Monday, March 31, 2014

Home is Where the Heart Is.

The holidays, as in Christmas and New Year's of last year are over and done with, but warm thoughts of Home will linger all year. And why not? A house is a home is a refuge. So I wonder why Thomas Wolfe concluded you can never go home again? Perhaps the poor guy simply lost his way. Hopefully one day he'll find the path that leads home. Home. Its crab windows do not permit escape. Its doorways, vertical coffins, closed to seal our fate. Oh, but I would rather remain inside anyway. Or at least stay within the boundary of the property because there's danger beyond its border.

Cruel world, you know. Leave me within the safe confines of these four walls in whatever form they may take: house, mansion, shack, adobe, condo, car, tent, single or double-wide, cottage, cave, lean-to, tenement/brownstone/townhouse/ apartment. Home can be where the buffalo roam. Home is where and what I designate as such. I suppose some folk even find solace in jailhouses, spider holes and underneath expressway bridges. Home. The most special place in the whole world. The source of all our emotions. What happens in our first home, the womb, profoundly affects us all our lives in ways both physical and mental.

And Lord knows how home conditions impact the lives of young children. In a worst case scenario involving violence and abuse how do the children feel about the home they grew up in? Not warm and fuzzy, that's for sure! And yet some part of them will always remain in that home though they can certainly build for themselves a new home that's safe and comforting. Safe and comforting. The source of our nature, essence, being. Sounds great but there's one big drawback in this equation. Home is also a prison, as we've already seen. It's a place that nurtures us but never releases us. A place that confines us forever in a gentle, loving embrace.

Even if we were able truly to leave home, where would we go? And here I mean home in the general sense, not just the ancestral or childhood home. Is it even possible not to have a home? Without opening a philosophical debate I think the answer to this question is "no." Think about it. Every type of motion is followed by a period of rest. To me, "rest" is the "home" state for whatever entity is in motion. So it defies both logic and nature to contemplate a world where a home state does not exist for any person, thing or concept. Imagine how there could be no concept known as a Home Page on the Net, for example. Or no home plate in baseball.

No Home Office or home court; no Heavenly home; no Home Depot. Yikes!! But what about nomads and amoeba, you ask; where's their home? Answer: Home is not defined by or limited to 4 walls. Home is as much a state of mind as it is a physical entity. Home is our eternal destiny , the place we've always been and are even now journeying toward. I sincerely hope this year takes you a step closer to home.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Wars on the Poor: Living The American Dream or an American Nightmare.

Early in his “I Have a Dream” speech, Martin Luther King Jr. lamented the economic condition of Blacks as existing “on a lonely island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity.” The 1963 March on Washington (originally termed a march for “Jobs and Freedom”), was about voting rights, racial equality and civil rights, and moreover, the marchers sought to procure financial equality and decent-paying jobs. But even as the 50-year anniversary of the March on Washington passes into the pages of history, many African Americans still see the American Dream of wealth and prosperity as nothing more than an unattainable fantasy.

Over half a century later African-Americans don’t seem to have many more economic opportunities than they had then. According to Census data analyzed by the Pew Research Center, the black-white income gap widened, from about $19,360 in 1967 to over $27,000 today when adjusted for inflation. In terms of net worth for respective black and white families, the center’s findings can be described as nothing less than deplorable. Pew concluded that the median Black household held only seven percent of the wealth of its White counterpart in 2011. Other measures of financial prosperity have also declined in recent decades, including home-ownership figures and the relative rate of poverty. And that’s not to mention the fact that the unemployment rate among blacks is, and has been for the last sixty years, about double the rate among whites.

In the world’s wealthiest nation, the trend is unsettling to say the least. And even though the policy changes brought about by civil rights movement were enormous and far-reaching, since then, the national poverty level has only declined by a couple of percentage points. Today, the number of people living below the federal poverty guidelines is 15.1 percent and climbing, compared to 19 percent in 1964, when President Johnson declared the so-called “war on poverty”. Since then, the federal government has spent nearly $16 trillion dollars in an attempt to fight poverty, and we still have the highest poverty levels this country has seen in twenty years. By many measures, the War on Poverty failed miserably, which leads you to wonder if the campaign was designed for “success”?    

 It is important to consider the economic milieu under which the “War on Poverty” was implemented.  America as a whole was experiencing a strong period of economic recovery, and the total number of Americans living below the official poverty line decreased by almost 50 percent between 1950 and 1965. The black poverty rate had been cut nearly in half between 1940 and 1960, and Blacks with vocations were earning more than ever. The incomes of black skilled workers relative to whites had more than doubled between 1936 and 1959.  By most, if not all measurable standards, the U.S. economy was improving…until the War on Poverty began.

