Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Movement or moving mentally?


Today's supreme mathematics is Wisdom Equality all being born to Build or Destroy. When judging your ways and actions, one must always identify if your words, ways, and actions create balance or a limitation in self and others. You must always do your best to add on to which is good and destroy that which is bad.

Now, I watched Cam'ron's new movie Killa Season last night. It was my expectation that I would get a few laughs, be appalled at the treatment of women, talk about his acting and go along my way. Well, it just so happens that on my way to the parliament, I came to some other conclusions. Please see below:

  1. The Dips are some of the funniest rappers on the planet, as some of you already know from listening to their music or watching any of the Street DVD's out now. They're not coonish funny, they're your cousin from the projects funny, or your uncle john-john funny. Even if they don't mean it, they got a lot of jokes.
  2. They are very charismatic. "conscious" rappers, and community folks take note: One reason that negativity spreads faster than positivity in this day in time is that the "bad" folks are more fun to be around than the "good" folks. We can't be lame, and then expect the youth and the community to be magnetically attracted to us just because. For references, please see Fred Hampton, El Hajj Malik Shabazz, Brand Nubian, etc..
  3. For all of the dumb s#!t that they say on record, If you have insight, you could see morals and values within the flick. For example, In the movie, stick-up kids killed Cam's 7 year old niece. When he had the opportunity to retaliate and kill the dude's young family member, he chose not to. While I don't advocate what he did (spit on her), the streets are out of hand right now regarding bringing the family into street beef (a violation of a rule handed down through the ages: Don't kill women & children!), and Hip Hop has a lot to do with that, as rappers say lines like "If I don't kill you, I'ma kill your kids" in songs. Remember: Kids pay attention to these guys. At another point Cam cleaned up a smoker (crackhead for the slang impaired) who was previously in college, and compassion is not an emotion you see in the average "murder, kill, homicide" street flick.
  4. The # 1 problem with independent street films is that they eventually run out of money. Just when the plot takes an interesting turn...The screen goes black and the credits roll. To Cam and the dips: Yall dudes is sittin on a lot of change (As evidenced from your jewelry and cars), so go ahead and put another $200,000 in. Your fans will appreciate it.

A common theme in Hip Hop is "This is a movement", and some are turned off by that kind of statement. The criticism is true if you compare it to the Black Power Movement or the Civil Rights Movement, b.u.t. it is important to remember that in the absence of something good, people will settle for something bad. That's why you see the youth hanging on to whatever they see and calling it important, even if it's just cliches and a shell of it's former self. Hell, even the elders will do it given the right situation (See contemporary civil rights and black power).

Since we're speaking on morals and values, one last thing: How in the hell did we let R. Kelly come back and do the "I'm in love with a stripper" remix? From the lessons I learned on the soil, there were three things that were/ are inexcusable: Snitches, Child Abusers, and Rapists. Well, we see that the hood is hard on #1 and #3, so how the hell does R. Kelly get a pass. Regardless if we want to admit it or not, a lot of people saw that tape, and you know that it was him, so don't front. This guy had the audacity so say (and I'm paraphrasing) "I wanted to stick my head in her a@#". First, that's not civilized. Second, your record is scarred homeboy, and you need to stick to gospel. One thing that will change our community is the establishment of high standards. You'll be surprised to see how many people fall off when we expect more than they're used to giving.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Are You "Conscious"?

Let me begin by informing you that I picked up "La-La means I love you: The best of the Delfonics", and I'm going to strongly suggest that you do the same. Do not pass go, do not collect $200 dollars! (Full Disclosure: I'm from Philly and I think that Philly Soul was the best thing to ever happen to R&B since they invented the microphone). If you can't set the mood with that, then the mood ain't in you (or you don't have any magnetic).

Now that we've gotten that out of the way, let me ask a question: Are you conscious?

