Black and Hopeful

Earlier this week, I started writing about the status and progress of Black American men. I’m not even sure what prompted the thought at this point, but I wanted to know whether there was any chance of the improvement of black men. When I say improvement, I would like for that to refer to the mental condition of all of us as a whole; a healing of the social stigmas that we have been conditioned to live by. Considering the fact that it would take generations upon generations to reverse what generations upon generations have done, I settled for the idea of hoping for the change of how the Black American man is viewed. Even though, this would take long as well, I believe it would be a great start to a more permanent change within the minds of black men.

Typically, I try to keep my topics more open, hopefully to broaden the perspective of anyone who may read no matter what ethnicity they come from — But on so many levels, who you are, is who you look like. I am a black man and there is only so much that I can say without exclusively referring to all black men. In the general American eye, we are all the same, and for me to want progress for myself, is to want progress for us all. So even though everything (as far as I am concerned) falls under the umbrella of being a Christian, I, being just a man, feel compelled to address more specific people, even though God sees us all the same.

My core thought process of the entire issued though, was based this theory: All of us want better; all of us want to do better; but not all of us have seen better. Therefore, we have nothing better by which to model ourselves.

Then handy-dandy Google, absorbed a few hours of my time. I came across a video that took place in 1994 of a convention for black men. At that particular session I watched, there were approximately 13,000 men on the inside of a large church and another 18,000 outside surrounding the building. The leaders at this convention were not catering to their egos, or telling them of blessings soon to come. The leaders there were not telling them that everything would be alright. These men were being told the importance of raising families, caring for their women and loving one another, instead of acting out violence towards one another. The crowd was filled with young men who were extremely receptive to what they were hearing. This made me feel that whatever progress had to be made, could be made; until I realized 1994 was twenty years ago. I enjoyed maybe an hour of hope and writing, before I realized “1994”. After just a few minutes more of thinking about all the detriment that has been done since then, I gave up and scrapped the essay.

The deterioration that I’m referring to is not limited to blacks only though; it has affected the entire nation. However, blacks might have taken the longest strides towards progress, while at the same time, taking even larger strides backwards. We have made the most progress in the fields of entertainment, which in most instances glorifies lives of crime and degradation. I am not faulting the artists, and producers, and actors, and directors (completely), but when this media is passed along without the proper checks and balances, we turn and act it out in real life. So the success for one can indirectly turn into failure for thousands. To add a bit of validity to my point, how many times have car accidents and school shootings by adolescent boys and young men been attributed to or linked to video games? Well then why can’t movies and music do the same to the actions of our young people?

With all of that being said, let me explain why I am writing this now. Today after Sunday service, my brother and I stood talking in the parking lot maybe fifteen feet from the sidewalk. From one end of the sidewalk, two young, dreadlocked black men walked towards three slightly younger black men coming in the opposite direction. The sidewalk is barely wide enough for two people to walk side-by-side on. As the two groups came closer to each other, meeting adjacent to where my brother and I were standing, I became quiet… as did my brother. I’m not sure what my brother was thinking, but I was thinking, “It’s about to go down.” That lets me know that my mind is no better than that of general America towards my own people. I expected there to be at least an exchange of words due to simple sidewalk territory. Nonetheless, I was blessed to see my ignorance proven wrong. Without a spoken word, both parties aligned themselves to smoothly pass by each other without incident. But yet and still, in my ignorance, I thought, “That was close.” So to combat that layer of corrupted thinking, one of the guys in the duo turned and addressed the younger trio and said, “Hey guys, I really appreciate you moving to the side like you did. Most people might not have done that.” The younger group thanked them for their gratitude and continued with looks of accomplishment on their faces. I could tell that with those kind words, they would be more eager to be courteous when the next opportunity presented itself. Now I’m left standing there in amazement with a sense of stoopid that I’m almost too ashamed to admit. Even though, I had just walked out of church, neither my heart nor mind showed any hope of common courtesy between these young men. I was shown that it is a lot easier to have faith in my mind that it is with your heart, and in my heart, I did not expect better from my own brothers.

