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.

It’s A Family Affair

We’re Losing

As I reflect on how we’ve overcome as a people, displaced Africans in a foreign land against our will, fighting for our freedom, and then fighting for our equality; all at the same time contributing to society in the world of agriculture, science, the arts, technology, etc., I realize presently we are not doing what we are suppose to do.  We are losing…

Ricky Bobby’s father said it best, “If you’re not first, you’re last”.  In America, even though we are considered one of the most advanced (and innovative) nations on Earth, we are still not the best.  We are slacking in education (9th among industrialized nations from ages 24-35), and it’s even worse in Black American culture, having Black males among the worst in standardized test scores across the board.  Without education, we cannot progress as a people!

How do we correct this?  How can we educate a generation of people who we’ve lost because of our own selfishness and self-gratitude (greed)?  How can we get back on track in order for America to be on top again like we were 20 years ago?  The good news is we are capable of making the change.

As stated in the beginning of my rant, Black Americans were enslaved and forbidden to read, write, and learn in general.  We defied this by doing whatever necessary to become literate.  Some ran to freedom, some read secretly and taught others, some even positioned themselves amongst Whites in order to be in the environment where education was prevalent.  We did ANYTHING to make it work.  We were hustlers grinding to better ourselves.

We still have that “hustle” mindset.  In Hip-Hop, when artist like Jay-Z, Diddy, Russell Simmons, and others used their talents, skills, and education to build an empire from their vision, it’s proven we are capable of living the American Dream.  In athletics, the Michael Jordan story, where MJ was cut from his HS Varsity team then worked his way to being the most significant basketball player in history shows that hard work pays off.  We have numerous examples in our culture to show this… we just don’t care to look.  WE ARE TOO LAZY TO EVEN CARE…

What now?  As a people, we tend to rise to the occasion once we either feel threatened or oppressed (being reactive).  It’s proven:  we fought slavery by the civil war, fought racism by the Civil Rights Movement.  Once we acknowledge a problem, we solve it.  The issue with us now is that we don’t have these feelings.  We don’t think anything’s wrong.  I’m here to tell you:  WE ARE OPPRESSED.  When about 1/3 of our black men are either in prison or juvenile detention, we are oppressed.  When our black women have some of the highest STD infection rates in the country, we are oppressed.  When the black unemployment rate is double than the average, we are oppressed.  When black teenagers can’t finish school because they have children and they need to support their family in order to survive, we are oppressed.  LET’S WAKE UP!!!!!!!!!  THE OPPRESSION IS HERE!!!!!!  NOW LET’S FIX IT!!!!!!!!!!!

We’re losing, but we haven’t lost yet.  Let’s be proactive.  Let’s make a goal to positively change the life of one person instead of tearing them down (it’s not that hard, I promise).  Once you see a person improve, a euphoric feeling will go through you and you will be energized to help another.  It’s so easy: open the door for someone, make someone smile, teach kids how to read, show a young man to line up his shirt with his belt and his pants to show the importance of not sagging.  It’s very simple.  We just have to be stewards of the gifts God gave us.  If everyone does this, we will make the world a better place.

I’m done…  I can go to sleep now.  I’ve finished my reflection.  Have a goodnight.

Let’s change the World,

Matt Houston

Get INVOLVED!!!!!!!!

Who wants to be the next leader in America?