Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Through The Wire


Ghetto. The word & it's many manifestations (Ghetto Life, Life in the Ghetto, The Hood, Urban Underclass, etc.) are pregnant with meaning & implications for millions of people across the world. From Paris to Philadelphia, the term conjures up both positive & negative images for inhabitants and outsiders. For some, it serves as a living hell, For others, a profit center. Regardless of vantage point, "The Ghe-toe" (So sayith James Evans Jr.) is often painted in Monochromatic terms, all good or all bad.

What results is usually years of neglect (by inhabitants & governments) followed by a social & economic overhaul which changes the population & neighborhood into a shell of it's former self (both positive & negative). The neighborhood may have better schools, & become safer and more attractive to investors, b.u.t. also loses it's charm and "soul", if you will. Additionally, there are also very clear lines of "right" and "wrong" (As in the police and block watch are right, and the drug dealers and women with 4 children from 3 fathers are wrong).

Enter The Wire. From my perspective, The Wire is the most realistic & factual portrayal of the hood that has ever come on TV. Period. It's as they just put a camera on a street corner and let it roll. Anyone who's been to B-More or knows anyone from out there can attest to how close to the mark they are. Basically, It's the realest & scariest S&!# on television, and for good reason.
Two reasons that The Wire stands out:

1) There are no heroes or villain, only players - On The Wire, "humanness" shines through. No one is all good or bad, rather you see fragility & strength on a number of levels. Also, the show doesn't take sides about what happens in the street. Rather than take sides, it just watches the cycle go on as a stoic observer.

2) The issues in our communities are often painted as a issue of "values" (read: personal responsibility and parenting) vs. social & economic breakdown. The Wire refutes that by showing all of the issues that contribute to what goes on (community apathy, economic neglect, political disregard). This season, with its focus on the school should illustrate the comprehensive nature of the problem.

Finally, I'm reposting a editorial from the Detroit Metro-Times that speaks about one of the characters, and what he represents within our community. Occasionally, I'll do a Wire check-in regarding the development of the season. Until next time... Look out for the babies, and teach those who don't know any better!

How could they kill Stringer Bell? How could they do it?I'm still trying to adjust.
If you're a fan of HBO's The Wire, you can relate to my distress. If not, then let me say briefly that this is one of the best TV programs in a long, long time. To call it a cop drama would be an extreme disservice, although that is the basic framework. What the Baltimore-based series does is portray the uglier realities of urban America with a precision and honesty that has never been attempted before. The result is a phenomenal cast of characters that gives individual voices and humanity to people many of us might otherwise ignore or, worse, write off as being all the same. And of all the characters giving the lie to that assumption, Stringer Bell took that lie and tied it up in knots.

String, as he was known on the streets, was a drug kingpin. He was also a drug kingpin who took business courses at night school in order to run a more efficient empire. He was a drug dealer who read great literature and philosophy, who translated his earnings into massive real estate holdings and other ventures. Stringer Bell was a genius who should have run a Fortune 500 company, but instead was trapped inside the twisted mind of a cold-hearted killer (who himself was killed at the conclusion of Season 3) and a drug dealer who would have made Machiavelli proud.

I was fascinated with Stringer Bell because he was a walking, talking contradiction who represented the best and worst of the streets: a highly intelligent black man whose business acumen and leadership skills were employed in all the wrong places. Still, in a perversely misguided way, String was proof of the power of an educated and analytical mind. Most of us working folks have no love for the drug trade. But no matter how much we detest what drug dealers have done to our communities, most of us know that these kids aren't stupid, and you definitely can't say they don't have a work ethic. It takes an education even if it's an education acquired largely outside of the classroom and a serious work ethic to run a drug empire, even if it's the wrong kind of education for the wrong kind of work.

The reasons why kids choose to sell drugs have been detailed in volume upon volume of newspaper articles, studies, books, etc. The bottom line is that the money seems good; there are always opportunities for advancement whenever a co-worker gets shot or locked up; and you get mad respect from your peers .Untiltil you get shot or locked up. Sure there are risks, but it's also a risk being poor and black. From the dealers' perspective, dealing is the best shot at the American Dream and they aim to take it no matter who they have to shoot to get it.