My brother and I chased down the older two guys and told them how much it had encouraged us to see them do what they did. They replied, “You have to give, to get. We show that to get that.” At that point, it was confirmed with me that all you need is a good heart to make a change. Those guys had hearts of gold. I believe I was allowed to see that to encourage me not to give up on what I hope and pray for when it comes to my people, specifically. If things continue in the direction that they are going, things may not get better, but if everyone gives up hope, things definitely will not get any better. I feel 100% better about black men than I did last week, all because of that. I feel like there is hope for a few more black women because of that. Because of what I witnessed today, I feel better about the future of our families and the progression of our people; not monetarily, but in standards and integrity. This was something that let me know that the condition of our men is not completely lost, and with enough effort, their lives can be improved, and their souls can be saved through love and Jesus Christ.

Relationship Failure Theory: Revisited

After speaking with a few people about my previous post on relationship failures, something became apparent to me. It seems as though I have placed all of the responsibilities of the relationship on the man.

“See, Reggie, that’s what I’m talking about. I wish all guys thought like that.”

Well there’s only one thing about that; when you meet a guy who thinks like that, he will be expecting the same mode of thinking from you. Just because a man has the criteria set for the relationship, and has everything together for a comfortable life, you still have to be able to compliment him. For example, if he has spent the last ten years working hard and saving money, he will probably choose from the women who have done the same. The women who have spent the last ten years partying and spending money, should not expect a hard worker and money saver. It is just not fair.

I wrote the last post from the perspective of what the man should do to secure a sound relationship. I did not anticipate that it would excuse the woman from all responsibilities on her end. I was not writing from the female perspective, but from the males’ point-of-view and what we should do.

Now, for men and women alike, if you are satisfied living a three-star lifestyle, you should be satisfied with a counterpart with three-star criteria. I am not one to tell anyone what they deserve or should have, but I do know that you will work for what you want. You will be disciplined and dedicated to that cause. Now if you are happy with a life with no God, no morals, no values and no money, the one-star route may be the way to go. When the Reverend announces that you are now man and wife, you can both punch each other in the throat, so that the entire congregation knows that you both have a clear understanding of what you are agreeing to.

Please understand too, that the criteria set does not have a dollar amount on it or beauty scale. I hold my religion, morals and values as the primary set of criteria. After that, the most important things would be how many children she wants, physical appearance, and what your food tastes like. Does this consist as five-star criteria? For me, it does. I know that there is a lot more that goes into choosing someone to spend the rest of your life with, but that is where my checklist begin. The rest of the details will be ironed out. For example, there is a 10 and a 7 (we all know what the number scale is), and the 10 wants two children, but the 7 wants five; I’m going with the 7… Hands down. The important things that life will actually be centered around, outweighs the vanity that will only last for a few years. It’s up to every individual, man and woman, to set that standard though. The criterion is not for one-half to set and the other to simply follow and/or be carried; there is a balance that must be met.

Men are called chauvinist or shallow for wanting a good-looking girl who can cook and clean and wants to raise children. Women are called gold diggers for wanting a nice man with a good job, house, and car. How about we decide that those things are all needed to make the typical dream relationship work, and drop all the labels. The labels intimidate both sides into stating what it is that they want from a partner. If you don’t want to raise children, don’t call me a chauvinist, just understand that we have a different set of criteria. I won’t judge you if you will only date a guy who makes a certain amount of money. That is what you require for yourself and it’s okay. Whatever it is you want though, you are expected to play your part in attaining it.

There is one thing that I did not consider though:

“You don’t know what it’s like trying to find a good man out here these days.”

