Mental Health in the Hood V: Surviving the Foster Care System

If you are anywhere near the San Francisco Bay Area you need to get to this event. Respect ✊🏾.

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White Homeless Privilege as it manifested itself at McDonald’s

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I was at the McDonald’s on 14th and Jackson and I was hella disappointed because anytime I’m eating at McDonald’s something has gone terribly wrong. Like I forgot to bring my lunch to work, or I ate my last meal at 3:00pm and mistakenly thought that I would be full all night but now my 6:00pm lecture is less than an hour away, and I question whether or not I can be on my feet for 3 ½ hours without more food. So, on this day I panicked. I walked down the street and around the corner to Mickey D’s.

 

I suppose I could have gotten inside my car and drove to Lucky to buy a chicken salad, but then again fuck salad. I don’t even like salad. I’m one of those strange people that believes eating should always be pleasurable. No matter what you say about the negative side effects of fast food and how it doesn’t decompose and how the chickens are treated—Yo! That shit tastes good. The fries are magnificent and the sweet and sour sauce is the best thing to ever happen to a nugget. McDonald’s is cheap and there’s always one nearby. They say that relapse is a part of recovery so on this day I went on a binge like Pookie in a Crack house. “It just keep calling me.”

 

At any rate, I’m sitting at my table eating my food in record time so I can get back to the college where I teach before my class starts, when this brazen unsheltered man walks to the back near where I am. He’s white, mid-thirties, sagging pants and has a confident gait that seems to move him from side to side rather than forward. One of his hands is holding up his baggy pants while the other is free. He goes up to a table of four older Asian men and says in a forceful voice with three fingers out as if he is about to pick something up “Aye, can I get some of them fries!” Then he actually puts his nasty ass fingers on their tray and gets some fries. I am astounded. In a city full of homeless people, I have never seen anyone living on the streets do such a thing. I was perplexed. Was this white privilege? After all a shocking 70% of the homeless population in Oakland is African-American, so maybe this guy viewed himself as a member of the homeless elite.

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Even though this man was addicted and down and out, he felt like he was above begging in front of the McDonald’s like all of the darker skinned homeless folks. He was entitled enough to walk in and take what he thought he deserved. This was all conjecture on my part. Obviously, I didn’t know anything about his thought process. Then he looked at me and I got the same feeling that I’ve been getting since elementary school when I know there’s about to be a confrontation. It’s a moment of intense anxiety and instantaneous preparation for battle. Because no one was going to touch my fries. I would have given him every dollar in my pocket but if he would have touched one French Fry there is no doubt in my soul that very bad things would have happened to that man. Bad things that would have made me drop to my knees and pray for forgiveness after it was all over. However, he did no such thing. Our eyes locked. My right hand held a freshly dipped nugget. My left hand was clenched into a fist on my lap. It was a real Tombstone-esque Doc Holliday showdown moment. I took a swig of my small coke until it made that slurping sound that you hear when there’s nothing but ice. Then he looked away and gangster walked toward the front of the restaurant.

I didn’t see it coming. Why did he retreat? Surely he wasn’t full. Was the beat down that I would have given to him conveyed through my eyes? I doubt it. I can’t look intimidating to a homeless dude. Especially since I had on a collared shirt, slacks, and hard soled shoes. I mean I had a damn nugget in my hand. Was it because of my race? Did he feel more comfortable extorting French Fries from four Asian men than one lone African-American gentlemen? Or was he under the impression that my French Fries were below him because they were tainted with my blackness. Similar to those southern whites that wouldn’t let negroes swim in their pools during segregation because they thought we would dirty up their water. Was this unsheltered white man a southern transplant that moved to Oakland to avoid the comparatively harsh winters of rural Virginia? It was all very confounding. What was going on with me? Did I actually want to fight this man or at the very least verbally reprimand him for plotting on my fries? And why was I willing to land an overhand right on a man who was at the absolute bottom of society for a few pieces of fried potatoes? And there it was.

