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Cultur'D

Issa Nooooo

Image result for 21 savage issaSo, it’s been a while since I’ve been on the writing scene giving my two cents. I’ve kinda been out of the loop, so caught up in the everyday hustle of life and living that I’ve been neglecting to stop and document anything. Upon hearing that Savage released a decent album, I decided to give it a listen,  in an attempt to keep myself well rounded in the hip hop music scene.

Well ….let me just say, “issa no for me dawg”.

Now listen, I’m not a huge fan of the new era rap. Maybe it’s because I grew up in the 80’s listening to rappers like Nas, Biggie, DMX, and a slew of other rappers that knew the importance of story telling.  Or maybe I’ve finally crossed over from a young fine tenderoni to an old hag that’s always complaining about these mumble rappers. Whatever the factors weighing in on my opinion, has me totally opposed to hearing any more music from Savage.
Don’t get me wrong, the album has some impulsive rhythms that will have you nodding your head unintentionally.  But even the hype beats on the few tracks I listened to couldn’t keep me engaged long enough to listen to the whole album. They sure didn’t drown out the constant boasting of material possessions, lean, and bitches.

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The lyrics were so atrocious that I had to pause my workout to find more appropriate music. You know, music that doesn’t insult my intelligence. But don’t take my word for it, go give the album a listen and form your own opinion.

Honestly, I wasn’t able to get past the fourth track.   Here are a few bars from two of Savages tracks that ruined my vibe.

I be Gucci’d down, you wearing Lacoste and shit (bitch)
Yeah, Moncler, yeah, fur came off a bear, yeah (yeah)
Triple homicide, put me in a chair, yeah (in jail)
. . .Walk in Neiman Marcus and I spend a light fifty (fifty)

. . . I got 1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8 M’s in my bank account, yeah (On God)
In my bank account, yeah (On God)

Do the dash in it (21), throw some cash in it (yeah)
Let me smash in it (yeah), I’ll smash in it (yeah)
Run a train on her, let me tag my mans in it (yeah)
Pour some Henny in her cup and put some xans in it (yeah)

Needless to say I had 1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8 bullets in my chamber ready to take my own life for putting myself through that kind of  musical torture. I attempted to extend my music collection and make room for some new artist, but thanks to Savage I’ll be sticking to the Nasir Jones and Earl Simmons that I’m used to.

Toxic Love

Fist fights and hog spit

don’t mind me I’m just trying to reminisce

a love like no other or toxic bliss.

The feel of angelic lust, like birds chirping

during Sunday’s dusk.

Nothing could touch the high he gave

like diving head first off my greatest accolade.

 

So many days spent wrapped in his arms

conversating over Brandy.

I was sitting on top of the world, and all the other chicks

couldn’t stand me.

Seemed like the joyous state would never end,

but the pain and hurt soon began.

They say never say never,  and I never knew

that he would be an angel in disguise that

I had to loose.

 

This fool knew all the perfect things to say to keep

me at bay

I was a fool lost, blinded by love

holding on to good memories,

hoping the bad would go away.

Screaming the boy is mine but the

same applied for Pam, Toya, Keisha, and Shay.

 

Have you ever known what it feels like having to fight to prove your love?

Feeling so disrespected all you can do is spit in the person’s face?

To feel the need to lay hands on your man and his woman because their not respecting your perfect union?

To fight a battle you need to win, but it feels like your losing?

Truthfully I gave it all I had, I gave up everything for the sake of love

and family.

But love wouldn’t stop him from cheating, it didn’t end the arguing

and couldn’t combat the beatings.

I stayed anyway.

thinking he held the key to my happiness.

It’s a shame I had to learn the hard way.

 

Two fist blows to the head, I think he

mad about what I said.

You ain’t shit, I fuckin hate you and

wish you were dead!

You wanna choke me cause I spent a

little bit of your bread.

Does that amount to that fucking baby

you had?

Nah save you words, I don’t want to hear

that shit

I’m tired of you not being a man

just admit to all at the shit you did.

 

You know what! Never mind,

I don’t need your apology

I found someone greater to yearn,

a lover that can make me moan

and not feel alone.

5’3 a little thick her brown skin

will make you smile

She’s a masterpiece that bore my first child.

Her name is Shanelle and I know she’ll never

let me down.

 

Truthfully I don’t know why I wasted so

many years

wishing you would change after seeing

me cry so many tears.

But I’ve learned that I control my destiny

my happiness is not yours

Put that on everything, love would not

get me like that anymore.

I know my worth and I’m the one

that I adore!

A Woman’s Right

“There is a “sanctity” involved with bringing a child into this world: it is better than bombing one out of it.  Dreadful indeed it is to see a starving child, but the answer to that is not to prevent the child’s arrival but to restructure the world so that the child can live in it: so that the “vital interest” of the world becomes nothing less than the life of the child”.    ~James Baldwin.

pregnancy-claire-jeanWhen it comes to discussing the subject of abortions and a woman’s right over her body, things can get heated real quick. No independent woman wants to be dictated on what she can and cannot do with her body. At one point of my life, I was that modern woman who understood her rights.  I was pro-choice and all for women being able to determine whether or not they choose to go through with an unwanted pregnancy, but have changed my opinion on the matter. Now before you get your panties in a bunch, I’m not saying women should not have the rights over their bodies. If a woman is raped I do believe she should have the option to choose if she wants to bring that child into the world.  However, I do believe that black women should re-evaluate their use of abortions and get an understanding of how it affects the community.

Who gets to choose?

It takes two to tangle, the same should apply to the decision of bringing a child into the world.  Sometimes us women can be a bit selfish when it comes to making the decision on abortion. We feel that it is our body and we have every right to decide on our own, whether or not we choose to terminate a pregnancy. But is that really fair to the father of that child?  When a woman decides that she is willing to bring life into the world, she can do just that against the father’s will. He can still be held liable for the child even if he felt he wasn’t ready to take care of another being.

On the other hand, if the father determines that he would like to have the baby and the mother opposes, there isn’t much he can do about it. The choice is ultimately left up to the mother because it’s her body and her decision.  This can be a double negative for the father of the unborn child, no matter what both him and the fetus are at the mercy of the mother and whatever she chooses to do.

