What Can and Is Being Done to Curtail Gun Violence in Chicago

What Can and Is Being Done to Curtail Gun Violence in Chicago

“People killing, people dying, children hurt, and you hear them crying. Can you practice what you preach, or would you turn the other cheek? Father, Father, Father, help us, send some guidance from above. Cuz people got me, got me questioning, ‘Where is the love’?”

These heartfelt lyrics from the single “Where is the Love?” by the Black Eyed Peas came to my mind when I heard about the tragedy which befell Chicago during the 4th of July weekend.

84 hours. 84 shootings. One shooting per hour occurred in the streets of Southside, West side, and even, North side Chicago during the 4th of July weekend. The shocking news, according to USAToday.com, is that the number of homicides has decreased since last year. However, the number of shootings has increased from 833 in June 2013 to 880 shootings as of June 29, 2014.

As the news of the bloody holiday weekend continuously flashes across my television screen and social media, I’m wondering if anyone else is seeing what I’m seeing. I see this news as a cry for help from Chicago. This city – which is now referred by some as “Chiraq,” (a combination of Chicago and Iraq) – has endured extreme amounts of gun violence and was also named the bloodiest city in the nation since 2012. Without question, our brothers and sisters seriously need our help. But what can we do?

What Can Be Done

Tuesday evening, the Reverend Dr. Otis Moss, III, the prominent pastor of the Trinity United Church of Christ, located on Chicago’s South Side, spoke about the issue of the homicides with MSNBC’s Ed Shultz. Pastor Moss reiterated that churches must hold elected officials accountable. Chicago’s mayor, Rahm Emanuel, has made reducing the amount of gun violence one of his top priorities; however the city has not seen much change. (According to USA Today, one of the fatal shootings took place down the street from Emanuel’s home, on the north side of Chicago, which does not witness even a quarter of the bloodshed that other Chicago areas witness.)

Roland Martin suggests that if these 16 homicides that occurred on the south and west sides of Chicago had occurred on the North side, the country would really be in an upset. What will it take for us to show compassion for our children in these seemingly forgotten areas of Chicago?

Reverend Moss says that we must realize that these children are just as important as the Sandy Hook children, and just as important as the children in Israel. Therefore, we must begin taking action in our schools, and churches – the two grounds that constantly bring communities together. During his interview he makes some suggestions that could decrease gun violence. There has to be economic investment; pay for teachers in the impoverished schools should be increased, and given more resources. We can invest in the students at historically black colleges – bringing these students back to Chicago, connecting them with major corporations for jobs, and then sending them out into the city’s public schools to mentor and educate. The children of Chicago have to see it to believe it. There must be some positive role models to imitate, which leads to Reverend Moss’ last suggestion of a Hip-Hop Progressive Movement. Our hip-hop artists that come from other impoverished areas of the country must stand up and show some compassion, write lyrics that disgrace the acts of violence and do not enhance the violence. It is time for a change. Are we going to wait until the entire city is wiped out to do something about this tragic reoccurrence?

What Is Being Done

For the past couple of years, New Beginnings Church of South Side Chicago, led by Pastor Corey Brooks has initiated a movement entitled Project H.O.O.D (Helping Others Obtain Destiny). The organization originally started as a campaign to raise $450,000 for the purchase of land where a run-down, crime ridden Motel 6 stood at 6625 South King Drive in Southside Chicago. Through the church’s “SHUT EM DOWN” campaign, Pastor Brooks and his congregation have closed the motel and strategically persisted in building a place of positivity for the Woodlawn neighborhood to unite and live without fear.

When discussing this issue of violence in a political environment, the conservative side believes that there needs to be more attention on what goes on in the ‘black family.’ The liberal side says we should leave the problem in the hands of our elected officials, or elect our officials according to their plans to somehow decrease the violence, because that’s their job.

