Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Michael Stoops of the National Coalition for the Homeless Is Hospitalized

It saddens me to report that MichaelStoops of the National Coalition for the Homeless (NCH) has fallen quite ill. He was found on Sunday, June 7th, 2015 collapsed on the floor at the office where he worked about 70 hours per week. It is good that this very private man had his health crisis at the office rather than while home alone. It would have been better for him not to have had a health crisis at all. I received two calls about Michael on Monday and have visited him on Tuesday and today, June 10th.

With Michael's next of kin being his sister who lives in Indiana, the hospital has designated Jerry Jones of NCH, Michael's sister and a close family friend as the three contacts who are privy to the prognosis reports. Even so, NCH might not have the capacity to field innumerable calls.

People are coming together to figure out both how best to support Michael through his recovery and how to fill his shoes in both the immediate and in the long term. One of the ways in which it's been agreed that I can be helpful is by posting information pertaining to visitation and, in the most discreet manner, by keeping people abreast of his prognosis. I've been asked to divulge the following information:

Though Michael's work benefits the 4,000,000 Americans who experience homelessness each year, he has always been the “slight man in the basement office”. He never cared to be in the lime light, though it's hard for me to imagine you reading 10 articles about national homeless trends without seeing his name. That said, we should try not to crowd the waiting room with visitors.

BE ADVISED that, while the ICU waiting room at George Washington University Hospital has about 30 seats, the medical staff will not allow more than three people to visit Mike at one time – up from the usual two-person limit because Michael touches so many lives. I've warned Nurse Joanna “Jo” that, hypothetically speaking, there could 15 people who come separately or in five groups of three to see Michael and unwittingly crowd Michael's space. If this should be the case, no more than three people will be allowed at Michael's bedside at a time. Just this morning I was there with two other people when a fourth arrived and had to wait.

BE FURTHER ADVISED that there is limited metered parking. You can park at the University Parking garage on H Street NW between 22nd and 23rd streets (under the Science and Engineering Hall. The first hour is $10. The second hour is an additional $6. The daily max is $22. Add an 18% DC parking tax to each. The weekend daily max is $12. HOWEVER, the subway entrance for the Foggy Bottom Station (orange and Blue Lines) is less than 50 feet from the hospital entrance.

Staff and interns at NCH are discussing how they'll mitigate this situation and will let it suffice that they address such matters internally. However, they've brought a book to Michael's bedside to be signed by the many visitors we expect him to have. While we encourage all who feel the urge to go and visit Michael Stoops and to sign the book while there, NCH is working to create alternate means whereby people can send their well wishes. There will soon be an e-mail address and possibly other electronic alternatives like a Facebook page that people can send their well wishes to. There is much value in these printed well wishes (hard copy and electronic) insomuch as they can be read to Michael by visitors, serve as indications to his sister and other loved ones of how many lives he touched and be used to compile an on-line tribute to Michael's life and work.

Michael experienced homelessness in 1961 at age 11 while living with his grandfather. He decided to commit himself to addressing homelessness. He joined the peace Corps and later worked for Americorps Vista. Michael was involved in the “Mitch Snyder Movement” of the 70's and 80's. NCH was established in 1982 and served as the fiscal sponsor for the Community for Creative Non-Violence (CCNV) Homeless Shelter until the latter achieved 501(c)3 non-profit status. NCH housed the original office of Street Sense until the latter moved to 1317 G Street NW. He and others from the "Mitch Snyder Movement" influenced the creation of organizations like the Washington Legal Clinic for the Homeless and the National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty. The “slight man in the basement office” was behind efforts that led to:

1 – Homeless people obtaining the right to vote in every state and the District
2 – Unprovoked attacks against homeless people being designated as hate crimes
3 – The exposure of “bum fight” videos wherein mentally incompetent and/or chemically-dependent homeless people where paid to participate in videotaped fights
4 – Tens of thousands of people in thousands of high school, college, university and church groups learning about homelessness
5 – Reports and news pieces that address the atrocity that is American homelessness and that offer solutions.

Other NCH speakers and I often tell the groups to whom we've spoken “NCH has successfully sued every department of the federal government.....with the exception of the Department of Fish and Wildlife. And if they ever deny a camping or a fishing license to a homeless person, we gonna sue them too. So, you can imagine that the folk at the Department of Fish and Wildlife are saying, 'you're homeless??? you want a camping or a fishing license??? you got it, man!!! Just don't sue us. Let us maintain our designation as the one department of the federal government that has never been sued by NCH' (successfully of unsuccessfully)”.

Michael's mild manner belies the fierceness of his dedication and the breadth and depth of his impact on the lives of millions of homeless people and the work of many advocates. He is a force to be reckoned with. The rather unassuming “slight man in the basement office” is already being missed as he lies in his hospital bed. Let's hope that he has a speedy recovery.

But regardless of how Michael comes out of this current situation, the advocacy community needs to chart a path forward in which Michael plays a less active advisory role. We should start by:

Showing the awesome hour-long film “Promises to Keep” which can be obtained on DVD or streamed off of the web and discussing how advocacy and the state of homelessness have advanced since 1988 when the renovation of the Federal City Shelter/CCNV was completed.

Asking WHUT which is our local PBS affiliate to do an updated version of “Promises to Keep” which highlights the piecemeal closure of the shelter which will begin in the fall of 2015 and which includes segments about the good and bad trends in homelessness that have occurred on a local and national basis as well as the federal and local governments' reactions to these trends.

Thank you

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Monday, June 8, 2015

Still Arranging to Meet Big Sister Who Saw Me Abused & Taken in 1969

This is a follow-up to the post I did yesterday (6/7/15) concerning the biological sister whom I just learned that I have. If you haven't done so already, I suggest that you read that post before continuing to read this one:

As it turns out, my sister and I both have our financial struggles with hers having prevented us from speaking, even though we have had each others numbers for one week today – 6 /8/15 (which is also exactly four months since the day that I met the first of two women whose website led to this reunion-in-the-making). As it turns out, I am having some timely fortune which will enable me to pay the $80.00 she needs for her phone bill. I'll have $300.00 this week in addition to my phone being paid for three months. I make semi-regular speeches to groups from colleges, universities, high schools and churches who travel to Washington, DC to do services trips during which they learn about homelessness. (It was one such speech that caused me to meet Lalita – one of the French creators of the website where my niece found me.) I also have benefactors who help me out from time to time. As chance would have it, I'm guaranteed to have $300.00 this week – a feat I tend to pull off every two to four months. I'll speak to Valerie by tomorrow evening, most likely.

In the interim, we've been texting. Through at least a couple hours of texting total on Saturday and Sunday, I've learned a lot about our biological parents and what Valerie has been going through both as a child and as an adult. Her four children – ages 12 to 26 – have heard about their uncle throughout their lives. This led to my niece Turquoise (22) finding me on-line. I asked if she was the most tech-savvy or it was just a chance happening and was told by her mother that it was the latter.

My sister Valerie who was three when my skull was fractured (me having been eight months old at the time) and when I was gladly given by our mother to the Department of Youth and Family Services continued to ask about me for the next seven years – and got beaten each time. She finally learned not to ask anymore. At 10 years old she found a birth card with my name on it – spelled “Erick" as opposed to how I've spelled it since I learned to write which is “Eric”. A certain Huffington Post article (of which there are at least three about me) spelled my name “Erick” and when I Googled that article by using their spelling, Google “corrected” me by asking, “Do you mean 'Eric Sheptock'?”. LOL.

I told her that I actually returned to Atlantic City in 1994 at age 25 to search for my birth parents and asked Valerie what years either of them passed. It turns out that our mother passed in 2005 and our father passed in 2007, neither having had any more children. Valerie also explained that, while our father loved me, our mother would not have met with me if I'd been successful at finding her in 1994. As for our biological father, he died within months of me learning to use computers and that didn't leave a very big window of time for me to find him – the facts that finding people was not the first thing I learned to do on computers and that I didn't know which parent was to blame notwithstanding.

