Sowing a seed for our community 


My nephew recently received his course schedule for the 2nd semester of his Freshman year of high school.  My sister was taken aback when she saw it, given the fact that the only core course he was enrolled in was English I.  No big deal, right?  Ordinarily it wouldn’t be, but my nephew had actually taken this particular course in 8th grade.  To add further insult to injury, he also completed English II the previous semester.  .  .so, hopefully, you can see the problem.

There was also a cleanup effort, lead by my sister, to improve the conditions of Fairfax Elementary.  She actively solicited volunteers to come out and lend a hand.  The school’s principal, the City Administrator, and a few citizens took time out of their schedules to beautify the grounds, clean the restrooms, and do paint touch ups.  Sadly, there was no sighting of the mayor, councilmen/women, teachers, nor clergymen.


It’s no secret that the Allendale County school system has it’s fair share of flaws.  It’s been going on for years now with little optimism of improvement in the foreseeable future.  

Why do we see issues that adversely affect our community, yet opt to not get involved or take the necessary action to begin the corrective process?  Why do we allow our children to perpetually suffer?  

There are elected county officials and high positioned school employees who are making good salaries, but aren’t being held accountable for not producing the desired results.  It will take the citizens to light fires under those we entrust with the preservation of our community and futures of our children.  So why aren’t more citizens vocal about this matter?

And where are the churches?  

  1. Hebrews 10:24-25 Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works. And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near.
  2. Galatians 6:2-3 Bear ye one another’s burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ.

The aforementioned scriptures are direct Bible references about community.  There are more churches in Allendale than jobs, so why are they so silent in all this?  Pastors, deacons, ushers; we need you to heed the call as well.  Members of your respective congregations religiously pay tithes with their hard earned money.  Maybe some of those funds can be used to aid in the enhancement of the community.


A school representative recently reached out to all the churches in the county; asking to meet with pastors, and other church leaders, in an effort to gain their support of future improvement endeavors.  There are well over 20+ churches in Allendale County.  .  .yet only 3-4 individuals  showed up.

It appears that some only support ventures that provide a personal benefit to them.  We need everyone to take a stance.  We can ill afford to sit idly by while the situation continues to worsen.  The fact is, you may never know what results come from your action.  But if you do nothing, there will be no result.  

Don’t talk, act.  Don’t say, show.  Don’t  promise, prove.

~Hook

Why I hate religion, but love Jesus

How many times have we ‘Christians’ turned our noses up at a woman who has had a child(ren) out of wedlock?  Or attended Church solely for the sake of saying that we were in the number?  Or shunned those who engage in homosexual acts, while we habitually defy God’s Commandments?

I don’t attend Church nearly as often as I should, but that doesn’t mean that my relationship with Him is less than the person who sits in the front pew every Sunday.  The way I see it, going to Church doesnt make me any more a Christian than wearing a jersey makes me a basketball player or changing the oil in my car makes me a mechanic.

While I understand that the Church is a building of worship, I don’t believe that it’s the only establishment where salvation can be found.  Additionally, churches are not without conflict or controversy.

Often times, rather than do the Godly thing and resolve any internal turmoil, Churches tend to mask them and continue on like they don’t even exist. Some avid church goers tend to follow this same methodology, embracing their Christ-like qualities, yet ignoring and sweeping under the rug their traits that are less than favorable.

In my opinion, Jesus and Religion are not synonymous with each other.  Religion is man-centered.  Jesus is God-centered.  Religion tends to ridicule those who they deem undeserving of God’s grace.  Conversely, Jesus felt that every man, regardless of status, could be saved.  Religion, at times, seems more like behavior modification; laying down ground rules to follow instead of letting Man find God for himself.

Religion oft ends in either pride or despair.  Pride because you can create a list of Christian do’s dont’s and act holier than thou because you can adhere to said list.  Despair because you’re unable to live up to your own list and feel as though you’re unworthy of God’s everlasting love.

I understand that some of you may vehemently disagree with me. All I ask is the before summarily dismissing my opinion, ask yourself “What would Jesus do?”

Letter to my younger self


What’s happenin’, 13 year old Hook?