I would suggest that by coming together as a community we have the ability to diminish this homicide high that the city of Chicago has been on for the past couple of years. Our communities can open youth centers, or churches and schools could hold late night study sessions/game nights/sporting events to help keep children off of the streets. We can try to hold President Obama accountable, as a native of Chicago. We can hold Mayor Emanuel accountable too. However we do it we must remember these are ALL of our children, and we must act accordingly. It won’t happen overnight, but there is much work to be done.

Lecrae’s “Nuthin” Calls Out Rap Music

Lecrae’s “Nuthin” Calls Out Rap Music

Yesterday Christian hip-hop artist Lecrae caused a hashtag flood on Twitter with the release of his new single, “Nuthin.”  In the song, the Grammy Award-winning Christian rapper simply states, “they aint talkin bout nothin,” referring to the current generation of rappers that seem to have nothing significant to discuss anymore. LeCrae’s lyrics reveal the undeniable truth: we’re losing substance in modern-day hip-hop music. He says, “And every song talking bout they selling work on every corner, don’t talk about the laws, taking kids away from mommas, don’t talk about your homie in the trauma cause he shot up, or what about your young boy messing up the product.” This song is what one might call “revolutionary” in today’s world of hip-hop.

How fitting for Lecrae to release his single shortly after the BET Awards, which aired live in Los Angeles this past Sunday. From Chris Brown’s performance of “These Girls Ain’t Loyal” to Nicki Minaj’s “Pills ‘n’ Potions” – where is the substance? Lecrae reminds us at the end of “Nuthin,’” that we are better than what we have been portraying ourselves to be. He says, “I know you gon’ label me a hater, but inside you are greater than the songs you created man.”

In an interview with VIBE Magazine, he stated that, “the world needs artists that are willing to provoke. Let’s talk about issues: education, racism, faith, fatherlessness.” Lecrae has spoken up and positioned himself to be a voice – a beacon of light for the future of hip-hop. His seventh album is expected to be released later this year.

Check out the song below:

Civil Rights Museum Opens in Atlanta

Civil Rights Museum Opens in Atlanta

Many have said this is long overdue. Arguably, the heart of the Civil Rights Movement, had not yet built a place to commemorate those who fought for equal rights of African Americans in this very city. The King Center, established by Mrs. Coretta Scott King in memory of her beloved husband, has been open for nearly 50 years, but the builders wanted to create a space that goes even beyond the King legacy, and a place that also honors many of the other leaders that marched the streets of Atlanta for our freedom.

Center for Civil and Human Rights in Atlanta, Georgia, opens

National Center for Civil and Human Rights (Photo Credit: Newscom)

On Monday, The National Center for Civil and Human Rights opened to the public, in downtown Atlanta. The 42,000 square-foot building holds several sections devoted to the civil rights movement, as well as a closer look into the life of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr; which includes hundreds of his handwritten notes from his personal library.

Shirley Franklin, the chairwoman of the National Center for Civil and Human Rights suggests that Atlanta has claimed a history for itself as a place where people have encountered human issues, fairness issues, and justice issues, for years. She says that it took some time to get other civil rights activists and potential donors to understand that voting rights marches, sit-ins, and church bombings were linked to today’s global issue, such as slavery and immigrant rights. The museum’s galleries embody both of those issues.

Unlike other civil rights facilities around the country, this particular museum focuses on connecting the civil rights movement to other struggles for human rights world-wide, including gay, lesbian, and transgender issues, and even immigration – which still remains controversial. In an NBC News interview CEO of the facility, Doug Shipman, said “We want to have tough conversations but in a civil way.” Needless to say, the center is quite versatile.

The NCCHR is divided into three main exhibits: Rolls Down Like Water: The American Civil Rights Movement, Speak of Conviction: The Global Human Rights Movement, and Voice to the Voiceless: The Morehouse College Martin Luther King Jr. Collection. Shipman also stated the museum is not just for those who remember the history but a younger generation, the “22-year-olds who can’t even imagine it.” The team desired to “bring the stories to people that might not fight them otherwise.”

