Thursday, April 30, 2015

Absurd Theater of the Hood

By Heru Ammen

Lights, camera, action! Cue Baltimore. Wait for it. Wait for it. And now coming to the stage…..black pastors, ministers, academics, activists, leaders, pundits, politicians, and their wannabe sycophants. They are like dyslexic roaches coming out only when the lights come on - framing them in the center of the pomp and circumstance of another hood uprising. They all wax eloquently about this and that and the need for black folks to “come together.”

They prance to and fro in front of or near the camera waiting for their 15 minutes of fame outfitted in their finest attire; neon silk, wool blend or polyester pinstripe suits, gators and staceys, monogram cotton or silk shirts complete with gold (or gold plated) cuff links and jeweled finger and neck accoutrements.

When approached by a reporter, they dance a jig of excitement, make the appropriate gas face and invoke Dr. Martin Luther King’s famous staccato when they speak; all the while talking loud and offering nothing of substance or significance to a desperate people. The aforementioned drama plays out in the Theater of the Hood every time another African American is murdered unjustly by an overseer of the law; better known as a policeman.  The sad fact of the matter is that the Baltimore uprising gives us a clear picture of the impotency and clown car mentality exhibited by what is traditionally called black leadership.  

Under the auspices and direction of the black religious, political, academic and activist cognoscente, urban communities have steadily devolved into semi third world social, political and economic ecosystems. If one traverses the urban areas of most cities in America, one will witness miles of blight and poverty. Schools have closed or have had funding reduced to the point where teaching fundamentals in the disciplines of math, science, language and the arts are no longer possible.
The war on poverty was/is a de-facto war on the African American male. Welfare policies were highly effective in removing the African American male from the home in the 1960’s resulting in over 70% of households with children in the African American community today becoming one parent homes; with the majority being headed by teen-age and young mothers.

The black church has a problem too. There are black churches throughout this country with a hundred to tens of thousands of members each. They have church every Sunday and collectively take in millions of dollars in donations every week. Yet the communities that they serve continue to exist in poverty, ignorance, violence and crime; as they have done so for generations. And as quiet as it’s kept, there exist in the black church a culture of sexual abuse by pedophiles targeting young black males and females that are being raised by these young and single moms. (Yes, I went there!).

Where were all of these black leaders, preachers, pundits and activist when schools were being closed or defunded in our communities? What plan did they implement to mitigate the negative economic impact when businesses started leaving our communities? What did they offer to the people when African American males were being kicked out of their homes due to welfare policies? What solution did they offer when mile after mile of residential and commercial properties were being foreclosed upon, abandoned and boarded up in our communities?

What we have witnessed in Baltimore this last week is a culmination of 45 plus years of inaction and neglect by black leaders, entrepreneurs, clergy and academia, et al. that had the opportunity, means and the ability to do great things in our communities. They complain of injustice. However people with power and money have exploited those without since humans placed financial value in gold, money and commodities. We've face that issue since the ship named Jesus brought us to this country.
In the past, we were able to overcame slavery, jim crow, discrimination and segregationist policies designed to stymie economic opportunities in our communities. Even when all those policies existed, we were able to build Black Wall Street in Tulsa. We owned land to farm and build businesses and homes. We formed the first internationally recognized workers union called the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters in Chicago and we had our own Professional Baseball league.


Our kids went to college and came home to work and start business in our communities. We became entertainers, musicians, scientists, doctors, attorneys and politicians. Even back then, a great number of our people that were poor and disenfranchised. However those of us that were able to succeed became beacons of light to others in the community. Our people had a “reach one, teach one” mentality. So don’t tell me that the “white man” or the “system” is the reason why our black leaders completed ignored and abdicated their responsibility to our urban communities for last 45 years. They ignored our community because they were/are more interested in obtaining their 15 minutes of fame in front of the camera pretending that they are actually making a difference, then they are in putting in work to actually make a difference. 

Friday, December 19, 2014

Chef Heru's Creole Gumbo

Many of my friends and family members have asked me over the years to post my "Nawlins" style Creole Gumbo recipe. It is actually my Mom's (Margaret S. Williams) recipe. She graciously passed it down to me. I've been inspired to post it because a lot of people have ask me too. Anyway... you guys wanted it...so here it goes....

