Sunday, April 29, 2012


When I arrived home last night, my wife informed me that a family member, only twenty-one years young, was shot-dead.
Because of the fresh wound of the family loss, I will not divulge any details other than to say he was shot by another young black man.
I doubt if there will be any international coverage of our loss or even a local demonstrations of outrage demanding the immediate and thorough investigation of this crime. Perhaps, this type of incident is an all too familiar condition in our community to merit any special attention.  As you may know, I am advocate for the fair and just resolution of the Trayvon Martin case. I signed petitions, blogged, tweeted, demonstrated here in D.C. and discussed the case with all who wanted to share their thoughts, not knowing that my family will be mourning the violent loss of one of our own, almost three months to the date of Trayvon’s murder.
You may remember me stating that I was troubled by Trayvon’s death, but I was more concerned about the senseless carnage being created in the black community; black-on-black murders. I said that I hoped that the Martin family’s loss will bring attention to the thousands of kids being lost in the streets every year with little more than an up-tick in the homicide crime statistics. More blacks are killed by other blacks than by racist white people. So, where should my concern be when my family members step outside the door? Who should I be more concern about? Some red-state yahoo, openly strapping a nine-millimeter pistol and spouting racist’s venom or should I be more concerned about a young black boy with baggy pants, tattoos and a reluctance to look me in the eyes?
I cannot bring my family member back. Writing this blog is cathartic and therapeutic because I do not know what else to do immediately. The loss of a young person strikes at the core of your being. It is like no other pain that one can experience!
As a card-carrying NAACP member, I am imploring this great organization to help me mitigate the loss of our future, our young people that we are losing every day. My single voice in the wilderness represents family members all over the country who don’t have a bully pulpit like Rev. Al or access to the national media or to the best attorneys that our judicial system has to offer. Our organizing should not start at the death of a young person, but at the point of counseling for unwanted pregnancies, signs of ignorance, chronic poverty and broken educational systems.
If something cannot be done now, when? If we don’t do something, who will? We must take responsibility for our children’s educational and moral development. These children are supposed to survive us and our survival is our responsibility and no one else!
…..a bleeding black man.

Saturday, March 31, 2012

What is the value of a colored boy's life?

If you put a dollar value to the material components of the human body, you may come up with $4.50? The average life-time earnings of a person in America is $1.6 million. If you consider the untold grief that love ones must endure after a young person’s death and the undetermined potential of the deceased, this could be priceless.

Like most Americans and, especially, those of color, I was deeply hurt by the knowledge of the death of young Trayvon Martin. And like most in the black community, I discussed this issue with friends and family. I talked to coworkers and strangers via social media. I even participated in the DC Trayvon Rally a week ago.

Of late, I read of death threats against the life of George Zimmerman, the accused shooter of Trayvon. The New Black Panther Party has placed a bounty on Zimmerman’s head. The social media is abuzz about the case and the President of the United States was compelled to comment about the unfortunate incident in Sandford, Florida. He went on to say that if he had a son that he would look like young Trayvon.

Mainstream media has stated that Trayvon Martin is this generation’s Emmitt Till. Fourteen year old Till was a victim of a heinous murder by whites in Mississippi in 1955.

However, after all the pain that I felt from another young black male losing his life, I found myself, oddly, feeling perplexed by the amount of attention this case has gotten. I was struck by the fact that I live in Washington, DC, a city that was once known, not only as the nation’s capital and of the free world, but as the “murder capital”. According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation Uniform Crime Reports of 2010 (FBI), there were 132 murders committed. I remember in 1993, how concerned I was that I could be one of the 454 folks that were killed
in my hometown. Yet, I can’t remember this city getting the amount of attention for the hundreds that were killed compared to the amount of coverage that the Martin’s case is receiving.

The FBI report delineated the sections of town were most of the murders took place and not too surprising to many, most of the murders took place in the heavily African-American populated East of the Anacostia River, where historically, the income per capita and educational levels are the lowest in the city.

Politicians delight gleefully in the opportunity to take advantage of a catastrophic situation to advance their standing in the polls. Not being a politician, I want to take advantage of Trayvon’s death too, but for a different reason. I want to highlight the thousands of youth of color that are killed every year in the streets of urban America. Youth who are killed, not by the George Zimmermans of the world, but by other youth of color.

