Friday, June 15, 2018

America's "Real" Christian Values

"I would cite you to the Apostle Paul and his clear and wise command in Romans 13, to obey the laws of the government because God has ordained them for His purposes."

 Attorney General Jeff Sessions

Taking scripture out of context, like this beauty from Jeff Sessions, is a cornerstone of repressive evangelical ideology. If we were to draw this misreading of scripture to it's most logical conclusion then the crucifixion was just, Paul's four trips to prison for emulating the life of Jesus and spreading the Gospel were just, and yes America's enslavement of Africans was just. This is the kind of regressive Christianity that continues to poison people against the church.

Religion and patriotism have always been good disguises for bigotry. There are very real issues to be resolved with our immigration system, but snatching babies off of their mother's breast and detaining kids in makeshift prisons isn't the answer. It's painfully obvious, to anyone who isn't emotionally invested in the myth of America, that this kind of treatment has always been reserved for racial minorities. This is an empirical fact. America has always mistreated those with "problematic" identities. This is just another version of that.

In 25 years the people who are supporting this foolishness will have to pretend they were always against it. They are, coincidentally, the same people angry about nonviolent protests against police brutality. These are the descendants of the people who defended southern police departments when they were spraying protesters with hoses and beating unarmed people with nightsticks. It takes some of our fellow citizens a generation or two to see the humanity in people who don't look like them.

Here's some free advice: be very careful around people using the Bible to justify vicious and cruel behavior. The same people using scripture to dehumanize the "other" will use the same Bible to find a verse to legitimize your mistreatment.

There's a rich history of Christians who have been martyred for disobeying unjust laws. I wish Jeff Sessions was as well versed in what Jesus was doing when he was calling out Pharisees and running money changers out of the temple. Maybe if Mr. Sessions had paid more attention to what Black people were rebelling against when he was a young man he would know the state isn't always doing things in accordance with the principle of "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you."

Thursday, June 7, 2018

Honoring Woody Pettus

On Saturday, June 2nd, a group of almost a 100 people gathered on The Casino Lawn at The Omni Homestead. The Casino, built in 1895, will be the home of the Omni Homestead’s newest restaurant “Woody's”. A restaurant dedicated to the memory of Woodrow Pettus.



Woody Pettus started working at the Homestead as a caddy when he was a teenager. He moved from the golf course into the stables where he worked with his father. His final move was into The Main Dining Room. He was a busboy, waiter, wine steward, captain, assistant head waiter, headwaiter, and then Maître d.

In 2003, Golf Styles Magazine recognized Mr. Pettus as Maître d’ of the Year. Last September, (2017) The Historic Hotels of America honored him as Ambassador of the Year.

At the ribbon cutting ceremony, managing director of The Omni Homestead, Brett Schoenfeld, had this to say about Mr. Pettus:

From the time I learned of Woody’s illness we spent a lot of time on the phone. We talked about his legacy here at the hotel. Trying to honor a man like that is a very difficult thing. We, as a team, thought a lot about how we wanted to do that and how we wanted to make that happen. We are pleased to announce today that the restaurant here at The Casino starting June 8th, will be named Woody’s.

The ribbon cutting event was part of a larger weekend dedicated to the life of Woody Pettus. Later that night, The Omni Homestead’s main dining room was transformed into a celebration hall for the life of Mr. Pettus. Proclamations from The Historic Hotels of America were read by William Foudy. A letter from The American Hotel and Lodging Association was read by Henry “Hank” Spire. A letter from the Virginia State Golf Association was read by Don Ryder, and resolution from the Virginia Tourism Corporation’s board of directors was read by Miss Jane Sewell.



The Pettus family received numerous awards, presentations, and plaques throughout the night. State Senator Creigh Deeds Introduced Senate Resolution number 534 honoring Mr. Pettus. In an extension of remarks for the Congressional Record Robert William Goodlatte United States House of Representatives presented the family with a certificate of recognition. Virginia Governor Ralph Northam also sent a recognition to the family.


Bob Goodlatte Chairman of the House Judiciary 
Woody's daughter Lisa Aguilar gave remarks to the crowd on behalf of her family:

What an honor it is to stand here tonight and honor my daddy. He loved this place. To his friends and coworkers, he loved you. He truly loved the Homestead. He loved everything about it. There are guests who have known my dad and told me my kids know your dad, my grandkids know your dad. What an honor.

In a promotional video presented to the family coworker longtime friend Arthur Bryan summed up Woody’s impact on the resort this way:

Many times, guest would call the Homestead and ask, “Is Woody at the Homestead?” If they were planning to come and Woody wasn’t here, 9 out of 10 times they would wait until Woody came back to work before they would even check in.

This story is also published on the Allegheny Mountain Radio website




Thursday, May 31, 2018

When Were The "Good Ole Days"?

Contrary to popular belief, American society hasn't devolved. This doesn't mean we should ignore or compartmentalize the barbarism we've witnessed, but we shouldn't pretend like today's evils are inherently different than the evils of yesteryear. America has a 240+ year run of carnage under her belt. The only thing separating today from yesterday is our vantage point.


The idea that American society has devolved is rooted in the false belief that we achieved some utopian state of bliss and then lost it. This collective fetishization- with a period no one can point to on a calendar- is a form of scapegoating that hinders​ our ability to address the very real issues we face.