Ingredients:

2 yellow onions finely chopped
1 large and firm bell pepper (or 2 small to medium size) finely chopped
8 stalks of celery hearts (No root or ends) thinly sliced
3 large bay leaves
2 32 ounce size boxes of unsalted chicken broth (No canned chicken broth)

1 15 oz can of seafood stock (Bar Harbor Brand preferred)
2 pkgs. of Andouille Sausage (substitute: 2 pkgs of polka kielbasa sausage)
2 bags of 40 count raw shrimp (or fresh tiger shrimp in proportion if available)
10-15 fresh chicken thighs or two large bags of frozen chicken drumettes (your choice)
1 lb of frozen or fresh okra sliced
16 oz can of tomato sauce (no salt)
Sea Salt to taste (start at 2 tbsp) - (do not use table salt,,ugh!!!)
Fresh ground black peppercorns to taste (start at 1 tbsp)
Garlic powder to taste (start at 1 tbsp)
1 tsp. of cayenne pepper (more or less to taste)
3 tbsp of Gumbo File (pronounced fee-lay)
1 cup of pure peanut or olive oil (no crisco, soy or off brand vegetable oils)
1/2 cup of self rising flour.

Instructions:

If using chicken drumettes: Place chicken drumettes in boiling water for 20 minutes. Remove chicken and discard the broth it was cooked in. IMPORTANT: Do not overcook the chicken drumettes. They should be cooked until slightly underdone.  

If using chicken thighs: Boil chicken thighs until done, Remove from water and let cool. Remove skin from and debone the chicken, then shred and chop the chicken meat into nice edible chunks 

Saute sausage in stainless steel skillet over medium heat, stir, flip and cajole the sausage constantly until done. (Do not burn sausage). In a big ole stainless steel pot (5+ gallon size) add the oil and flour and stir until the flour and oil is well mixed (little to no lumps). Continue to stir constantly over medium high heat. Mixture will thicken and begin to turn brown. Once the mixture begins to brown, reduce heat to medium and continue to stir until mixture is slightly darker than peanut butter and gravy thick. This is called the "roux" (roo) - the most important part of the Gumbo. If the mixture burns, start over!!! Also feel feel to add additional flour or oil if the consistency is not to your satisfaction.

Add the celery, onion and bell pepper to the mixture, stir mixture and slowly add one pkg of the chicken broth. Continue to stir and add the File. Stir until well mixed. Add the remaining chicken broth, bay leaves, seafood stock, salt, black pepper, cayenne pepper and garlic powder. Bring to boil. Reduce heat to medium and add the chicken drumettes or the chopped and shredded chicken thigh meat and sausage. bring to soft boil and let cook for 10 minutes and then add the okra. Cook for another 30 minutes then add the tomato sauce. Reduce heat to medium low and let simmer for another 30 minutes (add additional seasonings to taste during this last cooking period). Turn off heat, add the shrimp and stir. Once shrimp turns orange your gumbo is done. Serve over rice and enjoy. Feeds 10-15 regular people or 5-7 of my family members...lol

Optional: If you prefer crab legs in your gumbo, add the crab legs 10 minutes before you add the shrimp (20 minutes if frozen). 





Sunday, July 14, 2013

Black Leadership: A Tale of Utter Failure



By Heru Ammen

Many of you who have read my infrequent postings know where I stand regarding black leadership. It has utterly failed the communities it claims it serves. It’s been almost fifty years since the original Civil-Rights movement led by Dr. King gave us a modicum of the rights every American by law and the Constitution should have. However after all of the myriad of books, seminars, speeches, marches, pundit-fests and sermons regarding the abhorrent conditions and the lack of employment, educational and economic opportunities in our communities since that time forward, we find ourselves in a worse condition as a people than has ever been since the time from our enslavement through the Jim Crow era. 

The murder of Treyvon Martin and the subsequent acquittal of the man that took his life for the crime of WWBWAHO (Walking While Black with a Hoody On) is a clear indication that our so called black leadership and we as a people have failed to make a case in this country for our own damn humanity. For if it was not for the successful portrayal by the mainstream media of the wrongly perceived preponderance in our communities of the Black Male Predator, Treyvon may have never been perceived as a threat in the first place.

