Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Where Will You Be?

Where will you be when they come? Whom will you stand with? What cause will you defend? At the end of the day, we are all defined by what stance we take on those tough issues (racism, sexism, homophobia, diversity, etc). When thinking of one of my favorite poems “Where Will You Be, When They Come”? I think about the obvious silence from the religious community to call to task one of their own. As I watched the news a few weeks ago I heard about Pastor Terry Jones of the Gainsville, Florida calling for an International Burn a Qu’ran day set to take place on the 9th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attack. I was even more surprised as the week continued that a response in opposition to this madness was all but silent. What disheartened me more was the fact that Black clergical men and women, who have never been shy to stand before a camera anywhere and anytime, were not speaking out in mass about a pastor planned event. When I thought about the planned event it reminded me of the similarity to the cross burnings that the KKK used to intimidate my ancestors. Were these still voices a confirmation of a lack of concern/respect, care or just plain ignorance? The lack of concern is stimulated by the fact that we have been convinced to believe that all Muslims are the enemy and they are the cause for all the evil that has bestowed upon this country over the past nine years. There lack of care because we do not value Muslims and only see them as “those people”and lump them all in one group. Thereby, they deserve this intimidation. Why is it that we refuse to educate ourselves on the differences that we allow to divide us on, thereby, living in ignornace? I have wondered how much we would be in an uproar if Muslims had stated that they were going to institute a burning of the Bible.

Men and women of African heritage can least afford to take on the characteristics of our oppressors. I am extremely concerned that African American ministers have not gathered collectively and called this minister out on his obvious racist stance. What happened to ministers standing on principle when it is obvious that there is inequity against another human being regardless of nationality taking place? It was not long ago when Black men and women were looked at with a speculative eye based on nothing more than skin color or uninformed analysis of who we were as a race of people. We continue to show how unintelligent we arewhen we lump Al Queda and Muslims in the same class. Educate yourselves they are not the same. Not all Muslims support Al Queda. I travel often and see how people look at and react to anyone that has the slightest resemblance of being of Middle Eastern heritage. Have we forgotten that there was a white American male that blew up the Federal building in Oklahoma? However, we do not look with suspicion at every white person that boards the airplane.

Pastor Jones stated, "We need to stand up and confront terrorism”. How is the Qu’ran linked to terrorism? Now before you answer that think of how the Bible was used to justify slavery and support sexism. Should we disavow Christians because we believe in the Bible? I think this just goes to show the Bible, Qu’ran, Torah or Tanakh can be and has been used to subjigate groups of people. However, good people/those that know better must stand up against injustice. Martin King stated, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere”.

We must always stand on the obvious right side of a difficult issue. Sitting idlely by is never an option.

Boots are being polished
Trumperters clean their horns
Chains and locks forged
The crusade has begun.
Once again, flags of Christ are unfurled in the dawn
and cries of soul saviors sing apocalyptic on airwaves.
Citizens, good citizens all parade into voting booths
and in self-righteous sanctity X away our right to life.
I do not believe as some that the vote is an end,
I fear even more
It is just a beginning.
So I must make assessment
Look to you and ask:
Where will you be when they come?

Excerpt (Where Will You Be, When They Come – Pat Parker, 1978)

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Turn It Up...That Is My Song

Often times a song will embrace our eardrums and we immediately will say…Turn it up…that is my song. In doing so we get wrapped up in the song able to recite all of the lyrics that we seem to in some way, shape, form or manner relate to. Hearing the music appears to be a cultural thing with those of us that are of African heritage for our ancestors communicate distant and important messages through the beat of a drum, the chants in the cotton fields or the hum coming from big mama’s kitchen. In some manner we all seem to have the music thread sewn in our DNA. However, at times we turn down the volume of the voice of God telling us in no uncertain terms that we should go left instead of right. However, we go left anyway and defiantly turn down the volume to the song that God is playing in our ears. We tell ourselves this is not a song we want to hear for it is not meeting the needs we feel at the time. However, turning down the volume to God’s prophetic words of advice are also going against the grain of our cultural upbringing. Just think of our ancestors and how often, I am sure, they were told that they could never make it but the voice of God was singing the song of survival in their ears. Where would we all be if they turned down the volume? If they chose to “know better” than what that voice was telling them…the music that was being sung in the background. So when you hear that song/voice, say within to yourself…”Turn it up…that is my song” and I guarantee you that you will dance forever.

