Just in Case…

I came across this post online and thought it appropriate to share in this forum. Use wisely!

words


Episode 52: MARTYR, INC.

In Mississippi, a 14 year old black boy from Chicago was accused of whistling at a white woman. 3 days later, the woman’s husband and brother-in-law abducted the young man from the home of his great-uncle where he was visiting for the summer. Days later, the boy’s  grotesquely distorted, beaten and mutilated body was found in a river with a 70 pound fan tied around the neck with barbed-wire. The two men tried for the crime were eventually acquitted, though later, protected by the legal statute of “double jeopardy”- admitted in an interview to killing the young man.

The year was 1955. The young man was Emmitt Louis Till.

A 17 year old black boy walked home from a neighborhood convenience store in a Florida gated-community. Spotted and followed for appearing “suspicious”, the young man was subsequently shot and killed by the neighborhood watch captain. The neighborhood watch captain, George Zimmerman claims he shot the boy in self-defense, though the boy had only a bag of skittles and an iced tea. Zimmerman has neither been arrested nor formerly charged with any crime.

The year was 2012. The young man was Trayvon Martin.

Emmitt Till was neither the first black male to be gruesomely exterminated at the hands of racist white men and Trayvon Martin sadly may not be the last in a long line of black males senselessly murdered by police, hate groups, zealots and even each other! The problem as I see it lies in a deep-seated disregard for black male humanity. Reduced to a series of one-dimensional stereotypes, it becomes increasingly easy to devalue the worth of black male life. Coupled with gross imbalances in the legal system which systematically profiles black male identities, its as though it’s “Open Season” on black men. In recent years, several high-profile incidents involving the murder of unarmed black men at the hands of police [in particular] reveal a pattern of disregard by both law enforcement as well as the legal system. In the cases of Amadou Diallo (1999), Sean Bell (2006) and Oscar Grant (2009)all three men were unarmed when shot by police.  In all three cases, the officers in question were acquitted on all charges.

How many more martyrs do we need? How many more innocent, unarmed, outnumbered, outgunned black men must die before we see the pattern of disregard for black male life? How many more of our sons must we bury before we say ‘ENOUGH’? How many more should die, be arrested, be accosted, be marginalized, be disregarded before we realize we have to prepare our young men’s minds to navigate this environment- not only safely, but triumphantly? How many Trayvon Martin’s could we save if we were to feed their minds properly? How many George Zimmerman’s can we stop when we combat the pervasive negative ideals of black males that dominate our collective consciousness?

Focusing all of our energy on George Zimmerman in this latest atrocity is a bit shortsighted. The man should be arrested, tried, imprisoned no doubt! But he is a symptom of a larger problem. Trayvon Martin’s death is a leaf on a huge tree that must be cut down from its roots. If we are not emboldened by this young man’s demise enough that we will combat this larger issue, we are no doubt destined to see another one (or three or a thousand) of our sons cut down in the streets sooner than we believe.

REST IN POWER Trayvon Martin, Oscar Grant, Sean Bell, Amadou Diallo, Emmitt Till and the COUNTLESS other wrongfully murdered and lacking justice. May your legacy inspire, fuel and guide our struggle. ASHÉ

[Please check out my Kickstarter Campaign for my latest project, “If Heaven had Heights…” http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/495104247/if-heaven-had-heights]


Episode 51: Brilliant…

Manifest Destiny.
Man, I ‘fess destined he.
Man, I ‘fess this and BE.
©Fahamu Pecou 2011

There are several sayings, varied in approach but similar in meaning: ‘If you believe it you can achieve it’.. ‘Mind over matter’… ‘You can do whatever you put your mind to’… etc.

They all suggest the same universal truth. Our thoughts and ideas are physical manifestations. Knowing, acknowledging and living this fact is the key to any achievement.

Most of us get caught up in the day-to-day grind, believing that we are but cogs on a wheel, widgets in a machine. The truth is that in our own unconscious conformity to accepted social norms we are merely manifesting the once seemingly fantastical, lofty, imaginative dreams and goals of someone else. That is to say, that when we shut down our own creative centers and become a part of the system- we fuel the ideas of someone else. But what about what your dream? What about your own imagination or creative-self? Are the fascinations of your CEO any more relevant or important than yours? What makes one man’s dreams a reality and the other’s- well, not?