Education, the standard kind that you get in school, is supposed to be that ticket to a better life. If America worked as it's supposed to, drugs and other fringe occupations wouldn't be so appealing to so many inner-city kids. They would see that education can get you where you want to go, that it can get you out of the ghetto. But here we are, nearly four decades after the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and some would argue that the black poor are as solidly locked into their wretched existence as they were during the civil rights era.
Urban public schools, the ones abandoned by just about every white and black family with options, are also the only option for most of the black poor. Those who attend are essentially stuck with patchwork education leftovers. You don't have to look any further than Detroit and the recent teachers strike to see the boiling pot of anger and frustration simmering throughout the public school system nationwide. The teachers with the most challenging job of all are the most underpaid, the most overworked and the most unappreciated. Even the most dedicated professional can't prevent that poisonous mixture from spilling over into the classroom, and it's the kids who pay the consequences. These kids know that they are being shortchanged because, like I said, they are hardly stupid. They already know that too many of those who graduate are hardly prepared for college or much of anything else, so they figure why bother with graduation?

So where does that leave us? Well, a brief look at statistics compiled by the Manhattan Institute for Policy Research might give us a place to start.

Among a recent report's key findings:

- The overall national public high school graduation rate for the class of 2003 was 70 percent.

- Nationally, the graduation rate for white students was 78 percent, compared with 72 percent for Asian students, 55 percent for African-American students, and 53 percent for Hispanic students.

- Female students graduate high school at a higher rate than male students. Nationally, 72 percent of female students graduated, compared with 65 percent of male students.

- The gender gap in graduation rates is particularly large for minority students. Nationally, about 5 percent fewer white male students and 3 percent fewer Asian male students graduate than their female counterparts. While 59 percent of African-American females graduated, only 48 percent of African-American males earned a diploma. Further, the graduation rate was 58 percent for Hispanic females, compared with 49 percent for Hispanic males.

- Each of the nation's 10 largest public high school districts, which enroll more than 8 percent of the nation's public school student population, failed to graduate more than 60 percent of its students.

In Season 4 of The Wire, String is dead, his partner, co-kingpin Avon Barksdale, is locked up, and a new power named Marlo is taking control of the corners. But the core drama is the battle inside the schools. I don't know how it will all play out on HBO, but out here in real life I hope and pray that sooner or later the message will resonate at deafening volume throughout the corridors of power that we ignore these kids at our own peril.
If we refuse to care about their welfare for their sakes, then perhaps self-interest might be enough. According to a Detroit News special report last year, "Forty percent of Michigan residents who got cash welfare last year were high school dropouts, costing the state roughly $156 million. And about 70 percent of convicts who entered prison last year were dropouts; housing them for just one year will cost taxpayers about $200 million."
Furthermore, dropouts "are twice as likely to be unemployed and more than twice as likely as others to be in poverty. And when they do find jobs, they make two-thirds as much as a typical Michigan worker."

There's more. "Education at a Glance," an annual study by the Paris-based Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, released a report recently that said, in part:
"The United States is losing ground internationally because other countries are making faster and bigger gains. The high school and college graduation rates of recent U.S. students are now below the international average. For example, among adults age 25 to 34, the U.S. ranks 11th among nations in the share of its population that has graduated from high school. It used to be first."

This isn't about them, OK? It's about us.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Wisdom Knowledge


A oft-repeated refrain in the Black Community is "Knowledge is Power". Sadly, that's not necessarily true, as I run into a number of people in my life with Knowledge & no Power! Being that I deal with the science of Supreme Mathematics, it's true that I have somewhat of a bias for equating the two principles when they both have their own space & place, b.u.t. even with that said, Knowledge can be empowering, b.u.t. not Power. Knowledge applied within one's way of life can affect & change the environment.