There are millions of Americans so in love with the past that they fear the future. They have romanticized a history that never existed. Some have been so tricked by their youth, incomplete memories, and the false narratives woven into our cultural identity that they believe the America from country and western songs actually existed. I have some bad news for the adherents of this false doctrine. The "good old days" never existed. They aren't a real period in time. They are a fantasy land where nothing bad ever happened and everything was pure. 

This is a painful realization, so painful, that some choose to avoid it. Instead of engaging and critically examining the myths and lies that underpin this fantasy they repeat them. Anything that challenges​ the narratives​ people believe about America is viewed as a personal attack. People aren't upset that a piece of cloth isn't being recognized, they are upset that people aren't embracing their version of reality. This makes telling the truth about​ America a risky and controversial proposition.

America didn't devolve; Americans just quit pretending to be civilized towards each other. Meaningful discourse was murdered by ego. Our society is so preoccupied with making sure people are respectful to symbols and relics that we've stopped working towards an inclusive future. There are people so invested in their tribes, dogmas, and ideologies that they have become blind to the ways those beliefs harm other people. They are prisoners to the myths they were indoctrinated with.

This is who we are and where we are. We are in this bed together and we have to fix it. There's a better chance of white people returning this land to the ancestors of those it was stolen from than a mass exodus of Black and Brown people. We will learn how to live together or we will be witnesses to the kind of uprisings we see in black and white photos and videos. The choice is ours.

Saturday, May 26, 2018

Wynton Wasn't Wrong!


“I don’t think we should have a music talking about ni**ers and b*tches and h*es... I’ve said it. I’ve repeated it. I still repeat it. To me that’s more damaging than a statue of Robert E. Lee.”

Wynton Marsalis

That quote from Wynton Marsalis on Jonathan Capehart’s weekly podcast “Cape Up” put him squarely in the sights of #BlackTwitter. He was absolutely obliterated. His criticisms of rap were dismissed as the rantings of a cane waving old man. The following day Marsalis wrote a 1,074-word Facebook post clarifying his position. This recurring conversation about rap has deeper social consequences than many of the folks attacking him seem willing to admit.

Criticisms of rap, no matter how reasonable, have a way of pitting people from different age groups, races, and socioeconomic backgrounds against each other. Many of Marsalis’s critics chose to attack him instead of the arguments he used to support his position. This is sad. His use of Robert E. Lee and Confederate statues was provocative, but his logic was sound. We should be morally and intellectually honest enough to admit that misogyny, homophobia, drug use, drug distribution, and soft genocide are constitutive themes in a lot of the music produced today. This doesn’t mean all rap.

I say this as a 43-year-old ordained member of clergy who listens to rap every day. I will always love rap: even though I can't stand a majority of the kids making it these days. For me, rap has always been about the beats. Good songs always have great beats, and great songs have great beats and great lyrical content. It’s possible to love a problematic genre of music and tell the truth about it. Rap is awesome, but there are artists and songs I don’t play in front of kids and polite company. This is true for movies as well.

There are so many negative artistic and literary representations of Black people that they seep into the consciousness of a society. This is damaging. Many of today’s rappers have more in common with actors and reality stars than the image they portray. Sadly, many of the kids listening don't always know this. Imitation is a form of flattery, but when Black children mimic the actions of their favorite rappers the consequences can be deadly.

Marsalis’s words parallel those of bell hooks and others who have critiqued rap from inside the Black community. No one has to agree or disagree with these criticisms but ridiculing them doesn’t make them go away. I don’t agree with everything he said, but I respect him for the way he explained his feelings. He didn’t go the Fox news route and try to diminish the community while distancing himself from Blackness. He didn’t coon or sellout.

What we are seeing in rap is the logical conclusion to the evolutionary path the genre has been on. I had a mixtape in the 90’s titled: Music To Do Drive-Bys To. It was as cd of freestyles over some of the hardest beats down south producers were making back then. I look back on that album and realize the problems with it. This doesn’t make me better than a kid listening to Lil Pump or Migos. A lot of the kids making music today were raised by people who exposed them to the same music I was listening to. As a community it behooves us to come to grips with the impact rap has had on too many kids. This is an important conversation that more parents and kids need to have.

I love a problematic genre of music. Our society is never giving up materialism or vanity, so those themes will always be reflected in art. Rap isn’t all bad. There have always been people rapping about systemic racism, poverty and the existential angst that comes with living in America. Kendrick Lamar and Future are the progeny of a genre that produced KRS1 and 2 Live Crew. As consumers of the art form and people concerned with our community, we have to he honest about this reality. Wynton Marsalis isn’t our enemy. He’s more of an ally than the record labels benefitting from Black pain and suffering.

Friday, May 25, 2018

America Needs More Steve Kerr!

"I'm proud to be in a league that understands patriotism in America is about free speech. It's about peacefully protesting...They're weren't disrespecting the flag or the military, but our president decided to make it about that and the NFL followed suit and pandered to their fan base by creating this hysteria."

Steve Kerr showed some of "allies" how easy it is to tell the truth.

"Allies" love sharing their obligatory MLK quotes and pictures, but very few have ever wrestled with his words. Dr. King's message was the antithesis of  peacefully suffering injustice. Anyone who believes he would side with Donald Trump and the NFL over the people he was murdered advocating for needs to turn of Fox News and pick up a book.

Here are some Dr. King quotes to get you started:

1. Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.

2. In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends. 

3. There comes a time when silence is betrayal.

4. There comes a time when one must take a position that is neither safe nor politic nor popular, but he must take it because his conscience tells him it is right.

