LeBron James: So Generous; Sui Generis

The reasons LeBron James returned to Cleveland are many and myriad, with more motifs, motives and modi operandi than I can comprehend. Perhaps even he is not sure of all the forces behind his decison. What appears on the surface to be an emotional choice can instead of and as well be viewed as a smart business decision as his endorsements won't suffer and in fact are probably enhanced by his deft judgment and a surely genuine sui generis moment in professional sports; an athlete trying to give back to his community, especially in the black community, where human resources are severely scarce as the forces of poverty, unemployment, illiteracy, incarceration, and structual and institutional racism take their toll. It appears as if James may really be The Chosen One,  trying to help raise the standards of his whole community. A leader by example of what giving back means, for the people and by the people.

The opportunity to continue to learn and share his basketball prowess with other basketball elites, coaches and players alike, as well as ownership he knew and respected and was still comfortable with, played a part as well. Don't think owning an NBA team isn't a part of the KingJames future.

From the physical and mental aspect, a Cleveland team filled largely with young, vibrant minds still learning the game, and LeBron, still smarting from the way the Spurs dissected his team, hopes to help build and mentor a team to the NBA Championship. The kind of team that strives to find the best shot possible, regardless who shoots it, and a team that plays the best help defense in the NBA.
The Cavaliers were the best logical choice. He gets to try and groom them to playing basketball the right way, so much harder to do with established veterans, although they did well in Miami, it was over to LeBron, obviously. This new team is years younger and now man for man are a team to be reckoned with that will only get better. Wouldn't it be fun to see the Cavs win an NBA title?

The Cavs were 21 games behind Miami last year. If Lebron is good for 10, that makes them even, and the season hasn't even started. (Lebron brings Cleveland up at least 10 games and the Heat fall back 10 games next year. It's my math and I'm sticking to it.)

I first noticed James as he scored 25 points in a row against Detroit in the playoffs. We all watched him take Miami to four straight NBA finals and I was astonished as he took his talents back to the Midwest. Those were moments but what is really amazing to me is what transpired in Si.Com. LeBron said "I want kids in Northeast Ohio, like the hundreds of Akron third-graders I sponsor through my foundation, to realize that there’s no better place to grow up. Maybe some of them will come home after college and start a family or open a business. That would make me smile. Our community, which has struggled so much, needs all the talent it can get." To me, that is impressive. For me, this is his signature moment, not as a basketball player, but as a black man.
I can see a political career for Mr. James if he chooses. Maybe even commissioner of the NBA someday. The graciousness he exuded concerning the Dan Gilbert letter and the fans that burned his jersey generated goodwill of unheard of proportions in O-H-I-O. The man can run for mayor now and when he retires in most cities in America, don't doubt it. Much like Dave Bing and Kevin Johnson, among others, but with just a bit more cachet. Another trip to D.C. might be down the road as well, only this time as a member of the legislature.

With what he publicly set out to do and accomplished and with what his future portends, nothing he does will surprise any of us anymore.  I can't wait for LeBron James and The Ohio Players in Cleveland next year. The NBA just became more interesting.  

Barack Obama: 21st Century Black Genius

In response to Fred Thompson column in The National Review Online http://bit.ly/RyH5b8

                                                         Why Obama won

                                                "United States decided on the best choice."

All of the lies and flip-flops Romney made, YOU can't even address them. America voted for the better man. Allow me to address your concerns elucidated previously.

“Being a businessman worked against him.” What kind of genius does it take to leverage a company into bankruptcy, destroying a viable American business in the process, take all the money, fire all the workers then ship all the jobs to china?

“Peanut allergies are epidemic and we’ve nominated Mr. Planter.” Few envy Romney his money but making it off the backs of fired American workers was too much for us average folk. He continued to lie and dodge about his tax reforms, obviously would support continuing super rich tax cuts and wouldn't ever show us his tax returns. How could we in good faith trust in his business acumen or in him?

