Category: Your Voice Written by Zack Burgess
More money. More fame. More freedom. More everything.
Life for the black athlete in America has drastically changed in less than half a century. Yet despite the multimillion-dollar contracts, endorsement deals and free agency, professional athletics suffer from a huge void.
I grew up during the 1970s and '80s with superstars who made our jaws drop — whether they were in uniform or not. They were champions on the field. They were leaders off the field. I don't see anyone out there today who fits this description. Correction: I do. But it's often for the wrong reason.
This came to me as I was watching the Super Bowl last night, a stage so large, where voices can be heard. I couldn't help but be saddened and wonder where the voice of the engaged, passionate and socially conscious athlete had gone. What happened to Muhammad Ali? What happened to Jim Brown?
Ali was more than a physical specimen; he was a winner. He was a personality that created a legacy and spirit of goodness and humanity. Ali was an artistic, unrestricted man of vision and change. But while Ali was as much a political wonder as an athletic one, Michael Jordan was as close to superhero status as any man of our time.
Jordan's was the quintessential image of the '90s, even though his apolitical stance on issues concerning the black community was legendary, and he once went so far as to say, "Republicans buy sneakers too" when asked for an important endorsement of a black Democratic politician. One of the things that people liked about him was that he was ruthlessly unapologetic about who he was as a person. He wore tailor-made suits, played golf, smoked cigars, gambled and talked in the third person. Let's just face it: Despite his shortcomings, Jordan was cool.
But his cool and unapologetic personality seems to have ushered in a new type of modern athlete, and perhaps triggered the extinction of the socially conscious sports icon. He obviously didn't pass along to the top athletes of today what he learned from superstars like Magic and Dr. J. You see, icons are a combination of charisma, social consciousness and media creation, and whether it's Jordan or Joe Namath, they somehow become bigger than life itself.
Derek Jeter has been with us now for more than 15 years and has won a surplus of championships with the Yankees, and yet we still have no idea who he is as a person. After 10 years in the NBA, LeBron James has started winning, but who is he? What does he stand for? Today’s athlete gives the impression of wanting to please the establishment first and foremost. With a Black community in peril it’s almost as if they do not care. Keep in mind…I say this with caution, because I know for a fact that there are some professional athletes that really do care.
What we presently have is a plethora of walking and breathing companies that refuse to come down on the side of any issue, just like a Fortune 500 company that contributes to both political parties, no matter the outcome.
But we also have a generation of athletes devoid of personality, which makes it even worse. I wonder how so many sports stars can live with themselves and consistently ignore the issues of today. Let's do a moral inventory of the problems that have affected, and continue to affect, us globally.
There are still tremendous problems in Haiti. And while Alonzo Mourning has done a wonderful job with his efforts, he seems to be alone. AIDS continues to run rampant in America and Africa. The high school drop-out rate among African Americans is atrocious, poverty is at an all-time high and the mass incarceration of black men is epidemic. The modern athlete represents the worst of the United States today: widespread selfishness and a distressing philosophy of corporate self-indulgence. Obviously, greed has changed the games we love to watch and play.
As the Super Bowl made its way into our living rooms, I couldn’t help but wonder…what will happen to these young men and women after they leave the confines and comfort of professional sports?
Unfortunately, I should be just as embarrassed. Because I have to ask myself what I'm doing to help change the problems that infect our communities. Maybe, just like me, athletes have become overwhelmed with the horrors that our people face.
I'm sure that the athletes and parents who paved the way for us all aren't happy about the situation. At some point, we have to stop being scared and get in the fight. It's the only way that heroes and icons are created. They gave us the blueprint. Don't you think we need to follow it?
Last Updated on Monday, 04 February 2013 10:10
Category: Your Voice Written by Eddie Conner
People always talk about embracing change. Letʼs be honest with ourselves and afﬁrm that change hurts. I donʼt know about you but it hurts to eat differently, change your old habits, and do what you donʼt feel like doing. How can you heal, if you wonʼt keep it real? Yes, even the truth hurts, but it will set you free.
They say “old habits die hard.” Iʼm convinced that people donʼt like change, because it hurts to break out of your comfort zone and cycle of old habits. Arenʼt you tired of a new year but the same old, same old?
You will remain in a cycle of self-destructive behavior if you donʼt change your mindset and break out of the box. The reason people do wha they do is because of how they think. What youʼre doing and where youʼre going has everything to do with what youʼre thinking.
