I must relate that although I was not surprised by the call, a bit startled, but most definitely surprised. The call came through my office phone while I was in the midst of researching a story I was planning for the Huey P. Newton Gun Club. The Huey P. Newton Gun Club, obviously named in honor of the now deceased co-founder of The Black Panther Party for Self-Defense, was a group of African-Americans located in Dallas, Texas, who had tired of the repeated murder of African-American men, women, and children by local law enforcement law officers.
After picking up the phone, an automated message began that stated, “You have a collect call from the Harris County Jail. It is…” after a slight pause, a familiar voice came over the line to fill in the rest of the sentence, “Floyd”. The same automated voice then asked, “Will you accept the call?”
Without a second thought, I stammered, “Yes, of course, I will.” In less than a twinkling of an eye, Floyd B. Foolish, an individual who had quickly made the transition from stranger to acquaintance prior to an even quicker move into becoming a friend, began speaking in a cadence that was unlike any I had ever heard him use. Through a thick Mississippi-drawl that seemed to hold the linguistic peculiarities of several deep South states, Floyd hurriedly stated, “Brother, I need some help. These people done got me down here at the county jail! And you know that Floyd don’t belong in nobody’s cage. I need to be free like the birds of the sky.”
I quickly interrupted Floyd and opened the door for one of his infamous jumbled country soliloquies that only he held the key to deciphering, “What is the charge?” I inquired.
To my shock and dismay, Floyd quickly related that he was being charged with some sort of a ‘Hate Crime’.
My mind ran through every possible scenario and situation it could conceive that would lead this fifty-something year old who descended from several generations of cotton picking sharecroppers into this dire predicament. Floyd’s dilemma piqued my interest in a manner that few things ever did. However, before I could request additional details of what had occurred, Floyd quickly asked for what was at that moment an understandable favor, “Brother, will you come and bail me out. I don’t have anyone else I can call.” Without hesitation, I told Floyd that I was on my way.
As I navigated my way past the makeshift farms that provided an option for local residents of the historic Acres Homes community, where the newspaper headquarters was located, to simultaneously live in close proximity to downtown Houston while maintaining what can be best termed their peculiar affinity for country living with horses and various forms of livestock, my mind wondered what had led to Floyd being charged with a ‘hate crime’. Before long I was passing the final eyesores that local industrialists had placed within the Acres Homes community in their desperate pursuit of a profit and merging onto I-290 and heading toward the city of Houston, Texas.
Admittedly, it was impossible for me to reconstruct the where, what, what, and why’s that led to Floyd’s incarceration as I only had two pieces of the puzzle: (a) Floyd was involved in some type of altercation and (b) local authorities considered his actions egregious enough to charge him with a ‘hate crime’. Unfortunately for my sanity, neither the absence of more information nor the impossibility of unraveling this mystery prevented me from attempting to reconstruct what occurred.
My eagerness to solve this mystery led me to the reasoning that a solution may be possible as I possessed the largest piece of the puzzle, my knowledge of Floyd B. Foolish. During my continuing efforts to reason what had occurred, I ultimately reasoned that some variant of the following occurred; Floyd was talking crazy to a wide assortment of people, as he is known to do on the regular, and somebody, most likely a white person, challenged him to a confrontation that he was more than eager to oblige. As my vehicle traveled toward the Harris County jail, I prepared my best ‘I told you so’ speech for Floyd.
After arriving at the imposing Harris County jail located at 1200 Baker Street in the vastness that is downtown Houston, I quickly made my way to pay the $500.00 bond that Floyd was being held under and anxiously awaited his release. Little did I realize that as with most things dealing with marginalized populations such as the poor and African-American, this would be an extremely long and drawn out process. To my chagrin, my complaining about the pace that things were occurring after two hours of waiting apparently led jailers to further delay Floyd’s release. It seemed as if the others waiting for their loved one’s release had been through this routine often enough to realize that complaining would do little more than delay the process; although I initially thought that this assembly of poor mothers, grandmothers, wives, and girlfriend was the definition of a defeated population, I soon realized that their capitulation to the way things worked at the county jail was strategic, if they did not complain about the ridiculous delays things seemed to move faster. Unfortunately for Floyd, I didn’t realize this little tidbit of information until I realized that everyone who had been waiting with me in the waiting room had seen those that they came to collect released and here I was, the only one to complain about the wait, sitting alone in the room. Believe it or not, Floyd was not released for nearly five hours after I posted his bond; jailers blamed a shift-change for the ridiculous delay.
