Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Remember what happened on that day…

A couple of memorable events took place on Saturday, December 10, 2011.  When the time is right, our memory banks will be relied on to recall what took place on that day and perhaps we will begin to question how information is presented to us in the news. 

The first and most important reason I will remember that day is because my beautiful, sweet, loving, caring and wonderful mother celebrated her 57th birthday! I want to ensure my mom is healthy enough to stay around for around for another 57 or so years, so I presented her with a membership to a fitness club, which turned out to be “The best gift a son could give a mother for her birthday!”
That day will also be remembered for a couple of significant events that took place in the sports world. 
Baylor University quarterback Robert Griffin III won the 77th Heisman Memorial Trophy as the Most Outstanding College Football Player in 2011.  It was encouraging to watch the underdog win the big one for a change.  Griffin presented himself in a manner that any parent would be proud of.  The type of child parents prays for. 
The new face of Baylor University will hopefully erase the negativity of scandals involving a basketball player who was murdered by his teammate, and a coach who was fired for trying to portray his murdered player as a drug dealer.  We will remember that day because in his acceptance of the Heisman Trophy, Griffin displayed the characteristics more young men should strive to emulate. 
We will also remember that day for the fight that broke out between basketball players from Xavier University and the University of Cincinnati near the end of regulation.  Just when we thought the skirmish on the court was bad enough, the press conference afterwards was even worse.  This fight was about a war of words that eventually turned into a physical confrontation, which exhibited how immature these young men were in handling the situation.
As I watched the coverage of the altercation, my immediate thoughts took me back to the 2004 brawl between the Indiana Pacers and the Detroit Pistons and how much negative media attention it attracted.  It then occurred to me that there is an obvious double standard in relation to how fighting in different sports is covered.
For example, fighting during a hockey game is applauded and the players are celebrated for their toughness and physicality.  Once the fight has ended, the players are sent to the penalty box for a short period of time and if the fight was “good enough” it might be nominated as the top play of the day. 
The game is not ended; and the players aren’t ejected, suspended, or fined in most cases.  There is a mentality floating around in the atmosphere that somehow justifies fighting in hockey and demonizes fighting in other sports, with baseball being the other sport where bench clearing brawls are OK.
A hockey player was quoted in an article I was reading by saying, "It was great to see Tom and Garth step up and fight. They set the tone and let them know that isn't going to happen all game. We expect the same battle on Sunday."

The writer of the article then proceeds to praise the players who got into two separate fights, one second apart. 

“Both tough guys dropped the gloves on back-to-back face-offs.” I am willing to bet that the writer covering this hockey game was one of the main critics who came out blasting the basketball players for their actions on the court.

This rhetoric sounds very similar to the equally ignorant and childish statement from an Xavier player made during the post-fight press conference.

We’re not going to sit there and get our face beat in by somebody like Yancy Gates. We won't let that happen.”

The media coverage of the Xavier-Cincinnati fight is flat out hypocritical, but the actions of the players played right into the hands of the social stigmas related to violence within the African American community. The actions of players from both teams were a check in the box for the people who continue to push the negative young black male stereotype.

Remember what happened on that day because the next time you see a bench clearing brawl break out in another sport, pay attention to how the brawl is covered by the media.  Think about how the fight at the end of the Xavier-Cincinnati basketball game was covered and how fighting in other sports is justified.

I am willing to bet that the terminology associated with the people in those fights won’t include the words ‘gangstas’ or ‘thugs’ or ‘street brawl’.  Think about it and remember where you heard it first.

Originally published by Steve Maynor Jr. on December 13, 2011 via Blogger.com

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Mainstream Media Overlooks Death of a Civil Rights Giant

Several famous people died during the month of October 2011.  I watched in frustration at the amount of media coverage a few individuals received and was baffled by the lack of coverage in the case of Rev. Fred Shuttlesworth.  The gentleman, who did more for the American people than he is given credit for, passed away at the age of 89.  Rev. Shuttlesworth died on the same day as former Apple CEO Steve Jobs and in the same manner in which his work during the Civil Rights Movement was overshadowed by the more popular Dr. Martin Luther King, his death was overshadowed again by a more popular public figure. 

Birmingham, Alabama had a long history of white superiority and was a hotbed for violence against African American people.  Rev. Shuttlesworth was jailed more than 30 times, survived a Christmas Day bombing of his home, endured multiple beatings and was the victim of an infamous 1963 encounter with the fire hose which left him with chest injuries.  He was known for his aggressive face-off with Bull Conner and was described by some as a local militant.  Rev. Shuttlesworth and the Alabama Christian Movement for Human Rights (ACMHR) mass-organized local African Americans in an effort to defeat white supremacy, segregation, and worked hard to build an inclusive, grassroots movement in Birmingham that bridged deep seated class divisions. 

Unlike Dr. King, Rev. Shuttlesworth took an aggressive approach to the fight for equality.  He was different than many of the other southern preachers during the movement and was not willing to conform to the dehumanizing system of segregation, vowing not to turn the other cheek.  The group Rev. Shuttlesworth led shared his belief that non-violence was an action, but certainly not a way of life.  He was able to connect with poor people because he came from the same social class of people he was determined to help.  ACMHR joined forces with the Southern Conference Education Fund (SCEF), a group of radical whites that caused the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) to question the pastor and his possible ties to the Communist Party.  Shuttlesworth believed in listening to the concerns of the people, which was the main reason he had the largest working poor membership of any city’s civil rights organization. 

Steve Jobs died after a lengthy battle with pancreatic cancer.  The internet was buzzing with articles, tributes and moments of silence to honor Jobs.  News channels all over the globe diverted from their regularly scheduled programming to talk about the life and impact of one of the most influential business people we’ve seen in a long time.  Jobs inspired people as a designer and creator of hardware and software, to develop their own products and businesses.  In one way or another, his products have impacted our lives and his gadgets will be beneficial to society as a whole, but the coverage of his death was a bit too much for me.  I was surprised that his death dominated the news cycle for five or six straight days.

