Twin Destinies: A Single Father’s Choice To Be There For His Sons

Drama Files Title TileMy first contact with David and Daniel Robinson, nine-year old twins, was in my office with their biological father. The boys lived with Robinson because of their mother’s alcohol and drug addiction, and he determined that he was not giving up on his family. He took counsel with the Proverb “Whosoever brings ruin to their family will inherit only the wind and the fool will be servant to the wise.”

After giving birth to her boys, their mother left the children at the hospital. The twins grew up seeing her on the streets in the neighborhood associating with the addicts and alcoholics.  She would sometimes get into a car,  turning her face to prevent being noticed. She came home sometimes and Robinson allowed her to stay for a few days but she would always return to the streets. Years later it was apparent that Robinson was angry and hurt; angry because she left her family for a lifestyle of destruction. He was hurt because he loved her and she went away.

Faithful father and mother

Robinson had assumed the role of father and mother. He had filed for full custody and was thrust into developing parenting skills and providing a quality life for his children early on. Both brothers were diagnosed with ADHD (attention deficit hypertension disorder)and Robinson followed up with therapy. Over the years he was faithful in maintaining regular therapy sessions and medications for them. He helped them follow the recommendations of a psychiatrist. And, he supported their IEP (Individual Educational Plan) when their teachers raised red flags because of their behavior.

On many occasions Robinson showed his concern for the well-being of his sons but the behavior of the boys started becoming more rebellious especially during the 10th grade. In spite of their father’s nurture, their mother’s abandonment weighed heavily on them and they were acting out.

David had difficulty maintaining control over his impulses and his influence over Daniel caused him to emulate his behavior. Their interactions with each other were also contentious. The Bible’s story of twins Esau and Jacob who were adversaries, with their descendants striving continuously (Genesis 25 :19-26) reminded me of the Robinsons. They could give Jacob and Esau a run for their money. Strife existed consistently.

Last year the twins graduated from high school. That achievement was not without disaster. During one English class David and a classmate observed the teacher putting her car keys in her desk. They stole the keys to her car and before school was out, they were joy riding. They hid the car on a lot where the police found it the next day.

I was astonished that David would make a decision that would change his life forever just three weeks before graduation. Fortunately Daniel was not involved and only David was arrested. So, as Daniel walked across the stage to graduate, David sat in jail awaiting a resolution to his case. Later the school gave David his diploma after he was placed on probation.

Where to find answers

Still, Robinson was searching for answers and called me, crying for his sons. I asked if he wanted to pray about his situation and he agreed. After we prayed he said he was going to church. The children nor he had developed a relationship with the Lord until the crisis escalated with David. Robinson was reared in the home of two alcoholics who had no religious affiliation. Their belief in God was minimal. This became significant when the father searched for answers.

I encouraged him to search for answers with the Lord, knowing that He would provide a way. Isaiah 40:29 states: “He gives strength to the weary and increases power to the weak.” He was weary and he wanted to help his sons. One thing was clear though, his sons were not ready to help themselves.

After high school, both boys smoked marijuana and drank alcohol daily.

Recently I received a call from Robinson who was angry about David’s arrest for breaking into the home of someone who had extended kindness to him in the past. David had attempted to sell the stolen items to him to another neighbor who told Robinson. When David called home, he denied that it was him and said Daniel was the one involved. David and Daniel were later arrested. David confessed but he informed the police that Daniel was involved too. Robinson was furious because he was sure David lied regarding Daniel’s involvement. David would now serve the sentence for stealing his teacher’s car–he had been on probation– and face the new charge for breaking into his neighbor’s home. That’s where both are today, awaiting trial.

Hurt and angry regarding the outcome of his twins, Robinson has committed again that he would not allow his sons to bring his household to destruction. He will help them, but if they choose a lifestyle of crime then he will not allow them to stay in his home. Robinson’s voice trembled as he stated that the consistent encouragement he receives comes from a better relationship with the Lord. “I will keep praying for my boys.”

Courageous Advocate Exposes Albinism Lies

Vicky Ntetema is one of Tanzania’s most famous – and infamous – women. The 57-year-old former BBC journalist is the executive director of Under the Same Sun, a non-governmental agency that fights discrimination against people with albinism, a congenital disorder that prevents the production of melanin for the skin.

According to a report by the United Nations Human Rights Council Advisory Committee, albinism is much more prevalent in Tanzania and other sub-Saharan African nations than anywhere else in the world. For example, only 1 out of 17,000 to 20,000 people in Europe and North America have albinism in some form. In Tanzania, 1 out of 1,400 people do.

Vicky Ntetema headshot[1] copy
Honored for her work among children with albinism in Tanzania, former journalist Vicky Ntetema exposes the brutal truth behind the violence toward people with albinism.
The same UN report found that over 340 attacks of people with albinism have been documented in 25 countries as of 2014. Of those attacks, nearly one-third were murders. According to Ntetema and various media reports, most attacks on people of albinism happen on the African continent.

Ntetema’s advocacy for people with albinism earned her a 2016 International Women of Courage Award from Secretary of State John Kerry. She is one of 14 honorees, most of whom work in developing nations.