I hope that Rev. Al, the NAACP, the New Black Panther Party, MSNBC, the black and Latino communities who decry the senseless killing of young Trayvon will seize the international awareness that this case has garnered and begin a national movement to address the gang and drug-related killings among our own. All too often, we are ready to act-up when we are offended by the white/anglo community, but are dormant when it comes to offenses in our own community by its members. Funny, I’m reminded as a kid of being ready to fight any other kid who dared put a finger on my brother, yet I felt no compunction about smacking him around

Communities of color in America must take a strong and united position on offenses against our communities by friend or foe, black or white to protect the security of our future, thereby protecting the security of this nation. We must be the first to assure our communities are properly educated for the new economic reality and our streets are safe to walk. No one
else has that responsibility first, but us!

So, I ask again, what is the value of a colored boy's life?

Friday, March 16, 2012

The Road We’ve Traveled

As a campaign volunteer for U.S. Senator Obama when he threw his hat into the ring as a candidate for President of the United States in 2008, I felt a lot of bumps in that road to the White House.

Although the up and coming young politician gave a rousing keynote speech at the ’06 Democratic Convention, my friends thought that the senator did not have a snow ball’s chance in hell in becoming president. Well…..

Last night, I shared the experience of viewing the 16min+ promotional documentary, “The Road We’ve Traveled”, highlighting the president’s tumultuous accomplishments in the last four years, with my youthful and bright-eyed fellow campaign workers and supporters at the Democratic National Committee Headquarters, just south of the U.S. Capital.

Before the airing, I mixed it up with the audience who looked like America. I saw black folks, whites, Hispanics, Asians, many young people and old. I spoke to a young Columbian in a wheelchair. I thought about all of the footage I see of Republican gatherings, I never see an honest representation of this country.

Our local coordinator, Kouri Marshall, introduced a leader of the Woman’s National Democratic Club who spoke passionately of the need to not allowing the Republicans to set this country back another 100 years. I am convinced that the GOP set its fate with its assault on women. Women will assure the world that the American Taliban, the GOP’s efforts, will be hermetically
sealed and given a final burial.

I wish I had a heads-up about the quality and strength of this vignette because, had I known, I would have stayed home just like I did for the inauguration. You see, I’m a big softy. I get teary-eyed when I witness the culmination in victory of all the struggles that we’ve shared. I was consoled by knowing that I was surrounded by people who are just as passionate and committed as I am to the success of this campaign.

So, check-out the link below of “The Road We’ve Traveled” and be inspired too….we’re fired up and ready to go….Obama-2012!

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Attack on Women


For those who may not be aware, the conservative windbag talk show host, Rush Limbaugh, called a young lady a slut and a prostitute on the air because of her outspoken position on birth control.

I'm sure that you were all disturbed by Limbaugh's misogynistic slander against this law student and women in general who want control of their own health and family planning.

As a protest against his statement, along with many others, I asked my credit card company, Capital One, to cease support of Limbaugh's show and they did!

Please read the following link and do as I did to support the women we love.


Sunday, December 25, 2011

The Meaning of Devotion

On this day of the celebration of the birth of Christ, I want to pay homage to caregivers of the world and highlight a very good friend's devotion to his ailing mother who recently passed by asking, "What would Christ want him to do?"

Some forty-plus years ago, on the campus of Howard University, Adrienne introduced me to her geeky friend, Brian Booth aka “Dr. Booth”. Adrienne was “Big-A”(literally) and I was “Big-M”.

The three of us always enjoyed hanging-out together on campus on Fridays at noon to look at the fraternity Greek Shows. Big-A was in love with Buddy, a Groove Phi Groove. Dr. Booth and I google-eyed the fine girls who were attracted to the Ques. In those days, Howard girls were so fine that whatever the Ques didn’t want, any guy would have been proud to be seen with their rejects….if Dr. Booth and I were only so lucky.

One day, the doctor invited us to his home where we met the petite public school teacher, the lovely Lena Horne-like, Mrs. Warfield. She put down her crossword puzzle and greeted us with her razor tongue and a rapier wit! She asked Brian, “Where did you find this bum?” I was taken aback. Not knowing quite how to respond, she immediately broke-out into a hearty laughter. And so began the exchange-of-wit relationship with Mrs. Warfield. Brian went on to Georgetown Law School and volunteered at the local Pacifica radio station, WPFW 89.3 FM, hosting a show called “By the Law”. I wrote features for the monthly station guide. Brian would discuss basic legal issues and played a little jazz from his collection. Developing material for a monthly station guide felt like a full-time job. I could only imagine what Brian went through to prepare for his weekly show. One night, I remember him asking me to call-in and ask a legal question.