In that vein, I want to make a quick list of blogs that I check out on a regular basis that I find informative or enlightening. As with all, identify & utilize what is applicable:

www.imedinapeaceful.blogspot.com - Yeah, it might be seen as a shameless plug, b.u.t I get alot out of reading her posts. Besides that, she brings great insight to the table as far as being a Earth & Community Organizer.

www.yellowseed.blogspot.com - Again, one might perceive it as a plug, b.u.t. I just happen to have very sharp thinkers around me!

www.divinecultureallah.blogspot.com - See above statement.

www.analyticalwealth.com - Great blog for economic theory & analysis

www.planetgrenada.blogspot.com - Blog that focuses on Islam, the so-called Latino/a diaspora, and issues of social justice

www.differentkitchen.blogspot.com - A site that provides a good balance between education & entertainment

www.atlantisschool.blogspot.com - Although my good brother can tend to get on the controversial side with dealing with NGE in-house matters, excellent insight for a different take on things

www.blogmaverick.com - Mark Cuban's blog. No matter what one may think of him personally, he's a great businessman

Check these out, and let me know what you think. I'm becoming more technologically adept, so soon I'll be walking into the 21st century, and can make better use of the resources on here.

Quote I'm working with at the date of this writing - "...Plus the seeds/ need a stand-up dude to show & prove degrees" - I Wise Allah

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Old School, New School, Need To Learn Mo'

In the Black community, there are a number of outposts where "family business", if you will, is discussed. Barbershops, Hair Salons, Pool Halls& Bars have traditionally served as the locations where we build on subjects both serious & trivial, ranging from religion to was Martin really crazy? Inevitably in these trading posts, discussions/debates/arguements will emerge regarding the everlasting debate (and I don't mean Jordan vs. Magic or R. Kelly vs. Aaron Hall): Black Folks vs. Niggas. Yeah, I said it, Black Folks vs. Niggas. The reason that I use such an explicit phrase is that it best communicates what I'm getting at, as far as a us vs. them mentality.

Now don't get it twisted, it's not new, rather it's been taking place in the wilderness of North America since we got here and were fed a steady diet of pork, misinformation, & death. For many years, it played out in secret, or in a mother saying to her daughter " Are you sure you want to be with someone of his kind? You know, as dark as he is & all?

It could also play out when looking at "good" black folks vs. "bad" black folks like " them niggas over there starting all that trouble! Who does Marcus Garvey think he is anyway? Then it was Civil Rights vs. Black Power, and so on.

After the 60's, it went unnoticed due to the amount of Black love & pride that was being shown, so it may have appeared that it was gone, b.u.t. it was only laying low (check Good Times for reference)

It came back in the roarin' 80's with Black Folks vs. Hip Hop due to it not being "respectable" enough for older folks (e.g. "Why do they have to scratch the record all up?)

Now, it's gone to another level: Good black folks vs. Niggas in the Hip Hop subculture, and the charge is led by none other than Mr. Cosby and his legion of "ol'schoolers", proclaiming that what we need is a return to the "old ways", the ways of the black family before Niggas ruined everything!

You know, before people starting naming their babies made-up names like Muhammad or Shaniqua, letting their kids run the streets at all times of night, and generally letting go of all personal responsibility!

Now, I'm not into sarcasm, so I'll get right to my perspective: Seeing the world through Supreme Mathematics - colored lenses means that personal responsibility is paramount as far as being the author of change in one's own life and in the life of others. It goes without saying that the first step to change is the step that you take, and that in order to revive ourselves and our communities, we must step up and be counted.

With that said, how in the hell does The Cos think that we got in this position? By chance? Or because we wanted to kill each other at a all time high & have men in prison at an astonishing clip in the name of "lettin it all hang out"? We've been hit with an economic, political, and social snowball the likes of which the world has never seen. Who among the Black intelligensia during the late 60's / Early 70's predicted post-industrial America? Who warned us against the potential downsides of integration? Did The Cos tell us that America would need a new industry to replace manufacturing & would create a Prison - Industrial Complex based on low level narco-activity by black youth?
What did the Cos & his ilk do to prevent our schools from becoming mini-jails with no resources?