What happens to the fetus?

Has anyone ever thought about exactly what happens to the fetus after an abortion is performed? According to lifenews.com, some babies are cremated, while others are thrown out on the curb with the trash, and the rest are shipped to a pathology lab for research. Once the fetus is removed from the mother’s body, the doctors can do whatever they please with the baby. Some may not care to know exactly what happens to the fetus, but with the history of unethical medical experiments on black bodies in the United States.  Like the cloning of Henrietta Lack’s cells, what happens with your DNA after an abortion should very much be a concern for all of us.

Margaret Sanger who is the founder of Planned Parenthood, the nation’s largest abortion provider believed, “colored people are like human weeds and are to be exterminated.” Sanger was a racist who created The Negro Project in conjunction with American Birth Control League and Sanger’s Birth Control Clinical Research Bureau, to sterilize black woman and any other woman she considered as vermin of society without their consent. It just so happens that majority of planned parenthood offices are located in communities where the number of minorities exceeds the city and state average.  The strategic placement of the clinics seems more like a calculated move to aid in the extermination of minority babies than a crazy coincidence.

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#1 Killer

Abortion is the number one killer in the black community, bypassing heart disease, cancer, and homicides. Many times when referring to death within the African American community I hear, “we need to stop all this black on black crime”.  You rarely hear someone refer to abortions as an issue within our community, even though it accounts for the highest number of black on black deaths.  An average of 1,876 black babies are aborted in the United States daily, that’s about 30 percent of pregnancies ending in abortion, not including miscarriages.

Black women should take into account that we may be doing more harm to our community than the men we blame for destroying it with violence.  Abortions are murder no matter which way you look at it, you are still assisting in the killing of a human being.

An abortion should only be used for emergency situations.  Both men and women need to take greater precautions if they are not ready to be parents. Somehow our community has become so comfortable with abortions that they’ve become as casual as a yearly visit to a gynecologist. Abortions should not now, or ever be treated like birth control. We as a people should become more conscious of the meaning of sex. Sex is not just for pleasure, the act is done to reproduce and bring new life into the world.  Again if both partners aren’t ready to bring new life into the world, condoms or abstinence is always an option to prevent unwanted children. Birth control pills/ shots, IUD’s, and the morning after pill should be viewed with the same microscopic eye as abortions.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Before Black Unity

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As one of the most memorable directors of the underground railroad, Harriet Tubman carried a pistol by her side for protection while leading slaves to freedom from the south.  It’s documented the reason Tubman carried the gun was to protect herself against slave catchers and also as insurance for weak spirited fugitives that could possibly risk the entire operation.

 

I know… I know. Some of yall are thinking why would she need a pistol as insurance against the same people she’s trying to rescue. The idea of Ms. Tubman possibly shooting one of her fellow brothers or sisters due to a little apprehension seems a bit unfathomable, but necessary for black liberation.  You see, Harriet had her mind fixed on freedom for herself and the people she loved.  She understood that in order to get to freedom she may have to get rid of a few problematic people along the way.  In honor of our great ancestor Harriet Tubman, I have construed a list of people that are problematic towards the black revolution.

The Slavecatchers

Now don’t be screwing your face up at me because I mentioned slavecatchers. I know it’s 2017 and black folk not on the plantation anymore, but slavecatchers sill exist.  You may refer to them now as your local police, sheriff, or state highway officers. You and I both know the officer’s primary job now is “supposedly” to protect and serve the people. Organize a rally centered around the liberation of blacks in America and see how quickly your fellow officer resorts to the original nature of their jobs. They will quickly go from protecting citizens to suiting up in army gear and collecting modern slaves.

The House Negro

Given the fact that black people are no longer on the plantation some think the house negro has died. Nothing could be further from the truth.  In fact, it seems as if the house negro has become smarter and more strategic in their approach with the field negro.

The house negro is so comfortable in his position eating off master’s plate that he refuses to allow his brother’s oppression to ruin the good things going for him.  In fact, modern day house negros are rolling in big-bank these days. Some of them are your favorite celebrities, refusing to acknowledge the injustice going on against their bredren.  House negros can be easily identified, you can catch them on daytime television denouncing their blackness, in an effort to win over their white counterparts.

*See Raven Symone, Stacy Dash, and Sherriff David A Clark for examples of house negros.

The Preacher

How can you not love their little hearts?! Come on admit it, they are clever and some of the hoods best orators.   It’s amazing how they can always recite the exact words needed to help you through roadblocks. Not even your super supportive Auntie Nessa could provide you with advice good enough to make you dedicate a portion of your paycheck to her each week.

Beware of these angels in disguise known as preachers.  Anytime a pastor is riding around in private jets while members of his congregation are living in poverty it raises an eyebrow. Nowadays church’s seem more like paid entry concerts, just pick your favorite noble family with the best choir and production team and declare that your permanent place of worship.  Good or bad, all preachers have a few things in common, hope dealing, asserting Jesus’s wrath, and faithfully collecting Jesus’s money for the church. At some point, we must stop and ask these pastors exactly how the money collected each week is helping to revitalize our community.  It’s not a bad thing to re-evaluate who you are allowing to lead you and your life.

Besides, you deserve a leader who will not publicly forgive your killer right away. Go find you a leader that will stand up for you even when it isn’t the popular thing to do. I mean you are only financing his/ her dream, you deserve that plus more.

*See Creflo Dollar, Bishop T.D. Jakes, and your local preacher for examples.

The Negative

We all know someone who always feels the need to provide a negative outlook.  You know, the kind that if you tell them black people are waking up and unifying, they’ll give you ninety-nine reasons that statement is false.  It’s no fault of their own, the negative black has been brainwashed for so long that they have adopted the negative outlook placed on them by society.

When negative Nancy comes with her notions of why she feels like black people will never get their act together, quickly shut her down. Tell her the only reason she feels that way about black people is because deep down she feels that way about herself.  But don’t beat her up too bad there’s always hope in turning negative Nancy’s into positive teachers by presenting another way of thinking for her. Help the negative thinker to unlearn the information they have been taught, in order to make room for positive reinforcement.  Be mindful of the amount of energy you put into trying to influence a negative thinker, you can give them all the information you want but in the end, they have to be willing and open to receiving new perspectives.