In any instance, Valerie is glad that I was eventually taken in by a loving family whom I often talk about. I'll speak to a group tomorrow (6/9/15). As is sometimes the case, I'll need to amend my story. I usually talk about the National Coalition for the Homeless which arranges these speeches and other events, followed by my personal story and then an explanation of homelessness in general – usually with a political slant. In recent weeks I've reported on the good things that current DC Mayor Muriel Bowser is doing to decrease homelessness in our nation's capital. When I tell my story, I sometimes say, “I don't know which one did it, what they did it with, why they did it, where they are now, if they ever got caught and did time or the name of the person who found me”. The words just roll off of my tongue. I've actually told that part of my story for the past 28 years, pre-dating my homelessness and advocacy. I'll need to amend my story starting tomorrow.

The part of my life with the Sheptocks that I don't say or write much about is the conflicts that occurred – partly because I'm expected by many who hear me to be so eternally grateful and utter not a mumbling word and partly because familial conflicts are so common that I expect others to understand and accept them as a normal part of life. With my mother Joanne Sheptock having been the dominant parent – the one who ran the house and the chief disciplinarian – it's not hard to imagine that there were many disagreements that ran along the lines of male rationale vs. female emotion. Such is the case in many such families, if not any such family. Such was the case with ours. To this day I abhor the thought of “Mom” (Joanne Sheptock) publicly describing my life with her from a female emotional perspective. What man doesn't hate how Mom brings up childhood occurrences which he believes do nothing to define him as a man???

The conflict between rationale and emotion is further exacerbated in my case by the fact that I was abused. This gave Mom the space to assert that any anger which I expressed as a child was a result of the abuse and subconscious resentment that I was harboring. I had the hardest time getting her to see that I was upset about what was then an immediate situation – and don't know that I ever actually succeeded in this respect. It was as though I was expected to be super-human by never getting upset about anything lest it be seen as a subconscious response to my traumatic past which I told her that I don't even remember.

I would argue as a 10- or 15-year old that she was attributing more power to my sub-conscience than to my conscience and that she doesn't know how I would have turned out if I'd not been abused, being that it happened. She would fire back with her emotional assertion, “Mommy just KNOWS you wouldn't be so angry if that hadn't happened!” Little did she realize that her refusal to immediately succumb to the rational conclusion that “we can't know with certainty what would have been” was itself upsetting me further during those conversations.

One of the most recurrent arguments was about her not allowing me to play football. I'd sometimes sneak in a game; but, when she found out, we'd argue. She'd claim that I “refused to accept my limitations” and that I “had misplaced anger”. I often longed to get her to see that I was a normal kid with normal kid desires as opposed to her always building her assessment of my attitudes around an event that I don't even remember. Needless to say, I'm a bit skeptical when I hear anyone talk about the sub-conscience. Though I don't play much of anything as a man, it was difficult to have an over-protective mother prevent me from being fully involved with my father and brothers. It would have been made easier if she had said less about me being resentful and more about me having normal boyish desires which she laments not being able to let me live out.

My “Dad” Rudy Sheptock loved a “good worker”. I've witnessed Mom telling him about the bad behavior of myself or a sibling while he was at work, only to have him respond with “So-and-so is a good worker”. She told him that their good work didn't excuse their bad behavior – a point I, as a man, agree with in principle. While I WOULD work with my father and brothers in the yard on Saturday mornings and shovel snow whenever there was a need to, Mom would often call me in earlier than the others. That always upset me. We'd often argue about that. One time her errands took her past me as I mowed grass during a summer job I had at 17. She asked how long I'd been out there. It had been several hours. She told my boss to have me do something else. I wasn't happy, though I don't recall us arguing about that particular incident.

Dad had no tolerance for “sissies”. If a brother got a small cut or bump while doing yard work and began to whine, Dad would say, “You little sissy!!! Go inside with your mother and the girls!!! We only want men out here!!!” (That was one of his oft-repeated spiels that is etched into my memory. I didn't want to have it directed at me.) In one very memorable incident, Mom and I were arguing about her having called me in early. Dad came by and I, with tears in my eyes, uttered his “sissy statement”. He then said he'd make an exception for me. Oddly enough, that argument took place near a wall where my father had posted several pieces of poster board with different Bible verses which he's markered in. Directly above my head at that moment was a poster board that read “II Thessalonians 3:10: …..If any man does not work, neither should he eat”.

I've done a number of dangerous jobs in my adulthood and worked eight or more hours at a time in the south Florida summer heat – having lived in Jacksonville and Miami, Florida as well as points in between. At different points in time, I've thought about how that, if Mom had anything to say about it, I might not be doing that. She has changed somewhat in that past 25 years and we get along much better now. I sent a text to her land-line phone around midnight on Saturday, not realizing it would ring and wake her. (I've never received a text on a land-line phone.) She woke and we spoke. She knows about my sister having found me and that I plan to visit.

I AM grateful to Rudy and Joanne Sheptock for raising me. Facebook users recently asserted that women who were not sexually assaulted by the men in their lives should not be compelled to publicly thank those men for doing the right thing or for not doing the wrong thing. Concerning my adoption, I would say that I only owe Mom (with Dad being deceased) the usual amount of thanks that one would expect from a biological son. I've always seen her as “Mom”. We've had the usual arguments that accompany family life. We've had some arguments that were specific to my special situation. In spite of our bad times, we've also had good times; and I still love her. She's “Mom”. That's it. That's all.


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Sunday, June 7, 2015

Reuniting with Sister After Severe Child Abuse and Over 45 Years Apart

I was just found electronically by my sister whom I haven't seen since I was eight months old and she was thee years old. We've yet to talk or meet face-to-face, as she works out her phone issues; but, we've messaged each other. I've learned that she was traumatized at three as she was forced by our biological mother to watch as I was abused for my first eight months of life, culminating with my skull being fractured. Valerie has wondered about her little brother since that fateful day in October 1969. I, of course, was too young to remember that she existed. That said, our reunion is more for her than it is for me, as I've known that I was alright -- though I'd absolutely love to meet her. She still lives in my birthplace of Atlantic City, New Jersey.

I was born as Eric Gooden on February 15th, 1969. Valerie said that I was born with water on the brain (hydrocephalus). She also told me that our mother had many issues – I'm guessing some level of mental illness -- and that both parents are deceased. I guess that fracturing my skull may have been our mother's demented way of getting the water off of my brain. Val says that our father really loved me; but, our mother gladly gave me up for adoption to the Dept. of Youth and Family Services.

I spent almost five years in Foster care – also in Atlantic City. My foster mother, Esther V. L. Racks (a retired nurse), was elderly and my adoption had to be expedited. (I learned in 1994 that she died in 1978 or 1979.) In August 1974 Rudy (1932-2000) and Joanne (1937-present) Sheptock picked me up from Atlantic City and got a girl named Becky from Morristown, NJ on the same day. We were numbers nine and 10 of what would become a total of 37 children who would be raised by this couple – one having died in 2007.

In August 1975 the family moved from Chester to Peapack, NJ. That month we both got adopted, at which time I became Eric Jonathan Sheptock and she became Mary Elizabeth Sheptock. My adoptive mother (the one I call “Mom”) told me when I was six years old that I had to decide if I wanted to be adopted and that, if so, I had to choose a name from the Bible. You can see what I chose in both cases. The rule for all 10 sisters was that their first name had to be “Mary”.

Throughout the late 70's and early 80's my parents were guest speakers at different churches, pro-life meetings, Salvation Army gatherings and the like due to the size of our family. We were filmed, photographed and interviewed by many media outlets. My parents would often put my siblings and me on-stage at their speaking engagements and have us sing “Jesus Loves Me”, “Jesus Loves the Little Children” or even a song written by my brothers Rudy and Robert. In 1980 a book about our family was published by Logos Publications and entitled “Our Growing Family”. It lived up to its name, as my parents only had 21 kids when it was written and got 16 more later on.

Beginning on December 26th, 1984 and going through March, 1985 we moved from Peapack, NJ to Interlachen, FL. I graduated from Hollister Christian Academy in Hollister, FL in June 1987, went to Georgia for a few months and returned to Florida where I would eventually get a job at Shands Hospital in Gainesville at UF. When I left that job in February 1994 I returned to Atlantic City to see if I could find my birth parents. Having a relatively good memory, I thought that my name at birth was “Eric Goodwin”. I would learn from “Mom” as I was heading back to Florida that it was “Eric Gooden”. Needless to say, my search was unsuccessful.

