Category Archives: Other

The Hidden Science Behind Starbucks

Starbucks is under a lot of fire today after a video that surfaced on social media this past Thursday, gained nationwide attention with over 3 million views. The video taken at a Starbucks in Philadelphia Pennsylvania shows police handcuffing two African American real estate brokers and escorting them out of the Starbucks. The video shows a white male as well as a few voices that can be heard in the back ground telling the police officers “They didn’t do anything.” It was later reported that the police were called because these 2 African American men sat inside the Starbucks waiting on a friend to show up for a meeting without ordering anything. The friend eventually showed up to the Starbucks as the two black males were being escorted out in handcuffs and being sent down to a county jail. Immediate outrage on social media prompted Starbucks to issue a statement online, writing a public apology to the two individuals as well as customers who were angered by this racial incident. Starbucks stated, “We apologize to the two individuals and our customers for what took place at our Philadelphia store on Thursday.”

Early Saturday afternoon, the Philadelphia Police Commissioner Richard Ross addressed the racial incident on Facebook live. Commissioner Ross stated the 2 black men were “trespassing”, due to them being non-paying customers who wanted to use the restroom. When the Starbucks employees asked the two gentlemen to leave, they refused to comply with the requests which resulted in the police to be called. Commissioner Ross further states “The officers did absolutely nothing wrong.” Immediately following Commissioner Ross’s statements, social media responded to Ross’s claims to be absolutely absurd and incorrect. Shortly afterwards, a hash tag #BoycottStarbucks became a trending topic on Twitter Saturday afternoon. This is nothing less than a classic case of typical racial discriminatory and racial misconduct on behalf of a white owned establishment and the Philadelphia Police department.

In the wake of this incident, I want to take the time to address black America and all melanated people across the world. Many of us have tend to have this false notion that racism is a thing of the past and as long as we carry ourselves in a decent manner, we will have nothing to worry about. Many of us believe that fancy college degrees, having a professional career, and living in the suburbs will eliminate the threats of racism. This idea is easily debunked because the two men arrested in that Starbucks in Philadelphia were real estate brokers which most people would agree, is a rewarding professional career. We as a people, collectively, suffer from a case of extreme escapism and we place a high value on materials that gives us a psychological escape from reality. We don’t want to believe that racism still exists and Jim Crow still very much alive. When dealing with reality, one thing we must come to an understanding of is that we live under a global system of white supremacy. White Supremacy dominates all 9 areas of activity including Economics, Education, sex, labor, law, war, politics, religion, and entertainment. When it comes to all of the industries and the total wealth in the United States of America, African Americans own less than ½ of 1% of the total wealth therefore having no economic base whatsoever. When you belong to a group of people who have no economic base and no continuous flow of income within your community, you will always be susceptible to disrespect from other racial groups as well as being subjected to termination. This is why African Americans are the main targets for police brutality and institutional racism. This is why African Americans continue to deal with racial discrimination today just as much as we faced racial discrimination during the Jim Crow Era. Thanks to camera phones, the world gets to see the deleted scenes from the horror movie known as the Jim Crow Era.  Just 60 years ago, blacks were not allowed to sit in the same restaurants as whites. 60 years later, we are not allowed to sit in coffee shops without the police being called on us. Now I want you to ask yourself, did we really have any racial progress in America? Having an historical consciousness is simply not enough, we must build physiological and sociological awareness in order to combat systematic racism. It is well documented throughout historical records that Africans invented and created the foundation of almost all of the most profitable product the world consumes on a daily basis. This product includes coffee. If you actually pay attention to the Starbucks logo, you will see that the Starbucks logo in fact traces back to Africa.

Most people are not aware that the mermaid logo is indeed an African goddess named Yemaya also known throughout West Africa and the Caribbean as Yemoja. Yermoja is an Orisha goddess of the traditional Yoruba religion that came from enslaved Africans in the land of what is present day Nigeria. When the slaves were kidnapped and transported to the western world, Yermaya was said to be the one who protected the slaves on their journey and kept them safe. Yermaya is a very giving and nurturing goddess who rarely gets upset but when she does become enraged, she unleashes a massive hurricane. She is said to be the mother of the fishes in the sea which is why she is shown to the world as a two-tailed mermaid. It is no secret that many of the European owned franchises including Starbucks stole their ideas from African based spiritual systems and created the concept of their organizations as well as profited off the backs of Africans for centuries. Here you have an African goddess printed on the logo of a major franchise that outright discriminates and disrespects the very people it took their ideas from yet no consequences are bestowed upon them as result of that. This is where I want to gather all of the melanated people across the world and get each other on one code so we can establish a solution.