Honestly, I do not. I have never been out looking for a good man. I don’t know what to tell you. That’s when I run out of things to say. I don’t know what a woman considers “good”. It seems like I know a few “good” guys myself, but they all have the same story. It usually goes something like, “she said I was too nice”, or “she said I was boring”, or “she said I don’t make enough money”. I’ve been that guy (typically to unholy women, so it’s fine). The baffling part is when you have to sit and watch her go to a cheating dog of a two-star man simply because he drives a hot car. The “nice guy” will be sitting there thinking, “What the heck just happened?”  The hot car may not be the reason the girl went to him, but that’s all the good guy will see.. Because he’s obviously what you, the woman, have already labeled a dog. So I don’t know how to set the criteria for women, so I didn’t address it. Understanding women has already been said to be an impossible task. So the only one that I will even attempt to understand is the one I marry; and from what married men tell me, I will never even figure her out.

All I can tell you is that everyone should be what they are looking for, and that you shouldn’t expect any more than you put in. It’s just that simple.

Southern Sundays

Monday through Saturday is just about the same all over the United States. You start the week waiting to get to Wednesday, or as we like to call it, Hump Day. Thursday is the preview to Friday. When we wake up on Friday, we are normally already on a countdown until five o’clock. Then it’s the weekend.

Saturday is the day we shop and relax and do all the things that we did not have the time to do during the week. If you have children, you have probably planned something with them to that they can unwind from their progressively intensive school curriculums. For the single people, they probably spend Saturday morning recovering from partying Friday night only to do it again in a few hours. Couples have the day planned to spend time together. They have had to suffer all week without doing all of the mushy things that make single people sick and married people laugh; pet names and picnics and the like. Generally speaking though, Saturday is an overall pretty good day. I think even the people who work on Saturday find a way to enjoy some of the activities and company of the Monday through Friday people.

However, when it comes to Sunday, I cannot help but think southerners do it best. Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday may be the same, but not Sunday.

On Sundays, I remember waking up to old-school choir music on the radio while the smell of breakfast encouraged you to get out of the bed. The rules were to wash up and get dressed, but don’t put on your shirt. That was because before leaving home, you were going to spill something; so wore your t-shirt until right before walking out of the house. Mom and dad got the family together and we made our way to church.

At church we listened to the sermon because someone was going to ask you what did the Pastor preached about, and you had better be able to give an answer. They don’t call this the Bible Belt for nothing. I’d go as far as to say that the moral state of the entire country is based in the South. This is because generations and generations back and countless of people like me can recall Sunday mornings like these. This is where we learned respect, discipline, friendship and love. It was the other family.

Now I am in no way saying that Sundays are only like this in the South, but I just find it hard to believe that they would be as good. Is it a biased view? Definitely! I’m a fan and the South is my team.

After church, the boys would tear off their clothes and get together to play. The little girls would prance around in their dresses and do whatever little girls did together. The women would talk about whatever woman talked about, usually the kids and such. The men would stand together and talk while facing the churchyard of women and children as if watching their accomplishments. Slowly we would all break away a family at a time, only to meet at each others’ houses for dinner.

Southern Sunday dinner was the glue that brought it all together. The people, the food, the love; what we like to call fellowship. The hosting house may be small, but there would always be enough food and that was pretty much all that mattered. The women would take the living room and do what women did. The men took the living room and watch sports, and the boys and girls played in separate rooms with the parents taking turns checking on everything.

I like thinking of Sundays in a reminiscence because it was so fun and innocent then. I was unaware that there were actually bills to be paid. Sometimes the dinners were to help out another family. I’m older now and I still enjoy my Sundays, but not with that same innocent view; it’s just a part of growing up. When I look at my younger siblings and their friends, it makes me remember what I felt like going all week without seeing my brothers and then getting to spend all day Sunday with them. Every Sunday was a mini-holiday.

Again, the rest of the country may be able to attest to having Sundays like this too. I’m only saying that church probably wasn’t as good. The people probably weren’t as nice and hospitable either. The tea wasn’t as sweet; the girls’ hair wasn’t as pressed and the mens’ shoes weren’t as polished. I honestly believe everything that anyone would encounter on a Sunday, would just be better in the South. Biased? Definitely!

Sunday in the Bible Belt surrounded by southern hospitality is going to be a hard experience to beat.