I wish there was an anesthetic for change, so I wouldnʼt have to feel the peaks and valleys of transformation. Donʼt you just wish you could wake up from the anesthesia and there be no more struggle, temptation, obstacles, or thoughts of negativity? Snap out of wishful thinking, because to make it through this life youʼre going to have to ﬁght to overcome the “inner-me” which is often our greatest enemy.
Since there is nothing to numb the pain of change, youʼre going to feel every stretching point and every bit of discomfort. This is why they call it “growing pains” because it hurts to change and grow. We must get uncomfortable with being comfortable and become comfortable with being uncomfortable. Everyday weʼre in a ﬁght between who we were,
who we are, and who we have the potential to become. Donʼt let your past or present become a prison that shackles your future. The past is a prison but your future is freedom!
It takes a changed and charged mindset to break free from negativity. Just like your computer and phone needs to be charged, so too your mind must be charged and connected to a power source. If youʼre plugged into and connected to negativity, you wonʼt have the energy and wisdom to sustain your life. As the days, weeks, months, and
years progress your strength and vitality will be depleted. You will eventually become a product of who and what youʼre connected to. Disconnect yourself from bad relationships, fear, gossip, depression, drama, and negative thinking. Plug into the SOURCE of power, love, strength, peace, joy, hope, and youʼll have all of the RESOURCES that you need to succeed in life.
Yes, “OLD habits die hard” but NEW habits can spring life into your spirit, invigorating you with hope and determination. Want things to change? Change! You canʼt become all that you can be, by remaining all that you have been. Change will never happen TO you, if it ﬁrst doesnʼt happen IN you. This is your time to step into the best and blessed days of your life!
Last Updated on Saturday, 02 February 2013 19:54
Category: Your Voice Written by Zack Burgess
As the economy slogs along and more Americans have to receive some form of government assistance, they could be facing one more hurdle as they look to feed themselves and their families: a urine sample.
Not cool if you ask me. But for some reason it keeps coming up.
“If you have enough money to be able to buy drugs, then you don’t need the public assistance,” said Colorado state representative Jerry Sonnenberg in March after sponsoring a welfare drug testing bill. “I don’t want tax dollars spent on drugs.”
According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, 36 states considered drug testing for recipients of cash assistance from the major welfare program in 2011, including the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program signed into legislation under President Bill Clinton.
There were 12 states that proposed it for unemployment insurance; and some also considered making it a requirement for food stamps, home heating assistance and other programs. Supporters of the policies argue that public assistance is meant to be transitional and that drug tests are increasingly common requirements for getting jobs.
“Working people today work very hard to make ends meet, and it just doesn’t seem fair to them that their tax dollars go to support illegal things,” said state Rep. Ellen Brandom (R-Missouri), to The New York Times.
Advocates for the poor say the testing policies single out and vilify victims of the recession, disputing the idea that people on public assistance are more likely to use drugs. They also warn that to the extent that testing programs were successful in blocking some people from receiving benefits, the inability to get money for basic needs would aggravate drug addictions and increase demand for treatment.
Many states have already established ways to prevent people with known drug problems from receiving benefits — about 20 states prohibit unemployment payments for anyone who lost a job because of drug use, and more than a dozen states refuse welfare payments to anyone convicted of a drug felony.
But, as tight state budgets have raised concern about government spending and fostered impatience with aid to the poor, these efforts have gone further. Some point to federal statistics showing that unemployed adults are about twice as likely as employed adults to have used drugs in the previous month.
"The message of this bill is simple: Oklahomans should not have their taxes used to fund illegal drug activity,” said state Rep. Guy Liebmann (R-Oklahoma City) in a statement on the passage of his welfare drug testing bill in the state House. "Benefit payments that have been wasted on drug abusers will be available for the truly needy as a result of this bill, and addicts will be incentivized to get treatment."
Liebmann also struck another frequently-hit note – a moral claim that such bills were necessary even if they didn't save taxpayer dollars. "Even if it didn't save a dime, this legislation would be worth enacting based on principle," he said. "Law-abiding citizens should not have their tax payments used to fund illegal activity that puts us all in danger."
This month Republican lawmakers in three states said they will introduce legislation that would require welfare recipients to undergo drug testing in order to receive benefits.