It is not a coincidence that national poverty levels, the number of homeless children in America and the  began to skyrocket precisely when federal spending on welfare programs dramatically increased. By 1974, government-provided benefits rose to an astounding rate of 20 times higher than they had been in 1965.


We can see from the chart below that national poverty rates also began to increase in 1974 and have been on the rise ever since.

What is noteworthy about these trends is how government-mandated welfare policies that penalize marriage correlate to the disintegration of the American family structure, particularly in the black community. As welfare programs incentivized broken families by rewarding those who shunned marriage and avoided the formation of two-parent families, as a result, illegitimacy rates soared.

Homeless Children in America

It’s important to understand that the children of our nation eventually become the adults of our nation, and when it comes to childhood poverty, there is one factor that dramatically reduces the likelihood of a child growing up in poverty: marriage. The absence of married fathers in the home is, by far, the principle cause of homeless children in America and impoverished youth, nationwide.

 We need to reconsider the framework of social programs designed to eliminate poverty in order to see these programs produce any real and lasting effects. Most have heard this familiar Chinese proverb: “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.” I mention this adage not to imply that domestic welfare programs should be eliminated or scaled back, but rather to exclaim that they should be restructured. The current modus operandi of most government programs that claim to address the poverty issue are doing nothing more than exasperating the issue. Simply put, focusing solely on the immediate needs of the poor such as housing and food assistance does not empower and train the less fortunate to create wealth.

 Poverty is a condition of the mind, body and spirit—a kind of laborious immobility that is inextricably intertwined with every aspect of life. Giving someone food stamps or section 8 housing or Medicaid does not lift that individual out of poverty. President Johnson understood this all too well, and in his 1964 State of the Union Address he spoke on the issue thusly: “Very often, a lack of jobs and money is not the cause of poverty, but the symptom. Our aim is not only to relieve the symptoms of poverty but to cure it–and above all, to prevent it.”

Martin Luther King Jr. also understood this, and his would-be latest campaign reflected his latest position on poverty in America. The “Poor Peoples Campaign” intended for impoverished citizens from all backgrounds, ethnicities and circumstances to descend on Washington, D.C. with the sole purpose of replacing the power structure of nation. Of course, Doctor King was killed only weeks before the movement began.

From Imprisoned Nation:
Keith Tucker

Monday, December 30, 2013

Was Tupac Amaru Shakur a Prophet?

Many people say that Tupac Shakur was a prophet that predicted his own death and several other pivotal events in American history such as the L.A. riots, but the title prophet seems to be a little far fetched doesn't it? Although Tupac is recognized as a great rapper, song writer and poet, would it be fair to elevate his status to such a dignified and important rank? Perhaps. But in order to accurately determine the answer to this question, it is first necessary to understand the definition of a prophet, and although I have my own opinion, I will not use a Western system of thinking to lead you, the reader, to my conclusion. Instead, I will rely on the true form of education. The type of education that compels the observer to draw their own conclusion based on their cognitive abilities of reasoning and logical analysis.

It is therefore neccesary to begin the examination and analytical conjecture on this question with the definition of prophet:


  1. A person regarded as an inspired teacher or proclaimer of the will of God: "the Old Testament prophet Jeremiah".
  2. (among Muslims) Muhammad.
seer - soothsayer - diviner - augur - oracle - predictor

We can see that, according to this definition, a prophet is not only someone who has the ability to "see" or "divine" the future, they must also claim to have been contacted by the supernatural or the divine, and to speak for them.

However, these are not the only qualitatively-specific characteristics of a prophet. One must also consider the fact that various religious institutions have individually-unique prerequisites for this title. For example, in the Christian faith, a prophet is considered to be someone who is commissioned by God to deliver a message for a specific purpose. Generally, this purpose must not include the elevation of an individual for their own glory. Instead, the glory of God is exemplified, and through the prophecy, people are compelled to turn to Him. However, there are exceptions to the rule. For instance, [Elisha and John the Baptist]  were called to deliver a personal message, yet they are still considered prophets by many Christian sects.

Although this is not a religious analysis, I will examine the subject through the lens of Christianity because it is the most widespread religion in the world. The English word prophet is derived from the Greek word prophetes (profetes), which signifies, in classical Greek, one who speaks for another , especially one who speaks for a god. Therefore, in the classical sense, a prophet was an interpreter. The notion that a prophet is a predictor is a post-classical one. The Greek word prophetes (profetes) is the equivalent of the original Hebrew word navi or nabi , which signifies properly a delegate or mouthpiece of another (see Ex. vii. 1), from the general Semitic sense of the root, "to declare," "announce." Hence, when the Israelites spoke of a prophet, they were referring to a spokesperson who delivered God's messages and relayed His intentions for the world.

