When You Were My President

Obama Family 3It is with a heavy heart that I write this letter, to you, Barack Hussein Obama, the man who, even now, means so much to so many people.

I miss you.

We miss you.

From 2008 to 2016, you served as our 44th President. And you did it with a tremendous amount of humility, dignity and grace. But, in 2017, many of us Black Americans were scratching our heads, asking one burning question: What did we gain from you being the first, Black President?

A lot?

No.

We got Donald Trump.

Donald being elected President last year was a glaring reminder that there is a segment of the American populace that never saw the content of your character because they couldn’t get past the color of your skin. They thought your being The Leader of the Free World was an aberration, made possible only because both John McCain in 2008 and Mitt Romney in 2012 were perceived as flawed, Republican candidates. But they were wrong. You were elected President twice, as a Democrat, because, even though you would readily admit that you possess flaws as well, you represented the hopefulness we Americans needed at the time to begin a dialogue, one that would ultimately lead to a better understanding of how our inability to get along across racial/ethnic lines prevents our nation from becoming a more perfect union.

But as I type these words, I find myself wondering if the unenlightened few who voted for Donald even want to get along with the rest of us. They seemed to embrace him without reservation when he asserted that you were born in Kenya and raised in Indonesia, not America, offspring to a White American mother and Black Kenyan father. I get that you wanted to prove them wrong by producing the long-form birth certificate that showed you were born in Hawaii, something no other American President has been asked to do, but you must admit, even that wasn’t enough. Now that you’re no longer in office, Donald is going out of his way to sully your reputation, undo all the executive and legislative good Democratic lawmakers and you did on behalf of all Americans, which includes the ones who didn’t even vote for you.

There is no need for me to recount your accomplishments. Just complete a critical analysis of everything Donald has been trying to undo since taking office. Repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act. Revocation of the executive order allowing Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA).  Withdrawal from the Paris Climate Agreement. Approval of the Keystone XL Pipeline. Blatant disregard for American citizens’ right to protest peacefully. And signing into law a consequential (and highly controversial) tax reform bill.

Donald is quick to tell us he wants to make America great, again. But his incessant attacks upon your legacy are evidence that you, along with at least seven of the 43 presidents that preceded you, were intent on adding to America’s greatness, not take it back to a bygone era marred by prejudice, racism and discrimination. I want you to know that your efforts are appreciated, not just because you led responsibly, but also because you made it clear through your words and deeds that all of those Democratic accomplishments corresponded nicely with your cabinet’s efforts to fairly administer passed laws, regulations and rules. Donald can’t compete with that because someone forgot to tell him there’s no I in team.

But I digress.

When you were my President, I felt even better about the Black skin I am in. I’m not going to lie; it was great seeing someone who looked like me take up residence in the White House. You knew all eyes were on you, but you didn’t use your notoriety to enrich yourself. No. You used it to encourage us to turn toward each other, not away.

Yes, you said the protesters in Ferguson, Missouri had a right to peacefully voice their concerns about police brutality against Black and Brown Americans, and the unfair sentencing of members of these same groups within the American criminal justice system. To this day, it’s no secret that you support Colin Kaepernick’s national anthem protest, his taking of a knee, for racial, social and economic justice. But that’s what good men do. But Donald didn’t become President because he was good, or popular. That honor was bestowed on Hillary Clinton. That’s why he only champions causes put forth by his Republican base, individuals who lack the enlightenment to see the dying breed of bad apples in our police departments, understand the profit motive that leads to the profiling, incarceration and murder of disenfranchised and downtrodden Americans.

After Heather Heyer, our White sibling in the struggle, was murdered in Charlottesville, Virginia by a White supremacist, Donald seemed to shower more praise on the Tiki Torch-bearing protesters than the brave Americans who stood against them, against prejudice, racism, discrimination and hate. But Donald knows nothing about American history, and the historians in his inner circle failed to brief him before he addressed the media in the aftermath of Heyer’s death. One has to wonder if he would have suggested that the Tiki Torch-bearing protesters were protecting their heritage if he had known the first Confederate monuments were erected between 1890 and 1950 (the era of Jim Crow segregation) to make Black Americans feel less than rather than equal to their White counterparts.