 

We are surrounded everyday by realities that began with a single person’s creative thought. From the computer at which you now sit reading this to the lightbulb which has become symbolic of the spark of brilliance now buzzing in your mind. Relinquish the thought that you are limited to the resources around you. Abandon the notion that what has not happened can not happen. Each of your ideas is fueled by the fact that you are equipped with what it would take to manifest said idea- otherwise, you wouldn’t have had the idea in the first place.

I like the idea of “manifest destiny”. It suggests that we can in fact make our own destinies. That we can shape, sculpt, mold, fabricate, create what we want to see- that our lives are not preordained. You/I/we are not at affect of the word around us. Instead, success is the effect of our shaping our own realities. Be not beaten when your only obstacle is you.


Episode 50: He’s not heavy. He’s my son

Being a parent means giving unconditional love whether times are good or bad or whether your child is healthy or ill. I learned and lived that truth over the last year as my oldest son was diagnosed with AML (Acute Myeloid Leukemia) only a month or so, after he returned home from his freshman year of college.  I was a firm believer that kids learned from their parents and not the other way around, but boy was I wrong.  I had the opportunity to learn from my son during his 9 month-long battle with this deadly disease.  Here I am some 8 months later, and I still wrestle with my emotions. It grieves me most knowing I won’t ever again hear him say, “What’s up Pops?” 

I watched my son endure and fight until he could no longer. The disease ended his young life.  As he fought and suffered, I too had my own internal battles to fight in dealing with his disease. Not being physically able to take away his pain, I felt helpless – at times hopeless. When I was with him I did not want him to see me lose it. I had to be strong even though I wanted to cry for him.  I fought to be strong in front of him and in private I wrote to purge myself of the pain and anger I felt.

I am not the first or last person to lose a child, but what I went through (am going through) is indescribable. It is my hope that my words might serve to assist someone else or shed a light when the way gets dark. Maybe then,  I can begin to feel  that what Kwasi/I/we went through as a family would not be in vain. Through these letters, I’ve been able to express my emotions in a way that that allow me to begin a healing process. They are, for me- tears that water a new and fertile ground. One from which hope and understanding may flourish.

 Please allow me to share with you a couple of the journal entries I penned in the last weeks of my son’s life. May you find in it a seed, with which you can cultivate your own healing.

February 2011

(One night before he went home for the last time only to return again and never leave on his own)

I purposely enter the room at a very late hour and crack the door ever so slightly that I may pass through sideways; I do this in order to control the amount of light that enters into the room from the hallway.  As I close the door behind me, and darkness consumes the space, I begin thinking about light, considering its importance.  I take a seat and allow my eyes to adjust to my new surroundings. I peer over to the person in the bed taking in the overwhelming loudness of the dark. The apparent silence its seems is merely a facade. As I sit in the chair I think back to much happier times. I look at this person and the condition they are in and a myriad of emotions well up inside me and erupt suddenly, like an unstable volcano spewing its ash and lava. But instead of the lava, my eyes burn with tears that stream down my face like twin waterfalls, with the force to carve rock or greater, my attempted steadiness. I begin to appreciate the darkness for its ability to conceal my emotional out-pouring. I wish not to make sadder this place.  I pull the handkerchief from my pocket and press it against my mouth to suppress my sobs, abandoning the tears that wet my face.  I cannot believe I am looking at my 19-year-old son who has undergone his 3rd round of chemotherapy for cancer/AML (acute myeloid leukemia). I begin to think of all the things he has missed out on since his return home this past May from his freshman year at Hampton University. It is now time for the second semester of what would have been his sophomore year and just past his 20th birthday. How did it come to this and why?

