Author Archives: Carl A. Cooke

The secret to overcoming setbacks. Embrace the whole and rely on your faith

The reality of life is that we all will face setbacks and obstacles. It is our reaction to this that defines who we are. We can accept it as our fate, we can take it on head first alone or we can face it with the help of those around us and with a faith that whatever deity you believe in will give you the courage and strength to overcome.

For some going at it alone is the best course of action. You believe you got yourself into this you can get yourself out.  You believe it is a sign of weakness to rely on others. But this way of thinking is flawed as the universe connects us al on higher plane. We are part of the whole and choosing to reject this limits what one can accomplish.

Tapping into the power of the whole is not a sign of weakness but a sign of strength. You understand that those around you will provide your soul with a motivation to press on when you might be ready to give up. That they can provide you with sounding board to express the range of emotions you are going through. That they are the light that will help guide you even in the darkest of times.

Your faith is equally important. You will be stronger simply in the belief that a higher power is working to provide you with the strength to overcome. You will be comforted in knowing that a higher power is touching and uplifting your soul. You will be relived of your worry because you believe that the higher power is working to heal your body, clear your mind, remove your obstacles and provide you with a roadmap toward a better life.

So embrace the whole, rely on your faith and your problems will be a thing of the past.

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The NFL’s Anthem problem. Whose Wrong or is Everyone Right.

This week the Miami Dolphins made public that any player who participate in a protest during the national anthem would be subject to a four game suspension, although they also said they don’t plan on enforcing it. As an African American I have conflicted emotions regarding this subject. No one can deny that racial injustice and social inequity is a very real thing. Colin Kapernick began this protest movement to bring light to these issues through his celebrity and it cost him his career.  As other joined in the protest President Trump saw that this was the perfect opportunity to appeal to his base by hijacking the issue and essentially changing the narrative to one of a protest against the national anthem and called those who protest unpatriotic. Owners worried that fans would turn away from their game thus hurting their bottom line, and in the NFL nothing is more important than the bottom line, felt the need to draw a line in the sand.  Through it all the original intent of Kapernick message started to get lost. It began to seem as players were protesting simply because they were told they couldn’t and fans had brought into the President narrative that the protest were unpatriotic. After much thought I have concluded that since the NFL is a business and the players are in essence employees of that business, highly paid and famous employees but employees nevertheless less, they should play by the same rules as everyone else. To that end when most of us in society are told we are prohibited from doing or saying something while on duty that the company feels would hurt their bottom line or be perceived as a negative, whether in reality it is or isn’t, we do it.  Failure to follow the rules often leads to termination of one’s employment. As NFL players are “on duty” representing their teams during the national anthem it is not outrageous to say they have an obligation to follow the rules set by the team’s owners.

This however does not mute the player’s voices, they need look no further than their NBA brothers as an example. In a league overwhelmingly African American NBA players stand as required for the national anthem. Are we to believe NBA players are oblivious to the injustices of society around them or that they simply don’t care about issues such as social inequality because they stand instead of protesting. The answer is of course no. But NBA players use their celebrity during their “own” time to draw attention to these issues. Who can forget when LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony, Chris Paul and Dwyane Wade teamed up to deliver a powerful speech during the 2016 ESPY  in which they called for fellow athletes to use their fame to heal a country divided by racism, injustice and gun violence.  They referenced fatal police shooting of African American young men they called on fellow athletes call to educate themselves and to speak up and use their influence.  They urged fellow athletes to go back to their communities, invest their time, their resources to help rebuild them, help strengthen them, help change them. Their message could not be hijack the narrative not changed. No one could question if they were giving the speech because they were told not to and most importantly they showed the power of their voices away from their jobs on the hardwood.

NFL players can follow suit. Hold workshops in the community mentoring young people of color while at the same time calling attention to the injustices those same young people face on a daily basis. Work as a group with local police to meet with and come to a better understanding of the community they are policing. Use public events such as the ESPY awards to speak out and condemn the issues that the protest during the national anthem were intended to bring light to.

This issue is bigger than if players do or don’t have the right to protest during the national anthem. It is bigger than NFL players versus NFL owners and the President. Rather than get bogged down in that fight, rather than provide even the smallest of opportunity for others to change the narrative NFL players should use the multiple avenues available to them on their “own” time to help build and strengthen their communities and to call attention to the issues of social injustice and racial inequality.

Black is Beautiful

Drug dealers, gang bangers, fatherless, welfare dependent, prisoners are some of the images that the media bombard us with. When faced with these images on a daily basis many of us begin to accept them and have lower life expectations of ourselves. In essence we are letting the stereotypes of others define who we are rather than defining ourselves. The positive images of African Americans is often that of athletes and hip hop stars implying that their are limited roads to success within the African-American community. Protest against social injustice by African Americans stars is spun as unpatriotic  and done by individuals who are fortunate that society has given them so much. Notice I said given not earned because for many the thought of the African American working hard and earning their position in society is a foreign concept. As Cater G. Woodson said to handicap a student by teaching him that his black face is a curse and that his struggle to change his condition is hopeless is the worst sort of lynching.”