I'll wage a dollar to a dime that most who read this blog will answer "yes" or "indeed so". When we think of the term, we usually associate it with knowing that Jesus wasn't white, being aware of the "African-American" presidents, or being able to wax eloquently about the Kemetian contribution to science, religion, and culture. Now, please allow me to raise the stakes: Let's say that you being "conscious" was predicated on you correctly answering the following three questions:

  1. What is the Laffer Curve?
  2. What is the Median home price in your area? Has it gone up or down in the last 3 years? By how much?
  3. Who are the top 5 oil producing countries in the world? (For extra credit: what percentage of the world's oil supply does the United States consume)

After thinking about them, would you still be "conscious"? I will that 90% say "yes" or "indeed so". Unfortunately, from my personal experiences as well as reports on the financial and business literacy of Black & Brown communities in this country, the answer is mostly no. Individual and collective ignorance on these issues directly impacts the quality of life for our people all over the planet. You can talk about melanin all you want, b.u.t. if you're not aware and well informed about the state of the global economy, then you're not totally "conscious". Moreover, you are dooming those you know less than you to not be able to see the larger picture and how it affects them on a day to day level.

In order to make comprehensive change, consciousness has to be a wholistic framework, not one that includes what we want to know about, and excludes that which we perceive as "white" (As if original people didn't create economics and politics) or "devilish" (Which is scarier because it infers that we're afraid to confront the oppressor on any level that we see them). We have to be informed and have a perspective on every science that impacts our quality of life.

As a add-on, I suggest that you check out "The Undercover Economist" by Tin Hartford. It takes very complicated concepts and explains them in a simple way. For the babies, you can google "economics for children", and get access to info that can teach them about money.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Scientists & Builders


Let's go back a couple of years: 1990. March 1990 to be exact. The School District of Philadelphia held it's annual High School Fair at the Philadelphia Civic Center. As a 13 year old, it was a sight to see. Kids from all over the city coming to check out what the high schools had to offer, boys and girls coming to check out what each other had to offer, and neighborhoods looking to revive old beefs. In the end all three were accomplished; prospective high school students saw various high schools, numbers were exchanged, and fights broke out all across the fair.

At that time in Philadelphia (Pre Charter School Era), Public high schools fell into the following categories:

The "Good" Schools - Central, Girls High, Masterman

The "Pretty Good" Schools - Engineering & Science (My Alma Mater), Bodine, GAMP

The specialty Schools - Saul, Creative & Performing Arts,Franklin Learning Center

The Vocational Schools - Bok,Dobbins

Everywhere Else

Among the "Everywhere Else" schools was West Philadelphia High, a school that was renowned for Basketball and not much else. The stratification had already begun, and West (as it is affectionately called) was becoming a school that you went to because:

1) Your grades weren't good enough to go anywhere else
2) You family didn't push enough buttons for you to go anywhere else

Now, in reality West had many good teachers and supportive staff members (And a large contingent of young Five Percenters, I may add), b.u.t. due to the state of the schools, it was looked at as a "neighborhood" school and not given much support by the district or anyone else. As I walked around the High School Fair, I wandered to the booth for West; A couple pamphlets and a car chassis. The pamphlets championed the "Automotive Technology Academy" at West. I took a pamphlet and kept moving. A couple of dudes from the hood I was from ended up going there and participating before getting into their own trials and tribulations in the streets.

Fast Forward 14 Years:

West Philadelphia High has the Best Automotive Academy in the area, and one of the best in the country. So Saith the Philadelphia Daily News:

One of the most impressive cars at this week's Philadelphia Auto Show doesn't come from Japan, Germany or Detroit.

It came from the auto shop at West Philadelphia High School.

The car - designed and built by students in the school's Academy for Automotive and Mechanical Engineering - delivers more horsepower than some Porsches and gets gas mileage comparable to a Toyota Prius. It runs on fuel made from soybeans. (2/15/06)

Last year, the team won the Tour De Sol, a competition for Eco-Friendly cars, amongst competition from high school and college teams. Helluva achievement right? One would think that the program would be one of the centerpieces of the Philadelphia School District, Correct?

Emphatically no.

