It’s 2021, It is Time to Start Controlling What You Can Control!

Today is Inauguration Day, which is a very joyous occasion for some people. But for others, there are feelings of fear and uncertainty running rampant in their minds. If you are worried about the future of this country, here are some immediate things you can do to help steer this country in a positive direction.

1. Read to a child every night.

2. Make sure that your local city council reflects the city’s demographic.

3. Make sure the local school board is representative of its’ students

4. Love your family.

5. Learn about and invest in generational wealth.

6. Work out.

7. Practice gratitude daily.

8. Be a mentor.

9. Build up your community. Know who your neighbors are.

10. Stop being a keyboard warrior.

Remember, this is a scary time for us all. We are all doing our best to deal with unprecedented historical events. Just remember, we are in this together.

The Decision

To be a black male is to live a life that is full of contradictions. Contradictions that cause us to make decisions that we may not understand. Decision that now our black boys are having to make.

It is a critical one that directly affects them future and the future of their children.

It is one that has been overlooked in our society for far too long, and it is time we discussed it.

It is a decision whether to assimilate or not.

Each path comes with favorable and less favorable outcomes. And, it is a decision that each black individual will need to make for himself.

The decision is whether to become an assimilationist or a non-conformist.

The definition of assimilation is to act accordingly with the intent of fitting in and or conforming. In this case, we are talking about societal norms and expectations.

A non-conformist is a person whose behavior or views do not conform to prevailing ideas or practices. Again, we are talking about societal norms and expectations.

For a black male, assimilation can be considered a good thing. A black person who chooses to assimilate is more likely to be accepted and given privileges that maybe not part of their original environment — an environment that could deviate from society’s expectations of “success.” On the other hand, choosing to assimilate could come at a great price. The acceptance of one set of norms could mean the a denial of another. The ability to attain and keep street credit within ones own community (not just geographical location) is an important part of the black society. To be able to walk down the street and get “the nod” from peers means acceptability and the ability to walk through certain neighborhoods with confidence and respect.

For a black person, to be a non-conformist is to keep and maintain street credit, which holds the ability to walk around a neighborhood as a leader or a a well-respected member of that community (again looking at more than geographical location). People who do not understand this may ask, “Why would anyone forgo the opportunity to improve themselves for street credit?” Those people would be missing the point.

Improving oneself is only relative to society’s definitions of success. If a house, a car, and a picket fence is society’s definition of successful, then the non-conformist may net ever meet the expectations for success, which is why it is important that society does not create perimeters for what it is to be successful. Success can come in many forms and is only contingent on each individual who must decide for oneself when enough is enough.

In order for black youth to be able to make a concious decision, they must first be presented with the question through conversation. This conversation between older and younger generations of blacks males needs to be had and must continue because it is critical. The conversation has not gotten any easier — especially for those of us who live in homogenous communities.

Look no further than the current state of events. It is getting harder and harder to avoid the elephant in the room. It is harder to look past the fact that if it were a group of African Americans that stormed The Capitol, we would be reading a different story. But, who bears the cross of uncomfortable silence? Is it me – who fears that the conversation could go too far and disrupt my livelihood or my life’s work? Or is it my community — who has to live with the fact that there are some truths that they must come to terms with? Especially since the community knows and interacts with me, my wife, and my children daily.


Once again, I, a forty-year-old man, am forced to decide between assimilation and non-conformity. I am once again forced to make a decision that can derail what I have worked for. I am forced to make the same type of decision that I had to as a youth.


Is it fair? No.


Is it real? Yes.


So, here I am, stuck between two worlds — forced to navigate this world without a playbook, instructional manual, or a tour guide. Trying to be successful, while trying not to become a traitor –

An Uncle Tom.

An Oreo.

A Coon.

While also not trying to be angry —

ungrateful

ghetto

intimidating.

It is a terrible thing to be black male to be labeled as one of these things. But, it is a reality.

This is why representation matters. This is why we need black people in positions that matter. Black males deserve to have people in positions that matter!

We shouldn’t have to make this decision. But we do — and, as a whole community, it is our job to guide our black youth and not judge their decision. There are no wrong answers, only consequences.

Reading is Fundamental

Literature tells society’s story. A non fiction book not only provides the reader with context, but entertainment value as well. It shows the sentiment of a faction of society from a particular time period — a snapshot in time.

…which is why I cannot figure out why people show disgust for books based solely on their disdain for the author and not on the contents of the book.

Literally judging a book by its cover.