Friday, June 18, 2010

A Father's Love

Robert Wadley was born June 20, 1926 and passed away February 26, 1996. There is not a day that goes by that I do not think about my father and his influence on my life and helping me become the man I am. My love for my father is something of which I am very proud. My father IS my HERO. No he did not wear a cape and leap tall buildings in a single bound nor did he stop crime on the streets of Chicago. However, he taught me integrity, pride, the importance of education, etc. My earliest memory of my Dad and me is seeing him standing in the mirror with his face all lathered. Ocassionally he would take some lather and put it on my face giving me a razor (you know the old one that you put double edge blades in) without a razor blade. I would memic his motions and we would shave together. I could not have been more than 6 years old. My mother passed away at the age of 29 after 12 years of marriage to my Dad. My mother and father had five children together. I can’t even imagine how difficult it must have been for my father to lose the love of his life and try to keep his family together for now he had to raise 5 children ranging in age from 12 – 2 (three girls and two boys). I must admit that I was the favorite child and think that was in part to me being only 2 years old when my mother passed away. The family nucleus was different back then for my maternal grandmother and paternal aunts rallied around my father to assist when they could to make it easier for my Dad. However, the day-to-day responsibility was totally on my father (combing hair, ironing and laying out clothes for school, cooking dinner, giving everyone a bath as well as working an 8-10 hour day). I cannot even imagine the difficulty and sacrifice that my father made for the five of us. I also owe a debt of gratitude to my grandparents for they raised him to be the man he became. I am told that he never once thought about spliting us up. After my mother’s passing I live with my maternal grandmother Sunday – Friday evening because I was not old enough to attend school for four more years, thereby only seeing my father and siblings on weekends. My father ruled with a stern and strong but loving hand. Everything he did (whooping, family meetings, etc) were done because he loved us and wanted to ensure we did not go in the wrong directon.

I can remember my father taking time in the evening to teach me and my brother how to drive once we received out driver’s permit. Thinking back, I remember how nervous I was when he asked me after one of my lessons if I wanted to drive home. My dad was an Impala man and at the time of my lessons, he owned a brown 1974 Impala, which seemed like the hood stretched for miles. I agreed and pulled out on to 47th street near Lake Park making my way back home about 2 miles away. I was nervous but my Dad reassured me that I could do it. I made it home as he instructed me calmly every step of the way.

My father was not perfect but I never doubted his love for my siblings and me. You see he never remarried for I do not think he ever got over my mother’s death. Let me not make it seem that he became a hermit because he did date his share of women but none made it to the marrying stage. My father let it be known to all that his children were his first priority.

In 1981, my father found out that I was SGL (gay). Believe me that did not go well at all. We went through some tough times because of this newfound discovery. However, my father never abandoned me because of it. Once we made it over the rough patch, we moved forward. I can remember the first day I told my father that I loved him and giving him a big ole hug as an adult man. I could tell that he was touched by it. I respected my father and never brought up my relationship. If he wanted to discuss this, it would be on his terms for I respected and understand where he was coming from. I did not expect him to embrace it for I am sure the acknowledgment of my emotional orientation shattered the dreams he may have had for me ever since the day I was born. We eventually got past the elephant in the room when he was ready. While he did not agree with me being in love with a man he did accept my partner and me at the time. I could not have asked for more than that, our relationship became much stronger, and we were able to openly discuss things about him and my mom of which I was not aware.