I’ve been meaning to write you for some time now.  I wish that I had done so sooner, because I have so much to say to you.  .  .

It’s summer, 1990 and you’re preparing for your Freshman year of high school.  Wow.  Where do I begin?  I guess I’ll start by saying stop hiding who you are.  

You’ve spent the beginning of your formative years dumbing yourself down so as not to make others uncomfortable around you.  That needs to stop now!  You are bright,  intelligent, and charismatic.

You’ve just been inducted into the National Beta Club and graduated with 8th grade honors.  Carry that with you.  

Don’t dim your light by pretending to be less intelligent like I did.  Those encouraging you to be anything less than great, believe it or not, are intimidated by you.  Show them that this fear is well warranted.

In many ways you are different and it’s not a bad thing.  It’s OK not to think the same as everyone around you.  You’ll learn that it’s actually a damned good thing.

Most of what you have been taught in school and by society is not fact, it’s simply information fed to you to control the masses, so you are right to question everything. 

People say you think too much and this will continue as you move through adulthood.  Eventually you’ll see that more often than not, those same people don’t think enough.

People say you’re too nice and as you grow older, your kindness and refusal to do what everyone else is doing will really piss people off. 
Your nonchalant demeanor and soft-spoken nature will be misinterpreted as arrogance by many.

Do NOT make apologies or feel guilty for who you are. The world needs more people like you.

Everyone’s ultimate goal is to be happy, so when people can’t find it for themselves, it may frustrate them to see that you appear to have achieved it – even if they don’t know your story.

You are finding your place in the world just like everyone else, so noone has the right to make you feel inferior for simply being who you are. 
You don’t need to do it to fit in because you were born to stand out.  Attempting to fit in will only make you feel even more disconnected and unhappy.

You do not need to conform and you don’t have to settle. 

Live your life freely and make the most of it.  You do not have to feel guilty for wanting the freedom to live your own life.  Find out what makes you happy.
Your life is your own and you owe no explanations.  If you want to spend time alone, do it. If someone makes you feel bad about yourself, stay away from them.

Energy matters. 

Positive energy flows freely from you and as you get older, you will have to work hard to protect your energy. 
Put healthy boundaries in place and teach people how to treat you. Do not adapt to how they choose to treat you.

You don’t have to accept any negative behavior towards you.  Don’t allow society’s bullshit constructs about relationships keep you in unhappy situations.  Know that you are important. Believe that you matter.

It is not selfish to take care of yourself and put yourself first. Prioritize your physical, mental, emotional and spiritual health and well-being and do not let anyone make you feel guilty for doing so. 

It’s vital.  

Stay active and keep growing.
Read, write, meditate and exercise daily. Even when you don’t feel like it, do them all, EVERYDAY.

Commit to a daily routine and protect that time. It’s sacred. Don’t worry if others don’t see the importance. 

Finally, trust your instincts.  This will come with age as you get to know yourself, which means spending time alone and trusting your own voice.  Trust that you know what’s best for you.  Spending time alone doesn’t make you sad, crazy or a loser, it will be the most valuable time you spend doing anything.

There is so much more I want to tell you.  .  .but I’ll end it here.  

Always be happy Hook, no matter what happens, protect your happiness and peace of mind.  You are the best there is at what you do!

With love,

40 year old you.  .  .

One Team! One County!

  
To say that my alma mater’s, Allendale-Fairfax High School, football team had a tumultuous start to its season would be a severe understatement.  Prior to even playing their first game, the team lost 2 of its best players to season ending injuries.  Additionally, there was an alleged hazing incident which threatened to end the season before it even started.  It appeared to be a foregone conclusion that this football year would be a disappointing one.  
    
The kids could have easily thrown in the towel and, given the circumstances, few would’ve blamed them.   Instead, they did what we Allendaliens always do. . .they persevered.  They finished the regular season with only one loss and advanced to the South Carolina Division 1 Single A title game.  Although they fell short of the ultimate goal, they achieved a victory that cannot be quantified by trophies or rings.

