Category Archives: Black Men

Lucky or a Blessing: Fortunate or a Miracle

Usually my essays are directed at cultural and/or political subject matter, but for this one I plan  to deviate and touch on a subject more of a spiritual/religious nature. Religion is a subject matter I usually do not care to delve into, however what I plan to share with you all is so compelling I have no choice.  Let me begin this journey with an acknowledgement of two worlds, one dominated by sectarianism and the other secularism. Certain terms with specific meanings are applicable to each of these variant worlds.

What I am about to share with you, those in the secular world would claim I was “fortunate” or “lucky.” While those who lean toward religions would counter with the claim that I was “Blessed” and part of a “Miracle.” Once I share with you my journey, you can decide what fits you, according to your belief system. The very fact that I am compelled to deviate from my themes and write this piece, explains where I fall between the worlds. Here is the story and you can decide.

Approximately two years ago, I began to suffer from severe back and leg pain. Initially, I refused to go to the doctor and instead just took a bunch pain pills such as Motrin, Ibuprofen, Alleve and Advil. I did this for most of 2015 and into the second month of 2016. Finally, the pain became so excruciating that I decided to go to our family doctor for an examination. After explaining my situation to him, he immediately concluded that I was suffering from what is called Spinal Stenosis.  He suggested that I get an MRI to confirm his findings.

Now there is no way they were going to roll me inside a tube with no room to move. I suffer from claustrophobia and wouldn’t last for a half-hour in that confined area. But that natural instinct we all possess told me I had better do it, because I needed the confirmation. Somehow I mustered up the nerve to crawl into that machine, and the technician instructed me to breathe in and breathe out for the next half hour as technology examined what was happening on the inside of my body.

One day later, my family doctor received the results of the examination. He called me and said I needed to get into his office right away. The next morning as I sat on one of those long bed like contraptions in every doctor’s office, he told me that in doing the exam for Spinal Stenosis they discovered a mass growth in my left kidney. He immediately referred me to an Urologists and after additional tests, the doctor informed me that I had Type 1 Renal Cell Carcinoma in just the one kidney. There were no signs of any additional cancer and they could surgically remove the small growth.

On August 4, I had the surgery and now have pretty much recovered. I don’t have to go back for a follow-up for six months. When my physician walked into the room after the surgery, he said, “You are a very lucky man and quite fortunate. We hardly catch this cancer in such early stages, because it gives the person no signs that it is working its ugly and deadly deed within the kidney. Usually, patients don’t know they have the tumor until it has progressed to much more dangerous stages. In its later stages, this cancer spreads from the kidney to the liver, lungs and eventually the brain.

white-doves-psd16781That brings me back to my earlier statement regarding being fortunate and lucky, or part of a miracle and a blessing. Those in the secular world will opt for the former and I tend to lean toward the latter. Here is my reasoning. There is a higher source in the universe, God, Allah, Yahweh or Jehovah, according to your cultural upbringing, that sent me a message that I needed to get to the doctor so that the growth could be detected. He sent that message through the pain in my back. Remember, the cancer gives you no signals that it exists in the early stages. If no pain in my back, I wouldn’t have gone to the doctor and therefore no detection of the cancer until it had progressed.  Furthermore, even though the MRI concentrated on the spinal area, it was able to detect the growth in my kidney due to the proximity of your kidneys to the spine.

I am thoroughly convinced that the God I believe exists as the higher power, sent me a miracle when He planted that pain in my back and delivered a blessing when the doctors were able to remove the growth in the kidney. It wasn’t luck or simply being fortunate or just the randomness of fate. That happens when you hit the jackpot at the casino or win the lottery. Mine was much greater than something that simple. My life was extended through a miracle from God, and a blessing He had for me. Why He intervened to save my life, I don’t know. Maybe it’s because He wanted me to know that my mission on His behalf, here on earth, was not quite over yet. Part of that mission was for me to write this post about how God works in all of us and still is in the miracle making business. I stand as a true testament to His powers.