However, I disclosed my story to several people while I was there in A.C. And they laid into me pretty hard by telling me that it was foolish for me to seek out my birth parents. They said my biological parents might just finish me off this time. I admittedly was holding back tears as they spoke. I've yet to learn when either biological parent died; but, it looks as though these people might have been right concerning my mother – not so much when it comes to my father.

I made no more attempts to find my birth parents, even though I moved to Washington, DC in the summer of 2005, began using computers in November 2006 (as part of my homeless advocacy) and heard years ago that I could review adoption records at the Library of Congress. I've had fleeting thoughts from time to time about someone from the family of my birth finding me on-line. As my on-line presence continued to grow, those fleeting thoughts became more frequent, though I kept quiet about them. As it turns out, that's what led to this reunion-in-the-making.

On February 8th, 2015 I was guiding a group of university students through DC to speak to the homeless and give out care packages when I came by the McPherson Subway Station and saw a woman who I assumed wasn't homeless moving among the homeless people with a camera in her hand. I asked who she was and what she was doing there. Long story short, she was doing a documentary about what it's like to be in a relationship while homeless and I ended up helping her and a lady friend (both French natives of mixed origin) to navigate DC's homeless community.

The documentary website is now up. A 22-year old woman named Turquoise posted a comment on the site, explaining that she might be my niece and that her mother had an emotional need to know what happened to the little brother she hadn't seen in over 45 years. Turquoise and her mother both live in A.C. still and enough of the facts matched for me to be convinced that we are indeed from the same biological family. I found my niece on Facebook and posted my cell phone number. Days later, I got a text from her mother Valerie. With text being all she currently has the capacity for, I've learned several of the facts stated herein from my older sister.

When I met Lalita at the subway station, I never imagined it would lead to this!!! That connection led to me meeting Ariane on March 6th, 2015. (I love them and there's not a damn thing they can do about it!!!) Our project included the creation of the website. My niece visited the website, though I'm not sure what led her there. Ariane who has returned to Europe viewed the site from across the Atlantic Ocean and told Lalita to tell me to visit the site and view the comment. I did. Lalita gave me Turquoise's e-mail – site moderator's privilege. I e-mailed Turquoise. I then found my niece on Facebook where I posted my number. I then got texted by my sister days later. We've yet to speak or visit. I'm still working on completing the connection. In any instance, it's almost crazy how these things happen!!!

As it turns out, I have my own socio-economic struggles and I'm not strapped with cash. However, my homeless advocacy which began in June 2006 has afforded me much social capital, resulting in me being able to simply put out the call in order to acquire funds to travel to Atlantic City to see my sister – though I've never put out a call for funds for a personal endeavor such as this in the past. I'm sure that there are many people who would love to help. I'm actually worried that I might get TOO MANY people wanting to help. That said, I strongly advise anyone who is interested in helping us to complete this reunion-in-the-making to TEXT my cell at: 240-305-5255 with a concise message. If you DO call, don't bother leaving a voicemail. (If you hang up before it goes to voicemail, I'll get a visual display with your number and I'll call you back. If it goes to voicemail, I won't get that display; neither will I go through all of my voicemails to call you back.)

Thank you.

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Wednesday, June 3, 2015

DC's Decreasing Homelessness – Despite Negligible Employment Efforts

Let's start with a little word smithing.

“Administrato-prudence” (as opposed to “Jurisprudence”): The pragmatic sum or totality of the efforts of an administration as indicated by empirical evidence. How a combination of laws, policies and administrative efforts actually improve or worsen the lives of that administration's constituents.

OK. Now that we have a working definition for "administrato-prudence", we can proceed with a discourse on DC's efforts to end homelessness, efforts that began [in earnest?] in 2004 and were supposed to end homelessness in the Capital by December 31st, 2014. We had 7,298 homeless people onJanuary 28th, 2015 – a drop of 450 or 5.8% from the previous year. The city didn't end homelessness by the set date; however, the story doesn't end there – fortunately.

During the quarterly meeting of the DC Inter-agency Council on Homelessness (ICH) on June 2nd, 2015 Tom Fredericksen of The Community Partnership for the Preventionof Homelessness (TCP) did a report-out on the figures from the January 28th Point-In-Time (PIT) Homeless Count which were published in mid-May. The decrease was good news, of course. He gave a lot of numbers concerning the various sub-populations of homelessness (families, singles, unaccompanied youth, disabled etc.). He pointed out that some of the 10 counties surrounding Washington, DC saw increases in their homeless populations and advised us to be cautiously optimistic concerning our modest decrease.

I've expressed my dismay numerous times since June 2014 over the fact that TCP was not told by the ICH to do a report-out concerning that year's count which rendered a 13% increase over the previous year – going from 6,859 in 2013 to 7,748 in 2014 (+889 people). Since then, I've also stated my suspicion that government administrators who should have thick skin were too emotionally weak to discuss a glaring failure. (They also refused to talk about the reasons for the failure of the previous 10-year plan before embarking on another such journey; and I won't let them forget it.)

So, I asked Tom what he thought was most responsible for the decrease from 2014 to 2015 and if we can be sure that there won't be a “balloon payment” of newly homeless people flooding the shelters in the next year or two. He figures the rush to house homeless families in the waning days of Mayor Gray's administration was the main driver for the decrease. He didn't respond to the latter part of my question, though I heard sighs of disgust as I asked it. (I take pride in my tendency to ask the hard questions on the front end of a planning process, rather than having a “wait and see” mentality.)

Administrato-prudently speaking, we have failures across multiple mayoral administrations and an apparent emotional weakness (the nicest assumption I could think of) which prevents administrators from having the hard conversation about past failures – even the failures of their predecessors. The singular exception to that rule has to do with institutional memory. I've heard various administrators over the years admit to the fact that institutional memory is very poor. I've yet to see any of them restart efforts that were left undone by previous administrations once my colleagues and I reminded them.

Case-in-point: The Harriet Tubman Shelter for single women was made into a 24-hour shelter in 2009(?) during the Fenty administration. Day programs that were intended to help the women exit homelessness were implemented. It was a pilot program that was going to be extended to other shelters if it worked well. My colleagues and I reminded city officials to check on its progress throughout the Gray administration (2011-2015). That STILL hasn't been done. Furthermore, the pre-meeting round table discussion on June 2nd addressed the issue of homeless day centers/ day programs. Oddly enough, the “professional” leading that discussion was not made aware of the fact that there will be a day center at the former location of the Gospel Rescue Mission by November 2015. She therefore asked open-ended questions about where day centers should be located and how they should function. Had I not brought up this project which is already in the pipeline, it would never have entered the conversation. This represents institutional memory (..err amnesia) at its worst.

While the aforementioned are administrative flaws, the primary impetus for this blog post is the apparent administrative intent that has manifested itself over the past 16 years. To be fair, I 'll say that the administration of DC mayor Muriel Bowser (Jan. 2nd,2015 to Jan. 2nd 2019) has, thus far, proven to be committed to addressing poverty and homelessness – even if they've yet to do anything tangible for homeless adults who are ready, willing and able to work. For at least six years my fellow advocates and I have tried to influence DC Government to do more to connect homeless A-bods to living-wage jobs. We went so far as to get the U.S. Dept. of labor (DOL) to commit to funding such an effort if DC Government would file the proper paperwork by June 1st, 2009. DC Government failed in that capacity and the DOL money reverted back to the general fund.

I personally have done numerous blog posts and been featured in several newspaper articles about the need for homeless employment. Many homeless people have articulated the need for living-wage jobs, whether they were at DC Government meetings or speaking to myself and other advocates. Yet and still, no robust effort has been made by city officials to connect homeless people to living-wage employment – unless you want to count the brief, shallow mentions of employmentwith “Homeward DC”, the first half of another 10-year plan, as satisfying that demand.

I often offer this cynical explanation for why I think DC Government refuses to put their best foot forward when it comes to homeless employment: Even though about 80% of DC's homeless community can work but has insurmountable challenges acquiring employment, the government doesn't want to create an environment wherein scores of homeless and poor people begin to inundate the District in order to get these low-skill and/or good-paying jobs. Let's face it; the homeless move from city to city telling each other where the work and/or best homeless services are. So, rather than “build a homeless field of employment dreams” and have them “come from everywhere”, former mayor Vince Gray chose to ostracize homeless parents and accuse them of being lazy and of gaming the system.