My wait ended the moment that I saw a disheveled heap of humanity, which I honestly did not recognize as Floyd B. Foolish, appear in the lobby. Floyd’s clothes were wrinkled, his hair uncombed, his pants dirty, and even his always immaculate shoes scuffed. Prior to me uttering a word, a somber Floyd thanked me for arranging his release; to my dismay there was no communication between Floyd and I as we exited the hulking structure that housed so many Houstonians of various hues, the vast majority of them poor and disenfranchised by a system that refused to give them a single significant break from the daily drudgery that had come to represent their life.
Having never been incarcerated before, I could only imagine what was going through Floyd’s head and heart. One thing that I know for certain, even without any prior incarceration, is that man is not designed to be confined in a cage of any kind for even the slightest period of time. Such confinement has to do something drastic to the soul of the incarcerated, regardless of what they have been accused of doing. Desperate to break the deafening silence that I am absolutely certain that Floyd appreciated for obvious reasons, I asked a simple and brief question of “You want to get a bite to eat. I’m paying.” He accepted the offer with a slight nod of his head.
My concern about Floyd was significant enough that I chose a restaurant that was some distance from our present location, therefore prolonging our time together and providing my friend room to breathe; I hoped that at some point during the drive, Floyd would open up regarding how he managed to land in jail with a ‘hate crime’ hanging around his neck. Floyd uttered nary a word during our travel, he simply stared out the passenger’s side window as Houston’s Fifth Ward passed outside of it. Before long I exited I-45 and made my way to Scott Street and passed between Texas Southern University and Wheeler Avenue Baptist Church, one of the most politically astute and activist churches in the entire nation that were founded by Reverend Bill Lawson; I have never met a man, including Jeremiah Wright, who was a greater personification of adhering to the “Good News” and aiding the surrounding African-American community. Wheeler Avenue Baptist Church has a well-deserved reputation for addressing the needs of the surrounding impoverished Fifth-Ward community. In no time, we were entering the historic ‘Sunny Side’ community, the location of Just Oxtails where I decided that Floyd and I would dine on this particular day.
Floyd’s stoic demeanor spoke volumes about his present mental state. I interpreted his silence to be reflective of the traumatic events that culminated in his arrest and confinement. Despite my obvious desire to speak about such things, I knew that there were no ways of making a man, especially one as stubborn as Floyd speak prior to him being prepared to do so. So I decided to not pressure Floyd regarding the tale that he held within. As we entered Just Oxtails, Floyd grabbed the latest issue of African-American News & Issues, clearly, a move that signaled his non-desire to speak about the incident, and then proceeded to order a succulent soul-food dinner of Pork Chops smothered with Gravy, Macaroni & Cheese, Collard Greens, and Sweet Potato Pie for dessert.
As was his pattern, Floyd flipped through the newspaper until he found my editorial. Although there was a part of me that appreciated his consistent support, there was a part of me that cringed at the occurrence because those writings were akin to a battlefield that divided Floyd and I into intellectual adversaries of some short. The editorial that Floyd silently read as he consumed his food read as follows.
THE REAL BLACK BOYCOTT:
HOW OUR REFUSAL TO SUPPORT ONE ANOTHER TIGHTENS THE CHAINS OF ECONOMIC SLAVERY
I have always been taught that there is a significant difference between reading about something and actually experiencing it. Consequently, I have dedicated my life to not only reading and researching issues but also experiencing myriad aspects of life. Hence, I have pursued things such as travel, music (jazz and Rap Music), various culinary events, and the list goes on and on. I have what has come to be termed a ‘bucket list’. In this life that I have consciously chosen for myself, the most significant pivot in my life has been a love for African-Americans and a desperate search to uplift them out of the multiple illiteracies (economic, historical, political, social, cultural) that have plagued them for far too long.
So it was with much excitement and glee that I was provided an opportunity to aid a dear friend when she decided to advance her business, Creative Gifts by Shawna, which was doing very well by word of mouth. She finally decided to secure a physical space to share her talents with a larger portion of the community. This opportunity provided me an opportunity to see this beautiful young woman become a rarity within the African-American community, meaning an independently owned businesswoman. In the midst of working to transform her space into a venue where business could be conducted, I forgot a lesson that innumerable elders told me to never forget if I intended to liberate the Black community; that being, “Black people will break your heart repeatedly when you try to point them toward any form of freedom.” I’ve learned that there is no greater truism.
After a months-long process, Creative Gifts by Shawna debuted this past weekend. I found the opening to be particularly exhilarating and extremely insightful as it provided me an opportunity to participate in a process that I had only read/heard about via books, lectures, articles, etc.
