This post is long.
I believe black lives matter.
And you may want to just keep on scrolling.
Instead, I hope you will read thoughtfully, and look deep inside of your heart and soul.
If you do scroll on through, don’t skip over the part that JT said.
Anyone who has followed my social media accounts or my blog, will know that I am a firm believer in kindness. Kindness ALWAYS.
I’m not perfect. I’ve messed up. I say I’m sorry A LOT… in fact I’m probably deplorable and most likely there are people who don’t like me.
But I do live by 2 mottoes: Love God with all that I am and love others as much as I love myself.
That takes a big burden off my shoulders, because the decision has already been made of how I will proceed through my days as it relates to my family and other human kind. And so I strive and press on.
If you want to skip over this background information, feel free…I’m boring.
But be sure and read what JT has to say.
Because black lives matter.
Peaceful assembly started this week on our courthouse square. I have not been able to attend, but as I’ve heard the town buzz about the peaceful assembly for Black Lives Matter, I couldn’t help but ponder how amazing it is to know that this type of event is happening peacefully right here in the middle of our town. I really didn’t know what racism (and the depths of feeling behind it) was until I moved to Indiana.
Some of you know, I was raised deep in the hills of Arkansas and despite the fact that long before I was born, historical riots happened right in Little Rock, Arkansas over segregation or desegregation whichever way you choose to see it…I didn’t realize that racism was a thing.
Call it my white privilege, call it my ignorance, call it being blissfully naive or living so far back in the hills that I couldn’t find my way out… or whatever other way you label me, but Mother and Daddy loved everyone and set an example of treating others with respect and dignity, and so I just thought that’s the way things were.
Then I came here and found out that not everyone loves others unconditionally. I’m not saying these things didn’t happen in Arkansas. I’m quite certain it did. And probably part of it was simply a maturity issue and becoming more aware of the opinions of others.
And it made me sad to hear the things people said.
It just wasn’t a part of my family culture to practice bullying, name calling, or treating others in a degrading manner. And it was in Greenfield, Indiana, that I learned about racism.
That makes me really very sad.
Black lives matter.
Now for the good part.
Today at the assembly on the courthouse square our friend JT shared some of his life story as a black child and black man. He is a man of integrity and excellence. He is a friend to our family. He is a mentor and teacher to our daughter and other students at the local high school. He is a change maker.
As you read what he shared, you may find your heart and mind opened to realize that you can make a difference. You can look deep in your heart and vow or pray to treat others with the respect they deserve, if this is something you struggle with.
Just be kind. Kindness matters. Black lives matter.
This is what JT said: (I share it with permission)
I have been a part of the Greenfield Community in various capacities for the last 8 years. I’ve been a member of the GC Band staff since 2012, I lived in Greenfield from 2012-2015, and I worked at JB Stephens Elementary from 2014-2018 and a semester in 2019. I have come to develop some incredibly strong bonds with so many families in the town and I truly am grateful for my experiences. When David asked me to come out and speak I thought about what I would say? What is it that I think needs to be said? Being in front of a group of people looking to you for guidance or perspective is something I do every day.. But this one is different. I will do my best to not make this a long speech. But I do want to make sure that this is right. I want to make sure that the sentiments are felt. I want to make sure you leave here more inspired than you already are, to continue to push the movement forward. So.. Here we go.
I was born and raised in South Chicago. My parents did an incredible job of raising my sisters and I, by providing us with opportunities the best they could. We stayed out of trouble, we learned how to be respectful, we learned how to assimilate the best we could. I was in Kindergarten when I realized I was the only black student in an all white christian school. I remember going home and asking my mom why I was different. She assured me I was no different in spirit. No different in character. No different in heart than the other students. The only difference was on the outside. She’s a wonderful woman. She knew the struggles to come. But genuinely believed if they knew my heart? Then nothing else would matter. Maybe I could be one of the Lucky ones. For the most part? She was right… Until about 6th grade. That’s right around when kids started to pick up on some language probably heard from home. All of a sudden friends I thought I had? We’re acting a little different. There was a week straight where I got off the bus in the morning, dropped my bag, and basically started fighting. But hey, preteens will be preteens, right? Shortly after I left said school and went to an all black Public School. I learned a lot there. Saw a lot there. It was interesting because I remember being in a place where I felt in the middle of two worlds. I was too black at one school.. Not black enough at the other (Something I carry with me still to this day). It was then I learned how to adapt though. Speak well, but not too well, dress black, but not too black, If I could just be right in the center? I could be okay. I wouldn’t have to worry about being harassed by school police or followed home by bullies. Found an outlet in Basketball and became pretty good and even better? I was accepted into a very prestigious Private Catholic school! And this.. Is where the story really begins.