Since graduating with my Ph.D., I have found a ton of time to read for enjoyment (thank God). I have been consuming nonfiction at a stupid rate, and I like to share books that I am currently reading on social media.

And that is when the opinions on the books start.

Check that — critiques on the books.

Check that — critiques on the authors of the books from people who have never read said books.

Book by Candace Owens – people are pissed and voice their opinion.

Book by Michelle Obama – people are pissed and voice their opinion.

Book by George W. Bush – people are pissed and voice their opinion.

Book by Barack Obama – people are pissed and voice their opinion.

Book by Ibrahim X. Kendi – people are pissed and voice their opinion.

Book by W.E.B. Dubois – yup, you guessed it – pissed and voice their opinion.

And the mad ones never bothered to read the book…

And they are big mad…

I am not surprised that people post their critiques (opinions like assholes, right); I am surprised that people post their opinions without knowing what is inside the book. I am surprised that people judge a book by its author and not the content. I am surprised that people are so comfortable with their sheer ignorance.

Or conscientious stupidity.

I read nonfiction from a wide variety of authors. I feel that it is important to read from a variety of perspectives and experiences. I get it, that is not something every person cares to do. But, if you find yourself if a book store looking at the cover of a book, and the author’s picture conjures a reaction of disgust, it might say more about you as a person than it does the author or the reader.

Just remember, “Nothing in the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity.”

– Martin Luther King, Jr.

There is Still Time for Good Trouble…

The issue with choosing leadership is that, when it goes our way (either side), we (the constituents) take a breath as if our job/our civic duty/our mission is complete, which, in the end, only leads to disappointment. Let me be clear, the easiest part of democracy is getting your leader in office.

No matter who we choose as a leader:

Rights will be challenged,

personal values will be questioned,

you will be taxed,

people need representation,

children need to be educated, and,

evil will come in some form.

No matter the leader, become educated and active in politics.

If your candidate won, congratulations! Now get to work.

If your candidate lost, sorry. Now get to work.

It is the same as it ever was.

One, Tired, Brotha.

To be educated, you must first admit that you are ignorant. If you cannot admit ignorance, you have accepted that you enjoy your conscientious stupidity.

I am tired.

So very, very tired.

Mentally exhausted.

No matter how much sleep I get, I awaken feeling the weight of the world on my shoulders. And truthfully, I am not sure how much more I can take.

I am tired of the conscientious stupidity. I am not talking about sincerely ignorant people who genuinely do not know any better (although also dangerous). I am tired of the type of people who share information on social media that they know is not valid. Information that is from random sites like Myopinionisbiasedandunfounded.com

I am tired of the pseudo-ignorant. The people who ask questions that they know the answer to. The ones who “…do not want to start a debate, but…” on social media, then start a debate that ends in “Well, this is my page, so…”

I am tired of people who lack the skills to form a sound argument. Oh look, I am getting my ass handed to me, so let’s end this with, “If you don’t believe as I do, then you must be a _____.” Awesome debating skills. Your DDF team must have killed it in high school.

I am tired of long-standing relationships being severed over political platforms that should be decided privately — in a voting booth.

I am tired of the lack of literacy. I am tired of the people who form arguments without also researching material to the contrary. The one-sided “academic” has to be the most ignorant individual there is.

I am tired of trying to explain to my kids why people cannot follow the same rules that are taught in elementary school: be kind, listen to others, don’t call someone out of their name, keep your hands to yourself, play fair, say you’re sorry, etc. The very same stuff that is on the Everything I Needed to Know I Learned in Kindergarten list.

I am tired of The Corona Virus. I want my social gatherings back. I want my children to cough without me thinking, “Oh, shit!” I am sick of the debates. Especially from people who… well…see paragraph regarding Conscientious Stupidity

I am tired of, “Go to a different country!” Although travel broadens one’s horizons, these people know what they are saying, and they are assholes (Yeah, I called them out of their names).

So, if I am sick and tired of so much, what keeps me going. The kids. Not just mine, but all of them. We obviously are not going to leave this world better than when we found it. And still they are resillient; they understand what is happening around them; they are not as lazy as we make them out to be.

Thank God I am an educator.

When You May Need to Sit Your Grown Ass Down!

I’m learning that adolescent girls are full of drama.

I know…that sounds incredibly sexist. But seriously.

One day they are friends, the next, they can’t stand each other for whatever reason. Two days later, they are having sleepovers.

It has become a full-time job figuring out who is talking to who each week. That’s why I don’t even try. I got better shit to worry about.