1984 brought us the Cosby Show centered on the lives of the fictional Huxtables obstetrician Cliff his lawyer wife Claire, and their children Sondra, Denise, Vanessa and Rudy, and son Theo. The show was unique in that not only did it depict an upper middle class African American family, we had seen that before on shows such as the Jeffersons, but one that was led by not one but two professionals. They were portrayed as simply a family residing in Brooklyn, not a African American family simply a family. They were not the exception to the rule rather they were just another successful family.  The Huxtables showed us that African Americans can achieve, can be successful, can be a mother and a father who have children who attend college because isn’t that what all kids do when they graduate high school. They were the embodiment of what all American families white and black strive to be.

2008 brought us Barack Obama who against all odds became America’s first African American President. Something many of believed we would never live to see. He was a highly educated man of color and a dedicated husband and father.  While in office some media outlets looked to marginalize his accomplishments, question his citizenship and disintegrate his character but thanks to his magnetic personality and superior oratory skills President Obama was able to overcome media attempts to downplay or mischaracterize him. He represented himself with a class and dignity rarely seen by a politician and won respect and admiration not only from Americans but world wide. His wife Michelle  a strong, educated, beautiful woman of color, so much so that the thought of her running for President today does not seem out of the realm of possibility, was also at times a victim of certain media outlets attempt to paint the Obama’s in a poor light. But like her husband she too possessed a magnetic personality and superior oratory skills which easily allowed her to deflect any negativity aimed at her. The Obamas represented what is possible for all African Americans. No longer was it a fantasy to tell your child they could grow up to be President because it has been accomplished and with accomplished with dignity and class.

2018 brought us the hugely success Marvel movie Black Panther. Movie theaters were packed with people of color young and old, men and women, some who hadn’t been to a movies in years. They left the theater not only entertained by the movie itself but with a pride of their culture. Wakanda after all was undeniably African. Its citizens highly educated, its women depicted as strong and beautiful, its men strong and dedicated to family. Wakanda forever became a calling card of many because the imaged world of Wakanda represented a look at what African Americans could be. That we could fly above the clouds and achieve greatness.

One cannot quantify the impact the positive images of these fictional and non fictional African Americans have had on the African American community as a whole but it has no doubt allowed some of us to dream of possibilities to consider what we can accomplish regardless of the color of our skin.  This begs the question as to what is the responsibility of successful African Americans in giving back to their community. For many successful African Americans success is often measured by moving out of their community into a predominantly white community.  Leaving behind many of those they used to associate with in exchange for new friends who are predominantly white. Rejecting much of the culture they were raised in to better fit their new surroundings. They reject African American businesses citing their supposed inferiority to that of businesses run by others. It as Cater G Woodson said “Negro banks, as a rule, have failed because the people, taught that their own pioneers in business cannot function in this sphere, 

It is ironic that Harlem one of the bastions of African America culture has in recent years seen a renaissance not as the result of successful African Americans returning but to an influx of white people. Unfortunately as this great community strengthens African Americans are pushed out

So is it truly the responsibility of the successful African American to as Lebron James said in his 2017 ESPY awards speech “go back to our communities, invest our time, our resources, help rebuild them, help strengthen them, help change them.” In this writers opinion the answer is an unequivocal yes. As each successful generation serves as positive role models and mentors, invests in the building of a strong and prosperous infrastructure that employs those in the community and affords the children of those adults the opportunity to attain a quality education the foundation is put in place where success is not seen as the exception but the norm. The perception of the African American image within ourselves changes from one that is not worthy and of limited possibilities to one who is exceptional and has unlimited opportunities before them. As Fredrick Douglas said The soul that is within me no man can degrade”

The building of this thought process will not come easy as Carole Mosley-Braun so pointedly put it  “Defining myself, as opposed to being defined by others, is one of the most difficult challenges I face” and as Malcolm X once said “Nobody can give you freedom. Nobody can give you equality or justice or anything. If you’re a man, you take it.”  Simply put the African American can not wait for others to “save” us, to build up our communities, to employ our men and women, to educate our children and most importantly to pass down the history of our many accomplishments. The African American must act from within to achieve these goals. We must set the groundwork so that. each succeeding generation grows up with the belief as the 1970’s slogan said Black is Beautiful. That they shout from the mountain tops what James Brown once sang I’m black and I’m proud. That they define themselves and not let others define them.

We are all Human

Some of us are republicans some democrats and some independents. Some of us are people of color some of us are not. Some of us are heterosexual some homosexual some bisexual.  Some of us Christian some Muslim some Jewish some atheists and a hosts of other beliefs. In the end we are all American and most importantly we are all humans.