When you were my President, I was able to see Black love done right. While my 13-year-old son is able to see my public displays of affection for his mother in our home, it has been refreshing to see the same phenomenon displayed by a Black couple from the confines of the White House. But First Lady Michelle and you weren’t performing before a Black audience only. Truth be told, you weren’t performing at all. What you were unknowingly doing was reframing the negative narrative that unenlightened White Americans have been writing about us Black Americans since 1619, when our ancestors were ripped from Africa and shipped as cargo to Jamestown, Virginia.

But what did they hear, what did they see, when your faces flashed across the television screens. They heard, saw, a Black couple living and loving out loud. There were the fist bumps during your acceptance speech, your kisses to the top of the First Lady’s head. There were the interviews in which you praised the First Lady for being an exceptional wife and dedicated mother to your daughters, Malia and Sasha. And there were those moments when you applauded your life partner for sharing her concerns about men who think they can grab women and girls by their genitalia and get away with it.

That’s why I am so upset with those White Evangelical Christians who voted for Donald in 2016. They excoriated you for your evolving positions on homosexuality and abortion while accusing you of endorsing policies that infringed upon their religious liberties. Their assertions are mind-boggling, for it let’s me know they don’t understand the difficult hand American presidents are dealt.

American presidents can’t allow their decisions to be guided by their strong feelings about two or three issues. Their decisions have to be constitutionally based, and they must protect every American citizen’s right to life, liberty and happiness. Thus, these protections must be extended to adherents of other religions as well. You can’t support infringement of Muslim’s religious liberties because you mistakenly believe their religion runs counter to Christianity. That’s wrong. When White Evangelical Christians behave this way, they become hypocrites, not fully understanding what it means to practice what they preach.

And that takes me back to the Black love that the First Lady and you did right. However, this is where I choose to focus less on the black and more on the love. White Evangelical Christians didn’t vote for Donald because he is Christian; they voted for him because they have been conditioned to esteem their Whiteness over their Christianity. You knew this. That’s why you spent eight years walking a fine line when you addressed us from the Oval Office, the Rose Garden or the West Wing. You knew that they refused to love and respect you because of your blackness, even though your words and deeds showed that you are, and have always been, a part of their family, their Christian brother. For this, I say shame on them. Because when you were our president, your words and your deeds showed that you love your God and you love your neighbors, which just so happens to be the two greatest commandments of the Christian faith.

But if we Americans were honest with ourselves, we would conclude that your time in office allowed us to finally establish a benchmark for what it will take for us to become a more perfect union. To many Black Americans’ dismay, you chose not to focus most of your attention on issues that only had relevancy to us. You were thoughtful in your approach; making sure that the legislation you signed into law benefitted all Americans, not just a few. Unfortunately, the unenlightened few who voted for Donald in 2016 failed to recognize the method behind your generosity, the immensity of your love of country.

Sad?

No doubt.

But moving forward, we must believe that more of them want to reject Donald’s divisive rhetoric and spiteful actions to join the ongoing crusade to make America’s better great.

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J.A.’s Interview on The Artist Exchange

I really enjoyed this extended chat with Nate prior to my participation in the 2017 African-American Authors & Empowerment Expo.  He asked me specific questions about my books – Adrinkrahene: Fear of a Black Planet and Real Men Raise CHAMPIONS: Unleashing Your Inner COACH – but we also touched on social and political issues.

Thank you, Nate, for the invite.

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COMING SOON: J. A. Faulkerson’s “The Bear on My Back”

The Bear on My Back Promo

The sport of track and field has been good to me.  It is what kept me moving forward and upward at Dobyns-Bennett High School and the University of Tennessee when I could have easily chosen mediocrity over excellence.  So when I sat down to write my latest novel, The Bear on My Back, I set out to craft a story where what happens off the track is just as exciting as what happens on it.