My point is this: it's easy to tell your people what to change, b.u.t. it's alot harder to to speak truth to (so-called) power to remedy the environmental ills, or better yet to remedy the ills through community-built institutions that emphasize personal accountability and create community change? No matter what school you're from, it's time to realize that to fight today's battle, we need a new educational institution.

While some concepts (Take care of your kids, get a job, don't piss on your neighbor's steps) are universal, all "Back in the day" tactics won't necessarily be applicable today, & even if they are, the method of applying them may be different. In a world where many homes are headed by young black women, The Cos & brothers like him blasting everybody like someone's angry (yet somewhat absent & withdrawn) granddad is not going to get it. I'm all for critique, b.u.t. it needs to be constructive so that we can truly begin to work out our issues.

Monday, September 11, 2006

The Shepard & The Flock

Film I'm currently doing the knowledge to - The Weatherman


America's an interesting place when observing its contradictions. Walk with me:

- A country that claims to hold free & fair elections, yet holds presidential elections with only 2 choices, and doesn't allow proper recounts. Meanwhile, when other countries have free & fair elections (Palestine), if the desired persons don't win, they don't recognize the new government.

- A country that was built on the backs of free & cheap labor rejects men & women who come to this land to build a better life for themselves (and provide services to meet the ever growing demands of our populace).

- A country that has the best Colleges & Universities in the world has high schools with no books.

- Amazing contradictions, aren't they? Now, how do you keep everything stable in a world like this? A steady diet of social control through obvious as well as subtle means, which leads me to the subject of my post today: Karl Rove. Simply put, Karl Rove is the most powerful man in America. He has orchestrated & maintained republican control throughout a variety of events: 9/11, The unsuccessful duck hunt for Osama, The Iraq (Vietnam) war, the downward spiraling of the economy, etc.

How does he do this you ask? Well, lets start with developing effective wedge issues (homosexuality) that distract the masses from the issues that directly impact one's quality of life (Economics, Crime, etc.). Think about it: get people to vote based on sexual orientation vs. things that affect you on a daily basis. By playing off of the fears of millions of people, you can push your agenda on the entire country.

Next, you create a “boogeyman”. Throughout this country’s history, we have had a number of boogeymen: Niggas, Spics, Japs, Russians, etc.. Our present-day b.m. takes it to another level: Islamo-Facists who would like nothing more than to destroy our way of life, take our land and our ability to drink beer at sports events! Where is our b.m. (and not baby mama) from you ask? Everywhere where there’s sand! Do we make any distinction between different sects of Islam? Hell no! In fact, they all are on the same side and want us dead, regardless of the hundreds of years of sunni-shia conflict!

The result? A populace that will defend the indefensible in the name of “security” and “freedom”.

Add-on: You buy all of the dream-pushers (Black Mega-Church Ministers) with federal faith-based money so that they’ll sell their congregation the following story: Democrats have been taking your vote for granted for too long! Why don’t we play the field and see what options are out there? Plus, it’s time for us to get paid, and we can’t do that on liberal handouts! (To me, the story sounds like a woman whose man isn’t treating her right, and that’s for another blog)

Is this yet another hate fest designed to inspire you to move to action? Nah. We’ve had one too many of those, and look at where we are. In all actuality, what we should extract from this is that to achieve your goals, strategy is needed (and not “vote for me cause I’m black” either). Rove is a masterful strategist who employs all available tools to identify voting blocs and their preferences so that he can market his product (candidates) to them. (Small aside: did ya know that most gin drinkers are republicans, and most bourbon drinkers are democrats? Karl Rove does)

What “progressives” need is more strategy and less emotion. Rove crafts strategy that is relative and relevant to the demographic that he targets. One disappointing thing that I saw at the Hip-Hop convention was that too many demos are painted with a broad-brush stroke, as far as outreach.