Starbucks should never benefit from the black dollar ever again. I want every black male and black female to see what we did as a people for the Black Panther film. I want every black male and female to see what we did as a people to the city of Montgomery during the Montgomery bus boycott. I want every black male and female to see what we did as a people to build Hollywood and the music industry. I want every black male and female to see what we did as a people to build black wall street. We are the people who hold the power to make and break businesses and industries. Segregation did not come to an end because the power structure finally realized that separating blacks from whites was wrong. Segregation came to an end because it became apparent just how essential the black dollar is to the economy. Without black consumers, the economy would be in shambles and the power structure will have no longer have a choice but to respect our demands. The most effective way to bring a person to their knees is to attack what they value the most and in this case, the American social order worships the almighty dollar. When you interfere with an individual or establishment’s ability to generate income, you immediately hold their undivided attention for as long as you wish. In order to get respect, we must demand our respect. From this moment forward, I advise all melanated people to get on code and never spend one cent in a Starbucks again. Please do not accept a simple apology from an establishment that wouldn’t even think to give you one otherwise hadn’t this story never reached a wide audience. Let us start demanding our respect and set an example of what happens when we are discriminated against.  The time is now to stand together and demand our voices be heard.

Photo Credits:

usatoday.com

A Metaphor For Love

Consider a box. The box symbolizes your inner emotions and self that people don’t see. People generally don’t care to leave their box. You always have people that come knocking on your door, but most of the time you leave them on the outside and talk to them from the door. Occasionally you invite people in. However, these people are people you really trust. You don’t just invite anyone into your box, and preferably you invite one person at a time in. These people are usually family, best friends, and lovers. Whenever someone enters the box the environment changes, sometimes a bit sometimes dramatically. This is why we are so careful about who we welcome in.

However, there’s a big difference from loving and being in love. How I differentiate being in love with someone is when you two share a box. You live together, emotionally, in this box. Visualize a venn diagram pushing closer and closer until the circles are concentric. This is the process of falling in love. You and your partner will have twice as many people knocking on your door and you will talk to them from the inside you two share. You will learn to love your partners guests as he/she will learn to love yours. Sharing a box is the closest you can get to someone– that is being in love. Reconsidering the venn diagram image, the most intense love would be when the circles are concentric.

When you’re in love, your box isn’t individual anymore. The box– your box becomes unpredictable because another variable is present. But oddly, you don’t mind.

Photo Credits:

http://www.seniorservicesinc.org 

Real Estate Transactions: Short Sales

As a settlement agent with a profound level of experience working out short sale transactions, I spend the majority of my days on the job advising realtors/real estate agents on how to go about the short sale process. For those of you who are new to the industry, a short sale is essentially a petition to a lien-holder (a bank that holds a mortgage on the property) to release the corresponding lien attached to the property for less than the money owed on the loan obligation. Say for example I take out a loan for 500,000.00 to purchase a home, and five years later the house is worth only 350,000.00; thus, a sale of the property will not be sufficient to pay off the lien in full. By the bank agreeing to accept whatever sales proceeds are available after settlement related costs (sales commissions, real estate taxes, etc.) are deducted, the bank is agreeing to a short sale.

To efficiently go about a short sale, here are some key pointers for realtors, in particular listing agents:

1. List the property like you would in a regular sale – One of the most common questions I receive from realtors on a sale transaction is what to list the property for. Once a realtor finds out that the transaction is going to be a short sale, they seem to treat the process differently. They in fact should not. I always advise realtors to list the property like you would in a regular sale. In other words resort to the mechanisms that you utilize with any other listing. List the property for whatever price you truly believe the property is worth. Just because it is a short sale doesn’t necessarily mean the property is devalued (unless of course it is in fact damaged, etc.; hence devalued). A short sale is not a clearance sale at a department store for example. Instead it is a normal sale with a bit of unusual circumstances. Treat it as such. The bank will of course have its own appraisal done to assess what they believe the property is worth; but keep in mind that as a realtor, you are the expert. The bank’s assessment isn’t always right. If there happens to be a huge price discrepancy, a comparable market analysis may be helpful; but for starters, list the property at what you truly believe it is worth.

2. Verify that there is a financial hardship – There are two major components to a short sale: a justifiable hardship making the seller(s) unable to make the mortgage payments in the foreseeable future, and a sufficient purchase offer that meets the investor’s guidelines. At times, agents lose sight of the fact that without the first component, the lien-holder will not proceed to the second. Without a legitimate hardship (death, divorce, unemployment, distance commute to work, long-term sickness, etc.), the bank is unlikely to approve the short sale. Unless the bank is able to verify that due to certain financially crippling circumstances a borrower is unable to honor the note obligation, they will not accept a loss. Thus, it would behoove you as a listing agent to verify that there is in fact a legitimate hardship, before going through with the listing process. Otherwise, you may put in all the hard work just to eventually uncover that the bank is not going to entertain a short sale, as there is no hardship. Remember, a short sale is mechanism for the lien-holder to mitigate their losses, not a means for the borrower to back away from a bad investment.