If you can't tell the truth about peaceful protests and the Black bodies that caused them, keep Dr. King's name out of your mouth. Your silence allows the status quo to continue. We have a legal system that kills more unarmed people of color than armed school shooters. Let me say that again: white mass shooters are treated better than unarmed people of color. In 25 years your grandkids will be ashamed.

If we hadn't put a moratorium on inviting folks to the cookout Steve Kerr would have already received a lifetime achievement award.




Wednesday, May 23, 2018

A Few Quick Thoughts


1. Tomi Lahren is a horrible person who has exacerbated, and directly benefited from, racial tensions, but she didn't deserve to have a drink thrown on her.



2. If the NFL was really worried about patriotism and the flag they would give back all of the tax dollars the Department of Defense has paid them since 2009 for "acts of patriotism".

3. Wynton Marsalis is getting a lot more heat than he deserves. He has valid arguments worth wrestling with.


4. The truth doesn't have a political agenda, and it doesn't require our approval to be valid. 6×6=36 no matter your understanding of math.

5. Opinions aren't facts, but they carry weight. Also, all opinions aren't equal. If you don't believe me, take medical advice from an accountant.

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Thanks For Your Support!



Thoughtwrestler turned 5 years old today! In its first year my blog got 4,000 page views. These days, I can get that many clicks in a week. My little blog is still a "failure" by society's standards, but I have had my work published and cited across a variety of publications. I have met and interviewed politicians, celebrities, and academicians. I'm not where I want to be, but I can look back and see progress.

The moral of the story: keep pushing. Don't allow the secular myths of popularity, approval, or acceptances limit you. Don't wait for ANYONE to validate your vision. If you see yourself doing something do it. Most people never make it because they are afraid of failing in public. Don't be this kind of failure. Be the kind of failure that can look back at your efforts and be proud. No one can decide how hard you work. No one can make your dreams a reality.

Thanks for your support! I appreciate all of the reads, likes, and shares. This has been a blessing! Salute!


#Thoughtwrestler
#RaggedyKidFromSwitchback
#ImWayUpIFeelBlessed

A Royal Shaming



Q: What was the most annoying thing about the royal wedding?

A: Reading hot takes from people hell bent on shaming people for watching it.

Full Disclosure: I didn't watch the royal wedding; however, I'm not completely clueless about the most watched, tweeted, and discussed event this past weekend. I, like everyone else, was witness to the media's 360° coverage. From what I saw it was beautiful. Bishop Michael Curry delivered a timely message a lot of people needed to hear. This was the kind of event little girls playing princess dream of.

I chose not to watch the wedding for one reason: it was too early. By the time I got home Friday night I had already worked 60+ hours and Saturday is, usually, the only morning I get to sleep past 6:30 am.

I logged on Twitter shortly after 8 expecting to see some hateful tweets mixed in with the hashtags relevant to the wedding: that's what Twitter does, but I was surprised by how many people spent the better part of their Saturday bashing others for watching it. Contrarian points of view are social media's life's blood, but this was beneath petty.

#BlackTwitter split along ideological, religious, and gender lines. #WokeTwitter started attacking #BlackFeministTwitter, #HotepTwitter started attacking #NegropeanTwitter, and #SwirlingTwitter had a war amongst themselves.
It was sad.

The social media interactions between Black people over the weekend demonstrated how fragile our unity is. With all of the issues facing us, we let the marriage of a biracial woman to a prince, who is likely to never sit on the throne, come between us.


Watching or not watching the Royal wedding didn't open one school or close a liquor store in any of our communities. Tweet shaming people who watched didn't return any of the wealth looted from Alkebulan. Saturday didn't change anything.

The British Empire was built from the spoils of slavery and colonization. A new duchess can't change that history and doesn't have the power to make amends for it. The majority of people understood this. They just wanted to witness a historical event. There are people inside Black social media communities committed to shaming anyone for attempting to escape the daily rigors of life. Imagine if the NBA Finals or the NFL Draft caused this much chaos in the community? Here's a thought: people are allowed to enjoy something without endorsing or approving of it.

Thursday, May 3, 2018

With Friends Like Rudy


Did Rudy Giuliani really go on Hannity and admit Donald Trump paid Michael Cohen the $130,000 dollars he has been telling his Christian base he knew nothing about?

This should be a pretty big news story in the right-wing world, but it won't budge the needle. I already know how this will play out. Fox news, conservative media, and #Trumpstans on social media will dig even deeper into their bag of deflections and ad hominem fallacies: "America didn't elect Donald Trump to be our priest." "The American people knew who they were voting for." "The president has had to do some orthodox things because of the George Soros funded liberal media's radical socialist agenda?" 

Rudy Giuliani's admission of Donald Trump's knowledge of the Stormy Daniels payment will slide off the moral compass of his Evangelical base faster than the president can tweet no collusion. 

Counting the campaign, we are almost three years into the largest forfeiture of "moral high ground" this county has ever seen. The same folks who made their conception of moral character and Judeo-Christian values a requirement to hold elected office have long given up the right to ever question another politician's past.

Rudy Giuliani will likely have to back track from his statement. Sarah Huckabee Sanders will feign outrage when asked about this, and either lie or dismiss any legitimate questions about this issue. This will dominate the news cycle until the president fires someone else or one of his bigger lies is uncovered. This is what our media cycle has become. 