This next statement emerges from the admiration I harbor for my characters.  You’re going to enjoy the story lines that I have created for Jason Black and Mitch Newman. These brothers, both elite sprinters, become entangled in situations that I dare say the average person would be hard pressed to overcome.  These situations require that they make the kind of choices that enable them to get their lives back on track.  And with both of them endeavoring to compete in the 2012 London Olympic Games, for the title of “World’s Fastest”, the stakes are high.

I’m still mixing in essential ingredients, but, soon, I will be placing the cake in the oven. Thereafter, I will be icing it up, relying on an artist friend to provide the window dressing it needs to motivate you to give it prominent positions on your bookshelves. When it becomes available for purchase later this year, it is my hope you will purchase online copies from my Amazon Author Central page , or in person at one of my public events.  Without you, I would not be able to live This Writer’s Life.

As always, thank you for your purchases, but, more importantly, your thoughts and prayers.

Sincerely,

100 BM Photo 2

J. A.

Real Men Doing Real Work

L.I.F.E. PRINCIPLE # 4: Be a leader who associates with winners not losers.

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As a youngster, I became enthralled with the life and times of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.  And as I matriculated to and through college, I found myself making frequent visits to the John C. Hodges Library’s audio-visual department to watch, and re-watch, Eye on the Prize documentaries. To me, Dr. King was the ultimate leader – my hero – for he led a movement that laid the groundwork for Black Americans, and other persons of color, to gain equal rights and protections under the law.

Dr. King is the reason I decided to pursue degrees in Social Work. Like him, I wanted to help people help themselves. But as mobilizing forces seek to convince young people that their future is bleak, I’m calling on Real Men like yourselves to do more to help them become the kind of leaders that articulate more hopeful narratives about their futures. In the words of the Rev. Jesse Jackson, we must keep “hope alive” through our righteous words and deeds.

As a Huddle Group, you must show young people what it means to be leaders in their homes, schools, workplaces and communities. They must know that leadership in these arenas is not predicated on one’s racial/ethnic identity, or political party affiliation. It is based on doing the right thing relative to fairness, equity and justice.

What our young people must understand is they live in a country where citizens have inalienable rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. From these inalienable rights come values. At times, our self-righteousness as human beings causes us to impose our emerging values on individuals and groups that nurture. learn, work, lead and even pray differently than us. But we’re only right some of the time. For this reason, we, both the young and the old, have no right to tell other people how to live their lives. We can provide a gentle nudge, or two, but we should never get them to do our bidding through coercion. True leaders are quick to acknowledge this fact, opting instead to humbly work with like-minded people in our homes, schools, workplaces and communities to maintain bonds of peace, havens of tranquility.

Your Huddle Group should develop lesson plans that require young people to study the lives of leaders both past and present, from all racial/ethnic groups, both genders. After this study has been completed, they should be asked if they consider themselves to be leaders. The introverts will undoubtedly say no, the extroverts yes. But then you’ll have to reel them back in, asking follow-up questions about how they’re leading. Most will probably give you examples of how they’re leading positively. But when you dig a little deeper, they, and you, will discover they’re nowhere near being the righteous leaders we need them to be. Their lack of growth in this area should be attributed to their peer influences.

Believe it or not, the peer dynamics that we see in their world are driven by common goals, similar objectives. Achievers, young people who are living independently fearless and empowered, want to be successful by establishing educational and vocational foundations that allow them to maintain positive relationships while simultaneously imprinting their legacies on the society at large. The Slackers, on the other hand, have a difficult time envisioning their success, resulting from their preoccupation with the here rather than the there.

For this reason, they risk not graduating from high school and college to secure employment that pays a livable wage.

For this reason, they risk not developing marital relationships that withstand the test of time.

For this reason, they risk bearing children out of wedlock, thus robbing the born children of opportunities to bear witness to marriage done right.