3. Be Proactive – A short sale, contrary to the moniker, is a very lengthy process. They could take several months for a bank to render a decision on the short sale request. For that reason, you as a realtor must take any steps necessary to try to proactively expedite the process. Once you make the determination that it will be a short sale (by verifying the current payoff amount with the projected sales proceeds), advise your client to either begin putting together their short sale package (consisting of the application, hardship letter, proof of income, bank statements, tax returns, etc.), or if already gathered to go ahead and submit the financial package to the bank. Ultimately, this will speed up the process once a contract is ratified. Ideally, the bank would’ve made a determination on the seller’s eligibility to move forward with a short sale (by reviewing their finances) by the time a contract is received by the title company, or whomever is working the short sale. This would then enable the facilitator to focus strictly on the numbers (net sales proceeds), as opposed to the underwriting process to determine eligibility.

4. Set realistic expectations – While this may serve as a bit of a deterrent factor to the parties involved, especially the purchaser, it is important to establish that a short sale isn’t exactly an overnight process. While this is pretty common knowledge in the industry, you would be better served by doing your due diligence of letting the parties know that a) there is no guarantee of a short sale approval, and b) the duration of the process is out of your hands (or anybody’s for that matter), and can be quite lengthy. By establishing this from the get-go, you are setting realistic expectations for the parties involved. That way if a buyer is running against a quick timeline, it would probably be in their best interest to not pursue such a property. This is of course more of the responsibility of a buyer’s agent; however it would be beneficial for you as a listing agent to remind the buyer’s agent. This will ultimately eliminate the pressure that may be placed on you from the buyer’s side, wanting to close immediately.

5. Use an experienced facilitator – While the decision to be made on a short sale falls entirely in the hands of the bank, using experienced role players can be critical as well. First, the seller should use a real estate agent who has some exposure doing short sales, or at the very least is seasoned in conducting real estate transactions as a whole. Even further, using an experienced facilitator is key. I am a huge believer in the theory of exposure being the greatest teacher. Adequate exposure in the form of education, or experience, makes one an expert in the field exposed to. The same applies to short sales. Using an experienced settlement agent or third party liaison to work out your short sale can make the experience much more efficient. First, an experienced facilitator can provide you with an accurate overview of how the process may turn out per lienholder. While short sales are standard for the most part, each lienholder has certain nuisances that make their process difference. An experienced facilitator would be able to point out the differences in the beginning of the process, to make things move quicker. Secondly, and most importantly, an experienced facilitator is key whenever the parties run into issues. Troubleshooting is key in short sales. For example, what happens when the bank counters the offer? What happens when title work reveals more liens/judgements than what was previously disclosed? What if there is an IRS lien? An experienced facilitator would be able to provide guidance on how to address these issues.

In sum, while short sales may seem to be pretty complex transactions, they are very manageable when approached properly. While each short sale varies on a case by case basis, these steps provided above, if followed, can put a realtor on the right path to obtain a short sale approval and close on a short sale transaction efficiently.

Photo Credit:

Go Clean Credit

Nevada Senate Bill No. 538 – Internet Data Collection Bill

On June 12, 2017, Nevada’s Governor, Brian Sandoval, signed Senate Bill Number 538 into a law requiring internet website providers to disclose the type of information it obtains from internet users in the state of Nevada.  The bill, sponsored by Senate Majority leader Aaron Ford and Assembly speaker Jason Frierson, received overwhelming support from the Nevada Senate.  It requires any company or person who owns or operates an Internet website or online service for commercial purposes that collects information about Nevada residents and maintains minimum contacts with Nevada to make available a notice explicitly listing the personal information that the said operator is to collect from its clients.  In addition, the operator must allow the consumer to review and request changes to this information.  Failure to adhere to this regulation will first lead to a 30-day period to remedy a failure, or face a civil penalty imposed by the state attorney general.

In essence, this bill provides privacy protection to Nevada residents in lieu of the Federal Communications Commission’s Broadband privacy rules which have been repealed by newly elected President Trump.   The FCC privacy rules, which were set to take effect later this year, were designed to ban Internet Service Providers (ISPs) from collecting, storing, sharing and selling private information obtained from customers without their consent.  These set of rules would have required ISPs to obtain consumer permission before selling information such as web browsing history, location details, and app usage history to third parties for advertising purposes.  The repeal deprives consumers of this type of federal protection, leaving it up to the states to perhaps take steps in furtherance of privacy protection.

Nevada is one of several states to undertake such a measure to protect the interests of its residents.  Illinois is another state that has taken steps to protect the privacy interests of its people. For example, Illinois is working to implement the Right to Know Act in its state.  This law would require the operator of commercial websites or online services to make available certain personal information that has been disclosed to a third party, and to provide a way for customers to inquire further about said information, whether via email, or telephone.

While I do not believe that it is illegal for entities who own or operate an Internet website or online service for commercial purposes to obtain personal information from its users, I do think that they should have an affirmative duty to disclose to their clients the information being obtained, how it is being obtained, and how it is being used.  The onus shouldn’t be on the user to have to opt out of these arrangements after being essentially bound to a unilateral agreement by default.   After all, it is the commercial website service that gets to benefit financially from this endeavor.  Thus, the burden of seeking consent should be placed on them.