It is also also a common misconception that all prophets were of Jewish origin. The Talmud reports that there were prophets among the Gentiles (most notably Balaam, whose story is told in Numbers 22). The first Hebrew prophet was Moses, who is widely considered to be the greatest of all the prophets. But Moses was not only a prophet, he was also a political leader, as well as a civil and religious director. And so, herein we have a man that is a role model, brings the Law of God to the Isrealites, and delivers God's chosen people to the Promised Land. By many standards, Moses is the quintessential prophet and more. So how do you compare someone like this to a man like Tupac? 

You can't, but do you have to be "religious" or "holy" to be a prophet? Like it or not, there are prophetic truths that are delivered to nations by the most unlikely people. Tupac's message, as an adherent to the Black Panther philosophy, was one of self-determination, self-defense, morality, justice and revolution. He saw American society for what it was and is, a society of violence, corruption, injustice and social inequality. And although many of Pac's lyrics were violent in nature, his overarching goal was not to promote violence but to exemplify the way in which a violent society breeds more violence, hence, the gangster persona he took on in proclaiming the "THUG LIFE", an acronym for The Hate You Gave Little Infants Fu*c*ks Everybody. Even this gangster persona is a strategy used to enhance his popularity among the impoverished masses in order to spread his underlying messages of solidarity, struggle and survival.

In fact, THUG LIFE actually has a code of ethics behind it authored by Pac' himself. In it he delineates a code of morals for "thugs"(who can actually be more accurately described as the lumpen-proletariat class). Tupac is much like the prophet Elijah in the sense that Pac' calls for "his people" to hold themselves and their community to a higher moral standard, he demands change and he publicly defies a corrupt government, just as Elijah exhibits a public attitude of opposition to king Ahab for displeasing God, ready even to promote a revolution in order to purify morals

Throughout his career, Tupac created two different kinds of music: positive music and angrer-filled music. Upon careful analysis of nearly all of Tupac's known works, I have determined that all of Tupac's music on 2pacalypse Now was used as a vehicle to increase political awareness in undereducated youth, produce a greater sense of community and unity among Blacks, improve the family dynamic in single-parent homes and otherwise, etc. Much of his subsequent work focused on the same goals. When Tupac creates this type of music I believe he is being a spokesperson of the Almighty, which is why I consider these messages to be prophetic. 

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

It's bigger than Trayvon

"Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere." - Martin Luther King, Jr.

We are all Trayvon. As the African-American community laments the death of the 17-year-old Floridian who was mercilessly gunned down by George Zimmerman, we must ask ourselves this simple question: Who's next?

You see, the earlier demonstrations and recent publicity that this young man's tragic death inspired amounts to nothing more than what it is at face value: a demonstration. An outpouring of outrage and disdain for those who have empathy for the plight of another Black family torn asunder by the ruthless hand of injustice.

This is not to say that these demonstrations didn't work. After all, there never would have even been a trial if it were not for this public outcry. However, we are all Trayvon is simply a catch phrase that is used to describe one of the bitter facts of life that has existed since Africans arrived on this continent: It is dangerous to merely exist as a Black man in America. But coming to terms with this harsh reality is only the first step in the long journey to freedom.

Saying 'I am Trayvon' means that you acknowledge your vulnerability in this society. Essentially, it is a call to solidarity. But what comes next. How does one change their position in this society? The only choice we have is to fight to survive. Does anyone remember Oscar Grant III who was killed, while in handcuffs, by an Oakland police officer in 2009? How about Latasha Harlins, the 15-year-old girl who was killed because she was "suspected" of stealing?

The truth is that the value of a Black life in america is very cheap. Almost 30 Black men and women have been slain by the police or security since January of 2012. And you can bet your bottom dollar that, acquittal after acquittal, each of these perpetrators will go free.

After the song and dance is over; after Trayvon's story fades from our television sets, magazines and newsstands; after the media returns to business as usual; let us commemorate his life and be constantly reminded of his tragic death.

Let this senseless murder be a lesson to those who merrily drive to their 9 to 5, come home to their wife and kids, pet their dog and continue life without a second thought about Trayvon. If you're Black, you're under attack.....Ad infinitum.

We must understand that this situation is bigger than Trayvon. Realize what you are dealing with: a system which is perpetuated by systematic oppression. No system can be toppled by isolated demonstrations caused by isolated events. If you are Trayvon, do what Trayvon wished he could have done: fight against injustice. In order to put an end to this gross injustice, we must make a stand each and every time we witness injustice.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

America Avoided One Fiscal Cliff But is Headed Toward More.