In some of us thete is often a fear of the unknown, an irrational fear that leads to isolation. Isolation leads to a lack of knowledge and understanding about those that are different from us and if history has taught us anything it is that a lack of knowledge often leads to disastrous results. It also can lead to the continuous growth of the prejudices we all have with-in us. Those prejudices are stripped away as we begin to understand those who differ from us. However for those who remain isolated those prejudices remain and can be easily stoked by people in power who do so for the goal of advancing their wealth and power. These individuals thrive on chaos and division. They speak non truths and keep the people divided against each other rather than uniting for the betterment of mankind as a whole.  They want us to be afraid of each other, they want us to hate each other, they want us to lose our compassion for each other, they want us to build walls to separate us. This strategy allows them to take advantage of us all. As Suzy Kassem wrote

When two brothers are busy fighting, an evil man can easily attack and rob their poor mother.

We must strive as Americans and humans to rise above the evil that seeks to divide us.  We must stand together and keep moving forward as a society. We must marginalize those who refuse to embrace diversity. For in unifying one voice into many voices we will be able to change the despair of today into the promise of tomorrow and from that we all will be better.

Diversity it’s what makes America great

The 2018 FIFA World Cup has ended with France as the winner.  During the Cup there were bars all over America packed with Americans proudly rooting on their country of national origin. Throughout Americans proudly celebrate their heritage. For example Italians proudly represent  Italy through their food among other things. Mexicans do the same with Mexico and of course the Irish show their pride on St. Patrick day. As with the St. Patrick day parade all major cities have numerous parades and celebrations throughout the year. In NYC alone there is the West Indian day carnival, Greek Independence Day parade, National Tartan Day Parade which celebrates the day of Scotland’s day of independence, Chinese New Year festival and many others.  This diversity is really what has made America great. As Martin Luther King Jr. stated.
“  individual has not started living until he can rise above the narrow confines of his individualistic concerns to the broader concerns of all humanity.”
Diversity isn’t a sign of weakness, it’s a sign of strength it Is the signature of America, people of all cultures rising above their own concerns to create, innovate and overcome obstacles to move this country forward. America is at its best when it seeks out diverse points of view, and looks for new insights.
Yet today there is a growing sediment among a segment of America who want to rebuke this diversity. Their weakness is the desire to surround themselves with people who look and think like them. Afraid to learn about other races and cultures rather content to remain isolated and stoke their own prejudices based on a fear of the unknown.  As Captain Kirk said
 The prejudices people feel about each other disappear when they get to know each other.”  
This fear of diversity and is counter to the ideal of what America was meant to be. Right at the beginning of America’s Declaration of Independence these words are written “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.”  The key word is All not some. Not only those from (insert country) or sexual orientation or cultural background and while this country has at many times struggled to live up to those words it has embraced them enough to make it the country it is today. We must continue to move forward with the concept of diversity not step back and isolate ourselves. For Isolation only leads to a society that stifles creativity and innovation and eventually withers away and dies.

 

The mind

The mind is your most powerful asset. The body cannot live without the mind. In times of physical difficulties visualize yourself as you once were. Use your mind to call upon your faith, no matter what it may be, to find the courage and strength to overcome your difficulties. Use your mind to manifest the physical healing of your body. The stronger your mind is the stronger your body will become.

The lessons Star Trek continue to teach us

America today seems to be more divided than ever. Hate for anything that is different from you is at an all time high.  The current administration stokes this fire with a message of division. The exact opposite of what has made this country great, the contributions of so many from so many different races and cultures  It is done so they can enrich themselves and maintain their power.  They are skilled at tapping into your inner prejudices and making you believe they are on your side but the truth is the only side they are on is their own.  As always this situation can best be summed up from the lessons Star Trek continues to teach us.

1. Why the current president strategy of division among people so he may maintain his power is flawed.

The prejudices people feel about each other disappear when they get to know each other.
– Captain Kirk

2. How unity and not division is stronger for all of us

I am pleased to see that we have differences.
May we together become greater than the sum of both of us.
-Surak of Vulcan

3. Why our current President view of himself is flawed

Believing oneself to be perfect is often the sign of a delusional mind.
-Data, to Borg Queen

4. The strategy of our current President believes in maintaining power

Evil does seek to maintain power by suppressing the truth, or by misleading the innocent.
-Spock and McCoy

5. How many of the innocent who voted for our current feel today

After a time, you may find that “having” is not so pleasing a thing, after all, as “wanting.” It is not logical, but it is often true.
-Spock

6. Why the thinking of many who defend the current president simply because he has an (R) after his name or are afraid of losing votes from his base is wrong

You cannot explain away a wantonly immoral act because you think it is connected to some higher purpose.
– Captain Picard

7. What the president walk-back of his statements in Russia showed us about him

It would seem that evil retreats when forcibly confronted
-Yarnek of Excalbia,

8. Why we must act as a people not as republicans or democrats

Without followers, evil cannot spread.
-Spock

9. Why we must act now both republicans, democrats and independents

Act, and you shall have dinner; wait, and you shall be dinner.
-Gowron, Klingon proverb