As a consumer, it isn’t unusual to expect that the information I provide to another party will be used solely for the intended purpose, unless otherwise stated.  Put differently, if I were to tell a secret to another party, it is implied that the secret would stay between the recipient of this sacred information and I, unless I were to agree for this message to be passed on to others.  Likewise, I believe it is reasonable to expect that the same principle would apply here in this context.

Opposition might argue that the majority of internet users will not willingly agree to have their information used for advertising if they in fact knew how their information was being used.  Others might also argue that the use of this information is for the benefit of the users themselves, as it will provide convenient shopping amongst other benefits.  To the proponents of the first oppositional point, I think this may present a challenge for perhaps new innovative ways of marketing, without necessarily infringing upon privacy rights.  To the proponents of the latter, if this disclosure would in fact educate users of the benefits of such information gathering, there ought to be overwhelming support, hence no foreseeable problems.

Further, I am not saying that entities who own or operate an Internet website or online service for commercial purposes shouldn’t be allowed to sell this information to third party clients.  Instead, I am simply asking that they seek the consent of the individuals who are essentially having their privacy rights infringed upon.   Since the users do not get monetary compensation, the least they can be provided is the ability/opportunity to give informed consent.  This would require simple disclosure, and the opportunity to grant or decline consent.  Since the Federal Government is taking a step back in providing this protection to citizens, more states should follow in the footsteps of Illinois and Nevada, and protect the privacy of residents.

In sum, I am in favor of Senate Bill Number 538 being passed as a law, as I believe it is a step in the right direction towards protecting the privacy of consumers online.  Entities who own or operate an Internet website or online service for commercial purposes should have the affirmative duty of disclosing to its users the type of information being obtained, how it is being obtained, and what it is being used for.  This will enable users to make an informed decision as to whether or not to provide this information and/or continue to use the service(s) being provided.  More states should follow suit.

Photo Credit:

https://themerkle.com/nevada-legislators-want-to-improve-online-privacy-protection/ 

Social Media Posts: Intersection of Privacy Rights and Free Speech

While many countries allow their citizens the freedom of expression through the press and other forms of communication, there is sometimes the need to limit this freedom, when it interferes with the reasonable expectation of privacy that others also have.  That was seemingly the case in Canada this past week. In the week of June 12, Canadian police arrested a Jeffrey Williamson, a man alleged to be the administrator of a “CanadaCreep” Twitter account.  This account is known to post photographs and videos of women, placing an emphasis on their “private parts” i.e. breasts, buttocks and groins.  While this account is known to have a variety of such footage, the charges were limited to only three videos which contained “upskirt” content of women in public places.  These videos were the only ones that were found to be a violation of the Canadian voyeurism laws on its face.  The other content of this page and others, while arguably a violation of one’s privacy, are seemingly permissible, despite the apparent invasion of a reasonably expectation of privacy.  With that, the lawmakers are faced with the difficult task of refining the criminal code to limit the freedom of expression afforded to citizens, in order to protect the privacy of all citizens. Of course, the question of where to draw the line is one that is very difficult to answer.

Canadian Law:

Canada, much like the United States has it set of rights and freedoms that govern the country.  The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms of Part I of the Constitution Act of 1982 outlines these said rights and freedoms provided to its citizens.  In the second “amendment” of this rule of law, labeled fundamental freedoms, the following is outlined:

  1. Everyone has the following fundamental freedoms:

(a) freedom of conscience and religion;

(b) freedom of thought, belief, opinion and expression, including freedom of the press and other media of communication;

(c) freedom of peaceful assembly; and

(d) freedom of association.

The freedom of opinion and expression is for the most part unlimited, unless it is clear violation of an existing criminal code.  For example, the three “upskirt” videos that Jeffrey Williamson was arrested for are seemingly a violation of R.S.C., 1985, c. C-46, s. 162, otherwise known as the criminal code on Voyeurism.  Under this code:

(1) Every one commits an offence who, surreptitiously, observes — including by mechanical or electronic means — or makes a visual recording of a person who is in circumstances that give rise to a reasonable expectation of privacy, if

(a) the person is in a place in which a person can reasonably be expected to be nude, to expose his or her genital organs or anal region or her breasts, or to be engaged in explicit sexual activity;

(b) the person is nude, is exposing his or her genital organs or anal region or her breasts, or is engaged in explicit sexual activity, and the observation or recording is done for the purpose of observing or recording a person in such a state or engaged in such an activity; or

(c) the observation or recording is done for a sexual purpose.

As evidenced by the code, the scope of prosecutable crimes is fairly limited to instances where nudity, or an expectation of the ability to be nude exists.  This essentially allows “perverts” to get away with other invasive acts which do not violate this code on its face.

