of the greatest preachers he could find to preach there and A.L. Patterson was one of them.

The thing that I loved most about Dr. Patterson was the sheer confidence he had in the Word of God. 
He handled preaching as an authority backed by Authority, so that there was no guesswork as to whether or not what he was saying was true. It was unalterably true and you didn't have to take Patterson's word for it, he could show you, using scripture, the etymology of a word, the original meaning of a phrase, the grammatical construct of a sentence how and why he believed what a text said.

And then I loved the poetry of his preaching. He was a master of alliteration. He strung words together with alliteration and with a rhetoric that was so compelling that his preaching style had an other worldly attractiveness to it. 

If Dr. A.L. Patterson's name sounds familiar, it's because I eulogized his son on this blog about three years ago. That post is, I believe, the most popular post I've written to date. "ALP3" as he referred to himself and as friends and church members spoke of him, drew my admiration and friendship because he didn't try and trade on his father's name, nor did he confuse himself with his father. He was just 'Pat' to most of us.

A.L. Patterson, Jr. is reunited with his boy. The father and the son are together again, at last. I'm certain it is a joyful, joy-filled reunion. God, being the 'center and the circumference' of their eternal existence, they can now enrich one another's lives throughout eternity!

Saturday, April 12, 2014

African-American Democratic Pastor and Former Legislator to Support GOP Candidate for Governor in Chicago

I've mentioned before that one of my college classmates is Rev. James Meeks, pastor of Salem Baptist Church in Chicago, Illinois. Meeks organized Salem and now has a congregation of some 15-20,000 members. He is a former Illinois state senator and his commitment to the poor and underserved in his city. 

Meeks is controversial. His stances on gay marriage, his political activism has made him so - and I'm proud of him for that. It's not that I agree with every stance, but I believe in ministry of consequence. For me that means you cannot stand up for God and expect the world to go along with or understand your position. And I am proud to see him as a preacher as a voice for what he believes God would have him say.

And my pride and admiration in Meeks extends even to this...

As staunch a Democrat as I may be considered there are times when a party doesn't move fast enough on your agenda that you have to move yourself. I think that's what Meeks has done, In 2012, the number of Chicagoans killed was 228, the number of troops killed during that same time 144! More than 850,000 people in Cook County suffer from food insecurity. Last year 63 percent of youth in Chicago graduated from high school - and that was up two points from the previous year.

Nuff said...

So I'm not shocked that Pastor Meeks would take such drastic tactic as supporting the GOP candidate for governor. What I don't want to happen, however, is for him to get used in the process. Remember the absence of philosophical logistical underpinnings upon which most conservative politics rest. And remember their tendency to showcase blacks without committing themselves to an agenda that appeals to black constituents. 

I ran across this interview a couple of days ago...

This interview is as a mixed bag of truths and half truths, and false equivalencies. 

I hope that Meeks gets what he wants from an alliance with the GOP. But I also hope that he "uses" them as much as he "gets used by them". But I think he's a better politician than that....

Friday, April 11, 2014

We Should Indeed be Enraged

It's been awhile since I've reposted something from one of my favorite writers, Charles Blow.
His recent column on the plight of American democracy and what ordinary citizens should feel and do to demonstrate real patriotism and get out the vote is a strong one and bears repeating.
You can read the full text of the column here.