Mr. Zimmerman perception of Treyvon and black males in general was most likely shaped by his own lack of humanity, self-esteem issues, his drug usage and the overall climate of accepted and practiced racism that permeates (mostly, but not exclusively) the southeastern region of America. The media driven Black Male Predator syndrome is another symptom that probably contributed to his issues with African Americans and was most likely the trigger that caused him to act upon his perception with violence against Treyvon.

Where black leadership has fell down (and continues to lay down) is in its failure to mitigate the perception of the Black Male Predator. If we owned media that competed with FOX, MSNBC, and CNN for the eyes and ears of our people (and mainstream America), we would be in a position to show the positive contributions of African Americans and give balance to the negative images and storylines that are shown daily on the aforementioned cable news stations. 

Black leadership also complains about the negative images, words and the misogyny prevalent in our music, yet we do not own but one movie studio (thanks Tyler Perry), zero major record labels and zero major music distribution companies. Since we don’t own these things then we won’t/don’t have any influence in what gets put on the TV, in the theaters and on our radios and consequently into the vehicles, homes, and schools within our communities. Making matters worse, black leadership has the unmitigated gall to chastise rappers about the images they portray, which is the result of the overt neglect engaged in by black leadership during the 70’s and 80’s in regards to the plight of urban communities.

In conclusion, I say to the NAACP, Urban League, PUSH, and all other black community organizations, its directors, executives and its members; the blood of Treyvon Martin is on your hands! The sorry state of every urban community in America is a direct result of your failure to lead. You failed to provide relieve and to compete for the hearts, spirit and minds of the people you were commissioned to serve. You failed in everything except becoming wealthy from your seminars, speeches, pontifications, marches, books and television appearances. 

George Zimmerman murdered Treyvon. Everyone except bigots and the six woman jury that freed Zimmerman can admit that truth. However the failure of black leadership allowed the perception of the black male predator to become fixated in the minds of the George Zimmermans of the world. Zimmerman owned the gun that killed Treyvon. But black leadership’s failure to counter the black male predator image provided Zimmerman with the mental ammunition to pull the trigger.

Monday, January 21, 2013

An Open Letter to Black Leaders, Black Preachers & Black Pundits




By Heru Ammen

Obama is not the Black Messiah and I doubt a Messiah (black or otherwise) will show up anytime soon to solve the problems in our community. I am so tired of the begging, whining, complaining and cajoling from our so called leaders and the black commentariat directed at President Obama. My question to all of them is; what have you done for our people lately - or - in the last 25 years before Mr. Obama was elected?

Have you created any enterprise level businesses? Have you created a national system of education that is being deployed in our communities nationwide to correctly teach our children the fundamentals and advance levels of math, science, and our-story (as opposed to his-story)? Have you created any enterprise level technical or mechanically inclined entities that are changing the dynamics of businesses and how we interact socially and culturally? What about creating banks and other financial institutions that promote trade and commerce within the Diaspora and Africa and with indigenous Africans (a continent that contains 70% of the world's resources)? And the last question I would ask them is - since you haven't done any of the aforementioned, then what the hell have you been doing? 

Over 70% of all households in our communities are now single-parent households. Most of those households are young teenage mothers raising babies whom were themselves raised by young teenage mothers, whom were themselves raised by young teenage mothers. We have 12 year old mothers, 25 year old grandmothers and 38 year old great grandmothers as the majority population within our communities. We have a 50% high school dropout rate in our communities. Homicide rates in our most weary communities are at levels one would associate with some areas of Iraq or Afghanistan. These problems existed long before Mr. Obama was elected President. Yet you so called black leaders and pundits complain, bitch and moan everyday about what Obama hasn't done about this issue or that issue.