Getting young people to embrace the leader within should be the primary objective of your Huddle Group’s efforts. My TRIO Upward Bound staff and I accomplished this by offering a series of life skills workshops (on Saturdays) that forced our scholars to get in touch with their selfless selves. They were then encouraged to become Servant Leaders by helping each other achieve the program’s B or better standard in all of their classes. While my staff and I went to great lengths to ensure our scholars were successful as individuals, I took more pride in letting our scholars know when the program’s collective GPA was B or better. The latter just meant that the vast majority of our scholars were handling their business in the classroom.

When I attended Body of Christ Church in Raleigh, North Carolina, I had the honor of serving as one of the co-chairs of the church’s Warriors Rites of Passage Program. This program was our Iron Man Ministry’s outreach to boys between the ages of 10 and 14, and our goal was to mold boys into men.

Through bi-weekly Saturday meetings – which lasted about two hours – we men shared our hearts for God and L.I.F.E., taking our young charges under our wings, and helping them develop a leadership mindset. Most of the boys we worked with didn’t know the first thing about being leaders. They were immature and undisciplined. But through our instruction and guidance, they seemingly gave more credence to the incessant tugging of their consciences, which told them to do right by themselves and others when they wanted to do wrong.

Visit any school in America, and you will hear school administrators and teachers talk about student involvement in service learning projects. When young people are involved in service learning projects, they learn invaluable lessons from the giving of their time, talent and treasure. Consequently, because learning is a lifelong process, it is important that your Huddle Group commit itself to developing Servant Leaders during constituent engagements. Your Huddle Group must convince them that leadership is the highest calling, and, consequently, they must adhere to a moral code governed by their love for God and neighbors.

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From Real Men Raise CHAMPIONS: Unleashing Your Inner C.O.A.C.H. 
Part Two: Real Men Doing Real Work
Click here to purchase Part One only.
Copyright 2016 Jeffery A. Faulkerson.  All rights reserved.

Why #HillaryClintonMatters

hillary-clintonOn Tuesday, November 8th, Americans of all hues will be going to the polls to elect the 45th President of the United States.  For some people, namely those high school and college students who turned 18 in the months leading up to the election, it will be their first time voting.  For the older, more seasoned, generations, it will be the umpteenth. One thing is for certain, whoever wins this election is going to discover that President Barack Obama is a hard act to follow.

Say what you want about President Obama, the fact still remains that he will go down as one of the most popular and successful presidents in modern American history.  The fact that he is a bi-racial American (half Black, half White) will be remembered as nothing more than a side note. What will be remembered is the dignity and grace that he displayed while in office.

I don’t know about you, but when I go to the polls to cast my vote, I want to know that the candidates listed on the ballot are committed to representing the American people with this same dignity and grace.  On the ballot this year are Republican nominee Donald J. Trump and Democratic nominee Hillary Rodham Clinton.  Both strong candidates in the minds of their bases, but the environment in which they operate has been poisoned in a way that benefits one candidate more than the other.

Everyone knows Hillary Clinton is the first woman to be nominated by either one of this nation’s two major political parties.  And judging from the way she has been attacked by the GOP these past eight years, you can almost sense they want her to be the last, at least from the Democratic Party ranks.

First, they accused her of not doing enough to protect the American embassy in Benghazi.

Then, they accused her of not being for women because of the way she lashed out at the women who claimed to have sexual relations with Bill Clinton, her husband and the 42nd United States president.

Now, it’s all about the 33,000 emails that were sent on her private server.  Reportedly, some of those emails contained classified information that could have been intercepted, or retrieved, by foreign governments and opportunistic hackers.

If you know the answer to two plus two, you can see how Hillary Clinton has been unjustly set up to fail.  Most people think this mistreatment is textbook Politics 101, but I beg to differ. Because her husband’s presidency was riddled with scandal, the most notable being the Monica Lewinsky affair, the GOP considered Hillary an easy target.  But because African Americans, Hispanics, young Americans, women, and members of the LBGTQ community usually lean Democrat during local, state and national elections, the GOP felt they had to go further by making it more difficult for all Americans to exercise the voting franchise. This, my friends, is known as voter suppression.