Mayor Bowser has initiated efforts to connect underprivileged people to employment, though they stop short of directly addressing the deepest and most insurmountable challenges faced by the homeless community. Given time, she might do that. But instead of holding my breath waiting, I'll use that breath to voice this concern. In any instance, the administrato-prudence of the last 16 years seems to suggest that city officials would much rather see poor people seek employment outside of DC while continuing to draw high earners into the city. Let's hope Mayor Bowser proves me wrong by reversing the trend set by her three male predecessors. But don't just hope; hop into action. Hope and hop non-stop til we win or we drop.

At multiple ICH meetings more than a year apart (including the June 2nd, 2015 meeting) I've heard fellow homeless advocate Donald Brooks point out that DCGovernment's Dept. of Employment Services (DOES) didn't have any representatives at the meeting. At ICH meetings in 2012 through 2014 I myself pointed out how that former directors of DOES were at the table but not participating in the meeting. Those who serve the disabled homeless – often getting paid to visit their homes after they're housed – are always the most vocal meeting attendees. Administrato-prudently speaking, why do you think that is?????

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Friday, May 22, 2015

Vote For Hillary, But Not Because She'll Do Well.

Things are already gearing up the the 2016 presidential election and we have almost a year and a half to go. If Bush and Clinton win their respective primaries, we would be forced to choose one dynasty or the other. If Hillary were to win the general election, it would be the first time that two U.S. presidents have had sex with each other (straight sex anyway). Bill Clinton would be the first ever first man. But while Hillary could become the first woman president, I actually think Barack Obama is the first feminine president. He's so sweet and incapable of confronting Congress. (For all his vices, Bush 43 held Congress in the palm of his hand.)

I once told a woman with whom I was sharing a table at Starbucks that we've had our first half-Black president. Now we need our first woman president. She said quite emphatically, “Excuse me! The U.S. presidency is not an affirmative action position!”. I agree. However, Bush 43 did irreparable damage to the American image abroad while only fostering fear of terrorism domestically; and, it stands to reason that all presidents in the foreseeable future will only be symbolic figure heads who tell Congress annually during a SOTU Address to work together before he withdraws to the hidden recesses of the Oval Office or Air Force One from which to initiate other futile exercises in impotence. That said, we need not worry ourselves with trying to make policy predictions or guessing which campaign promises can and will actually be kept. It behooves us to vote for someone whose mere election victory will set off a firestorm of meaningful legislative efforts a mile and a half down Pennsylvania Avenue. That person is Hillary Clinton.

My assertion has merit insomuch as there was an exponential increase in the number of Republican presidential candidates immediately after Hillary declared her candidacy. It seems that the Grand Old Party became the Galloping Old Party – that they began running scared. Maybe they realized that she had a good chance of winning. Maybe THEY wanted to put forth the first woman president. Maybe they wanted to ensure that we actually would NEVER HAVE a female president – that Obama was the closest we'd get to having a woman in the Oval Office. Who knows how they think??? Fox news, maybe??? In any instance, the GOP is petrified of Hillary.

This fear – being felt by the politicians themselves, for a change – can work in the nation's favor. It brings us back to the reason for having primary elections in the first place. People were tired of being given one crook from each major party and being told to choose one. They wanted more options. So we began to have primary elections with a much broader field of candidates from each party. Now people could narrow 10 crooks down to two and then have them compete in the finals – the general election. From what I can tell, the stiffer competition just caused candidates to become better at deceiving the public by making empty campaign promises – promising things like hope and change – and by putting forth rhetoric that is devoid of any real substance. (I once heard a local politician say that she was advised to always be vague and never give details while on the campaign trail.)

This time will be different. John Ellis “Jeb” Bush is the brother of a former president whose ratings hovered in the 20 percentile for much of his term and who is thought of by many as the worst U.S. president ever. Hillary is the wife of the first White man in the Black Hall of Fame. She has gone on the record acknowledging the plight of Afro-Americans following the Baltimore riots to avenge the wrongful death of Freddie Gray. As more of the middle class joins the ranks of the poor and dispossessed, the cause of the Black man becomes easier for them to relate to. This, in turn, enables Hillary to redraft her message as one that revolves around ending poverty for all races in America – thus attracting even more voters.

Speaking of plights, I saw a report over 20 years ago that said that 67% of Americans are part of at least one minority group. Women are seen by many as a “minority” group, even though they outnumber men. Go figure. Not to get into semantics; but,it makes more sense to think of them as an “oppressed” or “underprivileged” group. Even so, the glass ceiling for women in this country has been between the governorship and the presidency. It stands to reason that, even as an Obama presidency didn't improve the state of Black America, a Clinton presidency will not translate into major gains for women. Even so, people will continue to “hope” for “change” and will vote in an “affirmative action” sort of way. I recently told a woman that I want to see Hillary win, in part, because it would give women the opportunity to move from talking about what they would do if they ran things to actually doing it. A female president would have to “put up or shut up”. This woman agreed.

Underprivileged groups want a champion that they can relate to. Sadly, the “champion of Blacks” has used the oval Office as a landing pad rather than a springboard – doing nothing to improve the state of Black America. As a friend once told me, “He didn't have to say 'Black'; he could've said 'poor'”. (Then he would've been working for all races while addressing an issue that affects Blacks disproportionately.) Maybe Hillary will be different. Hope is all we have and all we can do.

The good news is that a Hillary win, in and of itself, would turn partisan politics into gender politics. I predict that women from either party would come together around women's issues and Hillary would quite handily serve as the glue that bonds them together – both on Capitol Hill and in the state capitols. Though women only make up about 20% of Congress (right now), if they play their cards right, they can wield 80% of the influence. As female politicians put forth legislation advancing women's rights, congressmen at the federal and state levels will no doubt scramble to hold onto power and to shift the agenda. A majority of Americans are sure to support the advancement of women's rights and might even give women the majority of the House in 2018 – a key concern for men of either party. Either the congressmen will play nicely in the sandbox with women or they'll be “out on their elephant ears”.

Though it may seem a bit pie-in-the-sky, 2019 could see the beginning of a viable third party which is completely separate from the Dems or Repubs, quite unlike the Tea Party. This party, at its birth, could have as its primary goal the advancement of the rights of women and gays – only to broaden its horizons and put the entire left-wing liberal agenda on the fast track soon thereafter. But, in spite of its original flavor or how it evolves, a viable third party is what we need in this country. We need to break away from the two-party system and quit flip-flopping back and forth between two segments of the capitalist machine that are essentially work in tandem to oppress the ever-expanding class of the dispossessed. In the end, it may be her 2016 victory and the inspiration it brings to many groups – not how well she executes the duties of her office – which does the most to change the face of American politics. So, vote For Hillary, But Not Because She'll Do Well.

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Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Love Lost and Lessons Learned (Bye-bye, Bipolarity and Sympathy)

They – that proverbial and ever-present “they” – say that you shouldn't air your dirty laundry pubically. I assure you that I don't air most of mine. However, there are sometimes lessons to be learned by many from the mistakes of a few. Besides, if enough people learn from my “great mistake” of the past two years, that might make the last 23 months of my life less of a waste. I've often wondered why it is that some men are attracted to beautiful women, get into relationships with them, often get them pregnant, have the relationship fall apart and then find themselves attracted to other beautiful women immediately thereafter – all of this without even trying to figure out what went wrong before getting caught up again.

On one level, I understand that his sex drive along with her beauty and willingness can work in tandem to create “the approach” which can lead to dating. On another level, I expect a man to think things through so as to avoid another “fatal attraction” – to find the characteristics apart from her beauty that eventually assert themselves within the relationship and can lead to its demise. I'm sure some men do; but, all men who've had bad relationships should. Oddly enough, many of the women who don't want to be seen as “sex objects” are game for it when men who couldn't possibly know anything about their minds as of yet are attracted to their beauty and offer to buy them drinks (sometimes for the easy sex date). I dare to be different and I always make it a point to initiate conversation on emotionally difficult topics as often as possible. So, here it is.