The Crossover

Not to be mistaken for the house negro, the crossover is a separate group. It’s common for the crossover to possess house negro tendencies, which is probably why they crossed over in the first place.  The crossover has to be watched closely, in fact, they may need to be expelled from the black club altogether.

“Why?” you asked.

The crossover will inflict a huge risk on the black community by sleeping with the enemy. History’s shown us many times how black liberation movements are infiltrated by caucasian’s using token black folk as their accomplice.  More dangerous than the house negro, the crossover can disable an entire operation with pillow talk.

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When it comes to protecting the black race we need to get like Aunt Harriet. We must be willing to help all our brothers and sisters towards a better life, while not being hesitant to rid ourselves our individuals jeopardizing our hard wok.

 

New Year New You

imagesWe’re almost halfway through the first week of January, this month often symbolizes a fresh start for many.  Around this time people begin setting New Year’s resolutions to better themselves. They start saving money, dieting for summer bodies, and getting rid of no good friends that somehow made it through the entire previous year. If you log into any social media site early January you’re bound to see people declaring how much they plan on changing their lives and no longer involving themselves in destructive behavior they probably just committed less than 48 hours ago. It’s no secret that old habits sometimes die hard, so keep calm and develop a winners mindset.  With a winners mindset, you’re destined to succeed against all odds because winners never quit. If you set goals last year that were not reached, try again this year and stay positive about your journey.

Here are a few tips to help you master this year’s resolutions.

Be Real With Yourself 

If weight loss is your goal then commit to it. Download a fitness app to help you track your calorie intake, prep your meals, and move your tail-feather.  Weight loss may not be an easy task, especially if you been addicted to apple pie, ice cream, and fried chicken for the last 10 years of your life.  Like a dope-fiend kicking a habit, you’re bound to go through withdrawal, so stay strong.  Don’t take your butt to McDonald’s they ain’t got nothing for you there! Eat healthy, set the period of time it will take you to reach your goal, and stick to it. Be real with yourself about your habits. You make think that one snack you treat yourself to after a good workout isn’t doing you any harm,  but if the weight’s not coming off you may need to eliminate your treat for a better outcome. Discipline yourself until you see results and don’t stop there

Write Down Your Goals 

Mama Badu schooled us when she said, “Write Down what you want. Watch it happen. Spelling is a spell”. When you write down your goals opposed to just thinking of them you assist the universe in making your dream something tangible.  According to Dominican University’s psychology professor, Dr. Gail Mathew’s people who write down their goals are 42% more likely to accomplish their goals than those who do not write them down. So, if your goal is to save money, write down the amount you plan on saving along with a clear super specific explanation of what you will do with the money once you reach the goal.

Connect with A Group 

Find like-minded people to connect with that will help you achieve your goals. Who you choose to hang around can have a huge impact on your daily habits, so be sure your associates are encouraging your good habits and not the bad. Some may need to revert to step one Be Real With Yourself when picking their master group. In a perfect world, our closest friends or family may be the ones we wish to use as our support system and build with. But if you know your friends don’t have the same goals as you, or also suffer from severe procrastination step outside of your comfort zone and find new friends that will push you further than you ever imagined of going.

Have Faith 

Dr. Martin Luther King said, “Faith is taking the first step even when you don’t see the whole staircase”. How many of us can be blindfolded and asked to walk around without the fear of thinking something may go wrong? Truth is, most people like to be in control, so not being able to see the unseen can seem a scary. Fear just like faith is an emotion that can be worked on. Instead of feeding your fears honor the faith you have in yourself and watch that faith make those staircases appear for you. If for some reason the staircase doesn’t appear then simply have faith that you won’t die when you fall.

Don’t Stop

Although mentioned last, this is the most important step of them all.  When it come to your goals you should embrace Puffy’s, “Can’t stop, won’t stop” motto.  There will be times when you just don’t feel like doing work and times where you feel as though you’ve fallen off track and can’t get things right.  Don’t beat yourself up. Examine your situation, see where you slipped, get back up then “dust yourself off and try again” (Aaliyah’s voice).

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Lost in the Great Walls Of My Vagina

fullsizerenderIf you don’t know me well let me just tell you that some things in my life are new to me and I’m still learning, so pardon me. I’ve recently picked up a few hobbies one of them being my new collection of stones. Over the past few months, I’ve managed to purchase a quartz, an amethyst, and my newest discovery an African bloodstone yoni egg. Please excuse me in advance for getting a little graphic with ya’ll but I feel the need to tell this story to help my fellow experimenters.  I bought the bloodstone yoni egg a few weeks ago but have been a little hesitant to use it because I’ve always been reluctant to stick things in my coco tunnel. I don’t even use tampons so sticking a stone up my yoni was a little bit different. But you know me, I’ll do anything to achieve inner peace.

Well, guess what! My ass decided to try my new yoni egg this morning.  My goal was to insert the egg and to do some and kegel exercises while out shopping, but the joke was on me. Afer primping, pressing and cleaning my egg I attached a piece of string to the stone before inserting it and attempting to go on my journey.  Without direct instructions in front of me, I squat down and inserted the egg into my vagina. Shortly after sticking the egg up my tunnel I realized I had lost it and the darn string attached to it.

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“OHHHHH DAMMMMNNNN!!! WTF DID I JUST DO?!!” (insert tears)

I freakin’ panicked! Here I am home alone, scared to death with a foreign object plunged up my secret tunnel.  In panic mode, I explored my great walls trying to feel for the object, but I was so frantic it only seemed like I was pushing the egg further up the tunnel. Realizing there was nothing I can do at the moment besides calm down, I opted to just go to the store to try calm my nerves.

Needless to say going to the store didn’t help. The entire time I was in the store I was lunging, squatting, and kicking my leg trying to get the thing to fall out my vagina. Still in panic mode, I went back onto Naturotica Wellness to see if anything was posted in the frequently asked questions about retrieving a lost egg. I found nothing on the site to help me in my current situation besides a few reminders that the site is a store and not a clinic so if you have an emergency contact your doctor, and all beginners should start their journey with a large egg because smaller eggs are for experts.  Well, I be damned! They say reading is fundamental, somehow I overlooked the part that said small eggs are for experts.