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A Father’s Day Salute

On February 13, 1996 a very special man passed away in his sleep. He was 80 years old and had lived a very productive and eventful life. Most important, he had been a dedicated husband to his wife of 58 years and was always there for his four children. Some would consider him unique because he was a Black man and many in society will argue that those kind of men don’t exist within the Black culture. We have been conditioned through literature, music and movies to view the Black man as an irresponsible, unfit husband and father. Too often when we think of the Black man, we have visions of Danny Glover’s character, Mister, in The Color Purple or the ingrate men in Terry McMillan’s Waiting to Exhale. Since McMillan’s publication and movie, there has been a flood of novels about the “Dawg” brothers. Even the Black man playing the role of a policeman was cast as a villain in Training Day. One would be led to believe that good Black men do not exist as husbands, fathers or men.

billwilliamsAs we approach another Father’s Day celebration I want to take issue with the perceptions that have plagued Black men over the years. I want to take issue because the man I described in my opening was my father, Bill Williams.

50thAnniverdary_parentsHe married my mother when he was 22 and she only 17 and they spent their entire life together, and one can surmise at the time of his death they shared a love just as special and beautiful as could be expected.  After my father had passed on, I once asked my mother who she would like to have meet her on the other side. Without hesitation she gave me this look as if to say, “who do you think” and then said, “My husband.” Now that is a love that will transcend time and they will always be united as one. He made my mother feel very special and she did the same for him. He was an excellent husband.

Bill Williams took a very special interest in his children. His advice, at least to me, was always precise and correct. When considering the wisdom that my father shared with me while growing up, I often think of Mark Twain’s famous quote, “When I was a boy of 14, my father was so ignorant I could hardly stand to have the old man around. But when I got to be 21, I was astonished at how much he had learned in seven years.” My father was not a rich man but he was a wise man. When I reached the age when girls became very important in my life, he told me that, “your lover should also be your best friend.” After many disappointing relationships I finally got it right when I incorporated his advice and now have married for nearly 25 years. He also told me, “Always pay the IRS a little money and never get a large refund.” I learned that lesson the hard way, and now make sure I don’t get a large refund.

He provided his two boys and two girls with a foundation that led to our successes in life. We all learned the importance of a strong work ethic through his example. He would get up early in the morning and often walk to his job at the United States Post Office in Saginaw, Michigan so that my mother would have the car at her convenience during the day. After peddling mail in freezing weather (and anyone who has visited Saginaw in the winter knows just how cold it can get) all day, he came home, took a nap and then went to his second job as a waiter at the Saginaw Country Club. And he never complained in front of his children, because to complain would leave the impression that something might be wrong with work. He was an excellent father.

Bill Williams loved his family, was loyal to his friends and never complained about his life. He was a Black man who grew up when it was very difficult to be black in this country. But he never succumbed to the temptation to use discrimination and bigotry as an excuse for him not to achieve. He was the first Black man to work in the United States Post Office in Saginaw, Michigan. He became a union leader for the letter carriers when he transferred to Pasadena, California in 1957. He never told his children that they had to be twice as good in order to succeed. He simply told us to be the very best I could, and that worked well for me because to believe you have to be twice as good was to give credence to bigotry and prejudice. As his child, I never thought I had to be twice as good because it would admit that we begin from a position of inferiority.  That word did not exist in our household. No one can define your worth as a human being was his message to us. It is the same message that Black fathers over the century have shared with their children and continue to do so today.

Contrary to what many commentators proclaim, the Black father is not a replica of the past. He still exists and for that reason I extend a very heartfelt Happy Father’s Day greeting to all my fellow dad’s, who have been and are still the pillars that hold up our culture. And to my wonderful and fantastic Dad I say on behalf of my siblings and me.