Now I must say that the vast majority of individuals who entered the venue immediately fell in love with the handcrafted items and eagerly placed orders for future events and took business cards with them to share with others in their circle who they knew could, and would, make great use of the services offered. For a first-time business, I would term the opening a resounding success as a multi-racial coalition of consumers patronized the business; every race, hue, and color was represented, except one; African-Americans. Apparently, not even the quality of the work being offered trumped the astounding self-hatred and loathing that Blacks reserve for another Black folk.
Although I knew the admonishments of Carter G. Woodson when he stated in his magnum opus the Mis-Education of the Negro, published in 1933, that we should never expect Blacks to support Blacks in any economic endeavor as they did not have sense enough to support their own as other races do. I also heard Marcus Garvey’s even earlier lamentations that cited self-hatred, a psychological illness, as the primary catalyst behind persons of African descent refusing to aid one another regardless of where they were located. More contemporarily Claude Anderson has advanced economic truths that Black people’s hatred for one another exceeds even the economic chains that ensnare them. Put simply, they would rather be poor than risk one of their own experiencing financial freedom. African-Americans economic inefficiency has led to not only their collective economic slavery but also parasitic status within the American economy. We have the dishonor of historically being the ultimate consumer and the least likely to provide anything of value to the world. We are the only population that will not term the educational process that our children participate in a resounding success unless they are able to secure a job with a white company or corporation.
As I watched innumerable African-Americans stroll past Creative Gifts by Shawna, diverting their eyes by looking in the opposite direction or towards the ground as if they were aware, yet ashamed, of the action that they were undertaking at that particular moment, one family with a child wearing a Prairie View A & M University T-shirt, a Historically Black College, patronized the businesses on either side of the African-American business, one run by a Muslim Family and the other a White lady, and never even glanced toward the Black business. I would have understood such a move if it were part-and-parcel of a staunch boycott that called for Blacks to refuse to even peruse a venue that had historically exploited and oppressed their people; however, their actions were inexplicable and illogical as this castigation was repeatedly hurled by Blacks at their own. I simply shook my head when I observed an inter-racial couple walking past the front door and the white lady rushed in to look at gifts that she loudly stated were “so cute”, her beau remained outside the entire time.
The entire scene reminded me of a statement that the Honorable Louis Farrakhan once made in one of his most insightful speeches. Farrakhan stated, and of course, I am paraphrasing, that the Black community is like a big nutritious breast that every immigrant group that comes to America immediately latches onto until they are strong enough to leave it. And before long, the next group of immigrants will arrive and latch onto it until they are economically stable enough to release it and parlay the riches that it got off of it into bigger and better things. The entire time, the poor Black businessman is trying to get his mouth near the nipple so that he can latch on with hopes of growing big and strong like the aforementioned immigrants, however, the Black community, his community, moves the nipple each time he gets anywhere near it for innumerable reasons (poor service, inferior products, cost of product, because they are a Black business, or just because of self-hatred). From Minister Farrakhan’s position, the aforementioned scenario is one of the primary reasons that in the new millennium Black folk are still begging white folk for jobs and the rest of the world for technology to use.
So as we approach yet another “Black Friday”, I have absolutely no faith whatsoever that the vast majority of Blacks will not run out and spend money that they do not have. Unfortunately, very few, if any, of those dollars, will reach the pockets of Black businesses. And for that reason and many others, they should be ashamed of their Black selves. Instead of running around calling themselves Moors, Christians, Muslims, and alleging that a secret society such as the Illuminati, Jews, or white folk, in general, are conspiring and plotting to keep them down, it may be time to ‘look at the man in the mirror’ and return to basic economic strategies; the same strategies that those groups use to build economic power that they then use to take care of their own. For those who do not understand what I mean, let me ‘make it plan’ for you. Just follow these steps.
Step A: Find a Black Business.
Step B: Select an item from that Business.
Step C: Purchase the item.
Step D: Repeat Step A.
Black people, Negroes, African-Americans, Africans in America, Moors, Black Christians, Gods and Earths, Muslims, Moslems, Black Muslims it is way past time for the in-fighting and the inefficient theoretical dogmatism to end. While you are having year long building sessions that amount to little more than group ‘mental masturbation’ sessions, other groups are actually operating businesses and securing your community’s funds while you continue to talk about what we need or are ‘finna do.’ If I were provided the opportunity to do so, I would state the following to my people, try tangibly supporting your own economically for once in your life. Trust me, it will work. It works for the rest of the globe; it has only been our own population that has behaved as if we are too darn stupid to do it ourselves.
