Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Your Grandpa Never Had A Fight

(To My Grandsons – Kamal, Musa, Naim Barack, Khalil, Ameer & Bilal)

I have never had a fight where anyone got beat up; I never really had to.  I have had scuffles in which somebody got slammed, then, that was it.  Why exceed bounds when the person  has already been vanquished?  And, why attack, unjustly?

I learned that from watching my Daddy.  I studied him from my crib, and I knew I wanted to be just like him, a hero.  Everybody knew my Daddy was tough and dependable.  He commanded the respect of about 10 Black men on his job as Supervisor of the Press Room and Stereotyper at the Kansas City Call Newspaper.  He played football in college and he would never brag, but his buddies alluded to his scrapping his way up on Vine Street.

Once, I had quieted the colored manager at Melody Lanes after having been harassed for one of my many faux pas's and nearly brought to tears, when I threatened to “bring my Daddy around here!", our house being only about a block away from the newly built bowling alley.  There was a hush... and the subject changed quickly.

I went everywhere with my Daddy: the pool hall, the bar, family events (cabaret parties, picnics, etc.), his job (the Pressroom) and the Newsroom at The Call, NAIA and Harlem Globetrotter basketball games at the Municipal Auditorium. 

From the time I was about 6 he took me amongst the raucous rowdy crowds at the  Negro League Baseball games at the Kansas City Blues Municipal Stadium up on Brooklyn Ave.  to cheer Satchel Paige and the Monarchs and  boo Goose Tatum (whom we, later,  cheered when he played basketball with the Harlem Globetrotters) and the Indianapolis Clowns.

I’m an English Teacher

           What’s Your Superpower?

          I graded 500 papers a week for  almost 30 years.  I corrected punctuation, capitalization, grammar, spelling, syntax, and organization for  book reports, compositions, essays, quizzes, tests, poems, and short stories from 150 to 200 kids a day for the best part of 30 years at some of the most dangerous schools in America and loved it, couldn’t wait to get to work for 28 of those action packed years until I, admittedly,  burnt out in the last year and 9 months,  almost 12 years ago, now. 

          My philosophy of teaching was based on my communication skills, but I knew I could not speak to every individual student everyday. So, I assigned so much work that I was going to get at least 2 or 3 papers a week from everybody, even the gangbangers.  And, the grades combined with the notes and red corrections guaranteed an, ongoing, unique communication between me and my students.  That included my 20-25% hardcore miscreants who refused to turn in assignments in their other classes.

Teaching kids whose lives are so traumatized that they should be labeled PTSD is a shouting screaming match, initially, a test of wills.  Of course, there is always the option of simply putting them out, pushing them down to the next rung on their downward staircase.   At my best,   I was blessed with a voice that could cow down assemblies of over 1000 screaming, out of control youngsters because screaming was my forte. I could shout louder and farther, and that’s how I kept order. I was even notorious for quieting crowds in the thousands as the Public Address announcer at inner city  basketball and football games.

My reputation preceded me, so I rarely had to get physical, but when I did, I made sure it was quick and awesome to the pubescent onlookers, who would invariably “put extras on it” which spared me displaying my Vietnam sharpened skills very much. The prickly kids who were hiding their virtual illiteracy and functional illiteracy with anti-literacy are the challenge to inner city schools.  Who can quiet homeboy and homegirl down long enough to teach the rest of the students.  The kids who can’t read fear humiliation and they are sophisticated enough to keep classes disrupted.  Even 5 minutes of silence makes these kids anxious.  They blurt out for fear they will be called upon to read or answer a question. 

At first, I would bellow out admonitions in my overkill voice which tended to cower them and any would-be ne’r-do-wells down for the rest of the hour. 

But, after a decade or so, I began to develop polyps on my vocal cords, and I realized that I had to retire my overkill voice and develop finesse. The disruptions were masked protests of disinterest, calls for a specific attention that Huckleberry Finn and Of Mice and Men could not satisfy. So, I wrote my own book, CRIPS, and the gang kids loved it.  They would even steal it, which was a backhanded compliment because they were known to deface all books but never steal one.        

After CRIPS was published in 1986, I was able to get most of my students to finish reading a complete book, which was a remarkable achievement because even most of the students who graduate from inner city schools have not done it, as proven by their SAT scores and scores on community college entrance exams relegating them to English no credit classes in the Fall following graduation despite their high schools being “accredited”.

