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The Land of Opportunity

There was a song that I vaguely remember from my childhood and School House Rock Days.  It is titled, The Great American Melting Pot.

This song, though missing a colorful representation of African Americans and Native Americans, was the premise of which American culture was shaped and formed in some sense. There were no immigration papers, and it was an open policy for all who could merely arrive here by boat. I used to unnerve my brother when I would awake every morning and sing the National Anthem (let’s leave out the historical context of the reason this song was written; I desire to stay in my euphoric state for this blog). On Friday, a colleague shared that he had officially become an American citizen. Considering the demographic I serve, as a technologist and corporate motivator, I asked his permission to share his photo and his story. So…enjoy my colleague Armando in our Q & A.

ME: Armando, on March 29, you became an American Citizen, this is a fantastic journey. How long have you been in the US? Where are you from originally?

A: I have been in the US for almost 25 years. I’m originally from Mexico City.

ME: When and why did you come to America?

A: I came in September 1993 as a child. My father died in 1990, and my mother did not have any formal education. During this time the government started privatizing many factories because of NAFTA’s new regulations. My mother lost her job in the same year, and she had no other option but to immigrate to the US.

ME: What opportunities do you have in the US that were not available in Mexico?

A: One of the opportunities I did not have in Mexico was an education. After losing her job, my mother was not able to keep paying for both my brother’s and my education.

ME: Not looking for a right or wrong viewpoint, but what do you see as major cultural differences in the US vs. your home of origin?

A: I want to say a major change was the language. For me, it took me a few years to start communicating and adapting to American culture. Other than language, I noticed that in the United States, Americans spend more time in their profession, so much so that in some cases, work is first and second is family. Children are often raised more independently and are encouraged to be independent of their family.

ME: Do you think you will take your skills to your country origin in the future?

A. I don’t see my future back in Mexico. I have my family here, and I don’t see my wife and kids moving to Mexico.

ME: Some people frown on immigrants who are not “legalized” citizens. With Congress being inactive or slow on DACA, what do you recommend for DACA recipients who are here of many ethnicities and countries, and they’re striving for US citizenship?

A: To all DACA recipients, I want to share my personal story. After graduating from high school, I did not have many options to continue my education since I was undocumented. My only options were work in a factory like the rest of my family or go back to Mexico and try to continue my education, but neither of these two options was an alternative for me.

I wanted to go to college and pursue a higher education. I decided to attend my community college, and while attending college, I worked in a restaurant to be able to pay for my education and help my family. After four years I earned two Associate’s Degrees: one in Computer Science and the second in Arts. It was not an easy accomplishment. In 2010 I was able to fix my immigration status and started working in my field.

ME: You are graduating from college with your degree in Information Technology and have become a US Citizen in the same year, what does this mean for you and your family?

A: After fixing my immigration status I was able to go back to finish my BA. During this long journey with many sacrifices, I never lost faith in my dreams. With the support of my wife and my community, in fall of 2018, I will be finishing my BA in Computer Network Security.

This year also gave me the chance to accomplish another dream–becoming a US Citizen finally. This means so much to me. Now I want to keep helping my community and many other dreamers.

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I want to thank Armando for allowing me to share his truly inspiriational story. It is one of many and we hope and pray, there are more to come.

Armando is a technologist for a major educational institution in Chicago, IL.

 

 

We Speak for Ourselves: The Kaepernick Syndrome

What is Kapernick Syndrome? It’s when you decide to speak up for the rights of your people in protest and suffer life changing, career-ending backlash by your employer, conservatives, and yes, white people. To be fair, I ain’t with you on the no voting thing, but I get it.

 

The quickest way to rile up Republicans, conversations, and white Christians is to to paint the illusion of disrespecting veterans. Tomi, not worth saying her last name, is such an individual what would try to pimp her biased journalism by using veterans to draw emotion. Well, take some notes Tomi about your foolish discussions on the anthem thing since that’s your platform:

 

  1. Kapernick wasn’t protesting the anthem or flag, he stated what he was protesting. Apparently you never understood that.
  2. My people have fought for this country. We were put out in the cold so German prisoners of war could ride in luxury.
  3. We stood for the anthem during the olympics and Jesse Owens couldn’t come home and eat in a restaurant at a white establishment.
  4. We stood for the anthem while the government was injecting black men with syphilis.
  5. We stood for the anthem when black men were only allowed to be cooks and could only sit down in 8 while white soldiers filled the galley hall.
  6. We pledged allegiance to the flag in school while learning from the same books from generation to generation.
  7. We stood for the flag when American’s murdered Martin, Malcolm, Medgar, Rebb, JFK, Bobby K.

