The Decision.

To be a black male is 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 effects their 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.

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

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.

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.

To Scroll, or Not to Scroll

We have lost our way in terms of communication and social media etiquette. Far too often, I see a person post a not-so-popular opinion on social media, and a different person comes along and adds a comment to the opinion. What ensues is what I will call a cluster f—. Something like this:

“You should not think the way you do!”

“I don’t mean to offend you, but…” (Note: the person meant to offend).

“I hope that never happens to anyone in your family!” (Note: they, in fact, mean to wish shitty fortune on the person and family).

“Well, a simple Google search will show you…” (Note: Insert shitty articles passed off as research from a highly suspect author/group/firm).

“Well, it is my opinion — and if you did not want it, you shouldn’t have posted what you did!”

Here is the thing, purposeful or not, people who post on social media want some sort of reaction or dialogue from their audience. A person would be correct by saying that the author should not have posted something without expecting a negative response. But the audience member also has a responsibility — one that requires some maturity on their part. What is not appreciated is when a person comes along, reads the post, then adds their opinion with the intent of only being right and not to have a dialogue.

If this is you, guess what? Approaching information with that sort of intent does not make you right; it makes you an ass, and here is why:

  • You don’t have to answer. You could go on about your business and have an awesome day.
  • The person who created a post is most likely not going to change their mind.
  • You, I am assuming, are not an authority, nor are trained on researching the subject.

That means that you are entitled.

Sorry, it does.

Not only that, but you also gave up your power. A person that you may not even know got a rise out of you and caused you to react. The person got you.

“But, what if they say something offensive?”

Simple answer, keep scrolling. Physically show someone close to you the post and laugh at the dumbass comment. But keep scrolling and have a nice day.

If it is a company that says something offensive, even better — boycott the business and get others to do the same. But you don’t need to comment on their post.

I have watched long time friends, brothers, sisters, mothers, daughters, disown each other on a public platform because of a need to be right. The sad thing is, both sides were right. Dead right.

I’ll explain

When a person is willing to give up everything, even if it comes as a detriment to their well-being to be right, they most likely will be dead right. Why? Because being right is just a subjective construct. Being right does not mean that you are fair or honest; it only means that your set of values justify your stance. It also means that each person is not willing to change their view, which is not necessarily wrong – unless you cannot coexist with someone who does not believe the same as you.

Let’s review:

  1. If you see something that you don’t agree with: Keep scrolling.
  2. If you see something that offends you: Keep scrolling.
  3. If you see something that you believe is not true: Keep scrolling.
  4. If you have some information that you would like to share, but it does not come from a peer-reviewed article: Keep scrolling.
  5. If you want to add some emoji, fine, but after that: Keep scrolling.

The highest form of discipline is self-restraint. It is wise to practice that.

Arguing with a fool only proves there are two.

*I know there will be some who will not agree with this post, and that is okay. But guess what? I don’t give a shit, so do yourself a favor and keep scrolling.

To Be Young, Gifted, and Unapologetically Black

Many people say to me, “I don’t see color, I just see a person.”

I think it is about time that you start to see color.

I am black.

I am proud to wear it.

It is a badge of honor.

Seeing me as a black man would help you realize how I, along with many others, have to navigate this world.

When a black man is gunned down while he is jogging, you can expect social media to buzz. It’s easy to say, “I’m glad that doesn’t happen where I live.”

Many of us, regardless of color, have said that. Including me.

When you look at me, you see a confident, educated, capable individual on the surface. But inside, I have been suppressing forty years of experience in my skin, and a boatload of instances that suggest that this type of racism is not so rare.

A few years ago (when writing checks was still a thing), a clerk at a local grocery store told me it was against policy to write a check for more than purchase. They cashed checks for my wife all the time. She is Caucasian.

When we first moved to town, an older lady from the community stopped by to welcome us and asked if we had a church.  She suggested one to us that she had “referred another colored family to a few months ago.”

When Covid-19 hit, and officials were recommending that people wear masks, a part of me was more worried about people perceiving me as a threat.

I once looked at a pair of earrings at a department store jewelry counter. After the clerk locked them safely away in the case, she accused me of putting them in my pocket. My girlfriend pointed out her mistake; that was enough to settle it. She didn’t apologize.

I applied for a position for which I had more experience and was better qualified to do than the competition. I didn’t get the job and my boss told me it was because I was “rough around the edges.”

Earlier this year, my wife and I spent a long weekend with friends in Arizona. When we booked the trip, I started researching the social climate of the area we were headed. Finding it to have little diversity, I took my wife with me on my morning walks.

These are just a few of the realities that I have faced as a person of color.

A black man.

And yet, I, like others, pick ourselves up by the bootstraps and persevere. It is what my mother and father expect of me.

I often feel bad for my wife, who married the love of her life – not realizing the anxiety she would experience with starting a family with me. She did not know the terror she would feel when she sees a person of color receives racial injustice. She did not envision the sheer horror she would experience towards those injustices as her sons grow older – the crippling uncertainty of their futures.

This is not a “woe is me” post. I need everyone in the room to realize that a person of color can go through life doing everything right:

– following the laws,

– getting the highest marks,

– receiving a degree,

– loving their family and community,

and still, receive “less than” because of their color.

This is not our father’s racism; this is systematic – and it is time we discuss it.

 

Parenting: This can’t be right, can it?

I was reading the book, Every Moment Matters by John O’ Sullivan when I came across this passage:

Far too many coaches think skill is the aggregation of various techniques that are then applied in a linear fashion back into the competition. That fundamentally misunderstands the fact that skill is something that requires context to develop. You cannot separate it from context. You need problems to be solved in order to develop skill. In a practice with no game-like activities, with no defenders or direction to force decision-making, there may be technical development, but there is very little skill development. And without skill development, there is no transfer.

As I read this passage, I thought about the implications it had on my parenting (which is weird, because I chose this book so that it could inform my coaching).

I am a father. I am not so much a helicopter father, but I am an asshole parent. I am that guy who will not let his kids do “whatever the other kids are doing.” I am that guy who creates hard-line expectations for his children that have consequences if not met. I am the guy whose children are the last in the class to have the latest technology/social media platform. I am their father; it is my duty to protect them. To say that I do not enjoy wearing that badge would be an outright lie; I wear it as a badge of honor.

Until I realize that there is a fine line between protection and shielding.

The book continues,

Transfer is the ability of a learner to successfully apply the behaviors, knowledge, and skills acquired in a practice environment to the competition. If training environment does not mimic those game conditions or if it poses decisions and scenarios that are no encountered in a game, then transfer does not occur.

In the parenting realm, this means that if I am applying discipline to my children for them to be able to transfer lessons into real-life situations, that is a pat on the back for me. But, if I am applying discipline that shields them from transferring lessons into real-life situations, then shame on me. I would be blocking the side of the discipline that promotes learning.

The hope is for my children to find themselves in a situation and mentally go through this checklist before making a decision:

  • Perceive the situation.
  • Conceive of possible solutions.
  • Decide on the best solution.
  • Deceive their opponent, if necessary.
  • Technically execute their best solution.
  • Asses their choice and prepare for the next day.

Is there a right or wrong answer when it comes to handling situations, no. There are only positive and negative consequences based on their decisions and actions. Hopefully, when they are conflicted, my likeness can pop on their shoulder and point them in the right direction.

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