“Role of money.” Your party were the ones overjoyed with the 2010 Citizens United decision but be careful what you wish for applies here. The citizens did unite and we gave freely to Barack Obama. Super PACs, 50l(c)(4)s and the ignominious Karl Rove fiascos, American Crossroads and Crossroads Grassroots Policy Strategies, were defeated by GOP arrogance and failing to understand the changing face of democracy in America; simple white man politics rhetoric is dead. Time for new politics for a new epoch.

“Couldn’t make the case.” Romney couldn't make his case because it was built upon a house of cards, depending on who was dealing to determine what he was saying that day. Besides, Ayn Rand or trickle down economics are not only ancient, but failed concepts. Giving money to those in need would much better drive the recovery than Bush tax breaks for the wealthy. That is just simple math. Those in need would spend it, thereby lubricating the supply chain all the way up. Trickle down leaves it to the largesse of the business community to generate jobs. The former, much more than the latter, creates inertia for a recovering economy. Finally, it isn't so much that the proceeds from the super rich will fix our economy, it's the idea that they are paying their fair share, a concept not connected with percentages and dollar amounts, but more with a concept that prides itself on fairness and justice for all. We call that democracy, remember her? She governs so that all citizens have an equal say in the decisions that are affecting their lives.

"Hurricane Sandy and the “Christie embrace.” Imma give you that one, see because I am objective, I believe. The president proved he was the man for the job and Christie, who no doubt played the race card, (the one for 2016 presidential election), knew which side his bread was going to be buttered on. It didn't help that Romney had bad timing when he said Fema should be dismantled and states should be left to themselves to rebuild from disasters. Romney showed he wasnt presidential with those positions. Additionally, his blathering about Benghazi, even before the bodies had been recovered, was clearly a mistake. Politicizing that situation inaccurately and trying to get President Obama involved in minutia regarding whether he called the attack a terrorist action, only highlighted the smallness of the man.

"Despite all of this, Mitt kept it close with good debate performances." If you consider losing 2 out of 3 debates a good performance, well that explains how your whole sanctimonious GOP platform failed; being out of touch with reality does have repercussions.

“People concluded it doesn’t matter.” That old saw, trying to suppress the vote indirectly didn't work this time. The supposedly no difference between the candidates spiel we saw right through. We concluded that Romney didn't matter, nor did the GOP vision of and for America. It's a new day and we are feeling mighty good, get used to it. On the diminished GOP vote, they didn't stay home, they switched sides. Had you considered that? Add that to your why Romney lost soliloquy.

It does make a difference who is President of the United States, which must be a shock to you. Also a shock to you no doubt is that a Black man won again. You all expected your patriarchal and patronizing, good ol' boy, racist dog whistle, class warfare, ultra-conservative and antiquated business as usual politics to win, but the good guys won this time. The gay, God fearing, Asian, weed smoking, freedom of choice, transvestite, young, civil union wanting, Black, bi-sexual, Latin, contraceptive using, white, single woman, bi-racial, moms, educated and Warren Buffett all say it makes a difference. That is todays America. And that is why our 44th President is Barack Obama, 21st century Black genius.

Do you at least have a Bentley and other cries for help from the Permanent Underclass

Poverty is a huge problem in this country but it has a simple solution, love and compassion for others. Thanks for reading @Brandale2221 on Twitter.

As part of my mission of teaching financial literacy to those that need it most, I traveled to an elementary school to speak with 4th and 5th graders about my work and much of that includes introducing the permanent underclass to the middle ground concept called financial stability. Many others teach similar concepts but they are mostly aimed at the middle class that aspire either to be wealthy or to never experience financial strain again in their lifetime. Both concepts are so unrealistic that they are laughable. I understand the purpose of teaching the middle class and not the permanent underclass; the middle class can afford to buy books, materials, attend seminars and yes, pay tithes. There is very little money to be made teaching to the permanent underclass. We soldier on in places on the outside of the tracks in Lubbock, TX.

