“Make Yours a Happy Home” in 2017

On New Year’s Eve I happened to be driving from Austin Texas back to San Antonio, when a disc jockey on Soul Town 49, Sirius XM Radio (I couldn’t live in San Antonio without XM radio) played one of my favorite songs from the past. My spirits were lifted as I heard the melodic voice of the great Gladys Knight, sang “Make Yours a Happy Home.” Most of you probably know the song comes straight out of the 1975 movie, Claudine, starring Dianne Carroll and James Earl Jones and the musical score was written by Curtis Mayfield. The title to that song is rather simplistic but has profound meaning for all of us. It not only refers to our personal family life, but to the larger community of this country and the world. When we think of the United States as one home with many disparate races, people of different religions and sexual orientations, then it becomes quite clear that we have a gigantic task to try to make our home a happy one.

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Looking back over our history, the years of discontent, anger and turbulence far outweigh the happy ones. This home is always in turmoil and the last year is a perfect example. We just witnessed one of the most contentious political elections in our over two hundred-year-history. As a family with various and differing viewpoints, the presidential race reached deep into the gutter, where congeniality and a decent decorum were lost on both sides of the political spectrum. Much of this dissension is fueled by the age old weakness of racism, a sickness that has plagued this country since its inception.

statue-of-liberty-cryingWith the election of President Barack Obama, we had our best opportunity to actually move forward into a post racial society. Unfortunately, that didn’t happen. Instead the animosity against Black Americans increased. In his farewell address the President alluded to this problem when he exclaimed, “Race remains a potent and often divisive force in our society. Every economic issue is framed as a struggle between a hard working white middle class and undeserving minorities.”  That anger also manifests against religious groups, our LBGT community, our neighbors south of the border, and for the first time in our history a certain segment of the population insisted on a wall to divide the countries. I imagine the Statue of Liberty must be shedding a few tears, for the democracy she once represented. The home that she watched over for over a century is in turmoil. King’s dream has actually become Malcolm X’s nightmare.

The United States has always welcomed most racial groups of the world, as well as most religions, people with various sexual preferences, and various cultures to its shores. That makes this country one of the greatest experiments in civilized history. Never before have so many different men, women and children lived under one roof and had to make theirs a happy home. As this country prepares to turn over the power to a man whose success was built on feeding our differences and not what we have in common, the next four years may test this experiment in ways that none of us have ever known. We may become a much more dysfunctional family, during this president’s tenure.

What is just as depressing to this writer is the savagery that has plagued my community. The fact that police all over this country have decided to use our young for target practice is bad enough, but it becomes even a greater crisis when our young do the same to each other. Seven hundred black men, women and children murdered in Chicago, surely tells us that ours is not a happy home.

The major question that confronts all of us is whether we can endure, and will this experiment in civilization ultimately be successful. Given the history of the world, we are still a very young country; the new kids on the block. But we have a tendency to stick our chest out at the rest of the world and brag about our great political and economic system. That claim may be rather premature. Given the direction in which we seem to be going, the future looks rather dismal and we may not survive the test of time.

However, hope is the one universal principal that most writers must possess. In order to create good literature, the writer must look beyond the world as it is and write about a world that can be much better for all the inhabitants. If we would adapt that principle, then maybe our condition can change and even survive the next four years, free of any additional turmoil than what we have faced for the past year. And just maybe this experiment in history will endure, and sometime in the future we can sing along with Gladys Knight to “Make Yours a Happy Home.”

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Something Positive for Black America With Trump’s Election

For Black America, the election of Donald Trump might become a positive over the next four years. I know, many of you might think that this writer has become delusional. Let me try to explain why I would make such an assertion. I believe a certain degree of apathy has taken hold, and set in on most Black Americans after the election of Barack Obama. We became rather content, after all, we had a Black President. It couldn’t get any better than that. If you couple that with the fact that many of us are living a very comfortable middle class life, then our condition wasn’t so bad after all. We didn’t need another Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. to lead us to the promise land. We were already there.

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But while we were playing golf on Saturday and attending one of our prosperity churches, listening to our ministers who drove up in Mercedes or Jaguars on Sunday, crime in our communities was escalating, police were using our young as target practice, and the job market was not friendly to our men and women seeking employment. And for eight years, the first Black President was constantly under attack by those detractors determined to make his presidency a failure, and by the way Trump led them. We saw this coming but did nothing to prepare. We just kept playing our golf, watching our games on television, and totally ignoring what was happening all around us.

mv5bmtqzmja5njq0nl5bml5banbnxkftztcwmjgwmzyxmq-_v1_uy268_cr10182268_al_But we now know that the lackadaisical attitudes of the past can no longer continue. We all must make a commitment to use our talents in ways that can improve the conditions of our brothers and sisters whose struggles are going to get real tense over the next four years. We all have a lot of work to do as we move forward into the Trump years in the White House. And even though Charles Dutton’s final speech in Spike Lee’s movie, Get on the Bus was geared toward Black men, it is applicable to the entire race. For that reason, I am compelled to share it with those of you who never saw the movie and the others that gave very little importance to what he said.

In the very last scene in the movie, Dutton addresses all the brothers who have made the trip to Washington, D.C. but did not participate in the Million Man March because one of the characters, Ozzie Davis, suffered a heart attack just before the march and many of the men chose to remain with him at the hospital. But once they do arrive at the Lincoln Monument, it is very late and the men are depressed. That is when Dutton walks toward the back of the bus, and delivers the most important and poignant message of the entire movie. And one that all of us, men and women, can use as a measurement of where we go from here. Dutton tells the men:

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“We’re here because God Almighty wanted us here. And he doesn’t care so much about what you already done. God asks what you going to do now…The real march ain’t even started yet. This was only the prelim, the warm up….The real Million Man March won’t start until we Black men take charge of our own lives, and start dealing with crime, drugs, and guns and gangs and children having children and children killing children all across this country. If you all are ready to quit your apathetic and unsympathetic ways as I am and take back control of the Black community. If you’re ready to stop being the boys and be the men that our wives, and our mothers and our children are waiting for and stand up against all the evils lined up against the Black man…and just say we’re tired of this shit and we ain’t going to take it anymore. If you’re ready to do that, then we got work to do. We’ve got a lot of work to do.”

For the next four years, the intensity of that work is going to double. Despite his promise to be President for all the people, Trump’s early appointments signal that once again he is not being truthful, at least not with us. But Black America has risen to this challenge in the past. We have precedent on our side. We know how to survive under the roughest of conditions. Men and women such as Frederick Douglass, Dr. W. E. B. Du Bois, Marcus Garvey, Malcolm X, Ida B. Wells-Barnett, Ella Baker, Fannie Lou Hamer, Bayard Rustin, and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. did not even consider the possibility of giving up. These great leaders struggled and survived and we must pick up their mantle of commitment and continue the work so that four years from now, when Trump is defeated, we will be stronger and wiser as a people.

 

 Be Strong and Stay Strong Black America!

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