Though she has been honored for her work, Ntetema also has incurred the wrath of many of her fellow Tanzanians. Her life has even been threatened, she said.

“Everyone was up-in-arms, saying I’ve tarnished the image of Tanzania,” Ntetema told Message during a recent U.S. visit courtesy of the State Department’s International Visitor Leadership Program. “I would have expected that the minister of home affairs who is in charge of the police force would protect me. I was wrong. He said that I was public enemy number one.”

Child with albinism with friends
The rate of albinism is much higher in Tanzania than in the U.S. or Europe. Recently arrests have been made in connection with suspected murder of people with albinsm. Dietmar Temps /

And that’s because the brutal discrimination endured by people with albinism has been deeply ingrained in Tanzanian culture. Ntetema said that Tanzanian witchdoctors teach that the body parts of people with albinism have magical properties. Consequently, they are mutilated or killed so their body parts can be used in potions and rituals. It’s estimated that 93 percent of Tanzanians believe in witchcraft – including some who identify as Christians, Muslims or adherents of traditional African religions.

Ntetema began to investigate the attacks against people with albinism while working as the BBC’s bureau chief in Tanzania. She went undercover, posing as a buyer of body parts, and was able to expose grisly networks of killers and sellers, some of whom targeted their own loved ones.

“We have had quite a lot of cases where fathers, uncles, maybe even grandfathers are involved,” Ntetema said. “They believe that sometimes human organs can help solve their problems. This is fueled by witch doctors. ”

Ntetema recalled one particularly disturbing attack of a woman with albinism who had a 6-month-old baby and was engaged to be married. Suspicions about her fiancée arose after the attack.
“He didn’t care when she was taken to the hospital,” Ntetema said. “That is why people deduced that maybe that he was also involved.”

Last year, USA Today reported that some families who have members with albinism are striking back. They are attacking the alleged witches and sorcerers who encourage the gruesome trade that targets people with albinism. More than 1,000 suspected witches were killed in 2014, according to advocacy groups.

“The government has failed to apprehend witch doctors who kill our innocent people,” Wilson Asida told USA Today. “They have killed many albinos to help them gain magical powers. We’ll kill them ourselves to get justice.”

This bizarre superstition about people with albinism is fueled by ancient beliefs, the desire of witches and sorcerers to retain influence, and the greed of tribal chiefs and kings.

“They always consult witch doctors,” Ntetema said. “Even before they leave their compounds. If they go to war or if they want to make friends with another chiefdom or kingdom, they have to consult witch doctors.”

Vicky Ntetema and children with albinism copy
Former BBC journalist and 2016 Woman Of Courage Award honoree Vicky Ntetema advocates for children with albinism who are vulnerable to attack and mutilation due to ancient superstitions.

Ntetema’s advocacy for people with albinism began when she was about 7 or 8, after being saved from drowning by a teenage girl who had no feet.

“She was using a stick (for) walking,” Ntetema said. “She is the only one who came to my rescue. Others ran away from me.”

The teen stretched her walking stick beneath the water, hoping that Ntetema would be able to grab it. She did, and the girl with no feet pulled her to safety.

“So from that time, anyone who said something bad about people with disabilities, they had me to answer [to] in that school,” Ntetema said.

Some 50 years later, the bullies are now killers and mutilators. The victims are people with albinism, coveted for their body parts due to ancient superstitions and modern greed.
And just as she did as a child, Ntetema defends the victims of this twisted bigotry, facing down the killers and mutilators. She advocates for the victims and survivors – even to the point of risking her life – motivated, perhaps, by the girl with no feet who once saved her life.

Coming Clean: How Comedian Jonathan Slocumb Got His Start

It wasn’t a hard decision for Jonathan Slocumb, ATT&T account representative, to become Jonathan Slocumb, full-time comedian, professional host and actor. He already had been known as that choir director in Atlanta, Georgia who emceed his choir’s gospel concerts and made people laugh. His gospel–friendly humor led to him hosting concerts for other groups on the weekends while keeping his day job.

One of those weekend gigs paired him with the then up-and-coming jazz-and-gospel sextet Take 6, whose members he had met in the early 1980s while a student at Oakwood College in Huntsville, Alabama. By then Slocumb wasn’t just an emcee. He had begun to pioneer a new art form: profanity-free, church-oriented, stand-up comedy.

“I looked at the check for being funny for 15 minutes, and then looked at my check for being cussed out by customers at AT&T,” Slocumb told Message. “And I made a wise decision to let AT&T go.”

Now the comedian known for not cussing and being a super-sharp dresser has opened for Aretha Franklin. He’s played a preacher in the Tyler Perry film “Meet The Browns.” He had a recurring role as an old school funk musician on the “The Steve Harvey Show.” He’s also hosted the NAACP Image Awards, the Stellar Awards and the Essence Music Festival. And NBA legend Michael Jordan called him personally to invite him to host the Las Vegas launch of one of his shoe lines.