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HBO’S MISLEADING PORTRAYAL OF CLARENCE THOMAS

I have to admit that I actually sat and watched the HBO movie, Confirmation, for two hours. It made absolutely no sense for me to sit through that poor rendition of the Anita Hill/Clarence Thomas confrontation back in 1991. I guess one reason I did it because the basketball games were all rather boring and Wendell Pierce is a pretty good actor and also I had the opportunity to watch Kerry Washington doing something other than jumping in a married man’s arms.

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Now that it is over, I really should have done something more meaningful like work on editing the screenplay that a screenwriter just completed of my novel, Fires of Greenwood or maybe did some more research into my next major project on the life of Bayard Rustin. I did none of those things, but just sat there and wondered why Wendell Pierce would play the role of Clarence Thomas and therefore increase his likeability as a Black man and Supreme Court Justice.

wendell-pierce-as-clarence-thomasPierce’s portrayal of Thomas as a strong, determined and unapologetic Black man was quite impressive but I do not believe it to be very truthful. Pierce almost convinced me that Thomas was telling the truth and Anita Hill had been used by the Thomas haters to curtail his nomination. In the final analysis, however, I don’t believe that to be truthful. One only need to study Thomas’ attitude toward his own people and his voting record on issues of importance to Black America to know that he probably would disrespect a Black woman while all the time showing all respect toward his white wife.

clarencethomasThomas has always struck me as one of those many Black men who run as far away from their blackness as is possible (with the exception when they can use it to their advantage as Thomas did with the claim of a Technological Lynching or some words to that affect). While working for Senator Danforth (R. Missouri) on Capitol Hill, he certainly avoided any contact with the other Black staffers to include me. For the three years that I worked for Senator Birch Bayh (D. Indiana), I helped organize a group called the Black Senate Staffers. Our goal was to meet once a month and invite some leading Black spokesperson to talk with us about the major pending issues of Black America. During our sessions we had such leaders as Benjamin Hooks, Jesse Jackson, Coretta Scott King, Bishop Desmond Tutu and the highlight of all our sessions was when Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall spoke to our group. We invited all Black Senate Staffers to join us, regardless of political affiliation. And we did have staffers from both Democrat and Republican Senators participating because we managed to put race issues above politics. Clarence Thomas never made one of our sessions, even though he was told about them on every occasion.

On another occasion, Thomas wrote an article for a local conservative newspaper in which he excoriated welfare recipients to include his sister. There was very little doubt among many of us in Washington D.C. that President Ronald Reagan appointed him Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights in the Department of Education and later as Chairman of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission for the sole purpose of sabotaging civil rights operations in both agencies. Reagan was not a strong proponent of civil rights. He was later nominated and confirmed to the U. S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, a judgeship for which he lacked strong credentials. And then in 1991, President Georg H. W. Bush nominated him for the United States Supreme Court to ironically fill the vacancy created when Thurgood Marshall resigned. A lion was replaced by a lamb. One of the strongest lines in the HBO movie occurred when Attorney Charles Ogletree told Anita Hill that, “he had law students more qualified than Thomas.”

Thomas has risen to the top on the backs of his own people, a people who he rejects and feels no obligation to consider their best interests when deciding how to vote on issues important to the race. It doesn’t take a quantum leap to reach the conclusion that this man probably has very little respect for the race, and probably none for the women of the race. We all know of the long history of white men abusing our women, abusing their integrity with all kinds of sexual innuendos and often acting them out, while all along treating their women like the Virgin Mary. Because Thomas appears to have such a low self-esteem of his Black skin and of his race, and because he appears to admire the white race, it is easy to assume that he would treat Black women in the same disrespectful manner as white men have done for decades.

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As an actor, Wendell Pierce gets into the art of his role and probably not into the image he might create of a specific character. That had to be the case with this portrayal of Clarence Thomas as a strong Black man, who was being treated unfairly by a system that was out to get him. But for those who have known the man in the past and those who have studied his behavior over the years, we are aware that Pierce’s characterization of Thomas lacked credibility. To that extent, he did us a dis-service, as he practically made Thomas a hero or someone to be admired because, in reality, nothing is further from the truth

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