On June 26th, 2013 I went with several colleagues to the John L. Young Women's Shelter, one of three shelters in DC's Federal City Shelter. We were there to tell the women about a June 27th hearing at City Hall where the future of the building and its residents would be discussed. The following day there were about a dozen shelter residents from a building that holds 1,350 people during the five coldest months and 1,100 during the other seven. One of those women was Shacona Ward, a resident of John Young.

With it being extremely difficult to get the disenfranchised homeless community to come out and self-advocate around their issue, I treasure those who answer the call. So, when Shacona testified, I decided to see if I could keep her involved in advocacy. She made some scathing accusations against shelter staff as she delivered one of the most poignant testimonies I've ever heard. When she returned to the crowd, I went to her seat and introduced myself. A few days later, I bought her a meal at the Union Station Food Court and attempted to discuss her future in advocacy. I noticed that she didn't want to remain on that topic and that she seemed to always have a chip on her shoulder. I wondered if it was emotion pertaining to her present station in life or if there was some mental illness that was manifesting itself. I didn't have to wonder for long, as she is very open about the fact that she's bipolar (has mood swings) but won't divulge any further details on her condition. With me being Captain Save-a-(ya know), I figured I could help her work through her condition and that it was worth the effort.

I shifted the conversation toward dating. She threw up a wall. I asked her if she wanted to go out to the fireworks on July 4th because I already knew that the women – who normally have to check into the shelter by 7 PM and have til 8 PM to return if they were there last night -- were allowed to stay out later on holidays. She obliged. When the fireworks ended around 9:30, she ran like Cinderella to return to the shelter by the 10 PM curfew – anxiously pulling me along.

I began a two-month long job on July 1st of that year doing scaffold work on a stucco project. I was being paid approximately $100 daily. I'd get off work and then join Shacona as she and dozens of women sat outside of the shelter, with some women getting there as early as 3 PM for a 7 PM check-in. I'd sit on the ground next to her, our backs against the wall, and chat with her and some of the other women. It was during one such conversation that I learned that Shacona's brother named Skyler had committed suicide in March of 2013. I also learned about her interest in becoming a journalist and bought her a few journals in which to record her feelings and daily activities. I would often bring my blue-tooth speaker and play music videos of Shacona's choosing as we sat there. I was privileged to meet a Caucasian woman who was not mentally ill and who befriended Shacona, though Shacona's mood swings put a noticeable strain on that and other relationships. With what seemed to be a higher than usual concentration of mental illness existing among the residents of John Young, a sane friend was something to be treasured, though Shacona's condition disabled her from realizing that.

Shacona would often complain about not being able to sleep well due to sane women talking to each other all night and mentally-ill women talking to themselves. (An intelligent lady friend once told me of an occasion where she walked into a gang shower where she heard six women speaking and none was talking to another woman. They were each talking to themselves. That would be a sight to see, to be sure!!!) In one instance, I was walking Shacona to the Library of Congress and had to stop several times during this 20-minute trek because she was falling asleep standing up.

So, I advised her to begin the process of getting into another part of the Federal Shelter called the Community for Creative Non-Violence or CCNV. She began inquiring at the bubble daily as to whether or not they had a bed available. After more than a month of “No's” and several reports of those who requested beds after her having gotten in before her, Shacona filed a complaint with DC government's Office of Administrative Hearings just two blocks away. I accompanied her there and she got a bed at CCNV in late August. Oh, happy day. Now she didn't have to leave at 7 AM each day but could come in up until 2 AM. She could also leave two nights per week and have her bed saved – taking Friday through Monday out if she hose.

I met various family members of hers throughout the fall of 2013 and got along well with them. We could drink, talk, watch TV and have an all-around good time together. Shacona didn't want to go with me to see my mother in Florida in August of 2013 but would end up going in January of 2015. My mother loved her. My mother loves everybody. When Shacona told my mother that various adult family members were mooching off of her 86-year old grandmother, my mom offered to fly the three of us to Florida for a few days. I would eventually learn that Shacona's grandmother hated airplanes and wouldn't have gotten on one. Sadly, she died on February 7th. I accompanied Shacona to the funeral and the repass where I met even more of her family. My mother also gave me $20 toward taking Shacona to the movies. (I didn't tell her that one of our usual movie outings costs $60 – $13 for each ticket, $7 for each food item at the theater and $10 per meal at Chipotle's afterward). We've seen at least five movies together.

Fast forward to March 21st, 2015. We've been together for a year and nine months. I've yet to shout at Shacona, though she has taken such liberty with me on many occasions. I had resolved to be her pillar of strength and, in hindsight, think I may have been kind to a fault. We had just finished a church service on the first floor of the CCNV Shelter and had sat down to eat the hot meal that always follows. I had to get up for some reason. As I returned to my seat to resume eating, I was singing along with the music that was playing. Shacona got sharp with me as she said, “Eric, we know you can sing! Can you shut up and just let the music play?!”. This time I shouted back at her as I slammed my hands on the table and demanded some respect. She couldn't take a taste of her own medicine; so, she got up and walked out. We said very little over the next 12 days due, mainly, to her avoiding me.

She couldn't avoid me altogether; as, I was giving her transit fare to get to and from Prince George Community College where she began to study journalism immediately after returning from Florida with me. The tension eventually dissipated. Shacona seemed to have gotten over any apprehension she felt on March 21st hen she realized that I can shout louder than her. Things seemed to be getting back to “normal”. They actually got a little too normal this time, as she became even more belligerent than she was previously. I guess she knows that I'm not predisposed to domestic violence and that she can get away with her bad behavior. (People taking kindness for weakness is my pet peeve.)

On Sunday, May 17th, I accompanied her to the store. As we walked back and talked, Shacona told me about how a certain Retina Christian had advised her to “leave my ass” (and the rest of me, I'll ASSume) if I were to again do something that Shacona accused me of doing. It was more a matter of perception than of fact, for which reason I won't say that Shacona flat-out lied. That's generally not her style, though one may need to separate fact from feeling with her – to take what she says with a grain of salt. Retina was not the first woman that Shacona involved in our relationship. I told her that she needed to quit doing that and we parted after I helped her bring her goods to the second floor.

I was so bothered by her allowing other women into our business as well as certain other aspects of our relationship that I sent her a few texts to read that night. We spoke by phone on the 18th and 19th but she wouldn't come and speak to me face-to-face. She told me over the phone today that she didn't want to be with me anymore but repeatedly refused to meet with me. Our break-up is not official yet insomuch as I foresee her needing a favor within the next couple of weeks. I'll lay off until Saturday, May 23rd, and see how she feels. If she holds her ground until the 30th, then I'll know it's for real.

That said, Shacona has been the worst girlfriend to-date in my 46 years of life. She's the most belligerent – unmethodically belligerent, at that. Other girlfriends have gotten upset; but, there was usually a discernible reason – even if I didn't agree with the reason. Shacona snaps about the littlest thing. She told me some time ago that her psyche meds decrease her sex drive. I've been sexually starved for the past two years. The fact that I don't have many finances with which to get a hotel room make it even harder and then there have been times that we've gotten the room for $80 plus another $45 in transit and food and she hasn't been in the mood.

I've thought about ending the relationship several times, namely due to her belligerence. However, I figured that, when I asked her to become my girl, I bought the farm. I saw myself as having taken on a responsibility that I couldn't easily dispose of. I wanted to be supportive. I felt a moral mandate. Furthermore, if it got out that my sexual starvation was a factor in the break-up, I'd have to further clarify my religious stance to some “devout Christians”/ fellow church members. They'd want to know why we were even considering sex before marriage. So, here it is.

I consider myself to be a spiritual man more so than a Christian. I've yet to meet a Christian who can make enough sense of their religion by answering the hard questions. I long to see something in the way of God's Old-Testament heavy-handedness – to see God exact vengeance on the world for its utter stupidity and lack of order. I believe people have misused salvation. I'm not fond of Christ and his apparent sweetness. In lieu of how disorganized people's thoughts on marriage are, I believe that I could reason with God sufficiently well concerning my marital, sexual and relationship choices. That said, I am not a staunch advocate of waiting until marriage. Besides, with marriages being so easy to get out of, a license isn't worth the paper it's written on.