Longtime Oakland Raiders owner Al Davis unexpectedly died at 82 years of age.  All of the major sports networks provided wall to wall coverage once the news of Davis’ death was confirmed.  Hopefully Davis won’t solely be remembered as the owner of the team who coined the phrase, “Just Win Baby,” but will be remembered as a rebel, an innovator and an advocate for minorities and women.  Davis took a chance on people when no one else would and after everyone else had given up on them.  He hired the league’s first Hispanic coach, Tom Flores and hired Art Shell to coach the Raiders in 1989, making Shell the first African American NFL coach in the modern era.  Davis also hired the first female CEO in the NFL, Amy Trask, in 1997.  His unwavering commitment to African American and other minority athletes in the 1960’s was unprecedented considering the racial atmosphere of the nation during that time.

Indy Car driver Dan Wheldon was killed in a fiery accident during a race in Las Vegas.  News of his death spread quickly throughout the sports world for several days on radio and television.  The death of a young athlete in the prime of their career is without a doubt going to be a front page story.  Ironically, Wheldon’s death came on the same day in history that abolitionist John Brown conducted his raid on Harpers Ferry, West Virginia. 

John Brown delivered a speech to the court at his trial that made me think about the people participating in the Occupy Movements all over the world.  In defending his case for trying to help put an end to slavery, Brown famously said, “Had I so interfered in behalf of the rich, the powerful, the intelligent, the so-called great, or in behalf of any of their friends--either father, mother, brother, sister, wife, or children, or any of that class--and suffered and sacrificed what I have in this interference, it would have been all right; and every man in this court would have deemed it an act worthy of reward rather than punishment.”

Arguably the most controversial death in October 2011 was that of Libyan leader Muammar Gadaffi.  There are several different accounts of how he was killed and who was responsible for killing him.  One of the possible benefits of his death is bringing a sense of closure to the families of the people who were killed when Pan-Am Flight 103 exploded over Lockerbie, Scotland.  It is going to be interesting to see what happens in the fight to control the oil fields that contain the Libyan sweet crude oil companies are clamoring to gain access to.  Thankfully no American servicemen were lost during this engagement and with any luck the powers that be will restore peace to the northern African nation that has been at war since early this year.

Gadaffi’s death is already being politicized during the presidential campaign, with some people giving credit to President Obama for deciding to participate in NATO’s campaign without putting troops on the ground to take down the longtime Libyan leader.  Meanwhile, critics of the President have taken their normal “anti-everything President Obama does” stance and will continue to use the American intervention in Libya against him during the general election.  Most people still do not understand why America was involved in another country’s conflict in the first place, but the first word that comes to mind is OIL.  At the end of the day, Gadaffi is dead, and in light of the excessive media coverage of the Libyan conflict, we still don’t know how to spell his name. Perhaps by the end of the Republican primary season, the candidates will realize that Libya is on the continent of Africa; “no pun intended.”

It would have been nice to have seen the reporting of Shuttlesworth’s death on the cover of every newspaper and the lead story on every news channel.  Sadly, the coverage of his death was minuscule to say the least. African American radio talk show hosts paid their respects to Rev. Shuttlesworth and other than a few articles here or there, his name was barely mentioned on the scroll slowly rolling across the bottom of our television screens.  A man who sacrificed so much for people he did not know should be remembered for his never-ending dedication for racial equality and justice for all people.  Thankfully there were people like Fred Shuttlesworth and other unsung heroes who stood on the front lines, willingly putting themselves in harms-way for a cause that meant more to them than their own lives.

Originally published by Steve Maynor Jr. on December 11, 2011 via Blogger.com

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Genocide, vengeance and the remarkable testimony of forgiveness

The term genocide is a specific term that refers to violent crimes committed against a group of people with the intention of destroying the very existence of the group.  While taking a closer look and analyzing the definition of the term, I wonder how much hate a person would need in their hearts to want to wipe out an entire group of people.  More importantly, why would anyone believe they had the authority to actually do something that seems like such a far-fetched idea?