“OMGG!! How am I going to get this small egg out of me? I’m gonna have to go to the gynecologist to get it removed. I wonder if I can use some tweezers and a mirror for this job. Oh please… oh please spear me from the doctor’s office embarrassment!”

Upon arriving back home I snatched my pants off, grabbed a mirror and got back to searching my tunnel.  After few minutes of unsuccessful digging I picked up the phone and began to call every Ob-Gyn in the area hoping to get a walk in appointment and assistance with my disabled yoni.  I had no luck in finding a doctor to take a walk -in appointment so my last resort was to go to the emergency room and there was no way I was going down there to tell them I had lost something in my great walls.

Thank goodness for my sistah Orgasmik Intelligence for posting the Youtube video that saved my yoni and me from embarrassment. I was able to scoop the egg out of my vagina after listening to her instructions and most important remaining calm.  So here’s a message to my fellow sisters, if you should ever discover that you have lost something in your tunnel of love. Don’t panic, remain calm, and get to scooping!

 

4 Your Eyes Only- A Lyrical Classic

j-col3-4-your-eyes-only-album-release-dateJ cole just dropped another classic, 4 Your Eyes Only is undeniably gratifying Hip-Hop from start to finish. Cole delivered the much-needed lyrical perspective providing a microscopic look at what it feels/ sounds like to the struggle in black communities. He used his fourth album to highlight universal issues black men face today, no matter how much money he may have. The introduction track For Whom The Bells Tolls set the emotion for the entire album.

The start of the album kicks off with the sound of a set of keys unlocking and opening a door, signifying Cole willingness to allow the listener inside to hear about life through his eyes. The tone of For Whom The Bells Tolls is laced with bells and horns, giving the track a blues tempo, taking the listener on an emotional rollercoaster as Cole raps about contemplating on whether he should live or die.

But what do you do when there’s no place to turn?
I have no one, I’m lonely, my bridges have burnt down
Lord, Lord..
The bells getting loud, ain’t nowhere to hide
Got nowhere to go, put away my pride
Tired of feeling low even when I’m high
Ain’t no way to live, do I wanna die?
I don’t know, I don’t know

Quickly changing the pace Cole jumps into the next track Immortal narrating the life of a street hustler declaring that no matter what “real niggas don’t die”.  Immortal like many of the other songs on the album voices the dangers of trying to make it as a black man. The record notes how black men are often sold dreams to become entertainers or coerced to sell drugs even though Cole acknowledges that “its that sort of thinkin’ that keepin’ niggas chained/ at the bottom and hanged”.

Ville Mentality has a double meaning, from one perspective it expresses the destructive mentality of the people from his Fayetteville hometown. “How long can I survive this mentality?”, Cole questions the  trails and tribulations one faces in the age of information.  The inclusion of the little girl on the interlude revealed the horrific state of fatherlessness due to violence in urban communities. The track also addresses Coles clouded judgment about his own destiny in the rap game, unsure about whether he should disappear from the game or remain. In an uptempo track, Cole acknowledges that he understand that the only real change comes from inside in his track titled Change. ” I sit in silence and find whenever I meditate/ My fears alleviate, my tears evaporate” Cole reveals how he uses meditation to help him connect with the higher power.  Neighbors disclosed no matter how much a person may try to change themselves or their environment they may still face the judgment of outsiders.  “Okay, the neighbors think I’m selling Dope “,  J Cole used the track to illustrate the racist society he can’t seem to escape no matter his current status.

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Some things you can’t escape
Death, taxes, NRA
It’s this society that make
Every nigga feel like a candidate
For a Trayvon kinda fate
Even when your crib sit on a lake
Even when your plaques hang on a wall
Even when the president jam your tape
Took a little break just to annotate
How I feel, damn it’s late
I can’t sleep ’cause I’m paranoid
Black in a white man territory
Cops bust in with the army guns
No evidence of the harm we done
Just a couple neighbors that assume we slang
Only time they see us we be on the news in chains, damn

Overall, J Cole delivered quality on this album, just the lyrical arrangement alone is enough to indulge in a listen. Cole’s 4 Your Eyes Only is the male version of Solange’s A Seat At The Table, a great body of political artwork.  Cole does exceptional storytelling on each of his songs from the album’s debut titled track dedicated to his daughter, to his love song Deja Ve. If you haven’t heard the album yet now is the time to hear about life growing up in the ghetto from an artistic storytellers perspective

The Takeover – From Brooklyn to Jersey City

dsc_0415For years Jersey City, New Jersey has been a lost treasure on the decline with old abandoned factories, mediocre malls, and unkept houses.  For over a decade big financial companies and New York residents have been slowly flocking to the downtown area  looking to escape New York’s high rental cost. Since Mayor Steven Fulop took office Jersey City’s forgotten slums finally began to undergo some change, but not the change many have expected. Bergen-Lafayette and Greenville sections have now become a magnet for Jews interested in creating a new Chassidishe community in an effort to escape Brooklyn’s high cost of living.

According to 5Towns Jewish Times newspaper Greenville is one of the newest Chassidishe communities on the rise. An apartment building located at 221 Martin Luther King Drive was purchased in March to operate as the Jewish community’s temporary shul. Invitations to relocate to Jersey City were sent out to the Chassidishe community in the tri-state area as well as well as other regions. The paper claims visiting Jews have received warm welcomes from long-time residents in the area, but what is actually taking place is several Chassidishe philanthropists and real-estate investors have joined forces to convert the Greenville and Bergen-Lafayette areas to the newest Chassidishe community, unbeknownst to many long time residents. Real estate offers are being sent to landlords advertising the buyers’ market and soliciting owners to sell their homes for a good price.  Jews have been witnessed frequently going door to door asking long-time residents to sell their homes offering cash for the property.

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One particular resident had mixed feelings about the new transitions taking place in the neighborhood. The Greenville landlord that asked to remain anonymous said, “My tenets don’t know that I’m thinking about selling my property to the Jews. I have a young son and I don’t feel comfortable with him going outside to play or letting my mother walk up the block to the store. I do have split feelings about selling because I know the decision may negatively affect my tents.”