“….but, Dr. Booth, I ain’t got nothing to ask. I don’t know what to ask”
“Look man, just call and ask, how do you form a LLC?”
“What’s a LLC?”
“Don’t worry about it. I’ll explain it to you and everybody else when you call….okay?”
“Hmmm….okay. But don’t make me sound stupid”
“What are you talking about? You’re already stupid!”

That evening, I tuned-in. Dr. Booth was talking about forming business structures, a primer for budding entrepreneurs. He encouraged his “vast” listening audience to call-in with their questions. I ain’t callin'. Dr. Booth sounded like he was sweating bullets while trying to keep the subject interesting with his co-host, while they waited for some callers.
Like any dutiful loving mother who wants to support her son, Mrs. Warfield called-in.

“So, you think you know something about the law?”
“Ah, yes ma’am. What is your question this evening?”
“Well, I want to know how to form a corporation where I can put my son in who is a student, along with his up-keep, student loans and write the whole damn thing off so that I can live the rest of my days in the islands?”
“ah ah ma’am (nervous chuckle)………”

Over the years, Dr. Booth and I enjoyed jogging together. We eventually ran 10K races and went on to do the memorable New York City Marathon. Wobbly-legged from the 26-mile endurance course, Rachel, Dr. Booth and I met Rachel’s law buddies at a restaurant in the Village and, later danced to hip-swiveling salsa music at a Latin club. It was about this time that Dr. Booth began taking his handle seriously. He talked about the lactic acid that had built-up in our legs that caused the wobbly-leg. He talked about the supplements that we needed to take and the stretching we needed to do.

From that point on, I can’t remember a conversation we had that health issues was not weaved into it. He became such a health fanatic that Big-A dubbed him “Dr. Wackko”. My wife, Alfreda, is a crazy health nut too. She enjoyed talking to Dr. Wackko, sorry…I mean Dr. Booth.
It was not until Mrs. Warfield took deathly ill that we took the knowledge that Brian had garnered over the years with some importance. The medical doctors at Washington Hospital Center had, essentially, given up on her. I remember visiting her one afternoon and seeing her lay motionless in bed. I tried to get her attention, looking for that spark in her that I knew so well.

“Mrs. Warfield, it’s the bum! Can you hear me?”

I called my father, Pastor Ray, to give her last rights or something. I then, called Brian to get his butt up here immediately! The doctors were, eventually, able to bring her back. A few days later, Dr. Booth said that he had to do something drastic for her…..Hyperbaric Chamber!

“.....a hyper what?”

In those days, there were only two states that had this contraption: California and Florida. Brian’s sister, Marsha, lived in California. He packed-up the bare essentials that were needed and flew with the ailing Mrs. Warfield to California. He started the non-insured and expensive Hyperbaric Chamber treatment for her immediately upon arriving in California. He called me a few weeks later and told me that she was responding to the treatment. After being on the west coast, now for months, Mrs. Warfield had come back to life. Her tongue and wit were sharp as ever!

Dr. Booth asked Dot, his classmate at Georgetown, and me to pack-up all his remaining possessions in D.C. and place them in storage and to sell his mother’s home. California is where she can receive the care she needed was the thinking.

Well folks, that was twenty years ago? Brian is one of his mother’s three children that took on this awesome task. It is because of what he did for his mother that showed me how to be the son that my Alzheimer’s-diagnosed mother needs right now. He, literally, snatched his mother from the jaws of death and gave her twenty more years of TLC, sacrificing his personal goals and ambitions.

Dr. Booth, I salute you and love you for showing all of us, in life, the meaning of the biblical passage that states “honor thy father and thy mother”. Our prayers are with you and our doors are open to you. And when you are ready, we will take that long over-due vacation you need.

God bless you!

Sunday, June 19, 2011

My Father's Day 2011 Tribute

As a construction contractor, I work with guys all day long. I can state that male relationships are developed and strengthened when men team together: be it work, sports or the military.