So there I was standing in one of these schools eager to bring some encouragement or to spark some inspiration. I was immediately hit with reality, I could not find the principal’s office! A youngster about 8 or 9 pointed it out and then he asked me, “Are you a preacher?” I smiled and said no and asked why he thought I was a preacher. He said it was because I ‘had a suit on like a preacher’. I laughed and told him that I ran a business that helps people. He understood that but probably thought I was a social worker of some type. It did not cross my mind until later that those were probably the only times in his life that he may have ever seen a black man in a suit, but that’s another coin tossed in the sad truth bucket.

After meeting with the principal I found my way to the library where a group of easily and visibly bored 4th & 5th graders were suffering through the same old, arrogant and condescending speech that they have heard time and time again. He meant well but probably did not understand that the ‘be like me’ speeches do not work mostly because many of the kids have it embedded in their brains that black men only succeed if they are rich, talented, special or lucky. Easily attainable attributes like hard work, focus and drive hardly ever are mentioned.

The speaker was probably angered by the kids disinterest because he suddenly changed his tone and said something about them ending up in jail or on welfare. I wanted to scream, "hey you arrogant prick, they probably already know someone in jail and some of them are already on welfare. What you are saying to them probably is not that scary as it is their reality." As he left, he shook my hand and muttered a condescending "good luck." Inside my mind I was screaming, "no, it is these kids that are lucky because they will not end up an arrogant prick like you!" This time I held my peace, but just barely.

Based upon the concept of black men that are worshipped and upheld in our society; arrogance, confused and misrepresented as confidence, is a valued trait. Athletes disparage their own teams when they lose ball games. Rappers think that surviving from a violent culture makes them better than those who still have to live in it. Preachers assume they can live, do and say what they want without apology or repentance because they are so much more loved by God than their congregations are.

Then there are others like this speaker who thought that because of their title or position that they should automatically have the immediate respect of others. There is a simple reason why these types of people will not be the agents of change in the lives of the permanent underclass. It is because they strive to be leaders OF the people and not leaders for and among the people. Attending this event was part of my lifelong quest to become one of the latter. I have no idea why he was even here.

I stepped forward and introduced myself and as I began to speak I could tell by the looks on their faces that the kids were expecting the same old same old from me. I surprised them by quicky asking them, "so what does it mean to be rich?" They started out by giving me the answers that they thought I wanted to hear. Things like owning a big house, driving fancy cars, having a bank roll and wearing "extra nice" clothes. Then the class clown spoke up. He said “my cousin is rich and he and his partners all the time be making it rain up in the strip club”. I smiled. He seized the moment and went in on me “See you know what I’m talking ‘bout. You look rich. How much do you be spending up at the strip club?” I told him that I do not go to the strip club. “Oh that because you probably already got all of the hoes huh?” Another chimed in “Yeah, bet he got all of the hoes.” They laughed as the teacher settled them back down.

“Okay now that I know some of your ideas on what you think it means to be rich, let me hear what you think it means to be poor." Same kid chimed in with, “that means you don’t have nothing. Your clothes all raggedy looking.” I pointed towards another kid who raised her hand. She said, “It means your house got holes all in the floor and walls and stuff.” The class clown chimed up. “House? What house? When you are po’ you ain't got no house. When you po’ you sleep on the street or in some raggedy car or somewhere.” A girl interrupted him and said, “yep being po’ means you drive a raggedy car.” A boy chimed in and said, “driving a raggedy car don’t mean you po’”. She then used me to defend herself. “Yes it does. Look at this man here. He ain’t po’ and I bet he don’t drive a raggedy car.” She looked at me and asked, “What kind of car do you drive? Do you at least have a Bentley?”

That question froze my world for a few seconds. A million questions rushed through my head at once. Why was she asking me this? Did I say something that made me come off as rich enough to afford a Bentley? Am I coming off like the arrogant prick that was just up before me? Do I need a Bentley to be heard or respected in this community? Are there any Bentleys on this side of town? If so, who has them? The Preachers? The Dope Dealers? The local Rappers? Are they whom I have to compete with for the hearts and minds of these kids? Is this why very few of us even try to participate in things like this?