“Yeah, right,” Slocumb said he responded, according to an story. “Seriously, who is this?” Jordan’s assistant got on the phone and told Slocumb that Jordan had enjoyed Slocumb’s performance as the host of the 1996 NAACP Image Awards. He wanted the comedian to host the launch of his Jordan Brand in two days. “Will you be available?” the assistant asked him. “Uh, give me one second. Yes.”

Another career highlight for Slocumb happened earlier this year when he was named a 2016 Stellar Honors award recipient, along with Yolanda Adams, Marvin Sapp and – much to his delight – Tramaine Hawkins. In college, other guys had pictures of the Hollywood-type starlets on their dorm room walls. Not Slocumb. “I had a picture of Tramaine on my wall, because in my mind Tramaine Hawkins was the most beautiful, sexy woman alive,” Slocumb told Message. “I thought I was going to marry her at some point, but it never happened.”

All kidding aside – assuming Slocumb was joking about wanting to marry the gospel diva – one of the most touching moments in his career came this past Easter weekend while hosting a concert at his alma mater, now Oakwood University. He was surprised when Take 6’s chief arranger Mark Kibble went on stage, gave him a very warm tribute, and then the concert producers gave Slocumb a special award recognizing his achievements as a comedian, host and actor. Slocumb, usually very verbose, was speechless for several seconds before expressing his thanks.

A few days later, during an interview with Message, he retold a story that he had shared with the audience that night about another special Oakwood moment that was pivotal in his life. After two years in college, his scholarship money had run out. He couldn’t afford to pay the tuition required to stay. His last night on campus, some of Slocumb’s friends at one of the female dorms invited him to say his good-byes during the evening worship service. After he finished, they had a surprise for him.

“These two girls came down the aisle with one of those outdoor garbage cans filled with money,” Slocumb said. “The student body took up enough money for me to stay.”

“Clean” comedian Jonathan Slocumb tried cussing in his act, once. Never again. “I just can’t do it.”

As Slocumb considered the impact that his humor and personality had on his fellow students, he began to sense that something special was going to happen in his life. And certainly many amazing, memorable things have happened. Aside from Bill Cosby–before the rape allegations at least–and Sinbad, no performer has been more recognized for doing profanity-free, stand-up comedy than Jonathan Slocumb. And Slocumb is perhaps the first nationally known performer to do clean comedy routines that can be performed in either a church or a club without changing one word. But he also knows that he’s paid a price by keeping his act clean and church-friendly.

“One of the Kings of Comedy once told me, “Slocumb, man, you just got to do a little bit of cussing’,” he recalled. “ ‘You’ll get so much money. Just do a little bit.’ ” “I just can’t do it,” Slocumb confessed. Later, to explain his resolve, he quoted gospel singer and fellow Oakwoodite Wintley Phipps: “I won’t compromise to be recognized.”

Jonathan Slocumb will be headlining at the Atlanta Comedy Theater, April 14, 16 and 17th.

Nixon Aide Admitted Blacks Targeted In The War On Drugs

“It’s not paranoia when they’re really after you” is the tagline from the trailer for the Will Smith movie, “Enemy of the State.” It made sense for the fictional storyline of abusive government surveillance of innocent American citizens.

The tagline also makes sense after the real-life confirmation that President Richard Nixon’s “war on drugs” was launched in 1971 to disrupt and harass Nixon’s anti-war critics and the black community. John Ehrlichman, a domestic advisor to President Nixon who later was convicted for his role in the Watergate scandal, made the revelation during a 1994 interview with journalist Dan Baum.

“The Nixon campaign in 1968, and the Nixon White House after that, had two enemies: the antiwar left and black people,” Ehrlichman told Baum. “We knew we couldn’t make it illegal to be either against the war or black, but by getting the public to associate the hippies with marijuana and blacks with heroin, and then criminalizing both heavily, we could disrupt those communities.

“We could arrest their leaders, raid their homes, break up their meetings, and vilify them night after night on the evening news. Did we know we were lying about the drugs? Of course we did.”

Baum included the provocative quote in an article for the April 2016 edition of the magazine Harper’s. The 1994 interview preceded Baum’s 1996 book, Smoke and Mirrors: The War on Drugs and the Politics of Failure.

Critics of the war on drugs have been making the charge that it unfairly targeted black people for years. Best-selling author Michelle Alexander tied it directly to the prison industrial complex in her book The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness.

“An exceptional growth in the size of our prison population was driven primarily by the war on drugs,” Alexander told the PBS series Frontline in 2014. “(It is) a war that was declared in the 1970s by President Richard Nixon and which has increased under every president since. It is a war that has targeted primarily nonviolent offenders and drug offenders, and it has resulted in the birth of a penal system unprecedented in world history.”

But while critics of the infamous war linked it to many of the societal ills disproportionately affecting black people in the United States, no one involved in creating it had admitted its ulterior agenda prior to Ehrlichman. Of the 2.3 million people incarcerated in the U.S., nearly 1 million are black.
Whites in the U.S. use illegal drugs at 5 times the rate that African Americans do, but blacks are imprisoned for drug crimes at 10 times the rate of whites. African Americans are estimated to comprise 12 percent of the total population of drug users, but represent 38 percent of drug arrests and 59 percent of persons incarcerated in state prisons for drug crimes.