Marian Catholic High School is a catholic school in Chicago Heights, Illinois. It has a makeup of students from around 60 different schools across Illinois and Northwest Indiana. In the spring of 2005 Marian Catholic had a cross burned on its front lawn. Not 1965. 2005. Somehow with all of the racial tension around the school, inside it actually did a pretty good job of being progressive. Progressive for equality for all. Black or white. Gay or Straight. Rich or Poor. They were able to juggle an amount of harmony that I think is incredibly fascinating. Inside those walls? Was a safe place. Unfortunately not them, nor my parents, nor coaches, nor teachers, could keep me away from the next 15 years. No matter how much they preached equality and love, they couldn’t keep all of us safe.
I was 16 when I first was handcuffed, pinned to the ground with a knee in my back, gun to my head. I was with a group of friends going to see Rush Hour 3 in theaters. We were driving down a road next to a forest preserve, windows down, Music up. It was a warm night. I’ll never forget it. We saw lights, and before I knew it? The allergy medication in my pocket was thought to be drugs and I was struggling to breathe while the weight of an adult man began to crush me. I can still feel the warmth of the blacktop. How the gravel felt on my chest as I started to melt into the ground. My friends were talking for me, I couldn’t speak. All the screams. Screams from officers, screams from my friends at officers and each other. Why did we get pulled over? I wish I knew. But, after rippinging through everything, they let us go. I was lucky.
I was 15 when I was walking home from school after summer basketball practice. I had a backpack that had a little bag for your shoes attached. Made it look like I had a shoe tail or something, but I thought it was pretty cool at the time. Basketball shorts, big white tee, Nike flip flops, on the phone with my friend Keith Jennings. I had to walk through some nice parts of town to get back across the tracks. Two squad cars pull up. Hands on guns. I close my flip phone immediately to let them know its a phone. Hands up, immediately go to my knees (I know the drill. Pops taught me well) They ask me where I’m going, where I’m coming from, my name, my address, take my bag and rummage through it. Dump it. I didn’t ask them any questions. I complied. They said I fit the description. I was lucky.
I was 17 when I was riding in the back seat of my friend Matt Hartl’s car. My buddy Keith was in the front. We were listening to Kanye West’s graduation album. There was road construction on US 30 Just past Harlem. Lights Flash. Keith and I know the drill. Keiths hands on the dash. My hands on the back of the driver’s seat. The Police officer laughed.. “You boys are trained well.” I was lucky
I was 18 when Keith and I were driving up from an all white town about an hour south of our homes. We hung out with some friends. We were driving out of town. We noticed a police officer following us out of town.. As we drove through another town? Another officer comes out of nowhere and follows us. Then another. Then finally we’re pulled over. This is it. We’re going to jail in Beecher Illinois. Or dying. He said we probably shouldn’t be out so late and to go straight home. I was Lucky
I was 19 when I went to Little 5 down in Bloomington with a few friends. We Left from Marian U, only went to a party for the night, came back the next day. Pulled over in Martinsville. I was in the backseat. Another of my black friends was in the front and our white friend was driving. Aimee started to cry when she got pulled over. It was her first time. The police officer asked, “Did he hit you?” “Did he choke you?” “Do you feel safe?” She didn’t get a ticket. I did though. It was for improperly wearing a seatbelt in the back seat.. I was lucky.
I was 21 when I was pulled over at 2:43PM in Carmel, IN. The officer asked “What are you doing here?” I said I was finishing work. He checked my car. I had nothing to hide. He checked me. Again, nothing to hide. And another ticket for improperly wearing a seatbelt (Pesky things are so hard to figure out!) I was lucky.