It is easy to get involved in adolescent drama — I get it, we don’t want our kids to hurt. It is challenging to teach them self-worth and self-advocacy. Where is the line? Unfortunately, there isn’t a perfect answer — it is different for everybody. But there is a line. If you find yourself confronting an adolescent about something that was said, you’ve definitely crossed it.

And you are crippling your kid.

Check yourself.

Let me be clear. I am not talking about the drama that comes from unhealthy relationships. I am talking about drama centering around:

Party invites,

Playing time,

Valentines,

Disagreements,

Breakups.

Conflict builds character. When it arises, if you are doing anything more than sitting your child down and talking to them about ways to work through the conflict, you are part of the problem.

Sit your grown ass down.

The Box

My Babies,

Our society likes things to be neat. One way of doing that is through classification — a place for everything and everything in its place. Organization and classification are wonderful tools to keep things separated; it is a terrible tool to use with people. People are not meant to be kept in their place, which is why I have a strong piece of advice:

Stay the Hell out of “the box.”

People are not meant to be tidy. Humans are not meant to be kept in their place. Humans are complex individuals that have wants and needs that could be foreign to the understanding of other fellow humans. Nevertheless, many will want to classify you in order to suit their understanding.

Fuck that.

When people first look at me, they see my exterior — a muscular, black person who frowns when he walks. So, those people will use that information to form their own series of opinions.

“He must be an alpha male.”

“He must listen to gangster rap.”

“He must have played sports.”

Ninety-eight percent of their notions could not be further from the truth. I am a walking contradiction to the status quo. I wear it like a badge of honor.

I am not a stereotypical alpha male, though I do have strong opinions.

I not only listen to rap music, I also love bluegrass and many other genres.

I played sports, and although I am built for football, my first love is soccer.

I could go on.

You will not be able to control the perceptions that people have of who you are. But, you can shock the hell out of them when they find out who you aren’t.

When I start the school year, I stand in front of the class and say, “I don’t know if you noticed, but I am black (the only one). Great, now that the elephant is out of the room, you need to understand that any preconceived notions or stereotypes that you may have are dead wrong — especially if my wife, who teaches in the next room, have made them.” And it is the truth. Throughout the year, they will find out:

  • I love art and I love to create.
  • I am a family man. My daughters have me wrapped around their fingers.
  • I don’t really like football.
  • I am an activist.
  • I am a politician.
  • I collect comic books.
  • I am a sneaker head.
  • I am a blogger.
  • They list can go on and on.

The point is: I am unclassifiable. No matter where people may want to place me, I am not part of any status quo. And therein lies the lesson – stay out of the box.

People will say, “But you a black, how can you vote that way?

The answer: Because you are an individual.

People will say, “But you are a girl (or boy), how can you say that?

The answer: Because you are an individual.

People will say. “But you are from here/there, why would you ever believe that?”

The answer: Because you are an individual.

You are a person who is entitled to your own thoughts and opinions and are not limited to a set box of ideas because of your exterior. A friend of mine always says, “To thine own self be true.” That statement has never been more important than right now. If you have a belief, then stick by it (please, for the love of God, make sure that it is backed by research and empirical evidence).

The beauty of being Young, Gifted and Black is that we have a multitude of talents and interests. No one gets to tell us how we are supposed to live our lives.

By all means, stay the hell out of the box.

Power to the Storytellers

We often look to literature to provide an accurate account of historical events. Just recently, we have begun to look at authors of differing backgrounds and perspectives to provide readers with a wholistic view of historical events (as opposed to the perspective of the winner – mostly male; mostly Caucasian).

We are currently living in a time of historical significance. The literature coming from this era will be analyzed and scrutinized be generations to come. It is time to consider the relics we are leaving behind? When my grandchildren read about 2020, what will the narrative be? Who are the authors they will study? What criticisms will they have of us?

That will be dependent on it’s writers…

And that is why it is so important for everyone to write.

Throughout time, history was dictated by those who were nobility, who could read or write, or who were able to find an entity who could publish their work. With the advancement of technology, those are no longer excuses for the inability to publish. Now, more than ever, it is essential that everyone write. Journals, blogs, memoirs, etc. are going to tell our story.

Not a good writer?

Practice.

Can’t spell?

Use spell check.

Don’t have the time?

I’m just going to call bs on that one.

People will judge me.

Yes. But mostly because those who have never done it will always tell you how to do it.

This is Not a Moment, This is a Movement

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There was a time in history when it was illegal for black people to be educated.

There was a time in history when black people could not vote or hold a political office.