   
These thirty plus 14-18 years olds brought an entire community together.  Citizens, both former and current, of various ethnicities showed up in droves.  I saw faces that I hadn’t seen in years and got the chance to reminisce about days gone by and get caught up on current goings on.  We all came together, proudly wearing our black and gold and enthusiasticly cheering on a group of kids that were already champions in our books.  The entire county embraced and rallied around the team.  Allendale’s presence was felt throughout the capital city.  

  
If you weren’t raised in Allendale County, you likely know us largely for our impoverished community, underwhelming school system, and steadily rising crime rate.  What you’re probably not privy to, however, is from that same school system have come lawyers, military servicemen/women, college and professional athletes, educators, managers, entrepreneurs, graduates of West Point, Clemson, USC, Dartmouth, Seton Hall, MIT, SC State, Benedict, Howard and many other prestigious institutions.  

  
The fact is, so many of us have already overcome conditions that would break the spirit of the average person.  To the Tiger Football Team, take a bow gentlemen. . .you have truly served as an inspiration to the entire county.  With youngsters like you controlling our destiny, our future looks mighty bright.  Regardless of what the final score indicated, you have achieved a much greater victory than you could have ever imagined! 
Forever with Tiger Pride,

“Hook”

  

Mack’s Boys

  
My grandparents passed away in 1999 and 2012, respectively.  Of the 13 children that they bore, only one of them preceded them in death: my uncle Matthew(Mack). Growing up, various family members would ask myself and my cousins Andre and Lonzado if we remembered him. . .to which we always replied that we didn’t.  This was primarily because we were only 2 years old at the time of his death.

The 3 of us are barely a month apart in terms of birth order.  I was born on June, Andre in July, and Lon in August of 1976.  We are often referred to as “Mack’s Boys.” by our family.  Curious, one day we asked why this reference was always made.  We were told that Uncle Mack was, unofficially, our designated baby sitter.  Apparently, anytime our mother’s had a ‘run’ to make, they’d always leave us with him.  People would say that he would seldom be seen without us at his side, taking daily walks up and down the streets of Kennedy Park accompanied by his dog, Stitch.  The mood, however, often became somber after these memories were shared.  Reluctantly, we asked why. . .and were told Uncle Mack’s story. . .

1978

My mother and her sisters had made last minute plans to go out downtown.   If you’re from Allendale, then you know that downtown was indicative of none other than the infamous Flat Street.  Uncle Mack was seated on the couch at my grandparent’s home watching tv.  Not wanting to be late, my mom handed 2 year old me to my uncle and said, “Mack, watch this baby for me until I get back.”  As always, he was happy to oblige.

A few hours later, she and her sisters returned.  Uncle Mack had apparently left not long before they got back, but not before putting me to sleep.  “I bet he went to that gal’s house”, one of my aunts stated. “I told him to leave that man’s wife alone.”  Apparently Uncle Mack had been involved in an extramarital affair with a local woman for quite some time.  Her husband had heard rumors of the affair, but had never approached him about it.

As my family continued to fellowship, the phone rang.  The voice on the other end said “Something bad happened. Your family needs to come to the hospital now!” According to my mom, they feared the worst but prayed for the best.   Once they made it to the hospital, they were lead down the hall way to the room at the end. Once they reached the room, all that could be heard were agonizing wails of sadness and loss.

You see, Uncle Mack indeed went to pay his female friend a visit at the house that she cohabited with her husband.   What he didn’t anticipate, however, was that her husband would be returning so soon. Obviously only those who were there know all the details, but there was a physical altercation. . .with Uncle Mack getting the worst of it.

As Uncle Mack’s lifeless body lay on the table; his face was barely recognizable.  In my mom’s words, “One side of his face was as handsome as it had always been, but the other side looked like it had been put through a meat grinder.  The chilling memories of that day are still vivid for those old enough to remember.  Mysteriously enough, Stitch was never seen again after his death.

We have no memory of him whatsoever. We’ve been told, however, that he lives on through the 3 of us.  It’s been said that we possess many of his personality traits.  The two most obvious being our laid back demeanors and love of the consumption of alcohol.  It would have been nice to share a couple of cold ones with him, but God had other plans.  Uncle Mack, we may have no recollection of our time together, but we are proud to carry on your legacy.