What Can Be Done?

As it stands, the code on Voyeurism enables culprits to invade a reasonable level of privacy that many Canadian citizens may have.  While R.S.C., 1985, c. C-46, s. 162 1 (c) leaves room for argument by criminalizing such content obtained “for a sexual purpose,” this said purpose is fairly hard to prove.  As with most crimes, intent is hard to prove.  In this particular case, many could argue that these said pictures and/or videos are simply slice-of-life footage as part of “street photography.”  With that being said, it will be extremely difficult for Canadians to rely on subsection 1 (c) of the Voyeurism code to provide the privacy protection needed.

Peter Jacobsen, a media lawyer and member of the board of directors of Canadian Journalists for Free Expression, has called for an amendment of the criminal code to encompass protection of the victims affected by the acts of individuals like Jeffrey Williamson which go unpunished.  While Jacobsen is the equivalent of what we would consider a Free Speech advocate here in the United States, even he is in favor of amending the Criminal Code in a way that outlaws “creep” photography.

While legal theorists like Jacobsen believe that amending the current Criminal Code is easier in theory than in practice, they are exploring ways to perhaps revise the language of R.S.C., 1985, c. C-46, s. 162.  The revision is in the works, but I believe that a tweak to subsection 1 (c), or perhaps an addition of a subsection 1 (d) could be the solution.   Ultimately, the legislature should find a way to incorporate a provision that covers pictures and/videos that are objectifying by a reasonable standard.   For example, I believe subsection 1 (c) should be revised to read as follows:

(c) the observation or recording is done for a sexual purpose, or is objectifying in nature, by a  reasonable standard. 

This will ultimately open the door for the judicial system to assess such instances on a case by case basis, while maintaining somewhat of a reasonable standard.

Conclusion

In sum, governing bodies have the tough task of empowering citizens by allowing the freedom of expression while at the same time protecting certain liberties such as privacy.  In order to keep a balance and protect the innocent victims such as those preyed upon by the “CanadaCreep” and others of the like, the criminal code, i.e. R.S.C., 1985, c. C-46, s. 162 must be amended to adequately protect the subject class from such intrusive acts.

Photo Credit:

http://debatepost.com/2017/06/18/canada-creep-facing-child-porn-charges/ 

The Worst Ignorance to Have

We all have a fundamental aspect of our humanity that we ignore, I will call the ignorance of peace the prideful inertia of humankind. We all have a compass inside of us that tells us right from wrong. It is truly amazing how this vision of what is “good behavior” and what is “bad behavior” manifests– ever since we have been children. Children have the strongest connection to this feeling. We are taught to disown this fundamental force that drives us towards our own morality in order to focus on ethics that promote power, such as money.

The very society that humans are born into trains them to possess this prideful inertia. You are influenced to believe at a young age that without possessing this inertia, you will be stagnant to accomplish influence in the world. We all possess a prideful vitality of humankind, but it is located in a uniquely balanced mind that is aware of the inherent ignorance that lay unquestioned in the world. Throughout education, we are edged to trust what others believe is right from wrong. We learn rules that we should follow to be “good” students, children, friends, citizens. I cannot speak for you, but I do not know where these rules came from. These rules are ridden with dogma due to evolution.

I have thought about what the first power struggle in humanity has looked like. Every scenario I can think of to provoke any power struggle is rooted in prideful inertia. It is extremely easy coming to power through simply engaging in ignorance. It rids the driver,
 per se, of their emotions and inherent responsibility to humankind. In return for this exchange, there is a clear route to power over the other. In securing power over another, you gain power. However, we are taught to ignore this robbery. We never question: At what cost does our power come? There are feelings that govern how you act, feelings that have created this current position and situation in which you live. What you see in front of you is a manifestation of what other people felt was the right thing to do. Even in prideful inertia, people still do what they feel is “right”. However, what is “right” simply is to act with faith in humanity and in the universe. Punishment is a personal experience, when we force others into punishment we are never guaranteed that they have suffered. We cannot spend time making sure others feel pain, when we, ourselves, have so much pain to absolve.

This is a heavy burden we carry that we may not have even realized we carry. We carry a burden that history has let rogue and presently it sits on our shoulders. A system of structural concern, a government whose purpose is to govern and control the extent to which others express a prideful ignorance… or are they trying to control a prideful vitality now? The line has blurred between which one is “right”, and it has led to political confusion! I will tell you right now, prideful vitality with the whole human race in mind is ideal! It is practical that each person can individually become mindful of the ignorance and the complications prideful inertia ensues. We are used to complications being what is instead of what we are making. If we turn around and view the state of the country and of the world, it can be explicitly seen that those engaged in acts of war and other pseudo autonomous behavior are dedicating their lives to ignore this very simple, fundamental human characteristic in order to combat others whom have. It is simple to want to make life flourish; not for one, but for all.