I approached 20 random people walking around a college campus and asked them to tell me the first thing that came to their minds when they heard the term genocide.  19 of the 20 people surveyed said the Holocaust, or the mass killing of Jews in the 1930’s and 1940’s.  Remarkably, only one person answered the question by mentioning the genocide in Rwanda during the 1990’s.  The Holocaust indeed was a horrific period of time for Jewish people in Europe.  Approximately six million people were murdered and thousands more were displaced because of thesadistic behavior of another group of humans over a span of about twelve years.
In Rwanda over a period of just 100 days, approximately 800,000 people were killed.  When you do the math, that equates to nearly 8,000 people dying every day.  This travesty is one of the worst humanitarian crises the world has ever seen.  The problem is that the genocides in the African nations of Rwanda, and Sudanhave not gotten the international attention they deserved. 
Last week I was fortunate enough to hear two young ladies from the Akilah Institute for Women in Kigali, Rwanda speak about the genocide that decimated their country.  It was hard for me to hold back tears as they told stories of their childhood, living in exile for a number of years, and not knowing if they would live to see the next minute or not.  Generations of families were murdered in some of the most vicious manners one could imagine, and thousands of children were left without a blood relative to turn to.  I’m talking about children who lost parents, siblings, aunts, uncles and were left to fend for themselves.
According to a Human Rights Council report, “The Rwandan genocide resulted from the conscious choice of the elite to promote hatred and fear to keep itself in power. This small, privileged group first set the majority against the minority to counter a growing political opposition within Rwanda. Then, faced with Tutsi dominated RPF (Rwandan Patriotic Front) success on the battlefield and at the negotiating table, these few power holders transformed the strategy of ethnic division into genocide. They believed that the extermination campaign would reinstate the solidarity of the Hutu under their leadership and help them win the war, or at least improve their chances of negotiating a favorable peace. They seized control of the state and used its authority to carry out the massacre.”
Why?is a question I continue to ask myselfwhen atrocities like this occur.  What could a minority group of people do so bad that would make the majority group of people want to exterminate them?  I’m talking about people who bleed the same red blood as they do.  Apparently Hutu extremists were so angry that they tried to literally wipe out all of the Tutsi’s.  Not only did the Hutu’s murder and brutally rape women, they also killed other Hutu’s who were opposed to the murders of thousands of their fellow countrymen. 
Remarkably, these two young women survived by the grace of God and are now focused on doing everything they can to rebuild their country.  These young women are totally committed to being educated so they can serve as mentors and be an influential part of the lives of young Rwandan children.  Envision walking 40 minutes to get to the bus stop and then riding the bus for an additional 50 minutes to get to school.  Now imagine sitting in class all day, going to work after class, and then taking the almost two hour trip back home at night.NoellaAbijuru spoke about how determined she was to be educated, because she understood that without an education she would not be able to be a productive citizen in the new Rwanda. 
I was blown away by their desire to succeed in life, but what was even more impressive about these two young ladies was the fact that they have totally forgiven the people responsible for murdering hundreds of thousands of Rwandan citizens.  In the case of Abijuru, the man who killed her father now lives next door to her mother.  She stated that neither she nor her mother has any ill feelings towards the gentleman and they are doing everything they can to make him apart of their family.“Do not compare your present to your past, or you will never be able to move on to your future,” said Abijuru on several occasions. 
The government in Rwanda is doing everything they can to ensure children know exactly what happened during the genocide.  Learning and understanding the history of what took place in their country will provide healing and closure for a generation of children that had to start with a blank pallet.  Likewise, I believe that American children need to be taught all aspects of the history of this country and not just the feathery versions often passed along in school textbooks.  We have to be weary and critical of historians understanding of his-story.  After all, one person’s version of present day events can and will be told from a totally different perspective by someone else.
In the meantime, to a growing number of Americans, it seems as though politicians are doing everything they can to keep the American people divided and fighting amongst one another.  As a proud member of the “No Party Affiliation” group of Americans, I have had enough of the partisan political games, and the back and forth shenanigans of both the Democratic and Republican Parties.  I can only hope that the American people will stand tall and join together to try and unite as one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty, and justice for all.
It may be easy for some Americans in our technologically advanced society to dismiss or demonize the transformation taking place in Rwanda.  I just want to remind those same critics that America at one point in time was a nation at war with itself in a fight to abolish or maintain the enslavement of other human beings.  What is happening in Rwanda is truly a remarkable testimony of forgiveness and perseverance.  The Hutu and the Tutsi are working together as one group of Rwandan’s.  The people have realized that vengeance would only lead to more killing and senseless deaths.  The ultimate reconciliation project is underway in Rwanda because the citizens have decided to live together in peace as one nation of people.  They have seen firsthand the results of livingin a divided country.
Originally published by the Charlton County Herald on October 4, 2011 http://www.charltoncountyherald.com/articles/2011/10/05/opinion/editorials/doc4e8b212017ccc257436358.txt

A bandage on a massive wound

The election of 2010 will go down in history as one of the most important elections in the history of this country.  Voter turnout was down and the theme of the election cycle was jobs, and balancing the budgets of the federal and various state governments.  It's been almost four months since the majority party has been in office and it didn't take long for the realintentions of the newly elected politicians to come to the surface.

It's apparent that the real agenda had absolutely nothing to do with jobs, or balancing the budget. The real goal was all about power and doing everything possible to ensure President Obama doesn't get re-elected in 2012.All of the talk about too much government, taking the country back and fiscal responsibility ironically didn't begin until after the election of 2008.  I don't remember hearing any of this talk during the previous years of government expansion and out of control spending.

Yes, the national debt is out of control and measures need to be put in place to cut spending;however, that debt didn't pile up in two years and it will take some time before it’sunder control.Taking away collective bargaining rights, privatizing public sector jobs,or closing schools won’t solve the debt problem.  Politicians don’t really expect us to believe that public sector jobs helped create budget deficits, or that selling public sector jobs to private companies is going to solve budget problems do they?  Anybody with common sense can see the massive amount of hypocrisy in that argument. That’s like putting a bandage on a gigantic gunshot wound. 

Massive layoffs might save states a few dollars in the short term, but the number of unemployed people in the state will increase, and the debt will still be out of control.  After all, people thought they were voting for candidates that were going to create jobs and grow the economy.The newly elected officials were supposed to go to the state capitals and Washington D.C. toget America back on track by putting people back to work. Instead of jobs being created, jobs were the first things on the chopping block.  I can’t believe voters actually bought off on this stuff. 

The people in the mid-west didn’t think their newly elected officials would immediately introduce legislation that would threaten their job.  In hindsight, voters voted against their own best interest for the sake of change, but it's not the change they thought they were going to get.If the elected officials determined to get rid of collective bargaining abided by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights that was adopted by the United Nations in 1948, Americans wouldn’t have to protest for the same rights guaranteed to them by this document.  That idea might be too far fetched because we have a tendency in this country to pick and chose parts of documents like the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution to justify an absurd amount of injustices inflicted on our own citizens.

CEO’s are getting multi million dollar bonuses after running companies into the ground and white-collar criminals are robbing taxpayer’s blind, but go unpunished while hard working Americans are left carrying the weight of their bad business decisions.  Since when did public sector employees become the enemy?   The people who work to provide services to others in the community aren’t looking for handouts, nor are they freeloaders.  I call them friends of mine and consider them to be great Americans.  Teachers are already underpaid for the amount of work they do, and with the closing of schools and cutting of school budgets, they are now going to be expected to do more work for the same measly salary.

