Homies Empowerment Dinner

At 6pm on January 4th, 2011, inside the Eastlake YMCA in Oakland, Ca I spotted Pocho-One’s green A’s cap bobbing and weaving through the rows of teenagers in attendance for the evening’s event. Pocho-One was juggling his responsibility of distributing snacks on paper plates, while simultaneously snapping photos of the event he helped to create: Homie’s Empowerment Dinner.

This week’s Homie’s Empowerment Dinner featured special invited guest JR Valrey, an international journalist with roots here in Oakland, Ca. Valrey screened his documentary “Operation Small Axe”, which addressed issues of police brutality and documented much of the Oscar Grant saga here in Oakland.

The young men and women enjoyed food, a special screening of a documentary, and an engaging discussion- all for free. Cesar Cruz, founder of the Homie’s Empowerment program made it clear that, “we don’t do this for free… we do this for freedom”.

The intended goal of the weekly event is to get youth, especially Latino youth, from different neighborhoods to meet face to face, and break bread.  A large portion of the dialogue from the Homie’s Empowerment Dinner was guided toward understanding and making strides to get past the concept of “divide and conquer”.

Jack Bryson, family friend of Oscar Grant, was in attendance for the event as well. He opened his speech by informing the audience that this was his first public appearance at an Oscar Grant related event since the sentencing of Johannes Mehserle on November 5th, 2010. Bryson spoke of the verdict, and how it had gotten him down; but this event resurrected his spirit. He concluded his speech with three questions and a statement,

“Why is there Black vs. Black violence? and Brown vs. Brown violence?… or even Black vs. Brown violence?…here in Oakland, where the cops shoot us down, its evident that the violence is Blue vs. Black and Brown.”

The meeting concluded with a ceremonial circle of attendees exchanging handshakes and hugs. This ceremony was adopted from the United Farm Workers, and serves as a physical manifestation the concept of unity within the community.

For more info on the Homie’s Empowerment Dinners: homiesempowerment@gmail.com

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Ring Leaders

She looked dead in the camera and asked, “if these guys are going around the country talking about manhood…why aren’t any of them married?”

I was in Brooklyn’s Fort Greene neighborhood. It was muggy June night. June 14th, the day before Tupac’s birthday, and father’s day… I wonder which one is more readily celebrated in the Black community?…but, I digress…

I was in New York; a trip sponsored by the 21st Century Foundation’s initiative to alter the image of Black men in the media, “The 2025 campaign for Black Men and Boys“. We sat in conferences and workshops, we networked and cracked jokes, and above all…I documented the entire experience.

The conference was full of males: elder men with stories longer than their grey locks,young boys cut from a cloth that was newer than their suites, and I was there with a camera.

I met Kevin Powell. He was the figurehead, leader, and prime speaker for the conference. I was fortunate enough to be invited to a small dinner party with him and a handful of others. During the dinner party- I got antsy and decided to go outside. While outside, I good piece of advice from my mentor Cheo Tyehimba Taylor kicked in: this conference is all male- why not get some female perspective on manhood?

I saw this group of ladies. funny enough, when I initially accosted them, they brushed me completely. They thought I was trying to “holler” at them. But once they saw my approach was genuinely for journalism reasons, the conversation rolled…

And after all of the insightful input, they still inquired about attending the dinner party- trying to meet Kevin Powell…

But, the points made were thought provoking…how can you speak on the topic of manhood when you are not fully experienced in all manhood has to offer?

I think about this when I look at male leaders- namely politicians, business men, and members of the religious realm.

I almost always notice if a man has a ring on his left hand or not. Maybe a judgement on my part, but I cant help but thinking there is a correlation between a man who can uphold a solid union between he and his female counterpart, and a man upholding his position in society. After all, the family is the microcosm of society. family is the first society. If you cannot govern a family, how will you govern a people?

I bring this all to a forefront today, February 21st, 2010…45 years after the assassination of Malcolm X. The man.

In “man-hood circles”, Malcolm’s constant growth and development signified a man who was forever becoming greater. forever growing.They say manhood is a journey, and Malcolm X’s trials and tribulations symbolize that journey to a tee.

But a part that is often overlooked, and the part that inspires me to write this piece, was his relationship with his wife, the late Mrs. Betty Shabazz.

She was in his corner. She was his inspiration to move forward, comfortably; for he knew she would have his back. While Malcolm toured the Nation speaking and leading, and later toured the world reading and thinking, she did much of the rearing of the children.Malcolm and Betty...and 2 of three children

All day, my mind has been with Malcolm X; I have been watching youtube clips of Malcolm X, I have been posting quotes from Malcolm X on twitter, I have been reading random excerpts from his Autobiography… Today is Malcolm X day.

And even with all of my research, the most profound quote from, about, or having anything to do with Malcolm X is this….

“I loved him, he loved his people” – Betty Shabazz.

Rest in Peace Malcolm X

Rest in Peace Betty Shabazz

…this is just my train of thought…

Peace.

Listen 2 Your Heart

Listen to Your Heart
Listen To Your Heart via http://fc00.deviantart.net/fs43/f/2009/063/3/9/Listen_to_your_heart_by_screamst.jpg

               When life begins, you are but a fetus in the womb. The doctor holds a stethoscope up to your  mother’s belly, and the sound of your heartbeat is the first significant sign of life.

And from that point on, you should listen to your own heartbeat… but we don’t.

Instead, we listen to the overwhelming influential thoughts of our cognitive brain. Damn that influential brain! And how you could you blame humans for listening to our brains- for starters look at the location. It’s conveniently lodged between a human being’s ears…ears which are receptors to every audible influence outside of the dog whistle!

The worst part of listening to your brain as opposed to your heart is
the myth about how much brain humans actually use. There are results on the internet saying humans use 10% and there are some saying humans use 90%…whatever the case- if you listen to your heart- then your heart works 100%.  

And when the heart doesn’t work 100%…or rather enter into a cardiac arrest, there is little hope for the continuance of life outside of a tiny given time frame…while on the other hand, a human being can be
in a vegetative state for years- brain-dead to the world, but so as
long as that heart is pumping: there is hope!

So the body without a heart is hopeless…

Morbid? Yeah, kind of unsettling to bring thoughts of mortality into a
piece about true love, but it makes sense…the 1st thing that
signifies our lives- is what should lead our lives. And as a point of
clarification- when I speak of “listening to your heart”, I’m not speaking
of the after effects of an adrenaline rush when your pulse is pumping like pistons…. and I’m not  talking about that one time you got some bad weed and you got really high and you could hear your heart
beat…na, I’m speaking of pursuing only things that bring you true
fulfillment in this world: listening to your heart.

Look, I’ll bring it home… You ever wondered why people ware a wedding ring on the left ring finger?
yeah, so did I- and then I found this video…

…And that sealed the deal: You can listen to what you want to- I’m going to listen to my heart…

Peace and Love,

Pendarvis Harshaw