  

Keep The Family Together 

  
My family has always been a close one.  We aren’t like most other families I know.  Most kids only saw they’re grandparents during summers, on holidays, at reunions etc.  Growing up, there wasn’t a day that we didn’t see our grandparents, Mama & Coot.  My siblings, cousins, and I would play games like stick ball, kick ball, football, ‘sue’, hide and seek, ‘MP’, etc in their yard from sun up to sun down.  I would even occasionally catch my Grandparents peeking in on the fun.

  
After the fun concluded, we’d all go onto the back porch and make snack purchases from my grandmother’s in-home store.  Yea, you heard that right. . .PURCHASES! She seldom let us get anything for free.  😏

  
Looking back on my childhood, I now understand the lessons they were teaching us via the everyday tasks they would give.  Coot would have us compete against each other in multiple ways.  We would have challenges to see who could chop wood and take it into the house the quickest.  We would nearly kill ourselves to see who could carry the heaviest log.  He would even have us challenging each other to see who would be the first to unlace his boots and remove them from his feet after a long day’s work.  To us, it was simply a game. Little did we know that he was strengthening the competitive nature in us that still prevails to this day.
  
On Saturday mornings, we would all try to avoid Mama because those were her shopping days.  She would randomly select one of us to accompany her and Coot to the grocery store. We avoided her because the last thing we wanted to do was spend 6 hours of our Saturday at the store.  While shopping, she would have us help her budget the items to make sure that she didn’t overspend.  Once we got to the register she’d pull out her roll of Quarters to pay for the items; ignoring the glares from the other customers behind us (they didn’t want none anyway).  Needless to say, I’ve become quite adept at making a dollar stretch.

  
We lost Coot nearly 16 years ago, but we still had Mama to turn to.  When we lost Mama 3 years ago it left a huge void in our lives.  She had been ill for just under 2 months prior to her death and we were aware that the prognosis wasn’t good.  She fought as though there was still ‘unfinished business.’  Now that I look back on things, I now understand what that ‘business’ was.

  
I believe that she wanted to unite the Family one last time before she passed away.  At her Homegoing, there were family members whom had traveled from Afghanistan, Texas, Virginia, Philly, and other locations near and far.  People whom I hadn’t seen in years were in attendance to send our Queen home.

  
It was a tremendous feeling to have our collective family together again.  True, it was a sad occasion, but we celebrated Mama’s life into the wee hours of the morning.  None of us wanted to leave the following Sunday.  Before we departed, however, we began planning gatherings through the rest of the year.  Additionally, we vowed to take more frequent trips to Allendale to spend time with our parents.

  
My family members are truly my best friends.  We were raised as siblings, not just cousins.  Mama and Coot, take a bow! You’ve raised college graduates, military servicemen/women, college athletes, carpenters, managers, business owners, and altogether phenomenal women and men.

   

Mama’s final request was to “Keep the family together.” Don’t worry about us, Mama. . .we got you!
~Hook

  

Dear Future Wife

  
Dear Future Wife,

If you’re looking for the perfect guy, you won’t find him in me.  You see, I’ve thought about writing to you for a long time but was afraid that my brokenness, my fault, my frailty would get in the way of the delicate thoughts I wish to express.

The fact is I’m not like most guys.  My veins course with the blood of a man who loves to read books and write poetry, to listen to alternative music, to hold hands and let go of past mistakes, to search for life’s answers. . .and find you.

See, you and I are both lost, searching for each other in the eyes of everyone claiming to be our soulmates only to find fleeting happiness instead.  Please believe me when I apologize for playing hide-and-seek.   Don’t hold it against me; after all, you’re playing it quite well yourself.

Know that I’m praying for you. Remember, no matter how much we end up fighting, no matter what obstacles we’ll inevitably face, no matter who will be hoping for our relationship to fail, no matter what happens. . .I will always love you.

God is teaching me His way to love, so I can truly love you.  I refuse to follow this world’s standard of dating and chase women for temporary relationships.  I’m chasing God and letting him handle this crucial aspect of my life.   My heart belongs to you and worldly dating is no longer a part of my plan.  But for now, wherever you are, I’m praying for you and that God will comfort, protect, and strengthen you until the day He brings us together in union.

