Category Archives: fraternal

Happy Birthday Tommy!!!

Just dropping a note to wish you a Happy Birthday big bro!   Though you are greatly missed (your friends, family, and acquaintances continually praise your personality, intelligence, and spirit) you are living through your daughters Kenedi and Triniti. I’ve had the pleasure to interact w/ your oldest this year and I see so much of you in her.

I don’t want this to go long, just want to say I love you, I miss you, and you are forever in my heart. 

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Women ROCK! Seriously… Y’all Do!

Though March 8th is touted as International Women’s Day, I want to make it clear that I won’t use this day only to celebrate women, or verbally praise or acknowledge, or even go above and beyond my education to “learn” of the contributions women have done in my culture, society, or the world.  I will not trivialize this day like many do Black History Month (yes, I took a jab at all of the ignorant people who don’t care about black people outside of February…), because I somewhat understand the importance of this day; it’s not to force-feed people into feminism, nor is it a mandate that today people have to consider everything woman says is true out of guilt from the past transgressions men (and other women) have put on talented women who approached a glass ceiling, preventing them to achieve their personal, professional, or aspirational goals.  No, that’s not the reason of the declaration of International Women’s Day.

We acknowledge International Women’s Day because you ROCK, and having a designated day to reflect on how women impact our lives provides food for the soul (pun was intended) as we (myself included) in all of daily lives can improve how we interact, consider, or treat women throughout the rest of the year.  That’s the spirit of this day (similar to Black History Month, or Small Business Week that was last week, or National Hispanic Heritage Month that we will celebrate in the fall).  It’s a day to say “thank you” and ensure we remain conscious, as human beings, that we shall move forward, and not fall backward…

There were (and are) numerous women who’ve impacted my life…  First, my mother, who without her I will not exist, is a remarkably strong women with a kind heart; the real backbone of the Houston family.  My sister, Natalie, whose spirit, strength, and intellect is so contagious that I can’t help but smile and do the right thing because she laid the appropriate blueprint for success out.  My girlfriend, who is so smart and cares for her students so much, that she will directly be the cause of a better society, not only through her work, but her influence in college students.  I’ve grown up with friends, peers, and mentors who have motivated me to be a man; physically so I can protect them, intellectually, so I can teach them (I KNOW they don’t want to hear that, lol) , and spiritually, so I can lead them, and vice versa.

Without saying too much more, and for me to spread out this appreciation throughout days outside of March 8th, I just want to say “Thank You” to all the women in my life (and abroad) for your presence, your contributions, and being awesome teammates.  You all ROCK!

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BLACK is a dirty word?????

So today is March 2nd.  And I’m about to write about Black Culture.  Yes, I know I’m a month late (or am I????) and I’ve had an itch to write on this topic for the last 30 days, but my reasonings to write evolved continuously as I was more of an observer/witness of people throughout the month of February; how the political environment has unfolded this season (both locally and nationally), how my black friends continue to be frustrated as we are experiencing history repeat itself as people marginalize our contributions until it’s convenient (I’m typing this at a coffee house and hear nothing but pop songs that were either performed or written by African Americans, after Black History Month-that says something) but then totally exploit what we do through mass media outlets (mostly our negative attributes) to reinforce the mindsets that blacks are buffoons and should be confined to the realms of entertainment, athletics, or pleasures, except of course for an exceptional few that escaped and “gets ‘American’ culture”…

I also witness how my non-black friends are either VERY CONFUSED why we even celebrate Black History Month; they get defensive because their culture don’t receive the same amount of “exposure” or judge blacks for not conforming to the system and just accept “the American Way”…”Matt, how would you feel if we had ‘White History’ month?”  Ahhh… You do…  “So why don’t they celebrate other cultures like the Asians or Hispanics?”  Ahhhh… They do  :-(… It’s so draining to hear every person outside of my culture (and some idiots who are black) question EVERYTHING we do.