As congress attempted to meet the budget deadline in order to avert economic disaster, senators from The House of Representatives found themselves unable to form a positive, constructive solution for America's future. Collapsing and being escorted to the hospital under the pretense of "extreme exhaustion" from what sources called “a six, maybe seven-hour day”, the “better half” of America’s legislative body persevered and churned out a compromise. While hundreds of members in a 525-member Congress complained of symptoms ranging from dizziness to headaches, the rest of the members helped to seal a deal that ended the Bush-era tax cuts for the segment of people in America earning 400,000 dollars or more per year. 

The deal, however, wasn’t a sweeping victory for either side. Democrats accepted a higher threshold concerning who would be affected by the 'tax increase" while Republicans conceded to making the top 1.5 percent of Americans pay higher taxes. The deal seems like a more-than-fair compromise, considering that the Bush-era tax cuts were meant to expire, not to be permanently extended to anyone. Now, they are extended permanently to those making 400,000 dollars-a-year or less instead of the original 250,000-dollar threshold. And while both parties gave ground to one another, it seems that hard right-wing Republicans like House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Virginia) have a chip on their shoulder about the compromise. 

Shortly after the negotiations ended, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Virginia) vowed revenge, saying: "As God is my witness, we will try to do a better job of bringing this nation to the brink of Armageddon.” House Speaker John Boehner issued a heartfelt apology to the top earners of the country, saying, “We came to Washington to do the work of 1.5 per cent of the American people, and we didn’t get it done.” Mr. Boehner and his constituents, who he claims are “understandably despondent” because their taxes rose as a result of the deal, now seem eager to gain lost ground by squabbling over the next three "fiscal cliffs".

Mr. Boehner says that he did his best to offer the wealthy consolation by assuring them that millions of middle-class and working-class Americans would suffer more than they would.  According to Boehner, that would usually put them in a better mood. Overall, the fiscal cliff deal doesn’t address increased payroll taxes, and Federal taxes for 77 percent of Americans will rise. Individuals earning 50,000 dollars a year will lose almost 1,000 dollars a year from the increase.
Mitch Mconnell basking in self-congratulation.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) reminds us that “It’s up to [the Republican Party] to concoct entirely new optional disasters that we will have to undo at some later date in a more or less half-assed way.” To the chagrin of the 98.5 percent of Americans whose livelihood is affected by the antics of the Republicans, they don’t seem to mind destroying the economy in the name of politics. If Republicans mean what they say, then there is no need to celebrate yet; the highly-anticipated squabbles over the debt ceiling, the sequester and the Continuing Budget Resolution will, no doubt, continue to have an adverse effect on the American economy. 

Saturday, December 29, 2012

No Cheater Left Behind

As the 10-year anniversary of No Child Left Behind drew closer, 44 Atlanta schools in my home town of Atlanta were found guilty of altering test scores. When the state of Georgia performed an investigation, it issued a report stating that cheating on standardized tests date back to 2001 and occurred in nearly half of the city’s schools. Coincidence? Some would say so, but it seems that the way the program is structured facilitates an environment for increased cheating. Ever since the program was signed into law by President Bush in 2002, test results have become a driving force in the hiring and firing of teachers and principals alike.
Former Atlanta School Superintendent, Dr. Beverly L. Hall, ruled an empire of fear with an iron fist, an empire where principals were made or broken depending on the test scores they could produce. Throughout her 10-year tenure, 90 percent of the principals that worked under her were removed. Principals that didn’t measure up to her standards were humiliated during rallies at the Georgia Dome. Those with the highest test scores got to sit up front near her while the rest were relegated to the anonymity of the bleachers. Hall is remembered by her co-workers as “the queen in her ivory tower,” says Verdaillia Turner, president of the Atlanta teachers’ union. Hall’s tactics garnered her national recognition, but although she was hosted at the White House by the secretary of education, Arne Duncan, and named the superintendent of the year by two national organizations, her glory was short-lived. When the Atlanta miracle collapsed, the ugly truth revealed that 178 principals and teachers had cheated to grant students who could barely read proficient scores on state tests. It seems that No Child Left Behind is the culprit of thousands, if not millions, of children being “left behind”, left illiterate and undereducated. Since schools receive increased governmental money for producing test scores that meet a certain criteria, what happened in the Atlanta Public School System is not an isolated event, nor is it the last of the cheating scandals. In one survey conducted by the Atlanta Journal Constitution, it was found that many states do not use basic test security measures designed to stop cheating on tests. Cheating scandals have surfaced in several major cities, and 196 school districts exhibited patterns of suspicious test scores. Under No Child Left Behind, schools that don’t meet acceptable criteria must allow students to transfer to different institutions and offer tutoring services to those who remain. So not only does the program reward higher test scores, it also costs schools extra money if they cannot “make the grade”. Simply put, No Child Left Behind is a program that the nation needs to leave behind.