I try to divert my stare and emotions by glancing at the television overhead, but my eyes are drawn back to my son’s now frail body.  He has lost an considerable amount of weight and the brightness of his eyes has subsided. His bright smile that was released from the confines of braces only 18 months ago, has now been replaced with a set of straight teeth masked by a continuous battle of phlegm and blood from mouth sores resulting from the chemo. His hair which he lost after the first round of Chemo, has grown back but much finer than before and is a shiny black coat of close cropped hair. His skin, once that of milk chocolate brown has darkened considerably due to the toxins in the chemo as they permeate his rapidly changing epidermal layer.  To make for a more dramatic scene his skin has taken on a look of someone with vitiligo as the newly regenerated skin of his normal complexion resurfaces leaving blotches of dead skin all over his body.  His fingernails and toe nails have become darker, an indication of the foreign substances he has been injected with intravenously.  I often go between the many different photos I have amassed over the years in my head to try to substitute the image I am now faced with to reassure myself that this is temporary.    To complicate the situation more he has had a tracheotomy procedure done. He is now being supplied the nutrients he needs via a tube inserted into his nose that leads to his stomach. As a result of the trach, verbal communication between us has also not been possible in over two weeks. The doctors hope to replace the trach with smaller one to allow him to speak and eat solid food soon. It would be great to hear him talk… the simple things mean so much!


Episode 49: A letter to Ngozi (on your 3rd birthday)

Wow! Its hard to believe that today you are 3 years old. By the time you are reading this, I’m sure you will have heard the phrase “time flies” from a million different people in a variety of contexts. But it is true.  The older we get, the shorter the space of time between significant moments appear to be. I submit that its because as we age, we take on a variety of concerns and obligations that distract us from the moments happening before our eyes. When we look up and take notice, we realize that the world has indeed changed and we missed most of it, caught up in our own situations.

These last 3 years have been filled with great highs. I’ve been fortunate to travel to many places. I’ve made wonderful friends and connections. I’ve evolved, re-evolved and evolved yet again in terms of my art and ideas. But there have also been great lows. I’ve made mistakes and hurt people that I loved. I’ve made decisions that have not been the most popular or readily accepted. Some friends and I have grown apart, moved apart or simply fallen apart. Some loved ones have passed on. All of these things my son, you too will experience. I’ve learned a valuable lesson in terms of my own experiences that helps guide my steps now. The source of life is an ever-changing ebb and flow, give and take, up and down. Each thing, in its duality designed to give balance to the universe, the world, to man-kind, to you. The power to maintaining the balance of life’s ins and outs is well within your grasp.  It may seem at times that maintaining that balance is impossible, but the secret to it is very simple. TRUTH.

There is a saying that says “the truth will set you free”, and truer words have never been spoken. Despite the cards life may deal you, you must always move in truth. Speak only truths. May your work and efforts be in truth. In all things, be truthful- but most importantly- truthful to yourself. There  is nothing to gain in dishonesty nor in deceit. Being truthful to yourself will also help you navigate your way in the world, defining your character, and helping you through trying times.

When one sets out to deceive another, the burden of that deceit becomes like a weight. The more deceitful you are, the heavier the weight becomes. Soon you will find yourself overwhelmed and overcome by the weight of your own dishonesty and ultimately have to account for not being truthful to begin with. When you move in truth you avoid the strain that comes along with not being truthful. Without the weight of deception, you are truly free to move about in life, in business, in love. You are free to experience and enjoy the life that is happening around you.

My advice to you on this day son is; In all you do, be truth. As a result you will always be free and as time flies, you can soar with it to new heights and discoveries.

I love you son.

Your Baba!

Fahamu
9/2/2011


Episode 48: My sister’s keeper

A tragic truth is that all men know at least one woman who has been inappropriately touched, molested and even raped at some point in their life. This is an issue of great personal concern for me because of my first-hand experience in seeing how impactful sexual abuse is on women. My sister has turned her harrowing nightmare into a story of hope and compassion. As a pastor and author, she uses her words and her ministry to empower those who’ve been affected by such a cruel violation and actively counsels victims of abuse.

I’m writing this today because I’m reminded of my silence as my sister confided in me about her ordeal. Eventually, I spoke up on her behalf when I saw that her accusations were met with denial. But I’ve always felt guilty that i didn’t take more of a stand when I was first told of what happened. As the father of a young daughter, I am appalled at the idea that something like that could ever happen to my little girl. I realize more and more that silence in the face of physical and sexual abuse against women is almost as much of a crime as the act itself.

