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Django; Is the D silent for Distasteful or Determined?

” The movie Django is Terrible.” “Every African-American should be appalled at how our ancestors are depicted!” “Why does he have to use Nigger so much?” “Jamie Foxx is a sell out!” etc, etc, etc. Instead of listening to all of the critics I decided to watch the movie for myself. To be honest I entered the movie with a bias opinion. “How could Hollywood allow such a movie to be created?” Sitting in my seat with my arms crossed I began to watch the movie anticipating to be disgusted but actually the opposite happened. I saw a movie that finally depicted our ancestors (black and white) as the heroes they were. My Morehouse Brother Director Spike Lee believes that it disrespects our ancestors but I disagree for a few reasons and I’ll explain each one.

Slavery isnt a made up story. The brutality that we witnessed in the movie is only a fraction of what our ancestors had to endure. Castration was a reality! What is Castration? When the slave owner would cut the genitals off of the black man. Why? Jealousy! Deep Jealousy! The goal was to cut off future generations. This was a reality. Tarentino didn’t make it up. Mandingo Fighting was a reality. There is nothing in the movie Django that was sensationalized! This was our ancestors reality! Being whipped, castrated, raped, burned, and the worst of all tricked into believing that God created them (us) to be inferior. Tarentino didn’t make  it up but he exposed it. Let me say that I respect Spike Lee and if anyone can be critical of movies its him but I think if he saw it (which one day I’m sure he will) he would look at it in a different way.

I can understand everyone’s anger about how many times the word Nigger was used in the movie. But once again that was our ancestors reality. Thats what we were called so much so that we call ourselves that today. I recently heard a rapper being offended about this movie and I thought, out of anyone you are in no place to criticize anything when your music is in actuality the effect of slavery. You use the word more than the KKK. I respect Spike Lee’s opinion but not theirs. Tarentino didn’t make that up! That was our reality and the effects remain with us till this day.

I appreciate the relationship between Django and King Shultz. That brings to mind the relationship between the slaves and the Quakers. All whites weren’t in support of slavery and some even despised it. But on the flip side you had blacks like Samuel Jacksons character who was comfortable being a slave. It wasn’t a color issue it was a human issue and that was highlighted in the movie. I also enjoyed how he demonized slavery and racism by capturing the horrific moments of slave brutality and making fun of the lack of intelligence of the Ku Klux Klan. To be honest that was by far the funniest part of the movie.

The last two points I want to make for me is the most important. The first is Tarantino gave us the opportunity to get our revenge. He allowed for Nat Turner and John Brown to live!  Django was able to payback the men he watched beat, rape and torture his wife. Imagine the number of black men who watched their wives being raped and beat and never being able to do anything about it. Even worse than that is the impact it had on our women who at that moment begin to disrespect their men because she felt he couldn’t protect her. She began to make her slave master her God because she felt only he could keep her safe. In this movie Tarantino showed our manhood and didn’t allow it to be stripped away.

Lastly, I appreciate the way Django loved his wife. The splitting of families was a regular occurence during slavery. Husbands, Wives and children being shipped off to different plantations. Do you think this practise effects us today? Of course. This movie dispelled the myth that we don’t love our women! This movie showed a man who was willing to die and kill for the woman that he loved. The man and woman relationship is the foundation of a family and even as a “uneducated slave” Django understood what that meant. If he did that for his wife imagine what he wouldve done for his whole family!

 

I believe the D is for Determined. Django was determined to find his wife and willing to defeat anyone who stood in his way. I believe Django represents many black men. I believe King Shultz represents many white people who believes that injustice is injustice despite who it is against. Stephen (Samuel L Jackson) represents many black people who have sold out! These type of people are the most dangerous for our community because we don’t see them as enemies but they are! And Broomhilda represents so many of our women who are waiting for the man to be the leader he was created to be.

But you know whats even worse? Many of you wouldn’t have seen it if Spike Lee did it! So some times the best person to bring a message and make a point is someone that you didn’t even expect.

Ratchet Video

I’m very big on supporting people. I’ve spent my whole life up until this point doing so. It means so much to me. I enjoy seeing people reach their goals. It really touches me to see people who grew up going through similar circumstances bust through the concrete and become the rose they have always dreamed of. Whether its sports, music, business or education success is a goal that were all trying to reach. I respect hard work, patience and consistency because without it one could never reach the top. But answer this question for yourself, What does it mean to be successful? Should there be a line that your not willing to cross to reach success? Or is it by any means necessary? Does it matter who you offend or demoralize? What is your definition of success?

