Thursday, November 27, 2014

Being Thankful

On the way home from church today, I listened to a broadcast from Moody Radio. The pastor I listened to said, "Gratefulness is not an emotion--it is an action. True gratefulness is obedience to God." To take this further, those who are grateful for everything God has given them do not hesitate to show charity to others--even when the recipient is unworthy. Grateful Christians observe the Sabbath and do not allow errands, extra sleep, golf, the football game, or brunch with the girls to be more important than going to church and meditating on God's goodness. (For those who find church boring, don't go for the fun of it; go to listen to the Word and in obedience to God). Moreover, grateful Christians depend on Christ to be the only source of salvation and do not try to rewrite Scripture to justify their own indulgence.

Today, as I sat in church, I noticed that the pews were only half full. Where were the other Christians? Still asleep, even though it is God that allows them to wake up when they are ready? Cooking the Thanksgiving Dinner, even though it was God's providence that allowed them to have such an abundance of food? Or, were they getting ready for one America's most common idols: football? The fact that so few people thought to attend church today at my congregation and all over the country is proof that America is increasingly becoming godless, as they are putting their own personal interests against serving God. We have so many blessings, yet we are no longer grateful. We forget to thank God for the things we have. We prefer our individuality over obedience to our Creator. We complain over the little things; we lament there is no meat when there are more than enough vegetables to satisfy our appetites. I keep repeating what my mother told me once because it is true: "If you cannot thank God for what you have, why should He give you more?" This is become obvious with the moral and social decay that is plaguing our country.

Sadly, too many of us refuse to repent. As proof of this, there are those who call themselves Christians who will read this rant and call me intolerant, a religious fanatic, or that I am "entitled to my own opinion." Well, to be blunt, it is the "religious fanatics" who try hard to follow Christ's heart, and they will never surrender their salvation for what the world can provide. After all, the things that the world can give will perish and will lead me to everlasting damnation, but what Christ gives me is eternal and is for my own good. Only Christ could die to wash away my sins, and only He can give me everlasting forgiveness and life. For this, I am compelled and pleased to show Him my gratitude for the rest of my life. How about you?

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

A Person, Not a Token

Token, from South Park

Allow me to tell you a true story. 

An African-American woman and a man of European descent fall in love with each other. After a year or so of dating, they get married and move to another state. Then the trouble begins. She begins to notice that her husband takes offense to the neighborhoods she frequents and the friends she chooses. Whenever there are family gatherings on her side, he refused to attend. Then one day, it finally made sense to her. The neighborhoods she went to were safe and characteristic. The friends she chose were respectable and warm, and her family was loving and treated him well. The problem is, they were all Black, and to her horror, she realized that, while he loved her, he disliked Black people. Maybe it was her charisma or her sophistication, but she realized what many educated, open Blacks with White friends are often forced to realize; she was his Token Black--an exception to the rule, if you will. This realization damaged her deeply. After all, as she is a dignified Black woman, to dislike her people is to not truly love or respect her. Needless to say, she divorced him.

While this is an extreme example, it demonstrates the attitudes some people harbor against Blacks, whether they mean to or not. On the one hand, many people treat Blacks like mascots, and they try to "act Black" in order to be cool. Then there are all of the others who, out of misunderstanding or just plain racism, dislike or hate Blacks, yet like some individual Blacks. Either these are friends or celebrities. In fact, even some of the most bigoted people have that one decent Black. They live next to them and talk football over the fence. They work with them, hire them, invite (and parade) them to (at) barbecues, they adopt them, date them, and, as the illustration suggests, even marry them. Even the White supremacist David Duke reminisced of his childhood mammy (Black maid). Somehow, they are magically able to separate a person from his or her own people because they cannot find it in their hearts (or brains) to dislike him or her as well.

I reflect on my own experiences being both the mascot and the decent Black. A lot of this comes from a history and childhood of ethnic confusion and shame. Everyone kept telling me to be proud to be African-American, but I looked around me and could not find any reasons to be proud. I remember when I was 8 years old and had just learned about Dr. Martin Luther King. After school, when I was on the bus on my way home, I saw graffiti and litter all over Black neighborhoods. I saw Black guys sloppily dressed, Black women scantily dressed, and people fighting and throwing bottles at each other. On my block, I saw plenty of hardworking mothers and devoted grandmothers, but very few fathers. I remember saying, "So, Dr. King gave us freedom, and look at what we are doing with it." I guess that is where my ethnic shame began. It perpetuated in high school when I noticed that the boys who always bullied me were Black, while, for the most part, the White students either befriended me or left me alone. As a result, I kept my distance from Blacks, and most of my friends were White. 