So who does this affect the most?

Only a quarter of Jersey City’s population is African American according to data collected from area vibes.com.  However, the two locations the Jews are looking to take over is heavily populated with African American people, 52.29% of the Greenville section and 65.38% of Bergen-Lafayette consist of African American residents.

Jews have established their headquarters for the Ya’azoru Project in the Greenville section, the office consists of a welcoming staff who helps Jews interested in relocating to the area. The program offers neighborhood tours to scout the city helping families to explore homes. In addition to city tours, the project offers information on mortgages including, FHA, financing, and bank loans for first-time homeowners. The Ya’azoru project even offers roomy rental apartments at a subsidized rate of $500 per month for a full year to Jewish families looking to help grow the new Chassidishe community.

 

 

Jersey City’s new community changes may alter the lives of many African Americans living in the city in the same way it reshaped the lives of African American Brooklyn residents.  If not careful the changes taking place may displace many African American families due to their inability to afford the rise in the cost of living.

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In an interview with New York Mag Jewish developer and landlord, Ephraim discussed the practices done to take over chosen neighborhoods in Brooklyn.

“We’re small, so we look into places that haven’t caught on — we just did a place on Nostrand Avenue… The building was full of tenants — $1,300, $1,400 tenants. We paid every tenant the average of twelve, thirteen thousand dollars to leave. I actually went to meet them — lawyers are not going to help you. And we got them out of the building and now we have tenants paying $2,700, $2,800, and they’re all white. So this is what we do. My saying is — again, I’m not racist — every black person has a price. The average price for a black person here in Bed-Stuy is $30,000 dollars. Up over there in East New York, it’s $10,000 dollars. Everyone wants them to leave, not because we don’t like them, it’s just they’re messing up — they bring everything down. Not all of them.”

The displacement of blacks in urban communities appears to be an escalating issue countrywide. Places like Boston, Washington DC, and Nashville have seen a rise in property prices, initiating the eradication of blacks and working class people unable to afford the increases.

“The scary part about doing this is, if the black guys start to realize how much the property will sell for. This is a new thing now, the past year. A million, two million dollars—it’s crazy, crazy numbers. None of them realize yet—some of them do—the amount of money you can get”, stated Ephriam.

 

 

 

 

 

Thug

Thug \ˈthəg\
Noun
1.    Reminisce on the carefree days, barefoot on pavement
water blazing fire raging. Joyous destitute.
Pack the plastic full of paper, slide it across concrete
land on a box.
Experience yields infraction, underprivileged
and unemployed. Baggy jeans, hoodie, fitted cap,
booked for misdemeanor, plea taker, twenty year
parole violator.

2.    a: a cruel or vicious ruffian, robber,
or murderer.
b: Passionately determined, prepared to defeat
all pessimists . Creator of wrong. Rightly justifying guidelines,
law abiding citizen. Explorer. Wanderer of sea;
on a happy journey. Dirt discoverer. Mineral regulator;
diamonds, gold, oil, money. Controller of several lands.
Example:
(Columbus was a thug.)

Signs of Mental Illness in the African American Community

may27ptsd_t750x550Two weeks ago I received devastating news. My cousin shot and killed his wife and was found dead in a parking lot three days later. The news came as a surprise, no one expected this from him. This cousin was always spending time with his family, always smiling, in fact, every time I saw him he was in good spirits. I can’t remember a time when I’ve ever seen him participate in an argument or even angry. So when I heard the news I was beyond shocked. I harbored so many questions about the incident. What caused this? How will it affect the children? Why is this a recurring theme within our communities?

Reflecting on what transpired with my cousin and on similar situations like his led me to believe these incidents are a result of people suffering mental illnesses. Now I am no psychiatrist, so what I’m implying is strictly my own assessment about certain events. There’s a stigma within the African-American community, we believe that we are incapable of experiencing mental health problems. I’ve even observed people say things like, “he/she is crazy but they ain’t stupid” when referencing individuals that show clear signs of mental illness. When we say and believe things like that we are putting our own limitations on what we believe the person will or will not do.

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I remember hearing the story of the Beltway Parkway sniper attacks back in the year 2000, my first thoughts on the suspects were that they were white people. In my mind, there was no way in hell a black person would go around shooting innocent victims for no particular reason. There’s a limit to the type of crimes African-American people will commit; mass murdering, flesh-eating, and any other savagery were amongst the list of things I believed only white people could do. My assumption was black people aren’t that insane.

Now imagine my surprise my surprise when I learned that snipers John Allen Muhammad and Lee Boyd Malvo, who killed a total of ten innocent people and injuring three victims were both men of color. Stunned at the discovery, I began to think about what happened in their lives to cause them to want to commit these horrific crimes.

The motive: In Malvo’s testimony he stated that he and Muhammad’s initial plan was to kill six white people for 30 days. Phase two of the plan was to kill a pregnant woman by shooting her in the stomach, then to kill a Baltimore police officer, and to set off explosives at the officer’s funeral in the attempt to kill a large number of cops. The third phase of the duo’s plan was to demand millions from the United States Government to help with their relocation to Canada to recruit black orphaned boys for gun training and secrecy to commit cross country murders.

Background: John Allen Muhammad lost his mother Eva Williams to cancer when Muhammad was only three years old. His father abandoned him after his mother’s death, leaving Muhammad to be raised by his aunt and grandfather. Muhammad joined the Louisiana Army National Guard in 1978 as a combat engineer quickly raising in ranks becoming a sergeant. In 1982 Muhammad plead guilty to willfully disobeying a lawful order for failing to appear on time for police duty. The convection led to Muhammad being fined and demoted from sergeant to specialist 4. He became a member of the Nation of Islam before serving in 1991 as a combat engineer in the Gulf War, helping a company dismantle Iraqi chemical warfare rockets. Muhammad was honorably discharged after 17 years of service from the army in 1994 and also went through two divorces. His last divorce from Mildred Muhammad was said to have left him devastated at the loss of custody of his three children.