I've come to accept how wrong I was for calling his Evangelical supporters hypocrites. This isn't hypocritical behavior. For it to be hypocrisy, there would have to be some underlying core principles in place. "Good" people didn't suspend their principles to support a man diametrically opposed to them. "Good" people elected someone who was the physical embodiment of the hatred and anger they work so hard to hide and conceal. They found their champion in an admitted sexual harasser and abuser, a serial philanderer: with a history of misogyny, and an ego driven pathological liar. They can get mad at the media for pointing out his daily stream of lies. They can defend this behavior any way they choose, but they cannot deny they distance between their stated beliefs and their current actions.

There isn't a lie Donald Trump could tell, a porn star he could pay off, or a p*$$y he could grab that will cost him any support. None of this bothers them. Evangelicals have dug in and Rudy Giuliani's admission will be parsed a hundred different ways to drain the truth out of it.

Friday, April 27, 2018

Police Brutality: Believing Your Heart Over Your Eyes


The last few weeks have been incredibly stressful. I've seen a new video of police harassing, body slamming, and falsely arresting someone who looks like me almost everyday. These videos go viral; which, in return, forces local and national news producers to add them to the 6 o'clock and 11 o'clock shows. We are seeing more police brutality because everyone is walking around with a camera in their pocket.

Police brutality and racial disparities are constitutive parts of the American system of jurisprudence. People of color have been subjected to discriminatory policing since 1619. The intimidation tactics and the amount of force used in these videos serve as proof that protect and serve still doesn't apply equally across the board.


"The facts speak for themselves...There's not a single witness that says these young men were misbehaving in any way. And you can see and hear that on the video."  Stewart Cohen  

One has to work awful hard to not see this pattern. Sadly, there are too many "good" Americans committed to this task. These videos are chapters in an ongoing genealogy about life in America for people of color. When police brutality is on full display some Americans reflexively look for reasons to justify what they've witnessed. This defense mechanism breeds distrust.

People of color in general, and Black people in particular, are expected to keep these realities hidden. We are blamed for disrupting the peace when we point out what's happening to us. America doesn't love us. America doesn't respect us.

[African Americans] had for more than a century before been regarded as beings of an inferior order, and altogether unfit to associate with the white race, either in social or political relations; and so far inferior, that they had no rights which the white man was bound to respect; and that the negro might justly and lawfully be reduced to slavery for his benefit. He was bought and sold, and treated as an ordinary article of merchandise and traffic, whenever a profit could be made by it.    

Chief Justice Roger Taney



I don't know what else to do. I have written and talked about this so much that it has become nauseating. In the last 10 days people who look like me have been arrested, detained, and/or forcibly removed from coffee houses, gyms, and golf courses. All of these people have retroactively been given apologies. As if a sorry after the fact can reduce or remove the trauma of a life or death situation.



Sunday, April 15, 2018

Is The Band Steele Country Music's Next Big Thing?

Pictured from left to right: 
Sage Tanguay-host of The Morning Dew, Ben Rubino- Guitarist, Bo Steele-lead singer, and Me

Last week I was joined in the WCHG studio by The Band Steele. They were finishing up a three state radio tour promoting the song 195 from their album Moon in a Mason Jar, and their latest single Victory in Jesus. This was the Band's second visit to our station.

We had a great talk. They might be country music's next big thing. Click the link below to see if they have the goods.




Wednesday, April 4, 2018

50 Years Later We Still Miss King's Point

If you haven't noticed, there are a ton of articles, blogs, and videos about the 50-year anniversary of Dr. King’s assassination. A lot of people have worked really hard writing, editing, and producing content commemorating his life and legacy. If you get a chance you should engage as many of these works as possible. Critically and carefully examine the ideas expressed. After each piece, ask yourself: 1) What kind of person would produce this? 2) What kind of response are they trying to elicit? 3) What kind of work, if any, are they doing to support the causes important to Dr. King? 4) If someone doesn’t have a record of activism, why did they take time to participate in this conversation? Judge these works based on their merit, but also the actions of the author or producer who published them.

America celebrates Dr. King three times a year: his federal holiday on the third Monday in January, during Black History Month, and every April 4th. Sadly, these celebrations have displaced the reality of his life. Dr. King died a hated man. The overwhelming majority of white Americans had a poor view of him at the time of his death. His support inside the Black community was just above 50%. In the last years of his life Dr. King found himself on the outside of political and social circles he once was welcomed in.

Fifty years after his assassination, America has convinced three generations that he was the prototype for a social activist. His posthumous elevation from radical agent for social change to mythic figure is as American as apple pie. He went from hated to loved without a period of public reflection. The worst part about America’s love affair with Dr. King is the hypocrisy. Every time an activist engages in civil disobedience they are punished. America has never accepted criticism from marginalized communities.

No one in American history has had their legacy more purposefully distorted than Dr. King. Reactionaries and progressives alike use him to endorse a kind of respectability politics that lengthens the arc the moral universe has to travel before it gets to justice. Dr. King has been refashioned into a pacifist. His positions on physical violence overshadow the economic violence caused by the boycotts he championed. Because he possessed the ability to make people confront their own prejudices and shortcomings without attacking their character, he is viewed differently than some of his contemporaries who did the same thing with harsher language.  This isn’t the same as being conciliatory to white feelings.

America will never truly understand King’s dream until we are honest about the legacy of racism in America. We can celebrate the progress he helped usher in, but those celebrations do nothing to confront the ways race continues to affect people of color. Refusing to acknowledge race isn't a cure for racism.