The Ohio State Senate held a second hearing in early December on a proposal to establish pilot drug-testing programs in three counties. Under the proposal, applicants would be required to submit a drug test if they disclose that they have used illegal substances. The proposal was first introduced in the spring, but pressure from opponents led Gov. John Kasich to squash the bill in May.
Virginia Republicans are also reviving a bill that was shelved earlier this year. The 2012 version failed after the state estimated it would cost $1.5 million to implement while only saving $229,000. The bill’s sponsor, Delegate Dickie Bell, has not introduced the updated version yet, but says he’s found more cost effective options.
In Florida, Republicans found similar results when they enacted the drug testing requirement for welfare recipients. The plan, which was touted as a cost-saving measure, turned out to be so expensive that it ultimately cost the state an additional $45,780–even after savings from benefits that were denied to applicants who failed the tests. The measure failed to move forward in part because only 2.6% of applicants did not pass the test–a rate three times lower than the percentage of estimated of illegal drug users in Florida. The law has been temporarily blocked by a federal judge since October.
A third drug testing bill is being in floated in Kansas where the rhetoric used to justify the policy focuses less on the potential costs, and more on the desire to help rehabilitate addicts. Republican State Senate Vice President Jeff King, who predicts the legislation will be passed this year, said the law is not intended to be punitive, adding, “If folks test positive, we need to help them get help and help them get the job skills they need to kick the habit to get a job and keep a job.”
“It really speaks to how the politics of the moment are dominating the policy conversation in the virtual absence of any evidence,” said Harold Pollack, a professor at the University of Chicago whose research has indicated that people on welfare used drugs at rates similar to the general population.
Unfortunately, African Americans may be particularly be impacted more than the rest of the population…for several reasons.
Last Updated on Tuesday, 29 January 2013 11:30
Category: Your Voice Written by D. Alexander Bullock
150 years since the emancipation proclamation, African Americans still are trying to make the American Dream make sense. Freedom has opened up new opportunity, new responsibility and old pitfalls. It turns out that slavery and racism were not only personal preferences; they were powerful institutions. They determined the law, the language, the land use and the overall social, political and economic opportunities. The emancipation proclamation and subsequent landmark civil rights legislation mostly outlawed overtly using power arbitrarily. The freedom struggle in American was successful in changing the kinds of words and images that Americans felt were appropriate. However, the underground system of state control over the legal, political and economic opportunities still carries the sludge and stench of second-class citizenship and group disenfranchisement. The movie Django satirizes this truth. The city of Detroit lives this reality.
Quentin Tarantino’s latest movie Django Unchained has recently come under fire from notable filmmaker Spike Lee. Lee thinks the movie is disrespectful to African-American history. The movie is set in the South two years before the Civil War; Jamie Foxx plays Django - a freed slave who is intent on saving his wife Broomhilda. Django Unchained may be disrespectful, but it rings true. African-Americans live in a context ultimately framed by political, economic and social forces beyond our control. In the movie, Jamie Foxx’s character is an ex-slave who can kill white criminals because he is a bounty hunter empowered by the federal government. His bride and other African Americans have no rights and are the property of Mr. Candie according to the laws of Mississippi. Django’s freedom and empowerment and ultimately that of his wife and race rest on the imposition of federal government power over state authority. The persistent problem of African-American economic equality and a successful resolution to the problems of poverty and the creation of a permanent underclass are caught between the Scylla and Charybdis of state government and federal jurisdiction. 150 years after the emancipation proclamation and 50 years after the I Have a Dream Speech, we remain in a tug of war between disenfranchising state governments and an empowering federal government.
Detroit, Mich. is in turmoil many say because of a lack of leadership. The tale suggests that the mayor of the city has little credibility with the citizens and the city council members are already gearing up for their reelection campaign. It is unclear what the county government is willing to or can provide. The truth is there is a lot of leadership in Detroit - the state government. Much like Mr. Candie, a character in Django Unchained, Governor Rick Snyder thinks he can do whatever he wants with his Negroes according to Michigan law. He can put them in the hot box, feed them to the packs of feral dogs running lose in the city, or simply watch them shot each other to death from the comfort of his high chair – the governor’s seat. Indeed, for many, Michigan has become the new Mississippi. Strangely enough, the federal government seems more interested in bigger reform issues like immigration reform, gun reform and health care reform rather than protecting democracy and fighting poverty in the state of Michigan. The state of Michigan has unilaterally restricted the right of local citizens to control their own cities and school districts, it has ignored its duty to ensure that children learn to read in cities like Highland Park, it is apart of a seemingly new national movement to experiment with the electoral college by diluting the voting power of African Americans and other minorities and supports a plan to turn the city of Detroit into a neo-plantation. There is a lot of leadership in Detroit. It is the kind of leadership that intends to use institutional power to keep people poor, uneducated and uninformed. Our empowerment depends heavily on the willingness of the federal government to aid us in fighting state oppression. In the end, Django destroys the Big House. With federal government help, Detroit must do the same thing to the owners that occupy the state capital in Lansing and transform state oppression into opportunity.
