Letter to my Younger Self

Often times I wonder if the person I am now could go back and offer advice to my younger self? I’ve made mistakes, none that are regrettable–but had I known a lot of what I know now, I am sure that I would have done some things differently. I am grateful for my life experience thus far and wouldn’t trade it for anything. Not too long ago, I actually wrote a letter to my younger self and the following is what I had to say: 

Dear A.D.:

As I sit here and reflect on how wonderful life has been over the past few years and look to the future, it is important for me to remain cognizant of the past that has molded me into the person I am today. Looking back at how you’ve grown, I want to offer this letter as a source of encouragement.

I know what you’ve been thinking and feeling, as well as everything you don’t understand just yet. These feelings—feelings of despair, hopelessness, confusion, anxiety and negativity will soon pass. Believe me when I tell you that your future is all too bright. All the sense of worthlessness is not permanent. These tears are with a purpose; simply a lamentation of your innocence being lost. I want you to hold your head high and know that you have people who love you; people who care about you; and people who are going to encourage you through both word and deed to succeed in this world.

I want you to take all the emotions that you have bottled up and do things to lessen the tide of human sorrow, but add to the sum of human happiness. Most of all learn to forgive because at the core of your forgiving others for their transgressions against you, you will ultimately find your happiness. You’re a star that shines brightly in the sky and you will be the epitome of what talent and will can produce in a seamless conjunction with one another. As the good says, “be strong and of good courage.” You have a hope and a future to prosper and will serve as an inspiration to more people than you understand in your current situation. However, I will implore you to watch out for people who lurk deceptively in the grasses. There will be people who attempt to derail your success, but the strength that you’re building up will provide you will the weapons you need to fight these battles.

Lastly, I would implore you to serve and serve boldly. There is no greater man in this world than that of a man who dedicates his life to helping others. You will possess the vision, the moral compass and the ability to bring people together that makes for a great servant. However, listen to others that serve with you and even those who have opposing views because as you make decisions you will learn that it is direly important to be inclusively of all ideas. Go to the places where most people won’t go and help the people that are often left out or marginalized in our society. You have earned the battle scars to be their advocate, to be their friend and to help lift them out of their suffering. Do this and do it with the passion Leonardo painted with, Jordan played basketball with and Jesus loved with.

Remember, you are LOVED! YOU ARE SPECIAL and you will do these things because I declare right now at this hour nothing short of prosperity and good fortune over your life. Stay strong and be well as you walk through these unsure times my friend.

Love your older identity,

Dré

How I See It (Part I)

Image

 

The problem of the 20th century was the color-line as Dr. Du Bois eerily reminded us in historical piece “The Souls of Black Folk” Well, the problem of the 20th century has walked it’s way into the adolescent 21st century.

As a young black man growing up I always was determined to complete my goals and the high standards that I set for myself. I don’t attribute this to anyone but myself. I have been witness to things that my counterparts in Garden City, Franklin Square and neighborhoods alike have & were not. The things my parents and the parents around me spoke to and speak to me about have been different! What I have been exposed to is different! The things I have had to and still have to look out for are different! Is this the case for all children of color? No, of course not. However, this has been MY story. Am I expecting someone to pity me? No, of course not! Do I have some built up black rage to where I hate all those who don’t have have experiences that are analogous to my own? No, of course not! Do I expect everyone who isn’t like me to understand the world I come from? No, of course not! 

You’d be disingenuous if you thought the message of two fathers, one white and one black teaching their sons about the realities of their own worlds isn’t a clear depiction microcosm to what is truly the American experience. We live in a nation where a majority of black fathers, if they are even around will be having vastly different conversations with theirs sons AND daughters than that of their white counterparts.

We have a responsibility however, to change that. But, until the root of the problem, until the foundation is completely destroyed and replaced then what black fathers teach their sons and daughters will always remain different from what their white counterparts teach their sons and daughters.

America has been a racist nation since its inception, well even prior to it’s founding. Furthermore, America will remain a racist nation unless she truly lives up to the promises of her founding principles and ideals. I was once optimistic about the prospects of this happening and that I’d bear witness to a generation who was willing to put aside childish things in order to make good on the promises of long ago. This has not happened and may not happen.

