Observations of life by author and poet Charles L. Chatmon
It’s been a bit slow with the transition to a new/old job and helping a soon to be new author become published, that I haven’t focused enough on the new book coming out but it is on the way.
I just wanted to say that I feel blessed for all the things that have happened in my life in the past month. It looked like 2015 would be another year of struggle, but so far that hasn’t been the case even though I’m not involved with book events any more.
The Creator, God, has always been the driving force for my success and continues to be. I don’t quite understand why folks today don’t even acknowledge what He’s done for us, even keeping us living and breathing each day. I’m saying all this because over the weekend I lost a good friend who attended the same college as I. We weren’t close, but we were friends and her loss shook me up a bit. If you knew her, you’d know Christy always had the sweetest smile and the biggest heart. Now for those of us who knew her, we will forever miss out on her positive light.
I think about Christy’s transition as I’m slowly approaching fifty years of age. This is the moment in our lives where we begin to reflect about the direction we’ve taken and the bumps along the way. It’s a time where I examine my own life and mortality. One day reader, I will make my own transition but hopefully I’ve left enough of a ‘legacy’ here on this blog to show you my heart, mind, and spirit in these pages. Christy left her legacy with her consulting firm and although I haven’t published many books as of now, it is my fondest wish that enough was covered on these pages to help you see the issues on my mind and the topics I’m most passionate about. Again, all credit goes to the Creator for giving me this talent to share with you.
What is your legacy? What will you leave behind when it’s your turn to leave this world? This is a question that I continue to grapple with, although I hope all of you reading this will have your own answers to this very challenging and complex question.
For the past three weeks I’ve returned to the classroom as a substitute teacher, back in the trenches I’d like to say. Meanwhile, in the self-important world of social media where every hashtag is a movement and every Salon.com article is written by a professor of ‘stuff’, the young men and women that I’ve seen and met could care less about the outrage online. They live in an entirely different world, one where the reality of ending up like a Michael Brown or Eric Gardner is common and not rare.
The division between this world made up of mega and gigabytes and the real flesh and blood, harsh unrepentant world is only an ‘off’ switch away. In trying to speak with - not down - to these young people, I see their world is the same as the one I lived under in the days before the internet. It has not changed much and sometimes I even question where were all the online activists when the Red and Blue went after each other in the heart of South Central Los Angeles in times past? What hashtag or commentary would have provoked the masses to action had the internet or social media been around in those days? Obviously, had social media been around it still would have missed the larger point of why the violence, mental and physical occurred in the streets. I would assume then just as now, there would be a huge bullhorn to sound the call to action, but not much else.
There are some smart, intelligent young men and women in the hood, especially here in South Los Angeles. I am very glad the bigoted comments of a raunchy few online are ones they could care less about. It’s all too easy for users who comment to talk big and assume because of who they are and where they live based on their ethnic makeup, that anyone who lives in places like South Los Angeles is less than. Thank goodness their negative words are far away from these young minds who focus on simply working hard in their classes trying to pass a test so they can move ahead and graduate on time.
These young people are the realest, most direct folks I’ve encountered so far. They are interested about life, hate it when they feel betrayed and most of all, ask for respect. I suspect some will eventually move out and explore this changing world. Most will probably remain where they are. Time will tell if they do. The day I see a doctor with a PhD who writes on one of these websites and actually takes his or her time spending time with these young people, talking and learning from them, instead of the other way around, is the day I will believe what they’re writing is the truth. Until then, they are part of the divided world made up of the internet and social media. One which doesn’t hold much weight in the real, real world.
Note: Taken from the archives back on this date.
From the archives:
When I was in high school, I played in two sports: Football and Track. Of course I also was the sports editor for the school paper as well. During the weekends, I would discuss the events of the previous night’s game with my friends and family. The discussion would turn to a football or basketball player we felt would go far in college and the pros. What our parents and grandparents told our generation should we did happen to ‘make it’ was that we needed something to fall back on. Thanks to those few sage words, I, most of our generation, went to college and earned our degrees in the hope we could make a better life for ourselves.