Father Allah, The founder of the NGE, instructed us that America was our country, and that we should make it strong. For many years, I grappled with that concept, b.u.t. as I get older I see that we are to make this country what it should be, and not necessarily what it has been made into. People from all over the world look to the U.S. for inspiration, and we truly owe it to ourselves and those who came before us to fight and struggle to make this land work for all who inhabit it’s borders. One way to do it is to make our message applicable and easy to digest for the masses of people so that they can truly do what is in their best interest.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006



A couple of impressions from the last 14 or so days of my life:

- Last week was the 1 year anniversary (is this term really applicable?) of Hurricane Katrina & its devastating effects effects on the Gulf Coast. I watched Spike Lee's When the levees broke, and did the knowledge to the various articles & reports from that area. Here are my conclusions:

1) The U.S. Government never gave a damn about Louisiana in the first place. The reason that black people in N.O. were so behind the 8 ball to begin with is that America treats the entire state as a colony (meaning take all it's resources and give it nothing). The state gets nothing from the off-shore drilling that's done in the Gulf Coast. With no federal dollars coming in, and no industries beyond tourism and fishing. This was a castastrophe waiting to happen.

2) Katrina was not a natural disaster, it was a social disaster. Making the distinction is very important. Unfortunately, there are hundreds of rapidly worsening social disaster all over the country. Detroit is a social disaster. Philadelphia (which by the way has the same death rate as the U.S.'s first couple of months in Iraq) is a social disaster. You can't handle social disaster through law enforcement, and you can't change it with prayer, positive thoughts or good intentions. There has to be a comprehensive social upheaval that speaks to every aspect of our being.

3) When watching the HBO special, I noticed that every black person who held any type of governmental position was an understanding seed (light skin) which is due to the social engineering and class structure that has been maintained in the N.O. for hundreds of years(It's one place where black people can say "I'm Creole" and it actually means something). If anything should have been washed away, it should be that.

- The uproar over Andy Young's remark regarding other ethnic groups doing business in black communities can be filtered down to a couple of points:

1) What he said was true, and anyone who has lived in a black community in the last 40 years knows it. I travel all across the country, and it's the same everywhere. The other piece that was inferred b.u.t. not explicitly mentioned is that different ethnic groups are able to come and build a economic foundation based upon the needs of the black community. When I was young & coming up in philly, 90 percent of the corner stores were owned by asians, mostly from Vietnam (the other 10 percent were owned by jamaicans, b.u.t. thats another blog).

The peculiar thing that I noticed was that I only saw the children of the families in the stores during the summer time. When we struck up a conversation, I found that they all lived & went to school in the suburbs, and that none of their future plans included doing anything regarding a store. They were all going to school for subjects like Accounting, Medicine, Business Law, or Finance. I then understood that the family opening a store in the hood was a upward mobility move that allowed the parents (most of whom were 1st generation immigrants) to get a foothold and help their children get an education in subjects that will give them access to resources and networks (my blog on Asians & Education coming soon). Frankly, we would do well to mimic that move.

In about 1995, all of the Asian stores disappeared, and were replaced by Dominican bodegas. I guess that the plan was born (brought to completion), and they were moving on for the next step of individual & community progress. Now, philly looks like new york with bodegas on every corner. Given the history of dominicans & blacks, it shouldn't be long before their work is done, and we see another ethnicity.

2) Andy, why were you representing wal-mart to begin with? As much as I detest what has been done in our communities by other groups, the only difference between them and wal mart is that the food will be cheaper. There's a reason that the empire that Sam built doesn't like unions: they don't want to pay living wage. Recent big-box fights in Chicago have gone against the stores, so their looking for new strategies to get in. Andy was representing walton world as a paid consultant, so who knows where his true loyalties lie?
- America is in some deep shit now. Isreal not being able to knock Hezbollah out, plus the extended engagement in Iraq & afghanistan shows that the world's superpower may be overstepping it's bounds. By the way, what the hell is "Islamic fascism" anyway? Last time I checked,fascism was a national phenomenon, not one that crossed borders