It’s up to my generation to grab hold of the mantle of leadership, not just with lip service or 140 character status or statuses such as the one you know read. It’s going to take much more than that. Collective action, collective responsibility and collective accountability is what is needed more than ever. Then and only then will my optimism cease to ebb like the ocean does from the shore when the tide pulls away and returns to the sea. 

This is how I see it.

End of part I….(To be continued)

 

Our Expectations

Meditation and prayer led to thinking about expectations and how we must always be sure to keep ours realistic.

Here are three areas in which we must learn to have realistic expectations: a) we must have realistic expectations of ourselves. When we do things poorly we usually feel bad. That sets in motion a never-ending cycle of reaching for things that are out off reach, hoping to prove something we don’t have to prove in the first place. We think we should be able to what others do, yet if we are not similarly gifted we cannot excel in it. We don’t need to prove anything! Just obey God, and allow him to take care of our reputation. As long as we expect to excel outside our gifting and calling, we will always end up disappointed. B) We must have realistic expectations in our relationships with others. To make ourselves responsible for someone else’s happiness, or them for ours, leads to a life of frustration. Abraham Lincoln once said, “Most people are about as happy as they make up their mind to be.” If people don’t have the right outlook in like, we, and others like us, won’t make them happy. C) we must have realistic expectations concerning life. Jesus said, “In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.” As long as we’re in this world we’ll have problems. None of us gets a free pass. But, why worry, the Lord’s got everything under control. We’ve just got to be realistic. We will always have to deal with unpleasant situations, stubborn problems and difficult people. However, our attitudes (not theirs) is what determines whether or not we enjoy life.

ADF

Maintaining more intimate contacts…

Image

“…a group of BLACK students distributed in the various colleges of the University were desirous of maintaining more intimate contacts with one another than their classroom study permitted.” (The Origin of Alpha Phi Alpha)

Today my fraternity, the greatest fraternity on the face of the Earth, celebrates its 106th birthday. Alpha Phi Alpha, founded at predominantly white institution  on Tuesday, December 4, 1906 has served as a model and a leader in the affairs of this nation, not just African Americans. But, that came not without a vision. SEVEN audacious men with inexperienced minds, with no capital to draw up and with some opposition dared to create the promise.

That promise last 106 years later. The promise of the Jewels is something that allows brothers like myself to strive for greatness each and EVERY day. That original promise is still very much alive. Manly Deeds, Scholarship and a Love for ALL mankind is deep in my heart on this and everyday because it is what I PLEDGED to keep deep in my soul. God Bless these men for their vision, for their courage, for their audacity to create this organization in an environment that was not friendly to them.

Just close your eyes for a second and think back to 1905-1906 and what persons of color had to contend with. Just think about how these men are only ONE generation removed from slavery. Think of the economic, political and social forces of the time. Now, think about how audacious the Jewels were to do what they did and where they did it. I don’t feel the need to bash any other organizations but I will just say without the vision of Callis, Chapman, Jones, Kelly, Murray, Ogle or Tandy then we might not have seen the other organizations come to fruition in the times that they did.

Now, it is my mission to build on the vision of the Jewels, to protect the HOUSE by any means necessary for I am I am the castle of dreams; ambitious, successful, hopeful dreams. To many, I am the poetic palace where human feeling is rhymed to celestial motives. To the great majority, I am the treasury of good fellowship. In fact, I am the college of friendship; the university of brotherly love; the school for the better making of men. I AM ALPHA PHI ALPHA

’06 to the good bros.

The Electoral College: How We Elect A President

**This post is not a for or against the Electoral College, rather a simple explanation of how we elect the President of the United States.**

 

The Electoral College is the way we elect our President. It has been controversial from the start as it was a compromise by the framers of the constitution, fearful of mob rule and putting too much power in the hands of individual citizens. The Compromise, laid out in Article II, Section I of the United States Constitution provided that states would cast votes for ELECTORS in Presidential contest who would then in turn vote for the candidate that the said state choose through popular vote. (However, Electors may cast their ballot for whomever they would like, which is entirely legal).