When I befriended Whites and was in the White crowd, I have experienced many things and asked many questions--questions that I did not mind but would probably offend the average Black person. I have been asked why I don't act or talk "Black", A few people even thought I was English! Then, there have been those who asked for my opinion--as a Black person. Really, if I really spoke for most Blacks, then Blacks are against affirmative action and believed that OJ Simpson was guilty.Then there are those who have been inclined to vent about their experiences with me about other Blacks or, reversely, try to talk "Black" around me. Case in point, there was a fellow who went to my church who kept calling me "bro," and he really pursued me as a friend. Then, in mixed company, he insinuated that Whites were the superior race because they invented the wheel. Finally, there was a time in college when I wrote an article reprimanding Black students for playing the race card about a certain issue. For as many Black students coming to tongue lash me, there were White students coming over to applaud me. Most of these students I had never seen or talked to before. Those same White students did not sit down next to me at lunch. They did not invite me for coffee after school, and they did not invite me to their parties. In fact, in all of my years of high school, there was only one person who ever invited me to a party--a Black girl. 

Even though all the signs were there, I still did not pay attention because I wanted to convince myself that racism was only experienced by Black who did not respect themselves. The only times I began to realize that there was a problem were when I befriended a Jewish classmate named Jess, and when I looked for work after getting my MSW. She was all buddy-buddy with me for a while, but then, even when I visited her in the hospital, she kept cancelling meeting times and never invited me to see her non class friends. This is the same pattern I have noticed since I began college; a person talks about how great or interesting I am, they then play with me for a while, only to throw me away once they have proven to the world how "tolerant" they are or when they realize they cannot mold me into their image. This is why I have decided to never again let myself get too close to any friends. And then there was finding work. Ever since I started grad school, all I heard was how there was a great need for male, minority social workers. Well, someone forgot to tell the employers, because once I graduated from a top social work college, summa cum laude, White female classmates who worked only half as hard as I did were getting jobs much faster than me. Social Workers, dear friends, often brag that they belong to a field that is liberal and celebrates diversity. Why, then, did it take 14 interviews to get the job I have now, while the aforementioned classmates only had 3 or 4 interviews?

If there are any White people who have not become too offended yet, let me just say that I have known many Whites who have been genuine and respectful, and I thank all of you for that. As my mother has drilled into my head a million times, there is good and bad wherever you go. For those who are not sure if the few Black friends they have are token friends, ask yourselves these questions:

1. Would you be embarrassed to introduce these friends to your family?
2. Do you only talk to them when other Whites (in general) are not watching?
3. If it is safe, would you be comfortable socializing in your friend's neighborhood regularly?
4. Do you talk negatively or mockingly about Blacks, Black culture, or Black neighborhoods--to your friend or behind his or her back?
5. Do you often try to speak Ebonics or wear stereotypical "urban" clothing around your Black friends?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, you have token friends, and you may be struggling with racist tendencies. No one is perfect, and it is only human for people to place beneath them things they do not understand. I would strongly advise you to become educated about African-American history, culture, and social problems. Then, I would suggest that you consider the problems of your own cultures and the skeletons in your own ethnic closets. We all have the same desires and fears, and we all want to be happy and feel safe. Like most cultures around the world, African Americans cherish community. We love to eat, sing, dance, go to church, and share passions. We have traditions and value lineage. Yes, we have our problems, but before you dwell on our problems, just think of the stereotypes about your own people. How would you feel if someone made a mascot out of you or love you yet denigrate your people? Think about that, and you will know how I feel. Each ethnicity is a snapshot of beauty; why can't we stand together and create a collage?

Friday, November 21, 2014

A Dictionary of My Common Phrases

(To compare what I say with what I really mean)


1. Okay
2. I don't agree with you, but either I don't feel like arguing with you, I doubt you will fight fair, or I just want you to be quiet. Often followed by the person's name.

"I'm tired."

1. Give me time and space.

"I'm very tired."

1. Leave me alone…please.

I'm exhausted

(Refer to "I'm very tired.")