 

My anger stemmed from the fact that he was not on the bottom of society. Though he may have lost his family, fell into depression, been priced out of his home, and abused drugs and alcohol just like any other person living on the streets—he still had his whiteness. And his whiteness was enabling him to separate innocent people from their French Fries. This made me irate. That’s why I wanted to confront him. It wasn’t about that crispy goodness or even the four packets of ketchup that my fries were doused in—it was about the culture. I was there on 12th and Jackson ready to defend my culture from this white, delusional, French Fry Jacker.

I was ready to get down for mine

He wasn’t

I live in a house

He doesn’t

Yet in his eyes, he still had something over me and every other nonwhite person in that restaurant. He had placed himself at the top of the homeless hierarchy. Or maybe…maybe he was just really, really hungry. Two more minutes had passed and all of my food and drink were gone. I left the restaurant totally full and ready to lecture. Feeling like I had proven something to myself—but only to myself. I had gotten the victory. I had consumed all of my fries, but not in peace. For my mind was full of turmoil. Among many other concerns I wondered was that homeless man feeling like he had lost? Did it even matter to him at all? I may never know. And in this lifetime, on this earth, in this country that we call America, inside that McDonald’s in downtown Oakland—that will have to be enough.

-Roger Porter

 

 

 

 

Episode 5: The Prison, The Block, and The Dead

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http://www.kgpc969.org/the-ghetto-sun-times/2018/5/1/ep-5-the-prison-the-block-and-the-dead
Episode 5: The Prison,The Block and The Dead with @donblak is now available. Sitting down with the young poet/actor/rapper/social activist from Richmond, CA was an amazing experience. Click on the link pasted below to see exactly how the conversation went. Oh yeah and in this episode (which was originally recorded 4/26/18) I give my opinions on the Bill Cosby conviction hours after the verdict. Be sure to listen, share it and tell a friend about the GhettoSun Times 🙏🏾

http://www.kgpc969.org/the-ghetto-sun-times/2018/5/1/ep-5-the-prison-the-block-and-the-dead

 

Notes on the Murder of Stephon Clark

Demonstrators Protest Against Recent Sacramento Police Shooting Of Unarmed Black Man

I lost sleep over Stephon Clark last night. I lost sleep over the fact that if he were white and stood accused of breaking windows in a white neighborhood then he would still be alive. As a matter of fact he would probably be out on bond. The chances of a 22-year-old white man actually going to jail for the crimes that Stephon Clark alleged to have committed seem very slim to me. In the middle of the night I thought about the criminalization of black bodies and how the practice lends itself to this case. It was reported that Oscar Grant was fighting on the BART train and was being belligerent, which was why he was murdered. Renisha Mcbride was drunk and that’s why she was killed. Sandra Bland wouldn’t put out her cigarette. Trayvon Martin and Alton Sterling were both high. Mike Brown stole a box of cigars. And somehow, in the consciousness of Americans, when these misdemeanors are committed by black people then they are punishable by death.

 

The campaign against the character of Stephon Clark is going really strong right now. Not only was he breaking windows but according to his tweets he doesn’t like black women claiming; “I don’t want nothing black but an X-box, dark bitches bring dark days.” Though this statement is not criminal, one cannot dismiss the fact that it is being brought to light in an effort to separate him from his core support group which is black women. The mother of his children—who is Asian—also tweeted something about not wanting to have dark children, which Stephon Clark cosigned. Now I don’t want to totally dismiss the problem with his tweets because self-hatred is real and it needs to be addressed in our community. A dark-skinned man who lives with his dark-skinned grandmother cannot hate dark skinned women without hating himself—period. In addition to his apparent disdain for women who look like him, if the man was out breaking into cars and breaking windows then he needed help. Whether robbery was the motive or he had a nervous breakdown I think we all can agree that vandalism is a terrible and inconsiderate act. But the problem isn’t that people are excusing the accusations brought against Mr. Clark in his wake but rather, the issue is these incidents are being brought forward in an attempt to justify his murder by the hands of the Sacramento Police Department. What the power structure wants us to do is to say because he destroyed property, and because he referred to black woman as bitches then I’m ok with him being shot 8 times (6 times in the back) while he was unarmed in his grandmother’s back yard. They want us to disregard his humanity and label him in our conscious minds as just another nigger.