Each states electors are determined by their number of representatives in Congress: Senators ( two from each state) and Congressman (House of Reps.) (determined by the core population of said state). For example, New York has 29 Electoral Votes in 2012 and Wyoming has 3. The number of Electors can change every ten years based on the United States Census however. In total the Electoral College has 538 members; 535 for the total number for members of Congress (U.S. Senate and House of Representatives) and 3 for the District of Columbia which was afforded its votes with the passage of the 23rd amendment in 1961.  To become President and win the election a candidate must have a majority of the 538 Electoral Votes, which comes out to 270.

Now, 48 of the 50 states have a system for their electors to follow called “winner-take-all (WTA).”  WTA provides that “”A vote for the candidates for President and Vice-President named on the ballot is a vote for the electors.” The other system, known as the “district system,” is observed in both Maine and Nebraska. In these states, two electors’ votes are made based on the candidate who received the most votes statewide. The remaining electoral votes go by congressional districts, awarding the vote to the candidate who received the most votes in each district.

In most presidential elections, a candidate who wins the popular vote will also receive the majority of the electoral votes, but this is not always the case. There have been four presidents who have won an election with fewer popular votes than their opponent but more electoral votes.

Here are the four elections when the candidate who led the popular vote did not win the office:

  1. 1824: John Quincy Adams, the son of former President John Adams, received more than 38,000 fewer votes than Andrew Jackson, but neither candidate won a majority of the Electoral College. Adams was awarded the presidency when the election was thrown to the House of Representatives.
  2. 1876: Nearly unanimous support from small states gave Rutherford B. Hayes a one-vote margin in the Electoral College, despite the fact that he lost the popular vote to Samuel J. Tilden by 264,000 votes. Hayes carried five out of the six smallest states (excluding Delaware). These five states plus Colorado gave Hayes 22 electoral votes with only 109,000 popular votes. At the time, Colorado had been just been admitted to the Union and decided to appoint electors instead of holding elections. So, Hayes won Colorado’s three electoral votes with zero popular votes. It was the only time in U.S. history that small state support has decided an election
  3. 1888: Benjamin Harrison lost the popular vote by 95,713 votes to Grover Cleveland, but won the electoral vote by 65. In this instance, some say the Electoral College worked the way it is designed to work by preventing a candidate from winning an election based on support from one region of the country. The South overwhelmingly supported Cleveland, and he won by more than 425,000 votes in six southern states. However, in the rest of the country he lost by more than 300,000 votes.
  4. In 2000, Al Gore received 50,992,335 votes nationwide and George W. Bush received 50,455,156 votes. After Bush was awarded the state of Florida, he had a total of 271 electoral votes, which beat Gore’s 266 electoral votes.

In cases where no candidate wins a majority of electoral votes, the decision is thrown to the House of Representatives as said by the 12th amendment. The House then selects the president by majority vote with each state delegation receiving one vote to cast for the three candidates who received the most electoral votes.

Here are the two elections that were decided by the House of Representatives:

  • 1801: Thomas Jefferson and Aaron Burr, both Democrat-Republicans, received the same number of electoral votes, despite the fact that Burr was running as a vice presidential candidate, not for the presidency. Following 36 successive votes in the House, Jefferson was finally elected president.
  • 1825: As mentioned before, Andrew Jackson received a majority of the popular vote over John Quincy Adams, but neither man received a 131-vote majority of electoral votes needed at the time to claim the presidency. Adams won the House vote on the first ballot. (This has been called the Corrupt Bargain, in which Speaker of the House Henry Clay is said to have delivered the Presidency to J.Q. Adams in order to become Secretary of State, which was in those times the stepping stone to becoming President.)

ADF

 

 

 

 

The Moral Arc of Injustice, Ignorance and Bandwagonism: Part 2

The Arc The Moral Universe Is Long, But It Bends Towards Justice.” Dr. Martin L. King, Jr.

We marked the one year anniversary of the infamous and seemingly inexorable Troy Davis execution by the state of Georgia. For those of you who don’t know who Mr. Davis was or the issues surrounding this imbroglio take a look at the first installation in this two part series:  The Moral Arc of Injustice, Ignorance, & Bandwagonism.