Muhammad met Lee Boyd Malvo in Antigua Barbuda around 1999 after building a relationship with Malvo’s mother Una Sceon James. James left Malvo with Muhammad to come to the United States, the two followed suit about a year or two later. In an interview with the Washington Post ten years after the crimes were committed, Malvo admitted that he was under the control of Muhammad. Malvo stated in a television interview that he was sexually abused by Muhammad from the age of 15 up until he was arrested at the age 17. Malvo also admitted to being molested by a babysitter at 5 and again at 8 or 9 years of age by a relative.

Mental illness is usually caused by multiple factors like one’s environment, lifestyle, and genetics. It would be no surprise to learn that both Muhammad and Malvo may have suffered from mental illness brought on by society. The defendants were not granted a plea of insanity even though their actions were classified as having psychopathy tendencies attributed to signs of a serial killer.

According to the American Psychiatric Association, mental illness refers to disorders that can cause changes in a person’s mood, thoughts, or behavior at any time. The following is a list of signs and symptoms to help you identify if you or a loved one may be suffering mental health problems.

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Signs and symptoms:

  • Inability to concentrate and/or confused thinking.
  •  Extended periods of feeling sad and down.
  • Intense mood swings.
  • Isolation from loved ones and activities.
  • Change in eating habits and/or sex drive.
  • Thoughts of suicide.
  • Uncontrollably hostility, violence, and anger.
  • Unable to deal with problems/stress.
  • Trouble relating to other people/ situations.
  • Delusional- separating oneself from reality, experiencing hallucinations and/or paranoia.
  • Drug or alcohol abuse.

Due to high mental health risk factors, black people are 20% more likely than the rest of the population to experience severe mental health problems, according to Health and Human Services of Minority Health. Some of the most common mental health disorders associated with people of African American decent are Major depression, Suicide, Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and Posttraumatic stress disorder.

African Americans can and do suffer from severe mental illness. If you or anyone you know suffers any signs or symptoms associated with mental health illness, seek help immediately. Don’t be afraid of what others will think, find someone to talk to so you can cope with your problems. Besides, if a guy like Ethan Couch who killed four in a deadly drunk driving car crash was said to have suffered from a rare mental illness called Affluenza, then it’s possible for someone living in extreme poverty to suffer mental illness due to their conditions.

New Beginnings

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Two weeks ago I decided to visit Baba Obi the psychic reader in an attempt to gain some clarity abut my life. He told me, “you need to apply for the manager position because you are a head, not a tail”.

That wasn’t new information for me. I was always aware that I didn’t take direction well, you could not simply tell me what to do without explaining why it needed to to be done, I required understanding. But what Obi didn’t tell me during my reading is that I would lose my job the following week.

Sysco fired my ass, right after I ate my porridge and read Iyanlya’s daily inspiration Friday morning. They tried to snatch a sistah’s joy but it didn’t work. I had already been mentally preparing myself for this day and was well aware that it would eventually happen if I didn’t quit first. I was unhappy at Sysco and had been planning my escape from the plantation since graduation this past May. I figured once I obtained my degree in Journalism I would be able to switch careers, and tell my miserable co-workers that spent the last thirty plus years of their lives dedicated to providing lousy service to Sysco’s customers to kiss my black ass. But it wasn’t that easy landing a new Journalism gig fresh out of school, I didn’t even manage to get a call back from the dozens of resumes I sent out. The lack of responses sent me back to my original plan prior to enrolling in college, which was to become self-employed. I had been researching and planning ways to generate multiple incomes, how I can help benefit the community and most important, how all of this would help me to escape working on the damn plantation. I was planning for my life after Sysco, but was I expecting my life to change during my birthday month? Heck Nah! I was still in celebration mode. In my mind I still had at least another few months left with the company, that’s what I thought I needed, to secure a few more checks that would help towards the business I’ve been building. But the universe had a different plan for me, it was preparing me for immediate change.

I listened to Obi’s advice and took a spiritual bath a few nights after visiting him to help cleanse my spirit. Making use of October’s full moon I fixed to perform my own ritual by taking a bath cleansing myself from any and all negative energy keeping me from reaching my goals and living the life I desire. That Saturday night I attempted to drain away all fear, unwanted energy, and mainly procrastination- a demon I battled with for years.

Something was different in me the following morning. I woke up with a little extra energy, prepared to clean house and did just that from sun up to to sundown on Sunday morning. I partook in some much-needed fall purging, letting go of items that I held onto even though they were no longer useful to me to make room for what I desired to enter my life.

So when my manager served me with termination papers opposed to the write up I projected that week I was shocked but happy. It wasn’t the first job I had been fired from and I knew it wasn’t the end of my life. In fact, something in my soul was telling me this was happening to help me prepare to take control of my life like I had yearned to do. This was my chance to build my own and spread love around the community.

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When it comes to my life change has been a consistent reoccurring theme, shifting more often than the seasons at times. Some changes I fought hard to keep from happening, other I accepted gracefully. One thing I have learned about change is when it’s ready to take place in your life there is nothing you can do to stop it from happening. So the best thing to do is to strap your boots up, tie up your hair, and give change a big old embrace because you will not win the battle no matter how hard you fight it.

Welcome to my new beginning, I hope you enjoy!

 

Voodoo: The Undercover Family Religion

A dark man dressed in red and white religious garbs sat straight up in a chair with his head forward. His body, possessed by a spirit, while his face lacked emotion. Women followers, clothed in satin spiritual gowns and headscarves, danced and sang songs about “doing work” for the gods in Haitian Creole, as they patiently waited to kneel before him. One by one the women came up to the sitting man to perform a ritual handshake, saturate him with spiritual spray, and wipe his face with their matching mystical cloth.

The group of 150 men, women, and children were gathered under a semi open temple in Haiti, amassed around a pole, the center point of the voodoo ceremonies. Several men sitting in the rear of the room played drums and handmade horns manufactured with wood as a crew danced along swaying their hips to the rhythm as drummers released the beat of the universe unto them. Some people sat back and observed as spirits possessed the dancers, drummers, and the priest and as he drowned a bottle of liquor down a cow’s nostrils that was secured to a tree by his horns. On the center of the cow was a symbol of a Veve representing the Loa spirits; the pattern was also drawn on the floor of the temple with candles, a bottle of liquor, and a glass of water placed in the center to attract spirits.

haitian voodoo Once all the women were greeted with the handshake (a gesture that transfers the deity from one body to another) Pierre began to focus on the cow, rubbing him vigorously before twisting his head until his body fell limp. He then began to hack at the calves’ neck with a machete until his head was severed completely from his body. Moments later a young pig was slaughtered and a black bird was beheaded, each animal’s body still moving as if filled with life after its death.