But Stephon deserves to be alive. He deserves to be able to kiss his children and to hug is grandmother. If he is indeed guilty of vandalism then he deserves the right to be innocent until proven guilty. He deserves the right to feel the sun on his dark skin in the middle of a hot and dry Sacramento summer. He deserves to be able to take trips to Reno or the Bay Area with his brother. He deserves the right to grow into his best self and work, and play, and do too much, and fall down, and learn how to be a man. He doesn’t deserve to be killed in the process and we should not judge him because for him the process will forever be incomplete. We should love him no matter what his imperfections were and we should be disheartened that he was executed in such callous fashion.

Stephon Clark deserves to be alive and the officers who murdered him deserve to be prosecuted. We must never forget this truth.

 

 

Keep Holding on/10-18-17 at 6:30pm at Laney College

If you are anywhere near the San Francisco Bay Area then you need to go to this event!

On Wednesday, October 18th at 6:30pm Mental Health in the Hood Presents “Keep Holding On: A Night of Suicide Awareness.” Please join us as we welcome internationally renowned keynote speaker Kevin “Grateful” Berthia. Grateful Berthia is a motivational speaker and mental health advocate.

On October 18th at 6:30pm in room D200 of Laney College he will tell the story of his darkest moment and what keeps him holding on. Laney College student Malaysi a Alcorn will also share her testimony.

IMG_1369This will be a powerful evening that you will not want to miss—trust me. Those who have been touched by suicide in any way are especially encouraged to attend. I hope to see you all there.

Affirmation

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But what about the redwoods, and the black women, and the future? What about cool days when fog protects you from the sun and you know that god has your back. What about all of your trophies in the living room and the recognition plaques on the walls? What about all of the people that appreciate what you do? Some of them tell you and some of them don’t but they all need you to be here.

 

Sometimes I wish that I didn’t bruise so easily but I do. Sometimes I bruise when I’m touched and the pain lasts for years. Sometimes even words leave permanent marks on my flesh. Sometimes cruel text messages do as well. Sometimes when people act like they don’t need me, I believe them.

 

But what about views of the Pacific Ocean from the Berkeley Hills? What about Lake Merritt on Sunday afternoons? What about fresh doughnuts from King Pins? What about your purpose? What about the fight and he struggle? What about taking a nap in the parking lot when the day is hot and being woken up by the beads of sweat gathering on your cheek only to roll down your window at the exact time a breeze is passing through, and all at once you are revitalized.

 

You deserve awesome things. You were born deserving them and before you perish you will get them and so much more. Be patient and be persistent. I love you. I will continue to love you. I believe in you. I trust you. I got you. We will do this.

 

-YB

Writing in bed

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As I lay here between these sheets using these letters as a pianist uses the keys of a piano to express himself through sound, I write for clarity and not necessarily for the final product. I just want to make my ordeal visible. Whatever kind of joy or yearning that I am experiencing I don’t want it to fester inside of me. I need to be able to dissect it. And I need to know that I will not be judged for my humanity. That no one will talk wreckless to me for not healing fast enough or for being petty. I need a place where I can be in my feelings without someone telling me that I’m in my feelings. I need to be able to take that mask off that Dunbar was talking about and be me, while I still know who I am. I write in my bed before I brush my teeth or use the bathroom or return that phone call or put my Pop Tarts in the microwave so I can know what I’m up against internally. So that I can know how I feel and deal with it accordingly. I write to remind myself that I am a human-being.

-YB