Both actions were punishable by death.

But, history tells us that if you tell black people that they cannot do something, they will show you how it is done.

And that is why 2020 is such an important year for my family and me — I did both.

I have been asked why I would want to run for political office or why I would want to hold a doctoral degree. I have always been hesitant to answer the question; I didn’t think people would understand.

The reason is: I know exactly what my purpose is in life. Many people have no idea why they are on this earth, but I do. My purpose in life is to lead. How did I know this?
My ancestors told me.

I was recently shown that I am a vital part of American history. My people were from Africa; brought here for slavery in Auburn, Alabama; persevered and sought opportunity through the great migration; marched through Jim Crow; and fought for this country in the United States military. I am a product of their perseverance, diligence, sacrifice, and hard work. My ancestors told me that I am needed and that I should prepare. I was told that I would have to sacrifice personal pursuits for the greater good.
So that is what I did.

While some were on vacation, I was locked in a room typing away. While some were watching their child’s events, I was seated next to them, feverishly typing on my laptop. While some spent their weekend at their lake cabin, napping and tubing, I sat in a classroom from 10 am to 6pm, learning, debating, and sharing. I am not saying I am better than, I am saying I had my orders — this was the sacrifice I was told about; this was part of the grand plan. All the while, my wife was tirelessly and selflessly holding the fort down in my absence.
Now, I am not trying to be “the next great” anything. I only needed to lead by example. The objective is simple, beat the odds and achieve at the highest levels without excuse.

So the doctoral degree? Not for me.

The City Council Seat? Also, not for me.

These achievements are for those who look like me; those who have the same backgrounds as me; those who came before me; and hopefully, those who come by way of me. I am a vehicle for others to achieve success. If 3 to 4 people of color see me and feel that they can achieve anything, I have done my job.

So what is next? Unfortunately, my mission is not completed — no, it has just begun. And I am not sure it will ever be until I am in the ground. I still have responsibilities. It is part of being young, gifted, and black.

Signed,

Councilman David L. Woods II, Ph. D

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The Sneakerhead 👟 and The Shoe Dog Millionaire

Recently, I got back into the sneaker game. I have always been a sneakerhead. I have always loved the way that they make me look, the way they make me feel, and the way that they can convey my personality and who I am.

I know what you’re thinking; but I could have worse vices.

But those were not the reasons why I got involved with shoe culture, I got involved because of the deeper meaning. For me, it started when I was in high school. I noticed that the varsity team received either Reebok or Adidas shoes every year. I was amazed at how clean it looked for an entire team to be decked out in kicks that proclaimed who they were. It set them out from the others in the school. It did not matter what the athlete had on, you knew that if you saw those shoes, they were one of the best players in town.

It was one of the motivating factors of me trying to make a team as quickly as possible.

When finally I did make it, I received my fresh pair of shoes and felt validated. I was officially part of the brotherhood – I finally belonged. But, I quickly noticed that other varsity teams around town wore matching sneakers as well. I quickly realized that shoes were a universally recognized way that athletes around my hometown could tell what high school they were repping. And at that moment I started to take notice of how shoes influenced culture.

Walking around the streets of my neighborhood, I took notice of pairs shoes on the telephone wire, symbolling a death of a loved person, a “hot spot,” or any number of occasions and/or signs. I was amazed to see people wearing a cutoff shirt, raggedy shorts, and a clean pair of “whoeverthehell’s” on the local street courts.

Kevin Johnson and the React Run and Slam’s

Shawn Kemp and the Kamikaze’s,

Vince Carter and the Tai Chi’s,

And of course, Jordan and his J’s

The list could go on and on.

Shoe culture was in full swing.

And then, something happened.

There are many stories on exactly what happened to shoe culture, but in my opinion, it was the online store.

Before that, you had to know somebody who worked at footlocker; you had to physically wait in line with other sneakerheads; you had to do research on what shoe came out when, where you had to be, and what time you had to be there. With online shopping everything became accessible. And with that, the capitalists emerged– and the Shoe Dog (a person dedicated to designing and fabricating shoes—and selling them) transformed. You no longer had to make the shoes, you could simply search and click (and you most likely will not get them. The special shoes got to the special people).

The online resell officially changed the game.

I can buy a shoe for $170 and sell it for $250 without batting an eye. And if I am really savvy, I can buy 20 pairs before another person even has a chance to click “buy now.”

Am I mad at it, no. I love Capitalism. People gotta eat. But I don’t have to like it.

And I don’t.

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