In closing, I've learned that I can't deal with bipolarity or with a woman who is belligerent for any reason. I will make sure that my next woman is as sweet as 1 Peter chapter 3 says she ought to be. I was attracted to Shacona's outspoken manner; but, it soon became the problem. I love women who can reason well. She didn't make the mark. Never again will I feel obligated to remain in a relationship because I am with a woman who is emotionally or financially dependent on me. I'll make a last-ditch effort to have Shacona straighten up and fly right, after which I'm through with her. No more sympathy. The next time I'm going to be a bit more selfish.


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Monday, May 18, 2015

Homelessly in Love

On May 15th, 2015 the Washington Post ran an article about a documentary on homeless love which was done by two French women – Lalita Clozel and ArianeMohseni. I was both their guide who helped them to penetrate the homeless community of DC as well as their subject matter expert. The documentary and article bring out what may very well be the greatest epiphany of our time: We all need love – yes, even the homeless. Who would ever imagine that homeless people like to give and receive love? As with other populations, there are good and bad people in the homeless community. Some have given their lives to save others or been the only one to show concern for a suffering person while others passed by in droves – too busy to care.

The story began on Sunday, February 8th, one week before my birthday. As a member of the National Coalition for the Homeless and its Faces of Homelessness Speakers' Bureau, I was doing an outreach run during which I led a group of university students through the streets of our capital to give care packages to the homeless and chat with them. As I approached the McPherson Square Subway Station entrance, I saw about a dozen homeless people sitting against the wall and a young lady with a camera in her hand moving among them – sitting between different pairs of people. I instructed my students to mingle with the homeless. Then, in my usual blunt manner, I approached her and said, “Who are you? What are you doing here?”. She explained that she was doing a project about homeless love. I promised to return when I was through with my outreach run. I finished a couple of minutes later and returned.

Lalita finished up her conversation and then walked with me to the sidewalk just outside of the station. I asked her name again and asked for further clarification of what she was doing. At one point I sensed that she might think she was in trouble; so, I assured her that she wasn't in trouble and that I was just a curious homeless advocate with a blunt manner. She did a video interview of me and we spoke for over 30 minutes. We scheduled a lunch at Potbelly's Sandwich Shop (a favorite eatery of mine) a couple of days thereafter during which she told me that a friend of hers would be coming from France in a few weeks.

We hit the ground running on February 15th. Lalita came to my church which opens at 6:30 AM on Sunday and has three-hours worth of activities for the homeless. I introduced her to several people. She immediately began to connect with them and got several people to open up to her about their love lives. I then took her to Franklin Square Park for more of the same. I put her in touch with shelter directors and other homeless service providers and she worked her magic so as to connect with them and abate any fears that she was there to critique them or expose their shortcomings.

On Friday, March 6th, Lalita and I planned to meet at the NCH office where she could interview Michael Stoops and get his perspective on homeless love. When she arrived, she had Ariane with her. We spoke with Michael. Then an Italian intern for NCH named Alessandro joined the ladies and myself and the four of us went to a Starbucks in Du PontCircle – a couple of blocks away. Alessandro had to leave. Lalita had to step away for a few minutes to do a conference call. Ariane and I were left talking to each other; but, the conversation went well and there was never a dull moment therein. As a matter of fact, Lalita (who was always within eye-shot) commended the fact that the two of us had hit it off so well.

Ariane explained that she volunteers at a shelter in Paris and that the shelter has separate sleeping quarters for men and women but a common area where the sexes can meet and mingle. This stood in stark contrast to homeless services in Washington, DC where shelters don't have a common area for the sexes to meet and where not-only-soup-anymore kitchens often have an area for women who don't choose to eat among the men – the latter of which I've spoken against on several occasions. She also told me of an effort in Belgium to create a homeless “love nest” for couples living without homes to make love. I found her and what she had to say to be quite interesting.

Alessandro would accompany us on a couple more occasions and myself on a couple of homeless advocacy ventures before his studies prevented him from doing so anymore. The ladies and I would end up finding many more people to interview, with them having gotten so good at it that they found and interviewed people whom I'd never met -- granted I don't know all 8,000 or so homeless people in the District. I connected them to Street Sense (DC's newspaper about homelessness and poverty) where they found more interviewees and were able to borrow video equipment for the project. They even went with me to a couple of big meetings including the quarterly meeting of the DC Inter-agency Council on Homelessness on March 31st.

My three and a half months with Lalita (thus far) and two and a half with Ariane have had some unintended consequences insomuch as I've come to love them both as dear friends. After all, this project has enabled us to create some robust conversation about something that's very important to me: LOVE. So, it stands to reason that I would "love" my project partners. (I would be less inclined to use the "L" word with male friends, though a few men do.) With me being keenly aware of the uneasiness that Americans often feel when the word “Love” is used liberally, I wasn't sure when or how I might break the news to them -- even though they come from a stereotypically "loving" country.

Then, I began walking down G Street as I left a Palestinian protest that took place in front of the White House on the evening of May 15th, 2015. I noticed that Lalita had sent me a couple of texts that I hadn't responded to. I responded and began walking again. As I got in front of my church moments later, I noticed a woman standing on the sidewalk in the dark. It was Lalita! We discussed a few things including the Washington Post article. She told me about a roommate who hates her. I saw my chance. I told Lalita, “Well, I love you” to which she snickered before saying quite genuinely, “I love you too”.

Though I am currently in a relationship (that, as of 5/19/15, seems to be going the way of my other relationships) and have reason to believe that Lalita may never be my main squeeze, I've watched as she's become more and more comfortable around me and even confided in me. With her having lived in the U.S. since 2010, we may have many opportunities for continued face-to-face friendship. This is the beginning of a beautiful Franco-American friendship (sans Chef Boyardee).

As for Ariane, she'll leave for France on May 22nd and then travel to South America. I'm sure that she'll carry a message of love along with her beautiful and contagious smile wherever she goes. I'm anxious to see what an impact she'll have in Europe and South America. In any instance, people on at least two continents -- North America, Europe and possibly Latin America -- will be able to read about the greatest epiphany of our time: We all need love – even the homeless.

Breaking up?????

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Saturday, May 2, 2015

Eric Jonathan Sheptock's Statement of Principles

I've often been bothered by how people distort scripture, science and the words of historic figures or deities in order to make the case for supporting their chosen lifestyle. I tell people to self-validate rather than twisting the words of God, Jesus, Martin Luther King, Jr. or the forefathers. After all, if you're already Hell-bent on living a certain way, why do you seek another opinion??? Your mind is already made up. I also worry that, when I've gone on to the next life, people will attribute beliefs and ideas to me that I never supported or that I was indifferent to. In this blog post, I intend to make my views very clear and unmistakable while creating a permanent record that will outlive me.

Spirituality:

I believe that God can best be described as the “God of Necessary Evils”. He told people to do good, swayed our circumstances in favor of us doing evil, came down hard on those who lived before Christ for not living up to His standard, required the blood of animals and His son in order to usher in salvation and has already told us about the evils that will occur as the seven seals of Revelation are opened. He told Satan she could do her evil to Job in order to tempt him into cursing God, allowing her to kill Job's sons, daughters servants and livestock – all for the purpose of testing Job whom God adamantly told her not to kill. Some of the few scriptures that mention God's love use His requirement that Christ die as proof of the same. In the present, the world is in turmoil, leaving us to wonder why God hasn't set things straight. All of these assertions are supported by a school of thought known as “Finite Godism” which holds that either God has limited ability to eradicate evil or He's complicit with it. I believe the latter.

God's evil is necessary insomuch as it teaches the up and coming lesser gods about what can go wrong in their respective kingdoms and forces them to develop plans for preventing these problems in eternity. These lesser gods include Jesus as the ruler of the New Earth and his equal in the other world that God is working on right now, with each having 144,000 lesser sovereigns – in much the same way that we have a federal government (God/ Heaven), state governments (Jesus & his equals/ New Jerusalem) and local governments (groups of 144,000/ districts of the New Earths). When God has completed this 10,000-year cycle, He'll start on two more worlds.

