When Voices Speak

So much easier is the quiet,

the peace of reflection without

an internal buzz of prophecy,

the constant of the mind.

 

I woke today to realize my prom

decades beyond this my reality,

yet tonight, students who walk,

they talk, they all believe the same.

 

We are not that far apart from ourselves

when reflection allows our lives

to know the same, to believe

Janis with ‘At Seventeen’ prophetic.

 

Tonight, celebrations do occur,

perhaps rites of passage that frighten

the moms and dads and older

siblings, having known before.

 

Yet tonight there is also the human

condition, remains home, perhaps

isolated, lonely wondering,

listening to sad songs.

 

Whichever choice, option,

desire or passion,

whomever responds to this

our quiet, our silent voice.

 

We might wish for love

to embrace every aspect of

child and friend and adult

and companion … human.

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I’m Upset About a Coffee House in Philadelphia

Last night, I turned on the news and there was increasing coverage everywhere about the Starbucks incident with two African-American men being arrested for ‘trespassing’ in a local store. The incident has gained national momentum and attention to the degree that the CEO has met with the two gentlemen and proclaimed a day of sensitivity training for nearly 8000 stores. I listened to Don Lemon on CNN interview the CEO and ask him whether or not he really believed that ‘one day’ would be a sufficient amount of time to desensitize the discriminate nature of this revealing expose of racism in our country. The CEO didn’t have an answer but expressed an emotional reaction to the controversy.

In a followup after the interview, Don Lemon brought on W.Kamau Bell to speak to the general reaction and commentary of the CEO, Kevin Johnson, of Starbucks. Bell hosts the exceptional series, United Shades of America, (Season 3: Premieres Sunday, April 29 at 10 p.m. ET/PT) on CNN.

To be clear, I’m a white guy reacting to an issue that impacts black people every day, not just an isolated incident in a Philadelphia coffee shop, and that was the general pitch of Don Lemon and W. Kamau Bell’s final commentary. In a manner of speaking they theorized how might a white CEO of a major industry empathize with the reality of racism in today’s society. Certainly, Kevin Johnson is putting a face on a possibility, but I think our society needs to realize that is only a start. Much like the students of Broward County and their efforts to raise awareness in a privileged society, I listened to their final words because I personally am looking for an answer.

I know racism exists. I know I have my own prejudicial misgivings. I think what bothers me the most is when people seem to suggest that not talking about it will just make things better, make things go away. The reality is, by not having dialogue, the resentment, the frustration, the explosive backlash becomes a greater concern than if there were a conversation. The discussion takes time though, takes courage, demands commitment from all people involved.

I think what Lemon and Bell are suggesting is that too often we bandaid the issue, and it rises up again. Tonight, in social media a friend of mine indicated that everything is about hate. What if we actively turned that around? What if we made everything about love? What if we got past the idea that it is easier to despise than it is to put effort into understanding? What if instead of declaring the Philadelphia incident as an anomaly, we admittedly took action to recognize such discrimination exists? We don’t have to define it, we simply have to accept the reality of our society’s ills and the need to open our hearts to admitting the surface level of fear that creates such a problematic mindset is real and not overstated by a liberal versus conservative party of thinking.

I can’t help wonder what it might be like to create dialogue between differing parties without onlookers with agenda and attitude to tear down the chance to allow people to learn from one another rather than destroy opportunity. Seems idealistic certainly, but its really. If we understand each other, we can look one another in the eye. If we remain afraid of one another, then the wall will remain in tact.

In Philadelphia an individual seemingly, well quite obviously overreacted to a normal gathering of two human beings who began their day never imagining their world to be turned upside down by a discriminatory motive. Let me restate that. The two gentlemen in Philadelphia began their days completely aware that at any moment their lives could be marginalized by racial profiling because of the color of their skin. However, in their lives, they have learned it is a necessary reality for them to constantly be aware of a negative circumstance unfolding right before their very eyes.

That happened in a Philadelphia Starbucks, and the two individuals wrongfully arrested created a hailstorm of controversy that speaks to what certain cultures have to accept and go through every day. I’m a white guy, and I don’t have to experience this, but I see it. I’m a teacher and I have students of every race in my classroom, and the one thing I demand of my day, is that every individual in my room is respected as much as the next person. The two gentlemen in Starbucks need to have been treated as equally as anyone else in the store.

The need exists, the dialogue, communication, desire to understand must begin. We cannot continue to simply look away.

CBS Sunday Morning News Gaffe – April 15th, 2018

Melissa DePino - Starbucks - Philadelphia

Melissa DePino – Philadelphia – Starbucks


I’m disappointed in the CBS Sunday Morning news article on the Starbucks empire this morning (April 15th, 2018). Clearly, when the producers first put together the article on Howard Schultz’s successful coffee career, correspondent Mo Rocca didn’t anticipate an incident in Philadelphia would overshadow his focus upon the success of the Starbucks entrepeneur.

(At this writing I am not able to find a link to the Mo Rocca article to share).

When Kai Ryssdal, the CBS Sunday Morning host this week, introduced the article, he initially took the time to report on the ‘breaking story’ of two African-American males being removed in handcuffs from a Philadelphia Starbucks for what appears to have been two Black men sitting in the coffee shop without making a purchase. Further research, NPR article  would suggest they were waiting for a friend to arrive, and when asked to leave, declined, and police were called.

From there the incident blew up and a young woman, Melissa DePino, caught the entire incident on her phone – thus creating this viral video, none of which was covered in Mr. Ryssdal’s initial introduction on CBS Sunday Morning.