I was 21 when I first taught my first day outside with Greenfield Central Bands. It was May 31st 2012. My first time teaching a group, outside, by myself. We may have just started stretching when someone drove by and screamed the N word. Kids looked at me. I looked at them. And I started to teach. For those kdis that was their first experience with racism. For me? Psh, Just another day. But.. You know what? I didn’t feel so lucky anymore. At that point. I was Pissed. I was Driven. I was Focused. I was hellbent on making a difference.
I was 24 when I was teaching Band in the lot on a summer evening at Greenfield Central High School. At this point I had been at the school for 3 years. I had poured everything I had into the program. We were fresh off of our first state finals appearance. We were feeling good! I had been working at JB Stephens. I felt a connection. People weren’t staring at me like an alien anymore at Applebees. Kids were running up and hugging me at the Lincoln Square. I felt like I had really made a difference. I felt like I really have helped create an accepting environment. And then Someone again Drove by and Screamed the N word at me. I didn’t handle it as well as the first time. I was hurt. Felt betrayed. Felt hopeless. Why On earth should I invest so much of my heart and soul into a place that will never see me as who I am? Only a novelty. Not the standard, but the exception to the rule. I sit in teacher’s lounges and hear things like, “It’s okay, I love Black People.” While my blood boils. I was lucky. Being here is a miracle. I missed my own sister’s life accomplishments to be here for these kids’ life accomplishments. And why? And for what? Just to be a Nigger. Just to be a tap dancing monkey? I was pretty mean to myself at that point in time. I was not proud of what I had given up. But I was lucky.
I was 28 When I was in Allentown Pennsylvania. I was teaching over the summer and was there for a couple days. Went to a restaurant to eat. Walked outside. Said excuse me to the group of white loiters as I walked through them. I mean, They were on the sidewalk for pete’s sake. 3 minutes later a white supremacist is scream red in the face with his shirt off about respect. Called me everything you can think of. I laughed. I walked away. I said, “Is there a problem?” His problem was me. I was his problem. I disrespected him by walking through his group. I disrespected him by not cowering. I didn’t feel lucky.. I didn’t feel Anger.. I felt despair. What’s the point? If we can’t talk about things? Then what’s the point? I was waiting for the feeling of a bullet through the back. Never came. I was lucky.
If you’ve noticed I keep coming back to being lucky. I am lucky. I’m lucky to have the opportunity to speak to you today. But I’m lucky not for the opportunities provided. Because you see, here’s what I’ve learned. It didn’t matter I went to a private high school, it didn’t matter I was driving home from work, I didn’t matter I was a college student, it didn’t matter I would lay down my life for the kids I work for. My life didn’t matter. Only one thing did. My blackness. My Blackness mattered. And here’s why I’m lucky. Because I didn’t turn into Treyvon, or George, Or Breonna, Or Filando, Or Micheal, Or Emmitt, Or other’s whose names you have never heard. I could’ve been one of those names. I am LUCKY that I did not. And because of that luck, I am obligated to speak out.
Police brutality and racial inequality exist. Racism still exists. I tell people all the time when they ask me what do you do? I say, “I sell kids on hope.” The hope they can do better, be better, their voices matter, their personalities matter, their character matters, their empathy matters, their dreams matter, their lives… matter. I sell them on hope. In a largely white community.. I sell those kids and families on hope. No matter all of my experiences when a white person has sold me short. Or treated me like I was less than. Or was seconds away from taking my life. I still.. Will sell hope. If I can do that? After all the things you’ve heard today? Then you can too. Sell the hope of a better future than the present that we inherited. Speak out against inequality, do not stop until we have police reform. Do not stop until we have justice for those who were not so lucky. Sell hope to the next JT …. So he doesn’t have to be lucky. He can just be Human. This is why I say Black Lives Matter. Thank you.”
Thank you JT. Thank you.
Thank you friends for your influence here in this space of the world wide web. You are change makers and EXTRA-ordinary. And I love to hear your thoughts. Thank you for sharing them with me. Subscribe on the side bar for regular updates and snippets of encouragement.