Making certain drugs illegal to target specific population groups for criminal prosecution is part of our nation’s history.

“When you look at the history in the early 1870s, anti-opium laws were directed at Chinese immigrants,” Dr. Timothy Forde told Message. Forde is the director of the African-American Studies program at Eastern Kentucky University.

Forde believes that Nixon was following this historical pattern when he placed marijuana on the nation’s Schedule I drug list, making it illegal to sell or possess because of the belief that it was dangerous and highly addictive. The widespread use of the drug by young people – specifically blacks and anti-war protestors – is what led Nixon to target marijuana, according to Forde.

Audio Sources:

Secular Talk —
The Lip —
YouTube —
Democracy Now –
Phone interview with Dr. Tim Forde

Condemning Rape In Religious Circles

“Consider it, confer, and speak up!” It’s a message that should be heeded by families, churches and communities today.

Last week, President Obama explained why the nation celebrates Women’s History Month each March during a speech at the White House.

“We have people here who’ve been working together to advance women’s equality for decades,” the President said. “That is why we celebrate Women’s History Month – not to get complacent, but to take a moment each year and celebrate the achievements that women have fought so hard to achieve, and to rededicate ourselves to tackling the challenges that remain.”

The prevalence of rape and sexual assault would have to be at or near the top of any list of remaining challenges. According to a 2010 national survey from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 1 in 3 women have “experienced rape, physical violence, and/or stalking by an intimate partner in their lifetime.” So, by the way, have 1 in 4 men.

One out of every six American women has been the victim of an attempted or completed rape in her lifetime. Most rapes, an estimated 80 percent, were committed by someone who was a friend, acquaintance, family member, spouse, lover or in some way known by victim.

Younger women and girls are particularly vulnerable – 15 percent of sexual assault and rape victims are under age 12; nearly one-third are between 12 and 17; 44 percent are under 18; 80 percent are under 30. Teenage girls 16 to 19 are four times more likely than the general population to be victims of rape, attempted rape, or sexual assault.

Rape is not just a problem in the United States. The New York Times published a chilling story last summer that began with an unnamed 12-year-old girl recounting her rape by an Islamic State fighter.

She said that before he raped her, he told her that the rape was sanctioned by the Quran because she wasn’t a Muslim. She said he knelt beside the bed on which she lay bound, prostrating himself in prayer before raping her. After he finished his brutal assault, he prayed again.

The child said that she told the man he was hurting her. She asked him to stop. His reply was that by raping her he was deepening his relationship with God.

x-ray priestThis fusion of rape and religion is horrifying, but it is not unique. In 2008, Baylor University began an extensive study of clergy sexual misconduct. Its findings are sobering:

  • More than 3 percent of the women who had attended church within 30 days of being surveyed said that a clergy person or religious leader – minister, priest, rabbi, etc. – had made sexual advances or propositions toward them at some point in their adult years;
  • 92 percent of these advances or propositions had been made secretly and by not by clergy persons whom they were dating;
  • 67 percent of the clergy making these advances were married to someone other than the survey respondents;
  • On average, 7 women in the typical American congregation – 400 members or attendees, 240 of whom are women – have been subjected to clergy sexual misconduct.

The Bible also tackles the problem of rape. Judges 19 tells the gruesome story that is remarkably similar to the main portions of the Sodom and Gomorrah story in Genesis 19.

It revolves around a Levite and his concubine (a wife or lover of secondary status, a “pilegesh” in Hebrew) who stop in an Israelite town to rest during their journey. They are invited by a man to stay in his home. A group of men go there and demand that the man of the house send the Levite out so they can rape him. The owner makes a counter offer of his virgin daughter and the Levite’s concubine.

Eventually, the Levite forced his concubine to go out to the men. They gang-raped her all night. When the Levite woke up in the morning, he got dressed and left the house. He found his concubine on the doorstep of his host’s house.

“Get up, let’s leave!” he yelled at her in verse 28. She never responded. He loaded her body on his donkey and headed home.

Verse 30 indicates that the Israelites were so horrified by the gang-rape and murder of the woman – and hopefully by the disturbing callousness of the Levite and his host – that they issued a stern warning:

“Consider it, confer, and speak up!” It’s a message that should be heeded by families, churches and communities today.

The reality of rape and its devastating impact must be acknowledged. Survivors, their families, community leaders and clergy need to work together, exploring ways to help survivors find their voices and experience healing.

Then all concerned must raise awareness by speaking out. The public needs to hear first-hand from survivors and their families the damage rape does. Communities need to know that their leaders are committed to protecting women and girls from predators, and to supporting them if they have been raped or assaulted.

Congregations need to know that their churches are safe places. They need to know that their pastors are committed to promoting awareness and healing.

It’s time, as President Obama said, to tackle the challenges that remain.

Late Nights And Phone Calls. Either You Grow Or You Go!

