In the midst of a storm God is in control

This has been a difficult week on several fronts. A few friends are dealing with serious illnesses and surgeries and others are dealing with substance abuse issues.  Atlanta teachers who cheated on standardized tests were sentenced to up to 7 years in jail. What disturbs me about that news is the fact that so many people seem to take joy in other people’s misery.

The swirl of activity this week has created an anxiety in me that I must manage carefully.  For two days, I tried to attend revival at my church, but the traffic had other plans. On Wednesday, my prayer partner and I finally made it for the last night.

I have always loved revivals. They remind me of a time when life was simple and church activities were front and center. There is nothing like a revival to strengthen your spirit and let you know that you can keep on running. Earlier that day we learned that our pastor had undergone surgery. There was an air of uncertainty in our midst.

When Pastor Joseph Hall took the mic, he reminded us that God is in control. Yes God is in control. Pastor Hall, who hails from Louisiana, went on to say that we are in a unique season of manifestation. God is preparing us to do great things in his name, he said. In this season, we must be bold in our prayers and our praise. God will bring forth a fresh anointing. We will make it through.

Exodus 3:7-8 says God sees our afflictions and he has come to deliver us from them. Pastor Hall said we need a pre-praise, a right now praise and a post praise. In other words, praise God before, during and after the storm. But when storms sweep through our lives, it’s often hard to see the forest for the trees.  That’s where a laser faith and focus is needed.

By the time we left the church, I felt equipped to finish the week on a better note.  I refuse to succumb to the fear and negativity that is lurking around every corner. I need that laser focus.

Black man down

angelatuck:

Here is my latest blog post about Walter Scott, who was killed by a cop in North Charleston, S.C, in case you missed it! Angela Tuck

Originally posted on LOVE MY PEOPLE:

walter scott

This time there is no doubt. No witnesses telling conflicting stories. No smear campaign against the victim (at least not yet). Just a videotape taken by a man who has no skin in the game. What the video shows is heartbreaking. We are essentially watching the last seconds of a man’s life. A man who mattered to his family and friends.

Officer Michael Slager told Walter Scott he pulled him over for a broken tail light.  It was 9:30 on the morning of April 4 in North Charleston, S.C.  A police dash cam video released Thursday shows Slager walk up to Scott’s vehicle and politely ask him for his license and registration. Scott gives some round about answers but the encounter remains civil. Slager walks back to his police cruiser to run a routine check.

After a few seconds, Scott gets out of his car and Slager tells him to…

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Black man down

walter scott

This time there is no doubt. No witnesses telling conflicting stories. No smear campaign against the victim (at least not yet). Just a videotape taken by a man who has no skin in the game. What the video shows is heartbreaking. We are essentially watching the last seconds of a man’s life. A man who mattered to his family and friends.

Officer Michael Slager told Walter Scott he pulled him over for a broken tail light.  It was 9:30 on the morning of April 4 in North Charleston, S.C.  A police dash cam video released Thursday shows Slager walk up to Scott’s vehicle and politely ask him for his license and registration. Scott gives some round about answers but the encounter remains civil. Slager walks back to his police cruiser to run a routine check.

After a few seconds, Scott gets out of his car and Slager tells him to get back inside. Scott returns to his car briefly, then — for reasons we will never know — he gets out of his car and runs from the officer. It is a slow run because Scott is 50 years old.

Off camera, Slager can be heard shouting “Taser!Taser!” It’s something his police training calls for.  It’s unclear what happens when the men are out of camera range. But resisting arrest should not be a death sentence.

Black men are viewed by many in society as criminals. Some law enforcement personnel and prosecutors see them as disposable. They have no qualms about locking them up and throwing away the key, reasoning that a disproportionate number of black men commit crimes.

Of course this does not apply to all officers. The vast majority do their jobs in a professional manner and deserve the respect that comes with their badge. Police officers take an oath to protect and serve.  But where was the protection and service for Eric Garner, Michael Brown and now Walter Scott?

There can be no mistake: when stopped by the police, do everything they say.  Resisting in any way can be deadly.  When we encounter an officer, we don’t know what kind of person they are or what kind of day they are having. Ignoring their commands is a very bad idea. Our boys must be taught this fact about life in America.

A report this week in The State Newspaper in Columbia, South Carolina revealed that S.C. police officers have fired their weapons at suspects more than 200 times in the last five years. The federal investigation of officials in Ferguson, Mo. showed racist attitudes in emails exchanged by city employees and a distinct pattern of police harassment of African-American citizens. Similar emails were released this week in San Francisco, showing authorities there joking about Hispanics and African-Americans.