If schools are closed the size of classrooms will increase, and the quality of education will decrease.  Teachers will get burnt out and students without a quality education will likely end up in prison, a place where budgets seem to be untouchable.  In the grand scheme of things it seems as though a system is being put in place for people to have fewer options. Limited options will lead to an increase in crimes, which will lead to time in the prison, which will lead to voting rights being taken away.  Call me skeptical, but that’s the way I see things shaping up. 

The nightmare that is the privatization of the prison industry is exactly how the rest of society will function if collective bargaining rights are taken away and public sector jobs are privatized.  The quality of service will go down the drain because the only thing private companies care about is making as much money as they can while paying their employees as little as possiblewith minimal benefits.  Private companies should make a profit, but not at the expense of shabby service and not paying their employees a fair wage.

What doesn’t make sense to meis how a company that’s in the moneymaking business going to helpfixbudget deficiencies.  Companies have mastered the art of tax exemptions so they certainly won't pay their fair share of taxes because of all the loopholes in the tax system.   Go ahead and get ready to start seeing company logos on the side of school buses and public buildings because that's exactly what's going to happen if we privatize everything.  I can see it now, "The Charlton County Courthouse Presented by Said Named Bank."

African-Americans in particular have seen first hand what can happen when private companies and the super rich are allowed to dictate politics.  All we need to do is take a look at the nadirof American race relations between the late 19th and mid-20th century. Emancipation Betrayed by Paul Ortiz providesexamples of the political tactics usedin post-slavery Florida in the late 1890’s that are very similar to the tactics being used in the mid-west today.  History has a funny way of repeating itself, but you have to read and look beyond the surface to uncover the hidden truth behind some political decisions.

These are the types of things that can happen when people don't vote, or vote for a candidate without knowing their corporate connections.  The policies being put in place are skewed by whoever contributes large amounts of money to campaign funds and the politicians that have their own business interests in mind.Politicians like thiswill allow the rich to keep getting richer, while working-class Americans struggle to put food on the table to feed their families. 

I think he missed my point

Although I would have loved to respond earlier to Mr. Frank Miller’s comments concerning the editorial, Just Answer These Questions, I was busy training, screening, and evaluating young officer candidates who have the desire to be leaders of Marines.  Each summer, a small group of individuals decide to spend six weeks of their summer vacation trying to become the next generation of Marine Officers at Officer Candidates School, Marine Corps Base, Quantico, VA. 
For each of the last three summer training cycles, I have had the opportunity to be a part of developing these young candidates.   

Mr. Miller, is correct about one thing.  I did volunteer to wear the uniform and fight the nation’s battles, but by no means does that indicate that I do not have the ability to think outside of the box.  All citizens have the right to think critically when decisions are being made about possibly sending young men and women into foreign countries to engage in combat operations. 

Wearing the uniform for the last 15 years gives me the right to think critically about these kinds of decisions.  Marines who served as mentors to me, peers who I have worked along with, and young Marines I personally trained have lost their lives proudly fighting for this country.  Anyone with an open mind can tell that there is a big difference between fighting our nation’s battles and being the social police of the world. 

The critique in the aforementioned editorial was aimed at the individuals who think it is the American military’s job to be the social police of the world.  The people I have a problem with are the sideliners who have never worn the uniform, and somehow dodged serving the country who think going to war is as easy as turning on and off a video game.  Actual lives are at stake when these critical decisions are made, that is why I am concerned.

During a recent visit to Arlington National Cemetery this summer, I could not help but think about the sheer number of people buried there and asked myself why?  I also wondered if these deaths could have been avoided in any way.  Yes is the conclusion I came up with, but I guess fate is why so many people lost their lives fighting in wars that could have been avoided.

Here is a simple analogy.  Think about the fans in the bleachers who think they know more about football than the head coach.  Better yet think about a coach who has never played a down of organized football, or has any coaching experience calling plays for a football team.  How much sense does that make?

It bothers me even more to hear commentators who have never strapped on a set of shoulder pads, never played in a competitive basketball game, or swung a baseball bat sit back and provide“expert” analysis of the game.  We do not accept those tactics concerning sports, so why should it be any different when it comes to politicians making decisions that have life and death consequences?

Your “another line of employment” suggestion was immature, insulting, and typical of people who do not understand what Marines do on a daily basis. Yes, I chose to be a part of one of the finest organizations the world has ever seen, but being a Marine does not mean I don’t have an opinion or a right to question decisions being made that could cost me my life.  One of the most important things the Corps has taught me is to be a thinker and not just a follower.  Even the most junior Marines are leaders in one aspect or another, which makes our way of doing business unique from our sister services.  If Marines aren’t allowed to think critically, lives could be lost because their leader was too afraid to be a forward thinker.

Mr. Miller, you may want to do some homework and some serious rethinking concerning your pre-existing beliefs about the present state of Israel.  Anybody with common sense knows that the land Israel occupies existed well prior to 1948.  Have you ever asked yourself why the Palestinians are still pissed off more than 60 years later?  Have you ever thought about why they are still willing to fight over land that was arguably taken from them?  Probably not.  I would venture to say that you probably still believe that Christopher Columbus discovered America because that is the feel good story fed to children through the education system.  The same one sided version of history that leads people to believe that Native Americans and African slaves were barbarians and savages who were rescued from themselves by the adventurous Europeans. The same story that forgot to mention how barbaric the Europeans were as they traveled around the world colonizing territories that didn’t belong to them, and then categorizing themselves as explorers and exhibitionists.

Sir, please do not attempt to marginalize, or question my understanding of history and do not challenge how much homework I’ve done prior to presenting the material in my editorials.  You should think more like Michael J. Wise from St. George who has an appreciation for a point of view different than what he will see on the local news, or in the mainstream media.  I always have encouraged everyone to think critically when reading books, watching the news, or listening to talk radio. 