In early 1994 I read Psalm 82:6 and John 10:34-35, both of which indicate that some men are actually demi-gods. I took this to heart and have put tens of thousands of hours into thinking about and using “the god in me”. This begins to explain a few things about my character, to be sure. I believe that many women are goddesses, though I DON'T believe that the Bible expressly states that. I use my godhood to make people think hard and unemotionally about the grim realities of life, as opposed to adopting a senseless belief because it sounds nice and satisfies their sensitivity. I also use it to promote moral mandates which public officials should live up to and to pressure them into doing for their constituents what they ought. I believe that an objective acceptance of grim realities and the ability to instill these sensibilities into large numbers of people are indications that one may have obtained godhood.

Gender:

It is important to make the distinction between sex and gender. Sex is physical, being defined by your anatomy. Gender is more about your mannerisms – whether you carry yourself in a perceived masculine or feminine way – and the roles you fulfill in the home and in society.

That said, I'm indifferent to the LGBT issue, speaking neither for nor against it. I'm not convinced that God supports it. However, I identify with the left on various social justice issues. This leaves me conflicted – at least until I factor in that God has given people enough rope to hang themselves and I reason out that it's not up to me to judge them for their lifestyle. I associate with them based on our shared interests and always remain willing to be intimate with a lesbian if we should grow close, in effect making her bisexual. I also believe that any nation or individual that not only accepts but also supports the LGBT lifestyle should do the same for polyamory and polygamy. If marriage can be defined to include same-sex couples, why can't we also have harems??? Let people define their own marital arrangements totally and completely.

I believe that society has gender in much the same way as individuals do. That is to say that, while both men and women throw their thoughts and feelings into the mix, any society tends to lean more heavily in one direction or the other. I remember how in the late '70's and early '80's many women were telling men to “get in touch with their feminine side” or to “make themselves vulnerable”. Men were discouraged from thinking that they always had to come through for the family and save the day and encouraged to show weakness. I also remember how that, before these ideas had taken hold in the minds of men, it was common for men to present tough logic that made whomever they were speaking to feel compelled to make sense. Now there is more of an emphasis on letting a person believe as they choose – even if they contradict themselves – without challenging them to make sense of their arguments. People used to want to make sense of their arguments for you – to reason out their beliefs. Now the prevailing idea is that a person doesn't need to answer to anyone for the purpose of making sense of their beliefs or choices. This enables people to live by their personal whims and feelings and in the spur of the moment, as opposed to living by rationale. Let's go back to 1975.

Politics:

I believe that we need to break away from a two-party system – to stop flip-flopping between two parties that take turns at screwing the country and the world. While the development of a third viable party may be more than a decade away, the end of partisan politics might not be. We're shifting from partisan politics to a more intentional form of gender politics. Women make up 20% of the current congress. Hillary Clinton is a viable 2016 presidential candidate. DC already has a female mayor (whom I can see Hillary tapping as her veep) and might soon have six female council members on a 13-member body – making seven of 14 elected officials women. I support Clinton for president insomuch as this may be the closest we come for a long time to disrupting the usual flow of American politics.

Furthermore, women have said many times over the years that they can do better than men at a number of things including the U.S. presidency. While I'll withhold judgment, I want them to have the opportunity to put up or shut up. If a woman does better than men, I'll be among the first to laud her.

I am a Marxist/ Communist at heart who believes that Acts chapter two lays out a good model for society. I also believe that a society that is run by women wouldn't and couldn't be Capitalist, due to the aggressive elements of Capitalism being drawn directly from the male mentality – like the “austere man” mentioned in a parable Christ told and the ever-present notion that people who don't earn enough money to survive should be left to die – that they should have their social services reduced and eliminated. Let's not forget about the male propensity for war – over oil, land and the right to oppress. That said, not all men are capitalists; but the staunchest capitalists are all men. Even so, male aggression is also capable of doing much good. That's why I promote it under certain circumstances.

International Affairs:

While working with two women from France (both of them multiracial) on a project that addresses what it's like to be in a relationship while homeless, I asked them many questions about France. The three of us and others whom we spoke to agreed that the French people probably experience greater freedom than Americans. I believe that many Americans have been influenced by McCarthy-ism to think that Marxism, Socialism and Communism are wrong. Americans are not – for the most part – free thinkers. While the U.S. is not experiencing the turmoil of some African nations, it is far from being as free as some European nations.

My French lady friends (whom some know as “the Love ladies”) reminded me that France refused to fight in the Iraq War and that Bush 43 had much animosity toward Sarkozy because of it. They also told me that Bush 43 and his Iraq War did much to ruin America's image around the world – a fact that I was already keenly aware of but didn't mind having further reinforced.

National Affairs:

This country has yet to reverse the damage done by slavery and Jim Crow. After mistreating Blacks for centuries, racists politicians in 1972 began to adopt policies that led to mass incarceration of Blacks – in effect beginning the shift from outright oppression of poor people to a narrative that enabled them to blame poor people for their own plight. These policies have culminated in the unjustified killings of unarmed Black men by police and the riots that these murders spur. All poor people must band together in revolution against their capitalist oppressors and effect full systemic change that ensures that everyone will have their most basic needs met. We can't let it suffice that they stop the unwarranted violence by police but must push for a system that reverses the socioeconomic disadvantages of Blacks and other poor Americans.

Local Affairs (Washington, DC):

Washington, DC is being further gentrified with each passing day, though its poor population is not as destitute as Baltimore's. The administrations of Tony Williams, Adrian Fenty and Vince Gray have handed the city to the wealthy and well-to-do beginning in January 1999 and running through December 2014. Muriel Bowser has shown herself thus far to be quite different from her last three predecessors and is focused on addressing the plight of the city's poor. Whether or not she'll actively reverse any of their draconian policies like we need her to do remains to be seen.

Conclusion:

This concludes my running list of stances. I hope that no one confuses my stance on these issues while I live or after I'm gone. After all, a person needs only to do a Google search to gain an understanding of me. This reminds me of yet another thing that my French lady friends told me. French men often prefer to argue for hours about something that can be proven with a simple Google search. Don't misunderstand me or argue about what I stood for. Just Google me.

Thank you.

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Thursday, April 30, 2015

When Being Nice Is A Vice

on April 29th (my late father's 83rd birthday) Street Sense did a screening of three short films it made about DC homelessness. There will be a second screening on August 26th (my living mother's 78th birthday). I was in the third film giving my critical view of DC Government's ostensible efforts to end homelessness in the nation's capital. I mentioned the failed 10-year plan as well as the reluctance of mayors Fenty and Gray to assist able-bodied homeless people at acquiring living-wage jobs – the latter point having also been reiterated by others in the film.

During the Q & A that followed, I gave a slightly wordy lead-in before asking my question. I told people that I like to ask the hard, challenging questions and that I have a little bit of a mean streak. Some indiscernible mumbles followed. I'm guessing some people disagreed with my use of the phrase “a little bit”. If so, they have a point. I referenced a DC preacher who quoted Frederick Douglass in the film when he said, “Power concedes nothing without a demand; it never has and it never will”. I went on to juxtapose the April 27th riot in Baltimore with that night's screening of social justice films. With the executive director of Street Sense having stated his desire to work himself out of a job and to put Street Sense out of business by ending homelessness, I asked how long it would take to do that. I then asked people, “What do you think is a more effective way of ending homelessness and addressing other social ills – showing this type of film or what just happened in Baltimore or some type of happy medium? I didn't receive a satisfactory response. I didn't expect one. My question was actually for the purpose of making a statement to all who were present about the need to be mean and aggressive in order to effect real and lasting change – the change that neither Barack Obama nor Loretta Lynch will bring – than it was about getting an answer from the panel.

That said, I often feel imprisoned by rules that require me to be kind in the face of government's ineffectiveness at stabilizing or decreasing the number of homeless people, let alone ending homelessness. Films that feature the late Mitch Snyder as well as my conversations with those who knew him have led me to believe that he too had a mean streak. Mitch and company got President Reagan to establish the Federal City Shelter which is still in existence almost 30 years later. His mean streak worked. He's been dead for 25 years but people are still benefiting from it.

On March 30th, 2006 I was barred indefinitely by a local non-profit that feeds the homeless because I had a loud argument with a now-former employee who was widely disliked by the homeless community. People have tried repeatedly to have that decision reversed. The non-profit has said that their insurance doesn't allow that. About three months ago an associate of a woman whose husband began working for that non-profit in 2012 told me that he'd heard about me being barred. This leaves me to wonder why the non-profit is still discussing the matter so many years later.