Last year, the program had to fight for it's funding to continue based on school district money constraints. In fact, the program (100%Black & Asians) would have been closed if not for concerned community residents and area auto dealers, who see the importance in having a space where young people can learn the finer points of automotive engineering.

It seems like everyday, there is another person bemoaning young black men and their lack of marketable skills that will enable them to make it in the "new" economy. We all talk about the losses, and never mention the wins. Allah the Father urged his young five percenters to become skilled in science and math so that we could become pacesetters of the world. Since 9/11, there have been cries from the the tech world to prepare more American students for the changing economy; look no further than the customer survive and IT jobs that have been moved to India due to lower costs and a more educated workforce. When you look at those points in a international context, making sure that young people here are skilled in math & science becomes a no-brainer. I tip my crown to the team of scientists & builders from West Philly High; We should all be proud of you. Below is an article that speaks to the glories and the struggles that they will face in this years competition.

Clayton Kinsler, auto mechanics teacher at West Philadelphia High School, scanned Locust Street to make sure it was clear of pedestrians, then hammered the throttle, rocketing the mean little coupe down the 4800 block.
The car's rear-mounted engine unleashed a primal, metallic roar, temporarily drowning out the jet-like whistle of the car's turbocharger.
A video crew from Discovery Channel Canada was also on the street that Saturday in March, filming what is arguably the country's fastest, most efficient eco-friendly sports car - and the West Philadelphia High School team that created it.
The asphalt-hugging, gunmetal-gray roadster was going through its paces in preparation for the Olympics of environmental auto competitions - the May 10-14 Tour de Sol in upstate New York. And much was riding on this car. The students were pretty sure they had worked out the major bugs.
Last year, the car won the race, garnering national attention for the team of about a dozen mostly African American vocational education students.
In February, the hybrid - which boasts 50 miles a gallon on soybean-based biodiesel fuel - got more media attention at the Philadelphia auto show.
If it won a second Tour de Sol victory, there'd likely be scholarships and well-paying jobs in the auto industry for the students - and badly needed grants, sponsorships, or even lucrative partnerships with major automakers for the city school's automotive academy.
Maybe Hollywood would come knocking.
For the moment, though, on Locust Street, it was time to cut loose and show off for the film crew.
At each high-speed pass by Kinsler, 47, the car's student builders whooped and cheered.
Then, zooming down Locust, Kinsler suddenly felt a loss of power. When he pushed the pedal, the engine revved, but nothing at the wheels. He coasted to a stop at 48th Street.
And sat there.
The students looked at one another and began walking, then running toward the car, as the realization dawned that something had gone horribly wrong.
Even as the video rolled, they swarmed around the car with pit crew precision and removed the engine cover.

Simon Hauger, 36-year-old head of the school's Electric Vehicle Team and mastermind of the project, peered into the tangle of wires, pipes and hoses.
"The axle's done," he announced. As he had feared might happen, the car's unorthodox axle had sheared in two.
Over the last year, the team and their instructors - Kinsler, Hauger, and shop teacher Ron Preiss - had overcome all kinds of obstacles:
How to instill in these urban students the value of hard work, responsibility, and a passion for learning when their environment outside of school often encouraged the opposite.
How to get the money to support the endeavor, which was beyond the school district's ability to fully fund.
And how to use unconventional thinking not just to succeed, but to blow away the world's expectations of them.
The axle - a thick metal rod that transfers engine power to the wheels - had required a lot of unconventional thinking. This was the fourth time in less than a year that it had broken.
The team had custom built the car from a kit called the K-1 Attack, with parts coming from different car makes. The axle presented a peculiar engineering challenge - the car's Volkswagen engine needed a way to spin its Honda rear wheels.
And so, the two rear axles are an amalgam of Volkswagen, Honda and parts-bin bits welded together. The left one, shorter and less flexible, is constantly breaking. A section of cheap steel pipe held its VW and Honda ends together, but the pipe tore under the high torque forces of acceleration. The car goes from zero to 60 in four seconds.
A thicker, higher-quality sleeve might do the trick, Hauger surmised.
A half-dozen team members pushed the stricken vehicle backwards, uphill to the school's garage, and gingerly rolled it onto the cradling metal arms of a power car lift.