Currently cameras and microphones turn their focus to the case of Nafissatou Diallo. Nearly 3 months ago, a major case broke as police arrested IMF director Dominique Strauss-Kahn after Diallo alleged Kahn sexaully assaulted her in a hotel room where she worked as a maid. The case at first seemed open and close, with investigators finding what was called “substantial DNA evidence” and eyewitnesses linking Kahn to Diallo. Many saw it as a landmark case not only in terms of justice for Diallo but also in terms of high-ranking officials who seem to get away with murder (and rape) simply because of their status.

In a bizarre and unclear twist, the tables have turned and Diallo herself seems now to be the criminal. Resulting in a smear campaign which has greatly damaged her credibility and led the NY District Attorney’s office to file for a dismissal of the charges against Strauss-Kahn. Dropping this case, in spite of the insurmountable evidence against the IMF chief throws a major blow to the injustices served to women everyday- who become victims twice-over as justice fails them in the face of men of power.

Is it not enough that there is ample evidence to not only legitimize the allegations against Strauss-Kahn, but possibly to convict him? Is it not enough that awaiting him in France are other cases where women claim to have been sexually assaulted by this same man? Is it not enough that women bear the brunt of these types of attacks daily and most-afraid to speak out against their attackers-suffer in silence?

Are we to remain silent? Are we to do nothing? Should we stand by in apathy and wait for this injustice to reach our homes, our mothers, our sisters, our daughters? Where is the collective outrage? The demand for justice?

Speak out- let the world know that as men, husbands, fathers, brothers, sons… we will not tolerate the violation of any woman, any where… by any one. In silence, we invite this tragedy to re-occur. Raise up our women and we raise up ourselves.

In solidarity with you Nafissatou Diallo.

-Fahamu Pecou


Episode 47: Soaring to new Heights

It is a wonder how the small things carry the most weight in life. I remember from my childhood, the anticipation of going to Prospect Park in Brooklyn with my father to fly kites. Typically we would make our kites at home the night before. Using brown craft paper or newspaper and balsa wood, string and Elmer’s glue, my father and I would work together to make the kites, he giving me tips along the way.  Since my Mother was always sewing clothes for someone, we would get a piece of cloth for the kite’s tail from her supply of fabric scraps.  The night prior to flight was filled with excitement as I imagined how high my kite would fly the next day.

The following morning we’d go to the park and my dad would instruct me on the proper way help the kite gain flight. He guided me in gauging the wind for lift and recognizing the direction it was blowing.  Once our kite was off the ground, he’d let me hold the string and all I could do was look up at the sky as the kite soared to higher and higher heights.  I wondered what it must feel like to fly.

My father taught me many things. As I flew my kite, I thought of the stories of Benjamin Franklin using his kite to prove ideas about conductivity. But my father insisted that as I learn about Ben Franklin, that I also learn about African American inventors like Garret A Morgan. I would often discuss various other scientific principals, with my father as my brain was like a sponge at those times. Hungry for knowledge, I asked my father how the kite could fly and how did my father know how to make a kite (remember this was a time when parents still did things with their children, before they would spend money on something they could make and be a great bonding experience for parent and child). I look back in retrospect now and thank him for those lessons. Back then I often thought he and my mother were punishing me by giving me extra work to do, especially when it came to school.  I remember learning the U.S. states and their capitals and my parents making me learn the Map of Africa at the same time. No one else in my class had to do the same thing. What I was learning however, was how to be an individual and an independent thinker and not even knowing it. My father advised me to never settle. To always quest to learn and know more. To test/challenge what I was told or read.  Simple activities like kite flying was a part of that unbeknownst to me at that time.

Later in life as other kids were being pressured into certain things, I was unmoved. I already knew I was different and never felt the need to fit in with the latest fad or mischievous activity.  Don’t get me wrong I did my share of bad things but I was not easily tempted.  What did come of it, was that I was not a afraid to say “no” when others ask me to join in or participate in something that I did not want to do, something many other kids fell victim to – and still do till this day.  My parents were raising a leader not a follower.

As the tables turned and I became a father, I found myself returning back to those very lessons to raise my son – even flying a kite. I don’t want to sound cliché’ but you get out what you put in.  Parents remember challenge your kids so they won’t crack under pressure when someone else does.

-By M.Kwasi Pecou


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