1. Shock or surprise


1. Dismay


1. Frustrated


1. Probably yes.

"We'll see…"

1. Probably no
2. It's not up to me.

"Just a minute." (often accompanied with an erect pointer finger)

1. I need more time to do something.
2. I am trying to think, and your chatter is disturbing my thought process.
3. I can listen or I can do a task I am supposed to do, but I cannot do both. Take your pick. Task it is!


1. (If enthusiastic) Welcoming a given suggestion.
2. (If not enthusiastic) I don't believe you, but I would rather placate you than invite a long, exhausting discussion.

"I'm fine."

1. I really am fine.
2. I am not fine, but I don't feel like talking about it or I don't want to tell you what's wrong.
3. I don't know how I feel. Give me time and space to figure it out.

"I said I'm fine!"

1. You keep asking me what's wrong or if I am fine, and I am starting to get ticked off. Keep asking questions, and if I was fine, I will not longer be; if I were not fine, I will be worse.


1. I will not discuss this further.
2. You are getting on my nerves.

"Lord, have mercy!"

1. (Lighter tone) I am suspecting a weird or mildly unpleasant occurrence.
2. (Intense tone) Very displeased; ready to punch a wall.

"You eat with that mouth?"

1. You have a filthy mouth; I hate vulgar language.

"That's all right."

1. I am content or impressed with something said, done, or planned.

"I know what time it is!"

1. I am being playful with your feigned adversity.
2. You have said or done something I disapprove of, but I am accepting it.

"That's enough."

1. I am starting to lose my patience with you. You would be wise to close your mouth and walk away.

Excuse me?

1. I did not hear you clearly.
2. You just said something ignorant or hurtful, and I am both encouraging you to make amends and challenging you to repeat what you said so that I can give you what for.

"I wish you would…"

1. You are about to say or do something uncouth, and I am informing you that I am wise to you. I am also encouraging you to change your course of action to prevent a proverbial thrashing.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Forest Park: Goodbye, Farewell, and Amen

Since I first moved to Forest Park on February 27, 2010, I have gathered many memories of my beloved town. However, as of this Saturday, I will no longer be a resident.  By the end of that day, I will be a Bridgeviewian. While leaving Forest Park will be sad, the neighborhood and apartment to whence I am moving will be worth it. 

These are the things about Forest Park I will miss the most:

·         Walking to church on Sundays.
·         Strolling down Madison Street on a summer day.
·         The fountain at Constitution Court.
·         LOUIE'S GRILL!!!!!!!
·         St. Patrick's Day Parade. Eirinn go bragh!
·         Being able to Facebook message the mayor, and expecting a response.
·         What used to be Molly Malone's--when it was run by Sandra and Margaret.
·         BROWN COW!!!!!!!
·         FAT DUCK!!!!!!!
·         The serenity of Circle Avenue.
·         In-law houses.
·         The fries at Parky's
·         COUNTER COFFEE!!!!!!! (Even though Team Blonde never responded to my email about starting a Poetry Night)
·         Walking down the street and waving to people I know (mostly from my church)
·         Ethnic diversity--and many multi-ethnic families.
·         Viewing the St. John steeple from my living room.
·         FOREST PARK REVIEW!!!!!!!
·         The fact that it truly is a place with big city access, yet small-town charm.

Now that I have gotten that out of the way, time to list the things about Forest Park I will NOT miss:

·         Litter on Des Plaines Avenue and sometimes on Madison Street.
·         The unsavory mudslinging of people like Marty S. when he was trying to cheapen our town by bringing machine gambling into it. (
·         Uncivilized hoodrats from South Maywood and the West Side of Chicago ruining our town with their marijuana smoking, blasting music at midnight, and yelling at each other in their slurred, nasal, and often screeching voices, as if they need the entire world to know that Shaquata has a new weave or Marquell is not taking care of his responsibilities. Forest Park used to be a nicer, quieter town. But hey, no matter where good Black people go and place roots, the hoodrats always follow to ruin everything. Such people, I am sorry to say, justify White Flight. For these reasons, no matter how much I love Black people and enjoy being Black, I will no longer, if I can help it, live in a town or neighborhood that is more than 15% Black. That is because, the more Blacks live in an area, unless they are solidly middle or upper class, the more problems we will have with the ignorant ones without home training. Again, I love Black people to death, but I wish we could find a way to contain the hoodrats in the slums they have created for themselves until they can learn to behave. Booker  T. Washington was right. But I digress.
·         The declining ability of Forest Park police to keep the aforementioned hoodrats in line. Seriously, whatever happened to the iron fist? Case in point, where we live, there are two women who are associated with each other somehow. One person lives on the first floor, and the other one lives on the third floor, next to us. They have loud parties all the time, and they cannot use their inside voices. And at the middle of the night! I know hoodrats don't read, but can they at least read their leases?! The way they talk, it is as if they are trying to communicate between mountains. I have called the police a multitude of times.  They come out, they tell the individuals to be quiet, and then they leave. They are quiet for a while, but then they are loud again. They never learn! I went to file a report against my neighbor, but the officer suggested that it would be better if  I just kept calling the police when they disturb the police as this would force the property manager to take action or pay a fine. I kept doing this, but nothing changed. The closest thing they received to a reprimand was an officer saying, "Don't make me come back out here!" After all the complaints against them, they should have gotten tickets, but this never happened.  To make things worse, there was a particular officer who did not take me or his job seriously. If you want his name, send me a private message, but all I will say is that he looks like the late Paul Winnfield. The first time he came out, even though I have always tried to remain anonymous as hoodrats can be vindictive, he knocked on my door because "[he] could not hear anything." When the noise returned, he knocked on my noisy neighbor's door, and he asked her if he could come in. Soon, I heard them laughing. The second time, and the last time I called the police on anyone in the building, he knocked on my door again--for the same reason. Aren't the police supposed to get their hearing checked regularly? This time, the neighbor opened the door, and she finally knew that I had been reporting her. If anything happened to me or my property, it would have been this officer's fault. Perhaps he should take lessons on being discreet. After that, there were at least two other times when my neighbors have been loud, but I did not call the police. Why? Because I no longer trust Forest Park Police.
·         The town's inability to protect its residents from the unsavory practices of building owners. Two things have happened to prove this. First, there was a time when the building owner next to my Circle Avenue three-flat decided to redo the roof. He did not warn his neighbors of the work being done, and I had gotten a call from a neighbor, when I was getting ready for work, that the roofers were throwing damaged tile into the dumpster, but it was landing on my car. When I got out there, there was soot tile, and scratches all over my car! The workers did not even apologized; they just snickered. With the help of my landlord,  I was able to get the scratches out and my car cleaned. Then, in late October, my current property manager gave the residents of my complex only about 14 hours' notice to move our cars out of the spots that we pay for so that M&J Asphalt could pave new asphalt. He told me that they gave him the same amount of notice and that he would have to wait a month if he did not consent. Still, it was his duty to say, "This is unfair to my residents; we will take our business elsewhere." Instead, he just tells us that any cars left after 8AM the next day will be towed at owner's expense. But then at 7:25, I am told that these workers decided to start early, and I had 10 minutes to move my car. The work was supposed to take 2.5 days, but it ended up being a week because the workers did not come when they were supposed to and they did not, according to the property manager, answer their phones or return his messages. What kind of company is this? But getting back to the property manager, I could have been on vacation, only to find my car gone and needing to pay up to $1,000 to get it back--at no fault of my own. I complained to the mayor and village workers about this, and they told me that, while what happened was wrong, nothing could be done since there are no laws to force building owners to give sufficient notice to ascertain that the tenant's rights and property are protected. Why the heck not? I hate to say this, but we are in an age where we cannot depend on people to be civil and considerate. We need laws to protect the people. If there was a law on Forest Park's or Illinois' books, that building owner would have been required to warn me to move my car, with my landlord's permission, or pay a fine. My property manager would have been forced to either say no to M&J Asphalt or pay a fine. Laws that protect the people instill order and curb vigilantism.

If I have not lost you with all of my negative experiences, let me just say that my positive experiences outweigh them all. Leaving Forest Park has been and will be very hard for me, yet I will still be around on a regular basis as I intend to keep going to church at St. John.

In closing, my feelings about Forest Park are best summarized in what I hope will become the town song:

As I walk along old Madison Street
Or linger on the Grove
The beauty of this blessed town
Shines like a radiant trove

O Forest Park, O Forest Park
The place where I belong
Forever will you be my joy
Forever be my song

Your charming diners, cozy pubs
Boutiques and antique stores
But most of all, your friendly people
Fill my heart galore!

It matters not the winds of change
Nor whither I may roam
I’ll always love you, Forest Park
You’ll always be my home!

So long, Forest Park!