Photo Credit:

https://qph.ec.quoracdn.net

Synopsis: Modern Day Police “Brutality”

This past Tuesday, an older white colleague of mine walked into my office and asked for my thoughts on the incidents that took place last week.  For the first time, I was forced to opine on the matter, and really put my thoughts together.  Before I go any further, I wanted to first clarify that at this juncture, no one really knows of the totality of circumstances in both the Alton Sterling and Philando Castile shootings, or the Dallas Police incident.  For that reason, my opinion is strictly based on the information that has been disclosed to the media. Based on the information revealed, it does not appear that deadly force was warranted in either the Alton Sterling incident, or the Philando Castile shooting.  Secondly, I want to acknowledge that being a law enforcement officer is an extremely difficult job to hold, and that I truly respect and appreciate all those who choose these career paths. With that being said, however, I can’t say that I am one bit surprised, but rather rudely awoken, by the events that took place last week.

It is not proven that either of these police stops were racially motivated, although it appears that race played at least somewhat of a role in each incident. Based on the premise that it played somewhat of a role, the following account applies.  As a young black man, I am well aware of the fact that racism and racial stereotyping against my kind is still an issue in this country. While I like to think that we have made a lot of progress in that regard, there is still a lot of work to be done. It is no secret that blacks are considered by many to be more of a threat to society, than our white counterparts.  It is also no secret that higher ratios of blacks are more likely to be involved in a life of crime.  Nevertheless, the stereotypes that some close-minded people have of blacks are simply inaccurate.  I am a living example of this fact.

As a 24 year old black male in this country, I like to think that I have done a pretty good job of defying the odds against black men.  I graduated college with a 3.7 cumulative GPA, work a full time job as a settlement agent, and go to law school at night, on a merit based scholarship.  On paper, it is fair to say that I am doing very well for myself; but on the surface, one could never guess.  When I am not dressed up in a suit for work, I like  to wear skinny jeans, foamposites, low brim hats and earrings. I listen to loud “trap music” with my windows down, drink Henny on the rocks when I go out, and watch funny vines of black comedy. Based on my appearance outside of the professional setting and my conduct in my personal life, no one would be able to foresee my academic and/or professional accomplishments.

Now, I am not here to write a mini-bio on myself; instead I am trying to make a point.  The point I am trying to make is that it is completely unfair for us to essentially have a target on our back, simply for looking the way we do. As cliche as it sounds, you can’t judge a book by its cover; and as a black man, it hurts to know that these are still the circumstances that many of us have to live under.  While Northern Virginia is a very diverse area to live, and consequently safe for people of our kind, many in other parts of the country aren’t as “privileged” to live under such conditions. The fact that the freedom to live freely as a black man is essentially a “privilege” is baffling. This country has come way too far to have this issue remain prevalent.

As a reaction, many get mad.  They may protest, they may fight back, they may be even shoot back. To me, that is not the solution.  In my opinion, the best way to put an end to this view of blacks, is by being the change we want to see.  First, we have to put ourselves in position to impact public policy.  This starts by doing the little things such as voting.  By voting, I’m not referring to the presidential elections per se (although that too will help); instead, I am referring to the local elections.  Partake in elections that directly impact your community.  After all, these people that you elect will ultimately play a role in how your community is shaped, more so than a president will.  In addition to voting, we must also aspire to be in position of power.  Go to school, get an education, become someone influential, that way you too can have a say in how things are run. Who knows? You could even be put in position of large scale authority.

Secondly, we have to better ourselves. Yes, I believe that some of us black people contribute to the stereotypes out there. A lot of officers look for probable cause for traffic stops, because they hope the stop will lead to more discoveries.  Many times, this is in fact the case.  We have to put an end to that. We have to conduct ourselves in a better manner, stay away from a life of crime, get respectable jobs, and stop looking for the easy way out. We have to prove the doubters wrong. Interact with people who aren’t of the same upbringing as you, show them that you aren’t half as bad as they may assume.

Lastly, we have to refrain from retaliation.  By retaliating, we aren’t helping ourselves, as we are only conducting ourselves in the manner in which some close minded individuals expect us to.  Two wrongs don’t make a right, and taking our anger out on those who, as a whole, believe it or not, work tirelessly to protect us all, is not the answer. Not all cops are out to get us, and we shouldn’t conduct ourselves as such. This diminishes the desire for these officers to better serve our community, and quite frankly increases the paranoia that they may already have, making them more susceptible to react to our actions, violently. Not all law enforcement officers are close minded, and to do anything that jeopardizes their safety is a big slap in the face.

In sum, while we do not know of all the circumstances that went into the two police shooting incidents that took place last week, it appears that race may have played a role in both.  If that is the case, this should come of as no surprise to anyone; instead it should motivate the blacks in this country to take steps towards being the change that we want to see in society. That is the only way we can turn things around. All things being considered, we cannot let the darkness of the most recent events overcast the overall good work that law enforcement officers do for the nation as a whole. As I previously mentioned, not all cops are crooked.  Likewise, not all whites are close minded; in fact, many aren’t. We must not lose sight of these facts.  Much like we would like to be judged based on our character, and not the stereotypes formed by the close minded, we too must be open minded and not assume that all whites are out to get us. We’ve got to better ourselves, to eliminate these stereotypes.