James Thomas Jones III, Ph. D.
© Manhood, Race, and Culture
It was not until he completed his entire meal that Floyd even acknowledged my presence across the elongated cafeteria style table with a sigh of “Well”. Floyd’s “Well” conveyed several things, the most important of which had little to do with my editorial and everything to do with his decision to share his story with me.
At this particular moment, Floyd retreated from his deafening silence and sarcastically stated the obvious, “I know that you are just dying to find out why I was arrested. For a ‘hate crime’ nonetheless.”
I simply nodded my head, as I feared that my speaking may aggravate Floyd back into either his self-imposed silence or off onto a tangent that would distract us from what should be our primary discussion point; I must add that Floyd quite frequently went off on tangents and try as I might, there were times that I was unable to pull him back from what often denigrated into what can be best termed “old time” stories. My patience appeared to be paying off as Floyd had apparently decided, without any poking and prodding from yours truly, that the time was right for him to share his story.
“Do you remember my lady friend Cookie?”
I nodded my head affirmatively.
“Well she, like the sister you wrote about in your paper that started Creative Gifts by Shawna decided to start a store; however, Cookie’s Corner was more of a corner market/convenience store. You know the type of items that we need in the ‘hood’ because there aren’t any grocery stores. Although you may not believe this, I try to help anyone out who needs help. I am retired so I have the majority of my days open. Well to make a long story short, I went to work at Cookie’s store and things were fine at first, however, they took a definite turn for the worse.”
I knew that there was more to the story, however, I knew not to push Floyd out of fear that he would clam up. So I simply inquired, “A turn for the worse?”
“Yeah, brother, things definitely took a turn for the worse. At first, things were going really well. People were coming into the shop, the vast majority of them were white, a few of them bought items and Cookie was really excited about the way things were going; it appeared as if her dream of owning her own business was not only coming true but also turning out to be a success.
I went to lunch and when I came back things definitely took a turn for the worse. I was walking back to the store and ran into a bunch of Black people on my way, I even told a few of them about the new store that was FUBU “For Us By Us”. I will be absolutely honest with you, the real trouble began when I saw our people, walk past Cookie’s Corner, and buy items from Arab’s that they could have gotten from us at a lesser price. Then it happened, I saw this fool that I had some previous dealings with walk into the Arab store with his ugly wife and come out with bags and bags of stuff.”
I knew by the rising tension in his voice that Floyd was on the verge of revealing why he was arrested.
“So when this fool came walking down the block, with his ugly wife on his arm, I spoke on how stupid he was to go and give that Arab his money when we now had our own store. And that’s what happened!”
I just stared at Floyd, because even he knew that his version of what led to his arrest made little sense. I was willing to bet all of the money I had ever earned or would ever earn that Floyd was telling, at best, a partial truth. Not for a single second did I doubt that Cookie’s Corner Store existed or that he had some sort of run-in with an acquaintance. I was even willing to believe that he chastised his former acquaintance for not keeping his money in the community; however, there was absolutely no possible way that Floyd was telling the entire truth. He was most definitely leaving out many of the most pertinent details such as when the police arrived and placed him under arrest. I decided to take the risk of pointing out how illogical Floyd’s story sounded.
“Floyd, if that was all that happened, how in the world were you arrested and charged with a hate crime? That is definitely not the entire story.”
“That is the entire story. The police arrested me because I ripped their bags away from them and then proceeded to break my foot off in both of their asses. Hell, I feel that I deserve an apology because I wasn’t doing nothing other than educating that fool and his ugly wife. The ‘hate crime’ charge apparently came because I called both of them “stupid ass nigga’s” for giving their money away to the Arab’s. Do you believe that someone called the police on me?”
I had nothing to say other than, “The nerve of some people.”
“Now you can’t tell me that I was wrong on this one. They should have been spending their money at Cookie’s Corner instead of with the Arabs.”
“I don’t dispute that Floyd, however, you can’t go around attacking people because they made a conscious decision to shop elsewhere. They have every right to spend their money with whomever they choose; we can only hope that they see the logic behind spending their money with Black businesses and circulating the dollar within our community.”
As with most things, Floyd’s view and analysis were well-intentioned yet unrefined. However, I had long ago realized that I would have to learn to deal with such matters if I wanted to keep Floyd as a friend. He was just, a little off and set in his ways when it came to race matters.
Dr. James Thomas Jones III