I love the idea of knowing that God has designed you specifically for me.   He made you with the heart to love me, even in my wrongs.  Words to comfort me when I’m afraid.  Arms to hold me when I’m falling apart.   I can’t wait to spend forever with you.

~D. Lamonte

The Skin I’m In

  
It needs to be understood that the oldest individual to be found on the face of the Earth was a black woman given the name “Lucy”, who was African. She was found in South Africa. This literally ended all arguments that anyone who’s lived on the face of the Earth did not come from African people. Essentially, this means that the African people are the mothers and fathers of the entire world. Don’t shoot the messenger. I don’t create the facts, I simply research and report them.

What scientists and historians will never admit is that Black people are genetically dominant. Anyone who would argue the contrary has been miseducated to the fullest extent of miseducation. We’ve been taught to think that we’re inferior, when in fact we’re just the opposite. When a Black man or woman has a child with a White man or woman, the child is considered Black, is it not? Why do you think that is? Allow me to explain.

When these children are born, they will have the recessive allele(inherited from the white parent) masked by the dominant allele(inherited from the black parent). When you look at Barack Obama, Tiger Woods, or Halle Berry, they all display Blackness because their Black parents possess the dominant gene. The Black gene is the masker of the White gene.

Enter racism. . .

White people are actually only 16-18% of the world’s population, making them the minority. Because the White allele is a recessive one, you literally have to have two White parents in order for you to be White. When Dylan Roof says “You’re raping our women”, what does he mean? He means that anytime a White woman has a child by a Black man, the child is not White anymore because in order to be recognized as White it has to be 100%. So for the people who are already the minority, it is extremely important that they hold on to their remaining genetics.

Think about prison. Black men are incarcerated at a much higher rate than their White counterparts. If you’re in prison, you can’t procreate. The basis of racism is that racists understand if we’re not dead or locked up we will eventually take over. The U.S. will go through hell or high water to lend aid to foreign countries, but do literally nothing to quell the acts of crime in places like inner city Chicago. When you look at Black men being pulled over, oftentimes, by Caucasian police officers, and shot and killed for no reason; it’s because they subconsciously see us as a threat to their gene pool.

Racism is not exclusively about racists not wanting to see us do well. They don’t want to become extinct or rendered obsolete. They created this system of racism as a way to limit our procreation because Black people show the strongest genetic variability. Look at Africa. There are a lot of diseases that target Black people. This is meant to diminish the numbers by any means necessary.

We’ve been taught to hate our skin, our lips, our wide noses. . .we’ve been taught to hate everything about our blackness because it’s widely known that we’re genetically superior. Venus and Serena dominate tennis. Tiger dominated golf for years. I can’t even imagine watching football or basketball without Brothas holding it down. This isn’t by accident. It is because we’re genetically stronger than any other race and racists know this. So if they want to continue their string of blond haired, blue eyed children, they have to stop us from reproducing. Again, don’t be mad at me. . .be mad at science.

Understand! Overstand! Love being Black!  

~Hook

Depression and The Black Male

  
There is a subject that’s seemingly taboo in the Black community.   As young boys, Black men are taught to ‘man up’ and suppress their emotions.

When I was a kid, I can remember being told to stop crying whenever I was overcome by either physical or emotional pain.

As adults, many Black men are afraid to open up about their feelings for fear of being labeled a ‘pussy’, ‘punk’, or ‘soft’. When you’re taught to keep your emotions bottled up, you’re left to deal with the pain by your lonesome. When this happens, the only person left to confide in is that little voice inside your head; which often turns out to be Satan himself.

Brothas, if it’s burdening your heart; talk to someone and get it off your chest. Opening up will not emasculate you nor make you any less of a man, no matter what the community leads you to believe. Keeping these thoughts to yourself causes inner turmoil which can lead to depression.

I’ve even told myself to ‘man up’ when things get stressful, but then I wondered how many times had I flown off the handle when I kept it all bottled in instead of talking about it. To that end, how many Black men have turned their depression into anger; resulting in violence? How many lives could have been saved, caps and gowns been worn, or prison beds left unoccupied if Brothas just had the chance to open up?