Fast forward twenty years to the 21st Century. Due to advances in sports and entertainment, young people are making more money than ever before. If you play basketball, you need not go to college if your skill level is at a higher peak than most. A blue chip high school All-American can be the number one pick in the NBA draft. It’s always been that way in baseball, but the young men drafted out of high school have minor league baseball to assist in their maturation process whereas basketball does not. That’s a topic for another day. The point is, a guaranteed contract worth millions, plus endorsements from corporations and agents in the young man or woman’s ear can influence them to turn away from finding interests other than their sport for the long term. I admit the lure of money is accessible to obtain with those individuals who possess the talent, but then again, so many young people in the 21st Century are falling over rather than falling back.
The reason why it was stressed my generation should find something to fall back on was due to the fact we were the first generation from the 1960’s, which gave us Malcolm, Dr. King and the Civil Rights Movement. We were encouraged to use sports as a tool for our own benefit, not make it a lifestyle. The monetary rewards we received would have been put to better use such as having our own businesses, no matter what they may be. However, in our new century there is too much emphasis on obtaining the ‘bling bling’, the materialistic fast life we often see displayed in videos, and the living for today philosophy many of our youngsters are hypnotized into. I’d wish these young peers knew instead of buying an expensive ring or necklace from a store owner, create your own business so they can buy from you.
Most of these folks come from improvised neighborhoods so they’re not to blame for their pursuit of a better life for themselves and loved ones. I would hope at the end of the day, they would reflect back on the empty vacant lots, the raggedy torn down stores, the dirty supermarkets with outdated, high priced products still lingering on shelves that will make that individual want to give something back. To give the people in his/her old neighborhood a piece of what they have.
The ‘bling bling’ can only go so far when you think about it. How much Cristal can you consume before you think there’s something more to life than that? How many Escalades or Denalis will you drive before you realize there’s a single mother with three kids in your old neighborhood who depends on a second rate public bus to ride to work? I don’t mean to preach, that’s not the intent. It’s simply that when you finally obtain those riches, they may not be around forever and by God’s grace, you may find yourself overlooking the night lights of Century City or West L.A. from the Hollywood Hills, but some unfortunate accident may have you regretting losing your millions in an apartment in Baldwin Hills.
These young cats have to understand while they’re blessed with physical gifts that enable them to wind up with lots of money, it’s also a big responsibility, something that’s not being taught in its proper context. I don’t mean to say they can’t spend it, but there is a reason why they obtain it. That must be explained to them as well as letting them know for all the talent in the world, if they squander this opportunity now to go to college and take up a subject that will make them better their lives after the playing days are over, then it was all for nothing. I need not remind the reader there are agents who do not have their client’s best interests at heart, nor do ‘friends’ and other hangers on. You need not be reminded again that as soon as the knee blows out, or the ankle is broken or any other physical ailment that hinders the young man’s playing development, those individuals who hung around only for the riches won’t be there. Sometimes it doesn’t even have to take an injury for those same people to leave. Bad mismanagement of money makes them disappear just as fast. Don’t believe me? Ask Hammer.
Perhaps these young men and women who are using their gifts and will go to college to obtain a degree will take up a major that they can use their other gifts for. (Drawing, etc). Even if the young man or woman doesn’t plan to go to college, they should have an idea to create business that will further enhance the quality of life in the hoods they live in. When you think of Magic Johnson and what he has done for the Black community of Los Angeles as far as building theatres and coffeehouses along with restaurants, that speaks more volumes than putting up a three pointer at the buzzer. He is a better person now than he was a ballplayer, yet Magic doesn’t have to be the only one. If the youngster has the financial resources, then the only true way he or she can contribute to the hood and ‘do for self’ is to build it yourself. Keyshawn Johnson of the NFL realized that and along with then councilman Mark-Ridley Thomas helped build Chesterfield Square in South L.A. Chesterfield Square is a large complex with a Food 4 Less, Home Depot, IHOP and Magic Johnson Starbucks. Stores that folks in the community would have to travel miles to shop.
In the long run, falling back isn’t so bad. It certainly improves the community these young men and women live in and makes them better people rather than athletes in most eyes. However, that is a choice they must make on their own. It’s a decision to rather say with your lips of ‘being real’ and not doing anything to help the community or it’s better to be real in any type contribution to the area through opening a business or assisting with a current one. The bottom line is that on the average, most professional sports careers don’t last as long as they once did due to injury or team cuts. Therefore, it’s important for the young athletes to start thinking of life beyond the sport because it won’t last forever. It’s always good to fall back on something than to fall out on life.