'"“Voters under the age of 30 were 19 percent of all voters in 2012, but just 12 percent of all voters in 2010. Likewise, voters 65 and up were 17 percent of all voters in 2012, but 21 percent of all voters in 2010. Herein lies the biggest danger for Democratic candidates in 2014.”"
"Now we hear murmuring that Republicans hold a slight advantage going into 2014, not strictly because that’s the will of the American people, but because that may well be the will of the people willing to show up at the polls."
"There is an astounding paradox in it: too many of those with the least economic and cultural power don’t fully avail themselves of their political power. A vote is the great equalizer, but only when it is cast."
"The strategy here is simple: Break the spirit. Muddy the waters. Make voting feel onerous and outcomes ambiguous. And make it feel like a natural outgrowth of tedium and bickering, and not a well-funded, well-designed effort. Make us subsist on personality politics rather than principled ones."
"The greatest trick up the sleeves of the moneyed and powerful is their diabolical ability to render themselves invisible and undetectable, to recede and operate behind a front, one relatable and common. Our politics are overrun with characters acting at the behest of shadows."
"These are the politicians to whom we have become accustomed — too much polish, and too much beam — which is precisely the reason they should warrant our suspicion and not our trust, the way one cannot trust a cook with pots too pretty and not burned black on the bottoms."
"And yet too many people shrug or sleep when they should seethe."
"We should be in a rage over the Roberts court’s seemingly implacable drive to vest corporations with the rights of people and unleash the full fury of billionaires to bend our politics to their will."
"We should be in a rage over the widespread attempts to disenfranchise voters, from the gutting of the Voting Rights Act to the rise of the Voter ID movement — a near-naked attempt by conservatives to diminish the number of Democratic voters."
"We should be in a rage over Republican efforts, particularly on the state level, to drag the range of women’s reproductive options back to the 1960s."
"We should be in a rage over the extraordinary pressures facing ordinary families. According to The New York Times’ Economix blog, college costs have risen over 500 percent since 1985, medical and gas costs more than 300 percent. And, thePew Research Center reported Tuesday that “in inflation-adjusted dollars, average weekly child care expenses for families with working mothers who paid for child care” rose 70 percent from 1985 to 2011."
"And yet, a report last week from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities found that “some 69 percent of the cuts in House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan’s new budget would come from programs that serve people of limited means.”"

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Democracy and Wealth

“We can either have democracy in this country or we can have great wealth concentrated in the hands of a few, but we can’t have both.”
U.S. Supreme Court Justice (1856-1941)

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Monday, April 7, 2014

How We Got the 1964 Civil Rights Bill

This year is the 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights Acts. However, we must never be led to believe that it was a President and a legislature alone deciding out of the goodness of its collective heart. It took relentless pressure to dramatize the need for a Civil Rights bill which was finally signed the next year.  This is that story...

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Sunday Morning Praise: Dr. Gardner C. Taylor

One of the reasons preachers from Bishop College lay such great store by eloquence and enculturation when it comes to preaching is the preaching to which we were exposed and which has influenced us 30 even 40 years later. 

One such preachers is Gardner C. Taylor, former pastor of Concord Baptist Church of Christ in Brooklyn, New York. Dr. Taylor's method of preaching paints beautiful pictures that lead us to salvation and deeper relationship with God through Christ. 

Here is an example of the man who has been rightfully dubbed 'the Prince of Preachers'!

Thursday, April 3, 2014

How We got the STAAR test and How it Could Have Been Worse!

If your like me, you've got a little one at home this week who has been sweating the STAAR test. For us its our grandaughter, and while she doesn't live with us all the time we can tell she knows what rides on this. I wish I could tell her to be glad its this version of the test!

Jefferey Weiss has written brilliant piece on Texas Public Schools' standardized testing mania and how it could have been worse - much worse,  had it not been for the efforts of middle class (albeit well connected middle class moms). Jeff does makes the point that these women registered the same complaints that black, Hispanic, working class and poor parents have had about testing (and over testing) for years, and been marginalized in the process, nonetheless it was these mom's who pointed out to their legislators how illogical it was to have a mandated test that accounted for 15% of a student's grade.

What does that mean? Whatever else it meant, for former Senator and Education chairperson, Florence Shapiro it meant "...in order for kids to take the exam and take it seriously, they had to have some skin in the game.” For Shapiro, that meant the scores had to have an impact on the final course grade."That was the sole reason. The consequence could range from where a child went to college, to if a child went, to if that child graduated.

Weiss' series,"How the Texas Testing Bubble Popped" probes not only the work of "Texans Advocating for Meaningful Student Assessment" (or TAMSA. But my FAVORITE name for them "Mothers Against Drunk Testing"). But their interaction with an illogical system of education children in ways that do not produce educated children. How else do you explain spending almost a billion to one company to provide tests, test training and evaluation and still produce children who are neither college or workplace ready? 

My favorite moment in the series is when Walter Stroup, an education professor at the University of Texas at Austin signed up for a Senate education committee hearing to essentially ask just that. "How do you know your tests actually measure what you say they should?"


It would prove the beginning of the end of standardized testing as we could have known it!

Every parent, grandparent and guardian should seriously read Jefferey's series. It is a story about the results of parental engagement at it's most earnest level and what can be done if we are willing to work on a non-partisan basis, for all of our children. You can't find a better primer...

You can find the series here, here and here...