D. Alexander Bullock is the senior pastor of the Greater St. Matthew Baptist Church, as a local leader he serves as president of the Highland Park NAACP and president of the Rainbow PUSH Detroit Chapter/ State Coordinator. He is the national spokesperson for the Change Agent Consortium.
Last Updated on Thursday, 31 January 2013 09:16
Category: Your Voice Written by Councilman Gary Brown
In Detroit, we have some of the finest police officers who are very capable. We need to place them in a more effective, supportive position.
The issues surrounding the Detroit Police Department and its ineffectiveness to reduce crime have less to do with the officers and the resources we have and more about the management of the resources.
I applaud Mayor Dave Bing for recognizing that the Detroit Police Department needs to be reorganized. I’m grateful to have the opportunity to present my ideas to the mayor and Interim Chief of Police Chester Logan. However, I remain concerned that there are not sufficient strategies in place to reduce the number of crime victims in Detroit and change the perception that Detroit is not a safe city.
In my view, there are ten strategies to achieve the goal:
- Collect the data, analyze it properly and share it among DPD units, other law enforcement and the public.
- Reorganize the police department to include de-centralization and the appointment of a CFO to manage the city’s largest and most important portion of the General Fund budget.
- Take illegal guns off our streets as a primary duty of every police officer.
- Develop a plan to make neighborhoods safer – focus on the primary issues and end the DPD services we don’t perform well.
- Respond to police runs within six minutes of the 911 call – this is an expectation of every citizen.
- Embark on a relentless pursuit to enforce curfew and truancy among our youth who are the primary victims of crime.
- Increase the reserve corps to be used for special events and clerical duties.
- Operate a precinct building for every district (putting an end to virtual precincts), based on the defined seven City Council/Police Commission districts, staffed primarily by civilians who are properly trained while the sworn officers are on patrol.
Pursue parolee, probation and felony warrants to include authorizing every sworn officer with a scout car to make routine traffic stops which tend to lead to apprehension of criminals.
Utilize the Secondary Employment program that places off-duty officers in security roles for parades, sporting events, concerts, festivals and other non-emergency activities in order for the police chief to deploy on-duty officers in the neighborhoods.
Typically in good times, police departments expand and create specialized units such as Gang Squad. This action is justifiable when you have 5,500 police officers. But in our current financial environment, we have slightly more than 2,000 sworn police officers. We can no longer afford to have specialized units when times get tough because each unit requires administrative and supervisory staff. I support the de-centralization of the police department with all sworn officers serving as generalists.
I believe that every sworn officer with a badge and a gun should be assigned to our precincts and on patrol. The functions of Gang Squad, sworn dispatchers, and Tactical Mobile can be run out of the precincts as part of an overall crime reduction strategy based on the specific crime issues in each district.
Our homicide closure rate in Detroit is well below the national average. That is abysmal, and a key factor in our crime issues. The national average is 67% which is low in itself. The abysmal closure rate means that criminals likely remain on our streets. Commanders need to be held accountable for all crime in their district. Therefore, if the crime is not reduced and the homicide closure rate does not improve, personnel action should be undertaken.
We need to use technology and every resource at our disposal to increase the number of solved homicide cases.
Additionally, no major and even no medium-sized city police department in the nation has sworn police officers handling 911 dispatch. Civilians have stronger clerical skills, are paid 60% of what a sworn officer makes, and with proper training can handle urgent situations on dispatch. Currently, we have 42 sworn police officers working in dispatch.
Detroit can be a thriving city. But until we have a viable crime reduction strategy that includes the areas I have shared, our Detroit will continue to be perceived as an unsafe city.
Gary A. Brown
President Pro Tem
Detroit City Council
Follow on Twitter @GaryBrown4Det
Last Updated on Friday, 25 January 2013 10:57
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