Friday, October 31, 2008

The Obama Swagger

By Melanie Eversley |

Why black men everywhere are standing a little taller!!!!

Oct. 31, 2008--Barack Obama's steep rise to political stardom is an American story that has rewritten the rules of politics, reenergized the Democratic Party and electrified Americans in general. But maybe no group of Americans is more invested in the Obama phenomenon than black men who see in his success a transformation of their own public image.

African-American men say this is the first time since the Million Man March in 1995 that they have felt so good about one another.

At barber shops, night clubs, coffee bars and even on subways, African-American men have been watching Obama's ascension with cautious optimism and no small amount of amazement.

"Opportunity and hope, I think that's what Barack brings—the hope that anything is possible," said Ramone Crowe, 39, owner of The Java Exchange Café in Detroit.

Crowe's customers—especially African-American men—have packed into his coffee bar for his debate nights. Crowe sees in the intense level of engagement a shift in the thinking of black men, a new sense of self, he said. In too many cases, African-American men have become the stereotypical representation of the most discouraging statistics that afflict Americans, from poor health high dropout rates to financial trouble.

But with Obama, one of their own has come to embody all that is good and possible in America. "Even if he doesn't win, he's doing a great campaign and [is] validation that all African-American men are not viewed in a negative way," said Crowe, who lives in Belleville, Mich. "Everyone's mindset has changed."

The same intensity about Obama is evident at the Working Wonders Beauty and Barber Salon in Canal Winchester, Ohio, outside Columbus, where sports is no longer the preferred fare on the shop's TV. "It's 70 percent of news now," said barber Jemal Burton, 33. "It was a gradual thing. People will say, 'The debate? Did you catch the debate? What's on TV real quick?'"Burton, who lives in Pataskala, Ohio, did not vote in the last general election because he did not believe it would make a difference. He believes many other African-American men are equally discouraged about the impact they can have on the direction of the country; young people, because they believe their opinions do not matter, and older people, who remember presidential administrations that were openly hostile to the interests of black people.Not anymore, said Burton. "There's a new fire to get involved," he said.

Numbers seem to be reflecting this emotion.Unofficial tallies from states holding early voting show African-American men participating in numbers like never before, said Melanie Campbell, executive director of the National Coalition on Black Civic Participation. The nonprofit advocacy organization based in Washington seeks to draw more African Americans into the election process.

As of a few days ago, roughly 90,000 African-American men had voted early compared to about 50,000 African-American women, Campbell said. Normally, African-American women vote in much larger numbers than their male counterparts, she said."We don't know what's going to happen until the last vote is counted… but once you had an African-American man get that nomination, history was made. Nothing in the history books even came close," Campbell said. "Not to say there wasn't any groundwork done," she continued, acknowledging the Rev. Jesse Jackson's historic bids for the Democratic nomination in 1984 and 1988. But this is different, she said."You have the brother in the business suit talking to the brother in the baggy pants about, 'Did you see the debate last night?' " Campbell said. "It's a whole new engagement."Recently, Paul Bogle, 29, while having his beard trimmed by barber Earl Wilson at A Sharper Image Barber Shop in northwest Washington, D.C, said: "It's making a lot of us feel better about ourselves. If they don't cheat or assassinate him, I know he's going to go on to win. There is no doubt in my mind he can do this."

If that enthusiasm is reflected in the turnout Tuesday among African-American men, it could tip the scales in key states such as Virginia, North Carolina, Ohio and Pennsylvania, and that could make the Million Man March look like a blip in the history books.

Friday, October 24, 2008

The Deep End
October 24, 2008 • Category: Encouragement
by Robert Ferguson
Today’s scripture: Psalm 113 (ESV-text and audio) (KJV) (The Message)

As you read, consider: What might God be saying to me? Summarize your thoughts in a sentence or two.

My thoughts (Robert Ferguson):

I knew there was going to be a problem.

Just a few months ago, my partner and I took the kids to Cedar Point amusement park in Ohio for a water adventure vacation. There would be a full day spent at the water park and at least a full day dedicated to the pool at the hotel. We intended to swim to our hearts content and we gave the “moms” strict instructions to pack multiple swim suits.

As we set out for our first big splash in the hotel pool, I remembered the problem. Bryce, my 7 year old, has no concept of fear of the water. He believes he is a fish. So unlike his dear old godfather, he does not check little things like water depth! When he sees water he simply starts running and jumps in. The problem is that Bryce cannot swim. He believes he can swim and he does do a mean dog paddle and splash around, but it’s not swimming. Consequently, I have had to rescue him from a water emergency on more than one occasion.

So here he is, once again, bolting for the deep end — and I am fully dressed in street clothes. This was supposed to be the kids taking a quick dip before dinner after a long car ride, and the adults were just going to watch from a distance. I tried to stop him but the series of events was already in play.

Running, jumping, and squealing, he goes headlong into the pool. I am looking right at him when he realizes he can’t touch the bottom of the pool, and so begins the furious flailing of arms and the desperate gasps for breath. (Note that in addition to being a world class dog paddler, Bryce could also be an award winning dramatic actor.) So now the question for both the eagle-eyed lifeguard on duty and me is this: is he actually drowning or being gloriously over dramatic? Either way, I have no choice but to jump in, jeans and all, and pull him to safety. He responds with gleeful cheers and requests to do it again!

As I was reading today’s passage I was particularly struck by verses 5 and 6. “Who is like the LORD our God, Who is enthroned on high, Who humbles Himself to behold the things that are in heaven and in the earth?” The author of the psalm suggests that God’s glory is not only high above the heavens and reigning over creation, but our creator comes down to behold the things of the earth.

The imagery of a God who is not above it all but is concerned for each one of us is comforting. We should all be surprised by the fact that such an awesome and infinite being would have anything at all to do with us. The Creator God actually wants to be involved with the lowly creation.

Our heavenly parent is watchful over us when we find ourselves in deep water and unable to touch the bottom. We see examples of God’s personal involvement throughout the Bible. Meshach, Shadrach, and Abednego were not saved from the fiery furnace, they were saved in the midst of the fiery furnace. Paul and Silas were not saved from the prison, they were saved while behind locked doors in the prison. Daniel was not saved from the lion’s den, but rather saved in the lions den.

Today we are called to trust and believe that in all times — both good and bad — God is able not only to rescue us, but raise us to new heights and new places. It is amazing what one so high does for one so low!

Prayer for the day: God, thank You for stooping down to be with me. Thank You for the times You’ve rescued me. Help me to see You and trust You when I’m in my own deep water.