After draining the blood from the cow, Pierre drenched himself in the liquid, washing his face, hands, and arms thoroughly with the red fluid. Young infants were passed to the priest to be bathed from head-to-toe in a spiritual launder, courtesy of priest Pierre.

“The blood is for the gods. That’s what they require. Drinking the blood is a big sacrifice that is how the deity gets the strongest. When we rub blood all over the baby it is done to bless the baby and protect her so that nothing can happen to her,” said fifty-two year old store owner and Voodoo Priest Pierre Val.

In the faintly lit basement of Val’s store, called Tous Les Anges Botanica, The 2015 Annual Haitian Voodoo celebration, hosted by Val, played on a small twenty-inch boxed television. Val’s store sits discreetly in the Bergen- Lafayette section of Jersey City, acting as the secret link for believers in the area looking for assistance from the spiritual world.

It is not uncommon for people to think of Christian, Islamic, or Judaic faiths when considering religions, particularly in the Unites States. Rarely, is Voodoo thought of as a real creed practiced in modern America, let alone in Northern New Jersey. In fact, for hundreds of years the religion has been viewed as an evil practice with people consecrating devilish spirits, voodoo dolls, and conjuring dark magic. Because the religion has no book to follow, the rules and practices for the dogma is left unfinished, open, and incorporative to other systems.

Haiti’s deep roots in Voodoo derive from the various African tribes that populated the country’s plantations. It is said that the whole of Africa contributed to the Haitian Voodoo tradition, making that particular sect one of the strongest outside of in Africa. Haiti’s traditional beliefs are influenced by Yoruba people (Nigeria), Kongo people (Bas-Zaire and Angola), and Fon people (Benin). While the Haitian system is based on healing, they are continuously changing the ideology throughout centuries to fight off political oppression.

“I practice voodoo to help others. Most people come to me because they lost their job or want an improvement in their family. The most important thing they come to me for is good luck,” said Val.

As the local Hungan (priest), Val sees about 3-4 people a day looking to regenerate some portion of their lives.

The Hungan (male priest) or Mambos (female priest) are the chosen people who are elected to receive divination from the deities. The priests have the ability to receive knowledge though the gods that possess the carcass. At times visions may appear while the priest or priestess is sleeping.  The Hungan or Mambo act as the mediator for their clients, calling upon the Orishas for support in aiding problems in their clients lives. When the priest sacrifices an animal the act is done to restore power to Loa and to ask the spirit for relief in the physical world.

“We normally ask for one hundred dollars. But if someone has just lost their job I’m not going to take money from them, my spirit won’t let me do it,” said Val.

Val has owned and operated Tous Les Anges Botanica for the past ten years, seeing as many as twenty people on a busy Saturday. The store overflowing with religious statues, spiritual books, and cleansing soaps always appears deserted. There was no cash register in site, the statues were covered in dust and the religious booklets were so old that the colors on the front were fading. A door in the rear of the store conceals where the magic happens, in the basement of the store.

Chairs were lined against the staircase of the large four-room cellar. The ceiling was decorated in birthday party streamers and partly deflated balloons. Children played around while several women sat quietly waiting, uninterested in sharing their reason for visiting priest Val.  A table full of old dusty dolls and liquor bottles was pushed against a wall. The room was full with boxes, bins, and clothes, the over packed appearance gave the crypt a crepuscular vibe. In the middle of the floor was a large bowl with nearly seventy-five dollars in cash.

Two quarters of the underground store was furnished with chairs for the customers waiting to ask the priest and his deity’s to resolve their problems. And one-by-one, Hugan Val, would take the customers into one of the private rooms with the handmade sign on the door indicating the price for the psychic reading.

Essentially, Voodoo is to the way of living for devotees because in the religion there is no belief of heaven or upward mobility. When priest request a favor from the gods it is normally done to remove miseries from their lives, not for joy or material possessions. Coexisting with the spirits means an easier or more hectic life for some.

“I’ve always had the spirit in my head since a young boy in Haiti.  I know this because some of things I don’t have the knowledge to do by myself. The spirits give me knowledge that I did not get on my own,” said Val.

“The spirit works for 12 months, if all he did is coming true you give him a gift on November 3.  Every year we hold the celebration for the deity’s, if we don’t something could happen,” stated Val.

Across the Hackensack River is another City with citizens active in the Voudon religion.

As an outsider walking the streets of Newark it would be nearly impossible to know the religious status of the residents. You would never know if your neighbor is conjuring up spells behind their doors unless you know them personally or have been inside their homes to bear witness to the unknown.

Yet, behind the closed doors of a blue two story home in the Weequachic section of Newark lives a family who practices what is known as Lucumi. The practice often goes by many names; Voudon is the original name for the practice popularly titled Voodoo. One of its religious sects is the more familiar Santeria an additional strand of Voodoo called Lucumi.  The standard name is Santeria, meaning “the way of the saints,” was derived from the Afro-Cubans use of the word Santos to describe the orishas, outsiders labeled it Santeria.

“In 1968 my uncle went to the New Black Power conference in Philadelphia. He met a guy by the name Walter King also known as Oba Efuntola Oseijeman Adelabu Adefunmi, one of the first African Americans to convert into the Voudon religion in Cuba. He took my uncle to a reading in 1970; my uncle joined the religion and received his beads. Two weeks later my grandmother joined and got her beads. The religion has been apart of my family since,” said Oba Olff a 39 year old Lucumi priest from Newark.