Drama Files Title TileLinda began counseling several months ago to address concerns about her marriage. She had been married for only two years when she noticed that her husband was coming in later and later every night. At first she didn’t say anything, but 11 p.m. turned into 3 a.m., so finally she realized she had to say something one night. He stated he was out helping his classmates from school change a tire. But when he got home this particular morning his shirt was off and there were no sign of oil or dirt on his clothes. She asked him why didn’t he call or even text. He stated “I knew you would be mad so I stayed out to prevent the argument.” She turned to him and said “I must really look stupid to you.”

The next morning Linda called my office very upset by her husband’s behavior. She admitted that she started checking the cell phone log to see if he had been calling one particular number. As she suspected, one number kept popping up, a female friend of her husband’s. She told me later that week in her counseling session how ashamed she was for checking the phone logs. I reassured her that there was nothing to be ashamed of, but asked her, “where do you go from here?” Linda still loved her husband and wanted to give him the benefit of the doubt and continue to trust God. I told her that I would respect her decision and continue to counsel and support her.

After a few minutes helping her to compose herself she turned to him, “ You are making me like this. I don’t even recognize myself in this state of mind.”

Several weeks passed and Linda’s husband continued to come in whenever he felt like it regardless of the anguish it was causing her. She would stay up night after night waiting for him and calling the hospitals to see if he had been in an accident. He continued this same behavior month after month. She prayed and cried out to the Lord and she also continued her therapy sessions weekly. Finally, she asked him to attend therapy with her. Although he was very reluctant, he agreed to come.

Arthur and I were both in attendance for the session and Anthony was very polite during our greetings. He said that he wanted his marriage, but that Linda is insecure.

Therapy Red Flags

“I am tired of all her tears,” he said. “She cries about everything.”

Linda tried to stop crying during the session, but it was very difficult. She tried to express herself but her emotions overwhelmed her. After a few minutes helping her to compose herself she turned to him, “ You are making me like this. I don’t even recognize myself in this state of mind.”

Anthony got up to walk out but Arthur called him back in. “I don’t need this marriage,” he said. Arthur walked out with him into the outer lobby and convinced him to come back and rejoin the counseling session.

After two hours of processing Linda and Anthony’s problems we suggested that Anthony consider Linda’s feelings and try to come home at a decent time. He turned to her and said “no one controls me and I will come home when I feel like it. I raised myself and I had no rules as a child. So I will not change for you or anyone”.

Big red flag for Arthur and me. Anthony’s family of origin used little authority during his upbringing, and offered no positive influence during his adult life either. Therefore, he rebelled against Linda asking him to be a good and respectful husband. Arthur and I reiterated that to stay married it would take sacrifice on both parts. Before the session ended the couple agreed to work on their marriage. They left the office feeling empowered to work together and respect one another.

Testing Time

Later on during the month Linda attended a wedding out of town that Anthony was unable to attend. She had stopped checking the phone logs and he was coming home by 11:00 p.m., so she thought her marriage was moving in a positive direction. She told me during the session she was worried about leaving Anthony alone, but she had made this commitment and she was going to keep it. She had spoken to Anthony a few times while she was away and everything appeared normal. Linda said she relaxed and had a very nice time visiting family and friends.

Upon her return she called Anthony to pick her up from the airport, and he said stated he could not come because he was busy, but would see her later at home. Linda was so amazed at his tone and response that she knew he had reverted back to his old ways in such a short time. Or, had he ever really changed?

She had to then find another way home and this was very unsettling for her. While on her way home she checked the phone log and Anthony was on the phone for hours at a time with the female friend, even while Linda was at the airport. She became so hurt and angry. An hour later when he walked through the door he didn’t try to kiss or embrace her. Linda didn’t say anything because she didn’t want to argue. The evening ended quietly but she knew Anthony was not being honest.

The next day she went to work but she came home early because she was so upset. As she entered the house she noticed that the house had been cleaned and certain photos of her had been turned over. Realizing that in their two years together Anthony had never cleaned the house or changed the sheets on the bed, she asked her neighbor if she had noticed anything out of the ordinary. The neighbor stated that she noticed a women getting out of a car and going inside her home, but she thought that Linda was inside. The description of the woman matched her husband’s “friend” exactly.

When Anthony received Linda’s letter informing him that he had 30 days to get out of the house, it was he who could not reach her by phone.

“It is interesting how he can call and text now that I am putting him out, but for the past five months he couldn’t call or text if he was going to be late,” Linda said.

How To Pray Through And Stay True

Linda never had any evidence that Anthony was unfaithful but she knew within her heart he had been. She reflected upon the many scriptures I had given to her during counseling and one of her favorites was 2 Chronicles 20:15 (For the battle is not yours, but God’s). She committed herself back to God, His Holy Word, and she started attending church. She made a decision to be baptized.

Linda realized that she made Anthony her God, and she worshiped him. She was so consumed with Anthony’s actions that she lost her own reasoning, voice, and joy. Though she is still waiting and trusting God to turn her marriage around, she realized that she has to allow God to deal with Anthony.

One thing for sure about Linda now, she can say “either we grow, or you go.” She has learned to apply those words to herself and stop standing in her own way. She is no longer fighting severe depression or acute stress disorder. She has become a stronger woman in Christ and is taking more control over her emotions and impulses. Anthony continues to come home late, and continues talking to and spending time with the other woman.