There is a new video called Ratchet that was created by some  national/local Cleveland artists. Some of whom are my friends and others who I am unfamiliar with. But whether I know them or not the fact is that the message that this song is pushing has to be one of the worst that i’ve seen and heard in a while. I know this city in a way that few people do because of all the speaking that I do. If anyone ever tells you that music does not have an effect on our community is lying and you should question if their minds are in the right state. Of course me discussing this video will only make you want to watch it but I urge you to truly listen to whats being said. I don’t care who you are, and how many records you’ve sold, or how many fans you have, or who shows up to your party. I don’t care about any of that. All I care about is the people and how their being treated and represented. If you sit here and tell me that you would be ok with your daughter, sister, or your mother being spoken to in that manner then it makes sense why you would be ok with such a demoralizing  song! I think Cleveland is full of great talent but too many of them lack heart. They lack the heart to stand up for something meaningful, consistently!

I can hear the senseless rebuttals now and the sad part is that some of them will come from women. “Its only a song Basheer.” “There are ratchet women Basheer.” “This is how I eat Basheer.” “Why did you watch the video Basheer?” I have some better questions for you! Do you even care that there are some young people who listen and act on your every word? Are you aware of the consequences of your words and its impact on the mind of people internationally? Do you not understand that some consider you role models but yet and still you feed the masses poison? What does it matter if your from Cleveland if your not making it better? I’m not talking about giving away turkeys and gifts! I’m talking about using your gift to help change the very mindset that is keeping us as one of the most impoverished, violent, uneducated cities in the nation. But I believe I finally know the answer to your problem. Your scared. Thats it! Your scared. Scared to be different. Scared to tell the world that your soul isn’t for sell. Your afraid and because of it you destroy those who are weaker; our women. While your creating songs that are demeaning to our future mothers I wonder what do you whisper into the ears of your daughters? While your glorifying this poisonous nonsense to the children who aren’t being monitored what are you teaching your baby girls? If you could only treat other daughters the way you treat yours then maybe the world would be safe from these sick messages.  If we all could live like this the world would be a better place.

I want to speak to you community. How do you allow your daughters to be treated with such hate? What do you mean hate Basheer? Well, You would have to hate a woman to demoralize her. It would be impossible for you to love someone and at the same time treat them as if their lower than dirt. Why do you accept this? Women why do you dance and accept songs that are extremely disrespectful? O ok their not talking about you right? But what about the woman that does fit that category does she deserve to be kicked down or picked up?

My respect level for these type of people decreases everyday but hey you don’t need my respect to breathe. But let me assure you that me and a men just like me will continue to speak out against this nonsense. We will speak out for the young girl who will be stereotyped before she gets a chance to open her mouth. We will speak out for the fathers and remind them that if you don’t raise your daughters and be an example of a man they will end in the arms of these unintelligent cowards. They will end up in the arms of men who will give up their souls to the highest bidder.

“The Success of a nation depends on how they treat their women.” After reading this quote I can see why we are in such a terrible state. I pray that we all become better servants. I pray that we all strive to become thinkers and begin to look at the world in a different way. Lets look at life and say, “this is what I want to give to the world instead of looking at what were trying to get from it.” What is your definition of success? If its power then do you view Adolf Hitler as successful? If its riches do you view the Pharoah of Moses time to be successful? If its fame do you view Jeffrey Dahmer as being successful? Don’t give up something that is priceless for things that will ultimately lose value. Whats priceless? Your soul. True Success is Heaven! I pray we all get there!

Emilliano Terry and Basheer Jones. Similar Circumstances but Different Fates

Are our stories totally similar? Not at all! But I can relate to the poverty and neglect that Emilliano suffered from. But I want to take the time to highlight the key differences of our fates. Who is Emilliano Terry? Recently here in Cleveland, Oh a young 3 yr old baby boy went missing. Community activists and Law enforcement officers searched for this baby only to find that he was killed, put into a garbage bag and thrown in the trash. All the facts have not been introduced to the public but the finger is being pointed to the mother. If you don’t mind for a moment I would like to present my thoughts as if she is guilty of murdering her son. Naturally there is something that God places in the spirit of the mother that connects her to her children. Even if you watch animals you would see the most ferocious of them being tender with their young and willing to put their lives on the line to protect them. This is a natural instinct that God places in all of his creatures. Why? Because the future of your species depends on them. When a mother or a father neglects their young this is a unnatural act. The spirit is dead! Emilliano was neglected by both of his parents and the result of this unnatural state was a horrible death. But the fact is this baby was treated like garbage long before he was placed in the can.

My mother never neglected me, she gave my siblings and I her all until the very last day of her life. My mother passed away from Breast Cancer at the age of42 three years ago. I miss her dearly. Im sure my mother wouldve been able to relate the mother of Emilliano. I’m sure many mothers from an impoverished community can. Having to raise her children on her own, poverty, depression are issues that many women of our community fight through everyday.