Olff is a stocky guy who stands about five-foot eight inches in baggy clothes that appear too large for his frame. As Olff opens the door to the second floor apartment, his face revealed the most pleasant smile that would automatically put any stranger at ease. Inside the compact corridor of the apartment was an entry to five other rooms. In each doorway, there hung a circled dream catcher with feathers dangling from the bottom to ward off any negative dreams or thoughts. Olff walked into the first doorway on the right, directly past the dining room decorated with an old fashioned wooden table and books stacked to the ceiling in crates towards the diagonal chamber filled with religious paraphernalia. After scurrying to the back, he immediately fell down to his knees in front of the fixtures and began praising his gods as if he were alone.

The room was decorated with statues put together with found objects and pieces honoring the gods they represented. Pictures of dead family members, glasses of water, and religious beads were scattered around the small space dedicated to worshipping. Each figure in the chamber represented an Orisha who each contain distinct abilities, an endowment given by the supreme God. The Orishas are Olodumar’e children sent to maintain the earth, the following Orisha’s were present as fixtures in the small room dedicated to deities.

  • Elegba – known as the trickster, he is the most important of them all because he is the owner of the crossroads providing humans access into the divine world.
  • Oshun – the deity of fresh water, known for healing, love, and fertility.  She is the oriesha mostly called for money issues because it is said she can accomplish almost anything.
  • Obba – the deity of marriage and personal transformations.
  • Oya – the deity of wind, strength of women, she is known to use a machete to scare away death.  Is it believed that she the owner of the cemetery gates and watches over the dead to help them make the transition into their new world.
  • Shango – the king of kings, lord of light and thunder, and the controller of fire.  He is also known as a womanizer, a warrior caring a double headed axe, and the master of dance.
  • Babalu Aye – the deity of sickness and healing.  He is one of the most worshiped Orisha, fighting off contagious diseases.
  • Ogun – known as the blacksmith.  He is the god of labor, iron, and war. Ogun is known as the father of technology and a powerful man carrying a machete and wearing a skirt.
  • Orisha Oko – the orisha of agriculture, he gives birth to the crops and life, procreation and fertility.
  • Yemaya – the mother of all living things and ruler over maternity.  Life is said to have begun at sea with Yemaya, her name meaning “Mother whose children are the fish”.

shrineThe Lucumi religion stems from the Yoruba people of West Africa, it is the Yoruba word used for the Santeria religion and the Afro-Cuban practitioners worshipping of the Orishas. Santeria is the most commonly used name of the religion, but it is also known as Regla de Ocha, La Regla de Ifa, La regal Lucumi, or Lucumi. Santeria is a combination of beliefs from the Yoruba mythology and the Roman Catholic Church. The standard name, Santeria means “the way of the saints,” derived from the Afro-Cubans use of the word Santos to describe the orishas, outsiders labeled it Santeria.

“In 2005 I was ignited as a priest. The position is very demanding, asking a deity to be a part of your head. I can hear them and sometimes see them. I’ve had instances where I’ll be talking to someone and the deity’s are telling me devastating information that is getting ready to happen in the individual’s life” stated Olff.

Unlike the Haitian tradition, the priest and priestess in Lucumi are called babalorisha and iyalorisha. Babalorisha means father in the spirit and iyalorisha means wife or mother of in the spirit.  The job of the priest as the head of the doctrine is the ability to initiation others, and the extension of family through godchildren to whom they can pass the spirits onto.  They are also notorious for their knowledge of the detail of the ritual.

According to Olff there are four compartments in Lucimi that overlap which is spiritualism, strong Congo cults, the enlightenment stage, and the Ifa.  The Ifa is not present in the Haitian or Brazilin practices.

Spirituality manifest through the path of knowledge (caino de Orula) and the path of the spirit (camino de santo), which advances a persons ability to understand the activity of the spirit in the physical world. The Camino de Orula is also known as the Orula or Orunmila, the Congo cult present at the creation of the universe, the start of every life, and had the capability to recognize fate.  Orula is sometime referred to as Ifa, the master of the Ifa is babalawo meaning father of mystery.  In order to become a master priest the babalawo must remember a multitude of Ifa’s poetry in the Lucumi language.

red voodoo“It takes about a year long before a person can be initiation into Lucumi. The initiation is a seven day process where you have to wear all white and practice absence from sex for one year” says Olff.

It is said that Lucumi began to spread in the nineteenth century when a large amount of Africans from Yorubaland (Nigeria, Benin, and Togo) arrived in Cuba to work the sugar plantations, bringing along with them their deep religious beliefs. However, there were traces of African religion in the Caribbean prior to the nineteenth century due to slavery. Over two hundred thousand Yoruba speaking people known as Lucumi were transported to Cuba in the early eighteen hundreds which show that the religion may have existed in the area prior to the nineteenth century.

Before the slave trade the major cities in Yoruba land was the hub for worshipping different Orishas. The slave trade caused the Lucumi people to maintain their system of belief outside of their native soil, modifying the system to mix with Roman Catholics beliefs due to the Code Noir Laws banishing any religion other than the Catholic religion in the new world.

The attempt to prosecute the Voudon religion came in 1685 when the Code Noir Law was established, forbidding the practice of any religion other than Roman Catholicism in French colonies.  Prior to Code Noir negros in the French Colony were not calculated as part of the population. French King Louis XIV’s passed the Code Noir law also known as the Black Code to gain order in the new French colonies, he set rules for the slaves and their masters to follow while solidifying the slave’s new legal status.

“The law restricted African slaves from partaking in the Voodoo tradition when Haiti was governed by Spain. The tradition went underground although people continued to pass on the teachings and rituals” said Reverend Robert Wister a church history professor at Seton Hall University. “Things written about the religion are biased. It’s typical of those countries; the British banned anything non-Protestantism. There were all sorts of religious oppression that slaves were able to maintain through language.”

Although many have lost ties with the African religion there are still some deep ties that the African American and Caribbean communities hold to the tradition unbeknownst.

“There is a tradition in the African American family requesting that you wipe your feet at the door.  It is a West African gesture to salute the God Elegba – the deity that stands at the threshold of things,” said Olff.

In the spirit of voodoo there is no god or deity without human beings, Orishas exist only through the community. West Africans did not believe in the phrase “rest in peace” they believed that when ancestors die they moved on to do work for the communal.

“If you have spirituality then you understand that you are not duped into the power in the sky thinking that when you die you go to heaven and that’s it” said Olff.

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