My DNC Experience, Day 1

Matt Houston gives his historical point of view of politics and starts a vLog of the Democratic National Convention.

News clip: WFAA Daybreak: 4-20-12

My Little, Da’Lon Reynolds, and I were on WFAA TV (Channel 8 in Dallas) for a news segment promoting Big Brothers Big Sisters (BBBS).  BBBS is a great organization to join!

WFAA Ch. 8 Daybreak

He Needs More Seasoning…

As I watch the race for the Dallas Independent School District Board of Trustee seat in District 9, I am enthralled (and disappointed) at the race between incumbent Bernadette Nuttal and her opponent, Damarcus Offord.

I’m drawn to this race in particular because Mr. Offord is taking a stance for what he believes in (something that I love to see in Young African American men).  Damarcus is a man (not a boy) who wants to make an impact in his community and make a name for him.  He has a goal, a mission, direction to do something positive in South Dallas and does not mind illuminating that to the mainstream; something that needs to be done to show that not all black men are negative contributors to society.  This excites me because these are the precursors to a great leader, not just in his South Dallas community, but potentially in America.

His energy and enthusiasm, however, is over shattered by his naiveté.  He lacks preparation in debates, knowledge in district matters (inside and out of District 9), and the ability to clearly articulate his ideas (an area where I feel WE failed him).  It’s one thing to be a voice of an unheard population, but once you have the microphone, you need to be able to say something.  That’s when prior proper studying, preparation, review, and counsel from mentors are very important.

I remember times in high school and college when my parents would either attend a performance or hear me speak at a function, my father (greatest critic) would say, “Matt, you need more seasoning.”  This would frustrate me and irritate me until I realized of what he meant years later.  He didn’t tell me to quit because I was no good, he just noticed I wasn’t at a point of proficiency and instructed me to increase my ceiling of learning so I can study more, refine, and improve on a product so it can be the best.

I like Damarcus Offord’s energy and enthusiasm to make an impact in his community.  Those are characteristics that are needed to serve people.  However, I feel that he needs more time to sharpen some skills in order to be a more effective leader.  He needs people in his camp to push him academically as well as politically and civically.  Like me after a performance in high school or college, Damarcus is doing the right things, he just needs to get better, and be willing to work on those skills.  I’m willing to assist him with what he needs.

Global Diversity Leadership Exchange vLog

Intangible Solutions For A Tangible Problem

http://www.groupexcellence.org

Recently, the state of education in America has been a hot topic (and rightfully so).  With growing competition abroad, the reauthorization of education policy, and the state of the economy, people all over the country are panicking for solutions.  Though there are large, policy-changing answers we can find to improve the system, there are also small, intangible solutions every day Americans can do in order to enhance the education of our young people.

For the past five years, I’ve worked in an organization that supports and supplements the instruction of the teacher.  In doing so, I’ve been able to experience the problems faced by the teacher.  I realize teachers have a lot of things they need to do in order to educate kids.  With overcrowded classrooms, lack of supplies, and long processes, it’s very difficult for teachers to educate students alone.  What my company is able to do is provide assistance, bringing in people to confirm everything the teacher just instructed.  By doing this, students start making connections; they realize teachers are not instructing for their own health, and when the same thing is said from another person who has “swag” or they can relate to the student, then a connection is made.  The education system is starting to improve.

I wonder, is there a connection with establishing a positive relationship with America’s future and the improvement of education?  Is our society built on nourishing tomorrow or is it worried about what we can get today?  We love to talk about our posterity and how we need to invest in the future today, but do we practice what we preach?  It is evident that we are lacking in compassion for our youth (automatic rejection of their music, ignoring their viewpoint, disengagement of their actions).  THIS IS STUPID ON OUR PART!!!!

One thing these young people have that we didn’t is the instant access to information.  They can Google on their phone and broadcast whatever they find to the whole world in seconds.  As adults, our responsibility is to:

  • Develop a good report/relationship with our children
  • Listen to their ideas/thoughts
  • Advise/Teach/Discipline them the appropriate plans of actions (based from experience)
  • Developing an environment for nurturing, learning and loving

Is this easy: no.   The hardest stage in any process is implementation.  It takes energy, effort, and patience.  There are some stupid brats who don’t want to listen.  We can’t save everyone.  Our job is to make ourselves available so we can be in a position to teach/help someone who wants to improve.  It takes a village to raise a child.  Let’s not leave our children behind.