Conversely, other non-blacks, who are empathetic of our struggle, gets railroaded by both sides, being shunned out of white or “mainstream” culture for venturing out too far from home base and being in the vicinity of the “leopards”, but then being the beneficiary of a vicious lashing out blacks would dish out on them out of frustration from our situations, either placed via a system or themselves….  Frustrating and confusing them why they are evening trying to enlighten either themselves or others.

I can write a book about this (in fact, there are several books we ALL can read, starting with the Mis-Education of the Negro- so if you want to blame someone for Black History Month, go to the source and see his rationale and then talk to me… and understand it’s not about it being the shortest day of the month…) but I only want to make one observation hit me like a ton of bricks this year:  People are genuinely scared of the mere word “Black”.  That’s it.  That simple.  Before we can even go deeper of the human aspect or socio-economic factors, or phycological effects of slavery, Jim Crow, drugs, and the exploitation of blacks, people are automatically turned off by the word…. Black…. The tint (not a color, btw)….. Black.  This 5-letter B-word alone derails any communication…People literally shut down when the word “BLACK” is articulated in the conversation.  Seriously, the word Black…. wow, my mind is still blown even as I type.

This may seem a bit too much, or even overkill, but the fact that rational people, who are either educated or experienced in life and who have made serious and complicated decisions can be distracted by tint or color is very discouraging for progress and growth:  don’t be afraid of the word BLACK.  I do understand the denotations and connotations that Black relates to darkness, and evil in certain senses, but remember that being in the black also means that your business is surviving.  When dealing with people, black is ONLY a descriptor of either a race or culture, nothing more, nothing less.  How you think about a black person is up to you…  Don’t make an excuse to call us evil because of our skin (this isn’t pre-industrial, racist America).

I’m starting to get on my soap box (which it is not my intention for this post).  I’m passionate about this because if we stop communication and discussion based on a word doesn’t tackle the true issue, then progress is futile.  I want people to continue to build relationships with all people of colors, not try to ignore colors and assume we are a monolith…   that’s easy out and frankly, a cheap way to communicate.  Let’s learn that in the case of skin pigmentation, black doesn’t mean evil, just as white doesn’t mean pure.   GET BEYOND THE WORD BLACK.  Instead, understand there are different positive attributes of that color, then understand that I can at least entertain building a relationship with someone, despite their color. We are all people, and our culture/race can be learned at any time…  not just February for me.

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Adding Millennials To Your Team Can Innovate Your Organization

For over 10 years, I have been involved in numerous organizations; including student activities, a fraternity life, young professional groups, established institutions, organizations that serve my community, national organizations, start-up companies, and start-up nonprofits. I’ve even been head of a 90-year old established organization (www.dallasblackchamber.org).  I have peers who are younger, my same page, and who are considered elder statesmen (women) in our society.  My takeaway from my experiences (and advice to existing companies/orgs) is to infuse more millennials to your decision-making processes; don’t just hire them, empower them.  If there’s a combination of young horsepower and strategic thinking from individuals who’ve been in the organization, we can effectively innovate ANY organization or company.  

 

One thing that frustrates me is the lack of cross-communication between age groups in an organization, as this leads to ineffectiveness.  Organizations are either too young, with not enough experience or depth, or it’s archaic and rigid, where outdated processes suffocates innovation and productivity.  A simple cross-pollination of vitality and expertise may assist in preserving companies who have been successful for generations, but are striving to maintain relevance in today’s society.  

 

We allow petty arguments and mis-characterizations stunt our development of ideas, service, and achievement, prohibiting us to make the best decisions possible.  It is the stereotype that millennials are narcissistic, entitled, and rash decision-makers.  In actuality, millennials are most comfortable with technology as we are the first generation to fully incorporate computers with our way of life (education, work, leisure, etc.); similar to Steph Curry’s comfortable nature with the basketball, he was practically born with the basketball in his hand, and with all of his practice, is able to perfect all aspects of the game…  It’s also believed that once you’re old, you are useless, stubborn, and slow to change anything.  The truth is, veterans in organization carry institutional knowledge on how the current process was derived that is invaluable to all members;  the former descriptors will start conflict (leading to an adversarial relationship), while the latter shows understanding and cooperation, making everyone happy.