Dr. King isn’t white America’s trophy civil rights activist and he’s not Black America’s principal. His legacy should be protected from all enemies both foreign and domestic. White people should check themselves before attempting to use him to quell social activism they are uncomfortable with and Black people with ulterior motives should check themselves before spreading fairy tales that defang his project of social change.

Here are a few things I think we should be mindful of as we reflect on this day.

  1. Be cautious around people who celebrate Dr. king while opposing every issue he advocated for. You can’t love Dr. King while hating someone like Colin Kaepernick and retain moral consistency. One of these men lead a protest that was much more violent than the other.

  1. Don’t sit idly by while people try to reappropriate King’s Dream. It’s impossible to remain silent about police brutality, mass incarceration, and the ways race still affects people of color and be a torch-bearer. Don't let people who have chastised protests movements over the same issues King was murdered for supporting convince you that he is their guy. Anyone who has publicly condemned protests over police brutality wouldn't have supported Dr. King.

  1. No one owns his legacy. I am very protective of Dr. King’s words, but the fact is he was heavily influenced by the religious and secular figures he read and came in contact with. His ability to weave secular and religious texts into a road map to a more equal future is something to be studied and shared. None of us own this legacy, but we should respect it.

Thursday, March 22, 2018

You Can Do This!


Attention Family and Friends: We need to stop running and hiding from our problems. We have to confront those issues that sit in the deepest and darkest recesses of our soul. Dealing with stress, trauma, depression, and self doubt is hard, but not dealing with those issues can kill you mentally, emotionally, and physically.

We can't outrun or hide from life. Drugs and alcohol can numb the pain, but they can't cure the illness. A lot of people have walked in similar shoes down a similar path and gotten to the other side. There are people committed to listening to and helping you. You don't have to be embarrassed.

No one has it all figured out. We all struggle at times. Don't put on a front for other people. You will gain more strength and confidence facing your problems than running from them.

YOU CAN DO THIS!

Monday, March 19, 2018

Mary Gordon: Highland County's Forgotten Child

"On this day in 1857, Mary Gordon, a "free" black child of about 2 years old, was bound out as an apprentice to Stuart C. Slaven until age 18 to learn the business of housekeeping. Slaven was ordered to pay Mary $25 when she reached the age of 18; Mary died at age 16."




This was the account of Mary Gordon's life provided by the Highland County Historical Society. She was born free, but died in bondage. How?

I was at my desk typing when I heard the jingle that has become synonymous with the Highland County Historical Society's problematic way of dealing with slavery. For the better part of two years I've listened to "On This Day" segments that have ranged from very good to downright awful. The history of this area + a lack of diversity + the affinity many citizens have for the Civil War vis-a-vis the Confederate army = the perfect conditions for the continued degradation of bound and enslaved people. 

For several months I've wanted to reach out to the team that produces these tracks, but I know how these conversations tend to go. I have never figured out how to talk about race without triggering the need of some well intentioned person to add the usual qualifiers: "not all", "quit being so sensitive", "my people were oppressed", or my personal favorite: "I don't see color". 

I have to overcome the trap of moral authority. That is my biggest obstacle when writing and/or talking about race. At times, being "right" has negatively affected the way I have shared information. I have a natural air of certainty when it comes to the issues I research, write, and talk about. My "preaching" style can put people on the defensive. This has stopped them from listening. Instead of sharing information and perspectives, people start defending themselves from attacks that aren't part of the conscious dialogue.

With all of that said, the excerpt that started this blog was easily the most problematic 25 seconds of radio I've heard in a long time. Mary's life was treated like a footnote. We learned she was the "free" property of Stuart Slaven. Her interests and dreams didn't make the cut. The fact that a historical society chose to exclude or couldn't produce any more information about her time on Earth is a testament to how little her life still matters. She was born, washed dishes, did laundry, possibly suffered the fate of other young girls who were bound, and then she died.  

I don't ascribe malevolent motives to those who reported on Mary's life. A lot of the information used in these features come from court records and documents that never considered the humanity of the people they were chronicling. This dehumanizing was intentional during slavery. God fearing Christians had to justify their mistreatment of people "made in the image of God", but we can do better. This kind of talk too often gets classified as political correctness. It's easier to call something "PC" and avoid it than it is to investigate things that make us uncomfortable or we don't understand. 

I want the historical society to know It's possible to hurt people without meaning to. It's possible to engage in problematic behavior without knowing it. It's possible for a predominantly white community to unintentionally alienate the minorities among them. This doesn't make a person, institution or a community writ large good or bad. It just means there is more work to do. All of us are susceptible to our own lack of understanding.

A lot of people don't know what it meant to be bound. If you don't know, then it's possible to think living in bondage is better than being a slave, but that isn't true. Being a bond servant was often worse than being a slave. Many of the "free" Blacks who found themselves in bondage never lived to see the freedom they were working for. There were more mixed race "free" Blacks than "free" Blacks with no outward signs of European blood. These mixed race "free" Blacks were often the children of rape. Was Mary Gordon a child of mixed race? Did Stuart Slaven father Mary? Child birth was the leading cause of death for women under 30 during the mid 19th century, was Mary pregnant at the time of her death? Who gives an apprenticeship to a two year old? Did Stuart pay any reparations to Mary's family after her death? These are a few of the questions I have about one of Highland County's forgotten children.

  





Friday, March 9, 2018

My #DayOnes

My real #DayOnes know I started this twelve years ago hustling computer time in prison.