You totally missed the point in Just Answer These Questions because of your pre-existing set of beliefs.  Do not be a “ditto head” and believe everything you hear on Fox News, or conservative talk radio.  A story can be told from many points of view, and I try to analyze the facts from a common sense approach prior to offering my opinion.  If that is what you call a pre-existing set of beliefs, you are the one that needs to take the blinders off and open your eyes to the way the world really operates.
Originally published by the Charlton County Herald on August 30, 2011 http://www.charltoncountyherald.com/articles/2011/08/31/opinion/editorials/doc4e5d0fe555a0f025754982.txt

Just answer these questions

Conflicts in the Middle East have existed since the days prior to Jesus walking the streets of Jerusalem. The problems in Egypt, Libya, Syria, and other countries in the region are just that, their problems. Middle Eastern people don't want intervention by the United Nations, the United States or any other foreign nation.

Our allies in the Arab world are committing worse deeds against their people, but we pick and choose which leaders to demonize. The media will do everything they can to make the leaders America does not like look as bad as possible.  Do not be fooled into thinking our involvement worldwide has anything to do with protecting innocent citizens we are calling rebels
. This has everything to do with helping our European friends fight for the oil all of us so heavily rely on.
A blind eye is often turned to injustices occurring in nations that do not have natural resources to offer the rest of the world, but all bets are off when oil is on the table. The hypocrisy is laughable when people try to justify American intervention in foreign affairs that have nothing at all to do with the security and protection of American citizens.  Don’t get it twisted or believe the hype; it is all about money and power.

Some Americans want to be the social police of the world and tell other countries how to govern themselves. We have so much of our own trash littering the streets that we cannot clean up because foreign interests seem to have taken priority over the needs of the American people. Note: The trash in this implication is not the dead urban thug kind of trash that radio talk show host Neal Boortz wants to see littering the streets of Atlanta.
If being the social police means sending service members to fight in wars, so be it as long as the people making these decisions are not doing the fighting. Anybody that wants to go help the rebels in Libya, or are so concerned about protecting Israel and any other American ally, don’t just talk about it, be about it.  I encourage people with that mindset to feel free to get from behind their desks and microphones, strap their boots on and get to work.

Several questions have been going through my mind that I have not been able to put my finger on as of yet. For instance:

What foreign nation helped America during the nadir when Black men were being lynched, hung, and slaughtered for looking at White women, or registering to vote?  Who helped America when Eugene “Bull” Connor was terrorizing Black people in the streets of Alabama?  Where was the aid from other countries when the Klan was bombing churches, schools, and killing innocent Americans in the South?  Which country came to the rescue when civil rights activists were murdered in cold blood while organizing people to stand up for their human rights?
The common sense answer, generally speaking, is that Americans solve our own internal problems. The common sense answer may not be as simple as we think it is, but here are a few more questions.

Where was the United Nations when European countries were taking over free and independent African and Asian countries?  Where was the international concern when civil wars broke out in the Congo, Sierra Leone, Sudan, Rwanda, or Tunisia?  I am still trying to understand how it is okay for the governments in Bahrain or Syria to kill their own innocent citizens and for Israel continuing to bomb the Palestinians without any ramifications?  Meanwhile, Cuba is still under sanctions for exactly what reason?

In the spirit of the upcoming election season, here are a few questions I want to ask the current presidential candidates with these rules in place for answering questions. 1. Answers cannot include a word about President Obama. 2. Answers need to be in specific terms and not just the generic campaign jargon. 3. Answers will contain no negative comments or pointing out the other candidate’s shortcomings.  I want to hear more about you and your record on the issues, not how bad you think the other person is. 

Here we go.

What does Libya, protesting same-sex marriage, installing strict voter identification laws, or requiring citizens in need of government assistance to submit to drug tests have to do with creating jobs?  What are you going to do to pay down the trillions of dollars of debt that accumulated over the last decade, not just in the last three years?  How many times has the debt ceiling been raised over the last 30 years without contention?  How are government subsidies for low income Americans any different from corporate welfare benefits/tax loopholes to industries making record profits?  The current tax system is broken, how are you going to fix it?  How do you feel about placing limits on campaign funds from individuals and private companies?
Those questions may seem far-fetched and I surely would not expect to get straight answers, but the American people are tired of the political stunts and games.  What we want from our elected officials is more results, and less television appearances.  Politicians could make life easier for all of us if they would just answer the questions and tell us exactly where they stand on the issues instead of talking in coded language that allows them to play on both sides of an issue.
Originally published by the Charlton County Herald on July 12, 2011 http://www.charltoncountyherald.com/articles/2011/07/13/opinion/editorials/doc4e1c449d0add2643945579.txt

Hometown success story: Tyrone Q. Edwards

The decision to join the military after graduating from high school is a difficult choice for any young man or woman.  Discipline, leadership, camaraderie, esprit de corps, and initiative are a few examples of benefits young people will gain while serving the nation.  For Command Sergeant Major (CSM) Tyrone Edwards, the U.S. Army was the branch of service that caught his attention and his decision to join turned out to be one of the best decisions he ever made. 

The benefits associated with joining the armed forces are limitless, but the days of using Uncle Sam as a backup plan are over.  Entrance requirements aren’t expected to be lowered anytime soon and only the best and brightest can make it through basic training. Those fortunate enough to make it through boot camp soon learn that wearing the uniform daily is one of the toughest and most unappreciated jobs in the world.

The outstanding accomplishments of servicemen and women are often not reported, but bad news is guaranteed to make the front page.  The nightly news does not have time to cover the good deeds taking place around the world because they spend too much time discussing crooked preachers, corrupt politicians, murderers, thieves, and sexual predators.