Next Tuesday March 3rd, an election will take place that will determine the present and possibly future of the Eighth District in South Los Angeles. Candidates who are running for office are: Bobbie Jean Anderson, Marqueece Harris-Dawson, Robert Cole, Jr, and Forescee Hogan-Rowles (Google them). All four have been active in the community and all four have a vision, a plan on how to restore the 'Great Eighth'. As a lifelong resident living in South Los Angeles, I can say without a doubt the number one issue among many, is retail.
Long before the fires of unrest back in 1992, the residents of this district have always requested stores in their neighborhood. I remember in my younger days when I would shop at a Newberry’s, Thrifty’s Drug Store and National on Vermont Avenue along with a Christian book store, a Lerner’s shop along with other small businesses on the same block. There were people who looked like me working there. When the Koreans moved in and took over these shops, converting them into swap meets, most jobs were lost. Now that we’re in a new era, twenty two years removed from the Unrest which drove those same merchants out, here’s another opportunity for small businesses to move into the Vermont Ave sector. Of course, there is a small catch.
As mentioned in a previous post, the land which residents have requested be filled with retail are owned by entities who unfortunately do not live in the 323 area code which means despite our best interests, they’re not too keen on seeing this come to pass. You might look at the pictures in this post (and the last one) and they will show you what the neighborhood used to be, full of boutiques, clothing stores near each other which meant a busy and vibrant shopping center with a three block radius. Of course, the Great Eighth is more than that, but again, I would stress to the candidates filling Bernard Parks’s seat to consider to look at these pictures. What do they tell you? What should they tell you? Yes, getting Big Business to invest in this district has always been a hard sell as evidenced by the Rebuild L.A. experience, but there are entrepreneurs and small business owners who would love to have their chance to sell their merchandise, products, you name it. Rather than have our local school district eye land to take over for another campus to build, the land that’s available should be used for strictly retail and nothing but. I’m sure anything less than that would be a broken promise and the residents have heard and seen too many of those.
Although it’s a separate subject, it also effects the future of the Great Eighth. Gentrification is very real and even a well known movie director has voiced his opinion of how this inward movement by a certain crowd has affected his community. This will happen in the Great Eighth as well. It may have already started. Because of Gentrification, retail projects that were stalled for years may now become a reality. This is an insult. It’s an insult to the older and lifelong residents in the district who have requested time and time again for a clothing store, restaurant, something that would generate interest and income. Now since the winds are blowing in a different direction, developers and owners of vacant land now feel the need to ‘build’. This is definitely an insult and I hope who ever winds up as our next councilmember of this district will speed up the process before the Gentrifiers arrive.
It is said voter turnout will be low on Tuesday. This is one vote we cannot shy away from. The resumes of the four candidates are impressive, but impressive resumes aren’t enough. This is why everyone in the Great Eighth should come out and vote this coming Tuesday to choose who you feel is worthy of your vote. This district needs a true leader who will restore retail back in this area. It’s up to us to select which one.
Dedicated to Lloyd Herbs, former landlord, neighborhood activist, neighbor and a great mentor. A proud member of the Great Eighth District.
For the first time in fifteen years, I’m back in front of a classroom teaching. What? Yes, I’m back as a substitute teacher and it feels nice. Unlike the last post, this is something I’ve always felt I could excel in and have years of experience doing it. Of course, my legs and body are tired from standing up and walking around all day to take care of the class I was assigned to. It reminds me back in the days when I taught on a regular basis. I imagine what this also shows me is that for every great loss, there’s a greater reward coming.
When I left the expo, folks told me ‘God has something better for you’ and other encouraging statements. Of course, feeling as I felt back when things were falling apart, I believed them but not as much. I wondered if I would ever go back feeling better about myself. Eventually, I worked as a tutor to prepare me for this opportunity which I worked with years ago before I decided to take a plunge in the corporate world. As I found out today after completing my assignment, things in my life are getting better, and then some.
In the last post, I wrote how situations just unraveled on their own, leaving me in a situation I never wanted to face, but had to. I also had to make an unpopular decision which I’m sure will stay with me for a while. Despite the hard feelings and depressive state I was in, I kept in mind something better would come my way, it would be just a matter of time before it did.
Life is good right now, I’m spending more time writing. I had to take a break this week from my projects because of the new job yet I shall return soon to continue working on publishing that new book everyone’s waited for. Until then, I’m enjoying the ‘something better’ in my life and I can’t ask for more.