Today, I talk to male friends of mine and hear that they have lilmited or no relationships with their fathers and it is sad. I know that father’s have so much to give to our lives to help shape and mold us as adult men. I am who I am because my father molded me and while he has been gone from my life for 14 years he still infuences who I am today. The lessons he taught me many years ago and still applicable in my life. I still want him to look down from heaven and be proud of the man I have become. Each day I thank God for my father for he did not have to accept the difficult responsibility of raising five knuckle-headed kids virtually alone. Over the next few days I will talk to my siblings and we will laugh and reminiss about our father. We will celebrate his life and what he brought into our lives. We could not have asked God to give us a better father.

Everything my Dad did exuded “A Father’s Love”!!!!

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Cherished Love

There is barely a day that goes by that I do not think of my mother. My mother and father met and married when she was just 17 years old. They immediately began a family while living in Mound Bayou, MS. My three sisters and my brother were each born two years apart. With the great migration north, my parents decided to move to Chicago, which is where both of their families decided to settle as well. My brother was born here in Chicago. Four years after my brother was born, I arrived to bring much joy and pleasure to all of their lives (big smile). My father and siblings endured the ultimate tragedy two years after my birth. My mother passed away at the tender age of 29 (1962). My father loved his wife dearly and never remarried. He passed away in 1996. I often wonder whether my life would have been very different if I would have gotten a chance to know my mother. When I was in grade school, I use to think that she was not dead and would show up at my school and all would be right with the world. As I got older, I had to accept that she was indeed deceased. The longing for a memory and a touch has never gone away even 48 years later. I had some serious issues with God, which have since been resolved.  How could a loving God take a mother away from her children at such tender ages (12, 10, 8, 6, and 2) is a question that stayed in my heart and mind as I was growing up.  I could not wrap my brain around that one for the longest time growing up.  There was such conflict in what I felt and what I was being taught in relationship to God.  Since I never got the opportunity to know my mother I have had to rely on my siblings to share with me what they remember about her.  While it is informative it has never filled the void.

After my mother passed away, I began living with my maternal grandmother (Big Mama) five days a week because I was not of school age. I would spend Sunday through Friday evening with Big Mama for four years until I was six years old and eligible to attend school. The memories I have of my grandmother are so wonderful for she was a strong and determined woman. She was so nurturing and loving but very stern. I truly loved living and spending time her. One of my earliest memories is of me sleeping in church on my grandmother’s lap. I truly felt every bit of love she had to give me.  It is a memory I hold dear to my heart. I can still see that room that she had for making quilts…WOW. When I was in the fourth grade, she crocheted me a scarf and hat. I have still have the scarf more than 40 years later a possession that makes me smile and brings back fond memories. My grandmother stepped in and made an imprint on my life that I cherish and treasure. I will never stop missing my mother’s love and touch and even the sound of her voice. However, I do have the next best thing, the memories and love of my grandmother, my mother’s mother, Big Mama.

Today, two of the most important women that have left me with things I can pinpoint and measure.   My mother also gave me life and while I do not remember her I know that there are parts of her that I carry in who I have become.  For example, I am told that my mother really liked shoes.  I take pride in the fact that I also like shoes and have approximately 60 pair.   I also honor my grandmother for providing a strong foundation and stepping in and giving me the nurture and love that I truly needed to become the man I am today.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Valentine's Day

Valentine's Day will be here in a few days. You know, that day when florist run out of flowers, Hallmark depletes their card stock and there is a major shortage of chocolate. Many of us get so wrapped up in this day and for those that do not have a significant partner in our lives we tend become depressed or sad. Love is something that does not come easy or without much hard work. This is truly a soft and pink day. I have gotten to the point in life where the day itself is not what I hang my hat on when it comes to me and my boyfriend. It is how we respect and treat each other 365 days a year. There was a time in my life when this day as well as Sweetest Day was very meaningful and if there were no gifts of acknowledgment there was hell to pay. However, life has taught me quite a bit and there importance is not what it once was.

An expression of love is great any day of the year. Life is too short not to feel the warm touch and feeling that love brings on a continual basis. There is no better feeling than waking up each morning knowing that through all the tribulations that life places at your feet the person lying next to you loves you without conditions. Please begin to love yourself and all the rest will flow effortlessly for people will see the glow. With that glow you will attract many to you.