 

Veterans can speak for themselves Tomi, all of us. We don’t need your help or your speaking from a place of privilege. After all, many women stood for the anthem for the one you voted in office. We are not the land of the free, we are the land of %*ssy grabbers. Hope you are wearing a chastity belt because Fox News is allegedly known for being about the %*ssy grabbing.END…A Veteran Speaks

Thoughts and Conversations – This USA!

I received a call from a former coworker who works for someone what we both used to work with at another company. She has seen his comments about President Obama and is fearful for her job because she doesn’t want to say anything to him about his post, yet she’s discouraged. She’s of Mexican descent. `He’s her boss, he’s white, and a Trump supporter. I let her know I see the same post, not only from him but, from people I attended a professional development training session with from February to October of this year. I encouraged her to stay optimistic, open up a safe dialogue, and don’t cut off your nose to spite your face. Meaning, keep your job and if you’re that uncomfortable find a new one.

This is the reality that we, as people of color, face every day under every president. I know and have experienced what it’s like to sit in meetings and accused of being the “Angry Black Man” while my white counterparts can throw profanity and yell across the table and its considered “how we conduct business.” I know what it’s like to experience people bypassing your position to go directly to your white boss because they don’t respect your intelligence, drive, commitment, or vision. I know what it’s like to be working and getting along with doctors in a hospital and delivering A+ service until one asks what college you attended and you tell them zero. You are treated differently. Everything you do is judged and scrutinized. But as my boss said to him, “If Tony says it can’t be done that way and he has an alternative solution then I’m going with his alternative recommendation.” I know what it’s like for my boss to be superseded for supporting me. We both laughed when something was implemented by an outside consultant for $7K, and I could have had it done in less time with a $200 investment. That’s what we’re used to. You’d rather spend money than trust what you deemed uneducated. My path in life was only different, and I’m in school now chasing what I’ll never find, a place of acceptance.

After sharing my experience with her I told her, she has a unique opportunity to get his views, opinions, and thoughts but at the end of the day, he’s a white executive and has a level of privilege and access that we will never have. It’s just the way America is, and it was built.

I also know what it’s like to be supported by whites. The civil rights movement wouldn’t have survived without our white brothers and sisters who were called “Nigger Lovers.” Our lives are linked to theirs, and for those that realized this, it was their sad duty, as James Rebb, to be murdered for supporting his black brother. I know what it’s like to be a non-degreed professional and given the opportunity to rise to the occasion. I know what it’s like to be hugged by men like Gary DeVore at Camp Rosenthal during the most painful experiences of my childhood. I know what it’s like to have keys and access codes to bank accounts and home to fix technology issues while my doctors were serving patients. It wasn’t because they had nothing to lose, it’s because they trusted me with their children, their homes, and their money.

I live in an America that can break hearts and mend souls. I live in an America where I know no politician is perfect because they are human just like me and I am not perfect. I have no issues with President-Elect Trump. He is who he is. He’s a marketing genius who just pulled off the biggest advertisement in American History. His genius has overtones of sexism, misogyny, racism, bigotry, and hatred. It’s not President-Elect Trump people are hurt or upset with; it’s those that support him. It’s those that scream “Hilary is a Bitch” at his rallies. It’s those that shout “Obama is a Nigger” at his rallies. It’s those that assaulted a young black woman at a Trump rally while thousands cheered. It’s those who’s children chant “Build a wall” in a school with undocumented Latino children. It’s those that line up with a man who is openly supported by the Ku Klux Klan. It’s those who say they are called to touch, move, and inspire, yet line up with an individual who has insulted veterans, women, the disabled, countries, and people. It’s those that snatch off hijabs from our Muslim daughters. It’s those that scribble on walls, “send those black fuckers back to Africa.” This is our disappointment in the humanity of a nation that would choose to support such a presidency. We missed an opportunity for change with Bernie Sanders; we missed and opportunity of hope with Hilary Clinton, but we missed and opportunity of love and acceptance, not by President-Elect Trump, but by those who support what he stands for today.