Here is some good news.  CSM Tyrone Edwards, a Folkston native and 1989 graduate of Charlton County High School is a real life American hero.  Edwards has a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Business Administration from Troy State University and is a few semester hours away from earning his Master’s Degree in Human Resources Management from Columbia Southern University.  He owns three homes in three different states and has amassed a net worth of three quarters of a million dollars in assets.  He and his wife Thalassa also own a telecommunications/energy plug business (www.5LYNX.net/tntedwards).

He has been in the Army for nearly 22 years and managed to assemble quite an impressive record.  CSM Edwards has spent time in Baumholder, Germany; Fort Bragg, North Carolina; Yongsan, Korea; Atlanta, Georgia; Balad, Iraq; Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri; and Fort Knox Kentucky.  His primary duty as a personnel administration specialist has provided him the opportunity to serve in Special Forces Group, Medical Command, Psychological Operations Battalion, Atlanta Recruiting Battalion, Airborne Soldier Support Group, Military Mail Terminal Command, Airborne Sustainment Brigade, Fitness Training Company, and his current position as the Command Sergeant Major of one of five Reception Battalions in the Army Armor Brigade, Fort Knox, Kentucky.

CSM Edwards’ personal awards include four Meritorious Service Medals, six Army Accommodation Medals, seven Army Achievement Medals, two National Defense Service Medals, one Korean Defense Service Medal, one Iraq Campaign Medal with combat star, two Global War on Terrorism Medals, three Noncommissioned Officer Professional Development Ribbons, one Army Service Ribbon, three Over Seas Service Ribbons, the Recruiter Gold Badge with three Sapphires, the Gold Recruiter Ring, the prestigious Glen E. Morrell Medallion, a Parachutist badge the Senior Parachutist Badge and the Master Parachutist Badge, Venezuelan Foreign Jump Wings and the Centurion Jump wings for completing more than 100 jumps.

Edwards can be described as a Soldier, who is dedicated and committed to excellence.  His fast rise through the ranks is a direct result of his sharp demeanor, professional attitude, and aggressive leadership style.  Edwards was named the 2002 New Recruiter of the Year as well as the 2003 and 2004 Recruiter of the Year.  All of the awards and citations Edwards has received during his career is a testament to his drive and determination to succeed.

“There was a time in my younger life when I could have chosen the easy road of selling drugs or hustling for money, but I think God for giving me the wisdom to look past the glamour of making quick money.  I had to observe my surroundings and what I saw was not one successful retired drug dealer,” Edwards told me during an interview.

When asked if he had any advice for the young people back home, Edwards said, “The one bit of advice that I could give to the youth of Folkston is always plan and then set those plans into motion, because a plan is not a plan unless you execute it.  Don’t let the surrounding decide who you become, but become someone who can make decisions about your own destiny.” 

Not only is he a tremendous soldier, but Edwards is a good human being.  The community is thankful that Edwards is representing his wife, five children, family, friends, and hometown in the positive manner that he has up to this point and in the future.  Folkston, Georgia is proud of CSM Tyrone Edwards and salutes him for all that he does for this country!

Playing the blame game

The political rhetoric over the last couple of years has escalated to the point of blatant disrespect, personal attacks, and constant finger pointing when it comes to the President of the United States, one of the most respected office’s in the world.  Accusations are tossed around without thought and facts are becoming harder and harder to find.  You would have to carry a flour sifter to filter out all the garbage floating around about the President from all sides of the political spectrum, from all races, and from all religions.  I call it, the blame game.

Regardless of the stance the President takes in regards to resolving the budget crisis, civil wars in other nations, global warming, same sex marriage, etc. there is a group of people out there that will purposely disagree with him for the sake of disagreeing with him.  They’ll take the opposite viewpoint just to have something to criticize him about, whether they actually agree with him or not.

He's going to be classified as either a villain, or a softy by those people determined to see him fail.  Since the day he was elected President, those who seek to destroy him have boldly announced their willingness to see the country fail before they allow our President to succeed.  The false claims about his citizenship, his religion, and his love for America would not be happening if his name was Mike Johnson and looked like all the previous Presidents that came before him.
I’ve heard him referred to as a Socialist, a Communist, and a Marxist.  I’m still trying to figure out how people manage to classify him in so many different ways, but can’t explain anything about any of these theories.  The next time you hear a person accuse the President of falling into one of these classifications, take a minute and ask them what that particular theory means.   You’ll be stunned that most people are just repeating what they heard someone else say and have no idea what these theories mean.
I’ve also never met a person that was a Muslim and a Christian at the same time.  Since he came on the national stage, there have been speculations, rumors and myths about his religious affiliation, as if that’s any of our business.  First, he was a Muslim because he has the same middle name as the former Iraqi leader and his father is from Kenya.  Then, he was a radical Christian because he attended a predominately Black church in Chicago pastored by a controversial preacher.   Next thing you know, he’ll be accused of being Buddhist, Atheist, or the Antichrist.

Motivated reasoning explains why this topic continues to come up from time to time. There is an attempt to associate him with being a Muslim in order to play on the emotions of weak-minded people who think that all Muslims hate America, or that Islam is a religion of violence.  “Christians” have probably killed more people in this country than Muslims have, so that deflates that argument.  The other attempt to associate him with black radicalism is like reading a script from the old playbook.  The mainstream media has always wanted to portray anyone who speaks strongly about social justice, or black pride to be radical and un-American. Remember what they said about Dr. King when he was pounding the pavement during the Civil Rights Movement? 

I wonder what Hannity or Limbaugh would talk about if they didn’t have the President to belittle, berate, criticize and scold on a daily basis.  These guys make their living complaining about the President and offer nothing in terms of an alternative plan, or solutions to any problem.  I tried listening to Hannity on the radio the other day while I was stuck in traffic, but after about five minutes I realized that he was repeating the same negative garbage from three or four years ago.  It’s like he’s obsessed with the President.  Fox News continually goes out of the way to make the President look bad, or link him to events he had nothing to do with.  i. e. trying to make a parallel between a suicide incident on a college campus that the President was visiting that day.  Spinning a story like that really goes overboard and is one more reason why I stopped watching that channel.   That place is like a trampoline or launching pad for anybody who wants to get in on the blame the President game. 