I can’t relate to the hate or neglect of a mother but I can from my biological father. I’m going to be honest the only father that I have ever known is Mr. Timothy Roberts. My biological father has never been in my life. The things i’m about to say will seem strange, unbelieveable and unnatural but those who are aware of my situation know it to be the truth. Not only has my father not been in my life I would go a step further and say that he has always hated me. Recently, the mother of my biological father read my book “Ill Speak for Change” and read a few poems discussing my absentee father and became very upset. Its amazing that they would be upset about me discussing my reality but not be as upset with the fact that I have had to live with this reality for my whole life. Long story short and short story shorter he was so angry he went on to say that my mother was pregnant with me before he married her and that I was not his son. He has vowed that he will try to destroy my career and tarnish my image. What do I say to that? Mr. Anthony Jones you can never destroy what you never built! Your claim that I am not your real son finally explains why you have always been absent. But shouldn’t we uplift children even if their not ours? Thats what Mr. Roberts did for me.

When parents neglect their God given responsibility it is a sign that their spirit is dead and that they are living an Unnatural life. Some times we become worse than the animals. It was a blessing that I had a wonderful mother, a father figure in Mr. Timothy Roberts, a grandfather that was my superhero, a spiritual community, great siblings. But Emilliano never had a chance! He never had a fighting chance! No One around him fulfilled their duty to God. The self-hatred of Emilliano’s mother killed her baby and the self- hatred of my biological father will end up destroying him. I will live for Emilliano by making sure that my children always know that I love them and I will never kill them with the lack of love. I will live for them and die for them if need be. This is for you Emilliano! This is for you!

SoapBox (Public Speaking Workshop)

Good Afternoon,
 
Here’s yet another exciting opportunity for our youth! Our youth love to communicate, so why not provide a skills-based platform for just that? Beginning November 29th, the “Soapbox Workshop Series and Competition,”  will allow youth to learn and/or enhance writing skills, thought articulation and speech. This 6-week workshop series/competition is free and will be facilitated by Basheer Jones.
 
Please reference the flyer, application, and informational letter (attached) for more details. We would love to have a city-wide representation of our youth participate. As always, feel free to contact me with questions/concerns. Talk to you soon!
 

— 

Donté Gibbs
Youth Development Coordinator
Neighborhood Leadership Institute
5246 Broadway Avenue
Cleveland, OH 44127
(216) 812-8700

My Hoodie

This experience was so crazy that I had to write about it. This coming saturday we have a big event that we’ve been planning for the past couple of weeks called “Cleveland Decides.” Its a free concert at the Rock and Roll hall of fame featuring Jadakiss, Ray Jr., Lolah Brown, DJ Meel, DJ StephFloss, K von, Ymz, and Tropikana. The concert is dedicated to everyone who took the initiative to get registered and voted early.  So I was outside in front of the Board of elections (100 feet away for the critics) giving out tickets to anyone who wanted to attend. Now mind you I’m usually suited and booted. I actually feel more comfortable wearing a suit and dress shoes but today I decided to throw on a black hoodie, trench coat, and ugg boots. It was chilly outside and I had plans of being out there for a couple hours so I rather be warm than anything. I cant remember the amount of uncomfortable stares that I received on that day.

I don’t usually dress in this attire but I did today because…I wanted to. You and I can dress anyway we like. What you can’t control is how people will treat you because of it. People who have been knowing me since I was a student at MLK High School looked at me like I was a criminal. Now if they could treat me like that then I can only imagine how they are treating other young black men.

I was referred to as Trayvon Martin all day. When anyone wears a hoodie we jokingly call them trayvon. If you think Trayvon was killed because of his hoodie you are mistaken. He was killed for a much deeper reason than that! He was killed because he was perceived as a threat by a person who had stereotyped him from the beginning. Racism and hate has nothing to do with what a person is wearing! Nothing! It wasn’t the hoodie that got Trayvon murdered it was the hate in Zimmermans heart! And no hoodie created that hate. (unless your the KKK) It had nothing to do with a piece of clothing and everything to do with Zimmermans perception of who he thought Trayvon was.

After this eventful day with my hoodie (which consisted of nasty stares, comments and being surrounded by the police) I had to ask myself have I been wearing these tailor made suits and nice shoes for the world or myself? Do I dress to make YOU comfortable with me? To make YOU believe that I’m not a threat? That I’m not here to bring YOU any harm? Is my clothing really about YOU or me? No one should have to wake up and worry about what the world is going to think about them today! But we do. Our whole day is consumed with the opinions and misperceptions of the world and trying our hardest to prove to “them” that I’m better than what YOU think of me. Our whole day as black men is focused on proving to you (black women, white men and women, WORLD) that we are not dangerous. That we are safe. That you have no worries. We never truly reach our potential as men because were trying to prove to you that we are not a threat.