Now that you have read the antecedent, I want to shift my focus to something that is the cause of imminent concern, which is what gains have we made in this last year? How have our attitudes shifted? And is the arc of the moral universe still bending toward injustice?

Over the last year it seems that we have insouciantly allowed this story to ebb as the water does the shore of the Earth. Why though? Is the memory of Mr. Davis not important enough to bequeath our moral aegis? I would say it is; because, if we fail to keep that memory and cause alive then all that we diligently sought just one year ago will have died in vain just as the flesh of Mr. Davis. In this I am forced to recall the words of John F. Kennedy, who said, “A man may die… but an idea lives on.” And, that idea is one that adheres to Kingian philosophy in which he eloquently states that “the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.” Should we REALLY fight for that and believe Dr. King was not just echoing a sentiment for his own sake but presenting us with a foundation and a blueprint to live by. You see as the prophet Amos famously stated on justice rolling down as water, that moral ethos still rings true to this day. However, we have to take it a step further in our interpretation of both King and Amos. In that I mean, we have a moral responsibility to ensure that justice does roll down like waters and that the arc does bend toward justice. How is this possible you may be asking yourself? It isn’t hard. If only we reject the myopia that often affects our community then and maybe then shall be make good on the promise of Amos and King. I, for one feel that this is the most salient point of the case I attempt to make to you all. Invest yourself, and with the vigor and determination of those who fought, marched, sang, and sat-in, so that hopefully we and our posterity may be the beneficiaries of see that arc bend fully and not crookedly toward justice.

It takes a shift in our attitudes. We must reject our often times insouciant attitudes in favor of a more bellicose approach. The things we cared about a year ago, we still seem to care about. We as a community only seemed to be potently aroused when it comes to reacting to issues or events when we know good and well that the powdered keg is set to explode. Had men like King been this complacent, we might not have ever seen many of the rights and liberties we so enjoy these days. However, I feel that if we allow ourselves to become obsequious stalwarts in this movement for justice then this generation will no doubt have what Franklin Roosevelt called “a rendezvous with destiny.”

First we change the attitudes of people to actually become invested in these causes and then we stand firmly together with a plan of action to fight so that we may hand injustice an ignominious defeat. Most people may feel that I am too idealist in my thoughts. Most may say that our culture won’t allow us to come together for such as cause. Some may even in a sardonic tone write me off as simply crazy or overly optimistic. But, to the cynics I say, it can be done. I know this nation has prided itself on overcoming adversity. I always think back to that band of farmers, blacksmiths, and hunters came together and vanquished the imperial hand of a great empire. I think back to the men and woman who were forced to labor against their will, who endured the lashes of a whip. I think about the old man who wanted a drink of water or something to eat but had his dignity punctured by signs saying “For Whites Only.” So to the cynics, you can believe what you would like, but I will keep this idealism know that injustice can be slain and that the moral arc will one day bend toward justice as God has written it.

As I asked earlier in regards to the arc of the moral universe bending toward injustice, I will say that it remains that way. When teenage boys can be shot for going to the store to get candy and juice, when cops can beat young men of color on the streets of New York City, and while others just like Troy Davis still linger on in our judicial system only to await their day of reckoning with the evil face of injustice, I say that nothing has changed in this last year. In fact, I see the problem to be getting worst. Don’t let Trayvon, Troy, Sean or the countless others whose names are but footnotes in the book of injustice rest in vain. We have a moral responsibility to do something. Learn the law and fight back, advocate for better communities, as a brother of mine said “end the Stop Snitching” campaign to foster in good neighborhoods that are safe and embody what is best in us and not what is worst. Make good on the promise and then we WILL see the words of both Amos and King ring true.

Just some thoughts…

ADF

“No One Told Me That In My Father’s House There Are Many Rooms.”