In my opinion, to ‘man up’ is to draw inner strength to withstand adversity. There’s nothing wrong with that and it’s something anyone can do. It’s a cold world out there, especially for us Brothas. It’s not advisable, however, to do it while forgetting to communicate stress or sadness. I’ve witnessed that myself among a number of friends and it seldom ended well.

We also live in communities where Black men are told to be stoic and unexpressive, where being seen as weak can be lethal, and where proper therapy for mental health issues can come too late and result in violent consequences.

It’s not weak to express oneself in the face of angst — even in the ‘hood’. Hell, that’s how hip-hop originated in the first place. However you let it out, it’s better to talk to somebody, whomever that may be: a significant other, a family member, a best friend, a sibling, even a barber, or bartender.

At the end of the day, the other side of ‘man up’. . . is ‘man down’.

~Hook

Fall From Grace

  
Robert Griffin III has to be the most disrespected quarterback in the history of the National Football League. Most of those who know me will undoubtedly say that I’m pulling the race card. While I think that race does indeed play a major factor into this dynamic, I believe that it goes much deeper than that. I’ve heard many so called football aficionados make statements like “He’s just not good enough to be a productive QB” or “He’s done. He’s reached his ceiling.” Well, let’s take a look at a few of RGIII’s career highlights.

• April 26, 2012: The Redskins draft Griffin with the No. 2 overall selection. “We want to develop him to be the face of the organization,” then-coach Mike Shanahan says. Exactly 100 picks later, Washington drafts Michigan State quarterback Kirk Cousins. How’s that for a confidence builder?😐

• Sept. 9, 2012: Griffin completes 73.1 percent of his passes for 320 yards and two touchdowns and runs nine times for 42 yards in a season-opening, 40-32 victory at New Orleans. He records a 139.9 passer rating, and his celebration after throwing what ends up being an 88-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Pierre Garçon — sitting on the turf, his arms and index fingers extended skyward — becomes an Internet fad known as “Griffining.” Yea. This guys an absolute bum.😕

• Oct. 14, 2012: The signature play of Griffin’s career unfolds in the fourth quarter of a game against Minnesota when he, on a designed run, takes off down the left sideline and runs 76 yards for a touchdown. “Still on his feet, RGIII is going to out-race everybody!” Fox commentator Dick Stockton yells. Why did they draft this guy again?😏

• Jan. 6, 2013: With the Redskins in the playoffs for the first time in four seasons*cough*, qualifying after a seven-game winning streak helped them claim the NFC East title, Griffin re-injures his right knee. While moving with a noticeable limp he, leads the Skins to a 14-0 lead, and plays hurt for much of the game. Seattle recovers from the third-quarter deficit, and midway through the fourth, Griffin’s right cleat gets caught in the grass, leaving him crumpled on the ground. Who leaves their franchise QB in the game under those conditions? 😶

• Feb. 2, 2013: RGIII wins the Offensive Rookie of the Year award from The Associated Press after a season in which he set multiple team and league records. He finished the year having completed 65.6 percent of his passes for 3,200 yards, 20 touchdowns and five interceptions while running for 815 yards and seven touchdowns. Again. Total bum. 😉

• Nov. 17, 2014: Asked about Griffin’s performance in a 27-7 loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Coach Gruden offers a sharp public criticism of both his quarterback’s postgame comments and in-game mechanics. “It was not even close to being good enough to what we expect from that quarterback position,” Gruden says. Don’t all NFL head coaches berate their franchise QBs?😌

Far too often, it seems as though Black QBs are on a much shorter leash than their White counterparts. Sam Bradford has underwhelmed his entire career, yet he’s still managed to land a starting gig. Tim Tebow has shown us time and time again that he’s a fullback who moonlights as a quarterback, yet somehow keeps getting opportunities not afforded to, let’s say, a Vince Young. The fact is, Black QBs aren’t given the proper time nor coaching to be developed into productive NFL players. Little patience is exhibited and they’re given up on too soon.

I don’t know what the future holds for RGIII, but I can’t wait to see him stick it to the Redskins when he gets a chance elsewhere.

~Hook