I've also heard from multiple sources that people have had fist fights and even put their fists in the faces of staff members but been allowed to return sometime thereafter. These people believe that it is my outspoken manner coupled with my intelligence which serves as the main reason for them not allowing me to return in spite of the essential non-violent manner of my nine-year old dispute. This non-profit is also a leader in the city's effort to address homelessness for the physically and/or mentally disabled. While supporting this effort, I've been an outspoken critic of the city's failure to effectively connect A-bods to living-wage jobs. I am co-leading efforts to get DC Government to do more for A-bods. Non-profits that make the bulk of their money by housing the disabled while feeding A-bods don't like my employment focus for the obvious reason and they fear my ability to express my views in speeches and in writings.

That said, I believe that it is impossible to achieve a just society while pleading kindly with oppressive forces. Martin Luther King, Jr. began his fight in 1955. Sixty years later the state of Black Americans hasn't improved much. As a matter of fact, many Whites have joined their ranks among the destitute. King and Gandhi both preached non-violence. Both were shot and killed. Go figure. In lieu of these facts, being nice is an idiotic vice when it hasn't effected true social justice for over 50 years and folk continue to employ kindness.

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Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Plan NOW 4 the Next Police Shooting!!!!!

The fact of the matter is that, if we can't have conversation about contentious but important issues, then we can't come to agreement on those issues and they'll always be contentious. So I'll touch on a few of those issues here with a focus on police shootings of unarmed Black men. I hope this blog post gets people talking more productively about these issues and brings us closer to resolving them. I hope that our governments will begin to proactively reverse the damage done to poor people in general and to Blacks in particular or that poor people will start a revolution which ends with them taking more than they would have gotten through civil reparation “RAP-arations”.

Simply put, anyone who tells those who are reacting to the violent police shootings and deadly beatings of unarmed people that they should remain calm and just vent on social media is not only out of touch with reality but also grossly illogical. When the police who have sworn to “serve and protect” become the perpetrators of unwarranted violence, it's akin to a parent abusing a small child insomuch as the only one (or two) whom you look up to for safety and sustenance is now leaving you with no one to look up to. To make matters worse, the police are bound to attack and arrest those who are reacting to the unjustified killing by police. This creates a seemingly unresolvable conundrum which is matched in intensity by government's chipping away of the social safety net – the same social safety which hereto now has done much to keep poor people from revolting.

Much less enigmatic is the reason for why government treats Blacks as they do. It's not a Black vs. White issue; but it IS a color thing. It's a green thing. While police shootings of unarmed Black men have gotten much media attention in recent years, homeless Whites have also been unjustifiably killed by police. It's a war on the poor. Moments before I sat to write this post, I walked in on a loud and passionate debate among several Black men. They were discussing today's supreme court proceedings on gay marriage. Someone asked why the nation and the supreme court were so focused on the rights of gays but not the rights or social uplift of Black Americans. I explained that gays are spending money and not living off of social services while a large percentage of Blacks are dependent on social services – that our capitalist society values those who have money to spend over those who are dependent. The very loud room went silent for several moments as my words set into people's minds. People then stated their agreement, the debate ended and I left to write this post.

Though I've found it impossible to draw poor people into regular social theory discussions, we have semi-regular heated debates on the latest atrocities committed against us by the authorities. It stands to reason that, as these atrocities become more regular, so will these debates. During these discussions, I've reminded people that the late drug lord Pablo Escobar didn't wait for the authorities to show up at his front door. He regularly had cops killed wherever they stood. He is credited with killing 500 cops. He identified them as the enemy and took them out in droves before they could organize to come against him. I also regularly remind people of how cops are arresting those who feed the homeless, though they tend to save the doughnuts – failing to invoke a self-proclaimed right to conscientious objecture. While I don't straight-forwardly tell people to kill cops (or NOT to), I DO tell them that when they feed the homeless illegally, they should save the doughnuts for the police and lace them with a laxative. If they also get nearby restaurant to refuse cops the right to use their restrooms, the department may need to buy a lot of new uniforms. You too may find it a useful tactic to inject a handful of highly logical arguments or ideas into as many conversations as possible – especially if you can't get the most oppressed to partake in more intentional social theory or social justice conversations. That said, non-violence is not always the most logical path.

Nonetheless, I will not outrightly tell anyone to break a law (or NOT to). However, I WILL give you logical thoughts and legal ideas which can be used to begin the evolution to revolution. Let's start with the fact that government likes to treat people like mushrooms – to keep them in the dark and feed them a bunch of shit. That makes educating people – like the Black Panthers did – about the nature of and solutions to social injustice a revolutionary thing. Such discussions could begin with the understanding that many unarmed Black men have been gunned down by police and some unarmed homeless Whites have been killed by police with more to come. Yes, there WILL be another one. Add to this the fact that President Obama is not the savior of Black Americans.

The parental metaphor works in yet another way. Not only should parents provide for and protect their children; they should also teach their children, eventually enabling them to provide for themselves and for the next generation. So the conundrum deepens in the sense that the government and police aren't just abusing their figurative children and cutting off their sustenance, but also ensuring that these children won't be able to provide for themselves and will need to return to their abuser. These children need sympathetic adults to teach them, provide for them and guide them to independence.

Just yesterday I was speaking with two French women with whom I'm working on a homeless love project that addresses the ups and downs of being in a relationship while living without a home. We discussed the French revolutions of 1789 and 1848. One of them explained to me that the latter revolution was begun by non-aristocratic rich people who were fed up with the government and the aristocracy. She said that the poor joined the revolution and eventually co-opted it. (She is a registered Socialist, a fact that makes me love her all the more. The other has lived in the U.S. for five years.) This account is an example of how those with resources can assist the oppressed, the unanticipated co-opting notwithstanding.

It is important for those on either side of the issue to realize that productive negotiations and planning become much more difficult once the first shots have been fired and the first rocks have been thrown. But, to borrow from a Sylvester Stallone quote, “[The police] took first blood”. So, governments need to have raparations about how they will repair centuries of damage done to Black Americans and these conversations need to continue even when the violence has subsided and might need to begin even as the violence rages. These conversations need to lead to tangible results – QUICKLY. In the meantime, poor and otherwise oppressed people need to use what little resources they have to organize. ORGANIZING a phone tree would seem to be a feasible option. Then, the poor would be able to mobilize thousands of peaceful protesters from a 100-mile radius within four hours with more to come from further away later. After all, police went from surrounding counties into Baltimore to assist police there; and, we can take a few ideas from their book. Of course, this peaceful protest could do an evolution toward revolution.

I'd be remiss if I didn't express the value in the revolutionary ideas that have already been used. In cities like Ferguson, MO and Baltimore, MD the protests have already attracted people from over 50 miles away who decided to join the nascent revolution – with these things occurring in fits and starts. People have already begun to record police activity on their mobile devices – with some recordings like the murder of Walter Lamer Scott being so vivid that they effect immediate dismissal or prosecution of the perpetrating officer. (I should acknowledge that some officers are truly committed to serving their communities well.) I'd be interested to see what would happen if police who were responding to a call suddenly found themselves surrounded by 10 times as many people all of whom had recording devices drawn. I'm not sure if surrounding the police like that is legal; so, I won't “tell” you to do that in much the same way that various shows and movies depict intelligently-committed crimes but don't “tell” you to commit them yourself. I was elated but not surprised to find out that several rival gangs in Baltimore were laying aside their differences in order to join forces against a common enemy. This means that there will be a drop in gang rivalry – for a while anyway. When the oppressed show an ability to organize, move with a united front, anticipate the next move of the oppressor and intelligently plan their own moves, that is guaranteed to scare the shit out of the powers that be – effectively making them “the powers that flee”.

So, let's scare the governments of the land. We know that there will be another killing of an unarmed Black man by a police officer in the coming months. We don't know what city the next one will be in (or the one after that). But we know it's coming. To be honest, the current litany of murders by police is enough to evoke a sustained reaction. We don't need to wait for the next one. In any instance, we should begin to plan now so that by the time of the next police murder we'll be able to mobilize quickly to confront this injustice in ways that Barack Obama and Loretta Lynch won't. Plan NOW 4 the Next Police Shooting!!!!!


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