Americans revere the men and women who serve in our armed forces. Throughout our nation’s history, soldiers have always been afford the highest of acclaim. However, while we celebrate our men and women who have worn the uniform of our nation, we often seem to forget them once they’ve transitioned back to the life of a civilian. Why is this? Does our nation (government and private entities)  not have a moral responsibility to make sure that those who have served us honorably are taken care of upon their return to a life that may be seemingly unfamiliar? These are the questions that Ginger Miller, United States Navy Veteran and founder of the nonprofit organization John 14:2 and Women’s Veterans Initiative has been asking and fighting tirelessly to eradicate.
When Mrs. Miller asked me to come work as her political assistant a few months ago, I was not very well versed on the matters of veteran’s affairs nor did I know what to expect during the first few events. After slaying whatever trepidation that had previously engulfed me, I thought about everything that was bigger to me and my commitment to Manly Deeds, and A Love For All Mankind. In that commitment, included the veterans that Mrs. Miller speaks about.
Two weeks ago, I was honored to take part in two New York events for Women’s Veterans Initiative. The first being a stop at the VA Hospital in Brooklyn, New York.  The dreadful commute from Long Island to Brooklyn allowed me time to build excitement and enthusiasm for this, my first event working with John 14:2.  Once I arrived it was nothing but unadulterated love in the room. As we moved forward, I could also see how much they loved and respected Ginger Miller as well. It was the type of love and respect that is earned only after one has truly seen battle and fought tirelessly in the trenches to ameliorate the issues to which are truly important. Mrs. Miller started off by passionately telling her personal story and why she sought to start Women’s Veterans Initiative As I sat and listened intensely listened to her story, I couldn’t help having become filled with emotions that forced me to think, what MORE, if anything can I do to help advance the causes so that no one would have endure or further endure the ills that Ginger Miller and her family had to deal with as a former homeless military veteran. As she finished her story and began to her the testimonies of the guest, it dawned upon me that the problem is much more serious than most people actually realize. And, what is the worst part is that our government isn’t doing enough. This led to me to think back to the Bonus Army Marching on Washington, D.C. at the height of the Great Depression demanding that United States provide the check they had previously promised. The government had failed them and is by in large, failing these veterans now. However, people like Ginger Miller and the team at Women’s Veterans Initiative aren’t going to idly sit by while the men and women who do so much to protect us, now need the protection. By passionately involving herself in this, Mrs. Miller is not just offering help, but something larger, and that is HOPE. Something as simple as hope is usually the first step to seeing us through the storm.
After leaving the first event, I left more enthusiastic than when I had first arrived earlier that day. It also was something that I knew I could carry into the subsequent event.
The second event took place at the historic Fort Hamilton Community Club in Brooklyn, New York. Here Mrs. Miller again told her personal story, but this time in a video that the Dept. of Veterans Affairs had prepared, which was amazing if I may add. This time she spoke on empowering female veterans and providing small stepping stones that would allow them to ultimately get back on their feet. In this she charged the group that we all had a collective responsibility to make sure that our veterans, especially the females were provided for and not treated as some second class citizens undeserving of their nation’s help. The discussion that ensued was amazing and ultimately ended with Women’s Veterans Initiative acquiring an influential D.C. ally in the cause to help our veterans. The words that were spoken and the passion that was shown allowed me to believe people really do care and that if we move as a unit and vehemently seek improvement, that it can and will happen. Women’s Veterans Initiative.has a goal of helping at least 1,000 veterans by the end of this year. I see no reason why that can’t be possible. With the direction and leadership of a strong woman like Mrs. Ginger Miller, Women’s Veterans Initiative will soar to GREAT heights and many people will see the fruits of her labor. What is so amazing is that she stated that she only wanted to do something nice, and then it turned into a national initiative. This is a case where I truly believe that God has kept his unchanging and steady hand over this movement.
As Women’s Veterans Initiative moves forward to advance the causes of female veterans across this nation, we as individual citizens have to ask ourselves will be continue to put our private comforts over the public interest or will we rise to the occasion and help to perfect our union further more so that all may probably pursue their happiness as is promised. This is our mission and it is our duty as Americans to help each other when we are down in the gutter. It has been that bedrock principle of “I am my brother’s keeper” that has allowed America to prosper. Our generosity, volunteerism and compassion have allowed us to stand out as the greatest nation on the face of the earth. America the Beautiful, must truly be that–but only if we take care of those who put their lives on the line to keep us safe from the dangers of the world both foreign and domestic. I have no doubt that the true America spirit will show it’s face. These veterans will have our help, our hands, and our support so that they too can sing America the Beautiful with new meaning.

ADF