Of course, my English department peers derided my rights of passage tome because they hated gang members and considered any effort to reach out to them by acknowledging the validity of portions of their culture treasonous.  The head of the English department refused to buy even a classroom set, although first year teachers flummoxed with force feeding the curriculum had reported almost miraculous success with the same students when I donated classroom sets to them.

I went on sabbatical to make the film, but upon my return my English department persisted in their intransigence even after Warner Bros. made the movie, SOUTH CENTRAL from my novel and I debuted it at my school.   The film (which is laden with profanity although the book has none) went on to become a classic and remains a favorite on TV until today. I chose not to pursue filmmaking because I preferred being an English teacher.

And, since I knew most of my students would drop out in 10th grade and the ones who survived would be 2 to 4 years behind their peers in English, I decided to base my instruction on poetry.  I could get a profound haiku from students that I could never get a decent paragraph from. They learned to write sonnets in iambic pentameter, then, begged for freedom to write free verse. I whetted their appetites with Langston Hughes, and the Harlem Renaissance bards, James Weldon Johnson, Countee Cullen, Claude McKay and that lot.  Maya Angelou, Gwen Brooks, Nikki Giovanni, and utilitarian samples from my own poetry provoked them to study, appreciate, memorize, and even create their own approximations of the masters.  Weekly poetry slams usually got 100% participation, whereas, almost nobody enjoyed reading Shakespeare, Emerson, or Thoreau.  As much as I appreciated Tennyson, Poe, and Frost, they turned most of my 10th and 11th graders off.
I, purposely,  sabotaged the system that causes most students in the inner city to hate reading and English class by using poetry as a doorway that led them to the freedom that comes with reading, writing, and loving words

Monday, May 2, 2016

I Fear the Egregious Sin of Arrogance

There is a thin but very important

Line between confident and arrogant

That I pray I never transgress.

Yet, there is faux in every hero

Pretense precedes all  shows of confidence.

It seems essential to the process.

Confidence sows its own destiny

But, beware of Hell’s temptress – Arrogance.


You brought love to Los Angeles.

Limping – leg broken – but unbowed,

81, and barely balancing on your cane,

You are handicapped but not disabled,

Dignified and delicate,

Always scurrying, self deprecating Queen.

Will like Rock shaped into exquisite art,

Battle scarred but Beautiful and unbowed,

Unbroken. You’re undefeated;

You’ve reached the highest human state of ihsan

(constantly giving Love).

Scootin’ up and down stairs to do it.

With hurt heavy boot painin’ you say,

“Satan, don’t hold me down!

Don’t stop me from goin’ to church, Lord.

I may be 81; I may have just got this cast put on, Lord.

My foot may be sprung,

But I’m gonna hop this hurt heavy boot, Lord,

To see my great grandbaby, Ishmael, graduate.

I’m gonna push back the pain, Satan.

‘Cause God got me on a mission to bring LOVE
Back to my family, again.”                                                                By Bakeer (2015)

FORNICATION: When Social Becomes Venereal


This life can, gladly,  go into extra innings if you’re winning. 

But, if you drink hard liquor and/or use hard drugs; it’s hard.

So, if you don’t want to live hard; stop sinning.

Stop!   So, your babies can be free

From disease and poverty.

This life can be bright, happily full of struggling but not, necessarily, suffering.

Great expectations and  victories!  

Families can have many generations without the degradation

Of D.U.I.’s and drug addictions, violent marriages maligned w/suspicion

And devoid of vision; damned to divorce, utterly, cursed by weak traditions

That leave everybody victims.

Illicit sex precedes abortion, then, the deadly decision

That makes  murderers instead of mothers,

Maybe makes you love/consider kids a little less,

Leaves you jaundiced, partially blinded and could care less,

Callused, future clients for foster care.

Stop taking for granted that everybody on the planet

Is weak, morally, secretly dirty and  not what they appear to be.

No, everybody’s not doin’ it ;

And, every generation does not have to fall

For fornication

Then, learn to lie in denial when social becomes venereal,

And the jinn reveals himself as your sex appeal.

Eschew evil, and cultivate your taqwa, your Spiritual Will!

Clean will be  fashionable forever .

Find your niyyah, your purpose, and refocus.

Lust will be one of your first tests and one of the worst.

Lust, is the Wass Wass , The Whisperer, who speaks to the hearts

Of all Women/Men; The jinn who brings worry and distraction.

When you are confronted with or surrounded by his songs,

You must Pray. Keep Allah close.  Use Him as a weapon, a haven, a shelter.

Prayer is a  vehicle that helps you refocus and combats demons.

Never let too much time get between you and your last prayer.