Take for instance, blaming the President for the $14 trillion national debt.  At the end of the 2008 fiscal year, the debt was around $10 trillion.  So when I hear this argument, the first thing I do is basic mathematics,  14-10= 4.  You don’t go from a surplus at the beginning of the century to $14 trillion in just two years.  Certainly the rate at which the debt has increased since he took office has gone up, but to pin the entire debt monster on him is ridiculous.  There are people in both the Democratic and Republican Parties that have been sitting in Congress since the debt started spiraling out of control, so if we’re looking for anyone to hold accountable, it’s them.

The blame the President game continues in the area of rising gasoline prices.  I recently read in an article that the governor of a southern state accused the President of wanting gas prices to go up in order to make alternative sources of fuel more competitive and to reduce pollution.  Another misinformed celebrity recently said that the President should just go to the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and tell them to lower the price of oil!  If it were that easy, I wonder why that didn’t work for the last five Presidents of the United States?  Answer: because OPEC doesn’t set crude oil prices. 
Movements on the three major international petroleum exchanges; the New York Mercantile Exchange (NYMEX), the International Petroleum Exchange in London (IPE) and the Singapore International Monetary Exchange (SIMEX) set the price of crude oil, not OPEC.  Want to blame someone for paying almost $4 for a gallon of gas; blame the speculators, not the President.
This seems like a long episode from the sitcom Everybody Hates Chris.  The earthquake in Japan; blame the President.  The tornadoes in the south; blame the President.  The nails in your front tire; blame the President.  The washing machine stopped working; blame the President.  Drive thru cashier messes up your order; blame the President.  Failed the final exam; blame the President.
Granted, not everyone is going to agree with the President on some of his political or social policies.   The bottom line is that the President can’t make everyone happy.  One man alone can’t possibly be responsible for all the bad things happening all over the world.  We all have the right to criticize and disagree with the President, but doing so in a respectful manner is the honorable thing to do.  At the end of the day he’s still the Commander in Chief, proudly representing the United States all over the world.
Originally published by the Charlton County Herald on April 26, 2011 http://www.charltoncountyherald.com/articles/2011/04/27/opinion/editorials/doc4db6dcb66de27446624481.txt

Hometown success story: Theodore Parrish, CFA

The next time you are browsing through the stations on your TV searching for something good to watch, scroll down the dial to CNN, CNBC, Bloomberg TV, PBS, or Fox Business Channel and you might see a familiar face talking stocks, bonds, mutual funds, and all things related to the world of Wall St. with the big boys.  You can also see his face when you log on to www.henssler.com, as well as his weekly appearance as a financial expert on Fox 5’s Good Day Atlanta.  You can hear his voice as the co-host of “Money Talks” every Sunday morning from 10 to 11 am on Talk 920 WGKA Atlanta, GA.

That familiar face and voice is Folkston native Theodore Parrish.

Parrish has become a major player in the financial world and has been interviewed extensively by some of the most respected publications on the market.  His name can be seen in Black Enterprise Magazine, The Wall Street Journal, USA Today, Investor’s Business Daily, Bloomberg Markets, Standard & Poor’s, and many other mainstream publications and websites. 

He’s employed by the Henssler Financial Group and currently serves as the Principal and Director of Investments, as well as the Co-Portfolio Manager of the Henssler Equity Fund.  Henssler, located in Kennesaw, GA is one of the largest independent financial planning and wealth management firms in Atlanta with assets under advisement of more than $1.25 billion.

In 2009 Parrish was recognized on the FIVE STAR Best in Client Satisfaction Wealth Managers list in Atlanta Magazine and named to Georgia Trend’s “40 Under 40.”  This list represents 40 high-achieving Georgians under the age of 40 who are influencing the state’s future in business, government, education, the arts, and charitable organizations. 

His Alma Mater of Kennesaw State University recently named Parrish to the Foundation’s Board of Trustees, where he serves on the Real Estate and Audit committees.  Prior to this, Parrish has also served as head of the Projected Costs subcommittee for the Kennesaw State University Football Exploratory Committee and is a major fundraiser for athletic programs at the school.

"I am honored and grateful for the opportunity to serve with such a professional and entrepreneurial board.  I look forward to helping develop the Foundation's vision that will move Kennesaw forward in their continued tradition of enhancing higher education for students, faculty and staff" said Parrish.

His financial knowledge is in high demand as he’s sought out on a regular basis to conduct investment seminars for the firm and serves as a guest speaker for both investment and student groups.  At least twice a semester Parrish speaks to both undergraduate and graduate level students in the business college about applying theoretical financial models to actual financial markets.

So what makes Parrish different from any other kid that grew up in Folkston?  How did he go from small town kid to being one of the hottest names in the financial world?  Did he grow up with more advantages than any other kid in the neighborhood?  Where did his drive for success come from?

Those questions are rhetorical in nature and are presented to suggest that no matter how good or bad a person has it growing up, or where they are from, success can be achieved through hard work and dedication.  Some people use a variety of excuses to validate their position in life.  Whether it’s the condition of the neighborhood they grew up in, the absence of one or both parents at home, or believing that the system is set up against them.  There are obvious flaws in the legal justice system that can’t be denied or debated.  We can fight the injustices in the system with a change in behavior; a change in mindset; a change in habits; and a change in the way we choose to conduct business.