 

In order for avoid this, there needs to be actions done with BOTH parties.  Young people, slow down.  Process information more and communicate with tenured people so you can receive the full context, allowing you to provide the best solution to the problem.  Also, withstand the initial criticism of veterans in organizations; they are intimidated by the amount of change in technology, and may not be able (or do not choose) to articulate with you their vulnerabilities.  Building a rapport will help bring the walls down.  In their words, you can analyze their frustration and provide a solution.  

 

Older/more tenured professionals, don’t get intimidated.  Embrace a new perspective and ACTIVELY engage with younger individuals, building a relationship (which we millennials typically appreciate).  Transition to the mentor role.  Allow your organization vibrancy by having a younger person create new ways of solving problems.  Sure, there will be some dissonance initially, but once a foundation of trust is set we can proceed with completing our projects.  

 

Both age groups need each other to survive.  Let’s actively work with each other so we can continue to build organizations that promote productivity and positive impact.

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Should Dallas Pass The Torch, or Turn Up The Heat?

Dallas has come a long way in our history; from a settlement that sits on a prairie in the middle of the country with no major natural resource or natural means of transportation, to a metropolis that has become one of the major logistical hubs in North America.  Our city does not only transport precious materials/cargo across the world and throughout the globe, but also catch the attention of major multi-national corporations, attracting global talent that will not only improve their company, but can impact our city through innovative and diverse problem-solving techniques.  Consequently, we are on track to being an international city, where we will serve as a destination place for all, similar to Paris, Hong Kong, London, etc.  These feats were attributed to the intellect, talent, and planning of our city’s forefathers, which then attracted young, ambitious, motivated individuals to pass the torch.

 

However, with all of our successes and ingenuity in the 20th century, we were still handicapped by a myopic cultural view; where societal prejudices of minorities, women, and sexual preferences caused not only Dallas, but many American cities, to not maximize on their potential in terms of inclusion in education, economic development, social interaction, and cultural formation.  In essence, though we were progressing at a rate that was better than the “norm”, we still were underachieving based on our capabilities.  

 

Dallas is standing at a crossroads; should we “Pass the Torch” to the next chosen ones, providing a blueprint of how Dallas became successful and consulting the groomed establishment not to deviate from the existing plan, or should we “Turn Up the Heat”, creating an analysis of our where we are, understanding how we got here, challenging one another to optimize our performance, and providing a new strategy that incorporates relevant factors that were not included in the original plan: culture, people, analytics, etc.  I argue the latter will maximize our talent pool to catapult Dallas to a realm where we are solving our challenges more effectively using all the talent that’s available.
I’m not that naive to think I can provide a solution to this question on one blog; my hope is that people read this, analyze where they are in the situation (age, status, professional, influence), and create an inclusive conversation so we can utilize the experiences and talents we’ve attracted to our great region.  Let’s move Dallas Forward, remembering (both the good and bad) of our past, creating a plan in the present, and providing a gift for our future by inclusive leadership.

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Even at SMU, Black Lives Matter!

This message serves as a reflection from an event I attended at my alma mater, Southern Methodist University (SMU), where they hosted Alicia Garza, the architect of #BlackLivesMatter….  I know, I was shocked!!!!  I’ll reserve my state for another post… this post is to share some of the takeaways I received from her from her VERY INTERESTING, WELL ATTENDED talk in the student center ballrooms:

 

You need a strategy, not just an emotion

Her plans for “Black Lives Matter” weren’t a knee-jerk reaction to some discrimination she encountered, there was a deliberate plan that was well thought out and executed to ensure sustainability.

 

“Hashtags does not make movements, people do”

This was a quote she stated that’s stuck with me.  Recently, I did a talk for Ignite DFW (post of the presentation coming soon) where I give advice to millennials on how to survive in leadership roles; the main point is to not stop once you state something on Facebook or twitter; go beyond that and act!