I’m here to tell you why #HillaryClintonMatters.

Hillary has already apologized for using a private server to send and receive work-related emails.  And FBI Director James Comey exonerated her from wrongdoing earlier this year, in July.  Yes, Donald J. Trump and other Republican legislators thought they could use news that something incriminating may be found in emails Huma Abedin, Hillary closest advisor, sent and received from Hillary.  But what irks me most is the double standard here.

Republicans George W. Bush and Dick Cheney (and Karl Rove, to a larger extent) deleted 22 million emails after UN Inspectors determined that there were never any Weapons of Mass Destruction in Iraq.  So, the Bush Administration put our troops in harms way for no legitimate reason, other than to finish a fight that President George H. W. Bush started, which was to charge, prosecute and convict Iraqi President Sadaam Hussein for crimes against humanity.

Think about the number of American and Iraqi lives that were lost during the Iraq War just to capture one man.

Now, compare the deletion of 22 million emails to the information coming out of the Hillary Clinton Investigation.

Democratic leaders could have put their Republican counterparts in check if they had done then what Republican leaders are now doing to them, Hillary, their nominee.  Many of them knew the Bush Administration deleted the 22 million emails to prevent its leaders from being charged with war crimes by an international court.  But they opted to look the other way because their condemnation of this Republican administration would set a precedence that would make it more difficult to reach across the aisle, get things done.

Seeing that Democratic leaders missed their golden opportunity to pounce, and changing demographics that show the Republican Party will be hard pressed in the future to win local, state and national elections, the Republican Party implemented plans to “rig” the American electoral process.

First came the Republican-controlled U.S. Supreme Court striking down Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which had required nine states and a number of individual counties with long histories of voter discrimination to clear any new election law changes with the feds.

And with Section 5 struck down, Republican-controlled states instituted Voter ID laws that portended to be a remedy to rampant voter fraud.  The Washington Post, however, reported on August 13, 2012 (The Post’s View: The Truth About Voter Fraud) that the “Republican National Lawyers Association — devoted to promoting ‘open, fair and honest elections’ — frequently cites the figure of 375 cases of voter impersonation fraud. But News21, a national investigative reporting project funded by the Carnegie-Knight Initiative, investigated each of those cases and found that not one showed evidence of impersonation fraud.”

What the aforementioned actions show is the Republican Party is not about promoting “open, fair and honest” elections.  It’s about conditioning us, the American voters, not to exercise our voting rights on November 8th.  They know Hillary Rodham Clinton is the most qualified person for the job, and that’s why they are doing everything they can to demean and discredit her.  The fact that they are hell-bent on criminalizing her as well is an act of desperation, and a clear sign that they view Donald J. Trump as a flawed candidate, unable to win an “open, fair and honest” election.

What impresses me most about Hillary Clinton and the Democratic Party is they epitomize what it means to lead with dignity and grace.  The same cannot be said about Donald J. Trump and the Republican Party.

Trump talks about a rigged election, but he never admits that it is the Republican Party that has done the rigging.

Trump talks about the media giving preferential coverage to Hillary, but he never admits that the media is doing its job by covering the outlandish things he says and does, and has been accused of doing.

And Trump talks about making America great again, but he never offers hopeful plans that promote more unity and less division.

#HillaryClintonMatters because she takes pride in leading in a dignified ani-voted-todayd graceful manner.  She understands that leadership is not just about telling others what and when to do something.  It’s about being that one shining light leading the hopeless out of the darkness of doom and despair.  Hillary has led us, the American people, for over 30 years, giving freely of her time, talent and treasure. In short, she has been, and continues to be, a true servant-leader, one that has the domestic and international street credibility that we need to build upon America’s greatness.

If we, the American people, don’t elect Hillary Rodham Clinton to office on Tuesday, November 8th, shame on us.