Devereaux Knight, the 2005 team captain who'd gone on to one of the area's best technical schools, Automotive Training Center in Warminster, and a job at Central City Toyota, had dropped in. He draped an arm around Kinsler and teased him about his penchant for breaking axles: "Two for you, one for Hauger."
The atmosphere in the garage was a mixture of adrenaline and disappointment, with team members half-jokingly asking that the mechanical failure be edited out of Discovery's video.
The only thing to do now was saw off new axle halves from whole VW and Honda units, send them out to be welded... and wait.
"We didn't expect it to break again," said a disappointed Joseph Pak, a lanky, earringed 10th grader with gel-spiked hair. Still, he said, he was relieved that it had happened well before the May competition.
For Pak and other team members who'd struggled with school, the car was an "in-your-face" affirmation of their talents and dreams.
Pak, the team's only Asian member, admits he used to skip more school than he attended. "I was just hanging out." Now he gets straight A's and wants to be an engineer.
"I've seen the extreme of not doing things when you should," Pak said. With the Attack, he said he's seen the extreme of what happens when you stay the course.
It was now midafternoon and the French Canadian director was setting up his final shot.
"What you want to do is -" he began.
"Cry," Knight interjected.
Hauger, though, was upbeat. "This is actually pretty good news," Hauger said. Their more complex engineering of the axle had held. This was a simple weld.
The ideas that come out of West Philly's auto shop aren't rocket science, Hauger says, but they do require imagination and some risk-taking - traits he thinks Detroit could use.
He envisions the high school program sharing the team's know-how of building hybrid cars on the cheap. No major automaker sells a performance car that gets such outrageously high mileage.
With oil prices high and demand for hybrids soaring, the timing could not be better.

Developing a car model costs automakers about $1 billion. Even adding back the discounts and freebies the school team received - such as carbon-fiber body panels and custom wheels - the Attack would still have clocked in well under $100,000.
Hauger estimated their two-seater, if mass-produced, could sell for about $50,000.
But before such lofty ambitions could be realized, the Attack's axle had to be repaired.
Sixteen days later, during fourth-period auto mechanics class, a handful of team members gathered in the school shop. On a metal worktable sat the newly welded axle assembly. Machinists at Drexel University had augmented the original design with a beefier, higher-grade steel sleeve.
Kinsler motioned to the damaged axle, lying on the same table and looking like a broken femur.
"If you can't shift into second gear without something breaking, it ain't right," he said.
A student got under the car to pop the axle in place, much like pushing a tight toilet paper holder into place. Kinsler yanked on the suspension to create clearance. But, after many tries, it hadn't connected.
Quietly, Calvin Cheeseboro, a tall, athletic-looking 11th grader with neatly twisted braids, took over. Cheeseboro, who'd twice installed axles in the Attack and can practically assemble its complicated shift linkage in his sleep, now wrestled with the greasy metal rod.
First, the wheel-facing side popped into place. Then, with Kinsler again pulling on the suspension, the inboard side mated to the transmission with a satisfying clunk.

Classmates Bruce Harmon, a quiet senior who becomes animated when the talk turns to cars, and Jeffrey Daniels, a stocky 11th grader with nimble hands, ducked under the car to tighten clamps and make sure the piece was securely in place.
Cheeseboro, who has struggled to maintain passing grades so he can work with the team, said it felt good to be the guy to put in the critical part. Still, he said, he'd sooner not face such drama, especially with the May race fast approaching. "I don't want to break another axle."
The team had hopefully resolved their thorniest problem.
They'd find out that afternoon, out on Locust Street, if their solution had worked.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Land Snatch

For those 25 +, do you remember the Damon Wayans Jail Character on In Living Color? You know, the one who talked like "The manifestation of the calibration jumped on the expose of my testicles"? Subtly, that had two effects:

1. It devalued the positive, life changing experience that many black men go through during their time in jail by reducing the idea of those brothers to a unintelligible sounding fool