I calmed down, smiled and smoothly said, “No, I don’t have a Bentley.” She then smacked her lips and exclaimed, “then you broke.” I regained my composure and asked, “Well, do you know around how much that a Bentley costs?” She thought about it and screamed “Fifty thousand dollars!” Only the class clown laughed and he said, “you stupid a Bentley cost like million dollars.” I pointed at him and said, well you might to need to make close to a million dollars a year to drive one here is why.” I borrowed a dry erase marker and when to the white board and went to work. Using simple math and a series of "rules of thumb", I came with a rough guesstimate that one would have to make at least $775,000 to drive a $350,000 car such as a Bentley. Of course their jaws dropped.

Then I posed them another question. "What percentage of all people in America make more than $775,000 per year? I am talking about all of the working people in the country with jobs like doctors, lawyers, bankers, teachers, scientists, athletes, entertainers and other people with any other type of job you can think of. If a mix of them of were in this room how many would make more than this?” One student raised his hand and said “30” and another said “15”. I raised my forefinger and explained to them that the answer was just one. “Only one percent of the America population can truly afford to drive a Bentley.” I now had their attention.

“Well how do you get rich then?” I was bluntly honest. I looked him dead in his eyes and said, “I don’t know.” It felt as if some of them were felt let down. “But isn’t that your job?” “No, my job is about helping poor people get to a place between rich and poor. It’s a place called Financial Stability.” He has to test me one more time and asked, “But ain’t that the same as being rich?” “No, it’s not," I replied. "Financial stability is simply helping people to use the funds that they have to create a lifestyle where all of their needs are met. Helping teach people to learn how to use money wisely."

It got quiet; eerily, quickly quiet. It was as if I had introduced them to a whole new world. We had a further discussion and how soon my time was up. They applauded me, came up, and shook my hand. The class clown told me that that was ”real talk right there.” Yes, these were fourth graders.

I left but I was sad. Not sad out of some sense of failure but sad because I never even imagined that a "do you at least drive a Bentley" mentally" would be so pervasive among the children of what some could call the permanent underclass. Perhaps it is just the way that I look at life or my experiences but there was a time when many within the underclass at least ”attempted" to shield their children from certain mentalities. I guess that day is gone.

What does this say about the parents? Have they simply given up? Do they believe that this is a good kind of understanding for their children to have? That by exposing them early to this permanent underclass way of thinking that it will give them more time to be better positioned to deal with it when they become adults. The logic of that is so flawed that it is problematic.

First, to assume that your child will have to live in poverty is very pessimistic. What happened to pushing your child to aspire to live beyond the clutches of poverty? Why equipt your child with exposure to a mentality that leads maybe to death, incarceration and ultimately right back to poverty? Just maybe this is all that they know.

It is a common knee jerk reaction to point the finger of blame at the parents and to throw this mess back in their laps and scream FIX IT! We have been there and done that and it has not worked. It should be clear by now that certain parents do not have the mental capacity to understand the mess that they are creating for themselves and their children, much less for society. These are the very ones whom certain segments of our population hopes will one day "pull themselves up out of poverty by their own bootstraps." Now we are back to where we started.

It may be that she overheard the concept from someone within her environment or she sees Bentleys so much on TV or hears it so often in hip hop that the idea of owning a Bentley seems common place. During our conversation about the differences between wealth, poverty and that lost middle ground called financial stability something may have been lost in translation. Whatever the case may be, it is clear that we are losing a psychological war that is being waged against our children.

During this year of political discourse groups are throwing around words like income equality, redistribution of wealth, socialism, class warfare, the top 1% and the bottom 99%. However, we very seldom hear anyone even utter the phrase "permanent underclass." Maybe it is because no one wants to deal with the fact that it does still exist. On the other hand, maybe we want to live in a Pollyanna world and believe that anyone can "pull themselves up by their boots straps" and work their way out of poverty.

