Thursday, July 31, 2008

Time Keeps on Slipping...Into the Future

Whoever starts a blog spends the rest of their time trying to find time to update it. But I am here now, cooling my heels in a library in the City of Orange, as I wait for something big to happen. Here are little chunks of my thoughts:

Errant Thought: Be among the first to enter to win the Brand Spanking New BMW 1 Series at the Angel City Classic on Sept. 27, 2008. Go to and click the banner ad to the left that asks, "Are You the 1?" While you are there, order your tickets so you can be there because you must be present to win. When you win, tell me so I can let folks know you heard it here first.

This week I have been at church almost every evening for Vacation Bible School. Pastor Norman Johnson at First New Christian seems to have extended the reins over there to let the young speak to young: His son, Norman Junior taught, as well as the son of State Senator Mark Ridley-Thomas, Sinclair Ridley-Thomas, who left this morning to return to Morehouse for football camp. On Sept. 27 Sinclair and his team Morehouse will be playing the game on the almighty Coliseum field for the Angel City Classic sponsored by Farmers Insurance Group. Can you imagine his excitement? Cool as a cucumber, you wouldn't even know he was a senior in college. He is just the epitome of cool as he counsels kids, folds and unfolds chairs and does the work of the church.

My son, Jaaye Person-Lynn, was the third young man tapped to teach and he has taken to this like fish to water. And this is how I came to be there everyday. Every night he teaches the audience has grown. Last night the young talked about being Young Gifted and Black. He invited Kenyon Ates to speak along with Sinclair and another young man and young woman. Everyone was so well spoken and had a lot on their minds. The classroom was packed. Tonight they talk about leadership.

Errant Thought: One day, in a few more blogs I will tell you why Jaaye doing this was so remarkable, but for now that will have to wait. Remind me, if I forget.

The thing is Pastor Johnson has been touched or something because his sermons have been so on point it is amazing. He was always a great teacher, but now, I can't explain it. He is on a mission.

One session I sat in on was for parents to read the writing on the wall. A trio of police officers (looked like the Mod Squad, lacking a woman) came and told us so much about gangs I'd never noticed. For example, most of us know that gangs like wearing sports caps. But if your child is all of a sudden clamoring for Houston Astros gear, beware. (They wear orange t-shirts to match--so it ain't always about the red and the blue). Your cherub may be one of the Hoover Crips. Don't believe me or the police? Just google the subject. I found these two articles and they aren't even talking about Los Angeles. Gangs are nationwide:

The largest gang (and it is international) is the 18th Street Gang, which is largely Latino. Even if you do not have children, you need to be aware because it could dictate where you move, how you dress and more. You may just happen to like the Astros, but beware.

Pastor Johnson said he wants the church to do something about this youth violence we are experiencing. He wants to reclaim the kids who feel they have no alternative to gang life. Jaaye sees them every day as his law career has him going into lockup every day. They act hard, but their lonely faces crumple up when they realize that they are looking at 25 to life when all they wanted was a little protection. Now nobody is coming to see them because since many of their homeboys have records, felons can't visit an inmate and if their families were broken before, they surely won't have family support once locked-up. It's too expensive even for the most well meaning family: collect calls, ordering food (yes, food...what they are rationed is not enough) and toiletries. The time and gas to drive hours into the desert to see them for a couple of hours alone is hard on the average human.

It makes sense to save them now. Like I always say, start with the one near you. That nephew that niece, the neighbor's kid or your own child can be an investment in your future, heck all of our futures.

One young man who was doing just that is Brandon Walker. Brandon headed up the Teen Clinic at T.H.E. Clinic, my former client. A robust guy, he acted in the plays to let the public know about AIDS and HIV and he was a creative graphic designer, designing the T-shirts for the annual summit which should be coming up next month. I said was because Brandon, who had been awaiting a kidney transplant, finally got that call. He was so ecstatic and emotional on his way to the hospital to get it, he thought all those years of struggling were over. But, his body rejected it, and he passed away a few days ago. He was in his late 20's and married, but now the world will never know what this young man was capable of. Rest in peace, Brandon.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

So, who is the boss in your house hold?

Teaching Black History to Young People

So, who is the boss in your house hold? Maybe it is time to take a stand.