2. It continued the devaluation of consciousness in general

Subsequently, you started to see images in other movies and television shows that showed the conscious brother as the lame outcast (Menace II Society) or as the chauvinist pig (A Different World). While this might seem slight, the fact that intelligence has been maligned among black men, plays a large role in how our children are easily led in the wrong direction, hard to lead in the right direction, and glorify ignorance and uncivilization (Pimps and Gangstas). It's important that we perpetuate the image of knowledge and awareness being beneficial and "cool", if you will. If a kid perceives you as lame, It's not likely that he'll take you as a role model. In my estimation, the Gods and Earths have done a good job of popularizing knowledge and consciousness, b.u.t. even that can get misconstrued when everyone and their brother calls themselves "God" with no thought of the responsibility inherent in that claim. Kids, take note: Being God is more work than fun (b.u.t. I wouldn't trade it for anything in the world).

On another note, If you don't know anything about the immigration debate and the subsequent rallies, protests and marches over the past two weeks, then you probably fall in 1 of 2 categories:

1) A person who doesn't watch anything other than BET and VH1 Soul

2) A person who doesn't care about anything that doesn't have "Black" in it

Either way, you're in a bad space. This issue has become the hot-button issue in politics across the board. News articles across the country are speaking of the "Sleeping Giant" that has awaken due to this issue. Additionally, unlike most issues in this countries, this one can't be neatly divided and defined by race, gender or political persuasion. Republicans (Those courting the Hispanic vote vs. Those representing paranoid white conservative districts) are just as torn as Democrats (Those looking for a leg up in this fall's elections vs. Unions paranoid about the legalization of millions of non-unionized workers). As if that ain't enough, many so-called African Americans are up in arms, saying that the immigrants are "taking our jobs and not speaking English".


You weren't doing those jobs anyway! Ask a black man to work on a farm, and he'll accuse you of trying to put him back in slavery (As if we really got out). Thinking that we're in competition with each other obscures the larger point that we are both suffering under global capitalism and social oppression, and would do better to come together than to separate ourselves and our struggles from a larger goal. We have more things in common than different. When we start see ing ourselves as different (7th degree in the 1-14), then chaos and destruction will soon follow. This issue, as well as the recent Abramoff scandal involving Native nations ("Tribes" is a derogatory term) underscores a deeper concept that many of us are missing: This is their land. Let me write it again:

This is their land.

The 5th degree in the 1-14 states: Why did we take Jerusalem from the devil? How long ago? When I look at the recent mobilization of the Native Nations as well as the so-called Latin@, it's obvious to see that they are striving to reclaim what is rightfully theirs. About a year ago, I was listening to a NPR segment regarding a Mexican Charter School where the students were being taught their original languages and didn't speak English in the school. When they interviewed the principal, he basically said that they were preparing the future generations to take back Atzlan (The original name for most of the area that are now the west/southwest parts of the country). At that point, I didn't think too much of it, b.u.t. now with the benefit of seeing the rallies as well as the recent Black/Brown problems in the California prisons and school, I now see the bigger picture.

Two nights ago, on the Bev Smith Show, Chris Moore interviewed a representative of a large Latino group in Las Vegas and commented on reported fears from whites on the border areas and in cali that Mexicans are essentially attempting a political and economic Reconquista of all the areas that were lost in the Mexican-American War.

The representative said "Well, that's basically true".

You add that with the Natives who are constantly fighting for sovereignty and economic development here and in Canada, and you get a certified movement. Another thing that stands out in this whole thing is the involvement of the youth. Thousands of kids walked out of school and joined the protests waving Mexican flags. Having assisted in the coordination of a student walkout here in Power Born (Pittsburgh) years ago, I knowledge the potential power of youth becoming organized for a common cause. So-called African Americans need to see civil rights beyond Jesse Jackson, Voting for Ray Nagin, and Affirmative Action, and acknowledge that you either change or die. When we all come together with common goals in mind, it's much more likely that we'll be victorious. We are all original people and the fight is a collective fight.