Life & Ethics Salute MLK

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“We must be relentless about saying positive things about our people and about ourselves. We have to stop slaying each other with our mouths. Let us reinforce positive concepts and support positive role models. Our Black leaders mean well, but we don’t support them. People talk about Minister Farrakhan, saying we are making him rich...

By Brenda Jeanne Wyche

It was a celebration of solutions and change for the betterment of our people.  On Martin Luther King Day 2007, the Life and Ethics Committee at the Brooklyn Society for Ethical Culture (BSEC) addressed vital issues weighing on us all through their presentation, Black Men Slain – MLK To Present.

 

Ever present in our minds and gripping at our hearts is the brutal murder of young Sean Bell who joined the long list of brothers and sisters who have been murdered by the police.  It is quite disheartening to know that since the days of Martin Luther King Jr., who fought so hard for our civil rights, that in reality, our people still struggle at the hands of the oppressors and the murders continue with no remorse or consequence.


Police Commissioner Ray Kelly and Mayor Bloomberg continue to tell citizens of the City that crime is plummeting and Bloomberg boasts that the rate of unemployment has declined.  But as gripping images of a lady shot in the face in the Chinese restaurant right around the corner from my house in Bed Stuy, and a youth jumped and stabbed in the head numerous times in Crown Heights, and as gun shots ring out throughout my neighborhood any time of the day or night while our children and seniors walk the streets, and as hardworking families continue to be priced out of their homes and uprooted from their friends and neighbors because of low wages; our men, women and children being forced into the City’s horrific homeless shelters and being stripped of their civil liberties as they are imposed upon with curfews and all sorts of humiliating restrictions, preventing them from pursuing their dreams, I ask what neighborhoods Kelly and Bloomberg refer to when they boast of crime and unemployment rates plummeting.

 

 

Martin Luther King Jr. Day, 2007 was a turning point as we joined together in unity at the Brooklyn Society for Ethical Culture to realize a new agenda.  There is no better way to honor the great Dr. King than to devote the entire holiday to putting our heads together in an effort to come up with intelligent solutions to the serious problems that continue to plague our community.  Nettie Paisley, Chairman of the Life and Ethics Committee and facilitator of the event, set the standard at the outset, “This is not a venting match or a rant– but a forum to come up with solutions.”

 

Paisley performed a service that is long overdue.  She gave the young people a chance to speak for themselves and to express their concerns and what their needs are and she gave the elders a forum to listen and to share insight.  Evidenced by their enthusiasm in the discussion, was the fact that the young people found it refreshing to finally have the opportunity to express their concerns and give their solutionary ideas uninterrupted.  And the concerns were very valid – if we want to keep our kids off the street corners and away from dealing drugs, give them decent paying jobs.  Proper parenting is a big issue.  The need for parents to cooperate with the teachers and not fight the teachers when they try to discipline the students was also brought to the forefront.

 


One young lady very firmly stated, “Parents wait until High School to talk to their kids about sex and drugs.  High school is too late.  Parents must reach their kids very young.  Start young and make them know they don’t have to go to the streets for support.”

 

MLK Day 2007at the Brooklyn Society for Ethical Culture turned out to be a New Year celebration of sorts.  We celebrated new beginnings and metaphorically speaking, young Elijah Shabazz, whose wisdom far exceeds his years of life, popped the cork on the champagne with his explosive presentation.

 

If our people had the thought process that young Mr. Shabazz displayed in his presentation that night, our men would not be slaying each other.  We would not allow our men and women to continue to be tortured, tormented and murdered by an out-of-control police force and a government that displays nonchalance and apathy regarding these atrocities.

 


Every word of Mr. Shabazz’s presentation was a highpoint.  His message was so strong that during his conclusion, I was tempted to shout, “Speak on, Brother.”  First he called all the young people up to the front row, and then he began to teach:

 


 
“We must be relentless about saying positive things about our people and about ourselves.  We have to stop slaying each other with our mouths.  Let us reinforce positive concepts and support positive role models.  Our Black leaders mean well, but we don’t support them.  People talk about Minister Farrakhan, saying we are making him rich.  Why should our leaders live poor, hungry, naked and out of doors?  People don’t like Jesse Jackson and call him a womanizer.  That is not for us to judge.  That is something he will have to take up with God and his wife.  People talk about Al Sharpton.  They don’t like his perm.  They say he’s an opportunist and attention seeker.  But if you go see him on a weekly basis, he is always doing something for us.  All we need to consider is, are these people working on our behalf?  We support the rappin’ thugs, why shouldn’t we make sure we have a roof over our leaders’ heads?  As long as our leaders are walking the pavements hungry with run over shoes, we’re fine.  But when the White man comes and offers them $1,000,000 to ‘tone it down’, and they take it, we call them sell outs.  If we would support our leaders properly, they would not have to sell out.  It is not them who sell us out.  It is we who sell our leaders out.  Then the needs of our people go unattended.”

 

“Because we are so disconnected; so disunified, we make ourselves weak.  We cannot unite. You say, ’I can’t get with you because I’m a Christian, Muslim, Jehovah’s Witness, Catholic, Seventh Day Adventist and so on.’  When the police stop you on the street, do they ask you what your religion is?  No!  ‘You look like the guy that just committed a robbery and you’re going to jail.’  ‘Oh!  You’re a Christian?  We’ll bring you a Bible to your cell.’”