Families and communities all over the country need young Black men to contribute to society more than we can imagine.  Think about how big of a financial mess the prison industry would be in if young Black men didn’t give them their business.  Private prisons in specific thrive off of rural towns like Folkston, with the promise of bringing jobs and tax revenue to the community, but at the expense of young Black men.  Please young people, do everything you can to stop putting money into the pockets of the prison executives.  Prison doesn’t give anybody street credibility, or make you tougher than the next person.  As a matter of fact, prison takes away far more than it could ever give and robs a man of something he will never be able to get back; TIME.

The societal crutches and cultural conditioning that exists in our communities has to be broken at some point. If we doesn’t like the path our parents or siblings took, we can choose a different path that will take us down the road to success.  We don’t have to settle for selling drugs, living in poverty, living in single parent homes, or relying on the government to help the community.  There is no doubt that the next generation can be better than the generation before us.  The elders have paved the way with blood, sweat and tears and it’s our job to continue paving the road for the generations that will follow us.  We can do better for ourselves, no doubt about it.

If Ted Parrish, a 1991 graduate of Charlton County High School can step out of the vicious circle that can be found in rural towns and metropolitan cities, so can any young man or woman.  Keep making us proud Ted.  Thanks for representing your family, friends, and hometown in the positive manner that you have up to this point and in the future. I salute you my brother!

Black history can't be taught in 28 days

Each year the month of February comes around and nationally we celebrate Black History Month.  The shortest month of the year was chosen to honor the History of Black people in America, and from March to January little seems to be mentioned about the accomplishments of Black people in this country.  The history of any people can’t be taught in that short amount of time, so why would Black History be any different?
Here is a breakdown of the month of February in a nutshell.  February 2011 has four Saturdays and four Sundays.  Take away one more day to celebrate Valentine’s Day, and another for those who chose to observe Presidents’ Day.  That leaves 18 school days to try and teach a rich history that can’t be taught in 18 months, let alone 18 days. Now that’s what you call marginalization.
Aside from Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day in January, Black History is conveniently put in the closet until next February and then pulled back out like winter clothes that have been packed and stored away in a closet. I’m not talking about the same McDonalds Black History tidbits we see year after year, I’m talking about real Black History.
The necessity for Black History to be recognized separately makes me question American History as it’s being taught in grade school and institutions of higher learning all over the country.  It should be very troubling to us all that Black Americans have been left out, or vaguely mentioned in traditional American History.  There is no disputing the contributions people of color made to help build this country, yet HIS-STORY conveniently leaves out some very important facts.
The real facts have been laid out in slave narratives and biographies of Black Americans that aren’t household names.  We’ve all heard the amazing stories of Fredrick Douglas and Harriet Tubman, but it amazes me that I never heard about the narratives of other female slaves, or Freemen until I took an African American History Class in college.
I do remember being taught some one sided stories of people like John Brown, Nat Turner, Malcolm X, and Muhammad Ali, but I can’t recall ever hearing about David Walker’s Appeal, the Missouri Compromise, the Kansas-Nebraska Act, the Dread Scott Case, the Ft. Pillow Massacre involving Nathan Bedford Forrest (a Klansman the state of Mississippi is currently proposing to honor with a license plate), or the courageous story of Henry “Box” Brown.
Also not included in those lessons was any mention of The Civil Rights Bill of 1866, The Compromise of 1877, disenfranchisement laws that were put in place to keep black men from voting, Nixon vs. Herndon, or the case of The Scottsboro Boys.  I wonder why the murders of Medgar Evans, Emmitt Till, Wharlest Jackson and countless other Blacks during the Civil Rights Movement never made it into the chapters we covered.
The era of Jim Crow was breezed through pretty quickly, as if that period of time was as simple as the segregation of Blacks and Whites.  Along with slavery, the days of Jim Crow still baffle me to this day because slavery was abolished with the signing of the 13th Amendment (not with Abraham Lincoln and the Emancipation Proclamation like so many people have been falsely led to believe).  I can’t comprehend how anyone could justify why Black Americans were chained, beaten, lynched and forced to work without being paid.  I will never understand the ideology that Black Americans weren’t born with the same God given rights White Americans were born with.  Why was it such a big deal for Black Americans to sit at the back of the bus, or drink from a separate water fountain as a White American?
And these people had the nerve to claim that they were God-fearing Christians.  How dare they use the word of God like that.  If these people were Christians, I would have hated to see what things might have been like had they not been Christians.
If my memory of American History serves me correctly, the people that fought in the war to end slavery, The Civil War, were not Muslims, right?  So the people that want to scold and berate Muslims might want to take a look at the actions of the forefathers they like to quote so often.
Every Black History Month I ask my children what they learned in school that day about Black History and each day I heard the same answer. They either learned nothing, or were taught an erroneous story that was meant to demonize great Black men and women.  I.E. a couple of years ago a teacher told my daughter that Dr. King was non-violent and Malcolm X was violent.  Wrong, Wrong, Wrong.
A statement like that can harm the legacy of both men because it insinuates that the Civil Rights Movement was Martin vs. Malcolm and I needed to make sure she knew the facts about both men.
Therefore I referred her to several books about the movement and advised her to come up with her own conclusion.  I understood fully that the ball is in my court to teach my children about the true history of Black people in America and expose them to some facts they might never hear in a classroom setting.
My challenge to all of you is to do the same.  Talk to your kids about the importance of Black History, which requires parents to do some research and a lot of reading.  Don’t be afraid to take this head on because you can learn along with your children some very important historical facts.  You’ll also be able to explain some things to them that might be a little bit over their heads.
I want to give a special thanks to Dr. Eric Duke at the University of South Florida for inspiring me to read, explore and appreciate the fact that Black History can’t be taught in 28 days.  My mind has been stimulated and hopefully your thought process will be ignited as well.
Originally published by the Charlton County Herald on February 23, 2011 http://www.charltoncountyherald.com/articles/2011/02/23/opinion/editorials/doc4d63fc7060927940865698.txt