 

You NEED to have a broad reach/network

Her network did not just include her friends; but people she interacted with all over the country before the incident…  Which means she’s not only known but have positive relationships with individuals of all backgrounds, allowing her to be an influencer.

 

“Black Lives Matter” was a love letter to black people

This was beautifully said…  I know this seems weird or exclusive to non-blacks in the audience, but let me explain; Unlike MOST ethnicities, blacks are the most exploited type of people in current media, for better or worse.  Therefore, we are bombarded with information about “us” from everyone- the media, papers, strangers, aliens, etc.  So it’s endearing to me when someone from our own culture actually expels energy to positively communicate to us.  Thanks Alicia…

 

Both sexes need to work together in the strategy process

We’re facing an on-going battle of the sexes, where men and women are establishing footing for newly formed gender roles in our society.  This is a good thing, as we are going through “growing pains” as a society; dispelling our past misogynistic ways and working toward a more, equal partnership in leadership.  Consequently, there needs to be more black women at the planning table to dictate future strategy.

 

Black lives matter is not Anti-Police, it’s anti-violence movement

For people that say the line above either ignorant or purposely wants to be polarizing…  The solution for a systemic problem isn’t inflicting pain to the oppressors, it’s creating an environment where all can be pain-free.  #BlackLivesMatter is so popular because it resonates with SO MANY people’s feeling that Black Lives DONT Matter in our society…

 

“Pay attention to the culture we create”

This is applicable in so many facets of life.  You are what you eat, you are the company you keep, all of these sayings I’ve heard from my influencers come to life as I breathe each breath.  The same goes with the macro-systems we create/operate/exists in.  By creating a sociologic environment of discrimination and prejudice, we assist in poisoning our future generations…  The culture we create isn’t so important to us, but to the ones that follow; but if we don’t care about anyone now, how could we have the capacity to nurture an environment for people that don’t exist yet????

 

 

These are just some of the great things said by this influential sista.  I appreciate you sharing your words, experiences, and thoughts so we can analyze, ponder, and take action!

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My Fraternal Reflection

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So in honor of Founder’s Day, I wore this pin today.  December 4th is a day that members of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity Inc. celebrate as our founders at Cornell University established our organization to support, uplift, and advance the agenda of black scholars so we can impact the world.  This organization produced world leaders, policy makers, evangelist, activists, scientist, athletes, and many more focusing on Manly Deeds, Scholarship, and Love for All Mankind.

This pen was initially used as a campaign for a candidate running for our national president, and it symbolized doing things in remembrance of our fraternal founders; Callis, Chapman, Jones, Kelley, Murray, Ogle, and Tandy; not to focus on the glitz and glamor, the attention, the profile… just remember why you chose to invest your blood, sweat, and tears to our organization.

Though that campaign has come and gone, I appreciate this pin and what it stood for.  Not because of the candidate, but because it was a continuous reminder of why I joined this organization.  Most know, I don’t have a “traditional” history with A Phi A.  In fact, the decisions I made in college not only “black balled” me on my campus, but contributed to the demise of my chapter and the absence of strong leadership on SMU for 9 years; something that I have personally blamed myself…  I was not able to fully appreciate the benefits of having a vibrant chapter on my campus, fully exercising the college life experience, or even share my knowledge with people who wanted to pass the torch on SMU’s campus so they can hold the light.

Why am I saying this:  Today, the spirit led me to visit my alma mater, Southern Methodist University.  I walked the campus, felt the energy, saw the new buildings, reminding me that college days swiftly pass, and then ventured to the student affairs office where I interacted with current students, a.k.a. future world changers.  I became happy, as I realized there were members of my fraternity on campus, holding the light, and were open to hear from someone who cares about building them up, not tearing them down.

I remembered that was my motivation as an undergrad; finish college and spread the TRUE meaning of fraternity; to uplift, inspire, guide, build brothers so together we can uplift ALL Mankind.  This is my reflection, and my inspiration to continue to be the best person I can be…

 

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