My real #DayOnes know my early work was full of punctuation and grammatical errors.

My real #DayOnes know I have always written about subject matter most people would rather ignore.

My real #DayOnes know I wrote thousands of articles, editorials, and blog posts before I ever made a dime.

My real #DayOnes know I've gotten more support from people outside my circle than those in it.

My real #DayOnes know how many times people tried to get me to quit.

My real #DayOnes never let an article about race, class, religion, or politics affect our friendship.

My real #DayOnes know how much time and energy I've invested in my writing and public speaking engagements.

My real #DayOnes know I have been harassed and threatened over this. 


My real #DayOnes know I will never sellout the causes I advocate for. 

My real #DayOnes know where I started and how many obstacles I've faced to get here.


My real #DayOnes know this isn't a game.


My real #DayOnes know how much I've lost and gained because of this. 


My real #DayOnes didnt need my work to be endorsed or validated to support it.


My real #DayOnes know I'm going to do this until I close my eyes.


Writing is more than an interest, hobby, or part of my occupation. I write because the world is tragic. Yes, there is great beauty in life. Yes, there are people and ideas worth loving, protecting, and even dying for. But for some people, the fact that today will be followed by tomorrow is a great tragedy. This reality is depressing. Most people avoid dealing with this fact. They say, "why focus on things you can't change?" I say: why ignore them? 


If I didn't start writing when I did, I would be in prison or dead. This isn't hyperbole. I know what it means to hurt and be hurt. I know what it means to be on both sides of a loaded gun. My inward journey was/is a direct consequence of writing. I do this because my soul won't allow me to do otherwise. We are who we are. Some of us are just more honest and accepting of this fact.





Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Just Another Day In Washington

It's Tuesday and the Trump administration is doing what it does best: Proving they can dominate the daily news cycle with scandals and resignations. On the same day the White House was informed Kellyanne Conway twice violated the Hatch Act last year, top economic aide Gary Cohn resigned. Under normal circumstances this would be significant, but we've seen the office so damaged by the reality show star that that this is almost normal. 

"I think he may have done something during the election" 

Yesterday, Sam Nunberg made the media rounds defiantly claiming, "I'm not going to cooperate" . He was referring to a subpoena in the Mueller Investigation. You don't remember Sam Nunberg? He was the Trump aide fired in the early days of the campaign for repeatedly using the word NIGGER in his past social media posts. He was hired back only to be fired again. He used his time on television to say, "Carter Page was colluding with the Russians" and Robert Mueller probably had something on Donald Trump for his activities during the campaign. All of this was huge news, but it wasn't as scandalous as The Wall Street Journal article claiming Donald Trump's lawyer Michael Cohen was very upset he wasn't reimbursed for the $130,000 dollars he paid to porn star Stormy Daniels. Let me say that again. The conservative Wall Street Journal published an article claiming Donald Trump's lawyer was upset he hadn't been reimbursed the hush money he paid a porn star. 

This is not normal. This is not draining the swamp. This is not the "liberal media". This is an almost daily assault on institutions and decency. Donald Trump has pushed the 35% of Americans who support him (no matter what) into some untenable positions. America is on the cusp of a potential trade war that could cripple the economic gains he inherited, Mexico isn't paying for the wall, his administration's​ turnover rate is twice as high as any administration at this point into it's first term, Jared Kushner lost his security clearance, they have employed a number of domestic abusers, several campaign officials have already plead guilty to crimes they were indicted on, 19 women have credibly accused the president of sexual harassment or assault, and the president still faces the possibility of one or more of his closest friends snitching on him in order to avoid federal prison. I would say this is about as low as it gets, but I know better. I'm just going to pop some popcorn and watch the rest of the show.


* An hour after I published Stormy Daniels sued the president of the United States.

Thursday, March 1, 2018

Now That You're Woke, What's Next?

Black communities across the county have been decimated by drugs, violence, and the socioeconomic hardships that accompany underground economies. We have studied and understood the how and why this happened, but what are we doing to reverse the genocide of our people? Have we given up on large scale projects that can really affect change in our communities?

It's easier to attack someone's beliefs, sexual identity, and/or ideas with ad hominem attacks than it is to see someone who is radically different from you as an equal. Too many Conscious people are invested in creating false social hierarchies. We don't have to build our thrones from the broken bodies of other Black people. Besides applauding each other for being woke and castigating others who are still "asleep", what are we doing to improve the lives of Black children who haven't been born yet?

Now that we are woke, what can we do tomorrow morning to make tangible changes to the society and culture we inherited?

Please don't say pool our money together. Y'all know damn well ain't nobody putting money in an account they can't control.

Life Goes On, So Should We

How many brothers fell victim to the streets?





In May of 2001 I had a nervous breakdown. I completely came apart at the seams. When I look back on that day- and the events that led up to it- I can't believe it didn't come sooner.

Our Virginia family was traveling to Delaware for my oldest nephew's high school graduation. Me and my father were leading the convoy. Being alone afforded us some time to catch up. We talked sports most of the morning: the Philadelphia 76ers were set to face the Los Angeles Lakers in the NBA Finals. As the minutes turned into hours, our casual conversations turned into silence. Somewhere around Northern Virginia I started thinking; then I started overthinking. For the first time in several weeks I was in a situation where I couldn't avoid facing the hell my life had become. I physically started to feel sick. I was drowning in a sea of uncertainty. Without warning, I burst into to tears. I cried for 20 straight minutes without saying a word. When my dad stopped at a rest area I got out of the jeep and ran to my mom (who was traveling in another vehicle) I felt myself collapse. 