To some the permanent underclass is simply lazy and helping them is a waste of time, energy and resources because they are comfortable with poverty. This is consensus among those who have never stood close enough to someone in poverty to see the hunger in their eyes that shows the desperation to try and escape the cycle of poverty.

America refuses to deal with certain harsh truths. Among them is the truth that many among the permanent underclass do have a desire to escape poverty. They would love to pull themselves up by their bootstraps, but their "boots" are expensive and meant to hide their poverty, not work with. Poverty is uncomfortable for many of them. The pain of poverty is so severe that they seek escape as often as possible. They often find their momentary escapes watching movies that make them laugh and or dream about being rich and pain free. They watch TV and connect with characters and reality show participants that have money but conduct themselves in ways that show they themselves may have grown up poor, too. They also spend much of their days listening to music that fosters the belief that drug dealing, prostitution or stripping are easy paths to materialism and that materialism is the true measure of success.

These truths have been around for quite some time now. It was what Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was confronting in his days after the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965. He was assassinated before he could finish his mission. A welfare system was created to give the permanent underclass at least a guaranteed income. Those funds were not enough to cover the cost of living in the big cities where many southerners fled to escape the burdens of racism, sexism and poverty.

Public Housing guaranteed shelter for them. The lack of true ownership in their communities took away the responsibility for its maintenance. Affirmative Action was meant to address both sexism and racism against those in the permanent underclass in terms of college admissions, jobs training and the workplace. Studies now show that one race and gender benefitted most from it than any other and now they are largely absent from the permanent underclass. Only by facing the harsh truth that the permanent underclass has not been dealt with fairly and compassionately will we be able to find a solution to reduce its size.

Maybe it is beginning to hit a fever pitch in America as the state of the global economy has brought many in the middle class towards poverty. The key word here is "towards." Many in the middle class fear falling into the proverbial hole and becoming a part of the permanent underclass. Their fears stoked by politicians blaming other politicians for being responsible for wrecking the global economy, otherwise obfuscating the real truth that Wall Street, big banks, investment houses, mortgage companies and their shady practices all combined to lead the economy to the brink of collapse.

Though the true welfare system ended in 1996, the concept of having to one day depend on the federal government for their basic needs is like a giant boogey man under their bed. Scared out of their minds, they are angry and they are willing to believe anything and agree with anyone that attempts to comfort their way of thinking. Truth is, most of them will never become part of the permanent underclass.

Many of those that have fallen out of the middle class "towards" poverty have certain things that many among the "permanent underclass" have never had. They have had the experience of living outside of extreme poverty; they have had the experience of having a job paying well above minimum wage; they have had the experience of having the mortgage, rent, utilities and other bills consistently paid on time; and they have had the experience of always having food in the fridge and the exposure to a normal life, a life that many if not most among the permanent underclass have never had.

Having had these experiences the middle class is better positioned to recognize and take advantage of the opportunities when they arise than those in the permanent underclass. For example, someone who has fallen out of the middle class is far less reluctant to relocate for work than someone who has never traveled beyond a certain radius of their community of birth.

Ultimately, those that have fallen out of the middle class understand a very important concept that many if not most among the permanent underclass fail to grasp. They understand that there is level that exists between being wealthy and being poor. That level is financial stability. They understand that financial stability is not always a level of comfort. Most times it involves sacrifices and savings. They understand that financial stability does not mean the absence of financial strain. It just means that when those times come there needs to be a plan in place. They also know that financial stability has nothing to do with income but more to do with lifestyle.

They know wealthier families who have fallen faster and harder than they have and lower income families that are poised to survive the storm for the long haul. Knowing about financial stability is like knowing the location of all of the watering holes in the desert. Though they are thirsty now, they will drink again.

Now, back to the Bentleys.

When the little girl asked me if I at least had a Bentley, it just illustrated the fact that many among the permanent underclass have little understanding of financial stability, class or money. To them it is all or nothing. Either you live in an area where homes spread out for acres or you live in the hood; either you wear name brand clothes with huge logos or you are a bum; either you carry large wads of cash in your pocket or you are poor; and either you have a have a Bentley or you are broke. This is the sad reality of their existence and it was my wake up call.