So if you are looking for something to do this summer, plan a trip to Atlanta, and experience history through the eyes of those who fought, and are continuing to fight, for our rights.

Breaking the Racial Barrier Inherent in “Black” Movies

Breaking the Racial Barrier Inherent in “Black” Movies

This past week Kevin Hart co-hosted the Tom Joyner Morning Show. Joyner interviewed Hart on the importance of supporting “black films,” or movies involving a predominately black cast. But why are black movies referred to as “black movies?” Movies with a predominately white cast aren’t called “white movies?” Hart explained how he plans to break the racial barrier.

One thing he wants audiences to understand is that the title “black movie” exists because we allow it to. We constantly place ourselves in a category. In return, the film industry does not believe in the ideas that these movies can be international or have universal appeal.

Although “Think Like a Man Too,” in which Hart co-stars, reached #1 in the box office this weekend, it will not be shown internationally, and was only viewed on 2,100 screens in the United States. However, the Clint Eastwood directed film; “Jersey Boys” starring a (predominately white cast,) will be shown internationally and viewed on 3,000 screens in the United States.

George Lucas, director of “Red Tails,” the 2012 film about the Tuskegee Airmen, had to fund the movie himself. The industry would not support it because of its all-black cast. In an interview with The Daily Show’s Jon Stewart in 2012 Lucas said, “This has been held up for release since 1942 since it was shot, I’ve been trying to get released ever since. “It’s because it’s an all-black movie. There’s no major white roles in it at all…I showed it to all of them and they said no. We don’t know how to market a movie like this.” But viewers have the ability to control whether or not a “black film” has as much success as a majority film.

Kevin Hart’s recent success proves that African Americans can be successful in film, internationally. His last stand-up comedy documentary film, Kevin Hart: Laugh at My Pain, arguably, shocked audiences with clips from around the world. He sold out arenas in the United Kingdom, Germany, Australia and more. Also, Ride Along, which premiered in theatres this past January, went international and reached $157 million within the first two weeks of its release.

Hart has also taken the #1, 2, and 3 spots on Fandango, a top online destination for millions of moviegoers to purchase tickets. He says that, “laughter has no color, and good product has no color. People love good content.”

It is imperative that we continue to support the material that these actors and actresses are working so hard for. We cannot always to be quick to complain about being discriminated against, if we are not stepping up and supporting our brothers and sisters in film. If the film industry sees the love and support from fans, they have to provide “black movies” with the same platforms and privileges as “white films.” We, the consumers, must refuse to sit back and allow these movies to just stay black and die.

Hart realizes that he has the ability to change the perception of films with predominately black casts in the entertainment, and you do too.

A Few Good Men: 4 Inspiring Personalities to Follow

A Few Good Men: 4 Inspiring Personalities to Follow

There seems to be a steady rise in male inspirational writers and motivational speakers. Not of the “Never give up!” or “Five steps to be successful,” self-help variety, but men who seemingly understand the struggles that most women face in their daily lives, with themselves, and within their various relationships.

About a decade ago, Bishop T.D. Jakes wrote a poignant and, arguably, powerful novel entitled, Woman Thou Art Loosed. In 2004, the novel was turned into a film by writer Stan Foster, and producer Reuben Cannon, starring Kimberly Elise and Loretta Divine. It tells the story of a young woman who is facing and fighting the reality of her tragic past filled with sexual abuse, drug addiction, and poverty. For the past few years, Jakes has edited Bibles, produced several of movies and stage plays, and even held an annual women’s empowerment conference under the “Woman, Thou Art Loosed” banner. Not to say that he started the revolutions of helping women heal through encouraging words, but he is, arguably, one of the pioneers of this movement. I am currently enjoying The Holy Bible: Woman, Thou Art Loosed Edition, edited by Pastor Jakes. It opens with a “Leading Ladies” section that reveals the lives of some of the key women in The Bible, and expresses how these women’s stories represent many setbacks as well as comebacks that women today can relate to and understand.