This is a serious problem that must addressed by hiring more officers of color and electing more politicians, judges and prosecutors who better represent the communities they serve. Officers should be trained and retrained every year.

Why did Michael Slager feel the need to shoot a man in the back eight times? Can we blame it on poor training or a disdain for a man who decided to run. Scott didn’t appear to be a threat to the officer or anyone else.  Yet Slager placed handcuffs on Scott after he fell to the ground.  Then Slager dropped an object by the man’s lifeless body. What kind of person shoots another human being in the back and immediately goes into cover-thine-behind mode? Why did it take several minutes for officers responding to the shooting to administer CPR?

Slager might well have gotten away with murder had it not been for Feidin Santana, who saw the situation unfold and captured it on his cell phone. In the face of irrefutable evidence, authorities in North Charleston had no choice but to charge Slager with murder and fire him from the force.

Officials there seem to have learned from their counterparts in Ferguson, Mo. An outside agency has been brought in to investigate and the police chief quickly condemned Slager’s actions. It will be interesting to see what happens as the case unfolds.  A murder arrest doesn’t mean there will be a conviction.  According to CNN, South Carolina law requires premeditation for a murder conviction.

Michael Slager was dead wrong. Walter Scott is just dead. What will it take to make this stop?

March Madness indeed! The hunt for perfection and that pesky N-word

wildcats

Welp, it’s all over now. The other basketball dynasty that rocks the blue and white — the Duke University Blue Devils — reigns supreme as this year’s NCAA champion.

I grew up in Lexington, Ky.  It’s a place where some people don “I still hate Christian Laettner” t-shirts, recalling Laettner’s legendary last second shot in the 1992 Kentucky vs. Duke championship game. The clip was recently featured in the ESPN 30 for 30 film, “I Hate Christian Laettner.

This was supposed to be our year — the year that talented bunch of young men from the University of Kentucky went 40-0.

Everyone talked about their quest for a perfect season. Every team in the country aimed their collective skills squarely at the Wildcats. But perfection, no matter how talented you are, is an elusive thing. That’s an important lesson for boys like my nephew and grandson, who love to shoot hoops and run around the baseball diamond.  They watched intently as Kentucky folded to Wisconsin in the final minutes of the NCAA semifinal Saturday.

After the game, my nephew even shed a few tears. It’s just a game, I told him. There will be many more. My words were of little comfort to an 11-year-old who has already proven to be a gifted athlete. Winning is in Grant’s DNA.

So you can imagine how Kentucky’s talented tenth reacted to seeing a would-be perfect season slip through their fingertips. Make no mistake: these young men achieved greatness. Winning 38 games is no small feat.  But it wasn’t enough for them, Coach John Calipari or Big Blue Nation fans.

My friend Jerry Tipton has covered Kentucky basketball for 30 plus years for the Lexington Herald-Leader. It’s the same newspaper which received bomb threats when the newspaper’s investigative team penned a Pulitzer Prize-winning series of articles about basketball boosters lining the pockets of players.

As Tipton noted when we talked this week, it’s very difficult for a team to go undefeated in regular and post season play. The last Division I school to do so was Indiana in 1976.

Anyone who followed the Wildcats this year knows there were at least four to five games they could have lost.  “I thought they could get beat, I said that all along,” said Tipton, noting close games against Ole Miss, Texas A&M and Georgia during the regular season, and Notre Dame in the quarterfinals of the NCAA tournament.

Still, Tipton wouldn’t have been surprised if the Wildcats “had run the table.”  Loaded with youthful talent rather than having one breakout player, this Wildcat team often seemed invincible. They embodied teamwork, excellence and endurance. Several will become instant millionaires when they are selected in the NBA draft’s first round. The world awaits them.

Understandably,  their disappointment and immaturity were painfully evident in their loss to Wisconsin.  A few Kentucky players headed to the locker room without exchanging customary post-game handshakes with their opponents. And later, in a press conference, Kentucky guard Andrew Harrison could be heard uttering an obscenity and the n-word, reportedly directed at Wisconsin’s boy wonder, Frank Kaminsky.

“[Harrison] got benched late in the game and they lost. He certainly was not in a good mood,” said Tipton.  “I was talking to one guy who was sitting in the front row of the presser and he didn’t hear it. Once people figured out what [Harrison] was saying, we weren’t sure who he was referring to.”

Harrison could have made the comment about a reporter asking a question, one of his fellow players or Kaminsky. But a remark made in the height of frustration was widely circulated and criticized, prompting Harrison to call Kaminsky to apologize. In turn, Kaminsky graciously accepted his apology.