It is important to recognize, as Linda did after several months of clinical therapy, that she cannot have a healthy marriage without a willing partner. Every marriage takes complete sacrifice and respect which empowers love. True love begins with God, and you loving yourself. Linda loved Anthony more than God or herself. Marriage is a team effort and there is no getting around it. It takes three to make a marriage work. God, you and me. “Though one may overpowered two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not easily broken” (Ecclesiasties 4:12).

The names have been changed to protect the innocent.

Underground: The Timely Story Of Interracial Cooperation and Revolution

“We’re telling a story of people who had a lot less than what we have, but they stuck their neck out for what they thought was right.”–Joe Pokaski, writer and producer for WGN America’s “Underground”


So who came up with the idea of doing a dramatic, fictionalized television series about the Underground Railroad? “It started with me,” said Misha Green during a phone interview with Message last week. Green is one of the executive producers of “Underground”, the new show on WGN America that explores slavery, the abolition movement and the famous escape network known as the Underground Railroad. The series stars are Aldis Hodge, Jurnee Smollet-Bell and Chris Meloni. Underground’s first episode aired March 9th. Nine more episodes will air on Wednesdays at 9 p.m. Central.

Though one of the few African-American female showrunners in Hollywood, Green has a solid record as a writer and producer. Her credits include the sci-fi thrillers “Heroes” and “Helix”, and “The Sons of Anarchy”, a gritty drama that chronicled the lives and crimes of a fictional motorcycle gang. Green took the “Underground” idea to Joe Pokaski, a writer and producer with whom she had worked before. Pokaski embraced the idea and they got to work.

“We just kept finding more and more stories,” Green said. “Truth is stranger than fiction, and it just was so ripe for a perfect television series.” Basing a television series on the slavery and abolition may seem like a risky choice. Concerted efforts have been made to remove slavery from textbooks – or to downplay its relevance – in Texas and Tennessee. Some commentators, such as black conservative Derryck Green, have complained about “race fatigue.” Disturbing racial incidents even have flared up at Republican campaign events this year, suggesting that at least some of the electorate may not care to watch a show about the brutal commodification of racism, what some have called “America’s original sin.”

Yet, two fairly recent and very different movies about slavery, “Django Unchained” and “12 Years A Slave,” were critical and commercial successes. The raucous “Django” made more than $162 million at the U.S. box office, and more than $425 million worldwide. The much more sober “12 Years” was produced for $20 million and made more than $56 million in U.S. ticket sales and more than $187 million globally. Even “Roots”, arguably the granddaddy of this genre of movies and television shows, will be rebooted later this Spring for a new generation of viewers. So despite the persistence of the revisionists, claims of fatigue and bursts of intolerance, there is room for stories on the screen that tell the truth about the African-American experience. And that means there’s room for “Underground’s” producers to tell the unique story about the racially integrated abolitionist network that set some slaves free.

“It was always in the back of my mind,” said Green about the Underground Railroad story.
“This isn’t about the occupation. It’s about the revolution.” That may be the angle that will intrigue viewers the most. Unquestionably, the Underground Railroad and the abolitionist movement were revolutionary. They were bold, high-risk slaps-in-the-face to a ruthless, pernicious, blood-thirsty system. The modern equivalent may be Operation Underground Railroad (OUR), a U.S.-based organization which has been called “the new abolitionists” for its efforts to free children being trafficked for sex. It’s estimated that the entire human trafficking industry, which includes those being exploited for labor as well as sex, generates $150 billion annually. So while “Underground” is very much a historical saga, there is an immediate relevance to its message that some viewers may pick up. Still, creating a television series about America’s “peculiar institution” of slavery and the resulting abolitionist movement seems an unlikely feat.underground-gallery-030316-16-L

“It wasn’t until we put pen to paper and wrote the scripts on spec [without a contractual commitment to produce the series] that people got what we were trying to do,” Pokaski explained. “We keep calling it the most heroic story ever told in American history.”

Slavery built and defined this nation. It also nearly destroyed it, splitting the Union in two for a short time. The many horrors of the American slave trade left an indelible mark on its Africans victims and their descendants. Nevertheless, some found the courage to escape – and like Harriet Tubman, went back to rescue others. And a small contingent of white people risked their lives to help them. “We’re telling a story of people who had a lot less than what we have, but they stuck their neck out for what they thought was right,” said Pokaski.

“They did the bravest thing possible. In the age where we equate social justice with a Facebook post, I’m hoping that maybe this will challenge people to be a bit bolder and stand up for what they believe in.”

Trailer for Underground

Los Angeles Gang Family To Family Of God: Testimony Of New Life

I was born and raised in the City of Los Angeles. My Parents migrated from El Salvador with the American dream to have a prosperous life. However, my father was killed, and my Mom ended up having to fill both roles. I did not have a family environment at home, so I sought a family in the streets.