Photo Credits:

madamenoire.com 

New Music: …Nightslikethis

IMG_1589

For the past few months I’ve been thinking about ways to market this. In our capitalistic society it’s a harsh reality that art has a price tag and that price tag is a reflection how society views an artist and his work.

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Is the artwork genuine? Is it good? Does it have message … and if so what is it ? Can I share this experience? Can I only enjoy it alone? Who else will like it?

Music is no different.

It’s an ironic twist that a platform for expression can be so genuine and pure, yet, have to be packaged and sold to the public using half-truths and in-genuine methods.

At the end of the day though, I’m not here to argue the drawbacks of making music in the system we are in … It’s simply an obstacle an artist has to overcome at a certain point.

For the past few months I’ve been thinking about ways to market this … When it came down to it though, I couldn’t think of a single idea that didn’t seem exploitative, over-the-top, or impractical.

Then I wrote this.

For whatever reason this just felt right. This is exactly how I feel.

… Nightslikethis is about the bullsh*t you have to go through to get to where you want to be. It’s about people who don’t appreciate what you actually do for them. It’s about dealing with depression and anger in ways I hope you never have to. It’s about me and you, my market. My people.

The real, down to earth, cool ass individuals that we are – who never felt the need to be extra.

I sit here and think about the people who lie for exploitative gains and I know I could never be that. Maybe it’s an inherent setback, maybe I just don’t want to do it. Either way, I know what belief I can die for happily.

Like a young Al Pacino said, “I never f*cked anyone over in my life that didn’t have it coming to them.”

They’ll never fake this this mentality. They might fake being honest but they’ll never fake being real.

-remRemyMartin.

Tracklist:

01. Ex-Machina (Heartless II)

02. Honestly

03. Selfish

04. JB Interlude

05. …Nightslikethis

06. Goodnite

07. Shots

08. Emotional

09. Never Real….

 

Pro-Life vs. Pro-Choice

Abortion is a controversial topic of the highest order, when it comes to moral implications of policy setting.  Child birth is a subject that is dear to all of our hearts because we are all a direct result thereof.  The topic of abortion is one that is particularly conflicting to my personal views as a Christian man, who also believes in the right to freedom.  Abortion is terrible in so many ways.  One, I believe that it is murder, as it constitutes the killing of an entity, that would have otherwise developed into a human.  Two, I believe that it is an easy escape for many who refrain from taking the necessary steps in contraception  to prevent a situation which they are not ready for (I say many and not all, because there are some few situations where women are raped…which we will touch on later).  Lastly, and arguably most importantly, abortion prevents what could have been a beautiful creation from taking place.  Had our parents chosen to abort us, none of us would be here today; and look how wonderful we turned out?

On the other hand, to proceed with an abortion is a choice that one should have.  First, it is, I believe, a freedom; and so an infringement thereof could be considered a deprivation of a right.  Secondly, abortion can be considered a method of alleviation of a “burden” for the mother.  Now, this is not to say that a child is a burden; rather, the circumstance that may arise from being placed in such a predicament may be viewed as such. An abortion can help one cope with such an unplanned scenario.  Lastly, an abortion is sometimes a necessity.  This isn’t in reference to health situations, where an abortion is sometimes necessary in order to save a mother’s life; this is rather in reference to situations where a pregnancy is the result of a rape, and consequently the mother would like to get rid of any remembrances of the occurrence.  In such situations, an abortion can be deemed necessary.

Given the two contrasts, it is easy to understand (at least from an objective perspective) why one could be for or against abortion.  Personally, I am conflicted because from a moral standpoint, I should be pro-life; however, from a libertarian standpoint I should be pro-choice.  This leads to my compromising view on the subject.  I believe that the right to an abortion should be given to women; however, I believe that women, despite the option, should always choose to keep the life.  Life is too precious to give up.  There are many women who attempt wholeheartedly to reproduce to no avail.  If given the opportunity, I believe that all women should chose to keep the baby.  It may not be convenient, but there are always ways to accommodate. If that means working twice as hard as you do to sustain two lives as opposed to one, or altering your life goals to accommodate for the extra life, I think it is worth it in the long run.  Again, keep in mind that none of us would be here today if our parents had chosen to abort us.  Lastly, if all fails, you always have the option of giving the child up for adoption.  If you aren’t in the position to care for an offspring, there are many people out there who would be more than happy to alleviate you of this “burden.”