Here’s where things get crazy: some people believe the n-word means the same thing regardless of context or who is saying it. Nothing is further from the truth. A group of University of Oklahoma fraternity brothers found that out the hard way when they were caught on tape singing a song that included the n-word. The fraternity was banned from campus and two students were expelled. Why? They used the word to brag about never admitting a black person into their fraternity, which has accepted black members in the past.

Harrison used it in a way that is more common these days, as a figure of speech used to describe someone of any race, often a friend or peer. Rappers have taken the meaning of the ‘n-word’ and turned it on its head. It’s clearly a generational thing.

For people of a certain age, regardless of color, the word holds the power to cut deep. Especially if it is uttered with hatred or with the intent to discriminate. For young people who haven’t experienced the sting of overt racism, it’s simply another slang term.

Everyone should let Andrew Harrison be. He had a moment after one of the most disappointing games of his young career. He clearly meant no harm. He and his teammates should be proud of what they accomplished this year. This UK fan certainly enjoyed the ride.

Back to doing what I love

It’s been more than a year since I’ve blogged in this space. Writing has always given me joy, but frankly, I haven’t had much joy in the last year or so.

That’s my fault. Despite the challenges life gives, there is still much to be thankful and hopeful about. Let’s start with the basics. Most of us are up and moving and have our right minds. That within itself is a supreme blessing.

The past 14 months have been filled with battles. I’ve struggled with poor health and depression, experienced challenges on my job and lost a person who was like a son to me. Family members and friends have faced setbacks and serious illnesses. Recently, I learned that I have Type II diabetes: something that was bound to happen after years of being overweight, eating poorly and failing to establish a good exercise routine.

The good news is, the fatigue brought on by high blood sugar levels is lifting. I am feeling better, my blurred vision has subsided, I’m exercising and trying mightily to eat better. For me, that isn’t easy. I love chocolate, potato chips, bread and all things bad for you.

I want to be able to live stronger and better. I want to breathe in and exhale. I want to make more time for rest and relaxation. And most of all, I want to enjoy my family and friends; to play baseball and basketball with my grandson, to swing and play catch with my granddaughter.

Last Christmas, my daughter gave me a Joyce Meyer devotional book. Today’s message: “Invest in your healing,” is just what I needed to hear. “When you confess God’s promises instead of your problems, you are exercising your faith and investing in your healing,” Meyer writes.

This is a powerful testimony. It’s something I need to practice daily to stay encouraged along life’s journey.

“You’re moving with your Auntie and Uncle in Bel Air”

For six years (more if you count reruns) we watched James Avery play the no-nonsense yet loveable “Uncle Phil” to Will Smith’s “Fresh Prince” on the 1990s sitcom “The Fresh Prince of Bel Air.”

Avery, who died Tuesday at the age of 68, was an accomplished actor who played many a role in movies and on television. As “Uncle Phil” he was completely and utterly unforgettable.  A proud Bel Air lawyer turned judge, Phillip Banks and his wife Vivian took in their wacky nephew Will after he got into “one little fight” in his west Philadelphia neighborhood.

Aunt Viv and Uncle Phil were wealthier than most, but we can all relate to the show’s noble premise: a family member with more advantages taking in a relative in need of a fresh start. We watched Will grow accustomed to private schools, the services of a butler and three pampered cousins who’d never seen a tough day in their lives.

Will and his sidekick cousin Carlton, played masterfully by Alfonso Ribeiro, needed tough love and got it from Uncle Phil at every turn. In six short years, Uncle Phil took Will and Carlton from boys to men giving us lots of laughs in between.   Thanks, James Avery, for the lessons and the memories. We’ll miss you.

 

Rejoicing in the promise of a new year

There is something about the promise of a new year and all its possibilities that gives me joy. I am thinking about two friends in particular who have had a rough go of it for the last few years.

My prayer is that both these friends will have a 2014 that brings they less pain and more joy; less uncertainty and more stability; more freedom to move about and do the things their health issues have caused them to postpone.

One will walk his daughter down the aisle and into the arms of her groom in early 2014. The other wishes for a swim in a refreshing pool and a chance to return to his studies.

Both friends have taught me about undying faith in God’s promise. They’ve taught me how important it is to brave, even in the face of repeated adversity. I am reminded of a sign I ran across while taking part in the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington last August. “Love is too big to fail,” the sign read. My thoughts immediately went to God’s love for us.

As we enter a new year, please know that God’s love for you is too big to fail. The tests you are faced with are preparing you to have a great testimony. Know that in Christ, all things are possible. Stay encouraged, my friends. Much love and happiness!