Don’t get me wrong our dress is important but why is it more important than who you are? Some would say that your dress is a representation of you but thats not always the case. Maybe you have no money or cold!  I wasn’t less of a person and I’m not better because my suits cost alot of money. That doesn’t make me better! It doesn’t make you better!!!! The biggest crooks are in suits and ties and you trust them solely because of their dress. Don’t you think thats foolish? Trayvon wasn’t murdered because of a hood but because of hate and you must know the difference!

I plan to buy more hoods. My closest friends and family respond to my latest act of rebellion with sarcasm, “What will that prove?” I respond, “I want to show the world that your clothes don’t make you who you are and plus its starting to get cold in Cleveland.”

Whats going on in Cleveland!

The Presidential election is in full swing in one of the most important parts of the country, Ohio. Here in Cleveland, Ohio buses, vans, and cars line up blocks and blocks to drop off eager voters. November is still a couple of weeks away but those who still have strong faith and hope in the country come to the polls in droves to prove to the masses that our voice matters. We want you to hear us loud and clear world, “We Exist.” First time voters and some who look as if it will be their last trip to the polls are full of joy. It feels like Christmas a little or Eid for me. A young black male crosses paths with a much older black woman and they both smile with admiration. The young black male smiles at her knowing that if it wasnt for her he wouldn’t have this opportunity so with a head nod and grin he says,”this is for you.” She smiles back and silently says with a smile and a nod, “my fight wasnt in vain and now you must carry us from here.” The feeling is amazing! I wish we could keep this love after the election. This respect, this faith and hope that a brighter day is just around the corner. Politicians and media sure do know how to play on our emotions, on our faith, on our hope.

I truly believe President Obama will win. But a even more important question is will we win as a community or will we continue to lose our future to jail cells and early graves? Will we continue to lose our mothers and aunties to death because of cancer and high blood pressure and other diseases because healthcare is unaffordable?  Will we continue to lose our children who feel defeated before they even reach high school? Will we continue to lose our homes to foreclosures? Will we continue to lose?

The hard question is not will President Obama win Cleveland but a better question is whats in store for the future of my city? Will we continue to face defeat from our Football team to our classrooms or is there any type of championship on the way? I don’t know to be honest with you. But I do know that I will vote and continue the fight long after the election and I hope you choose to do the same.

Public Enemy #1

The other day I took my son to get his first haircut! I was so proud to see basheer jr sit there with tears in his eyes as he goes through his first rights of passage. This experience is one that so many fathers miss out on. I promisedmyself that I would not follow the footsteps of my father so this was a very special day for me. As I watched my son’s hair fall and I carefully placed each handful into a special bag I over heard CNN speak about the murder of Trayvon Martin. Not wanting to miss my son’s first haircut or the story about Trayvon I watched both in the mirror. Though the words on the screen were hard to understand the issue of race in America is something that I understand all too well. As my eyes went back and forth from Trayvon to basheer jr, and then back to me I realized that we all share a sad reality. That reality is that in the year 2012 people of color are still considered guilty before given an opportunity to express our innocence. What angered us all in the barbershop is not just that this young innocent brother was killed but that the murderer is still free. Why are we so furious? Maybe because we feel that in a time where Facebook connects so many and the first African-American President is a reality, justice should be the rule of the day! The fact that justice is still so foreign to black people is heart wrenching. It should hurt every American to think that we still struggle with the same issues that our forefathers died for. Racism is alive, well, and stronger than ever! Don’t get me wrong hate will always exist but when it puts a halt to justice for some then you and I must ask ourselves a serious question, “How far have we truly come?”

As my son sits in the chair with tears in his eyes and I stand there with tears in my heart knowing that this will not be the only test that my son faces. How do I tell my young simba that he will be targeted and feared because of his potential greatness? How do I tell my young simba that no matter how much he cuts his hair or the clothes that he chooses to wear that he will always be hated by some for something that he didn’t choose? How do I tell my young simba that he is a gift to our world and not a curse? People will always hate but I expect a system that was built for “all people” to hold true to the words “land of the free.”

Black people are so forgiving! We continue to forgive the country that we hold so dear to our hearts! A country that we have fought and died for. A country that we have helped build and never truly compensated for. Our country is like an abusive husband who continues to beat us down while he promises us that he loves us and he’ll do better. Why does my son still have to be public enemy #1? I thought we passed this phase? I thought W.E.B, Garvey, Martin, Malcolm,Emit Till and so many other black and white men/women fought and died so that we can move beyond the place where justice is only afforded to some.

As my son steps down from the chair and CNN goes to commercial I hear a snippet of President Obama stating, “If I had a son he would look like Trayvon.”. Well Mr. President I do have a son who is the same color as Trayvon and his name is Basheer. You and I can’t change the hate in their hearts but we can be sure that a country who has a history of providing justice for some “begin to do some soul searching” on how to be sure that Trayvon’s unfortunate situation is the last.

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