Here is where my issue arose. The host introduced the already in place article with a controversial telling of an actual Starbuck’s incident in Philadelphia that in my eyes trumped (sic) the fanfare of the Starbuck success story. Discrimination is not successful, and it is also not talked about. Instead, it remains an afterthought.

I believe this was a missed opportunity by Kai Ryssdal, despite his attempt to include the incident, what was his motive? Was he told by the producers of CBS Sunday Morning News that we must include this incident before running the article on Starbucks, or did he do it on his own? I think the issue of priority raises serious questions about our society and how we choose to neglect or emphasize topics that do touch on sensitive issues versus those that will satisfy the majority of a news article’s listeners.

In her own retelling of the incident, Melissa DePino states in her interview, this would not have happened to her. In other words, because of the color of her skin, she would not have been asked to leave the store without a purchase. Personally, I agree with her, and being a frequent coffee shop connoisseur I can speak frankly and say I have had many meetings with people in coffee shop where either myself or my associates did not make a purchase and in all cases we were never approached to leave – certainly the police were not called to intervene. That would not happen.

In looking at the story and the incident itself, the two men removed did not protest the directives of the police and left without incident while the shop patrons all watched with concern, question and interpretation. Since, Starbucks has issued an apology on Twitter, and the men have been released and the incident is under review. That is all fine, and all should happen, but it still brings me back to my frustration with the CBS article and more specifically how we handle such situations in our society.

We don’t.

We choose to focus on moving away from important dialogue rather than facing it head on. Perhaps this was a golden opportunity for Kai Ryssdal to address the issue of discrimination and make this week’s news story a commentary on the continuing issue that occurs and impacts people of color throughout our society.

I am convinced had Rysdaal rather than run the article on Howard Schultz and his successful career, instead turned the next five or six minutes into a discussion and commentary of the Philadelphia incident there would have been controversy. Producers would have changed jobs in the coming week, and Rysdaal might have risked his own opportunity for further hosting opportunities in Jane Pauley’s absence.

My question is why not take the risk? Why not say we’re going to run the Starbucks story next week, because we have a situation that merits discussion today, that has more impact on our society than we would like to understand. I guarantee there would have been a ratings spike of viewership that would have stayed, rather than change the channel after Ryssdal slapped a band-aid on the discrimination and jumped immediately into the cacao fields of the Starbucks empire.

I’m disappointed that when we see opportunity we choose not to address the important issues of our society that are relevant. I’m saddened by the reality that the dialogue on discrimination continues to take the backseat to anything that will allow us to quickly move away from the issue rather than face it head on.

Let me be clear, until this last paragraph I have not used the word systemic to describe an issue in our society that clearly exists, but I did today watch a major news outlet – CBS News – pass by a wonderful opportunity to recognize the need for dialogue in our extremely mosaic world. The conversations if they cannot occur on a national or international level certainly will be far more difficult to create on a local level. However, they need to. Today Kai Ryssdal and CBS Sunday Morning missed an opportunity.

Where do we begin?

 

On The Occasion of Equality

What would happen,

to jealousy,

to envy,

to wanting more,

to wishing that one were less inclined,

understanding the difference

between yours and mine.

 

What would be said,

when questions arose,

about the ludicrous nature,

of those with a nose

for finding fault in their neighbor

rather than

atoning their own yard.

 

Where would we go,

if no one would regard,

we are the same …

oh wait –

that’s where we have been

for so many years,

so how is it we finally find

some avenue to recognize

respect is a word,

not simply a thought,

a word we can listen to,

practice, believe with a buy in,

that settles all trivialities

those incomprehensible

travesties

keep us yards apart

from unity.

It Is A Beautiful Day

cometogether

Beatles


How so do the moods define our day,

we wake to a sunlit morning to defy the odds,

or perhaps we settle in selective pods

stepped away we did from society’s way.

 

A certain lovely attraction is contained in smile

circus acts and normalcy all find sweet balance,

life becomes less of form, tossed beyond chance

might we interact open heartedly in the while.

 

We speak of a world that exists based upon because

spirited within an altruistic desire toward freedom.

Yet somewhere along the way began a kingdom

begetting perhaps – there begs the question of laws.

 

Sans the trifle, sense the spirited nature of release

We shall find resolute Love internalized in peace.

Sunsets

IMG_8666

If in the quiet of a soft moment

We were the Ancient Mariner afloat

Might we wander aimless while then emote

In silent harmony a sweet lament.

 

For is the sea one in quiet recall

This guiding reality, timeless shift

A body where many less gentle rift

Would now decide in earnest Man will fall

 

If in this a sunset we are timeless

Study well the waves remain a current

Drawing history will be their torrent

Leads lives grown fond in conditions careless

 

Oh the gift is deep waters telling time

Mystique as might repeat as does this rhyme

 

 

MLK Jr. – 50 Years Ago His Words Began

MLK Jr.

photo courtesy Bustle


I knew this man,

well, my mother,

she taught me

to know this man.

 

i remember when he spoke,

his voice was beautiful,

a rhapsody of passionate

words to speak to everyone.

 

A scared nation,

completely aware

of what really is hell,

what was this man’s tell.

 

I remember my mother

saying to me one night,

Martin Luther King, Jr.

means love, he speaks love.

 

I remember being fascinated

by this preacher’s voice,

he kept returning,

he wouldn’t go away.

 

Despite bricks being thrown,

a society being scorned,

he basically smiled, stated,

‘I have a dream.’

 

I knew this man,

50 years ago tonight,

right around the evening

hour, we lost his voice.

 

Jesse Jackson, described it

like the clap of his hand,

the bullet was immediate,

and MLK Jr. was gone.

 

I love this beautiful man I never knew

but I believe I do, he did truly love you.