“Knowledge will kill the idea of murder in the minds of our youths.  We must fight to change the public school system – especially since we are paying for it. Our public schools are designed like prisons.  Police are patrolling the halls, shaking your kids down like criminals.  That puts your child already in the mindset that he or she is in jail.  Prison is one big business.  90% of the wealth is controlled by 10% of the population.  It’s about population control.  You say the public school system is not working.  WRONG!  The public school system IS working because it is preparing our children for prison.  That is what public school is designed to do.  If we cannot change the public school system, educate your children at home. 

 


“You can be like an ostrich and bury your head in the sand, but don't forget that your behind is way up in the air,” Mr. Shabazz admonished.

Ms. Paisley summed it up by saying, "The serious and no holds barred, polite, empowerment conversations that were shared in the safe and nonjudgmental environment was historical for many folks of color in the audience.  Richard Green, CEO of the Crown Heights Youth Collective shared stories about the police tactics aimed at our men incluiding his experiences being stopped driving while Black.  A few other men shared their experiences, note, these were elder men.  Richard also provided excellent tips on how our men can protect themselves as they live while Black.  Orlando Bagwell, spoke deeply from the heart and shared with us his wonderful video, Citizen King.  It was an honor to have such a dedicated and talented film producer in our presence.  His long term connection with the PBS series and other outstanding film presentations in a time when many Black producers can only seem to produce stereotypical films is just fabulous!  (Feel free to Google this amazing man).  Elijah Shabazz, came back to speak and inspire us again (he was awesome at the Kwanzaa presentation along with Baruti Kafele).  Mr. Shabazz spoke directly about the topic Slain Black Men - MLK to present.  His speech was amazingly conscientious as he skillfully explained that 'we' are responsible for slaying our Black men.  We were not indicted for guns but rather the mindset."

Also in attendance were Ellen Raider of ICOPE and a member of the BSEC, Lisel Burns, the spiritual leader of the BSEC and Life and Ethics Committee member, Rita Wilson, BSEC Office Manager, Tasha Paley, Life and Ethics Committee member and member of the BSEC, Vandra Thorburn, Treasurer of the BSEC, George Turner, member of 100 Black Men in Law Enforcement Who Care, Wayne Harris of Sankofa Academy Mentoring Program, Tierra Paisley, daughter of Nettie Paisley who is Chairman of the Life and Ethics Committee, Jamila Merrick, a youth participant and friend of Tierra, Carol Taylor, civil rights activist and author of The Little Black Book, jazz pianist, Ed Stoute and jazz saxophonist, LA Blacksmith was present.  Dupree the melodious folk singer sang a beautiful number with her powerful voice. 

 

Here is a solution, which seems to be a no-brainer – Let us join together, put our dollars together and support a handful of programs.  Initiatives scattered all over the place are weak and on shaky foundations and take away from the purpose of the institution.  The constant pressure to come up with money dilutes the mission.  My money would definitely go to the Society for Ethical Culture’s Life and Ethics initiatives.  They are putting together an excellent youth leadership program, which will be run by youth with the guidance of the adults.  Try new things – new ideas.  Give our youth a chance.  It is time to give these brilliant young minds more charge over their own circumstance.


The Brooklyn Society for Ethical Culture is a humanist religious organization dedicated to improving the ethical quality of relationships in  personal lives and in the world.

Life & Ethics is An Arts & Education Series for Personal Growth and Community Development

In these pressured and challenging times, the Brooklyn Society for Ethical Culture offers the gifts of time, space and camaraderie to reflect on how we are living our lives. 

Life & Ethics Series 2004 presents opportunities to link cultural conversations with practical applications on issues of critical importance to Brooklynites of all ages and backgrounds. 

Ethical Culture is a humanistic movement, founded in 1876 and inspired by the ideal that the supreme aim of human life is working to create a more caring society.

BSEC's Life and Ethics Committee recognize that a deep understanding of ethics is realized through interacting with others in community.  The highest importance is placed on:

• Making ethical choices in our daily lives
• Supporting each other in our efforts to live ethically
• Assisting families of all kinds in raising children who have positive moral values and a principled approach to problem-solving
• Acting on our ethical concerns in the larger society and encouraging others to do likewise

We invite you to join us for these explorations of ethical living.  The Brooklyn Society for Ethical Culture is located 53 Prospect Park West, Brooklyn, NY, Between 1st and 2nd Streets.  For more information, call 718.768.2972 or logon to www.bsec.org .


"Embrace the beauty and peace of the Open Heart!"    Nettie Paisley

Learn more about Elijah Shabazz at www.elijahshabazz.com

Brenda Jeanne Wyche, Advocate for Solutions and Results, is Managing Editor of The Black Star News and Harlem Business News, CEO of Winning Strategies & Associates and VP of Public Relations for The Professionals.  If you have a solution, contact Brenda@blackstarnews.com .  Maybe we’ll talk.

To subscribe to or advertise in New York’s leading Pan African weekly investigative newspaper, please call (212) 481-7745 or send a note to Milton@blackstarnews.com
“Speaking Truth To Empower.”

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