Like many places in Western Texas, Lubbock has a certain heritage. Lubbock is the largest city in the middle of the largest contiguous cotton-growing region in the United States. The poor mostly settled on the East side of Lubbock nearest to the cotton fields and the access roads towards them. The "better to do" lived on the side of town closer towards the center and the college now known as Texas Tech. Many lines divided them. One was the street that runs from North to South alongside the university called University.

In 2006, the city discovered (finally) and removed a Jim Crow era blue law that restricted banks from selling property to blacks west of University. To this day, very few blacks live west of University. Lubbock was also a "twilight town." Black residents who were caught west of the highway that runs along the downtown had to show cause or risk being beaten up, harassed or thrown in jail. According to many blacks this was quietly enforced through the 80’s. Today it is hard to find many blacks beyond the mall or the local Wal-Marts in the evenings. These barriers are purely psychological but they still confine many of those who live on the East Side.

Lubbock is odd in other way,s too. There are city ordinances that mandate that the greatest portion of the income generated from the property and sales taxes within a district are to be spent on tax-based initiatives within that district. The neighborhood tax revenues that a district generates is spent towards maintaining their parks and playgrounds; towards equipting their schools with surveillance cameras and metal detectors; towards having their schools with computers that are hard wired into the desks and they have state of the art cafeterias. In poorer areas schools struggle with peeling paint, broken windows, staff shortages and some classrooms not having running heat or air conditioning. Yes, you read that correctly, no heat or air conditioning. I am one of the few people that see this disparity as a huge contributor to Lubbock’s poverty situation. My commentary on the issue is usually met with indifference or ignorance.

Whether it be in the form of paying increased taxes for newly built prisons, more police officers, government aid or the psychological drain of seeing the homeless living under freeways and in alleys, we must come together to deal with it in three very important ways.

First, we need to reveal to the impoverished that extreme poverty and extreme wealth as income levels are not normal. For many Americans normal is finishing high school or even college, making close to $30,000 yearly and living a modest lifestyle that is not absent of financial struggles. To those in extreme poverty the aforementioned would be considered a paradise.

They may snicker but it is realistically attainable and offers a much a better quality of life than poverty ever will. Those that have never lived it discredit such life styles in the hopes of one day becoming wealthy without the understanding that their methods simply create more poverty. The ideas of working, dreaming, saving, planning and working towards a better future are foreign to them. Let us stop shooing lower income people from our jobs, businesses, stores, neighborhoods and college campuses. Let them see wht normal really is . Let them see the type of cars that they are afraid to drive parked in front of the middle class homes. Let them see people who look like them who are not rich, talented, lucky or special living lives outside of poverty. Maybe this increased exposure will lead to many of them adopting a new sense of what is normal.

Second we need to look at poverty and the permanent underclass beyond racial, political and gender lines. All races suffer from poverty in the cities and suburbs, in rural America and even in foreclosed homes and mansions. We need to paint more accurately the faces of poverty so when the public thinks about creating solutions for poverty they can see that they are creating solutions for themselves. Right now poverty is not personal enough for most of America. It is still a problem for them over there. The Occupy Wall Street movement illustrated the sad fact that many are willing to stand together for an issue when it hits too close to home but also that they will not stand and fight when it does not impact them directly.

Finally we need to understand that we are fighting a psychological battle within the minds of the permanent underclass. While one side of their minds wants to agree and follow a path out of poverty, another is less trusting of change and more comfortable with the status quo, even if that means having less. The impoverished seem to think that there is a catch always lurking just beyond the bend trying to trap them if they try and raise their standard of living. And these catches may include having a book to read towards self help, a tithe to be paid to help out in their communities, or a seminar to attend to maybe learn about financial stability. If we are to stand together we must do so out of true love and compassion for these "the least of our brethren." Everything else has failed. Why not try something new?

"Our children are a mirror of our faces, a reflection of our ideals. We
need to make their honest understanding of the world our top priority."