Every year you so called black leaders and pundits promote events, workshops, seminars, and conferences (both religious and secular) you invite the usual talking heads (Jackson, Farrakhan, Smiley, West, Watkins, Dyson, et. al) to discuss the many issues that affect our communities and every year the issues in our communities become exponentially worse. Your meetings, workshops, seminars and conferences have been taking place since the mid ‘60’s (over 40 years!) and every year crime, illiteracy, poverty, drug abuse and socio-economic dependency has become more entrenched within our communities. Yet all of you direct your outrage at President Obama for, in your opinion, not directly addressing the issues that all of you have been ineffective in addressing for the last 40+ years.

The black clergy has no cover either. The black clergy continue to promote a religious lifestyle that effectively cuts them and their members off from the people that require the most help and attention. The black clergy continues to promote a Christian worldview that was taught to our people on the slave plantations in America. Common sense dictates that a group of people that have beat you, killed you, raped you, and enslaved you is not going to teach or freely give to you the keys to your liberation and salvation (the aforementioned is true even for our Muslim brothers and sisters). But the Black Clergy has suspended common sense in favor of blind faith and obedience to euro-christian dogma, theology and the euro-christian deity. The vast majority of Black preachers hoop, holler and spit fiery and emotional sermons on Sundays and do little to nothing to promote programs and projects that would bring economic, spiritual and cultural freedom to the poor and disenfranchised within their own communities. They have taken the place of the slave master by promoting a religious-proletariat way of life for our people.

There is absolutely no reason why we cannot create an infrastructure within our communities to support initiatives, programs and/or projects that would effectively address the issues related to education, business development, trade and commerce and socioeconomic development. There is no reason why the aforementioned infrastructure cannot produce the next Martin Luther King, Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Benjamin Mays or Barack Obama.  I invite anyone; black leaders, pundits, clergy, bloggers and/or commenter to challenge me as to why this can’t be done. I also challenge this same black leaders, pundits and clergy to stop complaining to and about this President, or future President about issues that all of you have failed to effectively address in over 40+ years. Enough Obama bashing already!

Monday, December 31, 2012

My Man, Dick Clark!



I know I’m going to shed a tear tonight. I feel myself welling up already and I’ve been thinking about this day since I heard the news that Dick Clark died. Dick Clark was New Year’s Eve to me. I watched Dick Clark on New Year’s Eve ever since my parents allowed me to stay up and watch the celebration at the age of twelve in 1970. As a teenager, no matter what slamming party my friends and I were at, at 11:45 the party stopped and all eyes were focused on the TV, Dick Clark and the big ball that was about to drop to welcome in the New Year. Millions of other party guests, club hoppers and just plain folks sitting in front of the TV were tuned in all over America to watch Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rocking Eve.

In my twenties, I would be at a nightclub or house party and the same thing would occur. All activity would stop until Mr. Clark said “Happy New Year.” It didn’t matter to me that people in other parts of the world either had celebrated or were preparing to celebrate the New Year based upon the time zone that they were in. In my mind, the New Year wasn’t officially the New Year until Dick Clark made the official announcement. 

As I’ve gotten older and people have become crazier, I found myself going out less on New Year’s Eve.  For the last twelve or so years, I’ve relegated myself to either having a few friends over for some homemade gumbo (created by yours truly) and a full bar or sitting up with my family enjoying the festivities sipping on my favorite cognac over ice, Martell Cordon Bleu. Whatever the case has been, I never missed Dick Clark ringing in the New Year; except the one year I got cajoled and harassed by my family into attending church on New Year’s Eve. We didn’t get out of service until 2 in the morning! 

Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rocking Eve (which will continue with Dick Clark’s co-host Ryan Seacrest) was the epitome of what a New Year’s celebration should be. It had glamor. It had big stars, and it gave us new stars and one hit wonders. It was hip and square at the same time. Grandma could watch it with the Junior Mafia and both would be entertained. Only Dick Clark could transcend race, culture, musical genres, politics and the great ethnic divide that exists in America and bring us all together as one to celebrate the promise of another new year in America. 

I offer my best wishes to Ryan Seacrest on the continuation of Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rocking Eve. He has humongous shoes to fill; just like Kobe had to do when Jordan retired (sorry Lebron). Mr. Seacrest will do fine and in a few years I will probably feel good about tuning in to see him bring in the New Year. But this New Year’s Eve… I’ll be missing Dick Clark.