Open the dialogue, have the conversation in a peaceful manner. Hate will never trump love. Evil will never trump hope. Violence will never trump peace. Racism will never trump unity. Good luck President-Elect Trump, my prayers are with you in your decision making. The next four years will be the Celebrity Apprentice Live, 24/7. Grab your coffee, sip your beer, enjoy the ride! After all, this is the Republic for which we stand!

Taxed to Death, Shot to Death ~ A Tale of One City

Illinois taxes break my back – Cook County taxes break my neck

Chicago taxes break my wallet – Federal taxes break my bank

These murders break my heart, not sure where to start

We are a fragile people, pimped by politicians – Puppeteered by pulpits

Enslaved by an element of social depravity – Trapped by gangs, cornered by guns

Deafened by screams, painted by blood

Entrapped by brutal slave masters that etched their self-destructive will on a people

That refuse to take responsibility for their own house

Because the laws changed and we are arrested for disciplining our children

While slave overseers in blue uniforms unload with merciless execution in broad daylight

How can I hope, believe, dream or conquer if it has been deferred; we are sick

As a people, not black, not white, not Buddhist, not Christian, not Muslim,  but as humanity

We have forgotten what binds us to settle for what holds us bound, it is not a fault of religion, it is a fault of us

We stand by silently, blaming, finger-pointing, shrugging shoulders like it won’t happen to…

Interrupted post from a billion dollar industry of metal that has unleashed unrestrained, uncontrollable, unmerciful, uncompromising damage on society

Home from college, winter-break, not going back, I am staying here, in Chicago, in a coffin, under the earth from which bore and birthed this vessel from the beginning of time

Taxed to death, shot to death, a tale of a city that has so much to celebrate, yet so much to admonish

We are on break from election season, no political phone calls for they don’t need us at this moment

No cries from the people for we don’t need them at this moment

Only cries from the fallen that are not with us for grandma died from a broken heart when realtors bought the taxes she could not pay and they took her home

A tale of a city

And more than bullets, we bleed from silence…

The Legacy, The Icon…Blaq Ice

He is an activist, writer, poet, artist, motivator, coach, entrepreneur, and father.  De’Andre Hawthorne, known as Blaq Ice, has been on the arts scene in Chicago since rapping and entertaining in his early days as a student at Simeon High School located on the south side of Chicago.  He is the founder of the award-winning International Spoken Word group named P.O.E.T (People of Extraordinary Talent).  Founded in 1990, P.O.E.T does various community service projects throughout the city and external of Chicago including chapters in Minneapolis, Detroit, Michigan City, and Las Vegas. P.O.E.T visits battered-women shelters, public schools, hospitals, parades, community rallies, and various other community events as part of their call to heal the world “one word at a time.”  Their membership includes people from all walks of life and religious beliefs.  Their focus on community, mentoring, and social equity drives them.

Under his leadership, many poets and spoken word artist have become published authors, have released music, and gained local notoriety.  The annual A.C.E Tech High School sleep over held on May 14, 2016, was a major success.  But as always with recognition comes trials, ups, and down.  I chopped it up with the P.O.E.T CEO, entrepreneur, and community activist this morning to engage the mind of one of Chicago’s own.

1.  Why is P.O.E.T so important to Chicago and beyond?

As you know, over the years, Chicago has increased in gun violence, so much so that we have as many murders as of May 2016 as there are days in the year so far. What P.O.E.T brings to the table inspires teens to make positive choices and decisions. Not only have are mentorship programs been effective in Chicago, but all across this nation. When you see those whom we have mentored become mentors, at that moment our mission and motto become complete. Our Motto is “Changing The World, One Heart, One Mind, One Word At A Time.”

2.  There seemed a time in 2012-2015 there was a lot of tensions amongst poets and groups with a lot of that social media hostility directed towards you.  How were and are you able to maintain, still be you, and not retaliate?

I war not against flesh and blood, but principalities and powers and spiritual wickedness in high places. There will always be those who hate what they don’t understand.  Jesus had haters so you know I’m not exempt. However, in order to be a leader you have to love those whom you lead more than they hate themselves. I don’t retaliate because as a leader I have to be the example, besides, my city (Chicago) has a problem, so my fight and my war is against the violence on my people by my people.