How My Family Made An Impact On My Life: Dad’s Domino Games…

“Families are the compass that guide us.  They are the inspiration to reach great heights, and our comfort when we occasionally falter.”
-Brad Henry
I want to continue on my conversation on how my family impacted my life.  Please understand, my family is not exclusive to people I am related to by blood.  They are childhood friends, teachers, and mentors who accept me for who I am and teach me a great deal about life (directly and indirectly).
In the next few blogs I will talk about people my family exposed me to who influenced me.  I will not specify names because there are SO many people who I admire, and if I forget some names I will regret it.  I do want to speak generally and provide thematic messages on the importance of surrounding yourself with high quality people.
One thing I forgot to mention when discussing my immediate family was their talent for exposing me to great people.  My father, mother, brother, and sister had a network of people around me to teach me mostly good, exposed me occasionally to bad, but definitely entertained me to the fullest.
Walk with Kings, but don’t lose the common touch
One of my father’s favorite pastime was playing dominoes.  I remember him playing at least twice a week for hours each meeting with the same 3 men.  These men were diplomats, nor politicians, they were people he trust.  Initially, it didn’t make sense for my dad to “associate” with these blue collar workers.  My father was a banker, entrepreneur, and leader of the largest black chamber in the country.  Why would he spend most of his recreational time with people “below him”.  Watching them play dominoes and occasionally running an errand for them, I was able to socialize and learn from everyone at the table.  I started getting tips on how I maintain my car, and the best method in keeping a great lawn.  Most importantly, witnessed how 4 different types of black men can interact and work as a team.  Even though they had different education levels, different professions, even different socioeconomic statuses, they had one thing in common:  They are black men that was surviving a world I had not experienced yet.  As I grow older, I began to realize a very important lesson he was teaching me: give all people the same respect.  Every person can teach you a lesson, the question is will you learn and apply it.
It takes a group of diverse people to make a society thrive, and it takes a functioning community to prosper.  In order to fulfill many of my goals, it requires me to talk, relate, and understand different types of people.  It would be total suicide if I believed I was better than someone because of what little resources I have.
People are people are people.  No person is better or worse than the other:  we are just different.  Let’s appreciate our diversity and learn from one another so we can be the best we can be.

Life with a Little, Pt. 1

At this month’s YP meeting (www.ulgdyp.org), we had Roderick Miles of Big Brothers Big Sisters (BBBS) talk to the body about being a Big in the BBBS program.  As I reflect on the 1st month of having a “little” through the program, I’m surprised at the progress of my little and I.  It’s been a long time coming, about two years since someone introduced me to the program.  It’s not surprisenly good, it’s not surprisenly bad, it’s just been a surprise.  I’m surpised at how easy our interactions have been.

Before joining BBBS, I though I would have to “force” a relationship with Ja’Lon.  I studied the materials my match specialist provided me (sort of), I made sure my schedule was clear (an act of congress in itself), even reviewed my notes from the online training (I kind of paid attention to) and I mentally prepared for any questions he and his family had for me (how to impress them with the “good” in me and how to deflect all of my vices).

When I got there, it wasn’t like that.  Everything was thrown out of the window.  I had no plan…  So I just stuck with my instincts.  As our match coordinator explained each of our roles, I noticed he didn’t care much about the rules; he was glad (or relieved) that he had a sensible Big Brother.  He is a regular human being…

I learned that he had been waiting for a Big for about 2 years.  He’s 14 year old, a Freshman in High School.  He needed a man in his life during the harmonal transitions in middle school.  His mother and grandmother are cool, but they don’t understand the different changes he’s going through or how puberty affects a man.  I remember hating that time period in my life and made a vow to help as many people as possible though that difficult time.  I failed him at that.  I was too selfish… I should have stepped it up when someone approached me a couple of years ago…

Long story short, we have had a good time so far.  I’m teaching him things, he’s tellin me I listen to old people music (duh, I’m sorry he was born after both 2-Pac and Biggie were killed).  Most importantly, we both have someone who we can talk to and gain knowledge, and I am grateful.

Black Men:  Please sign up to be a Big.  Our boys need you.  You don’t have to be a perfect man, we don’t need perfection.  African American boys are in search of models: people they can emulate.  If we rely on TV or society, they will not understand the true black man fully.  Please help our poeple… Surprisenly, it’s not that bad…

Nurturing Kids: Adult’s most important job…

This weekend, I paid a visit to my mom.  She was keeping her grandsons, my nephews; for the night and I thought it would be a good time to catch up with her and to see these two vibrant, VERY ACTIVE, intelligent young men.  As we were all watching Scooby-Do the Movie, I realized the importance of me being in their lives.  After the movie, my mom and I bathed them and got them ready for bed.  Before we turned the lights off, however, we showed them a picture collage of our family and friends.  They ate it up!  They love to see their mom and dad, photos of themselves, of my father and brother, and people they do and don’t recognize.  When we stopped, they were sad.  Trey and Logan wanted more, wanted to learn more about their family, wanted to see themselves one more time on the electric picture frame.

It was then I realized something.  It was a strange feeling.  They don’t need me to be their father as I thought initially… they have one in my brother-in-law.  They don’t need me to support them financially, either.  They just need me to be there; a black man who is driven, intelligent, who wants to succeed professionally, and love his family unconditionally.  What’s funny is that my sister Natalie has been asking me (bugging) to be in their lives more.  Why?  I’m not a father…  I don’t even know how to change a diaper.  I see them enough…  Whenever I’m on the phone with Nat I make sure you tell them I love them and I try to see them at every possible function, but I never fully understood why she thought I wasn’t spending enough time with them.

The fact is kids are not like adults.  They need nurturing.  They are very observant, and absorb everything in their environment.  They don’t fully understand when their mom or dad is away because they need to work to pay the bills and support their lifestyle; they just know they don’t see them, and they are sad.  They want a sense of order and community; two qualities that will help them excel as adults.  Just as Marian Wright Edelman said in her book, “The Sea is So Wide and My Boat is So Small”, that children are our future.  We need to make sure they are fed physically, socially, spiritually, and academically.

To Kenedi, Triniti, Trey, and Thomas Logan: I love you all and I will try my best to be the Uncle Matt you deserve, for I want you to succeed in life.