Dear Parent, is this your Saturday morning? You get up picking up after kids who are furiously wiping out some life form on the video game you worked hard to give them…You don’t want to fuss. You reason, "They are on vacation."

You want to take them to Dr. Kwaku’s class, but your child is shy, or would pitch a fit, hang back and you don’t feel like the bother.

Correct me if I am wrong but this is NOT the way you grew up. Your Mom had a list of chores to do before you could play or watch TV or go outside (go-outside???What a concept!)
You picked up a lot of Black history because at Sunday Dinner that’s what the older folks talked about. In church, the preacher combined the scripture with what was going on now and what went on way back yonder. And some adult dragged you somewhere totally against your will--whether it was church or vacation bible school or to head south for the summer. You didn’t want to do it (at first), you protested vehemently (albeit inwardly) but when you came home you were excited and breathless and couldn’t wait to tell your friends about fishing with Grandpa or picking quarts of blueberries…of eating homemade rolls or that boy you met at Vacation Bible School.

You might have proudly shown your house made of Popsicle sticks... or your decorated milk cartons. You wanted a mason jar to drink out of like grandpa's version of the Big Gulp and you appreciated him taking you to hunt possum. Ok…so that was my life, but can I get a witness?

I too leaned toward the path of least resistance. Since my Mom had that chore list written neatly every Saturday morning I thought "I will never make my kids do that kind of labor. " But as you must know, there is nothing more laborious than having worked all week, and tripping over a messy house and you can’t get any assistance from anyone. The knack of it is if you start with the list while they are young and the kids think this is just the way it is, and automatically they will do chores for themselves when they grow up, making the lives of their spouses easier and more pleasant.

The first year of Black History 4 Young People (BH4YP) the defiant ones—the parents who got the memo that if you want your kids exposed to certain things, sometimes you have to drag them—and their kids came silently kicking and screaming. The beautiful part was by the end of the 6 weeks, they were involved, and enjoyed the discussions. That year we had a range of students-- from private school kids who grew up in the hills above to 'Hood to the kids in alternative school. Some had already found trouble and a caring Aunt or Uncle or Foster parent sponsored them in order to wrest them from going down life's thorny path.

For a growing number of students, their parents had worked hard to get them into a nice neighborhood only to be alarmed that the children they were raising had taken on the traits and attitudes of their nonblack classmates. These parents drove great distances to expose their children to ideas of history and culture.

It did not matter. All students were well-behaved, inquisitive and a joy to have around. We never had a fight, a discipline problem or a one mumbling 4-letter word. Dr.Kwaku told them he would treat them as college students. If they needed to go to the rest room, he pointed the way. I remember the first young person tested the system, got up, looked around, sat back down, then got up and smiling ear to ear walked to the rest room. Freedom! (Of course, that year the rest rooms were 20 feet away. But when we moved to Audubon Middle School and this year to Kaos, we simply had student teachers posted along the way.)

The second year we had a number of students receive their DNA tests. How fulfilling to watch them make a connection to a certain area of Africa. Our son Jaaye once said of his trip to South Africa that the African students used to ask those from America what they considered themselves. They replied "Africans just like you." The continental African would laugh and say “Oh yeah, what part of Africa?” And that’s on point because many of us consider all of Africa home. Now, thanks to, many know they have a connection with a specific area and are planning to visit there or help built infrastructures there.
But I digress. When the world complains about Black youth today who do not want to work, and who don’t appreciate their educations, that fault really did start with us. We went too far overboard when we sought to escape the tyranny of yesteryear parents. We extracted the teeth from parenting and abdicated our power. We all have reminisced that back-in-the-day Ms Carolyn could whup you just like your Mama could. Today we do not even know our neighbors names. The network has too many holes and kids are falling through.

So, go ahead and force the issue. You spend more on a pair of tennis shoes ($60 for the class) and they will outgrow those in 3 months. However, they will never outgrow the ideas taught to them by Dr. Kwaku. They may not understand everything but it will stay with them and serve them at the right time.

Perhaps the most important thing to note is that your 12-18 years olds are closer to leaving you now than ever. This time frame is the last time you will have direct influence over them. Use it now, because once they head off to college or the military, they will sample other cultures, races and ways folks do things and sometimes get confused. At this point, they will either go buck wild because they did not get that home training or they will live on the principles you’ve taught them and experiences you've exposed them to.

Taking back the parental reigns will serve generations.