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!
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.
After days of thinking, I’ve decided to write about a group of people that have made the most impact of my life: mi familia (Thanks Cedric Lyons). In later blogs, I will write in more detail about my family, and will discuss my friends, mentors, and people I’ve encountered in life that have influenced my philosophy, my ideology, and have stretched my mind to levels I’ve never thought can imagine. I am a fortunate man, but I must give you a snap-shot about 4 people who I lived with most of my life: Thomas Lee Houston Sr. (Dad), Dorothy Faye McDowell Houston (Mom), Thomas Houston Jr. (Brother), and Natalie Lynn Houston Hunter (Sister).
Dad (My example)
Outside the Russell Glen Residence, Tom Houston was a very influential banker, businessman, and entrepreneur in the Dallas community. He was one of the first black corporate bankers in the city, developed businesses, and led the oldest and largest black chamber in the country. But inside the house, Dad was a relaxed, domino-playing, v-neck and boxer wearing patriarch who enjoyed family trips to Elgin for hot sausage and time with his friends. Honestly, I didn’t know the depth of the “legend” of Thomas L. Houston until after college when I was being acclimated to the “real world”. Initially, I didn’t understand why he hid that from me. I appreciate it now… He wanted me to be my own man. He wanted to make sure I wasn’t pressured in going into his shadow (whether it’s basking in his glory or making the same mistakes he made). He wanted to make sure I understand that your home life needs to be your safe haven from what you experience in the outside world. I respect that, and will use that as an example now in my professional life and when I start my own family. Thanks Pops.
Mom (The Nurturer)
Everywhere I go, I always hear good things about my mother; in fact, I don’t think she has ever made genuine enemies. She’s neither a gentle woman, nor one that’s quiet… just authentic. She has an honest, nurturing aura to her that, regardless what she says and how she says it (the good, bad, or ugly), you can’t despise or hate her. Mom has your best intentions at heart. It was evident when she helped me sell candy at her own rival high school to pay for my band uniform or when she’s tired but still helps my sister by taking care of her grandsons. She is smart, clever, witty, and beautiful. She’s diverse: one of the best cooks I’ve EVER met, loves to joke around, but at the same time would love to dress up and go to a formal function. She’s the total package, and I’m fortunate to have her as a guide on my quest for my wife.
Tommy (Mr. Persistent)
Tommy was fifteen years older than I (yes, I was my parent’s “blessing”). Honestly, I didn’t know him much, but the things I remember left lasting impressions. In my mind my father and brother had the same intensity (stubbornness), so when there was conflict, there was no resolution. My brother had a lot of my mom’s qualities: easy to talk to, compassionate, gentle (despite his 6’4’’ 350+pound frame). He loved people: he had a warm smile and cared for the welfare of people he was close to and even strangers. He was also VERY PERSISTENT… He sold everything. Pre-paid Legal, Kirby, ACN, Olive Leaf Oil Extract, property, baseball cards, Noni Juice. Every Multi-level marketing plan that was in existence, Tommy sold (or tried to sell). Lastly, I feel that Tommy was misunderstood in our family. He was the emotional being in the house. He was very relational, wanted to be appreciated, and wanted to always impart his wisdom (or his ideology) on us. We as Houstons typically don’t operate like that. In hindsight, I (we) could have done more to show we cared. I regret I didn’t spend the time I could have with him before he died. I love and miss him very much….
Nat (My Swag lifesaver)
My older sister is the reason why you see the Matt Houston brand today. After graduating college, she moved back home and changed my life. I was in middle school (an awkward time for me) and she taught me the importance having my belt match my shoes (outside of a suit). This changed my life. She ignited a fire in me that made me question what I used to wear, what I want to wear, and how I carry myself. She didn’t just give me fashion conscience, but she gave me confidence. I changed from a zero to a hero in the matter of months! (a little exaggeration). Seriously, Natalie showed me the importance of appearance and how people always observe how you carry yourself. Most importantly, Natalie taught me the importance of discipline. She is the most regimented person I know. Before there was surgery or lap band, she lost tons of pounds through hard work, healthy eating, and exercising. She’s amazing. She is also a phenomenal model as I’m on my search for my life mate. She is a professional, yet takes care of her husband and two very active sons. She’s a great package and I’m lucky to have her as my big sister.
These four people molded me into the man I am today. There is not a day when I don’t appreciate them. Thank you and I love you very much. I’m blessed to be your son and your brother.
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.
“Being defeated is often a temporary condition. Giving up is what makes it permanent.”
-Marilyn vos Savant
I now understand why people quit after being defeated. It’s easy.
This week I did something that I could regret for the rest of my life. It was nothing immoral or illegal (actually it was totally innocent), but it was taken out of context and offended a lot of people. Though I am one person, I realize a single action can change the course of history, for better or worse.
Since then, my life has been a roller coaster ride mentally. I’ve gone from the top of the mountain, feeling like I’m contributing to society in every aspect of my life, to the bottom of the valley. I feel like giving up, quitting, running away, all at the same time.
Normally I like give advice on how to make the world a better place and support to people who need it. In my typical blog with the subject of perseverance, I would encourage people to fight the good fight and don’t give up, because in order to build better communities, cities, and country, we have to persist through the good and bad times. I would then use examples of how our ancestors didn’t give up. When George Washington and the Patriots wanted freedom from Great Britain, they persevered so we can become America. When Africans were kidnapped from their homeland, enslaved unjustly, and force to stay in oppression, they didn’t give up. They fought for their freedom so I have a liberty to write this piece.
I can’t write that now. I don’t have the answers. All I feel is pain, defeat, and disappointment. The motivational “pick me up” will not suffice now. I need something better. The movement sucks… Quitting is easy. The only reason why I haven’t is because I was taught not to.
I need you all to support me. I need to support you. We need each other: in the best of times and worst of times. I fully see how the season of light can turn to the season of darkness so quickly. Regardless, giving up is easy, but it’s not worth it… We have too much work to do.
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,