In sum, both pro-life and pro-choice activists have very convincing arguments to make a case for their respective positions.  It isn’t hard for an objective person to see why one may feel one way or the other.  With that being said however, the best compromise is to give the freedom to an abortion, in hopes that those with that freedom will elect to forgo of that liberty.  If abortion is abolished, that closes the door for those who feel strongly against keeping an unwanted baby, whereas allowing that freedom still provides the hope that even those libertarians could chose not to go that route.  That, to me, is the most rational and impartial path to take.

Photo Credit:

blogs.baruch.cuny.edu

Silent Noise: Homelessness at GMU

Northern Virginia is one of the most privilege places to live in the United States of America.  Blessed with job opportunities, a great education system, and low crime rates, the only problem most residents tend to have is that of the enduring the traffic-filled commute to and from work.  At least that’s what most people think.  For some of the residents of Northern Virginia, the traffic is the least of their concerns, as they have other problems to deal with; such as being homeless.

Fairfax Campus, GMU

George Mason University is one of the finest colleges in the United States of America.  Located in the heart of Fairfax County, GMU is home to over 33,000 students.  Most of these students are commuters who live off of campus; either at home with their parents, or simply at another residence.  A smaller portion, mostly out of state students, live in the  housing facilities provided by the school.  Then there is the hidden population; the group of students who have absolutely no where to live: the homeless.

Homelessness is defined by merriam-webster.com as “having no home or permanent place of residence.”   These students typically live in their cars (if they have one), friends’ couches on an occasional basis, or school facilities until caught.

*The following story is based on narratives collected through an IRB approved research, which was conducted by George Mason University researchers.*

Ramon moved to Fairfax, Virginia in hopes of pursuing a Masters’ degree in Conflict Analysis and Resolution at George Mason University. He applied for financial aid months in advance, however he was not eligible for the full amount he had requested. Ramon found out that the university would not cover his housing; he found out that he would have nowhere to live. Uncertain of where to go, Ramon stayed at a hotel in Manassas for several days. For the next couple of weeks, he lived out of his car. Ramon was also a diabetic and constantly worried about refrigerating his insulin. He befriended employees at local shops and restaurants that were able to help him out, but Ramon was still struggling to get by. “It’s very difficult to try to be a student when you’re sitting in the back seat of your car.” He used the gym facilities on campus to wash up, brush his teeth, shave and take care of other hygienic needs. He studied at Fenwick Library early in the mornings and late at night to avoid studying in his car.  For breakfast, lunch and dinner – he lived off of Lunchables. Yet, he said, “I didn’t want anybody to have pity, I didn’t want to be looked at like that because I come from a background of impoverished, drug plagued, gang plagued, severe poverty.”

For many of the students who experience this condition, a deprivation of food is also a common occurrence.  Many of these students go for days without eating a full course meal (imagine trying to study on an empty stomach….)  These students have a lot in common with the average homeless person that you may see at a street corner begging for money; the only difference is that these students ARE NOT begging, and they’re soon to obtain a degree that will ultimately open up many doors for them.  How do they get into this position to begin with? Well, there are a lot of factors that can contribute.  Some have been kicked out of their parent’s homes for a variety of reasons, some use their entire earnings to pay for an education, some don’t have enough financial aid to cover room and board after covering tuition.  Regardless of what the issue may be, this population exists.

Barbie, a Caribbean native, moved to the Washington D.C. area in search for better opportunities and an education. During her first few months in Virginia, she stayed at hotels and slept in her car at rest stops. This is just one example of a George Mason University student who is struggling to survive in one of the nation’s most affluent counties.  Due to her father’s income, Barbie was unable to obtain financial assistance and was consequently left without means to secure housing. Currently, Barbie lives off of fishing in order to maintain her health and to ease her hunger. Sometimes, she even has to hunt squirrels. “I find the most isolated road, like areas where no body is traveling, and I try to hide the car in in the bushes and just try to relax.”

Although this problem remains unbeknownst to many on the campus and in the area, one student in particular has taken on the matter and has worked tirelessly to help this population.  Yara Mowafy, a graduate student at GMU, became aware of this population in 2011 and faced the matter head on.

Ms. Mowafy

She fought to gain free meal vouchers for the hungry, and free on campus housing for some of the students who were brave enough to seek her help.  Today, she runs a Pop-Up Pantry, where students can go to find food, and basic essentials to get by.  She is open to help students and can be reached via email at yelmowaf@masonlive.gmu.edu.

In sum, it is quite surprising to learn that in such a “wealthy” area, students of  a privileged school of the stature of George Mason University endure such dire circumstances. Fortunately for these students, there is help out there for them.  The first step is for these students to accept that these circumstances don’t make them any less than the next individual.  Once these students get over this hurdle, they will be able to seek and GET help accordingly.  As the general public, we must spread the word and create awareness.  As we continue to shed the light on this matter, we will be able to hear the voice of the people; the cries of silent noise.

Photo Credits:

math.gmu.edu

http://ulife.gmu.edu/ 

Narrative by:

Yara Mowafy

http://ulife.gmu.edu/homeless-and-home-at-mason/