I grew up during a time when the gang lifestyle was part of my environment. As a result, I ended up joining a Los Angeles street gang. I went from carrying my school bag and books to carrying guns and knives. My life as a gang member eventually led me to using drugs, and tattooing the gang’s name on my body proving my loyalty. Juvenile hall and camp facilities became my second home, and sleeping on a concrete slab did not feel like such a big deal anymore. By the age of 15 I had been shot, and was heavily addicted to drugs. Nevertheless, God’s mercy was with me.

I was arrested for strong- armed robbery, and the same judge who had been dealing with me since I was 12 saw me for the last time. He sentenced me to 5½ years with the California Youth Authority.

While watching the time roll by I became bitter, angry, and confused with no sense of purpose in life. The unavoidable law of nature became true for me. What I contemplated, I became. I fed my mind with corruption until my character bore the likeness of Satan/the devil. Sin took its toll on me, and my heart became hardened. At age 19, and soon to finish my sentence, I got into trouble again. I caught a new case inside the correctional facility, was tried as an adult and required to serve four more years in the California State Prison. Taking into account prior time served, I was finally released at the age of 21.

I had lost my teenage years to prison. Since I went in as a child and came out as an adult I didn’t know how to act in the outside world, so I went back to the streets. When I got I arrested and sentenced to a rehabilitation center this time, God, through a counselor, began speaking to my heart. I successfully completed the program and began working at a restaurant.

In the process of trying to better my life, my past came back to haunt me, I was surrounded by Sheriffs, re-arrested, and taken to the Los Angeles County Jail. I was facing consequences that were literally going to end my life: the death penalty. Tired and broken I just wanted peace in my life. God saw the turmoil of my soul and sent His Word, and healed me. Another inmate in my jail cell gave me a small New Testament Bible and I began to read it:

Those who sat in darkness and in the shadow of death,
Bound in affliction and irons—
11 Because they rebelled against the words of God,
And despised the counsel of the Most High,
12 Therefore He brought down their heart with labor;
They fell down, and there was none to help.
13 Then they cried out to the Lord in their trouble,
And He saved them out of their distresses.
14 He brought them out of darkness and the shadow of death,
And broke their chains in pieces.
15 Oh, that men would give thanks to the Lord for His goodness,
And for His wonderful works to the children of men!
16 For He has broken the gates of bronze,
And cut the bars of iron in two.

17 Fools, because of their transgression,
And because of their iniquities, were afflicted.
18 Their soul abhorred all manner of food,
And they drew near to the gates of death.
19 Then they cried out to the Lord in their trouble,
And He saved them out of their distresses.
20 He sent His word and healed them,
And delivered them from their destructions.
21 Oh, that men would give thanks to the Lord for His goodness,
And for His wonderful works to the children of men!
22 Let them sacrifice the sacrifices of thanksgiving,
And declare His works with rejoicing.

(Psalm 107:10-22, NKJV).

As I read that small Bible, I fell in love with Jesus! I was changed by God’s Word! I fell on Jesus the Rock and was broken. The more I read that Bible, the more I surrendered my life to Jesus in repentance and confession of all my sins. The power of His saving grace began taking away the filthy language, the anger, the pain, and the bitterness. Christ took over my heart and gave me the joy of His salvation! He gave me peace! God began using me to hold Bible studies and prayer circles with other inmates.

cuffed defendantI prayed that God’s will would be done in my case. Whether I should spend the rest of my life in prison or be released, I purposed in my heart that I would serve Him. My lawyer visited me, and told me that the District Attorney was dropping the death penalty, but was still pushing for a sentence of life without the possibility of parole. After two years of fighting my case, once more the District Attorney wanted to cut me a deal of 20 years if I pled guilty. I said, “no, let’s fight to the end!” Eventually, after three years, and three months, my case was coming to a close. The judge came back with a verdict: Not Guilty.

I can imagine Satan standing in the courtroom accusing me before God the Father, and Jesus Christ standing next to me interceding for me saying, “This is my son. Is not this a brand plucked out of the fire? I have redeemed him with My blood. I have washed away his guilty stains, I have paid the ransom” (Zechariah 3:1-4).

I was released on October 24, 2006 in an all-white jumpsuit (imagine that).   A day prior to my release, I committed a fast to the Lord, and I wanted to keep my commitment to Him so I fasted for three days and three nights. During that time, the Lord was convicting me about the Sabbath Truth. So on the first Saturday of my release, I decided to go to a Seventh-day Adventist church some of my relatives attended. I began taking Bible studies with an elder there, and was baptized on February 10, 2007. I had the privilege of going back, and sharing with those in the streets of Los Angeles about the good news of God’s love, and forgiveness of sin, and now God has blessed me with a beautiful family.

I never graduated from Junior High, High School, or College, but by God’s grace, I was finally able to get a G.E.D. Now I attend Ouachita Hills College, and will soon be graduating with a B.A. in Theology.

The moment that I was truly free was not when I was physically released by the authorities from prison, it was when I accepted the peace of Christ that flooded my soul because I knew I was forgiven!