Food for Thought

We hide, comfortably, from our greatness in Poverty.  It is a justifiable excuse for not inventing the internet or cell phone or any great technology since the stoplight.

I fear our Bill Gateses and Paul Allens are being concussed into mediocrity on football fields and basketball courts  before they can create their great apps  or design and pilot  the latest spacecraft.

We shoot for the stars in games and forget the stars in the universe. When will some of our parents commit themselves to raising Great Women Leaders like the Williams parents committed to raising great tennis players?

Are these unborn the angels that can lead us out of the sordid traditions of Comfortable Poverty, ie., the inability to love till death, the inability to save, to own, to be self-sufficient,  to be charitable, and to embrace literacy and the sciences rather than being distracted by bouncing balls?

Maybe our culture’s  salvation is being put second to possible careers in professional tennis, and basketball, golf, and volleyball.

Furthermore, where are our Kings, Malcolms, or Mahatma Ghandis? Could they be those most committed to the religions of Song and Dance?  Did we trade for Michael Jackson  instead of  another  Adam Clayton Powell?  Could we have had another Malcolm instead of Miles?

Why not make songs that program us to do more than  smile, dance, and romance? Allah’s sound vibrations have so much more power.  Where is the music that ends hunger and  abortion, renews universal love, and unites all faiths? Are we trying to convince our precocious geniuses that they should, only,  try to be Snoop Lion or Prince?

Must  we continue to aim so low leaving those who fail littered in neighborhood trash heaps, almost made its and has beens?  Victims of tender knees, and backs, and broken brains,  corrupt lawyers, managers, and wicked accountants who see them, only, as sustenance for their own capital gain,  every generation,  over and over again  -  willing victims of  the same sucker game.


Flirts? No, I Don’t Think So

Women have often flirted with me, some boldly, some subtly.

But more than half, well over 50% of these  coquettes were saying “voulez vous couche avec moi”.  Many had ulterior motives, and could care less that I was happily married with several kids. They did not seek marriage, only discreet but lusty interludes between cancerous relationships.

These witches, these jinni, who practice  secret arts, the adulteresses who reside in thinly masked denial of their sins.  These skeezers, these T.H.O.T.S., these hizzoes, these femme fatales  who never reflect on the dozens of men they go in and out of in their  scandalously sinful lives, the  HPV, the herpes, the HIV, the gonorrhea, and et cetera that they don’t even count, hide behind innocuous flirts, but caveat emptor (buyer beware)

When I look back upon my life, I am more proud  of  the women I turned down or we found some mutual reason not to have illicit sex than I am of the coquettes,  my so-called conquests. In fact, they are sins for which I want to repent – not the women but the sex that stained our relationships. 

This subject is so radioactive  that I am circumspect.  Any discussion of  past  sexual sins can become precedent for continuing morally weak traditions and possibly curtailing crucial growth. 

But, I became a man in the midst of  the Sexual Revolution; and, when I graduated from Cal State L.A. in 1973 “the next person who came through the door” was the sexual preference in a campus survey.  Orgies and experimentation were S.O.P. for entertainers, and White girls had discovered Black men and made fashionable the quickie. 

I was a wannabe actor under the tutelage of  the Grand Dame, Beah Richards and others of that ilk  at the renown Inner City Cultural Center with some of the most beautiful sorceresses in America, but I was, also, a 100 + Muhammad Speaks newspaper selling happily married F.O.I., so their siren songs never quite hypnotized me. 

I have had a voluptuous  actress strip nude to try to entice me (and anyone else in range of her sultry spell), they’ve offered menage a trois’s but, fortunately, I had a woman equal to 3 of them, so I was able to play it off.

Islam has been my protective aura for nearly 50 years. It taught me how to choose a mate, and that has been key to my successes.  Without  a tireless connection with The Spirit  entertainers are  bombarded by flirtatious sexual invitations. The young ones don’t  realize they are scarring their Souls.  They will never have  a lifelong mate because it’s the clean for the clean and the dirty for the dirty.

Au contraire, I have reverence for the women who are virtuous, who hold themselves above  Shaitan’s   lewd invitations. These are women with whom a man can only be successful. The true, “ride or die”, “Fo’ life” mothers  and  wives, like Camille Cosby and Michelle Obama;  I’m widowed to  2,   Sharon and Anjail Bakeer, and married to another, the indefatigable, imperturbable Sharyn Muhammad Bakeer.

These women  outgrew the curse of good looks and passed the moral tests to become sui generis, women whose words you can trust.

 Flirts?  No, I don’t  think so.