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‘How … as a Christian, should I determine who to vote for?’

Noel 600We find ourselves in an interesting election cycle once again, and one of the perennial highlights is the march to the African-American churches and clergy. Elected officials and candidates, who never set foot in a worship service, all of a sudden clamor to find willing clergy that allow them to stand in front of a congregation. Jesus gets pushed aside, if for a moment, so that political aspirations can be entertained. And when the smoke clears, pastors endorse candidates.
Much has been made recently over endorsements. One of my colleagues, in this space, affirmed the need to be involved in the political process but stopped short in affirming specific, endorsed support from pastors. He felt that our job was to educate. Another colleague said, “It’s disingenuous for a group of Black Christian preachers to say that a Jew can’t effectively represent Black folks in Congress. A Jew has been effectively representing us in Heaven for 2,000 years. #HushSitDownAndStudy”. 

I forgive but I can’t forget. Now what?

LucyShaw-160Dear Lucy: I have been ill for some time. I read your articles and you have said that the most important part of healing is forgiveness. I have tried to forgive those who have hurt me so much but I cannot forget what they did to me. My pastor says that when we forgive it is not complete until we forget. How do you forget?
– Still Sick

Dear Still Sick: Most of us have been told that forgetting and forgiving go hand in hand. I don't agree. Memories always live in us at some level, conscious or unconscious. There are many things I thought I had forgotten only to have them pop up one day under unexpected provocation.

It is not that we forgive and miraculously forget the slight or the hurt. What we must do is forgive and also let go of the sting, resentment, vengefulness and anger over the memory of the hurtful event.

In the battle to end ‘the seduction of inadequacy,’ I’m with Lupita

lucyandlupita-600For me, nothing could eclipse my happiness for Lupita Nyong'o when she won her Oscar as Best Supporting Actress a few nights ago. I was not only thrilled for her but for the profound, timely and necessary message brought to the world by the movie, "12 Years a Slave." This young woman has taken Hollywood and the movie-viewing world with her extraordinary poise and humility wrapped around her awesome talent.

What may not be widely known is that just a few days before her Oscar win, Lupita received an award at the seventh annual Black Women in Hollywood Luncheon hosted by Essence Magazine. Her award was for Best Breakthrough Performance. On this occasion she delivered the speech below.

I concur with most who heard it that it is (sadly in 2014) a speech about beauty and self-image that every young brown, black, red or yellow girl should get to hear. It was first posted online by Time Magazine. I found a video and transcript at upworthy.com.

Redefining truth has consequences

raynard jacksonIn all organized sports, there are clearly defined rules that must be adhered to. In all universities, there are clearly stated guidelines for admittance. In all religions, there are shared beliefs that all members must adhere to. Without these clearly defined rules of engagement (ROEs), there can be no order within groups; and without order there is nothing left but chaos.

Groups and organizations, by definition are all predicated upon certain agreed upon principles and values. These agreed upon principles and values are the raison d'etre of these entities.

You join the Boy Scouts, for example, because you are a boy and you join the Girl Scouts because you are a girl. You are a male because you are born with a penis and you are a girl because you are born with a vagina. These things used to be unquestioned statements of fact.

Teachers are key to our children’s success

As a pastor and longtime member of the Frayser community, I have a strong interest in seeing our children do well in school. And although I believe their success is driven by a range of factors such as class sizes and the availability of good texts and other materials, I also know that having a great teacher is the most important school-based factor in student achievement.

Research in a recent report by Shepherding the Next Generation shows that a student assigned to an excellent teacher may gain more than a full year's worth of additional academic growth compared to a student assigned to a weak teacher. Indeed, a highly effective teacher has a greater impact on achievement than any other factor within the school environment.

That report also examined a Tennessee study that found that an average student with three highly effective teachers scored in the top 10 percent of students after three years, while a similar student with ineffective teachers scored in the bottom 40 percent after the same period of time.

‘The key turns twice’

Earnest Townes-160All too often when media coverage speaks of an individual who has been formerly incarcerated, it is usually in a negative context (i.e. arrested again, person of interest, not new to the criminal justice system, lengthy arrest record).

Following this coverage, depending on the gravity of the crime, there may be public outcry as to "why was he/she released in the first place?" As a result, seemingly all offenders are then cast into that same category.

It would be asinine to even suggest every offender returns to society with positive goals and the desire to be a productive member of his/her community. I, too, cringe upon hearing the news of another ex-offender having committed the same or a more appalling crime. Yet, I do contend that amidst that population is a sector with aspirations and hopes of moving forward in their lives!

‘Head start’ for children merits pre-K sales tax

keith norman-160If every child in Shelby County is given a head start in life, there is a preponderance of evidence that that child would go on to become a productive member of society – which means skilled workers would be added to the workforce, crime and poverty would decrease, and the need for public assistance would be reduced.

We're at a crossroad where a decision has to be made to bring the aforementioned scenario into reality. But that decision would have to be made by the voters of Memphis via a referendum that will be on the ballot this fall to increase the sales tax by a half-cent. If approved, $47 million could be generated, with about $30 million earmarked for pre-K and $17 million to reduce property tax rates.

The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People is not alone in its support of a half-cent sales tax increase for early childhood education. It is a civil rights issue and one of the NAACP's "5 Game Changers for the 21st Century." There are others in support of this initiative as well, including city officials and a number of education advocates who see the significance and critical need of supporting the education of children at the pre-K level.

Positive parenting protects and pays

Tarrin McGhee-160"I grew up poor, but I didn't know it."

Many of us have heard and been inspired by rags to riches stories told by adults who overcame risk factors in their childhood, and avoided becoming products of their environment.

Poor upbringing, single-parent family homes, resource-deprived neighborhoods and communities are all conditions that many young children confront, but still manage to excel and beat the odds stacked against them.

So what is it that separates the stories of triumph from those of defeat?