There are many today that live behind prison walls, who have accepted Jesus, who are freer than many of those on the outside. The truth of the matter is, we all stand guilty before a Holy God. (Romans 3:23.) We are all facing the death penalty. No one is exempt. At one point or another, you have to recognize you are alone on Death Row. Let Jesus be your advocate. He will plead on your behalf. Time is running short, Friend! The Bible says, that one day, all must appear before the judgment seat of Christ. (2 Corinthians 5:10.) How will you stand on that great day? Will Jesus declare of you “Not Guilty”, or will you be weighed in the balance and found wanting? Surrender your life to Jesus, today. Let Him be your Savior and friend that you may be found wearing the wedding garment of His righteousness.

Jesus is a living Savior! He lives today! The same Jesus does miracles today!




Librarians Count!

President Barack Obama announced on February 24, 2016, that he had decided to select and nominate Dr. Carla Hayden to serve as Librarian of the United States Congressional Library. If confirmed by the United States Senate, Dr. Hayden will be the first African American and the first female to serve in this intellectually important position with significant symbolic relevance for the nation and the world. One may wonder why it has taken so long for this achievement from an affirmative action perspective. Each former president could perhaps give a different reason for this failure or oversight but the important observation is worthy of celebration now that it has finally reached this level of action. Unlike some other nominations and confirmations, this one is not expected to encounter any opposition. Our celebration is not premature.

I welcomed this announcement and notification coming to me a few days ago from President Obama and applaud this another first coming from his pens of special announcements.

Another special appointment coming from this area of government is the Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress. This position serves as the nation’s official inspiration for the poetic taste of Americans. During his or her term, the Poet Laureate seeks to create or expand the national awareness to a greater appreciation of the reading and writing of poetry. The position is filled annually by the Librarian of Congress. These actions have been implemented by acts of Congress. That says something about the importance of such to the nation’s wellbeing.

Our libraries should be to our minds what great restaurants, buffets, and grandmothers’ kitchens are to our bodies.

As a nation, we may give more attention to the appointment of a surgeon general but that does not detract from the appointment of the Librarian of Congress. Our boys and girls and adults need to utilize our library systems and exalt them for their intellectual contributions to the greatness of America. It does not get the attention our senators give to filling Supreme Court vacancies or even the selection of commanding generals of the military but any less attention given to the significance of the Library of Congress is more of an adverse reflection on Congress and the general public than on this institution of wisdom and knowledge.

Robert Hayden, the first African American Poet Laureate (The Negro Almanac, H. Plosky and R. Brown, Bellweather Publishing, 1967, p. 688), Maya Angelo, a recent appointee (Life’s Work, Alison Beard, Harvard Business Review, May 2013), and James Weldon Johnson, another historically recognized African American poet (The Negro Almanac, H. Plosky and R. Brown, Bellweather Publishing, New York, p. 688, 1967), made their artistic marks in American History through poetry.

Library of CongressAmerica is a tad more gentle with a bigger heart because of the contributions of great writers, readers, and thinkers. Dr. Carla Hayden is an American librarian. She is the current CEO of Enoch Pratt Free Library in Baltimore, Maryland, and was president of the American Library Association from 2003 to 2004, (Baltimore Magazine, Dec. 2015). Our libraries should be to our minds what great restaurants, buffets, and grandmothers’ kitchens are to our bodies. It is most unfortunate to see boys and girls showing signs of under-nourishment, hunger, and malnutrition while surrounded by great cooks and eateries tossing good food into garbage cans. And so it is when we observe some of those same children coming from homes that have no books and no magazines while public libraries and home libraries are filled with books which require careful dusting on a weekly basis.

Remember to pray this or a similar prayer for Dr. Hayden: Creator and source of all things good, please bless Dr. Hayden and her team of associates with wisdom to see that all brains matter and that all citizens need good reading materials. Help every child to learn to read and then to read. And help every parent to discover there are solutions to all problems in books that are available to all. Bless that we will open our minds as we open our eyes and feast on books as we feast on healthy foods. Amen.

16 Shots We Won’t Hear From Chicago Police

The 16 shots that killed 17-year-old Laquan McDonald in October, 2014, have never been heard by anyone other than those who were there that night. And that’s because Jason Van Dyke, the Chicago police officer who shot him, never activated his dashcam microphone. Police maintenance logs also show that he broke his dashcam on purpose, a practice that apparently has not been uncommon among Chicago police officers.

Between September of 2014 and July of 2015, police cars were found to have been without microphones 90 times. At least 30 other times, dashcam audio either had not been activated or had been tampered with intentionally to keep it from working.

One apparent motive is that officers who want to create their own narratives of events can do so much easier when there is no audio accompanying their dashcam video. In the McDonald shooting, for example, initial police reports said that the teen only had been shot once. An autopsy report later revealed that he actually had been shot 16 times.

Police dispatcher audio from that night revealed that McDonald was not the “immediate threat” that officers had initially reported, and that none of the police officers at the scene had a Taser – which could have been used if McDonald actually had been an “immediate threat.”

The Chicago Police Department said that officers who have disabled dashcam audio and intentionally damaged the dashcams will be punished. Officer Van Dyke has been charged with first–degree murder in the death of Laquan McDonald.

In Your Ear audio courtesy of CNN.