In 2009, comedian and talk show host, Steve Harvey published Act Like a Lady, Think Like a Man: What Men Really Think About Love, Relationships, Intimacy, and Commitment. In his book, Harvey allows women to gain a better understanding of how men think, in terms of relationships. He provides women with the knowledge to avoid heartbreaks, but he also provides the necessary steps to take in order to build a healthy relationship that should eventually lead to marriage. The book quickly became a #1 Bestseller, and was later made into a movie – Think Like a Man – with a sequel, Think Like a Man Too, premiering in theatres nation-wide, this weekend.

But “self-help” geared toward women have not just come from great influencers such as Bishop Jakes and Steve Harvey, but also other men, from a younger generation, who have a passion for women, and want them to succeed in life, on a holistic level.

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Paul Carrick Brunson

Paul C. Brunson, referred to as a “life-coach” by Oprah Winfrey, has been recognized as one of the most successful matchmakers, and is the founder and president of the award-winning matchmaking firm, The Paul C. Brunson Agency. He received an NAACP award nomination in 2013 for his book, It’s Complicated (But it Doesn’t Have to Be): A Modern-Day Guide to Finding and Keeping Love. Brunson’s understanding of relationships and personal-development have gained him notoriety throughout over 180 media outlets. Twice a month, Brunson holds a 1-hour live Skype chat with readers and viewers that involve one-on-one mentorship, conversations and advice on life and relationships, which has become a popular hashtag on Twitter, known as #MentorMonday.

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Rob Hill Sr.

Rob Hill Sr. has an extremely loyal social media following reaching half a million people on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, and Tumblr. His fame comes from his countless amounts of poetic words from his books. Because he is so transparent with his writing, he makes his followers feel understood, which has gained him the name, “Heart Healer.” His fans also have enabled him to be a bestselling author on Amazon with his books, I Got You: Restoring Confidence in Love and Relationships, and For Single People Who Still Understand the Value of Relationships. Hill is the founder of Thousand Kings Foundation, Inc., an organization that proves he doesn’t aspire to only inspire and uplift women, but also teens. Through community-based events, Mr. Hill raises scholarship money to provide better futures for youth.

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Stephan Labossiere

Stephan Labosierre strives to help not just women, but also men experience happier and healthier relationships on a more spiritual level. His #1 Bestseller, God Where is My Boaz? Encourages women to look deeper into why they are unable to settle down. Stephan says “this book isn’t just for single Christian women, but also for women who desire God’s best for their lives.” In other words, instead of analyzing what might be wrong with the men women come in contact with, he wants women to do some soul-searching, and figure out if something – such as heartbreak, divorce, sexual abuse – from their past is keeping them from what they deserve.

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Enitan Bereola, II (Photo Credit: Kay S. Jay Photography)

Lastly, the man behind the latest social media uproar of “retweeted” and “reposted” quotes is Enitan O. Bereola II, who brands himself the “contemporary gentleman.” Through his works, he encourages young men to treat women with respect throughout the dating process. He attempts to make men and women better people, for each other. Bereola’s first book, Bereolaesque: The Contemporary Gentleman and Etiquette Book For the Urban Sophisticate, became a bestseller on Amazon. Currently, social media has been raving about his book for the ladies, entitled Gentlewoman: Etiquette for a Lady, From a Gentleman. Stay tuned for a review of Gentlewoman on UrbanFaith next month.

Every so often a woman cries, “There are no good men available,” but these men prove that they are out there and willing to walk with women through the problems they may experience in relationships of all kinds. These men are on a mission to co-partner with women in the work of healing mind, body, and soul and are probably not the only ones.

Do you have a favorite male inspirational writer or motivational speaker?