3.  What do you think is lacking from African-Americans with all the violence in our communities?

My people are destroyed by lack of knowledge. The knowledge of God and our true identity (Israel) has caused so-called African-Americans to carry the label of MADE IN AMERICA. God created us, but America made niggers. So as many young people as we can reach and teach the truth to, it will enable us to help to save the future generations to come.

4.  I have seen you on Fox News often addressing some of the issues with violence.  Why is local community activism a must narrative for African-Americans?

People are tired of talk, that’s why activism is important. The root of the word activism is ACT and actions speak louder than words. Our youth wants to know that they are loved and appreciated. Spending time, sharing what connects us (our stories) with them, allows them to feel comfortable opening up, releasing that buried hurt and pain. Once they release, we can replace the hurt and dirt with positive spirits.

5.  30 years, 19 albums, 4 published volumes of poetry, business owner; what’s next for Blaq Ice?

I love art, entertainment, and poetry.  If my existence on this earth doesn’t help change or save lives, then my living is in vain. Yes, I will release more albums and books, but the entertainment platform allows me to use a bigger stage to reach more people. It’s all about developing programs that will continue to exist beyond our own existence.

We are already seeing other poetry groups follow our lead, doing the very things that P.O.E.T was once criticized about in arts, entertainment, and social activism. We have already inspired others who are recreating what we are doing and have done. I believe the programs I have created such as the P.O.E T, the A.C.T.I.O.N Mentorship program, P.O.E.T RADIO, The TYRONE HAWTHORNE CANCER Scholarship, The P.O.E.T TEEN IDOL, Stand Up, and The Legends of Chicago Hip Hop will continue to exist in some form or fashion even after I’m gone.

Surely Chicago will see more of one of its greatest entertainers.   To reach out to P.O.E.T and learn more about the organization please visit their website.

The New Year Begins

Good Ole Chicago

Happy 2016 Chi-Town

Happy New Year Chicago,

I plan to do a better job this year of blogging. This will require making time for me and less time for the regular job in the wee hours of the night.  One thing I will focus on heavily is 1st Congressional candidates in the State of Illinois.  I waited too late to put my hat in the arena (my wife is ever grateful of this oversight).  We are in for a wild ride with non-contested tax increases by our wonderful mayor and Cook County Board President.

As we unwrap 2016 there’s a lot each of us desire to accomplish. I’ve already spoken about my Mastermind 2015 session that helped me do one primary thing and that is to learn to believe in me. I was charged to walk in the “Faith” that I say I believe which also put in the forefront of my walk with the Lord. Yes, I’m a Christian, one of the obvious traits many people who know me respect and also challenge when I get into “Hulk Smash” mode.  This year I will embark on a Landmark journey, thanks to my gracious and awesome boss (he hates being called that).

So, accountability for 2016, I’ll put myself out there:

  1. Get the book done. I’ve been editing a lot before sending it up the chain and I’ll continue to do so.
  2. Learn something new in technology. No more “I’m too old to grasp this or that…math is beyond my scope of reach….” I’m in get it done mode. As a brother in the faith described…push your capacity (Dr. Allmon)
  3. Laugh Laugh Laugh. I am often criticized for being overly serious. What can I say; it’s true.
  4. I’m not sure on the pursuit of a bachelors degree.  It’s still on the table and need to master a serious plan for  life-balance as I look at my vision board and update it.
  5. Discuss the hard stuff. My friend Desiree is a master of this technique.  There are certain conversations I avoided in social media but after the recent ruling on the “Tamir Rice” – Wiki Quote case in Ohio, silence about social issues, white privilege, black on black crime and politics is no longer an option.
  6. Be the voice of the people as a poetic-revolution and dynamic mentor.
  7. Know more about my history, my ancestral background, and all things of African descent.  This is more of a Black History 365 and a full time life journey.

Well, that’s all for now. Let me know what you’d like to talk about. I will do my best to be informed on all issues I bring to the table and I’m sure you’ll rip me a new one if I’m not. Let’s take the block, then the community, then the city, then the state, then the country and then the world and I’ll try not to use “then” so consecutively.

Happy New Year