My breakdown was the result of a combination of factors: many were my own fault. I wasn't properly dealing with the death of a close friend, the woman I thought I loved was incarcerated in a Montgomery county jail, I was arrested a few weeks before the trip for possession of schedule 1 with intent to distribute, and I had been indicted in another jurisdiction on similar charges. I thought my life was over. 

That was 2001. I didn't see a path to the future. On Friday March 18, 2002, I was convicted of my crimes and wouldn't leave the Virginia Department of Corrections until November 16, 2011. 

Writing this is surreal. Life can seem impossible at times. I made a million mistakes- some of which I'm still paying for. I never wanted to go to prison. I missed a lot of time with my family and friends. I lost loved ones. I suffered a lot for my mistakes, but I wouldn't change one step along this journey. Life Goes On whether we are prepared for it or not. We make our mistakes worse by not learning from them. There is nothing we can't overcome once we dedicate ourselves to addressing our hidden weaknesses and insecurities. 

A few years ago, I sent my wife a text she still laughs at. It read: I love you isn't a radical enough notion for how I truly feel about you. You are the physical manifestation of my metaphysical conception of love. I meant every word of that message. Love is powerful. Love is beautiful and tender. I'm slowly growing into the man she knew I could be when we were kids. The pain in this life is real, but I promise you Life Goes On. Keep grinding. This was the most painful chapter in my life and feel better right now than I did when I started typing. We can survive and overcome any of our mistakes.

Friday, February 23, 2018

Dr. Thug M.D.


“Homegrown drug dealers behind the veil of a doctor’s lab coat, a medical degree and prescription pad are every bit as bad as a drug dealer or heroin trafficker from Detroit or elsewhere.”    U.S. Attorney Michael Stuart 


This quote is from an article published in the Charleston Gazette-Mail. On Tuesday, February 20th, a 69-count indictment against 12 doctors was unsealed in a Beckley U.S. District Court for the Southern District of West Virginia. When I finished reading the article I jotted down some questions about the Opioid epidemic I felt needed to be addressed: If wholesalers are shipping excessive amounts of drugs into rural areas shouldn’t there have been sales reps mentioned in the indictments? The wholesalers weren't shipping the drugs on a whim, so who else, besides the doctors and sales reps, should be investigated? 

The indictments we know about were part of a four-year investigation. There is a chance more shoes could drop, but this is a much needed first step towards punishing someone other than the victims of the medical and pharmaceutical malfeasance that has ravaged these communities. Charging doctors is a great start, but the pharmaceutical companies that manufacture and distribute these drugs should be seen as equal participants or co-conspirators in this crisis. If law enforcement doesn't get serious about locking up executives and sales reps the citizens of Appalachia will continue dying from the drugs that are flooding their communities.

Local law enforcement agencies haven’t been able to deal with this problem. They arrest users on possession charges. Every once in a while, a street level dealer is busted, but nothing they have done has slowed down the flow of opiate based drugs. In many areas, Opioids are easier to get than Marijuana. Tuesday’s indictments were the first major action taken against the white-collar criminals profiting from this misery.

This is eerily similar to what happened during the Vietnam War. U.S. soldiers were the victims of a nefarious get rich quick scheme. They were isolated, depressed, and drowning in a pool of readily available heroin. How did heroin from Central America, South America, and the middle east find its way into a war zone? Answer: the CIA partnered with warlords, drug growers and manufacturers. (For those interested, research the Golden Triangle and Air America.)

Rural America, like Vietnam, is a drug dealer's heaven: highly stressed people with incomes plus depressed people with no regards for the future equals a great drug market. In 2016, an investigation by the Charleston Gazette-Mail found that drug wholesalers shipped over 780 million doses of Hydrocodone and Oxycodone to West Virginia. This fact sits at the root of this problem.

Now that the doctors have been put on notice, I’m eager to see how far up the corporate ladder these investigations will go. I can’t believe in this version of the war on drugs until I see raids on corporate offices, pharmacies, and country clubs. When executives are frog marched off golf courses and out of board rooms I'll know America is taking this seriously. Until then, I’ll watch what passes for justice.

Thursday, February 22, 2018

A Few Quick Thoughts

There are times I want to write, but can't focus on a single theme. When this happens I jot down some thoughts and try to figure out which ones would be the most enjoyable to research and write about. Here are some of today's topics.


1. Paul Manafort's crimes would have never been discovered if he didn't accept a job from Donald Trump. This is true for Rick Gates, General Flynn, George Papadopoulos, and the rest of the good folks who have already plead guilty to the crimes they were indicted on.


2. Many of the same people accusing kids from Parkland High School of being "crisis actors" also thought Obama was trying to spread Ebola. Coincidentally, they also thought he was going to usher in Sharia law, take their guns, and send them to FEMA camps. They have been wrong about everything.


3. Benjamin Netanyahu is probably guilty of the corruption and bribery charges levelled against him, but like former Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell: he will walk. Power has and always will be treated differently by the law.



4. On the low, I'm glad the Feds have started investigating and indicting doctors for the part they have played in creating Opioid addiction. If America really wants to send a message they will start conducting raids on country clubs where the big drug deals happen.