Recently, I visited one of our job sites to document our progress. In doing so, I observed how one of my partners, Jesse Witherspoon, interacted with his son, Dezmon. I had not seen Dezmon in at least twenty years.

My own father, Pastor Ray as he was known, taught me to always look a man in the eyes and give a firm handshake. This young man looked me in the eyes and greeted me with a firm handshake and a smile. When he spoke, I heard and understood everything that he had to say. I see the same traits in my nephews, Gannon, Del and Eddie. Today, I can not resist finding that very impressive among their generation. I can only attribute these traits, rightly or wrongly, to the men in these young men’s lives.

Pastor Ray, was bigger than life to me. To this day, I still marvel at how he and my mother owned a home, raised five kids and gifted me with a menagerie that he built with his own hands in his “spare time” to house my rabbits and ducks. As the neighborhood zookeeper, my collection also included dogs, turtles, gold fish, parakeets, and an iguana; all of these “creatures” supported on one working man’s income and my little newspaper route.

My parents sent me to St. Emma Military Academy, fifty miles west of Richmond, Virginia, when I was thirteen and my brother, Rick, to Archbishop Carroll High School, here in D.C. I get exhausted just thinking about the responsibility my father, the leader of our household, had to bear on a daily bases. And yet, he always had a smile and a positive word to say to everyone.

During the last thirty years of his life and being visually blind, Pastor Ray led Guiding Star, a small Baptist church in Brookland, Washington, DC. He married all of my family and friends and buried some of them. Toward the end of his life, riddled with pain from cancer, I asked my father how did he do all that he did for us? And during one of his last hospital stay, where did he draw the strength to minister to his hospital roommate, late at night in his last hour, knowing that his time was near too? My father simply looked to the heavens.

I can remember during my rebellious phase, declaring that I did not understand my father and that I did not want to act like him. You can imagine how startled I was when some years later my niece stated, “Uncle Mike, you act just like Granddad!” Well, today I can say that I accept my niece’s assessment as a compliment. When I talk to folks, sometimes I can hear my father’s voice speaking through me when working with a cantankerous situation; I try to look at the big picture by considering all the personalities involved and the impact that my decision may have on everyone. I always attempt to leave a negative situation on an upbeat note with a smile and a firm handshake: classic Pastor Ray!

Please, don’t misunderstand me. I am no where near the man father was, but I feel his spirit living within me. So, on Father’s Day 2011, I salute Jesse Witherspoon and the many fathers like him for instilling young men like Dezmon with the simple, but foretelling attribute to look another person in the eyes with a smile and to extend a firm handshake in greeting. I think that this gesture speaks volumes of the father/son relationship.

Happy Father’s Day, to all the men and women who had a positive impact on some young person's life!

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Solace in a Woman's Voice

Easter Sunday morning, I was listening to WPFW 89.3FM and one of my favorite programmers, Myuki Williams, played Ms. Roberta Flack's "The First Time I Ever Saw Your Face" and it just froze me in my tracks as it had done when I was a kid.

In this wild and crazy time of armed struggle on different fronts, world economic challenges, political rancor and intolerance for others, I was momentarily taken back to a most innocent and optimistic time in my life. I felt myself, literally, releasing all concerns for schedules, to-do lists, obligations or where I needed to be. I just wanted to hear Ms. Flack's melodic voice again!

Not having a copy of the song in my collection, I immediately searched YouTube for this drop-dead work of vocal artistry and stumbled on a young woman, Leona Lewis, who this old fart had never heard before. Thinking, "who would dare tread on this sacred legendary work?"

I gave a listen.

From her first moan/note, I was amazed how this British-born artist caught my attention. Lewis imbued the lyrics of this timeless piece with mature emotions, phrasing and timing, leaving me to believe so much greater than her youthful years should permit.

As one who treasures the written word, I struggle with the question of conveyance: lyrics vs. music; conveyers: men vs. women. Is the most important artistry of conveying the message in one or the other.... and to which audience is the medium most affective? Using the same lyrics, can women convey a message better than men? How much impact does music have? Well, in the case of The First Time Ever I saw Your Face, it leaves no doubt in my mind that it is a talented woman's domain, lyrically and musically.

So, you be the judge. I welcome you to listen to this beautiful, heart-felt rendition of Ms. Flack's signature piece by the lovely and demure Leona Lewis.