5. I'm not impressed with the Black Panther critiques​ offered by a majority of the overly "woke" community. They have found fault in every aspect of this movie. I wish this film would have been released in print: that would have cut the social media noise traffic by 90%. Yes, Wakanda is fictional. We know Disney and Marvel are getting paid. If you can make a better movie do it. We will buy a ticket.

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Writing As Therapy

We're all wounded, but some hide it better than others. 



I write everyday hoping to find the right words to articulate the roots of my pain. I do this because it's therapeutic. I don't drink or do drugs, so writing is the only outlet I have from the soul crushing weight I feel at times. I try to choose my words carefully, even when I'm being provocative, but draining the venom from them is hard. Every time I press publish or send I know I risk alienating people I care about. This sucks!

Getting over the vulnerability that comes with exposing your deepest feelings is what separates great writers from really good writers. People who understand your message or relate to the subjects you write about don't care about grammatical errors or switches between passive and active voices. Those are details. If you are telling your truth, the people who follow your work will show up for the fire. If you have heat flowing through your pen or keyboard they will support you.


I choose to write about issues others would rather pretend don't exist. People who are deeply committed to remaining silient about important issues chastise me for writing about politics, racism, police brutality and a host of "controversial" topics. When someone accuses me of spreading hate it reminds me how disconnected I am from what passes as normal.

What some see as hate under the guise of philosophical and theological critique is actually me attempting to love my way through the darkness. On any given day I'm somewhere between throwing a brick and forgiving my enemies: I envy those who have made their choice in either direction. I sing take my hand precious Lord, but struggle to relax the fist my hand reflexively finds itself balled into. If you take words from people committed to non violence what are they left with?








Friday, February 16, 2018

Laura Ingraham: Ann Coulter Wants Her Shtick Back

"shut up and dribble" -Laura Ingraham



Laura Ingraham is very displeased with Lebron James. She channeled her inner Ann Coulter to challenge the intellect of a man who has shown himself to be a better person than the president she can't find any fault in. She doesn't like multimillionaire athletes using their platform to critique the reality show host she helped get elected president. How dare these uneducated thugs express their opinions about anything other than basketball? They need to stick to entertaining us. 

This sentiment gets recycled every time athletes and entertainers offer opinions the conservative media dislikes. Conservatives hate celebrities unless they agree with them. These are the same people who were silent when Ted Nugent told President Obama to, "suck on my machine gun." 

Laura "Susan" Ingraham's comments typify the hypocrisy of Donald Trump's most ardent supporters. For years, Donald Trump was a regular guest Fox and Friends. He used his time to tell any unchecked lie about President Obama that popped in his head. This phenomena didn't end. The president lies and spews hateful venom every time he finds himself in close proximity of a microphone. His lies are consumed as easily as oxygen. His rancor is passed off as straight talk. The profanity he uses is understood as passion. Conservatives have defended every offensive thing that has come out of his mouth and attacked anyone who dares call him out on his bigotry and ignorance. This is no different. 

Just for the sake of reference, I want to point to some important numbers about Donald Trump and Lebron James. Maybe Laura is ignorant about their record.

Sexual assault allegations:          Donald Trump 19 Lebron James 0  
Domestic violence allegations:   Donald Trump 1 Lebron James 0          
Pu$$y grabbing" confessions:    Donald Trump 1 Lebron James 0
Payouts to Porn stars:                  Donald Trump 2? Lebron James 0


Laura Ingraham constantly defends one of these men.

Donald Trump is on a 23-0 run. I stopped keeping track to avoid an even bigger blowout. This is who Lebron James was talking about when he questioned our current president's level of concern for average Americans. If Donald Trump never said any of the offensive things he has publicly said about Blacks, Muslims, or Mexicans his track record with women would qualify him as a trash human being. Yet, the right circles the wagons to protect a man who has attacked every thing they claim to hold sacred.
                                                                                                                               

Monday, February 12, 2018

The Filth We Are Becoming

"We wait and think and doubt and hate. How does it make you feel? The overwhelming feeling is rage. We hate ourself for being unable to be other than what we are. Unable to be better."  Irvine Welsh


The divisions in our society couldn't be any clearer if someone physically surveyed them and chalked them out. Basic notions about right and wrong are debated as if there's some new, secretly agreed upon standard in place a majority of us weren't aware of. Morality isn't whimsical. Ethics change, societies change, but morality is divine. When good people allow the parameters of decency to be moved for their own interests we all lose. We are all currently losing.

There's a segment of our society comitted to willfully ignoring what's right in front of them. They don't engage; they are afraid of the consequences. Almost every day, seemingly good people choose to work overtime to diminish, excuse, and tolerate behavior they would never accept directed towards their loved ones. They have chosen to be complicit in this assault on decency. They are co-conspirators. Their silence screams as it scratches jagged fingernails down the chalkboards of their conscious. 

We can nod and wink as we play games with each other, but we can't fool the Universal force that sits high and looks low. In the words of Dick Gregory, "The moment we tolerate filth we become filthy." There is a poisonous brew of wickedness, greed, arrogance, and indifference filtering through our collective souls. We can pretend it's not there until we have to deal with its consequences.

I foolishly thought buying a bunch of books and diving into other worlds would drown the silent noise around me: I was wrong. It made me feel empty. There are far too many words worth writing, dissents worth registering, and causes worth fighting for. Having spent so much of my life physically separated from the people I love, the choice to live and die alone with a clear conscious is a lot easier than going along to get along. I would love to be the Danny that was the life of the party and loved, but if that means I have to be part of this mess it's a price I can't afford to pay.